WHEN THE MENTAL COMES FIRST
WHEN THE MENTAL COMES FIRST
Pregnancy is an amazing thing, the hopeful promise of new life but what happens when internally you’re feeling anything but amazing?
Ante natal depression is real and I know because I had it, our first pregnancy wasn’t planned - we were four weeks away from heading to NYC to get married and driving Route 66 for our honeymoon when one too many 30th birthday wines changed our lives and our plans forever. The week before we were due to fly I felt ‘funny’ so on the way to meet friends for dinner I ran into the supermarket to buy a test that I promptly took in the toilet of the pub, telling my fiancé to wait before ordering drinks as the result would impact on what I wanted!
I came out looking shell shocked and ordered a Diet Coke.
I have always wanted to be a Mummy, I had dreamt about announcing my pregnancy with joy and glowing for nine months since I was in infant school, it was what I was always meant to do and in the interim I’d spent my adult life working with children and families until my time came so I could not understand why, now it had that I felt so desperate.
It makes me so very sad to think about my pregnancy with Ted, it was relatively healthy aside from severe sickness in the last trimester, but mentally I had this overwhelming feeling of despair and loneliness for no apparent reason, like the rug of my life was about to be pulled from underneath me and I’d lost all control. I cried more than I ever have in the rest of my life, not the odd tear but full body shaking sobs that physically exhausted me. I felt like the world around me, my family, friends and especially my husband were going to continue as before and I would be left behind with a baby that (and it breaks my heart to even write this) I didn’t really want!
Unfortunately as antenatal depression isn’t really acknowledged and certainly wasn’t five years ago everybody just thought I was being a pain, people started to distance themselves and make comments like ‘she’s not the first pregnant person’ - one even said to my husband, if I carried on ‘acting up’ they were done with me! I don’t blame anybody for their reactions, I had no idea what was happening so there was no hope for anybody else!
I’d lie in bed desperately trying to connect with the little person growing inside me, talking to him calmly as he flipped and somersaulted but the truth is for those nine months and beyond I found it very difficult to find a connection or joy in anything and I felt this meant I’d be the most awful mother.
When Ted arrived, at home in exactly the way I’d hoped, I was so elated that the pregnancy was over.
I loved him in a protective way but because it was my new job. I didn’t feel an instant bond, it came though and the fog of depression lifted slowly. It took almost 6 months for things to actually feel like they were in full colour, I’d spent over year living in a monotone world fearing I was going to spectacularly fail at the only job I’d ever wanted to ace so when my heart started to lurch when he giggled I felt like I’d jumped an enormous hurdle.
Ted is now four and a half and starts school in September, I hate the thought of not being with him every day. He and I share the most fantastic bond, he is very much like me and in stark contrast to those early days I love him fiercely with every ounce of me.
We went on to have a second child, our daughter Cora with only a 21 month age gap - the decision was terrifying as I was only just back in the light but this time I was prepared and I didn’t suffer the same way, I still had tough times but I was lucky in that I felt prepared, like I had a strength this time and that meant whatever I faced I could be overcome.
I would be good enough and ultimately I would have positive, loving relationships with my babies.
I, like many mothers as this campaign has so amazingly highlighted still suffer from considerable anxiety based around the safety of my family but I’m currently able to manage it with a large amount of support from my wonderful husband, I can’t let it rob us of experiences that will enrich our lives but it’s a constant battle.
If this resonates with anybody, I cannot encourage you enough to get support, whether that is from your doctor, midwife or those around you - try to explain how you feel, I know that’s not easy but you deserve the care and support...and no matter your journey you will be a wonderful mum, exactly the one your baby needs.
Written by Laura Green
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.