After the birth of my second baby I had postnatal depression. But I chose to hide it from the world.
The only people who knew were my husband, my health visitor, my counsellor and my sister – who I trusted with my life to keep my worst secret.
I chose to keep my PND from everyone else. Even my own mother.
Anyone else who knew me and saw me during that time would never have known. At baby groups and with family and friends I would chat and smile and put on my very best act of being ‘just fine’.
Behind closed doors things were very different.
The world felt devoid of colour or joy. I was wired and anxious. I went through all the motions of being a good Mama, but felt nothing. I cried. A lot. I felt small and lost and alone.
The thing is it didn’t make any sense.
I had a horrendous birth with my first baby. It lasted 36 hours.
I had an epidural and strained so much to push her out that I had a vulval haematoma.
My first born had colic and screamed for six hours straight every single night from the two weeks after her birth until 14 weeks old.
I was battered, bruised and exhausted. But I didn’t get postnatal depression.
In contrast my second birth was a breeze. The whole labour lasted for a mere 7 hours.
I had a water birth and the only pain relief I needed was two paracetamol. After giving birth I felt strong and empowered. And blissfully happy. And she was a dream baby.
She slept well. She was easy to settle. She was content and happy. In my mind there was no excuse to be sad or down. It didn’t make any sense.
At first I hid my PND from my health visitor.
I had already done a PND test (the Edinburgh Scale questionnaire) with my firstborn and knew which boxes to tick to point to the fact that I was coping and happy and ‘doing just fine’.
I was so good at pretending that everything was ‘just fine’.
Two weeks later I went back to see my health visitor and sobbed my heart out admitting that I wasn’t actually coping at all.
I was lucky. I got help very quickly. The next week I started talking therapy that lasted for 18 months and helped me recover.
But I still hid it all from the world.
Because I was ashamed.
Because I felt that people would judge.
Because I felt I had no right to be sad, when I was lucky enough to have two healthy babies, a supportive husband and a loving family.
Because I felt like a failure.
Because, a tiny part of me, worried that someone would take my baby away from me because I was failing her as a mother.
I’m talking about it now but even to this day, 14 years later, my own mother doesn’t know how much I suffered.
I’ve opened up to close friends who were shocked by the mask I wore and how well I hid my pain.
I had so many loving arms that would have held me. I had so many people who would have helped. That would have made a difference.
I chose a harder path than I needed to because I felt so ashamed of PND.
I thought it was my fault. I thought it was something I needed to ‘get over’ by myself because I was somehow to blame.
I hope no other mum goes through what I did and feels they have to hide their struggle with postnatal depression.
It’s not something we choose. It’s not something that happens because we’re weak or a bit rubbish as a mum. It’s not our fault.
I hope that today, in 2020, mums feel OK to admit they have PND and feel able to seek help.
I hope that they won’t feel blamed or judged.
I hope they know they can get help and recover and know that they are still good mums.
No mum should feel a stigma about PND and mental health.
Let’s talk about it more. So no mum feels they need to hide it. Like I did.
Are you struggling with postnatal depression?
Reach out to get help as soon as you can. Talk to your doctor, midwife or health visitor and be open about how you feel.
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