Postnatal depression: ‘I’m so sorry to my little Lukey that I didn’t want to cuddle him at the start of his life’
Around 15 per cent of new mothers in Ireland experience postnatal depression. Babs Richmond is one of them. Here she writes candidly about the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness she experienced after the birth of her first child, and the steps she took to get on the road to recovery
Five weeks ago, I went for a scan to meet my baby, who will come into the world in May.
This will be my second child. I’m the mother to a beautiful boy, Luke, who turned two in December. He’s amazing — and I love every minute of motherhood — but there was a stage after his birth when I didn’t think I’d be welcoming another child into my world.
Being a mum is supposed to be the most special time of your life, but this was not the case for me. Having a winter baby was great as we had Christmas to distract us and there were lots of visitors popping by and lots of generosity from people.
It was a happy time, don’t get me wrong, but it was overwhelming too. The weather was another challenge as it was the year of the bad snow.
I was lucky that my husband had a good amount of time off work initially, but then he went back to work fully and this is when it all hit me.
I felt like he was gone and I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was all on my own with nobody around me, even though I had a beautiful bundle of joy to cuddle all day long.
I felt alone.
All I wanted to do was stay in bed and curl up — I couldn’t even lift my head off the pillow. First I was staring at my baby and then, as the days went on, I just couldn’t sleep, and my head was spinning, going around and around in circles.
I didn’t want to cuddle him, feed him or change his nappy
I didn’t want to be near my beautiful baby boy. I didn’t want to cuddle him, feed him or change his nappy. I just wanted someone to take him — I nearly felt sick looking at him.
My world had changed, and I couldn’t cope, even though it had all been going so well at the start. To be honest, I didn’t think anything was wrong with me until my mum and husband made me go to the GP. “No, I’m fine,” I would say, but they told me one day that I had started talking to myself and it was at this point that they knew something was wrong.
I’m a very emotional person anyway and I couldn’t even cry — not one tear would come out. I’d just stare into the distance. I went with my mum to the GP who sat me down and listened to me. We chatted for what felt like hours but it still feels like a bit of a blur.
The doctor quickly diagnosed me with postnatal depression. What was that? I couldn’t have that, I thought to myself, but as I was told more about it, it finally clicked and I realised this was the case.
They say about 80% of women get the ‘baby blues’ at one point or another after having a baby, but 15% get postnatal depression. When I looked into it I realised that it is so common, but it is simply not talked about at all.
Friends of mine who have had babies made it look so easy, but I now know that people do find it difficult but just don’t show it and keep it hidden away.
I saw a psychologist for three sessions, and then I was recommended to do a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It was a six-week course, with an intense two evenings a week and it even came with homework.
This did wonders for me, and although there were no other postnatal Mums on the course, I took away a lot of the coping methods — some as simple as exercising and eating well.
I still wonder why this happened to me. I had a traumatic birth and suffered a third-degree tear. I was brought to theatre straight after I delivered to have a repair and I had to have surgery again, a few weeks after the birth, for a further repair. Your body does wonders during pregnancy and childbirth, but nobody tells you the effects of what happens during or after the birth.
Life was busy at the time just before I gave birth. My husband and I had moved into our new home the month before, which is an extremely stressful process. My Mum had just gone through open-heart surgery the September before.
Luke was born and I was on another journey. I am adopted, and I had started this journey of finding my birth mother and soon after, to my surprise, found out that I had a birth sister who is a few years older than me with a child of her own.
At the time I never thought that all these big changes might have been part of the reason why I got postnatal depression but in hindsight, it’s no doubt that they were. That said, many people get postnatal depression without having such added events.
In May I will welcome another baby to the world. I am very lucky that throughout this process I have been surrounded by a very special group of family, especially my husband Neale, who didn’t really know how to deal with me when times were tough. He was amazing and I know it was pretty hard on him too.
My wonderful mum, who has always been there for me, to lend a shoulder to cry on or listen when times were tough. It was great to be able to listen and know it wasn’t just me with all of these feelings.
My family and my extended family were always looking out for me, as were my amazing friends. I’m so sorry to my little Lukey that I didn’t want to cuddle him at the start of his life. I never want to feel like that again and I hope I’ve made up for it.
What I have gone through is not unique. It was a horrible experience and people may face some parts of it at some point. My advice to them is to talk to professionals and let them guide you in the right direction.
Talk, talk, talk is what I would say to anyone who feels low. It doesn’t need to be this silent thing after you have a baby. There are so many supports out there and it’s okay to look for help.
Read more: Postnatal Depression: I tried to take my own life
Read more: ‘My birth was not like my pregnancy. It was complicated, scary and brutal’
Read more: Comment: ‘Female post-natal health is still simply an afterthought and it isn’t good enough’
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