I am currently away on a well earned holiday, so today I have an amazing guest post for you.
It comes from Ella who has just started writing her blog Purplemum.
I have three children, and after the birth of my first two children I experienced post natal depression. At that time if I had read about someone who had experienced this terrible illness it would have made me feel less alone. So I'm writing this post to share what happened to me, and perhaps help someone else.
My first son Louie was a much longed for baby, my husband and I were thrilled when we found out I was expecting and couldn't wait to be parents. The pregnancy was a wonderful time. We bought baby clothes and equipment and imagined how amazing it was going to be when we had a baby in our arms. We focused a lot on the birth, hired a Doula (birth assistant), and planned a natural water birth. I attended pregnancy yoga and visualized my perfect water birth , with candles, music and that amazing moment when our baby would be born in the water and latch on for his first feed.
Of course all this was incredibly naive, but I honestly believed if I prepared enough I could create the birth experience I dreamed off. Then my due date came and went. Another two weeks passed and I started getting pressure from the midwives to be induced. I hung on believing that I should trust my body. I went to the hospital daily for monitoring which was stressful and time consuming. Then another week passed and I was 21 days over my due date, and was becoming increasingly despondent and stressed. On 22 days past the date I went in for monitoring and it was discovered that the fluid levels in my womb had dropped so I decided to be induced.
The induction process was long, and boring. I was in a room for two days having sporadic contractions, but nothing that was putting me into established labour. I wasn't sleeping properly because I was excited to be so close to meeting my baby and the hospital was noisy.
Finally on day three I was sent down to labour and delivery to get some drugs which would kick start the contractions and hopefully get my cervix dilating. There followed a horrendous 24 hours, the first twelve with no pain relief. Enduring awful artificial contractions and dilating very, very slowly. Finally after this time I asked for a cesarean section, and Louie was born.
I was exhausted, and breast feeding hurt. I was barely sleeping and Louie wouldn't stop feeding. Then he was weighed and had lost too much weight so my life became an endless round of feeding, expressing, and topping up with formula.
We arrived home from hospital late in the evening, the house was a mess, Louie was screaming, and I couldn't stop crying. This was not the start to family life that I had imagined. Over the course of the next two weeks things got worse and worse. I got an infection in my c-section scar, and was put onto antibiotics. The feeding wasn't getting any better and I was expressing all day long to try and avoid giving my baby formula top ups. Then I got mastitis and the doctor's didn't put me on more antibiotics. So the mastitis turned into a breast abscess, which was more painful than toothache!
By this point I felt like having a baby was a really bad idea. Obviously I wasn't good enough to be a mother and how on earth was I going to get out of this situation. Perhaps I should just leave my husband with my baby and start a new life.
One day when I was in the depths of self pity my health visitor came to visit. She was brilliant and arranged for me to be seen at our local mother a baby psychiatric unit. A small hospital ward for women experiencing post natal illness. The doctor immediately suggested they admit me. I was terrified of being in hospital, but my family felt it was the only place I could get the help I obviously needed.
Louie and I spent 2 months in hospital. It wasn't easy, but little by little I found myself feeling better. I got more sleep and enjoyed the company of other women who were on the road to recovery. I started to be able to care for Louie properly. I became less scared of him. In time I even started to enjoy him and feel that overwhelming love that I am now so familiar with as a mother of three.
It took me a year to fully recover from Post natal depression and amazingly by that time I had even begun to feel broody again. I was terrified by the prospect of giving birth again and caring for a baby but I wanted Louie to have a sibling and I wanted them to be close in age.
When Louie was 13 months old I found myself pregnant again. Obviously this pregnancy was not as idyllic as my first. I was concerned whether the depression would return and how would I cope with two small children. I was monitored carefully during the pregnancy, and a plan was made to keep a close eye on me after I had given birth.
Milo's birth was very different to Louie's. I went into labour naturally 7 days after my due date, and after a fourteen hour labour gave birth naturally. I was euphoric, and proud that I had managed to birth my baby naturally.
However, unfortunately my good mood didn't last long.
Four days after his birth Milo, was proving to be a very high need baby. He would feed constantly and didn't sleep well at all. During the day he needed to be held and at night he woke every two hours. He screamed a lot, very loudly. I began to struggle. This time I managed to soldier on for about 6 weeks. During this time I would often find myself sat on the sofa tears pouring down my face while Milo screamed and Louie played at my feet. Eventually it became too much, and I was admitted to the mother and baby unit again.
This time I was better prepared to fight my illness. I left Louie at home with his Dad, as you could only have your baby with you not older siblings. This drove me to recover,I had to get better he needed me. I did everything the doctor's recommended, including taking medication. This made my recovery much quicker and within three months I was home and really feeling much better.
So you might consider me a little barmy for even contemplating a third baby after all this. However I love being a mother and once recovered from post natal depression,I really did love my life as a stay at home mum. I had always wanted three children, and didn't want this horrible illness to stop me fulfilling my dream of a large family. When Milo was 18 months and Louie was 3 I became pregnant again. As before I was monitored carefully during pregnancy and plans made to keep an eye on me after giving birth. Sicily's birth wasn't easy but it was natural and for that I was pleased.
I gave birth to Sicily this year, she is now four months old. She is a completely different baby to Louie and Milo. She sleeps well, she eats every four hours and she is happy and laid back, really the dream baby. I have enjoyed my third baby in a way that I feel was taken from me, by post natal depression with my other two. I spend hours staring at her enjoying her beautiful smile. I watch her growing and want to stop time because she grows so fast and I am loving her babyhood so much.
Of course I have the occasional bad day, I have three children under 5, but I'm enjoying her and my boys in a way that I suppose is normal for mothers unaffected by depression. To me it is a miracle, and I am so grateful to have had a baby this way and to know what it is to enjoy your baby away from the shadow of post natal depression.
So that is my story. I have tried to be completely honest, and believe me, it makes me feel uncomfortable putting those feelings I had into text for people to see. But I hope that it shows people how terrible this illness can be and makes people more aware of the struggles a new mum can be experiencing.
If you are struggling with post natal illness, please ask for help, there is help out there so you can recover and enjoy your baby. If you know someone who is struggling the best thing you could do is listen to how they are feeling. Perhaps offer some practical support, cook a nourishing meal, hold the baby for a time so the mother can rest.
Most of all do not feel guilty or ashamed, post natal depression is an illness, it is not your fault and you are not a bad mother.
A big thank you to Ella for being brave and sharing her story.