Giving birth to my beautiful baby boy was probably the most empowering experience I have ever endured. I slow labored for two days and then finally gave birth at 5.35pm, March 21st 2012. He weighed just 3.6kg and was the cutest thing ever. Holding him was a dream that had finally come true.
My amazing sister/friend (Ayan I love you), was there through it all. She caught a plane from Sweden just to attend the birth. It was truly a special moment that strengthened bonds forever.
I stayed in hospital for a few days because my bundle of joy was having difficulty latching on. Midwives tried pushing formula milk on me but I kindly declined. Finally, I was brave enough to go home and just be with my baby. Alone.
And that’s when it happened. All those feelings of joy, love and excitement were soon replaced with dread, fear and loneliness.
How did I go from one extreme to the other. Waking up in the middle of the night to feed, sore nipples, painful urination from tearing during labor, mastitis; it all piled up in the end. Nobody warned me that it would be this tough. Nobody prepared me for this moment. Here I was, staring at my baby screaming and thinking of ways to shut him up. And it was at this moment, that I shut down. My feelings and my being just broke down.
More than just ‘baby-blues’
As days went on I began feeling more and more agitated. I was alone, with a new-born baby and I had never imagined it to be this way. I was going through a divorce and my family lived so far away, so the only thing I could do, was call my mother (which was difficult when holding a screaming baby).
I no longer had time for myself. I couldn’t shower in peace or even use the toilet. How could this small being turn my world upside down? Breastfeeding was a nightmare; I developed mastitis as he was just not latching on properly. Health visitors came round and kept telling me to preserve, it will get easier. This is normal. Meanwhile all I wanted to do was hide away from my baby and myself.
I was overcome with severe fatigue. There were days where I would just lie in bed and not get up at all. Baby slept next to me so it wasn’t difficult attending to his needs. I had no appetite either which wasn’t good for my breast milk.
I hated looking in the mirror. I felt ugly and fat. At one point I remember my son crying and I just sat in the bathroom crying with my hands over my ears. I felt so powerless. This is not how imagined motherhood.
When friends came over I put on my poker face and faked happiness. I diverted questions about how I felt and just made them focus on my son. Faking a smile was probably the hardest thing to do. They weren’t just my friends, they had become my family. But I felt like they wouldn’t understand and I didn’t want to burden them with my problems. So I just plodded along hoping this feeling would just go away. But it didn’t.
And then it all just became too much. I rang my mother and told her I was coming to stay with her for a few days. But I didn’t mention that my son would be staying with her, and I was planning to go on holiday for a few days. I even contemplated not coming back.
I had no feelings of guilt. I couldn’t care less. I felt as though I was rebelling. That I was making a stand against motherhood. Motherhood wasn’t for me. I decided to quit.
When I arrived at my mothers I gently broke the news that I’m leaving for Oman tomorrow. Of course, my mom stood there horrified. “Are you taking baby”? I just shook my head; “I don’t want him”. My mom at this point realized I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, but instead of coming down on me like a tonne of bricks, she supported my decision to go.
Leaving my son behind wasn’t difficult at all. I had already told myself, that this is what I need. I couldn’t wait to just get on the plane and fly away from the hectic life called motherhood. So it was good-bye baby and hello sunny Oman.
My first day there was amazing. I sat on the beach and just soaked in the glorious sun. I messaged my family maybe twice just to check on them. When they told me about my son, my answers were short and abrupt. All I could imagine is him screaming, but my heart, felt nothing.
A few days had passed and I was starting to miss home. As I was walking along the beach, I saw a family with two young children. The mother was chasing them and the children were full of laughter and joy. Her youngest was probably a year old, and she just picked him up and spun him around in the air. The happiness in their eyes was indescribable. It was at this point that all my emotions decided to just release themselves. I just burst out crying and couldn’t stop.
My stay in Oman was short. As soon as I got home I ran to my son and hugged and kissed him. I told my mom how I’d been feeling since giving birth and being the amazing woman that she is, advised me to seek help for post-natal depression.
She reassured me that it happens a lot with first time mothers, as she had been through it herself. But back then there was no name for it and mothers were just expected to pretend those feelings didn’t exist.
So I booked an appointment with my doctor who put me in contact with an amazing counselor. She helped me identify my emotions, triggers and gave coping strategies. Her experience with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as well as interpersonal therapy, really helped identify problems that I had in relationships, and how that subsequently affected me.
One thing I learnt from having post-natal depression is to always seek help. No matter how bad you feel, no matter how ashamed you feel; seek help. I don’t know how my relationship with my son would be right now, if I didn’t get help.
A really good organisation is PANDAS who give advice and support for pre and post-natal depression.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you would like some advice on post-natal depression then feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org