I came across an old diary the other day, it was a journal I kept sporadically during the early months of my son’s life (clearly before I made the technological leap to blogging!). Sinking into the carpet beneath so I could flick through it, my heart began to plummet right along with me. They weren’t pretty images filling these pages. Instead they were awash with words tangible with pain, confusion, guilt and overwhelming anxiety. I could almost taste the bitter tears as I read.
All of a sudden it dawned on me, how close I had come to succumbing to Post Natal Depression. My only saving grace was the fact there were glaring gaps in entries, evidence I did actually experience the highs as well as the lows, only that I never felt the need to record – and therefore release – those happier emotions. Writing was my cathartic tool of choice, and not needing to do so every single day reassured me I did not go undiagnosed.
Yet, looking back, on that PND precipice every day I remained. Constantly I fought to stay atop the cliff face, and not fall into the murky depths that beckoned me. Some days it was an easy battle to win, others it threatened victory.
I knew where these desolate feelings stemmed from – the traumatic birth experience I endured sowed the first seeds. The ensuing mental and physical side effects I suffered as a result lingered long after the labour was over, acting as a constant reminder that shadowed my every (literally painful) move. Yet even though this should have made me feel it was more than ok to admit I needed help, still I was determined not to do so. Instead, on the toughest days I chose to hide my pain inside the pages of a book in the hope that would help me heal.
The fact I was a perfectionist pre parenthood didn’t help. After the labour complications, then failing to breastfeeding, I felt for sure there was no way I could let anyone see that I was also struggling to master motherhood. That would equate to being a disappointment in the holy trinity that is parenthood and my pride just wouldn’t allow it. So I soldiered on, saved my tears for when I was slumped in the shower, alone.
I guess the reason I am only now revealing this (because it truly is a section of my life I vowed to keep quiet) is that it is Postnatal Depression Awareness Week, and social media has seen an influx of stories like mine. And you never know who you might help by sharing it…
Today, as I near the birth of baby number two, I admit I do fear these old feelings coming back to haunt me when I’m again immersed in the chaos that a new child may bring. However I also know I am a much stronger person than I was 4 years before and because I am now more aware I can begin to put plans into place to avoid, or manage this (hello C Section!).
Blessed be the benefit of hindsight I suppose, for what was so obscure then is glaringly obvious now… if only I knew then too that even the most painful of phases that arise wont last forever (even if they feel they will at the time!). Plus, I no longer care if the world thinks I am not a poster perfect mother who failed to effortlessly adapt to this new chapter of life(as I had always assumed I would do). Good riddance to lofty expectations I say!
Just like PANDA’s PND campaign promotes, I am thankfully so much more aware. And even though path to parenthood, round 1, was fused with obstacles I feared were insurmountable I comfort myself with the thought that it doesn’t mean the same shall automatically eventuate in round 2. I will hold tight to the knowledge that even though there is much I cannot control, I really do have an awesome array of supportive family (even if they live far away!) and friends, and a husband and son who have my back. In a sea of uncertainty, that is one fact that gives me courage, and one fact I can cling to.