We see the posters of a mother sitting in the dark, tears in her eyes as she rocks her crying baby. We’re warned about the difference between the ‘baby blues’ and postnatal depression. We know the signs and symptoms that tell you’re struggling to cope after having a baby.
But, sometimes, postnatal depression doesn’t look or feel like the advertisements. Sometimes there are no tears, no dark corner, no crying baby. Sometimes postnatal depression isn’t that obvious.
These ‘sometimes’ happen every single day, to mums just like me or you. How do I know? Because it happened to me. And it’s time to separate fact from fiction when it comes to this often crippling mental condition.
Bringing home baby
Nothing compares to the pure happiness that comes from becoming a mum, the love you have for your baby, the pride you feel every time they look at you, the contentment you experience when they fall asleep in your arms.
These are the feelings I had with my first child. And they were what I was expecting when I fell pregnant with my second child too. These are the feelings that, after bringing home my daughter, never came. The second time around, nothing seemed to feel right.
I had no idea it could be PND – I hadn’t experienced it with my first child. So why now? Why this time?
You see, postnatal depression can occur in ANY pregnancy. It doesn’t have to be your first. It can happen after a miscarriage, after a perfectly healthy birth, even after a few months at home with bub.
Struggling in silence
Despite the darkness I felt inside, everything on the outside was bright. My daughter breastfed perfectly. She slept decently. She melted hearts automatically. She was the perfect baby to make my perfect little family complete. Happiness surrounded me in every aspect of my life … yet I wasn’t happy.
Instead, I was hit with intense feelings of anger, of panic every time she cried, of jealousy anytime my husband played with our older child and I was stuck on the lounge, feeding our newborn. And of guilt, for letting these feelings take over and for not feeling the way I ‘should’ towards my little girl. But, day after day, I didn’t cry. I didn’t sob. I didn’t feel ‘blue’. There were no tears.
The truth about postnatal depression is that it doesn’t always manifest in depression. This is only one of the many symptoms of postnatal depression. Others include trouble eating, sleeping, anxiety, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, to name a few. There really is no ‘textbook’ case.
My daughter grew. She hit milestones. We took happy family photos at the beach. We attended weddings, and birthdays, and family functions. I smiled. I laughed. I made small talk. Everything looked picture perfect.
But, inside it was completely different. Inside I was a mess. Sadly, the people who I took it out on were the ones I loved the most – my daughter, my son, my husband.
I hated myself for feeling this way and, it wasn’t until I almost broke that I realised how bad it had gotten. It was time to admit the truth. And it was time to get help. But here’s the thing … I was breastfeeding and I really didn’t want to take a heavy duty drug that would change me.
Turns out, you don’t have to pump yourself up with drugs to get better. You don’t have to give up breastfeeding. And you don’t have to see a therapist every week. You can, of course, but there are other treatment options.
It’s been four years. Yet these awful feelings still haunt me. And confuse me. I ‘shouldn’t’ have had PND. I didn’t fit the mould in any way. But I still got it. Why?
Because PND doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re happy or not. It is mostly caused by an imbalance of hormones. And, it is not your fault.
So, to the mother I was four years ago, and to every other mother out there, please remember that postnatal depression isn’t always defined by sadness. And, more importantly, it doesn’t define you as a mum. Even if you and your little one have a rough start, it doesn’t mean your relationship won’t be perfect one day. Four years down the track and I can’t ask for a better relationship with my daughter, who is, without a doubt, my best friend.
By all means, look at the posters of the crying mum. Read the advertisements. Be aware of the signs. But most importantly, know yourself. Only you know when something doesn’t feel right.
Talking about PND, quite frankly sucks. Experiencing it, well, it super sucks. The thoughts I felt towards my daughter still make me sick to my stomach. But these thoughts also act as an important reminder of just how powerful PND can be and why it is so important to let others mothers know they are not alone.
Please, have a read of our article on the hidden truths of postnatal depression for more information on PND.
Mum’s the Word with Jenna
Mum-of-two Jenna unlocks the hilarious, honest and hair-raising truths about life rasing her two cheeky cherubs.
Stay tuned next week when I’ll be talking about babies and sleep troubles.