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My experience with postnatal depression and how I see it one year later

I’ll never forget the moment when I was looking at my few days old children and tears were falling down my face. However, it wasn’t the tears of joy, it was the the tears of regret. Regret that we’d wanted to have them and regret about my future.

It was a couple of days after Yaw and myself had moved into the hospital. Nurses recommended this step as I’d wanted to breastfeed. During one week all four of us lived in a hospital room the size of a shoe box. I am always grateful that we had this option but it wasn’t easy to live like that. In a real time it wasn’t a long period of time, but for me it was the longest week of my life. And one of the hardest ones.

I was looking at them as they were aslee and an intense desire for them not to exist took possession of my mind. Up until today I get goosebumps when I remember what had been running through my mind at that moment. Why did we want them …? Why did they have to be born? With thoughts like this it made me happy but mostly scared to death. But there was nothing to stop these feelings. Why hadn’t anyone told me about any of this? Why was I stupid …?

I almost wasn’t able to think of anything else. My body was lacking any energy and for some period of time it became just an empty box that worked mechanically like a robot. Common sense was completely dysfunctional.

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I was hoping to feel better when we’d got home. It was a truth to a certain extent. However, then I found it hard to accept the fact it wasn’t just the two of us there anymore. I couldn’t accept the kids being there and kept asking myself: Why were we so stupid? I longed to turn back time and erase the decision to have children from our lives. The tears were almost constantly flowing down my face. Especially, when I was hanging children’s clothes on the dryer as this was reminding me of their existence.

I was crying even when I went to a shop because it made me realise I’d no longer be able to pop out like this anytime I wanted to. I remember walking blankly down the city, tears running down my face and I didn’t even care. My life is gone forever … Why were we so stupid? Why did they have to be born?

To my big surprise, within two weeks these feelings were gone, however, only temporarily. They had returned a few months later, but this time with an iron reinforcement called postnatal depression. I’ll never forget the moment I was holding Henry in my arms … He smiled at me and I suddenly felt my brain being eclipsed by an unknown, dark power. All I wanted to do at that moment was to hurt Henry. It was so intense that it scared the hell out of me. It was probably this fear what had alarmed the last remnants of common sense that had quickly put Henry into his seat, and locked myself in the next room. I heard them both crying out loud, but I didn’t move, just cried along with them. I felt like I was falling into the darkness and being overwhelmed by a growing sense of uselessness. I knew me being locked in the room was the best thing I could do for kids at that moment. It seemed like a lifetime in these few minutes. From the last bit of strength I dialled Yaw’s number and when I heard his voice answering the phone, I knew everything was going to be alright…

To me postnatal depression is a synonym for hell. It is a demon that completely absorbs your brain and your will suddenly becomes completely helpless. It is a disease that can be extremely dangerous not only for you, but especially for your children. Therefore, it is necessary to seek professional help.

It’s not a disease that is cured once and then you have peace of mind. You can get it under control, but there’s always a slight chance (at least for some time) it may come back. That’s why you need to treat it very responsibly and do everything you can have more chance of managing it. In many cases (so as in mine) medication treatment is an essential, but the significant part in this process is your own work on yourself, your thoughts and attitude. Personally, it really helped with counselling sessions.

It’s been a year since I’d last felt a state of deep depression. How do I see it today?

If I could turn back time, I’d definitely have started to talk about my feelings much earlier. Practically, at the first signs. I made a huge mistake in suppressing and hiding my emotions. Apart from Yaw, for a long time there was no one who knew about it. This way I just unnecessarily made myself more stressed. When I started to open up, a huge weight fell from my shoulders and I tell you it was much bigger than I’d realised.

Many new mothers who go through baby blues or postnatal depression feel they are one of a few. However, the truth is they belong to the majority. Things they fear to talk about in front of other mums are usually things those mothers experience or have experienced themselves. Actually, the harder and more delicate the subject is for them, the more likely it is that other mums have experienced it too. Perhaps the fact they don’t talk about imperfections is the reason they look perfect. 

I, for example, found it hard to cope with the fact my life would be gone forever. I’d always lived an active life, I’d had a lot of hobbies, I’d used to go out on the weekends and then sleep till noon… Somehow I couldn’t accept the fact it would be over. Suddenly, I had in front of me two little screaming strangers who were supposed to stay with me forever. Problem was that at that time I had’t yet developed any emotional relationship with them. I didn’t expect it to be a process. I thought that as soon as I saw them, all my values would be immediately changed and I wouldn’t feel anything else but the greatest love in the world. It’s true that feeling came, but it certainly didn’t happen over night.

The first strong feeling of love came at the moment of the first physical contact I had with them (which was in our case only three days after birth). When the nurse put them on my naked body, a love fountain of a new, heady dimension burst in each cell of my body. I longed to keep that feeling, but after few minutes it started to fade away from my body. Like a drug whose effect begins to wear off. This feeling kept returning to me in certain moments, but always only for a while. There was this timeless love for the children and simultaneously the regret about their existence rotating inside of me.

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I had a feeling that the only thing they did was cry and the only thing I did was feeding and changing. My active life had now turned into an automated machine without any life. “So this is going to be my life now?” I asked myself over and over again with the tears falling down my cheeks.

I didn’t feel like a mother. I didn’t feel like someone who was going to be responsible for another human-being and give them security and support. After many years I’d reconnected with my inner child, who had been talking to me intensively day and night. But who will now support me? Who will comfort me when I’m feeling down? Who will chase away monsters from underneath my bed? That voice didn’t go silent for a moment. The more I tried to suppress it, the louder it called. Hello, I’m here! Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?

I wish someone could have told me how I’d feel in a year’s time. Not that I’d have felt perfectly fine in a year’s time – certainly not. However, I could no longer imagine my life without children and I also had no thoughts about death. That was the main difference.

I wish someone could have told me how I’d feel, what I’d experience, if I’d be happy, if my inner child would be happy….. If I could travel back in time and talk to my past Me. Do you know what I’d say… ?

Dear Ivanka

Please stop for a moment and realise that you’re just going through the biggest change in your life. Everything you feel is therefore totally normal. Yes, even the thoughts that run through your head – regardless of how scary they are. A lot of new mums have felt the same way you feel now and today they can’t and don’t even want to imagine their lives without their kids. Believe me, it’s a beautiful change. Everything you feel today is only temporary, and soon you’ll be able to enjoy the motherhood as well. Don’t be so hard on yourself and give it time. It is a process that will take a while.

What I want you to do now – no matter how difficult it is, but please start talking about your feelings to your loved ones, but especially to someone who has already been through this. When you open up, everything will suddenly become more bearable. In addition, you will start receiving support from every direction – even some from where you wouldn’t expect it at all. Suddenly you realise by how much love you have always been surrounded by. A beautiful feeling.

I know you’re feeling guilty mainly because you don’t feel you love your children the way you “should.” But trust me, that feeling will come. Many women have felt like this at the start. If you don’t believe it, ask mothers in your neighbourhood, you will be surprised. So will they – that it’s not just them who is concerned by this problem. It’s true that in our daily life we often hear or read about mothers as they swell with happiness, with love for their children. We rarely hear what this love is like in its beginnings.

Maternal instinct is not something that develops overnight. It is a process that develops. You realise you’re a Mother only about half a year or so. That’s when your maternal instinct becomes steady and with it everything you’re missing now. Responsibility for other human beings, unrelenting love, a new kind of happiness, new priorities, new values … Everything will be transforming in you gradually and naturally.

You need to realise that having a baby is a shock to the whole system, to your body and mind. Remember how you felt when you changed school or moved from your parent’s nest. You thought you’d never get used to it and look at it today – was it a bad change? Is there anything you’d have done differently today? No. This is going to be the same case. Except this change is x-times greater than any other. The adaptation process is therefore longer too.

I promise you though that very soon you’ll be happier than ever before. People around you will be joking that you can forget about your life and free time, but don’t forget they are just joking. Jokes are often jokes because they are based on absurdity. You’ll see that gradually you’ll have time and space for everything you want and need. Even for Yaw. I know you’re worried that kids will affect your relationship, but there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Your relationship will move into a new, beautiful level that you’ll both truly enjoy.

Little by little you will be fulfilled with love you had no idea existed within you. It will fill you from the top of your head down to your toes, it will run through every single vein and dance through every cell of your body. A pure, unconditional love that will come back to you multiplied.

Suddenly you’ll feel happy doing activities you haven’t found interesting before. And on the contrary, many things you have considered interesting until now, will suddenly lose their magic. 

The benefits you get as a mother will outweigh everything “bad”. Look around and you’ll see that mums voluntarily decide to have more than one child. Would they do so if it was that terrible?

You won’t lose your life, you’ll just fill it. It will be very difficult for some time, but only temporarily while the kids are little. Each month they’ll will make a new progress that will slowly lead to their independence. Every new progress will bring a new light into your life. When they laugh, hug you, talk to you, show you their love – you will not understand how you could ever exist without them. That is when you’ll know that you’re a Mother.

Said by your husband’s words – this is not the end, this is just the beginning. And so it is.

And don’t forget – you’re never alone!

Your future Me
xxx

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Comment by Ivana Poku on October 2, 2017 at 11:41am

Thank you so very much, it means a lot <3 xxxx

Comment by Taquila Coleman on October 2, 2017 at 8:24am

Thank you Ivana for writing this blog post.

I can relate to your story and how you felt. I have three children and after having my first child, I felt no connection to him. My husband at the time would look at me with a confused look on his face but since I was 22 at the time, wasn't educated on postpartum depression, instead of voicing what I was feeling inside, I held it in out of fear people would think I was crazy.

I'm glad you and others are writing about this and bringing awareness to this because this is real and what some moms experience after giving birth. 

Great post!

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