Guest List: PND Got Me Too.

Guest List: PND Got Me Too.

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.53.25 PMAnna Mathur aka @mamas_scapbook  is something else. She is a hilarious insta-story-er. Super stylish Mama and to top it all off she is a trained psychotherapist.

On the surface things look rosie. But Anna is case in point that none of us are immune from mental health issues. Anna shares her experience of suffering from PND:

 


  • Oh the image of the new mother, sitting in crisp bed sheets with a quiet baby beside her. Convalescing. Resting, Oh the luxury and value of time to process what the body has just been through, and how life has just irreversibly shifted.

  • But no.

  • We all know that is an archaic image these days. The ‘good mother’ is up and about immediately. Makeup on. Food shopping. Coffee. Play-dates. Playgroups. Cooking. Juggling. Coping. Coping.

  • Part of me wonders if this is where it all began. My struggle. Always a ‘cope-r’, always a ‘do-er’. I was fueled with an adrenaline that kept my strides into town long and quick, despite sleep deprivation and navigating a heavy double buggy.

  • A knowing eye might have been suspicious, perhaps noticed a fine slither of mania, glistening on the edge of my aura of ‘I’ve got this’. A knowing voice might have told me to slow down. To take it easy. Maybe they did. I wouldn’t have taken heed. No matter how firm the voice, it wouldn’t have slowed my steps or emptied my diary.

  • My professional mind was mistrustful. I urged myself to stop, to breathe, to be gentle on myself, but I wouldn’t listen. I battled with my own drive to do, to be, to prove. I feared a crash. A car cannot speed on a motorway forever I told myself. A car cannot run on empty.

  • Instead, I was fuelled by caffeine, fuelled by the promise of wine on the sofa in the evening, and fuelled by the well-meaning compliments of “you don’t look like you’ve just had a baby!”

  • Week three. Husband returned to work just as my own Mum arrived. We devoured takeaway on the Sunday night, excitedly planning our week ahead over poppadum’s and chocolate puddings eaten out of ramekins.Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.40.02 PM

  • Week four, Mum had gone. I was alone.

  • Day one of being alone with the kids, we filled our day. I fought with my own desire to have the baby in a schedule immediately, and tried to find my way with one pair of hands and two kids. I made it through to bath time, almost triumphant until an overtired, crying baby and an adjusting, whining toddler took their toll. I changed nappies through tears. This is hard. They said it would be.

  • Day two. I bundled the kids into the buggy, harassed at their differing and constant needs, desperate to get out of our dark cottage into the warmth of the sunshine and the company of friends. Toddler whining. Baby screaming. Overwhelmed by tiredness and my helplessness to calm and quiet my children, I roared a deep, guttural howl and threw a plastic digger repeatedly against floor until it shattered in resignation. I was shocked. We all cried our way to town. It’s okay. It will get easier was my mantra. These first days are the tough days.

  • Feelings of ‘I can’t cope’ would wash over me, taking the breath from my lungs. It must be hormonal I told myself. Breathe. Buy vitamins. Have some coffee.

  • Breastfeeding got tough. Challenging my deep, stubbornness and feeding my sense of failure. My concerns of tongue-tie were disputed. It must be a bad latch then. It must be wind. Perhaps its just colic. Plastic pots of sticky, sickly sweet medicine in every room and tucked inside every bag. Orange and aniseed, Infacol and Dentinox. Gaviscon mixed in tiny pots, and gripe water in tacky syringes. This tough, but you’re doing a great job, the therapist in my mind told myself. One day at a time. But I didn’t listen.

  • It’s me. He must hate me I concluded. My rational, professional voice was losing volume and credibility as the days passed.

  • Regular trips to Boots kids aisle ensued. Maybe they’ve discovered a new medicine since last week. I need different brand of same thing; perhaps it might contain a magic ingredient. Feeding worsened. Advised to try a bottle, I refused, my stubborn, obstinate streak at large (that’s from you Dad – both a blessing and a curse). It’s me against the world. I cried and continued. Keep calm and carry on. It will get better.

  • 8 weeks old. I made a sleep deprived, blurry-eyed drive to kind lactation consultant. Head-torch in place and white glove on. Tender, knowing fingers exploring a tiny, angry mouth. The tie was snipped the next day by a kind practitioner on my living room floor. A bloody little v-shaped cut in his prized-open mouth. I cried with relief as he calmly fed.

  • Feeding improved but the constant crying worsened. Cornering a Health Visitor at the weekly weigh-in clinic, I told her of the persistent wailing that was chipping away at my resolve and robbing me of desperately needed sleep. “This is normal. You must have had an easy first baby” she replied. Maybe it is normal, Maybe my first was easier. I had experienced an overwhelming, almost carnal desire to kiss him, to touch him, to smell him that only a mother can understand. I didn’t feel that this time, only a perfunctory, protective, dutiful love. Maybe it was just one of those things. It will come, I told myself.

  • Kind Health Visitor returned days later. She bound me weeping body-shaking weeps on the sofa. Baby wailing nearby. Toddler watching Fireman Sam. “I can’t stop crying” I uttered, through hyperventilating sobs. I was assigned for close watch and regular Health Visitor check-ins.

  • Someone please fix him.

  • Someone please fix me.

  • How can I expect someone to fix me when I can’t even fix myself?Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.42.47 PM

  • This is what desperation feels like I thought. I know the psychology; I have sat through hours of lectures and have all the books upon my shelves. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I’m a good therapist, I know my stuff. I felt de-skilled and confused, throwing my knowledge and experience into question. Feeling like immunity to reaching such depths of despair and darkness should be an automatic, assumed perk of the job. How can I feel how I do when I know what I know?

  • I asked my husband to sleep upstairs as nobody was getting sleep in our tiny cottage. I felt ashamed at my lack of ability to calm my baby, and my ever present need to cry. I didn’t want him to see me this way. His lack of sleep was my fault as much as the wails of my distressed baby were my responsibility. I failed to calm the cries of my baby; therefore his sleeplessness was my fault.

  • People offered to help. To cook, to take the baby, to entertain the toddler. I felt insulted by each offer, as it meant that my resolve was cracking. That my ‘I’ve got this’ persona was fading and becoming less believable. Sensing that people were seeing through this façade, meant that it was harder to believe it for myself. It takes a village to raise a child I told myself, as I had told many clients. No, I argued. This is my job, to accept help is to fall short.

  • “I hate him” I roared down the phone to my husband as he sat in a meeting. And I wept at the fact that the feeling felt half mutual. “What kind of mother am I?” I questioned, as the guilt from thinking these things made my heart ache.

  • Most smiles became fake.

  • All smiles became fake.

  • I couldn’t fake smiles anymore. My largest sunglasses couldn’t hide the tears escaping down my cheeks. I’d push the buggy into town, struggling to see through lenses smeared with damp mascara.

  • Mentally, I recalled the PHQ-9, a diagnostic tool used to determine depression. I had photocopied many whilst working within clinical GP surgery rooms, seeing clients whilst sat at sagging swivel chairs. I mentally ticked each box. I was post-natally depressed. I am living through the very thing I work to release people from the depths of. I must be a failure at my own job. I must find new career.

  • We went on holiday with my in-laws and drove towards the coast. Car groaning with the paraphernalia now required for two children under two. I overheard hushed, worried conversations and often caught sight of pitying glances. I must work harder to pretend. I could not stand the pity and concern.

  • Feeding was deteriorating again, adding fuel to the fire of my belief that I could neither sustain nor comfort my own child. I desperately called lactation consultant, a kind, retired Welsh midwife who sweetly refused payment. “Here, try this position” she said, ushering my arms into different angles. Nothing worked. I juggled with breast pumps and nipple shields. Scouring pages of Google responses to frantic questions.

  • Family were loving, but I wanted to hide. We walked along well-trodden coastal paths and I’d purposefully slow my step in the hopes that I could lag behind in the quiet. Socialising felt like a sport that I had no energy to play and each conversation a mountain to climb. I layered extra makeup, hoping to cover the bags under my exhausted eyes, but nothing could hide the tell-tale blood-shot glaze. On our final day of holiday I cried in public, heaving sobs into my second large glass of wine.

  • We returned home, unpacking into our separate rooms. Husband upstairs to grab whatever sleep he could, where the cries of our baby would be muffled by the floorboards.

  • I became lonely and desperate at night. Overtired and scared. It struck me one sleepless night that I could identify why people would shake a screaming baby. I was horrified and angry at myself. Who have I become? I called for my husband to come and lie beside me. I was scared of myself. I noticed his visible relief – finally, I was reaching out for support.

  • My 31st Birthday came. I cried in Costa with friends who gave me flowers and hugs. I then hurried off to my GP who handed me a green script for antidepressants with my birthdate printed at the top. Happy birthday to me.

  • Now six months old. This is when everyone said it would get easier. They lied. Christmas was spent at our house – twinkling tree lights and bounteous food failed to provide the usual, excited lift in my soul. My own parents witnessed me scream profanities in despair at 4am. They’d never heard me swear. However, my tone whipped up, unashamed through the creaky floorboards to their room. I welcomed Christmas morning whilst scrolling through reams of articles; blurry eyes desperate to find a reason for my child’s discomfort. Maybe then, and only then might I believe that I’m not to blame?

  • My tired fingers, scrolled through an in-depth article on ‘silent reflux’. Reading faster and decoding medical jargon, I experienced a rush of hope as I matched each symptom with my distressed, sleepless babe. I willed for the festivities of Christmas to pass so that I could return to the GP room.

  • I booked an emergency GP appointment. Please see what I see, I prayed. Prescribe him all the drugs. Prescribe me some motherly love for my baby. Fortunately my little one put on his best show as if he himself had scoured the page, arching his back and screaming. The GP proclaimed “Silent reflux” and I stifled my overwhelming desire to embrace her. We left with a prescription for medication and a new hope.

  • Weaning began. It helped, a little. And with the reducing crying, my despair ebbed slowly from the shore of my mind. Hopelessness inched away, leaving a glimmer of optimism that change was on the horizon. Sleep extended, and life gradually started shifting into some sort of familiar focus.

  • Time helped.

  • Wine helped.

  • The achingly slow ticking of the clock, the turning of hours into days, and weeks into months. One foot in front of the other. Sticky syringes of prescription medication helped but time healed. It healed his physiology; it healed my broken mother heart. It healed the aching gulf of guilt where love should have been.

  • Breathing deeper.

  • Bad days and better days.

  • House move.Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.42.04 PM

  • 9 months old. In the world as long as he was in the belly. The sun broke through. Streaming in to dark corners. Day by day I stepped back into myself as I knew her. Each day became less about survival, and more about living.

  • I fell in love. I fell in love with my little boy. Hopelessly in love. Kisses. Relief. So much relief and so many kisses. That rich, newborn rush of love, nine months later than that sweaty, naïve summer morning in the birthing pool. I wanted to breathe him in and devour him. His smiles said that he didn’t hold a grudge and his giggles that he enjoyed me too. You’re my heaven” I say to him. You’re my promise that the sun ALWAYS breaks through.

  • The contrast of my feelings between then and now, as the words have tumbled onto the page have got me thinking. I have thought over my own experience in the light of my professional knowledge. I have spent many moments pondering about how love and loss and joy and sadness ebb and flow into each other in endless waves that we cannot control. And how love is dangerous, and thrilling, and terrifying and enriching. How when we attempt to protect ourselves from pain and loss by drawing back on the giving or receiving of love, we miss the point of love itself. It’s risky but we save ourselves from nothing that would hurt whether we loved safely, or abundantly. Part of me wanted not to love my baby, so that his screams and rejections would tear my heart a little less, and so that the tears wouldn’t rack my body quite so violently. But it didn’t. I have learnt that love and pain can sit side by side, both shockingly contrasting and co-existing. We made it. It won’t be the end, for life continues to ebb and flow, and many a curveball will be thrown our way. But that’s life, and if it’s as rich as it is risky, I’m game.

  • I’m seeing clients again and it’s so good.

  • I now have a specific empathy and compassion for those with Post Natal Depression to the extent that I’m honing down my client base to focus on working with women in these circumstances.

  • Amidst the pain, I feared that my experience would hamper my practice, but now I believe that to be so untrue. For now I know the stark and humbling truth in my heart, that knowledge doesn’t protect us from the storms of life. And it will be more than knowledge that will help us pass through them.

  • These are lessons I’ve learnt in other areas of my life in the past, but sometimes we need to learn these lessons anew regardless. Allowing myself to be vulnerable with others has been a lifesaving and life changing process. I am finding further peace in the fact that I haven’t always ‘got this’, and truly believing that that’s actually okay. And yes, it takes a village to raise a child. So, find your village. And remember, the sun ALWAYS breaks through the clouds.Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.42.28 PM

 

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2 thoughts on “Guest List: PND Got Me Too.

  1. Oh my goodness. I could have written that. The eye rolls from my inlaws who thought I was dramatic till they experienced it for themselves. The broken feeling you carry with you. The terrible thoughts in the middle of the night. Three years on I’m still battling through it. Thank you for being so open and sharing your story.

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  2. Thanks. I identified with so much of this…especially the idea of being seen as the “cope r”. PND is a humbling experience and it teaches you so much about how to look after yourself…its so hard but the sun always does shine through….you don’t think it will but it does. Getting back to living and not surviving is wonderful…thanks again for sharing.

    Like

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