Nothing can quite prepare you for bringing a baby into the world. Labour itself can be quite an ordeal both physically and emotionally, but it’s the period of time after that was most overwhelming for me. Did I have postnatal depression? No. Does that mean what I was feeling was insignificant? No.
When I first laid my eyes on our first born son, I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. He was the most beautiful thing I had seen and I just couldn’t take my eyes off him. I was instantly in love.
I should have stayed in hospital overnight but both Kam and I were eager to leave, as despite having my own side room, it was hot and stuffy and we just wanted to be in the comfort of our own home. Our return home wasn’t quite as I had expected it to be and neither were the few days after. Despite taking regular pain relief I could barely sit due to a fractured coccyx bone. I was breastfeeding as well, which intensified the pain, as I couldn’t get into a comfortable position and would literally be crying in pain. The physical pain , however, I could just about cope with. It was the emotional strain, which was taking it’s toll on me.
The first night was as expected – quite nerve wracking. I was beyond exhausted but was scared to close my eyes for even a second. I kept lifting my head up to look at the baby every time he made a sound. So many thoughts were running through my mind that I just couldn’t relax. What if he needed a feed and I didn’t hear him? What if he was too hot? Or even too cold? Had he been swaddled correctly? What if his nails were sharp and he scratched his face? How would I know when to change his nappy? What if he couldn’t breathe properly? Was he still breathing? I didn’t want to keep waking Kam up because I knew all these thoughts were irrational and thought that most first time mums probably felt the same, particularly on night one.
However, as the days went on I was becoming more and more tearful and anxious. Kam only had a couple of days off work but thinking back, those days must have been hell for him. He too had a newborn baby in addition to a complete mess of a wife who was extremely needy. When he did go back to work, my heart would literally sink every single morning and before he even got out of bed I would ask what time he would be back home. I would be counting down the hours and minutes until his return. When he did get home, I would ask him to hold me and would sob my eyes out. Initially he asked me why I was crying and when the response was always “I don’t know,” he stopped asking and would just hold me and be there with me. I felt like I wasn’t coping, despite having all the support I could possibly have asked for around me, as we were living with his parents.
I had gone from being a 27 year old career minded woman, to a mummy. My days were spent breastfeeding and changing nappies hourly both day and night, sweating profusely, washing load after load of vomit stained, soiled baby clothes and crying. What had my life become? Who was I?
In our culture, it is traditional to spend the first few weeks at home, which is what I did, but in retrospect I think that just worsened my frame of mind. I felt trapped even though I wasn’t in any way at all. I was irritable and didn’t want to engage in too much conversation, which probably came across as rude and ungrateful. I wasn’t sleeping at night. I had to force myself to eat despite lack of appetite because I needed to for the baby. I didn’t want to be a burden on anybody and lumber them with the baby, even though they couldn’t get enough of him. It was difficult to get the balance right, because on the one hand when I wasn’t doing all of the above I needed to take a few minutes to myself, but when you’re not in your own home, you don’t want to come across lazy. I knew what I was thinking wasn’t right but just couldn’t “snap out of it.” My feelings were completely out of my control.
I was living in London and my own family were in Birmingham. I just wanted either them or Kam to persistently be with me because in all honesty, your own parents/siblings are the only ones who truly know you. They are the people that you can be unreasonable and irrational around and they will not bat an eye lid or even take an ounce of offence in any way, shape or form. They are the only people who will never judge you and also the only people that you yourself won’t judge. I had friends who would message and ask how I was and if there was anything I needed, but I didn’t want to be a burden even to them. I wasn’t prepared for feeling this way and I just didn’t know what to do.
When we had Rhys, we were in our own home and I was out and about just days after having him. Again I had the same problem with a fractured coccyx, which impaired my ease of mobility, and also the same process of events with my emotions. With Rhys my labour was traumatic and left me quite shaken up. I found it distressing to think about the labour and would get flash backs, which made me feel frightened and scared.
This time it got so bad that my parent’s were extremely worried about me, so with the baby being just a couple of weeks old, I went to Birmingham to stay with my mum and dad. They would keep Rhys with them in their bedroom at night so that I could get some sleep and my mum would bring him back to me every couple of hours for a feed. Maicen slept in the bed with me. I remember waking up one morning to Maicen crying and literally feeling like I was paralysed. I couldn’t even turn my head to face him. I cried out for my dad and told him I couldn’t physically move, he took Maicen and came back to me to calm me down. My body was mentally and physically exhausted and felt like it was shutting down. I needed a break, I needed rest, I needed my mum and dad. To be in an environment that I felt completely at ease in, where I could say and do literally anything without any repercussions and at the same time have the help I needed. A place where I had normal girly chats with my sisters, which reminded me of who I was. It was difficult being away from Kam but it was such a busy time of year for him at work that it was the best place for us.
Many women go through these emotions after having a baby and it’s nothing to feel ashamed about. It is commonly referred to as the “baby blues,” although for me I think there was an element of post traumatic stress disorder the second time around. There are a lot of support networks out there and your midwife and health visitor are there for you just as much as the baby, so please speak up. They will not judge you.
This is the first time I have truly opened up about how I was feeling and I’m sure I came across as an ungrateful so and so to some. To those people who suffered my wrath whilst I was going through this, I am sorry. To those people who pushed me down the route of feeling even more hopeless and down when I was already in the pits, I thank you. I thank you for showing me your true colours. To those people who supported me and showered my babies with love, I am eternally grateful.