Here’s what I know about PND. People don’t like to talk about it. Did you read this fab article by Sandy on Maternity Matters yesterdaay? Her story highights my point perfectly.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, a lady in the office where I worked told me how her neighbour’s daughter had been diagnosed with PND. The entire converstation was carried out in hushed tones, so much so that I actually asked why we were whispering.
“Because she doesn’t want anyone to know”
I accepted this with a knowing nod of my head and thought to myself, I hope I don’t get it, like covering my face with a tissue might make a difference. My daughter was born and I was on a high. A friend’s partner casually asked how many times I had burst into tears since she was born and I worriedly told him I hadn’t. Was that normal? Well, yes. But, also: no.
It’s confusing becoming a mother. People say its normal to feel one way but ok to feel another. You might want to cry in the first few days and thats fine but if you cry too much or for too long, thats not fine. Phew, so much to remember. The health visitor comes around with that questionaire and I became convinced that I had cheated. It would be so easy to do that. Had I cheated? Was I secretly depressed? Ridiculous, huh?
When the baby was born, I left the old me behind. I instructed my husband that the clothes that I had been wearing the night I went into labour were to go into the bin immediately and I think most of my sanity followed them. I drove myself crazy because I didn’t want to be depressed and yet I coudn’t stop crying. I was told it was normal to feel this way and that I should allow myself the time to feel sad and cry. I scraped through the questionaires each time but she kept coming back to repeat them. Maybe she thought I was cheating.
The thing is, not only was the baby’s birth a complete nightmare that I still cannot talk about without crying, but I had other stuff to deal with too. I found it difficult to adjust to having two children and had felt this way long before he was born. It had taken a while to get pregnant in the first place and that had taken its toll. I had been ill for most of the pregnancy, again that had affected my emotional state. Mainly, my son was ill. I was convinced that his birth was the reason why. Before we were discharged, the paediatrician announced cheerfully that there had been no signs of cerebal palsy and I remember the shock I felt that I had not even considered this. Actually, they had never told me they were looing for signs. His health worried me greatly and the endless sleepless nights filled with screaming seemed like they would never end. It’s no wonder I had the baby blues.
When the baby was eight months old, my GP announced that I was suffering from PND and I left his office feeling utterly ashamed. I know people close to me with the exact diagnosis and others with different forms of depression. I know it is an illness and I know that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Yet, thats how I felt. I refused to accept the diagnosis and medication was out of the question. I still believe I was misdiagnosed, because my GP did not take the time to listen to my feelings regarding the birth, but thats another post altogether.
The point of all of this is that there are taboos surrounding PND. I’m not sure how we can end this but we need to stop hiding behind shame and guilt. They won’t take our babies away, they won’t judge us… or will they?
So this is what I know about Post-natal Depression. Not many people want to talk about it or admit it. Give us a cast on our leg instead, that kind of illness won’t make us the weakest link and will alert people to our ailments. Post-natal Depression can be invisible.