This is something of an explanation. This is probably something of an excuse. This is something I wasn’t sure would ever make it to the publish button.
Last December, after feeling really rather rotten, I found myself in my bathroom peeing on a pregnancy test. Before I had even had chance to consider my feelings, there was the little pink plus sign which confirmed something I had been told may not even be possible. My partner did all of the things that you’re supposed to – including the exciting things you are always supposed to say – while I just stood there with my mouth open and tried to figure out what I felt. I waited for the warm rush of love that meant ‘I loved you from the second I saw the lines on the test,’ and I waited for excitement to pool in the pit of my stomach so I too could jump around and be happy.
Because I was happy. I was thrilled. I just didn’t know how to express it aloud because I was also fricking terrified. Within minutes I felt an overwhelming rush of guilt that I hadn’t jumped around squealing like women do in the movies. I hugged my partner and said, very honestly, ‘I don’t know what to say!’
‘That’s normal,’ he replied, beaming from ear to ear, and I smiled back, determined my fears were not taking this moment from me.
‘That’s normal,’ is a phrase that over the next few months would become poison to my ears.
When people talk about depression and anxiety in relation to pregnancy, it’s always Post Natal that comes up – or the ‘baby blues’ if you REALLY want to belittle it. However no one warned me about Ante Natal depression – the one that comes before you even get that bundle handed to you. In fact, the literature that I was supplied with after my first midwife visit contained one paragraph about this condition, and cited hormones as the cause. Because ‘it’s normal.’
I knew the way I felt was not normal. Whilst most people in their first trimester were running to the bathroom to chuck up their breakfast, I was running to the bathroom to panic silently and cry my eyes out – and debating over whether or not to put my name on the 5th cubicle on the left. Sometime during my 9th week I began to bleed, and dashed off to hospital to see my tiny kidney bean with a heartbeat, which was the first moment I actually felt something about the situation. It still wasn’t the movie moment I was anticipating, and there certainly were no fireworks, but I felt flutters of excitement [or maybe it was wind]. Then the same thing happened 2 weeks later, and I was told something that brought it all home… that we should prepare for the worst as I may have lost the baby. We stayed awake all night, while I cried on and off, blaming myself because I hadn’t had the fireworks, I hadn’t immediately started going gooey over baby grows and I certainly hadn’t got the nursery planned.
The next day, we went for another scan and saw the heartbeat again, along with some stubby little arms and legs, and I vowed that this was it, I was going to full on embrace the motherhood gene as hard as possible. However my mind spiralled in total the opposite direction – I became afraid that any negative thought would send the baby away, so I was forcing a smile on my face in public constantly, and even when I was afraid I’d puke on someone’s shoes, I would not admit that I felt ill. This made me more and more exhausted until one day I couldn’t take it anymore, and stormed out of work. As I sat in my car having panic attack after panic attack, I sobbed to my partner that I couldn’t do it. He is totally laid back about everything so calmly suggested I go to the doctor and explain that I wasn’t coping too well. Thankfully the doctor was understanding and signed me off work; he explained that the pressure I was putting myself and my body under could have been what caused the bleeding in the early days – which sent me even further into despair. What kind of mother was I if I was putting my baby in danger because I couldn’t get my thoughts under control? But of course, I was advised that ‘some anxiety was normal.’
After I tried [and failed] to return to work, my confidence took even more of a knock and I found myself trying to reach out to people… only to be told that ‘nerves were normal.’ This was not just nerves, I was so afraid of something happening to the baby, of something happening to me, how would we cope with money, how could we manage with childcare, how, what, when where, why… The consultant suggested I adjust my medication but that it might be dangerous for the baby; I felt as though I had no control over my life or even my own body. I trawled the net for support and found so much for post natal depression but very little for antenatal, and so made the request to return to therapy so that I had someone to talk to – someone who wouldn’t just tell me my overwhelming feelings were ‘normal.’ When I spoke to my therapist and started talking through my feelings, it became obvious that I was on a slippery slope to a relapse. Determined that I was not putting my body or my mind through that dangerous cycle again, I threw myself into finding motivation and trying to build myself back up – which works sometimes, and sometimes I just have to sit in bed with the covers over my head.
Some days are so precious. Some days I am beyond happy and excited about my little man [yes it is a boy] joining the world, and some days I feel like my unborn son deserves so much better – that he deserves someone ‘normal’ for his mother. I have been so lucky to have a supportive partner who never judges me for anything that I say or feel, but I can’t imagine that I am alone in feeling this way. However we feel might be ‘normal’ but it can be awfully lonely, so I have decided to open my own blog dedicated to mummy type things, which can also be a forum for people to chat and open up about their own stories. I will keep this blog – it’s something I am really proud of and would love to get back into when the time is right, however I want to keep it just for beauty and lifestyle and my other site mymisadventureintomotherhood.wordpress.com will become a place for parent type posts.
If you feel that any of these things apply to you, I urge you to talk to your GP, or self refer to your local NHS Mental Health service for additional help and support. May 1-8 is Maternity Mental Health Week and May is Mental Health Awareness Month so if any time is best to speak out, it is now. Please don’t suffer in silence.
We are all enough.
Until next time,