The flight I Couldn’t Win…

“She caught me on the back porch once again
In the middle of a fight we both knew I couldn’t win
Then she came up from behind and took my glass
And she said, hold me instead and soon the urge will pass…”

Chris Cagle, Who Needs The Whiskey

Before you read this post, I have a disclaimer. For the next few posts I’m going to be brutally honest. If you haven’t suffered from PND you might find some of what I admit shocking. You may be tempted to look at me differently, as a mum, and as a person. I am ok with that. I think one of the biggest strongholds of PND is the silence in which we suffer – afraid of how we are feeling; afraid of telling anyone incase we can’t cope with their reaction; afraid of the future and afraid of the person we have become. Recovering from PND, requires facing the silence, and the fear, head on and stepping out…so here I am.

The Mental Effects of PND.

Perhaps the best way to do this is to share extracts from my journal. About 2 months after Reuben was born, I was desperately trying to understand what was going on inside of me. I asked myself the question “How am I HONESTLY feeling?” and here’s what I came up with on those pages. It’s quite blunt and raw… you have been warned!

  • I hated being pregnant.  I had so many issues with the fear of how ‘big’ I would get. I knew that I had to eat properly to sustain Reuben but I felt constant pressure, about food, from day one. The worry about his size and my size, and the comments other people constantly made, caused me more fear and stress.
  • I’m not sure I ever really believed I was carrying a baby (my size didn’t show it) and I didn’t really feel connected to him. When he moved in my tummy it felt unnatural, rather than exciting.
  • I didn’t bond with him after the C-section – suddenly this baby appeared, that they said was mine, who I had to look after and love. I just could not comprehend that it belonged to me. Where had he even come from? I remember Gavin telling me he had an “emotional moment”, when Reuben and him were alone, as I was being sown up. On one hand I thought it was “sweet” but on the other hand I questioned “why on earth?”
  • I found hospital very stressful – I hated not being able to get out of bed to help Reuben when he cried, which made it harder to bond. I felt trapped and useless. Plus I had NO idea how to handle him or what to do with him.
  • Breastfeeding was a disaster, so I felt even more alone and like a failure. Didn’t bond via that either!
  • I would turn back the clock if I could. I wish we’d never had a baby. I struggle with the constant demands and needs, overwhelmed by responsibility, everything is hard work, no time for anything other than him, can’t think of anything but what he needs next, I can’t even switch off and watch TV in cases he wakes.
  • I fear that I have ‘lost’ myself forever. When will I ever be able to do/think about anything other than the baby? Will I ever go out to work again or be productive at the things I enjoy?
  • He’ll never go away now – life with never be the same. I feel stuck. I miss what life used to be like and I am not looking forward to the future.
  • I don’t feel I’ve bonded with him –  I do all he needs out of duty, not love.
  • I am exhausted and think I always will be.
  • I would happily run away and leave the situation behind.
  • I don’t really believe that he’s my baby, maybe I wish he wasn’t.
  • If someone said he wasn’t mine or they had to take him away I would not fight them.  Instead I would feel relieved, as that would make total sense of all that I currently feel. In fact, some days, I imagine that a Health Visitor will turn up at my door with the above news, and I will let him go. Maybe I even mentally have his bags packed.
  • I feel guilty and ashamed of myself for feeling this way but I can’t change it and I have tried so hard to.
  • I feel alone and isolated, even with Gavin or mum, because of I feel. How could I ever tell them all of this?
  • I NEVER want to have another child. When I hear that someone is pregnant I feel sorry for them and wonder if they have any idea what they have let themselves in for. When I see other people with kids – on TV or in person – and they are happy, I wonder why. How could they be happy when they have a baby? I wonder if I will ever be happy again. I long for times when I was…
  • I am so relived to get away from him, but feel guilty leaving him with someone else and putting the burden of him onto them – why should they have to look after him?
  • I am scared he will come to know how I feel about him, either now or in the future. Will I damage him forever because of my failings?”

As the months went by, these feeling didn’t go away. Yes, I will admit, at times I was better at pushing them to the back of my mind, but they always haunted my heart. Not being able to face them lead me to being obsessive.

My main obsession was Reuben’s routine – when he slept and woke; when and what he ate; when he played; when we walked each day (I had to be out with him for at least an hour in the fresh air, pounding the pavements); his bath time and bed time. I found comfort in the routine and would find myself very nervous or anxious when it was broken – unless I knew well in advance. The routine, I had built, was the only part of my life over which I had any control. Reuben seemed settled and secure it in –  so it was comforting to know that at least I was doing something right. I wasn’t willing to give up that achievement lightly.

Early this year, my obsessions started to spread past Reuben and his daily schedule. That’s when I began to wonder if there was something I was missing. I would sit on my computer, most nights, obsessively looking up things, that were of no real need or consequence. For example, at one point I convinced myself that Reuben might actually freeze to death during the night – so I spent endless hours looking up how hot his room needed to be, how many layers I should dress him in, and the warmest sleeping bag I could buy. This was completely ridiculous. He wasn’t even waking up in the night because he was cold – so my concerns were founded in nothing. I used to sigh relief each morning, when I heard his little voice over the monitor, thankful that last night had not been the night for “it” to happen.

I also got the point where I hated people asking me how Reuben was or even having to tell someone, I hadn’t seen in ages, that I’d had a baby. It felt like I as lying. As if I had to pretend that I was a mum, when really that wasn’t true. I would watch other mums with their kids and struggle to comprehend that was me – I felt like I was living a lie and some day I would be caught out.

As I have re-read this post, before hitting publish, I am a bit concerned about sharing the depths of how this has affected me – believe me I wish it wasn’t so. I have battled with all of this for so long and lost every time.  Even now I feel guilty, when I think of Reuben’s little face and how much he loves and trusts me.  There’s doubtfully a women out there who hopes to have PND, I definitely didn’t. To be honest, it’s not something I thought too much about, I’d heard of it, of course, but I knew very little about it. If you had asked me, I would have come up with something very insensitive like – “someone who cries all the time” or “someone who harms her baby”. This is nowhere near the full story. I don’t know everything about it, but I do know it’s not something to be trivialized. It’s also something we are not well enough educated about –  in order to look out for the signs in ourselves or in each other.

What I’ve shared today, might be hard to understand or stomach, but it’s simply the truth. I know for sure I am not the only one who struggles in this way.

I am now beginning to work my way through all those issues, questions and statements. In doing so, I have had to accept that they are part of my illness and not a reflection on me as a terrible mum or horrific person.

My Psychiatrist has labelled them “Re-occuring Intrusive Thoughts” which I am now battling, day in, day out. Hopefully because I am getting help, speaking up and being heard, it’s a fight that, this time, I will win.

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5 Responses

  1. Kelly McCartney says:

    Lindsay it is so refreshing to hear someone like you writing this. I myself went through pnd with my first child Jonathan and everything you have written is as if it came out of my mouth I felt exactly the same! I remember telling a friend how hard it was being a mum and her reply to me was “yes but it’s the best job in the world” I said to my husbund what is wrong with me I’m hating this job, I’m not normal! Broke down to my gp eventually and told her I hated being a mummy that was the first step on my road to recovery although it was a long road but I came out the other side something I thought I would never do! Jonathan is 9 now and a great boy when he was 5 we decided to have another baby after alot of soul searching Luke came along things couldn’t have been more different bonded with him from first moment I set eyes on him still feel guilty for feeling like that as I feel through my illness I let Jonathan down someway.Still have some days I question myself am I a good mummy etc etc but I push these feelings to the back of my head my 2 boys are happy, healthy and I have to constantly pinch myself to see how far we, ve all come never thought I would have very proud of myself! Thank you for writing your blog so good that women don’t feel on their own when suffering from pnd I always find talking helps so much wishing you and your family well for the future Kelly McCartney

    • Kelly, thank you so much for sharing some of your story with me. I am so delighted to hear that you are doing well and that you have come out the other end. It’s such a heartbreaking illness and devastating to have to go through. Glad your two boys are doing well and I have no doubt that you are a fantastic mum! Wishing you and you wee family health and happiness x

  2. Jeam Murray says:

    Hi Lindsey,just read your story and it is so like my daughters. I am Sinead Willis mother my name Is Jean Murray. I know your story will help other mothers out who read it you are a very brave and honest woman to put your story into words and I know that will be beneficial to you along with the mothers who read it. At one stage in our daughter Sineads illness circumstances got so critical that we had to take our baby grandson home to Ireland to look after him, Her husband had to look after their daughter schooling and get to his work so it seemed the best option. I worried about the bonding with the baby myself but Sinead was in hospital and would have been separated from the baby anyhow. I asked the home visitor one day would this separation from his mother do harm she told me no, that as long as a baby is fed changed and well looked after that was all they needed. Well Lindsey I can assure you he was, we adored him and our time spent with him. When he returned to his mum I cried when I saw him give his mum the biggest smile as she took him in her arms. That proved it to me and I will never forget that moment.Sinead didn’t make the progress we hoped for and eventually came home to us with the baby and with her close family around her, good treatment she made a good recovery as you already know from her story. Well done Lindsey great to know another mum has done the same. My husband Brian and I wish you and your family all the very best for the future and may God bless you in all you are doing to help mothers in the terrible battle with PND xxx,

    • Lovely to hear from you Jean! I think your daughter is amazing and hope to be able to meet her in person some day. I am so glad she had such wonderful support from you and the rest of her family. I don’t know what i’d do without my mum, her help is invaluable – I know Sinead must feel the same about you. Maybe we’ll meet some day too – this wee country is a small place!! Thanks again for getting into touch xxxx

  3. Jeam Murray says:

    Thanks for your reply Lindsay, I must also commend you on your letter to the Executive re Mental Health, it was very informative and to the point. Hope it results in much needed change. Well done again. PND leaves behind some really good and generous people. Maybe we will meet up one day till then Gods blessings to you and your family. Jean Murray xx

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