My name is Aisling Cooper. I have 2 beautiful daughters, Mia, 4 and Robin, 11 months.
My Journey with Postnatal Depression began shortly before my first daughter was born. In hindsight I didn’t see it but looking back I can recognise the signs of it beginning now. I struggled badly through my pregnancy with Mia with morning sickness and physically was in a lot of pain. As the pregnancy went on I struggled physically with moving around and it took its toll on me mentally. As someone who likes to be moving and doing things it was a real struggle to not be able to do this.
Finally, on the Friday the contractions started, they came on and off the entire day, we went to bed and they eased off. By Saturday I made my way to the maternity unit only to be sent home and told to come back when it got to sore. Then came the delivery which didn’t do smoothly either, I was totally drained and exhausted, they broke my waters and still no progression. I was placed on the drip and the epidural was started. It wore off after an hour and none of the staff was listening to me, while I tried to explain that I could once again feel all of the contractions, after a while of pushing they took away the gas and air as they told me it was making me drowsy. By this point I was so worn out I was falling asleep mid contraction and physically just couldn’t push anymore. The doctors came in and aided me in delivering Mia via vacuum, once she was delivered and they did their checks and began to give me stitches was the point they realised that I was feeling everything and finally gave me something to numb it. I didn’t care anymore, I was totally infatuated with Mia that the pain was somewhere in the distance.
Every time I think back to her delivery I get very angry at not being heard. No matter how many times I told them that the I could feel it all. Nobody believed me. This was the treatment I received throughout my entire pregnancy in regards to my feelings. I requested at 8 weeks to have a referral put in for the maternity psychology department. 9 months later and that referral still had come to nothing. I had a referral for physio placed also to help with the physical pain and once again came to nothing. After all of these attempts being ignored there seemed little point in even trying again. After Mia arrived the hospital stay was very stressful for me, once again I was being ignored, I had been given no preparation of what to expect post birth in the hospital. The ward was hectic, something I was not able to cope with, each time I closed my curtain for some privacy it was ripped open. I would ask for help with breastfeeding and again nothing happened. At one stage I asked for help and rather than talk me through it the nurse manhandled me and the baby and forced her onto my breast. Something I was not comfortable with and not even asked if she could do so. It was all very upsetting and I pushed as hard as I could in order to get home asap.
The first night home I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep, I was petrified if i took my eyes off her something would happen, I woke my husband to watch her while I slept. Looking back I know now that it was the beginning of my anxiety kicking in, which only increased as the weeks went on. I felt mentally well in the first few weeks, we struggled with breastfeeding but we got into the swing of pumping and feeding until 6 weeks postpartum when I had to stop pumping which caused me huge guilt. I wanted so badly to provide for her and I couldn’t do the most basic of functions and feed my child. It rocketed me into depression and I was no longer interested in interacting with anybody, I gave Mia the basic needs, feeding, changing her but I did little else. I didn’t want to play with her or see anybody. I did my best to push through it until we visited my husband’s home. It really took hold of me on that holiday and it felt very dark. Once we got home I knew I needed to speak to somebody but I was scared of not being heard once again. Those fears sadly where met, at my 6 week check up I was met with sarcastic remarks from the doctor in regards to my age and then when I went back to ask for help I was given a list of questions and handed a script. That was it, in and out in 5 minutes with no conversation. I didn’t go in there looking for a prescription. I was not against medication but it was not the route I wanted to take first. I was hoping to get a referral to speak to somebody. Again I went back and once again I was told to take the medication and off I went.
I pushed through and soon the fog started to slowly lift and I was feeling slightly more normal again but the anxiety was taking over. I couldn’t leave Mia anywhere, even in another room. I had to be able to see her at all time. I couldn’t leave the front door without her even to go to the local shop when she was sleep. I would panic and have an overwhelming fear. At this point I didn’t know that it was another part of my post natal depression because all I knew of it was that I would loose interest in my child, feel dark and bleak. This wasn’t how I felt at that point, in fact to others I seemed so interested in my child that I wouldn’t leave my side. In reality it was fear. I was afraid that even her own father, my husband wouldn’t know what she needed. I was her mother, I knew what each cry meant and if I wasn’t there I wouldn’t let her feel the same way I did when I wasn’t understood. I didn’t realise at the time that I was projecting that fear on to her. Subconsciously I was doing what every parent does, protecting her. Shielding her from the possibility that someone might not know what she wanted. I couldn’t leave her until she was talking with ease and others could know what she was saying.
A week after Mia turned 1, my mother sadly passed away from cancer and I was plunged back in to the darkness. I struggled through and wasn’t aware just how angry I had become after it all. It wasn’t until the day my husband stopped me and asked me to “just stop shouting”. I was so shocked, I didn’t realise how much I had been shouting at him, I was so angry and hurt by it all. I felt so let down by those who should have been helping me that I gave up even trying to get help. After about 9 months I sought help from Marie Curie who provided me with a bereavement counsellor. This was the first time I felt heard. Quickly it made a huge difference, I felt human again, I was enjoying myself and ready for our upcoming wedding. those services are of course time limited but I was so glad to have just received something and it made a big difference to my life that I was stronger and able to continue on the recovery once those services ended.
Then in July ’15 I found out I was pregnant with Robin. I had tried to prepare myself mentally for this pregnancy but once I was pregnant it all went out the window. I was so afraid of having to go through all the sickness and pain again. All everyone said was no two pregnancies are alike, this one will be easier. I tried so hard to believe them but the anxiety was always there. This time around I was sicker and the physical pain started sooner, I was using a wheelchair by 17 weeks compared to 37 weeks with Mia. Once again I was angry, why don’t I get to enjoy my pregnancies. Why do I have to be so miserable. It took its toll on Mia this time also because I wasn’t able to play with her and entertain her as I had been before the pregnancy. Soon I had no interest in getting up, even getting dressed was painful so what was the point. I staying in bed most days and cancelled meetings with friends regularly. Once again I felt angry.
In December I suddenly felt better mentally. I wasn’t angry, I was enjoying things, but I was scratching constantly. To the point that I was bleeding and covered in marks. I went to the hospital knowing that there was a medical issue that caused constant scratching towards the end of pregnancy. I went to the hospital 3 times each time not getting an answer as to why I was scratching, the third time we went and the doctor told me she couldn’t help me, there was no medical reason as to why I was scratching I got completely distressed. I was beside myself, I needed help, someone to do something. I needed the scratching to stop. She heard me that time, she set me up with emergency mental health team and sent me to A&E. I waited for them and they set me up with the mental health team through the emergency system thankfully. The itching decreased at that stage. It was clearly a cry for help at that point, I was getting nowhere speaking to people so my mind took over and displayed physical distress.
The saying “you wait forever for a bus and then three turn up” comes to mind at this stage. I received my appointment with the Mental health team (MHT) and then my postnatal referral finally came through. It was decided that I see the perinatal MHT at this point and they became my primary support. Regularly checking in I was glad to have the support. I was able to relay my fears for the delivery and experience in the hospital this time around. They gave me back up so that when I went in to the hospital there was a plan set in place. Of course as babies do nothing goes to plan and Robin arrived via emergency c-section. It still feels like a total blur as to what happened. It was hectic and manic, exactly what I didn’t need at that time. The staff this time where fantastic, listened to everything I said, all my fears and even in the rush took the time to make sure I was comfortable. It felt like I blinked and she was there.
This time I was placed in a side room and comfortable, I had the space I needed and could breath. Breastfeeding was going as planned and although quiet and bit lonely away from my family I was much more comfortable. I was so afraid of the anxiety creeping back but I didn’t feel that overwhelming fear this time around. Soon we where off home and I waited for it, I waited and waited but thankfully this time around the panic hasn’t been there. At least not above the normal mother worries.
Once Robin turned 6 months, I started to see the psychologist. She has been a life-line and made all the difference to my recovery. I finally had someone listening to me and giving me advice on how to cope. Soon my panic attacks have started to reduce and my anxiety attacks are less and less frequent.
I have begun to write about my experiences also after coming across Lindsay’s blog. We need to keep talking, until we are blue in the face and then we talk some more. It is so important to break the stigma.
Thankfully almost 1 year after Robins birth I am feeling much more secure in myself and my recovery. I know I am not finished yet, It was always be a part of my life and I will have many ups and downs but I can always crawl my way back to me.
Thank you Aisling for telling your story so openly and honestly. You will help so many other mums and dads by willingly sharing your journey. If you'd like to connect with Aisling you can read her blog and get in touch here - http://journeybacktome.co.uk