Postnatal Depression And Me

by Dominique Tahir

I never thought I would be hit by depression – it was just not on my radar. I had never really even heard of postnatal depression before. So when I suffered quite nastily with it, it was a complete shock. For me, it was a slow burner and then turned out to be completely debilitating. I have always been in control of my life, especially my career as a Fashion Buyer, so to feel out of control was totally alien to me. I always had a plan and aimed to achieve it.

When I had my first baby boy, Jacob, I was on cloud nine and had a brilliant experience, despite him having a horrible bout of reflux. We were so in love with him and seemed to overcome everything that came our way – nothing was too much of a problem. When I discovered I was pregnant with our second baby only four months after having Jacob, things just felt different, like something was un-nerving me. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. I felt anxious about things which never really bothered me before. The small age gap was planned – we always wanted a big family and close together – so I knew it wasn’t that. At first I just put it down to stress and that I was doing too much, but towards the end of my third trimester things seemed to be getting worse – every day was a struggle. I was diagnosed with Polyhydramnios (a condition where you have excess amniotic fluid). The consultant kept pushing to induce me, which is not what I wanted, but I had to give in, putting the baby ahead of my own wishes for the birth. From this moment on things started to spiral and I felt a big dark cloud over my head. It’s really hard to explain – it’s almost like my world turned from glorious technicolor into grey-scale. To couple this, I had to resign from my job as they could not keep my position open any longer – with two small babies it would have been impossible to go back. It was a job I loved. I felt resentment about leaving my career, but also joy that I was able to be at home with my children, which is what I thought I wanted. I was really confused and felt guilty constantly. Coupled with this, my husband also lost his job, so we were both out of work leaving us extremely vulnerable. This was a really dark time for us as a family and put a huge amount of strain on our family.

When my son Teddy was born I loved him, but there was not the same instant connection that I felt when Jacob was born. Even though Teddy was an easier baby and latched on when feeding, I felt completely disconnected from him. The guilt that I felt was eating me up inside. I would look at him and think he was not mine, like my brain was just shutting off from any capability to love. I was struggling to get dressed in the morning and felt anxious leaving the house, for fear the worst would happen. I would not want to even be in the same room alone with both of the boys – I would feel the fear rise up in my chest. Even writing this now is bringing this all back to me. I hated how I felt and sometimes wished I was not here anymore. Not like I would do anything to hurt myself or my family – I just felt like they would all be better off if I was not here. I felt like I was just not good enough – as a wife, a mother or even a friend. I started to lose a lot of my old friends in the fashion industry, so also just felt completely out of myself. I had lost ‘me’.

The crunch point was one day when I literally could not get out of bed. I’d had a silly disagreement in the early hours with my husband when feeding Teddy and suddenly I felt like I was loosing my mind – I even stuck a breast pad to my head in desperation!! Something had to give! This was clearly not normal behaviour! My Mum knew something was not quite right too and tried to help. They were both very supportive, but this was something I had to do for myself. Eventually I went to my GP, a male GP, who sadly did not really get it. He said I should put myself forward to iTalk, which is over the phone Cognitive Behaviour Therapy also known as CBT. I had a couple of sessions which seemed to help, but once I was discharged they were meant to call back in a month’s time and never did! No one ever followed up; it’s so easy to fall into the system. In my opinion, face-to-face counselling would have been much more effective, but this was never offered. I joined baby yoga and also Weight Watchers just to try and get some piece of my self back. My body felt disgusting after having two babies so close together – I could not look in the mirror. I had to do something about it. I went on a mindfulness course, which was a bit of a turning point; it made me see what was in front of me, to live in the now and not in the past or the future.

I was actually one of the lucky ones; I managed to lift the cloud over my head. It seemed forever, but the darkness did fade and I managed to overcome it and without medication. This is not for everyone – sometimes the postnatal depression is a chemical imbalance, which requires medication. The struggle is all the same, as long as you find your way out of it.

All you need is that one kind person to ask how your day is, to be a friend to someone in need, to realise you need help and to be there for you. No one knows how hard your struggle is until you talk. The pressure which society puts on women to ‘have it all’ is setting us all up for a fall; we need to learn to be kind to ourselves.

Having a network of amazing mum friends has helped massively. Some understand, some don’t as they have not felt the sadness of depression, but the main thing is that they have your back – that’s what true friends are. The help of family and an awesome group of mum friends really can get you through.

I slowly bonded with my son and the love I have for him now is unbreakable, even though he is now a troublesome two year old. He is spirited they say, strong and spirited, and I am truly blessed he is here. It was a tough life lesson, but when you get to the other side you are all the stronger for it. I am now a mummy to three babies, only recently having had my baby girl four months ago, and I have not had one symptom of postnatal depression with her. It just shows that if you have it with one baby you will not necessarily have the same journey again. Personally I swear by having my placenta encapsulated. It’s not for everyone, but it sure worked for me!

Out of something dark comes something light. It has made me a stronger person and has also driven me to do something for myself and make my children proud of me. I have recently set up my own children’s wear label ‘Bluebell & Bear’ which has totally given me my spark back and a purpose to my day. Doing something that I love makes me feel happy again. It’s all about finding your happy place and clutching onto it with both hands… life is too darn short!

Be strong mummies and take one day at a time – it will all be ok in the end.

With love Dominique xxx