PND Awareness Week – My story

Today’s blog post is from Penny Snowball. She describes the traumatic events leading up to the birth of her baby and how hard she found it and how long it took her to ask for help when PND took hold.

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newborn and mum

Image: Netmums

My story with PND began in September, 1985, when I gave birth to my beautiful son. He was 10lbs and I had to have an emergence c-section.  I was two weeks over due and they tried to induce me twice and it did not work.

I had had a threatened miscarriage at 5 and a half months and due to my endometreosis had been advised not to have the baby and to terminate as the baby could be born blind or deformed, or at the worst we could both die.

I had become pregnant in 1982 and was advised to have a termination due to my condition, I very sadly went along with it, I never recovered and to this day regret the decision. So, when I was told the same thing 2 years later, I told them absolutely no way, I am having my baby and I do not care.  I am very happy to say that we both lived to tell the tale and I now have the most wonderful 27 year old son.

During my labour, I was very distressed emotionally, my parents were making promises and then breaking them, my family were pretty flaky and my friends were brilliant, but I could not ask for help.  There were many issues around the whole relationship with my sons father, which I will not go into here, but suffice to say it was very unsettling, as I also believed that he was coming to steal my son.

The delivery was an emergency c-section and I was terrified, they epidural was only numbing one of my sides and it was too late to change it.  The moment my son was born I asked does he have eyes, all his fingers, toes and on I went until I knew my baby was totally perfect…..and then I collapsed.  I woke in a side room without my son and panicked, I needed him near to me, all the time, which in those days was not regular.  I did get to see him and have him with me and from then on, after a bit of a fight, my baby was with me all the time in the ward……..I was terrified someone was coming to take him away.  Every friend who was nice and lovely was a threat, the nurses, doctors and even the other mothers in the ward were potential suspects. I told nobody, I believed it was real.

In hospital for 2 weeks due to a chest infection following the operation and on my return home, it got worse.  I would not let my son out of my sight, I smiled and pretended all was OK to my friends and family. The health visitor didn’t have a clue and I got more and more insular.  All I wanted to do was to be with my son, and be.

Looking back now I realize that when I was at my friends house and I was upstairs shutting all the windows because ‘they’ are coming to get him, up the drainpipe or the wisteria, that this was not normal, but for me it was real and it was terrifying. A friend once confronted me about not getting dressed and said this is a sign of depression Penny, I did not respond kindly to her and thought she was being critical, she said in in a slightly mocking way I thought.  I barely got dressed for the first 6 months of my sons life, I could not leave his side. I had no idea why. The symptoms went on right up until my son was 18, they got milder, but it was only when he was 18 and I said, nobody can take you away from me now, that I collapsed and realized I had been carrying this. Mine had become psychosis and somehow I functioned. The only way I can describe it was like in the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’, when he believes the people he sees are real and the shed is all there is, and suddenly realizing the shed has a door, and that life is not as it seemed. It is so painful to come out of, and so very difficult and I have needed so much support as mine developed into other forms of mental illness, PTSD, which I am now getting proper support for.

I also believe that because my own mother left me from a month old, and I had one nanny after another, this may well have something to do with it, together with the fact that my life was very unsettled and I had very little consistent support.  There is a lot of evidence to support this idea.  Early childhood memories getting stored and only becoming awoken when you have your own baby.

It has taken all these years to recover, due to the lack of support available and the fear, real fear that if I tell/told anyone, I would not have the support to help me or the understanding and that my baby would be taken away from me. It is for this reason I wanted to share my story, to help raise awareness and hopefully help to make a difference.

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Find out more about the new Mums Maternal Mental Health report published today and woman sadfunded by the Boots Family Trust with Tommy’s, Netmums, Royal College of Midwives and the Institute of Health Visiting.

You can find out more about and download a Well Being Plan here.

Read the most common myths and facts about PND.

Find support for depression, anxiety and postnatal depression on Netmums

All this week we will be featuring guest blogs from mums who share their own experiences of post natal depression and how it affected their lives. We hope you will pop by each day next week to read our guest blogs.

Penny writes about recovery from addiction and mental health and other articles on PennySnowball.com  

About The Netmums Blog

The Netmums Blog brings you a behind the scenes look at Netmums, as well as some fabulous guest bloggers and an up to date look at what's new on our Parent Bloggers Network.
This entry was posted in campaign, depression, motherhood, post natal depression, POst Natal Depression Awareness Week and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to PND Awareness Week – My story

  1. Claire says:

    Penny, I totally empathise with you. I had my daughter in 1988 (very traumatic labour) and suffered horrible PND (with no help from an absolutely vile ex-husband). My son was born by C Section just under two years later. I had not got over the last bout of PND and this time suffered dreadully with all the symptoms you describe above. The ex was no help whatsoever, my parents were no help whatsoever and the few friends I did have were all alienated by the controlling ex…I had no one. I was told to ‘Pull yourself together” Great help NOT. To cut a very long and painful story short..I literally went out of my mind…he divorced me, got custody of my two babies (I still have no idea to this day when he went to court and did that) and for many years battled with depression,a nervous breakdown, psychosis…you name it..I had it. I spent years and years in the courts trying and sometimes successfully to snatch time with my kids and now? Well now they are in their mid twenties and haven’t spoken to me since 2008 Their father (and his now ex second wife) had poisoned their minds against me totally. Support from as many people as one can get after having a baby is so very important.

    • annetterepavon@aol.com says:

      This breaks my heart especially reading Claires story – It really does touch a nerve with me too as I have felt the pain and anxiety myself. My PND started straight away with my first (again c section like these 2 stories) and I never had any real support and was isolated with the only people I had to help in my town being my inlaws who dont like to take on responsibilities or change their own routines to help so even though help was available I was made to feel bad or inadequate as a mother if I asked for help (as they always tell me MIL never had any help and never complained) …

      anyway it stayed with me and with my second child the feelings were still there, only by now I had changed into an unrecogniseable person – snappy, irritable, completely unaffectionate and so tired and worn down looking (this was so different to the happy go lucky very well groomed and confident person I was) I look at myself sometimes and wonder where it all went wrong but I cant pinpoint exactly where it just gradually declined – Hubby says im cold and distant and often says he wants his wife back – you know the one who loved cuddles and kisses and intimacy – not the one he has now who always wants space (I feel like I cant breathe when he comes asking for a cuddle – like I just want my own personal space!) …

      anyway I am trying to get by bit by bit and my children are so happy and loved – if anything its like all my energy is put into making them the happiest confident little people – its all I strive for as I have no interest in my appearance or my own interests as I just seriously cant be bothered yet I can quite happily spend all my hours plaiting my daughters long hair, reading them books, taking them to parks, cuddling and singing, making them lovely meals etc… I have spent hours upon hours researching parenting styles and am I feel very good at the positive discipline and being really intune with my childrens emotional needs – its like an obsession I cant escape nor do I want to!

      No one would ever guess I feel so low that I would quite happily stay at home all day every day and not speak to anyone because I have such an outgoing personality in the public eye and its hard keeping that front up but I cant let anyone in to the darker side and the pretence is actually quite good as when Im smiling I feel so much better!

      The good that has come from this is that I am supportive of other mums I meet and friends and I know how hard it is to be a parent so I am always there to help without asking questions or giving advice im just there to help if im needed and I know with people that the best way to help is not to treat it like helping for example a friend of mine has 3 children and I know she struggles so I ask her if she would mind me taking the older 2 off her hands to entertain my daughter as she loves playing with them and you can just see how extremely grateful she is of this time alone with her baby and time she hasnt had to ask for!

      All I can say is reach out to each and every mother you know even if they seem like they have it all in check they might be longing for a chat or a few child free hours or even you just inviting yourself round one day and turning up with a yummy cake and treats for the kids just so she feels you value seeing her. The most important thing I think is never to judge a mother or keep advising her on how she can do things better just be there for her without being asked and tell her when she is doing a great job at something – this is one thing I have always got down about as people are always so quick to judge your appearance or your childs tantrum but they never say well done when you handle a situation really well.

      I remember a day that changed me for the better in a supermarket with my 2 (never an easy task!) my 2 throwing tantrums trying to climb out of the trolley and an elderly lady tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘do you allow them to have lollys?’ and with that she pulled out a bag of lollys and gave them one each and told me how she always keep them in her bag for when she sees those moments when mum needs a breather as she knew from experience of having 4 children how hard it is – she went on to say how lovely my children were and how nice it was to see a mum just getting on with it and she told me never to take any notice of ill advice to tell my children off when tantruming she said ‘bless em they just dont want to be dragged round a supermarket when they could be happy playing they are not being bad just feeling annoyed like you would feel if your day off work you were made to sit in a trolley for 2 hours – you would fight it!’ what a wonderful lady she was and I will never forget her!x

  2. jo says:

    this is intresting to read.lots of mums reading this will look back and remember times like this.but sometimes life can be too busy with baby that its like being on a rollercoaster.its often that mums dont have time to even think straight.lots of mums appear well but inside they are not.it would be good for mums and babies if they had more information.especially when they see the midwife at the beginning of pregnancy.jox

  3. Julie-Ann says:

    I had PND with my first daughter. I had a difficult pregnancy with severe hyperimisis and in the last few weeks I had low blood pressure and I was required to rest. My daughter arrived on 26th January 2004 and was 8 days late. She was 9lbs 1 oz and I was on labour for over 17 hours. I was very keen to breast feed and tried for 3 days, my daughter cried nearly all the time for those first 3 days. In the hospital I would pace the corridors at night as her crying was disturbing the other mum’s and their babies. When a midwife visited me at home she told me the reason my baby cried all the time was because she was starving I felt terrible. This was the start of me feeling inadequate, my husband and I had no experience of babies and all aspects of baby care were difficult and stressful, even getting my daughter dressed was a stress. Yet again I felt inadequate as I believed being a mother was natural and I should instinctively know how to care for my baby. At about 5 weeks my daughter developed colic and she was cry from about 10:30 pm until after 12am every night. We tried all medicines and remedies under the sun to no avail, so yet again I felt inadequate and a complete failure as a mother. I couldn’t understand why all the other mum’s I seen were so good at being a mum. we have no family and no support so we struggled on.

    My husband told the health visitor that I was struggling and he was very worried about me, she came to visit a few times and I didn’t let her in as I didn’t want to talk to anyone about being a rubbish mum. I had suffered from depression in my late teens and I knew I was experiencing similar feelings, but I felt I couldn’t tell anyone. Eventually I did let her in and I went to visit the G.P.
    it was a real relieve to finally talk to someone and admit how low I was feeling. My daughter was almost 6 months old and I had probably had PND since she was about 6 weeks old, my G.P gave me antidepressants and the health vistor suggested I attend a PND support group. The group was on a Tuesday evening for 3 hours for 8 weeks, it was brilliant talking to other mum’s in the same position as me, they felt the same as me and I felt ‘normal’. The support group really helped and I made a few good friends.
    It was a difficult and long journey but I got there in the end. The feelings of being an inadequate mum did eventually disappear and I knew I was a really good capable mum. I had another daughter in August 2011 and I was told I was at high risk of developing PND. I was fully ready for any signs of depression and had decided I would get help straight away, thankfully I didn’t suffer with PND.
    In our society there is a significant pressure on mum’s to be perfect; they should breast feed, have full make up at all times and generally be able to juggle everything. There is no wonder it’s difficult for mums to talk about PND.

  4. A reply from Penny: “Dear Claire, Annette, Jo and Julie-Ann, thank you all so much for your comments following my blog. Thank you for sharing your stories, so moving and so brave, and they have really helped me not to fee so alone. I wish you all you could possibly wish for yourselves for the future, I do hope it is very bright. Thank you all so much. Love Penny xx”

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