The following is a piece contributed by Emma Cottam about her experience with postnatal depression.
Before having my daughter I honestly thought that being a mother was meant to be the most natural thing. And for some maybe it is, but for me it wasn’t.
I had longed for a baby for so long, been so poorly in the two years prior to falling pregnant. How could what I had longed for so much be so different to how I had pictured it being?
For months I struggled to bond with my daughter, I regretted becoming a mum and then felt incredibly guilty for feeling this way. I couldn’t understand how other mums looked so natural with their babies whilst I was struggling to even communicate with mine. I barely held her unless I was the only one home. I just couldn’t find my feet with motherhood.
I struggled on my own for five long months, not telling anyone and internalising all of my emotions and struggles. It got to a point as my daughter turned five months old that I could no longer hide behind the mask, I’d spend most days trying to fight back the tears. When I eventually spoke to a friend and admitted how I was truly feeling, I realised that I really needed some help and support.
The next day I booked a GP’s appointment and he diagnosed me with postnatal depression (PND). It felt like my world fell apart and that a big weight had been lifted all at the same time. I felt so relieved that my struggles where understood and that he had listened to how I was feeling, yet worried about what this ‘label’ now meant. Would those around me look at me differently, would they now always be watching how I cared for Isabella, would they no longer want to be a part of our lives? I wasn’t sure how to process the diagnosis, but it did mean that I would finally get some professional help to support me.
The weeks that passed saw me start counselling and start to deal with some of the ‘dark fog’. Some demons were hard to start to open up about, but the process of talking to someone who wasn’t directly involved with our lives helped to process what had happened.
My little girl has now turned two and it’s been a long road. But over the past year we’ve slowly built our bond, I slowly feel that I can be a mum. I can be her mum. It may not come naturally but that’s okay.
So if you are struggling or know someone who is and needs to get some support, know that there is support out there, from you GP, from your health visitor, from family and friends and peer support through pre and post natal services. It might feel like a really scary vulnerable time but know that getting the support you need will really help you to see the light at the end of what can be a very dark tunnel. It can be a long process but you will get there!
Emma is the founder of Isabella & Us., Editor of Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums and Host of Positive Wellbeing Podcast for Mums. Thank you for so generously sharing your experience of postnatal depression with us, Emma!