I didn’t love my baby. Dealing with severe Postpartum depression
Today is the 23rd of March 2018 and 4 years ago today my first son Sebastian was born at 6.30AM. It is always a happy day, how could it not be with an exited child who can’t wait to open his pressies! But it is also a very hard day as I can’t help but reflect on the difficulties I experienced when he was born. When you are pregnant with your first, mothers often talk about this gush of love you experience when you first see your baby and how amazing it feels and how it will be the best moment of your life. My experience was far from that.
When I told my doctor we wanted to try for a baby, rather than wait a year before being put on the list for fertility treatment, I was put on it immediately. This was because my periods had be absent for 10 years previous due to low weight. They returned for 4 months before we decided to try but I was told time and time again it would be impossible to conceive. When I fell pregnant only 3 tries later, I was in shock. I was of course happy but I didn’t expect it so soon if at all and I was in such a state of disbelief. I spent 450 pounds on private scans, about 4 in total before my 12 week scan as I was terrified something was going to happen due to my past health conditions. I tried so hard to “bond with my bump” but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine how he would look, what he was going to be like. I started my YouTube channel around then and that did help. I did lots of research, buying things, learning about cloth nappies. I really felt that even though I did not bond with my bump, I was ready.
When I went into labour on the Wednesday, I really started to become anxious. I was not ready at all like I thought. I was not ready for my life to change so much. I had only married 1 year previous and had only been with my husband for 1 year before that. We fell madly in love and were engaged and married within the year. It was wonderful but suddenly it all felt so fast. I did only 1 anti natal class. I had done all my research and was convinced I was going to have a nice water birth, or relaxing natural birth in the consultant led unit as promised by the midwifes (I had a complicated pregnancy and he was also small and measured 6 weeks behind).
I stayed at home until the Friday which was incredibly hard and in the end due to no progress I was due to be induced on the Saturday. They tried the hormonal gel, then 6 hours later the pessary and nothing worked. I was in so much pain but was refused any gas and air until I got to the main labour unit which wasn’t until late Saturday night. By 1 am Sunday , It was decided to put me on the Pitocin drip. I tried so hard to labour without anything other than the gas and air, but they kept increasing the dose and in the end my heart rate ( I have a small heart) was so high I had no choice but to have an epidural.
Thats when I suddenly felt like a huge failure. I failed at childbirth. I was weak. I was pathetic. This of course is not true at all. You can not fail at birth. But my headspace at the time told me this. The anaesthetist was horrible and rude. I had a lovely midwife who left after her shift and replaced with a matronly bossy one. I was cold and shaking due to a cocktail of drips, fluids and drugs.
Then around 6 Sebastians was suddenly ready to come out. I was half asleep and didn’t realise due to the epidural. There was sudden panic and people in and out due to his dipping heart rate, a catheter was inserted and a probe on his head. There was bright lights and lots of nurses dashing around. The consultant who I had never seen before suddenly came into my view and looked at me and loudly said ” if you don’t push this baby out 20 mins I am going in with forceps” he then left and the rushing started again.
I didn’t realise I was crying until I felt a tear down my face. Chris was holding my hand but I can’t remember him talking to me. I just black all the sounds out as it was so loud. Next thing I was told to push. How long I don’t know but it felt like seconds. Then suddenly I heard crying and Sebastian was placed on my chest.
It felt like I was in a film. As though I was acting. I was saying to Sebastian ‘hello little one’ ‘hello Sebastian’ but it was like I was doing it to please the staff. I asked if I could feed him (why I asked I don’t know) Having no experience of breastfeeding I latched him on and felt the most excruciating pain. I then passed him to Chris who had skin to skin and I, having sustained a few minor tears, got stitched. They then did all the tests on him. and suddenly I felt sick. Very very thirsty and so so sick. I was drinking and vomiting over and over for about 10 mins. No one helped me and Chris with this. It suddenly felt like I was in a cattle market. I was told to go and have a shower which was opposite the room.
That shower I will never forget. I shut the door and collapsed in a fit of tears. I couldn’t understand why but I was overcome with the worst depression I have ever experienced. I had no love what so ever for my baby. I felt guilty for that. I was also in so much pain and still being sick. I had my shower crying my eyes out and I wanted that shower to last forever. I did not want to go back into that room. I sat on the chair in the corner, and thought ‘I know, I can run away’. I knew where the lift was and the door to get out. Yes thats what I will do. I will run away. He deserves a better mum that me. Only I had no clothes. I may have wanted to run away, but I wasn’t so bad that I was willing to run away in a towel. So with that I went back into the room.
I had a terrible time on the ward after that. It was compact and hot and on top of that I couldn’t stop crying and could not see anything about Sebastian that made me think he was mine. I did not feel him coming it out of me so it was as if they pulled another baby out from under the table. I tried so hard to breastfeed but was in agony. I got no support from the midwives on the ward and was given a bottle of formula. Again I felt terrible as that was not my plan and he threw the entire feed up. Thankfully I had amazing friends who knew their stuff and told me their tummies are only marginally bigger than a marble at that age and colostrum is all they need at that time.
I continued to hand express and syringe feed and pushed and asked about 4 times for a tongue tie assessment. Turned out he did have a posterior tongue tie, and was snipped there and then by an amazing lady. This was after a paediatrician and 3 midwives failed to see it. I had planned to go to a midwife led unit near us at a cottage hospital for a week after I had him to establish feeding and so glad I had that plan in place. I did spend a week there. I was the only patient there other than 2 labouring mums. They helped me so much and by the end , I fed fine. They continued to work with me for the full 20 days they are allowed.
The crying, depression, sadness, loneliness continued for around 6 weeks then settled at around 10 weeks when I was then put on a high dose of anti depressants and referred to a mother and baby team.
I did feed him myself but developed a condition called DMER which is a disassociation and depression caused by milk let down. I must add this condition is very rare. I continued to combination feed him for 4 months (only breastfeeding him one or twice at night) then put him on to formula. That is another story as those who know me know how passionate I am about breastfeeding. I always stand by breastmilk being the best. Because it is and that is a fact. But what is more important, is what is best for mum also. Babies really do sense when Mum is not happy.
Then there was the sleep deprivation and how that effected me… I won’t even go into that! It was hell. I could not cope at all. Actually I didn’t cope with the lack of sleep for a very long time, until Sebastian was 2. He was however an exceptionally bad night sleeper and teether. I tried it all, and it did not work! I smiled in photos in the first 10 weeks but it was all fake. This photo below was taken on day 3, after doing nothing but cry. The smile is totally fake. I have no photos of him after labour.
My bond with Sebastian has never been what it should be. There always feels like there is something missing and I am working with people to try and heal that. My experience with my second son Albert has been completely different which I will write about next. 6 hours of labour in total, all natural birth and a euphoric high that never ended. I was out with him on day 2! Two completely different experiences.
This has been a long post, and if you have read it all then thank you. I still find it so hard to relate to first time mothers who can get out and about to easily and smile too. I didn’t leave the house for 10 weeks and I have such admiration for those who are at baby groups so early.
Sebastian has grown into an amazing, hilarious, creative and kind little boy. He is magical and he really has helped me become so much stronger than I ever knew I could become. Having him was the making of me.
If you are struggling please reach out for support. Be it a friend, doctor, midwife or health visitor.
Channel mum have an amazing mental health support section on their website and I urge anyone to go there if they are struggling. there are people to talk too, in confidence and many mums in their mum village who can help.