Experience: Coping With Postnatal Depression / Illness

I'm so sorry I haven't written much lately, the reason for this is the title of this post - postnatal depression.  I thought I had escaped getting it as Eric was a year old (after your baby reaches the age of 1 it's alot less common), and I was really glad, as I had been worried would get depressed as it's more common if you've had depressive episodes or mental illness in your life before.  I had really bad 'baby blues' for the first week after Eric was born, where I felt sick, panicky and weird, but it got better as my hormones adjusted and I got used to looking after a new baby.  But unfortunately, at the beginning of September, when Eric was nearly 14 months old I was diagnosed with PND, and life became extremely hard.  I want to write about it to offer hope to anyone else who is feeling the same way.

So first of all the symptoms:

  • I couldn't eat.  I really had absolutely no appetite at all.  I had to force feed myself and it was so stressful, and I felt sick.  Unfortunately when you're not eating enough your blood sugar drops, which can make you feel sick and anxious, so it was a vicious circle.
  • I felt really depressed.  I wouldn't normally use words like 'depressed' as I think it's such a strong word and doesn't describe my normal day-to-day feelings, I would normally say I was feeling a bit 'down' if I was having a bad day, so to use the word 'depressed' shows how low I was feeling.
  •  I had no interest in doing things I usually enjoy.  I couldn't watch TV, I didn't enjoy going shopping (and I'm normally a total shopaholic), I didn't want to go out, or see people (but I didn't want to be alone either!), I didn't want to read or look on the internet, I didn't want to bake or cook (which is unlike me because I'm quite a greedy foodie!) and I found it hard to feel close to and relate to Eric.
  • I felt lonely.
  • I felt panicky and anxious.
  • It felt like I couldn't cope with life, my feelings, or looking after Eric.  I felt like I was just going through the motions and doing absolutely basic baby care...
  • ...which made me feel overwhelmed with guilt for not doing enough for Eric and being the Mum he deserves.
  • I felt like everything was hopeless.
  • I would have awful thoughts about terrible things happening to Eric.
  • I either couldn't sleep until 1am or was desperate to go to sleep at 8pm so I didn't have to feel so bad any more, and would wake up at 2am and then 4am or 5am shaking, with my heart racing and not be able to go back to sleep.
Alex had gone to Australia for work and I think the PND was triggered by a misunderstanding with a friend that really upset me, and I lost my confidence, which combined with some things I had been worried about (issues with my relationship and about where to live and what to do with my life) completely knocked me for six.  I went home to stay with my parents for a week to get some support, and started feeling a bit better, but I had to come back to Bristol for work.  I got back and was in floods of tears, I didn't want to be there at all, and the next day was really bad.  I felt like I was going completely mad and I just couldn't do it anymore, so I desperately tried to get help. 

That day I rang APNI (the Association for Postnatal Illness), my health visitor and my local vicar from church.  I also rang a helpline called No Panic who weren't so helpful for me personally, but it was reassuring knowing they were there.   APNI were so kind on the phone, and they said the first thing I needed to do was see the doctor, then we could take it from there after I had a diagnosis.  My health visitor was nice, tried to reassure me and made me a doctors appointment for  the next day.  I was actually quite embarrassed to ring our local vicar Michael, as he is an older man and I thought he wouldn't understand, but he was absolutely amazing.  He was so calm, friendly and supportive, and he and his wife came round that very afternoon to talk to me.  They also said a prayer and I was so grateful.  I believe in God and so started trying to put my trust in him to support me and get me through feeling so bad.  I also rang my acupuncturist Charlotte who came round that evening to give me a treatment and talk to me, she is always amazing and helpful.  I also asked my Facebook mummy friends for any advice and help.

I saw the doctor the next morning who asked lots of questions and diagnosed PND.  He wanted to put me on antidepressants, and I have to admit I was not keen at all and asked him lots of questions about how they work etc. The ones he prescribed (Sertraline, an SSRI) work by increasing the amount of serotonin available for re-uptake in your brain.  They take about 2 weeks to start working, and can increase feelings of panic and anxiety until they start to work.  I got the prescription and got the drugs from the chemist, but didn't actually start taking them.  I am not really a fan of using conventional medicine apart from as a very last resort, and am also terrified of trying new medicines (especially something that affects your mind or brain!) after a bad drug experience in the past.  It was helpful to me to know I had them in the bathroom cabinet though, just in case.  The doctor arranged to see me in 2 weeks time.  I felt like such a failure.  I talked to other friends who had taken antidepressant medication before, and described it that "If you were deficient in iron and needed an iron tablet, you would take it until your body's back to normal.  It's just the same, your brain is just not making enough serotonin right now and the medication can adjust that in your body until you're back to normal" It did really help to think of it like that, but in the end I decided medication wasn't for me, partly because if/when I did start to feel better I would think it was because of the medication and not because of me, and then I wouldn't want to stop taking it. 

I had acupuncture four nights that week, and it really helped feeling supported by Charlotte. Acupuncture is quite expensive, but it's worth it.  I normally pay £25 per hour, and I was worried about the cost, but I am so fortunate that Alex said he would pay and Charlotte said she would invoice me for the sessions after I had started to feel better to save me from worrying about it now.  She also reduced the cost as I was having such frequent sessions.  I can't recommend acupuncture enough for literally any problem or ailment, it just really works, and believe me I'd tell you if it didn't as I was quite sceptical when I started having acupuncture.  I was also wetting my pants during my first session 3 years ago as I was sooooo scared of the needles, but they really are fine! 

I kept having regular acupuncture, about 3 or 4 times a week for the next few weeks, and I also arranged a visit from the health visitor to come and chat to me at home.  One of the things the acupuncture helped with was my appetite and feeling worried about food, so that gradually got back to normal and I was able to eat properly again.  I was feeling worse on days when I was trapped in the house with nothing to do so I tried to keep quite busy and make sure I got out of the house and did something every day, and saw lots of friends.  Weekends and evenings were the worst.  I was alone and all my friends with babies spend that time with their husbands and partners, and I didn't like to ask friends without babies who work as I know how precious evenings and weekends are when you only get those two days off! But I saw Eric's godfather Brett and his girlfriend Charlotte two Saturdays in a row, which was lovely and I really appreciated them spending their time off with us.  They brought me a Mummy Care Package with chocolate, pamper products, magazines etc. which was soooooo nice, and the next week we went to a soft play which was really fun.  My mummy friend Helen came round for a curry night once the babies were in bed one evening, which was great.  It helped me starting to feel some enjoyment in life again.  I rang the local Sure Start Children's Centre and explained the situation, and they made us 'high priority' and enrolled us on a PEEPS (early education for babies through play) group straight away, which was once a week, and told us when the drop in sessions were.  We we went to singing every Tuesday and tried to see people Tuesday afternoon, arranged seeing mummy friends on a Wednesday morning, saw Alex's mum Wednesday afternoon and I look after my friend's child (work) on Monday and Friday, so Alex's mum popped in sometimes on those days to see us too. Thursdays were hard as Eric is at nursery on that day and I felt really lonely and didn't want to be apart from him, but I saw my mummy friend Helen one week and made myself get on and do the housework in the morning then go out in the afternoon as normal the other weeks.  Sunday school started up again on Sunday mornings after the summer holidays which was a huge help as they are the loveliest people I know.  Eric particularly likes two of the older girls there who are 12, and they pick him up and look after him and play with him so I get a tiny break! I saw Hayley the health visitor a couple of times and she gave me some more numbers to ring if I needed to and was supportive.  She made me feel more normal and said how common PND was, and helped me feel less guilty.  She advised me to have a proper chat with Alex once he got home about things that were worrying me. 

I think one of the things that has helped me most was being able to talk about the PND when I wanted to, and not talk about it when I didn't want to.  Sometimes I needed to analyse my feelings and talk them through with people and get their perspective, especially with Charlotte and Alex, and sometimes I needed to just be out and about, focussing on other things.  It helped me to chat to friends about their problems and their lives, to get me 'out of my head'.  It helped talking to my friend Katie and seeing she was worried about the same things in life as me, our careers and relationships etc., and we walked past a bus stop that someone had graffiti-ed on "Don't worry baby, everything will be alright" which helped! My friends really bolstered my confidence by telling me how well I was doing etc. I talked to Alex every day about how I was feeling and I think it got quite frustrating for him as he just wanted to be able to fix it and make it better for me and to be there, but he was stuck in Australia, so I tried to explain to him that I just needed to talk to him about how I was feeling and have his reassurance that it would get better and that he loved me.  I talked LOTS to Charlotte and she gave me some really useful bits of advice, such as that it's a journey that I was going through, rather than something I was stuck in, that "you can never stand in the same river twice" (as the water in the river is always flowing and changing, so it's never the same even if you're in exactly the same spot - so even if you feel you're in the same situation, your experience and things you've gone through mean you've grown and you can't go backwards) and that getting through the experience would make me a stronger person.  She helped me see how things I had been worrying about were really affecting me and that I had to deal with them.  My best friend Rachael also told me an amazing quote: "God never puts more on us than we can bear", which was so comforting and something I have thought about lots.  

I've gradually reduced my acupuncture sessions to once a week, and Alex got back from Australia and we had some really good conversations and made decisions about the future which took a weight off my mind, we decided where to live and talked about his job and other things that were worrying me.  Our relationship's so much better and that makes me very happy.  The very dark days got less dark, and bad days became fewer and further between, and now I feel so much more normal.  I'm closer to Eric again and we have fun, and I have alot more good days than bad.  I don't really think I would say I have PND anymore.  I am wary of having bad days, but I know how to deal with them now (talk in depth about my feelings, book an acupuncture appointment, pray and keep busy!) I was worried about Alex going back to Australia again but I'm really proud of how I've coped so far.

It's been quite hard to write this, and I hope it hasn't been boring, but if I can help just one person who is suffering from PND or any other type of depression to feel more hopeful for the future then it's worth it to me! There IS hope and you WILL get better, reach out to people, it might just take a bit of time. 

List: Bucket List

Hi readers, first of all HUMUNGOUS apologies for not posting for a little while.  I have been suffering quite badly from postnatal depression, which I'll post about seperately.  I have recently felt like I'm on quite an emotional journey with some huge life decisions to make, and going through it has made me see how through fear I have been making my world smaller and smaller.  For the majority of the last few years I've avoided going out on the town, going to new places, going on trips or holidays to places I haven't visited before etc. to try and protect myself from feeling anxious and panicky.  It doesn't work as I feel like that sometimes anyway! So I want to work towards feeling strong, confident and brave again, to live fully and enjoy exciting experiences like I used to.  I know I can come through this and be stronger for having conquered my fears! With this in mind I have written a Bucket List.  Some things are smaller and easier to work towards, some will take more time, but I'm really looking forward to ticking some off and getting my life back.  Let me know what you think!

1)      Go on a horse riding holiday

2)      Run a 10k

3)      Go skiing

4)      Take Eric to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal in Florida with Rachael

5)      Go sailing, Swallows and Amazons style

6)      Visit family in Lund, Sweden

7)      Go in a hot air balloon

8)      Sky dive

9)      Go snorkelling

10)   Go to Paris for  Paris Vegan Day 2012

11)   Go canyoning again

12)   Go white water rafting again

13)   Learn to drive

14)   Go on zip line canopy tour in tree tops

15)   Visit South America

16)   Visit the Galapagos islands

17)   See the Northern Lights

18)   Visit Venice

19)   Visit Rome

20)   Visit the Louvre

21)   Visit Le Musee De L’Orangerie

22)   Visit Versailles

23)   See Pre Raphaelite art in galleries (Liverpool? Birmingham?)

24)   Visit the Science Museum in London

25)   Go on the London Eye

26)   Visit the National Gallery in London

27)   Write a book

28)   Visit the Cook Islands

29)   See the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Tiffany’s and Central Park in New York

30)   Visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem

31)   Read Jane Austen properly!

32)   Learn the art of vegan patisserie

33)   Feel the fear and do it anyway!

34)   Spend a weekend on a narrowboat

35)   See a catwalk show

36)   Visit and help an animal conservation project (Anna’s horses in Ghana? Big cats in South America?)

37)   Don’t do anything because you think other people would think it’s cool, do things you think are cool.

38)   Hold a vegan cake stall (unashamedly)

39)   Donate blood

40)   Be an extra in a film or on tv

41)   Win a pub quiz

42)   Be independent (earn enough of my own money to live)

43)   Have afternoon tea at the Ritz

44)   Visit Vx in London

45)   Visit Kelmscott

46)   Take Eric to the Lake District

47)   Write blog posts weekly

48)   Get married

49)   Write in my diary to Eric monthly

50)   Watch turtles hatch and head to the ocean

51)   Own a house

52)   Play piano again

53)   Have another child

54)   Make a quilt

55)   Trek to Macchu Picchu

56)   Walk over hot coals

57)   Go dolphin / whale watching

58)   Take part in the Lowland Games

59)   Be brave, calm, happy and loving

60)   Learn more about my family

61)   Become a warranted Guider
62)   Go paintballing
63)   Organise a 'speed friending' event (more about that later!)

List: What To Pack In Your Hospital Bag

Even though I was planning a home birth with my son Eric, from 25 weeks of pregnancy I had packed a hospital bag just in case! Ever the Girl Guide I live by the motto 'always be prepared'.  It's a good thing I did pack a hospital bag in the end as when Eric was born we did need to transfer to hospital from home, and Alex was stressed enough just finding my toothbrush to add to the bag!

So, here is what was in my hospital bag, and what I would recommend you pack!

  • SNACKS! Pack your favourite snacks, because labour is jolly hard work and you'll be starving after the birth, and although they feed you three square meals a day in hospital, they don't provide snacks! And if you have just given birth at midnight, breakfast is a long wait and the piece of toast they offer won't hit the spot! So pack fruit, juice cartons, oat cakes, chocolate, anything you love! There were vending machines at the hospital but they didn't have anything vegan and were really expensive.

  • Money.  Parking at our hospital was so expensive, so make sure you have a purse with at least £10 in coins in it for that.  You might also want extra money for the vending machine, and I had to pay to watch TV too! As I was in hospital for 5 days I did end up getting really bored so Alex paid for me to watch TV, and bought magazines etc.!

  • Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb and travel sizes of your skincare, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body moisturiser.  I have never felt so sweaty and dirty as I did after giving birth, and the sponge bath I was given by the nurses was bliss!!

  • A fresh outfit to wear home (chances are you arrived in hospital in your nightie which will now be disgusting)

  • A hairbrush is an ESSENTIAL, and in my opinion so is dry shampoo, as labour does terrible things to your hair (sweaty, tangled, lank) and then everyone wants to take your picture.

  • Pain relief, such as a Tens machine, combs to grip with your hands so they dig in to the acupressure points, flannels for soaking in hot water and placing on your back, massage oil for your partner to rub your back, and wooden spoons to press into the acupressure points on the shoulders (I would really recommend acupressure, you can read about it here and buy the DVD to learn the points with your partner)

  • A diary and pen, to preserve the amazing memories of the birth and first few moments with your baby.  You can also rip pages out and make lists of stuff for your partner to bring you that you forgot and need!

  • A spritzy water bottle, to spray on your face and neck to cool you down and to drink from even!

  • Camera, with charged up batteries

  • An iPod pre-loaded with your favourite music.  I did not actually want to listen to music at the time but it really helped listening to my Hypnobirthing relaxation on the iPod, and who knows, you might want to listen to music to help you relax.  It's good to have the option!

  • A hairband to push your hair back (and a bobble to tie it up if it's long) to keep it off your hot, red, greasy, sweaty face during labour

  • Your birth plan and your maternity notes

  • A big, baggy t shirt for giving birth.  I bought a maternity one in size 16 (I am a 12).  I wouldn't recommend a nightie personally due to the longer length, as to me everything felt like it was getting in the way, and you will not care at all about your dignity at the time! I ended up just walking round in my bra with my bare ass on display for all to see and I didn't give a c**p.

  • Nursing pads and nursing bras.  I couldn't wear any bras apart from the soft, cotton, crop top style sleep ones as it can be really uncomfortable when your milk comes in, and I needed 4.  Pack pads even if you're not planning to breastfeed as your boobs will still fill up with milk! You'll need LOTS so buy a few boxes, or about 20 pairs of washable ones, to save your partner having to go and buy more and not knowing which to get.

  • Maternity pads / or 'night time' sanitary pads and old knickers.  I would not bother buying disposable knickers, they are really, REALLY uncomfortable and old, comfy, 'period pants' are just as good! Take about 5 pairs.  I found the maternity pads quite good as they were very padded against my stitches which made sitting down slightly more comfortable, but to be honest the 'night time' pads with wings you can get are just as, if not more, absorbent.

  • A plastic carrier bag to put dirty clothes in

  • List of people and their contact details so your partner knows who to phone after the birth to let them know the exciting news

  • Clothes for the baby.  Beware! Size 0-3 is NOT the size for newborns! I did not know this! You need either 'Newborn' or 'First size', or even 'Tiny Baby' if your baby is small! 0-3 months is ginormous.  Pack 5 sleepsuits, 5 bodysuits/vests, a hat, 2 pairs of booties, 2 cardigans and a special going home outfit.  Also if your baby will be born in the winter pack a warm coat or snowsuit for the baby! It's a very good idea to pack the baby's clothes, nappies etc. all together in 1 section of the bag, or even in their own bag, as your partner will probably have to get them out and boys do not seem to be good at finding things in bags.  Show them where everything is in advance, but expect them to forget.  If your partner is female then don't worry, girls usually know where things are.

  • A baby blanket

  • Muslin squares.  Take about 10!

  • Car seat (you won't be allowed to leave hospital without one!)

  • Make up! Not for the actual birth, but I really wish I'd worn some for at least some of the hospital/going home photos!

  • Lip balm, as your lips can get so dry during labour and in the hot wards.

  • Cosy socks or slippers

  • Pyjamas or nighties and a dressing gown

  • Nappies and either wipes or cotton wool.  We use washable nappies, but I'd recommend packing eco disposables instead as our hospital didn't have nappy washing facilities.  We used disposables for the first couple of weeks in the end while we got used to caring for the new baby, but now we love our reuseable nappies.  Also, don't be put off using your wipes by the midwives on the ward telling you to use cotton wool and water.  Yes that is gentlest, but if that's not what you've packed that's fine, use your wipes! They change their tune when you keep asking for more cotton wool, believe me!

  • A book, for any dull waiting around labour moments, and for after the birth when you're alone on the ward

  • And check the hospital's policy on towels and pillows, will you need to bring your own?

So I hope you find that helpful! If I have forgotten anything I will add it, and if there's something you found invaluable that isn't included, please comment!

List: The Best and Worst of CBeebies!

This list will probably make it look like I sit Eric in front of the telly all day instead of playing with him, but I can promise you that's not the case! We do sometimes have CBeebies on in the background though and there are some programmes we really enjoy.  I think a small amount of television is ok for babies.  So...

The Amazing

3rd & Bird

Small Potatoes

Charlie & Lola

I Can Cook

Green Balloon Club

The Good

Grandpa in My Pocket


Mr Bloom's Nursery
Nina & The Neurons

Baby Jake (the live action bit is good, the cartoon bit is awful, but Eric loves it)


Tinga Tinga Tales

Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies

Something Special


The Ok

Telly Tales

Big Barn Farm

Sesame Tree

Come Outside

Raa Raa

Show Me Show Me

The 'I dislike but Eric likes'

In the Night Garden


The Bad

Same Smile

Chuggington & Chuggington Badge Quest


The just plain ugly


Everything's Rosie



Get Squiggling


Big and Small

Bits and Bobs