I met my husband 18 years ago, on a blind date outside a Starbucks store in pre-earthquake Christchurch. I was 18 then, so this year marks the point at which I have spent exactly half of my life with him. Life was good back then, we both worked full time, we were active, and we had relatively good incomes. I had not long come out of a relationship that I had been in for almost 3 years...if you could even call it a relationship. Basically it was me, a young naive teenage girl, being manipulated, controlled, and psychologically abused by a boy 4 years older than myself. Not the best of situations.
When I met Mark (hubby) I thought I was fine. I certainly felt a lot better than I had in a long time. I felt in control of myself and my life, but in hindsight I can see that there was a lot of stuff that hadn’t been dealt with. It was all pushed down and suppressed I guess. I never had anyone that I felt I could confide in, and after pushing down all the shit feelings from the previous 3 years, suppressing things came pretty easily to me. A while after I met Mark (maybe 6-12 months, I can’t really remember) I started to notice consistent lows in my mood, and after a trip to my GP I had my first foray with a low dose antidepressant.
Mark and I had been together for just shy of 5 years when we got married. This was all very straight forward, and just as planned we bought a house, did some renovations, and decided to have a baby. This is the point when it all changed.
Pretty much as soon as I fell pregnant I started getting sick. There was the physical sickness - Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which had me admitted to hospital for IV fluids, and then there was the very dark depression that took over my life. For my whole pregnancy I felt like the life was literally draining out of me. I was nauseated ALL THE TIME, my mood was so low I failed to get enjoyment out anything, and no one seemed to know what to do with me. For a start I was pregnant, so this severely restricted what medications I could take, for the nausea and the depression, and it really wasn’t a well known thing to be depressed in pregnancy.
As my pregnancy progressed I was becoming more and more detached from life in general. I cried all the time, I was tired all the time, I struggled to work and function like a normal person, and I kind of remember just feeling numb. I felt so bad early on that I didn’t even have the energy to find a midwife, and it wasn’t until I was 13 weeks, after lots of nagging from my mum, when I finally registered with one. Despite how bad I know I was feeling, when I read back over my maternity notes there is almost no mention of the fact that I was depressed. Don’t get me wrong, my midwife was amazing, but the way my mental health struggles were documented would make anyone who didn’t know me think it was a mild case of the blues.
As I previously mentioned, antenatal mental health issues were not well known at all when I was going through this, which was evidenced by the fact that my mum and my family doctor had to push so hard to get me seen in the specialist maternal mental service. I often wonder how many other mums were feeling like me. How many others were suffering, but didn’t have the family support that I had, and how many continued suffering in silence because they didn’t have access to the help and support they so badly needed.
What is really strange for me is that, despite how bad I was feeling, I can also remember feeling excited about becoming a mum. I set up a nursery, I bought lots of super cute stuff for baby, we took forever to decide on a name...all the usual new parent stuff. One thing I did leave till the very last minute was booking the antenatal classes. We were booked in to attend a whole weekend course 4 weeks before baby was due, but at 5am on the morning of Saturday February 25th my waters broke and our wee girl was on her way into the world.
To be continued...
Read chapter two of my story here.
First published in 2019