Have you read chapter one of my story?
If not, you can find it here.
My labour with my daughter was a long one at over 24 hours. After my waters broke at 5am on the Saturday 25th, our wee Caitlin finally made her entrance into the world at exactly 3pm on Sunday February 26th. Now days I probably wouldn’t have considered that whole time as labour, but 13 years ago I was put onto IV antibiotics due to the membrane rupture, had to stay in the hospital with monitors on, and because things weren't progressing I was actually given medicine to further induce labour as well! I can’t really recall it in great detail...I can remember being starving and my midwife bringing me Marmite toast, and I can remember feeling impatient and bored because it was all just taking too long, which does seem somewhat strange!
Everything with Caitlin was so straight forward. All that darkness and despair that had plagued me my entire pregnancy seemed to just disappear, and everything about being a mother came so naturally to me. It was literally like someone had flicked a 'motherhood switch'. Although Caitlin was four weeks early, at 3010 grams she was a good size and didn’t need to be in NICU, and we only had to stay in hospital for two nights.
I LOVED being a mum, everything went just as it was supposed to. Caitlin was such a laid back baby, she breast fed well, she slept extremely well, and she was very settled. The only thing I really didn’t love was that I had to go back to work when she was eleven weeks old. I was lucky enough to be able to work a couple of evenings a week so she didn't have to go into childcare, but it did put pressure on Mark, who was the one left at home to care for her. He really struggled in these early days and ended up being put on an antidepressant by his GP, but that was the extent of his care. There was no recognition or ongoing support offered for what would now, more than likely, be a diagnosis of postnatal depression in a dad. It just wasn't acknowledged 13 years ago that dads could also get PND, but that is a long story for another blog.
Fast forward one wonderful year and we had decided to add to our family. I was somewhat apprehensive about being pregnant again, but I loved this parenting thing so much I definitely wanted to do it again, so, by Caitlin’s first birthday, I was pregnant for the second time. Things started the same way as my first pregnancy, except this time I had my GP at the ready with a referral back to the Mothers and Babies Unit. The physical illness and soul destroying depression was back, and from very early on I struggled significantly more than I had during my first pregnancy.
The depression was so much worse, so much darker and heavier, and this time it came with anxiety. I hated being pregnant. I gained a HUGE amount of weight, I couldn’t function at all, and I had to give up work which meant we were in major financial strife. My husband and my mum completely took over the care of Caitlin when she wasn’t in preschool because I physically and mentally could not care for her myself. I don’t know how to describe how I felt, I don’t think you can truly understand it if you’ve never been depressed, and my own memories of this time are hazy at best, but I’ll try.
It was like a very heavy grey blanket was laid over me, my surroundings, and my whole life. My world was dull, slow, lifeless, and void of every feeling except sadness and despair. It was like everything was muted in some way. Yet at the same time it was too much, too loud, too vibrant, and way too overwhelming. I can remember an all encompassing feeling of numbness, and while the almost constant nausea and vomiting was horrific enough in itself, I barely had the energy to care. I was under the care of the Mothers and Babies Service again and my psychiatrist had me on and off a raft of different psychiatric meds because she really struggled to find a medication combination that worked for me. My mental health had declined so significantly that I ended up being admitted into the Mothers and Babies Unit - an inpatient psychiatric unit already stretched to capacity, that ordinarily only took women after their babies were born, but not in my case.
I mainly just existed through my pregnancy and to be honest even that was a struggle. I spent a great many hours pondering suicide, and almost every night when I went to bed I would hope and pray to just not wake up in the morning. At the request of my psychiatrist I was induced, and had my son (Sam), two weeks early. This time, after Sam was born, nothing changed - my mood just continued to decline. Sam didn’t sleep, he wouldn’t feed well, and he was super hungry all the time. As a new born he had a very high pitched, piercing cry and was constantly jittery, and although I didn't fully take on the significance of it at the time, it now haunts me everyday because those symptoms were his tiny body withdrawing from the medication he had in his system. Medication that he got through me. Even now, this is something I struggle to be at peace with. It still feels to me like I was harming my beautiful boy before he had even entered the world.
To be continued...
Read chapter three of my story here.
First published in 2019