My name is Gemma and I am 34 years old. I suffered with post-natal depression after having my first child four years ago and I want to share my experience. This isn’t an easy thing to write about, I guess because it’s a very personal experience. I just feel like it’s important that women who suffer with post-natal depression don’t feel ashamed of it. It shouldn’t be a taboo subject, it’s nothing to feel embarrassed about. It’s an illness. If we talk about it more then hopefully we can be better at supporting each other and helping each other get better.
I was utterly elated when I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. I just couldn’t believe I had a little human in my tummy that was going to come into my life and I would become a mother. I had a pretty good pregnancy and just couldn’t wait to meet my little boy.
My birth experience was horrendous (that’s for another day) but I can still remember the first time I touched my baby. His skin was the smoothest thing I’ve ever felt and he just looked straight into my eyes like he had known me forever. These precious, perfect few moments are what I had to hold onto when I found it hard to ‘feel’ pretty much anything.
I didn’t know what it was at the time
Although I didn’t know what it was at the time, post-natal depression hit me almost immediately. It was, maybe, the day after I gave birth that I started feeling bad. This is totally normal after such a life changing experience as giving birth, but it got worse and worse. I just couldn’t face doing anything or seeing anyone. I didn’t get dressed for days on end and was just shut in my house watching TV.
What really hit me hard though, was how I felt about my baby. I didn’t feel in love with him like I wanted to, like I thought I would. It wasn’t even just an absence of affection, it was the presence of indifference that startled me. I enjoyed cuddling him but not really any more than I enjoyed cuddling someone else’s baby. In fact, I distinctly remember thinking that I had felt more love for other people’s babies in my life than I was feeling about my own. I just couldn’t understand it but was powerless to change it.
My life was just black, until I saw the light
It’s not easy to admit, even now, that I felt this way about my own child. That I didn’t feel connected to him, that I didn’t adore him. I kept it from everyone apart from my husband and a few close friends. I felt like no one else ever felt like this, like I was totally on my own. How could anyone ever feel so disconnected to their child? It wasn’t normal, I was a terrible person. I felt like my life was just black and I couldn’t see any light, however hard I looked for it. I remember seeing a pregnant woman on a rare walk to the corner shop and wanting to go and warn her about what was going to happen. I felt so sorry for her because I knew how bad it was and she didn’t.
This continued for the first four months of George’s life. Four months of darkness and despair, which sounds dramatic but it’s really true. Then, something changed. I spoke to a friend who is also a counselor and something just clicked inside me. It wasn’t anything in particular that was said but suddenly I just saw a tiny sliver of light. That’s when motherhood really started for me. I started to love my little boy and want to be with him, enjoy being with him. I could see that he loved me and needed me and I needed him. I could face getting dressed and going out again and enjoyed it.
It's time to talk about PND
I love George so, so much. If he ever reads this, he will know that I love him and he won’t feel hurt by this, because I was ill. Why am I writing about this? I don’t want other people to deal with it silently like I did. Please, let’s share our experiences more so that we don’t feel alone. Post-natal depression should never have to be experienced in silence.
Gemma writes regularly over at her personal blog, Pushchairs and Bus Fares.