PANDAS

PANDAS is an amazing charity that provides advice, help and support for women suffering with depression during or after their pregnancy. There are many PANDAS support groups up and down the country but they also provide a phone and email support service staffed by women who have experienced pre and post natal depression.

These are the emails that I sent and received when I was at the lowest point of my pregnancy.

Dear PANDAS

I am currently 15 weeks pregnant after becoming pregnant accidentally. I took the morning after pill, following all the advice given but this failed.

I have suffered with depression since I was 18 and the whole way through this pregnancy. This is the worst I have every felt in my life. I have not been in work since I found out although I have tried on a few occasions.

I had morning sickness and still experience some nausea but now I associate certain objects and activities with feeling sick.

I am constantly tired and lacking in energy and I cry a lot, especially when trying to talk to people. I have little interest in things that I used to enjoy and I struggle to leave the house or keep in touch with people.

I can’t associate being pregnant with me, even though I now have a bump. I feel nothing for it or connected to it and can’t refer to it as a baby. I take my supplements and avoid food I’m not supposed to eat but apart from that I have no interest. When I went for my 12 week scan I didn’t want to be touched and I didn’t want to look. I have no interest in how it’s developing or if it’s healthy. I can’t see how it will fit into my life.

I can’t watch adverts or programmes with babies in them and crying babies or toddlers make me feel sick and panicked. I am a neonatal nurse so my career is focused around looking after babies and making them well. I love my job and my patients and will spend hours soothing them and cuddling them and telling them stories, anything to make them feel better and safe. Now I have lost all of that. The thought of a crying baby or breast feeding makes my skin crawl.

All I can think about is how much I don’t want this, how it wasn’t planned and that my life is no longer my own. Now everything I do and will do in the future will have to be planned around it.

My husband is my life and I don’t feel like I’ve got room for another person. He has been my rock throughout this and since the first time I was ill. No matter what I need or want to do he makes it happen, with no questionning or complaining. He says that all he wants is for me to be happy but if I’m not, that’s ok because even tiny bits of happy or a smile are worth everything. What happens when it arrives and he loves it and I can’t or when I need looking after but it does as well.

Various people (healthcare or otherwise) have said that even if I feel bad now it will be worth it in the end but I can’t see that. All I see is a life full of tiredness and screaming and isolation and a husband who can’t love me anymore because I hate his child.

I am accepting any help on offer and am currently seeing my lovely GP fortnightly, taking me medication and seeing a private counsellor. I am also recieving input from my local mental health service and the Mother and Baby Unit. I am terrified of the unit, all I can think that they will do is keep me there and force me to love it otherwise I won’t be allowed to go home and see my husband again. He wouldn’t be able to stay and it would just be me and it and people that I don’t know.

I just want my life back and to feel normal again but I feel as though everything has been taken from me and my life will never be my own again.

BM

Hi BM

Thanks for your email.

I can relate partly to your situation as I also found myself pregnant unexpectedly when I was 17. Me and my partner used a condom, which split, and I then took the morning after pill, which didn’t work. It’s a complete waterfall of emotions which I found really hard to untangle, but I did come through it

On the positive side, it sounds like you have a loving strong partner and a tight support network of professionals. I also saw your post on the Facebook site, the ladies there are great!!

Do you think you will develop feelings towards your baby during pregnancy?  What if you were to find out the sex, this has helped people I’ve spoken to in the past.  How are the counselling sessions going, are they giving you some coping strategies?  I think the thing to do with the counsellor is to be 100% open and honest, then your mind will be free of some of your anxieties and they will know which route is best to help you

http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/how-we-can-help/self-help.html

You’re seeing your GP regularly which is brilliant – exactly the right step to take as they can keep an eye on your medication and amend dosage as needed. Where about do you live?  It may be that we have a support group near you which you could pop over to.  They are small groups of mums or mums to be who are in the same boat as you, buts it sometimes a big relief to know your not the only one feeling that way and to get someone else’s views and advice

http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/how-we-can-help/support-groups.html

I know the thought of a mother and baby unit is terrifying, but I can put you in touch with some people who have been admitted to one and have made the tightest of friendships and come through knowing that was the best thing for them at the time.  If you did want to speak to someone who has been to one just let me know!

Kind regards

PANDA

Dear PANDA

Thank you for emailing me back, I have read the email several times. Since I sent my first message I have been in a really bad place. I see my counsellor every Friday and this week I went and told her that I just wanted everything to be over. I didn’t feel like I had any fight left in me and I’m so tired, I have accepted help whenever it’s been offered, I’ve never missed appointments and I’ve always taken my tablets but I’m still in this awful place. I still don’t feel at all positive about the future and I can’t stop thinking about how there is an instant way out of this. My counsellor spoke to my GP and my named nurse with the recovery team, who is coming to visit me at home tomorrow. My GP offered a prescription for sleeping tablets with the thought that if I could have a long, refreshing sleep I might feel a little more able to deal with things. I tried them but they didn’t really have an effect and for the last couple of nights I’ve slept less and less even though I’m exhausted.

I feel a little bit better now as my husband has taken a week off work to look after me, in his words he doesn’t want to go to work wondering if I’ll still be here when he gets home. I’ve been trying to hide this from my parents as it’s something they’ve found very difficult to accept in the past but I decided that we should probably tell my Mum so my husband called her. She was actually very supportive and now that she fully understands the situation she doesn’t ask questions I find difficult like ‘When are you going back to work?’ My brother also came to vist yesterday and stayed overnight, bringing my parents dog with him which was a good distraction. I had lots of cuddles and had to leave the house to walk him.

I really can’t see how I can possibly develop any feelings towards this, I can’t even think of it as a baby never mind one belonging to me. I can’t even touch my own stomach unless there’s a big cushion over it. The only emotion I have when I try to think about it or if it creeps up on me is terror. I can’t see how I can possibly do this and I really don’t want to, the thought makes me so frightened that I feel sick and dizzy. I did consider having a termination but that is something that I can’t bring myself to do so the only alternative is to continue. I’m petrified of people asking questions about it and I’m trying to hide the bump so that no-one sees and then wants to talk about it. If I do manage to think about the future all I can see is fear and screaming and isolation. When I manage to be a bit practical I can see how being in the MBU would be appropriate and I think it would help to have people who’ve already been there to talk to. The major thing is my husband wouldn’t be allowed to stay and even though I would have all the staff to support me I can’t do this without him.

I’m just so tired and I don’t want to try anymore. I don’t want to leave my husband but that is the only thing I have to hold on to, there’s nothing about this pregnancy that would stop me.

BM

Hi BM

So the medication your on hasn’t alleviated any of your feelings?  How long have you been on them?

Its a really hard one, because you are just doing everything right, its in the hands of the professionals to get you on the road to recovery.

Ive heard stories of sleeping tablets having worked for some people and not for others. Unfortunately its like that with most medication, there is no quick fix.

How are you finding the facebook site?  There are 2 ladies on there who I have asked if they are happy to speak to you re MBU, so as soon as they get back to me I will let you know.

What did you think about finding out the sex of the baby? Might it help?  Or having a mum to be massage to help you relax?  It is awful when people tell you how happy you should be or say “oh you must be so excited” when really you just want to say NO!  I felt the same after having my little boy.  I really wanted another girl but everyone was saying one of each was perfect.  Err well no actually!  You can just grin and put on a happy face (which I did more often than not) or tell them the truth, or just brush it off!  Being positive  is key, you must try and see the good in things and seek help when you need it.  Take a break when you need it. And cry when you need it.

Kind regards

PANDA

Dear PANDA

I had my second appointment with the midwives today. I was really dreading going as I thought I would be told off for not eating properly and not exercising and my husband wasn’t able to come with me. It went better than I expected although the midwife started off saying how exciting everything was before she actually read my notes and asked how I was. After that she was much more understanding and supportive and started to put additional things in place. I’m now classed as a high risk pregnancy so I get extra appointments and follow up and the midwife said that it would always be her that I see. She’s also writing to the hospital I’m booked at so that they’re all up to speed and can start making plans. She mentioned having a pre-dates section which I can just about think about without dissolving into panic but my current mental image is of it being delivered by section, handed straight to my husband and then one of the midwives taking it away so that it’s just me and my husband again.

I don’t think finding out the sex will help at all, I still haven’t looked at the 12 week scan pictures and when the midwife offered to listen to the heart beat today I really didn’t want to. I just can’t connect at all and the thought that there is something in there just makes me feel ill. Last night I was planning how I could have it, go home and then run away in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t want to go without my husband but staying with him with it there would be even worse.

Last week was the worst I have been so far, I really just wanted everything to be over. Now I don’t feel any better about the whole situation but I do feel a little bit more level and in control. I’ve been speaking to my Mum which has been helping; today she said that come April if I really don’t feel like I can cope with a new baby she and my Dad will do anything and everything to help me cope. Her saying that really made me feel as though she understands and that I’m not doing this on my own.

I feel completely useless for not being able to go to work even though they and occupational health have been really helpful and supportive. The only person making me feel guilty is me but I just can’t stop.

BM

Hi BM

You really need to talk to your doctors and midwife again so that they know the extent of your feelings.

I think the myth is that all women love their bumps and at birth it’s love at first sight, and it’s all or nothing. In my experience it takes time. There are so many everyday issues like feeding and sleeping that can make you feel anxious and lose confidence. If the bond is not there now, it’s not to say it never will be. The real emotional connection can be built gradually over a period of months after birth and its easier to love something you can see rather than just an  enormous lump thats making life hard.

Don’t give up BM, you just don’t know how you’ll feel when he/she arrived.

As I think I said before, I really wanted a girl but had a boy.  My first words when being told that news were “Shit. we havent got a name for a boy!”  I had skin to skin but wasn’t really bothered as all I could think was, its a boy not a girl and there’s no way I will love him!.  However 12 months on and I wouldn’t let anything hurt him.  I love him more than I can explain!

Try to relax and let things happen the way they are naturally going to.  You need support and it is great that your mum is understanding the severity of it.

The Ladies I mentioned who stayed in the MBU are more than happy for you to contact them if you want, however these are personal contact details and are only to be used relating to this email. G was in Winchester MBU for 10 weeks and is now a volunteer for Pandas. I will pass your email on to her as well.

Let me know how you get on.

Kind regards

PANDA

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