This is the heartbreakingly honest story of Rachael Dobson (the founder of PANDAS) and her experience of postnatal depression (PND) after her son was born.
PANDAS is an amazing charity that aims to reach out to all women suffering with mental health issues during pregnancy or after birth.
They were my lifeline while I was pregnant and you can read the emails that I sent to and received from one of the support volunteers at https://23weeksocks.com/2014/11/29/pandas/
You can find out more about PANDAS at http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk
I found out I was pregnant two days after my first wedding anniversary but I didn’t feel the overwhelming joy which I thought was meant to happen.
What I did feel was panic, shock and fear.
My husband was overjoyed, he supported me all through pregnancy and through my decision of whether to have a termination or not.
I just held on to the fact people would tell me: It will be lovely to hold the ‘bundle of joy’ and I will be met with love I have never felt before.
My birth wasn’t exactly plain sailing.
I had an emergency caesarean and felt as if I was being attacked; I have never had so many people in one room.
This resulted in me waking up to find I’d had a baby followed and then shortly after, blood transfusion.
Sat in a side room on my own, looking over into a cot, I was not met with love, or joy, just nothing…
More and more people came to see me and my sister said I must be so proud. The only person I could tell was my husband; how I felt such a shame of a women, a wife and a mother. Everyone was telling me how I should be feeling and all I wanted was to just go back to my husband and I.
I knew this was selfish, but I spent what felt like my childhood caring for my mum.
My husband was my escape and our first anniversary having friends round finally let me feel like me, that I could do what I want; what people my age do.
I blamed this little vulnerable baby for taking this away from me.
For the first few weeks I did what I considered a mum should and then I would cry when my husband walked through the door.
This wasn’t what motherhood was meant to be, the tears, the tantrums, and the anger.
The morning I finally admitted to anyone else there was an issue, my husband went to work as usual, my son wouldn’t stop crying, and I was overwhelmed with tremendous anger, I wanted him gone.
Then I just felt sadness and horror.
How could I feel like this towards a baby?
I rang my health visitor and as soon as I heard her name Sarah, I said my name and promptly burst into tears. Sarah came round along with a student nurse.
I spent three and half hours crying my heart out, the pain, emotion, and heartache that I could finally tell someone about. Sarah was shocked said she thought I was such a laid back first time mum. It was easy for me to just smile and put a mask on.
I remember glancing at the student nurse, who wiped tears from her eyes; seeing someone else cry because I was telling them exactly how I felt was a breath of fresh air.
I knew they were listening.
After telling them how I felt, I went into a shell, I didn’t want to do anything with my son. My husband would come home from work and continue to take full care of my son overnight and back to work again, during the day my Nan would take care of him.
My G.P. signed my husband off work so he could care for my son and me. I don’t know if it made thing difficult for him at work, he generally would say the bare minimum. When family visited us they would start to have a go at him saying he better be pulling his weight as I looked tired, I must be doing everything at night but he never corrected them. The truth was that he was doing everything.
If our son cried I would bury my head under the pillow and hide.
I had a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) come to visit me and I tried to explain when I get really angry I pull my hair and pinch my arms and legs and throw a tantrum like a child but I feel detached from it, like I’m looking at myself.
Her response was do I hear voices…?
As if things weren’t hard enough now I thought I had people thinking I was schizophrenic.
I wanted her to give me advice on how to work through it all but she just said “You’ll just have to work through it”.
Well done, even I knew that much.
I decided to go back to work as a temp after three months and people would say “Don’t you want to be at home with your son?” I also tried to do a college course and the lecturers would tell me I should be spending time with him. It’s like I was constantly confronted with the stereotype of what a good mum was.
I just wanted to scream at them.
“No, I don’t want to be at home, I want to be out of the house!”
“I am Rachael”
“I am not just a mum.’
By August 2010, when our son was six months old, I still felt the same; still blamed him.
We had the task of finding a new home and we were lucky enough to buy a house with the help of my grandparents. I met with my new health visitor, explained my history of PND.
I was advised there was a group but I was two pegs above it and would bring other people down. I genuinely felt like I had been slapped round the face.
By now I was now able to look after our son the odd day on my own but it was tough. I used TV programs as markers to get through the day; he would nap just before Jeremy Kyle, have lunch at Loose Women, go to sleep at 60 Minute Makeover and then I would clock watch till four when I knew my husband was heading home.
I’ll admit the one day I lost it. I snapped.
My son would not let me put his trousers on and I know it sounds silly but to me was a big deal. The anger, the annoyance, the hatred all came flooding back and I held him down, hard.
There was no mark on him, but I held him tight and bawled my eyes out.
I’m so sorry Mummy let you down.
I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband until a week later when I told my Sure Start support worker. I then had social services at my door telling me I was a serious risk to our son and I wasn’t allowed to spend any time alone with him.
I felt like I had let everyone down.
My husband didn’t have a clue what was going on until he got in from work and found social services sitting on the sofa telling him they though his wife was a great risk to our sons safety.
It took four and half months to get Social Services to believe I was not going to harm our son and when I received the letter saying the case was closed I cried and felt such relief. I received a report of their findings and I have to admit I really wanted to burn it.
Around the time Social Services were coming to the end of the investigations, I started a job at the same company as my husband. The interview in December 2010 was hard as I was faced with the two managers in my husband’s office and all I could think was “What if they remember, what if they know?”
Since starting the job I have been open with people and I say to them “I have post natal depression.”
Each time I tell someone new it feels like I can breathe that little bit more.
I was so desperate to meet other people who went through the same as me. I searched on the internet and when people on social networking sites replied saying that they felt the same and described what PND is like I cried.
It felt so good to hear other people say they feel the same and it does get better.
Now I want to be able to do that for others. I haven’t been able to find any groups or support networks in Shrewsbury and very little in Shropshire where I live.
I just want people to know you are not alone and although each person is different and has a different story to tell I want people to know that depression of ANY kind is an illness.
I hope telling my story can be of help to just one person or family.
Please don’t sit alone, stand together and be supported.
Hugs, Rachael x