I suffered from post-natal depression after my second baby and it was the lowest point – and almost the end – of my life. What I didn’t realise at the time – what I only realised recently, in fact – was that the slow slide into depression began even before my pregnancy. I moved to a new country and felt isolated and alone, then I lost a baby and didn’t manage to process my grief before I got pregnant again.
Now, some background. My first pregnancy was a breeze. I puked once in the morning for only eight weeks and felt fantastic for the rest of the day. I was relaxed and happy, I ate like a horse, I went out, I exercised, I slept like a log. And I made the error of assuming my other pregnancies would be the same.
I had so much anxiety with my pregnancy with my second daughter. I was afraid of losing her like I lost my son, and then I would worry that I was worrying, because I read that stress increases the chance of miscarriage. I couldn’t sleep at night. And I was ill. So ill. I was being sick all day and through the night, too, from six weeks until the day I gave birth. One week it was so bad that I couldn’t even keep water down. I couldn’t go to work because I was retching every five minutes and so my husband drove me to the doctor. I could tell the doctor thought I was just being dramatic – even though I had to visit the bathroom three times during my appointment – but he did prescribe me some medicine usually given to chemotherapy patients. It didn’t stop the sickness, but after that I was only throwing up three or four times a day.
I now think I was suffering from a mild form of hyperemesis gravidarum. Nothing like Stephanie describes in her blog post Hyperemesis Gravidarum and I, which I discovered while I was writing this post, but enough that I think I should have been in hospital that week, not at home and delirious with a headache and a temperature because I couldn’t even drink water. And, of course, I was stressed about missing work.
I was definitely surprised by how difficult that pregnancy was. I guess, on some level, I felt my Supermum status had been revoked – instead of the young, happy, healthy pregnant girl I was the first time round, I was this gross, miserable mess. Also, the health system I used for my maternity arrangements, doctor’s appointments and check-ups was – for me – appalling to understand and navigate. Every time I visited the hospital or a public service, I’d either leave angry or in tears – often both. And it didn’t help that I was being punished for my pregnancy at work – I’m not being dramatic – my colleagues noticed, too.
It’s only now that I look back, I see that all these negative thoughts and feelings – so small and manageable by themselves – were building into a mountain that was ready to slip out from under my feet.