If any of you have suffered with Post Natal Depression you will know it’s hard to explain or put into words what your feeling. I remember leaving the hospital on my first baby, Nathan, and before I left the nurse told me to be aware of the baby blues hitting in the next few days. But there was no explanation of what we should feel or how we should react or no follow up support. For me Post Natal masked itself in many different ways:
- Anxiety and Stress
After Nathan, there were a few low months that I felt the cloud, as I described it before, looming but honestly this was pushed to one side as I had a wedding to prepare for. I had a year between having Nathan and getting married. With all the major things booked I could have my time at home with him for a few months and then it was all systems go from the New Year. I didn’t have time to ruminate. It really hit me after Jacob more so when I returned to work full time.
I went back to work in January 2013. I loved my job so much and really felt I had found my forever place of employment. This all changed when I got back to work. The lady that replaced me was leaving soon after some loose ends were to be tied up. I returned to my office and reprised my role as Accounts Payable. However, the girl I shared an office with was a cold sole and by that, I mean she felt the cold. I, on the other hand, am always warm. There was a heater behind my desk that was turned up full blast most of the day and then she also had a heater the length of her desk, in front of her desk. The door was always closed as the information we worked on and phone calls contained sensitive information. I was so warm. I could feel my face overheating and I was struggling to function. I didn’t say anything about it and I struggled on just trying to do my work and get on with it. One day while my colleague was on her lunch I opened the window behind me to get some fresh air. I forgot to close it before she came back from lunch and when she returned to the office I shut it. I also lowered the heater from 5 to 4 on the dial one afternoon. The next day she had a go at me and told me how annoyed she was that I turned down the radiator and how inconsiderate I was and that when my maternity replacement was in the office there was never an issue. She was not one bit nice that day. I got upset as my emotions were all over the place. I tried to explain that I was really warm and the office was uncomfortable to work in. That it is very hard to cool down and much easier to warm up with an extra layer or two. The office was only small and therefore unbearable to work in the heat. She really upset me that day and there was no reasoning with her. That was the day I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt I was being bullied and there was no one I could speak to or get help from.
A couple of weeks previous I brought Nathan to see the consultant regarding his tonsils. He had at least one antibiotic a month due to tonsillitis and ear infections. He was only two and a half but he was missing so much time from creche and then I was also missing time from work. The consultant took one look at his tonsils and told me they were rotten and had to come out. He was scheduled in for two weeks later. I had to take time off from work to be there for his recuperation and this made me feel terrible as I was only back five or six weeks. I was able to go into work during this 2-week period on the days my husband had off and also when my mam was off from work. At least I was trying to be accommodating as possible.
I was nervous about the operation and Sean couldn’t come to the hospital with me. I don’t think he felt comfortable asking for the day off but I was really hurt, I needed him with me. Thankfully my Dad came so I had the support I needed. We checked into our room and the nurses were fussing about getting everything ready. Nathan was fasting and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t eat and therefore they tried to get him in as early as possible. They put the numbing cream on his hand for the cannula insertion and after a few minutes it started to burn him and he took an allergic reaction to it. This had to be removed but he was getting stressed and so was I. His time came and he was wheeled down to theatre. I was allowed go into the operating with him until he was put under anaesthetic. This is when things got very upsetting. I had to restrain him for them to get the gas mask on his face. He was screaming at me to stop and to lift him up. It was the most difficult time as a Mammy that I have ever had to go through. I knew it was for his own good, but that was hard to comprehend at the time. As a Mammy, your instinct is to protect your children and I was getting very upset.
He finally went to sleep and I was ushered out of the room. I had a cry on Daddy’s shoulders and we went to the café to sit down and wait. The operation didn’t last as long as I had expected and a nurse came looking for me in the café. Nathan was in recovery but he was hysterical coming out of the anaesthetic. I forced my way into in recovery and jumped into the bed beside him and cradled him. He was upset about his foot as the cannula was inserted into it instead of his hands. He as so groggy and in and out of sleep, but when he was awake he was crying. I was glad to be moved back to our room where I could comfort him in peace. He was fine after a long sleep and some food and ice pops. We were released the following morning and he was happy to get home. He told me his tonsils were bad and had to be thrown in the bin.
His recovery went well and he was so brave. On day five his scars started to get really tight and it was loads of medicine and ice pops to get him through. On day 7 he was feeling much better and I brought him for lunch in a local restaurant. He was itching to get out of the house so I thought some lunch and ice-cream would be a nice treat. I had carbonara and we sat back and relaxed. That evening my sister was coming over to make her boyfriend a cheesecake, as it was the eve of Valentine’s Day. I tasted a bit of the Belgian chocolate that she was using but didn’t like it and still felt full from my lunch. That night I woke up from my sleep with the worst pain high up in my stomach. I couldn’t sit, lie, stand or move. It was excruciating. I was crying with the pain and woke Sean. I rang Midoc and made an appointment. Sean rang our friend to come and get me as he couldn’t leave the house with the two boys. I wasn’t in a position to drive myself. I got to Midoc and they sent me straight to A&E. I was assessed and quickly put onto a drip and given some IV antibiotics.
The pain started to subside and I was brought for an ultrasound. I was admitted shortly afterwards and told I had gallstones. I was in hospital for a few days, which was really tough as Nathan needed me at home. On release I was given an appointment to have my gallbladder removed in the coming weeks once the swelling and infection went down. In the meantime, I returned to work and that is when the incident occurred with my colleague. I wasn’t on an amazing wage and with the cost of two kids in full time childcare and trying to pay bills, it wasn’t worth it. My heart wasn’t in it anymore and I was leaving my kids and not getting home until late every day. I know so many people do it but at the time it all got too much. I handed in my notice in work reluctantly and finished up the week before my op.
While in hospital getting, my gallbladder removed I felt really down, I was lonely. With Sean at home with the kids and having too much time to think and be away from them, I think this is when I started to realise something was the matter. Also, while in hospital the doctors kept talking about my weight and telling me I had to lose weight. I had lost 24lbs since January and I was really active as I was training for the mini marathon. This really got to me as it was a sensitive issue and I was doing my best.
It took me a really long time to recover from the operation and for some reason I was having recurring pains as if I still had my gallbladder. Being at home again, although it was great to be with the kids, it isolated me from adult contact and I started to become more and more of a recluse. I was getting upset a lot, my stress levels were so high. I could feel anxiety creeping in about doing simple things. After a few months of feeling so low I approached my doctor, I told her how I was feeling and that I didn’t want to be medicated, but I wanted to be referred to someone that could give me the skills of managing my stress.
Even that felt like a weight lifted. The first guy I met was not for me. Firstly, he couldn’t possibly understand what I was going through and honestly he wasn’t even trying to understand. I got that feeling from him like he wasn’t listening and then he gave me a patronising speech. Back to the doctor I went and she referred me to someone different. This time the fit was right. She was a real Mammy figure and gave me a hug at the end of each session. She made me feel like I wasn’t alone and gave me some coping skills to deal with everyday anxiety and stress. It wasn’t a fix all but it definitely helped.
However, as the summer continued that year Nathan got very sick with pains in his belly and I ended up in hospital with him. He couldn’t walk one Sunday when he woke up and was doubled over in pain. He had been ill for a few days with a high temperature and tummy aches but no vomiting or diarrhoea. Sean was working that Sunday and my parents and sister just happened to be in Galway at the same time for different reasons. So, I was on my own. Over to the hospital with Nathan and a one year old. Nathan was admitted and Sean’s sister kindly came and took Jacob from me. Nathan had an ultrasound and an x-ray and it showed his abdomen was full of air. It looked like he was full of bubbles on the ultrasound. A tube had to be inserted down his nose and into his stomach to release some of the trapped air. He was so uncomfortable and upset with me for letting them put the tube in. It’s tough to be the baddie even though you know it’s for their own good. Thankfully he recovered quickly and was back to his normal self.
A few weeks later I put my back out. I bent down one morning when Sean was in work and took some food out of the grill for the kids. No sooner had I bent down, I felt something go and I couldn’t get back up. I was in agony. I rang one of my neighbours to come and get me some medicine out of the press as I was crippled on the couch. My sister came to take me to Midoc and my parents took the kids. I was given an injection to ease the pain. Over the next few weeks the pain didn’t go away. I was barely able to function normally and the medication wasn’t helping. I couldn’t take the full medication either as I had two kids to look after. I think people thought I was exaggerating as they were getting annoyed with me. I asked for an MRI after four weeks to see what was causing the pain. I knew it was sciatica as the pain went down my right leg. The MRI was done and the information sent back to my doctors to read. I had a bulging disc and deterioration of the lower spine and they couldn’t give me an answer as to when I would feel better. I had to let myself heel and they suggested taking to the bed in order to give myself time to get better. Obviously, this was not possible and I still had a one year old who needed to be fed and picked up and cuddled all the time and a 3-year-old who wanted to be up as much. It was October before I felt better and stopped taking pan relief.
It was such an eventful year with all of the above happening and I am sure anyone would struggle under those circumstances. But with having PND it heightened everything and made it harder to let things go. There were other personal things that happened that year like strains on important relationships and this added to the loneliness and isolation I felt ……………………………………
To be continued