How can you not notice you are depressed? It’s fairly easy, for a time.
When you have two children under two, life is very, very tiring. All of the time. For the first year or so. When you’re in the thick of that, you don’t see the end. You don’t know whether things will ever settle down again. The ‘now’ becomes your life, and you might just lose the ability to believe that things will ever change.
After the birth of my second daughter, I was on a complete high for two weeks. I didn’t get the usual baby-blues. The labour and birth had gone quite well, really. My recovery was quick. The baby was gorgeous. We had bonded. That seemed to me to be a crucial indicator of how things were going. If you were going to get post-natal depression, you were going to be one of those mothers with a) a difficult baby, b) no support, c) a traumatic delivery to recover from, or d) an inability to form a bond with your baby. None of those boxes was ticked for me. I had: a) a fairly easy-going baby, b) very good support – my husband James took about 5 weeks off work, c) smooth delivery, and d) instantaneous bonding. Even the breastfeeding was going well. (And breastfeeding is NOT a piece of cake.)
I was, however, tired. I’d been mildly anaemic during the pregnancy, and also extremely nauseous. My beloved grandmother had also died very early in the pregnancy. I had had to telephone my parents, who were in Alaska at the time, to tell them. It was 4am their time. It was the most terrible phone call I have ever had to make. Although I went to the funeral, I think the grieving was somewhat muted; my mind and body were busy dealing with the next generation. I did miss my Nana terribly. I still do. But I was comforted by knowing that my lovely Dad had seen her before flying to Alaska, and had told her about the baby I was carrying.
And now that the baby was here, I was tired. Have I mentioned tired? And exhausted? Ok. So I was very tired.
One night my husband put his hands on my shoulders, hoping a hug might ease some of my burden of weariness. I jumped and shrugged him off with terrifying rapidity. It was an unconscious reaction, and one which shocked both of us. For James, it confirmed some suspicions. He brought me a large book, and opened it to the Post-Natal Depression pages. He gently said that he thought I might have PND. I looked at him blankly, furious at I-didn’t-know-what. Then I determinedly read the pages he had referred to.
I had read these pages before. Kaz Cooke’s KidWrangling is an amusing and enjoyable read. Like all well-prepared mothers, I had read the PND material so that I could be ready to spot any warning signs. But that had been months ago. Now, when I read the checklist, I cried.
Only two tears squeezed themselves out and landed on my cheeks. They didn’t even have the momentum to roll downwards. They just stopped there in their tracks. Inside, it felt like I was sobbing. But nothing much was coming out. There was a dam wall of anger and confusion blocking it. James knew, though. The lack of protest on my part was disconcerting for him.
One of the things I’m grateful for is that Kaz Cooke’s book had a wide range of possible symptoms of PND in it. It actually made me feel a bit better to realise that there could be something deeper going on than just being desperately tired all the time, and quite possibly a terrible person – or worse: a bad mother. Because, for me, the single biggest symptom of depression was anger. I don’t mean hormonal grumpiness, either. I mean full-on rage. Mostly inside my head, but sometimes, dangerously, leaking out into my dealings with my beautiful daughters. And making me shrug off the love of my life.
to be continued…