Spread­ing the word about lit­tle-known ante-na­tal de­pres­sion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFESTYLE - By LAURA MARTIN

I al­ways thought de­pres­sion was some­thing that hap­pened to other peo­ple. My twins, Anna and Ru­fus, came along in 2010. I’d al­ways dreamed of be­ing a mum and when I was 29 and had been mar­ried for a few years, it seemed like a good time to start try­ing. My hus­band took an in­ter­net fer­til­ity test and it was a shock to find out that his re­sults weren’t good. We were told by our GP we’d never con­ceive without IVF.

I strug­gled to ac­cept the thought of a life without chil­dren. Plus, I was part of the Catholic church, which doesn’t like IVF, so I faced a mas­sive moral dilemma. But we went to a good clinic and were lucky that our first IVF cy­cle was suc­cess­ful.

The 12-week scan re­vealed two healthy ba­bies and I was thrilled, even though I felt ex­hausted. I car­ried on work­ing but re­duced my hours at Of­sted, where I was a com­plaints team man­ager, partly be­cause of my mood. I felt like I should have been on top of the world but I was so up­set all the time.

A friend came round once and I hid in a cup­board un­der the stairs, crying my eyes out. All she’d done was change the time of our meet­ing by a cou­ple of hours, but it ab­so­lutely threw me. An­other time there was a party next door and I was so anx­ious I couldn’t bring my­self to go. Even­tu­ally I forced my­self and found this room­ful of peo­ple who I felt were all star­ing at me. I couldn’t cope — I had to get out.

You look back and re­alise this isn’t nor­mal but at the time I just ex­plained it away with tired­ness. I would never have used the word “de­pres­sion” be­cause it wasn’t on my radar: I was tak­ing the usual NCT and NHS classes and knew about post-na­tal de­pres­sion but no one ever men­tioned pre-na­tal de­pres­sion.

The groups were lovely and sup­port­ive but I felt I was the odd one out, the twin mum who’d had IVF. As my due date got closer I be­came even more anx­ious. I had al­ways imag­ined a lovely home birth with re­lax­ing mu­sic and es­sen­tial oils but that would have been too risky with twins.

I was in­duced at 38 weeks, pretty much at term for two ba­bies. The birth started well but I lost a lot of blood and was too un­well to breast­feed suc­cess­fully so the twins lost weight and had to go back into hos­pi­tal to be tube-fed. I also had re­tained pla­centa, a nasty in­fec­tion that meant I had to be rushed to A&E in an am­bu­lance. I re­ally thought I was go­ing to die.

De­spite the com­pli­ca­tions, I had no trou­ble bond­ing with the twins and adored them from the be­gin­ning. Ev­ery­one told me life would be hard and I should take things one day at a time, so I did, con­cen­trat­ing on get­ting through the first few months. I soon had a strict rou­tine in place and by six months I felt I just about had con­trol.

Then it was time to start wean­ing them — and that knocked me com­pletely. I re­alised that in tak­ing one step at a time I’d ef­fec­tively been run­ning a marathon every day and now my knees were start­ing to buckle. I felt more iso­lated than ever be­cause I had even less time to get out­side and see peo­ple, and I was los­ing con­fi­dence.

My thoughts were some­times des­per­ate. I’m ashamed to ad­mit that I re­mem­ber think­ing, “If I throw her down the stairs, she’ ll stop crying”. Of course I’d never have done it in a mil­lion years but I hated my­self for the thought. The crying was so aw­ful some­times it used to make me freeze. My hus­band would get home from work and I’d be stand­ing there at the win­dow hold­ing both crying ba­bies, wait­ing. I could have been there for an hour — I hadn’t got any­thing left to give.

It made me re­alise I needed help. I went to my GP and burst into tears out of re­lief that some­thing could be done about how I felt. She pre­scribed an­tide­pres­sants and re­ferred me for Cog­ni­tive Be­havioural Ther­apy (CBT), which I found im­mensely help­ful.

The ther­a­pist talked a lot about “good-enough” par­ent­ing and made me re­alise that you don’t have to be per­fect. Was I re­ally the worst mother in the world? Of course not.

The twins are six now and I’m di­vorced from their fa­ther. I have a new part­ner and there have been many more ups and downs along the way but each time, I’ve used CBT and tech­niques I’ve learnt through mind­ful­ness cour­ses, and I’ve grown stronger.

I made a video for Best Be­gin­nings about my ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause I know that if I’d seen it when I was at my low­est point, I wouldn’t have felt so alone. I hon­estly thought I was the only one who felt like I did dur­ing my preg­nancy and that some­how it was all my fault for not try­ing hard enough to be pos­i­tive.

There’s a quote used by the char­ity that says: “De­pres­sion is not a sign of weak­ness, it’s a sign you’ve been strong for too long.” I wish I’d had the con­fi­dence to say I was de­pressed. It might just have saved me from all those months of deal­ing with it on my own.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

“The ther­a­pist talked a lot about ‘good-enough’ par­ent­ing and made me re­alise that you don’t have to be per­fect.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.