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Paula’s Story

My pregnancy and my Birth, I have to say, were brilliant. I felt fantastic in the clothes, my hair was looking great and I loved the experience. There was one issue that made me very uncomfortable throughout my whole pregnancy though and that was feeding my baby. I think I knew from very early on that the fear of having a little baby be so dependent on me was going to be overwhelming, along with a medical condition that meant there was a very small chance the baby could be affected by tablets I was taking, I took the decision to bottle feed. I spent 6 months of my pregnancy feeling very guilty and constantly having to defend my decision even being told by the hospital that mum’s that fed there baby’s by bottle would have to do so in a different room….and never the twain shall meet!

I was extremely lucky I had a beautiful baby girl, who was an amazing sleeper, brilliant eater and was generally a very calm contented baby; unfortunately her mum wasn’t the same!

I think I spent 4/5 months trying to fight the anxiety feelings, I had suffered from Depression about 15 years previously so I had an idea what was happening, but thought I had the tools of the trade to deal with it again, but this was altogether something different. I went from being the glue that kept our family together to having no interest in anything, I just felt numb. Day to day decisions felt like a mountain to climb, I would wake in the morning feeling sick, and totally exhausted even though I had had a great night’s sleep (she slept through the night from very early) when my husband left to go to work the fear of what am I going to do with this little girl all day was sometimes overpowering, I was very often seen out in all weathers pacing the streets just so that I was doing something other than being in the house, I had a good circle of mummy friends and we all met up and encouraged each other to go to playgroups and swimming lessons but I very often felt I had this mask on I found it very frustrating that I couldn’t help resolve issues as the world of babies means life doesn’t conform….and I was used to ticking my to do list every day!

Christmas was upon us which for people that know me know I love, this year though If I could have locked myself away on my own I would have however, I didn’t want to let anyone down so I went along with it….massive mistake; trying to hide Post natal illness is ten times harder than letting people know. I also spent most of December feeling immensely guilty talking about going back to work, everyone assumed I would hate it and would rather be at home, but for me I couldn’t wait to get to work for some conformity, I made sure that I was not responsible for dropping my daughter off at nursery as I knew that I would break down every day, in fact I didn’t do it for many months.

The 1st week in January, 6 months after I had my daughter I went to the children’s clinic to do weigh in , I just melted in front of the health visitor, she contacted my GP and I had an appointment that afternoon. I was put on medication and was referred for counselling, however this was going to take up to 10 weeks to get and I knew I needed something sooner, as I was starting work the following week. It took all my strength to search the website but finally came across the HPNI Group. I took the approach of one to one counselling and also group meetings. The one to one allowed me to say out loud anything that in public could have been frowned upon and also to try and rationalise the massive irrational thoughts that I was having about everything and everyone, I realised that my family and friends needed to know but I could not put into words what was happening to me as I had no idea. My Husband very much became my voice piece and told our immediate family and friends, I then used the list of possible symptoms from the PNI website and emailed them to my loved ones and just said all of the above! My Husband also
became my rock, at times I was the most vile person to him this monster would appear from nowhere and shout at him about the milk in the fridge! We had to find ways to deal with this, all I needed was to be held and to be told it was all ok and we soon found ways of non verbal communication that saved me energy and worry and minimised decision making, so for example we would look through the cupboards once a week decide on the menu for the week write the shopping list and then put it on a blackboard, that way a decision every night about what to eat was not required and it allowed my husband to help in a small way by going and doing the shopping…..all energy that you don’t have.

I started going to the group and to this day I find them brilliant (2 years on) you sit in a room with very normal women eating pizza and laughing out loud at some of the ridiculous things this illness makes you do……but you feel normal and you don’t have to explain yourself; they just get you. It allows you to see mums that are stages ahead of you so that you can see there is light at the end of the tunnel, but it also helps you to talk about your experience to the new mums that come along and hopefully they can use you as their goal to aim for. I also found it extremely good for opening up communication with my husband when I got home and being able to talk to him about other people’s experiences.

It’s a horrible illness to go through at a time when life should be “perfect” but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel and I am a big believer that these things happen for a reason, I believe that I am a much better person than I was before the illness, ironically my relationship with my husband is even stronger, I could just burst at the love I have for my daughter and I have made some wonderful new friends in the process.

Please do not suffer in silence you DO recover quicker once you start talking.