With Mother’s Day around the corner, we all know it isn’t necessarily a day of celebration for everyone. Here’s Hazel Anderson-Turner’s very frank account of her experience of PND.
Dear younger me,
I can’t quite remember what your expectations of motherhood are. I do know that you see yourself as a strong capable person but I need to warn you that you are about to enter the hardest few years of your life.
It feels like a cliché to say that it will all be worth it in the end but it really will be. You will learn so much about yourself, you will learn what it means to let love in and out and you will eventually learn to love yourself. You will co-create an amazing tiny human who, by the age of six is - on most days - your favourite person to be around.
I don’t want you to think that what I’m going to tell you is your fault. It’s true that you will make some not-so-great choices (10 weeks maternity leave, what will you be thinking?!?) but the pain you will experience is not because you are a bad mother, or are broken in some way. You need to remember that.
It’s not your fault. You’re not a bad mother.
There will be difficult times ahead. The birth will be as far from what you wanted as it can get and you won’t get to see your baby for 12 hours. You are going to be really scared but she will be ok. She’s going to cry a lot because her milk allergy isn’t diagnosed for several weeks. The crying is not fun, buy some earplugs; your husband is wonderful and will share the load.
On the outside, it will look as if you are a great mother. You will take good care of her and your nappy bag organisational skills will be the envy of other mums. On the inside, you will feel shocked and ashamed because you seem to be unable to feel anything for your baby. When your husband takes over and you can walk out the door, you will feel as if a weight has been lifted. You will feel ashamed about this too. I’m sorry to say that there is a lot of shame and guilt coming your way, my friend.
It will take nine long months until you are diagnosed with post natal depression. By that time, you are considering that it would be a relief to just not exist. Your doctor will be amazing and will write you a prescription of counselling, mindfulness, exercise and time by yourself. You will do the hard work, you will hang on in there even though it hurts.
When your little girl is 18 months old, she will bring you a cup full of sweets when you are feeling unwell in bed. Like a ray of warm sunlight breaking through the clouds, you will finally feel a recognisable sense of love for her.
I’d love to say that your recovery will be a straight line but it will be more like a rollercoaster. You will be plagued with self-hatred and regret for the times you feel you missed out on with her but you will discover therapies that help you to live with your unhelpful thoughts and feelings. You will go on to use these approaches to help other people. Reducing suffering will become your mission in life.
If you remember nothing else from this, then please remember that there will be no reason to feel guilt or shame; you are not alone. Talk to others, ask for help and keep doing the things that help you even when you feel like you’re ok.
When your daughter is four years old, you will be in bed together, enjoying the feeling of snuggling up together under the warm covers. With your arms wrapped around her you will look at her beautiful face and tell her how much you love her and how proud you are of her. She will turn to you and look at you seriously with her big brown eyes and say, “I’m proud of you too, mummy”. “What for?” you will ask. “For loving me,” she will reply with a smile.
I love you,