Secret shame

I keep reading that postnatal depression is the illness or condition that affects a lot of mothers but that no one talks about. As a mum and as a depressive, I have found that it is discussed widely. I don’t think it is stigmatized anymore. In fact, it feels more like a sloppy assumption, a writer’s shortcut, to still refer to it as rarely-discussed or hidden; that keeps it secret and shameful.

The problem I find with post-natal depression (or depression generally) is that it isn’t easy to spot. There is no rash, for example; no straightforward set of symptoms that every sufferer will have, so diagnosing depression is very hard. Self-diagnosing is even harder. And as the old saying goes ‘acknowledging you have a problem is the first step’ so what happens if you or someone close to you knows that something is off but not necessarily that it’s a treatable illness? Maybe more information is needed as to how to spot the many and varied symptoms.

I don’t know if I was just very lucky that my midwife and health visitors were particularly ‘on it’ and so I wasn’t at any real risk of being lost to post natal depression alone. I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety disorder since my teens and was slapped with a bout of antenatal depression so it was generally assumed I would suffer after Arthur came along. But still, I was closely monitored and frogmarched to the doctor as soon as it looked like I was plummeting. But there are horror stories in the press all the time about those poor women who go overlooked and undiagnosed. These stories rarely have happy endings.

I would like there to be a much greater medical/psychological focus on mums in the perinatal stage and in those first few hours and days after birth. If Bounty and other companies have a place on the post-labour ward then surely there could be a more pronounced mental health team?

It isn’t shameful or secret to have postnatal depression but our awareness and acceptance of it needs to be supported and bolstered by knowledge so that no one feels they are suffering alone.

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When’s the next one?

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I haven’t written anything for a while because I’ve been busy with birthdays (mine and his are both, helpfully, a week before Christmas), Christmas, travelling and the boy being ill and refusing to use his inhaler – except on his big toe which is nearly as effective, right? Anyway, now I have a quiet moment and I’ve picked up all the presents and cleaned up all the fluids and sat down for a minute or two I have started thinking about the past year and the future. Not in a ‘wonders of tomorrow’s world’ way but with an eye to what I will be doing differently in this next year.

A new niece or nephew is the first great expectation. That should be any day now. Then a wedding of two lovely, lovely friends and then somewhere in the middle of the year another wedding for two wicked people. None of which I did in 2015, so already that’s different.

I also have to start looking for a preschool or nursery for Arthur. He cant actually start until this time next year, but apparently I have to have decided by the summer. So that’s half a year already roughly planned around other people. People I love but still, I do feel a little like I’m not contributing anything to my life. And it’s felt like that for a little while. I love looking after Arthur but that probably shouldnt be *all* i do with my life! Maybe that should be my new year resolution; be more involved in my own life, be more present and contribute more than just domestic duties and baby wipes.

These days, everything is ‘postnatal’ so whenever I’m asked about upcoming events or plans it is always related to kids and usually  within the framework of ‘when will you be having more?’ Nobody asks me what I’d like to study next or where I’d like to travel. The world and his wife seem interested in mine and my husband’s procreative plans! The truth of it is, I don’t have any plans because I don’t feel I’m doing a good enough job now and I would like to feel content that I’m doing ok with one child before I give him a sibling to fight with.

Life goal – be more mindful and give Arty a better, happier mummy. Then think about having more children. But probably still not discuss this with relative strangers who constantly ask when I’m going to get knocked up next!  Happy 2016 everyone!