About Me

Kent, United Kingdom
I have the perfect family but still struggle to find the light in the darkness of post-natal depression.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Three weeks...

Baby D is three weeks old today. And what a three weeks it has been.
In some ways it feels like he has been here forever. But in other ways I'm reminded how new he is and how little and vulnerable.
For obvious reasons, I don't have time to write much. But there are some things I need to get out. Lots of things, in fact, but some of them will have to wait.
For now, a quick update - for me, as much as for you, dear readers.
All started very promisingly, with no sign of the dreaded blackness, and I was optimistic we had been spared.
I'm not so sure now, but equally I'm trying not to 'catastrophise', as my lovely therapist says, and to take things one day at a time. Some days are bad, some days are good.
Today was good. Yesterday was bad. But the stresses of Christmas don't help and I wonder if when normality resumes things will look sunnier. At least today I can see myself waiting until then - yesterday that felt like a yawning chasm of bleakness.
I haven't dared check my 'mad list' from a few posts ago. I know I would tick some of the boxes. I spent half an hour in the shower on Boxing Day just because I couldn't face getting out and facing the tantruming four-year-old and demanding newborn waiting for me when I did.
That doesn't sound too bad until I add that a good portion of that time was spent crying. Then it looks like another tick on that dreaded list.
In the interests of honesty, and for myself, I must record my disappointment at the readiness of the army I hoped I had amassed. Some people have been fantastic. Others I have not yet heard from. I've been surprised at the names in both camps. But this is a long haul, and Christmas is a more important distraction for many than the madness of a friend. I live in hope things on that front will improve.
Of course, if I asked for help I'm sure it would come, but I'm finding that quite hard to do. But I don't need anything practical - just a feeling of not being abandoned would be enough.
Equally, there are some people with whom I feel like I am under a microscope, being scrutinised for failings or mentalness. Do I see another tick on that list?! I'm sure they are trying to help but I feel under pressure to be fine so that's the answer I give in those frequent interviews with them. And they do feel like interviews - especially those with the medical professionals who see "Previous PND" in red all over my notes. They get through their other questions, then it's always the same routine. Pen down, head on one side, and out it comes..."And how are YOU feeling?"
This is all a bit of a waffle and baby D is stirring - plus I have a million other things to do, so I will leave this self-indulgent waffle here.
For those of you who are now concerned, I will contact my therapist once the Christmas chaos is over and get her take on things. I have to see my GP too for other issues so if nothing has changed will discuss this there.
I know what to do. I've been here before. I just didn't want to be back here again. Fingers crossed this is still a two-way street.

Monday, 22 November 2010

I wasn't going to do this...

...but what's the point of having this if I don't use it when I need to?
After all, I've seen the results when things are glossed over or ignored when in fact they need to be aired.
So I've been feeling pretty well prepared for baby number two and dealing with everything that involves.
That's not some fluke, in case anyone is in any doubt - it's the result of a lot of hard work with my lovely therapist, with Mark and with myself. Not always pleasant, but necessary to give us the best start possible as a family of four.
That is my focus - our family, and preserving and developing it. Mark and I are stronger than we have ever been and we feel ready to tackle PND again if we need to.
Others have been fantastic too, and I feel confident there is a small army waiting in the wings if and when we need them.
But sadly, there appear to be a few members on an opposing army. People who have perhaps forgotten - or been too wrapped up in themselves to realise - how close to the edge we came last time because of what was triggered by Miss T's arrival. All kinds of edges, in fact.
People who perhaps haven't noticed what we've already dealt with this time.
I doubt those people will ever read this. But I need to say it anyway.
My family is a unit. There are four of us. Anyone who has an issue with one will have to deal with all of us. And I'm not afraid to withdraw our family unit - as a whole - from anyone who is not a positive influence.
And if that happens, that will be your loss, not mine.

Monday, 15 November 2010

And now for something a bit different...

I wanted to do this, and here seemed like as good a place as any! Hope you can all indulge me...normal service will be resumed soon!

Dear baby boy,
You will be here soon, and things could get a bit hectic for a while. So I wanted to take advantage of the peace and quiet of these last few days to write my hopes and fears for you - and for me.
I'm so excited about meeting you. I know things won't always be perfect (and believe me, that's been a hard lesson to learn!) but I'm working on being the best mum I can be to you and your big sister.
I want things to be different to when she was born. But that doesn't mean I want things to be perfect. I don't care if the house isn't spotless when the health visitor or your relatives come - in fact, as I sit here typing this I can see clutter that needs putting away, dust that needs sweeping and a rug that needs vacuuming.
But that doesn't matter. What matters is getting to know you, and adjusting to our new lives as a family of four.
It will be hard for all of us in different ways. Your dad has a lot of pressure as well as he worries about all of us, and your sister is very excited but will have a lot of hard lessons of her own to learn.
You've already taught me a lot and although it hasn't always been fun (I could have done without the gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia!) it's been useful. Before you've even arrived you've let me know in no uncertain terms that you are not the same as your sister.
And that means things will not necessarily be the same as they were when she was born.
I'm sure you'll let us know if things are not quite to your liking, just as your sister will, but I hope we can all learn to compromise together and build a loving family unit. Actually, that should be "build a bigger family unit" - the three of us are already a strong unit and we have plenty of love for you too.
I promise to try to remember that you are different to your sister. You will have different tastes, likes and dislikes, and a different personality. That's okay - just look at me and your aunts!
I also promise to try not to compare the two of you - I know how annoying that can be. And I promise not to take sides - and to make sure you know that you will always be my best boy, while your sister will always be my best girl. There's a special place in the family for both of you.
It's no secret that I find it hard to be a mum, and I won't pretend that's changed.
But your sister has done a great job in training me and I will be able to use the skills she taught me for you. And while you may not be as appreciative of glitter and pinkness as she is, I promise to try to embrace boy noise and boy energy as I learn to be your mum too.
I hope I can teach you things too, and I know your sister will try to impart her wisdom and knowledge. Please be patient with her - she means well!
We're all eagerly awaiting your arrival, and I hope when things get tough that you can remember how much you are loved and wanted, just like your sister.
With love,

Monday, 1 November 2010

It's time to look back...

I don't really want to, but I can't avoid it any more.
One of my lovely therapist's "strategies" for avoiding/coping with PND version two is to produce what I have affectionately termed a 'mad list'.
The idea is that I write down, so it's there for all to see, a list of symptoms and behaviours that characterised PND-me last time. Then, if anyone spots more than one or two of them recurring, they can have a little word.
Of course, that last bit is probably easier said than done. And to be honest, dear readers, if you do spot them, it's probably best if you have a little word with Mark who has been armed with some key words and phrases to use in discussing the situation with me. Just so you know, "Everyone thinks you've gone mad again," is not one of them!
On the subject of honesty, I should (oops, there go those shoulds again!) have done this list weeks ago. Probably months ago. But I just couldn't face it. I don't want to relive those times.
I had a bit of a reminder the other day at yoga - the well-meaning teacher was discussing those first days with a newborn and pointing out that it isn't always a bed of roses. Her openness wasn't well-received by everyone in the group but it such struck a chord with me that it all came flooding back - especially when she revealed she didn't feel like herself until her son was three.
Oops - now I'm procrastinating again. I did warn you I didn't want to do this...
But I have to for my sake, and for Mark's and of course for Miss T's.
So here goes....your guide to mentalness, by me!

1) Reluctance to be alone with the baby
2) Avoiding interaction with the baby
3) Auditory hallucinations
4) Not getting out of bed
5) Excessive crying
6) Obsession with perfection in other areas, eg housework
7) Obsession with being seen as superwoman, ie not failing at anything
8) The thoughts...I don't know how else to describe them. Imagining bad things happening...
9) Reliance on others for activities, ie packed diary of social events and feeling of disaster if any are cancelled
10) Denial of change in circumstances, ie "I'm still me,this baby isn't relevant...", annoyance with people's insistence on discussing it...

I could go on, but I think I've covered most of it. It's not pleasant reading, is it? Not for me, anyway.
I so want things to be different this time, but I'm wary of that becoming an obsession...but maybe I'm overthinking that...
Anyway, it's late, I'm tired and I'm still getting used to the realities of maternity leave, ie full-time motherhood with no escape. I'm enjoying most of it, but I also know this is not an option for me permanently. Give me a busy newsroom any day!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


I should be working, but I'm not in the mood, so as I promised you more entries, here you go!
So what's new? I'm still here, and that's a start...
The cliff edge is still looming some days, but as predicted, my lovely therapist helped put some perspective on the situation.
It's funny; I already know everything she tells me, about mindfulness and keeping control of negative thoughts, but somehow it gets lost in the fog when things seem bad, or when I haven't seen her for a while.
That's why my next move will be to text her and arrange our next appointment, probably our last before we are a family of four.
Since I saw her I have been reining myself in a bit, but I admit it's been tough. Sometimes it's easier just to give in to the waves of disaster as they roll in.
Take the latest update - about three weeks ago I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. It's not a disaster at all; I feel fine, it's quite common, it can be controlled/treated and we are well along that road now, but my first thought was that this was yet another problem that showed it was a mistake to try to extend our family.
We'd already had a scare with an early scan that showed a possible problem - it turned out to be fine - but of course I interpreted it as a asign from the universe that we should have stuck with Miss T. And that's before I even consider the impact a new arrival is going to have on her!
But at the moment, I'm not going down that road. I'm concentrating on the lovely sibling relationships I've seen lately and the fact that even if the worst happens and the blackness descends, there are plenty of hands waiting to pull me out.
So for the moment, despite things not going to plan, I'm feeling positive. Fingers crossed that continues!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

On the edge of a cliff....

If you were standing on a cliff, and knew there were paramedics and rescue crews at the bottom, would you jump?
That's kind of how I feel at the moment. Except I'm in freefall and now I feel like I want to change my mind.
Shall I start at the beginning? You've certainly missed quite a lot, dear readers (if I have any left), in the months since I last updated this blog. But I have a feeling updates will be coming more often for the next few months...
So, I've jumped off the cliff. Metaphorically, of course. I hinted at it in my last post, and the one before that, if you can think (or scroll) back that far. After much discussion and soul-searching, lovely Mark and I decided to try for another baby. Or rather, to stop not trying. So it shouldn't have been a surprise when the inevitable happened, but somehow it was.
After an initial freak-out, I thought I was doing okay with things. I saw my lovely therapist a few times, we discussed strategies and options and I felt in control of things.
But now, with less than three months to go until my life - and Miss T's life - changes completely, I'm less sure.
Of course, things may be different, but in reality it's highly likely that this awful blackness will descend again, only this time Miss T could end up swept up in it too.
Of course, I already know my lovely therapist and I don't have to fight to get treatment - in fact, it's written in red pen all over my notes - but I'll still have to hit the bottom of the cliff before I can start to put myself back together. And that's a terrifying prospect.
If I'm totally honest, (which surely I have to be on here, or what's the point of having this outlet?) I can already recognise some of those old feelings creeping back in. Wanting to avoid the world and hide away, to be anywhere but here, to let someone else deal with everything.
I know lots of people feel like this, but it's so familiar to me that I can't believe it's just a bad week.
I am due another paid-for therapy session, and I know that will help, but I also know that the overwhelming urge I've had to get these words out here is not a good sign. Hence my fear that I'm in freefall, and the prospect of hitting the bottom is not an enticing one.
I wanted things to be so different this time. In fact, (total honesty again) my first thought on seeing the positive pregnancy test result was that I could get things right this time. Of course, I recognise that's not a healthy reaction and a session with the lovely therapist soon sorted that out. But I still wanted it to be different.
It is, in some ways. Last time, I can now see that I was in a sort of denial for a long time before Miss T was born, and I hated any mention of the pregnancy or my life as a mum.
This time, I'm not in denial at all. But I'm terrified. Because I know how bad it can be, and I know how hard it is to make it better.
I'm terrified of what the costs of that decision Mark and I made back at the start of the year will be. Will it be our relationship? My relationship with Miss T? Or - that dreaded honesty again - my job? After all, according to the books I've read, mothers with two children often end up going mad and having to give up work. I'm halfway there already!
I know I can survive - I've done it once before. But at the moment, I do wish I hadn't jumped off without wrapping myself in the softest cotton wool first. Or looking for another way down.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Parents' evening woes

What a long time it's been again! I'm taking that as a good sign, that I didn't feel the need to let any traumas out here, rather than a bad sign that life is still so manically busy I don't get time to update.
And there is plenty to update, believe me, but that's for another post...
In the meantime, it's time for another bout of free therapy - just till my next paid-for session, of course...
So this afternoon was parents' 'evening' at Miss T's pre-school. It was our third, or fourth, and all the others have been absolutely fine - she's quiet, she's settled, she's confident. There was no reason to suspect anything different this time.
Even when I was left waiting a long time to speak to her "key worker" I wasn't concerned as that has happened before.
But after about half an hour the pre-school manager, no less, came and sat down and said as her key worker was still busy she would start things off with a "word about her behaviour".
I think those are words every parent dreads. I've never been pulled in for a "word" in the 10 months Miss T's been at school - apart from once when another child used her as a cushion. She doesn't exactly have a host of behavioural issues, apart from usual three-year-old stubbornness.
Until now. Apparently Miss T has been spotted doing "sneaky pushing". Not just pushing in a row over who gets what toy, but pushing AFTER an incident like that. The example the manager gave started as a tug of war over a hat. When she intervened and reminded Miss T the hat belonged to the other child she let it go, but was spotted a few minutes later going up behind the other child and shoving her. Not hard, admittedly, but still a shove.
And according to the staff, this happened three days in a row, on top of about three weeks of other, similar incidents.
Of course, they tried to reassure me - especially after I ended up sobbing into a tissue! - and said she was nowhere near the worst they'd seen, and most children go through similar phases, and there had been no incidents during the two weeks since half term, but all I heard was 'My daughter's a bully'.
It wasn't the pushing so much that bothered me as the spitefulness of shoving after the initial incident. The word they used was sneaky, and I wasn't even reassured when they said how surprised they were to see her behaving that way.
Their advice is to leave it for now, praise her for good sharing and playing nicely and "kind hands" but I'm finding that rather hard.
Of course she's not perfect and there have been pushing incidents before, but I've always dealt with them on the spot and they have been more 'understandable' eg during a row over a toy etc.
But I never expected to hear she seemed to have this rage inside her or a desire to hurt.
And of course I can't help wondering if there's a link to everything else, ie me and my madness.
Rationally, I'm sure there's not, this is just a phase - and one that by the preschool's own admission seems to have stopped - and not a red flag for future mental health issues. But that doesn't stop the guilt.
Maybe she picked up on some of my rage from when she was younger. If you don't remember - and I wish I didn't - try this for an example: http://ihadpnd.blogspot.com/2009/04/spoke-too-soon.html
Maybe it was because we didn't bond for months and months and there were times when I ignored her crying.
Maybe it's because I work too much.
Maybe she's picked up on other changes at home and they are making her unhappy.
I don't know. I don't know if I will ever know. And that's very hard.
It's also hard to know my beautiful little girl, who can be so gentle and so loving, also has this nasty side that's very hard to like. Of course she will struggle with her emotions in life and won't always be perfect, but I wanted to hang on to my sweet little girl for just a little bit longer.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


To plan or not to plan? That's a decision in itself! And one I'm finding quite hard lately.
I've a history of getting what I want. Which is great. But it assumes I know what I want...
I wanted to go to City University, even though there were 1,500 applicants for 35 places on my course. I got in.
I wanted to graduate with a first class degree. I did.
I wanted to work on a local paper. I'm now working on my third.
I wanted a daughter and I've got the lovely Miss T.
I wanted a text book water birth and it all went my way.
I didn't want PND, but I knew what I had to do to recover and once I convinced others to see it my way and help me, I got better.
Do you see the pattern?
I've had a plan for as long as I can remember, from when I was first old enough to write to-do lists each day.
But now I am without one, and I can't seem to construct one. And I'm not sure if it matters or not.
I have no career plan, beyond enjoying what I'm doing and seeing what happens. And there's no grand plan for my home life either.
I heard something interesting the other day: "Fear is letting things happen rather than making them happen."
I wonder if that's the case? Is letting fate/the universe/whatever take over just a cop out? Or a much-needed break and a bit of freedom?
I honestly don't know.
I couldn't count how many decisions I make a day, from the easy ones I do without thinking like shower or breakfast first or what to give the snail to eat, to the ones that take some negotiating like whether to let Miss T wear her chosen outfit even if it includes a pink leotard and net skirt.
That's not including the ones I take in the office, often made under pressure and sometimes with far-reaching consequences.
So why do I find it so hard to make those important decisions about the direction of my life?
Maybe it's because they have such an impact on others now - I'm living with the consequences of accepting my first "management" job, and not all of them are pleasant, starting with the days I hardly see Miss T.
But deciding not to work, for example, would risk resentment and unfulfillment for me. Not that I'm considering not working - I still love what I do.
Oh dear, this is another not-making-much-sense post. But if anyone has any thoughts - or a 10-year plan template to show me - I'd be grateful!

Saturday, 6 February 2010


I am cross this evening. Not because I've just had to pay a parking fine (which was entirely my own fault and unavoidable but still annoying!). Or because I've just finished doing some work I didn't get time for during the week, when I'm actually paid to work. And more is waiting for me tomorrow...
No, today I am cross after deciding to take some time out to read some of my parenting magazines. Normally this is one of my favourite activities, combining two of my interests; parenting and writing/reading,and it's a rare treat to get a moment to myself to read them. But today the feature writer at Mother and Baby magazine turned my treat into a torture (almost - I may be exaggerating but I like the alliteration...).
In a seemingly innocent feature about one woman's story of PND she managed to encapsulate all the things that make me mad (not literally!) about this illness. It was blurbed on the cover and I actually hunted it out inside instead of waiting until I came across it. On the face of it, the feature should be a good thing because it's more exposure of the illness and it had options for help and support at the end of it.
But in fact it was so stereotypical, patronising and predictable that I'm glad I didn't read it when I was actually still mad (rather than cross-mad). The woman they chose to feature - and I'm sure it was a deliberate editorial decision - had PND with her first child, the result of an unplanned pregnancy when she was 18. She was, predictably, a single mum living in poverty: "I had no life, no money, no friends..."
After several suicide attempts (including breaking several bones jumping off a multi-story car park) her family intervened and she was sectioned. That gets a mention in the last column of the second page. The rest of that column deals with what happened afterwards, including another three children with a different man, and the obligatory moral message: "I'm telling my story to spare others the suffering I endured. I want expectant mothers to know about this terrible illness so they can spot the signs and ask for help."
All very nice.
But it's not. And that's the problem. The whole article reinforced the misguided impression that PND is somehow a circumstantial illness. There was mention of chemical imbalances, but only AFTER the poverty and misery of her life. The very clear message seemed to be that of course she ended up with depression because everything was so awful. And indeed it was.
But for many people it's not. What about those like me, who end up with PND after the textbook birth of a planned baby within a happy marriage? I found myself reading the article and wondering what my excuse was. And I'm sure I'm not alone. It brought to mind a conversation with a friend last year who developed PND with her second child, who ended up in hospital as a tiny baby with a serious infection.
"I'm not surprised - there was so much going on that it was just too much to deal with," she told me, as if she had to justify her diagnosis
It's almost as if you can't admit to PND if you don't have a sob story to go with it - a bit like the criteria for succeeding on the X Factor.
I'm not cross with the subject of the article (actually, I am a bit, after browsing her own blog and finding it particularly annoying) but I am fuming with the author and seriously considering penning a "Disgusted of..." letter in response. If I had read this while I was still ill I would have felt even more inadequate and worthless - particularly as her story was careful to describe the "rush of love" she felt when her son was born, the one I never experienced that started all my problems.
I'm not sure I'm making much sense, so I'm going to stop ranting now, but I just wanted to get this out somewhere. I appreciate everyone's story is different (and maybe secretly I just want mine featured in a magazine!) but I do think this was an irresponsible feature in a publication many vulnerable women will read.
End of sermon!
And I am still a little bit cross about the parking ticket....

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Another slightly belated post, sorry!
So it's now almost mid-January, but I'm still optimistic enough to think of hopes for the new year, and indeed the new decade. They are not resolutions, because my resolve is weak, especially when confronted by chocolate biscuits, but simply hopes that I would like to become reality.
I hope to find some sort of work/life balance that works for me, my job and my family this year. I don't expect it to be the same balance that works for others, and I'm sure it will seem precariously perched to many, but I want a ratio that allows me time to pursue my professional ambitions (that sounds grander than they are!) and to play with glitter as well. If I get time to do a bit of housework and even some cooking, that would be a bonus. Probably. Although actually, I did both at the weekend and really quite enjoyed it.
I hope to be the best I can be. The best mum, the best wife, the best friend, the best sister etc etc (fill in as appropriate to you - if you don't know me, then I hope to be the best blogger I can be for you!). Note the disclaimer - the best I can be. I hope to finally be able to totally let go of my quest for perfection and accept that my best is good enough. And there's nothing wrong with good enough.
I hope to have fun. Maybe with glitter, maybe by indulging in a bit of office practical joking, maybe over wine with friends, but I hope to remember to make room in my life for things that are just for fun.
I hope to be healthy. We all know this means more exercise and less chocolate so enough said.
That's probably it. There are other, smaller goals, and other, bigger ones, but they can all be slotted in to the above hopes. And after hearing that an old school friend of mine died from cancer on New Year's Eve aged just 30, I hope to remember that sometimes just being here and remembering to be grateful for it is enough.