Here is Jessica’a story:
“My name is Jessica Warne and I am a mum to two beautiful daughters, Rhianna and Lily and I had postnatal depression.
I had such an amazing experience with my eldest daughter, Rhianna. The pregnancy was unplanned but I was the happiest I had ever been. We had nothing, we had no place to live, no money and my husband was at the time out of work. We slept at his mums house or in a tiny studio flat on a main road that my uncle had vacant. We had nothing, but we had eachother and I couldn’t have been happier.
As time went on my husband got a good job and a steady wage as a plumber, we worked our way up to having a lovely 2 bedroom maisonette in an area surrounded by family and friends. We had the perfect little family.
However I always wanted my daughter to have a sibling. We were now in a position where we had the house, we were ok financially, I thought the time was right.
After much deliberation with my husband and a lot of coaxing from me, he agreed and we decided to try for another child.
It wasn’t as straight forward as I thought it would be and it was a year of trying before I finally got pregnant with my daughter Lily.
The pregnancy for a start was not as idyllic as my first. With your first you can enjoy your pregnancy, take the time and relax when you feel tired. With your second you have the school run, the entertaining of child number one, all the usual housework, cooking etc to keep up with and on top of that I had a terrible guilt come over me. I believed I had to make sure Rhianna felt special and still wanted, I didn’t want her to feel pushed out by a new brother or sister.
My birth experience with Lily was incredible. A funny thing to say I know but it was straight forward, short and without pain relief, it was the most rewarding experience I have ever and probably will ever have. When she was born I felt so content. The hard part was over, and if my eldest was anything to go by I would get a good night sleep (Rhianna was from the get go a fantastic sleeper and rarely cried as a newborn). I was to go home in the morning with my lovely little family complete and we could get on with enjoying our lives.
How wrong I was!
Lily was born crying and it felt to me like she never stopped. I was the mother pacing the ward hall that night with a baby that wouldn’t stop screaming. I was riddled with guilt that I couldn’t keep her content and that I was disturbing the other mums in my room, whose babies were all soundly sleeping.
The only thing that got me through that night was the belief my husband would be there in a few hours to take us home and I would have some help. I was wrong again. My husband did come and as we went to have Lily checked and cleared to go home they picked up a slight heart murmur. They wanted us to stay another night to monitor her and her heart. I instantly cried. I knew my husband couldn’t stay with us as we had our other daughter to think of. I asked my mum if she could stay but the midwives said no. I was left alone again with a screaming baby. I ended up breaking down to a midwife and she was kind enough to hold lily for few hours so I could sleep. As soon as she picked her up lily stopped crying. The shame then starting creeping over me. Why couldn’t I look after my child? Did she hate me? What had I done? Was I a bad mother? I cried myself to sleep while the midwife held my baby.
The next day the doctors came, I was relieved to hear that her heart was fine and she could be monitored from home as the murmur had settled down. Instead of relief that her heart was fine and she was healthy, I was relieved that I could have a break from her and my husband could take over for the night.
As the days went on I found excuse after excuse not to hold her, not to interact with her. I became a robot, just going through the motions of care without the feeling behind it. Terrifying thoughts kept creeping into my head. I would have daydreams about dropping her of the side of the balcony or falling down the stairs while I was holding her. What scared me more is that I couldn’t figure out whether in the daydreams I injured her by accident or if it was on purpose. I never told anyone my thoughts. To this day I still feel so ashamed by them.
Then a miracle happened. I got ill. I got severely ill with an infection in my womb. I was incapable of holding lily and I was so grateful. My mum came and stayed with us and looked after her through the night and my mother in law along with some very good friends helped me in the day while my husband went to work. The relief was incredible but at the same time I felt incredible shame at my feelings.
As I got better I became more and more aware of my emotional distance from lily. I hid it from myself by becoming obsessed with being the ‘perfect housewife’ making sure the cooking and cleaning was done and that lily and Rhianna looked presentable. I believed becoming ill had made me look like a failure and I was embarrassed. I wanted to prove to everyone I was now capable.
It wasn’t lily that I resented, it was myself for being such a bad mum, for being so incapable, for not being the mum i always wanted to be. What had happened to me? This was my fault, I wanted this baby, not my husband, I had caused this, I was to blame. I made excuses to stay away from friends and family, I wasn’t interested in socialising or them seeing me and my girls. I knew they would realise that I wasn’t happy, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy and judged myself so how could they?
The moment I realised I needed help I will never forget. Lily was about 3 months old. It was the end of January, it was cold and the sun was blaring. I had left her with my mother in law while I went to run an errand. I had to go on the train. I was standing on the platform with my back against the wall. I noticed there was a fast train approaching. In a split second I noticed myself moving toward the edge of the platform. I remember thinking how easy it would be to just end it all right then and there. They would all be better off without me anyway. A young man grabbed my arm and I snapped out of it. I suddenly realised what I was doing. It sounds strange but in that moment I didn’t think I was contemplating suicide, I was just thinking how easy it would be to not exist anymore. When he grabbed my arm I must have been in such a daze as I felt I had just woken up and jumped with such a start. The man made me sit down with him until I got on to a train safely. I laughed at my stupidity, I said “sorry” and that I didn’t know what had come over me and went home in a panic. What had just happened? Had I really just nearly jumped? was my life that bad? I told noone and went to my mother in laws house to collect my daughter and carried on with the normal chores of the day.
That evening as I was doing the washing up i told my husband. I told him in such a flippant way like “isn’t that strange, wonder what happened to me?”. When I saw the look of horror on my husbands face, that is when it dawned on me that I was not right, I was no longer myself and that I needed help.
The next few days are a jumble of doctors, tears, health visitors, more tears, crippling panic and anxiety. The floodgates had opened and I broke down. All the thoughts that were in me were exploding out and i couldn’t get them back in. I hated myself, my children and my husband deserved better. I had to leave.
I packed my bags on numerous occasions. I made plans to leave more times than I care to remember. I however would get to the door and then the panic about entering the outside world would hit me. I became agoraphobic. Every time I left the house it felt like i had run a marathon. My heart would race, I would sweat, my chest would tighten and I would run away back upstairs to my bed in tears. My PND symptoms started to appear. I had panic attacks constantly sometimes up to 15 a day, I had anxiety, I lost my appetite completely and lost 2 stone in the space of 1 month, I had significant hair loss, I had rage, I had bouts of self harm, i either couldn’t sleep or couldn’t wake up. I was a complete mess.
I was prescribed antidepressants and sedatives to help me get through the night by my gp and I was put on a waiting list for counselling. However I was warned that the waiting list was long and it could be up to 4 months before an appointment. Instead I would have to see my gp every week so he could see how I was doing. My gp was lovely and a real help but he was not trained to deal with postnatal depression and couldn’t help me in the way i needed.
My husband was very supportive. He took time off work and thank god they were so understanding, he was home for two weeks and took over looking after the children and housework while I locked myself away. He desperately searched the internet to try and find me some help, he wanted his wife back. I believed he was fighting a losing battle, and that this was just who I was now and he had to accept it. Every door he tried to open for me was shut in his face. Everywhere free or low cost had a waiting list as long as your arm, everywhere private was far too expensive for us. When we rang postnatal depression organisations they just agreed at how awful the situation was and there was not much they could do. I wasn’t ill enough to get immediate help, but i wasn’t well enough to cope with life. We were stuck between a rock and hard place. So I either had to be on constant suicide watch to receive immediate help or I had to wait in an orderly queue with the rest of the 1 in 5 women. For some, sadly, by the time they get help it is too late.
After much searching he came across a local organisation called the Anna Freud Centre. The waiting list for this organisation was shorter at the time as it is hidden away and not many people know about it. He rang them and got me on their waiting list. Two weeks later I got my first meeting with my therapist. This was my turning point. I was not alone, I wasnt crazy, I was suffering from a form of clinical depression and it wasn’t my fault! After what seemed like a lifetime of wanting to scream at people to listen to me, I was finally listened to. They understood me and I slowly made my way to recovery.
It was a long, hard and sometimes very painful road but I got through it. I recovered.
I love my children beyond measure and am a happy, capable and confident mum!
My story is by no way the most severe case of post natal depression, everyone has different symptoms everyone has different time frames of recovery. But everyone does get better.
I have since gone on to found and run ‘Cocoon Family Support’. I am now the Counselling Manager offering a unique service to parents. We provide a service for all parents suffering ante/post natal illness. I am determined to provide a place for everyone, from the milder baby blues to the more severe Postnatal Depression. I also believe strongly that families, husbands and partners need support also and we provide that service too. Parents with PND shouldn’t have to suffer alone and we want to make sure they have appropriate and obvious access to the care they deserve.”
If you would like to donate to Cocoon Family Support please use our ‘JustTextGiving’ service; text “CCFS01 £5” to 70070