Robyn de Beer suffered with Postnatal Depression (PND) after the birth of her first child in 2006. This is her story as told to The Motherish.
I’ve got three children. My oldest is nine and then I’ve got a six-year-old and a three-year-old. I had bad postnatal depression with my first – with my nine-year-old son.
I didn’t really know what postnatal depression was to be honest. I had a perfectly normal pregnancy, everything was fine. I was excited about him coming along. He came a month early, so it was a little bit unexpected. My mum was out of the country on holiday, so she wasn’t there. I couldn’t get a hold of anybody except my husband.
Then my son got stuck. The cord was around his neck. I don’t know if that situation during birth led to my postnatal depression, I have no idea. I didn’t get that feeling of intense love that everyone says you have when your baby is born either. Everyone was like, “Oh it was love at first sight.” I didn’t get that at all, I just remember being exhausted, tired and confused.
I also had a terrible time breastfeeding him. I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t seem to feed him enough and he was feeding 24/7. I was so terrified to give him formula at this point because I just thought that was the worst thing you could do as a mother.
Ultimately, I just became more and more stressed and I felt like he didn’t love me. He’d be screaming and screaming and screaming and I’d be trying to soothe him and... nothing. My husband would walk in the room and pick him up and it’d be fine. It ended up getting to the point where he’d be crying and I’d be like, "Well you go get him, he doesn’t want me anyway." I started backing away from my role as a mother and that made it all even more difficult.
All my mothers' group friends seemed to be doing perfectly fine, so I put on this pretense that everything was going fine. But every time we went out for coffee, I perceived that all their babies were sitting nicely and mine was just screaming. They were all coping and I couldn't even get mine to sit through a coffee date for five minutes.
Over time I spiralled and I almost went a bit crazy. Parts of it are just big blanks that I don’t even remember. I wouldn’t leave the house, I didn’t want to go anywhere, I didn’t want to get dressed in the mornings and I didn’t want anything to do with my son. It was awful.
WATCH Jessica Rowe discuss postnatal depression. Post continues after video...
Every single night, I would lie in bed sobbing next to my husband. There was a real awkwardness because he knew that I was lying there crying but he didn’t know what to do about it. So he didn’t say anything and I knew he was there but I didn’t want to talk to him. It was just horrible.
Eventually, he intercepted and went to my mum (which I was furious about) because I didn’t want anyone to know. He said, "You’ve got to help me I don’t know what to do, I’m at breaking point. I don’t know what to do with her."
Everyone began asking, "Have you got postnatal depression?" I would reply, "No I haven’t! I haven’t! I’m fine! There’s nothing wrong with me!"
But then I got to the point when driving home, I'd think, "Oh what would happen if I just kept going, just drive straight through the house?" I’d also often freak out in the middle of the grocery store and just leave everything and come home.
Then I’d start thinking, "Right, I just cant deal with this anymore, I need to just get out." So I'd start thinking about getting in the car and just leaving. My baby would be fine because he loves his dad and not me anyway, so I assumed it was all fine. I even started thinking I could just move to a different city with a different name. It’s just ridiculous, I was a complete psycho.
Eventually things that people were saying to me must have started sinking in and I started Googling. I came across a forum, where a woman had written something; and literally, every word she wrote was me. So I emailed her one night, it was quite late but she responded straight away.
She gave me a letter and said, "Take this to the doctor, you don’t have to talk, you don’t have to do anything, just hand it over." It basically explained everything that was wrong with me. So I did. I printed it out and I went to the doctor and I literally just handed it over. I couldn’t talk I was just blubbering by this point. He was so good he just said to me, "It’s all good, we’re gonna fix it."
That’s when I went onto medication, when Josh was about 10-months-old. It went on for quite a few months. And then I had to have different strengths of the medication before I got the right one but it was like night and day.
Once the medication kicked in, I just went back to being me again. It was incredible how I just managed to get a grip on life, just like that. And then when I had my daughter we had everything planned in case it happened again. My husband was on high alert, I was on high alert, all ready for it. And nothing happened! Absolutely nothing, I was perfectly fine with her, never had a problem. And then my third one again, I was aware of it, so by this point I was like, "Okay it may or may not come back."
I did get it with her but it was completely different. With Lexie, I had more anxiety. So I’d start having panics attacks when I got to the top of the stairs thinking, "Oh my god I’m going to drop her." Even though I knew I wasn’t going to I'd still have a panic attack. I went to the doctor and she said it was postnatal anxiety. I didn’t even know there were different types.
She asked, "Do you want to take the tablets again?" and I said "Yes please!" And that fixed it. I actually still take them now for anxiety, it just never went away.
If I could say anything to those mums going through the same situation, it's get help. Go straight to the doctor. I once thought, "Oh if you go on anti-depressants it’s because you’re mental." I felt a real stigma that there was something wrong with you if you gave into medication. Whereas now I think, "Oh my god, take the tablets!" I just think, "Why struggle if you don’t have to?"
The tablets are there for a reason, the doctors are there for a reason. You don’t need to blame yourself. It took me a long time to realise that.
Have you suffered with PND before? What was your experience and recovery like?