Getting through postnatal depression – Naomi’s story

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In this week’s blog, Naomi describes how counselling, medication, baby groups and incredible support from her partner and parents have helped her get through her anxiety and postnatal depression.

My earliest feelings of depression relating to my pregnancy and birth came during the growth scans I had every few days after my waters partially broke at 27 weeks' gestation. I was very anxious about even getting on the bus to travel to the hospital and back. I couldn't enjoy routine checks and even listening to my baby's heartbeat made me 'on edge' and restless. It is upsetting to think of now as I couldn't fully accept any reassurances or positive results that came from those appointments.

I was exhausted, more mentally and emotionally than physically, and felt low much of the time instead of enjoying what I hoped would have been a joyous time for me and my family. I was carrying a baby but I felt I wasn't 'allowed' to feel excited or happy about it. So I didn’t take photos of my growing bump or of baby scans, and filled my phone instead with encouraging, positive quotes to help me keep going. My mum would ask me, on a daily basis, to name three good things about the day (even though I didn't always find that easy) and my husband reassured me that he loved me and our baby and would stand by me no matter what.

My husband and my parents were also my rocks after we brought AJ home from the hospital. The first couple of weeks were hard and I felt numb towards a lot of things. My husband took over making bottles as I couldn't get my head around the measurements and the new routine. He had strength not only for himself but on my behalf too. He and my parents helped my self-confidence and helped me to overcome the feeling that I wasn't doing enough around the house or to take care of AJ by telling me that I was doing a good job.

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I was initially reluctant to accept help as I didn't want to be thought of as a bad mum or someone who couldn’t cope. I felt like I hadn't lived up to what I should be; I was a young woman who had a healthy family and a new baby who needed me, so why was I struggling? But I decided to accept support in the shape of counselling and medication. I realised I had to get help, not just for myself, but for my husband and my family as well because I was worried about how my depression was affecting them, and I wanted to be the best mummy I could be.

I was scared at first that anti-depressants would make me too drowsy and that I would be asleep when AJ needed me, or that they might prove addictive. But after a little while, the medication allowed the light to come back into my eyes, after looking so distant and low for that time. And having counselling helped me understand what I was going through and the small changes I could make to my day-to-day life to help me feel like the mummy I now was.

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A big turnaround for me came from getting involved in baby groups. AJ and I got into a great routine of going to a baby massage or baby weaning class, meeting my mum and then going to a rhyme-time session at our local library. I was good at filling my days with family visits and sessions that would increase the bonding between me and my little man and the connection I had with the person I had been before I was pregnant. I also developed a great sense of pride in many things: in my gorgeous baby boy, how well he was doing, and in myself for being active (even if I did want to stay in bed most hours of the day sometimes!).

It was important for me to find positives wherever I could. Feeling low at this point of my life was not ideal and definitely not part of my plan. But over time, things became more manageable; I found the energy to go for a walk and get fresh air, finding it invigorating rather than exhausting; and walking to my parents' with AJ in the pushchair no longer made me feel anxious and started to feel natural, just part of my routine.

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I love teaching AJ in his early years and I'm looking forward to seeing him grow into the fantastic character he already is. I want to support him and encourage him to be caring, open-minded and deeply kind. Children really grow up fast and I just wish for great memories together.

Not everyone gets the chance to carry a baby within their body or bring their baby home so I always (and forever will) hold a strong feeling of gratitude for my "sweet pea" AJ, and I am especially grateful to my husband Andy and my parents, Clive and Maria for their love, strength, trust and support.