Anna Cahalin, 32, has a 14 month-old daughter called Ella. She suffered from postnatal depression and has shared her story with Parentdish.
You can hear more from Anna on her Blog, Dummy Mummy.
How was your pregnancy with Ella?
There were little things that stopped me from feeling like I bloomed, and I had SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) which is severe pelvic joint pain in pregnancy. I also suffered from antenatal depression. Despite having experienced depression before my pregnancy, I was surprised to feel so low and tearful when I was so happy and excited about becoming a mum. The first few weeks of the pregnancy were the worst but a few weeks into the second trimester I started to feel better again.
How did you envisage things once your baby arrived?
Obviously, I was very aware that I was likely to experience post natal depression, given my history. But I pictured my partner and I with our baby, as a new mum and thought it wouldn't last long, or that it would be sorted out quickly.
What was the birth like?
Nothing like I imagined! Due to the SPD, each contraction made me feel as if my pelvis was being ripped in half and my hips were being dislocated. In the end, I was taken to theatre for an episiotomy and forceps delivery. I found the whole thing quite traumatic, and it has taken the last 12 months to come to terms with it all.
How did you feel when you got home with Ella?
The first few days were quite surreal. I was taking quite strong painkillers, which made me feel a bit spaced out. My family were all brilliant and even the constant lack of sleep didn't really bother me. But although having lots of help was great, I really just wanted to spend time alone with my new baby.
What happened then?
I began to worry and panic about everything, even ridiculous things like my partner, Harry running away with Ella and never letting me see her again. I was also practically immobile for the first couple of weeks. My pelvis was still incredibly painful and I developed an infection in my stitches.
The only way I was comfy was half lying on my side with a bag of frozen peas under me!
I began to think I was useless and a terrible mother because I couldn't look after the baby, or make a cup of tea, or do the dishes. With my feelings of failure and fear, I began to spiral into depression.
I was constantly worried that someone would take Ella from me, but at the same time I didn't feel as if I deserved to be her mum and she would be better off with someone else. I became fearful of leaving the house in case someone stole her, and I was constantly in tears, feeling useless.
When did things start to get better?
I went to see my GP when Ella was around three months old. I was exclusively breastfeeding, and didn't want to take any medication, so she referred me for CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). I didn't find it very useful, but just having a reason to leave the house each week actually made me feel a little better. I was still struggling until around three months ago, after I had a session of counselling, which put lots of things into perspective, and I also started a course of antidepressants which have helped.
Where do you find support?
Once I told my partner and my family just how bad things had got, they were all incredibly supportive. I can't say they were understanding, as it's hard to understand something you've never experienced, but they were all there for me.
I also found that blogging about my depression, and just about motherhood in general, was incredibly therapeutic. It helps just to write things down sometimes, and there are lots of things that I wrote and never published, but the pieces I chose to publish have always garnered great support from fellow mums who have also been through PND. The blogging community has been an incredible source of support - and it's so comforting when someone who has been through it tells you it really does get better.
How are things for you now?
Much better. I am still taking antidepressants, and I am hoping to continue with counselling. I can leave the house without hesitating or making excuses not to, and I know I am not a perfect mum but I know I am doing my best!
What would you say to other women going through what you did?
I would say talk to someone, anyone - your partner, your family, your best friend, your GP, get on an internet forum, start a blog! Do anything, just don't keep it to yourself. The worst thing is to try to cope alone, because it doesn't work.
The more people talk about this, the less scary and taboo it will be, and women will feel less like a failure for admitting they have PND and realise that it happens to many mums.
If you think you have postnatal depression or know someone who may have, this advice may be helpful.