23/07/2018 07:01 BST | Updated 23/07/2018 07:01 BST

Postpartum Psychosis: I Didn’t Know Motherhood Could Have A Dark Side, Until I Saw Demons Threatening To Kill My Baby

It makes my blood run cold that I went into motherhood unaware of what could happen to my mind after having a baby.

Postpartum Psychosis plummeted me into a darkness that had me seeing demons flying around my home threatening to kill my baby.

It quickly developed into me living with what I came to call my “dark stranger” who would follow me around the house, filling what should have been precious moments with my daughter with debilitating fear. Watching my every move and telling me in no uncertain terms that he was here now and me and my baby were in unthinkable danger.  

It was a living hell.

However, with the beauty of hindsight, looking back to that time as someone who is now well, the most terrifying thing is that I had no knowledge of the illness.

Olivia Siegl
Olivia Siegl with her daughters Éva (left) and Isla-Mai. She developed Postpartum Psychosis after the birth of my her first daughter and suffered with it after her second was born too.

They say that for every positive, there is a negative. For there to be light, there also has to be shade; it’s the way of the universe. However, I (naively) thought that this universal rule of thumb wouldn’t apply when it came to the world of motherhood. That out of all the pockets of society this law touches and infiltrates, that the sanctity of motherhood was immune to it. 

Motherhood could be challenging, yes. Motherhood could be tiring, yes. But motherhood could not be dark or cast a shade of the most sinister. There could surely be no ugly side to being a mum? 

Unfortunately, when I became a mum, I learned firsthand that motherhood was by no means immune to this law. As I was handed the head screw of a juxtaposition that was receiving something I’d always wanted and dreamed about (a beautiful baby girl), alongside being “gifted” with the terrifying maternal mental health illness, Postpartum Psychosis

If I’d have received the same amount of information educating me on my maternal mental health as I did my physical health... the precious moments I lost with my daughter would have been fewer.

It shook me to my core, as before becoming a mother I was an extremely optimistic person, whose glass was always half full. I had no history of mental health and was living a happy and healthy life with a husband I adored. I’d always wanted to be a mum and thought that I would take it in my stride. I thought that despite the sleepless nights, endless nappy changes and the whole matter of childbirth to get through, the experience would be one that would be mostly magical, fun and life affirming.

Don’t get me wrong, it was, and is, all of these wonderful things in abundance. However, for me, the negatives of the experience expanded past sleepless nights and into the realms of living with a darkness so soul consuming that I often questioned if I would ever find my way out.  

It makes my blood run cold that I went into motherhood unaware of my maternal mental health and what could happen to my mind after having a baby. And more so, that if I’d have received the same amount of information educating me on my maternal mental health as I did my physical health,  I would have recognised the warning signs of the illness earlier. I’d have got help sooner. And the precious moments I lost with my daughter would have been fewer.  

Olivia Siegl
Olivia Siegl with her daughters Isla-Mai (left) and Éva.

This realisation is the most terrifying. And this is why it is vital to start shining a light on the darker sides of motherhood. We need to be empowering women to talk and share their experiences, no matter how terrifying.

We need to ensure every woman going into motherhood knows how to take care of their maternal mental health as well as their physical health.

Until we do this, we are doing a disservice to women worldwide, and surely this is the darker side of motherhood we all need to address. This is the darker side of motherhood we all need to be scared of.

What Are The Symptoms Of Postpartum Psychosis?

According to NHS Choices, symptoms usually start suddenly within the first two weeks after giving birth and can include:

* Hallucinations
* Delusions – thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true
* A manic mood – talking and thinking too much or too quickly, feeling “high” or “on top of the world”
* A low mood – showing signs of depression, being withdrawn or tearful, lacking energy, having a loss of appetite, anxiety or trouble sleeping
* loss of inhibitions
* feeling suspicious or fearful
* restlessness
* feeling very confused
* behaving in a way that’s out of character

 

See a GP immediately if you think you, or someone you know, may have developed symptoms of postpartum psychosis. Alternatively you can call 111. If you think you, or someone you know, may be in danger of imminent harm, you should go to A&E or call 999.

Be aware that if you have postpartum psychosis, you may not realise you’re ill. Your partner, family or friends may spot the signs and have to take action.