For me, becoming a parent led to a severe change for the worse in terms of my mental health. I had suffered and been treated during my IVF journey and subsequent pregnancy for anxiety and depression. I had received drug treatments, talking therapies and had been confidently reassured by my GP that the birth of my baby and the end of a difficult pregnancy would resolve my issues.
This was not the case. A combination of pre-eclampsia, early induction, poorly baby and problems feeding hammered me. Now, looking back it would have for anyone but I think I shut down and went into survival mode.
I did not feel how I thought I should. Here, after all was my miracle baby who I’d longed to meet for eight years. She was so, so perfect but when I looked at her I felt only sadness and utterly disconnected.
Of course most of our friends knew about our IVF treatment and responded to her birth accordingly with joy and celebration which filled me with guilt at my mismatched, concealed emotions. I became paranoid that people would know what a bad and unnatural mother I was. I would go out of my way to go through the motions and act as normally as possible, but inside the negative feelings consumed me.
I remember being too scared to open up and in the end I wrote a note and handed it to my Health Visitor. This was probably a defining moment for me which ultimately led to my diagnosis then a more robust treatment path.
It has not all been plain sailing since then. Depression and anxiety are dominant symptoms of my condition and I am still learning to manage them to function independently day to day.
We didn’t go in to my son’s pregnancy lightly. We knew it could have serious implications to my health and recovery but our desire for our daughter to have a sibling was strong.
My son is now twelve weeks old and I’ll admit that it’s been tough, really tough in many ways but I’m proud. Proud that we’ve been able to ask for (and receive) help, proud that my daughter is in love with her baby brother and proud that we are overcoming the difficulties, albeit with a little help.
My little family mean so much to me. My daughter and now my son make me a better version of myself. They are my incentive to be well and I have a duty to them to work hard to move forward.
I do face barriers but I am determined that I will get out of the house on my darkest of days and I will overcome my anxieties to attend groups and be sociable to give my children ‘normal’ experiences.
Coping week to week involves planning. I find a few places where I feel safe. My husband will visit first with me until I am confident. I have a handful of useful, familiar places and will stick to them. Going anywhere new induces panic, which isn’t good when I am in charge of the children. I am very lucky to have a good care team around my family that offer us additional support where and when necessary.
As for the future, well I’m still just taking ‘one day at a time’ even ‘one minute at a time’ on some days but who isn’t when they have a three year old toddler and a baby?