I took anti-depressants after my first baby
At the moment I feel like I haven’t had a proper day unless I find vomit in my hair.
Usually I find some back behind my ear, dried up like a cheesy communion wafer.
I had my fourth baby recently and the cliché is true: YOU FORGET.
You forget the way time slows down during pregnancy.
You forget the violence of childbirth.
And you forget how much you cherish that tiny little person who is so small he’d fit inside a cantaloupe and who vomits milk into your hair.
Having the new baby brings it all back. While I cradle his sweet-smelling body in my lap, I’m transported into the past when I had my first baby under very different circumstances.
My first baby was unplanned, 13 years ago when I’d just moved to a different city. She was conceived when I was in the very first weeks of a brand new relationship.
This year’s baby was planned and wanted. My partner and I feel enveloped in support. During the week, a series of midwives visited my house and took the time to carefully ask, “So – how are you feeling emotionally?”
When the first baby came a different series of visiting carers asked the same question but the difference was in me: I had no idea how to answer.
Yesterday I said, “I’m feeling a bit blue, actually. The house is disgusting, I feel overwhelmed and every time I try to move, I trip over someone who needs me.”
13 years ago if I could’ve found the words, my answer might have been, “I’m in shock. Why are you leaving me alone with this baby? I’m not qualified! I have no idea what I’m doing. And I feel like I’ve been punched.”
Instead, I shrugged and said, “I’m fine.”
5 ways to ask for help
1. Can I help?
“Yes! Please cook dinner.”
2. What can I do to help?
“Could you please hang out the washing, put two more loads on, and fold that pile?”
3. Would you like some help?
“Yes. Sit there and listen to me cry.”
4. Is there anything I can do?
“Sure is! Hold this so I can have my first shower in three days because God knows I need one.”
5. How can I help you?
“Look me in the eye and tell me everything is going to be okay.”
Before my first daughter, my identity was forged through work and friends. When the baby arrived, suddenly I wasn’t working and wasn’t seeing friends. I felt fat and gross and milky and trapped.
I was also dealing with the fact that my relationship with the baby’s father was in serious trouble and I knew it.
I would sometimes look into the face of my pure and innocent little baby and think, “You’d be better off without me. Maybe it would be better if I died? Then a proper mum could take care of you. I will only pollute and ruin you.”
After weeks of feeling like I hadn’t the energy to walk up the hill to the grocery store and not recognizing my own face in the mirror, I finally went to the GP and said, “I’m feeling depressed, I want to go on anti-depressants.” And just being blunt and saying it aloud made me feel so relieved.
Anti-depressants don’t fix everything but they do help. The deep hole I was in suddenly got shallower. The trough was no longer so deep that I couldn’t see light. And from the shallower pits of sadness you can perhaps find the power to go for a walk and get some fresh air and build a bit of physical strength …
The pills gave me the momentum I needed to get back into life, start exercising and start finding new ways to feel good about myself. I was only on them for three months. Other friends have taken five years.
I’m no expert on mental health. But from my experience, a crucial step in getting well is knowing that it’s okay to ask for help.
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