Joanna's Story

I’ve battled along time with the shame of having postpartum depression because all I have ever wanted was to be a mother. I never longed for the perfect family, but I longed for a baby.

When I first found out I was pregnant I was shocked, but it was what I had wanted for so long. Being a teacher, my life was surrounded with children who I adored and loved with my whole heart, so I could only imagine how much love I would have for my own.

My postpartum depression journey started before I had my son. When I was 35 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with Obstetric Cholestasis, or as some people call it ‘the itch’. I remember the concern on the doctors faces when they came back with my blood results and told me how dangerously high my liver and acid levels were; that there was no time to book the consultant. At 37 weeks I would come in at 9am to be induced. How I cried because his nursery wasn’t ready; he didn’t have a wardrobe yet; his clothes weren’t hung up; the cot hadn’t been put together. My family and friends all said “Don’t be so silly, we can fix all these problems in time!” but that wasn’t the real issue. The real issue was that my body, my safe haven for my baby had failed him. My body was slowly killing him. I was killing my son.

When I was induced I was sure that I was going to rock labour. I was going to be a strong mother that didn’t need drugs, pushed out her baby and held him against her skin. Again, my body failed me. After 36 hours of labour (not even active) I dilated to 3 cm… emergency c-section it was then! I had so many drugs inside me that I don’t remember the moment I first set eyes on my son, or if my partner cut the cord (he did, apparently!). All the drugs made my jaw and neck go into spasm and I wasn’t able to look at my son until I left the theatre [operating room], 2 hours later.

I remember desperately trying to nurse him, but he was so sleepy, and I had no idea what or where to put my nipples against this tiny little baby face. I tried and tired but my milk wasn’t ready…I wasn’t ready. Then he had jaundice. He was put in that phototherapy box for 24 hours where I was told to not touch his as much as possible, as he was close to needing a blood transfusion.

All these hours of not holding him, all these barriers as to why I wasn’t the perfect mother where already affecting me, but at that time I put it down to baby blues.

6 weeks after my son was born and I knew something was not right with me. In the night I would sob wondering why I had done this, wishing for my old life. Yes, I know that people also had these thoughts but there were darker ones. I used to think that if my baby died I really wouldn’t care. I remember in a moment of hysteria saying this to my mum and she said that it was time I called the doctor. I felt no love for my baby, none at all. Only regret.

Going to the doctor was the best thing I ever did. I was put back on antidepressants; I had lots of supportive health visitors visit every week; I had counseling and was pointed to different baby groups that would help me bond [with my baby].

It took a while to bond with my baby, but now it’s unbreakable. I still have bad days, but they are fewer than my good days and I know this is a huge step. I am off my medication, and most importantly I am open about how I am feeling.

It’s hard to tell others when they are struggling with depression, anxiety, and any other mental health issues that they ‘are not alone’ because in that moment you are. But I want people to know that only you can help yourself and you will. We are stronger then we really believe ourselves to be.

Each small step is a step in the right direction. There will be days where you feel you are falling again, but one day you will have more good days than bad.



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