‘Bouncing back’ from postpartum depression

rose and rosie

by Rosie Daughton |
Published on

Hi Guys! I’m Rosie, I am Mummy to 15 month old Ziggy, I live with my wife Rose and together we make YouTube videos – I love to put it all out there on the internet! People often ask me what we make videos about and I tell them 'everything' – there’s nothing I can’t talk about, so here I am tackling the topic of my own experience of postpartum depression.

When I was pregnant I had envisioned what having a baby would look like, and I never once considered that my mental health might be affected. I’d heard about other people having postpartum anxiety, depression, rage and psychosis. I just never thought they would happen to me. Why would it? I was really happy to be having this baby. Unfortunately I had to learn first hand that mental health issues don’t work like that…

“Now, can you tell me a little bit about the problems you’re experiencing?”

I can still remember the phone call I had with the lady who was assessing me to see whether or not I was eligible for NHS help. I remember it so vividly, because saying my problems out loud, to a total stranger, and hearing her very obviously concerned reaction was when it first dawned on me that perhaps I’d actually gone insane.

“Well. Basically. I’ve had a baby and I’ve moved house and fallen out with my Mum. And since then I’ve had really bad anxiety, and I’m afraid my new house is haunted. I’m so scared I have to stay in one room as soon as it gets dark and I can’t walk around my house. I’m scared of the dark. And I don’t drive anywhere because I’m scared my baby will die. And I’m scared my baby will die anyway. So I don’t leave the house. But I’m also terrified he’s going to die IN the house. So I’m quite anxious.”

“Oh wow… gosh”

Yeah. Wow. Gosh. The problem was my mental decline was timed perfectly with the busiest work influx I’ve ever experienced in my 7 years of being self-employed. And as any self-employed person with anxiety will tell you, one does not simply take time off when the work comes in. In fact, working was actually the only time I felt almost ok, as it distracted me from the nagging anxious thoughts that would creep up and grab me as soon as the night drew in. And we moved in early February…so the night drew in pretty quickly.

I’m one of those people who was lucky enough to not really understand depression, until I experienced it. For me, it was like while I was giving birth, someone had reached inside my brain and fiddled with all the switches and buttons, turning off my usual natural joy and optimism, and setting anxiety and fear onto ‘loud’. My anxiety was so bad I sometimes had to hand Rose the baby because I just could not concentrate on him, and I would physically shake. I couldn’t follow conversations properly, I was too ‘in my own head’ riddled with these heavy emotions to turn up and focus in the real world. It was without a doubt, the worst mental health I’d ever experienced.

Credit: Chui King Li

Although I truly believe my circumstances of having a traumatic delivery, finding myself isolated from my family, overwhelmed with work and no childcare, and thrust into a very new, daunting situation of trying to raise a baby was the perfect storm to my anxiety and depression, I also think that the way I (and most people who give birth) are treated postpartum didn’t help.

Despite having a third degree tear that needed surgery to repair, there was no in-person 6 week check up. I arranged an appointment, which I was told had to be done over the phone. I told the Doctor that I had a numb patch in my vagina, that I had no feeling or sensation in. His response was basically “Yes, that can happen and you might have that for the rest of your life – oh well. You can live with it.” Errr…thanks?

Obviously my severe mental health issues affected my marriage. I’ve got to congratulate Rose on her never-ending patience for me. She would sit and go over and over each fear until I finally felt calm. I think my anger at my mum had caused me to put a lot of pressure on myself to be the ‘perfect’ mother to Ziggy… and then I quickly learned that sometimes parenthood is about survival, rather than perfection, and all we can do is try our best.

Talking of trying our best, I did everything I could think of to try to help my mental health. I tried to get outside and walk the dogs every day, to get some fresh air and get me out of the house. I tried to find things that brought me joy. I wrote down my feelings in a journal. In the end, I just accepted that this was how things were for the time being. I tried to tell myself that everyone has good and bad seasons in life, and this was just my low, but one day my highs would come again, even though it felt like it would never end.

And then one day, just like how my switches were turned down, I realized someone had tampered with them again, and my anxiety had been turned down. Still there, but more like the radio buzzing quietly in the background. I could deal with it. And slowly, I noticed myself feeling more me again. Laughing again. Being silly, having fun. My wife has a nickname for me: Baby Boebee and she kept saying “She’s back! Baby Boebee’s come back!”

rosie and Ziggy
Credit: Chui King Li

After birth there is so much pressure to ‘bounce back’ with almost all of the emphasis placed on your body returning to what it previously looked like. And I’m not going to lie, when I gained nearly three stone over the recommended guidelines during pregnancy, I felt out of control. My job puts me under public scrutiny and I was thinking about how I would ‘return to normal.’

But for me, normal isn’t the same as it was before. I have a new normal now. And there’s so much more going on after birth than getting a flat tummy. There’s stitches, infections, sleep deprivation, raging hormones, navigating previously harmonious relationships when you’re tired, weepy and your milk is coming in.

I just desperately wanted to pick myself up from the floor, or get out of bed each day, let alone ‘bounce’. It would sound scary to me if I were pregnant, but I would tell my past self to forget my old life and to forget ‘bouncing back’. How can your life be the same, when there’s a new person in it now? It’s all different.

People fighting against bounce back culture have coined a new phrase, ‘bouncing forward’ and I much prefer this. I do feel I’ve bounced forward, through tiny little Baby Boebee bounces and big leaps and strides. I no longer look back at old me, in fact, I don’t even recognise her. People say when you give birth, you don’t just birth a baby you birth a new version of yourself; a mother.

Safely on the other side of one of the darkest times of my life, I have accepted that this is just my story. Of course I would rather have not gone through it! But it’s happened now, and here I am. Stronger than before, because I know I’ve got what it takes to pull me from the darkest depths, more confident in myself as a person, and as a parent. Proud of myself for getting through, and most importantly, still on my journey of bouncing forward.

Header image credit: Chui King Li

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