Mental health during pregnancy is not talked about - either in books or online anywhere near as much as it should be. I have a history of mental health issues - mostly depression, anxiety, panic attacks and self-harming. All sounding like a great basis from which to become a mum (!) but I've always wanted kids and wanted to be well for them.
Looking back at my pregnancy as a whole, I can see I was subconsciously in denial about being pregnant. I spent most of my pregnancy terrified and anxious - for various rational and irrational reasons. I often felt extreme fear that I just wasn't going to be good enough for this. I wasn't going to be "perfect".
I felt I was failing because I wasn't dealing with the pregnancy symptoms "well enough". I compared myself to other mums who seemed to carry on as normal when just wanted to lie down in a dark room for the entire time. I beat myself up for for finishing work at 34 weeks not 36 or 37 "like everyone else" because I couldn't cope anymore. I felt inadequate and unprepared for the demands on me - mentally and physically.
I bought and read a couple of "what to expect when you're expecting" type books. They had sections on colouring your hair in pregnancy, or continuing with botox. The mental health sections were minimal, useless to me. Pregnancy changes you hugely - and with the force of a sledgehammer. There was no going back, I couldn't stop what was happening.
Despite all this, i loved my unborn son with a fierce passion. I talked to him all the time, I played him a lot of music, maybe not the recommended genres (why hello there Rage Against the Machine), I was so excited to feel him wriggle and kick and battle away inside me. And on my psychiatric notes, it was commented that I'd bonded well in pregnancy. So one thing I was doing well.
|Me with small bump|
I didn't have the best start to having good mental health during my pregnancy. I had to come off my anti-depressants as a major side effect was nausea - this, combined with morning sickness was not fun! Also despite my GP knowing my mental state, I wasn't referred to the specialist pregnancy mental health team at St Thomas' in London, until my lovely midwife (hi there Streatham Valley team) pushed for my referral and spent an hour listening to my worries and history.
It was humiliating having to list my past mental health trials and tribulations but I put myself through it because I so wanted to be well for my baby and to be the best mum I could be. I put a lot of pressure on myself throughout my pregnancy in this way. (Here's a post on depression from me). I wasn't convinced that anyone could or even would deem me worthy of help but I was very scared of going through my pregnancy at my current level of paranoia and anxiety. Which in itself was a vicious cycle.
Want to know what happened next? Here's part two, part three and part four!