Perinatal Depression or Perinatal Anxiety?

Originally posted 08/03/16

I have been depressed – often. I have fallen into the abyss many times and I have been on anti-depressants many times over my 40 something years on this planet.

I have started to learn to recognise the start of a spiral and take the relevant steps to get help to halt that downward journey. I am “comfortable” with my reactions to my depressive episodes and they don’t scare me.

Over the course of my recent pregnancy I started to see some of the signs of teetering on the edge. I started to ask for help – to tell people that I was growing anxious – to start erecting the protective barriers. I asked – seemingly over and over – and all I was told was “you have to dig deep”, “I know you are struggling but you just need to ride it out”, “you will be fine”. It seemed I wasn’t being taken seriously and was being looked upon as a worrywart. No-one wanted to hear what I was saying.

But looking back I don’t think I was depressed – not in any sense like I had been before.

I was anxious. I was anxious and I was scared. Having had a miscarriage not long before catching with F which the doctors weren’t sure was ectopic or not I almost couldn’t allow myself to believe things were going to be okay and as the pregnancy progressed I started to worry more and more. I worried about things that had happened in my previous pregnancies, I worried about friends who had had their little ones born sleeping, I worried about every little ache and pain, I worried about everything. Most of all though I worried about how our older children would cope if we did lose F. I started to put together contingency plans on how we would tell people the bad news or how I could face the other parents and teachers at school who had been wishing me joy ever since we announced our impending arrival. I started to mentally prepare myself for sitting down with my husband and our three children and tell them that Baby Tigger (as bump was called) had not made the journey.

I told the relevant people I was so worried. I told them I was growing more and more anxious yet the more I told them, the more ignored I was and the more anxious I got. I was convinced that F would be born in a car just like his older brother had been but I was convinced that he would have the cord wrapped round his neck and he would be strangled. After being admitted into hospital I panicked when they told me they were sending me home as I “knew” that F would not make it back to the hospital alive!

It was at this point I was asked if I thought I needed to be admitted to the psyche ward!

Well that helped my anxiety to subside – not! The midwife in front of me obviously thought I was crazy or a risk to myself or my unborn son. She thought I would do something but that was so far removed from the truth.I was petrified I was losing him so why would I hurt either him or myself? I was screaming silently at them to listen to my anxieties, to hear me and to help me understand these irrational but totally tangible fears. I needed someone to stop telling me that I was okay because my waters hadn’t broken and my contractions hadn’t started . Why would they not hear me when I repeatedly told them that none of those things had happened with J – that he came out with his waters, that I had a contraction hit and never go and that 45 minutes later he arrived? They didn’t hear the terror in my voice when I was convinced I would get caught in traffic on the ring road to the hospital and I couldn’t be as lucky twice – I would lose F! They did however decide to let me remain at the hospital as my blood pressure kept rising.

If they had listened then maybe I could have kept a modicum of control in my mind. If they had heard me then I might not have spiralled so dramatically into perinatal depression. If they had heard me they might have been able to help me but instead all they concentrated on was that the baby was fine! I knew that – but he wouldn’t remain fine – that was how convinced I was he would be born sleeping!

I wasn’t depressed – I was full of heightened anxiety not depressive thoughts.

Looking back though…..I firmly believe that all my anxieties were my mothering instincts kicking in. F was brow presentation and could not come out without some form of help. His heart beat dropped and he needed to be delivered immediately during a full general anaesthetic section. If I had been sent home, if F decided to follow in J’s footsteps, if I had got stuck in traffic…..if, if, if…..F WOULD have died.

Obviously he didn’t but that was partly because I kept fighting them, I kept telling them, I kept begging them to hear me.

It was during this time I learnt that I had a right to be heard – we all do – so please don’t stop asking or looking for help – someone will listen eventually. Don’t stop!

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