'Take my baby away'
Rebecca Crow came to us to share her story of postnatal depression. The mum-of-one had the condition so badly that she asked her mum and partner to take her baby, before she was admitted to a mental health unit. We published her story in Take a Break magazine.
Here Rebecca tells all... I had almost finished getting the town hall ready for work’s quarterly update meeting, when I felt a gush down below. Already? I thought. I dug out my phone and called my partner James. ‘I think I’m going into labour,’ I said. I was pregnant and had three weeks until my due date. I returned to my office where I worked as a senior executive assistant, sent some emails and began to clear my desk. ‘My waters have broken,’ I told my colleagues. They all flapped around me but I wasn’t worried at all. I’d enjoyed every moment of my pregnancy and was excited to meet my little boy. Back home, I phoned my midwife who advised me to rest, so our Tuesday night was spent relaxing in front of the TV. ‘Not long now,’ James said. ‘I can’t wait,’ I replied. By Thursday morning my contractions had become so unbearable that I left with my mum Carol and James for the hospital. But there, no matter how hard I pushed, our baby just wasn’t coming out. The midwives tried a ventouse, then forceps, then they gave me an episiotomy before pulling him out using forceps a second time. Afterwards I was in shock and absolutely exhausted, when our tiny baby was placed on my chest. Seconds later, he was whisked away and I was taken into theatre for emergency surgery, due to a third degree tear. Afterwards, I was taken to a holding room. I was desperate for sleep after nearly 48 hours of labour. ‘Here he is,’ James said, placing our boy in my arms. We’d chosen the name Zachary. The first thing I noticed was the injuries on his head and face from the delivery. ‘He’s perfect isn’t he,’ James said. I gazed at Zachary, waiting for the gush of love mothers spoke about, but it never came. And after a couple of minutes, I was itching to pass him back. ‘I need to sleep,’ I said. I stayed in hospital for three nights, in agony while a blur of people visited and nurses told me off for not breastfeeding. The shock had caused my body to shut down its milk supplies. Back home, I thought I’d feel better. I sat on the sofa holding Zachary and watched as Mum and James began setting everything up. Why haven’t they done it already? I thought. I couldn’t help feeling irritated. Not only that, I had questions circling round my mind. Has Zachary had enough milk? Should he be lying down for that long? Is he too hot? Is he too cold? My brain was out of control and I couldn’t bear it. My self-assured, confident self had completely disappeared. Because he’d just started a new job, James quickly returned to work. But Mum lived nearby and came to see me every day. ‘Can I get you something to eat?’ she asked. ‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘Would you like a drink?’ she said. I shrugged my shoulders. I’d become incapable of making decisions and spent hours crying. By the time James got home in the evening I was usually feeling a bit more positive. ‘How was your day?’ he asked. ‘I had a bit of a wobble but it was OK,’ I said. To him, it seemed I was coping quite well. I found the nights as awful as the daytime. While Zachary lay in a cot adjoining our bed, I was glued to his every move and grunt, waiting for him to wake for a feed. I didn’t sleep a wink, watching, waiting and worrying. Why don’t I feel anything for Zachary? I wondered. I was sure it wasn’t normal. I became a shell of my former self and didn’t even recognise myself in the mirror. Before having Zachary, I always had perfectly blow-dried hair and a full face of makeup. ‘What have I done?’ I said to Mum. ‘I’ve made a huge mistake.’ ‘No you haven’t,’ she said. ‘You’ve wanted a baby for as long as I can remember, it’s normal to feel like this.’ When friends visited, I tried telling them. ‘My life was perfect before,’ I said. ‘I had a great job, a nice car, a nice home, and a nice job, why did I have to keep up with everyone else and start a family?’ But they blamed the hormones. I decided to sit James and Mum down for a talk. ‘I can’t do it,’ I said. ‘I want you both to look after him. Take him.’ ‘Don’t be silly,’ Mum said. ‘You just need more time,’ James said. ‘I’m telling you,’ I said. ‘I’m not the right person for this.’ They tried to reassure me but I was convinced I’d ruined my life. And my midwife and health visitor both said the same thing: ‘It’s just the baby blues.’ I knew they were wrong. ‘No one’s listening,’ I told Mum. ‘Come and live with me for a bit,’ she said. ‘You need a rest.’ James and I moved in and I hoped I could finally get some sleep. Zachary was almost a week old and I hadn’t yet slept for more than two hours at a time. At Mum’s, I said: ‘Can you take me to the GP? He might listen.’ ‘Of course,’ she said. I nearly screamed when I heard his response: ‘It’s just the baby blues, it will pass.’ I cried the whole way home. Next day, I went to hospital. ‘Surely they can help me,’ I said. Within two hours I was seen by a psychiatric nurse. ‘You have what we call postnatal depression,’ he told me. I actually grinned, overjoyed someone was listening. He arranged for a mental health crisis team to visit me and two days later, they arrived. ‘We can prescribe you antidepressants, which will take six weeks to kick in,’ one of them said. ‘Six weeks?’ I said. ‘I can’t wait that long.’ That night, I lay in bed feeling lower than ever and could hear Mum and James talking downstairs. Probably about me, I thought. I looked at the dressing gown hanging on the bedroom door and thought how easy it would be to use the belt to end my life there and then. Suddenly I realised how to get help. I went downstairs and said: ‘I want to die, look after Zachary for me.’ Mum looked alarmed and phoned the hospital. She was advised to take me to the mental health unit there. I’d never felt so relieved. Zachary stayed with Mum while I was kept in a small room with the door open. I could hear the screaming of people trying to hurt themselves and the shouting of police as I drifted off to sleep… Two days later, I was found a place at the Rainbow mother and baby unit in Chelmsford, a specialist five-bedded unit that would provide me with mental health care. I stayed in a room with Zachary that had the top of the door cut off so I could be supervised 24-hours a day. ‘It feels like a prison,’ I told Mum. I was sure I’d be there forever, that I couldn’t be cured. I spent my days looking after Zachary and joined the other inpatients for activities such as talking groups, dance therapy and mindfulness sessions. A week later, I woke up to find Zachary wasn’t in his cot. I sat bolt upright and my stomach lurched. Where is he? I quickly discovered a nurse had taken him to change his nappy. Suddenly I found myself smiling. My little boy meant something to me. I cared for him and I loved him. From that moment on, I began enjoying my time with Zachary. And soon after, I started taking visits out of the unit to the coffee shop, or going into town with Mum. As the medication kicked in, I started to feel myself again. I tapped out a text to Mum. Please could you bring my makeup and jewellery next time? Finally, I wanted to look and feel good. I wasn’t the old me, but I was the new me. The mum me, who loved her baby. After eight weeks, I was discharged into the care of Mum, James and the community team. I said goodbye to my temporary home and was so grateful that it had taught me to accept I was ill, that I’d needed help, and that I would get better. Back at home in Brentwood, Essex, I had CBT and slowly pushed myself out of my comfort zone. One day, I was out and struggling to set up Zachary’s buggy when I started to sweat. But instead of panicking, I put my new skills into practice and rationalised what was happening. It doesn’t matter if anyone’s staring, I’ll never see them again. Within seconds I was striding along happily, pushing my little boy. Now I’m back working full-time and am still on medication. I’ve gone from thinking I’d ruined my life to realising how lucky I am to have Zachary. He’s nearly two and when I ask him if he loves me, he says: ‘Umm, yes,’ and it’s the best feeling in the world. I want to urge anyone who feels like I did to seek help and to not be afraid to tell people how you are feeling. After shouting to get heard and to get the help I needed, I can now give Zachary the love he deserves. Rebecca has created a website to help other mums with PND to know their not alone. For more info, please visit: www.yoursongpnd.info