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The deep darkness of post-natal depression

As we continue to think about maternal mental health, Lindsay Rumbold bravely shares her own experiences after giving birth to her son.

You wouldn’t think it from this photo, but I was feeling suicidal.

Our son is genuinely a miracle. After years of trying, and many tests, we were told we wouldn’t have children naturally. Even though we’d once had a word at church that we would have our own child, we struggled to hang onto this and come to terms with our situation. 

Then, suddenly, we were amazed to discover I was pregnant, without any outside assistance! We chuckled at God’s sense of humour in the timings; we found out at Easter, a time of celebrating new life, and my due date was Christmas, when God’s gift of Jesus was born. We felt very blessed, and hugely excited. Until our son was born…

His birth was prolonged and traumatic for all of us: thankfully, he arrived safe and well after an emergency C-section.

Struggling to survive

The first six to eight weeks of Ben’s life are a blur. I mostly remember the feelings. Exhaustion. Despair. Failure. I’d failed to give birth to him ‘properly’. I felt I was failing to breastfeed him; we struggled even though I tried so hard, even though we sought advice and support.

And then, the guilt. Why wasn’t I happy? We’d wanted a child for so long. We know so many couples who want children, who can’t have them even though they’d make awesome parents. I didn’t feel that immediate rush of love when I first saw my son; I was just relieved labour was over. In my head, that made me an awful parent, and ungrateful for the miracle God gave us. So. Much. Guilt.

I was convinced I was failing him and my husband, and they’d be so much better off without me. I would never have hurt my son; in my head, me existing hurt everyone else. Even though I was exhausted, I couldn’t sleep; I sometimes had flashbacks where I was back in hospital, still in labour. I couldn’t pray; I could barely think about anything. I just didn’t want to be around any more. If I’d been able to drive, I would more than likely have climbed into the car by myself and driven into a wall or something. My husband hid the liquid morphine the hospital sent me home with, so I couldn’t attempt an overdose.

I’m incredibly lucky that my husband had experienced depression before, and so he recognised the signs in me – long before I acknowledged it. He spoke to our midwife, pushed for the help I needed and helped me to see I wasn’t well. I’m forever thankful to the local perinatal mental health team. I’m grateful for the friends and mums who walked alongside us in those days. I’m privileged to have walked alongside others in their journeys, too.

Experiencing hope again

It took a long time for me to feel like I could pray and talk to God properly again. It’s like a black cloud obscured everything. Now I can look back and see his hand on things, much more clearly than I ever could at the time.

Three years on, I’m now six months off antidepressants. We’ve moved area, and when Covid restrictions ease, I’d like us to find our place in a church again. I have my moments, but, on the whole, I’m getting back to who I really am. I’m glad I’m still here to figure out how to be me and a mum. I have hope, once again.

Lindsay is currently a full-time mum, but, as a chartered engineer, she worked on components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft. She’s currently writing an espionage mystery set in the Royal Air Force during the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War. Follow her on Twitter @Lins_Rumbold.

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