5 things that happened when I told my midwife I had previous mental health issues
The last time I was pregnant I cried a lot.
It's a hard position to find yourself in, pregnant without intending to be. I railed against it a fair bit. It wasn't the right time, though when that right time was scheduled for I don't actually know. This was not a part of my plan. Up until that point, my plan was not to have plans. I was afraid. And as I said, I cried a lot.
Then I bled and took to my bed to await what I feared was a miscarriage. I howled like an animal and begged the baby to stay.
"You're wanted, you're loved. Stay, stay, stay."
"This is what you get for not being thrilled, for not being grateful."
The bleeding stopped. The crying stopped. I started to feel a bit better. I was so so happy that the baby had stayed suspended inside.
Then I stopped crying for a fair bit; I felt a bit better for a while. I ate lots of Pop Tarts and rubbed my belly and talked to the baby inside who I called Stalk. I made plans. New plans that included impossibly tiny clothes and breast pads.
Then I stopped sleeping and deep inside me along with a small baby; a huge gnawing dread began growing like a parasite.
I developed a phobia of the baby things. I couldn't look at the changing mat that ebulliently chimed "Mama loves her baby giraffe!" I began to avoid the baby's room, though it held a strange draw for me, invisible tentacles clawed at me as I hurried past and occasionally succeeded in pulling me in.
In the baby's room, I would sit and utterly lose all grip on my studied composure. I cried and gasped and became nauseous with terror. I will never love this baby. I will hurt this baby. I will never ever be a good mother.
"I am one of those women who should never have a baby," I thought bleakly. I was griped with the enormity of what was happening to me. This wasn't just my life that was ruined; I was ruining this baby's life too. Before it was officially begun, he was saddled with a wild, irrational, mad, selfish, shameful, ugly, aberration for a mother.
I think I was probably not well in my head at this point.
The baby was born a week later, surgically removed from my gaping, split belly as I watched from a remove, a few feet above and worlds away from myself.
What followed was a hard year. Hard on my son as he got used to life. Hard on The Man, who wanted a happy family. Hard on my mother who watched fretting as I refused to admit that I was not fine and not perfect and not okay. It was hard on me too.
At my son's first birthday I surfaced gasping for air and feeling giddy at last for having survived something monumental. I toasted my son who has thus far survived me, The Aberration.
"I will never do this again. I cannot risk it. I cannot stray that close to the precipice ever again. Ever."
I am now pregnant again. We thought long and hard about this decision. And I am begging the universe to let me feel the joy and let me learn a new way to be. Please, please, please let it not happen again. But I know that pleading to some unseen force isn't the most practical of steps, so in conjunction with that course of action, I decided to do something radical. Radical for me anyway. I told someone.
I said to the midwife:
"The last time I was pregnant, I went mad, and after the baby was born, I was not right for a year."
And an amazing thing happened. They did not preemptively confiscate the baby as I think I had feared subconsciously. They got proactive on my ass.
Five things things that happened when I told my midwife I had previous mental health issues:
1. She told the obstetrician
The obstetrician said "I see you had postnatal depression. Great! Let's get you a referral straight away just to be on the safe side." No drama, no reporting to social services, just rational, calm measures.
2. I was seen in the Mental Health Clinic within a month
I met my counsellor and spent an hour bringing her up to speed on my life to date (the abridged version at least). I felt bad for not bringing her snacks or a pair of those novelty glasses with the eyes painted on so that she could periodically nap when the story lagged.
3. The counsellor described a course of action
My counsellor, after patiently listening to me announce that "I'm completely fine now, and I probably won't be needing those," indicating a box of tissues and then proceeding to use quite a lot of them, described how I would come back a few times before the baby is born and also after the birth.
4. I generally felt better about what was coming
Obviously, I have no idea what's coming, but I am tentatively optimistic that I am not going to hesitate about seeking help if it happens again.
5. I wondered why I thought that admitting it would be so hard
I thought I'd write about this in case there is any other women out there having their histories taken by a medical professional and about to lie when it comes to the question about mental illness. Don't lie. We deserve help.