I recall the weeks after my first baby was born like it was yesterday. The strength of emotions was unlike anything I had experienced before and they are etched in my mind.
On day 3, I was an inconsolable mess – I cried for no reason and for every reason – my milk had not come in and I felt terrified that I would not be able to breastfeed. My perfect newborn was subjected to the pain of circumcision – a decision I was torn about. I was terrified of being sent home – how could they send me away with such a responsibility – would my baby survive?
Around a month into motherhood, I experienced a dramatic, almost physical depression between 6 and 9pm every night for about a week. I could feel it come on – I would feel the darkness and despair descend over my consciousness. I did not want to eat, I could not think about anything except how to get through the night. I was beyond teary – I was in a deep, dark despair. My mother was amazing – I would verbalise the emotion and she would make me eat something and put me to bed, telling me I would be alright and we would survive the night. This experience was so distinct and unlike any I had had before or since. I am sure it was hormonal but certainly also psychological.
In the first six months, I loved my boy and embraced motherhood BUT I experienced huge anxiety about every decision I made. I wasn’t sure if I had enough milk, I was lonely but often too irritable to be around people. I was preoccupied with James and wanted to be with him all the time but often felt like I could run away and resented the fact that my husband could escape to work. I was so tired that I was often tearful.
Reading this and looking back, it would be easy to think I had PND and maybe there would have been days that a scale would have confirm this diagnosis. But in reality, I think I had a more universal, pervasive difficulty – Maternal Adjustment Condition.
Adjusting to a new baby and all that goes with becoming a mother is a huge shift for most women. It does not mean you have PND, it means that you are experiencing a life shift and any shift results in chaos before order reigns again.
So what would be the difference between maternal adjustment condition and PND?
- If you think you cannot go on and don’t have a support base to see you through the night,
- If you want to run away and the feeling overrides your rational thoughts,
- If you are so anxious that you feel you may neglect or harm your baby,
- If you are so low you think running away or death may be an option
Then you need to take a serious look at whether you have PND.