Cocoon UK provide a unique service for all mothers and fathers to provide practical and emotional support. Founder Louise Moxon tells us about her own personal experience with Postnatal Depression.
In the early day of my pregnancy with my first child I can remember feeling euphoric. I loved being pregnant. Yes, I had morning sickness for the first 12 weeks, but that was expected. I continued to work right up until my due date because at the time my business partner was also on maternity leave -bad timing on both our parts! My job was highly stressful, running 5 beauty salons and organising 80 staff. However, I continued to work with confidence and in blissful anticipation.
My husband and I never attended any antenatal classes but planned a natural birth in hospital. Nothing prepared me for how painful labour was, particularly as I was 10 days late and so had to be induced. The pain became so intense that I had an epidural, despite our earlier plans. My husband was by my side every step of the way, and was amazingly supportive and encouraging – I could not have done it without him. And then an hour or so later my daughter was born, weighing 6lbs 3 oz.
For me, breast-feeding was even more painful than giving birth. And despite having a maternity nurse for 2 weeks, I still felt incompetent. I refused to give up, as after all ‘breast is best!’ I forced myself to do everything possible so that my daughter would consume only my breast milk with no top-up formula. Despite getting next to no sleep I forged on, always either breast feeding or pumping but never really mastering either.
However, I knew that after 3 months I would have to stop breastfeeding in order to return to work. As I was preparing to return, I was let down by the nanny I had hired, leaving me with only a week to find someone before going back. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of panic as I tried to find a suitable replacement, interviewing candidate after candidate without finding anyone I trusted. Finally through a personal recommendation I was introduced to someone who turned out to be superb. Even so, I remember kissing my daughter goodbye on that first day and crying from the moment I shut my front door.
It was during the following months that I was confronted with one of the darkest and most debilitating periods of my life. Although my family, friends and colleagues are sensitive people who care about me deeply, they all missed my desperation.
My performance of ‘a working, happy new mother’ seemed to fool everyone, until one day I stood outside my office and felt an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and guilt come over me. I could barely focus on my work and I hadn’t eaten or slept properly in weeks. Worst of all, I felt I was a useless and dreadful mother. I knew I could no longer keep it up.
Memories of the following days are hazy. I was signed off work and although my husband and parents were distraught, they dealt with the situation amazingly. I initially saw my GP who referred me to a psychiatrist where I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression.
At this point, my psychiatrist made plans to treat the illness aggressively. We decided that a course of antidepressants, as well as weekly therapy sessions would be the best path to follow. My family became highly vigilant that my mood state did not deteriorate into suicidal feelings and made sure that I had help looking after both myself and my baby.
After about 4 months of being diagnosed with Postnatal Depression I was in the park with my daughter in her pram, when just like that I got a sudden feeling of summer. I have been trying to describe my feelings in a better way but it was just that for the first time I could actually appreciate my surroundings; the smell of freshly cut grass, the birds singing and children laughing. At last I felt my depression was lifting. I remember rushing home with excitement to my husband shouting ‘I’m back…I can be a proper wife and mum again.”
I am constantly asked the question ‘Do I wish I had never endured postnatal depression?’
Absolutely. But to deny the experience is to deny who I am. I learned to accept that I had an illness. That I was not someone who had made a mistake but someone who was medically ill, and just as important, who with help could get well again. I still mourn for the loss of those early months, but equally am grateful that I have got better. I feel hugely lucky to have everyone who has stood by me.
The lesson I learnt from this is that you must never be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out for help doesn’t make you a weaker person, everyone needs to do it at some point in their life. If anything, by asking someone you are paying them a compliment.
I truly believe that I suffered PND for a reason. Without it and the struggles I endured I would never have decided to set up Cocoon UK. We provide night nannies, maternity nurses and sleep trainers, but most importantly have staff who have been trained in recognising the symptoms of Postnatal Depression and how best to manage its affects.
My message is, that as terrible as Postnatal Depression is, with the right help it can be beaten.