The Elephant in the Room 

What ‘they’ don’t tell you and ‘we’ don’t talk about. 

There’s so much unsolicited advice that gets thrown around along with those congratulations when you announce your pregnancy. From not making rods for your own back – it’s your back by the way – to sleep when baby sleeps. I always find the latter little nugget amusing, as unless you have time after peeing, eating, washing, throwing laundry in, maybe seeing to other children of course, sleeping when baby sleeps is not always possible. Sorry to burst that bubble. You’re forewarned about stretchmarks, indigestion, heartburn, sore breasts and insomnia. Someone is always ‘kind’ enough to terrify you with ‘that’ birth story (nb unless they’d also tell you about plane crashes when you say you’re going on holiday there’s no need for this, your birth can be much different I promise) and the icing on the cake of advice is don’t worry ‘everyone poos when they give birth’….Now you have all this wonderful foresight you are ready to enjoy your pregnancy and give birth. Right? 

Wrong. What they don’t tell you about is the elephant in the room. And you need to know this. It’s not always ‘just pregnancy hormones’ and ‘baby blues’ can be more than that. You need to be told that wanting to sleep is not always related to tiredness, that feeling totally and utterly overwhelmed to the point of never wanting to leave the house ever again is not necessarily the norm.  
Here’s the shocker: they don’t tell you that you can develop a mental health illness during your pregnancy or after your birth. In fact the closest I got to receiving advice was being thrown a leaflet. If this happens to you please be warned that you may find the time to read this when your child is 5 years old, if you didn’t throw it away with everything else you never got to look at and in despair with the stretch-mark cream. 
Sure, at your booking in appointment they may ask ‘is there a history of mental health illnesses’, but it usually comes after ‘you don’t have to answer these questions’, implying that if you answer in the positive it should be in a whisper, or you should be ashamed. Let’s be honest, it’s a ridiculous question anyway for some women. Preexisting mental health illness is not a precursor for post natal depression. 
There, I said it. The elephant in the room that has a name and no one tells you about. Postnatal depression.  

Postnatal depression is one of several perinatal mental health illnesses that can strike anyone. It is as unfussy about its victim as it can be insidious when left untreated. You don’t have to have had a mental health illness before in your life. You may have had children before and not suffered. You may be a career woman or be a stay at home mum. In fact, the only factors that really count when deciding if you need to look out for pre or postnatal depression are being pregnant and giving birth – irrespective of whether you have or do suffer from mental health illness already.  
The sad fact is that we are educated about the biology behind conception and the mechanics of birth. Even then when it comes to the latter we are often poorly educated. We are thrown unsolicited advice and spun this tale of how beautiful motherhood is. But no one tells you about the elephant in the room. Why? Because as a society we don’t talk about it. We don’t know enough as an average Joe to talk about it. How are we expected to know the signs and symptoms, to spot them in others least of all ourselves if we are so focused on stretchmarks and pooing in labour. Let’s get a grip people. Let’s talk about what really matters.  

I don’t care about your stretchmarks and I don’t care if you poo in labour. What I care about is whether you are well. I mean mentally well. I want to know that if you suffer from a perinatal illness you are getting the right support and you are diagnosed swiftly.  

What I care about is that amongst all the advice and anecdotal stories that get thrown around like wildfire, someone has the balls to tell you about the elephant in the room. So you don’t suffer in silence like many women before you have. Like I did. 
What often matters in the journey of motherhood is what we don’t talk about, not what we do talk about.  
With love, Kat
For a list of signs, symptoms, information and where to get help please see PANDAS
Please consult your GP or 111, and do not feel afraid to call 999 if you are having intrusive thoughts. Perinatal mental health illnesses can be classed as a psychiatric emergency.  

Behind Tired Eyes

This is the first of many rambling posts, of that I have no doubt.  Over the course of the last twenty years life has presented me with many challenges.  At the end of each I have often joked ‘I could write a book about this!’.  Who has time for that?  Seriously.  I have four children, a degree under my belt, half a masters (a story for another time), have been engaged twice, married once.  Ran away with the circus and ran a pub.  I was blessed with a wonderful teaching job and then cursed with depression and anxiety.  My mind has been exhausted and my body has been broken.   

I am still here.  

My journey has given me cause to contemplate much, dwell just a little, and then leave a lot of woes behind. 

Through this blog I’ll be using my own experiences to offer my perspective on stories affecting Mothers of today.  And I thank you for finding me.

I’m Kat, by the way.    I live in the UK and am a PTSD and PND survivor.  I look forward to sharing the thoughts behind my tired eyes with you.