Why do they call it the baby blues?

Why do they call it the baby blues when the world is full of nothing but grey? When the colour blue makes me think of calm. Of warm oceans and clear skies and lightness of heart?

Why do they call it the baby blues when the world is not calm or warm or light? When my sun doesn’t shine and the reality of just getting up and getting out of bed and *gasp* talking to people is the hardest thing in the world. Why do they give it such an easy sounding name?

Baby blues.

Cute. Happy. Peaceful. Calm. Inviting.

Where is the blue when the anger rises inside of me like a volcano rushing forth to destroy all thoughts of a sane nature? Where is the blue when the flashbacks engulf me and the darkness descends over my soul? Where is the blue when the searing white hot pain of reality hits home and I remember… I remember.

Why, oh WHY do they call it the baby blues? Like the baby has any say in this at all. As he lies in his cot with dream in his eyes and sleep covering his tiny body like a blanket. As he learns to smile, to laugh, to speak and to walk. Like he has any say at all in the mess that surrounded him, any colour but blue. Any colour.

And we live our lives in a half empty jar. We never quite manage to finish anything to an acceptable standard and we never quite manage to get to the end. We eat dinner that sticks in our mouths and clings to our throats. We move through rooms that are half done and lives that are half lived. And we go on.

Fighting for the right to live without labels

It seems we all want to label things. It helps to categorise thoughts, feelings and actions. It helps people feel organised, orderly and complete. It helps outsiders know what to expect. It helps to form judgements and opinions, sometimes before the whole picture is revealed. Labels and pigeon holes make a person see another person in a certain way and it breeds misconceptions that can hurt, damage or confuse. I know, I’ve bought into stigmas in the past.

What do we really think about mental illness? In particular, what do we really think about depression? Its a condition that has affected people close to me but something that I’m not sure I will ever really understand or feel comfortable talking about in terms of ME.
I totally rejected my GP’s diagnosis of PND when my son was eight months old and I stand by that belief today. I didn’t want to be labelled that way, for many reasons. Firstly, I didn’t feel that it was true. I went to my doctor asking for help in dealing with my feelings after my son’s birth and I was dismissed. I was told that I couldn’t control my womb and so therefore feeling upset about the birth was ridiculous. If he’d read my notes, he’d have known that my womb had nothing to do with what went wrong. Instead, he wanted me to take some tablets and put myself into a box with a nice rounded diagnosis.
I don’t want PND. I don’t want it for many reasons and I might admit to those reasons one day. I don’t want any diagnosis but I do want to work though my feelings without tablets. I’m worried that I perhaps view depression as something to be ashamed of; my GP certainly made me feel ashamed tht day. Is that why I felt the need to fight his diagnosis? Why I asked those close to me whether they thought that I was depressed? Why I obsessed about whether or not I was depressed and why I wanted so badly not to be? It still bothers me now that the letters P. N. D are anywhere near my medical records.

If I accept the diagnosis, I accept that there is a chemical in-balance in my brain which I cannot control. That, I understand. If I accept the diagnosis, I am labelling myself and leaving myself open to judgement and criticism. If I accept the diagnosis, I am forcing people to se me differently and to make different decisions about my future.

For the record, my GP no longer believes that I am suffering from PND, or that I ever was. I’ve been given another label that helps me to allocate blame elsewhere, away from me a bit. The question still remains, though- why does depression cary such weighty pre-conceptions and stigma? Why did my GP make feel ashamed: is this his problem, or mine?

His, I hope. I know that depression is nothing to be ashamed of and I hate that I felt that way but I guess that had more to do with my feelings of failure after his birth than any real misconceptions about depression itself. In the meantime, I continue to exist with only a few labels and I hope I ca keep it that way.

Guest post- birth story

I am feeling utterly privileged to be posting this story today. Alyson at Alyson’s Blog has very kindly shared her birth stories with me and we have decided to split them into two parts. Alyson describes her blog as ‘The innane ramblings of a mother, a wife, a daughter, a life’. Please visit her blog and read what she has to say.

“Its almost 13 years now since I had my first baby – I say first she would have been my last had it not been for my first marriage failing and then meeting a man who really wanted children. Meg was a pretty average pregnancy, I read all the books, right up to the point of ‘things that can go wrong’ because nothing was going to go wrong for me was it? I didn’t read those sections.. don’t tempt fate was the thinking there, so after 23 hours labour, a cervix at 4cms, and a baby in distress I was seriously wishing I had done more reading. Her little heart rate disappeared and so began the chain of event that would sour most of the next year and set up for a lifetime of beating anxiety and depression. I was given a general anaesthetic, within moments of losing that heartbeat I was on a bed being run down a corridor, slammed through surgery doors, husband told to wait outside, didn’t look good – certainly not for Megan, and put to sleep, it was truly terrifying, alone and scared and so very frightened.

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I woke up I don’t know how long after but I think it was at least an hour or so knowing what I know now, due to some issue with the anaesthetic my brain and eyes ‘woke’ up first, my head & body paralysed, the room was completely full of relatives, heaving with them, and I couldn’t move my head or let anyone know I was awake. I could see this bundle being passed around the room, from pillar to post, I couldn’t see the baby, just the blankets and the fact the baby was being passed around my eyes filled with tears and I couldn’t see anything then for them. My then husband was playing proud dad passing her about, ooing and arring a plenty. I wanted to scream, is that my baby? Is it OK? Is it a boy or a girl? Please somebody help. Eventually my mum noticed i was ‘awake’ and leant down and said ‘babies fine’ you rest. I still couldn’t speak but in my head I was screaming, were some of the most awful minutes. My ex husband eventually brought the bundle to me and said ‘meet Megan’ he put her on my pillow but not close enough to touch her and I just felt completely useless and frustrated.
Eventually as I recovered my faculties I held my daughter, she smelt of everyone else, their perfumes and scents, and of just general nothingness, she seemed like she was spoiled, everyone else had held her before me, she had been named, I was just the afterthought.
I just kept saying ‘are you sure she is mine?’ ‘how do we know she is mine? I wasn’t awake and you weren’t there’ people tried to reassure me but there was no connection there, just an empty space where the connection should be, which felt like an enormous hole. I could see I was worrying people by saying what I was saying so I stopped saying it, but still felt in my core that this wasn’t right, this wasn’t the birth experience I had been planning and thinking about, and now here I am with some random baby that I’m pretty sure isn’t mine.

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As I recovered and my husband returned to work I used to sit and wait for the knock on the door that would mean that someone was coming to pick up this baby – she wasn’t mine you see – I was just looking after her til her mummy realised that she had my baby and we swapped, i cared for her as any decent person would, but i sat watching the door waiting for the knock – eventually I confessed to the health visitor that I was pretty sure she wasn’t mine, and that was it, the floodgates opened. I wouldn’t accept any kind of PND diagnosis infact I lasted until I was 6 months after when i fell down the stairs after I had been drinking during the day – luckily Meg was in bed.. Once I accepted there was an issue and took some help things improved and the bonding started slowly but steadfastly, vastly improved by a DNA test that proved she was mine, but my marriage was in the toilet and after 3 years we eventually split up.”

I will be posting part two of Alyson’s story next week and this post will be linked on my birth trauma page. Please leave your comments and perhaps take a moment to visit the Birth Trauma Association.