First time mum/referee/ sleeve snot wiper to a wild toddler. Designated household bum changer. Blogging about this motherhood malarkey from a refreshingly honest and unfiltered perspective.

GUEST POST - Rachel Downing

Hi everyone! I’m Rachel from Rachel Downing 
I’m a parenting and lifestyle blogger. I’m a Mum of Holly, 4 and Harry 13 months. I’d just like to thank Taylor so much for letting me share my story with you! 

I usually try to inject humour into my posts, but this one is a lot more serious. I suffered from post-natal depression and I didn’t realise it. It went undiagnosed and nearly lead to my suicide. 
In 2014, I gave birth to my Beautiful baby girl, Holly. I was twenty-two and I was a little unprepared for the whirlwind that would be motherhood. 
Holly really was a perfect baby in the beginning. She was beautiful, and content. She slept brilliantly from the get-go. After a few weeks though, I began to struggle. Holly started being violently sick after every single feed. My partner and I would have dedicated feeding clothes ready for when we fed her, as she’d be bringing back (what looked like) most of the feed. 

I spoke about the vomiting to a health visitor who shrugged off my concerns that Holly was suffering from reflux. If I remember rightly, she told me she was too young to be suffering from reflux. With hindsight, I should have pushed my concern but being young, naive and trusting I moved it to the back of my mind briefly. Then the screaming started. Every evening at around 4pm until 9pm. Holly would scream incessantly. No amount of food, rocking, singing, toys or walks would help. She seemed in pain, and there was nothing I could do to help her. I felt useless. I quickly self-diagnosed her with colic after googling. It was also around this time, Holly started to scream if we were anywhere remotely noisy. Taking her to any sort of playgroup was a nightmare. My partner worked long hours and a lot of the time it was just me and her at home. So, anything different from being at home unsettled her. I felt like a failure. Holly was my baby and I felt like I was failing as a Mum. I saw friends with babies who were way more advanced, and I was just a bit clueless.

My mood started to take a downturn. Nothing I did made a difference. I couldn’t go out and socialise without upsetting Holly. I stopped taking pride in my appearance. I became withdrawn. Often, I contemplated suicide. I was obviously no use to anyone. What difference would it make if I wasn’t here? I also began self-harming by starving myself or cutting myself. I dropped down to 6.5 stone (from 9 stone) and my periods stopped. 

My problems began to snowball. As soon as the doorbell went, my heart would race. I began shutting myself away. People would come to my door, and I’d ignore it, pretend I wasn’t there, and watch from behind the blind until they had disappeared. My family became concerned, and they tried to get me out of the house. The harder they tried, the more I resisted. I’d screen phone calls from friends and sometimes family, I just felt so overwhelmed that even talking to anyone was exhausting. I couldn’t bond with Holly. I felt I failed as a Mother. 

Eventually, I got a health visitor to listen to me and take me seriously as I choked back tears telling her all my struggles. I was so scared that telling anybody that I was struggling to form a loving bond with my baby would mean I’d have her taken away from me.  She asked if I was feeling OK, and If I was at all struggling with feelings of depression. I answered no. I wondered why she’d asked me this? Was it routine? Or was I showing signs of depression? Could she sense it? To me, I wasn’t depressed, just overwhelmed. I was blind to what was plainly obvious to others. 

She asked if I got out much. I answered no. She asked if I ever experienced anxiety, I answered truthfully – Yes. Since Holly was born I’d become a ball of anxiety. So much so I hated leaving the house. She explained that Holly might dislike noise because if I felt panicked, maybe she could sense it too. This made me feel awful. I’d literally taught my baby to be anxious. We changed Holly’s milk, which helped the colic, and changed up her routine. She was also given different medications to help her stomach and digestion. She slowly became easier, and I began to form a loving bond with her. 

It took my mother-in-law having a careful sit-down conversation with me to make me realise that I was depressed. She pulled made me realise that shutting myself away, worrying and struggling in silence wasn’t how motherhood was supposed to be. She convinced me to talk about it, and eventually that lead to my diagnosis. With the help of Citalopram, and talking to my partner & my family – slowly the grey fog began to lift… It sounds stupid, but I hadn’t realised how depressed I had got until I started feeling better. I went on to have a little boy last year and I am PND free! 

I now consider Holly and her brother Harry my best friends. Holly’s always got a smile that fills up a room and she’s so polite. I can’t imagine my life without either of my children. They’re the reason I wake up (even if slightly begrudgingly because I must leave my cosy bed!) every morning.  I’m a better person for becoming a Mum and recognising and talking about my mental health struggles. 

According to the NHS, 1 in 10 women struggle with post-natal depression. PND is much more common than you think. It’s so important to find a friend, a family member or a partner to just offload upon. Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone about your feelings. Your feelings are valid! 

Thank you again to Taylor for letting me post here! I hope you all have a fab day! Xx

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