Excerpt from "My Story"
Chapter 3 - When your Blessings Don't Count by Linda Lewis
My pregnancy with my first child was glorious. I had never felt more at peace and more content in my life than in those nine months. My husband and I planned the pregnancy and, although we had no family in Cape Town (where we live), we felt like a self-contained unit and were elated at the thought of having a child.
When I think back to my days in hospital following the birth of my baby boy, I can see that this was where the anxiety had started. I had not yet identified it as “anxiety” per se, but the symptoms were there: I welcomed sleeping pills at night for fear of not sleeping. During the day I would put signs on my door for the nursing staff not to come in if I was sleeping and never to wake me up. Suddenly sleep became all important – and I had never before in my life felt neurotic about sleep. The other telling symptom was my reluctance to see visitors. Whenever visiting hours arrived I hated having to face people and make small talk. I just wanted to be left alone to do my own thing – to stick to the rituals and routines I was setting for myself even in hospital without wanting anyone to interfere with them. My gynaecologist reassured me that this was normal and said that visitors were the enemy! He made me feel that I was no different from any other new mom, but I realise now that from the very beginning I was retreating into a cocoon; I was scared and I was slowly detaching myself from the “real world” which suddenly seemed like foreign, overwhelming chaos. I did not want to leave the hospital. I so welcomed not having to take responsibility for feeding myself (and others). I was being cared for round the clock and sleeping whenever I wanted, since everyone was looking after me and our baby. The thought of going home was beyond petrifying. These are all the early symptoms of postnatal distress but nobody picked up on it. The lack of knowledge about PND at that time was astounding – I was so obviously sinking into a dark hole but nobody was any the wiser.