I was first diagnosed with post-natal depression when my eldest was 3 months old. I remember going to a meeting of my ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association) group and telling one of the counsellors I had been diagnosed with PND, and she was surprised. I realised how good I was at hiding how I was really feeling.
For two hours a week, I would be showered and dressed and plaster a smile on my face so everyone thought I was doing really well and coping with my life as a new mother. I would then go home and just sit, not wanting to do anything and feeling empty inside.
As a new Mum, it was easy to come up with excuses not to go out or talk to people. My Maternal and Child Health Nurse knew I had PND long before I was officially diagnosed and saw me every week. I didn’t know this was odd, until I had my second child and got confused when I wasn’t seeing the MCN every week. To the untrained eye, however, I was able to hide my depression.
For me, depression wasn’t feeling sad or crying all the time. For me, it was a lack of feeling. I couldn’t feel anything for my baby, my husband, housework, or anything else. I didn’t feel happy, or sad, or anything. I knew the things I had to say and smiled whenever people looked at my gorgeous baby and made comments like “You must be so happy”. In general, the socially acceptable behaviour of a new Mum with a gorgeous baby.
By the time I was diagnosed, I was ready to accept the diagnosis and then tell people. So many people were surprised, even many family members. They hadn’t realised I wasn’t coping, mostly because I hadn’t said anything.
Someone once commented that PND is often called the “smiling depression” as Mums are good at smiling in at all the right times.
With 1 in 7 new Mums suffering PND, just remember that a new Mum may look OK, but may be falling apart inside.