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Post-natal depression is terrifying. What should be one of the best times of your life becomes worse than a nightmare, because you don’t wake up. You can’t get to sleep in the first place. Despair and guilt smother you, creating a cell-blanket barrier between you and your baby. All you see of this little person who is completely dependent on you is small glimpses through the holes. And that’s not enough to love him or her.

I wrote a short memoir in class the other week – an exercise in dangerous writing, and when I read it out I could see the shock on my classmates’ faces. It struck me that not enough women talk about their experiences of post-natal depression. How can anyone who hasn’t been through it have any hope of understanding what it’s like?

I survived post-natal depression twice. I was lucky.

my story

Simon was a lovely baby, gorgeous to look at and so easy to look after. If none of the standard list of “things to do when a baby cries” worked, I just put him in the pushchair and took him for a walk. He’d fall asleep as soon as the outside air hit the lining of his lungs.

The birth wasn’t easy, lots of machines and doctors and pain and confusion. The single moment of joy when they laid him on my stomach made up for that, but it wasn’t enough to carry me through all the complications that set in afterwards.

By his fourteenth day, it was obvious that something was wrong. I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t want to pick Simon up, I really didn’t want to feed him, I had mastitis and cracked nipples and it was agony. I couldn’t sleep but I was exhausted all the time. Sleep when the baby sleeps, they said. But that was the only time I could be me again.

I went out and bought bottles and formula, then cried as I sterilised the clear plastic unnatural teats, and cried as I counted out the scoops of pale yellow powder, and cried as I shook the bottles. I cried when Alan got up in the night and took Simon into the other room to feed him.

Alan didn’t understand. He was giving me what I needed, time away from our baby. What he really didn’t understand was that I didn’t want the baby at all. I did love Simon, but more than that I resented him for stealing my life away from me. And I wished he wasn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have harmed him. I had those new-mother nightmares about some stranger coming along and doing awful things. I even worked out exactly what I’d do if a nutter threw Simon and his pushchair into the Trent as I walked along the Victoria Embankment.

But I wished he wasn’t there.

I knew I would kill for him.

I was terrified I’d die for him.

Six months, countless prescriptions, and many hours of counselling later, I still wished he wasn’t there. Until one day, in a tiny room at Queen’s Medical Centre, when the psychiatric nurse said, “You could always give him up for adoption, you know.”

She might has well have punched me in the stomach. Pain radiated from behind my belly button, I couldn’t breathe.

No-one, no-one was going to take my son away from me.

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