Mom, Tahnee Knowles Explains How Postnatal Depression Left Her Wishing Her Baby Would Die In His Sleep

A new mom who couldn’t wait to meet her baby has spoken with heartbreaking honesty about her postnatal depression, which, at its worse, made her hope her baby would stop breathing in his sleep.

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Tahnee Knowles, 27, became pregnant with her first child in early 2017; and was so excited she planned her own at-home water birth. But she says she was robbed of the ‘magical moment’ she had imagined, as a complication saw her being admitted to St Mary’s Hospital in Newport, near her home on the Isle of Wight, for a caesarean section.

Tahnee toward the end of her pregnancy (PA Real Life/Collect)

As a result, Tahnee felt ‘no connection’ when she first held her newborn son, Gus, and went on to silently battle postnatal depression for weeks before telling her husband.

Tahnee, Bernardo and Gus (PA Real Life/Collect)

She remained too afraid to seek help for seven months. Much stronger and now referring to 17-months old Gus as her ‘best friend’, Tahnee said:

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“There are so many societal norms around how you should act when you first become a mum, that I felt under pressure to put on a brave face. I felt almost angry with my husband for being so besotted with Gus. I didn’t understand why I was the only one to feel the way I did. At first, I wondered if I just had the baby blues – then one night, I was watching him sleep, and suddenly realised I was unsure if he was breathing. A thought flashed across my mind, that I almost hoped he wasn’t, as that way, things would go back to the way they’d been before I had him. I knew then that something far more severe than baby blues was going on.”

Physically, Tahnee, who is speaking out to encourage other women with postnatal depression to seek help, had a text book on pregnancy and was even able to exercise all the way through. Mentally, though, she found herself on an emotional roller-coaster, which she put down to hormones. But she soldiered on – making plans to have a water birth at home, rather than in hospital.

In November 2017, at 39 weeks, she was pottering around at home when she noticed a wet patch on her jeans.

She recalled:

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“I thought it could be my waters breaking, but it was hardly any liquid, so I wasn’t sure. I called the midwife who came out right away. She tested the fluid and confirmed it was amniotic. She then said that if I hadn’t gone into labour within 24 hours to get to hospital. I struggled to sleep that night. I tried to stay relaxed, but every movement I felt was so exciting.”

The next day, with no signs of labour showing, Tahnee, who was strongly advised to go to the hospital added:

“I asked the midwife if I’d be able to come back home again, to have the birth I’d planned if I started to progress. She advised I bring a bag, as it was likely I’d need to stay in hospital – and that’s when I knew it wouldn’t be going to plan. At hospital, I was checked over and doctors said they would induce me. That’s when a cloud just came over me. I felt silly, but I was getting really upset. The birth of your first baby is such a huge thing, and none of it was going how I’d dreamed.”

Though disappointed, Tahnee knew that the most important thing was for Gus to arrive safely, so she agreed to be induced and stay at St Mary’s. For hours, despite also being given syntocinon – a synthetic hormone used to bring on contractions – she did not start to dilate.

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On November 23, a day after she was admitted at the hospital, a caesarean section was mentioned for the first time. A natural birth at this point would very likely have involved the use of forceps or ventouse, which neither Tahnee nor her husband, Bernardo wanted.

Tahnee said further:

“A new consultant came on shift and he was just amazing. He sat down beside me on the bed and said how sorry he was that the birth plan I’d worked so meticulously on wasn’t going to happen. It meant so much to hear someone acknowledge that, to me, this birth wasn’t just a medical thing, it was hugely emotional. He explained that we could do a caesarean and still keep some of the things I’d wanted, like dim lights and music. I could meet my baby within the hour and he could be born into a calm, relaxed environment, rather than me keep waiting for something to happen naturally and exhaust myself.”

At 10am on November 23, little Gus arrived via caesarean section – but as soon as Tahnee held him, she could tell something was wrong. She continued:

“I’d asked for immediate skin to skin contact, but as Gus was passed on to me, I felt no connection. It was like he was an alien. He could have been anybody’s baby. Everyone around me was cooing and I felt mounting pressure to react in a certain way, so I put on this façade, but inwardly, I just didn’t want to hold him.”

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The following day, Tahnee was discharged – but according to her, for a good 72 hours, she did not want to be around her newborn baby. As the weeks passed, her mood did not lift and she soon realised it was more than just baby blues.

She explained:

“I felt as if I had to trick people into thinking I was fine, but deep down, I worried I’d made a huge mistake. When Gus was around two weeks old, I had a moment of real connection with him. He looked up at me one day and I just thought, “Oh my God I do love you.” I cried out of pure relief and felt on top of the world. After that, my bond with Gus continued to grow, but those feelings of self doubt about my new role as a mom soon came back. It continued like that for months. I loved Gus but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a mom. I didn’t relate to this new person I’d become. I didn’t dare speak up though, as I felt frightened people would think I was a bad mother. I was struggling to connect with him. For the first few weeks, I didn’t even tell Bernardo, as I was scared of coming under scrutiny.”

7-months after Gus was born, Tahnee had a lightbulb moment when a friend asked her a question nobody else had:

“How are you doing mentally?”

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At the question, Tahnee broke down and talked about how much she had been struggling. This was a huge relief and it gave her the courage to finally seek help.

Tahnee said further:

“I never had antidepressants, as I only spoke out once I was coming out the other side of things, but I would encourage others to get help as soon as they can. If this happened to me again, I’d explore avenues like CBT and therapy. It’s such a huge help to talk these things out and get them off our chests.”

“Now, I haven’t suffered in a long time. Gus is my best friend and he’s a dream, but I don’t feel guilty for struggling, which I think is really important. I want to break the taboo around postnatal depression and show others that they aren’t bad people for needing help.”

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