Emma Martin, 29, from Woking, Surrey; admits she viewed her pregnancy as an ‘inconvenience’ and ‘felt no love’ for her baby after he was born.
The first-time mom told how crippling postnatal depression left her feeling so low she deleted every photo taken with her son in the labour ward and considered abandoning him on a beach.
Two years on, the mom-of-one has sought medical help and given up her high-powered job to spend more time with her family.
Bravely speaking for the first time about her 2-year battle with mental health, Emma said: “I didn’t love Matteo and couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. People don’t talk about mental health. Birth and motherhood are supposed to be this perfect time, but for a lot of moms it isn’t. I want anyone suffering to know there is light at the end of the tunnel, you can fall in love with being a mum, and when you do, it’s truly amazing.”
When Emma and her engineer husband, Simon, 34, met their 8 lbs 2 oz son for the 1st time on June 22, 2016; in Surrey’s Frimley Park Hospital, the new mom recounts that Matteo felt ‘like a stranger’ as she held him in her arms.
She recalled: “The midwife put him on my chest, and the first thing I thought was, “Eugh, he looks like an alien.” Really, I felt nothing but overwhelming sadness and fear. As my husband cooed over our newborn, I racked my brain, trying to find my mother’s instinct that must have been hiding somewhere. I asked the midwife, “What do I do?” She replied, “Love him, feed him and keep him warm,” and I just cried and cried. I didn’t know how to do any of those things.”
With her husband tending to all their baby’s needs except breast feeding, Emma realised she felt no love for her boy. She said further, “He felt like a stranger. I felt traumatised by labour but ashamed by my lack of love and how unnatural it felt to have a baby sucking on my chest. I wouldn’t let anyone come and visit us in the hospital, not even our parents. I felt empty and sad.”
Emma was so distressed that, when her husband, Simon took photos of her and their baby son together, she deleted them immediately.
She said, “I deleted every single photo of myself with my son in the labour ward, only keeping photos of Simon and Matteo. I hated how I looked and did not want to remember that time.”
When she became pregnant 9 months earlier in 2015 – just a month after they had started trying – she was working in a high-powered job as an area manager for a cosmetics company and had no plans to slow down. But just weeks into her pregnancy, after experiencing heavy cramping, medics feared Emma had suffered an ectopic pregnancy.
“The baby was actually fine, it wasn’t ectopic, but it put a fear into me that I could lose my baby any day. At every scan, I psyched myself up for something being wrong with our unborn child, so didn’t allow myself to bond with it.”
At her 12 and 20 week scans, while the midwife was cooing over her bump, Emma felt like it was not even a part of her.
She called to mind: “I remember looking at the midwife in amusement as she told me to start talking to my growing bump, in order to help me bond with my baby. I just wanted to carry on with life as normal, working hard, managing a team of 40 people, hitting the gym and planning my 3-months of maternity leave with meticulous detail, and assuming that labour would be a breeze. But my pregnancy felt more of an inconvenience to me than a joy. I hated my bump, felt so unattached to it and would cover it up with long floating scarves as much as I could, so people couldn’t see it.”
And when she and Simon found out the sex of the baby at 20 weeks, Emma was so convinced she was having a baby girl that when she discovered it was a boy, she sobbed in the car park.
Then, after a 3-day labour and an epidural, Matteo – named in homage to Emma’s Italian ancestry – arrived.
Following when she was discharged from the hospital after 2 days, Emma’s mood plummeted further, with the new mom crying non-stop and barely getting off the sofa.
And when she spoke with her husband about it, they both thought she was suffering from ‘baby blues.’ Also, returning to her job after just 3-months, working weekends and putting Matteo in a nursery did nothing to improve her state of mind.
Finally, when her son was 8-months old, Emma was diagnosed with postnatal depression – which affects more than one in 10 women within a year of giving birth – after filling out an online questionnaire with an online therapist.
Emma, who did not seek help at the time, said: “I was sleeping for 2 hours a night and getting up for work the next day. I was sleep-deprived and felt like I was being followed around by a big black cloud. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
And when, at 10 months, Emma and Simon took baby Matteo on a family holiday to Greece, things worsened rapidly.
She recollected: “He was hardly sleeping. One day, when I took him out in his pram for a walk on the beach, I considered just leaving him there, hoping a nice waitress would take him in. Strangely, at the same time, I was ashamed to tell anyone what I was thinking, scared they might think I was a bad mom and take my boy away.”
Eventually, at Matteo’s 12-months check-up, Emma ‘cracked’ when the health visitor asked how she was.
She recounted: “I burst into tears, said I felt like a rubbish mom, and needed some support. She got me an emergency appointment with my GP that day and I was totally honest with him.
After being prescribed anti-depressants and given counseling, Emma found sharing her thoughts made her feel far brighter.
But her true turning point came in June this year, when she decided to give up her high-powered job to spend more time with her family. Now working part-time in a local department store, Emma has never felt better.
She said: “I feel so much happier and love my boy so much. He is my best friend and so relaxed, just like his mummy now. I’ve set up a course for other moms to help them if they are in the same situation as me too.”
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF POST-NATAL DEPRESSION?
- A persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- Lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
- Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- Trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from contact with other people
- Problems concentrating and making decisions
- Frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby