FALLING pregnant at 18, Rowena Hurlow couldn't be more excited.
She hadn't intended to be a mum so young but the accident was a happy one – and her pregnancy was a breeze.
But after baby Willow arrived she didn't feel a rush of love.
And although she fed, bathed and changed her, she became increasingly stressed – until she started to hear 'the devil'.
It emerged she was suffering from postpartum psychosis, the most severe form of postnatal depression.
Now Rowena, 21, from Bath, has shared her story with Fabulous Digital:
Becoming a mum was all I ever wanted.
So, I was delighted when, aged 18, I fell pregnant.
It wasn’t intended – just a happy accident – but both the baby’s dad, my boyfriend Jamie, now 23, and I were over-the-moon.
The pregnancy was textbook, I felt cheerful throughout, and when 8lb 2oz Willow arrived at Royal United Hospital in Bath in March 2017 following a natural labour, she was healthy.
I knew I should have immediately felt that rush of all-consuming love that parents talk about when she was placed in my arms – but I didn’t.
I loved her – but not as much as I thought I would.
After a day in the hospital I took her home to the flat Jamie and I shared.
But I was filled with fear.
While I was able to go through the motions and dress, bathe and feed Willow, I didn’t get any joy from being with her.
In fact, I was getting increasingly stressed at her constant crying.
It worsened over that first week but I put it down to the baby blues and presumed that it would go away as the days passed.
I convinced myself that I’d feel that mother-daughter bond soon enough, so didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling.
After all who wants to admit they don’t love their baby enough?
But a week after she was born I was at home when I heard something chilling.
It was a man’s deep voice that sounded evil.
A week after she was born I was at home I when I heard something. It was a man’s deep voice that sounded evil.
“You are a rubbish mother,” it shouted.
I looked round to see if anyone was there, but the room was empty.
I tried to shrug it off, but soon the voice started talking to me every day.
He told me he was the devil and if I didn’t do things in a certain way, I’d be punished.
It got worse and worse and I began to feel more and more scared.
I would walk down the road with Willow in her pram and feel the devil chasing me.
He would tell me to jump into the traffic and that Willow was better off without me as her mum.
I nearly did it.
I became obsessed with washing Willow’s bottles in a particular order and cleaned my house from top to bottom every day so germs couldn’t harm my baby girl.
It was exhausting but I wouldn’t let anyone – not even Jamie – care for Willow.
She was constantly by my side – I thought she would be in danger if I left her.
One night her favourite dummy went missing and I was convinced it was the devil testing me.
I became hysterical and slashed the entire sofa with a knife in a desperate bid to find it.
Willow was crying so Jamie attended to her but obviously he was concerned.
“With a mother like you, Willow would be better off dead”, the voice taunted. “You should jump in front of a car with the pram.”
Jamie could see me unravelling but didn’t realise the extent of my suffering.
I didn’t want to tell anyone I was hearing voices as I thought they would think I was insane and take Willow away from me.
Until, when Willow was five months old, I couldn’t cope anymore. I broke down and told Jamie everything.
When I asked him to lock all the windows in the house so I couldn’t jump, he took me straight to the doctors.
Medics diagnosed me with postpartum psychosis and put me on anti-psychotic drugs.
The medication took a while to work, but after months of suffering, I finally started to feel better.
I finally felt that I loved Willow, and I knew deep down that I was a good mother.
Now, I’m trying to raise awareness for postpartum psychosis – it affects one in every 1,000 new mums and is a truly terrifying experience.
I’d still have more children, even though I am aware of the risks.
But what people don’t realise is that it’s easily treated, and that the most important thing is not to suffer in silence.
I’ll never forget the feeling of utter despair – but I’m so glad I came out the other side. I can’t believe I thought the devil was telling me to harm my little girl. I love her so much.
What is postpartum psychosis?
POSTPARTUM psychosis is a mental illness which can affect any new mother – and could cause her to harm herself, or her baby.
The condition is thought to affect one in every 1,000 women who give birth.
It should be treated as a medical emergency – and can get rapidly worse if not treated.
In the worst cases, psychosis could cause a new mum to harm her baby or herself.
The two main symptoms are hallucinations, seeing or hearing things which aren't there, and delusions, having thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true (e.g. that you've won the lottery).
The combination of the two can seriously disrupt someone's perception, thinking, emotions and behaviour.
A woman experiencing postpartum psychosis will change mood very quickly, while some may experience symptoms of mania and depression at the same time.
She may not realise she is ill – but the majority of women do make a full recovery, provided they get the right treatment.
If someone you know if suffering from postpartum psychosis, you should contact your GP, NHS 111 or out-of-hours service immediately.
If you think there's a danger of her harming herself or others, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
If you're a new mother, and recognise that you may be having a psychotic episode, visit your GP or local A&E immediately.
For support, visit the Action on Postpartum charity website.
Meanwhile, mum Kelly Murchison revealed how postpartum psychosis made her want to kill her twins and herself.
And EastEnders touched on the subject when the illness made Stacey Fowler convinced her son Arthur was the son of God.
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