Janine, 32 years old
"My boyfriend instantly fell in love with the baby. I was drowning in fear. Are you then going to tell your partner, who is over the moon, 'I'm not'?"
Janine and her boyfriend are both working full-time at an elementary school when Janine becomes pregnant. She suffers an early miscarriage. "I was a workaholic and thought to myself: just keep going. In retrospect, I hadn't actually processed it." Janine gets pregnant again. "From there it went downhill. I was happy, but also constantly anxious that things would go wrong again. Then the world shut down: corona. At that time, nothing was known about the effect of corona on unborn babies, but of course I was scared to death. I couldn't work from home; I had to go to school every day. Looking back, I was already very sick then. An outsider saw a beautiful pregnant woman, but behind that mask I was hiding how bad I was doing. Although I told my midwife that I was prone to postpartum depression, she sent me away with ‘you’re becoming a mother, everyone is scared the first time.’ But if she had asked more questions, she would have known I was so scared I didn't even dare to buy a car seat."
Janine's anxiety worsened. At 37 weeks, the first contractions begin, but despite ten centimeters of dilation, Janine does not get any contractions to push. She is rushed to the BovenIJ hospital where she receives induced contractions. After a four-hour struggle, she gives birth to her daughter, Roxy. "The delivery was the tipping point where things went wrong. She was born and suddenly everyone left the room. There she was, lying on my chest without a diaper. My boyfriend was instantly in love. I just thought: I will never do this again. During labor I really thought I was going to die. I felt like no one could hear me and felt very lonely. Back at home I went crazy. I developed an anxiety disorder and clearly had postnatal depression, but I was able to disguise it well. At maternity visits, people would say 'It's part of it' and 'Count your blessings,' but I needed someone to say, 'I get that you’re not feeling well. It's okay.' I was worrying all day, cleaning extremely, stopped eating and couldn’t sleep anymore. I didn't dare to go outside anymore and isolated myself in the house. I didn't recognize myself anymore, I completely lost track. My boyfriend had to go back to work after six weeks, leaving me alone with a baby. My world collapsed. Crying, I called the nurse. But because I didn't want to hurt myself, I wasn't seen as a crisis case. But if I didn't wake up the next day, I would have been fine with that. I was so low. I was so desperate and so unhappy."
In consultation with her doctor, Janine finally receives treatment. She receives EMDR therapy*) and medication for anxiety, which Janine says was her salvation. The road to recovery begins and Janine is supported by a few close friends, her partner and organization Goedebuur. "Thanks to Goedebuur I have my life back, I am so grateful to them. With a multidisciplinary team, they created a web around me that allowed me to start functioning again. It started with confronting my fears. Throwing out trash outside. Going to the supermarket. It was very tough, also for my family. My boyfriend saw me getting worse and worse but there was nothing he could do to stop it. He really pulled me out of my misery by not judging me and just listening. I am intensely grateful to him, without him I wouldn't be here anymore. Not only did he carry my weight all of this time, but from our child as well. Our relationship has grown stronger and so has my relationship with Roxy. I love her so much."
You're only human
"At first I worked more than 40 hours a week, but now I couldn't even manage to shower sometimes. And that's okay. We ask a lot of mothers, but you're only human. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I want to tell it like it is and if I can help even one person with my story, I have achieved my goal."
*) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, short for EMDR, is a therapy for people who continue to suffer from the effects of a shocking experience, such as an accident or violent incident.