PND made me believe Mum would murder me
Terrifying account of post-natal depression
NEW mum Hayley Hickford never dreamed the birth of her first child would be the start of a living nightmare.
But Hayley, 28, became convinced her mum and fiance were plotting to kill her and harm newborn son Lewis.
Terrified for her child, she told doctors her mother, nurse Maureen Hickford, 56, was a paedophile.
And after returning home to her partner of ten years James Loffler, 35, she stood at an upstairs window and screamed for help until police and ambulances arrived.
But rather than arrest her family, doctors had Hayley sectioned — just six days after Lewis’s birth.
Hayley now knows her delusions were caused by pleural psychosis, an extreme form of post-natal depression (PND).
Two years on, with the support of her family and James, a labourer, Hayley is fully recovered.
She wants to share her story to raise awareness of PND, which affects one in five new mums.
Hayley, from Rochester, Kent, says: “My delusions seemed so real. It was terrifying. People think PND means you want to harm your baby, but I was the opposite.
“I was so terrified of someone harming Lewis, I accused people of the most awful things.”
Happy … Hayley and Lewis
Hayley’s ordeal began after her labour was induced on December 24, 2010, when she was 12 days overdue. Midwives struggled to find the baby’s heartbeat and ordered an emergency Caesarean.
Hayley says: “I was screaming to know whether my baby had died. I was sure I had lost him.”
When Hayley came round from the anaesthetic, she was stunned to see a tiny bundle. She says: “James told me to say hello to our son. I felt the luckiest woman alive and broke down in tears of relief.”
Lewis had been just minutes from death after the umbilical cord became wrapped around his neck during labour. But the doctors’ quick actions meant he was born healthy and Hayley was allowed to take him home the next day.
There, Hayley kept replaying in her mind how close she had come to losing Lewis. She says: “I kept asking James to promise me he was safe now. I had barely slept since the birth and James was begging me to try, but I didn’t want to in case something happened.”
Hayley’s paranoia began the next day when James cooked her dinner.
She says: “It didn’t smell right and I thought I saw a funny look in James’s eyes. It suddenly hit me he was trying to poison me. He brought me warm milk to help me sleep and I refused to drink it.”
Hayley told her shocked fiance she knew he was trying to kill her so he could have Lewis to himself.
She says: ‘He look stunned and said he was ringing my mum. I was pleased, I wanted her to help me. But when I explained she didn’t believe me. I believed she must be in on it too and accused them of trying to take Lewis.
“They tried to calm me but that made me convinced they were in it together.
“They said I was ill. I agreed to let my dad Richard, 57, take me to the doctors to prove them wrong.”
After Hayley told the GP her fears, he asked her to complete a checklist to test for post-natal depression. Worryingly, she got the all-clear, so he gave her a leaflet for marriage counselling. Hayley says: “I was more sure than ever that James was trying to harm me and Mum knew about it.”
Sorry … Hayley with James
But back home, Hayley had a moment of clarity and admitted to James that she didn’t feel right. He drove her to hospital.
She says: “Speaking to doctors it suddenly felt real again. I started shaking and begging them to protect me from James.
“They advised him to stay away while I calmed down, and called my parents to take me home. When my mother arrived I flipped. It seemed part of the conspiracy between her and James
“I started screaming for help. Clutching my baby to my chest, I pointed at Mum and screamed she was a paedophile. I saw her face freeze with shock.”
Medics had a duty to inform social services, who quizzed Maureen before deciding she posed no risk. Meanwhile, Hayley and Lewis returned home.
Hayley says: “The next morning I felt well enough to see James again and asked him to come home. I apologised for saying awful things about him and he told me to go back to bed and rest.
“But by the time I got to the bedroom with Lewis, I had panicked and thought we were trapped.
I opened the window and screamed for neighbours to save us.
I cried with relief when I saw police and an ambulance arrive.
“My parents pulled up and I was sure officers would arrest Mum and James. Lewis and I were driven to hospital. Dad came with me and I told officers everything.
“Then doctors arrived and sectioned me. I handed Lewis to Dad and swore and screamed at them to let me go. Lewis was just six days old.” Hayley’s family were told she was suffering with pleural psychosis, which causes the patient to suffer life-like delusions, and needed anti-psychotic medication.
Hayley says: “Thankfully, the medication worked quickly. Ten days later I was discharged from the psychiatric unit. I was so happy to see my son, Mum had done a brilliant job looking after him.
“I felt awful when she told me she’d been called by social services. Days later I was moved to a mother and baby unit with Lewis for a week.”
Doctors now believe her waters broke up to two weeks before the birth, causing a pelvic infection and chemical imbalance. Coupled with Post Traumatic Stress caused by the difficult birth, they think this led to her delusions.
Hayley says: “I couldn’t say sorry to Mum or James enough for what I put them through. All I ever wanted was to be a mum.
“Six months ago, I came off the anti-psychotic medication. I haven’t had any bad thoughts since and I now realise I picked on Mum and James because they were closest.
“I’m so lucky to have them both. They got me help and I’m here today because of them.
“Now I want to warn others what a terrible illness PND is.”