What Have I Done? By Laura Dockerill – A Review

Publisher: Square Peg

Publication Date: 24th April 2020

What Have I Done? By Laura Dockerill was firmly on my radar towards the end of 2019 and made it on to my Most Anticipated Books Of 2020 list.

What drew me in most was the whole subject of post-natal psychosis. I’ve mentioned before that I suffered with PND after the births of both of my children but didn’t reach out for help and just suffered in silence. Now that my children are both far enough away from the baby phase for me not to be ‘triggered’ by reading about PND I find it a huge comfort to read about the subject (be that fiction or non-fiction) and breathe a hefty sigh of relief that I wasn’t a failure, a bad mother or any of the other insults you levy at yourself when you’re smack bang in the middle of this terrible illness.

Laura starts her story from meeting and falling in love with her husband Hugo and swiftly follows on to her getting pregnant. She gives us insights into how she imagined her life would be after her baby was born. A life which turned out to be wildly different to the one she dreamed of.

Her ordeal started with the birth of her son Jet and the way that the whole process spiralled out of her control and ended up being a terrifying and painful experience. Jet was a small baby and had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck causing his heart rate to drop dramatically resulting in Laura having to have a Caesarean section.

What follows after the birth of Jet is essentially a swift and terrifying decline in Laura’s mental health and the start of a difficult journey through the confusing and exhausting days of early motherhood.

Laura explains in great detail her struggles with anxiety, intrusive thoughts, insomnia, paranoia and suicidal thoughts. At first she battles on through these issues at home with the support of Hugo and her family, however there comes a tipping point where Laura can no longer cope and her family take her to a secure mental health facility where she is diagnosed with post-natal psychosis.

Her admission to the facility is her first tentative step on the road to recovery, however it is far from a quick fix and Laura continues to battle paranoia, intrusive thoughts, insomnia, post-partum bleeding and her reluctance to take the anti-psychotic medication that her doctors have prescribed.

Throughout her recovery Laura has the unerring support of her lovely family. Hugo who has to deal with Laura thinking he wants to take the baby away from her (which is so far from the truth) her mother and father and sister who all visit everyday and surround her with love and support.

I think it probably goes without saying that I found this book fascinating. Even though Laura’s experience was far more severe than my own, I could recognise myself in so many of the issues she tackled. I have to admit that there were times I had to put the book down and just put a little distance between it and myself. Although my experiences are many years in the past, some elements of Laura’s battle really brought some long buried feelings rushing back.

Laura writes candidly, honestly and from the heart. There are moments of gentle humour and a real gritty down to earth quality. It felt like such a relief to read this book as it made me feel less alone and less guilty about my memories of that time.

This book I’m sure will be a huge help to women dealing right now with some degree of PND and families who are supporting their wives/daughters/sisters/friends. Laura ends the book with a very informative and useful section giving advice on depression, anxiety, self-care and how to help new mothers.

Ultimately this book will bring hope and comfort to many families and was a huge privilege for me to read.

Laura made me feel less guilty about standing in the shower after giving birth to my first child, crying and thinking ‘What have I done?’

I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone going through this right now. Or just anyone who has an interest and an empathy.

Thank you so much to the publisher for my proof copy.

See you all soon

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

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