My name is Annette, I’m 30 years old and I have two beautiful Children, Andrew 9yrs and Lucy 5yrs old. Before I had children I was studying and working in retail. After my son was born – I went back to work when he reached 8 months. I remember the first night; it’s a permanently burned image and feeling I will carry forever.
I had a normal pregnancy, no complications or anything along the way. I was living with my boyfriend of 3 years and apart from the initial scorn from family having a baby out of wedlock, I had a good support system around me. My waters broke before I was in active labour, 14 hours of trying to kick-start my labour (walking around, keeping active) I was still 1cm dilated and they decided to give me ‘the drip’. Precisely 1 hour and 15 minutes later I was holding my baby in my arms.
Everything was normal and healthy; people around me were so excited and happy. I felt just … blank. The memory I referred to earlier – one I’ll never forget. It must have been 3 or 4am; I woke wondering why this baby isn’t keeping me awake all night like I thought they do. I looked across into his cradle – time was still, I felt nothing, no connection at all. It could have been someone else’s baby there, a doll or a plant. I remember thinking – is this it? This is what people go on about?
Brushing that thought aside, I struggled through the first 8 months, convincing myself that maybe I’m just not made to be a mum. So I went out to work, I built up a successful career in insurance. My mental health slowly deteriorated but it wasn’t until I found I was pregnant with Lucy that I went to get some help.
When Lucy was born it was completely different – I was in love. That moment I knew that something was wrong all those years ago. I began to feel so much guilt and anger with myself. I couldn’t comprehend why things were different this time around. Lucy and I were out grocery shopping one afternoon and she wouldn’t stop crying. I felt this uncontrollable urge to put my hand over her mouth to stop her crying. I remember physically holding my hands together so I wouldn’t do it. This moment I drove myself to hospital and handed my baby over to the nurses in tears. “I’m scared I’m going to hurt her” were the words I managed to string together.
Little did I know at the time; this was the result of untreated post-natal depression and anxiety and I wasn’t crazy or a bad incapable mother. The Geraldton regional hospital staff organised for me to be admitted to the Mother and Baby Unit at King Edward Memorial hospital in Perth. It was the wonderful nurses doctors who guided me back to be myself. This was the first time I had heard of post-natal anxiety or depression. It was extremely hard work, but with counselling, medication and CBT over the next two years I went from a quivering mess, to a version of myself I’d forgotten existed.
It’s now just over 4 years ago I was in the MBU. I’m discovering the person I used to be. Music was a huge part of my life before I had kids. I hadn’t noticed there were literally cobwebs on my violin case. I’m not playing regularly in a few bands, singing and teaching violin again.
Any advice I would offer to other mothers out there… Please I cannot stress this enough; if you are feeling even slightly not yourself. If you notice any of these feelings or behaviours please seek help from your GP or a councillor. Don’t put it off. Don’t struggle one more day than you need to. The earlier you seek help, the earlier you will regain yourself. Don’t lose yourself – you are too precious.