I had dreamt about becoming a mum for as long as I could remember, in 2012 my daughter was born and my dream came true. However, in the weeks leading up to her birth my world started to unravel. I was unwell with pre-eclampsia (pregnancy related high blood pressure)and hospitalised for weeks on bed rest. All I wanted was for my baby to be born so we were both safe. The birth is when my anxiety began to unravel until I was a constant buzzing ball of anxiety. My gorgeous little girl had to be resuscitated at birth and was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and over the next weeks we would learn that my poor innocent little girl was going to have ongoing, painful health problems and would need multiple surgeries.
If she was awake, which she was most of the time, she was screaming. It broke our hearts, nothing we could do would help her. I felt isolated and alone. I felt like I was failing her. I felt like a failure. I desperately tried everything to help her, but nothing worked. I had to attend to her 24/7 to feel like I was doing my best to make her feel better and my anxiety would peak if I couldn’t see her. The moment I realised my anxiety was bigger than me was when we went to the shops and I lost sight of my husband and the pram and I instantly felt like I was about to have a heart attack and threw up in a bin in the middle of the mall. That night I emailed women’s health & family services to ask for counselling.
During this time, I also lost one of my best friends who couldn’t fight any longer and took her own life leaving her gorgeous children behind. I was heartbroken and still feel guilty that she never met my daughter because of my anxiety and isolating myself. I also found over this period a lot of my friends dropped off, unable to understand why I was hard to contact or they felt uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say about my daughter’s health so they just said nothing.
Through the assistance of a lovely child health nurse, I was put in touch with the Making Sense of Motherhood program, which is what kept me going for the majority of our first year. Each week I was surrounded by strong mothers, in a peer supported space where we were free to be honest and open about just how difficult some aspects of parenting can be and where no one was afraid to speak about their mental health and struggles. Over time, the good days became more common and I became confident that I was doing my best even though things were hard. I found support in new friends that were sensitive and supportive to our situation and felt love and understanding from some old friends.
In 2015 I gave birth to my son. Aware of my perinatal anxiety from last time, this time around when I first felt the heart flutters and sinking feeling I knew I had to fight back instantly. I turned to running and fitness, which although painful has done so much for my anxiety and general health.
I learnt a lot from my experience with perinatal anxiety. I learnt I am stronger than my anxiety. I learnt to trust myself and to be open and honest about my feelings and struggles because I am not alone and reaching out and asking for help has led to being surrounded by those that genuinely care for me. Another great positive of finding an excellent peer support group like I did is that you will be inspired by your badass perinatal anxiety and depression peers!
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"I had dreamt about becoming a mum for as long as I could remember, in 2012 my daughter was born and my dream came true. However, in the weeks leading up to her birth my world started to unravel."