My partner Tuka and I decided to try and have a baby in August 2013, I had spent my whole life trying to not get pregnant so was surprised that we were lucky enough to get pregnant pretty much straight away. My pregnancy was text book and apart from some pelvis pain towards the end I felt great. I worked full time as a team manager at a bank until I was 38 weeks pregnant, upon reflection my mood started to change and become low once I had stopped work and was home alone.
My son Rafael was born after a quick labour on my deceased Mothers birthday. Throughout my pregnancy my family had kept saying imagine he is born on Mum’s birthday, all I had thought was I hope he isn’t, that day was always an emotional one since her death 13 years before. I woke at 2am 2 days after my due date and felt some stomach pains, I called the hospital and they told me to have Panadol and to try and get some sleep, and that labour could go on for hours. I did what they said however there was no way that I could sleep. My waters broke at 5am I called the hospital again and they said to wait until 6:30am before coming in, at about 6:00am I started to feel the urge to push so decided to go in straight away. Upon arrival I was examined and told that I was fully dilated and could start to push. Rafael was born at 8:29am.
Everyone was so happy and excited not only was he born on my Mums birthday. I was so ”lucky” to have such a quick labour, I was in shock and felt far from lucky, I kept thinking how could I not have realised I was in labour? I was shocked that I had a baby, it’s like I didn’t realise that at the end of the pregnancy there is a baby and he is mine to care for. I struggled to breastfeed I couldn’t get him to latch properly and every time a feed was due I would start sweating and my heart would almost pop out of my chest. I now know that this was anxiety.
I started to realise at 2 weeks post birth that things weren’t good. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, struggled to sit still and couldn’t sleep even though I was extremely tired and I dry retched every time I ate. I decided that I would wait before doing anything like going to the GP to see if maybe it would go away. I told Tuka and my sisters as soon as I started feeling these things and they were very supportive, always listened and suggested that I go and talk to someone about how I was feeling. After 4 weeks I decided to go to the GP I knew that it wasn’t going to go away on its own, I completed the Edinburgh Survey I am not sure what my score was but it must have been high because she prescribed me some medication and a referral to see a psychologist.
The next day I started the medication and it was one of the lowest days of my life, my thoughts were racing, I was convinced that I had ruined my life by having a baby and that I was a terrible mother for not enjoying every part of motherhood. After a lonely anxious day I walked to the train station to meet Tuka who was back at work. When waiting for the train I had a thought that maybe everything would be better if I wasn’t around, this was the first time I had ever had a thought like this and it really scared me. That night as I tried to swallow my dinner Tuka asked me the hardest question you could ask someone, “when you say you don’t want to be here anymore what does that mean” I answered him honestly and we both just cried. I don’t think either of us had realised how bad things had become.
The next couple of days were spent back at the GP where I was prescribed more medication to help with my high levels of Anxiety. I was referred to the local CAT team where I meet a lovely nurse who sat and listened to my story and provided me with the reassurance that I would be ok. Of course I didn’t believe her I thought that I would the one that would never recover, how could I? I felt so bad. My weeks were spent going to the GP, psychologist, community nurse and Psychiatrist. I struggled sitting at home alone every day so made sure that my appointments were on different days and that I saw girls from Mother’s group or friends. Even though there were days when my mood was low and my anxiety high and I didn’t want to see anyone I forced myself to do it, as soon as I saw people I felt less alone.
When Rafael was 4 months old I decided to go to a Mother and Baby Unit it is something that had been discussed since identifying there was an issue, I had umm and ahhhed about it, would it help? What would people think? I was getting better but it was a slow process. In the end I made the decision to go, my thinking was if I don’t go I will always wonder if it could have sped up the recovery journey. My experience there was great I met some great counsellors some other mothers who felt similar things as me and I realised that I wasn’t alone. It also allowed my Psychiatrist to see me on a daily basis and it was quickly discovered that my mood was still quiet low and that I was pretty good at putting on a happy face, my medication was increased and my mood started to lift .I stayed in hospital for 3 weeks, I was lucky that there was a 12 week outpatient program just about to start so I joined that. This provided me with more understanding of PND, what my thinking styles were. How my childhood influences my current life and allowed me the time to think about and reflect on myself.
I am currently back at work 4 days a week, when I think about how unwell I was I can’t believe that I was able to go back to work at all. I am enjoying being back at work it is giving me a bit of me back, it has also made the time that I spend with Rafael more precious and it feels less like groundhog day every day. I see my psychologist fortnightly with Tuka and my Psychiatrist every couple of months. I am now so much more aware of my mental wellbeing, I know when I need to say no to things and am ok doing that, I know how to stop the racing thoughts and try to practise mindfulness as much as I can. There are moments when I am grateful for this experience as hard as it has been I have learnt a lot about myself, I have developed much more empathy and understanding about mental heath and believe that my relationship with Tuka is better than ever before, effective communication and understanding of the other person has been the key. There are still moments that I look at Rafael and can’t believe he is mine and if I think to much about the future I start to get anxious, I can remember worrying about how I was going to introduce solids and now he eats pasta so I need to keep bringing myself to the moment and try to not get bogged down in what might happen. Overall I love being a Mum, some days are harder than others and I am still more tired than I have ever been but it is worth it to see my beautiful boy grow and for me to become the Mum I always wanted to be.
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"There are moments when I am grateful for this experience..I have developed much more empathy and more understanding about mental health and believe that my relationship with my partner is better than before."