My name is Amy and I’m a mum of two beautiful children, Julia and Nathan. While everything may seem “perfect” now, it wasn’t always that easy.
My journey to have a family started when I got pregnant for the first time. Our first daughter, Emily, was stillborn at 28 weeks. This was a devastating loss to both me and my husband who were desperate to start a family. I became pregnant again about 3 months later which resulted in an early miscarriage at 8 weeks.
After that, things went well, I had a smooth pregnancy and our daughter Julia was born into the world. I didn’t suffer from postnatal depression after having Julia. I think most likely because of our other two losses I was so happy to have a child, I pretty much gave up everything for her. I was a primary school teacher before having her, but I was happy to stay home and take care of her full time. After she turned 1 we thought it would be nice to start trying for another baby and a few months later I became pregnant again. Sadly, this pregnancy did not go well, and our daughter Skye passed away at just 16 weeks gestation due to Trisomy 18 (Edward’s Syndrome). After a few months, I became pregnant again and gave birth to my son, Nathan.
Things probably started to decline for me during that pregnancy when I was told he was a boy. For some reason I was just expecting to have another girl, as we had only had girls leading up to him. But I pushed that out of my mind and was happy that the pregnancy went smoothly and he was born healthy and without any complications.
The first couple of months were a bit of a whirlwind and I had the help of my mom, who came over from Canada to stay with us for a couple of months, which was a really big help. She left after about 10 weeks and things hit me pretty hard then.
I started to feel like I didn’t want to take care of Nathan anymore and I found myself crying most of the day. Nathan would cry in the middle of the night, needing a feed, and I didn’t want to get up to feed him. I also had Julia to take care of, who was just over 2 and a half, and I found it all very overwhelming. I remember saying to my husband that I didn’t feel like I loved Nathan and I once went to the shops and called him and said I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to come home. I felt so guilty for feeling that way as I knew that wasn’t how it was “meant to be”. I only felt joy and love after having Julia so all these feeling were very new to me. I remember calling friends during the day crying and a few came over to sit with me but feeling quite helpless at the same time. I’m glad I reached out to people at that time as if I hadn’t, things might have gone on for much longer.
I was very lucky and I have a very supportive husband who immediately recognized that I needed some help, and the first call I made was to the PANDA helpline. I remember speaking to a volunteer who made me feel like it was okay to be feeling this way and that other women do experience feelings like this. It gave me the confidence to book an appointment with my GP, who then helped me find a good psychologist and prescribed me some antidepressants. I was hesitant to take them at first because I was worried about the side effects for breastfeeding, but I was convinced that my mental health far outweighed any side effects from the medication. I was also booked in straight away to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) at a private hospital for a week stay and my mom came back from Canada to stay for another couple of months to help with Julia which really helped.
It took a couple of weeks for the medication to start having an effect. After about a month, I was starting to feel okay again. I didn’t really like the way the medication made me feel, but I continued with it for about six months and then decided to wean myself off of it with guidance from my GP. I also saw the psychologist weekly for about four months, to make sure I was still making improvements.
At this time, I was about 15kg overweight and I knew I needed to do something about this as well. I joined a local bootcamp and gave up all the junk food and sugar and eventually got back to myself again. I was quite fit and healthy before having children, but after five years of either being pregnant or breastfeeding the hormones really took a toll on my body. I started entering fun runs and eventually got back into triathlons which is something I hadn’t done since my early 20’s. I am a very determined person who likes to set goals that are a challenge for me so I moved on from the shorter triathlons to the half Ironman distances over the past couple of years. I have since graduated from half Ironmans to the full Ironman race: a 3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42.2km run.
For my first full Ironman, my goal was to finish the race and not put pressure on myself for any particular time. I decided to fundraise for this event, as these events never have any options for fundraising, so by doing it independently I could choose my own organisations who have had meaning to me over the years. PANDA was my first point of call for postnatal depression; I didn’t know what to expect from making that call, but I’m very happy that I did as I was given the advice which led me to contacting the other support networks which I needed at the time.
I feel like I was very lucky to have so much support around me, so many people who were able to help and I know not everyone is as lucky as that. My biggest piece of advice is to make that phone call. Even if you think you can handle things on your own, just talking to someone else can help you put things into perspective or just make you feel better that you are doing a good job. Or if you need that extra help, you can get the support you need. And also to realize that there is nothing wrong with you if you need help. Being a mum is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done (even harder than every race combined!), it’s no wonder we might need a bit of extra help and support.
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"Things started to decline for me during pregnancy when I was told he was a boy, for some reason I was just expecting to have another girl as we only had girls leading up to him."
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