My name is Emily. I am a 34 year old mother of two beautiful children, now aged five and six. I am sharing my own personal experience with perinatal anxiety and depression, in the hope of raising awareness and encouraging other mums and dads to seek support if needed, and also to give hope to those in the midst of anxiety and/or depression. The struggle is real, and so too is the possible light at the end of the tunnel.
Prior to having children, I was a primary school teacher and previously a nanny, during my uni days. I loved working with children, and having children of my own was always a vision I was excited about and looked forward to. But when I became a mum, I felt like I was out of control and had no sense of routine. I had high expectations of myself as a mother, due to my teaching background. How could I teach a class of 30 children, but feel unsure of what routine to have for my own child? I had a caesarean birth and developed an infection in my uterus 10 days later. I found breastfeeding incredibly difficult, but felt obligated, from the midwives I was seeing at my weekly baby weigh ins, to 'struggle on' for the 'wellbeing of my baby'.
My main struggle was with other people's open opinions and criticisms of what was best for my baby, which gave me no confidence in my own judgements and capabilities as a mother: breastfeed or bottlefeed, demand feed or feed at set times, a hungry cry or a tired cry, teething rash or viral rash. I remember thinking, 'I've never kept a fish or a herb garden alive, so what if I wasn't capable of caring for my own baby?' When my baby was 7 months old, I went to see my doctor. She suggested I look into taking medication, as a form of support for the anxiety I was feeling. I felt like taking the medication route indicated I was a failure as a mother. The next day I had a visit from our family priest. It was the first time I had an open and honest conversation with someone about how I had been feeling. He offered me the following wisdom; 'if you had a heart condition, diabetes or a thyroid condition, you would take medication as a form of support. Support can come in all forms; counselling, prayer, diet, or, in this case, medication. So if that is the form of support you need right now for your own wellbeing, then that's what you need to do, because a mother has to take care of herself first, in order to take care of her family.' I felt an instant feeling of clarity.
I continued on the medication during and after my second pregnancy, as I didn't want to experience the same again. I had a rough pregnancy and was hospitalised from 32 weeks when my membranes ruptured. I had traumatic caesarean birth, and afterward my baby was on a CPAP machine in a humidicrib to assist him in breathing. I was unable to breastfeed successfully, as my baby had a tongue tie. He also had terrible reflux and would bring up what looked like whole bottles of formula. He wasn't a cuddly baby, as he was always stiff and crying in pain.
When he was 12 weeks old, my husband started FIFO work. So, here I was, with a 20 month old and a 12 week old reflux baby, who screamed all day and night, and hardly slept. At 20 weeks, my dear friend (who was a midwife) came with me to the paediatrician to request reflux medication, as during my previous visit I was told, 'all babies have reflux, try keeping him in an upright position'. The change was instant. My baby was drinking whole bottles, thriving, and sleeping, and I was finally sleeping too.
Looking back, this time in my life was vivid and blurry, all at once. Day was night and night was day. I was so lucky to have support from my parents, who would come over daily to help with washing, bathing, feeding, preparing meals and rocking children to sleep. I'm glad I had the inclination to talk openly to my doctor and family priest about how I was really feeling. I have no regrets about taking medication, and I know it was the right support for me to enable me to be the best mother I could be. I am proud that I am able to share my story with other mums and dads with perinatal anxiety and depression, in the hope of inspiring them to have a conversation with someone they trust and to seek the support they need.
My experience has taken me on a personal journey to help others experiencing the same. I am proud to be part of PANDA's Community Champions volunteer program. Now that things are back on track for me I’ve recently changed direction with my career by starting my own business. I’m really excited about it and hope to inspire and empower people in their daily living.
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"My main struggle was with other peoples open opinions and criticisms of what was best for my baby, which gave me no confidence in my own judgements and capabilities as a mother."
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