I thought that I was quite well prepared for the risks and concerns associated with being pregnant. My sister had sadly lost her beautiful baby boy at 11 days old, so when I became pregnant I was aware that sometimes things can go wrong and felt very blessed that my pregnancy was going well, apart from the usual morning sickness, that often would see me vomiting in the gutter outside work – eww!
My beautiful baby girl came along after a normal labour – when I think back I actually think that it was one of my easiest births, because I didn’t have anything to gauge it by – sure it hurt but it wasn’t unbearable, and I was so happy to see my baby for the first time.
I started feeling a little overwhelmed not long after the birth. I had experienced a depressive episode previously, after the death of my beloved Grandmother and “knew” something just wasn’t right. I expressed my concern to my husband and my mother in law but was met with the calm attitude of “it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed and sad – you will be fine”. Whilst I was still in hospital I was having trouble breastfeeding and just couldn’t get my baby to latch on. Those difficulties continued at home. So a few days after I got home, I went to see the doctor and with the support and guidance of my mother in law I asked if I could bottle feed my baby, and started doing so. Thinking 'when I start to bottle feed her, I will feel better'.
But I didn’t feel better. I felt foggy in my head, I felt nothing, I felt maybe if I could just cry I would feel better? I started to worry that I was going to hurt my beautiful baby, and started to worry that I was going to hurt myself. I couldn’t stand being by myself – I was so worried and unsure of what I would do, I was lucky that I had the support of my mother and father in law, who would drive an hour and a half each way every day just to be there during the day whilst my husband worked long hours. But still I felt lost.There were so many feelings and thoughts spinning around in my head – I just couldn’t seem to actually enjoy my baby. If I wasn’t panicking about harming myself or my baby, I was feeling nothing.
I was still insisting that I just didn’t feel quite right, and after a few visits back and forward to the doctor, the decision was made that I needed to see my Psychiatrist, a beautiful lady, who I will always be thankful to, and I was put onto anti-depressants to help me through this hard time. It wasn’t an instant fix, but I feel that the anti-depressants, along with intense counselling and walking miles and miles with my father in law helped me slowly start to feel like I was returning to a normal(ish) state. During that time there was a few bumps – I would start to feel better, then I would panic or worry. At some stage during that recovery, I picked up a pamphlet from either the doctor’s surgery or the maternal and child health nurse, relating to PANDA – this did help to explain what was happening, however, when I showed my husband the literature, he felt that it would make me feel “worse” and I shouldn’t read it.
I kept that pamphlet and I would read it over and over, I phoned the number one day and spoke to someone and felt that they “got” me and could understand what I was saying, but then, when I felt worse again a few days later, I wondered if my husband was right and this reading of information etc. was making me feel worse.
In hindsight (which is such a wonderful thing) I would say that PANDA leaflet was a lifeline for me – to realise that Postnatal Depression does happen, I just wish I had have pursued more information at the time.
This story was to be repeated three more times in varying degrees with my next three pregnancies.
I look back now and honestly wonder how I did it, and how I went back and had more babies.
My second and third postnatal periods were not as bad as the first, nor as bad as the fourth, which, perhaps because it was more recent, stands out in my mind.
It was awful, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t rest, and once again I “knew” something was wrong, and I “knew” that I needed support and medication to help me through.
The turning point of this episode saw me leaving home, just driving and driving to nowhere in particular. I did hurt myself this time, I won’t go into detail but it was bad. I did it not with the hope of actually killing myself but with the hope that someone would hear me, that I needed help! Help this time came from my sister in law and the Critical Assessment and Treatment Team from the local public hospital, whom helped guide me through this time, and towards support and help from my GP, who helped me work out a mental health plan.
This all happened quite a while ago now, with my youngest now 16 years old. And I could not imagine life without my children, I absolutely think the world of them but I must admit I do like them a little bit more now that they are older than when they were babies. I wish that I could have enjoyed them more as babies but it is what it is, and they are amazing. They are caring and unique humans who I am so very proud of.
My journey to this point has been with the guidance and support of some pretty wonderful people. I feel that it is so important for new parents to be aware that sometimes, life isn’t quite as rosy as the picture book ideal, and that sometimes we all need to ask for help and support along the way. There is no shame in asking for that help.
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"I feel that it is so important for new parents to be aware that sometimes, life isn’t quite as rosy as the picture book ideal, and that sometimes we all need to ask for help and support along the way."
PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline
1300 726 306 9am – 7.30pm Mon – Fri (AEST/AEDT)
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