My second son (R) was born in February 2013 – by paramedics on my laundry floor! Thankfully, after that very unplanned welcome to the world, he was a healthy, happy baby. But very loud from day one. And a big eater. I was breastfeeding and determined to do a ‘better job’ than with my first son – where I had supply issues. We knew we were going to stop with two children, and a lot of my comments to family and friends when they first met R, were things like “definitely not having any more kids”, or “he’s hard work”. I was on six months’ maternity leave from a project management role, and my husband was working full-time (with flexible/family-friendly hours).
My eldest son (J) was about 3 ½ when R was born, and home with me three days a week. He watched more ABC Kids and DVDs in those first few months of 2013 than he had in his first three years. “Can I watch another DVD, Mum?” “Yes”. On the days I had both boys at home, I struggled to keep up with everything that (I thought) I needed to get done. I remember one glorious day where they both slept at the same time, for maybe 30 minutes. Such blissful quiet. But it was only once. Inevitably, I would get frustrated and upset or angry with one or both boys. On the days with just R at home, I usually spent more time trying to get him to have a sleep, than he slept. Or I would expect him to have some playtime on his own while I did some cooking. But of course, he was still so little and wanted to be with me all the time. My anger and frustration was growing, and I was feeling pretty useless most days. I fixated on why people asked if he’s a good baby – I’m not going to say he’s a bad baby. Surely that would make me a bad mother? It’s just a crap question to ask.
My husband did his best to help, and told me to stop trying to do so much, give myself a break, get my Mum or friends around – but I wasn’t listening. My brother texted one night to ask how things were going, and I realised that if I answered honestly, I would have to tell him that I was angry and swearing every day. I called the Beyond Blue helpline that night, and had an okay conversation with a counsellor. I spoke to my husband about not wanting to feel like this anymore. But everything I read about post natal depression related to first time mums, not second. My thoughts were that I shouldn’t be feeling like this, especially when I had a very supportive family.
A few days later as I was screaming at R “I don’t know what you want!”, I left him safely in his pram inside, while I went outside and googled “post natal depression”. PANDA came up, and I called straight away. The feeling was of immediate relief and reassurance. The counsellor on that call (and every subsequent call) was amazing. The offer to call me back the next day was such a massive help too. Took the pressure off me from having another thing to do.
I saw my GP, made an appointment with a psychologist, and started on medication. It definitely helped to see the psychologist and classify my illness as depression, but I think the advice from PANDA that was specifically related to perinatal depression was more effective for me.
Over the course of my recovery, I realised a few things:
- Even though I loved him dearly, so much of my language about R was negative. Little things like calling him “passionate” and “determined” rather than “hard work” did help.
- With my first son, I joined a Mother’s Group and had regular visits to the Child Health clinic. I did neither of these things with R, and lost a pretty important support network.
- The best thing to do is accept help when it’s offered, or to seek it out from the right people.
- I had to have time on my own.
I still have days where I’m angry and frustrated and upset. But it’s over quickly. I know when I’m in need of a night out or day away. And I know that seeing my boys’ smiling faces when I get back is the best thing in the world.
This is a poem I wrote on Mothers’ Day 2014.
From one mother to another
Don’t you wish we could discover
A way to duplicate or clone,
That would give us all some time alone
To stop Breathe deep
And dream of sleep.
Send a duplicate to clean
A clone to deal with washing things
Let work invade another’s thoughts
Lists, to-dos, delegate the lot
And then I could catch every giggle
Hug and kiss and silly wiggle
Time with everyone I love
Not just talk of catching up.
Today I hold my children close
And send my love to the ones I lost
A clone can deal with any stress
While I reflect
To my amazing Mum
And her Mum too,
You inspire me with all you do
Time with you and my beautiful boys
Well that’s the stuff I’ll keep. Easy choice.