This week is postnatal depression awareness week. I won’t bang on about stats, suffice to say there’s more women and men who suffer some sort of perinatal (post or antenatal) depression than you would think.
I know I did. It’s eleven years since Mitch was born and while I clearly remember being surprised at how long he was (he was 54cm) and remember this squishy, gooey baby being placed on my stomach, the next few months are a bit of a blur. I didn’t sleep a wink for about 3 or 4 days after he was born because I was so wired and then I didn’t sleep properly for nearly a year. Big deal you may say, what new mother does, but Mitch was a pretty good sleeper and while he’d sleep for 11 hours, I would – Every Single Night for about nine months – wake up during the night and be awake for around two hours. It was a killer. My neck, shoulders and back were in constant pain and the tiredness was numbing. I lost a lot of weight and I couldn’t think straight.
I got by okay but the ever present anxiety was crushing. I’d cry a bit but I never really thought about PND or anything like that. I never sought professional help and didn’t even know PANDA existed. While Anth was an enormous support, I had no family support (those of you who have mums to visit or who come and help you, please be grateful) and only one close friend around (the others were all working). The weekly visits with my old high school buddy Michelle to North Road Pavillion saved my sanity…just.
Slowly but surely the fog lifted and I seemingly recovered and “got on with things”. Then I got pregnant with Dan and the shit hit the fan, big time. I could not stop crying. I had an inability to look after Mitch and I was in all sorts. It was only after a desperate call to a friend who said that I just had to get to the doctor, that I went to my GP. It was a long consult and in the end the difficult decision to go on a low dose of anti-depressants was made. Of course I was extremely reluctant to do this but during the consult my GP rang the Monash Drug Info Line and I was told it was safe to do so. So I did.
I’m sure it’s difficult for some people to understand why I did this, but I was so desperate and no matter what I did to try and feel better, nothing worked. And it was having a very big impact on my mothering of Mitch. He was two at the time so he needed me to be very present and at times I wasn’t – I was barely keeping my head above water.
My memory is hazy about how long it took to feel better but it was probably two or three weeks. Thankfully I didn’t have any side effects and I kept taking the medication until Dan was around a year old. I was slowly weaned off them and have not taken anything since. I always tell people the happiest day of my life was when Dan was born because he was healthy, he was out and I knew I wasn’t having any more children! So the most amazing day of my life was when Mitch was born (seriously, child birth is a fucking miracle) and the best was when Dan was born.
It was really only when Dan was about one that I started researching into why some women cope better than others and it is truly fascinating. It’s too much to write in this blog post but there are very valid reasons why women and men suffer from perinatal depression or anxiety. I’m sharing my story in case it helps someone else.
If you’re a new parent and you’re reading this and you’re not feeling okay, please check out PANDA’s website. It is full of easy to read information on every topic you can think of. There are also some very awesome volunteer and paid counsellors who are on hand to talk to you from Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm AEDST. Call 1300 726 306. Please call. Even if you’re the mum, sister, friend or partner of someone you think needs some assistance, just call. Also, it’s a follow up service so PANDA calls you until you’re either linked in with support services or you feel you don’t need to be called any more.
These days I’m fine. I’ve done a lot of work, research and life changes to get where I am. It’s not perfect, but what is? I’m a volunteer for PANDA’s Homestart scheme where I get to visit a mum once a week. I’ve just finished up with one gorgeous mum who is doing so much better than a few months ago. There IS support out there, don’t be ashamed to seek it. #bePNDaware