**Disclaimer: This is my personal story and journey with postnatal anxiety and depression. I am not looking for advice or opinions regarding my personal journey. I have professional support and a strong friends and family network. **
During pregnancy you do a lot of preparing for baby. You buy furniture, bedding and linen, cute little baby clothes, nappies, a pram and various items to make the home a safe and nurturing place for your new bundle of joy.
I did all these things. I prepared to bring my baby home and love him and nurture him.
What I did not plan for was the possibility of getting postnatal depression and anxiety.
In the days after Remy’s birth I was extremely emotional. And I figured it was normal. All of the hormones, lack of sleep and joy that is the rollercoaster of a newborn. I was like, “yep, it’s just the baby blues.”
BUT – the tears lasted. What I thought was normal anxiety about my baby’s health and wellbeing spiraled into depression. I can vividly remember on a Sunday afternoon being curled up in bed, sobbing inconsolably, while Remy was crying as well, and my partner had to soothe the both of us. Not only was I overly emotional and sleep deprived, but I was also telling myself horrible things.
Things like: “I am rubbish at this”, “I am a terrible mother”, “Remy deserves better than me”.
The scariest thoughts for me were thoughts of just packing up and leaving in the middle of the night or taking Remy to my parents’ and just driving away.
The new role of motherhood was something I never could have prepared for. The loss of independence, putting my professional career on hold, being stuck on the couch breastfeeding, and being covered in spew. I did not have time to eat or go to the toilet some days. I did not feel like myself. In fact, I had completely lost my identity. No-one asked about me anymore. All questions were directed at Remy. How is he sleeping? How is he feeding? Is he gaining weight? Is he happy? I became invisible.
The turning point came when I was at the 6-week Maternal Child Health appointment for Remy. Our MCH Nurse, Karen, asked how I was doing, and I burst into tears. Karen listened to how I was feeling and requested a mental health care plan with my GP. I felt relief and fear simultaneously. I was relieved to know that someone was looking out for me and wanting to help me. And fear because I felt like a failure as a mum.
Once I recognized that I wasn’t coping, I put a few things in place. As well as seeking counselling, I arranged for post-partum support with my doula. I told my sister that I wasn’t doing well and now she checks in with me daily. I arranged with my partner for some “Laura time” on weekends and arranged with my parents for a break during the week. I made the plan to return to work.
I now feel as though the dark cloud of depression is lifting. I am crying less and not having big emotions all the time. I can see the difference between the good days and not so good days. I am being kinder to myself. I am talking to my sister and partner when I am not feeling so good, instead of keeping it to myself. I am getting counselling.
I know I am not “cured” and I still have a long way to go. I am in a much better place now. And I know that if I keep doing what I am doing, reaching out to my support network, I will be able to be the mother that I need to be for my child.
This week is PANDA week, a week dedicated to raising awareness on perinatal mental health. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experience perinatal anxiety and depression. Strong Independent Men and Women Ask for help and accept help. If you are not feeling yourself, and think you need support, speak to your GP, MCH nurse or a trusted friend or family member. This is the first step in feeling better. It’s hard to do, and so important.
PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Sat, 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT) 1300 726 306
Lifeline 24/7 Crisis Support 13 11 14
Beyond Blue Support Service via telephone 24/7 1300 22 4636