Drag & Drop elements for the Sidebar here
I am trying to teach myself that done is better than perfect. I have held onto half finished projects and not finished them because I didn't think I could get them perfect, I have not posted blog ideas because I didn't think I could write it best, and I have not worn clothes because I didn't think it looked perfect.
So I am trying to break up with perfect!
So in order to push past my comfort zone of being in control, having everything perfect and in order, I am going to share my story. My journey so far with Perinatal Depression and Anxiety. It is from the heart and raw, and writing it has stirred up a lot of memories I had buried down and tried to forget about, but in order to heal properly I need to just accept these memories as part of my story.
So here it is. My last 18 months. I hope it helps someone struggling through trying to put their emotions and thoughts into words.
My first son Owen could only be described as easy. He slept easily, fed well and was always happy. I left my corporate job in the city following his birth as my husband and I decided we didn’t want to put him into daycare just so I could commute 3 hours a day to a job I didn’t love. I returned to working at a local pub which was good for the social aspect and a little extra cash to help out.
We decided shortly after his 1st birthday that we were ready to try again and the day before my 30th birthday we learnt I was pregnant. Owen was 14 months old and learnt how to walk alone the day of my birthday. So in 2 short days life changed very quickly!
My early pregnancy was smooth, baby and I were healthy and I didn’t experience any morning sickness. In my 5th month, I began to experience extreme hip & sciatic pain due to my baby being posterior. (Which I wasn’t told until he was born posterior.)
The pain intensified so much I was forced to stop working at the pub as I became less physically able to finish a waitress shift. It kept getting worse to the point where I couldn’t cook dinner, do the washing, bath or even pick up Owen (18 months old).
My husband picked up the slack and not only worked full time but came home to cook, clean and do Owens bedtime so I could rest my body. I borrowed a pick up stick designed to help the elderly to help me put on my underwear & pick up anything from the floor. At 6 months if I dropped something and bent at the hips to pick it up, the nerves in my hips would pinch and I would be physically incapable for the rest of the day.
At the worst stage, I’d struggle through the day, crying periodically, get to bedtime and breakdown crying in pain as I struggled to even make the walk to bed. I didn’t know that Perinatal Depression and Anxiety could begin during pregnancy and that was what I was experiencing. I hated the second half of this pregnancy. I felt I was useless. I felt like a burden on my husband, my family and I felt like a terrible mother for relying on the Wiggles to get us through more days than I can remember. I crocheted every day to help get me through each day. I can't even remember how many things I finished during my last 2 months but I remember smashing out a blanket in a few days!
Ethan’s birth was similar to Owens, quick and free of any complications. My strongest memory was the midwives look of surprise when Ethan was born face up. She asked ‘Didn’t you know he was posterior? It wasn’t noted in your file? Normally the Mums know and those births are much harder!’ I replied with that was hard!!
As soon as Ethan was born the hip pain disappeared. We went home the same day he was born, 6 hours in hospital and we were home for the evening news. I’m happy with that decision, it wasn’t forced on us, but I think to an extent I was in shock still. The day after I gave birth I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. All my muscles hurt and I don’t remember feeling that with my first birth. Shock I guess from the speed of it!
Because I’d been so restricted and had sat down for the last 4 months, my first thought was, right now I can make up for all this lost time and I can make my own coffee, and carry the basket of washing, so I’m going to, sleep deprivation and newborn be damned.
This only brought the anxiety on stronger. I had this huge list of things I wanted to do but Ethan wasn’t the easiest baby to settle or feed and I began to become intolerant of when he wouldn’t settle and give me time to do it all!
I lost my confidence and struggled to make even the simplest decisions like tea or coffee! When people came to visit and Ethan started to get fussy they would look to me and ask ‘What is he due for?’ I hated this. It made me feel incompetent because I never knew. I would try and feed him in front of people only for him to scream the whole time, or fight sleeping. I felt people would judge me for not knowing what my baby wanted.
I knew something was wrong when we were on a family holiday in Merimbula when Ethan was 4 weeks old. I felt like I was missing all the fun coz all I was doing was waking up all night, feeding Ethan, sitting with Ethan, and trying to sleep. In reality that’s all I needed to be doing, but at the time I felt like I should be swimming with my older son, going for walks and sightseeing!
I started crying one morning because I said we have to go out and do something fun. And when I got something in my head, I had to make it happen. When Ethan wouldn’t settle so I couldn’t shower and Owen threw a tantrum, I just cracked. I didn’t know how to explain why I was crying, it was just happening. My husband had no clue what to do and neither did I.
When we got home and things didn’t improve, I talked to my maternal health nurse, who sent me to my GP for some help. I got a referral to the Raphael Centre in Berwick, but had an 8 week wait to see the psychiatrist who would determine if I needed medication or not. Knowing I had an appointment to look forward to helped, but it was such a long wait, I felt like I was getting worse each week.
One of my hardest days was when a mother’s group friend came to visit with her little girl and the toddlers played while I sorted Ethan out and caught up with my friend. Ethan fed, then when trying to settle him, he kicked up a storm and refused to sleep. My friend took him and with angelic patience, walked around the house humming a Dutch song to him until he fell asleep. In that moment I felt like a failure as a mother. I knew she was only there to help me, but I so hated that he slept for her and not me. I thought he hated me and had no idea what I was going to do the next time he woke up or the next day and so on.
I began counselling which definitely helped. At my worst I remember days of feeling totally isolated. I talked myself out of calling PANDA about 5 times, mainly because I was crying too much and thought I’d sound like an idiot on the phone. I talked myself out of calling family or friends. Even my Mum. I told myself everyone else had their own things going on and didn’t need me adding to their problems.
But any time I actually got the courage, people would surprise me and were so supportive. It always felt better after I did talk about what I was going through.
Losing my professional identity when I had kids impacted me stronger than I ever expected. I never had a huge career drive, I worked because I had to. I didn’t have a passion at that stage, I always wanted kids, 4 to be exact, so I never expected loosing that part of my life would have an impact, but it did, more so than I expected.
I am still on my recovery journey, and still have some bad days, but they are much less frequent than they used to be. I feel myself getting stronger against that doubting voice, that judging voice and that unconfident ghost I became in the early days. The rational side of me is much stronger and can talk me through the anxiety most of the time.
People keep telling me Ethan is such a happy baby and while I agree now, I don’t remember feeling that when he was younger. I remember crying & tantrums and more crying. I am glad I’m starting to see that properly and hope that I can help other people by sharing my experiences.
I want to tell other Mums and Dads to talk about it. It’s the hardest feeling to put into words, but once you start to, the healing can start. Talk to each other every day, it is so easy to burrow down and just survive in the trenches of early newborn days. Take time to check in with each other and see how you are both feeling and coping. Share the load. It takes a village to raise kids, so find your village.
Talk to your family, your friends, and most importantly talk to PANDA and your doctor. There is help there waiting for you, it’s not something you just have to bear as a parent. All you have to do is put yourself and your well being first and just talk about it.