baby

"My daughter was five months old when I found myself staring at her and screaming."

Warning: This post deals with postnatal depression and might be triggering for some readers.

I had a miscarriage about six weeks before I fell pregnant with my daughter Aria. Looking back, I realise now that deep sense of loss I felt was something I took into her pregnancy. I was still grieving that loss and it made me very anxious all through the pregnancy that something bad would happen with Aria – like I’d lost that one, I’m now going to lose this one.

The crazy thing is, I’m a midwife. I support mums all the time through pregnancy and birth. But I didn’t recognise that my mental health was suffering. Working in the field didn’t make it any easier to spot mental health issues in myself! None of the other health professionals I came into contact with during my pregnancy picked up on any issues either, even though I now know it was really quite severe.

After the birth I was OK until Aria was about five months old. She hadn’t been an easy baby, and I’d taken her to a few different paediatricians to have her checked. I actually went to about four different paediatricians and it wasn’t until I went to the fourth one that he stopped me and said, ‘do you think it might be you who is unwell?’

Watch: The facts on postnatal depression. Post continues after video.

I left that appointment really offended, thinking ‘how dare you, I’m a great mum’! But two days later, it happened. Aria had been screaming all day, nothing I was doing was helping. She was lying on the carpet inside and I was pacing up and down in the backyard thinking ‘oh my god, this child is killing me, I’m a sh*tty mum, I can’t even settle my own baby’. I was absolutely beside myself. I went back in and she was still screaming, and I found myself standing above her and just screaming at her to shut up. And at that moment I suddenly realised that something was very wrong. I told myself no, I need to put her in her cot and I need to get out of this house.

As I picked her up to do that I had this overwhelming urge to shake the daylights out of her – and to this day I still have no idea how I managed to get her into her cot without hurting her. But I did. I put her in her cot, closed the door, walked out of the house, locked it, then called my mother. I said ‘Come and get her, I’ll be dead before you get here’.

Looking back, I know now that my outburst and my despair was the culmination of a number of things that had been building up. Aria had barely slept for months and I’d be lucky to get an hour’s sleep at a time. I’d been to a sleep school (Tresillian) three times but it hadn’t really helped.

To make things worse, I’d reached out to this mother’s group which was actually very unsupportive and judgemental and they really minimised any difficulties I told them about. All I needed was for them to say oh, that sucks, but they didn’t. I felt like something was wrong with my baby and something was wrong with me. I felt isolated and alone. I thought I’d have all these mummy friends and we’d all take our babies to the park and have a great time, and when that fell through, that hit harder than I expected as well.

ADVERTISEMENT

So by the time I lost it at Aria and called my mum I was completely exhausted and overwhelmed. Thankfully Mum only lives about ten minutes down the road. She stayed on the phone while she hightailed it to my place, and she found me sitting in the backyard crying. She called my partner to come home, and she called Tresillian again and asked them what we should do. They said to go back to them, so after an awful night of feeling guilty and lost, I went in the next day and stayed there for ten days waiting to get into St John of God’s Mother Baby Unit (MBU), where I stayed for five weeks.

postnatal
"Looking back, I know now that my outburst and my despair was the culmination of a number of things that had been building up." Image supplied.

During those five weeks I gradually improved with rest, medication, and counselling. I also had great support weaning Aria off breastfeeding and moving her on to the bottle. That last bit was much harder than I expected. First of all, they wouldn’t let me near her during the two days she was being weaned and hearing my baby distressed was terrible. In addition to that, it really made me feel lost and sad because I had wanted to breastfeed. Being a midwife, I had planned to breastfeed for at least 12 months. Not being able to really hurt.

I had this vision in my head of parenting as being full of rainbows, and that I was going have this amazing baby to show off, but when the reality hit that things were very different that triggered feelings of loss as well, like I’d lost the dream. I was thinking, this wasn’t the kind of parenting I’d expected or wanted it to be.

By the time I left the MBU I felt a hundred times better than I had felt five weeks earlier going in. Then after I got home, I just gradually continued to improve. Now that Aria is 19 months old I have my bad days and my good days, as she develops and goes through different stages herself, and I still have moments where I wonder what the hell I’m doing. I’m still taking my medication, I’m still seeing my psychologist, and I’m in contact with some other support services which are really helpful. On top of that, I’m volunteering as a PANDA Community Champion to help other mums out there who are struggling to know they’re not alone.

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, contact PANDA – Post and Antenatal Depression Association. You can find their website here or call their helpline – 1300 726 306.

This week, from 10 – 16 November, is Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week. You can find out more here.

00:00 / ???