Postnatal Depression: My devastating midwife experience…

truth

Me:  (almost in tears) “Um, what did you just put down the sink?”

Horrible Midwife:  (haughtily) “Got rid of the left over milk from the feed, why?”

Me:  (crying uncontrollably) “That was the colostrum I just expressed for his next feed.”

Horrible Midwife:   “Oh.”  (and abruptly leaves the SCN)

It was 3 days after the birth of our LM and we were not in a good way.  That morning, our gorgeous baby boy had been diagnosed with severe jaundice as a result of the bruising and hematoma he experienced during birth and now required phototherapy for a minimum of 24 hours in the Special Care Nursery (SCN).  After that time, more blood tests would be done to determine if his TcB level (the level of bilirubens in his blood) was low enough for him to be discharged with me.  I was a wreck!  Whilst I could hold him every 3 hours to feed (expressed bottles of colostrum, then top-ups of formula, as he was too weak to breastfeed), he was otherwise left in the phototherapy crib with a little blindfold over his eyes and all I could do was watch him or sit alone in my room.   I was suffering the normal “baby blues” hormonal impact and could rationalise everything that was happening in my mind, however it didn’t stop the tears or the intense guilt I was experiencing with regard to his condition.  I wasn’t coping, I knew that… but this woman… I just could NOT believe she was doing this to me again!

Perhaps let me start at the very beginning…

It was not a good birth.  Indeed, I will go as far as to say it was a horrible, very traumatic birth.  People ask me “Was it a natural delivery?” and my response is usually, “Well… it was a vaginal delivery, but not what I’d particularly call natural”.    It was a truly challenging and intense 72 hours of pre-labour and labour that I most definitely could have done without.   The end result, of course, was our gorgeous little boy, but honestly… the getting there was something I would never want to repeat in my lifetime – not physically or emotionally.  And the whole experience was made even worse by one particular midwife I was unfortunate enough to have “care” for me from the mid-morning shift (I was admitted to hospital at 8am) until 11pm, half an hour before my LM’s birth.  I will be eternally grateful I did NOT have that woman present at the actual birth of my baby.   The lovely midwife who replaced her literally at the 11th hour will go down forever as the one saving grace in this terrible story, and I am so incredibly thankful every day for her gentleness, support, and empathy.  She was everything I had hoped all midwives would be, however the scars had already been administered and they were deep… so deep they continued to hurt me right up until the birth of my little girl a year ago.

It’s been 3 and a half years since I came face-to-face with THAT woman, yet I still remember her name, her face, her accent, the colour of her hair, the indifference in her eyes, the tone of her voice.  I remember EVERY single thing about her.  After the LM’s birth, I did my best to move on from the worst of my feelings, but when I fell pregnant again I started having recurring nightmares sparked from my previous experience.  In my dreams I was screaming at Dr B, yelling at him to “get her away from me”, “don’t let her near me”, “get her hands off my baby”!  My anxiety was real.  My intense fear was real.  The feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, and helplessness were REAL.   I would wake with a heaving chest, breathless, and crying.  It soon became apparent I had not moved passed these feelings at all.  Just before I was diagnosed with PND (when LM was 8 months old), I had attended a counselling session and we had discussed my birthing experience in great detail.  I had never cried so much in my life.  Whilst sharing my thoughts with Mrs D at the time was a huge relief, my feelings had remained unresolved.  Hidden from view, I simply hoped they would slowly fade over time… Clearly, they had not.

In hindsight, I honestly don’t think my expectations around the quality of midwifery care I would receive were unreasonable.  The majority of what we see and hear from family and friends about their personal care during birth  is warm, kind, giving, and supportive.  Indeed, our private hospitals and specialists pride themselves on the quality of their midwifery care.  And really, whilst I had “ideas” around what I would “like” for my birth experience, I certainly was not inflexible to the advice of midwives and specialists.  I ask questions.  I do.  I like to know what my options are and be informed before making a decision.  So was it unreasonable to expect this woman to speak gently, inform me of my options, and generally treat me with compassion and understanding?  Surely not.  I had been having contractions for over 24 hours, and with no sleep was downright exhausted.  Perhaps I could understand if her attitude progressively worsened with her shift as she became tired and run-down due to the over-burden of care required of midwives these days.  But she walked into her shift with me that morning projecting a coldness I had never before experienced.  To have to endure 10 hours of such blatant indifference and patronsing behaviour left me feeling beyond powerless.  In my time of need, I had been let down by the very person I had hoped would simply hold my hand, put my fears at bay, and provide me the strength and information I would need to get me through until the end.  It was instead a nightmare.   I could go into so many examples of her behaviour that day, but instead I think I’ll leave it with the one I began with at the start…

So there we were, my HF and I, sitting in the SCN nursery doing what we had to do to ensure the health of our baby and in the awful midwife from my labour walks.  Straight away, as the regular SCN nurse left to take her break, she began telling me how it was my own expectations that had let me down as “they were way too high”… Of myself, my birth, my general experience.  And all the while she was nursing our LM instead of placing him in the arms of my HF as the regular nurse would have done.  That’s right.  That’s what she said whilst refusing to let my HF feed our tiny boy (which he would do whilst I sat and expressed for the next feed) because “this is the only chance I get to cuddle babies on my break”.  That’s what she said as she ignored the advice from the SCN nurse as to which teat our LM was to use on his bottle (“Oh, don’t be stupid, he’ll be fine.  He’ll take this from me.”).  And again it was this arrogant, condescending tone of voice that was ringing in my ears as she threw the 30mls of colostrum I had just pain-stakingly spent half an hour expressing down the sink.  By accident, of course.  You see, she had been so busy patronising my perceived high expectations, she hadn’t realised it was my colostrum (not left-over milk) she was throwing away.

She did apologise as I sat sobbing hysterically, trying to deal with the reality of my baby being in the SCN,  hormonal “baby blues”, the pain in my breasts from pumping, in addition to her abhorrent treatment.  But in hindsight, even her apology left me cold.  After she had walked out of the SCN upon realising her mistake, I remember my HF holding me in his arms shaking with anger as the regular SCN nurse came back into the nursery to comfort me, saying how awful the other midwife felt and how sometimes these things “just happen”.  Then SHE reappeared.  That horrible woman walked back into the nursery, came over to where we were sitting and awkwardly tapped me on the shoulder in what I can only assume was an attempt at comfort.  But it was the haughtily addressed “I’m sorry.. but you know it’s not the end of the world if he has to be formula fed” that finally broke me.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I couldn’t lift my head to even look at her.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I was done.  And with that she simply walked away and I didn’t see her again.  It was a moment in time both my HF and I will never forget… for all the wrong reasons.

Her behaviour was atrocious.  Her actions were unfathomable.  Her overall impact on my birth experience was devastating.  And I hope to goodness no other mother EVER has to experience such helplessness and powerlessness at the hands of such an awful person.  Maybe she was just having a bad day.  Maybe she had her own things going on that I didn’t know about.  Maybe… maybe… maybe!  I have tried so hard to be understanding of her behaviour, but nothing seems to justify nor will ever take away how she made me feel.  I know they say we choose how we feel about any given situation, but giving birth is such a vulnerable experience.  It doesn’t matter your personality, your age, your profession.  You are at your most vulnerable!  And that is the power of midwifery care… a power I know the majority of midwives would use only for the absolute good of their patients, not to their detriment.  Unfortunately,  I was one of the unlucky ones that time around.

I can say though without any hesitation that Dr B ensured my second birthing experience was the best it could possibly be… and the quality of midwifery care I received was amazingly warm and still makes me smile when I think back to my time in hospital with MH.  A very stark contrast, and one for which I will be forever thankful!   It’s incredible how healing a good experience can be on the back of something so traumatic and unexpected.  It’s been a huge relief to finally get this experience all down in writing!  I am always surprised at how much “feeling” I still have with regard to this issue and want to thank-you for allowing me to feel safe enough to share it with you here.

Thanks for reading as always and really hope everyone is doing well.

TSM… xx

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Helpful Steps: “Moving from second best, to THE best… in your own mind!”

You! Yes you!

I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling second best – be it with regard to family, friends, relationships.  Always second best.  The irony of feeling this way (of course) is the more you feel second best, the more others perceive you in that light – the age old “self fulfilling prophecy” in action!   It’s amazing how this happens… And more amazingly still, how often it happens and for how long people can be consumed by this vicious cycle of self-doubt.

So over time, starting during my late-20’s, I began to realise I deserved a heck of a lot more respect and appreciation for simply “being me” – a HECK of a LOT more!    And so began the process of changing how I felt about myself.   Not an easy task by any stretch because (as we all know) how other’s feel about us is something not exactly within our control, nor anything we can change.  And I focused on other’s and what they thought WAY too much.   When the people who are treating you like a second-class citizen are those you deem closest to you, your partner, family, and/or friends, it becomes almost impossible to face the reality of distancing yourself from them.  But you have to.  It really is the only way to determine who you really are – your values, morals, likes, dislikes, etc.   At that time in my life I simply didn’t know which way was up, or which way was down.   What I had come to realise though, with the help of a toxic relationship and negative family and friend relationships, was that I had NO idea who I was as a person, nor did I respect myself at all.   What were my beliefs?  What did I want out of life?  What did I value about myself and what were my weaknesses?  What were my true strengths?  When had compromising my own values and self-respect become okay?  Why did I allow myself to be the “door mat” for others and their dirty feet?  Answers to these types of questions are a tough, tough thing to achieve and whilst I don’t believe for a second I have every answer to every question, I do know I see life very differently to the person I was back then.  And that, I can assure you, is a VERY good thing.

The starting point for me was a particular moment when I was getting ready for work… probably about 10 years ago.  I was fighting with my very toxic boyfriend as usual, and I looked up to the mirror to apply my make-up and simply burst into tears.  I honestly could NOT look at myself in the mirror.  I had become so disgusted and ashamed of myself and of what I had allowed my life to become, that in that moment I was completely stripped bare… helpless.   Feeling shattered, I remember sinking to the floor and just holding myself.   Alone in my unit, I was willing myself to get up, be strong, and face the day like I normally would.  But I just couldn’t.   It was an incredibly difficult realisation, and to this day I am still brought to tears when I think about my broken self in that mirror.  It was terrifying, but obviously the right time for me to start thinking about making some very serious life changes.

Needless to say, within a couple of weeks my 4 year, extremely volatile, emotionally-draining relationship had ended.  Of course I was an absolute mess on the outside, having never been alone and without a boyfriend my entire adult life, but something deeper was driving me to persevere this time – just get through this short term pain for the long term gain.  Corny, but true.  I just knew I deserved better than the life I was choosing to live.   Whilst it was a hard road to navigate, and many mistakes were still made along the way, it became my sole purpose – an absolute necessity –  to become comfortable in my own skin.  Because I wasn’t, and probably never had been.   Some other things also helped me at that time to find the strength I needed to re-define my life boundaries… one was an article by Dr Brenda Shoshanna, “Building Bridges” (which I’ve shared previously), and another was a blog created by Marc and Angel Chernoff called “Marc and Angel Hack Life“.  M & A’s very simple blog philosophy and overall goal is to ” help YOU think better, feel better, and live better”.  And for the way I was feeling back then (and still to this day), that seemed like a great philosophy to have in life.

It’s an everyday undertaking, being the “you” you genuinely want to be… but one I’m definitely committed to achieving.  I am more comfortable in my skin now than I’ve ever been in my life, and that’s saying something given the experiences I’ve had over the past couple of years.  What I find the most difficult though, is the insistence of some people around me to live in the past and not move with me into the “now” and beyond.  It’s almost as though they are more comfortable with the “old me” and my faults, than accepting the work I’ve done to better myself and my relationships.  Why is this the case?   Why would those closest to you want to detract from your personal progress rather than support you on your journey to a better self?  What I do know is that this issue is not mine to solve.  The way people choose to perceive you, their reluctance to grow with you and let you explore and better yourself, is not your problem to take on.  When other’s don’t share in your progress in a positive way, continually trying to drag you back to a place they feel more comfortable with (whatever their personal reasons may be), it brings a negative energy into your life you can honestly live without.  Hence, distancing yourself from the negative energy and replacing it with positive is a very good decision – albeit a very difficult one – to make.  A post by Marc and Angel entitled “10 things you must give up to move forward” resonates with me completely with regard to how I wish to move forward with my life (and another, “11 ways to become the person you love“).  Such posts have also helped me maintain my focus on what’s truly important during difficult times… Because, let’s face it, those difficult times are going to keep coming around!

Another great article to read is one discussing “Your Everybody Committee” and the damaging effect having the wrong “committee members” can have on your life.  It’s in these little pearls of written wisdom I often find the support and encouragement to keep on keeping on with my desire to live my life for me, and not for others.  Silencing your inner critic may never be completely possible, but acknowledging they are there is absolutely 80% of the battle won!  It’s finding the tools to silence your critic, or to listen with empathy, that make all the difference.  For example, one of the many little sayings I often like to use when my inner critic starts getting vocal is simply:   “This is NOT my problem”.  Because more often than not, the negativity coming your way from those around you (particularly in reaction to positive steps you’ve taken in your life) is motivated from their own internal struggles and agendas… It really has nothing to do with you at all.

So thank-you, as always, for sharing this little self-reflective post with me today, it is such a relief to put some of these thoughts into words and occasionally clear my mind!  Things are going well for myself and my little family right now, and sharing my steps to achieving a happier life is something I’m hoping will prove helpful to you too.  I look forward to posting again soon.

Take care,

TSM… xx

Postnatal Depression: Back up and running after Baby Number Two!

Hello… My goodness… Hello… Is anybody out there?   I’m so, so sorry for the 5 month gap between posts.  God!  Anyone would think I’ve had another baby or something!!!  🙂  Actually, to be perfectly honest, I’ve been wanting to blog again for quite some time but something else has always gotten in the way (namely a certain 2 and a half year old).  But not today!  Thanks to Emma’s recent comment on my last post in September (Postnatal Depression:  10 days to go… How am I feeling?), I finally have the energy to get back up and running.  So thank-you, Emma!  Without your comment I would probably have put off writing this post for another 5 months… Seriously.

“So, what have you been up to for the past 5 months?”  I casually hear you ask.  Well, where to begin.  I wish I could say I’ve been partaking in a little of this…

hammock

… but instead, my reality has probably been a little more like this…

crying mum

Actually, no… If I’m completely honest, the above probably happens only (ONLY!) once every 3 or 4 days.  I mean, what can I expect with a 2 and a half (nearly 3) year old throwing the normal developmental tantrums on top of all the feelings that come with a new baby in the house.  So yes, the losing my mind part happens probably twice a week on average, and the rest of the time I pull off the look of someone surviving parenthood for the second time around with postnatal depression.  Adequately surviving.  Surviving as all mums of a new babe and a toddler would survive… You just knuckle down and get on with it.  So, as much as I wish I could say I look like this…

shopping posh

… my reality is a much more frazzled appearance!  I feel my days are made up by my feeling about 60% comfortable with motherhood, 20% fun and games, 10% wanting to be back at work, and 10% still dealing with my PND meltdowns.  It’s certainly been an interesting time, but one I would  not exchange for anything in the world!

We had our little girl on the 16th September last year, and my depression and anxiety was (and has been since) very manageable.  My pregnancy with Miss H (MH) went very smoothly and was really very similar to that of mine with our LM (if you were to take away the massive highs and lows of mood I experienced throughout his pregnancy).  I was truly terrified of what would happen after MH’s birth, but again with lots of open communication, good management by Dr B (my OB) and Dr J (my GP), all combined with continuing to take my medication. things have been going very smoothly.  I’ve found motherhood this time around to be a very pleasurable experience.  This is a result of two things: 1) I’ve done the “first-time-mum” thing before (it really is sooooooo much less anxiety provoking the second time around!); and 2) I am much more aware of my depression, its triggers, and both mine and my HF’s ability to manage the meltdowns when they do occur.  Although I’m happy to say my meltdowns occur much less often than they used to, they inevitably still occur.  What I’ve found is they rear their ugly head usually when a combination of challenging things happen all at once and one of those things is ALWAYS my forgetting to have taken my medication.  I can assure you my forgetting  doesn’t regularly happen, but when it does I know there will be consequences with anything from flat/emotional mood to full-on, irrational, bitter, hateful meltdowns (it really does depend what else is going on at the time).

It’s a confronting thing for me knowing that my experience with motherhood relies so strongly at the moment on medication, I really do wish it could be different.  But at the same time I think how incredibly lucky I am to have found one that works so well for me.  I honestly wasn’t at all open to medication in the beginning, but know if I hadn’t combined my therapy, general lifestyle changes, and doctors visits with medication I would be in a far worse off state than I am now.   I’ve also found that a good diet (really?) and exercise (no!) are integral to keeping my depression on an even keel.  My HF and I have made extra effort this year to eat well, and whilst our exercising isn’t where it perhaps should be, we are determined to get our plan into action.  Wish us luck on that one!

So, whilst there have certainly been the usual challenging times with a new born and toddler to juggle, I have felt this second-time experience for me has been a true blessing.  It has shown me what it feels like to enjoy both pregnancy and motherhood with a baby with a clear mind and ability to rationalise (and not sweat on) the little things – it has made such an incredible difference!  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard… VERY hard!  But isn’t parenting hard anyway?  I definitely think so.  What I’ve discovered though is there is definitely a bigger picture at play  for us, as there was a precious little girl waiting to show us what a complete family feels like… And that is now what we have, all of us together.

Thanks so much for your continued support (for anyone left who feels compelled to read this after so long) and I’m very much hoping my blogging journey will now continue on a much more regular basis.

Take care,

TSM xx

Postnatal Depression: “10 days to go… How am I feeling?”

pmschocolate-640x470

Does this quote give you the general idea?  Is this ridiculous chocolate craving because I’m having a girl do you think?  I never had these types of cravings with the LM, with him it was all about Cornflakes with Two Fruits and milk… This chocolate thing is crazy, and so much unhealthier!  If I wasn’t actually giving birth in 10 days time I would seriously consider organising an intervention for myself… Seriously, I would.   The worst culprits:  Boost Bars, M&M’s, Tim Tams, and… oh, let’s face it!  ANYTHING CHOCOLATE!  Oh, and caramel… Did I mention caramel?  Caramel slice, Russian caramel, fudge… and the list goes on!

🙂

Whilst these cravings have been evident throughout this pregnancy, they have certainly kicked into high gear during my third trimester.  So worried have I been about the impact of all this processed sugar on our little girl, I’ve been researching the effects of sugar overload on unborn babies and am now convinced we are going to have a child with MASSIVE behavioural, attention, and not to mention mental health problems because of my inability to control myself (eg.  “Sugar and Pregnancy” article).  Okay, so maybe I’m taking the research with more of a relaxed approach than that, but still… I am concerned.  Frustrated also because in the months prior to my third trimester I had consciously made the decision to minimise my processed sugar intake (due to risk of gestational diabetes) and was doing really well.  But alas, be it hormonal overload or just plain lack of self control… Sugar remains my kryptonite!

Fortunately for me it seems, I have avoided the insulin-related issues of sugar overload with my gestational diabetes testing coming back on the “normal” scale, as with blood pressure, and most other indicators.  Can you believe I was actually scared of facing Dr B (my OB) to get those results – I was sure I had been found out and all would be revealed!  On a serious note, I was incredibly fearful my diet had contributed to my likelihood of developing gestational diabetes (particularly due to my age), and the potential impact this may have had on my pregnancy and the overall wellbeing of both myself and my baby perhaps should have been taken more seriously (recent Australian statistics on gestational diabetes).  This condition has very real consequences if not treated, and whilst can be managed through diet alone, still leaves a great many pregnant women (27% of those diagnosed) insulin-dependent for the duration of their pregnancies.  It’s a very scary reality!

So, with sugar cravings persisting and my general energy levels lacking, I am at a point where I no longer want to be pregnant but don’t want to be a mother to a new born again just yet – quite the conundrum!  Luckily for me though, I had made the decision to continue working up until the Friday before my CS was scheduled (on Monday 16th Sept).   And whilst some people thought this was ludicrous, it has actually kept me sane and more relaxed than I otherwise would have been in this lead up to our little girl’s birth.  Having returned to work for 3 days per week after my maternity leave with the LM, I don’t find work a burden on my overall health and wellbeing.  If anything quite the contrary.  The normalcy of this adult world maintains the work/life balance I’ve come to realise is so incredibly important to my mental state of mind.  Without this balance, particularly given the circumstances of this pregnancy, I am almost certain a recurrence of my depression and anxiety would have been a given.  Instead, whilst there have been increases in symptoms, I’ve managed (with the help and support of those around me) to tackle them as they arise and not allow them to control my overall experience.  This has been vital for me and although I’ve not had time to “rest” per say, I feel the positives of working right up until the birth have far outweighed the negatives that may have otherwise come into play.  Everyone is different, and for me this decision has definitely been the right one.

Generally, with the conundrum above aside, I feel okay… I say “okay” only because of the physical realities of this late stage of pregnancy:  the swollen feet, sore lower back, stretched stomach, inability to bend over (let alone pick up your toddler), restlessness (ie. sleeplessness), aching legs, etc.  On a mental health level, in comparison to my first pregnancy, this pregnancy has also been much easier to manage.  This is largely due, I believe, to my continuing to take my anti-depressant medication.  My dosage remains only small (20mg Lexapro, increasing last month to 30mg) and both Dr J (GP) and Dr B (OB) were comfortable with me remaining on medication.  Both indicated research on Lexapro has shown it has little to no effect in utero at low doses, or whilst breastfeeding, for new babies.  Whilst I know there is much discussion around this topic, I do feel it is a very individual decision and one others should not be quick to judge the expecting mother for – particularly if they themselves have no knowledge of what it means to have a mental illness (or even if they do).  My personal belief is simple:   If I have the opportunity to remain a happy and healthy mother for my children during a life experience known for it’s impact on my mental health, surely this is the greatest gift I can give them?   And with no evidence to support ongoing side effects of taking (my type of) medication during pregnancy why would I not give myself, my HF, our LM and his new little sister the best possible overall experience?  For me it was certainly not a difficult decision to make.

So all in all this has been my journey so far, and no doubt the next time you hear from me I will again be a new mum with a whole new chapter of life to write about… Scary, but also very exciting!  I hope you are all doing wonderfully and am very much looking forward to not only hearing from you but to sharing more of our experiences as this next adventure begins.

As always, take care.

TSM xx

Postnatal Depression: Reality is kicking in… “What am I doing with my life?”

what am I doing

I guess the short answer is:  I’m creating a family and maintaining a career.

I guess the long answer is:  My life is a heck of a lot more complicated than I ever could have imagined it would be at this age – what happened to maintaining my sanity?

I guess the reality is:  Somewhere in between.

My last post focused on my acceptance of our falling pregnant again and how I’d reconciled feelings around both having a little girl and electing a caesarean section (read it here).  My feelings around these things remain reconciled, however I’ve been finding the past couple of weeks a struggle in a different way.  I feel like my PND-M (Postnatal Depression Monster) is again knocking at my door (at least he’s being polite this time) and wanting “in” on an experience that up until this time has been… dare I say it… almost enjoyable.

My second trimester of pregnancy has been a delight.  I felt better than I had in years and my energy and enthusiasm for our little “surprise” was in overdrive.  So much so, the nursery is finished, newborn clothes shopping done, a pre-babe weekend away with my HF organised, and a family holiday planned for early-February locked in.  But now I’ve hit the 32 week mark and things aren’t feeling so rosey.  Whilst I’m aware this is also a likely result of my increased belly circumference, weight gain, and general wear and tear on an already drained body, there is something else in the background, lurking behind the bushes, bringing to the fore some very unwelcome thoughts.  Over the past two weeks, an example of such thoughts have been:

1.  In response to my HF asking me if I’m “looking forward” to our little girl’s arrival:  “Um, sure babe.  Which part?  The part where they stick a needle into my spine?  Or the part where they cut me open, through numerous layers of muscles and fat, and pull out our little girl through the incision?  Or maybe the part where you’re gazing at our little miracle, eyes aglow, whilst I lay there being stitched up?  Or the part where a little human is again dependent on me 24/7 at home, having given up work – again, whilst you return to your everyday life?  Which part exactly were you referring to?”  To which he promptly admitted, sensing my current state of mind, he perhaps had not thought about the question before he asked it.

2.  In response to a committee discussion around antenatal education and providing expectant mums “strength” cards highlighting their individual strengths leading into their babe’s birth:  (this was a thought at the time, although I did admit verbally having had the thought afterwards – to the horror of my fellow committee members!)  “Sure, excellent!  Give them the cards saying what they’re great at, then rip them away as soon as their baby is born because that’s what happened to me!”  Needless to say, once my confession was made, a very supportive discussion was held with regard to my potential “relapse” and the need perhaps for some additional counseling before my babe’s arrival.

3.  This point is more a general observation around my “tolerance” to certain situations, conversations, and people… Be it hormonal, or otherwise, I’ve found my ability to tolerate various things has again slipped and my snappiness (ie. angry outburts), grumpiness (ie. bitchiness), and frustration (ie. zero tolerance) levels have been significantly on the rise.   I find this particularly relates to those closest to me, hence (again) my family and poor HF seems to be on the receiving end of a great deal of this turmoil.   Such recurring behaviour scares me considerably due to it being the most significant indicator of my first depression (both antenatally and post).  Thus, my fear of returning to “that place” appears closer now than ever.

CBTED

So, here I find myself again addressing “What am I doing with my life?”.  Having utilised both Rational Emotive (outlined above) and Mindfulness therapy techniques previously, I can comfortably accept what is going on in my brain as “irrational” (and I believe that to be 80% of the battle won).  The difficulty is not being able to turn such thoughts around on my own… In fact, they seem to be getting worse.  The other challenge I currently face is that when this happens, I don’t want to talk about it.  I withdraw within myself and the mask I’ve worked so hard to remove, comes back to make it’s social appearance more and more regularly.   So the idea of seeing my psychologist or even my GP and having to explain how I’m feeling is not high on my agenda (sound familiar… anyone?).  What I HAVE done, however (which is different to the past), is that I’ve spoken with my HF about what I’m thinking, how I’ve been feeling, and have warned him that a “breakdown” is likely in our not too distant future.  When I say “breakdown” what I actually mean is a really good cry… Yes, a messy, mascara running down my face, kind of shuddering cry which is hugely relieving of all the pent up “yukiness” lurking just below the surface.  But this build-up takes time, well for me anyway.  And I just can’t “make” it happen, it has to occur when I’m ready which is the hard part because I never really know when that will be.

The bottom line is, I’m scared.  Petrified, actually.  Both my BF2 and sister-in-law have had babes over the past month and the reality of having a tiny, defenseless newborn in my life again is absolutely terrifying!  Every time I hold one of them it dawns on me this will be my very reality in a mere 7 weeks time – holy crap!  And please don’t get me wrong, I love these little babes dearly, it’s just an overwhelming feeling when I’m helpless to control the flooding of memories from the LM’s birth and his first 6 months of life every time I’m cuddling one of them.  That feeling of being completely out of control (a biggie for me), paired with my fear of the past recurring, and all of a sudden everything’s heading in a downward spiral again.  Irrational?  Yes.  Do I need help?  Yes.  When will I get it?  I’m not sure.  I have an appointment with Dr B (my OB) in a week’s time, so am confident I will be able to discuss a “management plan” with him then for the remaining weeks until our little one’s birth.  And I also know I have the love and support of not only my HF, but some very dear friends, who will not let this issue remain unresolved.  But for that matter, nor will I!  Whilst it may seem there’s some denial at play here (which I can acknowledge), I certainly didn’t work this hard to get through the past 2 years to let it all fall down again now.  I simply cannot allow that to happen.

As always, I appreciate your sharing this journey with me and look forward to any comments you feel like making… Perhaps even with regard to your own experience?  I would love to hear how you’ve managed through a second pregnancy/birth with regard to postnatal depression.  Did you feel the same?

Take care,

TSM… xx

Postnatal Depression: A literal “bump” in the 2013 road… Pregnant? WHAT!

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The above quote very much sums up my PND experience over the past 2 years… I’ve always felt capable in my life, not matter what was thrown into my path.  I always felt I could overcome any obstacle, any hiccup, any “bump” in the road (excuse the pun).  But alas, since my PND diagnosis I’ve come to discover (and slowly over time, accept… well, sort of) that I can no longer be the same person I was.  This experience has redefined me in ways I’ve struggled with, by changing some of the things I felt were my true strengths and turning them into (perhaps perceived?) weaknesses.  But if I’m honest, the reverse has also been true… Parts of myself of which I was not always proud have now been redefined and become strengths in their own right.  The difficulty for me however, remains in my acceptance of these changes and in moving forward with my redefined “tool kit for life”, in feeling comfortable in my ability to positively contribute to the world.  It’s been a long, yet inspiring journey and just when things were finally seeming to make sense and falling into place again, something came at me from left field to disrupt my new equilibrium… Hence, my new journey begins here:

I’ve been a bad mummy blogger over the past couple of months… Very bad.  In fact, I’ve not posted anything since the beginning of February!  Shocking, I know.  But I do feel justified in having this small blogging break, at least somewhat anyway.  I’ve been dealing with something I wasn’t quite prepared for and certainly didn’t think would be happening again in my life… I’m pregnant with our second child.

You may recall my blogging about whether or not to have another child, reasons for and against, back in September last year (Postnatal Depression:  To have?  Or not to have? That is the question…).  Fast forward to the present moment, and my HF and I are already 6 months down the road in our journey to becoming new parents again.  Was this expected?  NO.  Were we shocked?  YES.  Am I scared out of my mind?  ABSOLUTELY.  And with that being said, it has taken me all of this time (up until the past month or so really) to come to terms with what is happening in our lives.  And I’ll be honest, some of how I’ve felt is not what you’d expect a soon-to-be-mother-for-the-second-time should be feeling… My ability to cope has been very much pushed to it’s limits and, at times, I’ve failed miserably in my handling of all the residual feelings I still have regarding pregnancy, birth, and the “new baby” phase.  This part of my life was something I thought I had “dealt with” and would not be re-visited.  The stark realisation for me has been that regardless of whether such feelings were “dealt with” or not, those feelings will most definitely be dealt with now – whether I like it or not!

And so, here we are… again.  The two things I’ve felt most strongly about reconciling within this journey so far have been:  1)  How will I birth (vaginally or CS)?;  and 2)  We are having a girl (please refer back to my blog post, “Helpful Steps: Things I’m afraid to tell you…“, point Number 5).  Both points probably at one time or another deserved a blog post in their own right, but for now I’m content just listing them as I’ve had enough time over the past 6 months to work through them at my own pace.  And guess what?  I feel I’ve come to a clear resolution on both points!

After much discussion with my GP, my specialist, and my Obstetrician (Dr B), my HF and I decided we would opt for an elective caesarean section for the birth of our daughter.  My first birth was vaginal and incredibly traumatic (not what I would call “natural” at all!), both for the LM and myself, and both of us were left with “issues” as a result – mine emotional, his medical.  Combined with this experience, is the fact my birth canal is simply too narrow to safely birth a “normal” sized babe (the LM was only 7.3lb and long at 57cm).  Had the LM been even a smidgen larger it is no secret we may have lost him during the birth.  This is a reality I simply can’t deal with this time around.  The idea of going into a vaginal birthing situation with this knowledge and very real “lived” experience of the trauma involved has made the decision a fait accompli in my mind.   I have spoken with those present at my first birth, I have spoken to midwives I know and trust… both have differing opinions on what I should do, whether it would be different this time around, etc.  But one question in my mind remains constant:  Do I knowingly want to put my unborn child at risk by having another vaginal birth?  And the answer, for me, is simply “No, I do not”.   I certainly appreciate there may be mothers out there so much braver than I with regard to such decisions, but rightly or wrongly both my HF and myself feel this is the right decision for us at this time.

Now, about our having a little girl… Funnily enough, my resolution with this fact has been much easier than I ever imagined possible.  And it was all due to something BF1 said to another friend of hers who was struggling with the knowledge she was having a little boy – “This is your baby’s story to live, not yours.”  Pretty powerful words, aren’t they?  Not to mention amazingly true!  The perceived issues I’ve had regarding having a little girl in my life were MY issues, and mine alone.  This tiny, unborn baby inside of me has no knowledge of the life I’ve lived, the relationships I’ve experienced with my own parents, siblings, etc.  Why then did I feel it necessary to burden her with my problems?   Because I was afraid.  But not afraid for her, I was afraid for me.  The idea of having a daughter – a “girl” – brought back so many memories and hurts for me it was seriously confronting!   I can recall so many conversations where all I heard was how “difficult” girls were compared to boys, how much “harder work” I was in comparison with my older brother… the list goes on and on!  So much so that even having Dad stay with us over this past weekend was proof in this recurring pudding.  He kept bringing up the terrible things I would do as an 18 month old child, to the point where I had to say, “Dad!  Enough!  I am not a little child anymore, I am a 38 year old woman!  Don’t you think it’s time to move on?”.  But that’s what my family are like, they can’t seem to let go of what “was” in favour of what now “is”.   Sad, but unfortunately true.  So yes, with these simple words my BF1 was able to relieve the pressure and fear I had placed upon myself and allow an acceptance within me to finally raise to the surface and embrace the little girl who will soon complete our family.  Because that’s exactly what she will do.  Her life will in no way replicate mine because her story is hers alone to write, with a little assistance from us of course.

So, this is where we currently stand with regard to what was initially perceived as a HUGE detour in our 2013 journey… We have come to accept what is happening in our lives as a mere “bump” in the road.  An experience with the potential to impact our lives in a uniquely positive way, whatever that may transpire to be.  My little family will grow by one more come September, and together we will create our own experiences and enjoy everything wonderful we each have to offer – okay, and I’m sure the occasional awful thing too!  I am now looking forward to it in a way I didn’t feel was initially possible.  I still have a little apprehension (that’s only natural – right?), but hopefully my blogging mojo will kick in again and I can share more with you too!

Thank you as always for being here,

TSM… xx

Just Because: My New Year Resolutions…

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Goodbye 2012… And hello 2013!  Do I sound excited at the prospect of a new year?  I certainly hope so, because I am just a little excited.  I’ve decided this year is going to be significantly better for me:  as a partner, as a mother, as a work associate, as an individual.  Infinitely better and kinder than 2012 proved to be.  I’m looking forward to this year for a number of reasons, but most importantly I’ve ear-marked 2013 to begin the re-emergence of “me”.  What this image of “me” will look like, I’m not yet completely sure.  All I know is that she will be strong, capable, and more grounded than ever before (and I wish I could say with less wrinkles, but I don’t think that’s going to happen).

In an effort to achieve this, I thought long and hard about what my goals should be.  Whilst thinking through each goal, I made a very conscious decision to make each of them small and achievable (or “baby steps”).  I didn’t want to set the bar too high because more than likely this would result in my failing to accomplish anything and just feeling worse about myself.  So… “small and achievable steps” was the motto, and I’m hoping the list I’ve put together will enable me to move forward more competently this year – without the unrealistic expectations!   Wish me luck!

Weekly Meal Planning

meal planning Interestingly, the most difficult thing about my postnatal depression experience has been my inability to think about more than one thing at a time.  Many a “melt down” has occurred  due to my  feeling completely overwhelmed with the amount of information being received.  It’s a feeling I’d never encountered before, I’d always been able to multi-task effectively and thus pride myself on getting a great deal done on any given day.  However, such multi-tasking abilities are a luxury for me no more.  When it comes to cooking, when your brain needs to co-ordinate many things at once, I’m at a complete loss… And cooking was something I used to love to do!  The biggest let down is my inability to plan ahead for meals, or think on my feet with regard to what to cook for lunch, dinner, whatever the case may be.  My poor HF has been so understanding, yet I’m surprised he hasn’t withered away with malnutrition.  If it hadn’t been for his very kind culinary assistance during the worst times, that may well have been his reality!  So, this year I have decided to start meal planning.  For 5 nights out of every 7, I will plan meals and structure my shopping list accordingly.  The other 2 nights can take care of themselves, be it leftovers or take-away – whatever we may fancy!  By doing this (and I’m now 2 weeks into it), I feel I’m able to gain back just a little of the control I feel I’ve lost over this particular household chore.  And by gaining back some of that control, I’m now re-discovering the joy I’d long since forgotten that preparing and eating quality family meals provides.  It’s a small victory, but one I’m hoping continues and becomes second nature by years end.

Family Mindfulness

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Why is everyone so busy these days?  I ask myself this question all the time, especially when I feel I don’t even have quality time to spend with my own family!  Everything’s just busy, busy, busy… rush, rush, rush… and I for one am tired of it.  So this is the year for me to focus on making the time I have with my precious family and friends really count.  And by “really count” I mean learning how to exist with one another in a space removed from phones, ipads, ipods, computers, TV, and any other mind-fizzling technology that may throw itself in our way.  It would just be nice to get back to basics, which I believe we do quite nicely from time to time anyway, and really start enjoying each other’s company again.  I found a fantastic tag on Childhood 101’s blog entitled, “Best Life” and it’s filled with wonderful ideas to create the best family environment you possibly can (and I’m sure friends count in this too).  Be sure to have a read for yourself!   Such focus on the quality of life will be a refreshing change and one I’m certainly looking forward to.

Date Nights

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Date nights are something my HF and I try to do regularly anyway, so to have this as one of my goals for 2013 is not too difficult (had to put an easily achievable one in there somewhere, right?).  My biggest frustration from date night has come from my HF’s lack of attention to planning them.  Now it may be said this is my issue, not his, but if left up to him our date night’s simply do not happen.  And given we’d both agreed this would be his area to take charge of, this has proved a bit of an ongoing problem.  So in an effort to rectify this little issue last year (feeling very unloved because we hadn’t been on a date night in a while), I decided to make it easier for him.  I logged onto all the wonderful “cheap deal” sites (you know the ones:  Groupon, Living Social, Cudo, etc) and started buying dinner deals in my local area when they took my fancy.  I would then print off the voucher (ensuring to highlight both the contact details and use by date), and leave them on the fridge.  Of course my plan was communicated to my HF, I didn’t expect he would simply pick up on what I was trying to do, and I must say it is working very nicely for us.  Every 2-3 weeks, my HF organises a babysitter, rings the restaurant on the next-to-expire voucher, and organises our date.  It’s fantastic, and the best part is that my HF doesn’t get stressed about where we should go!  It’s a win-win situation and we always have a really nice time so am hoping we can keep things the same this year.

10 Thoughtful Seconds

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I’m not sure about you, but I tend to say things sometimes without quite thinking about it first.  My biggest problem would be, I think, my tone of voice.  Quite often I don’t intend to say things with a particular “tone”, but invariably it happens and usually the downfall is I may sound fed-up, bored, indifferent, angry, sarcastic, or just not interested.  Whilst I’ll be honest and say my tone does imply the truth at times, it is not always necessary and tends to hurt those it’s inflicted upon.  It is this lack of forethought I find inexcusable and not very fair at all.  So another of my goals this year is to take 10 seconds to think about what it is I’m trying to communicate before I actually say anything.  Now please don’t get me wrong!  This is not an attempt to hide my true feelings, but more to teach myself to be patient, kind, and tolerant – all things I’ve found myself lacking in throughout my PND journey so far.  When speaking to others, regardless of the message you are wanting to communicate, you can do so in a respectful manner.  My most difficult time with this, I’ve now realised, is when I’m feeling overwhelmed and flustered by what is going on around me (and at times, in my head) and thus just “snap” in reply to something being said to me.  The look on people’s faces when I’d do this (and yes, it was usually those closest to me and the ones I care most about) is not something I’m proud of.  Hence my desperately wanting to take the steps this year to improve this negative behaviour.

“Me Time” Weekends

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These past Christmas holidays, I was fortunate enough to be blessed with four days of pure “alone” time, a luxury many mummies out there do not receive often.  My very understanding HF took the boys to holiday with his parents, leaving me with silence my only companion within our home for the first time in nearly two years!  I didn’t know if I’d enjoy it or hate it, embrace it or repel it, but what I did know for certain was that I absolutely “needed” it.

Whilst I missed my boys enormously and couldn’t wait for them to come home, I found the time on my own completely rejuvenating… I woke when I wanted, ate what I wanted, watched what I wanted, read books, drank wine, and went to bed at whatever time I wanted.  It was (and I hope other mum’s out there won’t think I’m terrible for saying the words out loud) PURE BLISS!  Not because my boys weren’t with me, but because for the first time since I’ve had the LM and been diagnosed with PND I was able to operate on my own time, without having to think about anyone else.  Selfish?  Perhaps.  But what I do know is that my family and myself are a great deal better off for this time on my own to re-charge.  This experience has improved our lives significantly.

So much so that my HF and I have since discussed that perhaps this should be something we do maybe twice a year.  A weekend for me, be it either at home while the boys enjoy a weekend away camping, or maybe a weekend by myself in a unit by the ocean somewhere.  Wherever it may be, I think we’ve both now realised such alone time actually makes me a better mum, a better partner, and an innately better person.  It’s perhaps confronting to admit, but the opportunity to shut my mind off from the routine of every day allows me to relax in a way I simply don’t find possible at home when everyone’s around.  Not a bad thing, just different, and for us it seems to work.

And there concludes my goals for 2013!  I’m hoping beyond all hope they are small enough to achieve, but infinitely meaningful enough to make a significant difference in my life.  I’m very much looking forward to where this year will take my wonderful family, but also where it will take me on my journey to becoming a stronger person.

Thanks so much as always and please be sure to share any of your new year resolutions if you have them, I would love to hear about them.

Take care,

TSM… xx

Postnatal Depression: Christmas cheer… Christmas fear!

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So, this is Christmas… And I completely underestimated the impact this time of year would have on me.  When I say “impact”, I mean panic, anxiety, a deep-seeded fear of going back to that awful “dark” place which was the norm for me at this time last year.  I didn’t think for a second the demons of Christmas past would create such a dreaded feeling within me in the lead up to Christmas present.  But in thinking about it, of course they would rear their ugly heads again…It actually makes perfect sense.

It was this time last year my world completely fell apart.  I had struggled for months leading up to Christmas to maintain a “normal” life in the eyes of those around me, whilst inside I was struggling with a vicious darkness each and every day, every minute of every day.  It was a terrifying existence and one I am so thankful to have moved forward from, although the bad days occasionally still happen (as per my previous post!).  The past 12 months, with thanks to a wonderful GP, counseling, and medication, have seen me able to enjoy life again.  Step by step, I’ve been able to slowly get back on track and find within myself little pieces of the person I used to be.  I became able again to spend time with my family and not only enjoy it, but be thankful and grateful for every moment we have together.  All of these positives were a completely foreign feeling for me last Christmas.

Not surprisingly then, I’ve found when encountering the same festive occasions this year a feeling of panic clenches at my chest and my anxiety become all consuming.  It’s a massive effort to remind myself of how far I’ve actually come and to not let the same fear take over my mind.  It’s terrifying and every time it happens I feel like I’ve been emotionally beaten up.  But the difference this time is that I’m more equipped to manage what is happening and walk away the victor nine times out of ten.   It has been an eye-opening experience for me, a reminder of how this awful illness can rear it’s ugly head time and time again, in ways you don’t ever expect.

But as I said before, I think it makes sense I’m experiencing all these feeling again.  Last Christmas truly scarred me to the very core of who I am as a person.  Everything I valued about myself had been lost, and I felt completely out of control.  Nothing could make me feel better and the lows were getting lower and darker every day.  I think the lesson for me this Christmas is the need to re-program my mind to remember the positive times, not those hateful negatives.  I need to keep on top of the fear, the panic, and the anxiety and remember all I’ve accomplished during the past 12 months.  Because when I look at it, and if I’m really honest with myself, I have actually accomplished a lot!  I’m hoping by focusing on these things I can approach next Christmas with a much improved confidence and not be hindered by the unexpected PND-Monster trying to drag me back down at every turn.

So on a much more positive note, I wanted to share with you a wonderful idea I saw on another blog I absolutely love, One Handed Cooks.  I love this blog all round, however when I saw this post today I actually had a little giggle out loud to myself – what a brilliant idea!  These little delights are called “Reindeer Poop” and I think the concept is just so cute.  I hope you can share in the fun with your family and friends also –  I certainly plan to on Christmas Day!

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Thanks as always for reading, and if I don’t post again before Christmas here’s wishing each and every one of you a fantastic and festive holiday period filled with fun and laughter.  It’s all yours to enjoy!

Take care,

TSM… xx

Postnatal Depression: Even strong people need hugs…

I’m going to be 100% honest and say I am desperately unhappy at the moment… I don’t know why, I just am.  And I need a hug.  Did I mention that?  Just a massive, all-consuming, let’s-not-talk-about-anything, warm, loving hug!  I will warn you though…  In the event you decide to give me the before mentioned hug, I will break down and cry… Well, weep actually.  Yes, I will weep, and weep, and shudder, blow my nose, and probably weep some more.  And my mascara will run, and so will my nose… It will NOT be a pretty sight.  Just putting that out there.

I’m hurting deep, deep down inside and I just don’t know what to do about it.

So my answer is this… I will write it down and try to leave just a little bit of the hurt in my words on this page.  Surely by venting and getting all of these tumultuous emotions out on the table I will be able to lighten this burden upon myself and get back to the business of being strong… Right?

I’m not sure there is any one reason for this hurt, more that there are a great many “little things” that have been accumulating for a long time now and have finally gotten the better of me.  Things I know I can’t fix.  Things I know I have no control over.  Things I know I simply CANNOT continue to live with.  The age-old “catch-22” situation.   Hence the hurting… The pain of knowing something has to give and not wanting it to be my final ounce of self-worth.  Not wanting it to be my losing my mind completely.  Not wanting it to be my leaving because I don’t feel I have any other option.  I am scared, and my God do I feel alone… So completely alone.

How do I be the best mother and person I can be when I’m feeling so crappy so much of the time?  How do I be a warm, loving role-model to my son when I’m in so much pain myself, and so angry about the things I cannot change?  I’m scared for him… And I’m scared for me.  This is not the life I want to live.

I fell asleep last night hoping against all hope I would wake this morning and feel better… But alas, it was not meant to be.  I know these feelings will pass, but at what or who’s expense?  Will they simply be pushed back down with all of those other feelings until the next time everything erupts again?  Will I continue to hurt my HF and family with my godawful, brutal honesty?   Will I continue to pretend everything is okay until the next dark day I have when I’m helpless to keep my mind from letting everything out?  Decisions need to me made.  But I can’t make them now.

I just need a hug.

TSM  xx

Postnatal Depression: The monster in my closet…

Due to a comment I received on my previous post, “Postnatal Depression:  A day in the life…“, I’m putting in a picture of how I imagine my Postnatal Depression Monster to look.  I have often joked in previous blogs about how I refer to my PND-M as a “he”, not a “she”.  For me, the answer was one I really had to think about.  But in the end, I believe it’s simply because monster’s are usually huge and strong in a physical sense.  This has NOTHING to do with my vision of inner strength as I believe “she” monsters would have that in droves too!  And besides, my monster isn’t too scary looking in my mind.  He isn’t “negative” in the frightening sense of what a monster’s image might conjure up for some.  He is actually quite cute… However, he is uninvited, distracting, and impacting my life in a negative way at this time.

My analogy of comparing my PND to a “monster” centres around my needing to visualise something physical to push back behind a door, to physically move something aside when it’s in the way, to feel victorious when I can no longer see it.  My analogy has my PND-M living in a closet of which he comes out whenever he feels like it to make his presence felt.  It is back into this closet I imagine myself pushing him, or beating him back with a broom (when I’m feeling strong enough).  Perhaps this is also the reason why I see my PND as a monster, because if he were human I would be in all kinds of trouble for my rough handling of the situation!  It is my intense hope that one glorious day I will be able to dispose of this closet all together and live my life free from the monster lurking within  (nb:  my closet is obviously free-standing, as otherwise I would need to move house!).  Whilst I also refer to my depression as a “weight” or a “cloud”, these are things much less tangible if I find myself wanting (or needing) to have the satisfaction of defeating them on any given day.  I really hope this makes sense.

So, please find below an image of my PND-M as he appears to me… I am very much hoping he can become a memory in my past of whom I can be proud of knowing and sharing this time with.  One day I know this will be the case… Just not at the moment.  🙂

I hope today is a great day for you,

TSM  xx