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

Just Because: “Our challenge… Putting down the phone!”

putdownphone

Have you ever looked around the room and realised EVERY SINGLE PERSON is looking down… at their phone!  I know this topic of conversation has been making the rounds in the media lately, with many arguing both the positives and negatives for the change in our communication styles due to technological advances (for example:  Gary Turk’s “Look Up” video, or it’s corresponding negative rebuttal).  Believe me, I am just as guilty as many others when it comes to focusing way too much attention on my smart phone!   I have often found myself sitting on the couch looking at my phone, with MH sitting and gurgling away to herself on the rug at my feet, and the LM engaged in imaginative play in his “kitchen”.  I know it’s wonderful to have times when our children can play independently, but shouldn’t I also be basking in this peacefulness and admiring it from the outside in?  Or better still, putting my time to productive use by doing something creative myself (eg. baking – which I love!).   I know, I know… herein lies the problem.  Smart devices can also be creative and productive and a very resourceful use of one’s time.  Connecting with people via our devices can also be of absolute benefit, as can the opportunity to shop online, etc.  I fully appreciate these good points, my personal struggle is more the timing with which I find myself giving my attention to my phone… In situations where I feel it may actually be creating a negative perception for my children about what is “normal” when it comes to communication.  It’s this feeling I am not at all comfortable with.

So all extremist viewpoints aside, my fear is that we as a society are losing sight of the basic skills required in human communication – general courtesy, respect, eye-contact, physical empathy, etc.  I suppose people could argue that communication is simply changing and I need to “get with the program”, but I struggle to see how such physically alienating behaviours can be a good thing?  We’ve all seen the posts on Facebook about “Being an 80’s Kid” or “Living in the 90’s” where outside play was the norm, we rode bikes, made “cubbies”, and helicopter parenting was unheard of.  It’s this physical level of human interaction I’m frightened my children will not have the pleasure of knowing or experiencing as they grow-up.  Kids don’t “hang out” in the street with other kids anymore (I’m hoping you understand my context), some of us barely know our neighbours (and don’t really want to).  I fear we’ve simply lost sight of our innate ability to connect with others on a physical level and as a result we are (as a society) in danger of losing the ability to empathise and genuinely “be” with other people.

phubbing

It’s a tough topic to write about because I am so very aware of how diverse peoples opinions around this issue (or non-issue) are… So, with all of this in mind, the questions I’ve been asking myself lately have been:  How can I make this change in “smart device” communication sit comfortably for me?   What examples am I showing my children in day-to-day life?  What can I change in my own behaviour to ensure my children know what I value in communication?  I realised that whilst I can’t control everyone else, I most certainly can control my own behaviour around what I am physically role-modelling to my children.  A very powerful (and “common sense”) realisation!   Then I thought about how my HF and I could do this and hold each other accountable, without arguing endlessly, for the benefit of both ourselves and our family… And it was this challenge we decided to put to each other:

Are we able to commit to putting our technological devices down (be they smartphones, ipads, ipods – whatever!) for those times of the day spent with our children, and in social interactions with others, when our our quality time and attention is absolutely deserved?  

And our answer was simply… YES!

decide

So how about this for a plan, we are going to:

1.  Place our devices on the kitchen bench (in an allocated spot) and leave them there – ignored and unattended!  If a device needs to be looked at, we must do so standing at the kitchen bench (to make it uncomfortable – no more lazing on the couch, laying in bed, etc).

2.  Devices can only be looked at when all activities with the LM and MH have been completed.   Note:  we have agreed this includes phone calls (people can leave a message and we can phone them back), however this obviously may need to be on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature of the call and what we’re in the middle of doing.

3.  After the children are in bed, devices remain on the kitchen bench and can be checked as required.

4.  Smart devices can be placed on charge, but are not to be used, in the bedroom.

It’s only 4 simple challenges, right?  But I know that as much as I want for this to happen, I also know it’s going to be extremely hard to put into place and maintain.  I guess what we’re hoping is that sooner, rather than later, it will feel more a “chore” to check our devices, rather than the all-day-every-day default behaviour it’s inevitably become for us.  Our goal is to improve and enhance the quality and amount of time we devote to our children, and each other, and extend that experience to those we socialise with (in that our smart devices will no longer make public appearances unless absolutely required).  What do you think?  Is it unrealistic? Can we do it?  I’m not sure, but I’m sure as heck going to give it a try!  I look forward to providing you an update soon.

EDITED (31st July, 2014):   I recently saw this post on Facebook and couldn’t believe what I was reading (but then strangely, I could believe it!).  If we didn’t need proof before as to why we should be putting down our phones and paying attention to  the company, atmosphere, and life happening all around us then we certainly have it now… This is most definitely my biggest DISLIKE of the modern world.   Article link:  http://themetapicture.com/people-kept-complaining-this-restaurant-sucked-look-what-they-found-out/

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

Helpful Steps: Closing the book…

closing the book

Closing the book is difficult… Even more so when the core thread of said book is “family”.  How do you close a book on a topic you’ve read about your entire life?  When you’ve moved from chapter to chapter, no matter how confronting the task, always wanting to read on?  Not easily, that’s for sure.  My history with this book has ebbed and flowed between moments of incredible happiness, joy, and wonder, to those of incredible self growth and development, to those of extreme sadness, disappointment, anger, and frustration.  But then that’s what books are created to do, aren’t they?  They are written to take the reader on an amazing journey of discovery… Both for the characters with whom they share the journey, and for themselves.

But let’s be honest… This book doesn’t involve “characters”.  These “characters” are members of my family.  Therefore, the book isn’t to be closed on all the characters entirely, only on a select few who have consistently maintained a negative, dramatic, exhausting, and somewhat ridiculous influence in the chapters of previous years.  So much so, the most recent chapter ended in a spectacular, explosive, over-reaction on behalf of the heroine bringing up every ounce of negativity she had worked so hard to move forward from for many years.  As readers of this particular book would appreciate, the meddlesome twosome involved had been the instigator of many drama-filled incidences the heroine could simply live without… After all, how many unnecessary grievances should one be expected to encounter before finally having enough?  With the final paragraph describing the dramatic walk-out of the heroine from a family function, this chapter was both an eye-opener and a truly tragic turn of events.  Tragic because her fall from grace had been so complete.  Tragic because she had let herself down so amazingly.  And tragic because now it was necessary to write certain characters out of main roles and delegate them to guest appearances only.   Sad?  Yes.  Disappointing?  Absolutely.  Required?  Most definitely.

Sometimes the drama certain characters bring to life stories can be exciting and thrilling, joyful and humorous, thus allowing the reader to laugh out loud in a positive way and bask in the warm glow of the events being described.  There are other times however, when such drama can impact so negatively on the lives of characters within the story readers cringe with distaste and will the dramatic characters “BE GONE!” because the story would benefit so much more without them.  Now obviously there is always a need for drama within any story, be it good or bad.  The difference herein is the way such drama is encountered by the main characters and its overall effect on the story.  If drama is often repeated, with the same characters constantly creating trouble and strife in the lives of the main characters (resulting always in negativity and emotional unrest), the story would become incredibly tedious and boring for the reader.  Particularly if nothing is being done to ensure a positive change in direction for the main characters involved.  As we all know, there is nothing worse than a plot with no direction, re-hashing the same scenarios over and over again.    It is important the story can move on, unhindered by the hefty weight of such dull, repetitious antagonism.

So that is what’s going to happen in this instance.  Certain characters will be removed from the lives of the main characters, delegated now to “guest appearance” roles thus reducing considerably their potential for dramatic impact.  This will need to be done in a careful manner as there will likely be a transition phase for other characters, an adjustment period required for them to become comfortable with the changes to the story’s current direction.  The lives of the main characters however (the heroine most especially), will be freed to explore their true potential, allowing opportunities for more positive interactions, characters, and experiences to be written into the story’s core framework.  A breath of fresh air for the characters and readers alike!

So the book is not being “closed” in the technical sense of the word, more a storyline within the book is being revised to ensure said book can be the best read it can possibly be… A story of personal trials and tribulations, self growth, love, and ultimate personal discovery to be treasured for many generations to come.  A story with which both the characters and readers themselves can be proud to say they were associated.  Doesn’t that sound nice?  I honestly can’t wait to read the next chapter…

Thank you as always for sharing in my post for today… I hope you and your family are writing a wonderful story together, strengthened by each chapter as they’re written, as it should be.

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

Postnatal Depression: A day in the life…

I’ve posted before about days I’ve shared with the dreaded Postnatal Depression Monster (PND-M) jumping up and down demanding my attention (Postnatal Depression:  My shower, my sanctuary), and today has been yet another one of those days… Those suffocatingly dark, ugly, hurtful, and just plain YUK days.  I have to be honest and say I really don’t like writing when I’m feeling like this, but then I also know that this is real… This is what it means to have a “down” day and I would be lying if I didn’t let you know exactly how that feels for me.  And besides, writing it down sometimes helps me clear the muddled mess.  Sometimes.

Before I get into anything further, please just know I am not proud of myself on days such as these.  No wait.  Sometimes I am proud of the way I can place my “I’m-coping-just-fine” mask firmly in place and get on with my day as though absolutely nothing is wrong.  But there are other days of which I’m most definitely not proud.  Those days, like today, where everything gets the better of me from the moment I wake up and I lose all control.  All sense of reason and rational thought go flying out the window.  Those days when the reality of my situation sinks to the core of my being and I just can’t take it anymore.  When my instinct is to run… just run away and never look back.  Surely I would be better off on my own, right?  Surely my HF and my family would be so much happier if I just wasn’t here… right?

The PND-M has been literally beating me up today.  I am bruised, battered, and at a loss as to what to do.  He’s a hard beast to take on at the best of times and today he’s had the upper hand ALL day.  I feel like he hasn’t even let me come up for air, and it’s that suffocating feeling that terrifies me the most.  Instead of being able to rationally deal with what’s going on within my family, all I hear are mumbled versions of what people are trying to say.  All I see are looks in my direction implying no one has any idea what I’m talking about.  All I feel is the dread of knowing I have nothing left to offer anyone, let alone my family who need such a stronger, better person on whom they can rely than the broken version they currently have.

On days like this, it feels like everything I try to say gets filtered by the PND-M and what comes out of my mouth is bitter, twisted, and a cruel, hurtful version of the words I’m actually trying to say.  My ability to communicate with others, and with myself, is non-existent and I drown in the feeling of helplessness it creates.  I snap.  I react.  I don’t even think twice.  I hear myself saying things – viscous things – that shock me to the very core of who I am.  And all the while, that nasty PND-M just sits there in the back of my mind laughing at me.  Taking great pleasure in my pain, as if knowing if it weren’t for his presence my family would be a great deal better off.

But is it the PND-M’s influence?  Is he really the reason I act like this?  Or is this just me now?  I get so confused.  And so incredibly scared the latter is true.

A while ago I read a quote on A Beautiful Mess Inside ‘s blog, she said:

“I think our beauty and our mess go together and are simply parts of a whole, worthwhile, and lovable human being. The mess gives our lives texture, richness, and depth.” 

Whilst I know these words to be true, I just can’t see it nor feel it today.  I am desperately hoping against all hope tomorrow provides me the clarity I need to get things back on track.  I don’t have that clarity right now, in fact I’m struggling to just keep moving forward against the pressure of this cloud.  Surely the light through this darkness can’t be too far away, can it? Please don’t let it be too far.  I think I just need to go to bed so I can awaken tomorrow to a new day.

Through it all though, I do know I’m not the only person who’s ever felt this way… This (dare I say it) depressed.  But isn’t it absolutely amazing how isolated and alone you feel when your depression does overwhelm you… When those feelings take over your whole body, particularly your ability to reason and maintain control of everything you know to be true about yourself.  When the only question you want answered is:  Will this ever end?

I sincerely hope you are having a much better day and my apologies for not having anything more positive to say.  Next time… I promise.

TSM  xx

Remember:

Post Natal Depression Awareness Week is 18 – 24 November.  Please help spread the message that post natal depression is not all black and white.

Over 45,500 women and 14,000 men (15 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men) will be diagnosed with postnatal depression in Australia this year.   The more we talk, the more we can improve the well being of Australian families.

If you or someone you know needs help you can all the PANDA national helpline on 1300 726 306 or visit www.panda.org.au

Postnatal Depression: A letter to my Handsome Fiance…

Dearest Handsome Fiance,

Today is your birthday and I feel more love for you than I’ve ever felt before.  At this moment in time, I’m overwhelmed by your commitment, loyalty, love, and dedication to not only our family, but to me personally. You are a truly amazing and compassionate man, and I will forever be grateful to fate for allowing our paths to cross.

The past 18 months for us, since the birth of our LM, have been so wonderful, yet so devastating for our relationship in so many different ways.  To be honest, few days go by I don’t wonder why on earth you are still here, still putting up with my erratic moods and irrational thoughts.  I am forever asking myself:  “What did I do to deserve this incredible man?”  Yes, things have been getting better for us.  And yes, we’ve both worked extremely hard to ensure our relationship has not become a victim of my postnatal depression diagnosis.  But the nagging thought (yes, that nasty PND-M) in the back of my mind continues to remind me that you didn’t sign up for this… You didn’t ask to be confronted and impacted by such a powerful and destructive illness.  You didn’t fall in love with a broken woman. 

But here I am… broken. 

And here you are… Loving me in all my “brokeness”, reminding me daily I’m the most important thing in your world.

So today, I want to remind you that you are definitely the most important thing in my world and always will be.  I know I have placed our relationship under considerable stress and strain over the past 18 months and even though you haven’t always understood what was going on, you continued to be my greatest supporter.  The look in your eyes during those early days whilst I was having my “meltdowns” showed me your confusion and uncertainty first hand, but you stuck by me.  And from the day we received my diagnosis, I watched you learn to “manage” my moods and emotions in a way I never thought you capable… But there you were, standing tall and always being the better person to ensure things didn’t get out of hand.  You worked with me tirelessly to help me understand which parts of me were real and which were a result of my depression.  I completely underestimated your capabilities – they have proved amazing!   And for that I will be forever in your debt.

We’ve spoken a lot recently about how much things have improved with my depression, how things are feeling less difficult and more “normal” (whatever that means).  So much so, I’ve even found myself daydreaming about life in a way I haven’t done since our LM was born.  I have your love, respect, and support to thank for this.  Without you, I believe whole-heartedly I wouldn’t be here today sharing my feelings with you, thanking you for everything you have brought to my life.  I shudder to think what dealing with postnatal depression without your warmth and understanding would have meant.  Because together, we are stronger today than we ever have been. 

So… Happy Birthday, my amazingly Handsome Fiance.  You are my everything… Every day, in every possible way.  I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.  I love you to the ends of the earth and back again… And much, much more.

Yours forever and always,

TSM xx

Postnatal Depression: “Not very how…”

It’s hard to describe to others what postnatal depression feels like…  An invisible weight you can’t lift.  An insurmountable barrier between you and the rest of the world.  A dark cloud hovering constantly overhead.  An intense feeling of isolation, of  incredible loneliness.  A grey fog constantly blinding your way.  An inability to just simply breathe.  A loss of control sparking intense anxiety.  A constant state of distress over what is real within you and what is not.  A suffocating sense of helplessness.  A crippling abandonment of all those you love the most.  A fear of failure you wear every day… And so, so many other things.

On September 13th it was R U OK Day and a few days after I read a wonderful post at Heart Mama, called “Not very how” (written by Zanni Arnot).  I was incredibly touched by Zanni’s approach to, and support for, the R U OK philosophy.  So today, even though a month on, I thought I would share her post with you here.  A summary of her key points though, if you don’t have time to read her post in full, are as follows:

Sometimes a question is all that is takes.

One day is all that it takes.

Sometimes a conversation is all that it takes.

Not everyone is so lucky.

You may not know someone is struggling, until you ask.

Let’s not wait for a specific day to care about those around us.  Let’s make sure we do it EVERY day.  Even if someone doesn’t feel like sharing at the time, trust me, the thought and knowledge that you care about them may be all that’s required to get them through the next minute, hour, day, or week.

Please don’t underestimate the difference you can make.

Until next time, take care.

TSM  xx

Postnatal Depression: To have? Or not to have? That is the question…

The last couple of days have seen me thinking about something I never thought I’d think about… Having another baby.  I always swore I was a “one child mum”.  I always preached whilst pregnant that I was most certainly NOT a “natural earth mother” put on this planet to procreate and have an abundance of children.  However, it seems there are many factors impacting me at the moment forcing me to take the topic that little bit more seriously.  I’ll be honest… I don’t want to think about it.  Not at all.  The horror of being pregnant again is frightening in so many ways.  Those feelings of awfulness following our LM’s birth are in themselves enough to see me running in the opposite direction.  But alas, thinking about it I am.

Let me clarify… When I say “thinking about it”, I mean that in a very literal sense.  I am just thinking a lot of thoughts which happen to be focused around being pregnant again and having another baby.  It is NOT to say there is any type of actual decision making going on in my mind as to whether or not that baby will one day become reality.  Does that makes sense?   At the moment I’m surrounded by friends who are either:

  • trying to fall pregnant (with either first or second bub);
  • reassuring me that if I fell pregnant it would be different this time;
  • asking (with no knowledge of my PND battle), “So, when’s number 2 going to be on its way?”;
  • asking (with knowledge of my PND battle), “So, things seem to be getting better… Will you go for number 2?”;
  • telling me my biological clock is ticking, so best make a decision now.

It appears I’m simply being thrown a curve ball with regard to working through issues I perhaps didn’t want to deal with right now.  I’m being made to face my demons and confront head on those reasons for feeling the way I do about having another child.    Okay, so maybe that’s all fair enough.   From what I can make sense of so far, my main thoughts both for and against the idea are as follows:

FOR:

  • I like the idea of our LM having another sibling close to his age as he grows up, particularly when he’s older;
  • BF2 is trying for another baby and it would be nice to share the experience with her again;
  • Maybe this time it would feel “good” to be pregnant;
  • Maybe the labour would be a more “natural” process;
  • Maybe the birth would be much less traumatic for both myself and the babe;
  • Maybe the postnatal period would be different – full of good and positive feelings, enjoying every moment;
  • Maybe my HF and I could enjoy the experience together.

AGAINST:

  • I only ever wanted to have one child and can’t imagine a life with more than one;
  • What if my experience was exactly the same?  Would I be able to cope?  (I don’t think so)  Would I beat myself up about it?  (most probably, yes);
  • I am petrified of going through postnatal depression again;
  • My HF has been through enough, it would not be fair to put him through anything more;
  • Our life is only just getting back to “normal” after 18 months of roller coaster madness;
  • I am too old to have another baby.
  • What if I had a girl?

I always find it helps to clarify your thoughts when you write things down this way.  As is proven here… Do you see what I see?  Look at all those “maybe’s” in the FOR section.  By compiling this list, I get the sense I’m more concerned about making my past experience “right” by going through it all again.  But as you know, the reality could be that my experience would be exactly the same (as I’m also very afraid of).  My innermost need to somehow justify what both the LM and myself went through over the past 18 months, not to mention the impact it had on our family as a whole, would be the only reason I would consider having another child.

Very clearly, I want to make it right – for all of us.  But I can’t.   I want to experience pregnancy and child birth in the “ideal” way I had always envisioned.  Not have as my only reality this traumatic, dark, clouded experience I don’t like to think about.  I want desperately for my HF to experience me at my glowing, pregnant best, singing and dancing about the joys of motherhood every afternoon when he arrives home from work.  I don’t want him left with the memory of how ugly I’ve become.  How difficult and straining the past 18 months have been, and how much he’s had to pick up the loose ends just to keep things together.  But most of all, I want to know myself as a “happy” mum.  I want to know what being a mum feels like when you’re not held down under this constant weight and pressure of postnatal depression.

If I’m really prepared to slap myself in the face with the truth… I want to prove I’m not a failure as both a partner and mother and that I can do it properly!

Maybe… Maybe… Maybe…

I want… I want… I want…

But honestly, what about making the most of what I have right now?   It seems I’m letting that little question slip right through the cracks by focusing too much on the past, and thinking I can change it with the future.  I need to take a good, hard look at myself.  Take a step back… take a deep breath… and live THIS life.  Not the “ideal” life I somehow feel I’ve missed out on.  But for anyone who’s suffered from postnatal depression knows, it’s definitely easier said than done.  The positive for me at this time, I guess, is that being aware of what’s happening deep, down beneath all those crazy thoughts is (I hope!) 80% of the battle won.

Thanks so much as always for reading my babbling thoughts and continued efforts to sort them out… I appreciate it more than you know!  This has been a huge off-loading of information, so do hope it all makes sense for you in one way or another.

Until next time, take care.

TSM  xx