Postnatal Depression: My devastating midwife experience…

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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

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

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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!

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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

Helpful Steps: Closing the book…

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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

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: 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: 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

Postnatal Depression: Couples therapy feedback… Is this good or bad?

Two weeks ago, my HF and I went to our first couples therapy session.  Both of us thought the experience went well and we are eager to continue as we think it will do our relationship the world of good.  During that first session with Mrs O, both of us were asked to  fill in two questionnaires (in the waiting room whilst the other spoke with Mrs O on their own).  The first questionnaire was about our relationship, basically were we happy in our relationship, was it rewarding, or not.  The second was to assess our current levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.  We filled them in willingly, and I know for myself I didn’t really think about the results again.

When we walked into our next session with Mrs O, she calmly asked us to take a seat and said, “Okay, so I have your scores for the questionnaires you filled in for me last week and…”   What came next was confronting, but not shocking, and I walked out of her office that afternoon feeling raw, extremely vulnerable, and just a little bit sick in my stomach.  I mean, I know the last month has been a struggle, but are things really that bad?  This is what transpired:

“… HF let’s start with you.  You scored within the normal range for stress, normal for anxiety, and normal for depression.  And the good news is, both of you scored around a 7 on the relationship scale, so it means you’re both relatively happy and on the same page in that respect.  Now, TSM, for your results.  You scored within the normal range for stress, within the severe range for anxiety, and the extremely severe range for depression.  This is something we need to tackle head on, straight away.”

Okay, so things are obviously THAT bad!  I initially felt a little numb when Mrs O said what my results indicated.  It’s been 8 months since my diagnosis, surely things were getting better by now?  Then she asked if these results were a surprise to me and I replied that honestly no, they were not.  How could they be a surprise when I’d been feeling so crappy over the past month and at a loss to explain why?  I looked over to where my HF was sitting and he was looking at me with a really sad expression on his face.  It wasn’t that he was feeling sorry for me, I know that.  I just think he feels so incredibly helpless to assist me in getting things back on track.  And I continue to feel incredibly guilty for all the damage I’m causing our family and for not providing him with the life I know (well, I think) he desperately wants.  These such feelings are the reasons why I think Mrs O’s results, at this particular time, have provided both a good and bad outcome for me.

The good outcome is that my moods now make sense (all over again).  I’ve not been feeling so bad because that’s just the person I am, how I’m meant to be.  I’ve been feeling bad because my depression still isn’t in check and I need to find new and different ways to deal with the dark moods when they occur.  I need to work more on what my triggers are and how to recognise them.  Whilst I’d felt things were improving for a good 6 months or more, something has caused a shift over recent months and it’s most definitely in my best interest to get to the bottom of what that may be.  So how do I get to the bottom of it?  The answer is simple… more therapy.  With Mrs O’s help, the goal is to focus on my depression and anxiety over the coming months in individual therapy sessions.  Mrs O firmly believes my HF and my relationship, generally speaking, is not in trouble at all.  In fact, the issues we highlight as “challenging” are what every couple deals with from time to time.  What’s making it more difficult for us to get over, is the influence my depressive moods are having on our ability to communicate with one another on an even playing field.  Until that can happen, until the darkness can be taken out of the equation, our relationship will continue to be “hard work”.  Neither my HF or I want that (obviously), so again the outcome has been good in helping us (namely, me) recognise where the initial issues lay and how best to deal with them.

The bad outcome is, as I mentioned earlier, I had thought I was past all this individual therapy business and to a point I could cope with more on my own.  Whilst in my rational mind it makes perfect sense this is not the case, I still feel like I’ve failed on some level.  I know, I know… this is my irrational mind, the depression talking.  That evil monster getting into my thoughts again making me feel hopeless and worthless, as though I can’t do anything right.  And even though I know individual therapy is going to help me with this monster, there still remains a part of me that desperately wants to be capable again.  Wants to wake of a morning knowing that today is going to be a great day.  Wants to hold my HF’s hand and smile up at him because he is my world and I can’t live without him.  Such thoughts still feel so far away, so I guess the answer for me is to get back to the basics of what my PND has taught me so far.  I need to take each day as it comes and allow myself the freedom of giving myself a break from all of the expectations I pile upon myself (a common thread here?).  I need to break my day down into the smallest, most manageable pieces I can in order to deal with whatever is happening – be that by the hour, the minute, the second, the milli-second.  I need to understand that whatever my thoughts are in this moment can be changed and I have the power to do that within myself.  But mostly, I need to give myself time… After all, time heals all wounds, right?

So, walking out of Mrs O’s office with my HF I felt vulnerable and raw and knew that I couldn’t talk about what was happening within me right then.  I explained this to my HF and he, as usual, didn’t press me further.  We’ve spoken more about things since and our date nights are set to become a regular occurrence (twice monthly) in our schedule.  It’s important we keep talking about how my depression is effecting us, and our date nights allow us to do that as adults and in a way that makes us mean something special to one another again.   I know I will make the effort to learn new strategies in order to overcome this depression because I not only owe it to myself to be the very best person I can possibly be, but I also owe it to my family.  I owe it to them more than anything else in the world.

Thanks as always, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

Take care,

TSM  xx