My journey into motherhood has not been without its challenges some of which I didn’t even realise I was facing until much later on.
I am one of the very fortunate women who has been blessed with amazing fertility. My whole family in fact. After being on the pill for nearly a decade it only took us 6 months to fall pregnant with our daughter (now 3.5 years old).
The pregnancy itself from a medical standpoint was very ordinary. There were no complications physically, she was growing perfectly! My body did amazing!
Being diagnosed with depression and anxiety while pregnant
My mental health however was declining, rapidly. It wasn’t until my husband finally said something about halfway through about my increasing outbursts and extreme mood swings did I finally realise something was wrong.
Together we booked my appointment to see the GP. I was terrified. I went alone, as that is what I wanted. Taking a deep breath I walked in and immediately burst into tears. I cried so much. I felt like I was failing my unborn daughter and my husband not to mention everyone else in my life. But she reassured me I was in the right place.
Based on the severity of my depression and anxiety a low dose of medication was decided to be the best action for both the health of myself and my baby. It helped. So much. I felt more level, I worried a little less. It helped my husband and I reconnect.
The day my daughter was born at 38+4
I woke at 5am, my waters broke like in the movies a giant gush only for me it was brown. I called the hospital and due to her having likely pooed inside we had to make our way in immediately.
My contractions started thick and fast, 1minute long 5 minutes apart. My gut told me it would be fast (for a first baby). We arrived at the hospital, got admitted and they checked on her. She was fine, I was dilated 3cm already. Surprisingly I was so calm, to start with, I felt so ready for this. The contractions were getting longer and closer together.
My mum and sister arrived shortly after me and on seeing them I cried. I was now scared.
3 hours in the real contractions started. Wow I had no idea it would feel like my bones were breaking. I very quickly chose to have an epidural. As they were getting it prepared and we waited for the doctors my daughter pulled her head back in the birth canal and got stuck, her heart rate dropped. She was in distress.
They attempted to do an internal exam but the pain was worse than contractions and they couldn’t complete it to see where she was. They immediately increased the urgency for my epidural and prepped me for a C section in case it was needed.
The epidural was painless and fast. Once it’s effects took hold I could finally breathe and my daughter’s heart rate returned to normal. They did the internal exam and found she was quite far down and the best medically safe way to get her out was vaginally.
They allowed me an hour to rest as the contractions had slowed. The doctor came back an hour later ready to birth my daughter. Without much knowledge about the consequences I agreed on his recommendation to use the suction method to aid her birth.
The first attempt was unsuccessful. They had to reattach and pulled, with force, more times than I can remember. But she was stuck again. Then also without knowing the consequences, he advised they would now need to do a full episiotomy to get her out. I agreed. Shortly after she was born! 7 hours after my waters broke. She was amazing!
My post-delivery hospital stay
She latched well and fed for hours. I was exhausted. Every time I tried to lay her down she screamed. The bruising on her head had started to show and it was the worst I’d ever seen. It covered her forehead and nearly the entire top of her head and was dark purple. I cried. A lot. ‘I did this to her’ is all I could think.
Eventually 24 hours later, still no sleep I begged the nurses to take her so I could rest. Begrudgingly they did. They found she was jaundice and likely in quite a bit of pain due to the bruising. They let me sleep for an hour before waking me to tell me she needed to feed again.
By this point the epidural had worn off and I was in excruciating pain. I couldn’t sit or walk without this agonising pain. My daughter wanted to feed around the clock day in day out. I would sit there crying my eyes out in pain.
This continued our entire stay. I felt very alone and lost. Every time I asked the midwives for help with breastfeeding they said I was doing it fine and the pain would eventually pass and walked away.
Finally the day to go home came, 3 days later, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
My first month as a new mother with anxiety and depression
We arrived home and for the next month as I learnt to feed my daughter and I physically healed my mental health spiralled.
She fed 24/7. There were barely any moments she was not attached to the breast. I cried all day and all night as I sat awake trying to satisfy my beautiful baby.
I started to hate breastfeeding and I resented her for not sleeping. But I blamed myself. If only I hadn’t agreed to the suction she would be more settled. If only my body could have given birth without the need for an episiotomy.
The first three months as a new mother with anxiety and depression were hard!
The first 3 months despite my absolute whole hearted love for my daughter were the worst I’d ever felt.
I returned to the doctor at the 2 month mark and we increased my medication and she reminded me it was not a failure to top up or offer formula. That made me feel worse. I bought a tin on the way home. But just stared at it for weeks and cried as all I felt was failure and if I gave in and didn’t persevere (knowing she was thriving physically) I would be letting her down.
One night around 12 weeks old still feeding pretty much 24/7 my husband took charge and made a bottle. He took her and fed her. She drank 40ml and passed out for 3 hours! I slept. For 3 whole hours!
My life changed instantly. She started sleeping, I started sleeping, she was happier, and more content, and I could finally see the sun starting to peek out through the clouds.
It took a couple of weeks for me to let go of my guilt for not continuing to breast feed but deep down I knew for my own mental health this was definitely the right choice. The next 4 months were amazing! She started sleeping through the night, napping well during the day, loved being in the pram and getting out and about. I was finally starting to feel happy!
Seven months into my journey to motherhood.
Around 7 months my daughter stopped sleeping through the night, waking 2-3 hourly again (teeth was my guess) this continued until well after she was 18months old. Even after that she would still wake up 2-8 times a night, she was heavily reliant on feeding to sleep and needing her dummy. I’d never done this before so I just continued doing anything and everything I could to get her to sleep.
During this time we tried a lot of things many of which are considered unsafe sleep, and now 3.5 years later I know better, and do better but at the time resorted to bed-sharing, allowing blankets and pillows and toys in her cot, anything that I thought might help. It never did and the inconsistency of it all meant she was not only an unsafe sleeper when she did sleep but she never learnt the tools to self sooth or put herself to sleep.
Thankfully my depression and anxiety was mostly under control thanks to medication and I was able to fumble my way through the sleepless nights.
Twelve months into my journey to motherhood
From around 12-18months she started having night meltdowns. These would happen in the middle of the night sometimes multiple times and sometimes lasting upwards of 2 hours. She would scream hysterically and thrash around and as she got older she would yell but still be unable to tell us what was wrong.
We didn’t know what to do other than be with her during these times. Often ending with me as upset as she was.
Deciding to have another baby
Despite her bad sleep, and now being in the midst of the terrible twos, we decided on the night of her second birthday that we were finally ready to try for another baby! So we did that night. And we fell pregnant on that very first try.
My gut told me around 1.5-2 weeks later that I was pregnant and that it felt very different than the first time. Sure enough I did a pregnancy test and it shouldn’t have shown anything yet but it did! It said 1-2 weeks pregnant. I cried. Happy and scared tears! We were doing this.
Finding out I was pregnant with twins
Given my strong family history and the results of my HCG levels (being through the roof) it wasn’t a complete surprise at 9 weeks when we had our dating scan and found out we were having DCDA twins.
I was so excited but also terrified! We have these two little miracles on the way but financially could we do this? We planned for one and now we have 2 babies and a 2 year old toddler all of which will be in childcare in the future. I started to have terrible anxiety about how we would cope financially this eventually led to panic attacks.
My twin pregnancy with anxiety and depression
Again this pregnancy from a medical standpoint was pretty great. My body grew these babies amazingly well. Mentally I was definitely coping better than the first time other than the anxiety.
The only other side effects during this pregnancy was the beyond extreme exhaustion, terrible morning sickness and fluid retention. From very early on all I wanted to do was sleep. I had no energy for anything. It broke my heart.
My daughter could not understand why mummy was so different. So she naturally started to gravitate to my husband for more and more. He stepped up for everything from looking after our daughter to cooking and cleaning and being my support. And for the first time ever I was to exhausted to even stop him. So I let him. It broke my heart and felt like my little girl didn’t want or need me anymore.
I had a lot of doubt about wether we’d made the right decision in having more kids. I did my best to remind myself that we were and she would love having brothers to play with one day.
Deciding how to birth my twins while suffering from anxiety, depression and PTSD
As the pregnancy progressed it became more and more important that I decided on how I wanted to birth my boys.
The more I thought about it the more anxiety I had. I couldn’t pin point what exactly was causing the anxiety, panic attacks and extended periods of crying and wanting to hide from the world. Eventually with many doctors telling me I could choose, natural if they were head down or C section no matter which way they were it was up to me.
At our 34 week appointment it was time to choose as a C section date would need to be set. In my heart I always knew and wanted a C section as I did not want under any circumstances go through what I did with my daughter. I started to explain, I felt I needed to justify my decision, in a very detailed way, and found myself shaking and crying and fearing the birth.
Although I had chosen a C section which at this point was also the safest choice as Baby A was footling breech and Baby B was transverse, I was utterly terrified that being my second time my body would progress even faster if it went into labour naturally. I was terrified that Baby A would get stuck and put Baby B life at risk, that I would tear or have another episiotomy and that I would have to relive that nightmare.
Being diagnosed with PTSD while pregnant with twins
I never realised how traumatic is was for me while I was living it. How much it would effect me now. But it did. When I realised my symptoms seemed similar to that of PTSD I went straight to my amazing GP and explained everything to him. He said he suspects it is a form of PTSD surrounding the birth and after care I received. I felt a little relieved that I wasn’t feeling like this for no reason.
But I still worried. Day and night.
My C-section with twins
My C-section was scheduled for 37+1. I was more than ready I was exhausted and in pain and was ready to have my boys with us. I woke at 6am exactly a week before the scheduled C-section and both my waters broke. Again just like the movies. This time it was clear. I could still feel them moving but I wasn’t having nor had I had any contractions yet. I called the hospital and made my way in.
They checked the babies, they were perfectly fine and confirmed my waters had in fact broken. They noted the babies were both breech and I advised I wanted to proceed with my C-section.
I was scheduled for the first one of the day at 8am. 44 and 45 minutes later my baby boys were born. A healthy 2.2kg and 2.4kg. they spent 11 days in Special Care and didn’t require any NICU stay. All they had to do was learn to feed and grow.
The midwives and doctors were beyond amazing. They supported me through everything! Taught me how to breastfeed, bottle, tube and tandem feed my preemie babies, they checked up on me constantly both physically and mentally. Occasionally if they thought I needed the rest they wouldn’t wake me to come to feed the babies that 3hourly block! They showed me care and compassion when I would cry because the time for me to be discharged was coming and they weren’t quite ready.
Being discharged from hospital and leaving my twins in SCU was hard
On day 9 I chose to be discharged and go home to sleep and spend time at night with my daughter who I missed more than anything. It was scary going home and leaving them there but I whole heartedly knew they were in the safest most loving hands other than mine.
The next morning, day 10, I was there at 6am for their first morning feed and I was so excited to see them. I noticed excitement in the Special care nurses faces when they saw me but didn’t know why.
The head nurse arrived shortly after I did and came over to tell us that she and the Obstetrician believed the boys were ready to room in with me. So I was readmitted!
I roomed with the babies and they did amazing! Took all of their feeds and passed their hearing tests. The next morning the Obstetrician agreed that it was finally our time to go home! So we did!
Sleep and newborn twins
My boys have always been great sleepers (well in comparison to my daughter). Right from the day they were born they ate and slept in 3 hourly blocks in their bassinets with just their swaddles. 100% safe.
Our journey with the twins was more relaxed and routine based. I combine fed right from the start eventually around 2 months weening to being completely formula fed as my supply could not, even with pumping, keep up with their demand. But this time I knew fed was best and I felt no guilt when it came time to stop breastfeeding all together.
I had also done a lot of research about sleep and safe sleep when I was pregnant as I knew that having multiples and early multiples can increase the risk of SIDS. I was 100% committed to this and to be consistent while still making sure I got in lots of baby snuggles and responding to each of their needs around the clock. This is honestly how I imagined the newborn phase to be. Of course still sleep deprived but I was so happy and in love. I got to watch my daughter become a big sister and what an amazing sister she was and is. These boys adore her more than anything!
The twins pretty much slept on a 3-4 hourly routine day and night for the first 2-3 months in their bassinets next to my bed. At 6 weeks we transitioned to sleep sacks as they preferred arms out anyway and they loved it.
Twins aged 3 months
Then around 3 months they started being awake more and were so content. They were so happy all of the time. And even now, be it a little more clingy, they still are. Around this time we decided that due to the snoring in our bedroom that they may prefer to sleep in their cots, we tried and there was no transition needed. They loved it. So much so they started to wake only once over night! And magically for reasons I do not know, maybe it’s because I was calmer, my daughter also for the first time since she was a baby started sleeping through the night too!
Twins aged 7 months
The twins started sleeping through the night around 7 months! This lasted for about 3 months and we still get about 2-3 nights a week like this now. Once they started teething their sleep was a little interrupted and it is still a little but only 1-2 wakes up max per night on a “bad” night. They still nap successfully twice a day.
Life today – Motherhood with anxiety and depression
They are now 11.5 months old (they’re 1 in just under 2 weeks) and are amazing. I have had my challenges during the first year of being a mum of three. Days where everyone was miserable and I sat and cried with all 3. But although exhausting and busy and messy it’s really amazing!
I am still medicated for my depression and anxiety as I know my triggers much better these days. I knew that coming off them during the first year would be very difficult and put so much stress on me and my family. So I opted to wait and to enjoy it. I see my GP regularly and he supports this decision and agrees it’s the right choice given my history.
I know one day I’ll be able to successfully come off of my medication and have spent a lot of time talking at my Perinatal Peer support group and with my GP to make sure I have worked through everything I’ve gone through but also feel supported and heard and ready.
Hindsight about my journey into motherhood with anxiety and depression
I now can see a lot clearer what I’ve been through and can see ways that I could have improved my situation if I could go back. But I can’t so what I can do is make those changes now and offer my support to other mothers who may be going through something different.
One thing I have learnt recently is that when people say to me wow, you’re wonder woman how do you possibly survive with twins, and a toddler total and stay on top of your mental health when I can barely cope with one. My answer now is always the same. It really is all about you and your situation. Each person copes differently and just because I have more kids doesn’t make the pain and struggles you feel any less overwhelming or difficult than mine. You don’t know what it is to have my kids and I yours. Your one baby could be a non sleeper who cries all day and mine could be content happy twins.
I am very lucky to have 3 amazing healthy kids who push me to my absolute limits but have me in awe daily! The struggle of being a first time mum is very real and it’s ok not to be ok. You are not alone.