Congratulations they said You’re now a mum Little did they know What I’d actually become... Crippled with feelings Eating me up inside Not wanting to leave the house In the bedroom I would hide I’d do my face Cake on lipstick so red Little did they know I felt safer in bed A mask to hide behind From what I did not know Trying to be everything to everyone a super mum, go go go You look beautiful they said You’ve recovered so well I’m so scared of dying I wanted to tell Yes the baby is great She growing for sure But my chest is heavy And breathing’s a chore Frightened of leaving I’d picture my death Each day each movement Scared it’d be my last breath Things were hard This had never been so true Desperate for help But didn’t know what to do Hardly eating or drinking Not a thought for myself Not realising my lack of appetite Was my deteriorating mental health I felt so stupid and so dumb I couldn’t concentrate Unable to connect my thoughts to my tongue The old me was there A picture hanging on the wall I’ll find her someday And dance once again without a care So lonely so raw I needed some help Not cooking not cleaning I needed so much more You’re not a bad mum You’re not to blame This parenting gig It’s one hell of a game You’re not alone Once you speak up you’ll see These feelings I had It wasn’t just me Postnatal anxiety Is this you too Speak up and shout it loud There’s help waiting for you .....
“I think you have postnatal depression”
During an argument six years ago, my husband said to me “I think you have postnatal depression.”
The statement couldn’t of hit me harder.
Our first born daughter was only a few weeks old. I wasn’t depressed. I was functioning well, I thought.
I was up out of bed, my days were busy, jam packed. I would make his lunch before he left for work, make sure I was showered and looking nice, my beautiful baby girl was being cared for, she was exclusively breastfed despite bouts of mastitis and nipple thrush, dinner was on the table every night, I was even managing to tend to the garden. I thought I was doing really well and I think others thought so too.
I was trying too hard
Turns out, I was trying too hard. For everyone else and not taking the time I needed for me to heal and recover both mentally and physically.
What was going on inside me and behind close doors, what others couldn’t see was eating me up inside.
Turns out I was suffering from postnatal anxiety. A condition that 1 in 5 Mums and up to 1 in 10 Dads suffer from during pregnancy and or after the birth of a child.
How perinatal anxiety affected me
I was crying every day both at happy and sad things, I was hypervigilant over our little girl and couldn’t stand to be separated from her even for a shower. I was really aware of my heartbeat and my breath. I was scared of leaving the house for fear of the unknown and I kept picturing my own death in different ways which would affect my sleep.
In my mind at the time, these were not signs of depression and that’s what left us confused about what was actually going on. The possibility that I was suffering from postnatal anxiety hadn’t actually crossed our minds.
Perinatal depression and anxiety
We now know, someone can suffer from one or the other or from both, perinatal depression and anxiety. Perinatal being the time of pregnancy and after the baby is born.
It wasn’t until about six months later when I came out of the fog and realised that life didn’t have to be that way. Suddenly things became easier, I was happier and the unknown didn’t strike as much fear in me as it had for the first six month of my daughters life.
PANDA – Perinatal and Anxiety Depression Australia
It was around this time that I first made contact with PANDA, perinatal and anxiety depression Australia.
They are a national body who look to inform and support men, women and their families who might be suffering from perinatal mental health concerns. They have a free 24 hour National hotline run by trained counsellors and provide confidential one to one support for those who make contact. It’s a safe zone where expecting or new parents can discuss their struggles without fear of judgement or feeling shame.
Along with their online resources, PANDA also have great checklists on their website which people can turn to if they’re just not feeling quite right. You can fill out the check list and based on your responses, PANDA will guide you through the next step.
I became a PANDA Champion
It wasn’t long after my initial contact with PANDA that I became a PANDA community champion.
Being a community champion means I get to spread the word about Perinatal Mental Health so that other families do not have to suffer through without the support they need, like we did.
Even if one person identifies with something I’ve said and picks up the phone to call PANDA, then good can come from my experience and hopefully that family will get the validation and support they need to make their days a bit better.
Dads struggle too!
Dont forget to check in on the Dads, as they can struggle too.
Having twins after PND and life today
These days we are parents to four beautiful children, including our most recent additions, 9 month old twins.
When friends and family check in to see how things are going, I can honestly say I am more relaxed, healthy and happy this time around than ever before- busier than ever before but happy!