This week is Post Natal Awareness week and it is important that you, I, everyone support this.
Post Natal Depression affects everyone. It is not discriminatory. It doesn’t care if you are rich or poor. Black or white. Young or older. It doesn’t care. It affects about 1 in every 7 new mothers (and those results are based on people who actually seek help).
I have never really spoken about my post natal experience. Whilst I was never diagnosed with Post Natal Depression I felt panicked. I felt isolated and lost.
I remember feeling extremely guilty because I was unable to soothe my new child. I wondered if she knew I felt like I didn’t love her enough. Is that why she screamed?
Did she know I was lost? That I felt all alone?
I often asked myself if I loved her enough. Shamefully about three weeks in, wondered if I would miss her if someone else took her home.
This led me to feel more guilt. I felt inadequate and hopeless.
I had grown this little child in my body for over nine months. Before I met her I was excited. I envisioned hours of long cuddles and midnight breastfeeds. I would supplement her with my milk, as I believed nature intended. The truth is, I was unable to nourish her alone. My baby could not solely rely on me to provide for her. I felt worthless.
I felt guilty each time I used formula. I felt sad each time I used the bottle steriliser. I cried often as I tried to offer my breast but she refused me.
I was dark and alone. She cried. I cried.
I felt like my guilt was surrounding me, almost, some days drowning me.
I had also been diagnosed with Bells Palsy weeks before having my baby and felt ugly and different. My face still hadn’t returned to normal. I still had pains in my dreams. I felt low and sad.
On top of this, I felt like I wasn’t doing a good enough job. Like deep down my daughter expected more. I was constantly exhausted, not only with the battle of looking after my newborn but with the battle I was fighting each day in my head.
My turning point was a Tuesday. I had spent the day listening to my child wail from her perfect bassinet in her perfect nursery. After lunch I called my husband and told him to come home. I needed him to close his workshop for the day and come home and save me.
I needed to be saved from this screaming child. I needed to be saved from the heavy expectations of being a new mother. I needed him, above all else, to save me from myself.
He came home and held me. I let him cradle me like a baby. I finally realised I needed to let go. Let go of my expectations. Release my guilt. Free myself.
Then one day, when she was not very old. The clouds above me parted. I looked at her with love. I felt immediately attached to her, like I needed her more than my desire to breathe. I realised that she was mine forever and that was not conditional upon me being perfect. She was me and I was her, a part of our souls intertwined forever.
I can look back now and see that dark period as a time of great character building for myself. I tell myself that without experiencing all those emotions I may not have realised how much I am actually capable of. It allowed me to realise that I need not be so hard upon myself but rather enjoy the time without necessarily aiming for perfection.
It is so important that you speak up. If you are a new parent and experiencing any of the following symptoms (for two weeks or more) please ask for help.
- low mood and/or feeling numb
- feeling inadequate, like a failure, or feeling guilty, ashamed, worthless, hopeless, helpless, empty or sad
- often feeling close to tears
- feeling angry, irritable or resentful (e.g. feeling easily irritated by your other children or your partner)
- fear for the baby and/or fear of being alone with the baby or the baby being unsettled
- fear of being alone or going out
- loss of interest in things that you would normally enjoy
- insomnia (being unable to fall asleep or get back to sleep after night feeds) or sleeping excessively, having nightmares
- appetite changes (not eating or over-eating)
- feeling unmotivated and unable to cope with the daily routine
- withdrawing from social contact and/or not looking after yourself properly
- decreased energy and feeling exhausted
- having trouble thinking clearly or making decisions, lack of concentration and poor memory
- having thoughts about harming yourself or the baby, ending your life, or wanting to escape or get away from everything.
Take the time to drop in on new parents. Ask if they are okay. Let us support each other, for every person is fighting a battle you may know nothing of.
Please seek help – You can get through this:
Beyond Blue – http://justspeakup.beyondblue.org.au/
Panda – http://www.panda.org.au/