Today’s Fertility Friday post is shared anonymously. Hard to tell, hard to read, but incredibly important. Postnatal depression is experienced by around 1 in every 7 women in Australia, but these stories are often not spoken about, or spoken of only in a whisper. Today’s post is no whisper, it’s an out loud, strongly-voiced, brutally honest account. Thank you to the person who agreed to share it here. I’m proud to know you and count you as a dear friend.
I have no idea how to start my story. I have started it a couple of times already, but so much of this is so hard to say.
I have two children, a loving husband and life is good. It wasn’t always so. After the birth of my first child I had undiagnosed post-natal depression (PND). It almost tore our family apart. We didn’t know what was going on or how to handle it. Eventually, I sought help and saw a psychologist. She helped me through PND, two miscarriages and the general stress of everyday life. I thought I was okay. Sure, I was still having suicidal thoughts. But doesn’t everyone?
Four years after having our first child I was finally pregnant again and past my 11 week danger zone. We were so happy and scared all at the same time. Because of work, we had to move away from my support network. But I was determined to make it ok. I found an obstetrician. Our son started preschool and loved it. I went to the hospital for a tour of the maternity ward and filled out the paperwork, and ticked yes for having a history of anxiety/depression. We had our 20 week ultrasound and found out our baby was a little girl. I was so excited. This baby that I had waited for was a little girl! We would be best friends, go shopping, talk about boys and plan a life for her. Things were ticking along nicely.
Then my husband went overseas for work purposes. BOOM! Anxiety and depression moved in. I attended obstetric appointments. I ate all the right things. I told people I was pregnant. However I didn’t feel it. I just had a large stomach and it would be all over soon. I did not want to know or acknowledge it. I was angry. All. The. Time. Our son witnessed my anger. I never raised a hand to him, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t hurt by what he heard. He was four years old. How was he supposed to know why Mummy was always yelling? I spoke with my obstetrician and midwife about it. But they said to speak with my GP. So I did, and I was told to make an appointment with a psychologist. So I did. I couldn’t get in to see him for another two weeks. My anxiety told me that it wouldn’t help, so I cancelled the appointment after waiting for a week.
On a Wednesday afternoon I got a call from a midwife at the hospital. They were just checking how my pregnancy was going. “Good. No problems.” “You’ve ticked here that you’ve had Mental Health issues in the past. How has that been for you?” I immediately started to cry with this woman I had never met on the other end of the phone. We proceeded to have the best conversation of my life. I will always think of that midwife Karen as my angel. She was just doing her job (her words), but she got me in contact with a psychiatrist. I started seeing the psychiatrist weekly, and it helped a great deal. I had found the right person for me.
As I got closer to my due date I started thinking of my ‘belly’ as my baby again. I prepared the nursery and bought all the essentials. I even thought about names again. Within weeks of this happening my little girl decided to arrive exactly four weeks early. As soon as I heard her cry, I cried. All the guilt and emotion that had built up over the previous few months spilled out. My baby was crying because she needed me, however, I needed her more.
I continued my appointments with the psychiatrist. He put me on antidepressants. Turns out, that was what I needed all along. It is almost four years ago exactly since I started medication. I have had many a low moment since then. I had to try a few different types of medication to get the right one for me. I have also doubled my dose. I’m finally in a good place. I don’t like that I’m on medication, but I am and it helps. I’m exercising, eating right and meditating regularly. My hope is that with time and more of the healthy living I can eventually decrease my medication, but I know that I will always be on antidepressants.
I will also forever feel guilt about the way I spoke to my son and the feelings I pushed aside about my daughter during my pregnancy. I love them more than anything and wish the world for them. One day I will tell them my story, just as I have told you.
[Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is experiencing postnatal depression, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the Australian Postnatal Depression Website.]