Postnatal Depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder???
I had always dreamt of being a mum, I felt it was my destined career path. I was never really sure of what I wanted to do after I finished school but being a mum was never a question.
My pregnancy with Olivia wasn’t great, I had awful morning sickness for the majority of the pregnancy. From the moment I woke to the moment I went to sleep I felt nauseous. I would cook dinner with a mask on because I felt bad that my husband was at training all day and I sat on the couch trying to keep my head in a position where I didn’t feel sick. (Very similar to the bed spins you get after a night out, where you sometimes have to put your foot on the floor to stop the room moving, yeh I know you’ve all been there) yuck!!
Towards the end of my pregnancy I started worrying that I wasn’t going to bond with the baby, I never rubbed my belly and gushed about the little person growing inside me. I more thought OMG stop kicking me you are going to brake a rib and hurry up and come out already I am so over feeling fat, tired and sick. All of this I never actually told anyone with the thought of being judged for being ungrateful and cold. After all, this is all I’d ever wanted and what, now I’m complaining???
Olivia was a big baby and I was running out of room and patients I guess (I’m a very impatient person) so my OB and I decided to induce me a week early. He was confident the baby was of great size and was worried my lack of sleep toward the last few weeks might be effecting the energy I would need to go through a first labour.
So it was 29th October and we had just had a BBQ with a few friends and family for Jonathan’s birthday and it was time for my induction. I waved to everyone smiling and happy and off we went only to find out later my mum burst into tears, which is not unlike her but she said to our friend “she has no idea what she’s in for”.
The anxiety kicked in on the way to the hospital and I went from wanting to see how the labour progressed before going for pain relief to wanting the epidural as soon as I got to the hospital, I was petrified.
8pm when we arrived at the pregnancy assessment unit the midwife said I was already 2 cms dilated and pretty much in early labour. My OB put the gel in and within 15 mins I had a 1/10000 reaction, I was allergic to the prostin gel and it sent me into a full contraction that wouldn’t release. I was taken straight to the labour ward and the anaesthetist was called, an hour after the contraction began it finally released after having the epidural, praise The Lord for epi’s. That yellow tube in my back was now my new best friend.
After the epidural was in I managed to rest and get a little bit of sleep, it was now 7am and time to push. I am also a very competitive person not with others more myself and pushing to me was always the challenge I was most looking forward to. I pushed one minute on, one minute off 3 times per contraction for over 2 hours. The first hour and a half I was ok but the last 30 mins was traumatic. I started to hate myself for being so terrible at pushing, I thought I was stronger than that, I felt I wasn’t doing it right, this is something women had done for centuries and I couldn’t do it.
I finally reached breaking point and started to cry and yell “just get it out” “help me, I can’t do it”. I never wanted a Caesarian but at this point I just wanted the baby out. My OB could see I was completely exhausted and had nothing left. The epidural had well and truly worn off. He decided on a vacuum delivery, in about 5 pushes she was out, I had a 2nd degree tear.
At 9:07am on the 30th of october, our 8pound 5 baby girl arrived and the physical pain was finally over but this is where the mental pain began.
Olivia was lying on my chest and I felt completely numb, my OB started filming our new little family and all I could say was” I don’t want to talk”. I can’t remember the beaming smile on Jonathan’s face or the moment when I realised I had a baby girl. All I can remember is lying there holding her and waiting for this feeling that everyone talks about, the overwhelming feeling of love when your baby is placed in your arms. I waited and waited.
Our parents both came in, first mine and then Jonathan’s and I just cried every time someone new walked into the birth suite. Not tears of joy but tears of horror. I couldn’t believe what just happened and I felt I couldn’t express how I was feeling because this was the most amazing time in a new mums life and all I could think about was how shit I was at labour . How was I going to tell everyone that I would never ever be doing that again?!!
That afternoon we started getting visitors I felt like I was sitting in the corner rocking and saying there’s no place like home. Some of our friends walked in the door with massive smiles gushing at our beautiful little girl and I would say “that was fucking traumatic!!”
I couldn’t really believe I said it out loud and from then on, I didn’t really say it again. What new mother says things like that?? A bad one??
Olivia was perfect in the hospital, she slept like a dream. Breastfeeding however was an awful experience. Every new midwife had a different technique for feeding and different advice. I was open to advice but it was the way it was said. Instead of asking how I was going and if it was hurting, I kept being told I was doing it wrong and don’t do it like that do it like this. Just when I thought I had it under control another opinion would start their shift. I am all for the benefits breast feeding provide for your baby but it didn’t come naturally for me. I persisted with feeding for 10 days and I couldn’t do it anymore. I hated not know how much she was getting, if something I had eaten was upsetting her and the pain of her not latching correctly was excruciating. I know people say that this was the best way to bond with your child but every time I fed I just wanted to cry.
I started to feel a lot better bottle feeding, for the first time since I fell pregnant my body was my own and I was finally in control. I was set on not having a needy child or one that slept in my bed. I kinda turned into a robot, I was a mum now and my job was to look after my baby. I got her into a strict routine and made sure no-one rocked her to sleep or held her when it wasn’t necessary. Controlled crying came quite naturally to me, hearing her cry didn’t really bother me. I’m not talking a pain squealing just a whinging cry. I would often turn the monitor off so I couldn’t hear her if I wasn’t ready to get out of bed. Our rooms were next to each other so if she got really upset I could hear her.
Time went by and I thought I was doing really well, Olivia started sleeping through the night from 6 weeks and she would sleep 12 hours +. I would constantly question if I was doing the right thing and if I loved Olivia enough, I never had thoughts to harm her. I did love her and knew it was my job to protect her but I guess I was very matter a fact about everything. I still didn’t have that feeling everyone talked about.
I would sleep every time Liv would sleep and I got plenty of sleep during the night so I started to wonder how I could be so tired still and struggling to get out of bed. If she woke up before 7am I would almost be angry with her. As time went by I still had a blocked ear and dizzy feeling I had throughout my pregnancy which I had been told would go away when my hormones settled down. I felt as though I was on a boat, I felt like I wasn’t in my body.
When Olivia was 4 1/2 months I cut a tendon in my wrist on a baby Panadol bottle of all things, I dropped it on our stone bench top and a shard of glass cut right through 90% of the tendon. I had to have micro surgery to repair the tendon and was in a splint for 12 weeks, are you kidding me?. I know it could definitely be worse and I am not saying poor me but I just felt I had failed again, what an idiot, who does that!!
My mother-in-law came up to help for the first 2 weeks, then my mum for the following 2. I felt myself getting my back up to anyone helping me but I couldn’t control it. I had a the perfect baby, she was happy,she ate, she slept, I didn’t need any help. I felt like I was succeeding with her finally and now I needed help again and I had no choice, another fail.
The next 13 months passed with me on the pursuit to find out why I was dizzy all the time and why my left ear was still blocking. The feeling was awful some days I struggled to do everyday tasks. waking up in the morning to make Liv’s breakfast would send me into a spin. There had to be something physically wrong with me to cause such debilitating symptoms. I hope your ready for this, I had 3 CT’s, 3 Mri’s, 2 hearing and balance tests. I saw 3 ENTs, 1 balance specialist, 2 acupuncturists, 2 naturopaths, a Chinese doctor and 3 GP’s to try and find out what was wrong with me. Everything came back clear, I had a few false hopes along the way, a bad tooth, sinus infection and a couple if other things people thought it was.
Throughout this time I constantly consulted the most accurate source of information, Google. (Surely everyone can relate to this, good old Dr Google, I googled everything) I would wake up in the middle of the night, turn the brightness down on my phone so I didn’t wake Jonathan and get my Google on. I took print outs to my GP on my research of what I thought I had, I even went to the extreme of looking up a condition I saw on Greys Anatomy and asking my GP to test me for this rare condition,Ha ha. I had well and truly lost my shit, I was going mad. This illness had consumed me, and finding out what it was became an obsession to which I felt I would win a prize if I found the missing link.
After many meltdowns, dr’s offices, scanning equipment, potions, and detoxes I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed something to make it stop, my mind was exhausted from telling my head to stop spinning all day, I was scared that I was going to be like this forever. I thought I was losing or had lost my mind, I just wanted to feel numb, to go to sleep until I was better.
I went to my regular GP and cried uncontrollably, I don’t even know if I made any sense but I had been on this path for a long time so I guess he knew this day was coming. I started on an anti anxiety /antidepressant and had to see him once a week for an hour chat. He knew I didn’t want to go and see a psychologist, I had been to one while I was pregnant, I have a history of depression so my OB just wanted me to go and have a chat to someone. If you have had depression in the past you are more likely to develop PND. I felt it made me second guess everything and look in the past too much, creating things that had never worried me before. After that day I started feeling better already, maybe because I had finally given up or the feeling I was taking something to help me, helped straight away, placebo I think.
I had been on medication for about 4 weeks and seeing my GP weekly, I walked into his office and said “I have postnatal depression don’t I ?” He responded with “yes, yes you do”. I admire the way he went about my diagnosis, I had been told by many professionals that I should go on antidepressants but with no real explanation just that it might stop my dizziness. I always told them I’m not depressed I’m dizzy, so do your job and find out what’s wrong with me. He knew if he told me I had PND I would lose faith in him and find someone else who would look for the mystery illness I so desperately wanted to find. I can’t thank him enough for that, I don’t know where I would be without him.
Looking back I do understand why no one close to me picked up on it, I was always smiling and happy on the outside but fading on the inside. I threw up the thought to them saying do you think I have PND? And of course the answer was no, I didn’t want to ever harm her, she was a healthy baby that slept 12 hours a night she woke up smiling and went to sleep the same way. I have a husband who loves me, a beautiful house, amazing friends and family, life is perfect. What’s to be depressed about? I just felt so ungrateful.
I had a close friend go to a facility for her PND and she was asked by another patient “Why are you here? You don’t look like you have depression” What does depression look like? I haven’t seen any pics on google ha ha. Anxiety and depression definitely doesn’t discriminate it can effect anyone, most of the time it’s the people you think would never be effected are the worst.
I keep on top of my anxiety/depression all the time, sometimes I feel it coming on and I try Yoga, meditation and belly breathing to help but if all else fails I have a nap. I often question how this happened to me, this is all I’ve ever wanted to be a mum and I felt like I was failing at it. It brings me back to my question PND or PTSD? I’m really not sure what triggered it for me, hormones, the traumatic birth, not living up to expectations, so many things contribute to the way a new mum feels. I also feel everyone is happy to put on the front and say everything is perfect, my Olivia does this and she is so gifted blah blah, instead of admitting the real challenges of being a mum, I’m definitely not saying its all bad but sometimes just venting for a minute makes everyone feel better. At the end of the day I think all anyone needs is support, someone to listen and not judge, someone to say “I felt that way, it’s completely normal. Your not a bad mum”
If you think you have signs of PND or PTSD, or just need to vent to someone. Make sure you speak out, it doesn’t have to be a Dr at first maybe just a friend, family member or partner. You don’t need to feel like this anymore, it will go away. This is the best time of your life, don’t miss out and regret not enjoying it.
The following are some of the sites that I have found helpful.