Tonight on the blog I am sharing the final interview in the May “Postnatal Depression and Anxiety” Real Mum Series (Yes, I am well aware it is June). I spoke with the beautiful Jane about her experience with Postnatal Depression and Anxiety following the birth of her two children, and she includes some great information about the steps she took in seeking help and treatment to work through it. Fill your coffee/tea mugs (or make it two) and enjoy this inspiring and encouraging story x
Hi Jane! Thank you so much for joining us this week for the Real Mums series and sharing your story of going through Postnatal Depression and Anxiety as part of the May series on PNDA. To start off, could you introduce us to yourself and your family?
Hi! I’m Jane. I have a husband called Anthony and we have two children, Grace who has just turned 2 and Hugo who is 7 months old. We also have a French Bulldog called Gus (he’s really the 3rd child).
What do you and your family like to do with your time – both for work and leisure?
Anthony is an Engineer. He works not too far from home and his work is quite flexible with his hours which is great with a young family. I’m currently on maternity leave but before I had my babies I worked as an EA/Law Clerk in the Dispute Resolution group at a Law Firm in the CBD.
As a family, we love the outdoors. We love taking the kids for a walk to the park and around the local gardens near our house. We have recently moved from the city to the suburbs and we now have a beautiful big garden. We love being outside and spending time in the garden. We also like to spend time with our close family and friends.
You experienced PND and severe anxiety after you had your first child, Grace, a couple of years ago. Can you share with us your story? What triggered the PND and anxiety? What happened in the weeks and months following Grace’s birth?
Here’s my story….
I had a traumatic birth (later to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress) and everything went down hill from there. My labour was quick, intense and scary. I thought that my daughter was going to die during labour and it was something that I just couldn’t get my head around no matter how hard I tried. And after she was born and placed in my arms, I couldn’t comprehend what I had just been through and I couldn’t explain how I felt to anyone. It was like I was living in a time warp and everyone around me was moving forward but I was staying in the one spot too scared to move. I suddenly felt like everything was falling apart. And it did…..fall apart! Even the strongest of people have a threshold! It’s such a scary feeling! Especially when you’ve just become a new mother to a beautiful baby. I knew I was suffering, but I tried very hard to cover it up and pretend that everything was ok. That was the worst thing I could have done. I know that now. I was struggling with low self esteem and confidence and everything that I had achieved over the last however many years was slowly slipping away from me. During this time I googled every little thing, I was reactive and I saw numerous professionals regarding breast feeding. It wasn’t helping it was just making things worse. So after I reached the lowest point of my life, I started seeing a Psychiatrist and she diagnosed me with severe Postnatal Anxiety and Depression. Anxiety was not a new thing to me – I have suffered with it before but I thought that I had put all of that behind me, but that’s the thing about anxiety it creeps up on you when you least expect it. It was a combination of complications through my pregnancy, a traumatic birth, my grandmother dying of cancer 2 days before my baby was born, not being able to breastfeed properly and all of the emotions of feeling like a failure when I had to transition from breast to bottle feeding. It was all of these factors that lead me to feeling like an inadequate mother. Plus I had experienced anxiety before and becoming a new mother brought up a whole lot of issues regarding my biological father leaving my mother before I was born.
I decided I was going to work really hard to get myself better and I realised quite a few things about myself. I realised that a big issue for me was that I was so scared of being judged. So I made a decision that I needed to finally put this behind me and move forward.It was not an easy thing to do. But this is what I did:
- I saw my Psychiatrist regularly;
- I enrolled into ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) group at the Melbourne Clinic;
- I practised my mindfulness techniques every day (and I still do);
- I walked and exercised (a lot);
- I asked for help and spoke to my husband when I was not coping;
- I’ve started to try and be as open and honest with people about my struggle (it’s been very difficult for me to do this); and
- I’ve found out about my biological father and his extended family.
Bit by bit I started confronting long standing issues and shedding all my baggage. I started enjoying things again (including being a mother). The road to recovery is not an easy one but with the right help and support you can get there.
Did you have a formal diagnosis of PND/anxiety? How did this come about?
Yes, I did. I was referred by my GP to a Psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PND/Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress after having Grace. I saw her regularly and she suggested that enrol in the ACT group (as mentioned above).
When Grace was 10 months old, you fell pregnant with Hugo. Were you worried about any recurrences of PND or anxiety?
Yes, I was definitely worried but I was in a very different place and I was prepared to get some extra support if the PND or anxiety came back. My husband and I were very open with each other through my pregnancy and we were prepared for the worst I guess. I also decided to see a private obstetrician the second time around and I had Hugo in a private hospital. The Obstetrician knew about my PND/Anxiety and he supported me through my whole pregnancy. I also stayed in contact with my Psychiatrist so she was aware that I was pregnant again and she was able to liaise with my Obstetrician. I had some extra time in hospital and that made a huge difference too.
What was your experience like the second time around? Do you think your first experience of PND/Anxiety helped you after Hugo was born?
It was definitely a very different experience.My first experience with PND/Anxiety definitely helped me. All of the work that I had previously done had paid off. My pregnancy and labour was much easier this time around though. I was in a very different place with Hugo. But he developed silent reflux at around 4 weeks and he ended up in hospital with severe gastro at around 6 weeks. I did start struggling with breastfeeding again and slowly I started to feel my anxiety coming back. When I say struggling with breastfeeding there was not one thing in particular that I could say I struggled with it was a whole range of things. I still don’t quite understand it myself but there was just something in my head telling me that I wasn’t going to be able to do it. It happened with both of my babies and I still really, really struggle it. My anxiety made me question and doubt everything that I was doing but I was determined to get help early this time. I went to my GP and started seeing my Psychiatrist again. And slowly, slowly things started to settle down. The difference this time around was that I was able to make some clear decisions and I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. I didn’t need any medication but I did need someone to talk to and I needed to get back on track.
Who has been your biggest support during your journey through PND and Anxiety?
Definitely my husband. He really has been an amazing support to me and he’s fantastic with the kids. We have become so close after everything we have been through over the last 2 years. And without his support and understanding I wouldn’t be where I am today. The ACT course that I did at the Melbourne Clinic was life changing for me. It made me understand anxiety and I why I felt the way that I did and I learnt a lot of things over the 3 month course.
You recently became a Community Champion for PANDA. How did you come across this role, and what does being a Community Champion mean to you?
I was recently looking the PANDA website to see if I could do any volunteer work. I saw the Community Champion role and I thought it would be perfect for me. I’ve always wanted to be able to raise awareness about this issue and being a Community Champion means that I can do that. I really just want as many parents as possible to know who they can turn to for support. It’s not easy when your struggling but knowing where to seek help is a start.
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Jane! If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of Postnatal Depression or Anxiety, and would like someone to talk to, you can visit the PANDA Website HERE or call their national hotline on 1300 726 306 to speak to a trained counsellor (Mondays – Fridays, 10am – 5pm).