Tag Archives: Postnatal Anxiety

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: We Don’t All Make It Out Alive

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My heart breaks for the family of Florence Leung of New Westminister, Canada. She was a woman, a human being in her own right, as well as a mother and a wife. Like me, she has battled postnatal depression, unlike me, she didn’t make it out alive. On Wednesday her lifeless body was found.

Last June Allison Goldstein made headlines in the US for her suicide. She was 32, just like I was when I had my first child, bubbly, beautiful, and well liked. She seemed to have it all on the surface. but below the surface postnatal depression pulled her down.

In 2010 an investigation was launched into Joanne Bingley in the UK. She had postnatal depression and sadly left her family home as her husband and baby slept and then laydown in front of an oncoming train. She loved her baby but felt like she couldn’t cope. Joanne had begged health care professionals for help but they wouldn’t listen. The result was that a little girl will never get to know the love of her mother.

These are just a few cases that made headlines, but they are unfortunately not isolated cases. Suicide is one of the leading causes of postnatal maternal death. I was nearly one of these women. Raging hormones, lack of support, complications with feeding, and exhaustion can provide a deadly cocktail for mothers. And yet women are still frequently dismissed when they ask for help.

Health professionals are supposed to be vigilant for signs of depression and not coping but mothers often report being treated like hysterical first time mothers when they ask for help. And science backs them up. Studies have shown again and again that males going in with the same symptoms as females are more frequently referred for further testing and given medication, whilst women are simply sent home. Mothers are on the absolute bottom rung despite the media releases from the health professionals declaring that they should be at the top.
I was on the receiving end of this dismissive attitude, I thank my lucky stars that someone finally listened otherwise I’d be another statistic. I doubt I’d even make it as a news report. Simply dead and ignored.

My daughter came at 35 weeks. She attached fine to the breast but was a slow feeder. She’d take up to two hours to feed. Then I’d change her nappy, try to put her down to sleep, she’d shriek in pain so I’d hold her upright in my arms so that she wouldn’t explode with acidic vomit. She’d sleep in my arms for forty minutes and the we’d start the process all over again. Day and night. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I’d cry often. My legs would buckle underneath me at random moments. I’d vomit up bile. I was exhausted and my body was failing me. I told the community nurse I was exhausted. She told me to just put the baby down and stop overreacting to every little sound. I told my GP at the time that I couldn’t cope. She said babies like to suck and a breast was better than a dummy. She said it couldn’t be as bad as I said otherwise I wouldn’t be able to smile or function. I felt like I was going crazy. I hurt. I couldn’t keep going. I wanted to kill myself so that my daughter could have a mother that people would help. And I would have done just that if things hadn’t changed.

My regular GP wasn’t available for my daughter’s four month check-up. I had to see a new GP. She diagnosed my daughter with reflux and hip dysplasia, both conditions were quite severe and had been missed by the hospital, community nurses, and my previous GP. Referrals to specialists were given. With medication for reflux my daughter was able to sleep better. Which meant I could too. She also needed two ooperation for her hip dysplasia, three months in a spica cast and several more in a brace. That GP improved my daughter’s quality of life and saved my mine. I doubt that I could have gone on another week the way it had been.

When my boys were born people said, just call, don’t get yourself into a tizzy like you did last time. But whenever I called they were too busy. And they were too busy the next day or the next. And then they’d show up and help with my daughter but I still had the twins, born at 32 weeks, to take care of and dinner to make.It was a slap in the face. A tokenistic gesture of help given not when I needed it and not in a way that allowed me to get any sleep.

As for my guardian angel of a GP, my boys had been in the NICU I was in their system. I had to go back to them for the twins’ checkups. I didn’t have time to also see my GP. When the social worker would pass she’d ask how I was, I’d say exhausted, she’d laugh. During check-ups I’d mention to the pediatrician that the boys weren’t sleeping well and I was having trouble taking care of them and their 2 year old sister. I was told that was life with premi twins, just deal with it.
Again by four months I was ready to end my life. And then my boys got bronchiolitis and ended up in hospital. In the emergency room I just cried and cried because I was exhausted and desperately worried about my babies and it was a catastrophic combination. I felt utterly alone. The emergency nurses were fantastic. They told me that they rarely got to have babies in there so would have no shortage of nurses who would want a cuddle. The nurses woke me to breastfeed then whisked my boys off to be cuddled. Nurses were coming from other departments on their break to get a cuddle with my boys. I got four hours of broken sleep that night. I wouldn’t have had much more than that all up in the past four months.

And then we had to go up to the children’s ward. I lost my beautiful angels of mercy who had come to help me in emergency.

They had strict rules in the children’s ward. Most of them resulted in the nurses not being able to help. So I juggled my two babies on my own and stared out the window and thought about how I’d jump out if I could actually open it. I decided that when my husband visited I would excuse myself to go to the bathroom, walk outside, then walk into traffic so that I could finally die. I was in so much pain, physical and emotional, that I just wanted it to end.

Luckily the pediatrician who had treated my daughter for reflux was the doctor on the ward. He took one look at me and knew I was not myself. He spoke reassuringly to me that there were options and that he was calling the social worker and that they would help. I was too tired not to believe him.

The social worker came. She said there were things that she could do to help but she also wanted to refer me to a hospital psychiatrist. He was there within twenty minutes. It became apparent that I was a patient along with my boys and that I was the more serious case. It was determined that I needed intensive support. Once the boys were well enough the three of us were transported to a psychiatric hospital with a mother and baby unit. And that’s why I’m still alive now.

If health professionals had continued to minimise my cries for help then I would be dead. I wouldn’t be typing this up on my phone next to my 5 year old daughter. She lies next to me sleeping peacefully as I type this because she was scared so came in for some mummy hugs. Last night it was my youngest child, he may only be younger than his twin brother by a minute but he’s still the youngest. He was scared and wanted to watch Yo Gabba Gabba. It was 3 am so I said no and he had an epic meltdown which I tried to soothe as quietly as I could lest he wake his siblings. The night before it was my middle child, all he wanted was for me to hold his hand whilst he dropped back off to sleep. If I hadn’t made it, my kids would have missed out. And to be honest, my death was only avoided by half an hour.

I owe a great debt to both those doctors, but they shouldn’t be so few and so far between. It’s about time health professionals stopped paying lip service to the notion that they’ll be vigilant of mothers struggles and actually were. How many more avoidable suicides must we mourn?

My book Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Postnatal Depression Sucks will be out in December. It deals with my time in the psychiatric hospital aan what I have learned. If it stops one more mother from killing herself then it is worth it. You’re not alone. I’m here, I made it through and so can you.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Buy my memoir Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Postnatal Depression Sucks here.

Another Baby Is Dead, Let’s Not Demonise People With Postnatal Depression

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Content warning: (Infanticide, PTSD, DV, Suicide)

The nation held its collective breath when Sofina Nikat, mother of 14-month-old Sanaya Shahib, said that her daughter had been stolen by a “black man” whilst they went for their morning walk. Nikat claimed the man smelled strongly of alcohol, wore no shoes, he was African, between 20-30 years old, and that he pushed her down and then unstrapped little Sanaya before running off with the toddler. The story seemed far fetched, Internet sleuths quickly pointed out how could she know the age or gender or ethnicity if she didn’t really see them, how did he unstrap the baby in time, and what the F does African look like? The continent of Africa contains many countries and ethnicities so simply “African” doesn’t cut it. This isn’t 1920s America where a vague story about a “black man” is enough to get everyone gathering their pitchforks. And of course the brother of Nikat speaking about himself more so than the toddler he should have been grieving made everyone even more suspicious. Their suspicions were correct, Nikat has confessed. The “black man” didn’t take her baby. She murdered her baby.

Cue the cries of, “she must have had PND.” People insisting that the mother be shown compassion because nobody in their right mind would do something so horrible, she must have had Postnatal Depression. Compassion is an admirable state but I’ll just give you a moment to think about the full statement and let that sink in. Nobody in their right mind would do something so horrible, she must have had Postnatal Depression

Recently another Australian toddler died at the hands of his mother. His name was Braxon and his mother was Jasmine Mossman-Riley. Mossman-Riley jumped off a cliff holding her son Braxon after leaving a suicide note on Facebook. It was tragic. Any death is tragic, more so a child, and even more so when that child has the terror and pain of witnessing someone that they love killing them. Mossman-Riley’s family have said that she suffered from PTSD as a result of Domestic Violence and have urged victims to speak out and get help before it is too late. Nobody wants something like this to happen again. A family member of mine, on hearing about this case, decided to take me aside and tell me that she had read about the mother in Sydney who had jumped off a cliff with her child and that the mother who jumped had PND and I also had PND and to call her before I did something like that… blinks… it was mortifying. Let’s not even get into the logistics of the situation. The idea that I could get myself, a four year old and two year old twins off a cliff at the same time when I struggle to merely get them in the car at the same time without losing a sock somewhere. A friend told me to shake it off, she’s just a an older lady concerned about the kids…. but why? Because there’s a subconscious bias that PND = potential baby killer. [My friend, for the record has suffered PND and knows the two aren’t one and the same and wasn’t saying they were.] And not in the same way that anybody could become a killer, people link the two closely. It’s a subconscious bias that needs to be challenged because it is utterly false.

Those who follow my blog know I’m open about my struggles with PND. I even blogged whilst in a psychiatric hospital  (first entry is here), but I have never had an urge to hurt any of my children or kill them. I’m a living, breathing, human being, not some blown up stereotype made up by the media, an actual human being. And it was hurtful to be treated as such. As if any time somebody murdered their child, I would be thought of and that other mums, just struggling to get by, and doing their absolute best would be thought of as well. After how hard we try to be the best mums possible, in the end we’re just cut down to mindless killing machines because nothing else matters but that one label – PND. A label that shouldn’t even mean psychotic baby killer in the first place. It was insensitive and it hurt. It was also unfair. And the irony is, the mother had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from Domestic Violence, not Postnatal Depression.

Conservative estimates state that approximately 1 in 7 mothers experience Postnatal Depression. That’s just over 14%. Other figures have the rates considerably higher, even up to 30%. That’s a lot of women. If you know 7 mothers, chances are, at least one of them has experienced Postnatal Depression. Many of them will never have told you and the vast majority of them you will have thought were excellent mothers with good relationships with their children. You’d think that because the vast majority of them are. Depression is not the same as being a pathological killer. It is not the same as not knowing wrong from right. It is not the same as being utterly unable to control your actions. It can be debilitating,  it can cause bonding issues, although much less frequently than the media and societal stereotypes would have you believe. It does cause high levels of anxiety around your ability to parent. Anxiety than can interrupt sleep even more so than a baby up all night with reflux, or even twins with reflux. I’ve had both, the singleton, and the twins with reflux. And I’ve also had Postnatal Depression. Never have I ever had a thought to hurt, maim, or murder, any one of my children. Suicide, oh yeah, I’ve contemplated that, murdering another human being, one utterly dependant on me, no I have not. And chances are, the women that you know with PND, regardless of if they have told you they have it or not, also aren’t ticking time bombs just waiting to go off and kill a child.

Beyond Postnatal Depression is Postnatal Psychosis. In this state mothers do lose contact with reality and experience impaired decision making capabilities. Unsupported women with this condition can cause serious damage before they receive help. Supported women in treatment often have successful recoveries and have meaningful relationships with their children. When I was in the Mothers and Babies Unit at a Psychiatric Hospital I met two women who had been diagnosed with this condition. Both were picked up almost immediately after birth. Most cases are picked up within 2 weeks of birth. The first had been in treatment for three months by the time I met her. I would not have realised that she had a serious condition because her treatment had been so successful. I had noted that she did try to avoid being alone with her baby and had thought it was because she was a young mum and was simply anxious. Her anxiety was a whole other level because she still didn’t quite trust herself. She loved her baby very much and did not have murderous intent. So why was she worried? Perhaps explaining what the second woman I met was like might help. The second woman that I met with Postnatal Psychosis had only just been admitted. She had little touch with reality and at times didn’t seem to realise that her baby was her own. Had she been left alone with her baby she could have left it on the side of the street thinking it waa a garbage bag or tossed it into the washing machine thinking the baby was laundry. A pretty terrifying prospect for a young mum to think she might harm her baby without realising. I hope both of those women are doing great now, I know they were in the best place to recover and to embark upon fantastic future because they deserved it. And I don’t think people reminding them every time a child is murdered that they too were once unstable would contribute to that. In fact they’d probably find it not only hurtful that nobody could see their progress but also triggering. Do you really want to trigger a psychotic episode due to your insensitivity? Id also like to note that neither of these women killed their babies. A diagnosis of Postnatal Psychosis does not a killer make. A whole series of negative circumstances surrounding a mental health issue generally contribute to a catastrophic result such as murder, not simply the diagnosis of PND or PNP. So be careful when using a label of mental illness to explain murder because there is far more too it than that and you’re unintentionally vilifying a group of vulnerable people who are far more likely to be the victim of a crime than have one committed against them.

So how about we start being more careful about what we assume about others because of one of the many “labels” that they “wear.” And don’t treat a bunch of anxious mums trying to do their best like unhinged murderers incapable of making a decision, just be nice.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/ 

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: I Didn’t Know I Had Postnatal Depression

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This week I’ll try to do a Confessions of a Mad Mooer post each day in honour of Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. My Confessions of a Mad Mooer posts deal with my journey through Postnatal Depression and the first post was here – https://riedstrap.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/confessions-of-a-mad-mooer-hi-im-a-mad-mooer/ But that wasn’t the first time I was diagnosed with PND.

The first time I was diagnosed with PND was 9 months after my beautiful daughter was born. I couldn’t have been more in love with her. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Every tear shredded my heart and I wanted nothing more than to protect her. Sure I was exhausted,  she had reflux which wasn’t diagnosed until late and she was also diagnosed with hip dysplasia late, but who wouldn’t be in those circumstances. I had a baby in a cast from ankle to armpit and severe reflux at the same time. It wasn’t easy. I was exhausted,  I was teary, I was suicidal. But hey I loved my baby and this was a trying circumstance so how could I possibly have Postnatal Depression? Women with Postnatal Depression all hate their babies right? They think they smell weird and will not hold them? Wrong. Sure there are some women who fit into that perfect stereotypical box but many women do not. Many women are DEPRESSED postnatally not utterly disconnected or psychotic. They love their kids, they just have zero resilience left. They put that beautiful baby to bed and then lie on the kitchen floor sobbing uncontrollably until the baby wakes again or they vomit. They can’t sleep for fear something will happen to their baby. They can’t unwind because everything they do they are sure is somehow wrong and ruining that little baby’s life. That baby that they love more than anything. Essentially it is exactly the same as the fears all mothers have but times that by ten and never ever switch it off, not even for a cup of tea. Women with PND are just like every other mother, just more so. We’re not scary, we don’t need to feel ashamed,  we need compassion and support. And even if you previously thought you couldn’t understand us, you really can because we’re just like you.

The medical profession has recently separated Postnatal Depression into two categories,  Postnatal Depression and Postnatal Psychosis. The later deals with those more extreme cases such as the rejection of the baby upfront, all the way up to those murder suicide cases that break everyone’s hearts. I have a theory that in years to come it will be split again to add a third category,  Postnatal Anxiety. Because I think that gives a more understandable definition. Mothers are anxious creatures to begin with, us women with PND just tend to excel at it.  Hi5s all around,  we won at something… even though it’s nail biting,  stomach churning and hair pulling…

Hug a mother today and tell her that she’s doing an amazing job.

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Any women who suffer from any form of depression or anxiety are welcome to join my own FB group which is pro mystical troll but doesn’t allow any nasty trolling.

https://facebook.com/groups/563402577109194

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/