Okay ladeez, this week is PANDA’s Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. As most of you know postnatal depression (PND) is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and I started blogging about it after the birth of my twins. This year PANDA is urging people to host a lunch in November and start the conversation about perinatal mental health. I’m not exactly the hostess with the mostess, so this blog entry is my version of having a “lunch out loud.” So let’s start the conversation about perinatal mental health. I’ll go first.
Hi, my name is Robin and I had PND with all three of my children. Granted child two and three are identical twins, so it was actually only two cases, which makes it a little easier to cram it all in.
Despite the fact I had several things that made me a prime target for PND I wasn’t diagnosed until 9 months after the birth of my first child. That’s an awfully long time to go untreated. I was picked up earlier after the birth of my twins, at 4 months, but by that time I was so far gone that I was immediately admitted to a psychiatric hospital with a Mother and Baby Unit. Hardly a postive reflection on our allied health professionals ability to pick and and begin ttreatent of PND at this time.
Some of the more obvious risk factors I had, but were ignored, were:-
– Premature birth of all three children. my first child came at 35 weeks, and the twins came at 32 weeks.
– I had been through major depressive episode twice before in my life.
– I had limited family support and no paid support to fill that gap.
These were not my only issues but they were three key concerns that health workers should have known to keep an extra careful eye on. They did not.
My daughter, although born 5 weeks early, was big enough and strong enough not to need any medical assistance by the NICU. She roomed with me from the moment she was forceped out of my cut open vagingo. We were in hospital for 1 week and then we took her home at just 36 weeks gestation. One week before full term, four weeks before her eestimated due date.
She looked like an angel and I loved her completely. However, she wouldn’t sleep and would spend two hours on the breast, feeding. She out-right refused a bottle, and no, you don’t get to just let a premi baby go hungry to force them to eat, they’re small and have enough issues without adding tough love. Any time that I would try to lie her down she would shriek in pain and vomit.
I was lucky if I got 30 minutes sleep all up in 24 hours. I was a mess. I cried, I vomited, and I began to collapse at random moments. My husband was angry that I kept calling him, begging for help. He told me that I needed to learn how to sort stuff out on my own like every other mother. He had a dreamy 1950s Hollywood fantasy and I was rudely intruding upon it.
I told the community nurses, I told my GP, I told Tresillian, I told a social worker. Their responses varied from – I couldn’t really be sleeping that little or I wouldn’t be able to smile (I’m a smiling depressive) – to – babies like to suck, a breast is better than a dummy, so I should just STFU. Nobody was willing o help me because I loved my baby and had bonded with her. As far as they were concerned, that was the only issue.
I contemplated suicide repeatedly every day. Given that nobody could see an issue with my existence I concluded that I was the problem . I felt that I wasn’t good enough to be a mother to my angel. It never occurred to me that I might have PND because the vast amount of media coverage depicted mothers with PND as being distant and unbonded. On top of that, not one single health professional had suggested it. I didn’t fit the stereotype, I didn’t hate my baby, I hated me.
When it came time for my daughter’s 4 month injection and checkup I couldn’t get an appointment with my regular GP. The receptionist recommended nother doctor. That doctor saved my life.
The doctor immediately recognized that my daughter had reflux and referred us to a specialist. She had a particular bad case. It was a textbook case and should not have been missed. Medication was prescribed. The GP also picked up that my daughter had hip dysplasia and referred her to another specialist. Because this condition was missed by the hospital, community nurses, and my previous GP, it had progressed past the point of a harness or brace being able to fix it. Within two weeks she was in for surgery and placed in a spica cast. It was traumatic for all involved. She is five years old now, her hip is much improved but not 100%.
Soon after that the GP called my husband into her office and told him that I was exhausted and unless he wanted me to end up in hospital he better start helping. From that point on she became my regular GP, I dumped the old one. A good GP is worth their weight in gold. If you find one, keep them, they can truly save your life.
After my daughter was treated and my exhaustion started getting under control my GP started working more seriously with me. So at 9 months post birth I was finally diagnosed with PND, put on a mental health plan, placed in therapy, and given medication. It was a long and brutal road but I got there.
I tell more of my story and all about my time in a psychiatric hospital with my twins in my book “Confessions of a Mad Mooer” which is being released in December. I hope it helps to further breakdown stereotypes and makes PND more relatable for others. We really need to get rid of the stigma and start that conversation to gain understanding and acceptance.
Okay, that was my turn, now it’s your turn to join the conversation. I’d love to read about your experiences in the comment section.
(Note: I’m dyslexic so if you wish to comment to gloat about spelling and grammar errors… your time will be wasted. I can not simply stop being dyslexic and see and write things as you do.)
If you or anyone you know is depressed, here are some great links:
Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/