This article was kindly written by a Go Mum! client, Kate. She shares her story in the hope of helping other mums realise that they are not alone and that there is a light at the end of the postnatal depression tunnel.
Post Natal Depression and Anxiety (PND) is far more common than most would think. I suffered PND after the birth of my second daughter but didn't after the birth of my first.
I initially spent approximately three weeks in the Post Natal Disorder ward at Belmont Hospital when my youngest daughter was about 6 months old. I was admitted as an involuntary patient. I simply wasn't coping. My youngest wasn't sleeping very well, I struggled with parenting my almost 3 year old and couldn't cope with any kinds of additional stresses that I normally would be able to. I kept telling myself I should be able to cope, after all I didn't have any problems after the birth of my first daughter. I thought I just had to keep going. But I hit a wall. I got angry. Angry at myself and my family.
I finally agreed for my family to have a home doctor visit me. She told us about Belmont's facilities for PND patients. It is an 8 bed ward mother and baby unit. I was breastfeeding and believed it was the only thing I was good at so I did not want to be separated from my daughter. I spent one night at the Royal Brisbane Hospital psych ward (which was a scary experience) and the next day I was transferred to Belmont Hospital (which was like the Hilton in comparison).
I was put on anti depressant and anti-psychotic drugs and received some amazing therapy. There was generally a midwife and psychiatric nurse on each shift so support was always available. I was assigned a psychiatrist who helped me identify how my PND developed and helped me work through these issues.
PND is an underlying hormonal imbalance that can be made worse by stressful events. This was my case. I spent 3 weeks at Belmont and commenced a course of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). Once home, I started to put into action some of the coping techniques I was taught and continued to go back for my course.
All went well for a few weeks until some stressful events triggered me again. I couldn't let them go, I wasn't sleeping very well, I got angry. I ended up back at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and then Belmont. My medication was increased and I spent a further couple of weeks as an inpatient. I was determined to get better. I still am.
I am enjoying being back at work, engage in regular exercise and am doing well. I have also become much better at accepting help when it is offered and not trying to manage everything on my own. I have no plans to stop my medication and believe we need to start talking about these experiences, to educate and help others.
About the Author
Kate is a mother of two and long term client of Go Mum! We thank her for her willingness to share her story and encourage all mums to seek help if they feel overwhelmed or don't feel like themselves.
Below are links to excellent resources on postnatal depression.
Also, our Go Mum! Advisory Board Member Amanda Bryen is a clinical psychologist that specialises in the treatment of postnatal depression and anxiety and does home visits.
In our lives before children, we often don’t anticipate the chaos and overwhelm that one tiny human can bring! Without a doubt, the most challenging time I have ever experienced in my motherhood journey was the post-birth period.
As an organized, timely professional this rattled my usual calm and collected self. I suffered bouts of postnatal and antenatal depression with my first two non-sleeping reflux babies. When I was pregnant with my third child, I made a decision to be more deliberate and intentional with my parenting, based on my experience with my first two boys. This has let me be the mother I always desired, non-sleeping reflux baby, and all!
Here are some of the things that you can do to survive the post-birth period:
Own your parenting ability
We need to OWN our parenting abilities, and that we are the perfect mother for our baby. We know how they prefer to be held, where their ticklish spots are, the songs that make them smile and the exact furrows of their faces when they frown. This is the parenting skill that we need to trust – we are the person that knows our baby intimately, and therefore we are the best one to know their needs.
Release yourself from unrealistic expectations
We are often high performers, with equally high expectations of ourselves before we have children and place the same expectations on ourselves pre- and post-birth. The baby will sleep, we will finish ‘xyz’ project, have endless coffee dates and a spotless house. Our babies never read the memo!
It takes time, and more often than not, trial and error, to work out what works for your baby, and every baby is different – even in the same family. We cannot expect to immediately ‘get it all’. As new parents, like any profession or job, it takes time to learn the ropes.
I was always a classic over-committer, until my third baby came along. Like many new mums I was a tired, dairy machine struggling to keep up with my older children’s school and kindy activities. I learned to start saying ‘no’ or at the very least re-negotiate the level of my involvement.
My first step in setting boundaries as a new mum was to establish some breathing space so that I could rest, clear my head and determine what I had the time, energy and space to do. Once I became clear on what I could realistically manage, it became easier to set my boundaries without feeling guilty for saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’.
The other side of the coin is to know when to say ‘yes’. Offers of meals, running errands, dropping older children home – say yes! I used to think I would be imposing or asking too much of someone if I said yes, but from a practical perspective it’s rarely as much of an impost as we imagine it to be.
People offer because they want to lighten our load and give us a chance to rest occasionally, not because they think we cannot manage. It’s a sign of friendship and a genuine practical offer of support.
Ask for support
This is hard, and I have been guilty of going it alone, particularly with my first two babies. Ban “I’m fine” and “I’m just tired” from your vocabulary – particularly with yourself. Take out a piece of paper and ask yourself “How am I feeling? What do I need?” – write down your answer honestly.
It is normal to feel tired, upset and overwhelmed in the early days – the key is to know what you need to do to resolve these feelings. It may be a nap, a hug, a good cry or some strong emotional support. Reach out to your “no-judgment go-to person” and ask to be supported.
Importantly, if you find these feelings of overwhelm aren’t subsiding talk to your MCHN or GP for some additional professional support.
Lastly, Be kind to yourself
We are our own harshest critics, and it is easy to get caught up in what’s not working, rather than what is. Motherhood is exciting, joyful, challenging and fulfilling, all in the same day! Take time to savour each day and just enjoy the precious moments with your little one.
About the author
Michelle Keeffe is a mother of three boys and understands the highs, lows and chaos of balancing motherhood, business, study and life. She is a passionate life coach who supports expectant and new mothers in their transition to motherhood and beyond.
When she isn’t building Lego or chasing her youngest out the dog door, you can find her at www.speedoflifecoaching.com.au or www.facebook.com/SpeedofLifeCoaching
Photo credit: Emotive Images (http://www.professionalphotographybrisbane.com/)
WE recently had this question raised within our Closed Facebook Group (Go Mum Community) and thought it might be useful for mums everywhere.
RESPONSE FROM ADVISORY BOARD PSYCHOLOGIST AMANDA BRYEN:
Thank you for your question – it is a good one.
The first thing to ask your friend is: “How long have you been feeling like this?”
Let her know that the Baby blues occurs a few days after the baby’s birth, and then will go away after 3 or 4 days (maximum one week). The Baby blues are very common, it is said to be caused by the big hormonal adjustment happening in the woman’s body.
However, if the new mum continues to feel very emotional and ‘out of sorts’, ‘not myself’, extreme fatigue, irritable, irrational thinking, sad, down, angry, anxious, and/or has mood swings, and it has been going on for more than two weeks and is affecting her life, then it is definitely not the ‘babyblues’, it is more likely to be PND.
See the BeyondBlue website for information and facts about perinatal disorders – weblink:
What to do and say to encourage her to seek help:
“I think it would be a good idea to get some extra support. Have you thought about talking to your GP about things? The doctor may refer you to a counsellor. There’s also a quick 10-question mood assessment online at BeyondBlue”.
Weblink to online assessment:
All the best in your endeavours to help a new mum – you are doing the whole family and community a wonderful service!
Clinical Psychologist, Brisbane.
Hi! I'm Amanda - Clinical Psychologist and owner of Caring 4 Mums. I offer a dedicated perinatal service for expectant mums and new mums & dads (antenatal and postnatal care). My services range from caring for the carer (new mums), infant care, parenting information, education & strategies, through to therapy for anxiety, sleep deprivation, birth trauma, anger, and ante/postnatal depression (PND).
My focus is to provide mums and their families with an approachable, sensitive, and professional service and my home-visit service provides a truly convenient option for new parents.
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