Following on from part 1 of my first birth, that of my daughter 8 years ago, having a new baby in the house wasn't all that I had imagined. Yeah sure, I had read all the books on parenting, new babies and did everything by the book. Why wasn't I enjoying this a little more? Oh yeah, that's right. What everyone said about childbirth being not what you expected and how difficult it was going to be was right. But surely I could at least feel a little more love for this beautiful little baby?
I really struggled. I had my Mum, who couldn't drive, over the other side of town. A sister 2 hours north of me and my youngest sister, a nurse, always on shift work. Other than my immediate neighbours who didn't really come over to offer a hand in anyway (its not the done thing anymore I don't think), I was on my own. My husband (now ex-husband) had just started a new job and was gone from 6:30am until 6:30pm Tuesday to Saturday and I was with this little baby by myself all the time. I had to keep the house tidy because that was the sign of a good Mum. I had to have her in pretty little clothes when we went out because that looked like I was coping well. Heaven only knows what I looked like. I don't even think I've got one photo of me holding her in the first 12 months.
I don't remember eating much in those days other than a chunk of fruit cake I ripped from the block as I walked past the fridge. Every waking moment I spent with this baby. When she slept, I slept. I kept all my Maternal Child Health Nurse appointments and tried to join in on the Mother's Group that was formed from the hospital. But still I wasn't enjoying this time. I can remember being awake at 2am, trying to breastfeed my daughter, wondering what I'd write in a suicide note. How I'd blame my husband for getting me in this predicament. If it wasn't for my little dog Bonnie following me around every minute of the day, heaven knows what I would've done.
I went to my GP for my daughter's first immunisations and I told her I wasn't coping very well. This 40-something doctor, never married, no children went on to tell me I should put the breakfast dishes out the night before to help with my poor organisation skills. Breakfast? I think I only remembered to drink water occasionally to keep up my milk supply let alone think about breakfast.
When I went to one of the Maternal Child Health Nurse appointments I mentioned I wasn't feeling so good about everything, she suggested I speak to one of the counsellors. It was after that appointment that we all realised I was suffering from Post Natal Depression. A counsellor then came to the house once a week to see how I was getting on. It wasn't until after that that I started to finally enjoy my new baby. I'll tell you the truth when I say that even after that diagnosis it still wasn't all smooth sailing (and still isn't) but I can remember moments of time when I would just spend hours with my baby on my knee just looking into her eyes.
The weekly appointments with the social worker turned into fortnightly and then monthly but continued for 12 months. I didn't have the need to go onto medication but was given tools and advice to work through difficult situations. I had to leave the housework and just focus on the children. That was one of the hardest things for me. It's only just starting to get back to a way I'm accustomed to but one thing I know for sure. My children were given the best possible physical and emotional care I could give them. Their needs have been put before mine all this time but now I'm starting to find the time to care for myself.
I'm not sure what would've happened had I not been referred to a social worker. The hospital staff give you a 'gift pack' (if you could call it that) when you leave the hospital with a whole bunch of information in it. Probably with lists and lists of helplines available to you but who's got the time to read that stuff when you've got a baby crying 16 hours a day? One thing I wish I did know about was PANDA (the Post and Ante Natal Depression Association) here in Australia. They offer the following services:
- National Perinatal Depression Helpline which provides counseling, support and referrals to those living with depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby;
- Home-Start, an in-home support program (Victoria);
- Assistance setting up postnatal depression support groups;
- Information, education and training seminars for parent groups and health professionals;
- National resource and service referral database.
PANDA have a helpline which operates from 9am until 7pm (AEST) Monday to Friday. You can contact them on 1300 726 306 and they will provide you with the help you need should you be experiencing these same kind of symptoms. The PANDA web site also has many Fact Sheets available.
PANDA are also behind the Post Natal Depression Awareness Week which starts from November 18th until 24th. Get the help you need. The same applies to Dad. Don't leave it too late. These precious little babies are only small for the shortest amount of time. You want to enjoy every moment of that. Sometimes having a break from baby will make you appreciate them all the more. Even if its to have a shower in peace, a hot cup of tea from start to finish or a look around the shops. You're not being a martyr if you do it all yourself. That's how I felt. It got me nowhere. Having a baby isn't all black and white and there are not hard and fast rules about how you should feel. Seek help.
PANDA (Post and Ante Natal Depression Association)
Ph: 1300 726 306
Monday to Friday - 9am to 7pm
Ph: 132 289
Ph: 131 114
Lifeline Suicide Helpline
Ph: 1300 651 251
Ph: 1300 789 978
Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline:
Ph: 1800 882 436
Print these phone numbers out and stick them on the fridge for someone you know who is about to have a baby.
Disclaimer: I attended a Family Picnic to launch the "It's not all black and white" campaign as a guest of PANDA and Brand Meets Blogger.