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Holistic Bowen Therapist,
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How Post Natal Depression (PND) affected my life and my family.
I remember the day, as though it was only yesterday, but it wasn't. It was my six week check up after giving birth to my twin daughters Aimee and Holly, sixteen months ago.
My obstetrician was conducting tests, once again, to see if I had signs of depression. The answers I gave him indicated borderline depression. Speaking to my husband, Mark as we left his rooms my obstetrician requested him "to keep an eye on me". Looking back now, I wish I was given more options of what to do if l was feeling depressed. No one told me where to go to seek help and support. The important aspects were that no one told me how difficult rearing three young children was going to be and that many other mothers were or had experienced the same feelings as I.
My life as a second time mother was going to be hard. My son, Jake was a toddler who was three years old. Jake was two months away from turning four when the twins were born. During my pregnancy with the twins, I was not 'glowing'. In fact, the pregnancy took a lot out of me. Mark had to take three months leave from work to help with the normal house duties, as I had to have bed rest. The twins were born five weeks prematurely. The birth was also an anxious experience for both Mark and I. On this weekly visit to the obstetrician, we were informed that the results of the ultra sound, taken earlier were not good. Consequently, I was admitted to hospital that day and was scheduled to have a caesarian operation first thing the following morning. The wait for this operation felt like forever.
So my twin daughters were born. I was not able to hold them. Emotionally, this procedure was very hard to accept in the circumstances. Then, just as quickly, they were taken away to special care. As a result, I did not even feel like I had given birth. I was taken back to my room for rest. There were no babies in the room. There was nothing to look forward to when I arrived there except two little photos. These were taken soon after they were born. I thought, this is not what having a baby is supposed to feel like. Mothers for years have had their baby or babies put in special care. Did they feel as emotional as I did? Our family popped in to see the girls and I. After seeing me, off they went down to special care to see the twins. I still kept looking at my photos. Would they know who their mother was when they first saw me? I was getting up to date progress reports on them by the hospital staff, doctors and family who visited us. I was unable to hold them, cuddle them, bond with them.
The time eventually came when I could be taken down stairs to see my babies for the first time. They looked so tiny. They were different to the photos. I did not have the 'bond' I should have had when a mother has a baby or in my case twin babies. Why?
It was my third day in hospital when the "the baby blues" became obvious. I could not stop crying. I was offered reassurance and was told my response was quite normal. On the fifth day, I came home from hospital. The same day my stitches were removed. I was going home without my beautiful baby girls. I had my photos and that was all. I went home to an empty house.
It was the weirdest feeling I have ever experienced. - walking into an empty home, with no babies. Two weeks later, the girls finally came home. I was excited but felt a little nervous about caring for them. At last………..I thought, we could be like a real family - complete and all together. From this period of time, life did not get easier. Being premature the girls were required to have regular hospital visits to a pediatrician who would monitor their progress. The visits occurred monthly until the twins were six months old. Looking back in retrospect, my depression had not eased after "the baby blues" episode in hospital or by the time I presented for my six-week check up.
Being a mother to new babies again was supposed to be a joyful and happy time of my life. However, I was not enjoying it. I resented seeing other mums happy with their new babies. I did not have any of these feelings and hated seeing them enjoying themselves. At times when I was able to catch up with other mothers with new babies and heard what a wonderful experience they were having and how well their babies were sleeping during the day and night made me feel hatred towards them. They were glowing…….and I was struggling to have a shower each day, because there was so much to do. At this stage, I felt I was neglecting Jake's needs to play a game or just give him some affection, a hug or a cuddle because I was too tired.
When Mark went off to work, I would ring people I knew to see how many of them I could visit for a few hours. Who would be able to have me for a few hours? The anxiety of staying home alone with my three children was haunting me. If I could not find anyone at home, I would drive around to a shopping centre and just walk around for ages. People would comment on what a great job I was doing. I was able to get out of the house with the three kids! I would smile and say, "Yes, it is great" but I was crying on the inside………thinking to myself - "if only you knew the truth". I give myself credit for being able to hide my emotions to these people. Call me an expert. No one had guessed that I felt like a failure. At this stage, I had not heard another mother tell me it was hard work being a Mum or life was difficult being a Mum.
Time slipped by. I cried to myself. I felt like I wanted to walk away from it all. I had the worst mood changes when my husband was nearby. Yet in his eyes he thought I was coping all right. I had become an expert at hiding my postnatal depression. Then, one day I just collapsed with exhaustion. I cried and cried. A nurse eventually told me that I was expected to feel this way. I had sick twins (who were born prematurely and who had been in and out of hospital for assessment and checkups) and a four year old son to look after as well. This day, I walked away from the hospital feeling lonelier than ever.
Unbeknown to me my postnatal depression had reached a dangerous point. It became very severe. For example, when my girls cried, I could not even talk to them, comfort them or to try and settle them. It seemed to make no difference, whether I spoke to them or not. I felt like a robot just feeding them, burping them, bathing them and changing their nappies. I felt somehow that I was also neglecting Jake's needs because I was constantly attending to Aimee and Holly.
I knew something was not quite right and decided to approach my General Practitioner. I felt embarrassed going to him at first even though he had been our family doctor for years. Many questions and negative thoughts were filling my head. I thought he might think I was a failure as a mother. I thought he might tell me to "deal with it". Fortunately, this was not the case and his overall support for my condition was really good. After completing some tests, he told me I had postnatal depression. He prescribed some anti depressant tablets and they helped relieve the situation. I felt I was still not coping as well as I should be. I did still not love my children like I believed a mother should.
The last stay the girls had in hospital was when they were six months old. This was my breakdown point. I had had enough. I believed I did not want them anymore. They were always getting sick. I blamed myself for this consequence in the end. I came to the conclusion that I was a bad mother. I thought my children were getting sick because of me. My body could not cope any longer. Mark was at night school and I had to get my parents-in-law to come into the hospital to stay with the twins whilst they were in the casualty ward. I was unable to hold them anymore. I felt like a failure again and admitted to the staff that I did not love the twins like I believed a mother should. After this disclosure, I was taken to the Unit Nurse Manger's office. She arranged for a Social Worker to speak to me. Once again, I was told I had postnatal depression and was assured they could help me through it.
From this point onwards, I did receive a lot of professional help and support from many people. The next three weeks were spent getting to know my beautiful girls again. Whilst they were still in hospital, I visited them every day and sometimes stayed with them overnight. As well, I was able to give Jake more of my attention and be there for him. Meaningful support was given to me from other mothers who had experienced similar feelings to what I felt. I needed this support. Just being able to listen to these mothers relate their stories was enough to keep me focused on my recovery. I was able to share my experiences with them and to learn to understand that this condition was not mine alone. It was amazing how many other mum's felt just like I did. Postnatal depression can happen to anyone. I am not ashamed now to say that I have suffered from it. With the help and support of trained professionals, counsellors, Support Group parents and my family I have overcome this illness.
© Lisa Miller,2002 Director Geelong Post Natal Support Group
Please feel free to contact on 03 52 7714 12 for permission of reprint.

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