My story of postpartum depression starts in Australia when I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I was 6weeks pregnant I’d just started feeling ill and we were due to go overseas (for 2 months and then return to our home country of New Zealand), in two days time. The fact that I was pregnant was a shock as I’d had an IUCD (inter utero contraceptive device) placed a year before, and as far as I new it was still there, we’d discussed having another child but were going to wait till we’d settled in one place permanently, so basically it was just a bad case of bad timing, it turned out that one way or another the IUCD had fallen out, but I had to have ultra sounds and later x-rays to make sure it hadn’t move within my body.
To make a complicated story shorter, I had morning sickness for about 4months during which time we travelled to Canada and to New Zealand and then decided to return to Australia. By the time we got back to Australia I was 6months pregnant and tired, it was late winter and everybody was getting sick we were living with my parents and brother and when I wasn’t sick someone else was, I started getting strong Braxton hicks contractions when I had a bad cough at about 6 ½ months and they continued strongly for the rest of the pregnancy, it was very draining.
Then! My husband and I decided it would be a good idea to buy a house, so as he was working long hours it was my job to arrange appointments and everything (while either I was sick with the flu or our son was) it didn’t take us long to find a house arrange contracts and move in prior to settlement which meant me again doing a lot of arrangements and house organising, it was a very intense and stressful time.
When I had about 4weeks to go I developed pre-eclampsia as I had done with my first pregnancy, I needed rest, my parents were busy and my husband needed to work, so a friend offered to have our two year old for a day. For some reason, which I can’t remember mum came with me to drop him off, when we went to go he did the classic tantrum, because he didn’t want his granny to go, it was the first time he’d ever done this, but it started a pattern that continued for a year. I left him with no problems but on the way back to my house my mum told me off for leaving him when he was in distressed and made me feel very upset. When I got home I called to check how he was, turns out that as soon as the door had shut he stopped crying and went happily to play, so I went to bed and slept for four hours when I woke I had a shower and a break down I cried and screamed to God. I’d promised my mum that I’d go and get jack when I got up if he was awake, but I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t ready. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d had to. But when I rang my friend she said he was asleep, so I went back to bed and slept again. I found out days later that he hadn’t been asleep but that my friend new that I needed him to be.
For the rest of the pregnancy I was stable mentally, but with a few days to go to my due date my physical condition worsened and the labour was induced, this was a blow to me as the same thing had happened with my first labour too and I’d really been hoping to go into labour naturally. The labour was hard but nothing extreme I had to push for what seemed like a long time (an hour and a half) as the baby was quite big. But I recovered well and felt good everything seemed ok, the baby was sleeping reasonably and getting the hang of breastfeeding though he wasn’t attaching to the breast perfectly but I thought that would come together in a couple of days as it had done with jack, so I went home on the fourth day (earlier than I needed to).
Almost immediately things changed the baby wouldn’t sleep more than a couple of hours at a time and wouldn’t settle easily, my husband went back to work (on nightshift), the breastfeeding didn’t come together, and Jack (the 2yr old) was waking up early in the morning, demanding a lot of attention and putting up a lot of resistance to being separated from me.
Everyone says “you’re more relaxed with your second” but I wasn’t, I’d been really relaxed with my first but with number two I worried about everything, I worried and stressed and fretted it took more than two weeks after we went home for the breast feeding to settle down and even then he was easily distracted especially by his brother, which made me annoyed at jack, I lived on 4 hours sleep a day for weeks, I was crying and yelling at little things, and I stopped leaving the house because it was too hard to get the kids in and out of the car, I got really neurotic about spiders and I don’t mean big ones I mean the little tiny ones, people tried to help, they were supportive and my husband was as good as could be. But I got tireder and tireder and then I wasn’t able to go to sleep even when I had the chance so I got even more tired people suggested that I stop breast feeding; for a lot of reasons, they thought the baby might sleep and settle better on a bottle and they thought it might give me more energy, but I wouldn’t accept that and I don’t regret it. I think that I wouldn’t have managed all the bottle of washing and sterilising it was easier to just pull my top up and put him on the breast whenever he needed it I also wanted to give him the same start as his brother.
I was over eating to make up for the energy that I didn’t have so it was mostly sugary stuff, I put on weight and I worried about it but couldn’t make myself eat reasonably, all the things happening at once made the others all seem worse. When I went to my doctor for my eight week postpartum check up, my husband came too that was when the reality of postpartum depression was expressed, my child health nurse had told me when I completed an assessment with her that I was in an at risk category, I thought I was just over tied, but my doctor went as far as offering me anti-depressants there and then. I didn’t want to take them I thought it would pass if I could get some sleep. So my husband and I talked he thought I should take the meds and that if they didn’t help, then I wouldn’t be any worse of. However we agreed to me trying the more sleep idea first so on his next days off he had the kids as much as possible and even let me sleep at my parents for the night. About a week later I went back to the doctor and got the meds and arranged to go to a ppd support class.
I’d decided that I wasn’t going to tell anyone except my husband that I was on medication for depression, but while I was at the doctor’s my husband told my best friend and my parents what I was doing, so I didn’t have a choice, my mum couldn’t accept it for a long time She’d had ppd and she didn’t think I did. I had support, my kids weren’t as bad as hers and I wasn’t suicidal. My best friend thought I was just exhausted the same as I did but she didn’t criticise me. I was quite open about it from then and I found out there were a lot of other woman I new also on meds for depression, mum eventually accepted it to some extent, my husband was supportive as always but didn’t really comprehend what was happening. One of the hardest things to reconcile was the fact that I had so much help and support and yet I still wasn’t managing. The meds helped after a few weeks and I was able to sleep when I got the opportunity I also discovered valerian which I took to help get to sleep if I was on edge, I became more tolerant of jack and was able to have sex with out crying at my husband. But because I wasn’t totally well the doctor put up my dose. Then I felt really good I had a few good counselling sessions and got a better perspective on life, I started to modify my food intake and I was felling so good I started a play group at my local church to help the mums support each other.
After being on the higher dose for 6months and feeling good the doctor and I agreed it was time to wean off the meds which I did gradually UNTILL!!!.. My auntie died and I went with my dad and my kids to New Zealand for the funeral in the rush to get packed and leave I forgot to pack my meds. The medication is restricted in New Zealand and I didn’t have time to see a psychiatrist. I went through the normal withdrawal symptoms such as blurred vision headaches and the like but by the time I got home I was doing ok and after talking to the doctor decided to stay off the meds.
That lasted 4 weeks then I started to fall back down into the hole. Since then I’ve yoyo’d, I tried different meds and went back to the original ones. I’ve stayed on a lower dose, it takes the edge off so I can function, but sometimes the anger and the doubt and the sadness overcome me. My baby ’ Bowen’ is 18months old now and I hope that I can finish with the meds by the time he’s two then my elder son will be heading to pre-school, I hate the anger and irritation that has been the main expression of this depression and I hate that my elder son and my husband have caught the brunt of it. One of the strongest feelings I’ve had during this time is regret. Regret at getting pregnant, both of my children were unplanned I was nineteen when I got pregnant with jack but I never regretted him until I had Bowen. I don’t regret marrying my husband and our life together but I do sometimes wish there had been more time before I got pregnant again. The way I see the postpartum depression; is the result of a build up of stress given an opening to develop due to the physical effects of childbirth. I have faith in God that I will recover and that this experience is not a waste of time I already know that it has given me an insight into the lives of many other woman and I hope that in time I will have the skills to use this knowledge to help others in need.