We are the Face of Motherhood: My Story on Postpartum Anxiety

Generally when people think of Mental Health, they think of the stigma that’s attached to it. “Insane, Incompetent, Pity.”   So, I reckon it is fair to say that Mental Health is something that you never like to admit to having.

“Living with Anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you. It gets to the point when it’s the loudest voice in the room and the only one you can hear.”

I have always battled some level of anxiety, even from a very young age, that was caused by a situation that was out of my control. Growing up, it’s safe to say that I had a terrible dysfunctional family who exposed me to terrible things like alcoholism and violence. So typically with any form of family violence, it would come in waves of good and bad periods. But what always remained the same was the continuation of the cycle. Looking back, I never really thought that I had anxiety. I was just conditioned to feel that what I experienced was normal. I never approached a general practitioner or psychologist, and my parent’s probably just thought I was an oversensitive child.

So when I found out that I was pregnant with Lucas, the thought of having a child terrified me. I was 27 years old when the pregnancy was confirmed, so I thought I was mature enough to be able to manage becoming a Mother. I was in a stable and solid relationship, content with where my career was heading, and I considered myself a responsible person. But for some reason it did not sit right with me. I remember being told by my Dad to never have children, so there was always this self doubt. Also, I had never been around babies, never changed a nappy, never burped a baby, never taught how to hold them the correct way. So I felt out of my depth!

“More than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression each year in Australia.” ~ Panda

By the time Lucas was born, he absolutely without a doubt terrified me. I didn’t know what to do with him. I kept asking myself, “when am I going to love him?”, “why am I struggling?”, and “what is wrong with me?” In all honestly, I just didn’t know how to be his Mum. I was living day to day, with the hope that something might just click. Around ten days postpartum, I developed an extremely high fever, body aches and heavy bleeding; so I instinctively knew that I had developed an infection. I ended up being readmitted into hospital with a bad case of endometritis, which is an infection or inflammation of the inner lining of the uterus. Plus to top things off I had a bladder infection and mastitis. After a consultation with the ED gynaecologist, I was going to be administered a high dose of IV antibiotics and was advised not to breastfeed Lucas. I was told that it would be unsafe and harmful for the him. I was devastated!

My husband remained brave through it all. Even though I was struggling,  Chris was amazing. He just got stuck into parenthood, and kind of carried the load. He managed the task of nursing a ten day old baby on his own whilst I was recovering in the hospital. I remained there for about three days recuperating, and once I finished my course of antibiotics I could start breastfeeding him again. So for about a two weeks I was pumping and dumping and it had a huge effect on my supply, and this caused my anxiety to spiral. In the end anxiety drove me to quit breastfeeding, which is my biggest regret because breastfeeding is something I have such passion for now. A part of me was crushed and I accepted that I had failed as a Mother.

“When you find yourself locked in the bathroom, sobbing on the floor because you’ve just had enough, that does not mean that you have failed as a mother. Being a mother is hard. That is not failure. This is fact. Remind yourself of that.”

When I returned to work, Lucas was about 6 months old, I was unable to fulfil my role. I would spend the morning crying when it was time to drop him off. I remember when I was having buddy training, I ended up bursting into tears because of my inability to cope with the changes. It was pretty embarrassing! Things began to calm down when Lucas became a toddler, but I was still a helicopter parent. Forever holding him back for fear of him hurting himself. Whenever he got sick I mollycoddled him. I was taking him to the doctors for the smallest things. I was just constantly under duress, my poor brain must be fried by the constant arousal of neurons. I constantly doubted myself as a Mum.. But.. I need to remind myself that there was a few challenging factors that most (term used loosely) families don’t face. My husband was away.. ALOT! Most of Lucas life he was absent, which at the time was awful but we had to create a means to an end. We also live in a state which is thousands of kilometres away from family, so being able to reach out for support was impossible.

But it was only within the last 18 months where I have been formally diagnosed by my GP. There were days where I was barely able to function. My worst symptoms were heart palpitations and panic attacks. Honestly, it would literally stop me in my tracks. It was truly an awful experience, but I am so thankful that my husband came with me as support to speak with my GP. These days I manage my anxiety with medication, and blogging has helped ease my stress. It can be very healing.

“Recognising the signs of anxiety is not always easy, as you can have anxiety without the symptoms of having depression. Some symptoms that stood out to me was. Heart palpitations, irritated easily, nausea, difficulty sleeping, dizzy spells, trembling, dry mouth, sweating, feelings of dread.”

So.. let’s stop the stigma of mental health and start supporting each other. If you recognise these signs of a friend or loved one, talk to them about it. Make it apart of conversation, because you never know.. they may have been reaching out to you but never had the courage to start the conservation.

Much love

Melanie xoxo

{Do you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your obstetrician or family doctor. Need more information? Visit PANDA for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear that yourself or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and/0r visit your nearest emergency department.}

We Are the Face of Motherhood: a Series on Postpartum Depression by Mommy in Flats

Lion Fox & Co are privileged to welcome Jamie aka Mommy in Flats. Jamie is from the USA, the youngest of five, mother to four, and wife to one (although some aspects of the idea of a sister wife are appealing). Growing up, she was a quiet introvert who much preferred reading to running around outside or going places with lots of people. Not much has changed…oh wait four kids later and she doesn’t have time to sit still much less concentrate on a whole book. Jamie can be found, running around her house after a crazy two year old, snuggling a sleepy infant, or feeding two (always) hungry growing girls.

In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness month, I am kicking off a series on real women’s experiences with mental health and motherhood. Every week day in May, a blogger or guest blogger will share her experience struggling with mental health and motherhood. Check in here to read their stories and for warning signs and advice on how to spot PPD, PPA, and other mental disorders. Please consider buying a PPD Awareness t-shirt, all proceeds go to help mothers in need. Have questions or need support please join the discussion on Facebook.

Did you know that Postpartum Depression affects more American women than breast cancer, than sexual assault, than eating disorders? Sure, you hear about the random woman who shows zero interest in her baby or maybe a woman who can’t get out of bed and thinks of self harm. But, what about the rest of us? What about the ones who continue to put their feet on the floor and carry on day after day. We’re here to tell you that the face of PPD is varied. A smile can mask symptoms of sadness, fear, and anxiety.

In the USA, Postpartum mental disorders affect roughly 20% of new mothers (the statistics are hard to pin down because many women go untreated or unreported- this also doesn’t take into account those suffering with general anxiety, bipolar, and other mood disorders). That’s approximately 4% more than women who will experience physical assault, 8% more than women who will experience breast cancer, and 10% more than women who will face an eating disorder each year. Yet, there is no ribbon for mental health disorders. No fundraisers. No one is walking to end depression or anxiety associated with motherhood. In fact, we’re afraid. Afraid to speak up and admit that our mental health is affected. Afraid how outsiders will perceive us. Afraid what our friends and family will think of us. Afraid of how our status as a good mother will change if we admit just how much we struggle to get through each day.

When someone has a physical ailment, a doctor examines her. She is diagnosed through a series of tests that can (hopefully) accurately pinpoint the cause of her distress. At that point, she can begin to treat it with traditional or alternative medicine.

When you have a mental disorder, there is no definitive diagnosis. Anxiety looks very much like mania or ADD. Depression can mean days spent in bed or it can simply be the inability to focus, irritability, and impatience. A lot of times, these disorders not only mimic each other but coincide. So, the person with bipolar may also suffer from anxiety. Or someone with OCD may also struggle with depression. This further confuses the diagnosis. Often, even when there is a history of episodes, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what one is struggling with. Is it bipolar or anxiety coupled with seasonal depression? Is it ADD or a mix of perfectionism and compulsivety?

If you can get a concrete diagnosis, that is only half the battle. Next, what do you do? There is no magic pill to fix depression or anxiety or even bipolar. It’s all a mix of trial and error. This may be why so many women go undiagnosed or untreated. The road to help is too hard.

I have had four babies. I have had at the very least heavy baby blues with four babies. I have sought help at least two times. Yet, it took a severe series of never ending panic attacks (if I had to describe hell on earth that would be a close description) for me to get real, reliable, steady professional help.

Why? I mentioned to my doctors my second time around that I was struggling badly. I was prescribed estrogen (which I never took since my mom had breast cancer, which puts me at risk) and an antidepressant that didn’t work along with some anti-anxiety pills. I don’t know how many times I visited my family doctor those first few months. Not once did she refer me to or suggest I might want to see a psychiatrist. I chugged on and got over it. Why didn’t she see my pain (pain I was desperately expressing to her time and again) and really treat it? She did (at my request) give me a list of therapists. I thought about calling one of them. In the end, I made it through without any successful treatment (I will be talking more about my experience next week). It makes me wonder why we don’t have more thorough mental care for new mothers (first time or sixth)?

Our goal with this campaign is to show you the many faces of motherhood, to raise awareness, and remove the stigma associated with post (and pre) partum mental health struggles. There is no one experience, no one sign, no one symptom that encompasses all women. We are the face of motherhood and we are here to share. We are here to support. And, we are here to show you that you are not alone. One in five new mothers in the USA will experience some sort of Postpartum mental health issue this year, and here are our faces.

{Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit PANDA for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear that yourself or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and/0r visit your nearest emergency department.}

Stop Judging and Start Loving

Often it is too easy to judge another persons parenting ability without fully understanding the method behind the madness. Cause you know.. the old saying goes “it takes a tribe to raise a child.”

“Don’t judge a person without full understanding of the situation. Just because you don’t agree, doesn’t mean that you are right.”

Lately, something has been getting on my nerves.. and that something is the stink eye from ignorant and impatient people. Like I have mentioned before, my five year old son Lucas has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). As quoted from the Royal Children’s Hospital ADHD is a developmental problem which results in poor concentration and control of impulses. The three most common symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity and overactivity. The disorder can impact upon the child’s ability to learn and develop their social skills, and also family functioning.

There is no denying that my son has a clear case of ADHD because most days it is a battle zone. This is no exaggeration either, the kid has aged me by about ten years. I have greys on my head with a style that you would best find on a skunk. My poor husband.. the top of his head is almost as smooth as our ten month old’s butt. Depending on the day, it can even develop a nice shine (sorry love). So even though without a doubt he tests our boundaries and pushes our patience, we still love him unconditionally and can sympathise with other parents who are equally having a shit day with their children.

Going out in public is our hardest test. Most recently, I took him to the cinema for a treat as we had been quarantined to the home following a gastro outbreak. We had a ‘chat’ before we went into the cinema, and again when we took out seats. Looking back I was pretty calm about it all, but gut instincts were telling me that it wasn’t going to end well. Lucas gets this glazed look in his eyes where it kind of looks like no one is available to take your call. Anyways.. within twenty or so minutes of the movie starting I was packing the bag and taking the pram out of the movie. Then there was this high pitched scream that followed me. It was obvious to everyone around me that I was getting anxious, my eyes were watering, and my voice was beginning to crack. All I got in return from the other patrons was judging eyes and filthy scowls. It can be be debilitating when you are being judged with such contempt.

Then there are the times where we go do basic chores at the local shops, or we go for a trip to the maze of Bunnings, and very rarely a play centre. This is where we get the other end of the spectrum. We are firm but fair on him.. at all times. Under no circumstances do we give this kid sugar as it just perpetuates his symptoms more. Whilst shopping we were telling Lucas that sugar was poison.. well it kind of is.. and then this elderly woman said right to my husbands face “God will get you!” It made him do a double take because surely a stranger wouldn’t say that, but when he asked her again what she said she again said to his face “God will get you!” Thankfully husband has a thick skin and he calmly said to her “No he won’t.. ”

Back to the sugar, having to tell people that your son is not allowed to have lollies, cakes or chocolate, people look at you sideways like you have two heads. Honestly what is the big deal? At times I have to be a hawk eye on Lucas as he will casually invite himself to take part in the festivities you find at birthday parties. He has drunk half consumed milkshakes with my back turned, ate crumbs from the floor, and I have even had parents come and ask me if they can buy him food (for example hot chips or a muffin). Now I see the kindness.. I really do.. but really? Watching what he eats is extremely important for us as food which contains high amount of sugar causes him to have an allergic reaction. Could you imagine the outrage if I was to give a child nuts and they have a nut allergy. Not so nice is it?

So here are three reasonable things to consider when you see a child that is causing grief to their Mum, Dad or Carer.

  1. If the parent is visibly upset, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they are okay or if they need a hand. I was once helped by a store cleaner and it honestly saved my sanity.
  2. Keep your bad looks and opinions to yourself. You have no idea how shit this can make another human being feel. Again the saying goes “it takes a tribe to raise a child.”
  3. If a parent is having a go at their child, don’t think that they are an awful parent. They just might be at the end of their tether because their kid has been an incessant nag.

So that is it my loves.. hopefully that gives you a little insight about what it is like in the home with an ADHD child.

Much love

Melanie xo