Since it’s not talked about much, I thought I should speak up. I struggled with Post Natal Depression in my first year of having my daughter. PND affects 1 in 7 women. I can thankfully say that I’ve overcome this stage – Praise God!
My experience might be a bit different to what you have/might go through so I can’t speak for all PND sufferers but here’s a bit of my story. Hopefully it helps you. Although it’s a bit scary please know that I got through it and so if you’re going through it too, you can too. There is HELP available, there is HOPE!
As I may’ve mentioned before in previous posts, I’m really not a motherly kind of person who loves children. God worked on me a lot to show me how much He loves children and wants people to be fruitful and multiply. Because of this I’ve always been rather fearful and worried of having children. Not just the childbirth part, but just raising children – I just felt so clueless. The second thing I feared was the lack of sleep – you guys might know that I’ve struggled with sleep issues as well.
You might be aware that the birth was pretty straight-forward. I’m extremely grateful. I guess it all started when I had trouble breastfeeding. I tried ABA, nurse & midwife aunties at church and then eventually lactation consultants…it’ll probably take too long to explain but basically the lactation consultants at the hospital (who are pretty much paid to encourage you to breastfeed) saw my situation and said they fully understand if I chose to formula feed. One of the lactation consultants in training was so shocked at how bad my breasts were she had to apologize. Naomi basically was never able to breastfeed. I had planned to breastfeed so I felt really guilty for resorting to formula – I hadn’t even bought any bottles or formula! Lots of new mums were trying to reach out to me in those early days but I felt so guilty as they were all breastfeeding mums so I didn’t respond well to their attempts to reach out. I didn’t want to imply to them that my breastfeeding attempts were somehow more difficult than theirs (cause theirs were all difficult too).
Secondly, it was the anxiety – which now that I think back was pretty normal. Like the temperature of the room, whether she’s still breathing, whether the milk is too warm/cold, but particularly how I held her. I had NEVER held babies before so I was anxious that I would drop her. That anxiety gradually became paralyzing that I didn’t want to carry her and walk around the house. I was also scared that when my mother-in-law left I couldn’t cope with no other relatives around.
Thirdly, because of the above, my sleep deteriorated. The worst insomnia ever…Naomi was a wonderful sleeper – she eventually slept 12 hours straight without waking up by 3 months – a complete dream for new mothers. However I was unable to sleep for the entire time that she was sleep. I was so exhausted but my body refused to shut down. No previous sleep inducing approach worked (and I have quite a few). It all came to a head when I just thought the agony of being alive was so unbearable that the thought of being dead was appealing as it would end the pain and provide relief.
Naomi was a very easy baby. Slept amazingly, gained weight. Everyone kept saying how easy and what a dream she was. Inside, I felt wrecked. If she’s so easy, why I am I struggling so much? What’s wrong with me – every new mum is struggling, I have no right to complain. I felt burdened with guilt for my husband who was running on 200%, back at work but effectively caring for me 100% and Naomi 100% and working full time. I thought about how much I was a burden to him and that it would be better for both Naomi and him for me to be gone since I was such a useless mother. We also had many loving people at church helping us with cleaning, with meals…I felt guilty for struggling so much.
Now all of these things (or worse) might have happened to you but you might not have struggled with PND. Or it might not be so bad for you but you still struggle with PND. It really depends on the person.
Looking back, these were all very irrational thoughts. I’ve had a milder form of depression before so I recognized that I needed to seek professional help.
The Slow Road to Recovery
I was diagnosed at Naomi’s 6 week check up. They get you to do a simple test. I got psych appointment set up, but it wasn’t happening until 3 more weeks. Also I knew the first session is no silver bullet. In the meantime, I called a few helplines. The people on the other end were good listeners, especially in the middle of the night. Eventually, I called PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia). They were probably the most helpful (but not available at night). These kept me afloat (just)…
When the insomnia got unbearable my GP prescribed medication to help me sleep. Soon after I was prescribed anti-depressants. I was pretty scared to be on both but my GP was really responsible and I saw them regularly to monitor my dose. Contrary to what I thought, the anti-depressants didn’t make me happy all the time or anything weird. They just made me feel like myself again. Thankfully Naomi being on formula enabled me to take all these meds.
I finally got to see a Psychologist who despite discouraging medication, encouraged me to use it temporarily so that I could regain enough physical and mental strength to work on the homework that she would get me to do. I also got onto my local community’s PND group which reinforced a lot of what my Psychologist said and there was several of us journeying through it together which helped.
I also joined my community mother’s group where all the babies were of similar age. I underestimated how much it would help!! Although (to my knowledge) none of them struggled with PND, just knowing other mother’s having similar struggles (or worse) and seeing their perseverance, determination and love encouraged me to keep going.
As you can see, there is SO MUCH HELP AVAILABLE.
One thing to note is that there’s no quick fix. It took some time to work with the medication, to summon the courage to work through the anxiety and many days it is so difficult – but THERE IS HOPE.
For me, by the time my bub was 7-9 months, I was finally feeling and functioning more like a normal new mum (with all its joys and struggles). It would be a couple more months before I would be totally med-free.
Personally one big factor to get through it all was deciding to start doing regular Bible Study again. When Naomi was around 4 months I joined a group of other young mums to read the Bible. God’s word was a refuge and comfort while pushing me to be brave and do things I found overwhelmingly hard because I knew God was with me. My church family rallied around – different people from church also came and prayed with me, and helped with Naomi when it was all too much. People continued to cook and clean and our abundance of health professionals provided advice to us.
So just wanted to encourage you if you are struggling right now – don’t be afraid to speak out and admit you need help. If you’re reading this and you don’t have kids yet, don’t be scared. If it happens, you know there’s a way through and again, it’s 1 in 7. If you’re a Christian you know God walks with you, carries you (even if it doesn’t feel like it). Perhaps these verses will encourage you (especially in those lonely times in the middle of the night)
“Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
“And remember,[I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
“The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
He saves those crushed in spirit.
Many adversities come to the one who is righteous,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.”
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Please make use of these if needed. I did!