One Woman's Experience With Pregnancy, Depression & Anxiety
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For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a mum. I dreamed of being pregnant, feeling life growing inside me & then welcoming a child into my arms. In 2015 I was fortunate enough to become pregnant but the reality was nothing like I had imagined.
What Pregnancy Was Like
Early on in the pregnancy I nearly lost my little bundle of joy. After a couple of threatened miscarriages, I was put on high doses of hormones to help me maintain the pregnancy.
I was exhausted & I was sick. I mean SICK!! I had morning sickness 24/7 & was struggling to keep it together both at work & in my day-to-day life. I was assured that at around 14 weeks I would no longer require so much medication & the nausea would ease but it wasn’t to be. My morning sickness lasted literally until the second my son was born (seriously I was hooked up to a Maxalon drip while I was in labour). To top it off my workplace was not supporting me in the way I needed.
At a check-up with my GP, about halfway through the pregnancy, she asked how things were going & I broke down. I was tired of being sick, I didn’t look pregnant but rather pale & unwell. I wasn’t allowed to exercise at all & mostly I was tired of being tired!
Lucky for me, my amazing GP booked me in to see a psychologist immediately & wouldn’t take "no" for an answer. My psychologist changed things completely for me at that stage. She gave me the tools I needed to cope with the various situations I was facing, she taught me meditation techniques to work through the nausea & exhaustion & gave me the confidence I needed to transfer to another department at work until I headed off on maternity leave.
Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired
The nausea & exhaustion persisted & I was induced at 38 weeks as my baby had stopped growing.
Of course the birth was to be nothing like I had imagined or hoped for. I was in active labour for about 38 hours & eventually needed medical intervention to deliver my son who was lodged firmly in my pelvis. But my son was here & the ordeal was over. Time for the fun to begin!
For me, there was no such luck… Over the next couple of days in hospital I got sicker & sicker. It got to the point where I physically could not lift a finger to type a message to my mum to say something was wrong. Eventually the doctors figured out that my haemoglobin was dangerously low. Blood transfusions & an extended hospital stay had me on the road to recovery & after a few days I was strong enough to give my son his first bath.
Home Life With my New Baby
I went home with my gorgeous son & my wonderful mother. I was still pretty groggy & had extensive physical damage from the birth, so my mum helped me to be a mum.
Within that week I felt that something wasn’t quite right with my son & when he was just nine days old I called emergency. They told me not to wait for an ambulance but to take him straight to the Royal Children’s Hospital. Within minutes of our arrival he was hooked up to oxygen, was having blood drawn & an IV line put into his tiny little hand.
My clever mum had already figured out what was going on but it wasn’t until they asked me for permission to take a sample of fluid from his spine that I realised he had meningitis. I was terrified. They started antibiotics almost immediately & he was admitted to the Butterfly Ward, the neonatal intensive care unit. A room was arranged for me at Ronald McDonald House for the next night. Leaving my newborn son in hospital by himself that night was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
A Little Life Pulls Through
My son was very strong & very lucky, responding well to the treatment. He eventually received the all clear & we were sent home but, for me, the terror remained.
I didn’t want anyone to touch him, I didn’t want to take him out of the house, I refused to leave him with anyone else & in fact struggled to leave the house at all. My mum urged me to make contact with my psychologist but I just couldn’t do it. Eventually the universe intervened & I randomly ran into my psychologist. She rang me later that day & we had a bit of a session over the phone. It took me another two months to work up the nerve to go & see her in her office.
Anxiety & Postpartum Depression
It took many sessions for me to start feeling in control of things again. My son is almost one & it is still a regular struggle & in fact just writing this article has triggered my anxiety. I recently agreed to trial antidepressants & while they’re not for everyone they have worked wonders for me.
I have accepted my pregnancy for what it was & try to forget that constant nausea – after all it was certainly worth it. I have some ongoing physical issues from the delivery but I am working on those with my physiotherapist & hopefully I’ll be able to start exercising again soon. I am leaving my son with my mum for longer & longer periods of time but it is extremely difficult. My mum will be taking him for the whole day tomorrow while I head into town for a job & I must say I’m dreading it.
As you can imagine returning to work & placing my son in a child care centre was just too much for me to cope with so I decided to apply for extended leave & start my own business. I love it! I am indulging in my passion for writing & get to set my own hours. I get to work with other small business owners, many of them mums, & together we collaborate & encourage each other in such a positive way. It has brought me both happiness & relief.
The most interesting part of my journey has been the realisation that postpartum depression can actually hit you while you are pregnant &, surprisingly, there are a large number of women who experience it.
It has been my absolute honour to support others that are struggling with depression or anxiety. I realise quite a lot went wrong for me but it is important to note that postpartum depression can affect anyone (including dads) & is not reserved for those who have had difficult pregnancies.
Seeking Help for Postpartum Depression
Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) lists the following signs or symptoms for postpartum depression:
• Panic attacks
• Persistent, generalised worry, often focused on fears for the health or wellbeing of baby
• The development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours
• Increased sensitivity to noise or touch
• Changes in appetite: under or overeating
• Sleep problems unrelated to the baby’s needs
• Extreme lethargy: a feeling of being physically or emotionally overwhelmed & unable to cope with the demands of chores & looking after baby
• Memory problems or loss of concentration (‘brain fog’)
• Loss of confidence & lowered self-esteem
• Constant sadness or crying
• Withdrawal from friends & family
• Fear of being alone with baby
• Intrusive thoughts of harm to yourself or baby
• Irritability &/or anger
• Increased alcohol or drug use
• Loss of interest in sex or previously enjoyed activities
• Thoughts of death or suicide
Some women sum it all up by saying "There is no joy in anything anymore", & "I feel like I have lost myself". If you or someone you care about is suffering, please contact the PANDA support line on 1300 726 306 or Lifeline on 13 11 44.
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