Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dark days .....

While "training" for my 20 km walk in a weeks time, I took off this morning north from where I live up towards Surfers Paradise.  I've not walked this way in FOREVER, and gosh, it took me down memory lane.  Too bad it wasn't all good memories.

The first property we bought after having our first child was an older 2 bedroom appartment on the 2nd floor of a walk-up complex on the outskirts of SP.  It had spacious bedrooms, a cosy kitchen, a lovely balconette from which to watch the toing and froing of society, and was straight across the road from an easement that took you straight to the beach.   *sigh*  It was the perfect first "home" and was in such a great location that we did very well on the resale. 

I'd probably had my first daughter just over a year before and unfortunately at that time I almost went thru a total breakdown when a delayed bout of  post-natal depressin hit good and strong.  I had recieved a letter from my cousin detailing the traumatic birth she'd had with her first son, and it brought back a tidal wave of emotions that threatened to totally drown me in reliving how disappointing and disheartening my own experiences had been.  So totally distraught and depressed by these thoughts, there were quite a few occasions I considered suicide, one night even running away from home and trying to decide where the best place was to be hit by a passing car.  That was a dark dark night, especially for my husband, who was driving round the suburb madly, with the baby in the back, trying to find where I'd gone. 

And that was the first memory that hit me while walking past our old unit:  "Oh look, that's where we used to live, oh, yes, and that's where I hid that night L was driving round trying to find me ......"  It actually literally stopped me in my tracks, because it's not often I think about that time, and there's probably only a handful of people in this world who I'd even told.  It's easy to avoid these sad, dreadful tales but to be honest, the more it's brought out into the open, the more healing it can be.

There were so many contributing factors to this state I found myself in:

a) I'd had a less than smooth birthing experience that ended in a ceasarean.

b) I lived away from my family and was the first of all my friends and family to have a baby - so literally NO ONE knew how to help or could give good advice based on experience.  Even my mum was unsure as to what was expected or what or how she should help.  Thankfully, her default position was always to ring a good friend of her's who was a mid-wife and who gave life-saving advice and help.

c) I believed it was easier to stay at home and look after the baby, rather than going out and having to go through the hassles of packing an overnighter full of "just in case" stuff.

d) we moved twice in 6 months and the last place we lived had been in the gold coast hinterland where the weather was the worst in decades and kept me housebound with a small baby for days on end.  (I could not drive at this time & my husband worked 45 mins away so I literally had no escape atop a mountain where the nearest neighbours were a few paddocks away). 

e) we were involved in a church where we were the youngest adults and had just started having kids, whereas the others were just finishing.  Although the mothers there were very nice, they almost loathed to
encourage, instead just talked about how bad They had had it, and how I had it all very easy. I felt so completely alone.

It was around that time that I saw an article in Women's Weeekly about PND and I took it to my GP and pointed to the "symptoms" column and said "I have all of these and I need something to help".  She rather quickly gave me a script for an anti-depressant and off I went.  It was only when I started taking them (knowing they wouldn't kick in for a couple of weeks) that I started thinking whether I had actually done all I could BEFORE resigning myself to medication. 

Now, I am not opposed to medication, after having Ava I also suffered PND and at that stage I knew there was absolutely nothing in my power to change what I was doing or how I was feeling.  I had 4 kids, a colicky baby who barely slept all day, no energy, no nothing, I didn't particularly want to kill myself this time, I was just filled with such pessimism and hopelessness all the time  - I knew I needed the medication to help balance my head again and stop all the dreadful sadness so I could start looking around and hopefully start participating in life again.  There was no great rush of elation or super human powers that came with the tablets, but wow, I wasn't crying all day, I started actually seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I could actually achieve something in a day, and yes, I just maybe would keep all my 4 children.  Knowing what I know today, I now realise there are even MORE options out there to investigate in regards to PND and medication but I am always relieved I made it through that period and was able to easily wean off the medication and start living a much healthier life, so that (God willing) I may never need them again. 

But back to Baby no.1 ..

I suppose considering the violent feelings I was having at the time (towards myself, very rarely towards the baby - which I also know to be quite "normal" in PND sufferers) it may have been wiser to give the meds a try first, but being from such a "can do" kinda family;  I really did feel like I needed to try to get control of this situation myself first.  This in itself can be very dangerous thinking, because really, I don't believe myself to be capable of controlling anything successful while relying on my own fallibility,  but I think a great many people were praying and I was filled with an extra dose of strength that God had meted out to help me get going again.  So, here are some of the things I decided to do:

a)  Get the heck out of the apartment!!!!!  Being in a confined space with a small child is mentally dangerous (especially if they are crying).  Just to go for a quick walk up the street, buy a drink at the corner shop, and walk back was so LIBERATING!  Remember, I couldn't drive so this ended up being an absolute God-send, cause I had to walk & got a good dose of excercise and fresh air - so valuable for one's mental and physical health. 

b) invite over or visit similarly minded friends (or strangers if need be).  My best friend lived in Toowoomba at the time, and I remember a few times she came down with her baby and stayed with me, and oh, the relief of having someone to share my trials with and who could relate and encourage me.  Her sister had also had a baby at a similar time and so one night they all stayed the night in our small 2 bedroom appartment (4 adults, 3 babies) - and that still rates as one of the best memories of our time there.

c)   Changed churches.  Growing up in the one church for most of my life (my father is a pastor) makes me very much a loyal church-goer, so it's not really inbuilt into my system to chop and change whenever I get bored or think I'm not being "fed" enough.  It was very painful to leave that church, and we did it with much prayer and with much consideration to the pastor and his family (cause I know what it can be like!)  But, oh the joy and relief we felt when attending a bigger church for the first time and were swamped with couples our own age who were at the same stage as us and where there were lots of different kids groups to be involved in.  Some of those couples we met there are still our closest friends and have also gone on to have 3 or 4 kids.

d) Told my friends and family what I wanted them to do.  My mum still comes and does my ironing for me every few weeks.  It's what she enjoys & is good at, and to me it's a huge blessing!  Also, everytime someone would come down to see us, I would straight out ask them to bring something for lunch or dinner so that I did not have the added burden of having to entertain and hostess as well.  I remember my sister packing a hamper for me (back in the days when none of us really understood the implications of additives, etc) with packet sauce mixes and other easy things to cut down on my cooking time.  These days, I go out of my way to cook meals for my girlfriends after they've had a baby so I can now fill them up with loads of good stuff without them worrying about cooking it themselves.

e) Make peace with your birthing history.  I went on to have another 3 Ceasareans so I had to come to grips with not being a member of the "natural birthing" club pretty quick.  It was only with my 4th pregnancy that I was told I had a bi-cornuate womb, (heart-shaped) so the chance of me ever having a natural birth was actually quite slim.  Man, that really would have been great to know a little earlier!  But after each time, I would make sure I was much better prepared for the next one to come:  2 out of my 4 C-sections had complications afterwards, I had one baby I couldn't breastfeed, and I required a D & C after one due to retained placenta.  A lot of reading & prayer, supportive friends and family made things a lot more doable after each and I have to say that C-sections have changed a lot for the better since my first one over 10 years ago. 

I could go on & on with a 1000 more tips on how to make it all easier but these were just the main ones I know saved my sanity.  I know, this seems a strange blog topic as it's normally all about food, but I suppose I just write 'em as I sees 'em!  Also, the more I learn, the more I am thankful for the mercies God shows me in my ever-continuing journey.  And there's no way I would ever go back and change a thing:


  1. I am really proud of you for having the courage to share such a personal journey in this blog. The more we share our struggles the less isolated others will feel when they go through the same thing. Good on you!! And you certainly have come a loooooong way in these last 10 years!!!!

  2. Thank you lovely sister :-)

  3. Yes, well said. Big lesson for all first time Mum's - Isolation is the pits. You MUST get out.

  4. It's great to have it written down; I think others in the same position find it hard to believe what you have gone through when you are talking to them, and then again, you may have no idea what they are suffering through just to look at them. So many new mums still put on a happy face despite what they are going through. I had a friend brave enough to come out with: Do you love your baby? Because I have no feeling of maternal bonding with mine at all. (Many women have no-one to admit these feelings to) I reassured her that I was just doing what I thought I had to, to look after him, and that I hoped I would form an attachment to him soon. Thankfully, we both got through those experiences to love our precious boys...

  5. It's how you define love. Love is caring for a child. If you didn't love you child you wouldn't feed it, and instead leave it on someone else's doorstep. The Hollywood notion of being swept off your feet with a maternal bond is unhelpful. The reality is that you're completely spent, having given birth and/or raising other children you often don't have time to recognise that you 'love' your child. Let's not forget the drudgery that often goes with it. It ain't no glamorous job at times...BUT....eventually you recognise your love and that children are indeed a wonderful gift from God.