From the moment I saw those two lines appear on the test, I found it extremely hard to control my anxious thoughts and feelings. I didn’t realise it at the time because I put any negative feelings down to ‘pregnancy hormones’ but in hindsight, I realise now that it went beyond the normal worry and stress of pregnancy.
I found myself quickly all consumed by doubt and fear all the time, inhibiting my ability to truly enjoy my pregnancy. I always worried that something was wrong, or that something would go wrong, I worried about our financial ability to provide for a child, and about if I would be a good mother and love my baby and I always doubted my ability to nurture and care for a child. I felt like my baby deserved more than me, or would be better off without me.
I struggled with the changes that were impacting my body, and I began to feel extremely disconnected from the person I identified with and this led to feeling disconnected at times from my baby. At its peak, I would experience panic attacks, then breakdown and cry to my husband that I didn’t think I was able to go through with it all and that perhaps having a child was a mistake and we should terminate. Then I would beat myself up and feel guilty for ever having such thoughts.
I know that for me a lot of these anxieties stem from that initial trigger of feeling out of control and not knowing what was going on. But even having insight into this at the time does not make it any easier at that moment. I didn’t feel I was able to talk about it either because I thought it wasn’t normal to feel like this when it was supposed to be such a ‘joyous and happy’ time and I couldn’t possibly feel like this.
It affected my relationships, I was always on edge, and the smallest things would make me angry or upset! It also ultimately meant I left work a lot earlier than anticipated because my anxiety was inhibiting me from doing my job.
After my daughter’s birth, I struggled a lot after because I had a very traumatic experience with a failed induction resulting in an emergency caesarean. The entire time I felt very out of control and out of the loop as no one really told me what was happening. I had not prepared for the possibility of some sort of emergency birth.
For the first few weeks post my daughter’s birth I had no visitors, not even in the hospital because I felt I didn’t have control of the situation. People began to message me constantly about when they could come and visit us or asking why I hadn’t sent them a text back.
I would always respond by just assuring them it was because I was busy, but really it was because didn’t feel comfortable or confident in my ability as a mother and that I didn’t want to have to pretend with anyone that I was struggling, so I chose simply to avoid the situation.
Those first few days and weeks with your new baby can be so overwhelming. Trying to get to know your new baby and a new identity as a mother in the midst of your recovery from birth, the constant feeds and running on next to no sleep is hard enough without the revolving door of visitors.
Eventually, as the days went by, and as I began to find my feet and gain some confidence I was able to open the doors to the brood of adoring family and friends who wanted to share in the love and happiness of having a baby.
And was it only through the support of my husband and our close family and friends that I think I was able to do this? It really made me realise that it does, in fact, take a village to raise a child and it’s okay to say you’re not coping or ask for help.
Also, through creating my blog, where I am connecting and sharing my journey of motherhood with others, I feel less isolated and alone. I feel more confident now, to be honest, and candid about how becoming a mother can be an underestimated life change and anxiety and depression can be a serious byproduct of this.
I hope through sharing my experiences that I can help others realise that perinatal anxiety and depression is a very real thing, and no matter to what degree or how it effects you are you defined by it, nor should you feel like you are a ‘bad parent’.
For anyone seeking help or even if you want more information on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression, contact the PANDA National Helpline 1300 726 306 or visit panda.org.au.