When the Health Nurse asked me how I was going at the twins 6 month check-up, my answer was, “Ok. Still struggling with the 11am feed”. Inside I was screaming, “Can somebody please help me? Tell me what to do! How can I provide for my 23 month old and cater for the twins needs?” I was desperate. This was not how it was supposed to be. Reality was clashing with my idealistic picture.
My 23 month old had gone from a gorgeous, energetic, fun baby to a demanding, strong willed, determined toddler. I remember during one feed he threw the entire contents of his vehicle box onto the patio roof. Another feed, every single lemon on the lemon tree was picked and thrown onto the shed roof. It frustrated the life out of me because I wasn’t able to supervise or be there to guide his behaviour. As a consequence throwing became a major issue, with toys going over fences, onto roofs and throwing them around the house.
My ideal picture was of Chook playing at my feet with the ‘special’ feed-time toys whilst I fed the babies. Then when we had finished I would play with Chook whilst the babies played or slept. I guess that was someone else’s reality because it was never mine!
Before each feed I would have to check every door that it was secure, place chairs out of reach or chain them together. Ensure the kitchen gate was locked and the breakfast bench clear. The house felt like Fort Knox. But no matter what I did Chook would always find something I missed or create a new means of getting what he wanted.
After a feed I would spend the next half hour disciplining Chook and restoring order. I was exhausted. My relationship with Chook had deteriorated to anger, frustration, hurt and anxiety. It didn’t seem to affect him but it affected me. This was not the relationship I wanted to have with our long awaited baby. How did we get here? What could be the long lasting effects of my feelings towards him?
This was all unsaid in the clinic but spun around my head and as I completed the Edinburgh Scale I knew I was in a bad place. The weirdest thing is that after being diagnosed that what I was feeling and experiencing was PND, my world fell apart. Up until then I had been trying to shove it all into a very full bag and suddenly the zip busted open!
It is amazing the front that we can present to people, to the outside world. It still amazes me that I could smile and ‘act’ happy and give an appearance of getting on with life, whilst on the inside I was simmering with anger and wishing that it would all just go away. I reckon I’d win an Oscar for that performance! What I really needed was someone to talk with, listen and understand. Friends and family would ring and check if I was OK but I didn’t want to burden them with my issues, they had their own lives and problems. They didn’t need to be lumped with mine. Besides I should be happy…
For a long time I felt shame. How could I, a very experienced teacher of young children have PND? Me? Someone who operated at a high level of competency and confidence in my teaching profession? Who would want to employ me to look after young children if I treat my own child like this? How could I not control this? I have taught thirty 5 year olds in a classroom, why is this so hard?
I also felt disbelief. How could this happen? I have time-managed up to my eye-balls for all of these years, how could I suddenly not be coping anymore? I wanted this, the babies, staying at home, caring for everyone, baking and crafting. I was ready to take a break from teaching. I wanted to give myself a good shake and a slap to snap out of it!
What I know now, through counselling, is that some of the depression was a grieving process. I was grieving for my old life, as much as I embraced this new life, I didn’t want to consider the reality that three under two meant for the career that I loved. I didn’t want to think about the impact that the twins arrival would have on my teaching career and I would bury any thoughts about it deep down. I knew it would change everything when those two blips appeared on the screen but I kept on pushing those thoughts to ‘later’.
How it feels
PND takes away my motivation. It’s more than not being bothered to do things, it’s a real sensation of hopelessness. It’s like being caught in a heavy fog. It takes away my will. It takes away my joy. “Here we go again…freaking Groundhog Day!” Why bother?
I hate the negativity of PND. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted my brain to stop analysing everything. I wanted my thoughts to be quiet. In my worst period of depression I had the most illogical thoughts that seemed so logical at the time. Such as the time I lay on the couch and visualised myself leaving my body and floating near the ceiling where I could watch my children playing. I could see them and hear them but I wasn’t part of the situation anymore. I wanted to stay like that.
I often got overwhelmed. Overwhelm is something that still affects me. I had never experienced it before so when it first started happening to me I fought it, which only resulted in getting me into an overly anxious state, with physical symptoms of fast heart beat, shallow breathing, pounding head and crying. I stopped making decisions because the choices would overwhelm me. I would defer to others to make the decision for me. I would second guess myself and doubt my knowledge. I started to withdraw from outside activities so I didn’t put myself in an overwhelming situation. Sometimes I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning because making decisions about clothing and breakfasts was overwhelming.
My husband was doing so much, yet I was very unhappy. I didn’t want him doing all the things I was supposed to be doing but every time I started taking on the workload, I would hit overload. There were some days where he would come home and I would be in tears. All I wanted to do was hide under the bed covers and hope for it to all go away. Many times he would come home and I would breath a sigh of relief, “Ah, another adult on the premises. I don’t have to do it all anymore!”
When you are suffering depression it is very hard to separate you from the behaviour. I felt like I was the worst mother in the world. I waited everyday for a knock at the door that signalled DCP were here to take my children away from me. At this point I felt that I had become the person I was acting like and I didn’t like what I saw. I now know that the behaviour was because of the depression not because that’s who I am.
How I am recovering
It is now a year later since my diagnosis and PND is still a part of my life, albeit a small part now. I chose not to take medication for it. I have had counselling on and off over the year. When I first started counselling I was deemed a ‘high priority’. I was shocked by this but happy that I would be getting help immediately. My first counsellor was great and got me through the first few months but I felt she didn’t ask the right questions. I was so scared of going ‘back there’ again. I did find myself slipping back into overwhelm a few months ago and I have since found a new counsellor and it is going well.
Counselling has helped me to accept that I can’t do it all. I don’t have just one baby, I actually have three! I have accepted that without family nearby daycare is my alternative and they have become part of my support network. Chook, Strawberry and Ooffa attend 2 days a week. I have also accepted that it’s okay if things don’t go to plan, there’s always the next day and the next and the next. There is no time line to motherhood. There are thousands of opportunities to ‘get it right’. It is important that I get out of the house most days. I get a bit antsy if I haven’t left the house for more than two days! We attend the library, Playgroup and a Mother’s Group. Again, they are all part of my support network. It really does take a village!