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The myth about PND

post natal depressionPost Natal Depression.

These words are so scary and alien to most new mums.

“That” happens in a land far far away from the soft fuzzy warm feelings of maternal love that should happen when you have your newborn cradled in your arms, right?

“That place” was certainly far away in my mind when on day three in the hospital, trying to bathe my newborn and I thought I saw her turn blue, and I panicked so hard I was hyperventilating.

“That place” was still far away from my mind when the first time I was left alone with her after my husband went to work, I cried because I was so scared to have a shower in case she woke.

It was still a far away place, when I found myself crying along with her, at 3am after yet another unsuccessful breastfeed attempt.

My GP suggested “sleep school” aka a Mother Baby Unit. All I heard was the word “sleep” and I melted with longing at the thought of closing my eyes and resting peacefully.

Two days later I had two psychiatrists looking at me in the eye and saying those words. Post Natal Depression. PND.

No way, I told them. My baby has reflux, I am exhausted. This is normal. Don’t mothers with PND want to kill themselves or their baby? Screw that. That’s not me.

No way I told them. You can take your diagnosis and your medications (which all you shrinks think is a panacea) and take them back to your land where the sun don’t shine.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, my view changed, as I saw other mums like me. Struggling, but in love with their babies. Yes, I was down. Yes, I had no support. Yes, I had been a high achiever with my fuel base of anxiety driving me. Now it was killing my experience. I wasn’t enjoying my baby. I was focusing on the negatives.

And then a turning point. No more denial. I needed help to feel better. I reached out and I got it. I made some beautiful connections with others, and most importantly with the part of myself that was so scared of “failure” as a mum.

Self denial is the worst sort of taboo. It keeps us in the cycle of suffering.

When I read recently about the inquest into little Lochlan and Malachi Stevens deaths it made me incredibly sad. Their mum Miranda Hebble admitted she had been finding life difficult after the birth of her second child, but was too “ashamed” to tell her partner or family. Miranda had put the toddler and baby in the shower and closed the bathroom door. She says she blanked out and woke up about 10 hours later to find both children dead.

It appears she was struggling greatly, and that she was alone. She found it hard to admit that she needed help.

Why is it that cases like this are left to raise the issues that confront new mums – sleep deprivation, lack of control, no self care, feelings of failure, no emotional support. Such cases are scary and as extreme and as such, no struggling mum wants to admit that she identifies with Miranda Hebble.

Her case and cases like hers perpetuate the myth and misconception that when a mum is struggling that this usually ends up in tragedy. And so we avoid any notions that we need help and struggle in silence. Ironically, just like she did.

As for a diagnosis of PND. No way. No one wants to be branded with that label. Next thing you know the mums at kinder will be watching you like a hawk around their kids, should you admit to having had PND.

But this case like so many others that end up in the news, is a reflection of how living in self denial and feeling afraid to reach out for help and how you will be perceived as a failure in doing so actually creates these extreme situations. I am not talking about post partum psychosis here. I am talking about the unrelenting anxiety and depression that a new parent feels in those first few years. And, I am talking about people who have an ability to have some insight into their own moods and thoughts.

And so I fear, that most mums will continue to struggle in silence.

The myth about PND being a label for people who want to commit suicide/infanticide needs to end.

New mums themselves need to be open to help if they are struggling. We must start by acknowledging that it is OK to admit you need some support, and in fact you are a great mum for realising that.

————————————————————–

PANDA’s Millions Mums campaign seeks to raise awareness of the crisis in funding
for postnatal depression support services and asks governments for essential funding for the PANDA Helpline. One million mums from around Australia are being asked to
help PANDA’s campaign and support other mums by
contacting their local MP at millionmums.org.au.

Image credit: stockbroker/123RF Stock Photo

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4 comments so far -

  1. Hello. I am 27 and I had my daughter 8 months ago. When I had her I was in shock. All my life I had been told how amazing becoming a mother is, the movies portrayed all of the positives and nobody told me how hard the beginning would be and how much of an adjustment a new baby is. My labour didn’t help as I was rushed in for an emergency c section and from then was quite immobile for the next couple of weeks. To sum up the feelings in the beginning it was dread and guilt. I loved my new baby but I certainly didn’t experience the “in love” feeling. I was exhausted and I wished for my old life back. I wasn’t producing enough milk, I wasn’t sleeping and I was in pain. I had support and an amazing husband but the first few weeks was a lot of crying and anxiety. I stayed as positive as I could but deep down I knew I wasn’t okay. I told people how I was feeling and communicated how difficult it was for me. Luckily as my daughter got older I got better. I stopped putting so much pressure on myself and slowly adapted to this new realm of motherhood. I went for walks with my baby, saw people tried to bring balance back into my life with my new addition. 8 months on I feel so grateful and so blessed as I am one of the lucky ones who came out of PND. I feel like society portrays a different experience to what it is like to be a new “mother”. There are no warnings, no body talks about PND – and I wonder why this doesn’t occur more? I talk about my experiences with new mothers who want to hear about my experience or soon to be mothers. I always stay on the positive side but for me I feel I want to help people know it’s okay to talk about it and experience it so we are able to help each other. Support is everything, between families, friends and women we can help get the message out and have more of an understanding of the pressures women face becoming mothers.

    • What a wonderful comment. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Bianca, and also for sharing it with other new mums you know. We also think it is very important to talk opening about the reality of parenthood as well as PND. So happy to hear that you’ve come through PND. Take care of yourself xx

  2. No one wants to admit they have PND because you get falsely accused of being a danger to your kids even though the only person you think of hurting is yourself, and DOCS try to take your kids. Oh and you also get sick “therapists” who decide to take advantage of your vulnerable state and abuse you, knowing they can get away with it because no one will take you seriously because you have PND, so you “must be crazy and imagining it”. So yeah, if you wonder why so many women stay silent, have a look at the screwed up system – if you admit you’re struggling, DOCS step in and harass you and half the time take your kids (I’ve seen this happen to two very good friends of mine) and there are far too many sickos out there that call themselves psychiatrists who abuse vulnerable young women, and what better time to get away with it when they have a new baby and are struggling to cope. Fix the system, then more women will safe to speak up.

    • Broken Butterfly I’m sorry but your comments are irresponsible. Clearly you have had some negative experiences but suggesting children are taken away from their mothers if they admit to having Post Natal Depression is absolute nonsense. I am currently on medication for it myself and have received nothing but support from medical services in the UK. It is comments like yours that stop vulnerable women seeking help that they desperately need. To anyone who thinks they are suffering from PND please get help, it won’t go away by itself and you need to protect yourself and your baby.

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