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‘I wish I’d known things would not be perfect’

Fiona and her teenage children sitting out the front of their house.

At the time I had my first child I was 23, managing a busy hairdressing salon a lead singer in a band which played for weddings and corporate events.

I was not shy or scared of crowds and I really liked a chat.

At no point did I even consider it may not all go like this: perfect and happy pregnancy; fairly easy delivery (might hurt a bit but that’s OK); take baby home and breast feed (I had big boobs so there should be plenty of milk); look for a nice school; look forward to Uni graduation.

This was not something I consciously thought about or expected, but I didn’t consider it to go otherwise.

I wish I had known then, that things may not be perfect.

The reality check started with a report at 18 weeks of cysts on my placenta and being told that we may have to consider terminating as there could be extreme damage to the baby. It was the longest, most agonising two days of my life until we found out they were harmless.

I wish I had known then, that things may not be perfect.

Next up was an unplanned caesarean which resulted in a very painful staph infection. I could not pick up my baby. I felt useless!

We were not off to a good start. On the way out of the hospital I had a screaming tantrum at my husband because the baby wouldn’t go into the seat properly and looked uncomfortable, and that was the end of the world! That was not like me at all, I didn’t throw tantrums. What was going on? It must be hormones.

If only I had known it may not be perfect.

When I got home I tried to make up for all of my failings of the last couple of weeks. I went into super-mum mode to prove to myself and others I was, in fact, perfect and really good at this.

I would hang the washing out on the line with my baby hanging off me in a carry pouch, I would make sure the housework was done and the dinner was on by the time my husband got home.

But Harley had bad colic and difficulty feeding. Then mastitis came. I was feeling more useless as the days went on. This wasn’t fun or perfect at all.

My maternal and child health nurse picked up that I may have postnatal depression (PND) when I started telling her about all my tears and confusion with day to day tasks that used to come automatically to me and now seemed hard.

But I think the real giveaway was when I told her that I wanted to punch my husband in the head just for breathing.

She was lovely and I trusted her with my thoughts and feelings, but when she suggested I call a psychiatrist who specialised in PND I thought she must have gone mad! Only people with mental problems when to psychiatrists and I was NOT someone with mental problems, nor had I had a day of depression in my life.

I lived with this misconception until my baby was 4/5 months old. I had gotten worse and worse as the days went by. I couldn’t remember if I had changed a nappy, I was too scared to go outside or answer the phone. I didn’t want people near my baby. The anxiety would take my breath away and I felt like I was having a heart attack when people were around me.

I finally went to see my GP and with all my courage, swallowing my pride, I told him how I had been crying all the time, forgetful, agoraphobic, confused, hated the husband I loved 4 months ago and felt helpless and hopeless.

I saw a psychiatrist with a lot of resistance and spent three months in hospital getting to the point where I could function well enough to go home. They taught me how to feed my son solids as I had not done that by 6 months, how to let him comfort cry rather than pick him up every time he made a peep, how to go outside again without fear, and that it was ok not to be perfect and give myself a break.

I wish I had known that there is no such thing as the perfect plan, the perfect execution or the perfect conclusion when it comes to having a baby or in fact to life full stop. It is not meant to be perfect, just enjoyable.

Fiona has shared her story to raise awareness during Postnatal Depression Awareness Week –  November 18-24. Anyone concerned about postnatal depression should call PANDA’s National Perinatal Depression Helpline 1300 726 306 or go to
(Helpline operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 7:30pm EST).

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