To help spread awareness of perinatal depression and anxiety we have been publishing stories bravely written by women and men who have experienced PNDA. This is Tegan’s story …
The day those two lines showed up on the pregnancy test I felt so excited. Becoming a mum was something I had wanted for a long time. I could not wait for the day I would hold my baby in my arms and have a child of my own.
Heading to my first scan at eight weeks I was nervous, as most new parents are. Seeing my baby for the first time was incredible, but it revealed some complications. And that’s when the anxiety began.
I faced an incredible amount of stress throughout the pregnancy, I have a uterine anomaly which required monitoring, I suffered from hyperemesis and had a lot of time off work because of it, my husband was made redundant and we were facing financial struggles, and my grandfather passed away. My anxiety grew day by day, and I was living in constant fear of losing my baby.
As the due date came near my baby remained breech and I had to be scheduled in for a caesarean. This news created a whole lot more anxiety, feeling of failure and disappointment. The birth went well thankfully, I had a beautiful health girl, but the stress continued to mount.
I struggled to breastfeed my daughter, she lost too much weight, and in the end I had little choice but to switch to formula feeding. I was utterly devastated. And at that point I just started to feel that things weren’t right. I loved my girl, but my anxiety continued to grow to the point of having panic attacks. I developed some compulsive behaviours and was completely preoccupied with the thought that something bad was going to happen.
I was in tears often, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat and I just wanted to escape my mind. I was capable enough and meeting my baby’s needs, but I believed I was a terrible mother. I felt that I had failed, and my daughter was surely going to hate me.
The day I completely fell in a hole was the day my cousin passed away. My daughter was nine weeks old. I felt numb and exhausted. I knew I needed help and I promised my daughter I was going to get better. I booked an urgent appointment with my psychiatrist. I was started on medication and less than a week later I was on my way to a Mother and Baby Unit.
Going to the unit was almost a relief. There was someone else to do the worrying for me and make sure everything was OK. We spent four weeks there. By no means was I fixed but it was a start. I had strategies and the support I needed. I continued to see my psychologist and psychiatrist frequently. Each day things became a little better. Eventually I had more good days than bad, and then the bad became very few and far between.
Two years after the birth of my daughter we decided to try for another child. Knowing what had happened last time I already had some support in place. Unfortunately though once I became pregnant I became completely overwhelmed by fear again, it was as if I had been put right back to where I was in those weeks after her birth. I was again facing incredible anxiety, panic and depression.
In the early stages of my second pregnancy I was also dealing with hyperemesis again, and this time the loss of my grandmother and grandfather in-law. I felt hopeless, like nothing would go right and it was a complete repeat of the first time.
With some very intensive support including time in hospital, I got through it. Things began to improve dramatically in my second trimester and only continued to get better. My fears eased and I began to feel excitement and joy about having another child.
I had another caesarean, but things felt incredibly different this time. My gorgeous little boy had arrived and I felt calm, happy and so in love. Our journey since birth has brought me a great sense of healing and peace. I now have two incredibly children who I love more than words.
PANDA were also an enormous source of support for me through both pregnancies. I would frequently make a call to them feeling distraught, and by the time I hung up I had regained calm and hope. I cannot thank them enough.
My journey through perinatal anxiety and depression changed my life, and in some ways I am grateful. I found strength I never knew I had and am so much more at peace with who I am.
The best advice I can give to expecting and new parents is to be kind to yourself. Ask for help when you need it and let someone know if you don’t feel OK. You are not alone.
When you are in the depth of depression and anxiety it can feel hopeless and easy to believe things will never get better. But with time and support, they can and they will.