Debbie's story – personal stories of depression and anxiety in parents with new babies
The second pregnancy was so different because I already had a toddler so I didn’t really have time to sit around and think ‘Oh I’m pregnant’. This time I had my head over the toilet and I felt very guilty because my first child was just sitting there looking at me.
My mum lives in Scotland and we normally cope with the distance quite well. This time it was a real issue for me. I felt terrible and I started thinking ‘What am I doing living so far away from my mum?’ All these issues that never normally bother me that much just suddenly broke the surface.
One time I went to a Christmas party with another couple I had just met. It was a colleague of my husband's and he asked if she could follow me in the car. I was bawling my eyes out before she came, thinking ‘How can they put this on me?’ I just couldn’t face it, I didn’t want to meet a new person. It just wasn’t me – I’m a welcoming person.
When the postnatal depression was diagnosed, the baby was probably about 3 months old. I remember thinking I really have to do stuff; I didn’t want to just sit in the house all day. I remember one day I took them to the zoo and I bought my toddler a pair of $20 sunglasses. He bent the arms back and I started crying in the car. I thought it was my fault because I was so stupid to by a $20 pair of sunglasses for a 2-year-old.
All these things just kept happening to me and I would think it was my fault. Just these tiny little things which normally I would think ‘Oh well’ suddenly had me sobbing in cars, shouting at the kids and then feeling bad for shouting at them. It was a vicious cycle.
It was only when a good friend pointed out that I wasn’t being myself and suggested that I should see someone. That was the first step. I went to see a child health nurse and did the Edinburgh test. I got a really high score and she recommended I speak to a psychiatrist about it. I told the psychiatrist my symptoms of paranoia, irritability and hallucinations and she said that it was postnatal depression and recommended I go to a self-help group.
I went to Women’s Healthcare House once a week on Tuesdays. It’s a course that I think all women should do. It’s not necessarily about postnatal depression, but about being assertive and developing coping skills. My psychiatrist also said it would be good to go on medication to help lift me up a bit.
I didn’t want to go to the group. I didn’t have high hopes because I had this stereotype that it would be women in their pyjamas and trackies with kids hanging off their arms that would talk about their problems and be in tears. I thought that’s just going to bring me down even more but I got there and they were these articulate women. I thought ‘Oh my god you can’t have this’, because they just breezed in on time, well clothed, with an air of being organised.
Talking to these other women really helped and I was able to see that I wasn’t alone. It’s not just first time mums who get postnatal depression.
Self-help groups are good because they’re handled well and everyone gets an allocated time to speak. I can’t rate the Women’s Healthcare House enough. The child health nurses are also a good resource.
They’ve seen this so many times before and everything you tell them is confidential.
Once you get diagnosed it’s so much better because you can reach out and get help. I still don’t think I would have picked it up myself because I just expected to feel drained and tired – not that bad obviously. I chose to have children close together and thought I’m going to feel like this but that’s not true, you can enjoy your kids. My experience wouldn’t put me off having another child but I’d have to be really aware of how I was feeling.
Personal stories can also be found at Just Speak Up (external site), an initiative by beyondblue (external site).
From the Heart WA (external site) also features a number of personal stories from women who have experienced depression, anxiety and stress related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Where to get help
- See your doctor, obstetrician, child health nurse or midwife
- Talk to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist
- Phone the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline on 1800 882 436
- Phone the Mental Health Emergency Response Line – Perth metro 1300 55 788 or Peel 1800 676 822
- Phone Rural Link, an after-hours mental health phone service for rural communities, on 1800 552 002
- Phone the Post and Antenatal Depression Association helpline on 1300 726 306 (9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday)
- Phone the Parenting Line on 1800 654 432
Women and Newborn Health Service
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.