Health conditions

Rachel's story – personal stories of depression and anxiety in parents with new babies

Now that I am well, it is difficult to remember the thoughts and feelings during my darkest times. All I can recall is that I truly believed that I would never be happy or content again.

But the good news is even though I am not quite sure how or when it happened, I am now happy and functioning as a mother, wife and productive member of society again.

Although my whole PND experience has been distressing, I honestly believe that I have as a person changed for the better. My life focus and priorities have changed. I am now more balanced and well-rounded, and have realistic and healthy expectations of myself and those around me.

I would like to add that my experience with PND did not just affect me but also those dear to me.

Rachel's husband

From the moment my daughter was born, my wife became very emotional. Nothing could please her. I felt my goal was to find a solution to the problem but any solutions proposed by me fell onto deaf ears.

There didn’t seem to be much long-term help out there. A stay in a clinic helped her feel better while she was taken out of her real-world position. Breastfeeding was strongly encouraged but it was a trigger to emotional downturns and was therefore stopped after 3 months. It was at this point I felt that my wife allowed the healing process to begin. Medication (once the correct one was found) seemed to be the key that helped her to become how she was before our child was born.

I don’t feel that this experience is something she will recover fully from. I feel there will always be some uneasiness about the missed time with our daughter. This time can never be recovered. All my family can do now is to cherish our time together.

My relationship with my daughter has become stronger. She will always be my gift from heaven and I will cherish every second on this earth with my angel.

My advice for other husbands in a similar situation is to do what is right by your family. Carry on when things get tough and don’t quit. Families will go through times, and when wise people talk about “the light at the end of the tunnel” and “getting over stuff”, I’ll let them in on a secret … “it doesn’t help”.

Just as a reminder – 2 people raising their voices can create a long-term disagreement but one raised voice is just a bad day.

Rachel's mother

I am ashamed to say that during Rachel’s pregnancy and immediately after the birth of her little girl, I was so full of joy at becoming a grandmother for the very first time that I did not notice that Rachel was having problems.

True, she did not appear to be terribly ecstatic about becoming a mother. I put that down to being tired due to high blood pressure which happened just a couple of weeks prior to the birth and the usual weariness brought about by sleepless nights with a new baby.

I got a very rude awakening when Rachel told me about 5 weeks later that she had been diagnosed with severe PND.  As is my way, I immediately started to research this dreadful condition through the internet and talking to other mothers (many of whom as it turned out had suffered PND but did not talk about it at the time). Armed with more information, I then tried to do everything I could to help Rachel cope with her illness, mostly by offering encouragement, love and practical support wherever I could. I felt it was vital that I remained ever optimistic and never used words like ‘Get over it’.

Rachel and I have always been close but looking back I really believe that PND drew us even closer together. She was afraid I would be ashamed of her, but my main feeling was (and still is) one of pride and admiration for the way she fought the condition and how she did all she could to ensure that her baby did not suffer any long-term effects. I am confident that she has succeeded in this as her daughter is growing into a lovely, happy, intelligent and well-adjusted little girl.

It is now great to see Rachel, her daughter and her husband forming a close, fun and cuddle-filled family. The tears and despair of PND have been replaced by smiles, laughter and lots of love!

There is a common cliché which Rachel and I often discussed during those dark times, and I recommend anyone, who is suffering PND or seeing their loved ones going through it, to strongly believe in and hold these words in their hearts: “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Rachel's friend

I had known Rachel for a number of years when she fell pregnant with her daughter. She seemed quite excited and pleased as we talked about her pregnancy on a regular basis. So I was quite surprised to arrive at the hospital, only hours after she had given birth, to see her almost in a comatose mood. There did not appear to be any sort of emotion from Rachel and I was a little worried at the time.

As time went by, I assumed that everything was OK with her as she seemed to be coping. I found out later that was a cover up for how she really felt. Rachel confided in me after a couple of months following her diagnosis. This was a shock to me and I really had no idea how to handle the situation and felt that I was not well informed about postnatal depression at all.

Having had a child myself, it was also very hard for me to understand just exactly what Rachel was going through. I believe that we need to have more information available especially to new mothers and more importantly, their family and friends so that we can recognise the signs of this illness.

Rachel has recovered well and seems to be enjoying life and her family. It has been a long and winding road for her but it has been a challenge that she has taken head on and come out the other side.

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

Acknowledgements
Women and Newborn Health Service

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