Category Archives: postnatal

Counselling by Catherine PANDAS

I’m on the train. It’s delayed. The rain falls relentlessly outside coating the windows in wet spidery patterns. I’m listening to a compilation of Klezmer music and feel very pessimistic about this, my first counselling session for eight years.

I’ve been sat on a waiting list with my local IAPT Service for longer than the ‘standard waiting time’ of 6-8 weeks. I took my daughter along with me to my initial session last week, needless to say it wasn’t very productive. I dropped her off with a very good friend this morning in order to attend this session on my own. I don’t really know what to expect from it as counsellors are all so different. From what I saw last week, he seemed like a nice bloke, but I have no idea if he’s capable of scooping the black treacley mess out of my brain and turning it into something I can deal with constructively. We’ll see.
****
Here I am in reception. There are two people with suits on, they look like salesmen. They made me feel really angry actually, I don’t know why. And there’s another lady in the corner. I’ve kept my headphones in because I don’t like the shite local radio. I’ve been to the loo, the Suits stared at me as I walked past them. I want to know why they’re here, what are they selling? One of them looks over-confident, the other looks nervous. I have half an hour to wait so I’m going to read my book for a little while.
****
I’m out.
image

It was good today. It’s mainly driven by myself I think, but he joins in and uses the same language as me, which is oddly comforting. We talked about past betrayals and past relationships. We talked about my current relationship and the problems I have living in Rugby. We talked about how I feel when I feel bad and how I take a lot on, probably to distract myself from my own feelings. We talked about the fact that I never talked about my own experience of postnatal depression with anyone, I never talked it through. We talked about isolation and reaching out, and talking about how I’m feeling. Like how I’m actually feeling, not just generic “sad”, “low”. It was good. I feel like I took something away from it at least.

I know it’s going to be hard, but I think I need to look back at my pregnancy and the first days of Motherhood and try to put them to rest in my head. It’s like they’re there in the background, and can be revived, but I need to soften them a little so that their revival isn’t so destructive to me emotionally.

Session booked in next week. Watch this space.

My Husband Has Postnatal Depression – Steve and Ele

(originally published by Poynton PANDAS)

Poynton Blog

Steve

I had no idea why I was feeling like I was feeling.  Our daughter was very happy and healthy and my wife embraced her new role as a mother.  I attributed my feelings to a lack of sleep and dealing with the momentous change that happened when our daughter was born.  I had read articles that “love” between a father and his child can take some time to develop so I wasn’t too worried.

I’ve never really felt comfortable around kids.  Growing up my brothers would interact with the baby cousins and I just could never find myself “googooing” and “gagaing” and doing that kind of stuff.  However, I figured when my own child was born I would have no choice and it would come naturally to me.  Anyway, after my daughter was born I did what I could in terms of looking after her so I jumped in with the baths and changing and feeding occasionally.  My wife breastfed so I would do an occasional bottle feed to give my wife a break.

After a few months of doing the dad thing, I found myself not feeling right.  I was very irritable and generally being a bit of an asshole. Evidence of this is in the swear jar that had something like 200 pounds in it after 3 months (1 pound a swear in front of my daughter).  I remember grudgingly doing things that my daughter needed.  I hated feeding her, dressing her, hearing her cry, everything.  It was bad but I attributed it to lack of sleep or something.  After all, I wasn’t aware that paternal postnatal depression was a thing.  As part of my embracing of my new role as a dad, I started following various social media sites to read articles about fatherhood/parenthood and maybe laugh at some of the unfortunate incidents around diaper changes!  Anyway, one of the sites I followed posted a clickbait article that was titled something along the lines of “we need to talk about a condition affecting dads.”  You’ve seen the type of headline so I figured it’d be something about exercise or getting enough sleep.  It was actually about some of the symptoms of paternal postnatal depression and it was like reading a diary of my recent life.  It was very eye opening and it prompted me to do some further research.  Being me, I like to be sure about things before going further with any formal treatment.  While I had my various browser windows open, my wife saw what I was looking at and we talked about what I was looking at.  To be honest, I would have rather it was various “specialist” websites that she caught me looking at instead of one pertaining to mental health.  I felt slightly better after talking about it so I put off my trip to the GP for a while.

After a few weeks from my “self discovery” things hadn’t gotten better so I went to the GP where I was prescribed a course of Citalopram, an antidepressant.  The potential side effects and what not scared the b’jesus out of me so I was hesitant but ultimately decided to go ahead.  I’m so glad I did.  The effects weren’t immediate but after several weeks I was starting to feel like my old self again.  At the height of my depression I would have shuddered at the thought of spending any extended length of time with my daughter but since starting treatment, we’ve had several father/daughter days out.  We recently had a family trip back to the U.S. and I even contemplated just a father/daughter trip there!

I’m very optimistic about the future and I think I’ve kicked this thing.  My antidepressant course is due to end shortly so we’ll see in few months whether I’m in the clear.

Ele

My husband has post-natal depression.  It’s easy to say it out loud and talk about it now but when he first told me five months ago that he thought he may need some help, it’s fair to say I was at a complete loss as to what to do or say.

Our beautiful baby girl, Alice, is now nine months old.  My pregnancy was as straightforward as they come, the birth was textbook and so far, touch wood, we’ve not had any problems that every new parent doesn’t experience at some stage.  In short, there were no red flags that one of us may be at risk of post-natal depression. That’s one of the reasons it came as such a shock to me when Steve said he was struggling.  Yes, he had not been himself for a couple of months.  He had been more distant; wasn’t engaging with Alice; he had a shorter fuse with pretty much everyone and everything; and all-in-all he had not been very fun to live with.  The idea that he had post-natal depression though was a real shock to me.

For a start, I had no idea men could have post-natal depression.  It’s no surprise really, given the enormous impact having a baby has on life, but I’ll admit it had never occurred to me.  I wanted to do anything and everything I could to support and help Steve, and I told him so, but had no idea how to do that.  If I am honest though my very first reaction, at least privately, was fear.  What did this mean for us?  Would we would end up separating?  What if he never bonded with Alice?  She was turning into an amazing little person and I was terrified he was missing it.  I have past experience of living with people with depression but this only made me more fearful now.  I know what a long-road it can be and how difficult it is.  I was scared and although rationally I was sure we would be fine, I couldn’t help but think of worst case scenarios.

A lovely lady from Poynton PANDAS had attended our local postnatal class.  I’d not given it a second thought until now but wasn’t sure whether they could or would help me, so I got in touch online.  Their response was immediate and so reassuring.  I went along to their next group, not sure what to expect, and I am so glad that I did.  Just talking to other people who had experienced similar problems helped.  I knew instantly it was a safe place to voice all of the worries I had, even the ones I knew were a little on the ridiculous side, and to answer the many many questions I had.  I left that day with a much better idea of what Steve was going through and how I could support him.

Steve went to talk to our GP, who was really supportive, and he’s now on a course of anti-depressants. It would be wrong to say that things are perfect, but they are much better now that we’ve both found help and support.  Post-natal depression is no longer something that hangs over us like a black cloud and I no longer worry it will define Alice’s early life.

——————————————————————————————————-

If you need support with maternal or paternal ante- or post-natal illness contact Poynton PANDAS at psppoynton@aol.co.uk or via facebook www.facebook.com/PoyntonPANDAS

To find a support group near you check out PANDAS Support Group page http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/how-we-can-help/support-groups.html#.VUjmiJMYFQI

Interview with Rachel – author of Post Natal Depression and Me

Hi Rachel! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at PANDAS Guest Blog!

Can you remember when you first thought that something wasn’t quite right with how you were feeling?

I think I started feeling a little down during my pregnancy but I had a very complicated one so I just assumed I was worried and stressed about that. I suppose it really hit with me with how hard I found everything in the early days. I knew I was suppose to be happy and in this bubble but somehow I just wasn’t quite there. It got progressively worse and late last year I went to the doctors to ask why I felt so bad, even though I really knew I was struggling deep down.

Why do you think that so many of us have this unrealistic image of “The Perfect Mother”?

I think there is a lot to do with the media, perfect bodies after babies perfect relationships the pictures of perfect family life. Then there’s tv and films, there is a lot to influence how we see normal life. The reality is no one is perfect we just try to be. I wish I knew why I had to be perfect all the time, the perfect mother and wife, but it’s just something you feel the need to do.

What do you think stops both men and women talking about how they’re feeling, or even just admitting that they’re struggling?

I think people are scared of being judged that you are not a fit mother. Or just war people think in general about you. My worst fear was being gossiped about, or disappointing my family.

How did your husband feel when you were diagnosed with PND?

He just said that we shouldn’t label at that, that he knew I was going through a hard phase, that we would get through it together. He is a hugely positive person and really believes in mindset having a lot to do with how we feel, act and what we do. Just talking to him made me realise that really it was just something I had to overcome.

Your piece is very positive and full of hope, can you remember a particular moment when you began to feel more optimistic?

It was the moment I went to the doctors. Even though she said I had symptoms of PND I always in my own my mind and on my blog just describe it as the baby blues. A phase in my life where I was feeling a little sad and lost. The moment someone told me was the moment I thought to myself “what am I doing, life is too short”. I also believe from my husbands influence a lot is about your mindset. I decided to be positive. I faked it a lot of the time and before I knew it it became a natural practise. This year has been my best year so far as a mum.

Finally, what makes you life perfect for you?

Life for me is perfect when I’m just with my family. We could be doing the food shop, a walk in the park or having an awesome day out. Family is what got me through this, family is what made me realise what I had. I’m a very lucky person to have a supportive husband, a cheeky step son and my adorable little boy. It’s just life right now, in the moment, and enjoying it.

Thank you so much for speaking to us here at the PANDAS Guest Blog, it’s so great to hear from someone with such a positive outlook on their PND experience and I know a lot of our readers will benefit from your hopeful piece.

Remember, if you want to read more about Rachel, please take a look at her blog: http://thelsmum.co.uk/

Post-Natal Depression and Me – by Rachel (The L’s Mum)

I have only ever been told once that how I was feeling was the signs of post-natal depression. It was last year and I definitely wasn’t feeling myself.

You see back in 2013 something life changing happened to me, I had a baby, the most joyous and happiest moment in my life and yet somehow I felt inadequate, that I wasn’t doing things right. I had a fair few complications during my pregnancy and labour and perhaps that had something to do with it, I don’t know. I just seemed to put myself on a pedestal of this perfect domestic housewife, with the perfect baby, the perfect house, the perfect life and yet life really isn’t perfect, not all the time.

I wasn’t sure why I felt so bad, like a failure each time my little boy cried, why I questioned each and every little thing I did because I was sure it wasn’t good enough. I was scared to talk to anyone and so I put on a brave face, a smile, in the hope that no one would ask, question me further, make me feel worse.

Had I have just spoken to my husband at the time, or just admitted I wasn’t feeling myself, maybe things would have been different.

Looking back now it seems like a blur and that makes me sad for a different reason. I don’t have many fond memories of my little boy being just a baby and enjoying those moments because I wasn’t enjoying my life back then.

It was like a dark cloud had descended upon me and everytime there was a glimmer of happiness the rain would pour down on my parade. The dark cloud followed me everywhere, even on the sunniest and warmest of days.

But now my little boy is nearly two and this year I made a change. I did go to the doctors and I heard the words and for some reason that seemed to be enough. I realized that for me, I was the only person who could make the change, and so I did.

Life shouldn’t be about adhering to dark clouds and feelings of failure, it should be about embracing the good things, the happy memories, the here and now. I can’t get back those snuggly baby days, and so now I don’t intend to keep on going down that road and missing out on the first words and the milestones ahead of us.

Life as a mummy is conflicting and confusing. It can be the loneliest place in the world and you can feel isolated. Life as a mummy is also exciting and challenging. It’s a new chapter in your life, a chance to do things differently. A moment in your life where you can climb around in the soft play area and no one thinks your being silly, who doesn’t love those big slides? It’s the smile on your little ones face when you just look at them, it’s the first time they call you mummy. You are everything to one little person, and the pair of you deserve happiness.

Feelings of failure still haunt me, and sometimes I can feel the dark cloud coming back. Now I know the signs I know to take myself away for a moment, I do something for me, I relax, I write a list to clear my mind, I take my little one out for a walk. There are so many things you can do. I don’t doubt for one minute that I have made mistakes, but they were mine to make and I own it. Each and every decision. No one is perfect, but life should be perfect for you.

To read more about Rachel, please visit her website: http://thelsmum.co.uk/

Interview with Emma Sasaru – author of ‘Beyond Trauma’

Hi Emma! Thank you for sharing your inspirational and hopeful blog with us. We all change after becoming parents, quite drastically, but how do you feel that going through a traumatic birth changed you?

Going through a traumatic birth completely changed me. Physically it took along time to recover but mentally the recovery has taken much longer. I went from being a confident, out-going person to being a shadow of my former self. I was consumed with fear for my baby and myself and suffered very bad flash backs, panic attacks and anxiety. Often doing normal activities was exhausting and going out became scary and difficult. I suffered with guilt and felt that I was no good to my family just a burden. Somedays were very dark.

What kind of breastfeeding support was offered to you in NNU?

While I was in NNU I didn’t receive any breastfeeding support at all, in fact I had to fight to breastfeed my baby and I was told I would never achieve exclusive breastfeeding. But I proved them wrong and breastfed my daughter for 15 months.

How do you think that a breastfeeding peer support worker helps new parents? What kind of things does your work encompass?

I think that a breastfeeding peer support worker helps a family by giving information and support that enables them to make an informed choice regarding feeding their baby thats right for them. A lot of my role involves providing emotional support, giving reassurance and helping women trust in their bodies to nurture their babies. My role encompasses seeing new parents antenatally, on the postnatal wards in hospital and in the community for as long as they need support. I personally work mostly in NNU and then with the families when they are discharged home. I also run a support group where families can drop in for support or just a chat. Ive had the privilege of supporting families from those early stressful days in NNU to being happy healthy families. I really cant begin to say how much joy it brings me, I feel so lucky.

What advice would you give to the partners out there currently caring for a woman who has physically experienced a traumatic birth?

To partners that are caring for a woman who has suffered birth trauma my advice would be to acknowledge what has happened to her and her feelings around it. Encourage her to talk about her feelings if she is able to. Reassure her that you are there for her and that you will help in anyway you can. Encourage, commend show compassion and empathy. Emotional support is invaluable, even if it’s just a listening ear or a hug. Realise that there may be things or activities that she may not yet feel ready to do, be patient and show understanding. But most of all listen to her.

What does a postnatal doula do?

A postnatal doula supports families after the birth of their baby with emotional and practical support. We can help with light household duties, running errands and helping care for other children in the house. We can give support with breastfeeding, and build confidence in a woman’s ability to care for her newborn.

Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone out there who cannot yet “see the light”?

One of my favourite sayings is “I wish I could show you when your in darkness or feeling alone, the astonishing light of your own being”. When darkness is all around you and you feel like it will swallow you up believe that the light will return. Inside us is the strength to overcome even the most traumatic things. We often cannot see our own beauty or the light we bring to the lives of those we love. Hang in there and take each day, be kind and gentle to yourself  and don’t expect to much of yourself. Better days will come honestly.

Thanks again Emma, your blog and honest words are sure to help many of our readers. If you would like to read more about Emma’s experiences, please visit her blog: http://www.lovingbaby.co.uk/

Beyond Trauma: You Can Make A Difference – by Emma Sasaru

We sometimes go through things in life that completely change us as a person. Sometimes it changes things for the better, sometimes the worst and sometimes its both!

For me this is certainly true, when  I had my first daughter and subsequent birth trauma it changed me, in fact it changed not only me but my life. While a lot of those changes were for the worse, my trauma has led me on a path to a place I feel I am meant to be.

One of the main things that kept me sane and anchored after my trauma was breastfeeding, while separated from my daughter in those early days expressing for her while she was in NNU gave me the fight to survive, to continue living and although I could do nothing else for her I could provide her my milk, it was my connection to her, my life- line.  I fought to feed her with every ounce in my body. When staff said that I would never produce enough milk due to my retained placenta and massive blood loss, I fought to prove them wrong. When doctors said I would never exclusively breastfeed her and she most likely would not latch when they removed her NG tube I fought to prove them wrong. Prove them wrong I did and for 15 glorious months my traumatised, weak, wreaked body nourished and provided my baby with everything she needed.

The fight I had to feed my baby with no support and then seeing others struggle again with no support drove me to wonder why, it lead me to finding the breastfeeding network, training with them, volunteering and then eventually working for the NHS as a paid breastfeeding peer support worker. To do my job I had to overcome a lot of my issues as I work on the ward and in the NNU where I had my trauma and where for a long time I couldn’t go. I love my job especially working in NNU. Being able to give moms and babies the support I never had means everything.  When I see the moms sat by their little ones incubators I remember those feelings well and how just a friendly face, a kind word and someone to talk to is often all thats needed and how it can make all the difference.

Without my trauma, without my time in NNU it would be an unknown world to me. Without my struggle, my fight to breastfeed, would I ever have trained to be a breastfeeding support worker? I just don’t know. Yet I do know it is where I am meant to be, it gives me so much, I feel so privileged to do my job to see the difference it makes to families, to support them and be part of their journey. Yes my struggle was painful in many ways but without it maybe I wouldn’t be doing my job and be reaping all the joy it brings me.

My trauma and subsequent struggle to get help for PTSD was very painful and a hard fight for many years.  When I reflect on the struggle I have realised with time that it has been a fight that has given, as well as taken away.  It has given me the determination to try to help others who have also had birth trauma, reaching out to offer support both in my work but with charities and through social media.

My experience drove me to train as a doula and postnatal doula which not only taught me that birth can be a positive experience and helped me in my healing but also how to support moms to help them understand how they can trust their bodies and work with it to make birth easier and more safe.

My trauma and struggle to get help also drives me to want to change things.  I feel that experiencing the bad has given me something special, a voice!

This voice is able to speak out and sometimes shout loud about the need for things to change, both in the culture of birth and postnatal care but also the need for more support for perinatal mental health.  I will always seek to use that voice to speak up for those that as yet are unable to speak up, to raise awareness of what trauma is and try to make sure things change and improve in the care of women in birth.  I will also use that voice to speak out about the importance of proper diagnosis and support for when things may go wrong. Recently I have been able to do this as part of the NHS maternity experience campaign that are striving to improve and change the care given to women at birth and also on twitter to raise awareness of birth trauma and perinatal mental health. I feel privileged to be a voice for those that need support and help health professionals see how they can improve their practice.

Yes I truly believe I am where I am meant to be!

Sometimes bad things happen to us yes, but we can turn those experiences into opportunities to help others, change and improve things and give a voice to those that need help and support. Yes even trauma can lead us to something good, it provides us with a chance to make a difference and in turn helps heal ourselves.

0702620a7764dc86e115aa01ec9e6d1d

Interview with Amy Dear – author of ‘We Need to Talk’

Amy, thank you for sharing your story with us. Your aftercare sounds very similar to mine: flippant, basic and uncaring. Looking back, what do you wish the midwife who answered your call had said/done?
It was very uncaring, and it didn’t need to be! When I had my second the aftercare was amazing and it’s crazy what a difference that can make. With my first I was just left alone and scared. I wish the midwife had just been kind – asked if I was okay, or if I needed to talk. Someone to talk to would have helped a lot.
How did it feel to be put on medication for PTSD?
It was a relief because it really did help. I didn’t think it would but it helped keep me calm while I worked through the underlying problems – and helped me sleep!
Did your therapy help?
 
Yes, although I only had a few sessions. It helped more being told why I felt the way I did, and that there was light at the end of the tunnel – that I wouldn’t always feel that way. And also that it wasn’t my fault. I felt very much like I’d done something wrong, or failed in some way at giving birth if that makes sense? Therapy helped me realise that it was the medical professionals who ha failed me, and that I had done nothing wrong. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear that.
As a fellow sufferer, I know how important it is that we work together to remove the stigma, but how do you go about doing that?
Talking about it. We need to be open. I try to be honest with other Mums, especially when I talk about my labour and how I felt – not the gory details of course! But I tell them the truth, and the emotions I had, and why. I think if everyone was honest there would be less pressure to fit into a ‘perfect mum’ stereotype. When I tell people I had Post Natal PTSD they sort of pause, and don’t know what to say. I’ve definitely felt judged. It’s a bit sad, but it’s only by being open about our experiences can we help other sufferers, and stop other people being judged in the future.
 
Finally, how do you feel now?
I feel great now. I mean I have nightmares, I’ll be honest – and I still can’t watch medical shows, or shows about birth or pregnancy. I think those will always make me feel uncomfortable. But I can talk about my own labour, and accept how I felt. I have a wonderful, kind and supportive partner who has been with me throughout. I have two beautiful children. I’m volunteering for PANDAS which gives me a lot of purpose and drive outside of my ‘Mummy’ life. I have hard days, like any Mum, but honestly? I feel great. 
Thanks again Amy for sharing this with us.  If you would like to read more about Amy, please take a look at her blog: http://hgtt.wordpress.com/ or you can email her at: hgttblog@gmail.com