The Postpartum Journey
We relocated back to NSW, from VIC in 2018 shortly after having Georgia, our second child. Just between us, who moves interstate with a newborn & a toddler, seriously?
Leaving my dear friends in Melbourne was probably the hardest part for me, as they had all started to have children of their own, so we were playing at a different level again. We had 8 years prior of partying & eating out at flash restaurants, going for the best coffee in the city, AFL grand final parties etc, then we were starting to have children at the same time. Everything aligned. It felt great, but there was always that pull to be closer to our families in NSW and to provide our children with a similar life to that of which we were both raised.
Going from one to two kids was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. The move was extremely stressful. Rick & I were not at a good time in our relationship due to these external factors primarily, and we were doing the whole competitive ‘who does more’ thing which was horrible.
Things were different when we got back to NSW & I couldn’t see the positives.
I felt anxious. All. The. Time. To go to the mall, to go for a walk, to see people – anything. Just to leave the house was hard. I was emotionally eating yet losing weight, biting my nails, staying awake late at night thinking about nothing but everything to the finest detail, anxious about Georgia eating solids & choking (even dying) – everything!
I was trying to adapt our entire family to this new life, and it took a huge toll on me.
Harrison was only 3 and quite shy in new environments. He had quite a reactive behaviour pattern, frustration, anger etc partially from having a new sibling but possibly from the move, all the change – and understandably so.
Rick took 3 months off work when we moved & was enjoying being home. He was surfing every day and I quietly hated him for it as I felt I had no purpose other than being mum and here he was enjoying himself – how dare he. I didn’t know what I liked anymore, or who this new version of me was and I would often blame Rick for how I was feeling when really, I needed to look further inside myself & seek help. The issue was not that Rick was enjoying himself, it was that I didn’t know myself anymore. I went from this confident, positive, independent and strong woman to someone I wasn’t sure I loved. We were ALL adjusting and coping in our own ways I guess.
Looking back now, I believe I had undiagnosed postnatal anxiety however the scary thing is that looking at these images from throughout that period you would probably have no idea. It can be hard to spot, almost ones internal battle with themselves.
Taking The First Leap
Knowing one thing, that I am a social person, I joined a mother’s group to meet some local mums, as these people can become your tribe (& what a tribe they have become – but that’s another story)! I quickly made friends with some awesome women and our journey, together with babies began.
On the work front - knowing how hard it was to find part time work in the area we live, and not wanting to take a pay cut since relocating I soon after, stupidly took a part time job that I knew from the very first moment I accepted I should never have taken. I should have listed to my instincts. It was a toxic environment & it contributed massively to my anxiety. I knew it was merely a stepping stone to get to where I am today, to get back into the workforce after having Georgia and start getting my brain working again but it sunk me, it was the icing on the cake. After I was ‘let go’ at the final hour (11 months in) for ‘no reason’ that could be explained I had a lot of time to look at the bigger picture. A blessing in disguise I think it is called!
Shortly before I was let go from my job though, I knew something wasn’t right & visited a GP for a different reason and spontaneously asked him about seeing a Psychologist or someone to talk to, to start getting on top of my feelings & emotions as I felt a bit ‘off’.
From there he conducted a Mental Health Treatment Plan (previously known as a ‘mental health care plan’), which is a proposed plan for people with a mental health disorder (more on this below – Next Challenge).
The plan identifies what type of health care you need and spells out what you and your doctor have agreed you are aiming to achieve. It may also refer you to local mental health services such as Psychologists, Occupational Therapists etc.
Direct link here to Health Direct (Australia) for further information: Mental Health Treatment Plan | healthdirect
The stigma around mental health is unfortunately still there. I thought that by acknowledging that something wasn’t right made me weak. It definitely does not. Nevertheless, I proceeded to call the Psychologist but she was really hard to get an appointment with between my work days & having no babysitter for the kids on my days off, so I popped it in the too hard to deal with basket and didn’t look back!
After I was ‘let go’ from my job, it wasn’t long before I was offered a job in Local Government, in Property too! Nailed it. I was so excited; however, it was full time. Good jobs like this do not arise that often so after in depth consideration I took a leap, committed, and this was the start of me finding myself again.
I threw myself into this role full throttle, every ounce of me involved. I loved it. It helped me find a new version of me, I had purpose outside of motherhood, something to really focus on for me and feel like I was making a difference in the community and also contributing to our home lifestyle. I got to interact with people of a different calibre, consultants, colleagues, and I was learning, thriving and taking everything onboard.
It was then that I started to really heal. I had time to me, in the car on the drive to work to listen to podcasts, talk to friends & family on the phone, and sing at the top of my lungs to country music (eep). You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl, right.
For me this was enough to get me functioning at a high level again and the days feeling anxious seemed to be contained, I could manage them and I did not think about it, really at all.
They slowly faded away and everything felt fine again.. for a while..
The Next Challenge
So given this, 2 years later our third child, William has now arrived and here I am again.
After an emergency C-Section birth, I am feeling everything arise again. Nothing to the level that I had previously experienced, but I have had to work through a bit in my head to deal with the unexpected trauma that birth seems to have brought on.
There’s something internally that is triggered by certain situations, mainly when people ask about the labour or birth. For example, my close friend experienced a similar situation & when I heard she also had an emergency C-Section I got extremely upset. Then a lady in Woolworths asked, ‘how long was your labour’ and I had to turn away to blink away tears. I look at photos of when I first held William and my face says it all, how distraught I am yet pleased to meet him.
I discussed all of this with my GP at my six week postpartum check, she agreed a mental healthcare plan should be conducted again & also suggested that because of my previous mental health care plan back in 2019 that never was never concluded (I never sourced professional medical help in the end), it is wise that I revisit this route to hopefully deal with anything that may be lying dormant with hopes to avoid any PTSD or PPD, PNA arising down the track.
So in two weeks’ time I start with a Psychologist. I am looking forward to exploring this a bit deeper and finding some strategies to help me moving forward.
From my experience, the GP will ask you to complete an evaluation, a simple a4 page of tick box questions such as (example only):
In the last week have you:
Looked forward to things with enjoyment?
Blamed yourself unnecessarily wen things went wrong?
Been anxious or worried for no good reason?
Felt sad or miserable?
Been so unhappy that you have been crying?
Had thoughts of harm?
From here, if you do go through with a treatment plan, your GP will put together a background for the allied health, specialist or mental health provider as required including this information.
The GP advised that Medicare cover the initial 6 sessions as part of the treatment plan to start with and if ongoing care is required, Medicare cover up to 20 sessions per annum at a further reduced rate (however please clarify this with your own medical practitioner). I will update this once I commence sessions, so that this blog is completely up to date.
All conversations with your GP or Specialist are confidential;
Don’t be afraid to admit that there is something not right;
Do not put off that appointment or delay seeking help as things can deteriorate rapidly;
Let go of the fear that there will be judgement if you go down this route;
Let someone know how you feel so you have a go to person;
Talk to other parents about their experiences & how you are feeling;
Just because you decide to talk to someone about your feelings does not necessarily mean you require medication to assist during this time;
Recognise that these feelings are not your fault.
Some important 24/7 Mental Health Service phone numbers:
Beyond Blue Anyone feeling Anxious or Depressed 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline Ages 5 to 25 1800 551 800
Lifeline Anyone having a personal crisis 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service Anyone thinking about Suicide 1300 659 467
Open Arms Veterans & Family Counselling 1800 011 046
PANDA Mental Health Checklist: https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/checklists
The important thing to remember is that looking at someone, you would more than likely not know if they are fighting something internally. I doubt anyone would have even noticed what I was fighting at the time.
It is extremely important that we continue to talk about mental health so I hope this post helps raise awareness in some way.
PS. I wrote a rhyme about my personal postnatal journey & some exact recollections from that journey for me: ‘My Undiagnosed Postnatal Anxiety – A Poem about Identity’.
Please reach out if you have any questions or need to talk to someone.