I think I’ve struggled with depression since I was a child. I wasn’t diagnosed then – life just felt really tough. I believed I was the problem; immigrating to Australia, going through high school and even the start of my university years. I saw a number of psychologists who focused on my anger, my relationship with my parents and other issues which didn’t solve the problem. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I saw a psychologist who really ‘got’ me! It was glaringly obvious to her that I was depressed. She was my first lifeline… The first person who confirmed that the problem wasn’t ME, it was DEPRESSION and there was hope for healing! Still, it was a very dark time in my life and committing Psalm 23 to memory provided much needed comfort! A few years later I was amazed to see how God could use me to bring comfort to others. I realised then that God could use my pain for good. It was another step on my road to freedom!
A long distance relationship through most of the dating and engagement period with my husband culminated in returning from our honeymoon to a new home, new city and a new job! It was tough, but I held out hope that pregnancy and motherhood would be the change that I needed… That everything would fall into place then! I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My pregnancy was far from the wonderful, life affirming experience I had imagined it to be! 19 weeks of nausea, a horrendous bout of the flu and pain caused by pelvic & pubic bone instability really took its toll. I did very little exercise because of the pain and ate whatever I wanted (that’s a pregnant woman’s prerogative, isn’t it?!) so I piled on weight – making me even more depressed! When our son was born, I expected the initial phase of adjustment to be challenging but I certainly didn’t bargain for 6+ months of haemorrhoids and labial varicosities! The pain and discomfort, combined with sleep deprivation and questioning my identity didn’t bode well for my mental health! The change from working woman, juggling a myriad of tasks each day, to a mother who could barely get through a shower some days, was extremely demoralising. Hubby would come home and ask about my day and I had nothing to tell him! My day consisted of eating, sleeping, breastfeeding, being spewed on, changing nappies and adding to the laundry pile at an alarming rate. I felt so unproductive and inadequate!
Unsurprisingly, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression when our son was about 4 months old. I made use of some great government funded services here in the ACT. A Perinatal Mental Health psychiatrist assessed me and adjusted my anti-depressant dose for 6+ months to get me through. I attended a PANDSI exercise class and my psychologist was another lifeline I couldn’t have managed without. A few months later, I suffered a stress breakdown and was very blessed to have a wonderful church family who stepped up to the plate and helped our family through a difficult week! I came out far less sleep deprived and more able to function. Just when I thought I was getting a handle on life again, I suffered a miscarriage, followed by the emotional turmoil of falling pregnant again within a few months. This pregnancy has been much smoother sailing than my first but during the first 5-6 months, I endured the effects of Glandular Fever! I would not recommend the combination of Glandular Fever + Toddler + Pregnancy!!!
I’ve found the need to reinvent my entire identity as a mother extremely challenging – I never have done change particularly well. I have had to learn to be more accepting of my weaknesses and to take better care of myself, even when I feel like I ‘should’ be doing something for someone else (that word ‘should’ should be removed from our vocabulary!). I am getting there, one baby step at a time! I’m better at getting dinner on the table each night and supporting hubby to do some further study. He’s still doing most of the washing – but hey, I have to accept that I’m not superwoman! I’m learning to be kinder to myself – take-away every now and then doesn’t make me a failure!
This baby is due in 7 weeks and I’m surprisingly calm about it. I guess it helps that I’ve been preparing our toddler for a while already. Perhaps I also need some extra preparation to cope better with change myself?! I know it’s not going to be easy, we’re being realistic and trying to put helpful strategies in place as much as possible. I don’t know whether I’ll experience PND again but I’m hopeful that I’ll manage better this time around. I’ve done the baby thing before, I don’t have to reinvent myself completely this time and I know what keeps me going in motherhood now! Most of all, I’m really looking forward to meeting this baby and I’m eagerly anticipating how our gorgeously loving son will interact with his new little brother or sister!