This week is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week, which recognises the importance of supporting parents' mental health right through the perinatal period (during pregnancy and after birth).
According to Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA):
Up to 1 in 10 expecting mums and 1 in 20 expecting dads struggle with antenatal depression and more than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads are diagnosed with postnatal depression each year. Even more are thought to suffer anxiety. It's important for expecting and new parents, as well as those around them, to be aware of perinatal anxiety and depression, to know the signs to look out for and where to go for help. Everyone's experience of parenthood, including perinatal anxiety and depression, is different. However with the right treatment and support, new parents can make a full recovery.
This is one of those things that get mentioned at doctors’ appointments, you fill in questionnaires and take note of the symptoms. But do we ever really talk about it? Is there an open dialogue between mums or do we all just remain quiet, feeling the societal pressure to be blissfully overjoyed all day every day – as all new mums should feel.
But what if you don’t? What if it’s hard? What if it’s scary to admit you’re struggling? What if no one understands and thinks you’re a ‘bad’ mother? So in the spirit of awareness and promoting dialogue and acceptance, I’d like to share my experience.
I was living alone when my daughter was born, her father and I aren’t together and he was unable to provide any practical support. I also didn’t have any family in Sydney. My friends were amazing and my parents would visit and help me, but I still felt overwhelmingly alone.
My daughter developed quite severe sleep issues and I really struggled. It went on for months and nothing I did helped. It seemed like a never ending cycle of rocking, thirty minute waking, ninety minute feeding and utter exhaustion. And I felt…nothing. Not a thing. I was so tired and numb. I knew I loved my daughter, but I just didn’t feel it. I felt so guilty all the time. She is a beautiful, happy and smiling little girl and I couldn’t find any enjoyment or pleasure in being her mother. I just wanted sleep. So I went through the motions of my day and tried to hide how hard everything was becoming.
I was finally able to do a residential stay at Tresillian. The first night was awful. She woke up every ten minutes for five hours. After months of holding everything together because I had to – I cracked. I sat on the floor and bawled my eyes out. I was given amazing professional support by the nurses and social workers there, but it was talking to the other mums that really helped.
There were other parents struggling like I was. Every night we’d leave the dining hall with the words, “see you on the other side.” No matter how bad the night – we would see each other in the morning. It was being able to commiserate and celebrate with the other parents that allowed me to finally feel that I wasn’t alone.
It is so important that all parents are able to access support and have open dialogue about the challenges they face raising a whole new person.
Milkbar Breastpumps believes so strongly in the significance of assisting parents with perinatal anxiety and depression that we will be donating $1 form every breast pump sale to the Gidget Foundation.
Gidget was the nickname of a young mother who took her own life while suffering postnatal depression. The tragic loss of Gidget inspired her sisters and friends to establish a foundation in her name, with a passion to care for distressed families and offer them hope.
If you or someone you know is suffering from perinatal anxiety or depression then please help them get in touch with the Gidget Foundation.
Share your own experiences both positive and negative in the comments section below.