I had a hard time with the end of Xavier’s pregnancy and his birth. After ten weeks of crippling pelvic pain followed by nineteen hours of excruciating posterior labour followed by what felt like the world’s most traumatic c-section, let’s just say when I held my baby boy for the first time (three hours later thanks to his trip to Special Care) I was in a funny place.
And not funny ha-ha.
While I pottered around in my hospital room for the next ten hours in my clouded, funny state – a familiar feeling crept into my right shoulder. Not only was I dazed and confused, I was now in breath-taking pain thanks to a surgery complication the midwives refer to as ‘shoulder-tip’ pain (I’d also suffered this when I had Will – I knew no fun was coming my way any time soon). Caused by air pockets under the diaphragm referring pain into the shoulder blade – I was literally stopped in my tracks; couldn’t sleep; couldn’t move. As forty-eight hours of this came and went with about two winks of sleep and big fat dose of Pethidine, I somehow emerged with a little champion breast-feeder. I still don’t know how I survived those first days to be honest. I’ve never felt so unlike myself…. ever.
Unlike myself? That’s totally how it was. I was full of anxiety about my boys and how I was going to handle them. I was full of disappointment for not achieving the VBAC I had so desperately hoped for. I was full of vicious sarcasm for any midwife that rubbed me the wrong way. I was full of anger for the hospital and doctors that brought Xavier into the world while I screamed in terror at the feeling of all my insides being pulled out. I was full of fear about the thought of another pregnancy (yeah I know – why the HECK was I thinking about that!). If I’d been full of a colour it would’ve been dark, dark grey. I felt cheated, powerless, weak and scared. Not. Me. At. All.
And at the time, I knew this wasn’t me. It was a little surreal, like I was watching it happen to someone else and I was giving them advice about breastfeeding, breathing exercises, feeling grateful and thinking positive. It was as if I was floating above my body shouting ‘this will pass’. But alas, my body was determined to stay in the storm.
Then we came home from hospital. And I cried. A lot.
At Xavier’s four week check, the Maternal Child Health Nurse asked that stupid* question – ‘Are you OK?’…
I wasn’t OK…
I was not OK.
The problem I had wasn’t with my baby. The problem I had was with me and I realised I needed to deal with the dark grey that was clouding my brain.
At the very moment that I understood how serious my situation was becoming, I felt my floating self come down and walk next to me. It’s voice became stronger. Every time I caught myself being negative, my floaty self would sit on that negativity with sunshine blazing out its bum saying “You are ok; this was just something that happened; you are not a failure; forgive yourself”… There was a real internal struggle going on inside me and I’m sure when people weren’t looking, my two selves were literally wrestling each other.
Next week is Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. 15% of women and 5% of men will be diagnosed with this condition in Australia this year, so it’s important that people are aware of the signs and have the confidence to seek the assistance they need. Whilst I wasn’t diagnosed with PND, had the MCH Nurse not confronted me about my feelings that day, this may’ve been a completely different post.
One of my favourite bloggers, Naomi at Seven Cherubs faced a true battle with Postnatal Depression. When I was in the dark, I watched Naomi’s vlog post here and identified with so much of what she had to say. Sometimes its the sharing of stories that can be the best therapy – knowing you’re not alone in your battle.
Looking back now from my place in the sun, I know which self won my battle. I’m so glad that the grey is all gone and I have accepted what happened to my body. I can get on with life. I can dream about another pregnancy I can breathe. And when someone asks me “Are you OK?”, I can say “Why yes, thank you.”
* This is NEVER a stupid question!
If you or someone you know needs help you can all the PANDA national helpline on 1300 726 306 or visit www.panda.org.au
**Part of the Postnatal Depression Awareness Week Blog Hop. Click on the link below to see all the amazing posts**