Adjusting to pregnancy and life with a newborn can be overwhelming. In the days following a baby’s birth, it’s common for new mothers to experience low mood, anxiety and irritability (aka the baby blues). However, when these symptoms linger beyond a couple of weeks, it could be a sign of developing perinatal depression or anxiety. It’s a condition that’s recognised in dads, too.
After the birth of her first child, our co-founder Jodi Geddes found herself in a place of sadness, hopelessness, and lacking drive—not at all the Jodi we know. Thankfully, she was able to spot the warning signs, reach out for help and get the professional support she needed.
This is her story.
This is my perinatal anxiety story which, to be honest, is a little different to others. In the last few years, I’ve heard a lot of stories and it’s still hard to believe that in Australia and the US up to one in five expecting or new mothers and one in ten expecting or new fathers will experience perinatal anxiety or depression. In the UK it’s been estimated that postnatal depression may affect as many as three in 10 new mums.
I wasn’t officially diagnosed with perinatal depression, but I can tell you that what I experienced was real and it was heartbreaking at the time.
When I went into labour with my first daughter, I had already faced a series of challenging times. I lost my first child at 14 weeks and I had a brother who was very sick and in ICU for months on life support, so it felt like I’d spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. So, this pregnancy was my turn to enjoy happiness and put those tough times behind me. I was excited beyond words and as I approached the lead up to the birth, I would spend my nights imagining our new life and this perfect baby. I knew about perinatal depression, but felt I had been through enough and this would be easy in comparison. WRONG.
A new life with baby
When Molly was born, I was overwhelmed with happiness. But it lasted only a few days. At first, it was just a few things here and there that would make me feel different. She wouldn’t feed well, she screamed a lot and the reality was, I had no milk. By the time we got home from the hospital, she seemed to scream non-stop.
I was so excited about breastfeeding but that ended quickly. My milk arrived at day nine and so, whilst I kept trying, it just didn’t happen for me. In fact, when I breastfed, I felt anxious, nauseous and lost my appetite. It was not the enjoyable experience that everyone talks about. I know this played a large part in how I felt.
By week four our little Molly was very unsettled and though everyone would tell me it was ‘normal’, I knew in my heart that something was wrong. I would walk the streets crying. I would rock her pram back and forth at speed hoping it would make her stop. I would sit in cafés and stare at the mothers who so easily breastfed whilst drinking a coffee.
It was at this point I realised I felt empty towards my daughter. I couldn’t bond with her and that was that. I believed I wasn’t enough as a mum, and I felt lost. It’s still hard to write this.
Reaching out for help
I was a mess and cried so much in those first few months. I look back and wish I got help earlier, but I was in denial and felt I had faced much worse and that I could get through it. The other mums in my mother’s group were all new and didn’t yet know me, so it was hard to have those honest conversations in the early days. And of course, you put on a brave face for a new group, especially when their kids all seem so perfect.
Finally, at week 11, I reached out for help. I was a wreck and knew that the situation was getting worse. I was starting to worry about my emotions and thoughts towards Molly. It broke my heart. So, the appointments started and within a few weeks we had a plan. We saw a fantastic paediatrician, a GP and got a referral to a sleep school named Masada.
I arrived at Masada when Molly was 13 weeks. In that week, she was diagnosed with reflux and put straight onto prescription formula. My stay there lasted six days and to say it was life changing is an understatement. The nurses were incredible and would sit with me to help me feed and settle her. I saw a counsellor. I spoke with other mums. I spoke a lot with the staff about my emotions. Every hour there helped me more and more.
A turning point
Within a few days Molly was a different baby, and I will never ever forget when she looked up at me and smiled. It was at that moment I bonded and I felt my heart explode. A tear ran down my cheek and I hugged her and hugged her for a very long time. That bond was everything and finally made me feel like a mum. I now had a daughter.
So, my story is a very mild case but one that I personally feel thousands of women could relate to. I’m now quick to ask new mums if they are OK. Not the baby, but them.
Whatever you are feeling, it is OK. Always remember that there is support out there. Don’t go through it alone and don’t wait as long as I did to seek help. Those first few months are far too precious to spend crying every day.
Are you OK?
Written by Jodi Geddes, co-founder of Circle In.
If you or a loved one needs immediate help, contact:
- Australia: PANDA on 1300 726 306 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
- New Zealand: PlunketLine on 0800 933 922
- UK: Mind on 0300 123 3393
- US: PSI on 1 800 944 4773
Originally published at gidgetfoundation.org.au. To contact the Gidget Foundation or to book an appointment with their supportive staff, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 851 758.