Guest Post – Zelma Broadfoot, The Postnatal Project

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I would like to thank Zelma Broadfoot from The Postnatal Project for the following piece written for Smiling After PND.  Zelma Broadfoot is the Founder of The Postnatal Project, a supportive and informative website and blog – incorporating a social work background with personal experience to create a safe place for parents and their families to explore treatment options and self-help solutions for a self-directed, sustainable and soulful recovery from postnatal depression. The Postnatal Project is dedicated to increasing awareness and reducing stigma of postnatal depression.

This is Zelma’s experience through postnatal depression….

My daughter, Cadence Grace, has just turned one. There were times where I didn’t think I’d make it – I didn’t think I’d survive what motherhood had presented me with. But I’m here – telling my story.

I entered the birthing arena clutching a hypnobirthing guidebook and a sense of ease. I left with scars. A large scar on my lower abdomen – and an even bigger scar in my heart and on my soul – memories, trauma, disappointment. But I didn’t see the second scar until we left the hospital. I remember sitting in the hospital bed – in excruciating pain, sleep deprived and still making sense of everything I had experienced – and saying to my fiancé, Brad: “isn’t it great that I avoided the day 3 blues? Everyone said I’d be crying my eyes out over nothing today.” Now that I look back, I didn’t avoid it. I just didn’t feel it – I was numb, empty, broken.

Everything suddenly felt like it was falling in around me. I imagined that I had dug a deep hole in the sand to protect myself. The sand was made up of grains of expectations, hopes, dreams and plans. Suddenly, I was no longer safe in my hole. The wind was stripping away the sand – grain by grain – living me bare, cold, scared and ashamed. Cadence cried. A lot. Breastfeeding hurt. A lot. I have never felt so helpless. This was not how I expected motherhood would be – but I couldn’t think that. Motherhood is beautiful, sacred, a blessing – it’s not meant to be this hard. There must be something wrong with me.

I started to feel panicked as soon as the sun would go down. My fiancé, Brad, would say: “Zel, are you alright?” I would say that I was. But the tears would flow – and they wouldn’t stop. We both agreed that it was the hormones and that I just needed some sleep.

Nights were the hardest. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. I remember trying to use my hypnobirthing relaxation techniques – counting backwards from 40, pressing my tongue up against my teeth to relax my jaw and repeating positive affirmations. But a voice inside said “hypnobirthing didn’t help you then and it won’t help you now”. Cadence would feed every two hours and some nights, I would be awake until the next feeding – lying in bed, thinking about whether it would be better to die now while Cadence wouldn’t remember me. I recall thinking that she’d be better off, anyway.

These thoughts were overwhelming – I couldn’t keep them to myself any longer. I booked an appointment with my doctor the next day. I asked to complete an Edinburgh Scale. The midwife said “if you score 8 or higher, we might start thinking you’re experiencing postnatal depression”. She stopped adding up the scores half-way through. I felt relief. I felt like I was in safe hands.

I saw a psychologist for a while and maintained regular contact with my GP and clinic midwife. I also trialed some medication. I was very proactive in seeking support – even requesting a referral to a mother and baby unit in the city. But my blog and online resource has been paramount in moving forward, healing and choosing a path of recovery. Expressing my authentic self to the world – and helping others to know that they aren’t alone on this journey – has changed me. I feel free.

For more information about The Postnatal Project, please visit http://www.thepostnatalproject.com

You can also find The Postnatal Project on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Love and Smiles

Josie xx

If you, or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression, please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306

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Guest Post – Lex Gully on her experience through PND & PTSD

A huge thanks to our Guest Blogger –  Lex Gully, a London mum of one who bravely shares her experience of PND and PTSD below.  

Hey there, I’m Lex, I have a 16 month old boy, myself, my baby and partner are on a journey of my mental health recovery. Here is how it started…

My birth was traumatic in a nutshell no pain relief worked at all, it meant that when I had my emergency c section I felt every single thing. As soon as my son was taken out of my belly I was put to sleep. In that split second all I saw was his little bum and then nothing for nearly 48 hours. The traumatic birth resulted in my milk not coming through (this is what I was told, not what I believed at the time), despite spending nearly a week glued to a double electric breast pump in neonatal. Already just a few days after my son was born the nightmares started so I feared sleeping, I felt too exhausted and nauseous to eat, and I cried all the time, every time my baby cried I took it as a personal rejection from my son. I thought he hated me because I couldn’t breast feed. I told the midwives on the ward how I felt but I was continuously told this was normal after the birth I went through and I just needed rest. I’m not being funny, but rest with a new-born? Even if my partner took over I still worried about my baby and was up all night.

That is how it started for me, my symptoms got progressively worse, I had psychology throughout my pregnancy and at my follow up appointment after birth she told me I had post-traumatic stress disorder and postnatal depression and that I needed to see a psychiatrist asap. I had a mental health assessment done at my home where it was agreed I would get daily visits from a mental health nurse and started on medication and intense psychological therapy. I got worse and worse and worse. Nothing was helping, no drugs, no therapy, the nightmares, the flashbacks the colicky baby, my partner working such long shifts, I have no family and was scared to speak to friends. It was horrendous. No one wanted to admit me to an acute psychiatric unit because I would severely kick off when apart from my son, I battled with the feelings that he hated me and put intense pressure on myself for him to accept me as his Mum so never ever let myself be apart from him. I was so unwell and confused, didn’t know whether to die or force myself to be the perfect mother. The guilt was crippling.

Enough was enough, I was admitted to an acute psychiatric unit, put on new medication, forced to sleep with a load of sleeping tablets, encouraged to eat and in a week there was a huge dramatic change. Then my saving grace happened where my whole world changed forever. I was referred to a mother and baby unit (MBU), a psychiatric hospital catered for Mums and their babies. My son was six months old by this point, I had attempted to kill myself three times, was covered in scars and underweight. This place saved my life, there were other Mums there like me, and I wasn’t alone! I finally learnt that it wasn’t my fault! My baby didn’t hate me! I was supported in looking after my son, they built my confidence up so much, I am forever grateful to the nurses and doctors that worked there.

Now I am six months out of the mother and baby unit, it has been very rocky, it was a hard transition leaving the MBU (I was there for 5 months), but I am getting there. I am taking one day at a time. Mental illness affects different people differently, in so many ways. There are different contributing factors, different symptoms. For me I have a mental health history, traumatic childhood, traumatic birth which all contributing to me becoming unwell. I was lucky, I didn’t have to speak up too much for healthcare professionals to notice at the beginning, however I have always been honest about my feelings, no matter how dark because I learnt quickly that no one can read your mind. If you speak up, you will get help, things can be changed, adjusted, support can be put in place. There is always scope for things to improve. To anyone reading this who feels they are suffering with increased anxiety or depression after having their child, speak to someone and let it out, that is the first biggest step. Don’t be scared, it’s hard I know, the fear of being judged is so intense but I never have been. You are not alone.

Lex has her own blog – https://borderlineandbaby.wordpress.com/

Vlogg – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8tQKpnXYH72jxLYacXHcew

Twitter – https://twitter.com/recoveryandbaby

Love and Smiles

Josie xx

If you, or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression, please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306