On reading to my baby through PND

A few days before I went into labour, an image came into my mind. The image was of me sitting in my rocking chair, snuggling up to my baby, reading them a book. The image filled me with so much joy that I hopped straight in the car, drove down to the local bookshop and bought two books – The Hungry Caterpillar and Guess How Much I Love You. I don’t know why that particular image came to mind at that time or why I chose those two particular books, but in time, they came to play a role throughout my recovery from perinatal anxiety and depression (PND). I placed the books on the table next to my rocking chair and eagerly awaited the arrival of my baby. I just couldn’t wait to read to him.

table Two days later, I went in to labour and after 36 hours we were greeted with our precious baby boy. We spent three days in hospital, getting to know this new little person and adjusting to our new role as mum and dad.   The day had come and we went home as a family. The first day at home was a blur, I can hardly remember the day, except for various visits to baby bunting by my husband, some washing that had been building up since we’d left for hospital and lots of kisses, cuddles, feeding, changing and burping the baby. I was still on a euphoric high.

The high didn’t last long though, and after about a month in, I felt that my mental state started to go downhill. I had worrying thoughts about all the terrible things that could happen to my precious new son.  My thoughts eventually stopped me from leaving the house and stopped me from sleeping and eating well. As my mental state deteriorated, I also had trouble bonding with my baby. The beautiful image of me reading to my baby prior to giving birth, had been replaced by very troubling images. I was so lucky that I had incredible support from family and friends and enough insight to know that I was very unwell. I also realised that this new life I was living was not normal. I eventually stopped resisting the need for professional help and that is when I began the road to recovery.

I remember a day, a few months into my recovery as I was feeding my son, I looked over to my right and noticed the two books I had bought before he was born, sitting there on the table next to me. I placed my son on his playmat and picked up the book, “Guess How Much I Love You”. I started flicking through the pages. I thought the illustrations were incredibly beautiful of Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare. I began reading the story out aloud to my son. For that time, the worrying thoughts left me and I found myself getting lost in the pages. My son was looking up at me and cooing and smiling and when I got to the page where Big Nutbrown Hare declared to Little Nutbrown Hare “I Love You to the Moon and Back, tears welled in my eyes. It was a beautiful moment because I had realised I had finally connected with my baby.

From that day on, I continued reading to my son many times a day. I would either place him in my lap, on his playmat, or in his rocker and we would look at the pictures together or trace the words on the books with my fingers on his; from the fruit in the hungry caterpillar, the bushy tail in Possum Magic, to the round wet nose of Hairy Maclary of Donaldson’s Dairy. As the days and months rolled by, his book collection grew and I continued on my path to recovery. I found myself enjoying those moments reading with my son more and more each day. I do believe the professional help I was receiving which consisted of regular visits to the GP, psychologist, psychiatrist, Maternal and Child Health Nurse and anti depressants assisted the process of finding this joy.

Screen shot 2016-05-26 at 3.25.28 PMOne day, a dear friend came to visit and I told her about the joy I had found reading to my son. She mentioned that her local library ran a free story time class and that mine probably would too. I was still too terrified to leave the house but when I became well enough, I remembered my friend’s words and looked online at what my local library had to offer and sure enough our library ran a story time too. I put my son in his pram and off we went to story time. As I walked in, I noticed a group of parents sitting on the carpet playing with their children. I looked around and wondered if any other parent in that room had also experienced PND like me. I took my son out of his pram and we sat down to enjoy singing songs, reading books and playing with musical instruments – it was a hoot. From then on, we (mainly me), looked forward to the outing every week.

nutbrownTo this day, I still enjoy reading to my son and his book collection has since grown from two books to two bookshelves. Just recently, we picked up a box of books from the local school fete for $5 – what a bargain! We have just moved house and am yet to check out our new local library but I do know that they also run story time too.

In the meantime, I have attached the links below to story time at several libraries around Melbourne, Victoria, in case it is something you might be interested in too.

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

Love and smiles

Josie : )

http://www.brimbanklibraries.vic.gov.au/index.php/what-s-on/programs/storytimes

http://libraries.boroondara.vic.gov.au/whats-on/events-and-programs/storytime

http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/whats-on/storytime

http://library.portphillip.vic.gov.au/Parents_kids_teenagers/Kids/Story_times

http://www.bayside.vic.gov.au/your_library/library_storytime.htm

http://www.mvcc.vic.gov.au/for-residents/libraries/library-for-kids.aspx

 

 

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On attending my first PANDA Annual Lunch 2016

Table settingSince 2008, PANDA have organised an annual lunch in memory of Louise Litus. Sadly, Louise took her own life in 2007. Louise had suffered Post Natal Depression after the birth of both her children. PANDA’s Annual Lunch is their biggest campaign to raise awareness and funds. The funds raised allow PANDA to continue their amazing work to support and educate the community about perinatal anxiety and depression.

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My father in law & I

Having had my own lived experience of perinatal anxiety and depression, and, being a PANDA Community Education Volunteer, I was excited about attending my first annual lunch. Moreover, my supportive husband and father in law came along too, which made the day even more special.

This year, PANDA held their lunch at ZINC at Federation Square. My husband and I had our wedding reception there, so I was also looking forward to being a guest at the venue. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a welcome drink and warm friendly faces of other PANDA volunteers who were helping out that day. The food served at the lunch was delicious. We enjoyed two courses; a Middle Eastern flavoured eye fillet steak and a raspberry chocolate slice for dessert, accompanied by beverages.

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Matt Tilley, our MC for the lunch

The lunch was MC’d by KIIS 101.1 FM’s Matt Tilley who is an ambassador for PANDA and has been doing the MC gig for the past 8 years. Matt is a father of three children and was warming, witty and engaging. The CEO of PANDA, Terri Smith, spoke about the story behind PANDA’s logo change and delivered key statistics from the helpline, in particular, 1 in 7 new mums and 1 in 10 new dads experience post natal depression.

There was also an On the Couch panel discussion involving Jenni Richardson (PANDA’s National Helpline and Program’s Manager, Miki Perkins (Social Affairs Journalist for The Age and Lisa Farrugia (PANDA champion and fellow Community Education Volunteer). The discussion centred on experiences of being a new parent; the joys and the challenges. Jenni enlightened us on what PANDA hears on the helpline and both Lisa and Miki spoke of their journey through perinatal anxiety and depression, which was also enlightening.

PANDA used several avenues to raise money that day; a live auction that included vouchers for massages, clothing, portraits, wineries, and, my favourite, a dinner at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant at Crown (valued at $500) and many more. There was also a silent auction that included, but not limited to; vouchers for maternity wear, jewellery, prints, a baby gift box set and a lesson in methode tradionnelle at Domaine Chandon plus a picnic rug (I was out bided on this one). Finally, there was a raffle draw that included prizes such as makeup hamper, chocolate, wine and a wall clock to name a few. Guests were given gift bags, which included a Mumma Bubba bracelet, a special offer to join Placement Solutions and information about the services provided by PANDA. I was also lucky enough to win a book by the Publishing Queen on “how to write a book in less than 7 days.”

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A list of the live auction prizes

Overall, I felt that it was a successful day indeed, and, as I watched people leave the lunch and continue on with their lives I hoped that they would spread the message of the incredible work PANDA does for the community.

If you or anyone you know is struggling from perinatal anxiety or depression please contact PANDA’s national helpline on 1300 726 306.

Love and smiles

Josie

PANDA – http://www.panda.org.au/panda-events/annual-lunch?showall=&start=1

Miki Perkins’ journey through perinatal anxiety and depression –http://www.theage.com.au/national/perinatal-depression-in-just-a-few-short-weeks-i-went-mad-20151117-gl1daw

ZINC –  http://zincfedsq.com.au/

KIIS 101.1 FM – http://www.kiis1011.com.au/

My journey through perinatal anxiety and depression.

TRIGGER WARNING: this story contains information about self harm. 

I am normally quite a private person and, therefore, I never thought I would be talking so openly about my journey through Anxiety and Post Natal Depression. I also never thought that the birth of my beautiful baby boy, would lead to one of my greatest challenges. But I’m a better, healthier and happier person, having faced that adversity. I hope that by sharing my story it will give hope to parents facing the same challenges that, even in the darkest days, recovery is possible.

I clearly remember the home visit by my Maternal and Child Health Nurse, three days after coming home from hospital. I was instantly drawn to her warm smile and knowing eyes. She sat next to me on the couch as I attempted to breastfeed. She helped me relax, which helped me attach my son, and she gave me some great tips. Before long, we began chatting about how my husband and I had set up our baby’s room, and about my labour and the birth.

Although being quite a private person, the MCH nurse made me feel comfortable enough to also share that my eldest sister has bipolar disorder, and that my elder brother suicided at the age of 25, after a long battle with schizophrenia.

She gave me a big cuddle and said she would stick a PANDA sticker next to my name in my son’s little green Health and Development Record book.Health book This would remind her to take extra care of me at my MCH visits, as given my family history; I was predisposed to postnatal depression. I shrugged it off, little knowing how right she would be.

Not long after, my mental state started to go downhill. I was exhausted, yet had trouble sleeping. “Sleep when baby sleeps” was just not happening. I was kept awake by night sweats and terrible racing thoughts. “Could something fall into my baby’s bassinet and suffocate him?”, “Maybe his nappy is on too tight and could cut off his circulation”, “Maybe someone could break in to the house and kidnap him”, “Maybe he’s too hot, maybe he’s too cold”. These thoughts would play over and over in my mind.

I had a constant sick feeling, which put me off eating, and I lost a lot of weight. I was irritable and angry, snapping at the smallest things. I felt hopeless and dead inside. I began to isolate myself from family and friends. I would often close all the blinds, after my husband left for work.blinds

As my mental state deteriorated, I had trouble bonding with baby. Some days I couldn’t even bear to look at him. I felt like he was not my son. Other days I would just wish that someone would take my son away from me, and that I’d be rid of all my internal pain. Yet I constantly worried about him. I wouldn’t let anyone outside my immediate family touch or hold him, and I’d check his temperature almost every hour. I became so overwhelmed and exhausted that I started to plan my escape. I just wanted it to all end.

My husband and the rest of my family noticed things didn’t seem right, and urged me to speak to my Maternal Child Health Nurse or my GP. Yet I was too afraid that I would lose my son. That my horrid thoughts would send me to a mental ward – or worse yet, prison – and that I’d never see my son again.

I’d have panic attacks, or go silent as my thoughts took over. My sister would call me daily and calm me down. I felt comforted knowing she was on the line. My mum lived next door, and most days would come and just sit with me. I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts. My husband would secretly call my friends and ask them to visit. They’d bring me lunch, make me tea, and even helped me start my son on solids. They knew something wasn’t right, but I think they were too afraid to say something that might “tip me over the edge”.

Then one day, I explicitly told mum that I was contemplating suicide. She knew I was serious, and she was determined not to lose another child that way. She immediately phoned my GP, and luckily I got in to see her that day. Yet, I was still afraid that the GP would have me locked up, and my son taken from me. So, I went under the guise of him being unwell.

Luckily, my GP saw through this. She asked my mum to leave the room and began asking me questions. I finally broke down and told her everything. She wrote me out a Mental Health Care Plan, a script for antidepressants and a referral to a psychiatrist.

When the psychiatrist diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Postnatal Depression, things started to get better. I got medication to help with my anxiety. For the first two weeks it exacerbated my suicidal thoughts, which is a common side effect. Mum monitored me while my husband was at work, and then it started to really help.

I also saw a psychologist at Tweddle Child and Family Health, with support under the Mental Health Care Plan. At first, I resisted this treatment. I was still too afraid to speak up about my horrid thoughts. But as I began to trust the psychologist, I realised the therapy was helping me work through my issues, including my brother’s death. I was very lucky that my husband came with me to my initial visits, and still loved me in spite of the person I had become.

I now know that this treatment played an important role in my recovery – not to mention the love and support of my GP, my family and close friends. I only wish that I had spoken up sooner. I really want to get the message across to anyone who is struggling: please get help as quickly as possible, so that recovery is not delayed.

I can’t tell you the exact day that things started to shift for me. But I can tell you what I started to notice. For one, I began opening the blinds, one by one. blinds openI felt the fog lift, and I began socialising and making friends with new mums in my area. Most importantly, I saw my beautiful baby boy wanting his mummy so much. I realised how precious he is to me, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness that I longed for, and had so missed.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 website: http://www.lifeline.org.au, beyond blue on 1300 224 636 website: http://www.beyondblue.org.au or PANDA on 1300 726 306 website http://www.panda.org.au