At what point do you go from having a bad day as a new mother, to putting your hand up and saying, “HELP ME PLEASE SOMEONE!…..I am drowning inside and scared of me; I’m scared that I look in the mirror and no longer see me.”
This story is a long story as it wasn’t one day or one thing that happened.
For me, it snuck up on me very slowly, like a slithering vine that creeps and crawls its way around a seemingly innocent tree. Slowly tentacles latched on and started to choke me, starving me of much-needed oxygen day by day, until one day there was no “me” left.
I am very conscious of “labels” as they are a very powerful force in our language and they can affect our self-esteem and self-confidence without you consciously knowing that you are chipping away at your own self-worth.
But unfortunately, we do use labels every day…
I am “short”
I am “fat”
I am <insert any descriptive word here>.
The natural thing for me to say would be; “I am suffering from P.N.D…..” or “I have P.N.D.”
But how sad, dis-empowering and pointless is that – really…..?!?
I do NOT need to remind myself of my personal “suffering” and I do NOT need to wear a label of any sort.
I prefer to say; “I have been seeing a Psychologist to help me as I’ve been dealing with some P.N.D.”
Anyway, I digress.
I was never a “clucky” woman, but knew that I did want to have a family. My Husband and I had discussed about not having children and we both felt that if we didn’t, we would regret that decision. So my implanon got taken out on Christmas Eve and the baby making started and fortunately for us, I was pregnant before I even had my period.
Unfortunately…….this bliss lasted 5 short days with me miscarrying on a lonely Sunday morning when my husband was out mountain bike riding. Without his phone on him, my attempts to contact him failed so I curled up in bed and did what I knew best at that point; I cried, trying to understand what was happening to me and my baby…..
We bounced back in a few months and it was “Game On” again, with another quick conception. Those first few weeks were painfully slow….waiting, waiting, waiting until we overcame the 12 week milestone – the much-anticipated “safe zone”.
I celebrated with joy and allowed myself to relax, that it would all be ok….
“It’s all ok”
You don’t know me, but I already love you,
I’d kill for you & protect you, it’s what I’m driven to do.
Protect you from harm, or any wrong,
Shower you with love, & teach you to be strong.
All you have is me so far, & I promise so much,
I’ll do everything I can, without trying to rush.
I can’t wait for the day, that we meet for the first time,
Both crying in each other’s arms, rain, hail or shine!
I’m scared, I’m nervous… it will be okay,
My fingers are crossed, every single day.
Let peace be, & allow you to grow,
I’ll nurture you each day, in the best way I know.
I’ll be kind to me, which will pass to you,
I’ll love me, as much as I love you.
Goodnight my baby, let’s rest some more tonight,
I’ll chat to you more, at first daylight.
Initial scans were booked and done, and being the optimist, I blissfully ignored the conversations about the “cord a hernia”, that our Radiographer found. I didn’t know what it meant and I didn’t ask. “Look, let’s get you back in 2 weeks time to check and I’m sure it will all be gone….”
“Sure – no probs, see you then!”
2 weeks came around really quick and it wasn’t long before I knew something was up. The silent pauses in conversation, the every-increasing gaze of our Radiographer on the screen re-looking again, again and again which led to her saying, “Let’s go in the other room to chat…..”
My heart broke in an instant and I started to crumble.
“Your foetus (it’s my baby god-damn it, NOT a foetus) has an omphalocele. What this means is that the umbilical cord should have by now, enclosed all of the stomach contents etc, however in your case, part of the foetus’s bowel is protruding out of the cord (belly button) which could mean a couple of things…..”
I was screaming inside and didn’t want to listen, but the words continued….
“There is a 33% chance that your foetus (my baby, please don’t call it a foetus!), has tri-chromosomes which is fatal, as human beings are only designed to have two chromosomes.”
“Fatal….you mean my baby may die?”
My hands started to tremble and shoulders started to shake and a sound from somewhere deep within my soul took hold, as my world continued to crumble. My husband did all he could do and held me as the realisation sunk in that we were staring down the barrel of a 2nd pregnancy that may end.
“What we need to do is ascertain whether the omphalocele is from tri-chromosomes or just a physical abnormality (which is not fatal).
“Physical abnormality…. you mean my baby may be deformed?!”
“If it is tri-chromosomes than the pregnancy is not viable and you may spontaneously miscarriage or it may go full term and you would have a still birth…. OR you can elect to terminate your pregnancy”
“You mean I would get the choice of killing my baby or having it die inside of me again?!”
“If the results come back that it is not tri-chromosomes, then we can do further scans at 20 weeks, to see what defects there may be but sometimes these are not known until birth. On delivery we can then correct the omphalocele but we’ll need to assess everything at that time.”
“So you can’t tell me if my baby is going to be “ok”…..if my baby is going to be “normal?”
“You have a few options right now and I recommend you go away and think about them.”
Quick decisions were made and I elected to get a C.V.S. and was booked in within 2 days whilst life stood S-T-I-L-L.
The normal bubbling Jodie retreated and I became numb.
I didn’t want to be happy, nor sad, just numb, non-responsive and reclusive.
The waiting game began for the results and within 72 hours we had the phone call, that it wasn’t tri-chromosomes, but needed to wait 6 more weeks til the 20 week scan to get the all clear.
My husband was over the moon from getting this initial good news, but I was still numb. There was no guarantee that everything was “normal” and day by day, I was growing my baby inside of me that may not even be.
The roller coaster ride continued, I couldn’t get off it yet.
Those 6 weeks of waiting was a trying time to say the least and I reached out to the one thing that I could control – my focus. My new best-friend was my sofa, my journal and whatever pen I could grab and the words just flowed….
What’s Good About This?
It’s like a cyclone, but I’m sitting in the eye,
All calm & quiet, not sure if dangers nearby.
You just don’t know, but it’s lurking like a threat,
I keep waking up in hell, just wanting to forget.
I’ve survived til now, but a little sadder inside,
A beaten woman, needing strength & wanting to hide.
Tears come and emotions flow,
Life’s’ unforgiving; I realize it was never my show.
I can’t stop it, I can’t ignore it, I can’t run away,
I’m stuck on this stage, no longer wanting to play.
It’s just emptiness & I’m petrified,
Nothing helps except just to cry.
The tears roll down and I wipe them away,
I can’t stop a thing and there is nothing you can say.
All I do now is just wait…
Keep my mind busy, til I hear the fate.
It’s times like this, that life becomes clear,
What’s really important & who is sincere.
There is no time for bullshit, life is too short,
I’ll now step onto my soapbox, to uncover all wroughts.
Fuck judgment, fuck whingeing, fuck being polite,
Fuck laziness & greediness, fuck excuses of any kind.
Fuck stupidity, fuck complaining about anything,
Get your own god damn planet or try to make it from nothing!
Who am I to shrink or ever pretend,
Life is a gift, don’t waste a second.
So I have this day, I have the sunshine,
I have my husband and precious time.
Others didn’t live til today, but I’m still here,
It’s selfish to spend more time, living in fear.
The question begs, “what’s good about this?”
My mind searches randomly, “all of it?.”
Fast forward to 11th December 2010 at 2:38am and the arrival of our baby girl, our Obstetrician declared, “It’s gone, the omphalocele is gone.” I could tell from the tone of his voice that this was a good thing, and after questioning him, something that he couldn’t medically explain.
(Did I leave it at the hospital….? 😉
Our arrival at home was short-lived, she never got to sleep in her cot that first night. A rash around her cord started to spread on our little girl, so we called our Pediatrician and were advised; “If it were my child with her history, I’d bring her into emergency….”
For fuck’s sake – all I want is for everything to be ok!
Needless to say we broke the speed limit driving to the hospital that night and we were admitted straight away. I remember seeing the looks of pity that people gave us, as they a little bundle in my arms being ushered through past everyone else. I was keeping myself together and wanted to be strong for my little girl.
She wasn’t in any pain, but the Pediatrician was concerned. A rash spreading that quickly wasn’t normal and their were mumblings of liver failure, so he called in a colleague for a 2nd opinion. It was decided that she would be placed on anti-biotics and monitored….(what for…….why?)
They couldn’t explain.
She was now the patient and as we were ushered to her room at 2am the nurse asked, “Only 1 person can stay with her, who will it be….?”
With no freakn manual, my husband and I kissed each other goodbye and I was taken to her room where my bed was now the side-panel sofa seat.
It was ironic that just 24hrs ago, the care that I was receiving as a new mother in hospital was all gone.
Recovering from a vaginal birth, sore and swollen, I curled up and looked outside. It was near 4am now and the day was starting to stir; I was exhausted, too tired to cry and becoming more numb by the second.
The next 4 days went slowly with nurses checking “in” every 4 hours; “What is your full name, what is the full name of this child and what is her D.O.B….?” This happened like clock work, followed by a heart-rate check, temperature check and leaving me with my bundle of joy awake after I had just settled her or upset from the continual poking and prodding.
Every night when he left to go home, I would cry at the thought of having to go through another night without him. I wanted to yell at the nurses to leave us alone, but alas, they were only there to help.
The rash dissipated, swelling reduced and all I cared about was that the Pediatrician was “happy” with her progress and on the 4th day we got the “ok” for discharge and at the earliest possible opportunity, our bags were packed and we were headed home – again.
I remember leaving the hospital car park for that 2nd time feeling empty. My husband had put my favourite song on (our wedding song; ~It’s a Beautiful Day~ by U2), and I just cried tears of relief.
The first few weeks in hindsight were probably “normal” by way of any massive transition that a new mother goes through. Baby blues stayed for a few days, my nipples were sore, yes I was tired and after 4 weeks my Husband was going back to work.
We settled in quickly and she proved to be a good sleeper with a routine worked out by me fairly quickly….sleeping for 3 hrs, up for 2hrs and by 8 weeks she was sleeping through the night. (I thought I had it all figured out!)
I was told constantly that she was an “easy” baby, but for me, there was nothing easy about the feelings I was starting to have.
Feelings of wanting to escape….
Feelings of suffocation….
Feelings of dread, at the very sound of her little cries for attention….
I wanted to scream; “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!” and it wasn’t long until the day that I did scream at my helpless little bundle of joy.
Frustrated, angry and feeling hopeless, I left the room quickly and shut the door to cry, only to hear her cries grow louder and louder in the next room.
Waves of guilt engulfed me; “How could I be so cruel, How could I be such a bad mother, if she was so “easy” how come I couldn’t cope?”
The days started to blur together and I would find myself withdrawing even further. My poor husband would come home only to find his wife in tears while I was breastfeeding her, with no idea of what he should do.
I would dread waking up, I would dread going to sleep and I would dread every moment I had to spend with my baby. There was no joy, just a growing resentment towards the one thing that needed me the most – my baby.
I’d sometimes “google” coping with motherhood, and would read information about Post Natal Depression thinking; “Is this me? Do I have this?”, desperately looking for answers to help me feel normal again.
My mind would sometimes wonder into dark places, which really scared me. If we were out walking, I’d have thoughts about pushing her pram into our local creek…..or sometimes if we were out driving, I’d contemplate “If I drove the car into a tree maybe I could hurt myself just enough to go to hospital, and someone else would have to look after her…..”
“Please someone help me!”
Help came in the form of an email from a girlfriend; a very randomn email, but one I welcomed instantly. Katie, and I had never met in person, but had become online friends through Facebook a few years back with an instant connection.
Her email (god bless her), was an invitation to go to Hawaii for a few days to join her in a 3 day birthday bash of a mutual friend of ours. As soon as I read her email, I knew I had to do whatever it took to get to Hawaii….. I had a 5 month old baby that I was breastfeeding and husband working full -time, but really I didn’t care, I just wanted to escape – and that I did.
The 5 days that I spent in Hawaii were heaven. (God bless you Katie xx)
I felt like “me” again and didn’t particularly pine for my child or miss my husband. With my breast pump packed, I couldn’t completely forget about her either, but I could be alone and have time to myself……..finally.
Coming home was like being sucked back into a vortex; “Should I miss the flight and blame it on a dodgy taxi-driver???” I arrived home at 10pm and was already dreading my morning wake up call from her, and by the end of that 1st day I was back to a blubbering mess.
I was low, but didn’t realise that there was a new low, deeper low just around the corner.
I’d been home for just a few days, when my parents visited for the day. I’d manage to keep my “happy” face on for any visitors and this day, I slapped it on, but desperately was screaming out inside, “help me, please help me!”
Deciding to give my little girl her lunch, Mum and I boiled up an egg; it was a new food for her to try. Within a few minutes of shoving it in her face, she was cranky and I was oblivious to what was happening. Frustrated at her for not eating it, I ignored these cries and thought to myself, “will you just shut up and eat the damn egg!”
I gave up a few minutes later and put her crankiness down to bed time…..how wrong I was.
Trying to quieten her in her room, I was fed up and lay her in her cot.
She looked at me for just a moment before she started choking, and her eyes rolled back.
“MUM” I screamed, “she’s choking……what should I do…..”
I scrambled to pick her up and Mum whisked her away with clear instructions, “call 000 Jodie…..”
The choking had stopped, but it became clear now that she was having a reaction to that god damn egg and as I dialled 000 with trembling fingers my mind was racing…. “What have I done to her, is she going to die….”
I’ll never forget the calm voice that coached me through those agonising 10 minutes while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. My baby was crying and visibly upset and I was trying to stay calm and breath…… listening desperately for those sirens to come closer and closer.
The day was spent getting her checked over and more than one person telling me; “No eggs before they are 1….and you should only try egg yolks first.”
Thanks for the information but you are a little too late!
That day was the nail in my coffin.
Arriving home I immediately went to my bed, curled up into the foetal position and just lay there. My mind was now engulfed with hazy dark clouds; there was no clarity of thought, just emptiness. I couldn’t think, I didn’t talk, I just lay there for hours staring at the wall.
My mother and husband tried to coaxed me to eat something…..”you’ll feel better if you eat…..you’ll feel better if you have a shower….”
It was that night I told my husband, “I need to see someone, I need help.”
He knew from the tone of my voice what that meant and made immediate phone calls to find out what help was out there. Beyond Blue spent quiet a bit of time chatting with him and gave us guidance at such a desperate time.
Less than a week ago, I was lying on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii in total denial about my world, and now the pendulum had swung right back into a dark oblivion that would last for weeks.
I didn’t want to look after my baby at all and had no hope of a brighter day. Anxiety was next to set in and I would make sure that I was never left along with her….. The very thought of being alone, made my heart start to race and chest start to constrict….
The immediate counselling I received was a godsend. I remember that I couldn’t talk in that first appointment, I just sat there eyes downcast embarrassed, afraid and scared, so my husband spoke on my behalf.
Twice a week we’d sit in that room and it wasn’t long before I felt comfortable enough to talk.
“What’s wrong with me, why did this happen to me, why do I feel this way and how long will I feel like this!”
My Psychologist is an exceptional communicator and she listened. She never judged, never talked over me…….just listened.
I learned that P.N.D effects 1 in 7 women.
I learned that women with difficult pregnancies or with life stress are at a higher risk of P.N.D.
I learned that there was no reason to feel guilty for the way I was feeling towards my baby and that I would get through this.
I learned that I was still a person with an identity, but just needed some time-out to help me find myself again.
I learned that it is not from hormones, but a mood disorder from the transition that all women go through in motherhood. (Hormones can make you emotional, but they are not a cause).
It was explained to me that when we become mothers (or parents), that we go through a transition with 3 distinct phases (a bell curve) and P.N.D. can occur when you do not move through these phases.
Phase 1. The Ending – A realisation that things you used to do etc you no longer can do. The chapter of your life as an independent person, is now over, as you are now a carer of a baby.
Phase 2. No Man’s Land – This is a phase where you are confused, you don’t know who you are, what to feel or think and senses are heightened in this phase. You feel lost, alone, like there is no tomorrow or light at the end of the tunnel.
Phase 3. The new beginning – This is part of the phase where you start to integrate yourself with your new role as a Mother within your own self-identity. A new “you” is born with clarity and confidence.
Weeks went by and my visits reduced to weekly as I moved back and forth between, The Ending and No Man’s Land.
I became a little stronger each week, but easily pushed backwards by the slightest of stressors in life. Things that never used to phase me, crushed me like a rock. My poor husband had no idea what to do, he’d lost his wife and his best-friend.
It’s taken me 4 months of counselling to slowly move into The Beginning, where I now feel strong enough and clear enough to move forward with my life. I am re-building me again and learning to lower my expectations.
My bad days are few and far between now and I have a sense of hope…that the old Jodie is taking hold alongside my new role as a “Mother”.
I have recognised the sort of Mother that I DO want to be and have implemented the support structure around me that I know I need, to help move me forward.
A brighter future as a confident woman, caring mother and passionate campaigner to bring P.N.D. out of the cupboard and into the world as a Positive New Day during the transition within Motherhood.
Can you help me do that?
By the way, you are a beautiful Mother and doing such a WOW job!
Hugs and High 5’s…. Jods xx
P.S. I leave you with one last poem…
I AM HERE!
“I am HERE” life calls,……. sometimes demands,
Don’t wish me away, I am an untouched land.
Search every nook and corner, every hidden street,
There’s a story to tell, so take your front row seat.