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Thursday, 23 November 2017

PND - A letter to myself

                                                                                                                                                             
Date: 11th March 2017



Dear Pregnant-Me,

People will tell you that having a baby is hard work, that you'll never get any more sleep and that your nights of going out are over.

People will breeze over the labour, they will tell you that you'll cry on Day 3 and it's normal and that breastfeeding is best.

People will tell you that your body will be back to normal by 6 weeks postpartum and that you will be able to return to normal life at this stage.

You're about to have a baby in just over a week and you're excited.
You're about to have your entire world turned upside down but you can't wait; everyone else does it - right?
You've been handed that "Beyond Blue" leaflet about Postnatal Depression, but you haven't given it another thought because you have wanted this baby more than anything and it's finally happening!

You will definitely not get Postnatal Depression.

xxx

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Date: 23rd November 2017



Dear Postpartum-Me,

I know you don't know what is happening to your mind and body, but it will be OK.
I know you can't think straight; that things are not happening like everyone has always lead you to believe, but it will be OK.

Just because women go through pregnancy and childbirth every day, doesn't mean that it's easy or that we should normalise it. What women put their bodies and minds through during this time is immense, and they should be both applauded and supported every step of the way. They are creating and growing LIFE inside of them, pushing their bodies to the brink as they bring that life into the outside world...and that's only the beginning of the sacrifices they make to put the needs of the baby first. Every pregnancy is different, every delivery different, every baby different - and the effects of each on the new mother have different impacts on both her mind and body.

Nobody tells you.

They don't tell you that you can be so traumatized by certain aspects of your labour other than the pain that you need counselling, or that you can have nightmares reliving it every time you do actually get to close your eyes. Don't listen to the people harping on about how we're "programmed to forget" - not everyone does - but it will be OK.

They don't tell you that you can have your baby and not have a single feeling towards her; that you can be robbed of the scene social media and TV constantly portray of the moment your heart bursts with love for the being that you just brought into the world. They don't tell you that it can take months before you can even feel like the baby is yours and the love comes as you get to know the whirlwind that turned your life upside down. Don't worry if you don't have the magical immediate bond with your baby - not everyone does - but it will be OK.

They don't talk about how you can cry, not only on Day 3, but every single day, because you feel so overwhelmed you can't function. They don't talk about how you can have panic attacks about leaving the house with the baby or being left alone with the baby or being in front of people with the baby. There's no mention of how - even though you've just been through major physical trauma - you don't get to rest or recover. Don't stress about how every other Mum looks under control and at ease - not everyone is - but it will be OK.

They don't tell you that you may not feel like your body is even getting close to being back to normal until MONTHS after giving birth and that even then you still may not have enough control over parts of your body to allow you to return to exercise. Don't panic if you don't bounce back into your jeans or pre-baby life like every other mother that seems to be about - not everyone does - but it will be OK.

They don't tell you how sleep deprivation can cause you to turn you into a different person, and how something that's used as a form of torture isn't accepted as an excuse when you become a Mother. "Sleep when the baby sleeps" isn't always an option or possible, and having to act as the responsible parent of a newborn when you are running on empty is soul destroying. Don't mind what others appear to be doing - do your best and it will be OK.

They don't tell you how hard it is to breastfeed or how stressful and painful it is. They don't speak about how intense the pressure is on you to do this and how much of a failure you feel if it doesn't seem to be working. They don't tell you that often someone else can calm your crying baby much more easily than you as they are not lactating. Don't waste too much energy or too many tears on the breastfeeding if it isn't working; do whatever works best for you and your baby - it will be OK.

They don't tell you that even though you've wanted this baby for years, you can question yourself daily why you had her, or how you can physically panic at the question from others about having any more. Don't think this is forever; the fogs lifts and you will begin to see clearly again one day - things are going to be OK.

This is your journey; and it's going to be a difficult one. Chin up; one day at a time and you will get through it. Even though it seems impossible when every hour is torture, and when your baby is the one always screaming and never sleeping. Even when you see other Mothers gushing with love when you can't seem to find a single positive emotion within you. Even though you feel like you're in a dark cloud and you would give anything to take it all back...I promise you that on the other side you are going to meet so many other Mum's who have been through the same struggle as you.

It's the topic nobody talks about, the taboo subject within parenthood, the condition that makes Mums think having it means they have failed as a Mother.
Au contraire Momma-Bear; it only goes to show how strong you are to get through it.

Talk about it, keep going, learn to love; it will be OK.

xxx

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Postnatal Depression (PND) affects one in seven women giving birth in Australia and can develop up to a year after giving birth. PND can range from a mild feeling of sadness to a paralysing depression and although the exact causes of PND are unknown, the enormous physical, emotional and social changes involved in becoming a parent seem to play a significant role. (*It is important to note that new fathers can also develop PND; particularly if their partner is depressed.*)



Wednesday, 30 August 2017

There aint no "glow"...

My oh my; what they don't tell you about pregnancy.
Well, I will.

People are sneaky - when I think of pregnant women before I was pregnant myself, I think of gorgeous females with bumps and beautiful thick hair, carrying on with life as normal for 9 months, loving the fact that they're pregnant and about to bring life into this world.

I know now, however, that this isn't' necessarily the case.
First of all let's start with the fact that you're carrying around a baby inside you for 40 weeks; which, incidentally you'll notice that 40 divided by 4 is 10 months and not 9...nice of them to lie to us from the beginning by adding a whole extra month in there?!

All hail pregnant women.
Seriously, I cannot express enough how much admiration I have for them all now that I have gone through it myself. This job is tough and it's one you're expected to just continue with on top of the fact that you most likely have a full-time job already, plus don't want to become a hermit and never leave the house again - so you have to continue doing the social thing too.

I was one of the lucky ones, where my pregnancy has been pretty straight-forward and "easy" in the grand scheme of things.
Sure, I could barely type this with my left hand as my joints were so sore I couldn't move my fingers properly, I couldn't walk for long cos I felt like I had a knife in my pelvis and my ankles were about to overflow onto the road in a lumpy pile of fat whilst I struggled to breathe since a black-belt kicking Ninja was sitting where my lungs used to be; but this is all normal.
Sound appealing yet??

The first 16 weeks of my pregnancy I ballooned into what I felt was a fat, swollen, pale mess; putting on 15kgs and struggling to come to terms with the changes my body was making. You're not at the obviously pregnant stage yet, but you're definitely fat looking, so that does heaps for your confidence and motivation to go out and about.

I felt like I'd been hit by a truck; yawning my way through work and watching the clock to get home by 7pm so I could go straight to bed; comatosed on the couch for the weekends in preparation to continue maintaining some sort of energy levels for the work week ahead.
The girl who used to go to bed about 11pm and want to keep Neil awake chatting about the day was now replaced by this pasty, obese-heading flatulent beast who would crawl to bed at 7pm warning him of death by suffocation should he wake her from her 12-hour coma at any stage. Super sexy doesn't describe it.

From week 16 to 24 I had lots of work travel and preparation to do ahead of taking most of December off to go home, so the focus was on this mainly. I had now also discovered that I no longer wanted to eat hot food (especially vegetables), and was prepared to quite easily and happily live off Crunchy Nut Cornflakes for the rest of my life.
I got Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD https://www.coreconcepts.com.sg/article/what-is-symphysis-pubis-dysfunction-spd/); which was fine once I didn't move my left leg at all. You see the problem here?

The exhaustion (and gas!) temporarily went away, only to be replaced by discomfort and constipation and the constant need to change underwear. Nothing like another elegant and ladylike image, brought on either by the fact that you wet yourself from sneezing, laughing, coughing, generally moving or simply from a swift unsuspecting Karate kick to the bladder, or thanks to other leakages - I'll spare you the details; couldn't have me telling you everything you are to expect and ruin all the surprises!

From week 24 to 32 I had pretty much completely lost all appetite, happy to eat only once a day as I no longer felt that I had a stomach of my own. Flying long distant flights (24 hours) is not something I would ever recommend doing in Economy when you barely fit in the seat, need an extension on your seatbelt, are sick with a chest infection (but not allowed to take anything for it), can't sleep (but are travelling with someone who goes into "Standby Mode" at the bat of an eyelid) and when you are wearing compression socks that are so tight on your now-wildebeest-like calves that you're left with abrasions on your legs. Half-amputated legs, but on the bright side - no DVT. #winning
The weight gain continued despite the lack of food going into my body and I now had the joy of experiencing what life would be like if you lived on the surface of the sun. Not recommended FYI.
I came back from -6 degrees Ireland to 39 degrees Melbourne and instantly got heat-exhaustion topping up the other ailments and generally feeling like you were close to death.

From week 32 to 40 I had turned from my need for Crunchy Nut Cornflakes to an obsession with milk, sometimes drinking up to 4 litres a day when it was hot outside. Eating any time after 3pm would mean I had killer heartburn for the evening and that night. Apparently the old wives tale is that your baby will have a lot of hair if you get heartburn...this little missy would wanna come out like Rapunzel with the amount I got!
I had now taken up 90% of the bed with the fort of pillows I needed to be as comfortable as possible - two for under my head, one for my back, one for between my legs and one for under the alien mass that was now taking over the 85% of my 90% share of the bed!
Simple things like maintaining balance wasn't as easy as it used to be. Clumsiness, not able to see your feet and therefore tripping over things became commonplace and since no human shoe would fit my now-hobbit-like feet, flip-flops were a staple accessory to anything that I had left in the wardrobe that would fit me. How very Aussie.

Showering was always an interesting affair. Given that your boobs are so sore that you can barely let the water touch them and you can no longer bend over to shave your legs; the act, (that would impress anyone from Cirque Du Soleil by the way), of balancing one foot on the bath whilst holding onto the shower divide and using the spare hand to quickly tame the mammoth legs for another couple of days began.
I attempted to have a bath once, but couldn't fit under the water so only half of my body was washed. I also quickly discovered that I couldn't get out of this world's-shallowest-bathing-bucket after many elegant attempts to exit. Accepting defeat, I was a shivering beached whale by the time Neil came back from the shops to help me out  - huffing and puffing with sound effects I may add!! I think he just stopped short of hiring a crane.

"Baby Brain" is a real thing. I had to start using lists for everything, I found the remote in the fridge, I poured milk in my pasta instead of my glass and I just managed, at the last minute, to catch myself from sending Global Management an email that signed off with my giving them kisses; and probably subsequently ending my career with the love gesture.

At 36 weeks we attended the Ante-Natal class, which consisted of our having to sit on small and seriously uncomfy chairs from 9am - 5pm on a Saturday and listen to a midwife go on about the different aspects of hell that were coming our (mostly my) way. None of this breathing exercises and partner working malarky that you would expect from the scenes I've seen on TV.
Facts were stated and many eyes in the room were opened on how less-than-dignified the whole birth process could be. "Mucus plugs" and "Bloody shows" were discussed, followed by vomiting and diarrhea and the very real possibility that you would be defecating in front of your partner and room full of people.

Excellent.

We delighted in the descriptions of an episiotomy or tear and listened intently on how you can feel like you're giving birth again the first time you go to the toilet after delivery.

Wonderful.

All was going ok, apart from the fact that Neil was falling asleep in front of the midwife and I had to walk around as I couldn't physically sit on the child-sized wooden seats any longer.
That was, until we were brought to the birthing ward to be shown around.
I was then absolutely and categorically traumatised by the sounds of a woman in the last minutes of delivery, with no pain relief, in the room next to us. I swear the noises from her, which were neither human nor animal sounding, will stay with me til the day I die.
Which - incidentally - could have been during childbirth, from the sounds of her.
Petrified doesn't describe it.


Ahhh the hormones. Now, I don't THINK that I was that bad; although I'm not sure if anyone is going to tell me! I am pretty sure I didn't get hit with the "psycho hormones", flying off the handle at Neil or massacring people in work for nothing, but I did get the emotional ones. I cried at happy things more so than sad ones. Realising how lucky I was to have my "Melbourne Family" made me cry, realising again how generous our friends and families are made me cry, taking in the full extent of what Clara and the girls did for me with my Baby Shower made me cry, seeing a happy Facebook clip would make me cry! I struggled a lot in the last trimester with Neil being away 4-5 days a week with work and football and my heart felt like I was going through this alone even though my head knew I wasn't. Hormones are a funny and dangerous thing; which must be very difficult for men to understand considering they can't relate. With nothing really having changed in their lives yet, apart from their girlfriend now being super clingy and teary, it must be hard to understand and adjust. They can still go to work and play sports, they can still go out on the town til all hours drinking and be hungover the next day, they can still fit in their clothes and feel normal, still have the same energy levels as always and eat whatever they like; so having to stop and realise that the other person can't do these things or just wants to spend time with you is, I'm sure, a challenge in itself. 40 weeks is a long time for both sides. I have a friend who told me "I love my wife, but I hate her pregnant".


As for the glow - I must have missed that tutorial. Stupidly I assumed that you automatically were gifted with the glow of pregnancy considering all the other crap that you have to put up with.

Not so.

Unles, of course, you're confusing it with the sweat dripping off me from generally just breathing then no; apparently not.

The only time I got to "glow" was when I paid $80 for my spray tan, $30 for my nails, $100 for my makeup and $60 for my hair for a wedding we were going to - I sure as hell hope I was frickin glowing - even if none of it was real!!

I don't have a car, so I used to get public transport everywhere as I couldn't waddle far.
Women - I salute you for your kindness in giving me your seats; you are the first to get up or ask, no matter what age you are or if the seat you are sitting in is one designated for the elderly, disabled or pregnant or not. Maybe it is because half of you have been here before and know what it's like?

Men - I have had my eyes opened since falling pregnant. I can understand in the beginning if you are unsure and don't want to insult the fatty by asking if they're pregnant, however when the women is about to pop and has to pretty much rub her belly in your face; this is a different story. Looking and seeing the pregnancy proof and then averting your eyes to stare out the window, to the book or phone you're pretending to read; refusing to make any eye contact in case you should see that, yes, I have in fact noticed that you knew I was pregnant and you're still selfishly seated in a seat. I tried the nice approach of hoping that someone would do the decent thing and get their male, non-pregnant ass off the seat and offer it to me, but in the end I just straight out asked them to get up. With a smile, of course :)

At just under 40 weeks I was 25kgs heavier and sporting four chins, stretching any maternity clothing to the limits to try and not have to buy any more. My maternity swimsuit got as far as my thighs and gave up at 39 weeks, so that was a great ego boost! I worked until 38 weeks and then retired to the couch to stop the cankles from taking over my legs completely.

Has it been easy? Nope.
Do I enjoy being pregnant? HELL NO.
Will it be worth it? Let's see....