So let me open with.. Rafaella – you are the most loved princess. You have stolen my heart and you completely own it. Don’t forget that. But… I want to tell other mothers about the rough time I had with you just in case there is another mother sitting at home feeling the same way. Your name means healer and maybe you might just do exactly that even at age one. Heal someone.
My friends and family know that Rafaella came as a big surprise. Let me take you back to before I had Mikah. We tried and eventually were told by our fertility specialist that it was unlikely we would ever conceive naturally, “maybe if you tried for 20 years you MIGHT have one baby” was the exact words of the doctor. Then it happened – we had one our one baby, Mikah! We were thrilled, we had her and obsessed over her and just after her first birthday found out that we were pregnant again..WHAT!
This is where everything changed.. When I broke the news to my parents I asked them to not even hug me, I wasn’t ready for excitement, no one was allowed to be happy until I was. I was freaking out.. We were about to move away for 6 months, my husband works very long hours, we couldn’t afford another baby, we would have to move to a bigger place, Mikah was still just a baby herself… the list went on and on. I really felt guilty when my mind started wondering over to “I’ve just lost all the weight. As if I want to actually get fat again”. With every thought I felt worse and worse about myself. I kept saying to myself “if you had told infertile Bec that she would have two babies in two years, SHE would have been delighted”.
I then moved to a rural country town because of my husbands job. I resented my pregnancy because I had a hernia and was told not to lift, yep great! I had a 17 month old baby that hadn’t decided to start walking yet. I was filled with anxiety about what lay ahead. I kept hoping that as soon as I gave birth to my beautiful baby I would just fall madly in love and I would live happily ever after.
Kind of happened but not really…
I had a wonderful labour which resulted in the most empowering moment of my life where I actually got to reach down and pull out my baby and bring her onto my naked chest where at once she started feeding (Kardashian Fans doesn’t it sound familiar..Yes I am basically Kourtney). I was thrilled that it was another girl and left hospital on the morning of day 3 because I just couldn’t wait to be at home with my beautiful family. I even stopped off on the way home for lunch with my very newborn in a cafe. By the next morning I was out at Fox Studios with my family. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing and was my best coping mechanism for the first week or so.
Things changed really quickly though and my friend adrenalin fused into my enemy exhaustion. The days rolled into the nights and the nights into the next day. I kept thinking of that atrocious Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day where he finds himself repeating each day again and again… eventually he looks at his life and his priorities and has some epiphanies. I didn’t get to that insightful part – I didn’t have the energy to think deeply, I felt like I was a robot and just had to perform repetitive commands. Breastfeed baby, dress older child, pour milk and cereal, put baby to sleep, give Mikah attention, put Mikah to sleep, take both to Coles etc etc… and somewhere in there I still had to shower and dress and be a wife, a daughter, a friend, run a home… It wasn’t long before I began to feel overwhelmed. I was sinking into this awful despondency and soon each day felt like a relentless and repetitive tidal wave flowing over me… the minutes, hours, days, weeks were difficult to distinguish… the aim of each day was simply to survive and rise above these feelings… it was exhausting, life was suffocating me…
I also remember seeing my mum leave my house in tears… she was nothing but help and support for me but as soon as I said that I was hating this whole experience she immediately got upset. She was so disappointed and angry about my self-pity. Initially I was upset with her, I felt like it wasn’t her place to get upset. I was the one was entitled to be upset. I was the one having the hard time. I was the one waking up for kids. I was the one not coping. But at that stage of my life I had in a way become like a toddler, I couldn’t see beyond myself. I now understand how upsetting it would be to see your daughter not enjoying her little children, her little miracles that she believed she couldn’t have. It led to more guilt..I was drowning in guilt.
I started my own little mantra that I would find myself repeating over and over when I needed to. “It won’t be like this forever”. I would take a minute when things felt overwhelming to calm myself and keep saying it. I taught it to my husband and I think he adapted to me rather than the kids, “she won’t be like this forever”. Earl if you are reading this (which you better be!) YOU. WERE. FABULOUS. What would I do without you my amazing rock!
In hindsight, the best thing I could have done for myself, my husband and my children was to march myself off to the dr and seek professional help but I saw it as being weak. I now know that I definately dabbled in some aspects of anti-natal and post-natal depression. I wasn’t connecting with Rafi like I had with Mikah. I of course loved her insanely but I wasn’t able to tap into the joy that she gave me. It didn’t come as naturally or as quickly. Which brings me to the message I wanted to get through to other mothers that may be feeling like this… You don’t have to be sitting in a room by yourself and crying at every moment to know that you need help. There is so much help available – take it! Don’t be too proud! Don’t think it makes you a weak mother but rather realise that this makes you the best mother in the world. It is actually something that brings mothers of all generations together. 50 years ago they called it a nervous breakdown, now its known as PND and by the time my girls are of child bearing age it will probably be called something else (and there will probably be an Iphone App to help it!).
The Raising Children Network says that PND is caused by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. It really changed my spirit. It took me from being a spirited, happy, relatively chilled mother into someone that struggled to enjoy and be content with myself. It made me feel guilty and anxious and just disappointed with myself. It was a general feeling of inadequacy. I can’t even imagine what really bad PND would do to a mother because mine was truely just a dabble but it was bad enough that its taken me the better part of a year to talk about it.
So thank you for reading this, even writing this has helped to heal me. I feel like I can look back at it as the past and now focus on the future. See Rafi? More healing.
Forever your loving mummy,
Sweet Dreams my beautiful Rafaella Noa x
If you or anyone you know are experiencing any PND symptoms please seek immediate help from a health professional, and also have a look at www.panda.org.au. They are a fabulous organisation and really can help you.