T – Mum of 7
Hi, my name is T and I am a stay at home mum of 7 children aged between 17 and 2.
I developed postnatal depression or PND after every one of my children to varying degrees.
After some of my children I was able to keep it under control using self-help techniques such as exercise but with others I needed more help and ended up on medication and using support services.
Today I would like to tell you about my experiences here in Christchurch after the births of my two youngest children, currently aged 2 and 3.
After living in Christchurch for less than a year, I gave birth to a little boy. Unfortunately he wasn’t a healthy baby, added to the fact that I had little to no support network, my partner was working long hours and then to top everything off, I discovered I was pregnant when N was only 10 weeks old. It was no wonder that my old friend, the PND black cloud, came back for a visit. Thankfully I recognised my signs and made an appointment with my GP. I am very thankful that my GP takes PND seriously and had no hesitations in helping me find help rather than just brushing me off as being a busy mum as had happened to me in the past. The very first thing she did was reinstate me on my meds and sent a referral through to PNAP – plunket’s postnatal adjustment programme.
Within a couple of weeks I received a letter in the mail inviting me to come along to PNAP group. It was probably one of the hardest things I had to do. When the day arrived, my partner drove me to the group and after sitting in the car trying to get my anxiety under control I took the step. Inside I met the nicest two ladies as facilitators who tried their best at making me feel comfortable. As the session wore on I slowly started to realise that I was ok. No one here was judging me and in fact we were all going thru similar things. After a few weeks, it became obvious that I was lucky enough to stumble across some amazing women and we are still all firm friends today who often catch up both in person and thru a private facebook page.
However what was also becoming obvious was that I was simply not coping. The black cloud was getting darker and I was really starting to struggle seeing thru it. Within the PNAP programme you are allocated an individual support person that comes and visits you in your home and makes sure that you are doing ok. After a couple of visits, I finally admitted that things weren’t great and I was really struggling. She was fantastic and immediately made a referral through to the Mothers and Babies service up at Princess Margaret Hospital.
This appointment I really struggled to attend. My partner came to this appointment with me and I still had a panic attack when I walked in the doors. As hard as it was, I am eternally grateful that I did walk thru those doors. I was met with a nurse and a psychologist who determined that I did need extra help and took me on as a client. I had so much help and support through this service that I can honestly say that they probably saved not only mine but both my little twos lives. Within their services I had access to a nurse that came and saw me privately at home, a psychiatrist that listened as well as being in charge of meds, sleep consultant and a physiotherapist that helped me learn to control my breathing.I was given extra support around the birth of A to the extent that they came and visited us in the hospital. As I started to get a better I had a psychologist offered to me to work on my bond with both of the little ones – together and separately.
As my time with Mothers and Babies was coming to an end I realised that I needed to start looking around at what was out in the public that I could involve myself in as I was still feeling quite fragile. Seems like the universe was listening as an advert for a PND playgroup flashed across my newsfeed on Facebook.
It was a beautiful afternoon when once again I found myself outside a building trying to get my anxiety under control so that I could enter. The two kids and I were welcomed at the door and thankfully I recognised a couple of faces within. The facilitator introduced herself as Sonya and I immediately relaxed as she radiated so much warmth and care I knew that we were in a good place. The little ones and I are still regulars at the playgroup and really enjoy going to a place where there are no judgements, everyones welcome and just generally has a really nice vibe to it. Now that it’s changed to a Tuesday morning, my two get way more out of it as they are no longer spend the entire time sleeping. As long as the dinosaurs are out, we have no issues.
After attending a couple of playgroup sessions, I was talking to Sonya and she mentioned a support group that she runs on behalf of PND. It sounded a great way of getting the additional support I needed to finally lighten this black cloud. After a couple of months on the waiting list, I was able to attend. This group was fantastic. Because the group was quite small, you were able to real talk about what you needed. Some topics hit you more than others but there was never a week that it was irrelevant or I wished I hadn’t gone. Most weeks tears were shed but that was ok. Once again no judgements and it was constantly emphasised that we were doing a great job and having depression was not something to be ashamed of.
I think what makes both groups work so well is the amazing volunteers that come in and support it. Their roles range from looking after and occupying the children so that you can listen and partake in support group through to holding babies so you can drink a hot coffee and pushing children on the swing if you need a time out. They are such and caring bunch of ladies that make you feel like you are part of a large family
The playgroup and support group work really well together. The playgroup provides a safe place to get to know others and wait until you are able to enter support group as well as being a place that is still a safety net once you graduate support group so that you are suddenly not on your own after months of input.
Christchurch are so lucky to have these services and after experiencing the services in a few other parts of the country, we should also feel proud.