My journey with perinatal depression and anxiety began on the Tuesday 8th of May 2018. My partner, Matt, a truckie (interstate) had left the night before to take a B-Double to Melbourne. I settled myself in for another night of solitude with my laptop to catch up on some work while binge watching ‘Friends’.
I had been feeling nauseous for a couple of weeks on and off and thought that it was because I was stressed and not eating well, working long hours, and just all round not taking care of myself too well. Later that night I started getting painful cramps. Having had endometriosis for many years, I was accustomed to cramping and abdominal pain at abstract times during my cycle and I didn’t think too much of it, until a few hours later, I started to bleed.
In our short time together, Matt and I had talked about marriage and children. We both felt that we had found our person, we bonded over too many ‘small world’ coincidences and a general love of being a little weird; but had set nothing in stone on our future endeavours to start a family. At 5am in the morning, as I sat in the shower, miscarrying a baby that I didn’t know I was pregnant with in the first place, I felt heartache for the piece of our family that would always be missing. I told Matt only because I had taken the day off work, and he asked why I was home. In the months that followed, I kept it a secret, ashamed of my feelings, and of what had happened. I felt confused and lonely, not knowing how to feel. I was grieving for a child that I had never met, that I did not know had been conceived. I wondered what was wrong with me, for my body to do this. I moved on with my life, never to discuss my emotions on this topic that no one speaks of. Fast forward to 2019, I fall pregnant naturally a few months after another endometriosis surgery, something we had hoped but were prepared for it not to happen. I spend 5 minutes elated, ecstatic, and then I cry. The anxiety was overwhelming, pregnancy was torture both mentally and physically, I felt guilt for wishing I wasn’t pregnant when this was all I had prayed for.
Nine long months of holding my breath, and in September of 2019, our beautiful rainbow baby was born. The boy who stuck my heart back together. The birth itself was traumatic; but he was healthy, happy, he slept anywhere, he went everywhere, and nothing bothered him. He was everything we wished for and more, and yet every time the sun went down, overwhelm would sweep over me and I would cry for the better part of the night. I loved him and felt connected to him from the instant he was in my arms, but I felt disconnected from myself, like I was watching it play out from afar. I did nothing, I don’t even think I accepted how I was feeling. I shoved all of it under the rug, never to be spoken of, because how dare I feel this, after wanting him for so long, after everything we went through to have him in our arms, how ungrateful could I be? I refused to accept that I was struggling.
His sleeping took a turn when he was four months old and I don’t think I’ve had a solid night’s sleep since, and after a series of unfortunate events, my life was unravelling before me. Matt was still in the truck, we had moved towns (further away from my family but significantly closer to his – to no avail, but that’s a story for a different time), I had started a new job, and beautiful little boy was due to turn one in two months. I remember driving over the railway line to pick him up from daycare, and thinking that his life, and Matt’s life, would be so much easier if I wasn’t in it. If I wasn’t around to pass my trauma onto him (naïve, as when you are thinking clearly, growing up without his Mum would only create more trauma), he’d have a happier life. He could have a better mum, Matt could have a better partner, one that was happy, someone that they deserved. I made a plan one night, and watched his beautiful little face, fast asleep, with tears streaming down my cheeks. I thought about him taking his first steps, his contagious laugh, and the cheeky smile that will get him out of anything.
My thoughts changed from doom to despair, did I want to miss all of that, would his laugh still be the same if he lost his mother? Would his smile? I knew in that moment, I needed to get help. I couldn’t do this by myself, but I couldn’t take away the lifetime of love that I could give him. No one will ever love him as much as I do, and he deserves to feel that every day for as long as possible. And I selfishly want to see his smile for the same time. That smile helped me to heal from the loss of his sibling, something that I never thought possible, so I was sure that with the right professional, it would help me to heal from this as well.