I was nervous, like any new mother, about the birth of my first child. The birth was complicated, and I had to have an emergency C section, after a long labour. The first few days of motherhood were hard, I was in a busy room with three other mothers also recovering from c sections. All-day and all-night doctors and nurses were coming and going.
When the other babies were crying, I never knew which was my baby, so I woke for every cry. I struggled to breastfeed, I was in a lot of pain and I could not sleep – hardly a wink. However, I remember feeling so much love for my child that it did not matter that I couldn’t sleep, I felt like a superhero and I had feelings of elation all the time.
I didn’t seem to have the baby blues; I have since learned I had what is sometimes referred to as the baby pinks. When we returned home from the hospital, as a family, things started to unravel, and my behaviour progressively got stranger. I still was not sleeping, but to me, this did not seem to matter, I started having strange racing thoughts that I could achieve anything, but at the same time I could not make decisions and I would walk in and out of rooms 20 times not knowing what to do. I would have fits of laughter and then I would go catatonic, unable to move.
Luckily when I described this to a midwife, she asked me to come straight into the hospital. I do not remember much detail after that, however, I ended up in an inpatient unit, suffering from postnatal psychosis. It was so scary and confusing, and I could only see my new baby to feed her a few times a day. Although I was only an inpatient for less than a week the whole ordeal took a long time to come to terms with. It was the toughest thing I had ever experienced and once I was discharged I had to make a 5 hour round trip once a month to get the specialised help I needed. This was very tricky with a small child and my recovery was slow.
It was a difficult decision to have my second child. I was extremely concerned as there was a high chance of experiencing psychosis again. I felt I needed to learn from what happened to me the first time. I needed to be prepared. However, for a long time after the birth of my first child, I was unable to bring myself to research postnatal psychosis but finally, I started looking up how to get help.
I found PANDA online and they put me in touch with Gidget Foundation Australia. I then got a referral and I was put on the Start talking program. This was a game-changer for me. Living in Regional NSW, after the birth of my first child I felt I could not get the help I needed without traveling long distances. But with Start Talking I was able to video conference with a qualified professional who really understood my needs, who also had the back up of an even bigger network of professionals to rely on.
I started the video conferencing sessions well before the due date of my second child to help me prepare. I had regular video conferences with the psychologist in my own home and then, when I had to move to Hope cottage due to physical complications with the pregnancy, I could continue sessions with the same psychologist. After I gave birth I was able to speak to my psychologist from my hospital bed in recovery. It was amazing to get the continuity of care I had been missing from past experiences. I was able to raise my concerns with the compassionate psychologist and she gave me practical advice regarding how I could manage through birth and beyond.
I will always be grateful for the support provided by Gidget Foundation Australia. I am so pleased to say that I did not have psychosis with my second child. I really think Gidget’s Start Talking service helped me navigate the challenges I felt with motherhood much better the second time around.