37-year-old Angela, mother of one daughter, shares her story and journey through Postnatal Anxiety.
I couldn’t wait to have a baby. I had a really smooth pregnancy and we were really excited about expecting our first child after having a very early miscarriage before that. I really liked being pregnant – it was a positive and enjoyable experience for me. So when my daughter was born in July 2014, it was very surreal but we were absolutely over the moon to have our little girl.
I was on a huge high in hospital with everyone coming to visit. However I remember the drive home with feelings of real sadness. It wasn’t the drive home that I thought it was going to be. A lot of my friends had talked about how amazing it was to leave the hospital with your brand new baby but I felt quite the opposite – so scared, out of my depth and utterly lost. This fear descended over me more and more as the days went by, but I didn’t really know what it was or how to get my head around what I was feeling.
When I came home I felt like I had walked into our house but as a different person – it didn’t feel like my home. I could see the four walls and I could see the familiar surrounds but it felt really strange to be home – in fact I wanted to be anywhere else but here.
I found it very difficult to deal with because not only was I not feeling myself but even when we sought help from a midwife for the trouble I was having breastfeeding, settling and with silent reflux, we didn’t seem to get very far with things.
So when my husband would go to work I would think, “How on earth am I going to deal with my daughter today?” She became upset a lot and I felt I couldn’t alleviate whatever was bothering her and it was incredibly overwhelming for me.
I was scared to leave the house because I was worried if she was crying hysterically and I couldn’t help her it would just make my anxiety worse.
It wasn’t that there wasn’t a connection and a love there but it was a fear of “I don’t know if I’m capable of helping this child and settling her six times a day and doing that day in, day out. How am I ever going to get through this?”.
Before I became a mum, I loved my job, was super organised, loved meeting deadlines, loved managing projects, loved ticking things off my to-do list.
If I could do all of that really well for the last 16 years, why on earth can’t I do this? Something meant to be so natural and a normal part of life.
In my head I started telling myself and believing that “Maybe I’m not cut out to do this. Maybe my personality and the way I operate is not cut out to be a mum,” which is a terrible way to feel when you have a newborn who you absolutely adore.
I had a husband who could not have been more supportive, so I would think – “We have such a strong relationship – we are a really strong family unit – why is this so incredibly difficult?”
I knew it was important for me to get out so I would go and see my mother’s group. I would go out every day but I would always put on a face. I would be out there doing the things I needed to do but inside I would be feeling constant fear and panic that would crash over me in waves again and again, day in day out.
It eroded my self-confidence. I felt out of control as far as handling everything in my life – even little things. Little things became too much and I became very angry and irritable, particularly towards my husband.
Six weeks after my daughter was born, I went to see my obstetrician, Dr Vijay Roach, the chairman at the Gidget Foundation. I told him I was unbelievably overwhelmed and anxious so he suggested I go and see someone at Gidget House.
To have someone to speak to was the key to my getting better. I could sort my thoughts out in a way that I wasn’t burdening anyone. It was my safety net when I felt so scared.
I’ve learnt not to be so tough on myself. I’ve always had high expectations of me and others but I’m learning not to do that. I’ve learnt how to find the tools to achieve that work/life/family balance. I’ve learnt to take up the offer from friends and family who want to look after our daughter or cook us a meal.
I’m forever grateful for having gone through what I did because it made me who I am today. I view myself very differently now. Who I am today is most definitely a result of the challenges, the experiences and the help I received along the way. It has given me the insight into how I cope with things and how I can be the best mum I can be.
Seeing my beautiful girl and the family that we have become makes me forever grateful that I sought help when I did.