My Story: Post Partum Depression

Chloe Pedley Jul 8, 2018 0 comments 0

If you've read Finn's birth story, you might think that it was the perfect start to a new human's life. A blissed out mother, a perfect baby, and the beginning of a new chapter in an unrolling story.

This is my story. It's pretty dark. But it's real, and it's me. I'm one of the lucky ones, and my story has a happy ending.

When we blog or share content on social media, we quite often only share the highlight reel. The polished, sanitised parts of the story that present our best angles.

I would have loved nothing more than to have you all believe that I was the perfect, attached parent, home birthing hippy mama,  with free range, happy home educated children, fermenting goods in her kitchen, organic produce in her yard and a flock of chickens with names like "Mariposa" and "Eva".

I had all of those things, it's true. There was  even a pear tree. No partridge though.

I also struggled daily with post partum depression.

With hindsight, I can see all of the signs. I can see in my post partum midwife visits, the beginnings of the creeping darkness that would soon drag me under. I could see the vague cries for help, that if ONLY I had made clearer, more succinct, I would have had accessed mental health care earlier.

I can see the ridiculously high expectations I  had set for myself, and the slow cracks that began to appear in my personal relationships eroded, expanded, and grew.

If I'm really honest, those cracks had appeared much earlier on, and had widened into deep, black, echoing chasms by the time Finn had arrived. But like many mothers struggling with post partum depression, I didn't want to admit that my perfect babies, my perfect life, my perfect happily forever after was anything but happy.

 

I didn't want to admit that my perfect babies, my perfect life, my perfect happily forever after was anything but happy.

The recovery from Finn's birth was challenging. I had pain, so much pain, and because I was struggling so much, I was isolated from my family and most of my original support network.

I felt that I was a burden to the people closest to me, and hated asking for help  -but then found myself in such dire straits that my requests for help came in screaming gasps. I reached out sporadically to friends to help me with the symptoms, not the cause. Please help me clean my house, repair my washing line, fold my clothes.. practical help, but not what I needed.

Descending into the chasm

My depression manifested with anxiety and panic attacks, meltdowns and violent episodes. I occasionally heard voices, and panicked that people were coming to take my babies away.

On a few occasions, I reached out for help then quickly withdrew my request. I wish with all my heart that the people who loved me had seen the reality, and insisted I was hospitalised - but sadly. like many mothers, I could put on a reasonably convincing "I'll be okay" face.

There are a few times that stand out for me that I really should have accepted help:

The time I banged my head against the wall until the blood ran thick down my face...

The time I ripped handfuls of hair from my scalp until it bled, and never grew back...

The time my husband had to stop me from hanging myself...

The time I found out I was pregnant again, with a tiny infant baby and already drowning in the fog of new motherhood, and chose to terminate the pregnancy choosing my life over theirs. (I'm sorry. I'm so sorry tiny life. I don't regret my decision, but I never forget you)

(I'm sorry. I'm so sorry tiny life. I don't regret my decision, but I never forget you)

Failing at motherhood

There's a stigma around post partum depression and we don't fucking talk about it. I wanted the Johnson and Johnson life. The smiling, cuddling, clean babies with gorgeous clothes (ironed, thank you) and planned activities. No-one ever presents a remotely realistic picture of motherhood, and it's hard when you fail so spectacularly to be the ideal mother.

I achieved ANYTHING but the Johnson & Johnson's image.

I wasn't smiling, or cuddly (I think I cuddled the boys, I hope with all of my heart that I gave them enough cuddles)

There weren't angelic cherubs or peaceful cups of  tea sat in sunlight streamed windows.

There was a darkness that encompassed everything.  A cliff edge that I tried to negotiate daily, hoping desperately not to fall down.

I wasn't smiling, or cuddly (I think I cuddled the boys, I hope with all of my heart that I gave them enough cuddles)

There weren't angelic cherubs or peaceful cups of  tea sat in sunlight streamed windows.

There was a darkness that encompassed everything.  A cliff edge that I tried to negotiate daily, hoping desperately not to fall down.

And I kept falling. Over and over, day by day, I'd set out with the intentions of coping and then I'd tumble into shouting, screaming, hurting myself meltdowns, wishing that I could just close my eyes, and never have them open because it was just all too much.

The thing about post partum depression is that there IS hope and help available. But it's hard admitting that you're failing (interesting word, failing) and not okay. Mothers are held to such high account in our society. We cannot ever appear to fail.

I admitted to my midwife that I thought I had post natal depression - I even asked for forms to go to the mother and baby unit.

What I didn't tell her was the suicide attempts, the self harm, the raging, painful meltdowns.. I told her that I didn't think I was okay.

I did the same with my doctor. I told her I was struggling, but all mothers do, right?!  (There was no Edinburgh form filled out, they took me at face value)

My community nurse was more interested in my ability to breastfeed, than whether or not I was coping. (Fourth baby, thank you. I've got this down, now get out of my house so I can nap)

My friends tried and cared, but eventually I managed to push them away too.

I broke.

Spectacularly. Horrifyingly. Entirely.

The beginning of healing

My story is one with a happier ending. And it happened mostly by chance. One day, the fog felt less, and I began to access care.

I sought counselling. I began the process of seeking medication (in my misguided view, the best option for me was a naturopath... but it was SOMETHING, I wish I'd sought real medical care, and expedited my healing.) and I started to realise that I could get through the day one minute at a time.

I started to take the kids to the park.

I started to run.

And my life began to feel lighter, day by day.

My marriage began to heal. My relationship with friends and family began to heal. I reinvented myself, changed my name, moved interstate and began a dramatic new life with a huge focus on my own healing and well being.

I sought a mental health care plan and began learning more about post partum mental illness.  I exercised more, I took care of my body and brain, I ate nutritious food, regularly.

I connected with new friends and began building a network, drawing people back into my life and letting them back into my world.

And now I feel whole again. I still dance along the cliff, but I'm less scared of tumbling into the chasm. It's always there like a faithful companion, dark, sometimes alluring, but ever present.  But if I look ahead, there are trees, adventures and blue skies.

And now I feel whole again. I still dance along the cliff, but I'm less scared of tumbling into the chasm. It's always there like a faithful companion, dark, sometimes alluring, but ever present.  But if I look ahead, there are trees, adventures and blue skies.

 

Resources:

If you think you're sinking and not swimming, or just want some resources to help you cope - check out  www.cope.org.au

Lifeline has counsellors available around the clock on 13 11 14 https://www.lifeline.org.au/

You are important, you are worth it, you are loved.

Chloe Pedley
Founder at Polkadotsi
Chloe is the founder of Polkadotsi, mother of four little boys, and wife and lover to a magnificent husband.
She's interested in all things sex and sexuality, and seeks to make a positive difference in the world by education.

Chloe is the founder of Polkadotsi, mother of four little boys, and wife and lover to a magnificent husband. She's interested in all things sex and sexuality, and seeks to make a positive difference in the world by education.