How likely are you to suffer from Post Natal Depression again if you had it with your first baby?.
According to Web MD, the likelihood is 27 to 46 times more likely than someone who has never suffered from it.
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To say I did everything within my power to try to avoid Post Natal Depression again is an understatement!!
It was with this statistic in mind that I was preparing for my next pregnancy, another set of twins, which I found out at my dating scan.
My husband and I were in absolute and utter shock, we couldn’t believe it. My reaction was to laugh and laugh and laugh. I couldn’t stop.
Although we were shocked it was news very well received. Naively I thought ‘I’ve had one set of twins, surely it will be easier the next time around?’.
Armed with the information that I was much more likely to suffer from PND again (or PPD for my northern hemisphere friends), I decided to put some measures in place to try and safeguard myself as much as possible.
Whilst trying to recover from my last pregnancy and subsequent loss of my son, and trying to achieve another pregnancy, I was undergoing acupuncture.
I’m a very big believer in Eastern Medicine and upon chatting with my Dr, she explained that the placenta is one of the most powerful ‘medicines’ in Chinese medicine, after all it has sustained your baby’s growth and been the lifeline between mother & baby throughout pregnancy.
I did a lot of research into this and all the benefits of consuming your placenta, don’t worry I wasn’t going to eat it raw or anything (yuck!!) I was planning to have them both dehydrated & encapsulated.
According to research, the placenta is full of oxytocin which is the feel good hormone and it also helps to support your milk production, is great for iron and a whole host of other benefits.
I just couldn’t get past the guilt of not breast feeding my first set of twins. I didn’t have enough milk and didn’t have the patience or resilience to persevere & try to build my supply up for the first 6 weeks. I just wanted my babies well fed and growing healthily.
I chose a colleague of my Chinese medicine doctor and I really liked her and trusted her.
The next step I took was to join a big study that collected all types of data of women during pregnancy, in my case it was women who took antidepressants during pregnancy & had previously been treated for PND.
I was already feeling guilty about that but had been assured by my Dr that my dosage was safe for the babies and the benefits outweighed the risks. Because I had joined this study, my babies would be monitored very closely at birth and someone would also attend my birth to take samples of my placentas.
My third precaution I took was to arrange a consultation with a psychiatrist who worked at the hospital where I was having my babies.
We went through my history and spoke about my previous PND and together we made a plan of what would make my hospital stay more comfortable and less stressful. Part of this was that my mum was allowed to stay with me outside of visiting hours for support.
I had put measures in place and was very conscious of a reoccurrence being a very real possibility.
My older twins were four years old so they were through the Threenager stage thankfully & had more of an understanding of what it meant to have babies.
As far as a twin pregnancy goes, mine was relatively good. Towards the end I had to attend the hospital every second day for monitoring for pre eclampsia & was told to bring my hospital bag with me to each visit from 31 weeks onwards but I was lucky enough to make it to 37 weeks.
By this stage I was massive, had trouble moving, hadn’t seen my cankles in weeks, was extremely uncomfortable, had very painful hemroids but I was happy to be able to carry my twins to full term which is considered 37 weeks.
I had the csection at 37+3 weeks and it was an uncomplicated surgery and both girls were allowed to come back to my room with me which I was very happy about.
Whilst I was in recovery my husband and mum fed the girls formula (with my permission) because their weights were borderline for having to go to the special care nursery.
I had preplanned for an esky to be in the operating theatre and for my placentas to be placed on ice ASAP so they could be collected from the hospital for encapsulating.
While I was in recovery, the surgeons who had performed the Csection approached me and told me that one of the babies had defecated in her placenta during birth (which alluded to fetal distress) and they wanted to send the placentas to be tested. I had had placental issues with all 5 of my babies and this was to potentially safeguard any future pregnancies.
Even though I had absolutely no plans of having anymore children, I agreed to the placentas being sent away for testing in case there was anything genetic that could affect my daughters in their child bearing years, but this meant that I couldn’t have them encapsulated because they would be washed with chemicals.
The first day I had the babies was blissful, I was over the moon to have two healthy little girls, was floating on a morphine cloud and was surrounded by my immediate family.
My older twins met their little sisters and they were smitten. It was just one of the best days of my life and I was so relieved to no longer be pregnant. The midwives didn’t push me to start feeding nor were they ‘milking’ me, which I experienced after having my first two. The milking started half an hour after the birth and continued constantly for 5 days.
The midwives took the girls overnight & let me sleep and then fed me breakfast in bed. I was estatic, when I had my first two I was on duty within half an hour of delivery & wasn’t offered any respite.
The next morning I attempted breast feeding multiple times & wasn’t having any luck. I was having trouble with attachment & it just wasn’t working.
Something snapped in my head and I made the decision not to breast feed. The girls had been supplemented with formula for their first 24 hours, Breast Feeding wasnt going well, I wasn’t going to be getting my placenta pills to boost my milk supply & could hypothesise from previous experience that breast feeding two babies wasn’t going to be successful and because I had two you g children at home, I didn’t have the luxury of feeding on demand.
I informed the nurses that I would not be breast feeding and they accepted my decision without question. They gave me the little blue pill afterwards to dry up my milk.
They did tell me however that my husband would have to bring in bottles, formula, steriliser etc and once he did, no one helped me.
There was quite a walk to the kitchen, especially 24 hour post op but I guess that was my punishment for not breast feeding but just try and stop a mother with hungry babies. I pushed the pain aside and did what I needed to do to look after my cubs.
After 4 days in hospital I was looking forward to taking my babies home. The Psychiatrist had been in to visit & was happy with my state of mind & other than being tired, I couldn’t wait to get home.
I was waiting for the hormone crash, it occurred on day 5 with my first two but the first week home was great. I was so happy that my girls were healthy, my mum was staying with us during the week & did every feed with me & life in general was just great.
Even though I had taken the medication to stop my milk from coming in, because I had attempted feeding several times, my milk still came in. It was so uncomfortable & painful & I felt like I was carrying around two big concrete boulders on my chest.
I was advised to express a little to relieve the pressure but I know that milk production works on a supply and demand basis so I persevered & it eventually got better.
The second week was another story, in hindsight it was probably about the time that the pain relief ran out & I felt like I had been hit by a truck, not once or twice but 37 times. I also hadn’t had a decent sleep since getting home and my hormones were going mad.
I was crying my eyes out at random times throughout the day, I couldn’t control it. I would go & hide in the toilet and just cry and cry. Just such an incredible sadness and to be honest I think I may have been in shock. I now had two sets of twins!!!!, I was so overwhelmed!.
Thank god for my beautiful mum who stayed with me and helped me keep everything together. She did every feed with me and was also existing on next to no sleep. I know that she loved going home on the weekends and trying to repay her sleep debt.
All of my family was great during this time but I think when you are in the depths of the baby blues or PND, you lose a lot of insight and rationality.
Even though I trusted my immediate family with my babies, I just couldn’t be away from them for too long. In hindsight I could have utilised my family and visitors to have caught up on sleep.
I had warned my GP of my previous PND & told him chances were high that I would be in there going mental begging for something to calm my anxiety. Well I didn’t disappoint. I was so anxious that it didn’t matter how tired I was, I couldn’t sleep.
It was just such a terrible cycle. The only way to fall asleep was to cry myself to sleep & I didn’t want cry but I needed to sleep.
One of my girls developed Colic early on in the piece and would scream for hours on end. Again I tripped off to my trusted GP but unfortunately not a lot can be done for Colic. They just need to grow out of it which is much easier said than done.
As far as medical issues go, Colic is pretty mild, but for the mum who is caring for the screaming baby whilst trying to look after another newborn it’s all encompassing.
We had a lot of trouble finding a formula that poor Alice could digest and I went to my GP one day in tears begging him to prescribe medication to get my milk going and I was going to go on the breast pump until I could produce enough milk to at least feed Alice. Grace was fine on formula.
He could see the crazy in my eyes and advised me against this. There was no guarantee it would be successful and chances are it would further aggravate my mental state if I failed.
We went to sleep school at 12 weeks but it wasn’t really for the babies, it was for me & my own mental state. They allowed me sleep for a few nights, drastically increased my medication and were really supportive.
Life continued on for months in my heightened state of anxiety and I knew I couldn’t maintain this state & I began feeling that I didn’t want to be here anymore. In hindsight I don’t think I was suicidal as such, I just needed to escape & couldn’t see any other way.
Back to the GP I went and they contacted a mental health team who assessed me I was deemed not to be a risk to myself, my children or anyone else but they recognised that I was suffering from Depression and Anxiety and needed help.
It was this time that I was prescribed some pretty strong Benzos & thought they were sure to take the pain away. I took an accidental overdose. There was absolutely no intention in it whatsoever.
I took a tablet and didn’t feel any better, took another and another and another when my daily phone call came from the mental health team I was advised to get to the Emergency Department which I did immediately.
I was absolutely fine and was observed for a few hours and then sent home. It was also about this time that it was coming up to my son William’s second birthday & his headstone was erected.
I remember visiting the cemetery on his second birthday & sitting on the wet ground in the freezing cold and crying as if my heart would break. Surprisingly it was quite therapeutic and I felt much better for it. A lovely lady who was also there approached me to check on me & we had a lovely chat. There really are some kind people out there.
Please allow me to be very specific in saying that during this time, my children were always very well cared for. Firstly by myself, being a mum I would internalise my struggles in their presence however I don’t doubt that they must have picked up on my fear & anxiety. They were also cared for by my husband & my family.
We did another stint in a Mother Baby Unit where I was lucky to be treated by the most amazing Psychiatrist and nursing staff.
My husband was home with the older two & my mum and dad would come in after dinner to help me bath the babies and get them to bed.
It was during this visit that the nurses tried to tell me very gently to lower my expectations of myself and if my babies didn’t sleep or feed at the same time it wasn’t a reflection upon me nor did it make me a bad mother.
They also went on to tell me what an exemplary job I was doing and they couldn’t and wouldn’t expect anymore from me in regards to their care.
I was very affectionate with them and methodical in my care and very routine based. I was shocked because my anxiety was telling me I was the shittest parent but knew I tried my hardest every single day.
Due to my high level of anxiety I just wasn’t able to relax and ‘go with the flow’.
I panicked often, was very wound up & absolutely beyond fucking exhausted.
I eventually had a breakdown and my mum came and looked after me again.
Sadly my depression continued past the 12 month mark so my diagnosis was changed from Post Natal Depression to Major Depressive Disorder.
I was lucky enough to stay in touch with the wonderful Psychiatrist I had met in the Mother Baby Unit and was seeing him monthly. I still see him to this day but only every quarter now.
He has seen me in some pretty bad states. He had been very supportive but is also a straight shooter and kicked my arse when the need arose.
He could see just how traumatised I was and believes I needed to cut myself some slack.
To this day I still take medication but my doses are slowly lowering and I feel so much better than I did in those early days. I’m still trying to rediscover myself, I’ve been Mum for so long that I lost sight of who Michelle is and I know this experience has changed me forever.
I’m one of those people who tends to fall between the cracks because the majority of the time I’m friendly and bubbly and able to suppress my feelings. I learnt to do this very early in the piece for the sake of my children.
Thanks to some very supportive friends and family, I’ve made it through to the other side and can draw a line in the sand between ‘that time’ and now.
If you are suffering, please don’t do it in silence. I beg you. There are help lines you can call (see below for information), GP’s are much better trained in these matters and your MCHN (Maternal and Child Health Nurse) is an invaluable resource.
Sending so much love, thanks for reading and please feel free to message me.
If you are feeling similar to how I was in the story above, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Visit your GP or contact PANDA on 1300 726 306 From Monday to Friday 9am-7.30pm (AEST).
After hours you can contact Lifeline on 131 114. I used to contact the 24 hour MCHN line on a daily basis with my multitude of questions, the women who answer the phone are so lovely & supportive. Their number is 13 22 29 & they have a call back service if you have called during a peak time & they also have interpreters available.