I really was completely clueless as to what to expect before I gave birth to my first child, Amber. Having had little experience around babies or younger kids meant that I really thought it was going to be a piece of cake. I even remember thinking that I’d come home post-birth to continue renovating our house, just occasionally stopping to breastfeed or change a nappy!
Some people say that having a birth that doesn’t quite go to plan can lead to post-natal anxiety or depression. On the whole I feel that I had a positive birth experience with Amber and that it didn’t contribute to how I was feeling post-birth. I had really wanted to have a natural birth and was in labour for around 12 hours on the day. As the day went on, I wasn’t dilating much further than 4-6cm after being induced (as I was about 8 days past my due-date) and the doctor was preparing me mentally to understand that I might require a caesarean. I felt like I gave the natural birth option a good go and by 8pm that evening I accepted that a caesarean was necessary with the baby’s heartbeat becoming irregular due to stress. Everything went smoothly with the caesarean and in the end I had a gorgeous healthy baby girl and this was the most important thing to me. I felt lucky to have had an obstetrician who had listened and didn’t rush me into a caesarean from early on in the day.
A combination of my total unpreparedness, having a baby who wasn’t sleeping well, back pain and fear of the responsibility of looking after another human being led to post-natal anxiety and severe imsomnia. It also seemed like everyone in my mother’s group was coping so well with their newborns that I felt like I didn’t belong. Normally a social person, I found myself retreating to the safety of the four walls of our house. 6 months post-birth I was in a very dark place.
With Amber not settling easily throughout the night I began to be fearful that I may never be able to sleep again – this fear snowballed such that for 8 months post-birth I was averaging 3 hours of sleep a night. (Frustratingly, Amber was sleeping through the night at 3 months while I didn’t sleep through again till 8-9 months later!) I was a wreck – my obstetrician knew things weren’t going well and referred me to a psychologist. However, the anxiety was too strong and I ended up on anti-anxiety medication. This was my saving grace. It allowed all the fears about being a good mother, sleep and my back pain to ebb away.
I sorted out my back pain too with some excellent physio classes. The back pain had re-surfaced from picking up my daughter from the cot all the time when trying to get her to settle. Immediately after pregnancy, most mum’s abdominals aren’t as strong as they were before. Plus, I had a history of back pain having had 2 major operations in hospital years before which added to my initial anxiety.
Working through the insomnia, anxiety and back pain then enable to me to fully embrace being a mum. I realised how much I loved Amber and just how special this journey of parenthood was. The smiles, the messy eating of solids, the developmental milestones like learning to walk were really special as there had been dark times throughout my insomnia when I really wished I wasn’t here in my body anymore.
I swore to friends in the darkest times that I would never again have another child – that Rob, my husband had ruined my life by encouraging me to have a child. So it amazes me to think that not only did I have another baby, Ollie but I set up a new maternity brand Eve of Eden Maternity when I found out I was pregnant with him. I absolutely loved being pregnant the second time round and I wanted gorgeous clothes to show off my bump. Plus I launched our website www.maternitysale.com.au 2 weeks before Ollie was born.
For mums who are worried that they might re-experience post-natal depression or anxiety with subsequent births, I’m happy to say that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. We put plenty of measures in place such as, Rob helping out with night feeds, enlisted help from family, limited hospital visits to family only. It all helped and even with the worries of launching a new business, no anxiety or insomnia re-surfaced. I felt truly lucky to have had such a positive experience the second time round. Plus, our brand Eve of Eden Maternity is going from strength to strength – it’s now being stocked in boutiques around Australia as well as New Zealand. Life is incredibly busy right now but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Guest story contributed by Tania