Never in a million years did I think that I would be writing this blog nor sharing my experience with perinatal depression. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted children, if you’ve ever met me you would know that I’m extremely maternal & I’ll be the first person to offer to hold your baby/ smother it in love.
I run birthing classes and I’m a naturopath whose area of interest is fertility, pregnancy and women’s health- so it’s safe to say that I’m heavily invested in this area.
My pregnancy was a complete surprise, it came at a time when we just moved to small isolated town in Tasmania, away from all of our support network .
Unfortunately where we live there are very limited resources available for pregnant women. No pregnancy specific groups, no pregnancy yoga, pilates or even a heated pool (I really love swimming).
In terms of care there are only locum doctors (you see a different GP every visit) and so continuity of care is something that I haven’t experienced. Unfortunately my dreams of a home birth were off the menu, as we live 2.5 hours to the closest maternity hospital and there are no private midwives that will service the area.
Being so isolated, vomiting 8-10x a day for 14 weeks and every fear imaginable around parenthood flooding in, I started to feel very low. I’d experienced periods of feeling low before, but never for such an extended period of time. As a health professional that works in this area, red flags were raising for myself, as I knew that perinatal depression affects up to 20% of Australian women.
So what did I do to help myself?
My first instinct was to “safety net” myself.
I joined a mothers group (I was the only pregnant person there but it was a good place to start). I also started going to the local family and children’s centre, I wanted to be around other pregnant women and other women who have children. “Go where the pregnant people go” was my approach.
I started speaking to a counsellor. This has been an absolute game changer and I truly feel that every expectant parent would benefit from seeing one. Turns out, there is a LOT to unpack in terms of hang ups around parenting and past trauma.
I booked a flight home for my mumma blessing (as none of my family or friends from home had even seen me pregnant). This was something for me to really look forward to and an opportunity to celebrate this pregnancy!
I reached out to my Naturopath network and addressed any underlying nutritional deficiencies I had, as these may have been contributing to my mental state (our feel good hormones are manufactured in the gut). I started taking some pregnancy safe supplements to help with mood support.
I had weekly chats with my family and friends over the phone about what was going on and reached out to my community of friends here. I joined a women’s circle, which has been so helpful in feeling more connected.
I have become very strict with what I expose myself to. Social media accounts that weren’t serving me, I deleted. Well-meaning friends or family who wanted to share their “horror birth stories” I asked politely not to share with me until after my birth. I listen to podcasts that empower pregnant women and normalise natural “uneventful” births.
Making sure I’m getting out in nature every day and moving my body is essential to my happiness.
MOST importantly I admitted to others and myself about how I was feeling.
I knew before pregnancy that having your “tribe “ around you was important, but now in reflection I know that it is VITAL to the well being of the mother and baby. This is something that you can create for yourself.
For a long time I felt so much shame around how I was feeling and didn’t want to acknowledge that I may have peri-natal depression. I felt guilty as so many couples struggle with fertility. It was only when I started being vulnerable with those around me and became proactive around my mental health that I started to feel much better.
I can honestly say that I’m feeling about 80% better then I was before and wanted to share this story, so that if you are feeling like this, you know that you’re NOT alone.
These feelings aren’t something to be ashamed of. They provide us with an opportunity to confront and face our issues, so that we can move into motherhood with an open heart and mind. They also teach us to ask for help and to lean on our community, what better skill is there?
If this is you or someone you know, please share this with them. Know that I am here for you both professionally and personally and that you don’t have to go through this alone. All the love, Lexi xx