The Mum Drum | Ep 4 | Nia – Coping With Postnatal Depression

(upbeat music) Hi, and welcome to The Mum Drum. I’m Amy Felman. And I’m Dr. Nicole Highet. Today on the show we’re chatting to Nia, mum of Harriet, 12, and Gus, 10, about her long journey
with postnatal depression. Looking back, Nia realizes
she went to great lengths to hide her experiences from others. Our reflection of depression
moms put on themselves to be perfect and the
stigma still associated with mental health problems in motherhood. We live in a country with the best healthcare system in the world and despite the many
flags and warning signs, Nia’s difficulties were missed. I first met Nia in the supermarket
when were both new moms. It wasn’t until years later, she confided in me about her struggles. To understand why so many moms
don’t reach out for support, she’s joining us today. [Amy] Nia, it’s so
great to have you here. Thanks for inviting me. Nia, so you experienced
postnatal depression with your first child, but it
was never really identified until you had your second child and he was actually four months old. How did that go missed for so long? Look, I guess, I’d never
much contact with babies and children, so I really
didn’t know what to expect, and then when the craziness started, I just thought this is baby
life, this is how it should be, this is how it is, and just
got on with it, I suppose. I come from a farming
background where you don’t moan, you don’t complain, you
just get on with it. I had no idea that what I was
experiencing wasn’t normal. Harriet, my daughter,
she was a caesar birth which was a bit of a shock,
but she was a breech baby, she had a few complications,
and I just thought, well we just accept each
thing, go along with it, get it over with, and
move on to the next thing. I didn’t realize there’d
be so many next things to move on to, but also I didn’t, yeah, it was just a rollercoaster. So what were those days
like, when you had Harriet, so your first child, and what was it like living through day by day like that? Look, so it was a while ago but I still remember
feeling incredibly tired, but physically tired, but
also tired of the situation, and thinking it was never going to get, to be any different or get better. So I guess, just trying to
get myself up in the morning, trying to get myself moving, hoping there was no invitations to go out because I normally would put
them off or make excuses, and trying to stop Harriet crying. It went on for a very long time, she was a very unsettled child with a few things that
were going on for her. So it was hard to have a normal
day, each day was different, but I knew it was going to be revolting, whatever day it was. Can you paint a bit of a picture for us? Okay.
– About, you know. So lots of crying, lots of
unsettledness during the first, maybe, definitely first eight months, she had a dislocated hip,
so she had a leg brace on, I lost my milk, so she was on formula, she was lactose intolerant,
we found that out afterwards, and also she had silent reflux. So she had a lot going on and I think a very unsettled baby anyway. Was there lots of crying? Lots of crying, lots of screaming. She’d cry herself to sleep and then she’d wake again
within 20 minutes or so. So it was very unsettled,
there were no times when she was asleep for
three hours or five hours, there was no long spaces. So lots of time pushing her in the pram. It was winter so I remember
putting on lots of jackets and making sure she was warm and dry, and just pounding the streets. So yeah, it seemed to
be like that for years, to be honest, and it probably was. There wasn’t much
sunshine, it was all very, it was very grim, very grim. And when you say grim,
from a kind of mood state and a mind state.
– From my personal mood. What was it like?
– Just holding on by my finger tips, just
trying to get through the day. There was no relief ’cause
when she was asleep, I knew she’d be awake very soon. Yeah, was really tough. Really tough. And you didn’t reach out. I guess, it’s all about being in control and having a normal child
and a normal relationship with your baby and with your family. And I think I was probably
ashamed I couldn’t cope and wanted to be seen as a good mother and just to fit in with everyone
else, and I clearly didn’t. So, yeah, so when I did, when I was actually screened
by my maternal health nurse, I thought I was having
a good day that day, so I fibbed on the. On the scale, yeah.
– On the form and, yes, and sort of, that went, and then you’d see them once
a year and there was no, it’s almost a case of
having to jolly myself up to get to the appointment, and then at the appointment,
it’s half an hour, everything’s fine, yes everything. And everything was fine, in comparison to what I’d been through maybe
two or three days before. The one day or two days,
three days a month, was enough for me to think
that people say it will pass. And sometimes you want
to believe that so much. I so desperately wanted to
believe that and to be normal. And when filling out the form with the maternal child health
nurse, were you worried about, what was the reason why
you felt like you had to not be totally honest, what were you concerned
about if you did say. That’s a really good question actually, what would’ve happened? I guess I was clinging
on, so I was so fragile, I thought maybe the band aid would be well and truly ripped off and then I would have to be completely open
about how bad it was, and how I wasn’t coping, and how, yeah, life was really awful, I’d
never felt that bad, that sad, that hopeless, and I guess
it’s, you’re at your lowest and you kind of have
to be at your strongest to actually put your hand up and say, I’m in a really bad place,
can I get some help. At the same time, you shouldn’t have to be at your strongest
to ask, should you? No, exactly, exactly.
– That’s the professionals. It’s really, I mean,
looking back now in hindsight, I could see if I had put my hand up, I have friends who are psychologists, I could’ve had help that
way, but for some reason I’ll be just in this bubble with my baby, and my husband of course
but he was on the outside, it was just me and my daughter, and it was a case of well, I
have to make the best of it. I have to get on with
it, get through the day, make sure she’s okay, and
tomorrow will be another day. And I think another thing that happens is you have this image in your
mind before you have children and even in that space where you think, this is what motherhood
was supposed to be like, this is what I’m striving
for motherhood to be like. And you’re trying to live up to that and you’re trying to believe that this is just a bad patch, I’m going
to achieve that motherhood. Yes, the bad patch. And the bad patch went on and on. [Nia] And on and on. But you still strived in hope that it was just another bad
day or it was going to pass, but as a result of that, maybe, that’s what stopped you getting help, and you didn’t realize until you had Gus. That’s right. My second baby.
– And you finally had, what would be otherwise now, described as a normal experience, but that made you realize
how bad things actually were. Well, he arrived and he slept a lot, which worried me initially, because I thought there’s
something wrong with him. Why is he sleeping so much? All he was doing was eating and then he would just lie on his back and turn his head and he’d fall asleep. Like babies are meant to do. Well, who knows?
– Well, meant to. (group laughs) So he was one of those
babies, he was a large baby. I also had a very
different birth with him, had a natural birth with
him, which was amazing. And it just, this seemed to be the story that everyone was telling me, this is what motherhood was
for everyone else, so I had it. And Gus was an amazing
sleeper, he was a great eater, it was fabulous, and yet I
still couldn’t stop crying, it was very strange, that was. So that’s what’s made you realize. That’s what made me realize it wasn’t, one minute, I think, extreme
tiredness and exhaustion, obviously, for four years, and
then having my second baby, that’s when I realized, look, he’s sleeping, he’s doing
all the things he should do, my daughter’s running
around as toddlers do and that’s actually what made me seek help was a friend of mine, I was
talking to him on the phone. And he said, I think you
need to stop crying now, Nia, you’ve been crying for a long time. So that’s when I thought,
maybe he’s right. Wow, wow. And what was, tell us a little
bit about that experience. That experience was interesting. Going to seek help for the first time. I did, so I went to see a new GP, a girlfriend had recommended him, she used him for her mental
health plan and is very open. So I had a lovely chat
with him and he said, look I do think you need
to see a psychologist to get the ball rolling,
see how you’re feeling. Sure, I can do that,
so I jumped in the car with my newborn baby and my toddler, went to see this lady who
was, she was very interesting. So I had a quick chat with her and she basically said I needed to get myself a part time job, and find a bit more about myself and what I wanted to do in
life and then I would be fine. And? And, well, getting out of
the house with two children was enough to make me realize that even that itself was ridiculously hard. So having to get up and put on a work face and go to work was
completely unachievable. And I found she was just
such a waste of time, she gave me nothing and I
was disappointed in that. And it takes so much energy to get there the first time.
– So much energy and she completely missed me. She even said at the end of the session, shall we book another
four or five sessions, and I said, what’s the point? I said, you really don’t understand what I’m trying to tell you. Yes, it was quite a bizarre. Did that put you off reaching out to somebody else afterwards? Look, I guess by that time,
I just wanted it to be fixed. Yes. You’d had enough.
– I was so sick of myself and also churning out the same, you know, the caesar birth, and na na na, it gets really boring after a while ’cause that’s all my life was. And I kind of, maybe, at that time after, with Gus being born and
being a good sleeper, I was ready for, maybe a different
experience of motherhood. And I was getting it and I wanted to sort of move on with it. And embrace that this time. Well, I didn’t know.
– Yeah, and have a good time. You could embrace it,
I was so on my knees. What did you need when
you went into that room? I guess I wanted saying that what I was experiencing hadn’t been normal and some support, that way. Yes and just, yeah, some support. Understanding, empathy, and support. And did you get that, did you go and see someone else, did you find? I didn’t go seeing someone else. I went back to my GP
and had a chat with him, he was lovely and he
suggested some medication. And I think within probably six days, I could feel this real
lightening of my load, and I could feel myself becoming brighter. It was very, very, weird physical feeling. And then I guess, with the
medication came me more able to talk about my feelings
with my girlfriends and with other people and I guess that kind of helped even more. And you guys are friends. [Nia] Of course, yeah. Yet you didn’t know the
extent of what was going on. No, no one did. Yeah, how did you?
– Hide, I don’t know honestly. How did you suppress it like that? ‘Cause its, you must. And I suppose looking back, we would see each other at
the supermarket or whatever. That’s right.
– But we didn’t see each other often,
but I can see now that because Nia was so isolated
and she isolated herself because it was so hard for her to get out. And my family are all overseas. I was an older mom, so my
actual immediate family of girlfriends didn’t have children. At the same time.
– At the same time, they’d moved on, or I
have single girlfriends. So it was, yeah, very isolating, a new relationship with my now husband, that was very new, that
was only a year old when we had Harriet, so it
was very lonely, very lonely. And I had a great mother’s group but they all seemed quite
happy in their little units, breastfeeding and babies sleeping, and all that stuff apparently that goes on when you have a newborn baby. Do you think that was really going on for people in the mother
group or was it everyone. I’ve since found out
there was a couple of girls who were having real difficulty, I didn’t find that out
for years afterwards. Which made me think if I
had put my hand up and said, god, is anyone else
having a really bad time, that maybe it would’ve shifted
something, but I guess. It’s a microcosm of society,
isn’t it, putting on that. Of course, and you know,
also they’re new moms, and they’re you know, they’re new friends, we only know them for 12 weeks, so I guess it’s really hard
to be that vulnerable and open when you’re such new friends. I think it’s a real.
– And you’re all striving for that ideal experience,
and thinking it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s going to happen to me. It’s coming, it’s going to happen. Well, for some people it does.
– And sometimes it just doesn’t.
– And that’s marvelous that it does, it just didn’t
happen for me unfortunately. I think moms groups, it’s a
real sort of fertile ground. Oh no, (laughs) fertile ground, you know,
but an opportunity, isn’t it? There to have, you know, you start out having that organized by the
maternal child health nurse and the community center, so
there is a real opportunity to have contact with professionals early to kind of encourage those conversations. There is, and I think you know, I mean, it was only 13 years
ago that I had a newborn baby but I think a lot of things have changed. I think it’s slowly getting
there, but there is, I mean, but now the onslaught, I didn’t have Facebook or Instagram when I was a mom, a young mom, and I don’t know if that makes it better or does it make it worse? I don’t know.
– I can go both ways I think. Yeah, so I think it’s really tricky. The only contact I had
was my daughter’s GP and my maternal health
nurse, it was an older lady, and didn’t kind of. Feel comfortable to really be open. Feel comfortable, no, and I think she was very concerned about
Harriet at the beginning, you know, she wasn’t putting on weight, so she was very concentrated on me which was perfect, because she
came in for the first meeting and it was all action stations, Harriet had lost far too much weight, my scar was infected, you know, she spotted it straight
away, she was amazing. I had no milk, so Harriet
was on formula straight away after five days of being home
because she was so hungry. So it was really, she
was brilliant in that way but mental health stuff,
no, missed that completely. And you had a lot of what
we’d kind of call, I guess, red flags or, you know.
– Sure. In terms of, you know, the
breastfeeding challenges, the birth, kind of, I don’t
know if you’d call it trauma but it was certainly not what you. No, I mean, I’d spoken about the birth with a friend of mine and he was quite, quite happy to put in a bit of trauma and a lot of upset around that which maybe lead on through
the beginning of the, of being a mom, but yeah, and then Harriet, she had a bad leg and they thought it was cerebral palsy, that was at 18 months old,
so they put a splint on her and said she would need
this for nine years. So that was a bit, that
coming along as well, so you know, there was,
it was very strange, this rollercoaster.
– And considering all of that, the professionals around
you not kind of picking up on this stuff and checking.
– Well it was interesting, when actually, very quickly
precis my la la la la, oh my god, that’s awful,
and then would move on, you know, and I guess it was really hard, and then also with Gus,
when I was pregnant with him I had to have an ovary out
when I was actually pregnant, when I was 18 weeks pregnant, I had my scan of the second
baby, and the baby was fine, but they discovered potentially
cancer in one of my ovaries so when I was 18 weeks
pregnant, they removed it. So I guess being in
hospital and nurses going oh my goodness, it’s really
tough, you’re still pregnant, and they’ve done a major
operation, how you feeling? And you know, the baby was fine, my new obstetrician was incredible, Lionel was insanely
supportive through all, through my second pregnancy I chose such a great obstetrician, which I think makes a
massive difference as well. So yeah, so lots of
professionals in the hospital going oh you know, you’ve
had a really hard time, and that’s I guess as
how deep they took it, you’ve had a really hard time, which was supportive at the time, but I didn’t realize that
I needed more than just a. And no one still dived in and went. [Nia] And no one still didn’t, no. Are you experiencing, how are you? Yes, no, nothing. I guess because I had a toddler
they kind of thought well. She’s through the mystery period. She’s through the hard
thing, you know, and I, and certainly I kind of thought
I was to a certain degree, I thought well this is
motherhood, it’s bloody horrible. But also I think, at all
of these different times, it ends up attributing what’s going on to what’s going on at the time, so it’s the scare with the cancer.
– True. Or it’s sleep deprivation,
or it’s your daughter not being unsettled or, we can always attribute
it to something else. Yes.
– Yeah, yeah. And it’s easier to do that rather than put it together and say regardless of what the cause
is, I’m still not coping and that’s okay.
– Yes, there is an issue here and I need some help. I don’t know what sort
of, but again, you know, the questions, what does
that help look like? [Nicole] And how do I get it? Yeah, and I was thinking
about that, you know, what would I, how would
I have asked for it? What would I have wanted? And I guess it’s just some
continuing support through it, and not having to repeat
my story all the time. That’s exhausting in itself. And it’s boring, it’s boring for me to have to keep churning up
the same, oh when she was three months, when she
was seven months, tedious. Are you feeling like
it’s your responsibility? I can still even hear you sort of going if only I’d asked it differently, or I, you’re still in a way accepting
all the responsibility for the fact that you didn’t
reach out when really. And that’s the thing, you know, it’s such a lonely, small world, it’s just you and the baby, and yes, even my poor husband who,
you know, he’s a trady, he’s very hands on, very present, but he had no idea what to do. I don’t think he even,
I don’t know, I mean, yeah, I don’t know what he
thought he would do, could do. It was interesting, yet
it was only a few months ago I was over with Nia and Nia’s
husband Michael was there, and we were reflecting on
this time in Nia’s life and I was asking, you know, it was, he would refer to when
Nia had the postnatal, and it was, it’s like it
was just a haze for him, wasn’t it?
– Yes, I mean, to be fair he was working incredibly hard, he was setting up his own business, so you know, he was doing
12, 14 hours away from home, and then he would come back and you know, he would do what he could but, and also I was very controlling, I thought clearly as the mother
I should know what to do. I knew the baby would only
respond to me, and you know, and poor Michael probably
thought what’s going on there? But you know, his first child as well, who would know?
– He would have no reference, ’cause we have no reference point, we’ve got nothing to go by.
– We have no, there’s no manual, why is that? (all laugh)
Really rude. And you talked about
your upbringing as well, you know, and that impacts as well. Of course.
– And if, you know. All my, both my sisters are overseas, mom and dad are overseas,
yeah, so really tricky. Yeah, do I come from a family where it’s okay to talk about my feelings? Yes, I remember actually
getting very annoyed, my mom rang me one morning, she was all what’s wrong with her? And I just said I don’t know,
you know, if I knew that. You’d fix it.
– I’d fix it. But bless her. So you’ve done a lot of reflecting. A lot of reflecting, you know, constantly I kind of think as well, I think about my daughter being 13 and my son is 10 now and you know, I’m still reduced to tears. When you think back about.
– When I think back about how. What you’ve been through
and have dealt with. Hideous, it was, and
I’m still on medication, and I actually did try and come off it probably about five years ago, and I could feel that familiar feeling just descending on me, and I thought then oh my goodness, is this
how I felt all the time before I started taking medication? It was, I was like, quickly took one and there we go, I’m happy
to stay on it forever if it means I can be the person I am now, and able to function and
yeah, be a great mom. Back to your gorgeous self. Yeah, indeed, and you
know, I have a life, and I enjoy it as opposed to
just dragging myself around with children, you know, which was awful. So Nia, based on your
experience obviously, what would be the key pieces of advice that you would give to a mom these days? Key piece of, I do,
I work in retail now, whenever I see a mom with a baby, I don’t pay any attention to the baby and just go how are you, are you okay? You’re dressed, you’re amazing. You know, and I really do think, I wish someone had said
trust your instincts. Trust your instincts as
a mother and as a woman, and my life before I had
children was amazing, and then I had children
and it was really awful, and there’s a reason for
that, so if you’re not coping, it’s because the situation’s really bad. So yeah, trust your instinct is something that is not talked about a lot, and also asking people’s advice, everyone has a different
piece of advice to give you, that’s really confusing, you
know, it would be nice if you. Even amongst the health professionals it can be very conflicting.
– Even amongst, you know, breastfeeding in hospital,
eight different types of ways of holding a baby, whatever. I guess find a source of support that you know is going to be constant in your life and your baby’s life, and to stick to that one
person that you trust, it’s really important just to have. You mentioned having the continuity, the obstetrician.
– Yes. Second time around.
– Definitely, yes, he was amazing, I actually had a miscarriage as well in between
with, and I had a second, with my lovely obstetrician Lionel, and he was amazing through it all, he was clear, concise, very professional, incredibly empathetic with
what I had gone through with my caesar, and when I actually voiced some fears about
that he was so kind, so yes. Someone you can really trust. Exactly, trust is, was, looking back, was the reason that I was able to have such a great birth I think, ’cause he knew exactly what
was going on and was very kind. And is the stigma as
entrenched as we think, you know, our expectations of
ourselves as being perfect, you know.
– Yes. When you finally got
there and felt comfortable to actually let it out, did
you discover that maybe, maybe people don’t hold
such fixed expectations of mothers that you thought? Interesting question. I think a lot of my emotion
was my internal stuff, but certainly not having
anyone to talk it through with, or anyone that could
catch me out on things that I was actually lying to myself about. That sort of level of support and care I think would have made
me realize actually, you know, maybe everyone’s not
having such an amazing time, maybe, there are people out there having a similar time to me. Didn’t see many of them and not many people
put their hands up too. And I guess now, social media,
you know, you’ve got people being very honest and
frank on social media, Carrie Bickmore put a great post up, she, it’s a picture of her at you know, not filtered, not, it was amazing, you know, being honest,
which I think is really. We need more honesty.
– We need more honesty. Yeah, and we need to be encouraged. Say it how it is. Absolutely, you know, I’ve
got a really little one, and, you know, so I’m
early in the journey. Early in the journey.
– And I’ve had some, you know, challenges myself, and yeah, I have not been honest all the time, because you’re constantly preserving your own sense of self as well aren’t you? Yeah, exactly, exactly.
– Grieving the person that you were before.
– Yeah, you were, exactly, you know, older mom, I had a great job before and now, I mean, you have a baby, you change completely, physically, mentally, your
whole day routine changes. Identity. Everything changes. Thinking about that kind
of identity, you know, it’s like we have the, it’s like, the AD and before birth and after birth, you know, it’s like our
life is divided by that. You talked about having
this great life before, then you had your babies
and everything changed. Now, being a, finding yourself again, and also being a mom, what’s your kinda new normal in that way, in terms of who you are now? It is something that I’m
still really conscious of, and I think it is because I
don’t really remember much of Harriet growing up, you know, before her sort of
fourth or fifth birthday, it was very, it’s very shady, so I’m constantly trying
to build relationship with her and with my son. Yeah, and I guess it’s, well
now I have so much energy, and so much more positivity in my life that it’s all coming naturally, so it’s not an effort to think alright, today I’ve gotta go
out, get the pram ready, get the kid ready, make sure
she doesn’t cry too much, make sure, you know, all this sort of almost keeping the lids on the saucepans, whereas now, you know, I
kind of think they’re older, they’re more capable, but still, you know, you’re still a parent and it
is quite good fun sometimes. Only sometimes, but.
(all laugh) And you’re building your own life again. Exactly, yes.
– Creating your you. Yeah, so back to work now, because I want to go back
to work, and I’m ready. Okay.
– As opposed to be told you know, that’ll sort your
mental health problems out. No it won’t. Are you doing something new or is it what you used to do, or? So I’m a florist, so it’s
what I used to do before, and now, yes.
– Beautiful. Well, it’s been amazing,
thank you so much Nia for sharing your experience
with us today on Mum Drum, it’s been I’m sure, so insightful
for so many moms and dads, and health professionals
as well I hope to really. More than welcome.
– Understand what we can all do to.
– Yeah well it’s a very tricky subject to talk about for me, but it’s lovely to have you
to just sit and listen to me. Thank you.
– Nia, thank you so much. You’re welcome. Wow, gee, we are so privileged
to have had Nia talk today and bare all about her really
challenging experiences in those early months
and years of motherhood. So as always, remember
to check out the COPE guide if you want to find out
any more information about these issues that
we’ve talked about today, and until next time, we’ll
catch you on The Mum Drum. See you then. (upbeat music)

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