"I'd tried for years to have my miracle baby - but when she arrived, she repulsed me."
My baby Ashleigh was about two weeks old when I suspected I had PND because I couldn’t even look at her. It sounds awful, but she absolutely repulsed me.
My husband, Jamie, would hand her to me and I’d turn my head and say, “Get that thing away from me!”.
I breastfed her for a very short time because I felt I had to, but that repulsed me, too.
Just being close to her made me feel sick and also frightened
What was I frightened of? I was frightened of her but I was also frightened of what I was becoming. I knew that something wasn’t right and my reaction to motherhood wasn’t normal.
I cried a lot. In fact, I cried all the time. My mother made the comment one day that I cry more than my newborn baby. She wasn’t kidding at all. I think I cried myself to sleep most nights and I was barely sleeping. It wasn’t that Ashleigh was a bad sleeper either, she was a very easy baby.
I feel very lucky that Jamie was so supportive all the way through and, because his sister had had PND two years previously, he was on ‘high alert.’
"Recommend virtue to your children; it alone, not money, can make them happy. I speak from experience." - Ludwig van Beethoven
I also had no energy
I realise new mothers are usually very tired but my energy levels were so low that I’d struggle to get off the toilet seat and walk to the bathroom sink to wash my hands. I literally had no energy and I just wanted to lie down all day.
I cried myself to sleep most nights. Image: iStock.
The thought of putting my baby into the car and going for a drive to the local park was just not in my brain space. I couldn’t do it, there was just no way. It was both physically and mentally impossible for me. I’d seen enough of my friends with babies to know that that wasn’t normal.
I wanted nothing to do with my poor little baby
There was one night when Ashleigh was screaming her head off and I got up to see what was wrong. But I just stood at the door to her room, absolutely frozen. I couldn’t even go in there. I didn’t want to see her, I didn’t want to touch her. I never thought about harming her or harming myself though. I just didn’t want anything to do with her.
She’d been bawling for about 10 minutes – it was time to feed her – but I still couldn’t go into her room. I sat on the floor at the door and I put my hands over my ears and I bit my tongue to stop myself from screaming. Jamie soon realised something was wrong because Ashleigh hadn’t stopped crying. He got up to check on us and that’s where he found me, sitting cross legged on the floor with my hands on my ears, frozen to the spot.
Ask your children three "you" questions every day. The art of conversation is an important social skill, but parents often neglect to teach it. Get a kid going with questions like, "Did you have fun at school?"; "What did you do at the party you went to?"; or "Where do you want to go tomorrow afternoon?"
I’d never had depression or anxiety. I had desperately wanted to be a mother. I’d lost my first baby to miscarriage and then we discovered Jamie had a sperm problem, which meant we needed to go down the IVF route.
I felt so ashamed of myself
IVF took nearly two years. So, I was absolutely thrilled when I found out I was pregnant. Ashleigh was a much-wanted baby and I thought I’d be the best, most loving mother. But when I could hardly bring myself to look at her, I felt so ashamed of myself. I felt so sorry for Jamie who had to put up with me. He never said so, but I’m sure he was bitterly disappointed.
I was admitted to the psych ward. Image: iStock.
My tipping point was when I told Jamie I wished I was dead
It was after a night when I’d had to get up a couple of times to change nappies and I was just so tired I couldn’t function and I was angry that Jamie was asleep. I don’t think I ever really thought seriously about taking my life but the fact I actually said those words was terrifying for both of us.
Jamie said, “We need to get you help.” I didn’t resist, thankfully I just let him take over and get me the help I knew I needed.
"You know your children are growing up when they stop asking you where they came from and refuse to tell you where they’re going." - P. J. O’Rourke
The next day Jamie took me to my GP and when she asked how I’m coping with motherhood, I just lost it – started crying and couldn’t stop. I was admitted to the psych ward in hospital where they started me on anti-depressants.
It was such a relief to finally get help
I felt like an absolute failure as a mother. And still it was such a relief to have help. I was closely monitored and saw a psychologist every day, which was a great help, just being able to talk about how awful I felt.
I spent three weeks in the ward and the meds made me feel a lot better. When I went home things weren’t perfect immediately, but I could bottle feed Ashleigh and could cuddle her, things that I struggled with before.
'Giving birth gave me PTSD'
Looking back, I think when my PND was at its worst, I didn’t feel like it was me. I felt like I was being taken over by a second Tara – it wasn’t actually me. That was how I came to terms with it.
My advice for other women – be aware of the signs of PND and ask for help. There’s no shame in admitting you’re not coping and there’s no shame in asking for help. There’s a lot of support for mothers if you would just reach out.
Kidspot Cares has partnered with Mum Society for a special event focusing on mums’ mental health. If you're in Sydney and would like to join some inspiring women sharing their stories at a brunch for mums, tickets are still available here . If you or someone you know is in need of support, please know it's available.
Repeat: I am not a short-order cook. "It's a child's job to learn to eat what the parents eat," says Ellyn Satter, a registered dietitian and the author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. Instead of the all-or-nothing scenario, offer a variety of foods at mealtime: the main course, plus rice or pasta, a fruit or vegetable, and milk. This way, your child can eat just the pasta and the peas and get protein from the milk. "What a child eats over the course of a day or a week is more important than a balanced meal at one sitting," says Stephen Daniels, the chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, in Aurora.
Please share what helped you heal by joining the conversation on Instagram with the hashtag #youwillmakeitthrough to share your story.
Stigma surrounding postnatal depression is breaking down
Stigma surrounding postnatal depression is breaking down