This week is Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. More than 47,000 women each year are diagnosed with the condition, according to the Post and Antenatal Depression Association.By Kathleen Tonini
When her daughter Jazmyn was born, Sarah Vickers felt no connection to her.
Anticipating hours of labour and other possible complications, her three-hour birth was not the problem.
Instead it was the aftermath.
She was aware a newborn baby had been handed to her, but it did not feel like hers.
‘‘She lay there and I looked and her and I didn’t fell anything
‘‘It was just a baby lying beside me.’’
On the second day after the birth, Sarah could not stop crying.
After six days in hospital, she went home, but ‘‘it just went downhill from there’’ she said.
For the next six months, Sarah relied heavily on her parents to care for Jazmyn.
‘‘They were my biggest support,’’ she said.
‘‘Without them, we wouldn’t be here today, I’m so grateful for them.’’
Though she had been told parents were programmed to hear their offspring cry, she did not hear Jazmyn crying.
‘‘She would cry for half an hour before my mum would come and say ‘Jazmyn’s been crying, you need to go to her,’’’ she said.
‘‘I felt no connection there.’’
‘‘I felt like I was an outsider in my body looking at her.’’
Sometimes she found herself standing over Jazmyn’s cot with a pillow in her hand.
‘‘You feel like the worst mum in the world.’’
To compound her experience, Sarah also struggled to breast-feed Jazmyn.
‘‘As a first-time mum, you have no idea, everyone bombards you with all these bits and pieces and it’s not easy.’’
When Jazmyn was about five months old, Sarah’s parents finally forced her to seek help.
‘‘I didn’t realise there was something wrong with me, (even though) everyone kept saying there’s something wrong, it’s not normal, you shouldn’t be feeling this way,’’’ she said.
She first went to a GP, who referred her to a counsellor and to a support group run through Echuca Regional Health.
She was also put on anti-depressants.
After about three months of treatment she stared to see ‘‘a clearer picture’’ again.
‘‘(Before) I felt like I was walking around with a cloud in front of my face and I couldn’t see through it,’’ she said.
‘‘I look at Jazmyn now and I think ‘we made it’,’’ she said.
To other mothers experiencing what she did, Sarah said nothing was set in stone in parenting and each child was different.
‘‘There’s a lot of pressure.’’
Looking back, she does not remember much about the first six to eight months of Jazmyn’s life.
‘‘I don’t remember her first smile, it’s like you block out all the bad parts,’’ she said.
She said recognising something was wrong was key to getting help.
She still keeps in contact with some of the women she attended the support group with.
‘‘You need to be able to verbalise what you’re feeling, talking about it does help,’’ she said.
Six years down the track, Sarah’s advice to anyone experiencing post-natal depression is to go to a GP or to contact the support group at the hospital.
‘‘There is a light at the end of the tunnel, it does get better.’’
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