As a mother of 3, I marvelled at Vic’s motivation to give back while raising a young family of her own. But it’s not without reason. Vic’s dedication to her work stems from her personal experience with post natal depression. Vic openly shared her journey with me in a bid to increase awareness and understanding among people who are best placed to provide mothers with support. Here is Vic’s story.
Five years ago, Vic had a traumatic birth with Kiva after suffering stressful circumstances during her pregnancy.
“When I was pregnant with Kiva I was in an unstable, and at times abusive relationship,” she says. “I had a huge amount of cortisol coursing through my body – and consequently I had a stressed baby. I now know that I also had undiagnosed PND.”
“My anxiety levels and feelings of despair were at times overwhelming. I didn’t have very secure support networks. I was at times very disassociated and disconnected from my baby. I found it difficult to make good decisions around his well-being, (let alone my own) and to be motivated to think about the future, or even getting out of the house most days.”
“I was also struggling to heal from a fourth degree tear following Kiva’s delivery, and became faecally incontinent, which had a huge impact on my anxiety levels, ability to socialise and ultimately, my mental health.”
“During those times I wasn’t as receptive to my baby as I wanted to be and in the years since, I’ve felt like I’m playing catch up. Kiva and I are in a solid and connected space now, which I have worked really hard to get to through counselling, researching childhood development theories & the brain, parenting courses, and the help of fellow parents & mentors that I admire.
“As the physical healing process got underway, and I took steps to gain security for Kiva and I, I also began work as a post natal doula. I found holding space for other mothers to be incredibly healing, as well as gaining the positive effects that come from bearing witness to healthy relationships and functional support systems within some of the homes where I worked with new mothers.”
When Vic began a new relationship and became pregnant with Darcy, her midwife helped to refer her to maternal mental health early on, when she became concerned about some of her behaviours. She had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from her previous birth and relationship, and - as is often the case with trauma - it all came out once in a ‘safe’ place.
“I would find myself absolutely compelled to do strange things, like reorganising my bookshelves and wardrobe by colour - trying to find a sense of control over my life.”
“I had negative feelings that were often triggered by social media – especially stories of child abuse. I would really get affected by it, and obsess and spiral downwards for days at a time. I also couldn’t bear to hear a child cry in public, it would trigger a panic attack.”
“During my second pregnancy I had a supportive midwife who had full knowledge of my history and a supportive new partner. It made such a huge difference. My midwife was amazing - she tailored the way she approached some matters with me, as well as the language she used, so I didn’t obsess about things, and I’m sure she subtly put more appointments in the diary with me than she was required to, just to check in.”
“I began seeing Maternal Mental Health (MMH) on a regular basis, and eventually the time came when I felt like I could cope well on my own, with the support of my husband, family and community of friends.”
“Together with MMH and my midwife we put mental hygiene habits in place, so it was easier for me to stay on top. Small steps like filtering my social media were really helpful.”
“I was still exposed to triggers, but coped really well with it. I have a really close bond with Darcy and I know I can attribute that to having the support I needed and access to people who listened to me.”
“We need to have a wider and better knowledge about maternal mental health in our communities, and encourage more people to be aware of the importance of listening and holding space. Sometimes it takes someone like your midwife or GP to suggest there may be something else going on, other than tiredness and fatigue. It is important not to be judged and to feel safe to express any dysfunctional thinking or behaviour to the supportive people around you – whether that’s your GP, midwife, husband, family, or friends.”
“Post natal depression requires non-biased, professional guidance and sometimes meds to get through it. It is not unusual to experience mental health issues as early as pregnancy.Even if you’re simply not enjoying your pregnancy – that’s a valid reason to get help.”
If you are feeling anxious, stressed or if you are simply not enjoying your pregnancy or baby, please call Healthline on 0800 611 116. Or talk to your Midwife, Well Child provider or GP.
To find a midwife LMC, visit www.findyourmidwife.co.nz
For more pregnancy or postnatal information, visit www.huttmaternity.co.nz
PND Wellington can be contacted on 04 472 3135 or visit www.pnd.org.nz