Shannon thought post-natal depression was something that happened to other people.
She “soldiered-on” during two difficult pregnancies that saw her bedridden with severe nausea and vomiting. She got through the births of her two beautiful daughters Monroe, 2, and Swayze, 7 months.
She kept persevering when her daughter tried to feed constantly and at four-weeks-old was diagnosed with tongue and lip-tie. Despite the procedure, Swayze kept crying every night for up to five hours. That’s when an exhausted and overwhelmed Shannon knew she needed help.
“I’m a strong and independent woman and I don’t often ask for help but this time I needed it. My anxiety and depression had escalated, there’s no question, I had what every mother dreaded, post-natal depression (PND) and I wasn’t coping. I was crying all the time.”
Shannon spent time Googling “why my baby won’t sleep”, looking for answers while Monroe went to stay with her grandparents.
“The next thing I knew, my toddler had been living with my parents for four weeks! Nana had become mummy to my toddler. As you can imagine this broke my heart and I became more depressed and anxious.”
When Swayze didn’t improve Shannon got back in touch with her midwife who sent her to the Waikato Family Centre Trust, which is a charitable trust that offers support and advice to mothers with babies.
The team explained that Swayze had bad wind, stomach cramps, reflux and was over-tired. As Shannon was reflecting, one of the women asked her how she felt.
“I looked at her and my eyes filled with tears. I sat there and just cried. I was finally being listened to.”
Four mornings a week Shannon went into the Waikato Family Centre where she was given the support she needed, and each day she felt she was coping just a little bit better.
One day she was battling, as Swayze had been crying for two hours and wouldn’t go down for a sleep. She felt like she was close to breaking point. That’s when Maureen Speedy suggested she attend the next PND meeting.
“I remember thinking, ‘Is this lady serious? I don’t even have time to brush my teeth let alone attend a meeting.’ Of course, I was partly in denial that I had PND.”
The next week Shannon and Swayze were admitted to Mothercraft, a residential facility run by the Waikato District Health Board which supports new mothers. Shannon felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Maureen from the family centre also called to see how she was and remind her about the PND meeting. Shannon thought she’d just go because she liked Maureen.
After the meeting, she told her husband it was the best thing they could have done.
“We both walked away feeling confident that we could get our lives back. I would get my sense of humour back and I would get my independence back. Most importantly, I realised, I was finally getting help for PND which I believe I had during my first pregnancy but was too embarrassed to speak up about.”
It was just as well that Shannon had the support group there as Swayze was still having health issues and at 12 weeks decided she no longer wanted to take her milk. Again, Shannon broke down and cried. Swayze ended up in hospital and was given a nasogastric tube, which she fed through for three months.
There were a few further set-backs but Swayze and Shannon are both doing well now.
“Maureen and the team at the Waikato Family Centre changed my life. They cared about me and how I was coping, and for that I am truly blessed. It is not easy to be a new mum, let alone a new mum with a difficult baby, and it is not okay to be judged by society who say you must be super-mum.
“I urge all mums who feel like they’re not coping to ask for help,” Shannon says.
Myths about postnatal depression
Postnatal or any depression is a sign of a weak character.
NOT TRUE Postnatal depression can strike any woman after the birth of a baby. While some particular personality types may be more likely to develop depression, the vast majority of women who develop the condition have been previously healthy and led normal lives.
Women with postnatal depression can 'snap out of it' or just choose to 'pull their socks up'.
NOT TRUE One of the most disabling symptoms of depression is the fact that it saps the will and makes doing anything an enormous effort. Depression is an extremely unpleasant experience, and most women with this condition would (and do) do anything to get well. ‘Snapping out of it’ is not an option.
Living through postnatal depression can be one of the most overwhelming, frightening and debilitating experiences a woman can have. It can feel as though your world has fallen apart, that everything is black or that nothing makes sense. For some, it can even start during pregnancy, and if left untreated can get worse after the baby is born.
- Feeling low, sad, depressed, irritable or angry for no reason.
- Losing interest and pleasure in usual activities.
- Change in sleeping patterns and appetite.
- Having no energy and feeling tired.
- Change in appetite.
- Feeling worthless, guilty, or hopeless.
- Finding it difficult to think clearly.
- Excessive worry, fear, anxiousness or panic attacks.
If you are suffering from PND, or think someone who you know or care about might be, please seek help from one of the below options:
- Depression helpline: Freephone 0800 111 757.
- Healthline: 0800 611 116 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week and free to callers throughout New Zealand, including from a mobile phone).
- Lifeline 0800 543 35.
- Samaritans – 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 04 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions).
- Ministry of Health. Online self-test
Sourced from the Mental Health Foundation