Recently I was talking to a dear friend about her experience during the postnatal period.
She revealed she had really struggled after her little girl was born and whilst she knew that she could call upon myself or my midwifery colleagues to provide her with care she didn’t and couldn’t. I was at a loss as to why when she knew the expertise, referral base, facilities and tools that we could provide her that she didn’t reach out.
It is only now (12 months later) that she feels comfortable admitting what a struggle she had. Her explanation was that she felt she was a failure if she did ask for help. Sound like a common theme?
What is it with women? Why are we our own worst enemies?
I was so intrigued by my friends insight I decided to put a post on our Facebook page about women asking for help. Here are just a few of the responses. Something else that shouldn’t be a surprise, was the amount of responses we did receive.
“With my second son I would ask for help and people would say “oh everyone feels like that”… I don’t think they realised how bad my PND was. I would ask atleast weekly… I gave up after a while cos noone would help."
“When i was in hospital and i couldn’t feed my baby, i asked every nurse and midwife who attended me for help. I rang buzzers and sat there letting people squeeze my nipples and force my baby around by the head. Nobody helped me or offered me a pump. I didn’t know i could ask. I asked for formula twice and that’s the only food my baby got for the first three days of life.”
“I had amazing midwives but I was ashamed to tell them I was struggling so bad! So I didnt.. :( i wish I had because then maybe i would have got help and would remember the first 6mths of my bubbas life. I think I was just too scared to fail. I was a woman and meant to be a mother but it wasn’t what it should have been.”
“During my stay in hospital I couldn’t settle my first son at all. I was up all night one night and early in the morning I ended up calling the midwife in. I was in tears and told her that he wouldn’t settle and that I’d been trying all night. I remember her saying to me in a not very nice tone “well what did you do that for, why didn’t you call someone?”. I remember feeling completely inadequate as a mother and totally unsupported. My thought process behind not asking for help was that if I can’t even get it right in hospital then how on earth am I going to cope at home on my own. I felt I had to do it on my own because that is what everyone does. Luckily I had my mum to support me and don’t know where I would have ended up without my mum. This time around of course was much better with the support of the beautiful my midwives group! I didn’t have to ask for help because it was always just there.”
Clearly women and their families know when women have babies there can be problems with how different people handle the changes to their lives, bodies, emotions and general well being. Being a new Mum is a huge job and one that we don’t receive any training for – yet we consistently see women putting on a brave face instead of reaching out. Not everyone ends up with postnatal depression but we continue to see a rise in episodes of depression during pregnancy and after birth.
As an initiative Beyond Blue has established “Just Speak Up” The campaign aims to promote awareness of depression and anxiety in the antenatal and postnatal periods, reduce stigma and provide information about where to get help.
Perhaps you would consider sharing your story to help others “speak up” about their experiences. My Midwives is one place in some areas to go for help both antenatally and postnatally.
What is available in your community?