I have been unsure how to write down my feelings of being unsure. This unsure-ness has been building within me for a while. Unsure of making a choice…
I always had thought that I would have many children, at least 2. I have always been very maternal and nurturing since I was a teenager. I have to forewarn any mums whose baby I hold that I will put them sleep, not matter the temperament of the child. Any where I go I catch the gaze of a baby and it’s like we connect with an unspoken language. I looked forward to becoming a mum myself, though terrified of the process, the snuggles at the end would be worth it.
I had no idea the journey I would go to become a mother, the overwhelm, the struggles and the postpartum psychosis. I now savour each moment with my son after the shaky start we went through. As the first few months went by I focused on healing myself, recovering day by day. The doctors had cautioned my family that if I were to fall pregnant too soon after my psychosis that there would be a chance I may not come out of it.
As my son approached the age of 2, the questions began to start ‘When are you going to have another baby?’. I would quickly mutter ‘I had health problems so we are not sure yet’ and quickly change the story. I knew from my own research that there is up to a 50% chance of postpartum psychosis recurring in subsequent pregnancies. So I did what I did best and sought out more information.
I had heard that for mums in my situation it would be best to have a mental health care plan in place which included being able to access a Mother Baby Unit (MBU) to be able to receive the appropriate care. There is only 1 MBU in NSW and to have the best chance to access this care I knew I would need a Perinatal Psychiatrist as part of my care plan. One of the mums from my son’s play group opened up to me one day about her experience and I asked for her recommendation of a perinatal psychiatrist at St John of God Hospital, Burwood, where the MBU is based.
My husband and I went together to the first couple of appointments at St John of God, reliving our experiences of my postpartum psychosis and emphasising to the psychiatrist that were some details I do not remember and choose not discuss any further. It was the first time since being discharged from the mental health ward that I was able to talk about what I had been through, the distress, the trauma and the impact on me and my family. By the third appointment I felt comfortable to attend on my own, as I opened up more the psychiatrist thought that I was no coping and starting to write something down asking me ‘Do you want it on or off label?’ I was flabbergasted, what did that mean? The psychiatrist thought I was hypo-manic and was wanting to write Bipolar Disorder on the medication script to make the prescription cheaper. All I wanted was someone to listen to what I had been through! I quickly ended the session and have never been back. I was totally distraught, in tears to my husband on the phone and thought to myself ‘I’ve burnt that bridge’.
I strengthened my resolve and began to work more on myself, starting with Awaken the Change Within 2014 retreat only a month after my distressing appointment with the psychiatrist. Focusing on self-development was almost like a distraction, not having to make that choice, that it is ok to wait as I am working on healing myself more. I discovered a passion for wellness as learnt about self-care, essential oils, nutrition and food. The choice was always lingering in the back of my mind.
The Marcé Society Conference 2016 was the first time I met other women who had experience postpartum psychosis like I had, who truly knew the turmoil I was going through in making my choice. Brenda spoke with me about discovering my ‘maternal number’, that perhaps my maternal number is 1 and that is ok. Connecting with other mums who had gone on to have another child or two, and being apart of an online group of other pp mums sharing conversations of weighing up whether or not to risk having another child, it was reassuring to feeI I was not alone in my making my choice.
I drew a line in the sand to make a choice by February 2017 and be at peace with this choice. As February drew closer, my health started to take a dive with headaches. Seeing my Chiro, he indicated that the headaches had an emotional element, ‘was there something I was unsure about?’.
Why February? The choice was not just about emotions and feelings, it also came down to finances. February was went my son started 3 days of preschool and we need to update (and stretch) the budget. Our family was fortunate that we had top hospital cover when I experienced postpartum psychosis, and this cover was my only chance of gaining access to the MBU provided I am voluntarily admitted. We kept our top hospital cover as this was the only level of cover that included psychiatric hospital care. Mental health has a major impact on one’s income due to reduced capacity to work, higher unemployment rates and less savings. Money for us was tight even though I was back working part-time, our savings is virtually non-existent. Fortunately at the time I read Barefoot Investor whose advice around health care cover was to drop Extras and keep Hospital cover. We were had just changed our cover to lower hospital cover with extras and were still in the cooling off period. With a quick phone call I put back in place my safety net of top hospital cover with no extras, so if any thing with my health changes in the future I know we will be ok!
As I was coming to a place of peace with my choice, I was chatting before a yin yoga class with my former yoga teacher Iknew from before I was married. She always seems to know when to ask the right question and I opened up to her my thoughts in making my choice. Thinking I how much my health has improved for the better, the impact on the relationship with my husband and my son, she reassured it was was a choice made with wisdom not out of selfishness. On my yoga mat tears trickled down my cheek as I surrendered, I am enough just as I am.
Today I shed some more tears even though a few months have passed. From the wardrobe I pulled out the piles and boxes of my son’s clothing that I have been hanging onto to pass onto another baby, another toddler, another child of mine. As I folded up the little jumpsuits, singlets, tshirts and shorts I knew in my heart I was passing onto another little one, another family in need who will be so grateful and appreciative of these little clothes of love. Next week local charity Dandelion Support Network is having a Donation Day on Sunday 18 June 2017. Dandelion is a volunteer run charity who accept, sort and safety check nursery items, clothing, toys and linen to pass onto families in need free of charge. Recently Dandelion put a call out for newborn clothing and boys size 2 and 3 so I knew now is the right time for me to donate as my son is now almost 5.
At the end of the day I am at peace with the choice I make that is best for me. Taking into account many factors including my health, sleep triggers, finance, my husband and more I have made my choice. First and last!
- Action for Postpartum Psychosis UK Insider Guide “Planning Pregnancy: A Guide for Women at Risk of Postpartum Psychosis“
- Another Twinkle in the Eye? Contemplating Another Pregnacy After Perinatal Mental Illness by Elaine Hanzak.
- Baby #2 – KERYN BRADBURY
- One and (L)only child? – PP Soup