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Postnatal depression; the gift I never asked for or wanted. Fighting my way through it made me stronger and taught me self-acceptance.
Now that I’m in my First Thousand Days, and pregnant with my second baby, I worry about postnatal depression returning for a rematch even though ‘theoretically’ I should have all the tools I need to tackle it again.
One major advantage is that I know my opponent. Another is that many risk factors I faced last time no longer exist; I’m settled in our neighbourhood, I’ve got my confidence back, I’ve built a village and I’m comfortable not having all the answers.
But there are certain ‘X factors’ that are out of my control like hormones and a history of depression- so I’m still a chance. Rather than betting on the odds of getting a second round of PND, I’d rather prepare as much as possible before the next baby arrives.
I’ll tell you exactly what I’ve done so far, but you should know the last four years have not been an easy road.
My Baby Plan
I figured a four-year age gap between children would suit my family’s lifestyle well. My oldest would be in kinder, allowing for some time alone with the new baby.
Our second little girl might even arrive on our daughter’s fourth birthday. Yikes! That’s what I call efficiency.
Why the control-freak spacing? I could narrow it down to two, well, really one main reason and a subcategory. 1. Postnatal depression and 2. Living as an expat.
My parents are a 24-hour flight away and my in-laws, a two-hour drive. More than access to free babysitters, I needed to make sure I felt mentally ready to take on another child.
Why Didn’t I Just Stop At One?
I’ve always wanted two kids. There is nothing quite like a sibling, the history you share together and the bond is unlike any other. I told myself it would be okay if the magical day of being ‘ready again’ never arrived but deep down our family felt incomplete.
It makes sense that women who experience postnatal depression may wait longer to have more children, some might not even try again at all.
Happily, I can report that I feel more confident to face the beast again. I’ve worked so hard on improving myself since becoming a mother. The support network I’ve built is huge and warm. I’m no longer afraid to ask for help.
So What Else Can I Do?
During the first trimester of my second pregnancy, I struggled with an immediate lack of energy and the unwelcome symptom of morning (which should be called ‘all-day’) sickness. It was like someone pushed the pause button my busy life without permission. I felt frustrated and flat. I knew I needed to do something before it got worse. So I did what I do best. Plan, plan and make lists.
Preparing For Postnatal Depression: 6 ways
1. Make An Appointment
I decided to touch base with my therapist, I didn’t feel depressed exactly, but I wanted to talk about what I could do today in order to help myself when the baby arrived.
2. List Your Previous Symptoms
My therapist suggested I consider what symptoms made me seek help last time so I could pay attention should they present again. For me, anxious feelings and negative self-talk are the biggest red flags.
3. Plan Some Me-Time
I already have childcare arrangements for my daughter but I remember how important it was for me to have time-off from her during the newborn stage. Life will do doubt become even busier soon but even an hour or two is enough for a ‘reset.’ It’s amazing what a walk, yoga class, coffee break or visit with a friend can do for my wellbeing.
4. Secure Your Network
Hopefully, with your first child you were able to create your own little network and you know who to go to for what. I’m still close with my Mums group and we have some fantastic neighbours. I also volunteer at my daughter’s childcare centre and have some incredible support there too. I’ll be calling on them.
5. Pre-Arrange Tasks
People will offer to help you which is generous and amazing. Remember, they aren’t just being polite, learn to say, ‘yes please.’ I find that you do have to go a step further (people generally aren’t mind-readers) and ask for what you want. If you go blank, just ask for a freezer meal or have them hold the baby while you shower or nap.
6. Manage Expectations
The new little person in my pouch will likely be different from her older sister. It’s important that I don’t project expectations onto her or myself. What worked for one baby might not work for the other. Best to start with a clean slate and take it one day at a time. Last time I had an easy baby and a messy mind. This time it could be the complete opposite and that’s okay.
YOU GOT THIS.
The steps I’m taking won’t guarantee a smoother time but being realistic, proactive, and open, might give me the best chance I have at dodging postnatal depression. At the very least I can be kind enough to myself to remember that I’ve been through this before and I can beat it again.
Bupa is providing support and guidance to parents during their First Thousand Days of parenthood. To find out more, click here.
And if you’re concerned at all about postnatal depression or just need a bit of extra help, you can check out the resources provided below:
Mummatters – http://www.bupa.com.au/mummatters
PANDA – https://www.panda.org.au/