PND series Kathryn Bilski

PND series: WHAT BIG EYES YOU HAVE…all the better to see you with!

Kath Bilski PNDThere was nothing I wanted more in life than to be a mom, it was my life’s goal; and so naturally from the minute my little boy arrived, I embraced every moment. Nothing was an issue…not the fact that my birth plan went out the window on the day that he was born – he was here and he was healthy and that was all that mattered; not the fact that inverted nipples meant that I had to use nipple shields from day two – he was drinking my milk (but even if he couldn’t, he would have been absolutely fine on formula!); not the fact that I have the biggest boobs in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD and so attempting to feed in public was just not an option – I expressed and reached my goal of exclusively “breastfeeding” for 6 months; late nights were not an issue, no sleep didn’t bother me, I relished every leap and saw every sleep regression as a challenge…THIS is what I was born to do!!!

My dreams of being a stay at home mom were not an option financially, however even until two weeks before my maternity leave was over, I wished that I would win the Lotto and be able to stay at home with this little cutie, but as this special time came to an end, I realised I was ready to be me again, to return to some sense of normal from this cosy cocoon that the two of us had created together. My big-eyed boy needed interaction with other people, and I needed the stimulation that work offered. We spent a week “weaning” into daycare – an hour or two on day 1 up to a few hours by the end of the week, and although there were tears in the first few days (and a crazy mom screeching through the doors on day two demanding to know if they had fed my baby!), by the time I went back to work the following week, I was ready!

It was heaven! I had my hands free for 8 hours a day, I got to ooh and aah about my baby to everyone who would listen, I was stimulated, and I felt human again! The days flew by, with little chance to think about him – he was perfectly happy where he was and I didn’t feel the need to worry; but the minute I got in my car at the end of the day, I couldn’t get to him quick enough. We played HARD in the afternoons, he had my undivided attention until bedtime and I was happy!

6 days into being a working mom, I found myself at a work function on a Saturday morning. Armed with my phone filled with photos, I gushed over my handsome prince, telling everyone around me how good he was and how amazing being a mom was…until I got into my car…and suddenly I didn’t want to go home! I didn’t want to see my baby! I didn’t want anything to do with him!

I recognised what it was immediately! I had been waiting for this! I had prepared for it!

As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I had spent the months leading up to his birth making sure that my therapist, psychiatrist, gynae, GP and eventually Paediatrician, were prepared for a possible all-fall-down. I had prepped my closest friends and my family were on high alert, but day three and what was called the “Baby Blues” came and went with a few tears because I had found a bruise on his leg, but I was fine, I had made it through the first week without losing the plot – I had not “got” postnatal depression.

Kath & JamesFive months down the line, it hit me like a ton of bricks! I needed this to go away, I needed to be ok; so I went home, made sure to make enough of a fuss over my baby so that no one would suspect anything and spent a week trying to pretend that everything was fine. I was not fine! I was dying inside! This thing that I had wanted my whole life was suddenly interfering with the life I had created for myself while waiting for him. How could I be a mom 100% and an employee 100% (let alone a wife 100%), when I only had 100% to give?

I went to my GP, who had often on the advice of my psychiatrist refilled my prescription; and complained about some joint pain I was experiencing. He suggested icing the joints and taking an anti-inflammatory and then casually asked if I felt my meds (anti-depressants) should be upped. I told him I thought that was a good idea, took my prescription and left.

A week later, having tripled my dose, I felt better and slowly tried to make up for the week that I had “checked out.”

Fast forward three months and I found myself staring out of my office window, tears rolling down my cheeks, trying to decide which cliff I was going to jump off with my baby!

It hadn’t come out of nowhere, it had come out of this need to want to be perfect at everything I did. To be the best mom, the best wife and the best employee I could be. I couldn’t do it all, and the only way to fix that was to take my beautiful baby boy, the one I had dreamed of my whole life, and jump off a cliff to make it all go away.

I took 2 weeks off and went to my family while I waited for an appointment with my psychiatrist – writing this, I remember asking her receptionist how she expected me to wait 2 weeks when I was feeling suicidal and her telling me to go to any Emergency Room and that I would be seen by the Psychiatrist on call!

When I finally got to see her, it was her words that had the biggest effect on me, not the high dose of meds she prescribed. I was officially labelled with postnatal depression and called suicidal and (wait for it) HOMICIDAL! ME? This perfect mom and perfect wife and perfect employee – HOMICIDAL!

Within a few days I had found a new therapist, someone who specialised in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and I committed to making positive, permanent changes in my life. I learnt to focus on the things that I could control in the moment, rather than trying to fix the world with a baby on my hip and a laptop in my other hand while smiling sweetly at my husband and pretending to the whole world that everything was fine and I was in control. It was raw, it was vulnerable, and it was GOOD! It was good to acknowledge everything that was going on, to be able to talk about it and to be able to grow from it. And it was good to be ME, the BEST mom for my little boy, the mom I had always wanted to be!

– Kathryn Bilski, mom to James Wolf, 15 months

Some tips for getting through postnatal depression (and motherhood in general):

  • TALK ABOUT IT! You never know who needs to hear your story – it could be someone who has been through it and could help you or it could be someone who is in the same situation as you and needs someone to tell them they are going to be ok!
  • JOIN A MOM GROUP! This is my Number 1 tip for new moms – I would NOT be where I am today without my Mom Tribe. It is so important to know that someone else is feeling as frazzled as you are because their baby didn’t sleep at all or as proud as you are when they take their first steps.
  • ASK FOR HELP! Don’t try to be a Supermom! That burp cloth over your shoulder is unfortunately not a shiny cape, but rather a piece of fabric covered in spit up. If you need help, don’t be shy to ask. There are literally BILLIONS of other moms out there!
  • TAKE THE TIME! Make sure you take the time for self-care. When someone asks if they can come and cuddle your baby, tell them to hurry up and then take 10 minutes of the time that they are there to shower and put on some clean clothes. Something as small as this will make all the difference.
  • GIVE YOURSELF A HIGH FIVE! Are you and your baby still alive at the end of the day? You’ve done good mama, you’ve got this!

Find me on Instagram if you ever need someone to talk to. 

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