Post Natal Depression: Bec’s Story. Awareness Week 2020

I sit in the comfortable leather chair, feet reclined, and try to count my blessings. A single salty tear runs down my cheek, and then another until my vision begins to blur. Through the baby monitor I can hear him crying again and I know that I must go to him. But I don’t want to. The tears begin to cascade down my face now, as I stand, trying to blink and compose myself.

Source: Canva


I grab some toilet paper and blow my nose, because we have run out of tissues. It feels scratchy but I don’t care. I go into his room and I pick him up, making gentle soothing sounds as I try not to let my tears soak into his sleep suit.

We sit down in the chair and I unclip my singlet to offer the only comfort that I really know how to offer. He takes it. I wish I’d brought the toilet paper with me, because now my nose is dripping on him as well as my tears. I turn my face away and grab one of his t-shirts to wipe my eyes and nose with. I feel ashamed for doing this, but I will wash the t-shirt tomorrow. I love him so very much; this tiny human. But I also just want him to go away. I cry harder as I admit this to myself. I feel like I have lost who I am. I haven’t slept properly for over a week now, and I’m not very rational or nice to be around. I start to wonder if maybe my family would be better off without me around. Maybe they’d be happier. I shoo this thought away as I know deep down that this isn’t true. I’m feeling very confused; how can I love someone so much and yet want them to go away so much as well? I must be a bad mother. A shitty human. I feel sorry that this baby has me for a mum. I feel like I can’t do anything right.

Then he looks up at me with those little eyes and I melt inside again. I touch his cheek as he closes his eyes and goes to sleep, then I place him down in his cot gently and go to bed without a shower again. This is the shadow time. I’d like it to go away now. Post natal depression is dark and real and awful. It robs you of everything.


I lie in bed and I can’t sleep, but I close my eyes anyway and hope tomorrow might be better.

……………………………………………………………………….

This was written on a particularly difficult evening, when things indeed were very dark. I got in touch with postnatal depression network here in Nelson, and I joined a support group. That group allowed me to connect with other mums in a nurturing, healing environment (with trained facilitators) and we’ve remained in touch. If you can relate to the feelings expressed in my story, then please do reach out to someone; you aren’t alone, and it does get better!

You can contact the postnatal distress centre here http://www.postnataldistress.co.nz/
or visit https://pada.nz/
Or the depression helpline on 0800 111 757 Or free call or txt 1737 to talk

© Bec Duff and Crying Over Spilt Milk Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust March 2020.

One of the risk factors for post-natal depression, is ongoing stress.  A baby who spills a lot, vomits, screams or is otherwise unwell is an ongoing stress and shouldn’t be underestimated.  
Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa say this on their website “Parents who get the support and help that they need with parenting are more relaxed and better able to look after their children. If the mother or father is mentally unwell, extra support is essential to help with their recovery, and we encourage anyone to seek advice from a GP, Midwife, or Plunket nurse in the first instance.” 
https://pada.nz/support-services-helplines-national-helplines-2/ – Jenny and Roslyn

Harper’s Journey- Awareness Week 2020

When our little girl was born, we were so excited but I also was under no illusion being a parent was going to be easy. Harper was unsettled from day one, she fed constantly, and I felt grateful I could breastfeed, but this meant she fed every hour, day and night. I was told I had to stretch her out, she was snack feeding. Then the screaming, this would go on for endless hours.  I was told “this is witching hour” and “she will grow out of it”, then we were told “oh it’s colic”. The amount of times I got told “it’s hard being a first time mum”, made me feel like I was doing something wrong, my baby was normal but I possibly wasn’t coping. 

When Harper was 3 months old we were given a script for reflux medication in the hope this may help a bit. We never noticed a change, her doses were increased but we simply were led to believe we just had to manage her symptoms, with no real help, support or guidance. At 6 months of age, my milk stopped coming through and suddenly I couldn’t cope anymore. We sought help to get Harper onto a bottle and support with her sleep. After a week at a facility, trying to teach Harper to ‘cry it out’ we were referred to the mother craft unit. They all believed Harper was just stubborn.  We spent our time at mother craft and returned home with no further answers or help. No one really seemed to believe she had reflux, or if she did it was just mild and not the reason for the sleep and feeding issues.

We continued to struggle. At 10 months old Harper began projectile vomiting almost daily. This rapidly increased to her having periods of vomiting 6 times a day. We were sent to hospital numerous times because she would become dehydrated, but no one would listen to us. Harper stopped eating and was losing weight. This went on and at 13 months of age she had dropped down to just 6kgs. We were finally admitted, but the next day we were told by a paediatrician that Harper had reflux and we had to manage her symptoms at home. I lost my mind! How could they say it was ok for a child to continue to loose weight while her symptoms were getting worse? We demanded a second opinion, and a pair of young junior surgeons came to see us. They quickly agreed that this is not ok and we all needed some answers. They booked her in to get an endoscopy done the next day and said they would take some biopsies if needed. They also said they would do a pH study. We were relieved to hopefully, finally get some answers.  Those 5 days were the worst of my life, Harper reacted to the anaesthetic and needed sedating, her hands were bandaged, and she was so unwell. I did not sleep for most of the 5 days we were up there. The results finally came back and there was significant damage done to Harper’s stomach, blood staining and the beginning of what appeared to be ulcers. The PH study showed a high reading for reflux. We were simply given a higher dose of her meds and sent on our way again.

This was all over a year ago, Harper turned two in February and we still struggle with her symptoms.  We have 6 monthly catch ups with a paediatrician. We have worked so hard as her mum and dad to build a better relationship with food, to try and read her signs and do what we can to ensure she lives a normal life. Her vomiting has slowed down, but I still live in an anxious state about my girl’s health. I really struggled with the aftermath of having such a sick little girl, and my doctor suggested at one stage that I may post traumatic stress disorder from it all. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised. GRSNNZ has helped me by being a place where I could relate to others. No one else I know has any idea what reflux really is. For those that suffer it is much more than just a “spilly” baby. I wish I had known about the group earlier as we felt so alone when going through the worse of our journey. The other families in this group are so amazing and very strong, always advocating for a better life for their young ones. I am proud to be part of such an awesome group.

I think one of the hardest parts is that reflux can appear as an invisible disease, from the outside Harper looks like a healthy and happy little girl, it makes it hard for others to believe what we all live with, the sleepless nights, the stress about food. But I also know that Harper is so strong and such a fighter, and I really hope that stays with her for life. 

© Tarsh and Crying Over Spilt Milk Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust May 2020

3 Girls, 3 reflux Journeys- Awareness Week 2020

Our families reflux journey started in 2003 when my eldest was born, she was 6 weeks early due to pre-eclampsia and weighed just over 4 pounds. Things ran smoothly for a while and I remember reading an article on reflux in Little Treasures magazine and thinking thank god my daughter hasn’t got that; little did I know. First a little bit of background, my partner was a dairy farmer and we were in the coldest, most awful house when miss was born. Having a reflux baby and an awful house definitely put a strain on our relationship. To be fair the first year with her is a bit of a blur, nights spent rocking her in the lounge; doctors and hospital appointments which really didn’t help and me left thinking I was a neurotic first time mum who couldn’t cope. I breastfeed for a little while but ended up formula feeding as she was so inconsistent and I needed to know how much she was getting, but she always gained well. She was medicated but it did very little. Our saving grace was when she ended up sleeping though the night at 4 months, but she never slept much during the day. Those first few months with her were very difficult for a first time mum. Starting solids and walking were the milestone that helped her most.

But the teenage years brought back her reflux and after my sister found out about the gene mutation MTFHR, we got my daughter tested and sure enough she was a carrier also*.  It is still an ongoing battle for her but we manage her condition with the support of a naturopath.

My miss middle was born in 2007, we waited so long because of the tough time we had with our first and I didn’t want a repeat. Luckily her reflux wasn’t as bad, nothing like my eldest or youngest. She was a spiller and under medical advice I put her on medication and thickened formula which helped but she still stained the paint with her vomit. She was a breeze compared to my first and so we were lulled into having an another.

2009 my youngest was born 5 weeks early a little over 4 pounds, I was so anxious she would have reflux.  I knew pretty much in the first 2 weeks that she had it, by then I knew what was what with reflux. This reflux was a torture like no other.

I have vivid memories with my youngest, we were still dairy farming so were somewhat isolated. I did have a supportive good friend out where we lived and an awesome doctor, but we moved after 3 months to another farm then again a month or so later to another very damp house.

So we started miss on medication, but it didn’t really help. she was not gaining weight as she should, she was deemed failure to thrive but we struggled to get into the Paediatrician. At 5 months she was admitted to hospital for 5 days due to low gains and my tiredness. The one thing that sticks in my mind about this time was the amazing nurses I dealt with and how supportive they were.

It was then I decided after nearly 6 months to stop breast feeding, I was gutted, I really wanted to carry on, I felt like a failure this time as I knew she was my last bubba. She was put on Neocate and had a PH test for her reflux, we were finally getting somewhere.  I swear I carried her in a front back everywhere apart from the shower, that’s how unsettled she was, I barely slept and swear I am still catching up on sleep now (that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it lol)

At 13 months she was only 6.81 kg so she was a tiny wee thing, and then she started having breath holding spells. She had been in and out of hospital due to these, ear infections and bronchiolitis. This was a bad year for her and my miss middle; we were back and forth to the hospital with different issues partly due to being in an awfully damp house.

We were advised that reflux surgery was a good option for her, which was great news but scary at the same time. I was living on not a lot of sleep; I’m still amazed at the cool TV shows that are on in the early hours of the morning! She would sleep on me propped up.

Those 18 months were the worst, with 3 kids tag teaming each other with illnesses. There was little sleep and I did not like asking for help, so I struggled on.

At 18 months we drove up to Christchurch for the long awaited surgery, Ronald McDonald house was fantastic. Watching her go in to surgery was hard, and my partner was the one with her when she woke up thank god because she had a breath holding spell when she came around, I would not have coped well with that.

Apart from that it had gone well, but then the poor poppet got Rotavirus so she had to be isolated, and of course she couldn’t vomit; it was awful. We got put up at a motel as we had to move from Ronald McDonald house, they were fantastic. We were there a bit longer than first expected but she came right and in a few days we got to go home.

The following year we moved to Australia and although she was still a tiny wee thing she was getting better, we ended up seeing an endocrinologist in Australia and had a fantastic Paediatrician and doctor, she was still little but they advised us she was fine.

She is now a happy healthy 11-year-old, who has had no more reflux problems, not to say that it won’t return, as 3 out of 5 of our family suffer from GORD.

A lot of my girl’s issues I feel have been due to MTHFR, which makes so much sense now. Doctors don`t really know too much about this which can be frustrating.

I was so grateful to find the support of GRSNNZ was there when I needed it. It was always good to know that I wasn’t the only one going through it and if I had any questions or doubts they were always there to help as much as they could. My girls are now 11,12 and 17 but the reflux memories will never ever fade as it was the most challenging years of my life, but so worth it.

 

*Note: MTHFR stands for Methylene-TetraHydroFolate Reductase. It is an enzyme that converts folate you eat into the active form (5-Methyltetrahydrofolate). The MTHFR enzyme affects this at the last step. So if you have a mutation in the gene then it’s going to be affecting how much active folate you have available. Source: https://mthfrsupport.com.au/what-is-mthfr/

© Ruth and Crying Over Spilt Milk Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust May 2020.