PANDA week – Dana's story
I’m a coper. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a coper. It takes a lot for me to fall apart. No matter the setback or the ever-growing list of obstacles to overcome, I can generally be relied upon to keep my shit together and just get through it. I’m also really bad at not being good at things. If it doesn’t come to me naturally, I rarely give it another go.
So you can imagine the spectacular manner in which I fell to pieces when my independence and my supreme capability were taken from me by this mewling little creature. It wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t capable of anything. Not preparing a meal, not putting on mascara, not even calling my friends to say happy birthday.
My son screamed for the first 13 weeks of his life. Screamed. Aggressively. We later discovered that this was because he was hungry all the time, because no matter how often he fed, my milk supply never caught up. So I spent his first three months on the planet attached either to him or to a breast pump, the sound of which will haunt me forever more. And with that, my independence – which I had valued above all else – was swiftly taken from me.
It took a week of hospitalisation for concurrent meningitis and shingles for me to give up the breastfeeding pursuit. Even as I sat in the emergency room in blinding pain, I was attached to my breast pump, determined to master breastfeeding. What kind of lunatic does that? I had been so busy convincing myself that all of this was normal post natal stuff - the hormones, the exhaustion, the misery - that I hadn’t realised I had lost the ability to find joy in anything.
But PND wasn’t for me, surely? I was a coper. I get through things. I’ve been hit with worse than this and managed to come out the other side. And I wasn’t thinking about harming my baby. His safety and comfort were my top priority. So that’s not consistent with PND, right?
WRONG. So wrong.
My perinatal psychiatrist spotted the signs in me a mile away. And while there was some medication involved (which I was very hesitant about but am now endlessly grateful for), the main lesson I learned from him was this: Dana can only control Dana. It seems so obvious. I had always thought I was in control of everything, and that allowed me to fit so much into the day and be everything to everyone and power through it all. But actually, I wasn’t in control at all. There had just been fewer dependents to factor in.
Once I stopped thinking I had any control over my son’s feeding, his sleep (or painful lack thereof), it became infinitely easier to go with the flow. I was not accountable for the fact that my child was a shit sleeper, I was not failing as a parent. It was just something we had to get through.
Am I nervous about facing PND challenges with the imminent arrival of baby number 2? No. Because this time I know what to look for and I have a wonderful support unit in place. The darkest days of my PND gifted me with tremendous perspective: when things are tough I can recognise that they are temporary, and when things are great I appreciate them all the more.
If this has touched a nerve for you, you can reach out to PANDA, Beyond Blue or Lifeline. We’d love to hear from you if you have experienced PND or struggles post partum. You can get in touch via our instagram DMs or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This week, 8-14 November is PANDA week — an important chance to encourage conversation and raise awareness of perinatal anxiety and depression. While prevalent in society, these issues remain shrouded in 'ickiness' and continue to be difficult to discuss.
Both founders of Not a Pony had their own experiences with post natal depression, which is why we are so focused on elevating mothers, shining a light on sensitive issues, and why the Tired Mama Pack is amongst our core offering. We know first-hand the difference it can make when someone sees your struggle, acknowledges it without judgement, and offers help.
This week we will share our own stories, as well as those of our amazing friends and followers so that we can help reduce the stigma around PND and encourage open and 'ick'-free discussion about mental health.
5% of all sales this week will be donated to @pandanational to help fund their life-saving work, so if you've been thinking about showing someone some love with one of our prints or packs, this week is a great week to do it!