in Hope & Healing

The Best Mother: Rejecting the Lies of PNDA


Some days are not so good and I’m not the best mother on those days. Some days I don’t deserve to be your mother. But my prayer is that you won’t remember these days and you will never doubt how much I love you…

The above entry was added to my journal when my first baby was almost 3 and my second was 18 months of age. Soon afterwards I was diagnosed with PNDA, however I’d been struggling long before then.

I’m not sure exactly when it started, however there was one incident that occurred when my first was around 6 months old that gives a clue. I had called a family member to offer support through a difficult time and she told me in no uncertain terms that my concern was not welcome. She was understandably angry at her circumstances and unfortunately I bore the brunt of it that day. I understand that now, but I obviously wasn’t in a good head space at that point, as what happened next was very scary. I decided that my baby and my husband were better off without me. I justified the idea of ending my life with the thought that my husband and baby would find a wife and mother they deserved, instead of having to put up with me.

Irrational? Of course, but what’s rational about depression?

Obviously I didn’t go ahead with it, but for a short space of time I was standing in the doorway of a dark and terrifying room and all it would have taken was one little push and I would have been trapped in that cell. I thank God (and I don’t say that lightly) that in that moment my depression wasn’t as strong as the voice of reason within me, that reminded me that I was loved and I was needed and my death would cause a great amount of grief for those I loved.

At the time I was working part time as a parent helper, offering support to parents either over the phone or in private consultations. I was very skilled at identifying PNDA in others and referring them for medical intervention prior to beginning our program. Perhaps it’s because I knew so much about it that I was able to fudge the results on my postnatal tests. Someone asked me once what I’d hoped to achieve by doing that, as if I’d done it on purpose. The thing is, I was so good at lying to myself that I honestly didn’t believe I was suffering any sort of depression or anxiety.

Why did I lie to myself?

My best guess is Fear.

You see, I was very good at telling other women that having PNDA was nothing to be ashamed of and I honestly did believe that. I still do. I lay no judgement on anyone who is suffering depression any more than I would someone with cancer or asthma or a broken leg, as I know it is a medical condition. But not for me. I couldn’t have PNDA, the consequences of that were too scary. The fear that I would lose all that I held most precious to me, my career, my husband and my babies was very real. No one could know.

The Best Mother: Rejecting the Lies of PNDA | Postnatal depression and anxiety can be overwhelming, leading you to believe things that aren't true. This is one woman's journey with her diagnosis and struggle with PNDA. Postpartum depression | Newborn | New mother | Mental health

Again – Irrational. You’d think that by now the warning bells would have gone off. If I wasn’t suffering from depression that would have been the case. But as I said, there’s nothing rational about depression and in my mind it was rational. As long as I could hold it all together, everything would be OK.

But things weren’t OK. I wasn’t the mother or partner that I wanted to be. Deep down I knew that but I still managed to justify it.  My house was spotless to the point that my friends jokingly said I had OCD (if only they knew), my kids were well fed and had good routines and I was good at my job. Evidence, in my mind at least, that everything was fine. I maintained a tight grip of control over my home and life with strict routines and regiments; if one thing was slightly out of kilter it would throw me into a stress fueled panic. Even the chronic heart palpitations, constant crying and feeling of dread, or the difficulty in breathing weren’t enough to warn me that something was wrong.

Yes, I’m very stubborn.

Then one day I was working with a mother who reminded me of myself. After each session with her I would experience this nagging feeling of familiarity. Finally I could stand it no more so I tested myself and this time I didn’t think before answering, I just answered. Raw, unadulterated truth.

A score of more than 20 out of a possible 25, in any of the three streams, warranted a referral to the GP. I scored between 22 – 25 on each of the three sections.

There it was. And off to the GP I went.

And I discovered that my fear was unwarranted. As I unloaded on the GP I felt a weight lift off my body. I felt understood and most importantly, there was no judgement, no shame, just the beginning of healing.

And I didn’t lose my husband, my kids, or my job. Instead, as I healed I became more efficient at work, a more loving wife, and the best mother for my babies.

In my next post I’m going to share some strategies for looking after yourself if you have PNDA. But for now, know that you are not alone. You are not a failure. Your children were given to you for a reason.

Because you are the best mother for them.

This post is Part One of a three-part series on Sarina’s blog, Moments with a Mad Italian. For more, please visit the following:

Part Two: Looking After Yourself – Acceptance

Part Three: What Can The Village People Offer New Parents?

Sarina Elder

Sarina lives in a seaside suburb in WA with her husband and two daughters who are on the cusp of womanhood. Sarina has always been passionate about improving outcomes for young children and believes that the best way to achieve this is to empower women. For every woman who is empowered to be the best she can be, at least two children are impacted for the better. To this end, Sarina holds a Degree in Child and Family Development and has an extensive history of working with women and children spanning 30 years, including working as an early childhood educator and a parent counsellor. Sarina is concerned that the plethora of parenting advice and different parenting styles can often leave many parents feeling disempowered. In her Blog ‘Sarina Elder Moments with a Mad Italian’ ( Sarina often draws upon her professional and personal experiences in parenting and relationships to encourage parents, mothers in particular, to draw upon their strengths and values and to find faith in themselves, that they are enough.

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