Saturday, April 1, 2017

Parenting with Chronic Illness: The Mother and Family Unit

Hi! Mummy A from Squishels and Me here again, and I'm happy to be continuing my series Parenting with Chronic Illness with you. Last month I shared with you my birth story, this month I want to share my experience in the Mother and Family Unit.

After I gave birth, I completely disassociated. The only thing I could feel was some distant sense of grief. I couldn’t understand how the baby was supposedly mine, how I was meant to go home with this crying screaming thing that sucked my life-force out of me (how I continue to talk about breastfeeding), and I couldn’t understand the negative images that kept floating through my head.

Those four days in the hospital were bad, but not as bad as what was to come. 

I had daily psych reviews during them, and it was decided by the third day that I was to move to the mother and family unit after discharge from the hospital. So four days passed, and four nights, and finally I got to feel the rain and wind in the short travel to the offsite unit that would become our home for three weeks, minus weekends.

The mother and family unit was really nice.

We’d stay there Monday-Friday in a lovely spacious double-bed room. The living area was really nice, with access to Netflix and lots of toys and books. 

There were groups twice a day, depending on how our babies were going. The first week there were two other mums with their babies; the other 2 weeks we were there alone. The staff were really nice, always trying to help with everything.

My disassociation soon gave way to a deep depression. All I wanted was to lie in bed with my husband forever, and not have this nightmare baby demanding my attention all the time. By the second review with the psychiatrist (he came to the unit every Tuesday), I was almost begging him for antidepressants (he was hesitant because of the ‘baby blues’ and other temporary hormone changes). 

I started on sertraline that week, and slowly my mood improved. I was able to go home the following Friday, and actually feel semi-confident going home. I had learnt how to feed my baby whilst in public, and I had started to bond with my baby and feel like she was mine. In most essences of the word, I was ‘ok’. 

I wouldn’t pass up my time at the mother and family unit for anything. It was the best transition into motherhood I could have hoped for. 

Being able to escape a screaming monster to watch Netflix for half an hour, and so many other things helped give me the space I needed.

It taught me how to keep on parenting when my mood wouldn’t let me, and how to bond with this alien that had just ripped me open. 

Sure, it was annoying that they wouldn’t (weren’t allowed to) accept that my baby needed constant connection and needed to bedshare (seems she managed to get my nightmare problems). And sometimes the staff were over-the-top and just plain irritating. But it was the best decision I could’ve made, for myself and my family.

Thankfully, I had already discussed moving to the mother and family unit prior to the birth, so I was able to get a little bit of an understanding (although the extent of my understanding was 'my baby won't be taken away from me if I have a psychotic break'). I read on "Action on Postpartum Psychosis" some positive recommendations about going in, but I really had no clue. I didn't know my partner could stay, and I didn't know what a 'Monday to Friday ward' meant. The youth mental health team through my public hospital came and visited me every day whilst I was in the hospital, and they were able to answer some of the questions I had. Mostly, it was just an experience I had to fall headfirst into to find out how therapeutic and vital it would be to helping my health and my bond with my baby.
You may also like Parenting with Chronic Illness: The Birth. Just click the picture to read all about it!

The medical information on this site is provided as a personal anecdote only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.If you need perinatal mental health supports in an emergency, call your local hospital or E.D. (000). They're typically the best supports to help you along the way in an emergency. Alternatively, Beyond Blue (; 1300 22 4636), P.A.N.D.A. (; 1300 726 306) or even Lifeline (, 13 11 14).

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