this is the longest post I’ve ever written – it’s now over 8000 words.
It’s taken me many months to write,
and two years to live.
I wanted to tell my story so it may help other souls who’ve gone through a dark night of the soul.
Most of all, I want to say:
I love you. I understand. I know. I hear you.
I’ve also opened the Comments Circle for this post. I’ve been so touched by the incredible, brave sharings of the souls who have experienced the same thing.
Our stories can change the world.
This is mine.
I remember the exact moment I knew.
I was sitting on the verandah with my love, my seven month old daughter in my arms.
Tears were streaming down my face, my breath was gasping & rasping as my lungs pushed against a panic attack.
Just the usual morning breakfast.
a moment of space. A moment of clarity.
I don’t feel right.
It had been a hell of a year. And even longer than that, if I pushed my memory back to where the first tendrils began.
The week after I found out I was pregnant when my body began vomiting and didn’t stop for the next five weeks.
The kilograms of weight that rapidly shed from my body, convulsed out onto the garden.
The daily struggles to keep down pregnancy multivitamins – or anything for that matter.
The days spent in foetal position on the couch in the sun, staring at my hands. Any other motion – even reading – would render me motionsick enough to run to my special place on the verandah where I projectile fertilised the garden with my mouth.
The sudden dullness that ebbed at the edges of my mind saying:
I’m on a train that I can not get off. No one can even be on this train with me. I am stuck, I am lost. This is too hard.
At some point during those purging, hurling weeks, I called my mum and said:
I’ve had enough. I can’t do it anymore. I am never EVER going to get pregnant again.
I subsisted by on hope that it would end.
At the same time:
I was happy.
I know. How can one have Ante Natal Depression and Anxiety AND be happy at the same time?
I have no idea. I know it’s a great paradox.
And yet it happened to me.
I was anxious as my belly bloomed into full moon,
and yet I was delighted.
I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
My hands traced circles over the curve of my belly.
In response, she would patter her own hands against mine.
Worlds meeting worlds.
I was the woman
who was dancing
and also had a weight on her shoulders.
I worried about birth.
I worried about not getting it right.
I worried about being made to conform.
I worried about having unsupportive midwives.
I worried I wouldn’t have read all the books before hand.
There were some moments that stuck out in my mind:
At 34 weeks pregnant, dissolving into tears at our appointment with our midwives.
At 36 weeks pregnant, Little Mermaid turning breech for the second time. Spending hours laying upside down in an effort to help her turn. Calling Chris frantic from a bus, in tears and panicking as I decided I needed to get acupuncture that.very.moment. to help her turn.
I have no idea how much of this is “normal” for pregnancy.
But however “normal” it was for pregnancy, it wasn’t “normal” for me.
It wasn’t normal to be feeling like this.
I felt like I was bracing for a great attack.
I did what I could to heal “it” before she was born.
My love took me to see a kind eyed Jungian psychotherapist with large cauldrons of rose quartz crystals beside the lounge.
We went to two CalmBirth weekends together. We meditated together and talked out our feelings and our fears.
I was so afraid of being forced to have a birth that was not my own that we interviewed home birth midwives just a few weeks before Ostara was born.
The day after, we drove across the country to my love’s grandmother’s funeral.
I sat in lotus position in the backseat, still encouraging our mermaid to turn.
I knew there must be an answer inside me.
As we drove back home, and red flecked scrub and sage tinted leaves fled past our window,
I knew the answer.
I knew that we wouldn’t have a home birth.
I knew that my daughter would need special assistance in order to come into the world.
And I knew that in order to feel at peace with going wherever we needed to go for her to be born, I needed extra support.
I already had my love as birth support, and our precious doula as birth coach.
But I wanted my birth to be sacred. I wanted to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we would be surrounded by angels.
And I wanted to be reminded that I was a Goddess.
Wherever we went. No matter what happened.
When we returned home, synchronicity happened.
My spiritual mentor Ellanita was arriving back in our town, just in time for Ostara’s birth.
I asked her if she could be present for the birth.
She said yes.
I felt at peace.
A week before Ostara was due, we took photos with our doula at our favourite sacred place in Canberra:
I stretched back against a rock, leaning into a crescent moon.
I wonder if that’s what began the birth.
An hour later, after we’d dropped our doula at home, we ate fish & chips.
I cleared my plate of the last bit of coleslaw,
and with a rush, my waters broke.
Then nothing happened.
We slept. We woke up.
We made a large vegetarian lasagne, imagining we would eat it after birth.
Instead my uterus was quiet.
I’d done my research: I knew that there was little chance of infection until after 72 hours.
I knew 95% of women commenced labour naturally before 72 hours.
I also knew that once I’d been admitted into hospital, they commenced with interventions after 24 hours.
And I dearly, dearly wanted to give my body the time to see what happened. To give into my body, and then give into my body.
That night, the softest of soft contractions. I fell asleep, and woke up at 3am.
There were no more contractions.
It had been about 30 hours since my waters had broken.
And I was no longer absolutely able to tell what were Little Mermaid’s movements, and what were the soft quakes of my belly.
So we made a night time trip to the hospital.
Our midwife was pissed that we’d waited so long to tell her.
I was pissed that her birth beliefs weren’t the same as mine.
But we crowded into that hospital room anyway: me, Chris, our doula & Ellanita. I’d called Ellanita to let her know what might be happening. She hadn’t been able to sleep, so she’d come to find us anyway.
So at 4am in that white hospital room, we talked through our options. We knew that we would likely be induced when the sun began to rise. And we just prayed that all would be well. I just wanted my baby to be okay.
And then we had an angel in the form of a doctor. He had soft eyes and lovely hands. And he gave us an ultrasound.
With a sigh of relief, I saw our little mermaid’s heart appear on the screen, pulsing strongly, her heart beat as comforting and close to me as any sound can be.
And this angel doctor of ours – he said so kindly:
You are well. Your baby is well. I want to give you another day. If nothing has happened by 7am tomorrow morning, come back in and we’ll induce you. But I trust you. Your body is healthy, and so is your baby.
(I want to cry just thinking of him now.)
So the angel doctor gave us the gift of time.
Just what I had been wanting.
So we spent another quiet, still day at home together.
That afternoon, I had more acupuncture to encourage baby girl along.
The Chinese girl said to me softly
“I can’t make her come all the way down. But I will make it easier for you for tomorrow.”
That night, we slept soundly again.
And then that morning, we rose,
went to the hospital right on time,
got hooked up to a drip.
That day was the biggest initiation I have ever experienced.
Immediately, the contractions were strong & difficult to breath through.
I remember the first one sweeping me off the feet, onto the ground, moaning & trying to push my hips into a comfortable position.
My trio of angels (Chris, our doula & Ellanita) were gathered around me, massaging limbs, attempting to offer comfort.
I figured I would try & Active Birth my way through the first part of labour – moving around, getting massaged, moaning, changing positions.
Two contractions later, I thought:
“Fuck that. This is NOT helping. I am going to get very tired very soon. I am not managing the pain like this. I’m going to have to CalmBirth the whole way.”
So I lay on my side on the bed for a while, willing my body’s muscles to soften and relax into opening, breathing deeply, saying over and over again:
It helped somewhat.
After a half hour (maybe longer – who knows? I WAS IN LABOUR, PEOPLE) our midwife decided I needed to be moving around so I didn’t slow down labour.
Her energy felt a bit intrusive, and I mostly spent the rest of labour trying to stay away from her and unhooking myself from the beeping heart rate machine.
I spent the rest of the eight hours of labour either on the yoga ball or hiding in the loo, trying to take a ginormous shit.
I didn’t speak. I didn’t open my eyes. I had one finger which communicated with my support angels to tell them to place a straw in my mouth so I could drink water.
I was busy. It took my whole being – my whole courage and strength and willpower and inner resources to breathe through the contractions.
I breathed in for four… 1… 2… 3…. 4….
I exhaled out for eight… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4…. 3… 2… 1…
It took three breaths in for each contraction, and I knew the contraction would begin to subside around number 4 on the third exhale.
(So I believe contractions would last about 45 seconds.)
I had to keep breathing through the non-contractions, keeping my body as relaxed as possible, the meditation as deep as possible, in order to tolerate the next rush.
And I would only get about two or three breaths in before the next ones began, I believe.
If my concentration wavered, if I tried to come out of the meditation, the next round of contractions would be unbearably painful –
so I quickly learned that to cope, I needed to keep meditating.
The difference between the pain of contractions when meditating and not meditating was vast.
From tolerable to unbearable.
And sweetheart – as any birthing woman (or anyone who has suffered chronic pain) can tell you – there is a world between tolerable and unbearable.
Tolerable is being able to sit with it – even if it is taking all your inner resources & strength to do so.
Unbearable is wanting to crawl the walls and freak the fuck out because you just don’t know what else to do.
So I meditated.
And it was incredibly helpful, and I am very grateful that I was able to.
But still – it was not blissful meditation.
It was still childbirth.
Had I not meditated?
I absolutely believe I would have needed to choose pain relief of some kind – any kind.
Heck knows there were many moments during labour that I hid in the bathroom,
staring in the mirror thinking:
Fuck, let’s go have a Caesarean. I really, really need this to be over RIGHT NOW.
I just never told anyone.
Because I chose to go through the Birth Centre (even though I was induced at the hospital – I had a Birth Centre midwife), I was in a natural birthing system. So at no point was I offered any kind of pain medication. It would have been there had I asked – but they never said “Do you need any pain relief?”
Thank fuck. Because if they’d asked?
OH YES I WOULD HAVE TAKEN IT.
Even though my intention was to have a medication free birth.
I remember thinking during that labour:
No wonder people choose pain relief. No wonder people choose Caesareans.
Holy shit this is the hardest thing EVER!
Let me say this:
I absolutely believe in positive birth experiences.
I have friends who have had pain free births.
I know that ecstatic birth is possible.
And I absolutely hoped and cultivated the ground for that to be the case with my own birth.
And the truth and experience of my birth was that it was incredibly painful.
That is my human truth.
I have written quite a lot before about the birth as well,
especially from a spiritual perspective.
I absolutely feel and believe all these things,
at the same time it resides side-by-side with my very human experience of it being deeply painful.
(My grandmother said to me a couple of weeks ago:
So my love was it an easy and good birth with Ostara?
And I laughed and said:
Well, I tried to meditate through it. But an easy and good birth? HAHAHA. What’s that?
And she laughed too and said:
Oh, I know. I still remember my births. They were bloody painful.
FYI: My Grandmother is 93. She gave birth 70 years ago.)
At some point in the afternoon,
I decided I’d had enough.
I sidled my way up to Rachel (our doula)
swayed in her arms and whispered to her my secret:
“I can’t do this anymore.”
She looked at me and said
“You are doing it.”
At some point as the afternoon shadows fell into evening, I began to feel really different.
The contractions didn’t hurt anymore –
I just wanted to push. I was grunting and propelling all this force down into my centre.
During the space between contractions, I could look around, and talk.
I looked at Ellanita and Rachel.
(My love was out of the room taking a breather.)
“This feels different”, I said.
They were exchanging looks.
“Sounds like baby is coming, Leonie.”
“Well can you tell me when? I need a time!”
And Rachel said in that very relaxed way of hers
“I can’t tell you how far along you are unless you want an internal examination. But it sounds like things are turning for you, Leonie.”
And they were.
Chris came back into the room, and I moved onto all fours:
Chris beside my head, breathing next to my ear,
Rachel by my side,
Ellanita massaging my hips and back.
I lost a big blood clot and said to Rachel
“Ummm was that SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN?”
“Yes – it means baby is coming Leonie. Did you want to see if you could feel her head?”
I checked, but couldn’t feel anything.
And the words kind of spun me out:
A BABY? A BABY WAS COMING? SO THAT’S WHAT ALL THIS PREGNANCY AND BIRTH WAS FOR? WHAT IS A BABY? A REAL LIFE PERSON IS COMING? WHATTTTTTTTTT?
And I proceeded grunting and pushing and losing blood clots and successfully managing to take that ginormous shit I had been longing for.
It felt like nine months of pregnancy constipation was alllll blocked up inside me and was finally making its run for freedom.
And you know how some people get all freaked out about crapping in labour?
OH NOT ME. I was like THANK GAWD. This ginormous shit has been annoying me for months now!
And so what if it is in front of other people?
That’s NOTHING compared to what I’ve just been through people? Man up!
Our midwife walked into the room to check the beeping machine and ask questions, as she was want to do.
But she stopped when she got in the door at the sight of us on the floor, me grunting away.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
“Looks like we’re having a baby!” Rachel said cheerfully!
And we proceeded to ignore her as she flittered about, getting out her instruments and blah blah.
She decided she wanted us on the bed.
I rolled my eyes – wanting to stay on the floor – but the joy of an induction and hospital birth meant more monitoring than usual Birth Centre methods.
So I got on the bed and kept doing my thing.
Ostara was born at 6:14pm that evening after 21 minutes of pushing.
That part was dang EASY by the way.
It wasn’t at all painful. I loved every minute of it. I felt powerful and RAWR!
It felt like a peace of cake compared to the shithouse eight hours of contractions that preceded it.
I was on all fours on the hospital bed.
Right at the end as she crowned, Ostara’s heart beat began to drop rapidly (as they often do thanks to induction births).
The midwife decided she needed Ostara out immediately, and asked to give me an episiotomy.
I said No.
She let me know Ostara needed to be out as soon as possible, and told me I had one more round of contractions and pushing to get her out, or she needed to give the episiotomy.
The next round of contractions came and I pushed my heart out – pushing long after the contractions finished (pretty sure this was what gave me some pretty nasty haemorrhoids).
She still wasn’t out, so I conceded for an episitomy.
I flipped to my side, Chris held my leg up, a quick snip, and in the next wave of contractions she came out with one big beautiful ocean gush of water.
Our midwife caught her, handed her to Chris and he passed her into my arms.
I will always remember that moment.
I felt totally lucid.
Ostara gave one cry as she arrived, and then was quiet,
looking around the room with those beautiful big blue eyes.
And her presence was SO strong. SO big.
And I thought:
Wow, you are here. Look at you! You are so strong!
I am trying to find the words to say what it felt like –
but it was just this presence. This new soul entering the world.
The womb feels like this incubation place,
this time for the body to form and the soul to come into this plane
it’s an in-between land,
and then the birth is the emergence
fully into this plane.
I heard the word Avalon as I saw her (thus why it is one of her middle names).
SO strong. SO incredible.
She didn’t cry. She just nestled in my arms.
I was bloody and we were both covered in shit and blood and meconium (she must have needed a massive dump like me – she crapped all over me when Chris passed her to me).
I was absolutely elated.
I felt no pain at all.
Ostara was very healthy – despite the low heart rate that the beeping machine said she had.
She got an immediate 9 out of 10 on the APGAR and five minutes later had a 10 out of 10.
I got a needle in the leg to speed contractions for the placenta to be delivered quickly (another thing I wasn’t super keen on happening in my birth plan – but was required with an induction birth).
The placenta came, and the midwife made some comment about the umbilical cord being delicate and the placenta having some kind of fatty residue on it (I can’t remember quite what she said – but I do remember that I tormented myself over it for quite a few months that eating hot chips while I was pregnant had caused it. And then I got over myself.)
Because the hospital was packed that night, all doctors were unavailable.
So I ended up getting the head doctor of the hospital in to stitch up my episiotomy.
He was old and kind. The nurses whispered to me “It’s your lucky day! How did you get so lucky? The Professor is the best you can get!”
I joked with him that it was fun to receive vagina embroidery from him, and that we should do it again tomorrow just for fun.
(He said he hadn’t heard that before. That’s nice. It’s nice to be memorable. Ha!)
In the meantime, we were attempting to get Ostara on the boob. We placed her on my belly first to see if she wanted to nose her way up with her rooting instinct. She made some great efforts, but didn’t quite get there. So we kept playing around with different positions, different levels of help. Finally after about an hour or so, we managed to get her to latch and suckle as we lay on our sides.
I’ll always remember her tiny wide open eyes looking around the room as she fed.
Just like she does now.
That same gaze as she looks at me.
(I remember my mum saying when she was a month old: I’ve never seen a baby look at its mum with so much love before.”
And then the newborn period.
That aching, aching time.
In the moment your child is born, a great owl swoops in and takes away your life.
The one that you knew.
How it was when you thought only of your own self and your own needs.
There is just a momentous task ahead of you, and right in front of you.
And of course,
it is time that is filled with rapturous blessings too.
Time when you are so in love.
When you are amazed at the miracle of light and life that is before you.
Where you know absolutely that the daughter you have is absolutely the daughter you were born to be.
one sleepless night
running to the toilet
as baby cried and Chris held her
and just sobbing
over and over
and coming back into the room
taking her in my arms and
smiling at her.
“It amazes me
how you can be so sad
and yet when you look at her
you are always smiling.”
It was never about her,
From the first moment
I knew I would have her
I knew it was my destiny.
She was my daughter,
the one I had dreamed about for as long as I could remember.
I have always wanted to be a mother.
The one I would do it all again for –
to go into the land of birth, of initiation, of post natal depression and anxiety
to find her
bring her back
and mother her the very best I could.
Shortly after she was born,
we decided that we would move home.
We put the house on the market.
We threw away half our belongings.
We put our resignations into our work.
It was a wild act of bravery and daring and courage and faith,
and still it is hard on the body, the soul, the peace, the nervous system.
While we waited to move,
I was solo parent while Chris was away 11 hours a day
in a city with no family,
and no car.
It was hard.
I was beyond exhausted.
I just kept plodding on,
gaze firmly planted on the horizon
knowing we had to get there.
You know, on and on
And I could number again and again
over and over
all the things that went wrong
before, during, and after
Ostara was born.
I can tell you exactly why I got Post Natal Depression and Anxiety.
I was the poster child of it.
When I looked at a list
of all the Major Life Stressors, we ticked off almost all of them.
Before she was born:
Death of a family member.
Burnout & anxiety.
After she was born:
Town with no family.
Recovering from a birth that felt traumatic (I have no idea how many first time mamas don’t feel traumatised by birth. It is a huge initiation.)
Oversupply of milk and the subsequent eight rounds of mastitis over the next year, three of which required late night emergency trips to the hospital.
Selling a house.
House sales falling through.
Spending hours in the car with baby, hunky love & two dogs in the freezing cold as the house was exhibited again and again.
Problems with our neighbours.
Explosions outside our house.
My love ended up in Emergency on an ECG monitor on heart attack watch (he was fine. Just stressed – who would have thought?)
More tenant issues.
The week we moved, Chris’ best friend died in his sleep on his birthday.
Being away from my love for a week (we flew up ahead).
More mastitis and ending up in emergency again at night with a little baby.
Our furniture being lost for a week during the move.
Making the transition from two jobs and a business to just having my business.
Huge family issues.
Having a very hard re-entry into small town country life after being away from family for so long.
Trying to be super mum and hold it all together.
My parents separating.
My brother & his wife separating.
(The same week. Christmas!)
My love & I doing deep work & counselling together & individually to keep from imploding.
And I’m sure there are things now that I have so happily forgotten.
But less me assure you:
It felt like my whole life, my whole world
The sheer, insurmountable task of tending to a baby.
Of grieving so deeply the life you once had where you thought only of yourself.
All that time you had to read, rest, eat, paint, surf the internet, make creative miracles?
A baby that did not sleep on her own.
A baby that does not sleep through the night. Or for any great swathes of it.
Of beating myself up on my Perfect Mom expectations
It was my Saturn Return, my 27th year,
the year that everything broke apart.
And so it was that I found myself,
My nightly ritual of
while Chris held Ostara in the lounge room
and laying on the kitchen floor
willing myself to breathe,
willing away the anxiety attacks.
They became ever-present.
It wasn’t just feeling anxiety – it was wading through it, chest-high, every single day.
I’d lay in bed
and my body would be rigid, straight, as stiff as a board,
my fingers clenched,
my jaws clenched.
I cried a lot.
I was angry a lot.
I was angry with Chris a lot.
I grieved and was sad and anxious and in pain.
I remember thinking over and over:
“Please make this stop. Please make all of it end. I just want to be happy again. I want my good life again. I just want myself again. Please just make it stop.”
the baby to stop crying
the craziness to stop
the everything to stop.
I wanted my old life back.
I wanted to be me again.
And I felt a million miles away from that.
I had no idea where I had gone.
And so it was.
The moment I knew
that what I was feeling
was more than just normal.
That moment on the verandah,
tears streaming down my face,
fighting against an anxiety attack.
I stammered out the words:
I don’t feel right.
I think there’s something wrong with me.
I remember how I used to feel.
I used to be happy, a lot.
I used to think life was good.
I don’t feel that way anymore.
I think there’s something wrong in my body.
It was a turning point.
What do you want to do?
Do we go to the doctor?
I decided that I did not want to go on anti depressants.
I was still breastfeeding, and I am a big believer in using both east & west medicine.
I wanted to undergo every single other healing avenue first.
I booked in to see the Doctor. I wanted a blood test to find out if there were any deficiencies in my blood (like iron) that I could work on with alternative health practioners.
I told him what I wanted it done for.
“Well the first thing I’d recommend is giving up breastfeeding. She’s over six months old now, so there’s no real point.”
I fixed a gaze on him and laughed
“Buddy, that’s not happening anytime soon. I plan on following the World Health Organisation’s standards of 2 years or further as much as possible.”
“That’s just really for kids in Rwanda, you know.”
I blinked. And blinked. And blinked.
Then I said “Write me the script for the blood tests, and let’s agree to disagree.”
Chris looked at me with a knowing look.
He said later:
“As soon as the doctor said that I thought “ohhhhh nooooo buddy… Wrong answer!!! you’ve done it now! She’s never coming back to you again!”
He was right.
I found a new doctor after that. (Who just happened to think the first doctor’s suggestion for a woman suffering PND to give up breastfeeding was a very, very incorrect prescription.)
(FYI a note on the side: Breastfeeding is great if it works for you! If it doesn’t, bottle is great! Neither route is the easy one. You do what you can, what works best for you, babe and your family. I feel like any kind of strongly held “this way or the highway” belief can be harmful when it doesn’t make you and your family sing.)
I researched the internet to find what therapy would help the best with anxiety.
And I trusted my gut.
I remembered how my Canberra acupuncturist during pregnancy was so helpful with anxiety.
So I found a new one here in Proserpine, and got recommendations.
They turned out to be right, of course.
She was an angel, a healer,
who poured reiki over me
as the needles were in.
Just thirty minutes at a time.
The anxiety started to improve. Inch by inch.
Less constant freak-out.
More background buzz.
On top of all the Pile of Awful Life Stuff,
I had huge expectations I had on myself.
And as much as anyone would tell me I needed to do it differently,
to be more gentle on myself,
I would feel judged.
It was only me
that could finally find the path that felt good and light to my self.
that when I became a mum
in the space of a moment
the split second she was born
I would be a Perfect Mother.
I had all these ideas
of who I should be
instead of who I was.
I wound myself up in knots
running to try and be perfect
and beating myself up in all the places I was not.
My love, the Simple Sage,
took me to the cafe
to stage a Perfect Mother intervention.
He took out a notebook
and a pen.
“Write down for me what you need to do everyday. What you want to do everyday.”
And so I began.
Take care of Starry.
Write three pages.
Cook three wholesome meals a day.
Made out of organic food that I gardened.
Do gardening. Have a very large organic vege patch and fruit tree patch.
Read to Starry. Give her as much eye contact as possible.
Do 30 minutes of yoga.
Spend time with the dogs.
Watch no TV.
Spend time talking to Chris.
Work and reply to emails and do my business.
Go to sleep early.”
We exchanged lists.
“Be a good dad and partner.
he said to me.
“No wonder you feel so overwhelmed. It’s too much Leonie. Just go easy on yourself.”
“How is that even possible?”
“Leonie, I’ve loved you for ten years. And what I know about you? All you really need to do is love me, love your daughter and make art.”
That’s what makes you happy.
In all the time I’ve known you,
you haven’t gardened everyday, you haven’t meditated,
you haven’t done all that stuff everyday.
And you like watching TV, for pete’s sake!
You’re so hard on yourself.
You feel so guilty.
What would life look like if you were easy on yourself?”
I was speechless.
What, indeed, would my life look like
if I gave up the guilt
and just gave myself
the easy way?
It became my mantra
“What would the easy way be?”
I’d walk down the supermarket halls
and I would say to Chris:
“Did you know that I felt guilty the whole way through the supermarket? That at every turn, I was making the wrong decision – or at least the one that was not the very best one? That I felt guilty when I bought non-organic food. And even when I bought organic, I still beat myself up because I hadn’t grown it myself?”
And he looked at me with these eyes
and he’d say:
“You can’t live like that, Leonie. Just be easy.”
So I gave up
my grand schemes of
growing everything myself
and making everything myself
and becoming some kind of hippy Betty Croker who’d had a threeway with Martha Stewart and Jackie French.
I became the
Mother I am.
I gave up my grand idea of juicing
I bought small bottles of juice
because that’s the only way I drank juice.
I gave up my schemes of only homemade meals
and started buying ready made meals instead –
risottos and salads and meals I could make in 5 minutes
food that was close enough, and good enough.
I kept asking:
how can I be easy on myself?
And instead of jumping out of bed into Full On Action Mum Mode at the crack of dawn when Ostara woke, I implemented Gentle Mornings.
Now, I don’t get out of bed until 8am. Ostara wakes much earlier of course. But she sleeps in bed between us. And we spend the early hours of the day playing in bed and reading. She toddles off around the house, doing endless boomerangs. And we get our much required gentle time. It’s pretty much the most revolutionary thing ever.
Sometimes, easy is the best. And the loveliest.
I gave up being the Perfect Mother.
And embraced instead
the Magnificent Mother
that I already am –
funny, creative, a non-elaborate cook, balanced, sleeping in, tv-watching.
I didn’t have to change, really,
to be who I was.
I started taking an hour each week to go for a massage or healing with Akiah Elan, a friend from high school who owns the spiritual store in town.
Taking an hour was momentous.
A whole hour away from baby.
sending love and energy and nourishment back into my soul.
I started rebuilding my body that felt so depleted after birth, lack of sleep, breastfeeding & tending to a baby.
I consulted a naturopath.
I started taking Fish Oil & Vitamin B12 & some tonics from the naturopath.
I remember talking to her over the phone.
She had the softest English accent. And she’d been a midwife.
She asked me how I was
and I cried
and said “My baby is nine months old… does everyone feel like this at nine months?”
“Oh yes,” she said. “That’s when the depletion kicks in.”
It was Project: Body Rebuild.
I started eating meat again.
I used Bushflower Essences.
I got intuitive healing sessions.
I did a rebirth session to revisualise Ostara’s birth.
I had a dream that Pleidean alien angels came down and asked me if I wanted a total cellular replacement. And I said yes. And they stripped away all my old cells and gave me new ones. And it was the most incredible healing ever.
I read all the archives from Ask Moxie’s post partum depression file.
We got relationship counselling.
(I remember reading once that having a baby is like throwing a grenade into a marriage. And I thought: hahahaha not me! That’s other people! But guess what? It happened. And guess what? It can be helped. Counselling is an incredible thing.)
I got personal counselling just to talk through everything that had happened. To say what was sitting so heavily on my chest.
I had told no one of what had happened in the year of the Shit Storm.
And then I reached out. I told two friends.
I felt like I’d been carrying around a great secret of the Shit Storm. And then I let my story float into the breeze.
I couldn’t even say the words to my friends.
I just wrote:
I think I have Pee Enn Dee.
It was scary to write.
But I was listened to.
And they said:
“Oh baby. That sounds like the hardest year ever. I understand. Things will get better. I love you. I’m here. I’m listening.”
It was the best thing they could have said.
They just listened.
And loved me.
At one point, I remember a dear mama friend writing
“Leonie, this is going to really piss you off. But give Ostara to Chris for a few hours. Go lock yourself away and make art. She can survive. Even if it means giving her boobs every hour or so. Then back to your art.”
And I remember reading her words thinking
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? WHAT???? THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE.”
But it happened.
I made it happen.
I started taking regular, daily time to myself.
All this time, I’d been running my beautiful business
from my iPod, or in the 20 minute naps Ostara had.
It was crazy-making and exhausting.
So I negotiated with my love.
And when we both felt able,
I began to go to a cafe to work for an hour or two a day.
For the first few months, we really only managed to do that two or three times a week.
But it was the very best thing:
for me. To rebuild my chakras. To find my inner voice and intuition again. To create and write and start smiling at the world again.
And for my love and my daughter to work out their own dance together.
To get comfortable with each other. To find their own blend of what worked for them.
(And guess what?
The world didn’t fall down.)
I remember sitting in the cafe.
doodling in my notebook,
creating a Folder of Leonie.
A blissful grin on my face.
An artist’s date.
I drew and illustrated the Sacred Space Clearing Kit.
I filled out my own 2011 Creating your Goddess Year workbook.
It was good.
What else helped me heal?
It just takes time.
It takes time for your body, womb, vagina, heart and mind to heal after birth.
It takes time to adjust.
And all you can do in the meantime is clutch to the edge of your boat, hoping for the waves to subside.
They eventually do, of course.
It’s just holding onto hope and peace and breathing in the meantime.
There was one night in the shower
that a great healing occurred.
I was anxious as always.
I’d given Ostara a bath,
Chris had collected her,
and she began crying as she always did
the moment she was out of my arms.
And I stood in the bath,
trying to squeeze in the very basics
of self care –
of having a twenty second shower.
And a voice said:
“You need this time.”
And I decided that instead of
running out to Ostara,
I would give her into the soul care of
“Let them work it out together”
the voice said.
“Their energies need to come together
and work out their own dance.”
So I stood in the shower.
And inside me I felt there was something
something that wanted to come out.
And I stepped into the feeling.
And there it was
like a great wash of deep sadness and pain.
Every cell in my body
hurting and in pain
holding onto the memory of
what it felt like during labour.
I heard it. I felt it. I knew it.
And I leaned into it.
I hear you.
I curled up on the floor
and said to my body
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry you went through that. I’m so sorry.
And the sobs came,
deep, intense, cathartic
rising up and healing
my poor, sweet body
that had experienced so much pain.
I held myself,
until the tears left
and the sadness of that pain
lifted off me like a flock of crimson birds.
It lasted about 30 minutes.
And when the tears left,
I felt elated.
I climbed the stairs up into our cottage,
and Ostara was asleep in my love’s arms
and he had the sweetest look on his face.
And I kept on healing.
Kept listening to my intuition.
Kept trying to give myself what I was needing.
Kept giving myself the support I needed.
All the alternative therapies I used helped
in so many ways –
in rebuilding my body,
in helping my anxiety,
in improving my life in so many ways.
And after three months of working with alternative therapies,
I decided I needed to give myself additional support:
of also using anti-depressants.
I felt like I’d gotten my well
filled up a few inches below the bottom,
and I wasn’t bottoming out
but I had this endless feeling that it was only a week away
or another Shitty Thing Happening
to get there again.
So I found a really kind doctor.
And told him the journey I’d been on
and he got it all.
And we chose an anti-depressant that was safe for breastfeeding.
So that’s what I did:
used a balance of both eastern and western medicine.
Healing is just like Shrek, you know.
It’s not linear.
It goes through layers.
All these things may sound like a lot.
It might seem like an impossible list for someone who is deep within it and wants to start feeling better NOW.
What I can say is this:
Every single one of these things helped.
I didn’t do them all at once.
I did them as my intuition, my gut, my heart told me.
Each step of the way, life got easier.
Anxiety got easier.
The huge waves of my life subsided.
I learned and healed.
I learned how to be gentle with myself.
I found what kind of mama I was, and I accepted her with my whole heart.
I chose the path of easy.
I learned about healthy boundaries for myself and my family.
I found deep, huge and abiding compassion for every mother who had been through this, and for every soul who had been through their own dark night.
This story has been ruminating in me for some time.
How on earth could I tell it?
I had to wait until I was beyond it before I could write it.
And when I did write it,
it took three months and 7000 words
to tell the story of my post natal depression.
Even now, I don’t quite know
if I’ve said enough, described enough, shared enough.
But here it is.
I know I need to share this story.
I know some women need to hear it.
I know it needs to be told.
Nine months ago,
I admitted it for the first time
to people outside of Chris & our doctors.
But I couldn’t write it as
“Post Natal Depression.”
I remember the exact words I used.
“Pee. Enn. Dee.
I think I might have it.”
I was terrified of what that might mean
for other people to know that.
Five months ago,
I was crouched on the floor of my childhood home
with my sister
and a dear friend.
And we talked about mama hood and post natal depression
and my sister said:
“Do you think you’ll ever tell everyone you had it? Like write about it?”
I shook my head furiously.
“No. No way. I can’t let everyone know.”
“One day you will know it’s just part of your story. And you’ll feel brave enough to tell the world.”
And today’s the day.
Once upon a time,
a goddess became a mama
and she lost everything she knew
in order to become
who she was.
I wanted to share something.
Something in my spirit.
A friend said to me recently:
I have no idea how you managed to keep working, keep writing, keep doing what you do,
when you were suffering Post Natal Depression.
And here’s the thing:
my job – this funny, beautiful thing of writing and taking messages from spirit and helping other women –
it’s been one of the joys
when my world turned upside down.
With steadfast faith,
I knew I was exactly where I needed to be
doing what I needed to be doing.
I can’t help but be who I am
and I love doing this goddess work
with all my heart.
So I said:
It was exactly what I needed. It was the thing I was born to do.
Even when I was in the throes of Pee Enn Dee,
I still loved my life. I still loved my daughter and myself and my love.
I still found so many things to be grateful for and excited by.
It just wasn’t as good as it could have been, ya know?
It wasn’t the same.
I lost me.
And then I journeyed
and I found her again.
And it was good.
I was wiser and stronger than ever.
I’m beyond Post Natal Depression now.
and my life is good in so very many ways.
I’d always known that in my 27th year,
I would face every single one of my shadows
and it would also be the year I became a mother.
And that’s what happened.
And I’m standing before you,
with the song of my soul
tattooed all over me.
I have foraged in the wilderness.
I have learned what I needed to know.
And I am so goddamn grateful for all of it:
for the depression, and for the healing of it.
I am exactly who I needed to be because of it.
I’m a real woman.
A wise woman.
One who has seen into the depths of a lion’s mouth.
And she’s returned.
Yes, it happened.
And still, there is so much beauty.
still here, still loving and living and laughing with every cell in me,
healing and growing and glowing and blooming and becoming,
happy and freeeeeeeeeeeeee!
all my love,
I wrote this because it was the story I needed to tell. And I knew goddesses would need to hear it.
It was an immense initiation of my life, one that I feel well past now (very happily).
It’s been huge to write this. Truly.
I needed to set these words free, out into the world, to do what they needed to do.
And my arms are open wide
to receive all the goodness that is soaring back to me, into my life.
And life is good.
Anxiety attack free. Argument free. Anger free.
Filled instead with my love, and my daughter, and our gentle, easy way of living life together.
And a dear circle of friends here in Proserpine who have lit up my days and inspired me so wildly.
I’m so damn happy now.
In a way I had thought was gone.
But there it was.
Hiding all along.
If you think you may be experiencing Post Natal Depression,
I just want you to know:
I love you.
things will get better.
They can get better.
It takes time. It takes healing.
Give yourself the support you need.
Everything will be okay.
It’s going to be fucking glorious.