It was the 4th of September – a very special day for me, as my first grandson was born. It was a traumatic time as he spent his first five days in intensive care. I tried to reassure my daughter that all would be well and that soon she and her son would be home and would be very happy.
This was not to be. It was only the beginning of the most heartbreaking year I was yet to experience with one of my children.
It was during the second week at home that I began to recognise symptoms of my daughter’s depression; symptoms other than the tears of ‘Baby Blues’.
I knew she was ill and needed immediate help. I phoned every hospital and institution I knew of in the public system, but there were no available beds.
Someone gave me the phone number of PANDA. I rang and was helped and encouraged to battle on and seek medical help.
My worst fears became reality when my daughter and her husband returned from the doctor with the diagnosis of PND. The dosage of medication was of no help as my daughter’s condition worsened daily.
I began spending every day with my daughter and her baby; arriving at 8.00 a.m. and leaving anytime between 6.00 p.m. and 10.00 p.m. sometimes staying overnight.
Due to the anger, I could feel my daughter’s husband was finding it hard to cope with the situation, and my daughter was rejecting her baby more and more as she became more ill. Another GP was consulted and a higher dose of medication was given. This time the medication did help a little, but not enough.
It was now four months of suffering for my daughter and all of us. I was now on medication to help cope.
Suddenly, my daughter’s condition became so extreme that I had to ask for help from another family member. I felt my heart was shattering as I could see my daughter falling apart in front of me, and I could not ‘make her better’.
We sought psychiatric help, as the GP could not understand why my daughter could not go on as she was, seeing as she had for four months!
There was no immediate psychiatric help available but an assessment team was called in to see her at home. Although they called daily, I couldn’t really see that they were able to do much for the illness PND.
They suggested more help from her husband, and for her not to worry about housework. The counseling achieved little.
Finally, the worst day arrived.
I received a phone call from my daughter; a voice I could barely distinguish as her voice.
“Mum, help me! I can’t go on any longer. I don’t want to live any more.”
My husband and I went straight around to her. It was not our daughter sobbing in a dazed state. It was a stranger. After many loving words and reassurance, we calmed her down. Then she rang PANDA.
We were provided with the name of a doctor with special interest in PND, and the next day her husband took her to the doctor while I stayed home looking after the baby – and I prayed that at last we would find the help we needed. My daughter came back with a smile on her face for the first time in five months.
She said, “I’m going to get better.”
At last we had found someone in the medical profession who knew what to do about PND and knew of her suffering. The medication dosage was correctly adjusted and I took her for weekly visits at first, then fortnightly, and now monthly visits.
I thank my husband and other daughter for the wonderful support they have given, as I can now see my daughter ‘coming back’ and at last having true maternal love for her special little boy.
She is still on medication and still has a long way to go, but the rays of sunshine are peeping through the clouds, and SHE KNOWS that one day she will be her complete self again. We’ve shed many tears over those months past, and now we can share laughs together too.
I still visit often, but she can cope herself now, mostly. If she is tired, she has a rest while I play with my grandson. She has a safety net of family and friends, a wonderful doctor, her local Health Sister, and the others at the PANDA group.
I know that one day soon, she will be in a world of sunshine once again.
I beg any grandmother to:
BE THERE for her daughter (in law).
BE THERE – to hang out the forgotten load of washing, or fold the clothes.
BE THERE – to ensure she has home help if you are unable to do it.
BE THERE – to explain to her friends that she is ill, and give them some information about PND.
BE THERE – to inform the Maternal and Child Health Nurse if she doesn’t have information about PANDA. She will also help with home visits.
BE THERE – to care for your grandchild when his/her mother is suffering.
BE THERE – to ease the financial burdens if possible.