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My Story

 A little poem I wrote for my oldest daughter Isabella, upon her birth. XO

A falling star I did see.
A tiny wish made for thee.
A silent summer sky of blue.
I wished for you,
My dream came true.


My Experience with Perinatal Mood Disorders
Tascheleia Marangoni

I had my first child when I was 22 and my second child when I was nearly 32; one of the reasons that accounted for the 10 year gap was a rather severe case of Perinatal Mood Disorders. Approximately six months after my oldest daughter Isabella was born, I developed postpartum depression, anxiety & OCD. The most severe portion of it lasted at least a year, with residual affects lasting for years after that, and I don't think I ever fully recovered...

I was so thrilled when Bella was born. I thought I was having a boy but secretly hoped for a girl and then when she was born it was such a wonderful surprise. My birth experience went well for the most part, there were a few bumps though. It was my first, I was young and did not really know what to expect outside of what I had read in “What to Expect When You're Expecting”; And really with your first it doesn't matter how much you read, you have no real frame of reference for childbirth. My water broke very close to my due date and by the following day when I had not gone into labour I was induced. My labour was long and I tried various things for the pain, all which made me sick to my stomach. Eventually I gave in to an epidural which ironically only worked on the right half of my body. After what the doctor considered to be too much time pushing he wanted to do a cesarean but I insisted that he not do one unless absolutely necessary. I asked them to use the suction cup/vacuum as an alternative and thankfully it worked. Sadly Bella was born with the cord around her neck and had to be resuscitated; thankfully she was ok in the end. So my first experience with childbirth was not uneventful. I had Bella at the Royal Alex Hospital in Edmonton, AB and at the time they still had some unusual policies in place (like a mandatory enema), and there were other little things that were frustrating, but overall the experience was good and the reward from it - wonderful!

We arrived home a couple of days later with this tiny baby, new parents, without a clue what to do. I had read lots of books and had some instruction from the nurses in the hospital which helped. The baby was nursing well – thankfully. I think I was overwhelmed though. I am a fairly emotional person – I feel too much and think too much. My heart lept with every little cry Bella made and right from the beginning, without realizing it, I was worrying all the time about everything where the baby was concerned.

When Bella was 2 weeks old we took her out for the first time. I remember so clearly that I felt really guilty about taking her out of the house for the first time as if taking this fragile little thing out into the cold, cruel world was a terrible thing to do. I could not stop crying before, during and after but forced myself to take her out thinking I had to do it sooner or later. Maybe then I should have known something already, was not right.

A contributing factor for me was lack of family support. People are often well-meaning, and think they are being supportive, but really have no understanding of mental illness, and either lack compassion or just don't know what to do. This was the case with my husband's family. With my own immediate family, my Father had passed away when I was young, and my relationship with my Mother was very strained. She felt my decision to get married and have a child at a young age was a poor one, and consequently was not very supportive. She herself had, had a bad experience with marriage and mothering and projected this on to me. She had never been an overly warm or loving person with me, and this strained things even more. When Bella was born she did not want to be referred to as Grandma, so her position was very clear. At the time, extended family did exist, but not in a close, warm, supportive way. Even though these were people I saw regularly at family get-togethers, from past experience I did not feel I could talk openly with them or turn to them for support and understanding. It always seemed to me that my family had a very pragmatic view of mental health, which I perceived as hurtful rather than helpful.

I have found speaking out about my experience with perinatal mood disorders to be quite difficult, but my passion for advocating for this illness is so strong that I have worked past my fears. Speaking out about the lack of family support I experienced over the years, is mainly focused on immediate family rather than extended, and has been expressed as part of my desire to create awareness and advocate for those affected by mental illness. My own Father committed suicide when I was 19, and that was something that obviously affected my very deeply. If someone is so sad that they have to end their life, they obviously were not getting the help, understanding and compassion they needed. I have since been on a path of heart, wanting to speak out for those affected by mental illness, and it culminated in my own experiences with perinatal mood disorders... I think my openness about the lack of family support those suffering from mental illness often experience, on my part, has been perceived by some family members as hurtful rather than educational. And I think it is interesting that in situations like this, family will often choose to be offended, rather entertain the idea that maybe they were not as supportive as they could have been. At PMDA we frequently hear from Moms who feel they have not been supported by their families, and when they try to talk to their families about what they are experiencing, it just seems to make things worse. Often
 family members will state & feel they did everything they could, rather than admit to themselves that maybe they could have done more, become more informed, and showed true caring & compassion. This is a common problem, and one that needs correction. But how can this be accomplished? We feel that through awareness, education, and advocacy, Canadians can come to understand what mental illness is, and how to be supportive to family members experiencing it.

Another contributing factor, and component of my illness, was that I was very over protective of my baby. I did not like anyone holding or caring for her, but me & George, and was constantly worried about her well-being. At the time I did not realize this was a common part of the PMD's, but it was. Often with PMD's a Mother can feel either very over-protective of her baby, or completely detached from the child and often reject it all together. What made this situation worse for me, was the lack of understanding I got from family. Instead of support, love and understanding, I was judged and no one reached out to help me. I remember an occasion when I was trying to talk to my Mom about Postpartum Depression and she said to me: “If you know what the problem is then it shouldn't be a problem anymore right.” Where is the compassion? My Grandparents who are very loving people, come from a generation when you were just supposed to suck it up and hush hush pretty much everything. This crazy notion I have of bringing things out into the open for discussion or awareness, is just that to them – a crazy notion.

It was not until quite a few months after Bella was born that I really began to realize something was wrong. I developed Postpartum Anxiety & Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At the time, I honestly thought I was going crazy. I remember one day looking down at my hands and realizing that they were so red and covered in a million little, tiny cuts from washing them constantly. Running through my head was “...out damn spot...”, I think I really thought I was losing it. Without my consent I began developing all of these strange little routines for things, I was counting everything and couldn't stop. I obsessed and worried about a million things and felt very overwhelmed, sad and alone. The one light in all of this was my beautiful baby, she saved me. She gave me a reason everyday to try and be the best version of myself no matter how much of a struggle it was.

And it was a struggle. It got harder and harder to get out of bed, to the point where I dreaded the start of a new day. Things as simple as getting dressed and eating were very hard. Leaving the house seemed as difficult as climbing a mountain. I lost a lot of weight at this time because I just couldn't eat, and felt this way for close to a year.

When it got to the point that I knew something was wrong and decided to talk to my husband about it, I encountered another barrier: my husband. We were both young and had only been together a couple of years, so our relationship was not as solid as it could be. When I tried to talk to him about the problems I was having and that I needed more help from him and maybe others, he was defensive. He thought I was exaggerating some of these behaviors to get his attention; he was very uninformed. As I began to get professional help and he learned more about PMD's, he came to realize how wrong he had been, and sadly not in time. PMD's often destroy marriages as the stress level of an unwell Mom and new baby is too much for a relationship to handle, especially a young relationship. My bout with PMD's damaged our relationship for many different reasons, and when Bella was two we separated for two years. The good news to this part of the story is that love conquered all. George and I loved each other so much that we found or way back to each other, attended marriage counselling and worked a lot of things out. Today we are still in love, happy, and have two more children!

So I sought professional help. I cannot remember where I went first or all of the things I did. I do remember attending a support group at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. I also remember visiting a Psychiatrist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital who prescribed antidepressants for me. At that point in time I felt uncertain about what had been prescribed for me but wanted so badly to feel better. After taking the medication as prescribed for two weeks I felt horrible. I can remember sitting on the floor of the bathroom actually contemplating suicide and I have never felt that way in my life ever. Thank the stars that I had the sense to throw the pills out. I decided at that point to seek some other kind of help and discovered the Edmonton Family Centre. There I saw a wonderful therapist who was kind, compassionate and overall very helpful. Overtime through talk therapy I began to feel more like myself and as I picked up my life again and began to have goals, I recovered a great deal. I don't think I ever recovered completely as the PMD's I had was so severe, and to this day suffer from OCD that needs to be kept in check. Not only that but some family relationships became strained partly due to what happened in these years. It was an epic event that left a huge mark on me and my life. I am however an optimist and also feel that everything happens for a reason. These events good or bad helped to shape who I am today, had anything been different I would not be who I am now.

Something that amazed me during my first experience with PMD was how little seemed to be known about the illness. The nurses in the hospital were astute enough to tell us about it... but who was going to help those of us who actually developed the illness? Who were the experts...? One evening we were out visiting, and during our visit I realized that the baby was sick – she had a fever and all around looked unwell. I was worried. As my husband drove us home I sat in the back near the car seat. At some point I started to tense up to the point where I could not move my hands or arms, they were completely stiff. I had no idea what was going on and was very scared. George took me to the hospital and it turned out I was having a severe anxiety attack, and had been hyperventilating. The doctor on duty told me flat out that I should be on antidepressants, and then I would not be wasting doctors time with this trivial thing. Un-compassionate and uninformed was what I encountered a lot, and it honestly made me more and more afraid to seek help.

I have other experiences I could recount but I think I will move forward in my story for now.

Many years after all of this, George and I talked about the fact that we might like to have another child. What we decided in fact was that we wanted to have two more. One of the first things we most definitely found ourselves discussing were PMD's. We decided we could handle whatever came our way, as we were older and had more life experience. Amazingly enough the postpartum period after my son was born was pretty much PMD free. Everything was different where my son was concerned including the pregnancy. When I became pregnant with my littlest however I began to recognize some old symptoms right away, and even in pregnancy. I reached out to local resources and endeavored to be prepared before she was even born. I read and researched, attended therapy, and probably did a little praying too (even though I am not particularly religious). I developed antepartum depression & anxiety, which rolled right into postpartum depression and anxiety. However I was more prepared this time, but my preparation did not change the fact that I went through it again, nor did it change the fact that even though there is help out there, it is hard to find and often expensive.
What I did find helpful this time around was a more natural approach:
-A Naturopathic Practitioner who educated me on the ins and outs of female holistic health.
-A couple of books - ”How to Make a New Mother Happy” & “The Mood Cure”.
(details for these books listed in the resource section of this website)
-Supplements - For me personally: Bcomplex & B12, C, D, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Omega 3's.
-Dance & movement! (read my article The Power of Dance)

I am now the Mother of three children, and the founder of an organization trying to help other Moms & Families. Have I fully recovered from PMD's? Mostly, but not completely. There are still dark, obsessive thoughts hiding in the corners of my mind, that I fight every day to keep at bay. Creating and working on PMDA has it's pros and cons too. Through helping others I can feel myself healing, and then in diving into the depths of it all I am forced to visit places in my mind I would rather not go. But as I said earlier, it is all part of my life and who I am. I have been rewarded with three beautiful children whom I love so much and would not trade them for anything; a little sacrifice is worth this happiness for sure. With a heart full of love for my children and empathy and compassion for myself and all the Mothers affected by PMD's as part of their childbearing journey, I have shared my story and created PMDA for you. I have healing thoughts and love for you all...