Transcript: Tips For Recognising and Coping Strategies for Postnatal Depression
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Tips For Recognising and Coping Strategies for Postnatal Depression and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: Not surprisingly the topic of postnatal depression and postpartum depression often comes up on First Time Mum’s Chat. This is a topic I’m discussing in this week’s episode with Lisa Quinney, a perinatal counsellor located in the city of Melbourne in Australia. Lisa had her baptism of fire when her second daughter was born and she faced a few years of postnatal depression.
Lisa now supports families so they don’t have to go through what she did and you’ll hear her talk about her journey, including the importance of being honest with yourself and recognising that you have a problem and not being afraid or shy to go and get the necessary help. Accepting that you have a lot to learn about being a parent and a mother and you are not perfect.
Finding a supportive doctor who doesn’t simply dismiss postnatal depression and tell you to toughen up and get on with it.
And so, so much more.
Hi Lisa, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here, and I’m looking forward to hearing about your postnatal journey and how it led you to the work you do, helping families in the early parenting stages. Can you start by telling us about you and your background?
Lisa Quinney: Okay. Thanks Helen for having me, I’m really excited to have this chat with you today. So my name is Lisa Quinney, and I live in Geelong in Victoria, Australia and I’m a perinatal counsellor. So I speak with women who are either pregnant or have had their babies in the first 12 months, but even after that, I am very open to support mums in their parenthood journey.
I have had postnatal depression myself after the second birth. So I have 2 daughters, one’s 10 and one’s just turned 8 and one was born in Germany and one was born in Australia. The second one was the one that didn’t go as planned and as expected and yeah, I had a bit of a rough time, a few years with postnatal depression and coming out of it and healing and learning a lot about myself and mothering. I then decided I would like to be a support for women, or parents in general, dads as well, to support them as best as I can, so they don’t have to go through what I went through.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I know a lot of women do go through postnatal depression and it’s very tough and having somebody like you here on the podcast is great because you can share your experience and give mums advice who are going through it, so that they know what to do. So what advice would you give to a mum who was going through postnatal depression?
Lisa Quinney: You know, it’s difficult. I guess I would say get help and advocate for yourself, but it’s difficult because you might feel like you don’t have the strength to do that but it really is so important and I didn’t understand for a long time what was going on. I just knew I was feeling awful and then I guess I just thought, oh, well, maybe that’s how it is. Maybe that’s how you feel when you have children and it’s hard.
I also had just moved to Australia from Germany, so there were a lot of things that I didn’t know how the system worked and where to get help. I did talk to my GP at the time and to the maternal health nurse and didn’t really get anywhere there. So that can happen, so it’s really important.
I already had changed GPs because during my pregnancy I didn’t have a very good experience with the GP I had first. When I had my baby, I asked him, do you think I have postnatal depression and he said, no and there was no curiosity. Now looking back at that moment, I think, why did he not just ask what makes you say that, what’s going on? I think there needs to be a lot more awareness in that space. The people who are supporting us in that space, they need to be more aware of the signs and what does it look like? I think he probably just expected me to be a complete mess, like maybe rocking up in my pajamas and like rings under my eyes, but because I looked put together enough or not being in absolute crisis, he just dismissed it, which is not helpful at all. So I wish especially GPs in that space would know more about what to look out for.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of mums say that about GPs. The medical profession has its place, but I’m a great believer in natural therapies and trying to work out ways to help. From your experience and experience I’ve had myself from GPs, I just don’t think they really care too much.
Lisa Quinney: It’s a bit tricky. Yeah. I can totally see what you’re saying because I thought a lot about that, and I think that the system is really not helpful. It’s not set up for anyone to do a good job in that space. I have spoken with midwives, I’ve spoken with nurses, they are so passionate about what they do and they really want to support, but they just don’t have the time, so it’s really tough. Some of the midwives are so angry that I’ve spoken to because they want to be there, but they just don’t have the time. So there’s a few things there. So GPs might not have the knowledge, like what I said before, they maybe just don’t know.
Then the second thing is they probably don’t have the time to actually attune to the people they are seeing. If it was a more nurturing space and they could actually look you in the eye and take a breath and attune to what is going on in that moment, they might be more caring, if they had that but they don’t have that and after all these years now I have found a beautiful GP, a mother herself, so maybe that helped as well, but I can see how hard she’s working in that, 10 minutes or how much do they get, how much time do they get, maybe 10 minutes per patient? I can see how hard her brain’s working and how, it’s so intense for her to try and do a good job. Yeah, and to be really listening to what I’m saying and what I need and yeah. So it is possible, but it’s hard and I think a lot of GPs might just do what’s absolutely necessary and then a lot of it gets missed.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, just to get a perspective for the listeners from Australia to Germany, because obviously you haven’t had experience in the States, would you say that the GPs in Germany were a bit more understanding than the GPs that you’ve experienced in Australia?
Lisa Quinney: I would say it’s probably very similar to be really honest with you. I do think that the resources in the hospital that the nurses and midwives have that might’ve changed in the last 10 years, I don’t know. When I had my first child there, I felt they were well resourced and had time and they could really create a nurturing space for me to give birth. For example my waters had broken, I went into the hospital and the contractions weren’t strong enough yet, but they didn’t send me home or anything. I was allowed to be there and then they did some acupuncture. So, I have a photo of me being monitored and having needles in my head and my hands and just sitting there waiting and that was nice and I had a water birth there and they were just so helpful, it was really good.
As well, because I was a first time mum then, I had no idea and I hadn’t slept in 3 days. So what happened was Tilly, my daughter had thrown up a lot of the water and she was wet. I was so out of it and I had no idea and I just put her back down. I have to laugh now because why did I do that? Then the nurse came in and she picked up the baby and she’s like, oh my God, she’s wet and I’m like, yeah, she threw up and she’s like, why didn’t you change her and I’m like, oh, I meant to do that, of course and she’s like you need to sleep, you need to sleep. She could just tell I was so out of it. So she took the baby and said, look, you just have a few hours of sleep, I’m going to look after her and I can’t even imagine that happening in the hospital here, what happened with my second birth. I didn’t feel like they had the capacity, the resources to do any of that.
Helen Thompson: You mentioned earlier about the signs of postnatal depression, what were the signs that you had that could give insight to other mums?
Lisa Quinney: Yeah, I think there are two ways of looking at that. So one is the sign that you feel yourself, that moms might want to know, like, how can I assess myself and reflect on how I’m feeling to maybe identify if there’s something not quite right. Then there’s the other perspective of what can health professionals do? GPs, what are they spotting, what can they ask for? I know they have the screening tools, but to be completely honest with you if there’s no trust with the woman, they are seeing the screening tools are completely useless. I know this is a big statement, but honestly, I filled them out, but I didn’t trust anyone at the time because I felt so judged and so scared of what they might do or say about my parenting and how I was going.
I didn’t feel like it was safe to truthfully answer those questions. So there’s no trust. So for the mums if you feel like you’re struggling to get through the day, if you are teary often, if you just don’t feel like yourself anymore, if you don’t enjoy parenthood like you thought you would. The first few days are really tough to adjust and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or second or third baby, it’s always different and it’s always challenging and then also the lack of sleep.
So if you notice, for example, that even when the baby is sleeping, you can’t go to sleep because you’re ruminating lots of thoughts, maybe you keep listening to the baby and you just can’t seem to settle or rest. That’s a sign that I think would be a good idea to get some help to talk to someone. If you feel like you’re fighting a lot with your spouse, if there’s a lot of conflict in the relationship, if you feel like you’re more irritable than usual. I’m not just talking about the baby blues. The first week or so is always going to be really difficult adjusting with all the hormones and the drop in hormones and so on, but if it’s longer than two weeks that you feel that way, it’s time to talk to someone and seek some help.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I definitely can relate to what you say about the judging and the blaming because I hear a lot of mums saying that they’re just so scared that they’re going to be judged and blamed. Every parent is unique and every parent does the best they can. That fear of being judged and being blamed, in the days gone by when I was born, we had all the support, there were nurses. All three of us were born at home, but we had the support of a nurse there, and mum had a nanny and stuff to help, but today, you’re expected just to have the baby and just get on with it, and it’s not always that easy.
You know, I teach baby massage as well and I come across a lot of mums who come to my classes who just find it really hard to bond and connect with their child because they’re going through what you’ve suggested and they just find it really hard to bond and connect. After they’ve done a few sessions they actually then really feel more relaxed and more connected and start having a bond with their baby. I know from what I’ve heard, how hard it is when you don’t have that connection. As you say, you’re so worried that something’s going to happen to the baby that you don’t sleep.
Lisa Quinney: Yeah, that’s beautiful and it makes so much sense. I love you talking about the massage and how that helps to connect and to just really take that time out of your day to purposefully connect with baby. That’s such a beautiful action to take and just in the day to day, there’s so much overwhelm there and moms are expected to do it all and do it well and to just get on with it, like you just said before. It’s just implied that you know what to do and going back to what I said before, the baby had thrown up and she was wet and I didn’t change her straight away. If that was true, if moms would just naturally know what to do, because they have this magical mother instinct, then I would have just done it, right. I didn’t because I needed that support and I also needed to learn how to take care of a baby.
So, no one’s just born with the knowledge of how to swaddle or how to change a baby or how to feed a baby. You have to learn that and it takes time and I think that we just expect mothers to know that, and there’s no time and space and gentleness around that. That nurturing space for women to just give them that time and acknowledge that, oh, this is actually a huge change in your life and you are allowed to take some time to learn and there’s no need to be perfect at this.
It’s the complete opposite what we tell mums and that’s creating so much stress, that of course it’s difficult to connect. It’s difficult to connect to yourself because you don’t know anymore who you are, it’s difficult to connect to the baby, it’s difficult to connect to your partner, because when can you connect, when you’re calm, when you’re grounded, when you have time and space, when you feel safe, and I think a lot of the time, mums don’t feel like that when they have their babies.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, they need the time to feel safe and connected with themselves because as you say, it’s a huge change and babies definitely don’t come with instruction manuals and every baby’s different and every mum’s different, so your experience with your baby might be different from somebody else’s experience with the baby. I think a lot of people think it’s easy. Parenting is fun, it’s challenging, it’s stressful, it’s pleasurable. It’s all those things, but you also got that overwhelm that you mentioned before.
Lisa Quinney: Yeah and I would love to just maybe go back to what I touched on before about what GPs or health professionals should look out for and I think that the signs are very, very subtle because mums don’t feel like they can speak openly about the struggles. It’s expected that they get on with it, that they do it perfectly, and they just know what to do and how to do it, and that they’re happy about it because they have a happy, healthy baby, so there’s nothing to worry about, there’s nothing to complain about and because it’s not okay to talk about the struggles and everyone in play groups and mother groups, I don’t know, I had never had a group where I felt like people were actually really honest and vulnerable, and I know a lot of mums have that, which is awesome.
If you don’t have that, you might not feel like you can openly talk about it. So mums are very good at pretending everything is fine. They’re also really good, they are worried about, if I was really telling my GP how I was feeling, they might take my baby away. That’s a very common fear and I also felt that. I thought, oh my god, if I tell them how much I’m struggling, they might take her away. Which is probably an irrational fear but all fears are often irrational. That one is just really, really common in mums to have that.
So what GPs can do is if a mom only subtly very like just small doubts, like if there’s any clues that she might not 100% love it because that’s what they were trying to show everyone, that’s when they should get really curious. Very subtle clues to look out for like, how are you sleeping? A lot of the time they just focus on the baby and when they do focus on mom, it’s usually very quick and it’s the screening tool, they’ve done it, they’ve ticked it off. It’s really important to pay very close attention to what language she’s using, how she’s talking about the baby, how she’s talking about motherhood and how she’s talking about adjusting.
If there’s not 100 percent all raving reviews about it get curious because that’s enough to dig deeper and make sure to create a safe space for her to be more open and open up more because yeah, we have to be really gentle with those moms.
Helen Thompson: And supportive to them as well because if they’re fearing that the baby’s going to be taken away from them, that’s the last thing you want, because that’ll put them more down into depression. That must be tough, that they don’t feel trusted, they don’t feel that they can talk to somebody.
And what about the partner’s side? That must be a tough one too, because you mentioned earlier about talking to your partner. They, have got to see that something’s going on and to help you to step in, but sometimes your partner might not see that.
Lisa Quinney: Yeah, and so for me personally, my husband said to me, I think you have post natal depression and I was just like no, I don’t, this is hard and I have every right to feel the way that I’m feeling. I’m overwhelmed, the baby, she was unwell, she had silent reflux, so she was screaming all the time and I couldn’t settle her and we didn’t know that she was unwell for a while. So she was just screaming and I couldn’t settle her. So I felt like this is the second time I’m doing this and I can’t calm my own baby down. I’m a terrible mum for not being able to do this.
A lot of self blame and a lot of criticism that I was doing to myself and often when there is a diagnosis in the room or there’s a suspected illness or an issue, we don’t want to look at it because it’s scary. So what I did was just try to push it away because for me, it was like, no, I spoke to the GP and he said, I don’t have it and so I just soldiered on for a long time without the support. I wish I could go back in time and just tell myself, you need to keep looking for support. I did call a center that look after women in that space and they didn’t have capacity to take me on for another 6 weeks or so.
I said to my husband in six weeks, I don’t know who is going to be still alive. It’s either the baby or me, but we’re not going to make it. That’s how bad it was, I was in real crisis and so that was tough and it’s really hard because dads, they go to work they’re gone all day and then they come home and they’re tired and then often they get the babies thrown at them, I need a break and they’re like, Oh my God, I just drove an hour and a half to get back home, I’m so exhausted and now I have to do this. It’s so hard for the couple to get through that because often they feel like they’re both drowning and they don’t have that village that everyone’s talking about. They just have to do it on their own. We had a lot of fights because there was a competition going on who’s got it worse and it’s so silly. Who’s suffering the most and now I can laugh at that, but I feel for us both in that time because both of us just needed to be heard and seen and understood in our struggles, but neither of us had the capacity to do that for the other one. That makes sense?
Helen Thompson: It does make sense and you had a little girl to look after as well. So, I admire you for going through that and getting through it. I always say that mums do the best they can. Every mum is special and I think that’s a really important thing to say. A lot of mums feel, and you felt, that they’re a bad mum, they’re not coping and no, they’re not coping, but it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad mom. It just means that you need that support and you need that help. That’s where the fear comes in, that people think oh, you’re a bad mom because you’re not doing this and you’re not doing that, you’re not coping but you are coping but you just need that extra support and I think that’s where doulas are good too.
Lisa Quinney: Like everything you said, 100 percent agree with you. They also have that warmth and that nurturing attitude. They come into your house and they’re there to support you. You might be feeding your baby and they give you a massage, which is so amazing. I think mothers do so much mothering and caring and nurturing and they’re so attuned to what everyone else needs, the toddler, the baby, the partner and they’re trying to please everyone and do it all, but then who’s looking after mom? Moms need to be held as well. Who’s filling my cup and often that comes last.
I think having a doula, especially in that postnatal period, it’s such a wonderful thing to do. I didn’t have that and probably if I even had known about doulas back then and that they were available. I needed it, but I didn’t think that I was worth spending the money on. So my self-worth was very low at that at that time too. Now, if I had a baby, if I had my time again, if I had a baby now I would get all the doulas, because I know now how hard it is and it’s not my fault, it’s not my failing it’s not my shortcoming as a mom, it’s not that I’m inadequate. It’s that it is bloody hard and so I have every right to ask for support and now I know that, but I didn’t know that at the time.
Helen Thompson: But it’s also knowing that you have postnatal depression because some mums may not know that they’re actually suffering, and they’re actually going through it and that makes it harder, because even if they know about the doulas, and they know about all of these people that can come and help them, if they physically don’t realize, or they just think it’s normal to feel what they are, that can be an issue as well. They’re going down a rabbit hole because they don’t understand what they’re going through.
Lisa Quinney: Yeah, and that’s so true. I can see what you’re saying and it was really that for me as well. It took me a long time, several years to get to a point where I thought, Oh, hold on, actually I don’t deserve to feel how I’m feeling all the time and like I said, it had to do with that self esteem and how I thought about myself.
So it was a bit of a journey, so really motherhood just completely unraveled me, broke me down, and then I put the pieces back together. It’s like an onion, completely peeled to the core, and I’m like, oh, okay, hold on, now I have to reassess, what is going on in my life, and how am I feeling about this.
Okay, I’m feeling awful most of the time, and that’s actually not how life is supposed to be like, and I deserve to feel better. So what can I do about that? What has helped me to come to that realization was starting to do meditation. Once a month, I went to a sound healing meditation in a group, and that’s where I just had this dedicated time just for me, where just really tuned in to see how I’m feeling, what is going on for me and just enjoy that sound bath and that time for myself and have that reflection and having beautiful positive affirmations for myself. So slowly, slowly I built myself up to come to that point where I just thought, nah, I have to go and get more support and I will read about it and I will find out what is going on and then eventually, after 6 years, I got retrospectively diagnosed with postnatal depression. 6 years!
Helen Thompson: I’m pleased to hear that you built yourself up and I guess that’s what brought you to do what you do now because you’ve gone through it and you’ve come out the other side. You’ve got that knowledge to pass on to other mums does that make sense?
Lisa Quinney: Yeah and it’s now when I am with mums who are going through a tough time and they have their beautiful little baby, I love the babies they’re so wonderful. It gives me so much joy and they love them so much to be there and it’s just in that space to be invited into that vulnerability I feel so grateful for that. They are so strong, they’re fighting so hard to be the mom they want to be. It’s inspiring to see that. I feel so grateful to be doing this now. So I actually don’t want to change anything because I’m honestly grateful for what happened and what I went through because it’s given me so much compassion and empathy for the people that I work with.
Helen Thompson: It’s also given you strengths as well. It’s given you encouragement as well. You mentioned before to look after yourself, and I think it has given you that opportunity, but it’s also given you the opportunity to have the strengths for yourself. It’s given you that trust, it’s given you that confidence.
Lisa Quinney: Yes, exactly and in the center of it all for me personally, in that whole journey, is self love. Loving myself enough to allow myself to go to that meditation, to fill my own cup by going for a walk on my own, to join a yoga club, to learn singing. Different things that I wouldn’t have allowed myself at the time, because I didn’t think I was allowed to spend the money or I was worth it, but loving myself fiercely, with all my heart and really tending to my needs and what is good for me. I do that all the time now. Every day I ask myself, okay, take a deep breath and I check in with myself and I assess how am I feeling right now, what do I need most? Then sometimes, okay, I feel like I have this excess energy, I need to go for a run and I organize and I do it. It’s really important to do that. I didn’t do any of that back then. I didn’t really know how to look after myself and now I’m trying to teach the women that I work with and the parents that I work with to really love themselves so much that they can be less critical about what they do and have more compassion for what they are going through and then also find ways how they can fill up their own cup without feeling guilty about it and to genuinely enjoy the time that they’re carving out for themselves.
Helen Thompson: I think that’s very inspiring and it’s good that there are people out there like you, who can inspire mums and support them in a sense that they’ve gone through it themselves, so they know exactly what they’re going through. To me, that’s really inspiring and I’d like to say, you’ve been a great mum, even when you were going through that, you’re still a great mum.
Lisa Quinney: That’s very kind of you to say.
Helen Thompson: It’s true. I can see it in your passion and I thank you for sharing that and getting it out there because I think the more people that talk about it, the more supportive we’re being for others, so they can see the signs and it can support them to think, oh, okay, I need to take time for myself, how can I do that?
So if somebody wanted to find out about how you support people how would they go about doing that?
Lisa Quinney: Yeah, so I have a website, WalkWithLisa.com.au and I also have an Instagram page at Walk.With.Lisa where I share almost daily some of the ways that I practice self love for myself and I also have created some affirmation cards for moms that are free. So if someone wants to check that out they can use them as well and just get in touch. I support parents through telehealth or in Geelong in a practice room as well.
Helen Thompson: I love the name of your website, Walk with Lisa. To me you’re just there to support and it’s just sort of got a spiritual side to it.
Lisa Quinney: Yeah, because it’s a journey, it’s a path. So I’m just there for a little bit of that journey that you’re going through to support.
Helen Thompson: Thank you for being here and sharing on postnatal depression I really appreciate that.
Lisa Quinney: Thank you so much for having me.
Helen Thompson: I really admire Lisa’s courage and dedication and how she overcame a major obstacle in her life. I highly recommend checking out her website and getting your free Empowered Mama Affirmation Cards. I’ve included links to these as well as Lisa’s Instagram page and a number of previous First Time Mum’s Chat episodes relating to this topic in the show notes which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/145.
Have you experienced postpartum or postnatal depression in your parenting journey? If so, I would like to hear about it and anything you would like to share about your experiences. You can either send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively, leave me a voicemail at MyBabyMassage.net/message.
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