by Anneke VB
I have four kids. During all pregnancies and postpartum I was flagged as showing signs of depression. I wasn’t surprised; depression is something I had been familiar with. It was just always there, especially during the first 10 years that I was in Canada. As an immigrant, I had a hard time fitting in, and unsure how to access the resources I needed. I didn’t have a community, and though my husband is my best friend: he really was all I had.
Two years after first arriving in Canada, I got pregnant. It was planned, but I couldn’t have been less prepared emotionally. I was 26 and I hadn’t given parenting much thought, but I winged it. Child is 14 now, still alive and without major trauma, child says. In the following years, I just went from pregnancy to postpartum, always was screened and found to be scoring slightly too high on the (flawed) Edinburgh scale. A doctor would mention something about looking after myself, and that was it. I didn’t give it much thought, as I plodded along.
It wasn’t until my last one when things started to feel off for me. One of my earliest memories of postpartum with my 4th is what I now refer to as headlice day. It was the first day of winter break, and I had found headlice in all the kids’ hair, my husband’s and my own. It’s a rite of passage for most family with young kids, but it couldn’t have come at a worse day for my family.
With my husband
having to work overtime, I spent the whole day doing headlice
treatments, the nasty chemical kind. I was exhausted, which is to be
expected 3 weeks postpartum from a c-section, and baby had to spend a
lot of time unhappy in their crib. It was (and still is) the longest
day of my life.
Once it was time for me to give myself treatment, I had given up. While the kids maybe had a few headlice here and there, my hair was literally full of them. I saw no other way out then cutting all my hair off, and giving myself a treatment, while husband put the kids to bed, way after their bedtime. There are benefits to wearing a head scarf and rarely having visitors. Nobody asked me a question.
While headlice day was an exhausting day for good reason, I never really recovered mentally. I was already not doing great after baby was born, but now I literally felt myself spiraling. I didn’t enjoy life and didn’t enjoy being me. My doctor got me on a waiting list for counselling, as we didn’t have insurance and due to our financial situation, we didn’t have many other options. I didn’t want medication, as I thought it too complicated, and I had no energy to research the options to make a well-informed decision.
Early March I had to drive my child to a birthday party, and while navigating traffic with 4 kids, I thought how much easier it would be if I just had an accident. I can’t say it was a scary thought, as it wasn’t. It felt like an option that I felt rather intrigued by.
After that day, slowly things got better. I started to realize that I had options and that felt very liberating. With the warmer weather I was able to get out more, which was only getting easier with baby getting older. Counselling had started and while I never thought it particularly helpful, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and who I was beyond being a parent.
By summer, things had much improved, though it wasn’t really until I started working a part time job 10 months postpartum, that things really started to change. Work brought (and brings) me so much joy and I love what I am doing. An important part of my work now is to share my experiences as an immigrant parent with perinatal depression, but also to create services that support parents who are situations like I was. I did it (mostly) alone, but parents shouldn’t have to. There are so many resources out there now. Please, ask for help. It is the most courageous thing you can do for yourself.