Friday, 30 November 2007

Postnatal Depression: What Are We Doing?...




From the Anne Geddes Collection...I love her work (posters, photos, diaries, plush toys etc)...Anyone know of shops selling them in Malaysia, do inform me!




Today I want to share with you a story I learnt while volunteering in the Neonates Ward in the hospital...


During my two week break a while back, I went back to the hospital to volunteer...Somehow, being away, makes me miss those little kuti babies =)



In one of the nurseries, I saw two identical babies in cots side-by-side...Above their heads, their BHT's (Bed-Head-Ticket) were labelled 'Twin One' and 'Twin Two'...





Twins!



I was busy cooing at them when one of the twins put his tongue out at me, and broke into a grin...Now, from my very little experience, I knew this was definitely not a newborn, because newborns don't stick their tongue out at you, and they don't mimic facial expressions...



True enough, I checked and they were slightly over two months old...

So, why were they still in the nursery? After all, they were not jaundiced, and they were feeding well, and they looked like they were growing just fine! And both twins still in the hospital???


And then the nurses told me the story...



Their mother, a teacher, was a first-time mother...And she was suffering from postnatal-depression...



She refused to take the babies home, and she said (according to the nurses) she wanted to give her babies up because she can't cope...In the first few days, she even refused to touch her babies...



To be honest, I don't even remember what race they were...After all, I see so many babies and twins, and having no names yet, it is harder to remember them individually...Anyway, their race was immaterial...It was their story that caught my eye...



The nurses told me the pakar of the ward had stated she wasn't going to release the babies until the mother was ready...In the meantime, the mother was being given counselling, and the nurses were helping her to become more in-tuned with her maternal instincts...





Think all babies are like cartoon-figured who feed themselves? Nope! You gotta hold them properly, feed them, burp them...




Like teaching her how to cuddle her babies (twins are usually born much smaller than other babies), breastfeed them, clean them, dress them and teaching her how to communicate with them...


I came back and told my mum about the babies, and how their own mother said she did not want them...




In retrospect, I realised that postnatal depression is a very real thing...There are still many stigmas attached to it, but really, it can strike just about anyone, regardless of race or background...

Many people sometimes think it only affects those very young mothers, or those who are 'uneducated', or those who have babies out-of-wedlock, and the list goes on...




But the truth is, it can happen to anyone! This lady was a lady in her thirties, with a loving husband (or so I was told), and she was already financially secure...She is an educated lady, who taught Chemistry in High School (again, so I was told)...



*Note: When I returned to the hospital a month later, the babies had been discharged and last I heard, mum and babies are doing well!*




Anyway, imagine...

It's your first baby, and suddenly you realise you are getting two, instead of one! And suddenly, you realise you weren't all that ready to be a mother after all...






If you've never bathed a newborn before, it can be scary...




I learnt that we, as a society can do so much to help them...And maybe if we did, we wouldn't see so many babies being dumped and abandoned...Just because their mothers were probably not ready to raise little babies on their own!



But what happens when a baby gets dumped? We point fingers and we assume things (hey, I won't lie and be holy-moly...I've done it):-


Oh, not married lar!

Oh, not responsible lar!

Oh, no heart lar!




But did we think that maybe, just maybe, these mothers were suffering from depression? Maybe they were overwhelmed? Maybe they weren't getting the support they needed from their spouses, friends and family? Incidentally, don't their spouses share a portion of the 'blame'?!?



I am just thinking, if we only had doctors and nurses who took it upon themselves to help these mothers...If we only had (more) NGO's and volunteers who would reach out and help these mothers come to terms with the birth, the struggles that come with it, and to help these mothers look beyond their own short-comings, and embrace motherhood...



Motherhood is a very big journey...A simple thing like changing a diaper may be very difficult for someone who has never done so...Throw that in with the fact that some children are born so tiny, they are only a a kilo or two! How do you expect a lady to change her baby if she is not sure how to carry the child in the first place!






Aren't some babies tiny?




I can carry an premmie-infant as small as 1 kilo (about the size of my palm), and tiub-feed, change, dress and clean the little darling...

But I didn't always start out like that...I had to learn...I needed people to teach me, and to give me the assurance that I was doing the right thing...



Which is why we need more people who would do the right thing, and stop pointing fingers...The nurses and doctors of the neonatal ward are a shining example of compassionate human beings, and responsible ones too...*Clap Clap*

They could have said: "Pah! Your baby, your problem! We have newborns to worry about"...

But they didn't...



Maybe we can all do something too...


Doesn't have to be much...





We can offer to do baby's laundry!



For example, we could offer to show a neighbour who is a first-time mum how to bathe her child...We could give the new-mother a few hours of rest by offering to babysit for a while...We could help by helping the new-mother to do the laundry...At least, until she gets the 'hang' of it...=)


It is just to remind these mothers that they are not alone, and that help is available...



Of course, that is just me...

What do you think?




Note: All photos were taken from the web...No photography is allowed in the Neonate Wards, as children and infants have rights too!


29 comments:

Jo-D said...

I never thought about it that way. I always feel that mothers who dump their babies were just idiotic animals. Thans daph for sharing this. My eyes are a little more open now.

*Kerp, I beat you this time! :=)

tokasid said...

Hai Daphne:

Nice topic you got for us this time.

Yes, postnatal depression is for real.And yes, many of us do not understand the problem and hwto help this 'meroyan' mothers.

Postnatal depression is normally known as 'meroyan' or 'gila meroyan' in ost Malay community.

It is not common,the incidence is low.But the problem is seroius and sometimes can be fatal to both the mother and her baby/babies.

These mothers with 'meroyan' needs psychiatric help. As soon as possible. Delay in treatment might lead the mother to become psychotic and we don't want that to happen.

Interestingly, this condition happened to mothers after birth and most of them doesn't have any history of psychiatric problems before.

After birth, these mothers initially becomes anxious before turning to depression. If not identified early, they can get both anxiety and depression and if left alone might progress into psychosis, where they'll start hearing voices and seeing things.

Apart from psychiatric help, they'll need continous support from their husbands and family members esp in looking after the newborn child. Most of the time with proper medication and counselling they will get better.My first experience with postnatal depression was when I was in year 4 of med school. This first time mother was assigned to me. Her hubby was a successful bizmen and she too had a good job. She started to have depression after being discharged from the hospital. Due to ignorance (and embarassment) the family didn't seek any help until she became psychotic. She started to hear voices ,asking her to kill the baby And she started to see her baby as something evil. Finally, her husband brought her to UH. With medication and counsellings and ECT(electric shock therapy) she improved. But during her stay there( my posting was a 4 weeks duration) her hubby never came to see her. Only her parents came, once.

She was there for almost 3 months before discharged. I don't know what became of her after that.

If the babies are left in the hospitals, yes NGOs can have a role to play. But most cases the babies are taken home and will be taken care by grandmothers or aunties.So cases like these, the family support is very important.

What can we do? We as lay ppl must first get away with the public perceptions that 'meroyans' are 'gila'ppl. They are not.Not if we can help them by encouraging them to have psychiatric management.If we just let them slide down, they'll definitely be a 'gila' person.

Mat Salo said...

Daph: Very informative post here and also great write-up by our versatile Doc. I was also going to expound on this gila meroyan business but the good doc beat me to it laar..

Very kesian laa this is a serious affliction, why it happens nobody knows. Interesting like Doc said, pre-natal semua okay, happens only AFTER. But it's real. I know someone who when born (this happened in the kampong) and when he was able to merangkak, neighbors found him crying and almost mau masok longkang worr. People thought the mum kene buat. Nobody heard of PND those days, so now we know better. I think modern medicine still has a long way to go, Sis so should be exciting times for you yet.

kl_gal said...

Its a problem here too. Remember the lady in Texas who drowned her 5 kids in the bathtub?. She was suffering from psychosis which was either induced by or aggravated by pregnancy. Alot of it is hormonal too, so I've read.You're absolutely right..we as a society( meaning in all countries, not only Malaysia) have to intevene and offer support, help and emphaty instead of pointing fingers and casting blame.

adam and eve said...

i guess there is more that can be done.the medical personnel can provide education and counselling but the period between consultation there is a palpable need to tackle the emotional upheaval at home, which can be rendered by support groups especially so with a family which is not supportive.if we have a government that is compassionate and has the will to fight for every malaysians needs than there will come a day whereby lotta NGO will spring up offering support to fellow malaysians.we certainly do not need self serving selfish politician running the country.we need leaders who will look into the welfare of all malaysians in every conceivable ways and to ensure that every malaysian has enough food on the table,shelter and clothing.

Faridah Khan said...

Daphne,
You never cease to amaze me girl. Your posts always use up a lot of my brain cells because I always end by doing a lot of thinking. Your posts can be very long, but they are very well written with all the useful links for further reading. On normal circumstances I won't bother reading blogs which are so long. But this is one blog which makes me want to keep reading because every sentence is packed with meaning. Thank you for sharing. Again this post has more meaning to me because of junior in my uterus!!! Good job young girl.

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Jo-D,

Haha! Oh dear...You can Kerp...Maybe I should offer a lollipop to the one who always gets to comment first (you and Kerp only lar)...=)

I guess we're all tempted to think that these people who dump their babies as being idiotic animals...Cos we cannot imagine dumping our own...But we're not in their shoes, and really, what right have we to judge them?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Doc,

Thank you for the wise words from the horse's mouth...Very enlightening indeed!

Thankfully it is not that common...But we still need to address those that are already happening, right?

I personally believe that the measure of a society is not in how much money it has; it is the society who remembers the lame, the least, the last, the loathed and the lost which are truly great...

And I truly hope Malaysia (indeed the whole world) will become a great society one day...If we don't look out for each other, who will?

And if 'syurga di tapak kaki ibu', then really, we should especially look out for mothers...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Abang Mat,

Yes, Doc Tokasid has always a very long and interesting comment to leave, and I am most thankful! He writes his comments like a complete post! =) Again, most thankful and appreciative...

As for the poor boy, I sure hope help was sorted out for both him and his mother...Mental illness is not a fault of the person affected, and it can affect anyone!

And you are right! Modern Medicine is going places we never thought possible...We are transplanting live organs from totally unrelated people, we're cloning organs, and we're doing a whole lot of things which would seem impossible!

It is an exciting time for all of us, Abang Mat, not just me =)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi KL_Gal,

Ah! Thanks for sharing news from abroad...It will really show that it is not a 'curse' of a certain group of people! I remember that incident...The difference is, the West is a little faster in diagnosing the problem...We have more superstitions (bomoh lar, pawang lar, sui lar, black magic lar, kong/gong-tau lar, etc etc) in Asia, I guess...But I could be wrong...

And yes, here is to a more emphatic and responsible society!

Daphne Ling said...

Ooops, I meant a more empathic society, not emphatic society...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Adam and Eve,

You are right with regards to medical personnel offering education and counselling...

But I don't agree about the reference to the government, in a way...Yes, the government can do a lot more...

But, I think reaching out to people who need help (emotionally, mentally, etc) is not the job of the government alone...It is our responsibility as human beings too! Just because our government is lacking in certain ways (which government isn't?) does not mean the people on the streets should treat each other badly...

We all have to play our role...

This is a human instinct, not a political one...But that's just my opinion, of course =)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Faridah,

Oh...I didn't realise I wrote about pregnancy-related stuff in two subsequent posts!

Anyway, I write detailed posts because there seems to be people who like to come to my blog and pick on every word I say! =) So need to be abit more careful lar...

But then again, mistakes and typos are still bound to happen...And I am naturally very long-winded anyway ;)

But thanks Faridah...I appreciate your words! If I get even one person thinking (hey, each post I write requires my brain cells to go into overdrive too!), then I am happy...Mission Accomplished! =)

Take care...You and Junior...

Anonymous said...

Why should these mothers suufer from depression? The baby's arrivl should be the happiest days.

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Anon 17.48,

I don't think there will be any person who chooses to be in depression lor...But these things happen...The baby's arrival may be the greatest thing to happen, but again, it depends on circumstances, or so I feel...

As for the why's, I can't really answer you...There are soooo many contributing factors...Go Google it!

winniethepooh said...

Everyone learns and need alot of reassurance. i still remember the first time when i handle my first nephew changing diapers, feeding...hahaha can be hilarious not knowing what to do..'legs like hands and hands like legs' hehehe and i am just the aunty not the mom! imagine the mom who feel all the stress to 'know how to do the right things!'

yup, postnatal depression can strike just anyone..be it mother for the first time or 2nd or 3rd, all hv the possibility of getting postnatal depression. people around just hv to be more sensitive, patience and lend a helping hand as much as we can.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

ok jo-d you beat me this time around but daphne posted this while i was away. err, what an excuse huh? hehe...

anyway dafling, this is the case of not always a bundle of joy afterall huh?

perhaps just maybe a mom can blame on depression and all, i may not be able to fully understand that but what do i know about it anyway.

personally tho, as i said in elviza's, having a baby to call your own is worth a thousand death. so its hard for me to swallow news on babies being dumped by the road side, or worse, the trash bins. i mean, how could one simply get rid of one life like some rubbish really beats me. as much i try to imagine being in their shoe, it just doesnt fit. i can be mean and cruel at times but i still have the soft, gayish part of the heart left in me you know.

adam and eve said...

Dear Daphne,
there is nothing political with regards to all my references.politician to me ,majority of the time,are selfish individuals.most of them thread the line IF there is an equal opposition.it's all about public perception not so much bout a deep rooted need to serve the population.
i agree all of us have a strong role to play BUT government with great resources behind it can do great things and they can change the mindset of the people.
the government is chosen by the people to lead,to show good example and to care for its people.
if u were to ponder my interpretation of a government,i think u would have agreed that the potential is so great for this institution to pave the way for a caring and nurturing society

my two sens' worth on government

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Winnie,

Yeah, I know what you mean about the hands and legs! And being a mummy is no easy thing man...I really tabib all those ladies who can do it all and still maintain their sanity!

And ditto on the sensitivity, patience and lending a helping hand where applicable...=)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kerp,

You know, I could never understand it too...Like Chee Keong, for example, I always hangat when I think about how his parents didn't want him, but then when I really think about it, their best decision was to give him up! They could never have taken cared of him...I guess we can never really put ourselves in another's shoes, huh?

But...It is not our position to judge anyhow...

I think having a baby to call your own is priceless too...But who knows what happens in other people's lives huh?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Adam and Eve,

Oh yes, I definitely agree that the "potential is so great for this institution to pave the way for a caring and nurturing society"...

There is a lot our government can do which they are not doing, most definitely...

But I am just thinking that in today's world where there is so much exposure and information, and so many people travelling and being exposed to so many different perspectives and knowledge, I am thinking that change can come without the government too! But the people need to want it enough...

I appreciate your two cents anyhow! =)

PrincessJournals said...

Daphne, those ppl who dumped their babies usually dont fall under pnd category. ppl who suffers fr pnd usually hurt/kill their children at home and its not planned unlike those who dumped theirs.

and yes, pnd is a very serious thing. its not anybody's fault tht it happens. nobody wants to be crazy, right?

Nightwing said...

Yo Daphne,

Great write up. I think for those who can and regularly do check up with their doctors should be counsel during the visiting period.

I am sure a lot of ppl have not heard of Postnatal depression.

Puteri said...

It's too bad that post natal depression is not that widely recognized in Malaysia. Some men divorced their wives coz they say their wives "gila" after giving birth.

It is sad.

However, those people who dump their babies have reasons other then post natal depression. Mostly it is "malu" about having a baby out of wedlock. People who managed to hide their pregnancies, so were able to get rid of their babies, and carry on as if nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to them.

In California you can leave your new born babies at hospitals, and fire stations and you won't get prosecuted for doing it. But people still dump their babies. Either they are ignorant, or they just don't care. :-(

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Princess,

Yeap, agreed that a lot of people dump their babies for a lot of reasons...But I am just thinking maybe some are depressed and overwhelmed...Cos PND manifests as having thinking one is not capable of taking care of the baby and all...=)

And yeah, you are right...Nobody wants to be crazy...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi NightWing,

Thank you...You are right...I think many people have not heard of it...

That's why all of us need proper education and awareness naik-ing...I hope we get more of it...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kak Puteri,

Again, yeah, a lot of people dump their babies because of malu...But I have seen quite a few un-wed mothers who give their babies up for adoption directly after birth at the hospital itself! Which is great...=)

But this whole thing of leaving your baby at the hospital and fire stations in California, that is news to me! Wow...That's great...

Thanks for sharing, and ditto...We know very little about all these issues (like PND, for example) in Malaysia...

Anonymous said...

i agree with what tokasid said. i had a bit if the postnatal blues after my first baby, all due to the living condition. staying with in- laws is different from your own parents. with your own parents, you can manja more & get more pampered by your own mom. in my case i didn't have enough courage to get the attention, so i just keep everythin to myself until averything mounts & becomes heavy to carry on my own.

mabel said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Lucy

http://maternitymotherhood.net