Postpartum depression is a terrible thing. You have no idea what it is, even when it hits you smack in the face.
Many women don’t see it coming, and when it dawns on them that it’s more than baby blues – that they are truly feeling the pangs of a deep-seated depression – they struggle to get help and quietly hope it’s just a phase that will pass.
“I got pregnant after a first round of IVF and many years of trying naturally. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy,” she opens up. Shen-Tel was bleeding throughout her pregnancy and almost lost the baby twice, first at 12 weeks and then at 34, when the placenta tail was dislodged, cutting off the baby’s food supply.
“I thought he’ll never make it. Doctor wanted me to keep him for another two weeks and prescribed bed rest. I had to have an emergency C-section because I was bleeding again. I went from having prepared to have a normal delivery to being shocked by the sudden turn of events and then dealing with the pain post-surgery.”
Shen-Tel would cry everytime she looked at her son and she couldn’t explain what was happening to her. “I knew deep down that I really wanted the child. The amount of effort I put in to have him surely proves it but I was sad, thinking my life is over! I told my husband I was never going back to work and wanted to live in confinement for the rest of my life.”
All she felt was a great sense of hopelessness and helplessness. She never thought that the happiest time of her life would become her saddest.
“I was home one day with my dad when I gave him the baby and announced I don’t want ‘it’ anymore. I then called my friend in Sydney and explained what I was experiencing, and she told me straight up that my hormones are out of whack and I have post-partum depression. She advised me to see a doctor and that he will give me some drugs to fix me up,” she laughs.
Shen-Tel’s obstetrician-gynecologist explained that the roller coaster of emotions she’s experiencing is due to hormonal imbalance and she was given some anti-depressants to take. She didn’t feel anything on the first day but the next day, it felt like the dark clouds in her life have parted and she could finally see the sun after a heavy storm. “I’m so happy to have come out of that dark place. It made me realise I was just pushing everyone away with my sad-for-nothing feelings.”
She now understands her condition better and is able to help other women who are going through the same anxieties. Through her experience, she was able to identify the signs of postpartum depression in her sister Elizabeth Lee-Yong.
“Well, think about it. You’ve been carrying this child for 9 months, nurturing it every second and suddenly, it shrieked out of you and your body still thinks it’s responsible for this ‘thing’ that’s actually not there anymore. It takes time for the body to readjust itself. The body really goes through so much changes with a pregnancy.”
It doesn’t get any easier with the second child, she says, but you know what to expect. “It’s important to be aware of how your life is going to completely change and the problems you may have as a first-time mum. When I left the hospital with the baby, I was asking for a book or schedule. I wasn’t even sure if the doctor should be sending the baby home with me!”
A BETTER PERSON
Shen-Tel’s advice for new mums would be: eat well, get help, if you have to go back to work, go and finally, do what makes you happy. There will be challenges, the path of motherhood is never smooth sailing but never be afraid to ask for help.
“Post-partum depression can take a toll on the husband and wife relationship but I am very lucky to have married the right person, my best friend. Bobby has seen me at my worst and I know it was a hard period for him too but he’s been amazing,” recalls the mother of two with a twinkle in her eye.
All said and done, Shen-Tel says motherhood has made her more efficient, decisive and empathetic towards other women, especially her employees. Being a mother is the one decision in life she has never regretted.
See all the photos from her second baby's full moon party here.