My Encounter with Baby Blues

If you think that pregnancy and delivery of multiples are tough, wait till the babies are born and the REAL challenge begins! The first wave of siren is BABY BLUES.

Nobody told me about Baby Blues.

If you think that it won’t hit you, (well… e.g. maybe you’re a singleton mom, etc), please be alert. It can hit anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances. With huge physical and hormonal changes, taking up a new role in life, one can never take things for granted. Why do I say that? Cos, I nearly cross the line of sanity. I saw 3 psychiatrists and a sleep specialist, fortunately the conditions went away miraculously within a week without developing into postpartum depression (Thank God!), and this is the story!

Shortly after a grand discharge from hospital (imagine having our parents and sibling over, carrying the 3 babies out of the ward, video taking and all), upon returning home, we decided to let all 3 babies slept in the same cot and relocated the cot from the nursery into our bedroom so that we can monitor them closely. Little did we realize that, this is the beginning of our nightmare.

Cons of C-Section delivery are longer period of recovery, post-natal cramps and pain, and possibility of bleeding from the wound. With no anticipations of these and the immediate taken of roles in looking after the 3 preemies,  plus the torment of taking lots of medication, and distress over low breast milk supply (feeling of “failure” and guilt), I soon found myself in constant “alert and panic mode”, and always pushing my limits to get out of bed to attend to the crying babies.

Every morning and night I’ve to take Antibiotics pills x 2, iron tablets x 2, vitamin C x 3, fenugreek supplement x 1 & pills x 2 to boost milk supply…burpppp…

The feeding, burping, nappy changing, bathing, seems non-stop. While the 3rd baby is done, the 1st baby cry again shortly after that. Even though my mother-in-law stay in to help us, we were all overwhelmed.

I wasn’t able to rest well and soon, 2 days later, prior to bed time, I found blood oozing out of the gauze dressing covering the C-section wound. Roger rushed me to KKH A&E, it was past midnight and by 5am in the morning, I was pushed to a ward for hospitalization. Bad timing, I thought, as our triplets had high jaundice level and Roger rushed back home, fetching them to Polyclinic for jaundice testing soon after I settled down in the ward.

I was left alone in the cold ward when Roger left in a hurry upon day break. The A&E doctors were very worried for me as it’s uncommon for bleeding. They arranged for detailed ultrasound scan and it’s certainly the cause of a nervous breakdown subsequently.

What happen was, the Sonographer scanned for an abnormally long period of time and even had to consult a senior Sonographer for advice. The Senior entered the room and took over the scan job, she looked so distress that I thought I had some terminal illness or what. Then both of them consulted a doctor’s advice. I was so worried, what happen??! They refused to tell me and simply said “it’s all in the report and we’ll submit this report to your doctor, she’ll explain to you later”.

However, nobody updated me on what’s really wrong, the nurses refused to say, they simply said “the doctor will explain to you later”. So I waited and waited, till Roger arrived after lunch and still no news from the doctor. We started to panic. What’s exactly wrong with me? We asked around but the nurses only said “the doctor will explain to you later…she’s coming in the evening after her clinic session…she might be very late…”

So we waited till after dinner and still no news. I started to cry, non-stop. Then they told me the doctor will phone me and tell me what’s wrong with me. But we waited and the phone didn’t ring. Soon, it’s 7pm and Roger is still stuck with me in the ward, waiting for the doctor. We are already worried for the 3 preemies and now this?! The clock is ticking and soon it’s 8pm. Roger started to demand for help… “any doctor please, any doctor will do. Can any doctor read the report and explain to us in layman term what’s wrong with my wife?”

Finally at 8pm plus, a male doctor rushed over and explained it’s only bleeding from a blood clog which is quite common and nothing serious for us to worry about. It may be due to over-stretched of the wound area and I need to be on antibiotic drip plus 1-2 days of stay in the ward. However by then, I was already on the verge of break down.

Soon after, my doctor finally called and explained the same thing to me, I was instructed to rest well overnight and she’ll visit me in the ward the next day. Upon hearing this, Roger was so relief and left at 9pm. 3 preemies were still at home and we were so worried that his mother couldn’t cope taking care of them alone.

Alas after the ridiculous episode in the ward, something triggered me and I couldn’t explain the sudden increase in heart beat, feeling of anxiety, and INSOMNIA. I couldn’t sleep and I mean it, I was soooo worried for the babies, I missed them soooo much that I couldn’t sleep. Soon, I found myself in a near to break down/panic mode, couldn’t rest and sleep in peace, and started walking up and down the ward anxiously.

I asked for sleeping pills but waited for hours before I was given a flu tablet with a sedative side effect. It couldn’t bring me to sleep, and I became more alert after that. It’s 2am in the morning. I panicked and wondered what’s wrong with me.

Fortunately my dear friend Sarah, is a counselor in IMH (Institute of Mental Health) and I called her immediately. She advised me to inform the nurse of my condition and asked for a stronger dosage sleeping pill. She also consoled me and assured me she’ll informed her colleague working in the KKH Mental Wellness Service to attend to me on the next day.

“It might be baby blues or postpartum depression which is very common for mothers”…after hearing that, I finally realize I might be on the verge of crossing the line of sanity.

I followed my friend’s advice and after 2 hrs, around 4am, the nurse gave me another drug (not sleeping pill) with sedative side effect. It couldn’t work as well. I found myself dropping in and out of the sleep in very short duration (a few seconds or minutes) and upon falling asleep, I would wake up in panic. I had experienced chronic insomnia and anxiety problem in my uni days before, thus the feeling of getting “out of my mind” again is very frightening. Thus when the day break and my doctor finally came to my ward, I immediately asked for discharge. I assumed that the “mental block” will go away once I return home. She was surprised at my emotional out burst and assured me the bleeding condition is nothing serious. On hearing my persistence request to return home, she agreed on 1 condition, I must see the psychiatrist from the KKH Mental Wellness team first.

Fortunately my mom came and she could tell I’m on the verge of break down. She knew how I suffered from insomnia and anxiety problem in my uni days so she was quick in picking up the tell-tale signs even though I didn’t tell her what happen the night before. She consoled me and encouraged me to be brave.

The psychiatrist came around lunch time and upon hearing my episode last night, she prescribed the flu tablets (yes, with sedative side effect, so it’s not a sleeping pill) for my insomnia and anxiety, and schedule to see me again weeks later. I was discharged after lunch and upon returning home…

…the problem worsen. The baby cot is still in my bedroom. I still couldn’t sleep, even with medication. And worse, I had suicidal thoughts and irrational thoughts of throwing my babies away. I couldn’t believe what I was thinking and how could I have such thoughts when I went through 8 painful mths to conceive them? Now that they are healthy and miraculously able to return home with me after discharge, how can I have such irresponsible and inhumane thoughts?

That night, after midnight, I decided to take action before I really harm myself or my babies. I woke Roger up and told him about my irrational thoughts and anxiety problems, and my decision to seek immediate help from IMH. Roger was with me during the uni days when I had the anxiety problem and he totally understands the seriousness of the problem if no proper help is administered. Thus he respected my decision and fetched me to IMH A&E straight away.

Fortunately IMH is just minutes away and before I might collapse with a panic attack (emotionally melt down or break down), we saw the psychiatrist and he advised me to stay in for the night at their Sayang Wellness Centre… to be away from the babies for awhile, have better sleep and recuperate well before returning home.

Surprisingly, the wellness centre is a spa-like sanctuary, with rooms well-decorated like a small boutique hotel (cool!), and after popping a Hydroxyzine pill (a type of medication for itch, with sedative side effect but it’s not a sleeping pill), I went into deep sleep. I had well uninterrupted sleep for 4 hrs and the next morning, they greeted me “morning” and serve sumptuous American breakfast. It was like a holiday retreat for me, just what I needed! The nurses were very friendly and caring and I loved the aunties nurses who consoled and encouraged me this condition would go away very soon. They shared with me their baby blues problems when they just had newborn babies and I started to realize I’m not alone.

After breakfast, another lady psychiatrist attended to me and advised me to stay longer. Sarah (my friend who worked in IMH) came by too, with a bouquet of lilies.

Roger arrived shortly after that and we even played table tennis in the centre. It was like back to courtship and it’s so recuperating! We realized that we need a break from time to time, just the 2 of us, to get away from the babies, in order to survive the long journey down the road.

So Roger suggested to move the baby cot out of our bedroom and use dog therapy on me by letting Cola (our cute doggy) resume sleeping in our bedroom. He’s trying to resume back to the setting before babies arrive and let me take over the motherhood role gradually. And best of all, he would arrange short break to the beach or cafe or even playing badminton in the evening. I was sooooo relief that he’s with me in this battle and I felt half the battle won.

The psychiatrist was happy with our intervention plans and family support, she prescribed Hydroxyzine pills for my discharge that day so I could take it if the insomnia problem persists. That was the prettiest morning. I stepped out of the wellness centre, ready to face the challenge ahead. I held Sarah’s lilies in my arms, and let the slight drizzling rain refresh my face. Yes, with family and friends’ support, nothing is impossible, I told myself repeatedly.

Upon reaching home, my mom was there, my mother-in-law was there. It was the day for babies to go Polyclinic for their jaundice blood tests. Both mummies were very good, they suggested to go after lunch instead so I could have sufficient rest.

My mom still sense my tension and uneasiness in taking over the mother role so she sit on my bed and started chatting with me. She shared with me her anxiety and depressive thoughts when she had us (me and my brothers) and how she overcame them. 1 thing which she said that really impacted me was 儿孙自有儿孙福,莫为儿孙作远忧 which means “your children will have their own destiny and fortune, thus do not worry excessively for them”. If we are constantly worrying for them, then there would be endless things in life for us to fear for them ~ whether they’ll fall ill, whether they’ll meet an accident, whether they’ll… …endless.

That night, I couldn’t sleep again. I was having hallucinations of hearing babies crying even though the cot is no longer in my room. We were totally drained after looking after the babies for the whole day, my body is shaking with exhaustion and yet I couldn’t sleep. The Hydroxyzine pills didn’t work this time. Thus I decided to consult a sleep specialist’s advice. It was after midnight, I can’t remember if it was 1am or 2am. I google frantically and took down the numbers of whatever pop up. The next morning, I called them and finally manage to secure a morning appointment with Asia Sleep Centre at Paragon.

Roger was worried for me too, so he fetched me there, hoping that he would not lose his wife to postpartum depression.

Little did we realize, what Dr Kenny Pang said is gonna change our life. His words are more powerful than any medication or psychiatrists’ consultation. While hearing my story, he completed my sentence before I finished it, and he fully understood what we were going through, the insomnia, panicky mode, hallucinations. Surprisingly, his diagnosis is…“you’re completely normal Winnie, it’s what all human beings are going through when they have babies, it’s a natural instinct to be sensitive and alert to babies’ crying at night” I was so shocked, while I thought I’m on the verge of sanity, this doctor said I’m alright ???

“I’ve 3 kids and they are over ten yrs old, but till now I still have lack of sleep…about 3-4 hrs of sleep per day”…and this is what a sleep specialist said. “But it’s alright, as long as you can catch some naps during the day time, even if it’s 30 minutes, even if it’s on the sofa, it’s still considered sleep”…I’m still very shocked and he continued…“we are adults already, and it’s not necessary to have 8 hrs of uninterrupted sleep at night, we are no longer children you know?”

But I’m still very worried about my “abnormal” insomnia condition, so I asked him when would I recover…“well, it depends on you, some people recover within a few days, some take weeks or months, some take a few yrs”… A few yrs!!! What if I’m the unfortunate one who never recover? Oh NO! So I asked for sleeping pills, REAL sleeping pills, but he won’t prescribe…“Winnie, sleeping pill is addictive and I don’t want to move you from a problem to another bigger problem, I don’t want to cultivate a drug addict!”

“I will prescribe none addictive drugs which are not sleeping pills, but how well it works will depend on your mentality. If you can change your perspective and accept the parenting role, even if I give you M&M, it’ll work.” My mind is in a daze, I’m very exhausted physically and all I care about is whether I can sleep…so why is this doctor talking about parenting? “You’re a Christian right? Just leave it to God, He’ll guide you.” With a big confident smile and strong hand shake from him, the consultation ended…I couldn’t understand back then…we collected the pills and left.

After leaving the sleep clinic, Roger suggested to go for lunch at one of our favorite coffee shop. We discussed about what Dr Pang said over lunch and I finally realized having insomnia, being panicky and anxious are all natural parts of being a new parent. Roger said he had hallucinations too, but he felt that it’s “normal” so didn’t think too much about it. But I see it as “abnormal”, so with this mindset, I tend to be negative and fall deeper into baby blues. He encouraged me to take it slowly, rest well and not to take the medication as he’s afraid I’ll be too dependent on it.

Roger is always a good adviser in my life and miraculously, after his “lecturing” I started to see things from another perspective and my outlook changed immediately. A few minutes ago I was “worried, negative, slow and exhausted”, after sorting things out, I was “relief, positive, fast and energetic”…what a surprise! So it’s the mindset after all, like what Dr Pang said!

That evening, I was still afraid of night time and insomnia. I wasn’t that confident that I can fall asleep naturally. After dinner, Roger said “come! Let’s go out for a breather with Cola!” So we left the babies with mother-in-law and drove to Punggol Riverside. It was like back to the days before babies and we really enjoyed the 30 minutes walk along the peaceful river, echoed by trendy pop music from the pub/cafe and restaurant. We were so energized instantaneously! Cola was very happy too!

Guess what? That night, I fell asleep instantaneously. It was like waking up from a bad dream, all the mental blocks went off miraculously. The medication which cost us $200? LOL, all in the fridge R.I.P, Roger said what Dr Pang said is definitely worth $200 and he told me he’s so relief he got his wife back finally (well, previously I was pregnant and bedridden for 8 mths).

And we returned to Punggol Riverside with our buddies for wine and coffee a few days later, enjoying life whenever we can squeeze out 1-2 hrs of breather moment. Mental relaxation is equally or even more important than physical relaxation!

So if you are experiencing baby blues or know someone struggling with it, here’s 10 tips to conquer baby bluesGod bless!

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