What Dominique didn't expect, when she was expecting

From a very early age, all Dominique Ottone wanted was to be a mum.

She had severe endometriosis and doctors told her it would be difficult to conceive naturally. 

So when Dominique fell pregnant five months after getting married, she couldn’t believe how lucky she was.

But in the final two months of her pregnancy, the realisation she would be putting her working life on hold to dive feet first into an unknown world was overwhelming.

“I cried every day from my last day of work until the day my son was born,” says Dominique. “Things continued to deteriorate after this.”

Dominique experienced what’s known as perinatal anxiety and depression, a condition which refers to the time from conception to one year after a child is born.

“I was very surprised to have the feelings I did,” says Dominique. “I couldn’t wait to be a mum and sometimes I think perhaps the pressure I put on myself contributed to feeling anxious.”

Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) says 1 in 10 women experience depression during their pregnancy, but anecdotal data from its support services suggests many more experience anxiety.

Dominique had heard of postnatal depression, but not the anxiety, which she later learned can go hand in hand.

Her doctor suggested her symptoms were signs of anxiety but she brushed it off. Dominique was even referred to a cardiologist for heart palpitations before she accepted something was wrong.

It took her becoming really upset at a friend over a tiny issue to realise and accept her pressures and anxious thoughts were beyond her control.

“I phoned my doctor the next morning to make an appointment and then phoned my friend and explained it all to her,” says Dominique.

“Once I accepted it and spoke to my doctor, who was amazing, I was willing to give anything a go,” says Dominique. “I went on to medication, which helped immensely.”

Dominique (pictured below) was also referred to a psychologist. 
Dominique and kids
“Although it was helpful to talk things through, I think a lot of the time the feelings were not about anything in particular at all,” she says. “It was a state of mind and only time would heal the pain.”

Dominique says the understanding of her husband and family was crucial and would encourage others to seek help and support as soon as possible.

“It won’t last forever but seek help from someone you connect with and trust as soon as you can,” says Dominique. “If what you are feeling is different to how you were before the motherhood journey talk to someone.”

Dominique says from her experience it can be easy to hide your feelings, even from those closest to you.

“Be observant and let them know you care by checking in with them regularly,” she says. 

Dominique says it’s important to look out for behaviours that seem out of character and if you notice a change gently talk to your partner, friend or family member about it, and encourage them to seek help.

“Be supportive and accept that there may not be a ‘reason’ or ‘answer’ that is black and white,” says Dominique. “It can be just simply a state of being.”

“Continue to have open conversations about her feelings as she progresses through her recovery.”
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