Inside the NICU

I was a “1 in 3”

Postpartum depression and perinatal mood disorders affect up to 1/3 of mothers, and rates can be even higher for mothers whose babies have spent time in the NICU.  This post was written by one of our graduate mothers who has found her way back from postpartum depression. We thank her for this beautiful post, which will help other mothers find their way too. 

We spend our lives planning for and dreaming about the family we are going to have. We have heavenly images of the blissful moments we are going to experience with our newborn baby. We are going to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth naturally to a healthy baby on our expected due date. Maternity leave will be like a vacation as we socialize with other moms and our babies play together. We cannot wait to embark on our journey to motherhood. It is supposed to be the happiest time of our lives and we have waited so long for it.

After four years of trying to get pregnant, a diagnosis of stage 4 endometriosis, a laser laparascopy surgery, and an intrauterine insemination (IUI), we were very blessed to become pregnant with monochorionic diamniotic (identical) twins, sharing a placenta but not equally. One baby was much smaller than the other.

At 24 weeks, we had weekly ultrasounds and other tests at our regional high risk clinic. At week 28, we were referred to a Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center Twin Specialist and one week later admitted to the High Risk Obstetrics Unit. For the next six weeks I was on modified bed rest, stopped working, tried to relax and continued eating as healthy as I could. This was in between several hospital admissions and trips to triage for pre-term labour symptoms. After over 30 ultrasounds and non-stress tests, we were scheduled for a c-section at week 35. Baby A had essentially stopped growing and there was a 40% size difference between our little ones. We waited 3 days in hospital for a delivery room and NICU beds to be available and coordinated, and were incredibly lucky and thankful to be able to deliver and stay at Sunnybrook.

Our handsome boys were born at 35+1, baby A at 3 lbs 1 oz and baby B at 5 lbs 2 oz. There were some complications but overall, our babies were healthy and tolerating their feeds well. We had so much to be thankful for. Everything seemed to be working out as best as it possibly could. A combination of vigilance and strong advocacy helped us get what we felt we needed for our boys. After four exhausting weeks in the NICU, our boys came home at 4 lbs 7 oz and 6 lbs 7 oz.

In my preparation to be a new mother, I had read all of the books and blogs that I could. My supportive husband and I attended twin specific classes and organized the house with supplies to the best of our ability. As a family we reached out to others to maximize the use of available resources. For the first 3 months, I ensured that somebody came to see us almost every day when Daddy was off at work. To reduce our experience of sleep deprivation, we hired night doulas to care for the boys for several shifts. Our fantastic large group of family and friends came to visit, help with burping babies, run errands and do household chores. We were surrounded by love and support.

The long winter months, RSV season and breastfeeding two preemie babies made for a situation where I could hardly ever leave the house. Despite this, I was very high functioning and organized. I was task oriented, driven and motivated. We kept to an “on demand” schedule that worked in feeding, pumping, burping, changing, napping, playing and a lot of tummy time for both boys. I was relentless about ensuring that nobody with cold or flu symptoms could enter our home. Thankfully, our boys were feeding and growing well, developing normally and quickly catching up to their corrected age.

I believed that I had every rational reason to be happy and feel content in my new journey as a mother.


I could feel nothing. I was empty and sad. I was panicked. Sometimes I hallucinated. It came to a point where I could not sleep. I was constantly feeling famished. I was significantly exhausted. I feared many things. I developed low self esteem and lost my confidence. I felt like a horrible mother for feeling such utter despair.

Then, one dark morning, it hit me. I realized I was the “1 in 3”. How could this be happening to ME? I had done everything I could to make sure we were as supported as possible. I now had the family I had always dreamed of having. Everybody was healthy. Yet, it was dark for me. I knew I needed help.

So, despite the guilt, shame and stigma I felt, I sought the help I needed. This entailed a visit to my family doctor. We decided together that a referral to an outpatient mental health clinic was necessary. I did not have to wait very long. The next week, I was assessed by a psychiatrist and we collaborated about a plan of action that would best suit my needs. For the following few months, I actively participated in my process of recovery which included taking medication and making regular visits to the clinic for counseling and cognitive behavioural therapy. I learned so much from my therapist and doctor. The interventions really helped to make sense of everything that had happened in this situation and in my life in general.

On the home front, we arranged for a mother’s helper to come a couple of hours a week so I could begin to get some rest and take care of myself too. I was diligent in my goal setting and motivated to find happiness. All I wanted was to feel something again, to get up each day without panic attacks and exhaustion, so I could really enjoy each moment that I was blessed to have with our boys.

I continued to use the same strategies to care for our sons as I did before this all happened. The difference was that I had to learn how to relax while maintaining my vigilance. I learned to accept the transformative time I was in. I began to believe I could be the mother I always wanted to be, that I already was being! Slowly, I learned how to find time for myself. As our boys continued to grow and develop well, the fears I had lifted and the hallucinations were gone. I began to fit exercising into my routine. I reflected on my values and beliefs and increased my self esteem and confidence.

I found myself again.

I am happy to be able to write that I am recovered from my experience of post partum depression. While it was scary and difficult, I am so thankful that I sought medical treatment and that I was honest with myself and my family. My main message is that it is okay to have felt the way that I did. It is not something that needs to go unnoticed. It is something that can and should be treated.

I sought treatment and we all benefitted from it. If you are also a “1 in 3” I encourage you to do the same.


Beautiful boys!

About the author

Kate Robson

1 Comment

  • I am hopeful that others will benefit from your personal recovery of post partum depression. Too often we feel that these symptoms will abate on their own and so we continue to drag ourselves listlessly through each day, feeling guilty even having these feelings. You were fortunate to receive professional help without too much wait time and wonderful family support. Many forego the former as they feel there are stigmas attached to mental illness albeit acute. Sadly too many mothers are not quite sure how to get the help they need, or families are far away. I suppose a good starting point would be to consult with their family doctor. And I hope they do.

    It sounds like your little family is more than thriving. The little fellows look grand.
    All the very best to you all.

    Mrs. W. Bronson