A Happiness Box for Kylie

In September, the Project began to capture longer, more in-depth stories of Advanced Maternal Age Mothers.

We asked each woman to share her life-line, a chronological depiction of her life to date, noting major milestones and how she felt at each in writing. Then we heard their stories in person. Our researchers asked a few questions, but really listened. Some of the most important comments are captured in the audio clips of these session. Where additional resources were shared, we include them at the bottom of the story. Our compilation of their story is this narrative.

Kylie and Family

Kylie with Her Own Family

Here is the narrative, which we call A Happiness Box for Kylie.

During my childhood in Australia, my mother was the main emotional support for both my sister and me. She worked nights as a nurse and cared for us during the daytime. She had to work to help pay for hidden debt that came along with her marriage to my father and that was not a secret she kept from us. As a result, my mother absorbed a lot of stress and became the structural support for our family.

Watching this family dynamic shaped my views of being a parent to represent unhappiness, struggle, and settling for second best.

Throughout my childhood I was a high achiever in all academic areas. I received a lot of praise for my success and also pressure to become a doctor or a lawyer. My mother would always tell that there was plenty of time to have kids and that I needed to fulfill my potential.

A recurrent theme from my teachers and mom was to not settle for second best.

Watching my mother’s struggle and being pushed to having a career first ultimately led me to wait until I was 35 to get pregnant with my first child.

I began my university studies with the goal of becoming a lawyer. During my first year practicing law, I realized that being a lawyer wouldn’t lead me to a personally fulfilling career and I decided to leave. I instead became a teacher and found this path very rewarding. When I was 24 I ended up meeting my now-husband John in Japan where I was teaching overseas. He was from the U.S. and we had a long-distance relationship for a few years. During this time I wanted him to move to Australia and he wanted me to move to the U.S. In my late twenties I ended our relationship as I was tired of having a long-distance relationship and spent time teaching overseas in England and Canada.

The peak of my career occurred in my early thirties when I became an assistant principal at a primary school in Australia overseeing 2,500 children, 1200 in my own school and another 1,000+ were my cohort from feeder schools that I oversaw with my ESL/refugee team. During this time, as well, John and I got back together and he moved to Australia. When I was 35 we married. 

Having fulfilled my needs within my career and having a loving and stable partner by my side led me for the next step in my life and seeking to become a mother.

At the age of 36 I had my daughter Mia in Australia. The only complications I had during my first pregnancy were blood clots. I had to take blood thinners and I also took extra care of myself. I ate well, practiced yoga, aqua aerobics, aromatherapy, and acupuncture. (I still take blood-thinning medication.)

My experience with doctors and nurses was very positive. I was encouraged to write out my birth plan, a common exercise for Australian women, and felt that they were engaged in my pregnancy. I had a midwife during labor and delivery as well who was good for emotional support and acted as a voice for me when I was in pain. I also had support from my friends and family during pregnancy and beyond. For my baby shower my friends gave me a special gift, a happiness box. It contained pieces of paper that said what they liked about me and what I was good at. Also included were dried flowers, photos, and delicious candy. It was a source of comfort after Mia was born when I was up in the middle of the night and couldn’t call my friends or mom for a needed a pick me up. I had a friend that prepared a lot frozen meals too, which was especially helpful!

At the age of 38, I had my second daughter Jacinda in the United States (in Austin, TX). My experience this time around was completely different from my first. I did not have my family or friends from Australia for support. 

My experience with doctors was not a positive one and described best as clinical and inflexible.

Towards the end of my pregnancy I felt unusually tight around my midsection and my doctor said it was because this baby was bigger. When I finally did go into labor it lasted for 3 days and I was told that the baby’s heartbeat was a little fast. I was being pushed to have a cesarean as early as the first day. I really did not want to go through major surgery unless necessary and was fine waiting. I remembered what my acupuncturist, Jacinda’s namesake, who was also a doula tell me that I had a voice and needed to speak my opinion so I was not pushed around. John was my advocate and tried to help me manage my care.

Audio FileKylie Describes the American Doctors Who Cared for Her During Labor and Delivery

When the frequent labor contractions finally came, I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen and could tell something wasn’t right. The nurse proceeded to tell me that pain was normal and they were doing everything they could in a non-attentive tone. What was actually occurring was my uterus rupturing and hemorrhaging. I had developed along my pregnancy a condition called Bandl’s ring of contraction, a rare condition, which my doctor’s never discovered because he mistook my tightness in my midsection for having a slightly larger baby. I had to get an emergency cesarean to save my and my child’s life.

The time after birth was much more difficult than my first. Since I had the cesarean it limited my ability to take care of Mia who was only two. I also carried guilt for not having the cesarean when the doctor first pushed even though I knew I couldn’t foresee my condition. I wasn’t able to go out with the baby as often since I was recovering from the surgery. I also noticed strange feelings of death and some harm coming to my children. I talked with my mom over the phone and she sent me a postpartum depression checklist and I was relieved to find out that this condition was causing these unfamiliar feelings. I then forced myself to go outside and get some sunshine and slowly began to feel better.

Kylie Describes Talks about Identifying Postnatal Depression Symptoms.Audio File

Now I look at my two beautiful girls and think of all the challenges and milestones I have experienced. For me having children later was just a natural and planned part of my life. I reflect and think that even though I may have had more energy in my twenties I wouldn’t have had the skill set to deal with what I have gone through and for what is to come. I am more self-aware and was able to reach out when I experienced postpartum depression and created a support system. Most importantly, since my twenties, I have grown into the person I am meant to be and have so much to teach and share with my daughters that is invaluable.

Audio FileListen to Kylie’s Moment of Reflection.

Other Resources Shared by Kylie (from Australia) on Postnatal DepressionIMG_1019

http://www.seriouslykids.com.au/2012/01/post-natal-depression/

http://www.cyh.sa.gov.au/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=438&np=464&id=2810

http://www.bubhub.com.au/directory/listing.php?id=6805-postnatal-depression-national-Beyond-Blue

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/connect-with-others/online-forums/pregnancy-and-early-parenthood/post-natal-depression-where-to-get-help

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