Podcasts Viktoria Angelova on fighting for adequate medical care, and how to let go of the idea that other people know best Listen/ Watch links: Enjoying the show and you'd like even more? Become a Patron! SUMMARY-Join Carly and Viktoria as they discuss Viktoria's ideas of what parenting would be, her reality once baby arrived and her residential sleep centre stay. Hear about Viktoria's fight for adequate medical care, and what they found when they finally listened. Full Episode Transcript: Carly: The Beyond Sleep Training Podcast- a podcast dedicated to sharing real tales of how people have managed sleep in their family outside of sleep training culture because sleep looks different with a baby in the house and because every family is different there is no one-size-fits-all approach to take. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this podcast is being recorded, the Kalkadoon people, I pay my respects to the elders of this nation and the many other nations our guests reside in from the past, present and emerging. We honour Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, water and seas as well as their rich contributions to society including the birthing and nurturing of children. Carly:And welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training podcast. I’m your host, Carly Grubb, and with me today is the wonderful Viktoria Angelova. I should have checked. Is it Angelova? I just realised I said your name without checking. Viktoria:Yes. Yes. Carly:Beautiful. And Viktoria is one of our members of The Beyond Sleep Training Project group, and she kindly volunteered to come on the show with me today so that she can share a bit about her journey with sleep with her little family. So, welcome Viktoria. Viktoria:Oh, thank you Carly. Thank you. I’m so honoured to be here. Carly:Wonderful. And so you’re based in Sydney, currently in lockdown. Would you like to share a little bit more about you and your family before we get… dive straight in? Viktoria:Of course. Yeah. Yeah, I’m based on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and we are in the thick of our longest stretch of lockdown I guess. We’re now finally getting to feel what people in Melbourne were feeling last year. But just a bit about myself. My mum’s Russian, my dad’s Greek. So, I’m a bit of a mix. If you kind of go a few generations back there is like a bit of Finnish and a bit of Serbian and a bit of Hungarian and all sorts of things. But I came to Australia for work about seven years ago and I met my partner at work. It was never kind of… I never planned to stay in Australia initially, but here we are seven years later and two children later. This is my home now so… so yeah. In terms of my family we have a two years and eight months old boy named Mick, and a baby girl whose name is Maya. She’s seven months old. Carly:Wonderful. And do you have any extended family around you in Australia? Viktoria:No, we don’t. And yeah, we’re… we’re a typical, nuclear family. Our closest relatives are about 15,000 kilometres away in Greece and in the UK. Carly:Wow. Very much isolated, and then even more isolated by COVID. Well, I’m sure that will play part of your story, so we should probably get into it. Can you tell us, before you had your first babe, did you have any plans around sleep or babies in general? What was going on for you before he arrived? Viktoria:Yeah. I would probably say we were absolutely naïve when we thought about having a family. Me and my partner were like looking at each other with this lovey-dovey look in your eyes, and you would say, ‘Oh, you would make a great mum’ or ‘You would make a great dad’. But we had no idea what it actually meant. And I’m sure many people were in that kind of situation. We both come from kind of corporate, finance backgrounds. So, we had absolutely no idea. We were so far removed from kind of any… any experience, any real world experience with children, and especially young children. So, we had… we really had no idea. And I remember while I was pregnant with Mick I would be going and buying all these things online, and I got a cot, the most useless object as it turned out. And a change table, and it’s all matching design. And I put them in the nursery along a rocking chair. So, those three pieces of furniture I sold on Marketplace about four months later. Carly:I love it. That you made that call. I think it took me about two years to sell ours. I just… I don’t know, I still for some reason couldn’t part with these useless objects. Viktoria:Yeah, we just, we figured out that the whole nursery essentially became just a storage space for all the baby gear. [5:00] But there was never a baby in the nursery. Carly:Best laid plans though. You had it all set up. Viktoria:Oh yeah. Oh yeah. That was hilarious. And I was even, I remember like being eight months pregnant and just sitting on that rocking chair and kind of looking at the cot and imagining my baby sleeping peacefully in the cot and kind of kissing him goodnight and leaving. All that stuff. It was so hilarious now that I’m looking back at it. So… Carly:I feel like that’s the perfect spot to dive on in. How did it actually go when this real baby arrived? Viktoria:Yeah. That was… it really took us by surprise. I mean obviously we had… we had a bit of a tough journey before we had Mick, and so we were already what I would say kind of a little bit more anxious and a little bit more stressed out than we should have been as parents, as new parents. Thankfully it was before Coronavirus hit, so our baby boy was born in… just the last day of 2018. So, he was a New Years Eve baby and my mum was able to come and help out, and she was part of the birth. So, that was really, really wonderful. And the first few days out of hospital I kept thinking, ‘Oh my god, he’s… he’s not really sleeping a lot.’ Like, he would sleep for an hour and then he would wake up and he would feed. I didn’t even know the term cluster feeding at that time. But I just knew that I was absolutely exhausted. Our sleeping arrangement at the time was we had like what they call a co-sleeping bassinet. So, one of the sides of the bassinet folds down and I was pretty much having it down all the time. So, yeah, we kind of… we realised that the only way to survive in those early days was… was to pretty much have him sleep next to me and feed around the clock. But at the same time I was experiencing a great deal of kind of stress and guilt and almost like fear of having him sleep next to me, and I felt like it was the wrong thing to do, if that makes sense. Of course, all the advice and we… I think we took a course in the Red Nose… like training, and they did talk a lot about cot death and, you know, co-sleeping and how bad this is, et cetera, et cetera. They talked about the risks of it a lot. So, yeah, it definitely took us a while to… like to figure out what’s right for us. And part of that was we were trying to not co-sleep. As much as we were co-sleeping we were still trying to not do that. So, I remember kind of even going to that infamous rocking chair and trying to nurse him there in the middle of the night just so I don’t fall asleep, and I ended up falling asleep. And of course, as we all do, it’s so hard when you have to wake up like seven, eight times a night to not be at… like, to not fall asleep while you’re nursing. So, I think what happened then was we hit the four month sleep progression. I mean things were kind of going up and down and the baby days are more or less like, you know, they… they kind of roll by. But then my mum left. We had no support. And the four month sleep progression hit. And oh my god, every 20 minutes. My little boy was waking me up every 20 minutes. And all he needed was just a tiny bit of boob. That’s all he needed. And he was back to sleep. Except at that time I couldn’t go back to sleep after he woke me up. And that kept happening for several weeks, and I thought, ‘Oh, how come am I not able to go back to sleep after he's, you know, peacefully sleeping next to me?’ So, we went to the GP. The GP said, ‘Well, maybe you’re a bit anxious’, and gave me some sleeping pills. Then we went to the GP again several weeks later saying, ‘Well, sleeping pills are working, but I still can’t fall asleep without them, and I don’t really know what’s wrong, but something’s wrong.’ And the GP gave me some more sleeping pills, stronger ones, and sent me back home again. Long story short, we ended up talking to our early childhood nurse who pretty much said, ‘Well, maybe it’s your baby that’s keeping you awake’, [10:00] even though I said several time, ‘Well, my baby’s falling asleep and I’m awake.’ Like, it’s not my baby keeping me awake, it’s probably something else. Oh, well maybe you’re anxious, maybe this, maybe that. Long story short, we ended up in Tresillian and that was a very low point in my life. He was four months. He’d just turned four months. And I was absolutely at my wit’s end. I haven’t slept – like literally haven’t slept for over a week. So, my whole body was shaking. Every single cell in my body was aching me and I was feeling like an utter failure. I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I had no idea what else and what more I could do to help this guy sleep. Or help myself sleep for that matter. Carly:Yeah. Viktoria:So, we… we went to Tresillian, and at that time I also had this massive oversupply of milk. So, the nurses kept saying, ‘Oh, you’re feeding him too much. That’s why you have the oversupply.’ So, they tried to kind of put him on this feeding routine of four hours, which he hated. He’s like, ‘No mummy, I want to eat when I’m hungry. I don’t want to eat every four hours.’ Carly:Oh my gosh. So, you’re unsettled bubba. Oh wow. Yep, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Viktoria:Yeah, so… so, that was… that was five days during which the nurses were pretty much… well, they were trying to help us move him onto the feed, play, sleep routine, which… which I don’t think my baby was into that routine anyway. I’m not sure any baby’s into that routine, but he definitely didn’t like it. And then they tried to convince me that a 40 minute nap was not a restful nap, and so every time he had a 40 – because he was having 40 minute naps – and every time he did have a 40 minute nap there was this nurse, and I still remember her face. She was like so vigorously shaking the bassinet trying to get him to sleep, and my… my little boy was just looking at her with amusement in his eyes thinking ‘Why are you shaking me?’ and ‘What are you doing?’ And he was… and ‘You look a bit funny.’ And he was just like… he was almost like having fun, because I could see him smiling, and I was looking at him from… Carly:Thought it was a game. Viktoria:Yeah. He thought it… he thought it was something funny. So, I was looking like through her shoulder and she was just doing it like so vigorously. And she looked at me and she was like, ‘I would do this for one hour even if I have to just to get him to sleep for ten extra minutes.’ And I looked at her like, oh my god, I could never do that. Carly:But why? Your wide awake baby who’s clearly rested because he’s just chilling out watching her going what on earth? But she had it in her head. Viktoria:Yeah. And I don’t know. For some reason, you know, I… they convinced me. I was… I was totally convinced that 40 minutes is not enough. I mean looking back now after having my second one, who sometimes sleeps ten minutes and she’s happy, I’m looking and thinking oh my god. Like, why would we dictate to our babies how long to sleep for? But at that point in time, I don’t know. It’s probably as a young mum you… you just want to have a recipe. And this is… this is probably our desire to just kind of have a bit of predictability and certainly and say, ‘Oh, if you do this 1, 2, 3, 4 things in this precise order, this is what’s going to be the outcome and your baby’s going to sleep find and they’re going to develop fine and…’, you know, you just kind of… you want predictability as a young mother. And I think this is what the medical industry and the sleep industry are essentially preying on, if that’s the right word to use. They’re… or exploiting in a way. They are exploiting this need for young mothers or young families to have a sense of safety and security. And that’s because we’re alone. We’re a young family. It’s just the two of us. We never had a baby and all of a sudden we’re just trying to figure it out. And probably many of us have had a career or have been at work in a professional setting, and we know that if you do things in a certain way, then you can… you can expect a certain outcome. And that goes… like that’s just such a normal thing that we do at work, and we’re getting so good at it [15:00] that once you have a baby you immediately feel compelled to kind of apply the same method and say, ‘Okay, well if I follow the recipe I’m going to get a perfectly baked muffin. Right?’ Carly:Absolutely. It’s the control, isn’t it? Like being able to control the outcome of a situation. Viktoria:Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Carly:And mould it to how… how you imagined it. Viktoria:Yeah. Carly:Because that’s so much of it, is how you imagine how it should be. Viktoria:That’s right. Carly:And they’re telling you you just need to do X, Y, Z and you can have that. Well, of course you’re going to try. Of course. Viktoria:Yeah. Yeah. Of course. And also, like, but people should understand their imagination is the product of society’s kind of pre-conceived ideas that are presented in all sorts of kind of ways throughout our journey as people. Right? So, I… I don’t know. I never even questioned sleep before I had children. I never doubted sleep. It wasn’t even a thought that sleep would be an issue. And all of a sudden it took me by surprise that it was an issue. So anyway, after that stay at Tresillian we… we didn’t get anywhere. Our baby wasn’t sleeping any longer than 40 minutes during the day. And at night he was sleeping just as much as he did before Tresillian, except now we were left with this advice of having to follow that feed, play, sleep routine, which kind of didn’t work. So, the only good thing that happened in Tresillian is that I got seen by a GP there, and she was the first person who kind of said, ‘Um, maybe you should check your thyroid because your lack of sleep and your weight loss has worried me a little bit.’ And thank good… thank god she did that because they found out that my thyroid was severely overactive and that’s essentially what was keeping me awake. It had nothing to do with my bub. I had hit what is known to be postpartum thyroiditis. But my one was going severely overactive instead of underactive. It’s just how my body reacted to the disease I guess. So anyway, we ended up seeing a specialist and another doctor and another specialist and the advice what I was given then was… was kind of pretty bad. And they basically said, ‘Well, we can prescribe you medication only if you’re prepared to wean, because… because the meds that we can give for your condition are not compatible with breastfeeding. And unless you’re, you know, unless you’re prepared to wean your bub’ and of course I wasn’t prepared to wean my bub, ‘then all we can do is just give you some like mild anti-anxiety medication that could potentially help you sleep.’ So, here we were. We knew what the disease was, but for some reason they didn’t give me any meds to treat the condition. And so I ended up in what ended up after three months being – like three months of solid sleep deprivation that had nothing to do with… Carly:Your baby. Viktoria:… my baby. With my baby, yeah. Carly:Even though your baby was a frequent waker, like you said, there was still plenty of sleep going on between those wakes. Viktoria:Well, yeah… Carly:So, when they… when they told you that the medication wasn’t compatible with breastfeeding, did they suggest that you might want to check that with someone who was a breastfeeding and medication specialist or anything like that? Because so often, I remember when I had my third baby I ended up in hospital with appendicitis, and I was told to do the whole pump and dump thing for some of the medication I was on, but I knew there was a guy called Rodney White down in… in Melbourne, who is a pharmacist who specialises in breastfeeding and medication. And so I emailed him immediately. I’m like, this is what they want to give me. Duh duh duh. Can I… can I feed? Do I need to pump and dump? What’s the go? Because my baby was ten days old. And I got like almost… Viktoria:Oh my god. Carly:Yeah. And I got almost an immediate response back to confirm that it was actually safe and not to pump and dump. And so it drives me wild. Like, I want to know. Because I know there is some medication that isn’t safe. But I wonder if the people actually knew for sure or if they were just doing the whole overly cautious thing. Viktoria:Yeah. I think as it turned out, I mean now that I know, and this time - I had the same condition after my second bub, but this time it got treated. I think what happened the first time around is the specialist who I saw didn’t know enough about this condition because a very rare presentation of a [20:00] common disease. So, for all I know she probably thought that my symptoms of lack of sleep could have been kind of co-caused by anxiety or depression. She thought that. And hence she didn’t… she didn’t really think that it was safe to give me anti-thyroid medication, which was essentially what I had to take. Which by the way is safe for breastfeeding as it turned out, and I was taking it. But… Carly:So, you suffered for all of those months. Viktoria:Yeah, it is what it is. I mean yeah, the advice that I was given at the time, and of course what… you don’t know anything better. You’re going there. I was already so sleep-deprived I couldn’t even think clearly. Carly:Absolutely. Viktoria:I’m standing in from of this person who’s speaking to me from a point of authority and she’s saying, well, unless you’re prepared to wean this is what I can give you, and take this anti-anxiety medication and off you go. Oh, and she sent me back home and said, ‘Have some milk and milo and…’ Carly:Ooh eeh. See, don’t you… like, it’s this whole… if people are listening at home and you are… or find yourself in a position where you’re being declined medication because you’re a breastfeeding parent, please know that there are services out there that can confirm whether or not that medication is safe for you, because a lot of providers don’t actually know on that level whether it's safe or not. Viktoria:100%. Carly:And so they go with the root of saying it’s not safe just to cover all bases. But all that’s really doing is putting you in a precarious position, and your baby, unnecessarily when there are, like there’s LactMed and there’s… I know there’s Dr Rodney White down in… at Monash in Melbourne. And there’s, oh, I’m trying to think of some of the other ones. Viktoria:Mothersafe. There is a… Carly:Mothersafe. That’s it. Viktoria:Yeah, exactly. There is a service called – and I found it later, much later – there’s a service for people in Sydney or in New South Wales I believe, and it’s a phone number. We might just have to find it and kind of pop it into… Carly:I’ll put it in the show notes. Viktoria:… into… exactly. And you can call any time and they will be able to give you advice about safety and medication. Carly:So important, because it’s… it’s… it matters. It really does. Like, not being able to take a medication that you require because of someone’s misunderstanding about its indication to go with breastfeeding or not… Viktoria:Yeah. Yeah. Carly:… is dangerous. So, I’m really pleased that for your second baby they worked it out, but thank you for sharing that with us, because I feel like that might help some other people who are listening along at home too. Viktoria:Yeah, 100%. Carly:Now, I’m just looking at our time, and I feel like we’re going to have to do a second episode with you. Would that be okay Viktoria? Viktoria:Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. Carly:I feel like we’re only just beginning to get started. But before we finish up this episode, would you be able to share, what’s a tip you’d like to pass on to people listening along at home? Viktoria:You literally just took the thought out of my mind. I was about to say for all the mums out there, if you feel like something is wrong with your body just go and try to find out what the cause is, and if you feel that what’s told you to and what’s given to you, the diagnosis does not necessarily fit with how you feel, just go and advocate for yourself. I mean during that period of time I was told by a number of medical professionals, including psychiatrists, including GPs, including specialists, that I had depression and anxiety. It turned out that it wasn’t that, and treatment with anti-anxiety medications didn’t help. It was simply… it was simply not helpful. So, if you feel like something’s wrong, you’re probably right. You know your body better than any doctor does. Just go and fight for you… pretty much for your right to get to the right diagnosis. Carly:Absolutely. And I think that’s one thing we need to be careful of when it comes to… when a parent is reporting not feeling right, not assuming that it’s a mental health concern, because as common as mental health illnesses and whatnot can be a part of postpartum for many people, it can also be masking or being used as a mask by professionals if that’s the only layer that they look at the person across. And so, I feel like listening to your story you very clearly were identifying the issue was with you and not with your baby, or how you were very clear-minded about that the whole way. Viktoria:Absolutely. We ended up in ER. We were so sleep-deprived. We ended up in the emergency and I looked at the people who assessed me there and I said, ‘Guys, I am not able to sleep. I am shaking. My heart is racing. This is not my baby keeping me awake.’ And they kept telling me, ‘You’re probably just [25:00] anxious as a new mother.’ And so please, if you feel like something’s not right with your body it probably isn’t. you know your body better than anybody else. Just go for it and try, try to kind of find the real cause of what’s wrong. Carly:And that might mean going to a number of care providers. Viktoria:Yeah. Carly:I’m really sorry that that was your story. But also hopefully we do have health professionals who listen along to the podcast, and this might be something that they take onboard professionally as well to make sure that the… that you do scratch the surface when someone’s presenting. Especially frequently. You presented on many occasions. Viktoria:Yeah. Carly:That’s got to be taken seriously, whether they… whether you believe that it is just depression and anxiety or not, you still owe it to the person to do further investigation, especially when somebody is telling you that there’s more to the story. So, thank you so much for sharing that Viktoria. That was a fantastic first episode with you, and I’m really looking forward to hearing the second part of you… of your story. Are you able to stick around with me and we’ll do a bit more recording now? Viktoria:Yeah, for sure. Carly:Awesome. Alright. Well, thanks to everybody listening along. If you’re enjoying the show please make sure you drop us a review. It really helps with that distribution. And also you can join us on Facebook and on Instagram where we love to have conversations about things that are going on in each of our episodes, and we’d love to chat with you. So, thanks again Viktoria. Viktoria:Thank you. 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