Pregnancy, labour and the birth of a child is truly beautiful and life changing moment. Many mothers are blessed with a calm, trauma free birth, which we all hope for. However a high percentage of births can be physically and mentally traumatic.
My first labour was pretty uneventful thankfully, other than the usual physical trauma which is a given when your trying to push something the size of a melon through straw…okay well slight exaggeration but I’m sure you get the jist. The labour was induced at 37 weeks due to polyhydramnios and a hind water leak. My waters were broken at lunch time (to good effect) and 11.15pm our beautiful 8lb 14.5oz baby Boy was born. Within a few days of our beautiful little bundle arriving my mood changed ..and I’m not talking the usual baby blues, as sadly I began having suicidal thoughts. I had no intentions of harming our baby, just myself. I struggled and struggled for weeks keeping my feelings to myself as I worried that the midwife and healthcare professionals would think I’m crazy and take my beautiful baby away from me…which I know isn’t the case but when you're feeling unwell you can’t help but fear that may happen.
I’m lucky, my husband (fiancé at the time) knew I wasn’t well and supported me through the next 12 months or so and helped me back on my feet along with help from medical professionals who I can’t thank enough. I’m not ashamed to share that I suffered from what I can gather was severe PND and most likely mild psychosis, I’m a stronger mother, woman and person from that experience.
Our second little bundle. A surprise and welcomed pregnancy. Naturally, I immediately began worrying about the “what if’s” what if I would have PND again, I couldn’t bear the thought of going through it again. This time I ensured I had the right mental health care prior to the post natal period and had regular visits with the mental health midwife who was wonderful and made sure I was well.
The birth: well this time round was the opposite to my first in every sense of the word. Little did I realise that those “Braxton hicks” on baby’s due date were infact contractions and I casually snoozed on my sofa thinking it would pass whilst my hubby and son were tucked up in bed upstairs. Suddenly out of the blue my contractions were 2 minutes apart and becoming stronger so I did the “waddle” up the stairs to wake a peacefully (snoring) husband to get me to the hospital (20 minute drive away). My mum arrived to watch over our son whilst my hubby whizzed me to the hospital…and being paramedics I knew what could happen so I think I grabbed what seemed like a million bath towels just incase we had a pit stop to deliver baby on the way. Thankfully no pit stop was needed but I knew baby was coming and soon. We arrived at the delivery suit and the husband casually walked in in front of me with my bag as if he’d just arrived back off his jollies whilst I trailed behind him holding onto the walls contracting every minute or so crossing my legs. I was ushered into the first room by the midwife saying “well let’s just check you're in labour” …still now I remember shouting that if I wasn’t then something was wrong, I should have known then to be honest.
I flopped (literally like a beached whale) onto the bed and I was put on the CTG monitor. I remember it like it was yesterday …there was the occasional thud of a heart beat coming from the monitor and my heart sank. To be honest the next 15 minutes or so went so fast but felt like forever at the time. Alarms starting bleeping and it was declared a cardiac arrest. Everyone and anybody began congregating in the delivery room like I was a spectical. I was doing just fine on my own in my living room at home so having a million people and bright lights gawping at my nether regions was a far cry from how I had been labouring. Some doctor began screaming at me to push as I was fully dilated, but I had no urge to push until a contraction came, and with no time to have pain relief it hurt. I focused on getting my poorly baby out.
Still, with this doctor screaming at me to push and not respecting my wishes of no forceps appeared this midwife. I never saw her again but she was amazing. She demanded that everyone was to stop (and they did) she held my tummy until she felt a contraction …”now push” she calmly instructed me. I pushed and pushed. I was frightened, I was scared of birthing a still born baby …our baby. I pushed again and then out came our baby. No cry, no nothing, the cord was wrapped round her neck twice and she wasn’t breathing and she was very poorly. The same as our first baby we kept the sex a surprise so I didn’t actually know until my hubby asked to see…baby was a girl.
The doctors worked on her for 30 minutes before whisking her downstairs to the NICU. I didn’t even know what her beautiful face looked like. The birth I dreamt for, a calm relaxing birth changed in an instant and for those 15 minutes thinking we were having a still born baby were the most heart breaking minutes in my life. We were lucky, our beautiful girl pulled through, I can’t imagine how things would have turned out had I not got there when I did. After some hours I finally met our beautiful girl. I couldn’t touch or hold her but I could see her beautiful face, she was okay and would be fine after some intensive care.
Since our daughter's birth I often lay in bed thinking about those “15 minutes”, mainly when my husband is on nights and I’m in bed alone I replay those 15 minutes over and think “what if”. This time within the post natal period I’ve not suffered any post natal depression but more a form of PTSD from our daughters traumatic birth. I can openly talk about the birth which I think psychologically has been some sort of therapy for me. Talking really does help and if you or anyone you know is suffering from what you think is PND or PTSD following a traumatic birth encourage talking…by that I mean just being ears and listening to their experience and feelings…it will go along way in helping them piece together the event. I’m still finishing off putting my “pieces” together, and just by writing this… some more pieces have come together.
Let’s stand together to make birth better.