This post doesn’t contain any negative birth chat or experiences but I am talking about post natal depression, very low mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Wow. I honestly wasn’t expecting the reaction I got from publishing my birth story. I’ve never had as many messages, tweets, DM’s and support from anything on my blog……ever. I felt honestly so overwhelmed for a good few days that I found it hard to even reply. I would never share anything I get sent privately with anyone but I had so many people confide in me, share stories from non-bloggers, friends, strangers and some pretty well-known peeps. INSANE.
I’m happy I had the strength to finally share it, as I was umming and arghing for so long about it : it’s still something tough to talk about negatively : giving birth is a huge privilege and having a healthy baby is so very special and I am just so very lucky. I just needed to share my experience and wanted to be whole-heartedly honest and open. It’s what I always want to be and this is no different.
I honestly feel so awful even suggesting I got bad healthcare because…I have friends who are midwifes and I feel so very sad because I know how hard they work…the hours, the trauma they see, the things they have to deal with. Our NHS is a treasure, I have always had decent care when I’ve used it, and I’m am sure I will again, but the maternity care I received pretty much from start to finish was not good. I think the main factor being possibly that my area happened to be very busy with maternity care at the time….and very much under-staffed.
Post Birth Care
So following on from Margot’s birth and our lengthy stay in hospital, we finally arrived home properly around 10 days later. Ready to really start our journey as parents and tackle all the things that came with it. We were both broken from our experience but we were really looking forward to being home, with our beautiful baby.
We discussed things with the midwife ; we both had PTSD. She said that they needed to implement some kind of extra care package for us which would include extra visits and more support for us.
This sounded great and we finally felt a bit of a lift and that something was being done to maybe soften the blow and help us move forward.
Fast forward to out next visit. We arrived at our appointment and saw a midwife who we had never seen before. She browsed our notes in about 3 seconds, she was in a hurry. She re-affirmed that Margot was all ok and we agreed. We waited for some acknowledgment of what the other midwife had discussed….this extra care and support plan, but she quite literally just said that we all seemed ok and she was happy to discharge us that day.
It was like she couldn’t get rid of us quick enough. We were both exhausted with telling our story, we didn’t want to have to explain it again, why wasn’t it written anywhere? Why didn’t she know? Why did she dismiss us so quick? I even tried to explain about extra help and the care plan and she pretty much cut me off. It must have been near to her lunchtime or something.
It kind of just summed it all up really. Too rushed. Too unbothered and she just wanted the box ticked so she could move on. I didn’t want to ask, I was going to beg for help from a group of people who clearly did not want to give it. There was no trust. I was done.
So that was the end of our maternity care. We didn’t get any help for PTSD. We just tried to pick ourselves up and keep going.
Ok so the first few weeks are SO hard anyway. So hard. I think any new parents get completely knocked off their feet with coming to terms to having a baby : the night feeds, the crying, the learning, the monotonous routine of feeding, changing and soothing, trying to clean the hell-hole house but having no energy, trying to cook a decent meal and drink that cold cup of coffee that has been on your side table for an hour.
It’s a whirlwind of emotions and it just takes time to adjust and settle.
In hindsight and something I would recommend to ANYONE and everyone = get the help. Ask your family, friends, neighbours to help. Just to watch the baby for an hour so you can nap, to help clean the house, to do your washing, to bring your food…..anything.
We didn’t see a single visitor for 3 weeks because we simply couldn’t face anyone and this was a big mistake. No family, no friends ; just me & tom in our house trying to make it work.
I was still hurting but A LOT better from my c-section recovery. I think for the first 2 weeks I slept pretty much upright with a load of pillows keeping me up. There was a lot of medication and it was a slow recovery, as is c-section in general.
I was supposed to have been supplied some iron tablets for my blood loss during the c-section (it was a lot) as this would aid in my recovery and healing. However the nurses at the hospital *forgot* to give them to me before I left so my recovery was a lot slower and tougher than it needed to be. Just another blip in the line of blips that equate to a BIG BLIP.
Tom was incredible. He took the reins, and I quite literally don’t know where i would be if I didn’t have him.
He was initially doing almost everything : all the nappy changes, all the night feeds, just taking over from me as I just could not do it physically. We were both wrecked, tired and emotional. We argued like we have never before. We cried so much. We couldn’t understand how this was how it was and this was how it should be.
My PTSD & PND
I feel like post natal depression (PND) is possibly a result of post traumatic stress (PTSD)and I’m sure the two are very common together. I don’t want to go into it TOO much but I spiralled really badly. I felt emotions and loss of control like I had never experienced before. Some days I didn’t want to be there, I wanted to leave Margot and Tom because I couldn’t be the mother I should have been.
I still struggled with a bond with Margot. I felt like the way she was born effected our bond. I often felt frustration with her and with Tom. I felt it was all just completely wrong, I had made a mistake and I wanted out.
I cried more than I ever have done in my life. I felt more helpless than when my mum had died. I bawled and sobbed, loud, sad, ugly sobs….every single day for weeks. I didn’t want to see anyone. We felt so very alone and lost.
I look back and I can’t believe this was how it was : it makes me feel such shame and guilt that I wasn’t enjoying motherhood. Everything everyone had ever told me about it being magical, amazing and incredible had seemed lies.
WHY had no one told me it could be like this? Well, this is part of the reason I am writing this post.
Once I started opening up, was when it got a little better : I starting getting messages from friends (& strangers!) about their post-birth feelings and how I wasn’t alone. FINALLY. I wasn’t just a complete piece of shit and an even shitter mum!
I don’t think I really thought about it at the time, I didn’t even think about my PTSD and PND, I was just trying to keep my head down and survive every day and keep Margot happy.
I can look back now and realise and remember how bad it was, but I am definitely not in that place anymore. Margot is such a good baby and she always has been, I genuinely think she gave us a break from having a tough time at the start.
SIGNS YOU MAY HAVE POST-BIRTH PTSD
- Increased anxiety and emotional arousal
- intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (increased heart rate, sweating, nauseous)
- Irrational fear and worry
- mood swings, panic attacks
- relationship problems
- Feeling isolated
- Avoidance of people
- Memory loss surrounding the birth
- Fear of crowds
SIGNS YOU MAY HAVE PND
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling down and teary
- inability to feel happy
- sleep problems
- problems bonding with baby
- suicidal thoughts
- difficulty in leaving the house
I went back to the hospital (you can do this if you want to see WTF happened like me) and had a meeting with one of the senior midwives. It’s called ‘Birth Reflections’ and all hospitals offer them if you feel like things didn’t go right, have a traumatic birth and want questions answered. It was ok. I did have some things answered but for me, it was mainly to give feedback to the hospital about how I was left feeling, how I feel I was treated, how the midwife during labour was towards me and spoke to me, and how it left me in a position of never wanting to have another baby again.
For me it felt like it was also perhaps a way for the hospital to quash any chance of you taking anything further, it *did* feel a little like they were covering their tracks a little, although we did get apologies and the rest, it just felt a little lost and empty.
I would definitely suggest doing it if you want answers to any questions and/or can’t work out why certain things happened or different decisions were made. It won’t help with PND or PTSD but it will clear things up for you and perhaps give you peace of mind.
The house move, Re-location & Getting better
We moved house when Margot was just 2 months old.
We arrived in out new home on the Saturday and Tom started his new job on the Tuesday. I can tell you it took me MONTHS to unpack. I think around 6 months. It was a blur of trying to unpack boxes and find my feet with a newborn.
Each day was hard. Each day was VERY slow. Some days it would feel like a continuos cycle of feeding Margot, changing Margot, trying to get her to sleep, being frustrated at the huge to-do-list I couldn’t do and the next thing it was getting dark and it was the evening again.
TIME is the greatest healer for anything an everything. No matter what trauma, heartbreak or low points you may go through ; time has worked for me and made things easier. I’m a strong person mentally, I have had to overcome a lot (so far!) in my 37 years and I know I am strong and this was no different.
Each day got a little better, the feelings of absolute helplessness and darkness lifted. I spoke to friends. I spoke to strangers on the internet. The light came back, it got better and finally by month 4 I was feeling like a mum, I was feeling true love for my baby and I knew it was only going to get better.
I think in a way, aside from the absolute HELL of moving and re-locating so far with a newborn, it was probably a really good thing. A new start. New beginnings and away from a lot of places that had really bad memories.
I started giving myself small task in the day : not huge and un-obtainable ones that I had initially given myself. When you can’t complete ANY of your to-do list ; you feel like a failure and you feel miserable and frustrated. The next day it builds and the list grows. It’s a viscous cycle.
I stopped the unpacking lists. I stopped blogging or trying to. I stopped myself from feeling panic at the still-piling-up heap of press samples and beauty products from brands.
If I simply got up, fed Margot, tidied the house and made us both lunch and sat outside : that was fine. That was productive and it was enough.
Since having Margot, coming though this and being pretty much on the other side, I find myself being obsessed with other people’s experiences ; reading about them online and in forums, speaking to people in my DM’s and I genuinely want to always help people who I can see are struggling. I think talking about this will help many people suffering with PTSD and/or PND.
The turning point was for me was realising A) I wasn’t alone B) A lot of new mum’s chat absolute shit because they are scared of looking like they are struggling and they are afraid of being judged.
I’ve had 60 year old women message me who are still struggling with their birth experiences, I’ve had younger mums, mum’s who have never had any help or even realised they had a problem, mums who are ashamed and have never spoken about it except to me (!) and many mum’s just too afraid to speak out. This makes me so sad.
Are we supposed to simply remain silent and suffer behind closed doors? Are we really bad mothers if we don’t bond immediately? Whether your birth experience was good, bad or in between, you have a right to your feelings and being heard. Your experience is still very much valid and important.
This whole don’t-say-anything-about-negative-births needs to stop. Because it then confuses and terrifies new mum’s when they find themselves in a situation that doesn’t align with the perceived norm.
In terms of help now. I still have very little trust in anyone. I thought I was completely fine until we had a health worker came to visit my house this week for Margot’s 10-12 month check-up. We touched upon the birth and I just started crying ; it was uncontrollable and I just couldn’t stop bawling and I lost all control. It was kinda crazy. It was finally good to talk to someone who seemed to want to listen and who had the time. Something I have not experienced in the 10 months I have had Margot. It felt good to get things out, and there are options for getting help with PTSD and birth trauma at any point in your life.
The outburst of emotion and upset is a sign that I have been bottling the PTSD, which is kinda my life and me to all over. I tend to have the head-down-get-on-with-it attitude but perhaps with this I should reach out finally for some help.
Motherhood for me is absolutely so much brighter, happier and our bond we already have is incredible. I feel like we are absolutely over the worst and the down feelings and days are infrequent and controllable. I still feel resentful in some respects surrounding the birth, and the care we received (or didn’t) as I feel like this possibly caused everything that followed.
We can’t change anything but we can move forward and acknowledge and improve.
PTSD & PND HELP:
If you are reading this and feel like you need a chat or want to reach out, then you can always e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to talk to someone more professional because that I am NOT (!) then there are many places you can call/visit online :
Book a doctor’s appointment and they can provide you with local support.
NCT helpline 0300 330 0700
You can go right here on the NHS website, type in your postcode and find help locally.