A Guest Blog Post from Danielle Parry
It’s daunting isn’t it, being a first time mum. Sure the initial shock does settle after seeing those little blue lines (or the word pregnant if you splash out on a clear blue), the excitement creeps in, and you find joy buying newborn sleepsuits, baby bath, even cotton buds and sudocrem fills you with little butterflies.
Those nine months are a whirlwind of emotions, add a side order of pregnancy hormones and it can be a little overwhelming. But time waits for no mumma, and the day will come along and BAM, suddenly your whole world will never be the same again. That little cherub you have kept safe for that 40 week bubble is here. What a moment.
So it is common knowledge that motherhood in the start can have its hiccups. Those first few weeks or months of sleepless nights are infamous. The dreaded “baby blues” we read about in the pregnancy books. But what happens when there’s more to it than that? Sometimes becoming a new mother can have a far more negative impact on our mental health. Statistically 10-15% of new mums are known to suffer from postnatal depression, probably more as a lot of the time it goes unreported.
I want to discuss my story, I battled for nearly a year before being diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and like many other women, I didn’t even realize there was something wrong. I want to explain the cause of my condition so over the next few paragraphs you can read my little roller-coaster of childbirth.
So lets briefly fly back in time to my pregnancy. My little man was very much a shock! I didn’t have a shred of maternal instinct in me so the thought that I was about to become a mother was bloody terrifying. However in no time at all I was that excited round lady cooing over all the baby gadgets in Boots, desperately waiting for the day to have my baby in my arms. My pregnancy wasn’t the smoothest in the world, I was in and out of hospital with reduced movements, I had a condition called Polyhydramnios which meant there was too much fluid surrounding the baby, and later on in my pregnancy I was diagnosed with Obstetric Cholestasis, which is a rare condition which effects the way my liver functioned. The plan was to induce me at 37 weeks – much to my excitement.
My birth was anything but normal, and the two weeks I spent in hospital was the cause of my PTSD. After 3 days waiting for my induced labour to start, my waters were popped and I was hooked up to a drip. I spent 24 hours in active labour, there wasn’t a drug I didn’t have. My contractions were alarmingly strong and coming thick & fast. Within a couple of hours I was having an epidural put in, however it failed shortly after. Fast forward a little bit later; another epidural put in, lo and behold this new one also failed. Trust me, it was a bit shit to say the least.
I finally reached the goal of the magical 10cm of dilation and it was time to push. A good solid hour of pushing and nothing was happening apart from a lot of swearing, pooing, and crying from me. Suddenly I was being rushed down to theatre to have an emergency cesarean. They lifted me up to administer a spinal block. Whilst testing my body with a cool water spray to see if I had numbed, I swiftly told (shouted) to them that I was not numb in the slightest and could feel it all. So up again I went and ANOTHER spinal block was put in. This one was stronger, and I felt as if my entire body was numb up to my neck. This was horrific, I was convinced I couldn’t breathe. My mum was trying to calm me down as she heard the doctors discussing possibly putting me under a general anesthetic.
They proceeded with the operation, and I felt the usual tugging, and pulling, and then I heard my babies first cry. Tears instantly filled my eyes, I couldn’t believe it, it doesn’t seem real until that happens does it?? Unfortunately, the euphoric feeling abruptly came to an end as my spinal block wore off, mid operation.
A lot of people say one of their biggest fears is for the pain relief to fail during an operation. I am one of those unlucky souls to actually experience it.
There are no words to describe the agonizing pain I was going through. Sharp, burning, stinging, aching; every type of pain happening at once. I sobbed, and desperately told the anesthetist what was going on. However he didn’t believe me, in fact he simply told me it wasn’t possible to feel what was going on.
A few days later, still in hospital, still in pain, I had another run in with bad luck. My blood pressure was through the roof, and even after a blood transfusion I was extremely ill. Sent for x rays, cat scans and ultrasounds the midwives, surgeons and doctors were still baffled as to what was going on. When my son was only a few days old my body had turned septic and I was finding it difficult to even breathe. They decided to take me to theatre and re open my wound to see what was going on. They found and removed my appendix which was on the verge of bursting.
I remained in hospital for a while, but all I could think about was being home again. Trapped in a side room unable to even sit up unassisted was not my idea of new mum life. As a single parent I didn’t have a partner to stay with me, and my family tried their best to be there as much as possible, but at the same time all this was going on my nan was on her last few days earth side after battling with a short burst of cancer. She died before I was able to get out.
It was a lot of take in, everything that had happened. But I didn’t have time to focus on me, I had a little baby now who needed my care, my protection, and my love. The relief of finally being out was immense.
I simply slipped into “motherhood” from then on in, I plodded along as if nothing bad occurred. I was under the impression that to be a strong person I simply had to move on, and get over it. Looking back now it’s almost laughable as being the strong person is admitting there was a problem. Isn’t it bizarre how backwards our thinking processes can be sometimes? But who even has the time to reflect upon their own mental health when there is a newborn around? I didn’t even have time to have a coffee or draw my eyebrows on!
Hiding negative thoughts away will never be a solution, although I was very good at it. Managing to hide all the trauma deep down, even I started to believe that I was “over it all” But nothing hides forever, the monsters we seek so desperately to diminish eat away until they reach the surface again.
The first alarm bell came about 4 months into my son’s life after discussing a new contraceptive method with my GP they suggested I have the coil fitted. Trust me I tried to say I was under no risk of becoming pregnant any time soon, maybe if I wore my crocs they would have understood! But I agreed as I’ve always suffered from horrific periods, my womb rage was on par to those pregnancy hormones which plagued me for so long.
The day came around, and I wasn’t too nervous…after childbirth I was use to laying spread eagle whilst medical professionals had a goosey gander at my pearly gates. But during the short procedure I was over come with a sense of helplessness, panic and indescribable fear. My hands were sweaty and shaking, and I felt like I was about to burst into tears. What if things went wrong? What if it hurts? Luckily for me it was over and done with quickly and I forgot about the brief moment of panic.
The day I realised something was truly not right was a trip to the dentist. I don’t think any of us are particularly fond of a dental trip so naturally I was a little anxious. However as the dentist was about to do my check up those feelings arose once more but this time they were far more intense. Physically and mentally I felt like I was living that moment again, that helpless moment in hospital when I was in so much agony. I was unable to hold back the tears this time and I was unable to go through with it.
I knew by this point I simply had to find out what was going on, I was raising a child, a child who I could accidentally influence to have the same fear of medical situations. So just under a year after my son’s birth I plucked up the little courage I had left and went to my initial mental health appointment.
It was scary, I had no idea what to expect. I was scared I would get laughed out of the surgery or simply told to “get over it” anxiety is a cruel mistress and fills your head with so many doubts doesn’t it? But going to that appointment was one of the greatest decisions I’ve made so far.
I met with a doctor and he asked me to take my time and explain everything that had happened in as much detail as I possibly could. It was very tough, you see I have no problem writing about my experiences, in fact writing is one method I use to reflect on it all. But speaking aloud wasn’t anyway near as easy. Listening to what I had to say my doctor diagnosed me with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)
In the simplest form PTSD can arise when someone has been through a traumatic event, usually when that person has felt as if their life was in danger. Many war veterans suffer from the disorder and it use to be referred to as “shell shock” When the trauma occurs a part of your brain “opens” and it doesn’t keep the trauma as a normal memory. So when I was in the dentist’s chair, my brain was biologically reacting the SAME as when the initial event took place.
He went on to ask me about my day to day thoughts and listed a number of examples of behaviour prone to people with PTSD.
Sudden mood swings
Fear of being in cars/transport
It was bizarre as everything he said was true! I had been living with this disorder for nearly a year and I had no idea it was having such an impact. I just presumed every new mum is now a bit of a nervous wreck! He went on to tell me that it is not a quick healing process, but it is totally reversible.
The comfort in knowing that one day I will be “cured” is overwhelming. I get by day to day in recognizing my behaviour, knowing that there is a reason for my low moments, my mood swings. Once you understand the cause, it is far easier to get through those moments.
So right now I am on the upwards path and I know exactly where my goals are. There are many methods of treating PTSD and the anxiety associated with it. So far I have tried various “mindfulness techniques” and had a short stint on anti depressants. Unfortunately neither of these have helped. But that’s ok, everyone is different, and some methods simply don’t work for some people. More recently I have been for a mental health assessment with the NHS for my anxiety, where we discussed the possible use of therapy and maybe trying a different brand of anti depressants.
At the end of the day I am open now to try anything. The important thing is that I know there is a problem, and I know its not forever. I can’t stress enough if you are reading this and feel you maybe need a little help, then go for it, please phone the doctor and make that first step. I only wish I had done it sooner.
Danielle is a single mum to a one year old (and a cat) and lives up in a small town in North Wales. She has been using social media regularly since becoming pregnant, using it as an outlet & an online diary. She feels passionate about documenting both the highs and lows of motherhood and life in general. The internet can be a very misleading place, and she strives not just to show the sugar coated moments.
More recently Danielle has started a blog – Mum From the Green Room and youtube channel where she will continue to document her life as a first time mum, who isnt very “mumsy.” You can also follow Danielle on Instagram and Facebook.