On Saturday I attended the Maternal Mental Health event at the Cumbria Infirmary, hosted by the Happy Mums Foundation and the World Health Innovation Summit (WHIS). I was invited to speak about my experiences so that I might be able to help the professionals understand what a traumatic pregnancy and birth can be like for women. So that they might better understand the things that they can do to help. So that other women like me might not fall through the cracks for so long.
It is always hard to speak about what happened with my son’s birth. And last week was a big week for me because I finally had my debrief, and I also had my second CBT counselling session. And then there was the PTSD diagnosis.
I’d like to say that seeing those four letters on the page came as no shock (hadn’t I always known that I wasn’t depressed? Hadn’t I aways known that there was something more, likely to be PTSD?) but actually I’ve really struggled with knowing that someone else agrees with me at last. Someone else, who is professionally qualified to do so, is taking control of my care now. It feels strange. To hear her tell me she will never ask me to fill in a PND questionnaire. To hear her tell me I have been traumatised. To hear her tell me she believes me, she is sorry for what has happened, and she intends to help. It’s all so new for me, and the effects of it are still coursing their way through my life right now.
I was in two minds about Saturday. I was scared. Not of speaking, but of getting there. Making my way to the train station, sitting on a train, finding the venue. Even knowing that Jenny would be there at the station in Carlisle was very little comfort, and this is a perfect example of just how far reaching my birth trauma has been. The thought of travelling alone to Carlisle was terrifying and had it not been for Jenny I would not have gone at all. (more…)
One of the hardest things about birth trauma is the loneliness. It can feel as though you truly are completely and utterly by yourself sometimes; adrift in a small boat on a huge ocean, with nothing but the highest waves creating unbreakable walls between you and the rest of civilisation. It can feel as though nobody else will ever understand what you are thinking, feeling or experiencing. It can feel as though you and YOU alone, are the only person who has suffered in this way. Of course, I know from the many messages, tweets, emails and comments I receive that sadly this isn’t true. There are other women like me. Drifting, alone, scared. And many of these women are more alone because the thing that they are drifting from, the trauma that has led them to this place of nothingness and numbing, frustrating anger, that trauma is the one thing they are being denied. We are ‘catastrophising’. We are ‘exaggerating’. We are fantasising, we are confused, we are damaging. We, and our trauma, are not acknowledged.
Three days ago I had my first CBT counselling session, and during the hour I spent in that little room I was asked to talk about the reasons why I had been referred. She knew that I was having trouble sleeping, and that I was suffering with anxiety, and she knew that I’d previously mentioned a ‘difficult’ birth with my son. But she wanted to hear me speak, and she wanted to hear about my feelings, and what was going on in my life right now. She asked me what I thought was the root of my anxiety. Why I had such a fear of driving to unfamiliar places, of being lost, of letting people down. Why I had trouble falling and staying asleep. Why I felt that some days were just too hard.
There can only ever be one answer to all of that. My son’s birth. (more…)
Two weeks ago I finished my last session with the Think Positive service. I left that session with a pile of balled up tissues in my hand, tears on my face and a heart dragging down to the pits of my stomach. I left with a referral for further counselling, CBT this time, and an apology from my lovely counsellor for ‘having missed the signs’ that I needed more help than she could give. The thing is, she didn’t miss the signs. She saw them when I allowed her to, because I’ve become kind of good at that. I can hide how I feel most of the time. Or, at least I used to be able to hide it. The tears flowed harder that day as I finally admitted the truth, and that was that I wasn’t getting better. Time (almost see years!) hasn’t really been a great healer and rather than finding myself stronger, I’m actually finding things are a lot worse now.
My life is being impacted in ways that I could never have predicted.
I am not the person I thought I was. Or that I thought I would be, seven years after the event.
I do not have the answers, but I do know this. Birth trauma cannot be swept under the carpet anymore, not for me.
Honestly, I am exhausted. Exhausted from re-living what happened on the dark cold days, and when triggers are particularly bad. Exhausted from the fear that my heart might literally pound right out of my chest one day. Exhausted from the constant anxiety that seems to be literally destroying me from inside to outside. (more…)
Elsie Rose was born at 37 weeks and 5 days weighing just 5lb 5. She’d been growth restricted in the womb and had an undiagnosed posterior tongue tie. For one reason or another we were discharged from hospital just over 24 hours after her early delivery, and before she had had her first breastfeed. In the hospital she had refused to feed, and what little she did take had come back up again amidst coughs and splutters. Having a low birth weight baby who could not feed was highly stressful; she was syringe fed for a week and we were literally hours away from allowing her to be re-admitted for tube feeding. Fast forward two years, and I’d like to say that things have improved drastically since then. And while they have in the respect that she is now gaining weight well, healthy and thriving, there are still feeding issues that we have to contend with on a daily basis.
Lots of IUGR babies have feeding issues, and for Elsie our issues revolve around allergies and reflux. She still suffers badly with both, and is unable to eat dairy and soya. We cannot be sure, but we think there are other foods that react badly with her too. At the moment her eczema is particularly bad, and if she inadvertently eats something containing any kind of milk protein her skin literally erupts. She will also suffer with breathing difficulties, streaming nose and congestion. So, obviously, we are really careful with what she eats. We have to be. And it doesn’t help that she is now two years old! With a ferocious mind and a temper to match, some days she will just refuse to eat what we make for her. And other days we will struggle to fill her up as she constantly demands ‘Eat! Eat!’ (more…)