Recently Mumsnet launched their Aftercare Not Afterthought campaign, focusing on the need for improvements in postnatal care for women in England. Regular readers will know that campaigning for improvements to maternity services has long been my passion, and hopefully you also know that it has never been about attacking health care workers. Please understand that. It is about making changes, making improvements and inspiring better conditions for all. For women and families. For midwives. For babies. The Mumsnet campaign is important because it looks at an area many of us tend to gloss over when it comes to the business of having a baby. Pregnancy and birth are, of course, central to maternity services, but lets not forget that what happens in the first few days after birth is critical when it comes to maternal mental health and wellbeing, This is my story. This is why we need #betterpostnatalcare.
He was born at 6.45 on a frosty December evening, just six minutes after the surgeon put his knife to my skin. He was taken away, forced to breathe and urged to scream. He was cleaned, he was dressed, he was wrapped in a blanket. When I woke up, he was in his father’s arms and a complete stranger to me. This was surely NOT the baby I had carried for 41 weeks and 2 days. This was NOT the baby I had felt kick and roll and turn through all those weeks. This was NOT what I had imagined at all. And yet it was my reality. (more…)
I haven’t been able to write much lately. Most days have felt as though there’s a fog hanging over life, with the briefest of snags through which the sun dares to poke a tentative ray. But the snags have been few and the light has been short lived, because I always seem to end up back where I started. Lethargic, uncaring, unwilling. I’m almost four months into my CBT sessions and I can tell you that they’re not getting any easier. Each week is now preceded with feelings doubt, dread and doom because I know what’s coming. And the days immediately after I am exhausted, and not just emotionally. My bones seem to take on the weight of whatever my mind cannot cope with, and I know that one day my body will collapse and bring it all tumbling down after it. Unless I get back up and fight. This is what I know I must do, and this is the hardest thing in the world for me to contemplate right now. I haven’t wanted to write at all, but this is everyone’s business and you need to know.
You need to know what it’s like. To sit in that small room with it’s strange temperature fluctuations (or is that me?) and it’s bare, empty walls. To sit in that not quite comfortable chair and open up your heart to lay it all bare in front of a relative stranger. To leave that rooms to fall into the arms of nobody, to know that once this hour is up there is nobody there to give you a hug. You need to know what it’s like to have to reach so deep inside yourself that what you see there makes you cringe, makes your skin crawl. What you see there makes you want to beat your fists against the wall and wail and scream. What you see there is both a shock and yet just what you expected all along. (more…)
CBT is hard. I started this course of treatment before Christmas, and I intended to update this blog, and Maternity Matters, regularly with my progress. I wanted to show others what it was like, so that maybe I could help someone else along in their journey. But it’s hard. It’s really hard. Most days I don’t want to talk about it, let alone write it all down. I’ve told people snippets of what is happening, but I cannot fathom the energy to lay it all bare. I cannot allow the prickles to seep into everything right now. It’s easier to leave it all in that little room once a week, and it will probably stay there for a long time. Because right now I don’t feel strong enough at all.
I had a post in my head a few weeks ago,entitled Happy. I was in the middle of a ‘high turn’ and things were bright, happy and calm. I was spending delicious days with Elsie, really spending time with her and loving every minute. I was thankful for people around me, and I was loving being busy with work, stimulated with the team I work with and positive about life ahead of me. I knew. I knew it wouldn’t last. It never does. It always comes to an end, I just didn’t realise it would be so abrupt. (more…)
For many years since my son was born I have known that something hasn’t been right. The labels that various professionals have attempted to apply have never really stuck well. At first they’ve seemed a perfect fit, but eventually they start to peel and fall away, much like the old and drying leaves on the streets below my feet. Those leaves are quickly forgotten, trodden under foot without a second thought, swept into the gutters of life and disregarded with the arrogance of knowing they’ll be back soon. And, just like the leaves, the labels always return. Attempt to stick again. But post natal depression has never sat well with me. I
always assumed it was because I didn’t want to accept that I was depressed. That my own preconceptions of a depressed person were all wrong and that maybe I was truly depressed because I couldn’t even see it myself. And, after all, who was I to argue with Mother Nature? This was me. The way I was made. A chemical imbalance and that was that. The leaves were always there, little buds ready to grow, and all that I needed to do was provide the sunshine and water.
Just, no. I am finally able to stand up to the professionals who misdiagnosed me. And it’s not their fault. Earlier this month I shared my story at the second annual Birth Trauma Study day, and I learned there that GPs just aren’t given any training on how to deal with birth trauma, and the common after effects of PTSD. Because that’s what I have. What I’ve been experiencing all these years. Not post natal depression. I’m not depressed. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (more…)