#MatExp

Speaking Out for Maternal Mental Health

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.

cumbria-1It 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…)

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Acknowledgment

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.birth trauma in the media_ghostwritermummy.co.uk

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…)

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We Cannot Sweep Birth Trauma Under the Carpet Anymore

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.I Wont Be Silenced_ghostwritermummy.co.uk

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…)

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She is Two: #MovementsMatter

She is two. She is two!  We sit, sand between our freezing cold toes and the sea lapping the windy shore and we know just how very lucky we are. Our hair whips around our flushed cheeks and our lips are salty and we know just how very lucky we are. She runs, jumps, splashes and plays. And

we know just how very lucky we are.

She is two, and she has so much ahead of her. So many adventures. So many dreams. So many friends to make, stories to tell and mountains to climb. What an honour and a privilege to share that with her

She is Two: #MovementsMatter-Ghostwritermummy.co.ukIt wasn’t always as carefree as this. Regular readers will know that my last pregnancy was filled with stress and anxiety and fear. An IUGR pregnancy is never easy, and the unanswered questions are hard to walk away from. The fact is, I have suffered emotionally since she was born. Oh, the relief of hearing that tiny little cry in the stillness of the operating theatre! The joy that seeped through my bones as she was brought back to me, alive and well. The pure and utter relief that pulsated in my stomach as they placed her little body against mine. Alive. Here. There were times throughout that pregnancy when I truly doubted I would get those moments.

And here’s why #MovementsMatter. Because any changes can mean that something is wrong. 55% of women who sadly experienced stillbirth in the UK noticed that their baby’s movements had slowed down.

But they didn’t report it.

She is Two: #MovementsMatter-Ghostwritermummy.co.uk

Please, please always remember that any changes, any concerns, any doubts- you must call your hospital or your midwife. You must get checked over. Babies do not slow down at the end of pregnancy. Don’t be one of the 73% who delay reporting changes in movement. Don’t be one of the 52% who believe they are being a nuisance. Don’t be fooled into thinking you must feel 10 movements in one hour. Your baby is unique. Their movements are unique. YOU are the best judgement of what is normal, so use your instincts.

The Tommy’s campaign #MovementsMatter launches today, on Elsie’s second birthday, and I wanted to share our story with you to help you understand just how important it is to be observant to report any changes straight away.

I had an anterior placenta. A tiny baby. A baby that was not growing well. A high risk pregnancy. An IUGR diagnosis. Weekly appointments.

Watchful eyes.

Impatient.

Scared.

Frustrated.

All of this added up to such a confusing and scary experience. The only piece of advice I was ever given was to monitor my baby’s movements as closely as possible. To get to know her pattern of movements, and to come in immediately should anything change. And after three previous pregnancies to term, that should have been a simple task. But as my body was failing my baby, my confidence was facing my mind. I found it so hard to determine her pattern. So many movements were cushioned by my placenta, and she was so tiny that many of her early kicks were just not felt.

I was around 21 weeks when I first felt definite movement. At that point, IUGR had not even been mentioned. Even still, lack of movements worried me. When I was around 26 weeks, I called my hospital in tears, convinced she was gone. So many hours without any movement. Ice water, lying still, concentrating, waiting. Nothing made a difference. She wasn’t moving. Should I call? Was I wasting time? What if she started to move on the way to the hospital- would they tell me off for taking up a bed that was truly needed by other women?

None of that matters. Your baby isn’t moving, you go in to be checked.She is Two: #MovementsMatter-Ghostwritermummy.co.uk

Each time I went in, the midwives assured me that all was fine, I had done the right thing. By the time IUGR was picked up, I was monitored weekly anyway. Told that even once home, if I wasn’t sure I was to turn around and go straight back in again. I was to try and pick up her pattern of movements, and any concerns I was to call. No matter what time. No matter how slight my concern.

IUGR babies are at the highest risk of stillbirth. IUGR means that the baby is not growing well, and often the doctors don’t know the reason for this. Sometimes, it’s obvious. High blood pressure, for example. In cases like ours, it’s simply not explained. if an IUGR baby is not receiving enough blood, nutrients and oxygen then movements can become slower, and patterns change. Medical attention is needed. That much I did learn.

We were admitted the night before her planned section, and I spent a long night hooked up to the CTG monitor. Listening to that distinct swoosh and beat of the tiny life inside me. She kept fighting though, and now here she is. Kicking still.

Movements can be rolls, swooshes, kicks and pokes. They call count. They all matter.

For more information on the campaign, please visit the Tommy’s website and please please speak to your midwife if you are at all unsure of your baby’s movements. For more information on reduced movements, please see here.  Please also take a moment to watch Tommy’s video, and share with anyone you think might need to see it.

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