No matter how many times women told me never to plan my birth, I still had visions of how I hoped it would pan out.
Being one of the first in my friendship group to have a baby, I lacked experience or knowledge with what labour was going to be like but it didn’t scare me in the slightest. I was doing everything the blogs told me not to do. Watching one born every minute, buying girls clothes even though she had her legs crossed in her 20 week scan and reading labour stories which sounded like fairy tales.
I almost felt excited when I had a first twinge of brackston hicks despite being uncomfortable, I knew I was coming close to the third trimester and very soon I’d get to hold my little one.
However, at 32 weeks, when I thought I was just going to hospital because I was being paranoid, motherly instinct proved right and I was in fact going into pre term labour. I barely had a moment to blink before I was rushed into theatre with medical professionals running around me throwing their medical jargon at each other whilst I’m just lying there, still unaware of what fate had for me and my daughter. The only way I can describe the experience is I thought the world was ending. I hadn’t even begun my maternity leave let alone had a moment to pack a hospital bag or sort out the nursery. None of that seemed to matter after I heard her first cry behind the white sheet that separated us. All I could think is that she was alive and breathing! Thank goodness!
My little girl was born on the 4th November weighing 5Ibs. My bond with her was instant but an overwhelming sense of mourning clouded over me.
Why me? What had I done to my body that caused this? Questions I might never know but looking back these feelings of self blame were just the beginning of what was to come.
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and this cloud wasn’t going away. I didn’t feel depressed, I didn’t feel a lack of bond with my daughter but I still felt loss… fear…. and vivid dreams of those awful hospital machines beeping around my daughter. I lost all sense of trust with medical professionals who I thought were going to tell me my baby was dying or she needed to be taken into hospital again. My anxiety over the health of my daughter became so drilled into my life that I couldn’t leave her with anyone alone.. not even my partner. I was living in isolation and refused to let anyone in.
It wasn’t until my health visitor suggested 6 weeks of counselling that I had ever heard the diagnosis of PTSD in post-natal women. What? I thought that was only diagnosed for people in the military?”
It took a while for me to come to terms with such a term and initially I felt really angry I’d been thrown yet another title. “Another medical professional trying to pass me off with a “condition” and try and load me with more medication,” I thought.
However, it wasn’t the case at all. The more I off loaded in these sessions, the more I realised how lucky I was to have met my counsellor who finally gave me an answer and I accepted what it is. I had PTSD and was suffering from my traumatic birth experience.
I will never know how it feels to hold my daughter moments after she was born, never know how it feels to have her latch for the first time, never experience bringing her back to the ward, never have her lie in her bed next to me, never change her nappy for the first time or get her dressed into her first outfit. Yet, even though I missed these precious moments, one thing I will definitely know forever is how lucky I am to have a healthy and happy daughter who has one strong mummy.
I am now in my second year of nurse training and hope that my story can influence others to seek help with PTSD and to avoid making assumptions that these feelings signify post natal depression. PTSD can happen to any woman who has experienced trauma during their birth.
A year on and I still have triggers that make things a little difficult. However, I don’t dwell on the what ifs, instead I focus on the what is. I haven’t let ptsd shatter the prospect of having further children but for now I just watch in awe of my daughter who is our little shining star and I am forever blessed to have given birth to such a fighter. We love you darling!