Mental Health Monday: Dealing with previous birth trauma during pregnancy

I am sitting with my midwife and letting the tears roll down my cheeks as I explain how I HAVE to be in control, even of things go wrong I NEED the information and the facts, natter how frightening they sound. I need a plan in place for everything so I know that what is happening to me is MY choice, and I consent.

Mental Health Monday: Dealing with previous birth trauma during pregnancy

I spent a long time denying that my first birth was traumatic and after that I spent a while playing it down, yes it was traumatic but it wasn’t THAT traumatic. How could I be traumatised? What right did I have? I’m healthy (ish) and my son is healthy (ish) and we made it through the whole thing relatively unscathed.

Turns out, I was wrong. Very wrong. And I didn’t really let that trauma in, I didn’t accept it or start deal with it until I was already pregnant again, three and a half years on.

So, for context, let’s look at what went wrong…

My labour was 18 hours, culminating in an episitomy and forceps delivery with a spinal anaesthetic that took around 5 attempts to insert between heavy contractions. I had been pushing for 2 hours solidly with no progress and had been given pethedine which was making me lose consciousness between contractions and wake up in extreme pain and confusion, scared out of my wits. My baby was in distress, registering a heat rate of 58bpm and I had been told that I wasn’t trying hard enough – I couldn’t communicate that I could feel that my baby was stuck. I believe my baby was stuck because I was told that I must be ready to push by now, so I started pushing before my body told me to.

Now, there are worse births, but this was not okay. I was not okay. This whole ordeal was followed by a harrowing week in hospital as my son fought jaundice and I was readmitted because of infection caused by retained placenta.

What’s going on this time then?

I wrote about taking control of my second pregnancy very early on, but as my due date approaches my head is now focused on the impending birth.

In thinking about how things went last time I began to recognise that the root of my trauma was the very stark and sudden loss of control, when things were taken out of my hands it was terrifying.

I am tackling the issue by filling my head with information because knowledge is power. I’m learning more about how my body works, what it does and why. I am researching pain relief options and what the side effects are and whether they can slow down labour or pass through the placenta to the baby.

I am sitting with my midwife and letting the tears roll down my cheeks as I explain how I HAVE to be in control, even of things go wrong I NEED the information and the facts, no matter how frightening they sound. I need a plan in place for everything so I know that what is happening to me is MY choice, and I consent. I am very determined not to have any medical intervention this time but I know that sometimes things are beyond our control, so it is important to me to have a comprehensive plan in place for a variety of outcomes. I am going to meet with the midwives at the hospital midwife led unit to write up a formal plan that can be communicated with the team ahead of time so they don’t accidentally repeat the mistakes from last time.

Honestly, I am not even scared anymore. I still get emotional about last time but all that does is fuel my determination to have a better outcome this time. I’ve found the process so far to be very therapeutic and I feel like I have made steps to recover. Keep an eye out in the next few weeks for my birth story!

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5 reasons why I never want to be pregnant again!

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Babies are great… Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves… They CAN be great, when they want to be. But most of the time they’re either sucking the life out of you (LITERALLY) or shitting on you (AGAIN, LITERALLY) and I swear they enjoy every second of it!
 
But anyway, they can be great… I mean, who doesn’t love babies? Pregnancy, however, is a whole different kettle of fish, and my god do I never want to do that again.
 
Here are my 5 reasons why!
  1. For someone who already had a lot of emotional issues, the heightened emotions of pregnancy made things even harder to cope with. It’s actually pretty shit crying over silly things, or for no reason. And even if you feel like you’re crying for a legitimate reason, other people don’t take you seriously because you’re pregnant, and they blame it on the hormones. Even if it is due to those nasty things, that doesn’t make your feelings any less legitimate. Even if I was crying because the vacuum broke…
  2. As soon as you’re pregnant, other people feel like they can dictate to you what to do. Mainly your midwife. I was a veggie and my midwife did not respect that, and asked me to start eating meat, saying that the baby would be iron deficient if I didn’t. Eating meat changed nothing except to make me put on more weight, and I still had to take iron tablets. But it’s not just the midwife, it’s all of your non-pregnant friends! One friend literally breathed down my neck about me eating mayonnaise, and said I didn’t look pregnant, just like I’d had a big lunch (I forgave her for that and we laugh about it now, but hello?! Heightened emotions!!!!!!). AND THEY ALL WANT TO TOUCH YOUR BELLY AS IF IT SUDDENLY BELONGS TO THEM.
  3. Following on from that one… In the last few months when the baby is running out of room: at night, if you lie on your back, the baby’s movements look like something out of Alien. You can visibly see their backs turning or their feet protruding and as well as being uncomfortable, it freaked me the hell out. And guess what? If I didn’t like seeing and feeling it myself, I also didn’t like other people touching my belly and setting the whole “let’s kick mummy to shit from the inside out” rhythm off!
  4. It’s not nice having to bare all to a large number of healthcare professionals – whether it’s the stretch-mark covered belly or your vagina, I didn’t quite get used to having it all out there until I was in labour and quite frankly couldn’t give a crap either way at that point.
  5. Post-pregnancy, I’ve had all these ridiculously annoying baby hairs sticking out of my forehead making me look like a baby lion. It’s not nice. My daughter is now 2, and I still have these! My hair, skin and nails didn’t glow while I was pregnant and now I’m stuck with this mega hair growth that’s so pitiful and annoying all at the same time! I can’t even wear my trademark mum bun for more than 30 minutes without the baby hairs pointing up and making me look like a tit in public. And god forbid it’s a windy day! Windswept would be an understatement…
Are there any reasons why you’d prefer not to go through pregnancy again? Let us know in the comments!

Mental Health Monday: Antenatal Depression

Recently, postnatal depression has been receiving a lot of media attention and greater awareness as a result, which really is fantastic! But… other topics not so widely spoken about are the reams of other postpartum mental illnesses, in addition to antenatal depression and anxiety.

Amy has spoken about her experience of postpartum psychosis on the blog already here, hopefully raising awareness of the fact that it’s not always so straightforward in relation to postnatal mental health! Today, I want to focus on antenatal depression and what it can look like. Similarly to postnatal mental health worries, it can be difficult sometimes to distinguish between depression, or “just hormones”.

A little foreword: my experience of antenatal depression started when I was around 5-6 months pregnant – it can of course start much earlier than that – and to some extent I already knew what the warning signs were, having suffered with depression in the past. Hopefully the following list will help someone else recognise the warning signs in either themselves or a loved one, and enable them to get help as early on as possible! Also I’m in no way medically qualified, these are just the tips from a mum who’s been through it!

Symptoms:

1. Crying, all of the time

This is one of the most famous symptoms of pregnancy in general – crying, all of the time, at silly little things. BUT there is a point when it’s more than just crappy hormones making you all emotional. With hindsight I know that crying over a hoover breaking before I even knew I was pregnant was definitely just hormones, and I know equally as well that crying myself to sleep every night during my last trimester was not hormones, it was depression. This is one of those where you need to be the judge of what is normal for you! Are the raging emotions and mood swings worse than you think they should be? If so, err on the side of caution and flag it up with your GP – if they’re aware, they can help and provide you with support!

2. Obessively worrying

This is something I’m terrible at anyway, but I can always tell the days when my depression and anxiety hits me worst, because I will obsess over things to the point that I can’t get to sleep. If that’s you, still awake with worry at 4am, consult a GP. Sometimes it is normal to worry about being a mum for the first time, but if it’s constant, every night, and you can’t seem to get the thoughts out of your mind for just one second, that’s where it’s not quite okay and you might need some extra help working through the anxiety.

3. Low self-esteem

Pregnant me suffered a massive, huge, unbelievably enormous hit to the self-esteem. From about the 5th month of pregnancy onwards (when bump was starting to show), I hated my body. I did not see the miracle of life when I looked in the mirror, I saw FAT. And I hated it. I have one picture of me and my bump because of this and I regret it so so much. Again, every pregnant woman feels like a whale at some point, normally when we’re having to waddle at the end of pregnancy, but if you can’t stand to look in the mirror or get to the point where you’re crying over what you see when you do look, it’s probably depression.

4. Feeling isolated

This is a big one, particularly if you do have people around you supporting you, but you still feel alone! Firstly, you’re not, your baby will probably remind you of that by kicking you in a rib at some point. Secondly, we all need alone time but make time for friends. Make time to be with adults where you don’t have to concentrate on baby-related things. It can be difficult transitioning from a person to a parent, because you feel like you’re losing your identity. People no longer ask how you are, they ask how the bump is doing. It’s difficult to feel like you’re just the vessel and everyone only wants what you’re carrying, but it’s not true! Without you, the precious cargo would never have existed in the first place. If you do feel alone, reach out to people around you for support!

5. Sleeping trouble

The most common thing for expectant mothers in the sleeping arena is not getting enough of it! Particulary when the baby is running out of room in that womb, and still just as fidgety! But whether it’s too much sleep or too little sleep, they can both indicate depression and can really exacerbate the other symptoms. You’ll have enough sleep deprivation when baby arrives so try to get your head down when you can, without sleeping all day and becoming overtired. Find your balance, take a power nap when needed, and still make sure you’re getting out of the house every day. This is a bit more to do with self care to prevent making yourself ill, but it’s a valid symptom of depression, too.

What do I do if I think I have antenatal depression?

1. Speak to your midwife
2. Get an appointment with your GP
3. Self-refer to counselling with the NHS – here’s a link where you can find local counselling services!
4. Make your partner/family/friends aware of how you’re feeling so that they can give you some familial support
5. And, finally… take each day as it comes – some will be better than others so don’t let the bad days deter you from

These 5 steps will get you on the road to recovery, and after all, we all have to be well to be the best mummies we can be for our little babies!

Did you find anything else that helped you through antenatal depression? Let us know in the comments! Please share this post to raise awareness with the hashtag #MentalHealthMonday

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