Daddykind Corner: Being a Dad with PTSD

After we did a trial run of the Daddykind Corner with my lovely husband putting up with me interviewing him for the sake of the blog and for all of Daddykind, we present to you….

VOLUME 2!

I am very pleased to introduce our good friend Darren, who has had his fair share of mental illness and has some good techniques and tips for bringing your children up aware of mental health and how to take care of it.

Darren uses his own experience to coach other men through mental health problems and other mental blocks, so he’s pretty qualified to share his thoughts on how you can move on from mental illness and be the best parent you can be.

I’m so thrilled to feature this post from Darren because we all know how dire mental health provision is and how badly it affects men in particular. Please if any mums or dads are reading this and think they need help, contact your GP, the Samaritans or your local out of hours team if you feel you are in crisis.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Yes, of course. My name is Darren, I am friends with Sarah through her husband, Jamie. I served in the military with Jamie for 15 years and was posted overseas on many operations.
I am a father to two beautiful children aged 4 and 2, a boy and girl and separated from their mother whom I still have a fantastic relationship with….for the most part lol…
I was born and raised in the East End of London and I currently coach other men on mastering their emotions.

If you had to describe being a father in one word, what would it be and why?

If I had to choose 1 word it’d be “uncertainty” because I find I’m alway asking myself if I’m doing the right thing for them… whether that be by way of teaching and helping shape their little minds or disciplining them and training them to be good, honest, hardworking people. All that with making sure that they truly love themselves and KNOW from their core that they are worthy to achieve anything they want in life… No one said this parenting game is easy, aye?

How was your mental health after becoming a father?

I thought my mental health was fine… I was they happiest man in the world after my little girl, Evie was born…. However my wife at the time was suffering with and subsequently diagnosed with PND, which wasn’t easy at all, as I couldn’t understand why she was so unhappy all the time.

Were things different the second time around?

Oh massively… I’ll be honest and say that I never wanted a second child because I was so in love with my little girl that I couldn’t fathom having to share my love with another baby and I didn’t think it would be fair… I honestly didn’t think that I was capable of loving Mathew in the same way as Evie and subsequently it took me about 3 months to truly bond with him. Looking back it make me sad because I saw him as a burden. But now I understand that you don’t have to love them in the same way as your first and my heart literally melts every time I see him now.

Did you feel prepared for fatherhood and what could have helped you to be more prepared?

You can read all the books in the world, go to all the classes but I don’t think that anything will ever really prepare you for fatherhood. I think that as a dad having a positive male role model in your life can definitely put you in good stead to being a dad, and I never had this, which is why I do my absolute best to be the best man I can be for them because I know the importance of having both parents that want their babies to have the best start in life.

When were you diagnosed with PTSD and BPD?

I was diagnosed with PTSD from m

y military service in 2017 and subsequently discharged as a result and after using the techniques and procedures to keep on top of it I still knew that something was up with me and since have been diagnosed with BPD earlier this year after a friend opened up about her struggles it was like shinning a light on what I was going through.
Whilst growing up, I was a bit of a wild child to say the least and was in and out of care, excluded from school, engaged in dangerous or outright illicit activities at times and had a tough upbringing in East London, so I’ve always known that I’ve struggled with my emotions… something that I’ve got a grip of nowadays (for the most part). But as I grow, evolve and become more self aware over time it’s got to the point where I can’t ignore my problems and my advice to any other men reading this is: do not bury your head in the sand, just be honest with yourself… if you need help then go and seek it because drinking, fighting, drugs, being promiscuous etc etc will only lead to further problems and is just masking the true underlying issues.

What techniques do you use to manage your mental health?

There are many that you can use but finding what works for you is paramount. As a man, one of the biggest things that has helped me has been simply talking to a professional within the specific mental health niche. Because I bottled it up for so long there is only a certain amount you can take before something has to give. 
As I said, knowing yourself is also key… knowing what your triggers are and how they make you feel is also very important so you can counteract them…eg: being a massive introvert (most wouldn’t believe it lol) if I can feel myself slipping back into a rough patch…spending time alone in nature, on my motorbike, by the water really helps me to connect with myself again… it also helps to have a purpose and a goal in life and something to work on that requires discipline and focus. I find that whatever I focus on tends to expand so it’s about knowing how and where to shift your focus.

How has your understanding of your own mental health impacted on being a parent?

It most certainly has made be more aware and I listen more to my children… I’ll be honest I used to “Parent” my children and just try to get through the day making sure they are fed, watered and entertained. I now realise that it’s also key to flood their subconscious with positive affirming messages so that they love themselves. I just want them to be truly happy and not have to have a childhood they have to recover from. 

Who knows if I’m doing it right? One can only hope and time will tell.

Do you think it’s important to raise your children to understand mental illness and how would you do that?

I do think it’s super important that they know about mental health and more importantly that they take control of their own. I would certainly say that trying to go through life without any regrets is something I like to teach my kids… Whether that’s by always trying their hardest at something that they want to do and working hard for their goals or by simply being a good person and trying to never hurt the people around them or in any way compromise their integrity. 

Also, by always being true to themselves and NEVER letting the opinions of others define who they are…. I’ve always said that there is a date you were born and a date you die and that line in-between represents your life. 

So, I encourage them to think freely and live with passion and purpose.

———-

Thank you, Darren!

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

Mental Health Monday: 6 forms of therapy you should be trying!

Once you recognise that you potentially have mental health problems, the next step is how to deal with them. There are a number of options available, and these are the ones that myself or other mums I know have tried and had some benefit from! I hope that this list helps someone going into a GP appointment to know a bit more about the options and what they could try!

Medication

Sometimes, when you visit the GP the first response is to prescribe medication. Thankfully, when I went to the GP with my postnatal depression I had the experience of having been on antidepressants previously, and I knew that they wouldn’t be very effective for me. I did eventually end up using medication, but not for very long at all. However, there are some misconceptions about using antidepressants that need addressing!

You CAN breastfeed while on antidepressants – sertraline is the most common one for breastfeeding mothers, but the majority of tablets carry the same risk level for a low dosage. If this is one of your concerns, bring it up with the doctor because they have a handy little book they can check that tells you if it passes to the milk or not!

Side effects ARE worth mentioning to the GP – when I was on sertraline I could barely stay awake. It is a common side effect of this particular medication, and I went back to the GP to say that I couldn’t continue to use it. Easily enough I was switched onto an active antidepressant, fluoxetine, which did not make me feel drowsy at all. Even with medication, you need to find what works for you – it’s not one size fits all! I know a mum who was on sertraline successfully as she used the drowsiness side effect to help her get to sleep at night too by changing when she took the tablet to right before she went to bed.

You SHOULD NOT feel ashamed for taking medication. After all, depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain. If you had a limb amputated you wouldn’t manage it without analgesics, so why should you manage without medication when part of your brain isn’t functioning properly as it should?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

I’ve tried this once in the past in the form of group sessions, but I’m fairly certain it can be done one on one too. I found the group sessions really helpful when I was younger, but my memory is failing me here as it was over 10 years ago now!

CBT can work for a number of mental health issues including depression, OCD, eating disorders and more. It is an active form of therapy which aims to change your outlook on life by setting goals and completing tasks in between sessions. It can make you feel like you’re really making a meaningful change in your life.

Counselling/Talking Therapy


Talking therapy includes a lot of different types of therapy that actively involve you talking to a therapist, but they take many forms! CBT (above) is one of them too. There’s also family therapy, relationship therapy, psychotherapy, etc. But counselling is the most common of them.

Counselling on the NHS is usually done by self-referral and it’s a pretty simple process. When you contact the GP about your mental health concerns, you can ask for contact details of local counselling services – they should all have these to hand. Otherwise, have a look on the NHS website to find your local service.

This is something that works really well for me. I’ve attended family therapy and counselling a few times and, although I don’t get on with family therapy (probably due to my family being the root cause of many issues), when I try counselling I always see a marked improvement from when I started. If I had the money to do it, I’d probably pay to see a therapist for counselling weekly because it helps me that much! At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works for you. If you absolutely hate the thought of this, peer support might be a better option!

Peer Support

If you’re a twitter user, I strongly recommend following @PNDandMe. Rosey hosts a twitter chat every Wednesday 8-9pm for parents suffering with their mental health to talk in a supportive environment on a particular topic. Mummykind has co-hosted one in the past, and I regularly take part in them when I remember! This is a great way to remind yourself that you’re not alone, and it’s also much easier to type out how you’re feeling than to say it out loud, so it could be worth having a go if you’re daunted by the thought of going to counselling!

Craft Attack (or similar)


Harriet went through a craft therapy group after she had little Florence, and she’s written about her experience before on MummyGoesWhereFloGoes. I haven’t tried this one personally, but I can only imagine how something so therapeutic itself can really help you to overcome or manage you mental health difficulties. Even if the groups aren’t available in your area (ask your GP to check!), taking some time to yourself with a colouring book or another crafty project might just help you to calm yourself and re-centre – refocus on you!

Birth Afterthoughts

Again, this is another one that Harriet has trialled and is particularly helpful if you had a traumatic birth and are suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, it’s not only available if you do have a PTSD diagnosis!

It’s available to any woman who has recently given birth, and the idea is in the name – it’s for you to ask questions that you only thought of after the birth, to have your questions answered so that you can maybe come to terms with things that happened during or after the birth of your baby. This service might not be available in every NHS trust so make sure to discuss it with your midwife/health visitor to find out if you can access the service where you are!

I hope you find this little summary useful, and please, if you’ve tried any other kinds of therapy let us know what they are and how you found them in the comments!

Monday Stumble Linky

Mental Health Monday: Speak Up

Although we may have all spent our teenage years trying desperately to get away from embarrassing parents, parents are a class of people that we will all come across in everyday life. Hopefully, many of you reading this post are parents – mothers or fathers. It’s so important to understand and raise awareness of not only maternal mental health but of parental mental health generally.

Particularly important is raising awareness in our workplaces, because of the progress that has been made towards diversity and equality across this sphere generally – though much still needs to be done. Gender equality is increasing and this progress cannot be undone by a lack of support or awareness of the issues faced by new mothers and fathers, who, of course, make up a significant proportion of our working population.

Work-related stress is something which has affected so many people, so it is increasingly crucial to make sure that parents have no further stress upon returning to work, either by making admissions that they are seeking help for mental health conditions, or by suffering in silence and perhaps struggling in the meantime. Postnatal depression is not normally a topic spoken about widely enough for others to recognise that it can affect both mothers and fathers equally, and potentially adoptive or other kinds of parents as well.

At the moment, postnatal depression is diagnosed in around 1 in 10 mothers (though the actual number affected may be much higher!) and, according to recent NCT research, it also affects 1 in 10 fathers, though it may sometimes be called paternal depression rather than postnatal.

But I truly believe that nobody should have to suffer in silence in fear of a backlash if they do make a public admission of his or her postnatal depression. Encouraging an open dialogue around parental mental health brings us one step closer to ending mental health stigma altogether.

In some respects, the stigma of postnatal depression is more difficult to overcome, as many people can’t even fathom how a happy event such as the birth of a baby can lead to depression, psychosis, PTSD or anxiety as a result. The truth is that there is no logic to mental health conditions, and the expectations we are given to feel a certain way can make us feel inadequate, or undeserving, which can be where it all begins.

So how do we overcome the stigma surrounding mental health concerns? It’s necessary for the proper functioning of society that we’re able to move forward, and we have to raise awareness in order to do just that.

Personally, I believe that we should endeavour to be accommodating in our lives and particularly in our professional careers for new parents, encouraging and helping people to speak up, as they may be fighting battles unknown to the rest of us.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds campaign.

Harriet’s Labour Story – There’s a Time and a Place to Die… This wasn’t it.

This is the first part to the journey and story- Of your entrance into the world. I am struggling to write the second half at the moment, but I am sure that will be easier once I have had my ‘Birth Afterthoughts’ session.

Share

Hello, Flo.
This is the first part to the journey and story- Of your entrance into the world. I am struggling to write it all down- even after I had my ‘Birth Afterthoughts’ session.
Anyway,
My labour story starts on the Sunday before your due date, the 31st January 2016 at around 5:30 In the evening. I thought that I would make your Daddy a lovely dinner of bacon macaroni cheese from scratch. I had spent all day cleaning, but something was up. I decided to call the Maternity ward at the William Harvey Hospital because I couldn’t feel you move and it had been that way since I had woken up! This wasn’t the first time, but the forth time you’d decided to do this. I think you secretly liked making mummy worry about you! I texted your Grandma, who came straight away to take me to hospital so we could get you checked over.
Unlike every other time that I had to go in for monitoring for your reduced movement, you didn’t start wiggling away the minute you’d heard the machine monitoring pads being put on to my tummy. Despite this, you were doing well, your heart rate was spot on with a beautiful variance and pattern. After about 15 minutes I could feel you moving and that made me feel so much happier!
However, I wasn’t doing quite so well… I had proteins in my wee, a raised pulse and high blood pressure and a headache that had lasted several days- The Midwife decided to do blood tests to make sure all was okay (little did I know this would be the first of many, many needle wounds over the next two weeks!) Two midwives tried to take my blood but failed, so they sent off for a Doctor… I have always had rubbish veins! Grandma and I joked about how, if I begged them enough they might induce me (as after months of SPD and spinal disc issues, I was in lots of pain!)
Shortly after this, I moved from the ‘Maternity Day Care Ward’, to the ‘Folkestone Ward’ because the Maternity day care unit was closing for the day! The Midwife there told me that I should expect to stay- but that it would probably just be for the one night for further monitoring. Grandma left shortly after, to help your Daddy pack my short stay night bag.
Around 30 minutes after she left, I overheard a Doctor talking to a Midwife.. She said about a lady on the ward who “had a few episodes of reduced movement and has now been diagnosed with preeclampsia” and so needed to be moved to the ‘Labour Ward’ induction room. So it would be safer for her and her baby if she was to be induced. ‘She’s a lucky lady!’ I thought to myself, as it was just 2 days away from your due date and I couldn’t wait to meet you! The Midwife and Doctor then came around to see me and told me that I had preeclampsia. OH MY GOSH! It was me that they were sending around to the labour ward to be induced!
“Harriet, my lovely- I think it’s time we start trying to get this little lady to make a move, what do you think about meeting your baby soon?” The Midwife said as she walked me across to the labour ward.
I had Induction room ‘A’. It was far too hot (the fan was broken and with hormonal hot flushes, this was a personal hell for me)… But it was a step closer to holding and meeting my sweet baby girl! I texted your Daddy and Grandma to say I was going to be induced and therefore would need all of your baby stuff and my hospital bag. While I waited, another Midwife came to see me and told me that she could start induction whenever I was ready. I asked if I could have a bath and she told me that it is an excellent idea to enjoy a freshen up before induction commences as it can be an uncomfortable process.
Your Daddy came at about half past ten, baring all of your baby bits, my hospital bags and most importantly (at that moment in time) my toiletries- I couldn’t wait to wash my hair! I had a bath, got dried and told the Midwife at the desk that I’d be in my room waiting as I was ready to be induced!
The Midwife came and she put us on a monitor for half an hour before she started the induction. You were still wiggling about and had the perfect heart rate, so she went on to inserting a pessary. It was awfully uncomfortable when it was being put in and even more painful to keep in for a whole 24 hours. We were monitored every 3 hours and with the room being stifling hot, I got no sleep. NO SLEEP (and Daddy complained about being tired?!?)
 At 6am there was a staff change over, I was introduced to a new Midwife called Louise and a student Midwife called James. Before I met James, I was so unsure about student and male midwives, but he COMPLETELY changed my opinion through being courteous, kind, patient and friendly.
Grandma came back at 10am the next morning after taking Uncle D to school- It was now the 1st Feburary. She brought flapjacks, juice, fruit and even some cheeky Malteasers to keep my energy up! She also made me walk around the hospital several times to get you moving… clockwise, anti-clockwise, outside, out to a&e, to the cafe, to the shop and up and down the stairs. I can’t even remember the total number of people I bumped into, old friends, customers- you name it! All whilst in my Pyjamas, great!
I started to get contraction pains at around 2pm, which got worse until I had to breathe carefully just to get through the pain- I really thought things were going to go quickly from there on and you’d be in my arms soon! Alas- It got to 10pm, I’d had the pessary In for 22 and a half hours and I hadn’t got any further into my labour. My cervix remained flat and hadn’t dilated in the slightest. I felt like a complete wimp, I was in so much pain and it had been for nothing so far. It made me hysterical about the pain that was to come. I was disappointed in myself and my body for not doing what it needed to do.
In time, it turned out that the pain was down to an allergic reaction to the pessary, and my cervix trying to do what it needed to do in the warm up to labour. Because of this, the Midwife decided against a second pessary (Thank goodness!) and told me I’d have a gel inserted after monitoring to see if that got things going instead. At 11:30pm the pessary was removed and the gel was swiftly inserted. I was so relieved that the pessary had gone because it made me so sore. Even when removed it felt as if it was still in there- it made weeing agonising and sitting upright almost impossible! As I kept saying to Grandma ‘My foof felt like a hoof’ and it probably looked like one too (eww!)
The Midwife said the gel could be reapplied every 6 hours and that she’d see me every three to four hours for monitoring- Then see me for another lot of gel at 5:30 am (On the 2nd February). The pains got worse and closer together that night. I just about nodded off at 4:30am… but woke up to what I thought was you giving me a MASSIVE kick at 5:20am. I tried to go back to sleep but I felt strange, so decided I’d go to the toilet. When I stood up I felt a huge rush of liquid escape into my Pajama bottoms. LOVELY! I wasn’t sure what it was, so I went to the toilet and my biggest hopes (and fears!) were confirmed… My waters had gone!
I pressed the assistance buzzer and a (unusually unhelpful) Midwife came and quite literally threw a pad at me and told me “if it’s your waters, it’ll soak the pad” and that she’d be back soon to check what’s going on. I texted your Daddy and Grandma to tell them what was going on. Daddy was going to go to work as he’d just got a new job- I was going to get him to come up when he was needed as I was fine with just Grandma helping me. Who doesn’t want their Best Friend and Mummy there when they’re in pain?
Grandma arrived as they were helping me to pack up my induction room to move me to delivery room 6, she helped me change my clothes and walk over to the other room. I felt sick walking over there and the second I sat on the bed, I threw up.. Grandma skilfully caught (most of it) in three(!!!) bowls.
As I was Strep B positive, I needed IV antibiotics to keep you safe from the infection so they inserted a cannula in to my hand. As my hand was already black and blue from bruising after several failed blood test attempts, my body wouldn’t take the antibiotics. Because of this, a midwife squeezed the bag to see if she could force the antibiotics into my body- but all that did was cause my hand to expell an enormous amount of blood all over the fresh bed sheets.
I (used to) give blood so needles and cannulas aren’t a big deal to me, but that cannula was more agonising than most of my contractions. I cried and I begged them to take it out and move it to my other hand! Which they did after Grandma reasoned with them, as I was in floods of tears!
I was successfully hooked up to your antibiotics (with help from the ward’s top anesthesiologist), your monitor and my contraction monitor. Then handed the gas and air! (I giggled lots, they don’t call it laughing gas for nothing!) The hours passed as I slowly became more and more dilated, going from 2cm to 5cm to at ease. When it got to about 12 o’clock, your Grandma texted Daddy to come up to see me. Contractions were starting to get stronger and my back was agonising (with two prolapsed and one herniated disc considered I think I did well to be so brave!) so the midwife suggested having an epidural.
The same Anesthesiologist that successfully inserted my cannula had the joys of setting up my mobile epidural. Completely drunk on gas and air, I was raised on the bed towards the ceiling. I felt like someone from a scene in Alice in Wonderland. The area was cleaned and through contractions I was trying my hardest to stay still whilst a 4 inch needle was stuck into my spine. “If you don’t stay still, this could paralyze you” I heard a voice say. I was trying so hard to stay still, but I couldn’t! I held onto your Grandma and she held onto me – Trying to keep me still as I sat on the edge of the bed breathing through contractions must have been tough!
Success, it was in!
Then James and Grandma decided it was time to get me up to do a wee! I tried and tried but I just couldn’t go, so when I came back I had to have a catheter. James applied my catheter with ease. Your Daddy came soon after then, he offered me a fruit shoot but then drank it- helpful. Both Grandma and Daddy were trying to reassure me but for some reason, their pats on the back and strokes on the face infuriated me. James jokingly said that he could tell when I was having a contraction because I went from being lovely to being really grumpy (I did shout at Daddy and Grandma to tell them not to touch me!)
Contractions turned from stomach cramps to awful back pain, which honestly really made me feel like I needed to do a poo. So James checked how dilated I was, he guessed at around 8cm but Louise checked again and said I was at 10cm. It was time to listen to the rhythm of my body and push. I was going to have you in my arms so soon! Louise left for her lunch, jokingly telling me that she hopes to see my baby when she gets back.
I wanted to touch your head as you started your journey into the world. I wanted you straight onto my bare chest for lovely skin to skin, having your cord cut at an optimum time, a physiological third stage. I was going to really bond with you, in turn stimulating my milk production so I could breast feed you until you are one and a half. That was my plan. I wanted all of that. I wanted it so much. We were going to do it all and I was so excited to see if you looked like a ‘Florence’, I secretly had my heart set on your name for so long.
Following James’ and Grandma’s instructions, I pushed every time my body told me I needed to. The first 30 minutes of pushing I wasn’t putting anywhere near enough effort into it- I don’t really know what I expected? Like you would come out if I pushed gently? I mean it hadn’t been as hard as I expected it would be so far? Maybe I could get away with it and no one would notice? NO! Grandma noticed AND James noticed AND you still weren’t here.
Louise came back and told me that the lady in the next room had just had her baby after 25 minutes of being on the ward, “it was a breeze!”… She made it clear that I had to push harder and her firm but fair voice took over from James’ instruction. Your Daddy stroked my arm. I spent 15 minutes PROPERLY pushing, with all of my might. Determined to get you here. Thoughts were circling in my head, like; I want her now. I really want my baby girl. I love her so much. Will she be a Florence? Will I miss my bump? This hasn’t been too bad so far!
“Harriet, shes crowned, we can see her head!” exclaimed the Midwives and Grandma.
Then everything started to look funny. Everything looked grey, cloudy and felt like I was watching myself on television. I assume, that I though I was overwhelmed.
“Harriet, do you want to feel her head?” asked Grandma. “No” I replied. “Are you sure?” she said. I didn’t reply. “One more push and she’ll be here” said Louise and James…
As you quite literally FLEW out at such a speed that James, had to literally catch you.
He placed you on my chest. I held you close. I looked at your little face.
It all started to go very wrong, very quickly. I had no idea of the events unfolding as I lost consciousness after a rupturing a main artery, causing what was described as a massive hemorrhage.
Everything blanked.
I looked up and saw blood on the wall, I said to your Grandmim “Take a picture of the blood on the wall, it’ll make (your Uncle) G faint and it will be funny!”
Everything blanked.
“Harriet, you’re not going to be able to have a physiological third stage, we need to get your placenta out quickly”
Everything blanked.
“Can you sign this please, Harriet? We need to take you to theatre…”
“But I don’t think I can’t write my name?”
Everything blanked.
“You’re not doing too well lovely, you’ve lost a lot of blood…”
“But I can smell washing powder?” (Who in the right mind has this as a key focus when they have just given birth to a beautiful baby girl?!)
(This next part is so hard to write, because for the most of it- I wasn’t conscious. The session that I had at Birth Afterthoughts, has helped me fill in some of the gaps and your Grandma has helped with the rest!)
A long blank covered the vast amount of the next eight hours.
There are so many things that are hazy and things that I couldn’t remember but would have loved to treasure forever. Like; Your Daddy, cutting your cord. Hearing your first cry. Seeing your beautiful face for the first time. Holding you in my arms for your first breaths. Your first moments in this world. That tiny bit of initial skin to skin that we actually got together.
I’m pretty sure that you were very happy and contented being safe and warm in the womb and that’s why you were being stubborn on your way out! During the time that it took for your head to crown and for you to Fly out into James’ arms, your tiny, little yet very robust body caused a 2nd degree tear.
This fairly minor tear (somehow) managed to rupture a main artery. So in the time that I delivered you, to when you were in my arms- my blood had started to pool. Flowing out of me, covering the bed and the floor around where our bed stood. Grandma and your Daddy were so wrapped up in the moment, that they had not yet realised what was unfolding around them.
Grandma noticed James and Louise (Both of our Midwives) looking concerned and pointing to something on the floor. I can imagine at around this point, the emergency cord was pulled.
My blood loss was increasing and becoming more uncontrollable as my consciousness plummeted. You were removed from my chest and passed to Grandma.
Dozens of people started to flood into the room. A man introduced himself and quickly began trying to stitch and fix me up. But that obviously didn’t quite do the trick. Grandma then needed to help undress me for theatre, so you were quickly passed to your Daddy.
I was asked to sign a piece of paper, but I couldn’t even remember how to write my name. It was explained that I couldn’t have a physiological third stage and I agreed. After I had my nose stud and clothes removed to go to theatre, I was rushed out of the room. Just as I was rushed out, I caught sight of Irene, a friendly face, that I hadn’t seen in years. This made me feel slightly more relaxed. I have been told that I was hurried along a corridor and taken straight into emergency theatre.
Unlike lots of other things that I am almost thankful that I can’t remember- I can remember most of the agonising rummaging that went on, to repair the tear and stop me bleeding. I wish I could say that I couldn’t feel it, but I could. I begged for more pain relief and was given another epidural and then later, I believe a spinal block was administered too. I understand that the rummaging was vital in putting me back together but experiencing what felt like two big hands squeezing my internal organs was horrific. 
Grandma – “In the meantime, Florence had squeezed out a massive meconium poo into the soft warm towel she was wrapped in! I started to go through Florence’s hospital bag to pick out her nappy stuff and an outfit, she couldn’t stay in a towel the whole time you weren’t there! I found a cat sleepsuit, Tom and I decided that this would be perfect for her first outfit.”
 
There was a man with his laptop in theatre, I don’t remember why, but I remember him being there. A lady with short hair, in scrubs with her hair net, held my hand as I sobbed and looked up at the blood on the ceiling. I looked up at my blood pressure and the systolic reading blared a hazy ’62’ at me, before I slipped out of consciousness again.
Grandma- “Florence kept crying, I knew that she was hungry and that she couldn’t wait until you came back to have milk. The midwife said that she would try and get your consent before giving Florence formula. She asked us what type of formula we wanted to give Florence- I didn’t have a clue, because I knew how much you wanted skin to skin and to breastfeed your baby. In the end I chose SMA as all of my children had SMA with no problems. I thought it was best to stick with what we knew.”
In that time period where I was unconscious and memory is a mix of non existent and hazy. I remember that I couldn’t stop shivering. I shivered so relentlessly, for so long that my jaw, arms and chest ached for over two weeks. The recovery team asked if I could stop shivering so that they could get my pulse and my temperature, but I simply couldn’t- I believe it was around this time that I had to have a arterial line inserted. I was given three units of blood and one unit of plasma. I had consented to my baby being fed formula, with a few words despite being unconscious and not remembering any of it.


Grandma – “The midwife rushed in and said to put the baby down, you need to come with me immediately. It was then that they said your condition was critical. The surgeon said that it wasn’t looking great, he didn’t know what way you were going to go and he gave you 50/50 for pulling through. I came to see you but could only get as far as your feet, there were so many people, cables, wires, drips and machines. You were white. So white. Your veins had started to look like pinpricks and blue dandelions as they had started to shut down through a lack of blood.”
I don’t remember anything else for a very, very long time.
Eventually, my Grandma brought you to me and placed you by my cheek. I don’t remember this, but I truly believe that this contact with my baby girl- even though I was unconscious brought me back from the brink. People would have come and gone, observations were made. Specialists visited. My recovery team sat by my side.
Then, something clicked. Like a flash. I was still shivering and I was beyond exhausted. But all I wanted was my baby, oh and I wanted orange juice. I really wanted orange juice. I had been monitored and nursed, quite literally back from death. I continue to beg for water because I knew that if I could drink by myself, I would be on my way to being better for my baby.
One of the recovery crew looked like my Grandpops. After I had come round, he promised me he’d sneak me a cup of tea if I promised him I’d keep fighting to get better. Him and the nurse with the short hair from theatre, held a cup and straw as I almost literally consumed my weight in water. They held my hand and offered reassuring pats on the arms and stroked my head as I fell in and out of consciousness.
Grandma- “Tom went to get us both food as we were both starving. I sat and cuddled with Florence. I cried. I promised that I’d always be there to love and look after her. I told her that we could go to Disneyland when she’s bigger. We were forced to consider, contemplate and plan in case Florence had to live her life without you. It was horrific. Completely awful.”
 
I lay in recovery with my recovery team for a few more hours as people came to check on my bleeding, progress and consciousness hourly. I was feeling freezing and totally petrified of starting to shiver again, so the man who looked like my Grandpops did a blanket round up for me and I lay there snug under 8-10 blankets.
He grabbed me a cup of tea so that it would be cool enough for me to drink after a specialist had checked me over. He came back with a slice of cake too and said that if I’m well enough, he might even give me his… Sadly after the observations I was well enough for fluids (so hell yes, give me that tea!) but too poorly for my cake, so I made him promise to eat it, enjoy it and tell me how nice it was. Which he didn’t because he felt too mean. Bless him!
I sat in recovery for at least another couple of hours. My recovery team started to try and help me to sit more upright, they did everything and anything they could to make me comfortable. Grandma brought you in to see me, this time I was actually able to hold you but this lovely encounter was cut short by my need to rest.
A senior male midwife was called to check up on my bleeding and labeled it as very heavy, but being a lady with PCOS I was very familiar with very heavy bleeding and this wasn’t very heavy to me at all, so a lady was called in and asked to check it out and also agreed that the blood loss was of a fair amount but certainly not very heavy.
A little more time passed, I had a final check and was wheeled out of recovery and back onto the labour ward. After I said a very emotional goodbye to my recovery team.
I had returned to my room on the labour ward for no more than half an hour, when my midwife- James’ noticed that temperature and pulse started to really rocket. I had a sample of blood taken, that was examined and eventually revealed that I had sepsis. For the second time in 24 hours, I was fighting my life. I was placed on IV antibiotics and as many layers were removed from me as possible to keep me cool.
Grandpa and Uncle D managed to get on the ward after Grandma was told my Direct family could see me after all that had happened. I just lay there as they met you, too exhausted to even function. Grandma then took the first picture of us as a family.

At around 10:30pm your Grandparents cuddled and kissed us goodbye and went on their way home. Grandpa had a day full of meetings about my D’s future education as he is on the autistic spectrum and with Grandma having been with me since 7am, they were both completely exhausted and very deserving of a rest.
Daddy spent some time with us – so we could just be us,  our little family. A nurse came in to help me with skin to skin and to show me how you should latch on to my breast so that I could try to begin with breast feeding.

We decided that we wanted you to be called Florence. Florence as in ‘Florence Nightingale’. We drafted our birth announcement. Sadly Daddy had to go as he had cold symptoms and didn’t want to pass them onto us. You were placed in a crib next to my bed and you fell asleep.
My catheter was removed and I was told that if I went for a bath, I could go onto the Folkestone ward and that we’d be able to go home in no time. I wanted to be at home. I didn’t want to be in hospital. This was going to be my 3rd night. I started to try and stand up, to make my way to the bathroom- but I couldn’t. I wasn’t strong enough.
You woke up and started screaming. You wouldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t get to get up and help you. I was helpless. I was useless. Healthcare workers popped their head round the door and asked me why you were crying – as if I could have just jumped and sorted it out myself.
A student midwife came in and introduced herself, she was called Florence too! She was very lovely, helped me out of bed, helped me to walk over to Florence and even changed your nappy. A healthcare assistant helped me gather my bits for a bath and off I went. Midwife Florence passed you on to another midwife who cradled you whilst I sorted myself out.
In hindsight, I needed a loved one with me. I needed someone to sit with you whilst I bathed the blood, sweat, tears and everything else off of my half-dead, aching body. I needed someone to hold my hand. It was horrendous. I had the most agonising bath of my life. Whilst I could hear my new born baby screaming from the corridor in the arms of a total stranger. Every one of my stitches stung. I felt like my insides were going to fal out. Tears rolled down my eyes, but I had to do it, I had to be healthy so that we could go home. When I got out of the bath, it looked like a murder scene. I dried myself, put on pjs and walked back over to my room.
As I was crossing the corridor, a midwife came over and said “as you’ve managed to bath yourself, we think it’s time for you to go back onto the Folkestone ward”. They barely even helped me pack up my things before wheeling my possessions and my bed over to the Folkestone ward. I pushed you in your cot, with a tear dropping down my face for every step I took. It was agonsiging. 
I was placed on a high dependency bay opposite the midwives’ mess and reception desk, surrounded by Mums who had all had c-sections (all of which I watched leave over the next two days).
You didn’t stop crying that night, probably because you were starving and my breasts couldn’t fulfil your hunger in the way the bottle did. Every time you cried, you woke up another baby on the bay. Every time another baby cried, you cried. You cried so much that the midwives took you away so I could have a break, which made me feel like a failure of a mother.
For the hour or so that you were had gone, I tried to express milk from my breasts whilst sobbing. Sobbing and sobbing. I had never felt so scared or so alone. It was about 3 in the morning now, on the 03/02/16. I’m just glad that I didn’t know then, that through the whole of my (almost 2 weeks collectively) hospital stay, this feeling wouldn’t let up.
I had done something so amazing and given birth to the most perfect, beautiful, healthy little girl. Yet, I felt like because my body was coping so badly I didn’t deserve you in the slightest.
The hour that you were gone, felt like weeks. I hadn’t had many conscious moments without you inside my tummy and kicking. I had tried so hard to expresss, but nothing was coming. The midwife brought you back in and you latched onto my breast again. She reassured me that you were getting plenty and that I would be able to fulfil your hunger. She gave me three large pans to fill and told me that when I had filled them, we could go home. I decided that I would save my wees to make everyone count, as the stitches made wearing very painful!  
The hours passed and it slowly became the more acceptable half of morning, I had sat there for hours trying to feed you, settling you and staring at your perfect face. 
The breakfast rounds came around and I had my usual banana with porridge and a cup of tea. I needed as much nutrition as I could get so that I could feed you. 
The hearing checks were done. Your little ears were strong and perfect. Your hips were checked. Every little limb was beautifully formed and effectively placed. You had a heel prick – they were sure to check your thyroid as I’d always had problems, but nothing.
Like all Mummies, I was in awe of you – You were and always have been perfect. 
The bounty lady came around to take your photos. She positioned you with ease whilst I watched, terrified that you’d break. She said you were beautiful and that you looked like me. I had never felt so proud. 
I had painkillers but they weren’t enough. I had to have an anaesthetist ultra-sounding my arm every time I had a blood test or a drip put in place. You had your Strep B checks. I was relieved that you were fine.
I cuddled you. I kissed you. I stared at you. I was in wonder at you. I chose your 2nd outfit. I changed your nappy. I held your little hands. I tried to feed you again. You became everything. You were everything. You are my everything. 
The surgeon from the day before, came to see me during his time off. He said that he was amazed at how lovely, friendly and polite I was despite not even being fully conscious and that he was so pleased that I managed pulled through. It had got to close to me fading away and he was so pleased to see me with my baby. 

You fell asleep, so I decided to be brave and go for my first wee. I really hope that you never have to experience that pain. I was glad I held on though, because the longer you hold on- the more diluted your wee becomes, which means it stings less. HURRAH! 
When I came back, Grandma was in our little cubicle. I ate my breakfast and chilled out with her and you. I texted your Daddy and asked him to visit and whilst we waited, I braved going to the shower, but god did that hurt! 
Our student midwife, James – came to see us and to say how pleased he was to see me looking as well as I did. He congratulated me and stayed for a while to chat. It felt so lovely to be so cared for by the team that saved my life. 
Lunched passed, Grandma Stayed- Nonna and Grandpops came to visit you. Then Daddy came and so did GrandNan and Grandad.  
A very noisy and rude lady was put into the bay to the left of us. She had as many visitors as she wanted at all times. She refused to move and wouldn’t do anything to help herself or her baby. She put on a voice when a medical professional was near and made awful comments about my difficulties with breast feeding. 
Daddy went, dinner came. It was my 2nd night with you. You screamed, you screamed and you screamed. My breasts were blue from trying to feed you constantly. My milk hadn’t even began to come in. The nasty comments from the lady in the next cubicle continued to roll in.
 My after birth pains started to come in. They were agonising. My stitches were hurting, I decided that I needed more pain relief so walked over to the midwives’ desk – to be told that I should have been receiving morphine every 4 hours and that they’d get some to me asap if I waited in my cubicle. 
I got very bad tummy pains whilst you were screaming and had to buzz for a midwife to hold you whilst I ran to the toilet. Instead of just agreeing to watch over you for a minute, she decided to try and argue with me about it. I got to the toilet and had the worst antibiotic, painkiller and after pains induced upset tummy imaginable. 
I came back to you in no time and the midwife who I had left to hold you, had settled you and popped you into your cot. You looked so perfect and calm as you slept, but very shortly you woke up and resumed your screaming. I felt so helpless and so worried for my little girl. 
The hours passed until it was about 6 in the morning. My nipples were bleeding and you were starving. I hadn’t slept in 4 nights aside for when I was unconscious. My milk still hadn’t come in. 
I buzzed for a midwife as I wanted help, to be greeted by the same midwife who had tried to argue with me the night before. She told me that I had essentially starved my baby and that only if I felt it was “completely necessary” would she give me any formula. 

I begged her for a bottle for and fed you. Instantly your upset stopped. I was pleased that something so simple was behind your upset but felt so upset that my body couldn’t feed you. I raised my concerns that you were looking a little yellow, but was told that you were fine – so I tried not to worry. 
Grandma came in and sat with us so that I could finally sleep. When she arrived, I was so stressed that I physically couldn’t sleep, until she covered my head with a blanket to shut out the light and I quite literally passed out. I woke up and went for a shower. She was a total life saver that day. She told me that Grandpa and your uncles would be coming that evening to see you and I got really excited. 
I was full of love for you but I felt so alone. Grandma had so much to do but visited as much as she could. None of my friends visited and Daddy didn’t visit often either.
The woman in the next bay had visitors come and go and recounted my difficulties to every single guest, as I sat there behind the curtain sobbing. I felt like a failure. She not only had her own family to visit, but several friends and their children outside of visiting hours. 
Daddy came to visit and came bearing disposable bottles of formula but had to go back home as he was still unwell. 
Grandpa and your uncles turned up to visit, but just as they stepped into our bay – a midwife said that Uncle D couldn’t come in as he wasn’t my child. I tried to explain that the other lady had everybody and anybody that she wanted to visit, but I couldn’t get the words out through fits of tears. Grandpa and Uncle D were sent into the corridor so that Uncle G could see you and then they could swap. 
I had a plan set out in my head and because Uncle D is autistic I knew just how important it was for him to meet you and understand you. I was just so heartbroken that I got picked on for this when nobody else did. I had such a rubbish time and quite frankly missed my baby brother so much that it hurt. I calmly left you in Uncle G arms in our cubicle and went to see Grandpa and Uncle D. I very quickly became very hysterical. I sobbed into Grandpa’s arms whilst he told me that he loved us and that it was okay. 
Our student midwife James walked by and explained that I was feeling the way that I was because of hormones – I had been on a 10 month high on the most wonderful hormones whilst pregnant and afterwards is just a massive emotion-filled hangover. He let me wheel you out of the bay into the corridor so that we could spend time together. Grandpa walked us back to my bed and we chatted. He gave me a big hug and completely reassured me that it would all be okay and that the pain would pass. He gave me a massive bar of galaxy and then had to go as visiting hours were over. 
You were fast asleep and as they left I ate the whole big bar whilst I sobbed about how pants everything had been so far. I continued trying to pump, but still no milk. 
The lovely Irene came into see me and managed to get us on a list to get our own room so that Uncle D could visit, so that all the other babies and Mummies would be able to sleep and so that I could stop being tormented by the other mummy next to me. 
Half way through the next day, we were moved to our own room. My infection levels were still very high. Mummy’s friend Laurie sent her sister in with a massive box of chocolates to cheer me up, as she worked at the hospital. 
We had our own space. I finally could use the toilet or shower without cringing. You were sleeping. I felt calmer. I could have anybody to visit at any time. Which meant that Grandpa could visit more frequently as he finished work late.

As your Daddy started to feel a little better, he could come and see us a little more. He got you more formula as my milk still hadn’t come in and continued to fetch me more supplies. Your GrandNan made me a fruit salad and brought it in- which was delightful, I was starving! 
My veins became so damaged that a 20 minute antibiotic drip went from taking 2 hours to taking 4. I had over 50 different pin pricks, I was covered in nasty bruises. But I had you. 
 
 
 
 

You were referred to a paediatric doctor for jaundice, as the first midwife that I saw blatantly had no idea about it. You only had physiological jaundice but this went away with sunlight and lots of milk; we had your levels halved in only two days. 
The days passed and my milk still didn’t come in. We saw a breastfeeding expert who confirmed that you latch was fine, but still I produced nothing. Nobody explained why. I still felt useless. 
Still- no friends came to visit, Daddy couldn’t come often and you were asleep a lot of the time. I didn’t feel confident enough (very unlike me!) to express my want for people to be around more, not even to your Daddy – so it got very lonely, but just looking at you got me through. I fell in love with everything about you- your windy smile, your yawn, your stetching, even your cute little windypops! 
I’m so thankful for the amazing medical professionals who kept me alive- who made me better, who were quick to diagnose my sepsis and who took strep b seriously. The people who went above and beyond their roles – like Irene, James, Louise, my recovery team and the surgeon. Their compassion helped me through the toughest part of my life. Whenever needed, they were there. I can’t thank my family – our families – enough and the friends who were on the other side of a phone for me. My Mummy, your Grandma was our hero. I cannot put into words how amazing I think she is. I don’t know where we’d be without her. 
Then came home time. I wanted to come home so much. We were promised the Friday, but I was still too sick. It was confirmed that I had contracted sepsis through being strep b positive. God, was I so thankful to be the one who was made sick by strep b and not you. SO THANKFUL.  
You were thankfully discharged and deemed perfectly health to go home on that Friday! Then came the Saturday… and nope. I was still too sick. Then on Sunday, Irene managed to push our discharge and we could finally go home.  
I had my shower and we got all packed up. I was given a mountain of drugs to keep up to speed with.  We waited a few hours, then just like that, we were free to return to the comfort of home and take you to the place where you’d learn to feel your safest.
We could finally be a little family and I was so excited for that to happen. 
 
So that’s it… that’s how you made it into this world- my precious, beautiful and incredible miracle. 
xxx