Pregnancy - I’d had an easy first and second trimester but then started to develop pre eclampsia for which I was hospitalised several times before the birth. The last trimester was not so easy; I had to go into hospital three times a week for blood pressure checks. At a 37 week check, I was not allowed to go home due to the blood pressure being so high. I was to be induced that night. I called my husband who was in shock and he came over.
We had bought all the baby equipment but it was all in boxes. We were not ready for the baby for another few weeks....
I was given various induction drugs and then at midnight was told that my husband could go home as nothing would
happen for the next few hours. Then at around 1 am, my waters broke. Then I suddenly began to have
palpitations, my head and back felt paralysed and I began to shake uncontrollably. I called the nurse who came
to tell me to calm down. She thought I was having a panic attack but this was not the case. She gave me oxygen
took an ECG and the shaking eventually stopped. The incident seemed to blow over but I could not sleep at all. My husband
came back and slept on the floor. At no point, did any doctor come in.
The next day, the baby still hadn’t arrived and about seven doctors came round my bed to ask me how I was feeling. I said not wonderful but ok. One of them said, “We’re glad you’re ok because we think you may have had something very rare called an Amniotic Fluid Embolism where normally the woman dies but you seemed to have survived”. In the blur of the moment, I took this on board but didn’t give it too much attention as there was so much going on.
Later that day, my beautiful baby girl came out in a vaginal birth. She was healthy and screaming. I felt lots of love and bond. I was happy she was safe. I suffered 2nd degree tearing which the midwife tried to fix but couldn’t, so called a second doctor who then spent an hour sewing me up whilst in stirrups. I was then put in the high dependency ward, still with my catheter attached. I still had all the IV needles in both my hands and found it incredibly hard to breastfeed.
Then, with regular blood tests, doctors began to tell me I had horribly low iron levels due to the bleed. So they gave me iron tablets, these had little effect. I was then told I needed a transfusion due to my levels being so low. So I relunctantly had this. On the fourth day in hospital, I developed a urine infection after the catheter was removed. My urine was sent for testing, it came back positive. I was put on antibiotics. I couldn’t sleep well at all with all the screaming babies around and the nurses talking loudly at their desks. I found it hard to breastfeed due to my hands being covered in IV needles. One of the nights, I felt really queasy and asked the nurse to help. She took the baby away. She also then tested my blood presssure, it was dangerously high. The eclempisa was still there, so I was rushed to another ward to be given every 5 minutes, blood pressure IV drugs. This finally stablised me.
The next day, I noticed my baby was looking a bit tanned/yellow, I mentioned this to a midwife. She confirmed jaundice and needed to go in a UV machine, so she did. She hated it, screamed constantly which was so distressing. She wouldn’t settle. So an experienced midwife gave her formula milk to calm her down. Over the next few days the jaundice went. I was then released after day 5 or 6.
My parents in the meantime, had flown from abroad and greeted us with their suitcases in the lobby of the hospital. Together, we all went home with our newborn. The next few weeks were hard. Unopened baby boxes were all over the top floor of the house with my father complaining he could not move around the place. My daughter screamed a lot as she was hungry. I was hopeless at breastfeeding. The health visitor came and checked me over I seemed to be doing fine but highlighted the difficulty in breastfeeding. She told me to carry on. My father eventually went home as it was all too stressful in a 2 bed appartment with 5 of us. My mum stayed. Over the next few weeks, we visited the health clinic where I was told the baby was losing weight, they eventually told me to introduce formula which was a liberating experience for me. She would finally eat and sleep.
Things began to improve. After 4 weeks back at home, I decided to socialise with new friends. My mum finally left. I really started to enjoy mother hood. The coffee mornings, walks and endless lunches. I loved it!! I had the perfect Bugaboo and got her all the latest toys and accessories. I made some fantastic friends. It was a great social life. I used to call my husband and gush at how much I loved motherhood. At 8 weeks, the baby had her health check and I was told they could hear a heart murmur so we took her to a cardiologist who said she was actually fine. What a relief!
When our daughter was about one and a half, we decided to sell our flat and try and buy a house. We couldn’t find anywhere to buy so we rented a house. I was responsible for organising everything about the move. My husband said we can just move with his father helping us in a hired van. I knew this was madness having moved houses all my life.He eventually agreed to have a removals company help us. Instead of clearing our flat of excess rubbish, we brought it all with us. The move was difficult as my husband hadn’t anticipated how much stuff we’d accumulated.
But I loved the new house. In November 2009, the dark nights started setting in and I became lonely as all my mum friends started going back to work and I was a full time mum surrounded by unpacked boxes all over my new house. This took months and months to clear. I started sleeping badly. My husband was also keen to start trying for another baby and I suddently began to really worry about my health in a second pregnancy. I was worried I could die like I nearly did the first time.
My insomnia got worse and worse and my mother sent me sleeping pills which seemed to help momentarily. If I got 5-6 hours a night, it was a good night.
The new house had problems. We had mice and then a near gas explosion. I coudn’t sleep so my doctor prescribed anti anxiety drugs. This helped and I enjoyed Xmas. Then the GP prescribed more anti anxiety pills in early Jan until one woman doctor said she though I might be depressed. I took the test and I was. She prescribed Prozac. We also had private health insurance so she recommended I use it to see a psychiatrist at a private health centre to complement my care. I sat on the tablets for a long time, not willing to take them. Then in early Feb, I had a terrible panic attack early one evening. I thought I was dying, I called an ambulance. They came, they calmed me down reassuring me it was a panic attack. They said that I should take the tablets if I was depressed.
Then the next day, my brother told me to arrange a meeting earlier with the psychiatrist at the private clinic. He could see me, Great! I saw him and said Prozac was wrong for me and prescribed a sleep inducing antidepressant. At this time I was diagnosed as moderately depressed. I took them and felt my sleep return to normal during a two week period. I was feeling mildly better. During this whole time, my husband found me being ill difficult to comprehend. I thought I was getting a bit better as sleep was resuming but I became to feel more and more anxious, and my sleep was yet again disturbed. One day while visiting a friend, I suddenly felt an overriding sense of fear and anxiety, I was shaking inside. I rushed home. My blood pressure was through the roof.
I became more and more reclusive, staying away from friends and baby groups. My little one also started nursery and was constantly ill with bugs she was catching at nursery. Every week a new cold would appear and another sleepless night. I was now getting 2-3 hours sleep. I had been given anti anxiety pills which I started taking to get me through the day.
I kept going back to my psychiatrist to tell him about my symptoms but he indicated I would feel better very soon when he added a seccond lot of antidepressants with an anti anxiety element to them. I then caught an infection from my daughter which went to my ear and burst my eardrum with blood pouring out. I had to go on antibiotics. Another problem, it seemed more and more problems were coming at me. Nothing was working, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat and couldn’t function. I couldn’t function as a human being. I was begging my husband to help me but he didn’t know how. Just going to work and back. My best friend came to visit. She was distressed at seeing me in this state. She called my husband at work to tell him I was bad and that she was staying the night to cook and look after me.
During this time Feb - May, I had also started a CBT counselling session at my surgery. I didn’t get CBT, couldn’t understand it, it wasn’t having any effect. I became increasingly incoherent, worrying obsessively about my health. I felt close to collapse. How could the body take so much stress? My blood pressure was sky high and I kept checking it myself. How could the counsellor I was seeing try to help me with CBT when I couldn’t sit still or function? Why did she not call my psychiatrist to report on how bad I was?
I kept going back to my psychiatrist saying things are getting worse and worse. He promised I would feel better soon. But I didn’t. My husband wasn’t talking to me, my parents didn’t know what to do when I phoned them sobbing. I was living in constant fear. I was afraid of being alone with my toddler. I was living a nightmare.
The washing and household chores piled up, I couldn’t function. I had blurred vision, diarrhea, a urine infection and I could barely make a meal.
In May, my husband called my mum in desperation. She could see things were bad. She called my psychiatrist to get an urgent appointment. I was suicidal. I didn’t want to wake up. I was so disappointed every day when I woke up. The life I was leading was hell on earth. The doctors, family, my husband, the pills, the counselling – I’d explored every avenue and everywhere I turned, doors shut in my face and more and more problems kept unravelling.
My mother took me to the psychiatrist who couldn’t believe what he was hearing about me being suicidal and then referred me to another colleague of his for a second opinion. I was allowed to go home in the care of my mother and husband who would be watchful over me. The next few days waiting for my second appointment were hell. I was wriggling on the floor telling my mother I was dying while at the same time wanting to die. I asked her to call an ambulance. My thinking was all over the place. Confused, anxious and out of touch with reality.
The day finally came for the second opinion. I barely showered, but managed to just. I packed a bag with my things and thought that I would be put in hospital indefinitely. I said good bye to my little one who was then put in to nursery. I knew I would never see her again. I was to be put in a hospital and the key thrown away. I was unfixable. My husband came to the appointment as well as my mother.
We had the appointment with the psychiatrist and guess what, I was very ill. I knew I was right! I had severe depression with acute health anxiety and paranoia. I was so bad that I was displaying psychotic symptoms. I was then immediately escorted to the high dependency ward. Over the next few weeks, I was pumped full of drugs, I was numb, but began to function again. I showered, I ate and slept! Functionality was resuming. But I felt numb of family. I didn’t really want to see my family but relunctantly accepted their visits. I was dead of emotion. Then I began to meet other people in the clinic who were also ill. We laughed together, an emotion I hadn’t had in months. We shared stories etc. I couldnt believe this side of life existed. It was like being in a horror movie! I now understand what magazines mean when they say a celebrity crumbles or melts down. I had all this, and I will never laugh at this type of newspaper article again.
I stayed in hospital for one month. The anxiety reduced and I was relased back home with regular appointments at my surgery and the clinic. I had to rebuild my life! There’s my story, it carries on as a journey of discovery and recovery. It may take me a few years to be fully recovered. I have never felt so cut off and isolated as during this experience. I felt like an outcast in society. I never thought this side of life would ever come into contact with me. I have since discovered depression runs in our family. I will have another baby! I did telephone calls with Liz who reallly helped me through it, I am so glad she was there for me. I am determined to help others too.
The Cedar House Support Group
‘Embracing Support for Postnatal Depression’
Registered Charity Number 1105686