· By Tiny Hearts Education
I’m just going to preface this with saying while we did have some incredible nurses and doctors looking after us, our journey was a long and difficult one, both physically and emotionally. Thankfully we have come a looong way since and are doing well as a healthy family of three.
I had my first pregnancy last year, and it was difficult from the outset. I had severe morning sickness from 7 weeks pregnant, which turned out to be hyperemesis gravidarum. I lost 4kgs within a week and a half before being put on very strong anti-nausea medication (ondansetron 8mg) for the remainder of my pregnancy. While this helped stop the stomach-ripping vomiting sessions, I was incredibly weak and nauseous more often than not.
At 18 weeks pregnant, I had a threatened miscarriage which freaked me out a lot as they couldn’t really give me a “why” but we continued on from there trying to take it easy and rest more along with being on pelvic rest until after the 20-week growth scan.
Around 28 weeks pregnant, I developed serious rib pain on my right side which was dismissed by my midwife as “just another symptom of pregnancy”. It eventually got so bad at 30 weeks it kept me awake all night feeling nauseous and took my breath away with how painful it was. I rang my midwife’s stand-in (my midwife was out of the country until after my daughter was born) as I was concerned but instead of just stating the above symptoms I felt like I had to say bubs wasn’t moving as much just to be taken seriously. She reluctantly agreed to meet me at the hospital to have me monitored for the day on the foetal monitor along with blood and urine samples. I was then discharged with the explanation of “oh you probably just have the tail end of a cold, you’ll be fine, just go home and take it easy”. I did just that, barely lifted a finger and rested as much as I could.
Two days later, my waters broke at midnight with me only being 30 weeks and four days pregnant. I was terrified, to say the least. The following 12 hours were a bit of a blur of medical professionals coming in and out of my hospital room to check me, the foetal monitor and all the rest. I was then told that I’d be needing an emergency c-section due to my waters continuously leaking, baby’s position (frank breech/transverse) and due to her gestation. I felt like I had no options, and like a lot of my choices as far as birth was taken from me. I was told to expect to be in the OR by 2 pm that day so my family and partner left to gather the things I’d need for my stay as I had no hospital or baby bag packed given how early we ended up in the hospital. Cut to half an hour later, a nurse comes in and TELLS me that they were going to wheel me into theatre NOW as a spot had opened up. I was alone and hysterical and had to scream down the phone at my partner to race back to the hospital, or they’d take me in there alone. He literally arrived just as they were taking the breaks off my bed to wheel me out into the hall.
When my daughter was born via c-section, I didn’t get to hold her, I didn’t get skin to skin, and I had to watch as they walked her out of the OR to the special care babies unit (SCBU) while I had to wait to be stitched back up and put into recovery for half an hour. I was told once up in SCBU that I would most likely be unable to hold my daughter for days all while staring at her teeny body covered in wires, lines and monitors. Parts of this are incredibly fuzzy as I think it was all so much for my brain to try and comprehend given just 24 hours prior, I was at home still pregnant. For the first week of my daughter’s life, I barely got to hold her or attend to her needs as a mother usually does.
At day 4 of being in the hospital, I was being pressured to discharge, but I did put my foot down as I was still weak, in a lot of pain and felt like passing out if I walked for too long or went for a shower. I was told I had to discharge on day five by 11 am even though I was still not very well. A few days after pushed to be seen by a midwife as I wasn’t getting any better and turns out I had developed an infection in my c-section wound and probably had it from before I was discharged from hospital.
I spent seven weeks and four days travelling to and from the hospital at least twice a day just to see my baby and was running on next to no sleep as I felt pressured to pump around the clock to “keep up” with the demand for breast milk. I would constantly wake up with a start in the middle of the night, terrified that I’d missed a call from them saying that my baby was unwell and then I’d cry myself back to sleep. Leaving my baby felt like the most unnatural thing in the world and left me heartbroken and sobbing outside the SCBU door each night when I had to return home.
By 4-5 weeks (unsure of exactly when it was a bit of a blur really) I had a breakdown when I realised the stress of not being able to rest at home or be able to enjoy my newborn “like a normal new mum would”. It was affecting my milk supply, and I had to sign a consent form to allow the hospital to feed my daughter formula. I felt broken and like somehow this was my fault, that I was horrible for not being able to produce enough or feed my own daughter physically (she had a naso-gastro tube until four days before being discharged ). I then had to stop pumping all together. Two weeks later, as I was on the brink of a complete meltdown mentally and was then discouraged by nursing staff about continuing to try to give breastfeeding a chance because “I CHOSE to stop pumping”. It was quite frankly, horrible.
On the 22nd August 2019, we finally got to bring our little girl, Poppy, home at 38 weeks gestation (8 weeks old actual) and a huge wave of relief hit me. No more ng tubes, no more monitors were beeping continuously, no more strict feeding times, no more random people coming and going around us, no more daily blood tests and no more leaving a piece of my heart behind every evening. It was exciting and terrifying to be leaving the safety of the unit!
My recovery was definitely hindered by being unable to just rest and spend time with my babe, and it took months and months for me not to have pain in/ around my scar. I still struggle with loving and accepting the body I have currently, it’s frustrating to feel “held back” from doing things I once did without a second thought.
The whole experience had left me feeling like I was a “fake mum”, like my body betrayed me, like I had no real say in my daughters birth and care and made me struggle to bond with her/feel like she was actually MY baby. I still flinch when I hear a friend is 30-weeks pregnant (like my stomach drops into my butt at the thought of them going into labour early). The idea of having another baby makes me feel physically unwell and scared as I don’t feel I’m strong enough to go through another pregnancy with that experience hanging over me. I’d also be considered high-risk next pregnancy and have been told the likely hood of me having another prem baby is quite high even though they had no real explanation as to why I went into labour so pre-term.
I have since been diagnosed as having severe postpartum depression/anxiety and PTSD. Nearly a year on and I have done counselling (both group and solo) and have been on a solid regimen of antidepressants. While my relationship and bond with my daughter has improved, part of me still holds those lasting feelings of failure and hurt. I’ve probably glossed over a lot of smaller details in between as some are still too painful to share, but that is the gist of my experience.