Back in 2011 I fell pregnant. It was a wonderful feeling. I couldn’t be happier. It was everything I had always wanted and was so excited to tell everyone that I was going to have a baby before the year was out! The pregnancy was great too; only slight morning sickness with everything else going to plan. Then, at 29 weeks and 1 day, I asked my husband if he could remember me making any comments about the baby moving. I tried not to panic. I rested and make a conscience thought to feel for movements. A kick, a tickle, a cough. An hour later and still nothing.
So we went for a walk. Had some fresh orange juice. Then ended up at my mother-in-laws. Another few hours and panic started to set in. I called the hospital and went in. Straight on to the foetal monitor. The happy little thump thump thump sound made us all physically relax. But it wasn’t enough for the hospital. They wanted a scan. The scan confirmed their fears. There was no blood flowing in the cord. My baby was dying and killing me at the same time.
From this moment on, I’m fuzzy. All I can really remember is that I was hit in the leg with steroids and told that an ambulance would be coming to take me to another hospital as there weren’t the facilities for us there. We got the full blues and twos treatment down the m6 only to be told that they were sorry, but there simply isn’t the time for an epidural to set in and I needed a general.
I wake up violently to discover I had had a boy and he was in the NICU. He was 2lb 2oz and so fragile. It would be another 12 hours until I could see him. Then a week until I could hold him. And then another 8 weeks on top of that before we could take him home.
The whole time of being in hospital, I was alone. With only brief chats to other NICU parents. When we got home, my husband had to go back to work and then we were alone. I was isolated. I had no mummy friends. And even when I did try to be brave and go to any baby groups, no one understood how awful I was feeling. This was not the baby blues. This was much worse. From some serious counselling, I found out that I had not only Postnatal Depression, but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Things carried on in a chaotic fashion of appointments and weigh ins for a few months. When my gorgeous preemie turned 7 months, I then found out I was pregnant again. Oops! Big, BIG oops!
I couldn’t cope at all and broke down. I needed to be near my mum and dad and moved our little family from Staffordshire to Lanarkshire when I was half way through my pregnancy. But even so, we were alone again. No one could understand what we had been and where going through.
I suffered awfully through my second pregnancy. I made it past the 29 week mark and kept being told that I was just nervous. That pre-natal depression isn’t very common and not to worry about a thing. I developed cholestasis in my second pregnancy and was in and out of the hospital every 2 days for tests and heart traces. I didn’t want this baby. I didn’t like what it had done to our family. It split us up and moved us from our friends.
My youngest was born by planned caesarean (that was moved forward to 37 weeks due to my health!) and when we got home, I couldn’t stop crying. My husband was working 2 hour days far away and I had a 13 month old who couldn’t get around for himself and a newborn that wouldn’t sleep or feed and all I could do all day was cry.
So many times I wanted to get up and leave. Just drop my children off at my parents’ house and walk until I could find a place to hide. Forever.
In my desperation, I did what any ‘sane’ person would do….I turned to good old Google! “Post Natal Depression Glasgow” I searched for. Lo and behold, PANDAS Foundation popped up at the top of my results and I sent off an enquiry about a peer support group. It was months and months until the group was set up and running, but I went along and couldn’t believe how amazing it was. Here I was, in a room of other mums who were telling their stories of spilled milk causing tantrums (from mum and baby!) and of all the small and menial things that wouldn’t be an issue for ‘normal’ mums.
I was brave and told my story and couldn’t believe that here was a group of people nodding their head and understanding these irrational thoughts that were in my head!
I loved my support group. And continued to go along until my husband got a new job which meant I could no longer attend. I was heart-broken when I found out that I could no longer go along to my ‘Therapy Thursday’ but thought to myself, I am in such a better place now thanks to these wonderful, inspiring ladies. Maybe I could start my own group local to me?
So I did.
And in June 2014 I held my first meeting of the Lanarkshire PANDAS Support Group. 2 lovely ladies came in to my home, drank my irn-bru and we laughed at our common problems.
At the time, one of the ladies, Vicky, was pregnant with her second girl. She had terrible pre-natal depression. Had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and had a CPN that couldn’t understand why she wasn’t happy to be pregnant. Vicky came along each fortnight to our meetings and agreed how great it was to be around like minded people who understood all of the little feelings and emotions that meant nothing to others. After a very difficult first birth, Vicky elected to have another caesarean. This was a decision she was worried about, as had always wanted to have the ‘perfect birth experience’. Through coming to group and talking about her fears and worries and listening to the other girls talk about their experiences, Vicky went in to the operating theatre no longer petrified. She knew she had a community alongside her.
Through new babies, holidays and jobs, our group went quiet for a few months, but picked up again towards the end of the year. With me running the group from my living-room, I started to worry about where I was going to put everyone, as word was spreading about the group and referrals came in from the PANDAS website.
In February of this year, I had 15 mums ‘on my books’ but I finally got the news I had been waiting on. I had been offered a full time job within the Civil Service. I could no longer dedicate all of my time to my group. Nor could I have meetings in the house of an evening if I was working until 8 at night.
Through all of this, myself and Vicky became amazing friends and would chat almost every day via mummy messenger! She was in a much better place now. And she asked if she could help with the group. Her offer couldn’t have come at a better time.
Now, 4 months down the line, Vicky has managed to secure a venue every second week at our local Sainsbury’s café. She also has a presentation later this month to the staff at the store, as we have been longlisted to become Sainsbury’s local charity of the year. We are also trying to organise a ladies Pamper Party to collaborate with PANDAS 4th birthday in August.
Having a safe place to meet every now and then, with like-minded people who just get you, has been vital in my recovery. To sit in a room, and listen to others telling you about their day and realise that they have been thinking the same thing as you, is amazing.
PANDAS has saved my life.
PANDAS has brought together mums who have been alone for too long.
PANDAS have shown me…
Meetings every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at Sainsbury’s café, Kingsgate Retail Park, East Kilbride.