From Birth to Breakdown in A Matter of Days – by Gem Step

So this post has been 18 months in the making and I’ve realised it will never be quite right. How can I ever put into words what me and me family went through? How can I ever describe the sheer torture of mental illness combined with being a new Mummy? How can I ever be brave enough to write down those dark, insomnia fueled thoughts?

Long story short – I had a baby, went loopy, was admitted to a Mother & Baby Unit psychiatric ward, accidentally discharged myself, went loopier, was rescued and fixed in the community, learned to function, got better, became a pretty good Mummy actually.

Did all this happen for a reason? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Totally. Would I change what happened if I could (like if I had a porthole/tardis)? Surprisingly  – no.

My pregnancy went well after those 10 weeks spanning the 1st and 2nd trimester where I felt sick unless I was eating.  There were comedic moments where the seat of the loo had a wobbly hinge and would clonk me on the head while barfing – retch – ouch – retch.

From week 16 onwards I suppose I bloomed and my midwife appointments would be over in 5 minutes. We went to local antenatal classes and met 8 other couples with whom we would become firm friends.

MG decided she was quiet cosy in my tummy and so at 2 weeks overdue I was induced. Option 1 fell out and option 2 kicked things off. Gas and air was fun and I found myself even funnier than normal. My midwife was called Berlin and I renamed her Bingo. Midwife 2 had been on the induction ward and so I told everyone that me and her went way back.  Midwife 2 – Sara, was beautiful and stuck to my birthplan as much as was possible. Her calm smiles throughout the interventions and lack of MG crying upon appearance kept me calm.

All was good, MG was here safe and well, I had no pain, we got moved up to the post labour ward. The next 24 hours were horrible to say the least. Little MG wouldn’t feed by breast or bottle. Mr B had to go home and I had no idea what to do with a brand new baby. A “feeding specialist” midwife came round every 2-3 hours to shove MG’s head onto my breasts to no avail. To me, MG didn’t look well and her eyes looked really sad. Eventually a new midwife listened to me and called a pediatrician. This lovely man became my hero. He took MG down to SCBU (neo natal) and ran tests including a lumbar-puncture to rule out meningitis.

MG had a high infection score and was cleared of the dreaded M word. She was fed through a tube and was given anti-biotics every 12 hours. I suppose I went into auto-pilot and having a room in SCBU (having been rudely booted off post-labour ward as I no longer had my baby with me) so we could stay with MG allowed us to get into a routine which included me sitting in a brown room hooked up to a breast pump. We felt likes frauds with our well-looking baby in SCBU among a lot of premmie babbas.

MG was feeding on formula while I still attempted to feed her myself and we took her home on day 7. Again, a certain amount of auto-pilot and receiving lots of post got me though the next week or so. Once Mr B went back to work and MG still wasn’t breast feeding as I basically had no milk, that’s when I began to unravel.

The following 2-4 weeks are pretty hazy for me and this is a possible saving grace. I developed total and utter insomnia. MG did sleep. I didn’t. I obsessed over the fact I couldn’t breastfeed and thought I was literally killing my baby by her not getting breast milk. I was so anxious that I couldn’t settle MG and she would cry for what felt like hours. The anxiety over took my body and mind. Stress coursed through my limbs and I felt I just had to run (which I did more than once with MG in her pram). It didn’t make me feel better.

I would pace the bedroom floor at night and moan, while Mr B did all MG’s care. During the day I would leave all the curtains drawn and count the minutes till Mr B came home.

I spent a lot of time on the phone to Mr B, my Mam, friends, GPs, the Samaritans, and eventually the local mental health crisis team. What saddens me about this time is that I called a PND charity (knowing full well I had PND) and was told they could only help me if I had a diagnosis. I had been so brave as to call them and they fobbed me off the phone. More sadness when the first GP I saw simply asked if I was being to hard on myself and told me to take away the questionnaire and bring it back completed in a week.

The next GP who I saw at MG’s 6 week check only quickly looked over my clean, content and well dressed baby and then spent a good half hour or so with me. She gave me drugs and a routine to help me cope with being a full time Mum.

Anti-depressants typically take weeks to kick in. My mental health plummeted before they could work and in crept suicidal thoughts of jumping off the road onto the A road below. Suicidal thoughts come from nowhere and infest your mind. For me there was no logic among these thoughts. I was in mental and physical torture which no matter what I did or who I spoke to things weren’t getting any better. Death truly seemed the only option. The point at which these torturous intrusive thoughts turned to MG, I literally shut down.

I couldn’t look at or hold MG and there was now no point in my existence. I called the crisis team and begged the man who visited to send me to hospital. He wouldn’t. I am grateful he decided that for me. Had I been in hospital without MG I’m not sure I would have ever recovered. I was visited by different crisis team pairs a few times a day, checking I was still breathing if not living.

I was given drugs which Mr B was told to hide. I stopped eating, drinking, showering, going to the toilet. I lay in bed. Still.

Then came my CPN. She was a firm but nice Irish woman my age. She had me assessed by a psychiatrist within days. The point at which he, my CPN and her trainee came back down our path 20 minutes after leaving I knew I was busted. I had lied about my dark thoughts and he had sussed me out. As much as I didn’t care about what happened to me or MG, I hadn’t dared tell him of my visions of how I could die and take MG with me. There. I said it.

They, and my awesome GP got the funding for me and MG to be admitted to Winchester MBU. Although a trek down the M3, I would be treated in this specialist psychiatric ward where Mums take their babies with them.

On arrival (late as JLS had a gig in town – random thing Mr B reminds me of) the child care practitioner took MG while I was settled in my on-suite room with cheese and crackers the nurse had kept back from dinner for me.   I was admitted 2 days before Fathers Day and for ruining Mr B’s first Fathers Day I will never forgive myself. At 6 weeks old, MG was living on a psych ward while her Mummy was given a concoction of pills to help her sleep and calm her poorly brain. I hope MG understands when she is older that we spent her early days there because I rescued myself for her. We stuck together because there is a plan for us and we will change the world.


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