Category Archives: New mum

Interview with Rachel – author of Post Natal Depression and Me

Hi Rachel! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at PANDAS Guest Blog!

Can you remember when you first thought that something wasn’t quite right with how you were feeling?

I think I started feeling a little down during my pregnancy but I had a very complicated one so I just assumed I was worried and stressed about that. I suppose it really hit with me with how hard I found everything in the early days. I knew I was suppose to be happy and in this bubble but somehow I just wasn’t quite there. It got progressively worse and late last year I went to the doctors to ask why I felt so bad, even though I really knew I was struggling deep down.

Why do you think that so many of us have this unrealistic image of “The Perfect Mother”?

I think there is a lot to do with the media, perfect bodies after babies perfect relationships the pictures of perfect family life. Then there’s tv and films, there is a lot to influence how we see normal life. The reality is no one is perfect we just try to be. I wish I knew why I had to be perfect all the time, the perfect mother and wife, but it’s just something you feel the need to do.

What do you think stops both men and women talking about how they’re feeling, or even just admitting that they’re struggling?

I think people are scared of being judged that you are not a fit mother. Or just war people think in general about you. My worst fear was being gossiped about, or disappointing my family.

How did your husband feel when you were diagnosed with PND?

He just said that we shouldn’t label at that, that he knew I was going through a hard phase, that we would get through it together. He is a hugely positive person and really believes in mindset having a lot to do with how we feel, act and what we do. Just talking to him made me realise that really it was just something I had to overcome.

Your piece is very positive and full of hope, can you remember a particular moment when you began to feel more optimistic?

It was the moment I went to the doctors. Even though she said I had symptoms of PND I always in my own my mind and on my blog just describe it as the baby blues. A phase in my life where I was feeling a little sad and lost. The moment someone told me was the moment I thought to myself “what am I doing, life is too short”. I also believe from my husbands influence a lot is about your mindset. I decided to be positive. I faked it a lot of the time and before I knew it it became a natural practise. This year has been my best year so far as a mum.

Finally, what makes you life perfect for you?

Life for me is perfect when I’m just with my family. We could be doing the food shop, a walk in the park or having an awesome day out. Family is what got me through this, family is what made me realise what I had. I’m a very lucky person to have a supportive husband, a cheeky step son and my adorable little boy. It’s just life right now, in the moment, and enjoying it.

Thank you so much for speaking to us here at the PANDAS Guest Blog, it’s so great to hear from someone with such a positive outlook on their PND experience and I know a lot of our readers will benefit from your hopeful piece.

Remember, if you want to read more about Rachel, please take a look at her blog: http://thelsmum.co.uk/

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Post-Natal Depression and Me – by Rachel (The L’s Mum)

I have only ever been told once that how I was feeling was the signs of post-natal depression. It was last year and I definitely wasn’t feeling myself.

You see back in 2013 something life changing happened to me, I had a baby, the most joyous and happiest moment in my life and yet somehow I felt inadequate, that I wasn’t doing things right. I had a fair few complications during my pregnancy and labour and perhaps that had something to do with it, I don’t know. I just seemed to put myself on a pedestal of this perfect domestic housewife, with the perfect baby, the perfect house, the perfect life and yet life really isn’t perfect, not all the time.

I wasn’t sure why I felt so bad, like a failure each time my little boy cried, why I questioned each and every little thing I did because I was sure it wasn’t good enough. I was scared to talk to anyone and so I put on a brave face, a smile, in the hope that no one would ask, question me further, make me feel worse.

Had I have just spoken to my husband at the time, or just admitted I wasn’t feeling myself, maybe things would have been different.

Looking back now it seems like a blur and that makes me sad for a different reason. I don’t have many fond memories of my little boy being just a baby and enjoying those moments because I wasn’t enjoying my life back then.

It was like a dark cloud had descended upon me and everytime there was a glimmer of happiness the rain would pour down on my parade. The dark cloud followed me everywhere, even on the sunniest and warmest of days.

But now my little boy is nearly two and this year I made a change. I did go to the doctors and I heard the words and for some reason that seemed to be enough. I realized that for me, I was the only person who could make the change, and so I did.

Life shouldn’t be about adhering to dark clouds and feelings of failure, it should be about embracing the good things, the happy memories, the here and now. I can’t get back those snuggly baby days, and so now I don’t intend to keep on going down that road and missing out on the first words and the milestones ahead of us.

Life as a mummy is conflicting and confusing. It can be the loneliest place in the world and you can feel isolated. Life as a mummy is also exciting and challenging. It’s a new chapter in your life, a chance to do things differently. A moment in your life where you can climb around in the soft play area and no one thinks your being silly, who doesn’t love those big slides? It’s the smile on your little ones face when you just look at them, it’s the first time they call you mummy. You are everything to one little person, and the pair of you deserve happiness.

Feelings of failure still haunt me, and sometimes I can feel the dark cloud coming back. Now I know the signs I know to take myself away for a moment, I do something for me, I relax, I write a list to clear my mind, I take my little one out for a walk. There are so many things you can do. I don’t doubt for one minute that I have made mistakes, but they were mine to make and I own it. Each and every decision. No one is perfect, but life should be perfect for you.

To read more about Rachel, please visit her website: http://thelsmum.co.uk/

Interview with Emma Sasaru – author of ‘Beyond Trauma’

Hi Emma! Thank you for sharing your inspirational and hopeful blog with us. We all change after becoming parents, quite drastically, but how do you feel that going through a traumatic birth changed you?

Going through a traumatic birth completely changed me. Physically it took along time to recover but mentally the recovery has taken much longer. I went from being a confident, out-going person to being a shadow of my former self. I was consumed with fear for my baby and myself and suffered very bad flash backs, panic attacks and anxiety. Often doing normal activities was exhausting and going out became scary and difficult. I suffered with guilt and felt that I was no good to my family just a burden. Somedays were very dark.

What kind of breastfeeding support was offered to you in NNU?

While I was in NNU I didn’t receive any breastfeeding support at all, in fact I had to fight to breastfeed my baby and I was told I would never achieve exclusive breastfeeding. But I proved them wrong and breastfed my daughter for 15 months.

How do you think that a breastfeeding peer support worker helps new parents? What kind of things does your work encompass?

I think that a breastfeeding peer support worker helps a family by giving information and support that enables them to make an informed choice regarding feeding their baby thats right for them. A lot of my role involves providing emotional support, giving reassurance and helping women trust in their bodies to nurture their babies. My role encompasses seeing new parents antenatally, on the postnatal wards in hospital and in the community for as long as they need support. I personally work mostly in NNU and then with the families when they are discharged home. I also run a support group where families can drop in for support or just a chat. Ive had the privilege of supporting families from those early stressful days in NNU to being happy healthy families. I really cant begin to say how much joy it brings me, I feel so lucky.

What advice would you give to the partners out there currently caring for a woman who has physically experienced a traumatic birth?

To partners that are caring for a woman who has suffered birth trauma my advice would be to acknowledge what has happened to her and her feelings around it. Encourage her to talk about her feelings if she is able to. Reassure her that you are there for her and that you will help in anyway you can. Encourage, commend show compassion and empathy. Emotional support is invaluable, even if it’s just a listening ear or a hug. Realise that there may be things or activities that she may not yet feel ready to do, be patient and show understanding. But most of all listen to her.

What does a postnatal doula do?

A postnatal doula supports families after the birth of their baby with emotional and practical support. We can help with light household duties, running errands and helping care for other children in the house. We can give support with breastfeeding, and build confidence in a woman’s ability to care for her newborn.

Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone out there who cannot yet “see the light”?

One of my favourite sayings is “I wish I could show you when your in darkness or feeling alone, the astonishing light of your own being”. When darkness is all around you and you feel like it will swallow you up believe that the light will return. Inside us is the strength to overcome even the most traumatic things. We often cannot see our own beauty or the light we bring to the lives of those we love. Hang in there and take each day, be kind and gentle to yourself  and don’t expect to much of yourself. Better days will come honestly.

Thanks again Emma, your blog and honest words are sure to help many of our readers. If you would like to read more about Emma’s experiences, please visit her blog: http://www.lovingbaby.co.uk/

Beyond Trauma: You Can Make A Difference – by Emma Sasaru

We sometimes go through things in life that completely change us as a person. Sometimes it changes things for the better, sometimes the worst and sometimes its both!

For me this is certainly true, when  I had my first daughter and subsequent birth trauma it changed me, in fact it changed not only me but my life. While a lot of those changes were for the worse, my trauma has led me on a path to a place I feel I am meant to be.

One of the main things that kept me sane and anchored after my trauma was breastfeeding, while separated from my daughter in those early days expressing for her while she was in NNU gave me the fight to survive, to continue living and although I could do nothing else for her I could provide her my milk, it was my connection to her, my life- line.  I fought to feed her with every ounce in my body. When staff said that I would never produce enough milk due to my retained placenta and massive blood loss, I fought to prove them wrong. When doctors said I would never exclusively breastfeed her and she most likely would not latch when they removed her NG tube I fought to prove them wrong. Prove them wrong I did and for 15 glorious months my traumatised, weak, wreaked body nourished and provided my baby with everything she needed.

The fight I had to feed my baby with no support and then seeing others struggle again with no support drove me to wonder why, it lead me to finding the breastfeeding network, training with them, volunteering and then eventually working for the NHS as a paid breastfeeding peer support worker. To do my job I had to overcome a lot of my issues as I work on the ward and in the NNU where I had my trauma and where for a long time I couldn’t go. I love my job especially working in NNU. Being able to give moms and babies the support I never had means everything.  When I see the moms sat by their little ones incubators I remember those feelings well and how just a friendly face, a kind word and someone to talk to is often all thats needed and how it can make all the difference.

Without my trauma, without my time in NNU it would be an unknown world to me. Without my struggle, my fight to breastfeed, would I ever have trained to be a breastfeeding support worker? I just don’t know. Yet I do know it is where I am meant to be, it gives me so much, I feel so privileged to do my job to see the difference it makes to families, to support them and be part of their journey. Yes my struggle was painful in many ways but without it maybe I wouldn’t be doing my job and be reaping all the joy it brings me.

My trauma and subsequent struggle to get help for PTSD was very painful and a hard fight for many years.  When I reflect on the struggle I have realised with time that it has been a fight that has given, as well as taken away.  It has given me the determination to try to help others who have also had birth trauma, reaching out to offer support both in my work but with charities and through social media.

My experience drove me to train as a doula and postnatal doula which not only taught me that birth can be a positive experience and helped me in my healing but also how to support moms to help them understand how they can trust their bodies and work with it to make birth easier and more safe.

My trauma and struggle to get help also drives me to want to change things.  I feel that experiencing the bad has given me something special, a voice!

This voice is able to speak out and sometimes shout loud about the need for things to change, both in the culture of birth and postnatal care but also the need for more support for perinatal mental health.  I will always seek to use that voice to speak up for those that as yet are unable to speak up, to raise awareness of what trauma is and try to make sure things change and improve in the care of women in birth.  I will also use that voice to speak out about the importance of proper diagnosis and support for when things may go wrong. Recently I have been able to do this as part of the NHS maternity experience campaign that are striving to improve and change the care given to women at birth and also on twitter to raise awareness of birth trauma and perinatal mental health. I feel privileged to be a voice for those that need support and help health professionals see how they can improve their practice.

Yes I truly believe I am where I am meant to be!

Sometimes bad things happen to us yes, but we can turn those experiences into opportunities to help others, change and improve things and give a voice to those that need help and support. Yes even trauma can lead us to something good, it provides us with a chance to make a difference and in turn helps heal ourselves.

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Interview with Amy Dear – author of ‘We Need to Talk’

Amy, thank you for sharing your story with us. Your aftercare sounds very similar to mine: flippant, basic and uncaring. Looking back, what do you wish the midwife who answered your call had said/done?
It was very uncaring, and it didn’t need to be! When I had my second the aftercare was amazing and it’s crazy what a difference that can make. With my first I was just left alone and scared. I wish the midwife had just been kind – asked if I was okay, or if I needed to talk. Someone to talk to would have helped a lot.
How did it feel to be put on medication for PTSD?
It was a relief because it really did help. I didn’t think it would but it helped keep me calm while I worked through the underlying problems – and helped me sleep!
Did your therapy help?
 
Yes, although I only had a few sessions. It helped more being told why I felt the way I did, and that there was light at the end of the tunnel – that I wouldn’t always feel that way. And also that it wasn’t my fault. I felt very much like I’d done something wrong, or failed in some way at giving birth if that makes sense? Therapy helped me realise that it was the medical professionals who ha failed me, and that I had done nothing wrong. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear that.
As a fellow sufferer, I know how important it is that we work together to remove the stigma, but how do you go about doing that?
Talking about it. We need to be open. I try to be honest with other Mums, especially when I talk about my labour and how I felt – not the gory details of course! But I tell them the truth, and the emotions I had, and why. I think if everyone was honest there would be less pressure to fit into a ‘perfect mum’ stereotype. When I tell people I had Post Natal PTSD they sort of pause, and don’t know what to say. I’ve definitely felt judged. It’s a bit sad, but it’s only by being open about our experiences can we help other sufferers, and stop other people being judged in the future.
 
Finally, how do you feel now?
I feel great now. I mean I have nightmares, I’ll be honest – and I still can’t watch medical shows, or shows about birth or pregnancy. I think those will always make me feel uncomfortable. But I can talk about my own labour, and accept how I felt. I have a wonderful, kind and supportive partner who has been with me throughout. I have two beautiful children. I’m volunteering for PANDAS which gives me a lot of purpose and drive outside of my ‘Mummy’ life. I have hard days, like any Mum, but honestly? I feel great. 
Thanks again Amy for sharing this with us.  If you would like to read more about Amy, please take a look at her blog: http://hgtt.wordpress.com/ or you can email her at: hgttblog@gmail.com

We Need To Talk by Amy Dear

My first labour was not what I had expected.

I tell people this, and they all smile and nod, and tell me ‘Yes, childbirth is difficult!’, and they probably think I’m very naive. I’ve almost given up explaining it because – apart from those few women you read about who have 1 hour home-births, with herbal tea and acupuncture and foot rubs – who has an easy labour? How selfish must I seem, acting like I’m the only one?

I had a difficult labour. Both my son and I struggled. Physically I wasn’t able to give birth unassisted, so I had an urgent forceps delivery after more than 24 hours in labour. Basically, it lasted a long time, I lost a lot of blood, I had a lot of stitches. I also had all the painkillers they could give but the epidural wasn’t working well, and with that cocktail of drugs I had no idea what was happening most of the time. For several hours I knew only that I was in pain, I was afraid, and nothing was happening the way we had been told.

In short – I was terrified I’d gone from a problem-free pregnancy to a traumatic labour, and I no longer knew what I was doing. And worst, when it was over, my son was taken from me straight to neonatal. I held him for what felt like less than a minute before he was put in a plastic crib and wheeled away. My heart broke.

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Roman 

We forget sometimes that everyone’s experience is different, and personal, and entirely within their own head. I’m sure the doctors were pleased with how my first labour went. I’m sure they congratulated themselves on another job well done – baby out, mum stitched back together, another free room on the ward. Why shouldn’t they be pleased? I smiled, and said my thank-you’s, and apologised for swearing. I said all the right things and did all the right things. And when my partner had gone home and the lights were out on the ward, I shook. I cried. I wailed into my pillow. In a blind panic I pressed repeatedly on my call button, and a blank faced midwife came to the end of my bed and stared at me until the worst of my shaking had stopped. She eventually asked if I needed anything. I apologised for calling.

I was treated for Post Natal PTSD, when after a month my nightmares and flashbacks and anxiety hadn’t stopped. I was given tablets, a few sessions of therapy, but most importantly I had an explanation. My labour had gone wrong, and that wasn’t my fault. I had been ill; my son had been in distress; I wasn’t in control, and I had every right to my feelings. That was important to me – that it was okay for me to be afraid.

I have two gorgeous boys now; Roman my eldest, and Eli my youngest. My second labour was such a different experience I could hardly believe it. I fell pregnant again when my Roman was four months old – and only found out I was pregnant after I suffered a Pulmonary Embolism. And as scared as I was about going through labour again, I was so excited to complete our family.

The labour was hard – physically identical in terms of complications, duration (and pain!!); but emotionally? Poles apart. To you reading this, please know – It can be done, you can survive this, you can go on. You can do anything.

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Eli 

But we need to talk about it – we need to remove the stigma. We need to understand the difference between a ‘hard’ labour and a ‘bad’ labour. I’ve known mums too ashamed to tell me they used pain relief, or embarrassed of how frightened they were, because we live in this awful ‘norm’ of competition and mum-shaming and a constant fight for perfection. It doesn’t exist, and we need to stop pretending.

When I was in hospital after my second labour, snuggled up in my narrow hospital bed with Eli (catheter in, IV in, let’s not make it sound more glamorous than it was!), I heard a woman on my ward crying in the night. Softly, but I heard her. I wish I had asked if she was okay. I hope it was just shock and emotion and hormones, because I hate to think of someone else feeling as terrified and alone and violated as I felt on my first night. I hope she told someone if she wasn’t okay.

Please tell someone if you are struggling. Please talk about it if you feel alone. And please be kind to one another. Everyone is fighting their own battle.

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Amy’s Blog, ‘Haven’t Got The Time’, is at: https://hgtt.wordpress.com/

You can also email Amy at hgttblog@gmail.com

I’m Human, Not A Text Book by Natalie Brown

I thought I would share my experience of PND as mine seems to be different from the norm that is promoted in various articles and in general knowledge about the condition.

I think mine started as a result of expectations that were too high. During pregnancy I went for the all natural approach and booked a home birth. I was determined to have a calm and relaxed birth due to a severe dislike of being a patient in a hospital (I have trained as a midwife in the past and now cover local breastfeeding support so working there has never been the issue).

Sadly for some reason unknown, my waters broke at 34 weeks, and my dream of a home birth was shattered. Even worse, it was reverted to the complete opposite of everything I had hoped for. As I was uneducated on my choices at the time, I was admitted into hospital to be monitored in case of infection risk. I managed to put the induction off for 4 days before I eventually succumbed to how paranoid they had made me with all the talk of infection and low birth weight etc. Before I could be induced I was transferred to a hospital in the middle of nowhere and at least an hours travel from our home. The induction went fairly smoothly, if not painfully, and after 2 epidurals (1 failed), luckily my little boy was born naturally weighing a healthy 5lbs6oz at 35+1 weeks with minimal damage.

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It was what followed that I think caused the depression in the end. We were assigned a neonatal nurse due to the prematurity (he was completely fine other than some jaundice which is to be expected at that gestation). This nurse was awful, she knew that I had trained in midwifery and solely took it upon herself to go against every wish I had for my son and tried to overrule me at every turn. Even to the point that when I refused a feeding tube and antibiotics for him (she wanted them as a precaution with no medical reasoning for them). She attempted to send a nurse to wheel my son away whilst I slept to have the feeding tube and cannula fitted. Safe to say I didn’t sleep for pretty much the whole 6 days we were there following the birth. We were treated like clueless and negligent children for making our own informed choices and eventually had to complain to the head of midwives and demand the neonatal nurse stay away from me. We spent an unnecessary week miles away from home with no family and no support all because of a neonatal nurse who was eventually overruled by her superior who apologised and said she couldn’t understand why we had been kept in so long.

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I thought I would share as I see a lot in the media of PND that an automatic symptom of it is to struggle to love your child. I would like to vouch that this really isn’t the case for me. If anything my experience made me insanely close to my son, to the point of overbearingly paranoid about his care, which can only be a good thing for him. I have spent every waking hour with him and he is now a thriving 8 month old boy. My depression was based around feelings of low self worth but never did leaving or harming my son ever cross my mind at all! He has always had everything he needs and more, he still attended all the baby groups and everything even if I was lowest of the low, I just became very good at acting in public to ensure he had a normal life.

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I have attended a PND group through my local NHS and I’m happy to say that is has helped so well, I highly recommend it to everyone that is put off by it, it really is worth it. I chose this route due to breastfeeding and refusing anti-depressants. There is still a follow on support group now the course has finished that will continue once a week.

One massive bit of advice, if you have a partner that is struggling with you, remember how much your PND demands of them, you may not realise but it is a lot. Me and my partner have had the worst arguments we’ve ever had since having PND. But coming through the other side as the fog begins to clear, I have realised how difficult I have been and just how patient my partner has been. They may seem like your worst enemy at times but mine saved me.

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Hope some other mothers can relate to this xx

If you would like to get in touch with Natalie, you can reach her by email: natbrown@live.co.uk