Tag Archives: childbirth

Do I Love My Baby? – by The Butterfly Mother

(Original Content taken from The Butterfly Mother blog)

bonding

Yesterday we had the paddling pool out for the first time. Caterpillar had a lot of fun and then wanted to come and sit with me where I was watching from the picnic blanket. I wrapped him in a towel and we snuggled down and cuddled, looking at the sky and talking about the sun and clouds, singing songs and tickling each other. Not an unusual sight for a mother and toddler, but a moment perhaps more significant to me than it would be to someone who hasn’t suffered Postnatal Depression.

At one point my son gave me what we call a “hands kiss” (a kiss on the lips while putting his little hands on your cheeks) and I almost wanted to scream with the love I felt. Screaming may seem a little extreme but that’s how it feels to me – whenever I have a wonderful moment with my son – like I’m consumed by joy and relief. Because, for a long time, it was nothing like that.

As a pregnant woman you hear much about the magical and instant bond you will feel with your baby. It’s a given that you will feel a love for them that is beyond any other emotional connection you have ever experienced. The love you feel for your partner or parents will simply pale in comparison. You’re told that yes, parenting is hard work but the love and happiness you get from your baby will make everything worth it.

I couldn’t help but be excited about experiencing this completely new kind of love. I already felt very bonded to my bump and loved the magic of feeling my baby move inside me, I couldn’t wait until the moment I saw him for the first time and felt that lightening bolt strike me.

The reality was a little different.

Caterpillar was born by emergency section when his heartbeat dropped dangerously low after 12 hours of labour. When he was born they had to whip him off to suction mucus out of his throat. I was unable to feel or move any part of my body besides my head. Twenty minutes later I laid eyes on him for the first time. He was a metre or so away, and pretty blurry as I’d had to remove my contact lenses before the surgery, and I couldn’t hold him as I was unable to feel my arms.

He was so cute, wide-eyed with beautiful skin, and undoubtedly mine as he shared so many of my family’s features. I was so relieved to see he was okay after spending the last few hours convinced he was dying. There was relief and familiarity…but no lightening bolt. No overwhelming protective instinct. No “instant bond.” No euphoria. I just felt tired and nauseas.

For the next eight hours I drifted in and out of sleep, vomited several times, and waited for my body to come back to life. I was vaguely aware of Hubs holding a small bundle in his arms next to me. The next morning when I was finally able to hold Caterpillar I sobbed and told the nurse I felt I was seeing him for the first time.

Whilst in hospital I mainly felt anxious and useless. I assumed motherhood would come naturally but it didn’t. My milk didn’t come in and I couldn’t get him to sleep much at all. Aren’t new mums supposed to want to hold their baby constantly, and never want them to leave their sight?  But when the nurses offered to take him for a couple of hours to allow me to rest I felt only relief.

Back home we began to find our groove but my emotions were all over the place. I would cry every night around bedtime as I knew we’d be up every three hours, if we could get him to sleep in the first place. None of this is unusual, this is how life is during the first couple of weeks with any newborn but in addition to the usual sleep deprivation and steep learning curve I was dealing with a terrifying internal struggle: do I love my baby?

That awful, paralysing, guilt-laden thought kept whispering across my brain with increasing frequency until it got so loud it was all I could hear. I don’t think I’m enjoying this. What’s to enjoy? I’m just tired and drained. I thought these were meant to be the happiest days of my life. He’s so adorable, cuddles are nice but is this really my life now, forever? Oh my God, why am I thinking like this? Do I not love him? Is there something wrong with me, I should be happy to take care of him, shouldn’t I?

I cared about him a great deal, I found him beautiful, and I felt duty-bound to protect him – but that was the thing, it felt like duty, not overwhelming, uncontrollable love.

I believe it was these few thoughts about how I felt about my son and my new life as a mother than sparked the anxiety attacks which led to my PND diagnosis. I wish so deeply that I had known then what I know now.

That not everyone feels an instant, overwhelming bond with their baby. That the first few months of your child’s life may not be the best time of your life. That newborns don’t give much back, but they sure take a lot. That just because your bond isn’t instant it doesn’t mean you won’t have an amazing relationship in the future. That different people are suited to different ages and areas of parenting.

I wish I had known that I didn’t have to worry, that I would fall in love with Caterpillar. That as he grew, and as I got my anxiety under control, I would grow to love and enjoy so many things about him. That slowly, eventually, I would begin to feel overwhelmed by that love. That the love you feel for a child is unique but maybe not in the way you imagine; it’s complicated and conflicted and huge, sometimes so big you think you might explode with it.

I wish I had known that one day, two years later, I would lay with him on a blanket in the sunshine and want to scream with how much I loved him.

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We Run Because We Like It – by Amy Dear

I suffered post-natal PTSD after my first son was born. It was a fairly rubbish birth, which left me both physically and emotionally scarred. I was very unhealthy afterwards (having gained over 6 stone during the pregnancy) and was left anaemic, exhausted and with an awful lot of stitches!

I hated my appearance – hated feeling so ill. I’d suffered body image problems before pregnancy so I was an emotional wreck at the ‘New Me’. After the usual 6 week check, I decided it was time to try the old ‘get back into shape’ routine … but then when my son was 4 months old, I suffered a Pulmonary Embolism. The embolism (caused by a blood clot that had lodged itself in my lung) had left my body weaker than ever. It left me with breathing difficulties and chronic chest pain, which meant simple things like walking were completely exhausting. I started not eating enough, in order to lose weight, which failed – it just sent my body into panic mode and made me feel lower than ever.

I fell pregnant again soon afterwards, and with hormones taking what little strength I had left, my health and emotional state were at an all time low.

Two months before my youngest was due, I saw an advert online for a local race. A half marathon, at the Eden Project in Cornwall. I have no idea why it appealed to me – I was still overweight, still unhealthy, still struggling. But something in me though ‘That sounds really hard. I bet I could do that.’ So, while 7 months pregnant in March 2014, I signed up for the October race. And when I’d gone through my second labour (also traumatic, thankfully less scarring), I started training.

Training did not go as easily as I’d hoped. I was not good – short legs and bad lungs do not a good runner make. I struggled to run for more than 2 minutes at a time. But at the same time something drove me – a need for something that was ‘mine’. Something that didn’t involve being a Mum, or being anxious. Something to distance myself from the unhealthy, unhappy person who’d suffered two traumatic births. I felt that I’d been weak (not true I now realise!) and I needed something to make me feel strong.

So I ran in circuits around my tiny village, plodding along in maternity joggers and a T-shirt I borrowed (read:stole) from my partner. I ran at night so no-one would see me. I cried more than once.

Eventually, slowly, I could run for 5 minutes. Then 10. Then suddenly something changed – I was running in the daytime, jogging though the woods behind our old house, or along the coast beside the sea. I was breathing in deep lungfuls of fresh air. I was smiling at people as they passed, enjoying being outside, alone, unencumbered. Once another runner high-fived me as I ran uphill, and the indescribable feeling of acceptance made me feel like I was flying.

I was still slow, I was still above my target weight. But I felt strong. I felt unstoppable.

With a few weeks to go to the big race, I was searching for inspiration when I found a poem online. It was written by Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915), a Scottish soldier in the First World War. He wrote a lot about how running gave him freedom – something away from reason or purpose. He, like me, enjoyed running in the rain. But it was this one that gave me chills.

The Song of the Ungirt Runners

We swing ungirded hips
And lighten’d are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
’Neath the big bare sky.

The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land.

It didn’t matter why I was running. I ran because I liked it. And sometimes, when you’ve been through dark times, finding something you like is the thing that saves you.

I ran my first Half Marathon when my youngest was 5 months old. I’d gained a new life. And yes, I’ve lost several stone – (in total I’ve now lost 100lb). But it wasn’t about the weight, not after a while. It was about being strong. It was about being determined. It was about kicking some backside, about telling the world that I wasn’t going anywhere, that I wasn’t going to be ignored.

I still run. I’m involved in a huge online running community, I have made friends through running. I’ve been privileged to run for charity, to be invited on a run for peace, to be part of a team of people hoping to run for PANDAS in the London Marathon next April. I’ve set myself goals I’d never dreamed of, and it’s even gotten me into new hobbies – if you told me two years ago I’d be doing yoga, I’d have laughed you out of the room. But I do it.

It’s not too late in life to carve out a little piece of happiness for yourself. Whatever that turns out to be – fitness, cooking, meditation, singing, dancing, crafts – there is something that exists just for you. A million other people might do it too, but it’s still just for you. I will never win any races, I’ll never get any prizes. But what I get is the feeling of sunlight on my skin as I race through a cornfield, trainers on, music blaring. What I get is watching my two-and-a-half year old son race around the living room, shouting ‘We running Mummy! We running very fast!’. What I get is knowing that, by looking after myself, I’m being the best Mummy I can.

I run because I like it.

Life After NICU: PTSD by Alex

Pregnancy. Labour. Motherhood. Every word fills you with hopes, dreams and expectations of what your experience is going to be like. When plans go off the rails in a spectacular fashion, it will be a challenge ensuring that you don’t too.

November 13th 2013, the day that changed mine and my partners lives forever when we found out that we were expecting our first child. Like every Mummy and Daddy we were a mixture of excitement and terror all rolled into one! We stocked up on pregnancy books, vitamins and started thinking about baby names. But that all changed at 8 weeks pregnant…

I began bleeding heavily. Suddenly the questions of “would we have a boy or a girl/who would they look like”, were replaced with “was I miscarrying/was our baby going to survive?”. The hospital thought I had a uterine abnormality, which would subsequently significantly raise the chance of miscarriage, late miscarriage, still birth and premature birth. From that moment on, the fun and excitement of pregnancy was snatched away and would never come back…and was replaced with anxiety and fear. I will forever be bitter about that.

The pregnancy progressed slowly but surely, and it seemed that every appointment threw up another problem and worry to contend with. At 20 weeks I was diagnosed with hydroenpherosis , swelling of the kidneys. And at 26 weeks we were told that our baby was significantly smaller than he should be, and wasn’t even reading on the chart. Growth scans were arranged and we just hoped and prayed that our little one would grow bigger and stronger as time went on.

15th May 2014. At 29+6 weeks pregnant, our little man went quiet. I didn’t feel a single kick or movement for over 12 hours. I found myself in denial…he would be fine in another hour. The hours ticked by and by 11pm my partner was urging me to get checked out. So off to the hospital we went.

We can’t have been there any more than an hour and it soon became apparent that this was an emergency. Our little man’s heart rate was ominous, slowing down to virtually nothing, he had reduced liquor and was diagnosed as having IUGR. He was dying inside of me. We were rushed to theatre, where I was to have an emergency caesarean.

May 16th, at 1.49am our gorgeous little boy entered the world. I felt numb. This wasn’t how we had dreamt it. Daddy didn’t cut the cord, Mummy didn’t get first cuddles and first nurse. Instead we had the haunting silence. Our son was being rescuscitated. In those moments I prayed harder than I ever had in my life, to Jesus, Allah, Buddha…anyone who would listen to me. Our boy just couldn’t die.

After what felt like an eternity, we were able to have a glimpse of our little boy before he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I was a broken woman. One moment I was pregnant and the next I had my baby ripped away from me, along with all of our hopes and dreams of our perfect delivery. I couldn’t keep him safe anymore, like his Mummy should be able to do.

I was taken to a ward full of mothers and their babies. All around me I watched as mothers nursed their little ones, when all I had was a breast pump- which I would chain myself to for the next four months. I felt as though others were looking at me, and judging…”what has she done wrong”. My arms were physically aching to hold our son, knowing that instead he was curled up in a little box all frightened and alone without his Mummy. I cried until I had no tears left.

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12 hours later we were able to see and hold our son properly for the first time in his life. My reaction shocked me to the core. All the bleeps and whistles, the heat from the incubators, the blue lights from the UV machines…it was overwhelming. I looked at our tiny 2lb 15oz son, tracking all the wires and tubes coming in and out of his fragile little body. His chest heaving for breath, his little face wincing in pain.

As the nurse placed our son on my chest I was petrified. My hand was the size of his tiny little torso, his eyes were almost fused shut. He should have still been inside of his Mummy, all safe and warm. What if he hated me? Or worse…what if he didn’t even know I was his Mummy anymore? I felt like I had failed before I had even begun, and that our Mother-Son bond was shattered beyond repair.

Looking back now, I know that subconsciously I was scared of becoming too close to our son out of fear of losing him in the early days. But at the time I felt like a monster. I felt like running away, pretending that none of this was happening , starting all over again…and this time I would do it right. I wanted to curl up in bed and shut out the world.

All I could do for our son was express breast milk for him, so I did this up to 10 times a day. It was the only thing that I could do that made me feel like a Mummy. Seeing doctors and nurses changing him, feeding him, looking after him, knocked my confidence as a mother. How was I supposed to be good enough to do all of these things? I had to ask permission to hold my own son.

It quickly became clear that I wasn’t coping at all. I was sad, I was angry, I was in denial…All in the same day most of the time. I looked at other families in envy of what they had. Walking out of the hospital doors with their babies, whilst we were camped out next to his incubator day after day. I dreaded going into that unit, it made me sick to my stomach just being there. I avoided holding my son, doing his cares and spent most of my time crying in the toilets.

Leaving our son every single night in that hospital full of strangers, has broken a piece of my heart to the point where it will never be the same again. Every night without fail I would hysterically break down in the car park, and felt physically ill thinking about him being all alone in pain wanting his Mummy and Daddy.

At home I would hear the sound of the monitors beeping and buzzing, I felt constantly on edge and unable to relax at all. I would lie in bed clutching my phone, petrified whenever the phone rang in case it was bad news.

My emotional heartbreak was also masking some serious physical problems I was experiencing post birth. With a dangerously high temperature and pulse I was rushed back into hospital, where I was diagnosed with a septic womb infection. If it had gone untreated for much longer I was told I would have experienced multiple organ failure. Another kick in the teeth for our family.

I had always suffered with low confidence for all of my life, but having an extremely premature baby rocked me to the core. After 7 long weeks our son was finally able to come home with us, and I thought that things would finally begin to get back to normal. With all of the free time now on my hands as a full time Mum, I began to process the enormity of what we had all been through as a family. How close we had come to losing him.

I knew almost straight away that things weren’t going to be as easy as I had hoped. I was constantly feeling sick with anxiety, having severe headaches, heart palpitations and was constantly sick with worry that our son was ill and that we could still lose him.

I was having horrible flashbacks and nightmares, and was constantly consumed and tortured by all of the what ifs? What if we hadn’t gone into hospital that night? Motherhood wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, all smiles and giggles like I thought it would be. I was hurting.

With the support of my partner, I sought help from my health visitor and GP. It was a massive step. As a new mother, like most, I had the pre conception that asking for help and admitting your struggling was a sign of weakness. That it made me a bad Mum. But now I know that it made me the best Mum I could be. My son, and my partner, deserved the best Mum and Fiancee possible, and at the time that was far from who I was.

I was referred for cognitive behavioural therapy, where I could talk through my thoughts and concerns with someone who wouldn’t judge me, and someone who would sympathise and understand. I kept a thought diary, a no holds barred account of my everyday life. I was diagnosed with post natal anxiety, low confidence and post traumatic stress disorder. It was by no means a quick fix, but was a massive step in the right direction.

Almost 10 months on from the birth of our son, I feel like pieces of the old me are coming back. I am by no means back to the old me, but I am slowly and surely accepting what happened to us all. I am now at peace with the premature arrival of our son, and accept that it was not as a result of a fault on my part. But, a piece of my heart will be broken forever at what we had to witness our son going through.

Worries about our Mother-Son have totally vanished. Our son is my little shadow, and he lights up my life every single day. I am so lucky that I had the inner strength and courage, and the support of my partner to seek help to ensure that I was the Mum that he deserved.

Motherhood is definitely not what I expected it to be. It is a massive rollercoaster, that I don’t think will ever end. If you are struggling, please speak out and seek help. No one will judge or think badly of you. Take time to heal, and regardless of what I once thought, super Mum just doesn’t exist and that’s ok. It is ok not to be ok.