Birthing babies is a messy business – my postnatal anxiety

I’ve mentioned before in my breastfeeding post about the traumatic birth I had with my first son. Without going into too much detail here, I was induced, I had an emergency c-section and he was in special care with pneumonia for 10 days after he was born.

This all threw me for a massive loop. I had planned a natural water birth with only gas and air in a midwife-led birthing centre. I’d been doing pregnancy yoga and was convinced my body was a childbearing temple and I could have the birth I wanted if only I thought positively about it.

What a load of bull!

I had a drip and was strapped to a foetal monitor which kept bleeping in alarming ways that made me think my baby was dying. I had an epidural after being pricked in the spine countless times, and finally was rushed to theatre (after 20 hours of labour). I was so scared and addled during the surgery that I sang all the songs from The Sound of Music to my anaesthetist. Apparently, that was a first for him – but he was quite young.

And I hadn’t even considered, nor had anyone mentioned to me, the possibility of my son going to special care and being in one of those plastic oxygen boxes. I thought that only happened if your baby was premature. Turns out, special care happens to loads of mums for all sorts of reasons. But nobody warns you ahead of time.

Birth trauma and its effects

By the time I finally brought my son home from hospital, I was seriously messed up. I was convinced he was going to spontaneously die. We couldn’t fit his cot in our bedroom, so I slept in the nursery with him (away from my husband). I lost so much sleep, staying awake listening to make sure he was still breathing.

I remember that every night I would go to sleep repeating to myself, “Please God let him be okay. Please God let him outlive me. Please let him grow to be an old man.” My anxiety about his survival was all consuming.

And other times, when he had colic and wouldn’t stop crying, I wanted to throw him out of the bloody window. And as soon as that thought crossed my mind, I would be overtaken with guilt.

When I think of myself back in those days, I see a woman walking around in a sleep-deprived haze of constant anxiety around my baby’s well-being. Who couldn’t go on a buggy walk without me stopping to check on him every couple of minutes. I hated his rear-facing car seat because I couldn’t see him – we had to buy a mirror.

When well-meaning people would try to hold him or feed him a bottle, I was liable to hover and even yell at them, criticising their techniques – even though these were people who had children of their own and knew what they were doing.

I wore the same clothes day and night – a nursing top and baggy elasticated-waistband trousers. They were inevitably covered in baby sick and the crumbs from my attempts to eat toast without putting the baby down.

I was lonely but I couldn’t maintain a conversation. The days and nights ran into one another. Each day it seemed like I’d be stuck forever in my dark living room, curtains drawn, trying to soothe my screaming baby. Each night was spent begging forgiveness to the universe for being such an ungrateful and unworthy mother.

When I look back at the woman I was in those early days of first-time motherhood, I almost don’t recognise her.

Getting better

I never sought any help for my condition. I didn’t realise it was a problem. I thought it must be normal. In retrospect, I know it wasn’t normal.

As time passed, the trauma of my birth and my son’s illness faded.  Eventually, my son started crawling. Seeing him be independent and robust relieved some of my anxiety. By the time he was 1, I was feeling more like myself.

I was lucky that I got better in my own time. But it would have been much better if I’d realised what a state I was in and that there was help out there for me.

That is why this is the first post in what I’m hoping will become a series on maternal mental health. My next post will deal with the PND I had after my second son. And then I’m hoping to commission guest posts on the topic. Not just on diagnosed PND or anxiety, but about any mental health challenges you might have faced as a new mum. These could be shared on my blog anonymously if you like, or you can put your name to it.

If you would like to contribute a post on maternal mental health, please email me at themumreviews (at) gmail.com.

If you are feeling down, anxious, lonely or depressed after having a baby, you are not alone.

You can find support and information on http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/. Please also consider speaking to your GP or health visitor, and seeking support from family and friends.

My Petit Canard
Tammymum
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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29 thoughts on “Birthing babies is a messy business – my postnatal anxiety

  1. I was lucky with the birth of my daughter but know how difficult birth experiences can be and the mental health implications on mums (& dads). Many close friends have experience PND or came close to it. Great, honest post x

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  2. It’s something people don’t talk about enough, thanks so much for sharing your experiences! It helps to know every mother and child find their path and overcome their own challenges, but no one has to do it alone. There are so many expectations on new moms, doing it alone shouldn’t be one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing this with us I think more needs to be done for mental health and new mothers is a prime example. Well done for speaking up and your new series does sound like a brilliant idea. Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

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  4. Oh Hun, sounds like you’ve been to hell and back. But it’s amazing that not only did you make it back through but you’re now starting a series that will help so many others. I think so many mothers suffer in silence and it can really help to feel you’re not alone x
    #FamilyFun

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  5. Oh wow you poor thing what an experience that must have all been for you. My second child was prem and spent 5 weeks in neo natal when came home he stopped breathing and was rushed back in for another week. It was the hardest time of my life. But thank god he was my second, I was so much calmer and better placed to deal with it. I remember thinking if he was my first I don’t know how I would of coped. For reasons unknown I too was paranoid about my first dying in her sleep, I barely slept but neither did she and like you would always be checking her at home or out in the Pram, mentally it was draining. I am so glad you did start to feel better because it is and must have been such a difficult time. good luck with your series it’s sounds brilliant and such a good topic to raise awareness off. Thank you so much for sharing

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    1. I feel for you and so sorry your lo had to be in neonatal for so long. When my son was in, I saw so many mums with prem babies going to neonatal to be there with them day in, day out and it must have been so hard for them and so draining. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story with me. x

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  6. I really felt for you reading this. I recognise some of it in the way I was when my son was born-the belief that I could will myself into an easy natural labour and breathe my baby out just as easily as if I was doing a poo, the constant anxiety about not being able to see them in their car seat and having to repeatedly check they were still breathing-and my son mercifully did not have to go to special care. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if he had. I’m glad you now feel so much better and I hope reading this makes others realise they are not alone. #FamilyFun

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  7. It is a shame we are not prepared for those overwhelming feelings after giving birth. I remember watching my son sleeping thinking he was going to stop breathing and he didn’t have any health issues so I cant imagine what you must have been through! It is very positive that you are now using that experience to support others #kcacols

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  8. This is such an important post, thanks for being so honest. Sadly it’s common that only after the event we realise we had the baby blues or PND. I suffered from PND too after my second baby last year (hence why the blog was then born!). I love your honesty. It’s the day to day things in our routine which can be signs that things aren’t quite right. I suddenyl wasn’t listening to music which was really weird for me. I also wasn’t dressing as ‘me’. I found PANDAS very helpful (if you’re interested in reading my story, it’s over on my blog – Singng my way out of the blues..). It’s great to see more and more mamas (and daddas) talking about PND. I’m sure this post will encourage others to speak up as we gradually start to remove the stigma relating to mental illnesses. Thank you again. You’re a fab mama for writing and acknowledging all of this. #KCACOLS

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  9. Just to say a HUGE thank you The Mum Reviews for checking out my Singing my way out of the blues post just now! That’s really cool of you. See you again on our blogs xx Sunita

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh my goodness – what an ordeal for your family and I’m so pleased that although you didn’t seek help at the time, you now recognise it for what it was. I’m also pleased to hear that your son is doing well. Where I live they have a Birth Afterthoughts service where you can request a meeting with a consultant midwife, to talk through your birth notes and process the feelings and questions you may still have. From what I hear, it’s well worth doing so I hope something similar is available to you. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

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    1. Thank you. I actually did do that. I’d half forgotten about it! It had a positive affect on my feelings of failure for not having the natural birth I’d planned…but I don’t think we even addressed the other stuff!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I had HORRIBLE anxiwty after my first and then in pregnancy with my second I truly thought that I was losing my mind and over time I came dangerously close to the edge. I didnt want to share this deep dark shameful secret- I was scraed of EVERYTHING- real fears, insane dears- you name it. I did get help and meds and the combination probably saved my life.

    #KCACOLS

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  12. Such an honest post and an important topic, thank you for sharing your experience and I think your series will benefit so many. Pleased to hear your son is doing so well now, it’s amazing they go from being so fragile to robust crawlers in such a short time! #KCACOLS

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  13. It sounds like you’ve had a terrible time, but I’m glad you got through it and I’m sure your honesty in this post will help other people who may be having similar feelings. I think it’s amazing that so many women go through traumatic births and post-birth experiences and there’s an assumption that we should just get on with it. I had a difficult birth and ended up with a cat 1 emergency c-section under general anaesthetic because my little girl’s heart rate dropped so low. She was ok afterwards, but I couldn’t get over the feeling that I could have lost her. It’s a lot to deal with, especially if it’s your first baby and you are learning about and having to cope with being a new mother at the same time. #KCACOLS

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    1. Yes there really is an onslaught of new situations and new emotions for new mums and an assumption we’re innately built to cope with it all! I’m glad your daughter was ok despite the difficult birth. I can see how that must have been so scary even after it was over! Thanks for sharing your experience and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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