PTSD, PND, and Me

by NanLT

A personal story of motherhood and post-natal depression, and coming out the other side.

In November 2004 my third son was born via caesarean section after over 40 hours labour. This was my third caesarean,my second unsuccessful attempt at a home birth.

Everything had been put into place to make it a success. But, things just didn't work out. Afterwards, I developed post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression

For nearly a year I took care of my infant son by rote. I was on auto-pilot, just going through the motions but feeling no emotions for him.

With help though, I have emerged out the other side and become stronger for it. This is my story.

Throughout you will see quotes of things I was told by well-meaning people, and more than one mental health professional. These things weren't helpful, and in some ways they were incredibly hurtful, negating all that I had been through. I felt they needed to be added here though, if only to give some insight in what not to say.

Heaven Descending Into Hell

My story

Back in 2004 I had a lot of hopes about my son's birth. I knew it wouldn't be easy. I'd already had 2 caesareans, but I had support in a loving husband and a positive Independent Midwife who believed in me. Except for problems with CPD, which I was seeing an osteopath for, I was perfectly healthy.

On Halloween night I went into labour. I had just hit 40 weeks. 24 hours passed, 48 hours. Active labour with strong contractions, but no baby. That time is all very much a blur of being in the birthing pool, back rubs, and being made to take sips of herbal tea between contractions and sleep.

Blake Dante Hell

November 2nd, I made the decision to go into hospital, knowing that a caesarean was possible but still hopeful. By this time I was using entonox for pain relief. I went from a loving, supportive place to a hell that sometimes still haunts me today. People who were unsupportive and didn't listen to me. People who belittled me and treated me like an object, not a human being. They tried to remove my support system from me - my husband and my independent midwife. But both refused to go.

Still, one person believed in me. The OB consultant. His decision was to let me labour a few more hours to see what happened. Baby was poised at the brink, I just need to let my cervix open that last tiny bit.

4 hours passed, 6 hours. Again, it was all a blur. Much of what happened, I have vague memories of, memories that had to be filled in by my husband. My son's heart rate started dropped during contractions. I was checked again. I still wasn't dilating. I had to go for a caesarean.

Then, my Independent Midwife saying - she needs to go now! His heart rate had dropped again. A mad dash from the room to the surgery suite. My support taken from me at the door. They weren't going to let them in until after I had a spinal anesthetic in place. I was accused of being uncooperative when I couldn't move myself from the bed to the surgical table in the middle of a contraction. I had a rolling chair placed under my feet and was told to use that to move myself up on the table, with no one supporting me or keeping the chair from moving.

I know I was crying. Otherwise, I don't know. But, hope. My husband came in. He helped me. He supported me. He held me up. The spinal was put into place. My independent midwife came in. No one wanted her there but me and my husband, but she was there.

A cut I couldn't feel, a pressure and pulling I did feel. And my son was out. He was taken from me. And then the hospital midife made the most spiteful gesture she could have made. She wiped the birth fluids off of him. Something I had specifically asked her not to do. Something that wasn't necessary. Something I begged her not to do. She did it anyway.

The only part she missed was the top of his head. I couldn't get myself to wash his hair for a few weeks after that.

I had my husband come to get me and checked myself out of hospital against medical advice 36 hours later. I refused a follow-up appointment with the OB. I refused to be followed by the hospital community midwife. I refused to be followed by a health visitor. My independent midwife removed the stitches at home.

Over the month after my son was born, I became worse and worse. I couldn't leave the house. I couldn't look at a hospital. Even seeing a sign on the road with a big H to indicate a hospital ahead would send me into a panic. Seeing someone in a hospital uniform sent me into a panic. Seeing someone wearing a name badge sent me into a panic. I kept hearing voices in my head. Replaying everything I had heard. Telling me I wasn't a real woman. Telling me that I was a failure.

At home, I couldn't control my anger. I had to fight back urges to hit my 2 year old son. I had to fight back urges to scratch and pinch myself. In the latter, the only thing that stopped me was knowing my husband would find out.

The medical professionals couldn't see that things were as bad as I was saying. I was taking care of my baby, not neglecting him. I used a sling to carry him, I was breastfeeding and co-sleeping. Following my beliefs in attachment parenting.

It took my husband pointing out to my GP that I was doing all this on auto-pilot. I'd had children before, I knew what to do and how to do it. I didn't have to think about what to do.

Healthy Baby
Healthy Baby
Said to me by numerous mental health ...

Climbing Out Again

Finding the help I needed

My GP referred me to the mental health clinic. Waiting lists. A social worker contacted me andTrail idge Road arranged to see me at home. There would be a several month's wait before I could see anyone else though.

I told her about the urges to self-harm. I told her about the worries I would hurt my other son. I was contacted later that day - the psychiatrist wanted to see me tomorrow.

After I saw the psychiatrist, I was told that they had considered having me committed given what I had been saying. I had support in place at home though. My husband, his family. Admitting myself and my baby to the mother-baby mental hospital unit was an option though there would be a minimum of 6 weeks wait to get in.

We decided against the hospital after I talked it over with my hsuband. He worried about the effect it would have on my already fragile relationship with my second son if I was separated from him.

I was put on antidepressants. Put on the waiting list to see a therapist. It would be at least 6 months before I could see anyone just for the initial assessment I was told.

I began to have nightmares. When I was asleep and when I was awake. Voices telling me to take a knife and cut my uterus out. I had fears that the OB surgeon had cut my uterus out after taking out my baby. I felt empty inside. Like I had a great void in my middle.

I couldn't stand to be touched. Barely tolerated being touched by my children. Couldn't be touched by my husband without wanting to cry. The tears were because I wanted to enjoy his touch, but couldn't.

I was seeing the same osteopath who also did cranio-sacral therapy. She said it felt like I was 2 separate people. My upper body and lower body were not connected to each other. Much of her work was spent in trying to reconnect these severed parts of my self.

The social worker continued to follow me at home, supposedly. Her second appointment with me, she was over an hour late. Her third appointment, she never showed. She had forgotten she had the appointment. I told her not to bother rescheduling.

I gave up on the mental health service. My husband told me to find a private psychiatrist. I looked, and I found someone. I was able to get in to see him the following week.

Two hours at an initial appointment. He diagnosed me with severe post-natal depression bordering on post-natal psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. My antidepressant medication was increased. I was referred to a therapist. That would start immediately. I would continue to see him for follow ups every 2 - 3 months.

Over the next 8 months I saw the therapist once a week - she did psychotherapy - tell me about your relationship with your mother. After every appointment though, I would be worse. I felt like the issues just weren't being addressed.

I decided I needed to use some form of birth control, just in case. After talking to my GP, we decided on the depo-provera injection. That turned out to be a mistake. My depression worsened considerably, even on medication.

The antidepressant dosage was increased again. I started getting urges to let other cars drive head on into me when I was on the road. I'd calculate just how close a car had gotten and be sorry it hadn't hit me.

I told my therapist about this. She asked if she could speak to the psychiatrist. A phone call the next morning from his secretary. He wanted to see me that afternoon.

The antidepressant medication was changed to another, same dosage. Did I think the therapy was helping? I told him about things being worse for several days after. He decided I might do better seeing someone else.

He referred me to a woman who did cognitive behavioural therapy. I only needed to see her for 5 or 6 sessions and I was doing better. I didn't need to see her any more.

The psychiatrist followed me for a few months longer. That finished in 2006.

They said
They said

On the Road to Recovery

Finding Peace

I am still on the antidepressant. I am now resolving myself to the idea that I will need it the rest of my life after repeated attempts to wean me off have been unsuccessful. I see my GP and talk to her about how I'm doing every 3 or 4 months.

I have my off moments, but they are getting further and farther between. The worst is in the month leading up to my son's birthday and the month after. I know I have to be easy on myself during that time.

Inner PeaceI can go into a hospital again, but not near the maternity unit. Hospital name badges sometimes throw me a bit. But I don't go into a panic every time I see one any more. And I don't scan the streets looking for uniforms or name badges when I am out in public, just in case. I don't find myself wanting to cry every time I see a pregnant woman. I don't feel empty inside.

Sometimes, the voices come back. But they're not as loud and I can silence them.

I still can't talk about what happened without getting tearful. When I speak of the maternity unit my anger is obvious.

Most importantly though, I can love my son now. And I can be touched.

 

2013 Update

In 2012, due to a cascade of events that ended with my filing for divorce from my husband. I fell hard into a severe depression again, combined with serious anxiety and panic reactions that made it very difficult for me to function. I could barely leave the house without help and couldn't think or plan more than 24 hours into the future.

Over time, and with the support of my GP and a strong support network of friends, I was able to pull back out again.

However, I also had the chance to read what the mental health professionals had writen about me in their notes back in 2004/2005. And was thrust back into that nightmare as well when I saw they had said that I claimed to be depressed and that it was because I didn't get my own way during the birth process, and didn't understand the need for lifesaving procedures.

All untrue.

My anti-depressant medication was changed, first from Citalopram to Sertraline and then from Sertraline to Mirtazapine and the dosage increased to the maximum allowed. For a while, I was seeing my GP once a week as well as seeing a counsellor through the surgery on a monthly basis. Visits with my GP were spread out as I began to improve. I am now seeing her every 1 - 2 months. I was referred to the local mental health service, and they decided I did not need their support.

I refused to give up though, and once again sought help privately. I was able to find that help through a charity and am now seeing a therapist once a week.

I don't suppose one can say that I am dealing with post-natal depression any more, but this is all part of my story.

 

You're not alone
You're not alone

Find Support and Help

Postpartum Support International

PSI is built on the foundation of providing support to families. If you or someone you know might be experiencing symptoms of prenatal or postpartum mood or anxiety disorder, know that it is treatable and you've taken a very important first step. We have PSI Coordinators throughout the world who provide information and support. There is someone in your area who can help you if you are experiencing any of the following: depressed, irritable, exhausted, unlike yourself, sadness, anger, guilt, worry, feelings of inadequacy.

Mother to Mother: Postpartum Depression Network

The Mother-to-Mother Postpartum Depression Support Book: Real Stories from Women Who Lived Through It and Recovered is the result of many years collecting surviviors' stories to assure you that...as the "mantra" of PPD recovery groups often state, "you are not alone, you are not to blame, and you can recover!"

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after Childbirth

Do you have flashbacks or nightmares about your baby's birth? Do you have panic attacks? Do avoid your baby because he/she reminds you of your traumatic experience? Are you having fantasies about hurting the baby, or yourself? Do you have difficulty concentrating? Are you unusually irritable, angry or depressed? Or are you just numb and can't feel anything? Then you may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from your childbirth experience.

TABS - Trauma and Birth Stress PTSD After Childbirth

ORIGINATING IN NEW ZEALAND, TABS is Trauma And Birth Stress, a Charitable Trust that serves as a support group of mothers. We have in common stressful and traumatic pregnancies or births that affected our lives negatively for months or years afterwards. We formed TABS because of the need to make PTSD known as a form of mental illness that can happen following childbirth, but quite distinct from the Baby Blues, Post Natal Depression (Post Partum Depression) and Post Natal Psychosis.

My Postpartum Voice

My Postpartum Voice is full of various stories, resources, and insights for every struggling mother, for partners, family members, and even for professionals looking for a glimpse into the mind of a survivor.

Solace for Mothers

Solace for Mothers is an organization designed for the sole purpose of providing and creating support for women who have experienced childbirth as traumatic. Birth trauma is real and can result from an even seemingly "normal" birth experience.

Birth Trauma Association

The Birth Trauma Association (BTA) supports all women who have had a traumatic birth experience. It is estimated that, in the UK alone, this may result in 10,000 women a year developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Also, as many as 200,000 more women may feel traumatised by childbirth and develop some of the symptoms of PTSD. The BTA wants women to know that they are not alone. On these pages, we offer emotional and practical support to women and also their families.

 

 

Updated: 12/10/2013, NanLT
 
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