A Post about Postpartum Anxiety

You’re pregnant? Wow! Congratulations!

Book in and see a midwife immediately. You’ve been taking folic acid for a few months already, right? Rest if you’re tired. But stay active. Take vitamins. Only the right kind though. Eat whatever you can keep down. But eat healthily. Drink plenty of water. Don’t drink caffeine. Don’t drink alcohol. How much did you used to drink? Have you had ANY alcohol this pregnancy? You don’t do drugs do you? You don’t smoke do you? You haven’t EVER smoked have you?

Eat fish. Not too much fish. But plenty of fish. And the right kind of fish. And not too much. Make sure your meat is well cooked. Your eggs are well cooked. Don’t eat that cheese. And possibly not that salmon. Maybe not those prawns. Definitely not those oysters. Probably not that salami, who knows, best not. 

Stay away from chemicals, do you use plastic? Teflon? Machined clothes? Possibly don’t. We’re not sure, but best not. Don’t wash with soap. Don’t use perfume. Don’t let yourself go, keep your partner interested! Have sex. But be careful. 

Keep up with the house work while you can. Don’t overdo it. Stay active. Don’t do anything too strenuous. Sleep whilst you still can. Exercise. Not too much though. You’ll know how much is enough. 

Has the baby moved yet? Is it still moving? How much? How often? When? Have you bonded yet? Talk to it. Read to it. Play it music. Don’t be a pushy parent already. Isn’t this a magical time? Are you getting enough selenium?

How big is it? Too small? Too big? Lie there. Turn this way. Pee in this. Don’t worry. 

You’ll want to breastfeed or your baby will be stupid, fat, slow and sickly.  Formula is poison. You’re still not smoking right? 

Practice breathing. Practice positions. Make a plan. Dont expect to follow the plan. Don’t raise your expectations. Do hypnobirthing. Let go of control. Learn about pain relief. Don’t use pain relief. Learn about complications. Don’t scare yourself. Be prepared. Don’t over prepare.  Have you packed your hospital bag yet? You won’t need al that stuff. You forgot something. 

Is it here yet? Felt anything yet? Are you in labour? No, real labour. How often? How intense? How long? Stay at home. Come in. Go home. Come back. You should have been here sooner. Your body knows what to do. Your body isn’t doing it right. Have this needle. Have this drug. It’s necessary. Stand up. Stay active. Lie down. Don’t try to get up. It’s your choice.  You’re in control. Do this or your baby may die. That trace doesn’t look good. I don’t like that heartbeat. What would you like to do? Listen to me. Stop crying. Make a decision. Make sure it’s the right one. Can you feel your legs? Your chest? Your tongue? Push. Don’t push. Stop screaming. Push. More. Harder. Your body knows what to do. 

Your baby is here!

Don’t get up. Rest. Why aren’t you breastfeeding yet?  Do it now or you won’t bond. We’re taking the baby. Where’s your baby? Why aren’t you up yet? Your baby is hungry. Why haven’t you showered? Have you changed her? Keep baby clean. Not with wipes. Don’t overdo it. Have you bonded yet? It’s the most natural thing in the world. Your baby is hungry again. Don’t carry your baby out there. Don’t wrap her like that. Don’t put her down like that. I’ll carry her out for you. Is the seat in properly? Is it a new one? How long has she been in it? Don’t wake a sleeping baby. 

Support the head. Put her feet to foot or she’ll die. Put her on her back or she’ll die. Don’t let her overheat or she’ll die. Don’t put her in a draft. Keep her warm. Extra layers. Not too many. But more than you. Is she too hot? Better check. Don’t disturb her. Let her sleep. She should have fed again by now. Wake her up. How many wet nappies? How many today? Has she pooed yet? How much? What colour? How long is she feeding for? Are you sure she’s swallowing? That’s too much. That’s not enough. Just keep going. It’s natural. You’ll both learn. 

Why are you so anxious?

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Birth Planning after Trauma (Part 1: The Debrief)

So, here’s what happened when I went to see an obstetric consultant to plan this next birth, following the horrible time I had last time. 

Twitter followers may remember FireBloke being in the dog house for quite a while after he forgot to book leave far enough in advance to come with me to the appointment. That certainly wasn’t a good start. At my booking appointment I’d had that weird, distant, spaced out feeling I used to get before dissociating/flash backs, something I haven’t experienced  since the tougher stages of therapy (well over a year ago). It made me really anxious about meeting the obstetrician in case I went in to full blown freak out, and the thought of doing this without my other half was just too much to bear. 

Thankfully I have a lovely friend who offered to come with me. She knows the story, down to the gory details, so I had no problem with her being there. She’s had her own perinatal struggles too so I knew she’d be supportive. But before we come to what happened in the appointment, let me explain what happened last time I met this consultant. 

I met this obstetrician for the first and only time 6 weeks after FireGirl was born. As hard as it is to believe, I had already been in and out of the mother and baby unit by then, and was on my way to recovering from postpartum psychosis. I was still incredibly anxious and traumatised, but  I at least knew a few things I didn’t know before (like the fact that I wasn’t dead, and what day of the week it was). I saw her for a ‘debrief’: a meeting where they explain to you what happened with your birth and you get the chance to ask questions. They are often run by midwives, but this consultant has a specialist interest in birth trauma. She wasn’t actually present at my delivery, but she’d spoken to the people involved. If you feel you have suffered a traumatic birth, I would really encourage you to try and push for a debrief. 

She started by explaining to me what had happened, and what they suspected had gone wrong. They think that the prolonged labour tired my uterus out, which may be why it had such problems contracting afterwards (hence the postpartum haemorrhage). They think I lost more blood than initial estimates, and didn’t give me a big enough transfusion, hence why I was so wiped out. They also suspected very late onset pre-eclampsia, a risk for next time. Then came my turn to ask questions. ‘Ask me anything you like. Anything, no matter how stupid you think it is’ she said. I took a deep breath. ‘Did I nearly die?’ I asked. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer. ‘No.’ She answered me calmly, without missing a beat, like she’d been expecting it. I was taken aback. What?? I felt like I had nearly bled to death, in my memory it played out like a medical drama where the transfusion doesn’t arrive in time and everyone is panicking. She explained further – ‘we were pretty worried about you, but everything was under control. And now here you are, with your lovely baby!’. 

Wow. It was like something slotted in to place in my brain. Like waking up in the present after a nightmare. I had been so locked in that memory, in that room, flat on my back and exhausted, feeling on the brink of death and thinking at least it might be a relief. I had been so stuck there, I couldn’t see the next part of the story; the part in which I survived. I still had a really long way to go in terms of recovery, but after that day is when I really started healing. The therapy that came later worked on this principle ; retell the story and update it with the stuff you now know to be true. 

She ended the appointment by giving me an open appointment for whenever I felt like coming back. She said she didn’t mind whether I wanted to hear the exact same information again, or ask new questions, or maybe even some day talk about planning another birth. She also said she gave me carte Blanche to have whatever kind of birth I wanted if I ever did feel ready to do it again, and she would go on to write that down in a letter for me to wave under anybody’s nose who disagreed. It was a huge relief and played a large part in me feeling able to come back, almost 3 years later, to see her again. 

I just can’t express how much this experience meant to me. It contributed massively to my recovery; to repairing my trust in maternity services, and to empowering me to face the beast and do it all again. I can honestly never thank this woman enough. 

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