POST PARTUM PSYCHOSIS
POST PARTUM PSYCHOSIS
I was 21 when I became a mum. It was 2010 and Nick and I hadn’t been together that long but we loved each other and so our journey to parenthood began. We set up a lovely nursery in the spare room which Nick and his Dad decorated for us, his parents bought the Cot we picked for the baby and my mum bought the pram we chose. Everybody around us was very supportive and so excited to meet our baby. We found out we were expecting a girl and I was over the moon. I was so excited at the thought of having a daughter. My pregnancy was quite difficult as I think most pregnancies are. I was so big by the end of it I just wanted the baby out!
My labour started on the 19th November 2010 and in the early hours of the 20th November I rang my mum to say I think this was it! I will say here that my mum and I weren’t particularly close before this pregnancy and she wasn’t involved until I was halfway through but the baby was bringing us closer and I have never felt like I needed her as much as I did at this time in my life. Nick drove me to the hospital and my mum met us there, she actually worked on Labour Ward so she knew all of the staff and I really felt like I was in safe hands.
I had an epidural and actually managed to sleep through some of my labour, anyway 15 hours of labour later and I was woken up to a room full of people. I was told the baby’s heart rate was extremely high and they needed to get the baby out quickly, as I was only 7cm dilated my labour could still take a while so a Caesarean section was needed. I agreed to have the operation and off I was taken to theatre. I was beyond terrified. I found the experience very scary I didn’t have a spinal block I had the epidural topped up. It honestly felt like they were washing up in my tummy or rummaging around in a handbag. Lovely!
6.35pm 20th November 2010 and our beautiful daughter was born. They wrapped her in towels and placed her on my chest, whilst they were stitching me up and finishing the op! Nick was very emotional, crying happy tears. I wasn’t. Why wasn’t I? I didn’t really feel anything. All I could think about was what they were doing to me behind the blue screen. I kept asking if they had finished. After recovery I was put on the ward. They didn’t bring the baby up to the ward until 10pm because she had to go to special care for antibiotics incase she had an infection and that was the reason her heart rate was so high. It all turned out that she didn’t and she was absolutely fine and healthy, all 8lb 1oz of her. I stayed in hospital for five days. On the fourth day when most women experience “baby blues” I hit the floor. I cried from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep that night. I didn’t want to hold my baby or feed her or engage with her at all and I felt SO guilty for feeling that way. We had waited 9 months for this little one and we were so excited so why wasn’t I on cloud 9? Why wasn’t I beaming with smiles and soaking up all that lovely newborn joy. I stayed in hospital for five days purely because I was terrified of leaving. I didn’t feel ready for the world to see me and my baby because quite frankly, I felt like shit.
We arrived home and I didn’t really want to be at home. I didn’t know where I wanted to be or what was going to make me happy. Nick basically took care of the baby himself. I still didn’t want to hold her or feed her and I was terrified to leave the house. That’s when my fear of going outside began. I became very paranoid that I would be judged for how I felt and I felt like everybody would know how I was feeling because it was written all over my face. I didn’t sleep for a few days and everything went massively down hill very quickly. I was still very paranoid, I thought the midwives were going to get social services to take my baby away. I still wouldn’t leave the house, I would get really panicky and anxious if Nick asked me to feed the baby. This began to cause problems between us as Nick was exhausted doing everything for the baby while trying to look after me too. I remember calling my mum and telling her that I just wanted to run away. She knew things weren’t right and she suggested I stayed with her for a few days. The mental health team were contacted and I began medication for what they thought was post natal depression. I stayed at my mums with the baby while the mental health team visited daily. My mum took time off work to take care of us both, Nick had to return to work as his paternity leave was over. Things got worse and I felt like I didn’t want to be around anymore and everybody around me was better off without me. I had forgotten how to take care of myself and I was terrified of the shower by now. I didn’t like the water pouring over me. I started to refuse medication because I was convinced I was being poisoned. My mum used to sit with me for an hour every morning explaining the medication to me and how I had to trust her. I didn’t trust anybody at this point. I was diagnosed with post partum psychosis.
Nick had been visiting each day but I didn’t want him to see me the way I was because I felt like he wouldn’t love me anymore and I was embarrassed. My anxiety would hit the roof every time I knew Nick was coming, I really didn’t want him to see me this way. The mental health team suggested he didn’t visit for a period of two weeks to see if I could recover quicker without the pressure of having to pretend I was fine in front of Nick which was something I just couldn’t manage. I was a complete mess. The two week period fell over christmas and unfortunately Nick didn’t see me or the baby over this time.
The baby was 10 weeks old now and I was beginning to feel so much better and we were really bonding and I was doing pretty much all of her care. Nick and I decided I would move back home and we would finally start our life as a family and that’s what we did. It wasn’t easy. My mum wanted me to stay with her and so unfortunately there was a fall out and she didn’t talk to me for a few months which was difficult because I still needed support. The first year of the baby’s life was very hard and I was learning all the way, but we developed a close bond and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. She was becoming my little best friend.
Then 2012 came around before we knew it. Nick and I found out I was pregnant again and our first baby would now be a big sister! We were nervous because of everything that went wrong first time but also excited and determined to make this experience totally different. I was also positive that I wasn’t going to have a planned c section which was advised and that I would have a normal birth which is called a VBAC after having a caesarean.
This pregnancy was easier but I developed stomach inflammation at around 25 weeks so from then til the end I had a lot of sickness. My mum was not around for the whole of this pregnancy and I felt like I was doing ok, even though I did miss her. Nick and I were a lot closer and I had great support from my best friend who was actually at the birth of this baby. I did have a successful VBAC delivery and it was amazing. I got the cloud 9 experience shall we say! I burst into happy tears the minute I saw her and I felt amazing. I couldn’t wait for our first child to meet her.
4 months passed and I was getting very tearful and the paranoia crept back in to my life. I was in denial. Then I stopped sleeping so my thoughts and paranoia got worse. I started thinking there were people in my loft spying on me and my neighbours were plotting against me to try and get my children taken away from me.
I was under the mental health team again and diagnosed with PPP for the second time. The difference in my first and second experience was that I wanted to do everything for this baby and I didn’t want anybody else to do it. I recovered for a second time and things got better. Having a baby and a two year old was exhausting and amazing. A real mix! I found my own way and I really got into the swing of things. I enjoyed my days with them and was lucky enough to have a good sleeper second time round so I was able to have time for myself or time with Nick in the evenings which is so important.
2015 was an amazing year for us. We got engaged! We had the girls christened. Our eldest started school and we were really enjoying life as a family of four. I felt really settled.
17 August 2015 and we found out baby number 3 was on its way! We felt so lucky to have so much happiness coming our way. This pregnancy was the easiest and the best I had felt out of all three. The baby was five days late just like her two sisters! My labour was 4 hours short and incredibly painful. The midwife in hospital didn’t believe I was as far along in my labour as I told her I thought I might be and wouldn’t give me the gas and air I asked so desperately for. My waters broke and she reluctantly examined me and I was 8cm. She moved me to a room and gave me the gas and air and within 20 minutes or so the baby was out! I was in shock at how quickly it happened and how much pain I was in but it was done. She was here and she was perfect. We all adored her. The first two weeks were exhausting but I felt good. I was getting lots done during the day alongside breastfeeding but I wasn’t getting enough sleep which we have discovered is one of the triggers for my psychosis.
My midwife was doing daily visits to keep an eye on things because of having psychosis twice now. We both said to each other we didn’t think it would happen again because I was doing so well. The baby was born on 24Th April 2016 and by the 5th May things started to go down hill. I was very emotional but also quite angry this time around which I wasnt before. I felt like I was being super mum taking care of the children and the house and Nick was just enjoying it all. Why shouldnt he enjoy it though? On the 6th my midwife called the doctor because I was just not myself and we felt like I was starting on the slippery slope to psychosis so we wanted to get medication started to nip it in the bud quickly. Unfortunately it was progressing quickly and it was almost too late. I was given an anti depressant and a sleeping tablet to take that night. Nicks parents looked after our eldest two that night at their house as it wasn’t nice for them to see me that way.
The sleeping tablet didn’t seem to do its job and I was trying to fight It because I thought if I went to sleep I would never wake up. I stayed awake most of the night watching the baby sleep and waiting for Nick to wake. In the morning I came down and made my breakfast and took my anti depressant. I sat downstairs on my own and it was like something just snapped in my mind. There were people in my loft again. They were watching me. I could hear people in the neighbours house talking about me. Of course this wasnt true but at the time it was very real. In my mind they were planning on taking my children from me. Nick came downstairs holding the baby. In my mind I thought that wasn’t my baby. I thought I had been given a doll to look after as some sort of experiment to see if I was a good mum or not. I asked Nick where the baby was whilst looking at him holding our baby. This must of really worried him. I told him that that wasn’t our baby and that she was a doll. He called the midwife who came round straight away. They tried to explain that it was my baby and I wasn’t thinking properly and that actually I was becoming quite poorly. Again I was in denial. I thought they were all out to get me and take my eldest children off me. Then something in my mind happened again, I blanked out that I had just given birth and this was my third child. In my mind I had two children and now this doll I had been given as an experiment. I thought that our road had been cordoned off by police because I was a massive risk. A member of the crisis team came to our house and said I had to go with her to hospital, our local mental health hospital. I didn’t digest any of this and I was convinced she was a police officer and she was actually taking me to prison.
Nick kept telling me to go with her and that I had to do it for our children if I wasnt going to do it for myself. They wanted me to go on my own free will and not section me which is why Nick kept pleading with me to agree to go because he really didn’t want them to section me. I agreed to go. Nick packed a bag for me and my midwife and a member of the crisis team took me to hospital. The whole way there my midwife held my hand and I constantly asked if I was a bad mum and if I was going to prison.
When we arrived at the hospital I still had'nt registered it was a hospital and actually had no idea where I was. I was given so many sleeping tablets over 24 hours because they wanted me to rest so my mind could recover. I was fighting It. by this point I thought all the other patients were actors and I was on some weird set. I didn’t realise at the time but I was placed here temporarily while they found me a mother and baby hospital with a bed available so I could be with my baby again and get that bond back.
This place was awful. The patients were aged between 25-65 and they had very different mental health problems. Mine is triggered from child birth and is a post natal mental health problem where as the patients here suffer with their issues all of the time. It was a sad place really. They tried to get me to engage in groups which I did not do. I didn’t fancy colouring in or doing Zumba when I had no idea where I was and I just wanted to be home with Nick and our children. The hallucinations started. They were awful. The next day I was moved to Chelmsford in Essex to a mother and baby unit and I was reunited with my baby. At this point I still believed she was a doll and I had two children.
In the first few weeks of being in Chelmsford I got a lot worse. I wouldn’t eat because I was convinced they were trying to poison me. I refused meds. I thought they were trying to change me into a man because I had failed as woman and failed as a mother. I was given lots more sleeping tablets, I was completely wired and on another planet.
I wanted to die. I felt so low that I didn’t want to be here anymore and I felt my children were better without me. I remember looking in the mirror in the bathroom and I could hear voices and people telling me how worthless I was. I will never forget that.
I cried for my mum. A lot. We haven’t spoken in a year and a half and all I wanted was her. She could fix things, that’s what mums do isn’t it? Make it better? The hospital wouldn’t contact her as all through my pregnancy she wasn’t involved or in my life so they thought it was better I made a decision to see her when I was well.
5 weeks passed and I still hadn’t seen my eldest two children as I was just too poorly. Nick brought them to see me that weekend and it was the hardest day. Trying not to cry and act completely normal when I still, wasn’t 100% was tough. I should say that at this point in hospital I was on level three observations so I had staff with me at all times and was not allowed on my own.
I was so happy to see them and all I wanted was to go home with them. Watching them leave was heartbreaking. Nick brought them in every weekend from then on which was lovely. I continued to battle with psychosis and my paranoia and anxiety. The staff in Chelmsford were incredible. I think I was a tough patient at times! I can’t remember my whole time in hospital just parts but it is something I never ever want to experience again and I never want anybody to experience but unfortunately they will.
It needs to be talked about more. There should be information on PPP given to new mums while pregnant. I thought I was losing my mind until I realised it’s an actual illness that women do go through following childbirth. I spent 9 weeks in hospital. I went to hell and back but I wouldn’t be where I am today without the amazing support of the staff there and of course Nick being by my side.
I have been out of hospital 6 months now and I do feel back to “normal” now. When I first came out I was still suffering with anxiety but that has gone now. It’s not been an easy journey and there have been times it’s been really difficult to even function but I’m getting there and I couldn’t do it without the amazing support from Nick.
I still haven’t seen my mum and she is yet to meet my third baby. I have tried to reach out to her and she is aware of my time in hospital but is yet to get in contact with me which hurts, a lot. Raising children without your mother being around is sad. I would love for her to see how amazing they are and I would hope she would be proud of me. It is not in my control so I have to continue my life and be strong for my children.
My journey to motherhood has been difficult as you can tell! But it’s made me the mother I am and I feel incredibly lucky to have my amazing children and they are happy and healthy and have been as sheltered as they can be from my illness. Now that I am better we can continue our lives and look forward to the future.
I can not wait for the wonderful moments this year will bring and the beautiful memories we will make as a family of five.
WRITTEN BY LUCY