Here at The Every Mum Movement, we are giving fellow mums a voice and inviting them to share their stories and experiences of maternal mental health, in our #MumsStoriesMatter series. the lovely Elaine is joining our campaign and bravely sharing her story.
Over to you Elaine…….
Love, Loss and Survival
My son Christopher turns 14 soon. Unfortunately he doesn’t live with us but his home is happy, loving and filled with great wonder and excitement. Sadly he lives too far away to visit, he has no WIFI and I am unable to send letters.
Christopher lives in Heaven; a decision taken out my hands and made by those people who were meant to be there to care and support me. Christopher was my first born and I went into labour at 27 weeks and 5 days on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in August 2005, spending the next day and a half trying to keep him safe. At 0955hrs on Tuesday 9th August 2005, and after a very traumatic delivery my beautiful and precious boy decided to come and meet us.
As soon as Christopher was born, I immediately sensed something “was not right”. There was no cry or noise from him and a silence evolved throughout the room, apart from movement and discussion by the Neonatal Team. I will never forget the look of panic and despair on the face of my partner and the lack of eye contact from the midwives who were just inches away.
Then events that unfolded can only be described as a nightmare. Christopher was ventilated and was “stable” however no cardiac output for 15 minutes, had resulted in a significant brain injury, causing kidney failure, inability to regulate temperature and blood pressure and the very early onset of seizures. The severity of his injuries had meant he would not survive despite significant medical input.
Christopher died on his birthday at 12 hours of age.
Prior to Christopher’s birth I was not worried about what would be involved in his care, however the reality of being a parent of a preterm, very sick baby is something you could never prepare for. I felt lost, overwhelmed and scared, making life changing decisions with no prior warning or preparation, unaware of the impact this would have on me in the future.
When I had entered the hospital just days prior, I was happy, excited, full of expectation and pregnant, with my baby safe inside me. Within a matter of days I was going home broken, lost, empty, confused and without my baby, no longer able to protect him or keep him safe. Where there should have been skin to skin and “nappy care”, it was replaced with registering both a birth and death simultaneously and planning a funeral. My family and friends were amazing but nothing they said or did eased any of my grief. I was 23 would now have to face the implications of decisions with absolutely no idea of how to even began to move on.
I became lonely, resentful, angry, and guilty. I was suffering depression and PTSD however did not recognise this and declined additional support. I fell pregnant with Christopher’s sister just after his first birthday and the excitement was very quickly replaced with anxiety, worry and stress. My birth preparation involved funeral planning “just in case” as my expectation was this baby would also not be coming home.
Beautiful Sarah was born on 11th May 2007 at 35 weeks. She was small but healthy and came home with us after a couple of days. I suppose the instant “bond” not being there was something I didn’t recognise and put this down to a sense of relief that she was safe. I felt guilty leaving the hospital with her when I hadn’t been given the chance with Christopher. I remained anxious, depressed, tearful, angry with very intrusive thoughts, yet failed to recognise this was not a “normal” part of having a baby.
In January 2009 I had my third child, Michael. My mood remained the same, the worries manifested and I felt useless, hopeless and very much alone. There were no peer support groups, no self-awareness and so I continued to struggle on a daily basis.
In 2010 I started antidepressant medication and this was thanks to the peer support of a friend and colleague in being open about her own experience, sharing her own journey of depression and recovery. I almost felt like a cloud had been lifted. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel and I ran towards it desperate for any help I could have.
On the 9th of August 2019 Christopher turns 14.
14 years I have battled with depression, anxiety and PTSD.
I am finally receiving support from additional services to help me come to terms with his birth, death and the decisions made at this time.
The support available now is amazing with all health professionals receiving ongoing training in how to support all women and families during pregnancy and postnatally.
I continue to work hard to repair and build on the relationship between myself and Sarah due to the impact of my own poor mental health following her birth.
As there are amazing peer support groups out there for women and partners, I continue the campaign and fight to ensure other women and families have access to the right level of support services.
For any parents who may need support at the moment due to going through something similar I’ve listed a link below to support services:
If you would like to share your story and feature in our #MumsStoriesMatter campaign, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. If you or someone you know is in need of support with their maternal mental health we have a list of services here. And, if you would like to read about a fellow mums recovery from maternal mental health then please see, the book from The Every Mum Movement Founder, Olivia Siegl here.