My story starts at 4am on a February morning in 2021. After waking anxious and nervous about my daughters’ movements I called my midwife and headed into the birthing suites for monitoring. I was monitored for a period of time, and during that time, Evie’s heart rate slowed and dropped off the monitor. Suddenly, there was an increasing push to break my waters and induce with the syntocinon drip. I, however, at 41+5 was hesitant about incorporating the use of the drip as my body is sensitive and responds dramatically to even small amounts of medication. As time progressed, the pressure to follow through was heavy and I ended up with an intense induction leading to an emergency c-section.
Everything in the theatre was so bright, white, and stimulating. It was so overwhelming. I started shaking, almost like I was having convulsions. I just couldn’t stop. After my daughter was born, she was placed on my chest. I soon felt sick, threw up, and passed out. In reflection, I know it was at this moment that my body and mind said that this was enough. From that moment on, my body entered a severe case of ‘fight or flight. A response that I unwillingly endured for a constant 4 months.
I was at home in my loungeroom less than 48 hours after giving birth. It was the second night at home and as I sat down to eat dinner this ‘wall’ hit me. I felt like I was in a time warp. I struggled to grasp reality, and I had no understanding of how time was passing. Life was happening and I felt as though I was standing still and watching it all happen to me.
I had an extreme oversupply of milk which came with severe pain, engorged breasts, and never-ending mastitis. I barely slept from the moment Evie was born, both day and night. I had visited my GP, had a Mental Health Care Plan and was having regular appointments with my psychologist. I had frequent appointments with my Community Nurse and was referred to my local Tresillian Centre at my request.
Three months in and all my proactive and forward measures to support myself decreased in effectiveness. I just needed more support. Over 7 days, I presented/represented to an emergency department five times with increasing insomnia, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts. I was sleeping on average two hours a day. I was desperate to be admitted. I just needed someone to help me take care of my baby, to support breastfeeding and my mental wellbeing. I knew I needed some serious help but didn’t want to be separated from my baby. Hospital trip after hospital trip (one of which included an ambulance ride) never triggered a crisis assessment or serious acknowledgment of what I was enduring.
I just needed to get some sleep, I felt manic, hypervigilant, and fractured. I was so frightened that if I went to sleep, I would not wake up. I had to keep telling my story again and again and again and each time I did, it was physically draining. At 4am on my second last trip, an ED Resident barked at me ‘tell me your story.’ He was brutal. I was so tired and trying to push my words out and he said ‘well what do you expect, what do you want me to do about it, it’s 4 o’clock in the morning? All our mental health care team have gone home.’ I was so physically and mentally broken and was 12-24hrs away from committing suicide.
That following day I attempted to sleep but was unable to do so. I had another full-body panic attack (which I didn’t know at the time). I was so frightened. I felt like my only next step was suicide. I needed peace, just peace. I was terrified, I was having flashbacks of my birth and other traumatic events that followed. I was exhausted. My family couldn’t offer me anything more (due to my condition being well outside their level of expertise). I was frightened to be by myself.
I was out of all options available and once again turned to the last place I didn’t want to go, the hospital. After another 14 hours of waiting in an ED department I was FINALLY met with the support I needed. Some medication to help me sleep and the promise of a home visit from the local Mental Health Care team. While I already knew I had postnatal anxiety and depression, I was now told I was verging into psychosis.
My recovery from that point was as hard as anything. Unlike others, I wasn’t able to access a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) due to living in regional NSW and no public beds existing. Along with the severe lack of postnatal care and education for women rurally, I was against all odds. I survived by the phone calls I received from the Mental Health social worker, my GP and psychologist appointments. That was it. To this day, it still bewilders me how I managed to properly find my feet with the little support that I had.
I won’t finish my story with ‘It will get better,’ because I heard that statement so many times and it never rendered any support or comfort. But what I will say is……. Giving birth unlocks the deepest of intuitions, one that you will have never experienced before. It is during the postpartum months that intuition is at its peak. We are constantly being pulled away from our internal compass by others well meaning advice, cultural conditionings and beliefs. Place TRUST in the fact that you inherently know what is RIGHT for YOU, your BABY, and your FAMILY. If you feel that you aren’t well, keep fighting and pushing for that help, if you don’t feel that you are receiving the care that you need, keep pushing forward. It’s hard and it hurts all over, but it’s your INTUITION that is pulling you forward and driving you. Once you find it and harness it, no one can ever take it away from you.
As always, give yourself gentleness, kindness, and grace.