Wednesday 22 January 2020

I have postpartum anxiety, and that’s okay.

I’ve hesitated writing this post over the last few weeks. It seems silly, but it felt as though writing it would make it all seem worse or even the opposite- that I’m exaggerating. I’ve also been super conscious that family often read this blog and I didn’t want them to begin worrying or overcompensating with kindness or even thinking I need people to step in with more offers of help. It wasn’t until I spoke to the health visitor this week that I decided the easiest way of handling how I feel is talking about it, and that’s why I started blogging in the first place- a safe space to talk.

I’ll begin by saying I’m absolutely enamoured with Harry and how life is going as a family of five. He’s a wonderful baby and everyone has settled into a great routine and it really does feel like he was always meant to be here.

The anxiety is there despite all this.

The first time few weeks, I put it down to baby blues. I happily breastfed Archer, especially out in public as we went out and about so much. It never bothered me, I felt no shame and I believe it’s much more socially accepted these days. But the first time I even thought about feeding Harry in front of anyone except Jack and the kids I started worrying and over thinking every possible scenario of who might look at me funny or feel awkward or treat me differently... of course our family have never behaved like this but I felt extremely nervous and even thinking about it made me tearful. It wasn’t just normal worrying, it was panic. I’d go over potential situations with Jack over and over again until I cried and he eased my mind by telling me it would be okay.

This pattern of overthinking everything and crying kicked in even more at Harry’s two week check  when the midwife told me he hadn’t gained enough weight. Instead of explaining it to me she called the hospital to discuss it with a senior midwife and all the information I had to mull over was hearing the one sided phone call and being told to come back in two days and that he needed to gain it by then. I sobbed, I panicked, I felt sick- in about thirty seconds I convinced myself I didn’t have enough milk and I was failing at feeding him.

I spent the next two days pumping and giving him as many extra feeds as I could on top of breastfeeding non stop and he gained the weight he needed and then some! But the anxiety over it all hasn’t shifted. I still worry I’m doing everything wrong.

Logically I know he’s eating. His output is great, he is active and content and when I pump I have a great supply. He’s thriving. The anxiety however... sometimes he seems to be eating for hours and I’ve had to hand him to Jack and come downstairs in full panic attack that he’s suckling and getting nothing at all. I hadn’t had a panic attack for years. At his latest check he had dropped down a curve- something normal as he started so large and sometimes it takes a baby a while to “find their line” and if anything, the health visitor said he is in proportion now and doing fine. Of course, I’ve been panicking that he isn’t eating enough or properly. Even though I know he is. But I’m worried... even though he is eating. It’s a cycle you see.

It isn’t just the feeding. It’s feeling on edge and as though I can’t act naturally around big groups of people. Christmas Day was a lovely large family occasion and I found myself hiding upstairs when I had a chance and crying because I just can’t relax and I don’t know why.

The health visitor said it isn’t postpartum depression. When I’m comfortable I’m so happy and I’m still interested in doing things and social when I’m feeling okay and I’m still of course looking after myself and the children. I took a little test and she said it’s postpartum anxiety which of course I anticipated. I suppose it isn’t as serious or commonly spoken about as PPD but it’s just as real.

I’m coping by trying to keep to a routine. Keeping the house tidy and organised is helping as long as I remember not to get too worried about it (people always seem to come over unexpected when we’re in temporary chaos and I worry they’ll judge!). Mess is normal with children and I need to relax a little and stop getting cross when Jack doesn’t put his shoes where they go. There’s a fine line between keeping things tidy to ease my anxiety and obsessing and getting anxious about the tidying too. Ridiculous right?

Mostly I’m just upset because I know all my worries are in my head and hold no real standing to what’s actually going on. Harry isn’t starving, people don’t think that I’m not handling it all, people don’t care if I breastfeed him.... I just need to ignore that voice that says “but what if...” and take a deep breath.

I’m seeing the GP for my proper postpartum check this week and it’s definitely something I’ll mention to them so they’re aware. The health visitor said I didn’t have a really high score so as long as I don’t start feeling worse she isn’t too worried. It’s definitely normal and okay to feel how I do as long as I try my best to work on the issue.

Talking to Jack helps. Taking five minutes to cry and calm down helps too. So do cuddles with my children. I’m sure it’ll get better once my hormones fully settle and I start sleeping better at night.

If you made it this far, thank for for reading and listening. If no one reads this, at least I feel a little better for getting it out.

Saturday 18 January 2020

Harry- Six Weeks Old

(This post is coming a week or so late, but I had it pre-written ready for after posting Harry’s birth story!)

Harry is six weeks old! Where on Earth is the time going? We’re in the middle of the newborn haze, it’s been tough so far but hopefully we are moving on from “desperately clinging onto any shred of normality” into “this is going well”!

At his last weigh in, he was up to 10lb2oz (which incidentally is the weight Jack was the day he was born) and that was a huge relief in itself as at two/three weeks we were told he wasn’t gaining his birth weight back fast enough. Thankfully he managed to speed up, it just took him longer as he’s a big baby so had a fair proportion to gain back.

This week he started smiling. What an absolutely wonderful reward for weeks of no sleep, poop, crying (not always me, honest) and mess. It makes it all worth it they say, and they were totally right- something in those first gummy smiles fools the brain into thinking newborns aren’t just a potato that screams and that you may be willing to have a thousand more of them. Thankfully I have a toddler who keeps peeing on my sofa and a four year old who talks back, so I know better than to fall for it again.

Honestly all jokes aside, this week has been so much better. We’re finally getting through that first growth/development leap and Harry is opening himself up to the world a little more and showing those first glimpses of “himself” to us.

Sleep wise he’s doing well. He had a rough couple of days which I put down to him growing (we are about to stop fitting into newborn) but he really only wakes 2/3 times a night between 8pm-7am and he’s exceptionally good at settling himself back to sleep once he’s been fed- Isla and Archer had to be put down SUPER carefully and rocked for ages so it’s amazing to be able to feed him and then just put him down.

Likes: Baths, boobies, his Mamaroo.

Dislikes: Napping laying down, nappy changes, getting undressed.

Tuesday 14 January 2020

Harry’s Birth Story!

I’m extremely pleased to let you know that our wonderful son Harry Jack was born on the 27th November! He’s seven weeks old tomorrow and I’ve been absent from the blog just soaking him in and trying to find a new normal with THREE children (aka I haven’t slept in months and I have been far too tired to find time to write...)

So here we go with the birth story- it’ll be fairly long winded so make yourself a cup of tea and be warned there may be some intimate or graphic details!

I’d been having contractions on and off for around a week starting at 38/39 weeks pregnant, but they never properly hurt and the pattern always dissipated after around two hours of them being every ten minutes. How frustrating right?

On the 26th November, I was two days away from my due date and beginning to wonder if I’d go overdue for the first time. Everyone had said Harry would be far earlier, including my midwife, but there was no sign. Funnily enough, we’d joked that if I waited until the end of Jack’s working day on this date, he’d get to be off until just after Christmas which was all we’d hoped for! Jack text me at 5:30 to remind me of this “deal” and I replied that I’d actually had some cramps walking Isla home from school, but nothing major and that I believed it would stop again as usual.

It didn’t, but the pain didn’t ramp up. I was having a mild pain every 7-12 minutes lasting just under a minute, but mostly I just had a really heavy ache in my lower back that wouldn’t go away which made it feel a bit different in comparison to the cramps I’d had all week. I know now that Harry was back to back for a while which explained the back ache! I was experiencing back labour and would for the entire ordeal.

It got to around 7:30pm and it hadn’t got any worse but also not stopped. Jack asked if we should drop the children where they were to stay while I was at hospital but I said no. I was sure if I got my hopes up, I’d jinx myself and it would all stop. Despite my denial, Jack called to warn everyone and sent the children to bed. I had a soak in the bath to see if it would go away and it still didn’t, so I agreed we should prepare just in case and I finished the last minute bits for the bags.

I spent a lot of the evening on my CUB cube trying to ease my back discomfort and timing the tightening sensation. I got to around 10pm and admitted to Jack that they were *maybe* real as they’d got to 5-6 minutes apart... of course I was still in denial as I didn’t want to let everyone down with a false alarm, but Jack took the children off just in case.

Once Jack was back, I called the hospital who told me it sounded like early early labour at most and that I should call back when the pains were properly regular or actually hurting. I sobbed, convinced it was all fake because of that.

I went to bed around 11:30pm and tried to sleep sporadically. The pains didn’t wake me, but the constant back ache did cause me to only half sleep or doze.

2:15am (or thereabouts) I woke up suddenly feeling moist. I still wasn’t convinced- I’d been to the hospital in the last week as the midwife thought I was leaking amniotic fluid but it was just a lot of discharge and other lovely pregnancy things... what if this was the same? I sat up in bed and said I’d go bounce on the CUB cube and see if anything else came out.

I sat texting my friend Chrissy to update her, as nothing else had come out and Jack was making his way downstairs when the waters properly broke. It was 2:33am and I stood on the carpet and soaked through my pajamas bottoms. You know in movies when a woman leaks entire puddles in huge gushes? Midwives say it rarely happens... well it happened to me with Isla and it certainly happened this time.

I had to get changed twice and all of a sudden the pains began to hurt. This was expected for me as none of my contractions hurt during the other labours until my waters broke. They still were not regular or “screaming pain” but as my waters needed checking, the labour ward said to come in.

We got there around 3:30am (after lots of yelling at Jack as he tried to drive calmly, sorry) and I instantly asked for a water birth. I had an epidural with the last two and I wanted to *try* without but I also anticipated I’d likely wimp out and beg for one after a while, and I hoped the water would help ease my SPD pain.

I got to the room with the tub and it was confirmed my waters were definitely broken (I did waddle in with towels between my legs, still gushing every few minutes) and I was checked- 0cm, 0% effaced and not even a little bit of engagement. I had made literally zero progress and my contractions weren’t regular enough or long enough to class as proper labour. Inductions the next day were mentioned, but I asked for a chance to relax and I was told I’d have a couple of hours to see if I could progress.

At 5:00am, I was sore and moaning, but I wasn’t “in labour” so the midwife wouldn’t give me any pain relief besides paracetamol and I still wasn’t getting regular contractions. I started feeling very stressed and the pains were further apart than before as a result but seemed to hurt more. I asked to come out the tub and I kept going to the loo to try and wee, I desperately felt like I needed to wee! When I got back, I was checked again and was still exactly as I had been two hours before. She said I’d maybe need to go home, but I begged to stay.

Id originally told Jack to get a three hour parking ticket so we could stay a while, but he got the two hour which meant while it was agreed I could stay, he had to pop down at 5:30am to change the ticket.

At this point, I was back in the tub but the midwife couldn’t trace Harry’s heart properly so I had to get out. While out, I didn’t have the water to ease the pain and my back and pelvis were in agony. I asked for pain relief again and was offered pethidine. I had this with Isla and while it didn’t take the pain away, it did make me space out and dizzy so I wasn’t fully focused on it, so I agreed to give it a go.

I had the injection at 5:45 and asked how long it would take to kick in- she said it would begin to work in around twenty minutes. I asked for an epidural after about ten minutes as I couldn’t handle the constant back pain- I was told no. I held my eyes shut, and with every pain I began to think over and over again “twenty minutes and it will stop” like an obsessive mantra, even when the twenty minutes passed. I had a little spaced out relief but it quickly wore off.

The midwife came back in around 6:20am and checked Harry’s heart and put monitors on me. My contractions were not regular but they were making his heart jump up and down, so she broadcast them to the doctors and told me I had to roll over. I was in pain and I kept telling her I couldn’t move.

My back started to arch, and I couldn’t stop it. I felt my body violently pushing. The midwife told me to stop it and roll over as Harry’s heart rate started dropping and rising even more. Jack said it was going as low as 80, before jumping back up to 180. I couldn’t move, I was pushing.

“My body is doing things I can’t stop” I said, of course I pushed with epidurals last time so this was a fully new sensation. I screamed in pain and they tried to shove me over on my side. I didn’t even notice the alarm being pulled and a team rushed in.

The midwife told me not to push. I panicked- was my involuntary pushing making his heart hurt? Was I hurting the baby? I couldn’t be pushing- I’d not progressed at all and I had no regular pains!

The midwife checked, and very surprised, exclaimed I was suddenly already 8cm and to stop pushing. I asked for gas and air and screamed “am I in labour now?!” as they handed it to me. I had one pull before deciding it was too much effort to stop pushing and inhale at the same time and threw it at whoever was nearest to me (sorry Jack).

Seconds later, less than a minute after being told not to push, I said “he’s coming” and then I don’t really remember anything but pain.

My recorded active labour was 4 minutes, and Harry was born so quickly they said his side effects from being born were essentially the same as a c-section baby- he hadn’t been compressed by the birth canal at all. His elbows were by his head and he came out with such large force that they bruised from being forced out so fast. His cord was around his neck so tight (this was the cause of his heart rate jumping) that he had a curly shaped bruise around his neck for days after being born.

One minute I was screaming and the next I sort of came back around from the “out of body” way I felt and I asked where Harry was. Jack said they had to “sort him out” a bit to make him cry but it all happened so fast. I was in too much shock to take much in, so Harry was given to Jack while I was sorted out by the doctors.

Harry was born very suddenly at 6:35am weighing 9lb11. For the record, the three hour parking ticket I’d asked for? It would’ve expired at 6:30am and Jack would have missed it all as it happened so fast!

My active labour with a Archer was 20 minutes and I’d warned the midwife it would happen all at once, but she kept telling me third babies are almost always the longest- I think I shocked them all and once I was settled and sorted I apologised for all the yelling but did smugly say “I told you so!”

I’m sure I’ve missed loads of details here and there. It was all very shocking and being honest I felt very uncomfortable and traumatised by it all for weeks - I still do a little now.

I’d do it all again for our little Harry though.
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