In February 2019, I had the immense pleasure of becoming a mother to a beautiful baby girl. To protect her privacy as she grows, I shall only refer to her as Gi in public forums.
When Gi entered the world in the early hours, all I could do was look at her in shock. How had I created such a perfect little person? How had something so incredible come from a year of hell?
10 minutes after giving birth, I became aware of a trickling sensation. Instantly, I knew something was wrong. “Mum”, I said, “I think you need to take her”. As I said this, a midwife rushed to pull the emergency buzzer. I was haemorrhaging. No sooner than Gi was out of my arms, I passed out. When I next came around, I was informed I’d lost over a litre of blood. Having been borderline anaemic prior to birth, I was now worryingly so.
How did I underestimate the night sweats? Hospitals are uncomfortably warm at the best of times, but after receiving 2 units of blood, I found myself able to stand up for short periods of time. This was a blessed relief. I could sit on the ledge by the open window and cool off. Gi would wake every 2-3 hours for a feed. I would inevitably wake absolutely soaked through with sweat, and feeling as though I’d had no sleep at all.
There was certainly no shortage of leaky eyes following the birth of my darling daughter. Between struggles with breastfeeding that ultimately led to my little girl being formula fed, nightmares relating to the haemorrhage, and a severe deterioration in my mental health some months later, I often feel that I have spent most of my time as a mother crying. That’s not to say that all of my tears have been of the painful variety - even now, 6 months on, I find myself looking at her and choking on tears, simply because I’m overwhelmed by how beautiful she is, and how much love I have for her.
Motherhood is not always easy. It does not always come naturally, and some of us have rockier starts than others. It took every ounce of energy that I had to even feed her in the early days, and I was infuriated by my lack of mobility due to the anaemia. On the evening of the day that she arrived, I tried to stand up to get nappies and wipes. It didn’t take me long to realise that I couldn’t breathe. I felt humiliated having to ask a midwife to change a nappy. I didn’t understand how common an issue this was.
Postnatal Depression (PND) is often spoken about, but remains heavily stigmatised. It’s also not the only form of mental ill health that a new mum is likely to endure - indeed, research shows that the weeks following childbirth are when a woman is most likely to experience psychosis.
For me, it took a bout of mental ill health following childbirth to have my suspicions regarding my own mental health acknowledged. For several years, I have been told repeatedly that I have anxiety and depression. Only now is it being considered that I may actually be battling Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)/Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD).
This highlights the importance of listening to people when they raise concerns regarding their health - not to mention not giving the “you’ve been consulting Dr Google” look when a specific illness is mentioned. There is something to be said for self-diagnosis given the right circumstances. Not every case indicates hypochondria or Munchhausen’s. Had my GP listened to me 5 years ago, I may not have experienced such a severe decline in my mental health following childbirth, and I almost certainly wouldn’t be facing a 2-year wait for treatment now.