This week we’re straying a little from the normal type of posts we usually publish; we’re handing the blog over to a mum who experienced sleep problems after her son’s traumatic birth. This is her story and how she found coping mechanisms that worked for her.
My son is now almost four years old but, like many mothers, I can remember his birth like it was yesterday. As his birthday approaches ever closer, I find my mind wandering back to the hospital when he was born and I’m not sure I will ever be ok with it all. My pregnancy lasted 41 weeks and one day. On the last day, I started to experience contractions and was asked to go in to hospital to be monitored, as I had previously had a c-section. The doctors wanted to make sure my scar wasn’t in danger of rupturing, but they were quite happy to let me labor naturally.
I was admitted to the labour ward but told that my baby was not going to be born any time soon, and that the c-section I had booked in three days time was looking like my birth option. But I was in pain. I spent hours pacing the corridors, crying. Why was I so scared? My first baby had been an emergency section and her birth had been fairly stressful. I was scared that the same was going to happen with this baby too and I was upset that nobody really seemed to be listening to me.
At 2.30 pm I was examined and taken down to delivery.
At 3.30 pm my little airless room was filled with people. Six sets of eyes staring at my body- not at me- and trying to deliver my son.
at 4.30 pm wireless monitors were attached to my son’s head. The beeping on the other monitors was becoming erratic. My heart was sinking.
At 5.30 pm I was told to PUSH if I wanted to save my son.
At 6.30 pm I was taken to theatre. Hands pulling up the sides of my bed. Hand pushing me down. Eyes over the top of masks. Then a mask over my own face .
At 6.34 pm the surgeon put knife to skin.
At 6.45 pm my son was born, blue and silent.
At 7.45 pm I was woken. A tube was pulled from my throat. A baby was thrust into my arms. A nightmare began.
I had a mother’s love for my son, of course I did, but I struggled in those early days to bond with him. He cried a lot and I always believed that was due to his traumatic birth. He suffered from reflux and barely slept. The times that he did sleep, I would lie awake, going over his birth in my head again and again and again. I would dream that he had died after all. I would rush to his room and flood with relief that he was there. I would sometimes sit outside his room, listening to him breathing, making sure he was still there but dreading him waking up.
By the time my son was 8 months old, I felt as though I had not slept in weeks and weeks. To get more than two hours in a row was a massive achievement for both of us, and I knew that I needed to make some changes. I spoke to my doctor but was unwilling to take medication for depression. I wasn’t depressed. I knew I wasn’t.
In the end I was told that I could be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder leading from my son’s birth. I was put in touch with support groups and met other women who understood how I felt. Slowly, I began to share my birth story with others and found that writing about it all was terribly cathartic. It was almost like layers being peeled away and eventually I began to sleep better too.
I still have nights where I will wake up feeling anxious and I still have days where the recollection of my son’s birth sneaks up on me and takes my breath away. But I am learning how to relax my mind once more so that sleep returns. I try to clear my mind; I imagine an empty white room and I try to focus on that instead. It’s working for me.