Amy is 26 years old and mother to one lively 20 month old boy. She lives with her son and her partner. This is her story.
John and I met while we were travelling/ working in Perth, Australia. After we had been together around 7 months I discovered I was pregnant. I was very much in denial as we had been using contraception and I had been told at 18 that I would be unlikely to have children due to PCOS. I was sick as a dog from the moment of conception so John convinced me to take the test and see a doctor. We were full of fear as we knew it was a young relationship, we were the other side of the world, we had little financial security and we lived with 5 other people. Not your ideal scenario but we decided we wanted our little miracle and that it had been given to us for a reason.
After finally getting up the courage to break the news to our parents we began to get our heads around the pregnancy and the violent sickness began to relax. Two days following our 12 week scan I received a phone call from my doctor telling me there was something wrong with the baby and we needed to see her immediately. We were informed that despite the fact I was 23 I had received one of the highest reading for Downs Syndrome and therefore the odds were high. The doctor, knowing our circumstances and lack of support network, advised we have an amniocentesis and make a decision from there. We had to wait a further 4 weeks to have the test. These I found to be the hardest and most painful weeks of my life. I suddenly found I had a bond with this unborn miracle that my other half could not feel. At this point, through no fault of his own- lack of experience and maturity in such matters- he saw this as one of those things. We could always try again. I was constantly told to pull myself together. It broke my heart. Eventually we were able to have the test (whilst always aware of the risks) and had to wait a further 2 weeks for the results, to be told all was well. We were very thankful and felt very blessed.
Shortly after, I began to bleed and after a few trips to the hospital this stopped, thankfully, but I began to really feel something was not right. I was constantly suffering from headaches, spots in front of my eyes and blurry vision. Alongside this I still had mixed feelings in coming to terms with the pregnancy, other people’s reactions and the weeks of uncertainty and was eventually diagnosed with pre natal depression. Whether this was an accurate diagnosis at this point in time I cannot really say but it went on to cause a lot of problems throughout the pregnancy and after. Following the 5 month scan I generally felt un-well. The headaches were frequent, as were the visual disturbances. The midwives referred me to have check-ups on numerous occasions for preeclampsia as my blood pressure was elevated, but I was constantly told it was all in my head and a symptom of the depression. The sickness returned, I was getting pains in my abdomen under my ribs, was very uncomfortable and unable to lie or sit in one position for any period of time. I started having seizures that were again attributed to depression. I bloated out massively, putting on nearly 4 stone by the time I was eventually induced.
During this period, depression genuinely did develop. I felt hideously alone. My partner did as much as he could, but our lack of support networks became apparent and our relationship was basically us surviving the rollercoaster we felt we were on. I just about managed to work throughout and I am forever thankful my work colleagues for all their support and understanding for all the time taken with hospital appointments and days where I was unable to function and get out of bed.
Despite telling the doctors there was something wrong with me, they just wouldn’t listen. My waters leaked at 33 weeks and they refused to even check resulting later in Finn having a massive infection. I had been referred to a specialist at 27 weeks, only got an appointment when I was 36 weeks and was immediately rushed up to the wards to be monitored overnight and induced the following morning.
I thought it was finally all over- we would meet our little miracle and we could move onwards in our life together. My waters were broken in the am. My cervix was already 2cm dilated so the induction started out smoothly. I was unable to walk around or sit up as it put pressure on the baby and the heart rate dropped. It was disappointing to a certain extent as I had hoped for baths, music, walking around and all that jazz, but decided as long as my baby arrived safely, that was the most important thing. A couple of hours in and I finally went into established labour. I was not finding the pain too bad and was enjoying the banter with the midwives.
Suddenly, contractions started to rip through me constantly without a break. I genuinely still relive the pain vividly. I started to have seizures. I find things are hard to remember after this point, although I have snippets of memories and I remember the fear. The midwife didn’t say too much to me but said they were very concerned. She took my partner to one side and he later explained this was to inform him of what was happening. He was incredibly calm throughout the whole thing, doing as instructed. The room was full of doctors. I was given an emergency epidural to bring my blood pressure down (I was later told my body had started to close down and they just prevented me from slipping into a coma). My body had been determined to get rid of what was making it ill and so my cervix had apparently dilated very quickly; they were able to perform an episiotomy and use the ventouse to bring the baby into the world quickly. Finn had had the cord around his neck and was not breathing. I vaguely remember his being taken away, my heart in my throat and looking to john for reassurance. He was taken straight to intensive care and I did not see him until the following day. I was also placed in intensive care and was there for 5 days. I continued to have a number of seizures.
I remember getting very distressed when a doctor came in and told me I was doing it on purpose because I wanted attention and didn’t want my baby. The psychiatric team came in and clarified that it had nothing to do with mental health, but I was still treated as a person who did not know her own mind. It’s the only time I have ever seen my partner angry.
I was discharged with my little man after a week, to much relief and excitement on going home and starting our family life. The seizures continued and I had no answers. The hospital were not interested in helping me find an answer. We had to pay privately in the end to have an MRI and ECG. My little man really has been the light of my life and has carried me through what became a very dark period, as PND seemed to devour me and affect everything around me. I hit the lowest of the low and went to places inside that I would never wish on anyone. I was scared and frustrated as the seizures continued.
I eventually made the decision to come back to the UK as I knew I would not get any better where I was, it was a hard decision to make as my partner john stayed behind to work for a further 8 months. Both sides of the family have now been able to share in our little man. The seizures eventually ceased about 6 months ago and I have very recently come off antidepressants after a battle with suspected mild bi-polar, thought to have been triggered by the pregnancy. John has now returned and although he works away most of the time we are a happy family unit. I still vividly relive many parts of the pregnancy, labour and after. I sometimes joke that it haunts me. I thought I would never be ready to face pregnancy again until only a few weeks ago. I love and treasure my little boy more than anything and it’s such a privilege and a blessing watching him develop into a little person. I know that that if I fell pregnant again and something is not right, I will fight for my right to be listened to.