Grateful for life – birth journey

Trigger warning: traumatic birth story

I realised today how lucky I am to be alive in the time of modern medicine. I mean I’ve always known how lucky we are but it’s not until I experienced what could have been a very threatening situation that I realised just how fragile life can be.

Without modern medicine I realise I would have been one of those mums that you see die in child birth in programmes set years ago. I would have been the mum that bled out and left her baby on this earth without a mum.

I have kind of just pushed past it gratefully in my conscious mind and life. But as time goes on, I realise it’s actually hit me harder than I thought and reality sinks in at just how serious things could have been.

One of my biggest fears for child birth was of course death and I’m sure it’s the same for everyone giving birth. My other huge fear came from an episode of call the midwife. After giving birth the mother’s placenta became stuck. In an effort to get it out the midwives pulled on the cord and ended up inverting her uterus and pulling it out before pushing it back in again. Well you can imagine my horror when mine got stuck and the midwives began pulling the cord. Eventually the cord snapped off inside of me and pulling was no longer an option.

They tried to manually get it out whilst giving me gas and air but the pain was unbearable and they weren’t able to get to it. They tried multiple times and each time I screamed for them to stop.

I feel so lucky that there was a whole team on hand to take me down to theatre to get it removed. From the time of giving birth at 3:45am until theatre at around 5am I was still bleeding and my husband was starting to panic. I remember blood pouring off of the table in theatre and the team telling me not to worry. In that moment I had to put complete faith in the team of doctors and nurses, essentially fighting to stop the blood loss. I had already been talked through the process of a blood transfusion and the complications that can come with it.

As someone with OCD I was pretty certain I would need the transfusion, it would all go wrong, and I would die.

So many hours of just using gas and air for pain relief, because of my fear of an epidural, and yet I was going to now need a spinal block anyway. It felt soul destroying.

The hardest part for me was not the thought of death, but the thought of leaving my husband and new born baby alone. In those moments, all I could think of was how I had done this to him and how scared he must be.

My husbands face, whilst holding our newborn, will haunt me for the rest of my life. I don’t think I have ever seen him so scared and I hope to never again. I wanted to reach out and touch him, hold his hand, but he was too far away and the medical team around me were moving quickly. We didn’t kiss goodbye, we both knew we were too scared to. Too scared that it would be the last time, too scared we weren’t strong enough, too scared we would both start crying.

My husband told me later that he couldn’t kiss me goodbye because that would mean I wasn’t coming back. In that moment we looked at each other as I was taken away, that tiny moment of time we shared in eye contact said all we ever needed to say. It’s like we said 1000 words to each other in a millisecond. We knew what we would tell each other at the end,  we knew every word we would say if we only had the time.

I pray I never have to see that look on my husband’s face again as he held our baby in his arms, feeling so alone. All I could say to the midwifes and nurses was can someone please look after my husband he’s scared, can someone please help my husband, can someone stay with my husband. They promised they would look after him, and to their credit they did.

It’s moments like this you truly realise how your true heart feels, when you’re so close to loosing everything. My heart told me I had to stay on this earth for him, that I couldn’t bear the thought of him being alone. And not just alone but alone with a new baby, that to me is too tragic and it happens still too often.

The doctors told me this could happen to me again and that it would be a risk for our next pregnancy. It’s something that really plays on my mind now. I know I want to have more children but now I have to weigh that up with the chances of ending up back in theatre and not being as lucky next time.

I know that with the intervention of the team in theatre and with modern medicine that it’s unlikely I would have died but its still teriffying to know that I could have and would have without our modern day science.

As time goes on I think I’m still coming to terms with it. Reality is hitting me hard in the face that without going to theatre to have my placenta removed and blood loss stopped our story could have been a very different one.

I never want to fear kissing my husband goodbye again, I never want to see that very real fear in his eyes again, I never want to leave him in such a vulnerable position with our baby in his arms.

To make it all worse we’re in a pandemic so we couldn’t even have other family there to support. He just had to sit there alone for over an hour, holding our baby, wondering what his future was going to be like and if it was going to be very different from the one we imagined. I’m so grateful to the midwives that checked in on him throughout that time and who supported him.

I’m grateful to the medical team who helped dress me for theatre, washed blood from me when I was unable to move from the waist down, who held my hand, made jokes to help me smile, wrapped me in blankets to keep me warm, moved my legs for me when I couldn’t, lifted me from bed to bed, made sure I could feel no pain and treated me as though I was family.

Yes I was scared, so scared that I was going to die, but I was teriffied that I would be leaving my husband for good and that I would never hold my baby again.

I’m so grateful, grateful for human curiosity and modern medicine, grateful for health workers who really are miracle makers, grateful for every extra second since that day that I get to spend with my new little family when it could have been so very different, grateful for my husbands strength and endless love, grateful for my own strength that I really didn’t know I had.

In those moments I was absolutely teriffied I was also at my strongest. I stayed calm because I really had no choice. I asked all the right questions before signing to give consent to be taken to theatre. I processed everything that was going on around me, through the fear and pain and focused on staying earth side.

Recovery has been hard physically. During pregnancy I was diagnosed with SPD meaning my pelvis moves unevenly and twists, which is both extremely painful and restricts my movement. Having to deal with that on top of internal stitches and my insides contracting and healing has been painful and exhausting. I have had to go back to hospital because my catheter used in theatre has caused some trauma, which means even more blood loss. I have been dizzy, ‘spaced out’ and extremely tired. Add a newborn baby to the mix and sleep definitely becomes a commodity.

Mentally I have had the dreaded baby blues and spend a lot of time crying for what feels like no reason. A lot of time also crying because I miss my husband and being able to hold on to him for more than 5 minutes without having to change a nappy or feed a baby. Of course I love the nappy chages and feeding but it doesn’t take away the fact I miss just having a cuddle with my husband.

I think the birth experience has made missing him more intense because I feel like I almost left him and so I just want to hold onto him forever and never let go. The thought of him returning to work absolutely breaks my heart. I don’t ever want to be separated from him again, not taken away on a hospital bed, not for work, not taken away for even a second.

This post has gone on for a long while but it honestly helps me to conceptualise how I’m feeling and why I may be struggling so much at the moment. I think I understand more now why the baby blues have been hard for me, because I almost left my baby and husband and because I never want to leave them again.

I dont know how I’m going to make it through when he does go back to work but I also know that, just like going to theatre, I dont have a choice and that I will find the strength to get through it, even if I’m fighting through tears.

Matthew I love you and I will do all I can to never have to leave you and Harper so scared and alone again. If one day I should have to go away you know every word I would ever say to you. Just how absolutely madly in love with you I am, how you make me so so proud every day and how you’re the kindest most incredible human. Thank you for being my all and for being Harper’s daddy, we love you past the stars forever.

I purposefully removed the ’till death do us part’ from our wedding vows and changed it to ‘infinity and beyond’ because I plan to be with you and hold you in my heart forever.

To infinity and beyond my love.

XxXxX

Hide and seek – a stalkers game

WARNING: This blog paints a picture of how it can feel to be a victim of stalking. It talks about the fear of being home alone and feelings of being watched. I have given specific detail on the images I imagine and how I feel. Do not read this if you believe it could make you fear being home alone, being watched or stalked, or might trigger a bad psychological response. This could also be harmful for people with OCD and reoccurring thoughts.

Sadly I don’t think even a German Shepherd could stop me from being scared. This cutie certainly can’t!

Home alone and it’s after sun set. I’m absolutely terrified to the point I can hear my own heart beat and I feel completely sick. I can’t even explain the level of fear I have when I’m home alone and my husband is working nights.

It’s not like a subtle anxiety, or a really scary experience, it’s completely and utterly paralysing fear. At every moment I am waiting for a man to appear from behind the curtain or under the bed. I don’t fear that I might be hurt. I fear that he has nothing other than a creepy agenda to just stand and watch. The watching man.

Not long ago I was stalked for almost 2 years by a complete stranger. Eventually the police interviened and put an end to it. I have to say that they were amazing and I will forever be grateful. I had a full team pose as civilians to catch him and stop him. From time to time I still receive a call to ask if things are OK and if I’ve had any further trouble with him.

I don’t know if this experience has made this whole ‘home alone’ situation what it is today. What I do know is that my jaw is aching because I have been grinding my teeth continually since my husband left the door.

I’m in a constant battle between wanting to look behind every door, under the beds, behind the curtains and in the cupboards. I’m stuck between checking and being too terrified to check because I’m almost certain someone is there just watching.

Without a shadow of a doubt I know I can hear breathing, it isn’t mine and it isn’t the dog’s. I can hear someone clicking with their mouth in the other room and winding me up, playing mind games. A bit like my stalker did in his variety of ways. The very fact that I wrote ‘my stalker’ makes it feel like I have some kind of ownership. He’s not ‘my stalker’ he’s a person that decided to stalk someone and unfortunately that someone was me.

I decide to check the window ledge in my room to make sure there’s no one hiding behind the curtain. I should explain that I don’t even think a 3 year old could fit and hide on that window ledge but I’m completely convinced that there is a man hiding there. As I check, I’m haunted by the image of a man standing in the middle of the garden just looking up at me expressionless. He’s not really there but in my mind he is, and to me that’s 100% reality.

I open the under stairs cupboard to get the dogs dental chew. I’m convinced that there’s a man curled in the corner hiding and just waiting for me to find him so that he can stare at me with an expressionless face. It’s like a constant game of hide and seek. Now I want to shut the cupboard door but I know he’ll be standing behind it as I close it. Just there watching, not actually doing anything.

I go to my bed, which is the most horrifying part. Checking the locks before bed and turning the downstairs lights out. I want to leave the hallway light on upstairs but I can’t. I can’t because then I might see the shadow of his footsteps under the door. As I sit here in my bed I can hear creaking. I know the creaking is him standing at the door just breathing. Just standing there doing nothing with his face against the door. The creaking is him in the wardrobe, under the bed, in the roof. He is everywhere and everything all at once.

I need to cry but I’m too scared to make a noise because then he’ll know I’m there and that I’m awake. He wants me to be awake because then he can frighten me by just being there.

It’s only 11:30pm. My husband left at 9pm. It’s been 2 and a half hours and I have 5 and a half left to go. Over 5 more hours of being slowly psychologically torchured by a man who’s name I’ll never know.

I hear a noise on the TV, an odd laugh, a bang, a click. I see a menacing face, an odd glare. Even the most innocent of programs can trigger a thought for me and send a wave of fear and heat through me. I can’t even distract myself to mute my fear.

What makes this most scary is that I don’t even know his agenda. He’s the ultimate psychological thriller, just pure creepyness. Because he has no agenda he has nothing to loose and that makes him even more powerful. He doesn’t fit in to social norms or believe that both the actual law or basic laws of human decency apply to him. He has nothing to loose and he fears nothing. He smiles in a jail cell because he gets pleasure from fear.

He’ll play the long game, wait in the dark for hours until I’m home alone before he comes out. I suspect he likes that he can remain so calm, and I suspect it’s for sexual gratification.

One of the most terrifying things about my real stalker is that for the longest time I didn’t know he was there. When I finally realised I remembered him being there all along. I can’t get over the fact that someone can watch and follow you for so long and yet remain hidden in the shadows for the same length of time. As soon as I noticed him the memories of him being there, all the times before hit me like a freight train. Layer upon layer began building in my mind within seconds. He had been there all along.

I remembered he was the guy that touched my leg on the train whilst pretending to be asleep months ago. I remembered all of the other times he had made physical contact with me. Then suddenly I think of all the times I don’t know about, all the things I didn’t remember and all the times I didn’t see him, but he was there.

In the weeks before police intervention, I began making records of his behaviours and when he appeared. I took pictures of him watching me. The one video I will never forget was when I secretly filmed him on a train journey whilst I pretended to be asleep. He never broke his stare once. He never stopped looking, staring expressionless, not once did he break his gaze. As a lady stood in his eye sight he lent to the side so that he could look around her to just watch.

I’ll never know his name, I’ll never know who he was, but most importantly and most haunting of all, I’ll never know why.

It’s the never knowing why he did it, that means I’ll always be watched. My images of the watching man are not of him. They’re the figure of someone else but they are born from him. The image I see are from that disgusting Luther episode of the man hiding under the bed. That’s my mind’s invention of how the watching man appears in my empty home.

When my husband is here it’s the safest place in the world. When I’m staying away from home with a friend or family member I feel safe. But whenever I am alone, in the dark, at home or away. If I’m alone the watching man will always be there.

He might not be physically real anymore but to me his affects on me are completely real. For as long as he is there I will continue to play hide and seek with him. I will continue to know that he is everywhere and everything all at once. I will continue to feel him there. Waiting, breathing, watching.

Statistics show that 700,000 women are stalked each year. Victims do not tend to report to the police until the 100th incident – which is similar to my own experiences.

If you or someone you know needs help you can call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300

I found them very helpful as well as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust http://www.suzylamplugh.org/

If you have ever been stalked or you care for someone that has been, know that it can take time for the effects to surface and that sometimes they make no sense. If you need support then make sure you reach out.

Only 4 hours left till I’m not home alone anymore.

XxXxX

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. 💚

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. 💚

So many of us are affected or know people that are affected by suicide. Sometimes we hear people refer to suicide as ‘selfish’ or people complain about ‘inconvenience’ when it means their trains don’t run. Just remember that someone was ill enough to end their own life and that’s a pretty awful place to be in. It is not selfish and it is not an inconvenience. Nobody wants to be ill and nobody ever wants to feel that it’s their only way out.

Usually people share posts and ask others to do the same. ‘share or post this so that others know you’re there’. They encourage you to reach out and ask how others are doing. But we often forget to ask ourselves how we are too. So today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, reach out to others and encourage others to do the same. But don’t forget to reach out to yourself also because it’s not selfish to make sure that you’re OK too 💚

The Birth of Openness

This week has been pretty hellish for me, I suppose that’s what finally pushed me to start Diary of a ‘Mad’ girl. Over the past year I have learnt to become more and more open about my mental health, something that I have found to be particularly helpful when it comes to coping with any anxieties or depressive moments I may have. Being open about who you truly are and how you really feel can be completely liberating and quite inspiring. Strangely, I can often find more courage when opening up to strangers. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a ‘reputation’ to uphold or a ‘character’ to protect. What you see is what you get. If a stranger knows my darkest secrets I won’t have to see their eyes everyday looking at me and knowing my struggle. Of course family I see everyday so that’s a different story.

I’ve really come a long way in the past year, just being me. sadly this week I found myself being put back into my box, knocked back a century or two and silenced with gaffa tape. My ability to be open to the world was completely stripped from me and so too was one of my biggest coping mechanisms – openess. What do you do when your told you’re not allowed to discuss your mental health? And with no reason given for the need to be silent on the topic other than ‘not everyone is ready to hear about mental health’. Well excuse me whilst I ask all those with visible disabilities to cover themselves with blankets because people just aren’t ready to hear about disabilities. What outrage would ensue? So why then is mental health still treated so differently to physical health. My brain has an actual physical condition, a chemical imbalance and yet I must act as though this disability does not exist.

If I had a heart condition would you ask me to run up 5 flights of stairs to deliver a letter? Would you expect me to disclose my health difficulty to you so that I could take the lift instead? Or would you prefer I keep quiet and die of a heart attack? If the reasonable adjustments you make for someone with a physical disability allow them to function better, then what reasonable adjustments can you make for me when I’m suffering from a chronic illness that I’m unable to discuss?

With so much change going on in the world, both for the better and worse, I refuse to remain silent on the issue of mental health. If we campaign for cancer why is mental health any different? I will be regularly sharing my experiences with mental health, positive, negative, the wins and my struggles. I hope that Diary of a ‘Mad’ Girl will help others that face mental health difficulties, friends and family and those that have no idea what it’s all about but are willing to learn more and spread the message.

I look forward to taking this journey of openness with you and will forever be grateful for the time you spend reading and sharing Diary of a ‘Mad’ Girl.

Thank you

XxX