This story is from a lovely Mum, who wanted to share her story about her experience of having a c-section and the complications that followed, how it impacted her mental wellbeing and how therapy has helped her over come PTSD and PND.
Please be aware that some stories may trigger difficult memories and emotions so remember your own self care as everyone will be at different stages of healing.
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My pregnancy was relatively straightforward. I’d suffered 3 previous miscarriages but was finally pregnant again and had gone beyond the gestation I lost the other pregnancies. During my pregnancy I had an unjustified sense of doom. Like something bad was going to happen. I couldn’t shake it and it was causing me some mild anxiety so I took maternity leave slightly earlier than planned.
Baby was 10 days overdue and my blood pressure was occasionally raised. A decision was made for my labour to be induced which took 3 days all in all. I had the usual pessaries, fortunately my waters broke by themselves but I needed an oxytocin infusion to increase contractions.
Labour, dare I say it, was actually enjoyable. Of course it was immensely painful but we had fun!! (My husband took secret videos of my high on gas and air, which was very cheeky of him but am glad he did in retrospect). That was until my blood pressure got abnormally high in labour and medication wouldn’t bring it down. I was recommended to have an epidural in order to settle my BP. I had this inserted but made sure I didn’t press my top-up button as I still wanted to feel my contractions a little.
Approximately 21 hours after the oxytocin infusion began my cervix was fully dilated. After waiting a little while I began to actively push. I let the epidural wear off and with every contraction I felt the spontaneous urge to push. It was so empowering. However after 2 hours my baby wasn’t coming. The position of the baby was such that she was stuck and needed manipulation to birth. The consultant wasn’t hopeful for forceps but said he’d attempt one pull but would abandon this should she not come down with the contraction.
I needed a caesarean and was ok with the decision. The procedure was very uncomfortable but meeting my daughter made that pale to insignificance.
We had skin to skin contact and in recovery she began to breastfeed. However after a few attempts I would begin to feel faint. It was so hot and the sweat was pouring off me. I felt silly that I was now feeling faint after everything and after an initial passing out I wanted to try to feed her again. Unfortunately I kept on fainting but with each collapse the unconsciousness lasted longer. My lips had turned blue and I was unresponsive. I remember at one point hearing them call for the crash trolley. No one knew what was wrong until a blood test came back suggesting I had possible internal bleeding. The only option was to return back to theatre and open me up.
I was scared. In fact that’s too mild a word to describe my feelings. I thought I was going to die. I kissed my daughter and husband goodbye for what I thought would be the last time. I stared at them, taking them both in. Trying to get every detail of them burned into my memory. Trying to give them as much love as I could that I hoped would last a lifetime without me there with them. In theatre I could tell everyone was worried. It wasn’t a jovial atmosphere as it was during my birth. I was told to think of a lovely memory as I fell asleep and I managed to think of our honeymoon and how wonderful that was. I remember thinking that this would be my last memory.
I woke up in intensive care alone. No real memory of why I was there or what had happened. I was told that I had suffered a massive bleed internally caused by a bleeding artery which was cut at the time of the section. It hadn’t been noticed at the time so had been left to bleed until my body couldn’t cope with the lack of blood and shut down. I needed multiple blood transfusions and had lots of wires and drains in me.
The next few days were unpleasant. My daughter became dehydrated because I wasn’t producing enough milk and the paediatricians felt she needed antibiotics. Along with a tongue tie that eventually got divided when she was 5 days old feeding was a struggle. I continued to attempt to breastfeed but she required formula top ups.
Eventually we were allowed home when she was 6 days old. I hadn’t really told anyone I was having nightmares at that point. I also began to have flashbacks to the incident but just assumed this was normal. I had limited movement and felt really sore. I knew it should ease as the days went by but I got to day 10 and I was in a lot of pain. I spent the night shivering and feeling quite unwell. The next day my midwife came to see me and my temperature was very abnormal. I was sent back to hospital and had some blood tests which indicated severe sepsis. My wound was growing in size and the antibiotics given were not working as quickly as was hoped. The only solution was to go back to theatre again and have my wound opened and the infection drained. Just before they took me to theatre my wound burst and leaked disgusting fluid. I was so embarrassed of the smell. I felt dirty and horrid. I still needed to go back to theatre as there were multiple pockets of infected fluid that needed to be released.
After the procedure they left my wound open to heal by secondary intent. It required daily visits to the hospital and then GP to have it packed. The dressing I was given didn’t hold the fluid that was leaking so I had to stick maternity sanitary pads to the inside of my trousers to mop up the leakage. I felt degraded, disgusting, smelly and unclean (I wasn’t allowed a bath or shower). My mood became low. I cried a lot. (Of course my husband had to return to work. They wouldn’t continue to pay him despite a doctors note indicating the need to be my carer). The nightmares and flashbacks continued.
Approximately 2 months after the birth I was still getting my wound seen to at my GP by the nurses. I had got to know them well and fortunately they noticed a change in me and recommended a referral to the mental health team. I was seen fairly quickly and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. I had treatment for this which turned my life around for the better. I hadn’t realised just how much I was suffering.
At 3 months my wound had finally closed over and I had my first bath. It was the most amazing bath ever!!!
Following the PTSD therapy (5 months) I was diagnosed with PND/PNA. Apparently it was unsurprising as it can often be subdued due to the PTSD but once that was treated it came to the fore. There were many occasions I thought I wouldn’t get through the dark times. Occasions where I didn’t think there would be light again.
My daughter breastfed till she was 7 months old. Her tongue tie had to be divided again at 5 months but I’m surprised at how long she did feed from me for considering.
Here I am 17 months later and just coming off medication and receiving therapy still. It’s been a journey of ups and downs. My daughter is amazing and our bond is very strong. She is a healthy, strong and determined little girl. Through my journey I have made friends and lost friends. I think something like this really highlights those special people in your life and those who you need to let go of. My husband is amazing and I couldn’t have done any of it without his patience and support. I don’t think he’ll ever realise how much I love him and how much he got me through the dark times. My priorities have changed and I have a new but often frightening appreciation of how delicate and previous life is.
Fortunately I got to tell my story. I came through it all and I survived!