I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and anxiety after the traumatic birth and events that followed after my little boy was born. PTSD triggers come in all different ways and hit you when you least suspect it. Getting help was the best thing I did. It was hard work and uncomfortable at times but I am so pleased I put the time in to get to a better place.

My son’s birth

I went for a routine scan at 30 weeks. Having PAAP-A meant that I was put on the multi scan pathway to keep an eye on my baby’s development. The main concern at this point was my son’s growth later in the pregnancy. My 12 and 20 week scans showed that everything was progressing as it should.

At 23 weeks my pelvic pain had become unbearable and I was signed off from work. I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t concentrate and driving was aggravating the condition. Sitting, standing and lying down were not comfortable for long so I was constantly trying moving about to find a less painful position.

Irritability and boredom set in so I was really looking forward to the 30 week scan. We arrived in plenty of time only to discover that their was no parking. My husband dropped me off and carried on circling the car park. I went into the scan and explained our parking conundrum. It must be a common problem as the sonographer didn’t bat an eyelid as she directed me to the room she was working from.

The scan started and soon stopped. She asked me to ring my husband to tell him to park in the emergency bay. She went off to inform security of her instruction. My husband quickly joined me and we were immediately told there was bad news. The baby had too much fluid in his body and his heart rate was too high. A team had assessed the initial scan and I was going up to surgery now.

The C-section

I waddled as quickly as I could to the lift. We went up to the second floor and I was ushered into a private room. I was stripped, in a gown with my jewellery removed within a few minutes. Next blood was drawn, a catheter inserted and a clipboard full of questions was put to me. The same questions were asked by another 3 people before I was rushed into theatre.

A premature baby in his incubator
My little boy in his incubator

I was transferred to the operating table and a spinal block was inserted. A few minutes later they were ready to begin. Our son entered the world not making a noise and no one in the theatre was talking. We had no idea if he had survived. I told my husband to take a look around the curtain going across my middle. He could see the team working but couldn’t make out anything more.

An incubator was wheeled next to me and we were allowed to look at our son for a minute. Then he was whisked away. They were still working on stitching me back up so we were in theatre for another half an hour. After the operation was complete I was taken back to the private room where I the nurses would be observing me for the next few hours.

The NICU stay and going home

The next few days were scary. We were told that our son was really poorly, no one was sure he would still be here the next day. Every night I wasn’t sure if I was saying a final goodbye. The first 28 days continued to be pretty much the same news. He was a little fighter though and I was so proud he was beating the odds.

He was eventually transferred to a specialist hospital where they very quickly had his health conditions under control. From this point he kept making huge improvements. On day 73 we got the amazing news that we could take our little boy home. Paperwork and medication took all day to sort.

First cuddle where I didn't need permission
First cuddle where I didn’t need permission

Four days after being home the unthinkable happened and my little boy went into respiratory arrest. My husband resuscitated him on the kitchen table. He came round just as the first ambulance pulled onto the street.

PTSD triggers setting in

It was time for me to start thinking about coming back to work. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. My manager regularly kept in touch so I explained I needed my maternity leave needed extending. I was beginning to recognise things were not as they should be. I booked an appointment with my GP and we discussed my options. Talking therapy was my preferred choice. The next step was to self-refer myself.

My PTSD triggers felt silly. Certain microwaves beeping sounded like beeps heard on the NICU. Light hearted TV programmes suddenly had a hospital scene or child needing to be rushed to hospital. The one that surprised me the most was 2 older ladies comparing medication in a shop. One lady mentioned Digoxin which was a medication that was given to my son but failed to work. I felt frozen to the spot hearing it said. It wasn’t just the name of the medication, the lady sounded exactly like one of the NICU nurses who looked after my son. Then there were the nightmares, I’d wake up needing to check on my son to make sure he was ok.

Black and white image of a woman crying. Photography credit: Cristian Newman
Black and white image of a woman crying. Photography credit: Cristian Newman

A few weeks later I picked up the phone and spoke to a lovely lady about what had happened with my son. I was immediately told they could help and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy details would be sent soon. My first session we discussed what would happen in the sessions. I then signed a contract to say I was committed to attending the sessions and doing the work, then I was assessed so the therapist knew what to focus on. Unsurprisingly my diagnosis was PTSD and anxiety.

How I’m doing now

I had the standard 6 sessions with a view to 6 more if my therapist thought them necessary. My little boy was still in and out of hospital so the trauma was still ongoing. I ended up going to 23 sessions in total and some of those sessions were a lot harder than others but I’m so glad I put the work in. I’ve ended up with a set of skills I can use for life and those PTSD triggers are now very manageable. Some things that were PTSD triggers are no longer triggers at all.

It was a challenging few years but getting help was the best thing I could have done. I actively encourage anyone struggling after going through a trauma to go and see their doctor. Here is a link to a list of symptoms on the NHS website.

Did you see our blog on preemies first day out?