Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Living With PTSD.

I naively thought PTSD was something only war veterans had to deal with. I never once for a minute, imagined it would be something I would have to face. It turns out PTSD can occur to anyone, for any reason, but commonly when there has been a threat to life. So here I am, facing this whole new world of emotions and feelings, grieving for my little boy, for the loss of my fertility and somehow battling the thoughts and flashbacks that all come with this diagnosis.

Image from here

It's hard to explain what it's like living with post-traumatic stress. It's like there is no escape from reminders or triggers and flashbacks can occur at any given time. I can be taken of guard and thrown back to January in an instant, and it's like everything is happening all over again. This can happen several times a day, if I'm triggered by an ambulance or something else I associate with the hospital. I've built this safety cocoon around myself, I avoid anything that I think will mean I'm around babies/pregnant women, as well as avoiding particular routes near to the hospital. Similarly I avoid anything that could be remotely related to hospital or child birth on the TV and go to the extent to read synopsis of series or films before committing to watching, just to ensure they're 'safe'. And ultimately in doing this, I've made my world a little smaller.

My brain is constantly on over drive, searching or listening out for what it believes is a danger. Unlike a normal response to seeing an ambulance, my body goes straight into flight or fight. I can hear a siren miles away, so much so that Jonathan won't even notice it. My heart races, I become quite teary and I'm thrown straight back to being on the floor in my bathroom, soaking towels in blood and just listening for the siren. I've become so heightened to this, that even a song on the radio can suddenly remind me of a siren sound or I can hear a siren without one actually being there. It can be incredibly scary when your mind plays tricks on you, the control is completely gone.


Image from Google

I can recall every minute from the moment I started bleeding, right up until Jonah's birth. I could tell you the sights, smells, sounds literally minute by minute. They're engrained in my mind and somedays they're really hard to escape.

Normal life can be really tough. Violet and I have found new groups to go to, because I know that there are not as many babies or pregnant ladies. I've had to ensure any training I have for work is at different health centres and I've even had to change counselling locations, again to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital. We have just redecorated our bathroom and I can finally bare to be in there, without having constant reminders. All of these little tweaks to my normal day, can be really exhausting.

I am incredibly lucky to be receiving therapy on the NHS, which has recently started. I am going to the starting EMDR therapy, which I know very little about. I do know that this is a therapy that is only used to treat PTSD and has really great results. I guess I'm writing this as a way for me to compare what life was like before therapy.

I am a different person to who I was before Jonah. I have been changed irreversibly but that's not all bad. I no longer feel the need to please everyone, at the expense of looking after myself. I am stronger, braver, more open and honest about my feelings and emotions. And yes I have PTSD, but that doesn't and will never define me. I'm just a mummy, trying to get through life parenting one baby here and one in my heart.

Katie xx
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Thursday, 6 September 2018

#StillOurBaby Lenny.

Another beautiful Still Our Baby story. This story is from Natalie, who is sharing her precious little boy Lenny.
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Lenny Stephen Cross is our first son. He was born on 1st August 2014 at 25 weeks and 3 days and lived for a very short 10 hours. This is our story. 

Lenny was due in November 2014. When I found out I was pregnant, I was so excited about spending our first Christmas as a family of 3. I imagined all the cute festive outfits I would dress him in and all the memories we would make in our new house together. I found the start of my pregnancy pretty easy. All my scans showed a healthy baby and we found out early on at a private gender scan that he was a he! We started buying bits and bobs for him and making a collection in his nursery. We were so excited. 

It all started to go wrong when I hit 25 weeks. Completely out of nowhere I started having contractions. I spent a few days in hospital until they decided that I wasn’t actually in labour and sent me back home. Unfortunately, when I was at home my waters broke. We rushed back to hospital, where I had to have an emergency c-section as Lenny was breech. 

The EMCS was the most traumatic experience of my life. It felt very panicked and rushed and I lost lots of blood which caused me to pass out. I felt suffocated, very nauseous and very dizzy. It felt like people were jumping up and down on my chest. It took around an hour but felt like three. Lenny was born at 4.57am and let out a big cry, which was amazing and heart-breaking at the same time. He was taken straight to the neonatal care unit. At first it looked promising but then it all went downhill. They tried for a few hours to stabilise him but unfortunately his body just wasn’t ready for the world. They told us that there was nothing more they could do and asked if we were ready to say bye. They wheeled my bed up to him and my partner and I held him in our arms whilst they took the breathing tube out and he passed away.


Lenny was kept in a cool cot in a room next door to us so we could wheel him in whenever we wanted.Saying goodbye was sickening, I felt heartbroken and torn like I didn't want leave him, but by then his appearance was changing for the worse. I felt like I really needed to let him go so I could remember him as he was when he was born.


I was then discharged from the hospital. Everything seemed totally pointless when we went home. I just couldn’t believe I wasn’t pregnant anymore- but my saggy belly was a constant reminder. In the immediate days after having Lenny I couldn’t be bothered to do anything, even getting washed and dressed was too much effort. We did have so much support from the hospital, the community midwife and the bereavement midwife, but I really missed my Mum. She sadly died of cancer years before and she also went through the heartbreak of losing her first child. He was born with hydrocephalus and died within weeks. I really wanted to hear her wise words of support and comfort. She went on to have 3 children after my eldest brother and I needed to hear that there was some hope for us to get the family we so desperately wanted. 



We never found out why it happened which was agonising. I almost wanted them to find something wrong so I could ‘fix’ it before we started trying again. We were desperate for a baby but the bereavement midwife said they usually advise at least 3 months before trying again. Three months seemed like a lifetime to me. I felt so scared that having conceived Lenny so easily before must've been a fluke and all of a sudden I felt inadequate and like my body was a massive failure. I spent the next year raising £3,323.36 for SANDS in memory of Lenny. We had donations and a family fun day. I then fell pregnant with my little rainbow. Fortunately my pregnancy with Denzel, whilst utterly terrifying, was mercifully plain sailing. He was born by elective section at 39 weeks. After Denzel was born I decided to set up The Little Lenny Company in Lenny’s memory. I really love seeing his name out there. 


We’ll always talk about him and not a day goes by when we don’t love and miss our first son. Thanks for reading.
Natalie xx

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Thank you so much Natalie for being a part of this series and for sharing Lenny with us. You can find The Little Lenny Company here.

Katie xx
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