The Dreaded Chicken Pox. (Where it all began…part 5/5)

Chicken Pox

My daughter got chicken pox just a month before her 2nd birthday. All her friends had had it, I wasn’t concerned. I lathered her in calamine lotion, took silly selfies and she seemed fine. On day 3, she woke up with a chicken spot in her eye. It seemed quite red and irritated. I wasn’t really sure what to do, but not wanting to take an infectious child to the Doctors, I called our GP for some over the phone advice. The GP decided to see her on the safe side.

Quite concerned it could cause vision issues, she sent us to the Eye Specialists at our local hospital. They gave us some eye ointment and antibiotics to help with the infection and sent us on our way.

Once we got home, my daughter became quite distressed. Her temperature would not come down. We tried to put the ointment in her eye but she would not calm down. I handed her to my husband so I could get a better angle, and when I saw her face, I shouted to stop.

Her face had ballooned, and she could barely see out of one eye.

We immediately rushed back to A&E. Her chicken pox had become severely infected and needed treating immediately. They administered IV antibiotics and she had to stay in for a few days. They had to use the veins in her feet, as the veins in her hands were so small. Each dose of antibiotic caused a lot of pain. I had a lot of expressed milk, so my husband went home with the baby whilst I stayed in with my daughter.

My heart ached to see her in pain. I wanted to stop them, even though I knew they were doing their best for her. I was glad to be able to comfort her, just a bit, by breastfeeding her during each infusion and throughout the night.
By the third night, we had run out of expressed breast milk so I had to go home with the baby and leave my daughter with my husband.

I was so angry.

I didn’t want to leave my little girl, she needed me.

But so did my son.

I battled with myself over the possibility of using formula. I wanted to do it. But neither myself nor my husband knew what product to get or how it would affect our son who had not had anything but breast milk. I will be honest in saying, I didn’t really care about using the formula. I was more concerned what people would think of me, a breastfeeding peer supporter, giving my son anything other than breast milk.

My Mom took the baby and I to her house. She suggested we have a bath together, to try and bond whilst I was away from my daughter. I tried but he just annoyed me. He climbed all over me, hit me and bit me. I knew it was because he was frustrated from not feeding for so long, but I didn’t care.

We climbed into bed and I fed my son. Again, I was tense and painful pins and needles rushed through my arms and legs. I flicked through pictures of my daughter on my phone to calm myself, sobbing as he fell asleep. I had a restless night, just waiting until morning, when I could be reunited with my daughter.

Luckily she had improved massively overnight, and we were allowed to take her home that evening.

Two weeks past, just as we thought we were in the clear, my son became pickled in spots. I was anxious that he would suffer in the same way that my daughter did. And I was right to worry.

He constantly wanted to feed and I was drained. Just like my daughter, by Day 3, his temperature soared and we made a visit to the GP. My Mom came with me this time whilst a friend looked after our daughter. My son screamed in his Grandma’s arms, she had tears in her eyes as she explained to the doctor that he was never like this. I sat by the doctor whilst explaining his symptoms.

I was emotionless.

I could see my son in pain, and of course I felt bad for him. But I didn’t want to comfort him.

We were again rushed to hospital and placed in the same room as my daughter had been in just a few weeks before. As I sat on one side of the bed and my Mom on the other, she asked me how I was feeling. I explained that I was still struggling, that I still didn’t feel a connection to my son. She questioned this.

How could I not love my child, as he lay in bed with an IV in his hand, moaning in his sleep?

It wasn’t something I could control. I just didn’t.

He too recovered, but I struggled.

I started becoming a bit reclusive. I wouldn’t go out as often. I felt people were looking at me and judging me more than ever. For both of my children to get so sick from simple chicken pox. Maybe it was my fault? Maybe it was because I didn’t care for them properly? Maybe it was punishment for not being good enough?

I refused to attend the weekly breastfeeding support group, the antenatal classes. I made continuous excuses to not meet up with friends. I spent a lot of summer inside, sticking the children in front of the telly whilst I dozed on the sofa.

When my son was 8 months old. My therapist finally convinced me to start antidepressants (you can read more about that here). I attended a craft therapy group and met a friend that I used to see at the breastfeeding group. We connected and started to share lifts to the group and she convinced me to start going back to the breastfeeding group. It turned out we were taking the same medication, which helped make me feel more normal in a time that was very scary.

I look back on those times, on those first 8 months. And other than the parts I have described in this series, I don’t remember anything. I see the photos on my Instagram and Facebook, I see the smiling faces of my little family looking back at me. But I don’t remember being there. I obviously was there, I can see I was there. Either in the photo or encouraging those smiles from behind the camera.

But I wasn’t there.

My mind wasn’t focusing on the present. And I still struggle to focus, even now.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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So I plodded along…(where it all began…part 4!)

So I plodded along. I relished in the days both children would nap at the same time. I would scroll and scroll through various ‘2 under 2’ Facebook parenting groups in the hopes someone felt the same as me. I felt an intense love for my daughter, and continued to resent my son. I lightly brought up topics of having a ‘favourite’ child, to which I was always shut down with how absurd that was.

“We all love our children, equally” – friends and family would stutter.

“Well I don’t!” – my heart wailed.

I continued to breastfeed both him and my daughter, my daughter increasing her feeds out of jealousy. Whenever I fed my son I would get pins and needles in my hands and arms, my legs would become restless and my body tense. My phone became my crutch, I became obsessed with Candy Crush as it was the only thing that would take my mind away whilst feeding him. My son would feed, but at the same time push himself away from me. As if he wanted my breast, yet no other form of comfort or connection.

I looked forward to when my daughter fed, I would feel relief and a rush of oxytocin. It was the only time I felt truly myself again. I constantly battled with the possibility of not feeding him, but didn’t want to wean my daughter. I knew people would find it odd to continue feeding my toddler, whilst giving my baby formula. So I plodded along.

My husband had managed to take six weeks off work to be with us. I loved it and loathed it. Having him around made me dependent on him. It was too easy to hand him the baby and leave the room. To complain of back ache when carrying him on days out. My son slept for hours on end, still does now. It was too easy to lay him in his moses basket and pretend he didn’t exist. He barely made a sound.

He continued to refuse to sleep on me. I settled for him sleeping in the cot attached to our bed. Our toddler still sleeping in bed with us. I felt guilty that my son wasn’t experiencing the ‘attachment parenting’ ways I had become dependent on, despite the fact it was him choosing his path.

I had been honest with my midwife and health visitor from the start. Stating I didn’t feel anything, but their advice was pointless. Bathe together, do skin to skin, look into his eyes, breastfeed him. I was doing all of this, but I couldn’t force him to connect with me. He would wriggle and scream, the only time he seemed to be upset, other than when he was hungry, was when I tried to cuddle him. They were sure I would figure it out. So I plodded along.

I went to my usual baby groups, reconnected with old friends I had lost touch with due to my sickness. We seemed like the perfect, happy family on the outside. On the inside I was becoming increasingly low, depressed, frustrated and incredibly anxious and paranoid. I was determined everyone was looking at me. That they could see we didn’t bond. That everyone would talk about me. Thought that I wasn’t coping. That they felt sorry for my children.

I couldn’t cry. No matter how low, how frustrated I was feeling, I just couldn’t shed a tear. I was exhausted. I just wanted to feel, something, anything! I started watching sad films, anything to bring some emotion to me, read sad novels. I would sit in bed and think of all the horrible things that had ever happened to me, but nothing worked. I felt like I was going to explode. I was sure I would break at some point, I just didn’t know when. So I plodded along.

Four months post partum. The day everything changed.

My husband was back to work, my daughter woke as soon as he left. She clambered on top of me for a feed, as she did most mornings, but accidentally knocked her sleeping brother awake. I cracked. Both children started screaming. I didn’t know who to sort first. After a while, I decided to feed my daughter, she would be content watching telly whilst I sorted my son afterwards. He continued to scream. Once sorted, and happy with a DVD on, I calmed my son and gave him a feed but he wouldn’t settle. I just wanted him to sleep so I could go back to sleep.

I put him down on his tummy, as he always slept, and started to pat him on the back. He would normally settle in minutes with a rhythmic pat on the back. However that morning he just wouldn’t settle. He cried and wriggled. My daughters DVD had ended. She started crying. I just wanted to go back to sleep. My head was banging. My whole body tense. I continued patting my son, he just needed to go back to sleep. My daughter continued to scream. They just needed to be quiet so I could go back to sleep. I started to pat faster and harder without really realising.

Just. Go. Back. To. Sleep.

My son cried out. I gasped. My daughter was silent.

My bubble popped. I burst into hysterics. Tears streamed down my face.

My daughter started to cry again, my son’s cries became even more loud and intense. I struggled to breathe. White noise streamed my ears. I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t see anything. I hid under the duvet and waited for it all to end.

I don’t remember what happened after that. The next thing I knew, I was on the phone to my husband, begging him to come home. He came home to find us all fast asleep. I explained what had happened. I broke down. I admitted I wasn’t coping. That I didn’t want to do this anymore.

We called the peri natal mental health team in Exeter, a number I had been given previously and was put on a waiting list for. They spoke to my husband and decided to send the crisis team out the following day. I called my brother to come down from university, to look after me and the kids. My husband was told I shouldn’t be left alone.

The team came to my house to discuss my mental health. They gave me a new health visitor, put me on the waiting list for an attachment psychologist and sent a request to my doctor to discuss medication.

I had a plan of action.

They said I was going to get better.

So, I plodded along.

(Disclaimer – I have an array on health professionals working with me on a regular basis who are aware of my entire history of mental health issues and also read this blog.)

 

 

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And then there were four…(where it all began part 3)

So where did I finish off…I guess I was just waiting for 37 weeks. I continued with my weekly admissions for re hydration and also continued to breastfeed my daughter. I got a lot of flack for this as people thought that me feeding her was making me sick. I was however reassured by my consultant (the nice one), my doctor and my breastfeeding practitioner that what I was doing was perfectly safe and had no relevance to my pregnancy and sickness. [I will probably write a whole post about this one day, when I do, I’ll link it here!]

So I got to 36 weeks and my midwife brought me in for my first sweep. She told me I was looking promising, which is great to hear whilst a hand is rooting around your nether regions, and I was told to wait for my induction date.

We went in on the afternoon of the 30th December. I was all set so had regular monitoring then waiting for a delivery room to become available. We ordered the 4 day TV package, knowing now that we would be in for a long haul. Had dinner then my husband went home to look after our daughter, promising to bring her in for a visit tomorrow.

The next day was quiet, we walked the hospital halls, making it a game by touching each end wall. My daughter came for a visit with Nana, we bounced about on my birthing ball, went on lots of walks and had lots of cuddles as well as she has her last breast feed as an only child. I was emotional. I didn’t know this would be the last time I saw her and that she would return not as my baby, but as a big sister.

Walking through the hospital, little did I know next time I saw my daughter she would be a big sister!

We were just trying to decide whether to order a Dominoes or a curry when we were told it was our turn to go onto Labour Ward! We had not been expecting this. Well, we had, but not so quickly! I called my Mom and told her it was go time, she squealed and rushed in to be with us. Lots of people frown when they find I had my Mom with me for both pregnancies, however I think it is important to have a second female birth partner (someone other than your partner). Research shows mothers who have a female birth partner, have an easier childbirth. This is because they get double the oxytocin, not just there own love hormone flowing, but the love hormone of the other female flows through to the birthing mother. How awesome is that? Besides, due to our first scary encounter (which you can read about here) I needed her there in case it all went wrong again.

So Mom arrived around 5pm, just as they were inserting my cannula to start the Pitocin and break my waters. Seeing as it took around 8 hours with my daughter to start pushing, we decided to order a pizza anyway and I settled onto the birthing ball in the hopes to speed things up.

By the time the pizza arrived (double pepperoni and jalapenos) I was getting very strong contractions. The midwives were finding it difficult to keep a track of the heartbeat and contractions using their wireless monitors with me bouncing, I ended up with around 8 different straps to keep them in place! Otherwise, they left us alone, with the lights lowered and the radio on. I asked my husband to text in and get some words of encouragement but he said it was lame – I think he’s lame. I ate a slice of pizza, I was determined to not let it go to waste, but the contractions were getting stronger and stronger. I needed the gas and air already, but I felt like such a wimp for giving in at only 1.5 hours in, once checking my contractions, they gave it to me and I started sucking like mad. I hadn’t felt much effect the first time around, however this time I felt light and dizzy after the first inhalation.

But then, I felt the need to push. I panicked, don’t we all? I wanted to stay sat on my ball, well they could maybe move the ball to catch the baby…however the midwife was insistent I get up on the bed and go on all fours. I tried this position with my first and hated it, which I told them, but they thought I should try again. So up I went, I started not being able to move myself properly so my husband lifted me into position. I was still inhaling the gas and air without stopping. This is where it all went fuzzy…

I remember my Mom asking me if I wanted to turn around. I tried to say ‘Yes’ but nothing came out. I tried to nod my head but I couldn’t. I tried to signal with my hands but felt like I couldn’t control them. Then everything went black.

I had overdosed on the gas and air and had started having hallucinations. The following did not actually happen in ‘real life’, but purely in my head. In ‘real life’ it probably lasted about 3 minutes tops, but in my head it felt like hours.

I saw my husband pulling the emergency button, just like during my first pregnancy. I was screaming, asking if my baby was okay, no one would answer. Doctors and nurses rushed into the room and rolled me out to theatre. I was given a gas mask and all I could see were the harsh lights above me. Then everything went black again. I heard a voice, it was asking me whether I wanted to live or die. I couldn’t respond. It asked me whether I wanted to live or if I wanted my baby to live, I shouted ‘No!’ The voice then told me I needed to breathe, I responded that I was trying. Then the voice told me to let go. So I did. 

I don’t know what the first voice was all about, it still haunts me now. However after shouting ‘No!’ the voice was actually my Mom’s. She was holding my face and trying to get the mouthpiece out, I had clamped my jaw shut in my hallucinated state. She managed to get it out and told me to breathe. My eyes refocused and I was ‘back in the room’. I had basically had flashbacks to my daughters after birth disaster. I asked if my baby was okay but had completely forgotten I still had to actually birth my son.

I pushed, and out he came. He was 7’13 and covered in vernix. He looked gross. He was placed skin to skin, but I asked for a towel to wipe all the gunk off me. I felt nothing. My Mom cut the cord whilst I gave him his first feed. The whole room was tense, none of us could relax and be happy until my placenta had been birthed. I passed him to my husband so I could concentrate on the final phase. I pushed and out it came. Oh, was that it?

I was a bit confused, I had been expecting some drama at least, so when nothing happened it was just a bit odd. We held the baby and started taking pictures, I watched him be weighed and even dressed him myself. I asked my Mom what I was supposed to do now, I didn’t know what a normal person did after birthing a child. She ran me a bath and I shakily stepped in, the adrenaline was still rushing through me, I couldn’t stop my legs from twitching. Apparently this is normal. My Mom and husband held my son as I looked on from the bath, wishing for an emotion, anything to come to me, but nothing.

My Mom left, it was New Year’s Eve so she was off to the pub to celebrate the news with friends and family. My husband was allowed to stay overnight this time as policies had changed in the 18 months since my first born. We both admitted we just wanted our daughter with us. I had assured myself once our daughter was here, that rush of love would come. The fireworks started, but we couldn’t see any from our window. I text a few family members and close friends the good news. I fed my baby and he was so content. I tried to get him to sleep on my chest, just like my daughter did, but he squirmed and wouldn’t settle until I handed him to my husband where he slept soundly.

I lay in my bed, confused and just wanting to sleep. Everything had gone perfectly. This was what I had always wanted, our little family was complete, so why did I feel only emptiness inside?

To be continued…AGAIN!

[Geesh, this is taking way longer than I had anticipated. I could write a novel! I wonder if anyone is actually reading this…]

 

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Pregnancy, HG and Me (where it all began – part 2)

We were blissfully happy.

I went through the typical ‘Baby Blues’ on days 3 to 5 post partum, which included a good cry in front of my in laws on day 3, as for some stupid reason I decided going to a family BBQ was a good idea. It wasn’t.

I felt like I eased into parenting. Breastfeeding went really well, we managed to prove all of our family wrong by actually using our cloth nappies, we were peacefully cosleeping and I had made some lovely new friends from various Mum groups, including the breastfeeding support group I later trained to be a part of. I thought I had it down. And I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was very judgmental of those who didn’t parent in the same way that I did.

We were so cocky in fact, that when my periods returned at 8 months post partum, we decided to let nature takes it’s course. Which was a good thing too as at 9 months post partum, we were pregnant!

It all went down hill from there…we were gleefully happy, but within days my Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) came back twice as hard. Over the course of the next 32 weeks, I was admitted into hospital for rehydration and fluids a whopping 30 times. 30 times where I had to leave my little girl; my breastfed, cosleeping, little girl, to sit in a hospital where I received IV fluids, anti sickness and pain relief medication until I was able to keep down a dry piece of toast then sent on my way… until the next week. It was heart wrenching. This baby inside of me, that was supposed to fill our lives with joy, was breaking me, mentally and physically.

We had always decided we would only have two children, mainly due to how my body can’t seem to handle pregnancy very well. This meant I put a lot of pressure on trying to enjoy my ‘last pregnancy’ as much as possible. I forced myself to take weekly photo updates, plastering a grin on my face for my family and friends to see on social media. I got a maternity photo shoot done, to try and find some beauty in a crappy situation. I already felt detached from the baby inside me, I resented it from taking me away from my baby girl. I wanted to bond with it just like I had the first time around, but the sickness made it so hard.

During one hospital visit, at around 20 weeks pregnant, a female consultant sat me down and calmly asked how everything was at home. As these are usual questions to ask when a woman is alone in hospital, I thought nothing of it. But then she asked again, I again answered that everything was perfectly fine, my husband was at home looking after our daughter to keep some routine in the upheaval that was this pregnancy. A few hours later, at around 3:30AM, she came back and asked again.

By this time, I was quite annoyed. I knew exactly what she was hinting at, so asked her outright why she was asking. She explained that it was ‘impossible’ to have HG so severely that I would be admitted weekly, which must mean I am trying to get away from an abusive relationship.

Eh, excuse me?! You can see me, not able to even keep water down, and yet you are accusing me of making my condition up because you think my husband is beating me? I was shocked. After finding my words and assuring her my husband couldn’t hurt a fly, and that our relationship was anything but abusive, the doctor then started a different route. She started talking about my daughter, and stated that I must miss her so much during these hospital visits. Of course, hormonal pregnant woman starts crying when she thinks about missing her darling daughter. The doctor smiles, tells me I’m obviously mentally ill, which is why I’m getting so sick, refused to give me any more medication and referred me to the peri natal mental health team.

I didn’t know what to do. I knew that although I was quite down, I knew I was down because of the sickness, not sick because I was down! I was a part of a few HG Facebook support groups, so posted about my situation that same morning. Luckily, I was put in touch with the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support (find out more about PSS here). They were able to explain to me my options, and gave me some great advice on how to change consultants and who they recommended from my hospital, as well as a volunteer peer supporter who had also been through HG. She was my rock. I was able to change to a brilliant male consultant who understood HG completely, we got a game plan and decided that should the HG continue throughout pregnancy (like it did with my first pregnancy) then I would be induced at 37 weeks due to bile acid build up and liver troubles in myself.

Now I knew there was an end, I just had power through. I had assured myself as soon as the baby arrived, everything would be fine. Our family would be complete, we’d live happily ever after…if only life worked like that, eh?

[Next time, our baby boy’s birth and delivery…]

(Oooh, I feel like I’m writing a drama series, it seems so much more intense all written down!)

 

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Where it all began…

My step-dad was a lorry driver, he died in a road traffic accident when I was 7 weeks pregnant. I was one of those stupid pregnant ladies that was insistent on waiting until 12 weeks before telling anyone.

This meant he never knew he would have been a Grandad.

My pregnancy was used as the shining star to make everything okay again. I was told over and over that I had to be happy, because I was growing a baby now.

I never got a chance to grieve.

I saw various counselors during my pregnancy, all of which warned me that I was most likely to experience post natal depression once my baby arrived. My first pregnancy wasn’t easy, with hyperemesis gravidarum forcing me to be admitted into hospital on 7 occasions due to dehydration.

At 38 weeks, my midwife came to visit me for a routine check up, my blood pressure was extremely high, so high that I was told to go straight to the maternity unit. With not being able to drive, my husband working an hour away and my Mom working six hours away, I had no idea what to do.

In the end my Mom’s new boyfriend left work to take me to the hospital (baring in mind he had only been reintroduced as her boyfriend a few months before!) we awkwardly talked about all kinds of crazy things to take my mind off what the heck was happening. My husband arrived at the maternity unit just after us, we were both clueless about what was going to happen but I had packed all mine and baby’s bags just in case! With my blood pressure soaring and not changing enough with the blood pressure medication, it was decided I was to be induced. Luckily it was not severe enough to warrant immediate action so we agreed to start the induction process in the morning.

Following an uncomfortable night’s sleep, I was given the pessary and told to entertain myself. We walked the hospital halls and played games of travel Monopoly and Connect 4. My Mom had traveled back from work as we wanted her to be there during the birth. The day dragged. Nothing had happened and I was getting increasingly frustrated. Another uncomfortable night alone, with the promise that my waters would be broken first thing in the morning. It didn’t happen. I found it so frustrating that they weren’t keeping to their time scales. Silly looking back as obviously it was because more important cases needed to be dealt with. I couldn’t see it like that at the time!

After a snappy shouting match with my Mom, in which she stormed off, I was told I was finally off to the labour ward to have my waters broken and induction started. Time for the grovelling call to Mom, in which I had to apologise profusely before she would come back! My waters were broken with ease and I was started on Pitocin. We ordered Thai food and settled into a long night. 8 hour laters, using gas and air (but not really inhaling enough to get any benefit) I gave birth to our beautiful daughter. She was perfect and healthy. We had our first feed and felt the burst of love straight away.

The midwives were started to look a bit concerned and made me pass my baby to my husband so I could focus on pushing out my placenta. It wasn’t budging. Before I knew what was happening, the emergency bell was pressed and the room was swarmed with nurses and doctors. I was told to sign a piece of paper, I still don’t know what that was for? I was wheeled into theatre where it was decided I would be put under General Anesthetic.

I woke up 4 hours later to my Mom hovering above me. I had no idea what had just happened, I cried for my Mommy, asked her if I was dying, she told me it had been close, but I was fine now. Then I remembered my baby, and was reassured she was just fine too.

I don’t remember much of our first day together, we spent most of it still in our delivery room. I was very woozy from the GA, I couldn’t really eat and was catheterized so couldn’t move from my bed. I remember two midwives literally milking my breasts into syringes so my baby could be fed, as I had so many cannulas fitted I couldn’t hold her properly. By evening I had managed one feed, meaning I was deemed well enough to be transferred to the post natal ward – alone. My husband was told he couldn’t stay with me to help our baby. Even though I was still catheterized so unable to move from my bed.

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Where she would sleep for the next 18 months

I felt so scared, and buzzed for a midwife at any opportunity. When she started hiccuping, I wasn’t sure what to do! She only stopped crying when being fed or laying on my chest, with it being so difficult to pick her up I decided she’d stay there. I had done so much
research during pregnancy and was adamant I would not be bedsharing. My little girl ended up sharing our bed until she was just over 2 years old.

We left the hospital the next day, with the promise to return the next day for further blood tests. We now had a baby, and we were so blissfully happy.

To be continued…duh duh duhhhhhh….

 

 

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