I have now been through two very different child births. My first was long, exhausting, painful and yet it was peaceful. I felt calm throughout and the hours after the birth were full of cuddles, dozing and feelings of pure joy. My second experience was very different. Natural labour didn’t start after the initial induction and breaking of my waters, so a hormone was used to get things moving. This ensured that my labour was more painful, more intense and didn’t allow my own natural hormones lead the situation. After the birth things got worse with a loss of blood, shock and the realisation that Eloise was unwell and needed to go to intensive care.
In the weeks after my first birth, I flourished as a mum. It was as if I had finally found what I was good at and I loved it. That’s not to say that I didn’t find things challenging at times, for example Nick’s first week back at work after paternity leave and I called him in floods of tears as I struggled to get Rufus to settle for a nap (I was exhausted and really needed a nap myself).
After Eloise was born, things again were very different. I was certain that what I was feeling was not just baby blues, I was experiencing intense feelings of depression and I reached out for help quickly. Unfortunately my quick actions didn’t result in the immediate helpI needed. A month or so later we realised that I was also suffering from PTSD and so took it upon ourselves to seek private EMDR counselling. Six months post partum and I was spending most of my days sitting on the stairs of my house sobbing uncontrollably. It was at this point as my two year old son attempted to comfort me that I realised I would need some medical help to get me through what I was struggling with.
Why am I bothering to speak about these experiences again? Because I need to and because in just over a month I will be going through my third labour and I am terrified.
Of course the pain of childbirth is not something I look forward to, but it’s not the birth I am fearing. I’ve done it twice, I can do it again. However, like I said, I’m terrified. I have no idea who I be or what version of myself I will be after this birth. Will I be the earth mother I self identified as after Rufus, or the desperate puddle on the floor like after Eloise? Or worse? Will I be a version of myself that I have not yet seen?
When I have this baby, I’m scared of what will happen. Not just for the obvious reasons – how will I look after three babies? How will I stay on top of the housework? How will I deal with the sleep deprivation? Etc. I’m scared of what will happen inside my head.
My head can be a scary place at times. It can go to very dark corners where I spiral into pits of doom and despair. I fear those places, those days where I struggle to get out of bed. They are overwhelming and toxic. It’s not just me that I destroy with those dark moments. I let it seep out into other parts of my life as well. I retreat from any social life I might have, I start to resent my husband for his freedom to leave the house each day (even though it’s for work and that work enables us to live the life we have) and I stop finding any joy in my children. My beautiful children, who I love beyond reason but on those days I loathe my life as their stay at home mum.
In approximately 5 weeks time I will be bring my third (and most likely) final child into the world and while I can’t wait to see her little face and kiss her perfect cheeks, I am so very worried about what will happen to me and those I love afterwards. But I am not going to idly wait to see what happens, I am taking steps to prepare. I am on waiting lists for mental health support already, so if the worst happens and the depression seeps in again, I will be able to access help more quickly. I have also been honest with my friend and family about how I feel and the signs to look out for, so I’m building a strong support network on my doorstep.
I am scared, but I’m not without hope. It’s thanks to my previous experiences that I am able to be so prepared and with the support of my loved ones and my wonderful midwives I’m sure that whatever happens I can and will get through this.