I haven’t written for a little while about my stomach ulcer rupture that happened 9 days after Bodhi was born. If you are new to the blog, to summarise quickly, when Bo was 9 days old I was admitted to hospital for severe headaches, I was also very dizzy and at times it felt like the floor was rising up towards me. We initially thought it was a post-dural headache, which can be a side affect of an epidural.
After I was admitted, however, I started vomiting black and having severe black and bloody diarrhoea. Which was the start of an internal haemorrhage. It took a while for the doctors to work out what wrong with me, everyone focused on post natal problems and the severe headaches. We don’t really know whether it formed after birth or if I had one before, but to cut a very long story short, I had a stomach ulcer, which aggravated probably by the painkillers I was taking after a c-section then ruptured. It was a really scary time and I was very ill for months after Bodhi’s birth as a consequence.
I wrote an update after 5 months, but have written very little since. But I have felt its anniversary creeping up on me like an unwelcome house guest. It’s an odd thing really, enjoying and celebrating Bodhi’s first birthday so much, but also knowing that this was coming up. I remember feeling a little like this after Logan’s first birthday and coming to terms with the birth trauma we experienced with him. Which is something I have not wanted to written about yet, but I will some day, when I’m ready. It’s such a mix of feelings.
Physically, I am now fully recovered. I was iron deficient until January of this year and it took a very long time for my body to replenish the amount of blood I lost. My blood counts at the time went from 13 to 5. I was given two blood transfusions which took my count to 7.1, but as the recommendation for a blood transfusion is 7, I really wish I had been given more. I guess perhaps the blood stores were low at the time. As I know people who have been given transfusions with higher levels than I was discharged with.
With the summer holidays fast approaching, it’s also got me thinking about last year’s summer holiday and just how hard it was. I guess it was always going to be tricky with a new baby, but a new baby and terrible anaemia was on another level. I remember attempting to go to the school’s summer fete and being so ill that my husband had to take me home. Taking Aria to her school induction day as I felt so strongly that I should be there for her and then wondering how I was going to have the energy to possibly walk back to the car. I cancelled lots of plans, because while I might have had the energy to drive somewhere, the reality was I wouldn’t have been able to drive home. Anything overly physical was out. I kept everything low key and local. Hell, the first time I breastfed I nearly passed out and for a time had to eat something small every time I fed so as not to have a funny turn. I still had a lovely time with the children, but I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t a struggle. I’m determined to change the story this year.
What I’m really starting to acknowledge only in the last couple of months really, is the mental impact that it has had one me. I have spoken briefly about anxiety on my social media, but it took me a while to piece the two together. The anxiety started to truly manifest as anxiety about leaving Bo. I have no trouble leaving my older children with people that care for them, so I couldn’t understand what the difference was with Bo. I would dread leaving him and worry about him the whole time I was away. To the point I found it easier to take him places with me.
When I was in hospital, Bo was with me as I was still breastfeeding and on several occasions it was suggested that as I wasn’t well enough to look after him that he went home with my husband without me. I cannot tell you how this made me feel, but I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of panic. I actually broke down when it kept being mentioned and the midwife who was looking after me (who was amazing) intervened on my behalf.
Then there was occasions where I had to go for treatments and leave him behind, once was when my husband had to go home to look after our older children, so Bo had to be wheeled into the midwives’ office who looked after him while I had a scan. The whole time I was down there I couldn’t stop thinking about him, was he ok, did he need feeding.
On another occasion when I went to have an endoscopy I left him with my husband, but there was no preparation. I got down to theatre as was told the medication they needed to use was not safe for breastfeeding. While I tried to go ahead with just gas and air, I couldn’t manage it and there was no means of me to communicate this with my husband. When I got back to the room, I remember saying to me oh he’s hungry and while the midwife was able to organise a bottle for us, my husband had to run across the road and buy bottles and formula for him until my milk was drinkable again, because we were told this was something the hospital couldn’t provide.
Then there were the dreams, which came after I had been home a little while. Thankfully I haven’t had them for a few months now, but I had dreams where I would die leaving all of my children behind. My husband travels quite a lot with work, I would have thoughts go around and around my head about me falling really ill and the children just playing in the house and me not being able to go to them or look after them. It was such a paralysing fear.
Going anywhere big with Bo was also an issue. I was ok with day to day errands, but when I was invited to the equality forum at Westminster, which was something I desperately wanted to go to, the night before I could barely sleep the anxiety so intense. I kept imagining all the things that could happen to us while we were on the train or in London. I made myself go as it was such a great thing to be invited to and I am glad I did, but I will be honest and say it wasn’t easy.
It’s something I have worked on very slowly, with the big support of my husband. When it came to leaving Bodhi I started a little bit at a time, an hour to the shops, then two hours and built it up from there, week by week. Recently I have managed a photography course, drove to Blogon for a conference (although had to come back because I was unwell), and went to Basingstoke to meet some friends for lunch. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re getting easier.
I still get anxiety when my husband travels. He’s actually in Northampton at the time of writing this for a client meeting and my brain went ten to the dozen before he left. But, as the day has progressed and I’ve kept myself busy, it’s been ok. Meditation has been a good tool to help centre myself too, and I am trying to do some everyday. Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone definitely helps. Making myself do things and push through has been good for me too, knowing that actually things were fine and there was nothing for me to worry about. Things are definitely better. And yet, the anniversary of today has still felt like it’s been looming. I suspect I shall feel better when it’s passed.
Last week, my husband was relating back his experience of that time. He said he was driving home from the hospital one of the nights and he wondered to himself at the time, if, by the weekend he might be a single Dad. Him saying it was like a sucker punch to the stomach. I knew I had been scared, but I don’t think I realised how scared he has been too. he had just been so calm through it all.
You may wonder why I am speaking about this now. But I feel a lot is talked about post natal depression (as it should be), but not enough about birth trauma. With Logan the anaesthetic literally started to wear off during his c-section, Yet, when I talked to the midwife during one of my home visits about how I was struggling, no after care was offered. It’s been suggested to me I may even have some PTSD, but I’m not really an expert on it to comment. I don’t experience flashbacks, just anxiety really. And the dreams seem to have passed on their own.
I actually don’t know if this blog post will read as anything more than a ramble, but it’s been quite cathartic for me to write it. How this year hasn’t just been about us all adjusting to being a family of five, but my mental and physical recovery too. It took me 7 months to recover from the ulcer and blood loss and the mental healing it still taking place. I know other women have gone through worse, but I never expected it to impact me the way that it has.