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Can I really have PTSD from a stillbirth that happened 12 years ago? Is this why nothing I try has 'cured' my anxiety disorder?

(6 Posts)
TeenTwinsToddlerandTiaras Thu 16-May-13 16:04:57

OK, it was not actually a stillbirth, she was born alive and with her eyes open according to the midwife, I was too terrified to look at her.

12 years ago last month, when I was 30 weeks pregnant with my 2nd DD (DD1 was 4 and we had been trying for a sibling for over 2 years before we succeeded), we discovered that the baby had a lethal abnormality.

This was after a few weeks of continually turning up at the maternity ward complaining I could not feel any movement, they would strap me to a monitor, tell me the heart was very strong, now go away and stop being so anxious etc. It was actually discovered when an astute midwife saw a ripple when she strapped me to a monitor meaning I had way too much amniotic fluid, an emergency scan was done and my consultant told me that there was a 'quality of life' problem but it was not 'life limiting' but I would have to go to London to the Fetal Medicine Centre for a full assessment. This was despite me having all the routine scans and tests throughout the pregnancy and an amniocentesis at 20 weeks because talipes was picked up. I can still remember the agony of those 2 weeks waiting to find out if there was anything else but we were given the all clear and told it was just talipes and had discussions with the pediatric orthopaedic surgeon as to the baby needing an op shortly after birth.

On the way into London, I was thinking, 'shit, I can't deal with a disabled baby' but by the time we got there, I had it clear in my head that a disabled baby was better than no baby at all and we would cope.

At the Fetal Medicine Centre, we were told the baby had a very rare symdrome (1 in 10,000 ffs why me?) and could die at any time in the womb, during the birth or up to 6 months afterwards. I was heavily pressured into aborting but I refused. The doctor actually said to me 'you do realise that this child's bones will probably break as she comes down the birth canal and she will be in terrible pain, if she survives the birth, she will be in terrible pain'. I am afraid I still could not consent to them injecting a needle through my stomach and into her heart to stop her heart beating while she writhed around (my consultant told me he was very glad I did not consent as he would have found it very hard to do).

I was refused a c-section (as I may experience complications) and an induction as 'it probably would'nt work' and was told that as I had chosen not to abort, I would have to wait for spontaneous labour to start but if I got to 37 weeks they would do something. I cannot describe the feeling of carrying a baby that you know is going to die, I wanted her out so it would all end but I did'nt want her to die. It was hell with people not knowing and asking me if I was looking forward to the birth.

I researched the syndrome she had at length even calling the John Hopkins Hospital in the US and faxing them the UK prognosis. Everyone I spoke to agreed that it was correct and babies with this syndrome did not survive.

A week later, I went into spontaneous labour after ignoring the twinges for hours. I was refused an epidural to start with angry and had to have one while in fully established labour which was traumatic enough as I was so tense it took 5 tries to get it in with the anaethetist threatening to not do unless I 'relaxed'. It felt like he was hammering nails into my back.

This is the thing though, when my waters burst like a machine gun firing, the terror I felt was unbelievable. I was shaking, freezing cold and absolutely hysterical. I think I realised it was happening and I could'nt stop it. THIS IS THE SAME FEELING OF TERROR I HAVE CONSTANTLY NOW, it's like I am reliving it day after day even while doing the bloody washing up.

A doctor was called in as the force of my waters breaking meant that the umblical cord could be seen as it had prolapsed. The doctor had not read my notes and asked why I was crying when I was about to have a precious baby, very rudely in fact. She tried to force my legs into stirrups despite my protestations and was shouted at the midwife. DD2 was born very quickly then, the epidural must have worn off as it was really painful. The midwife tried to give her to me but I shouted 'take it away' as I was expecting her to look like a monster. The 2nd midwife cleaned her and checked her heart, shook her head to signal that she was dead and then brought her to me. I took her only to see that she was absolutely beautiful. She was not malformed at all apart from having rigid legs and arms. She had loads of hair and weighed 3lb 3oz. She was the spit of her elder sister. The midwife washed her, she had meconium sticking out of her bottom, that really upset me. She was dressed in way too big clothes we had bought and held by us. After about an hour, another midwife brought in a large metal box with a tiny moses basket inside. I had been told that I could keep Mia with me for the night, but they wanted to take her. They put the metal box on my bed and put her in it. It was horrifying but I was calm. I was told I was serene but I think I was actually in deep shock.

They then took me for a bath. I specifically asked them not to put Johnsons Baby Bath in the bath as the smell of that would have tipped me over the edge. They did put it in the bath. I had then had to stay overnight in the hospital (in a single room on my own on the maternity ward) and the the next morning walk down the corridor hearing babies scream and seeing newborns held by their mothers. I cried on the way home but pulled myself together at the front door as DD1 was inside. I have no recollection of what we told her. Although she had told my sister the night before at around the time Mia was born, 'my sister's gone now'. I have never really believed she said that though. I refused anti d's and counselling was never mentioned.

My milk came in a few days later. I can remember sitting in the bath, my breasts leaking and so painful, feeling so empty like something should be in my arms. That was the worst part, the 'empty arms'.

Funeral was held. I think most people did not think it was that big of an event as she was born early and I was later told that it was'nt like losing a 'real' baby.

3 months later after moving house (a month after Mia died), the house we bought when I was heavily pregnant and because we wanted a bigger house for a bigger family and with the room I'd already pictured as a pink princess nursery for Mia, DD1 got very ill.

Vomiting, stomach pain, not eating, very lethargic. I took her to the GP 4 times in 3 days and he insisted she was constipated. I put suppositries up her bum as I had been told to even though she had had diarrohea ffs. I eventually took her straight to A&E and after a 3 hour wait while she was laying in my arms groaning, and after I had had to cause a massive fuss to get her seen, a doctor came to look at her, quite pissed off I had kicked off. One feel of DD's stomach and the room was full of doctors and nurses. I remember three of them holding her down while she was screaming because they were trying to put a tube down her nose through to the back of the throat. She kept pulling it out. I had to walk out of the room as I could'nt bear to see it. 'D'H has never let me forget that. We were then blue lighted in an ambulance to a bigger hospital as they thought DD had a bowel obstruction or a stomach tumour. All the way there I had the terrifying feeling that she was going to die too just like DD2. It was later discovered that it was appendicitis that had developed into peritonitis as it had been left so long. We were told when she was taken into surgery that it was a 50/50 survival risk as they did not know it was appendicitis then. The 5 hour wait was the longest of my life.

Within a week of DD coming home from hospital, I discovered I was pregnant again. Twins were confirmed at 12 weeks. I was numb and totally in shock but I pulled myself together and got on with it working until I was 35 weeks. It was very hard financially and I had no family/friend support at all. H worked long hours and nights so I had to do all the nightfeeds, getting up to get DD to school etc on my own.

My extreme anxiety surfaced when my twins were 3 and we had just moved abroad to start a new life. I made the very stupid decision to have an abortion at 6 weeks as I just could not cope with having another child (although I did have another 5 years later hmm).

I did not link it to any past trauma (I had a very traumatic childhood as well), just thought I was going nuts. That 'new life' ended with us having to come back here penniless a year later and I have been suffering ever since.

Could this really be PTSD? I have dissociated so much from myself that it has been really hard to believe that this stuff has happened to ME, both stuff I have detailed above and childhood stuff. I was even raped and left with a STD when I was 22 but never thought of it as rape until the last few years. I am pretty sure I was drugged as I could not move or scream when I came to and found this 'man' on top of me. I cant remember how I got there or how I came to wake up in my own bed.

It's my fault I have ended up like this isn't it because I just let it all happen?

SnowyMouse Thu 16-May-13 17:08:10

Oh TTTT big hugs to you. It does sound worth exploring, it sounds horrendous. It wasn't your fault.

I didn't want to read and run, I hope someone eloquent comes along.

PaddingtonsMarmalade Thu 16-May-13 17:42:10

Hi TTTT. First, I think it's extremely important to know none of this is your fault. At all. None of it. But letting go of guilt you might be feeling might be very, very difficult.

I was really sorry to hear about Mia. How awful for all of you and what a hole she must have made in your life.

I was also really sorry to hear about how ill your older DD had been - how frightening for you all. To be honest I was really sorry to read your post in general - so much for you to manage and process.

I agree with PP - ptsd sounds worth exploring. It sounds as though you could do with some specialist counselling that focuses on the loss of Mia as a starting point.

If it helps at all, I lost my DS at 22 weeks as a result of a medical abnormality. It was absolutely horrendous and heartbreaking. The labour was terrifying and I was subsequently diagnosed with what I like to think of (in a joking way - I have no religion) as the holy trinity - PTSD, anxiety and depression. This was just over 3 years ago and I am much better now - mainly because of specialist counselling. I got this via a charity which deals with pregnancy issues. I was referred there by my GP. I can PM you their name if you'd like.

Unmumsnetty hugs to you and well done for getting to where you are now. you sound like you're doing amazingly well given all the challenges you've faced.

Salbertina Thu 16-May-13 20:15:55

Yes, Teen, you really can and you probably DO have unprocessed ptsd. I am so v sorry about Mia, what a huge, ongoing loss for you to bear.

Please get yourself some proper help to deal with your grief and all this finally. It would be a huge burden for anyone. You are NOT at fault.

working9while5 Thu 16-May-13 21:52:43

My heart breaks for you reading of such awful experiences. I am so sorry for your loss and what you have suffered since.

The thing is, labels are only labels. What's important is that you are living with this suffering and it is restricting your life.

Someone once said to me that PTSD is like having the veil lifted: once you know that terrible, awful things can and do happen to "people like you", you can't unknow it. That brings with it understandable anxiety and it can be crippling, especially in this world of ours where any ongoing suffering is seen as some sort of weakness and by others as an inconvenience, even a bore (allowing them to say callous things like your baby wasn't a "real baby" etc).

You have had a hell of a time of it and though all these labels have "disorder" in them, ask yourself, how is anyone supposed to live through such terrible experiences without experiencing significant pain?
That pain is part of who you are and it can't be undone but with specialist counselling and understanding, time and compassion, the suffering that goes with it can lessen so that you can live with it. You'll never like it though, and it would be sort of weird if you did. Closure is just a silly made-for-TV notion.

I recommend a book called "The Reality Slap" by Russ Harris which is about coming to terms with living after you have had a terrible experience and accepting that these things have happened to you.

Travelledtheworld Thu 16-May-13 21:58:35

Moved by your story. Sixteen years ago My baby son died of complications after surgery for a heart abnormality. He was only 23 days old. Even after all this time I can still remember many of the details. As you recall there is a strong connection between emotion, memory and smell . There are some things I never tell anyone, it is still too painful for me.

I was helped tremendously by a midwife from the district hospital who specialised in bereavement counselling. Also by the support of friends who had also experienced sudden loss.

I spent a lot of time writing long letters to old friends I did not see very often. Even last year I found myself re-living the whole experience with a therapist who was treating me for insomnia. The grief is buried deep and most of the time you just live with it, but sometimes it emerges to take over your life.

Interesting to see you went abroad to try and start a new life. My husband was offered a post in the USA shortly after our son died, but all I wanted to do was stay home and be in familiar places with people who cared for me. I had my lovely daughter a year later and another son the year after that.

It sounds as though you did not get the right support in the early days. And I think you needed to write all this down and put it in to sequence in your own mind. Hope this can be the start of the healing process for you. But please do find a specialist counsellor you can talk to. You have a lot of issues to resolve.

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