After the birth of her first child, Raphi, Rochelle suffered from undiagnosed PTSD for 12 months. It was a mind-numbing journey that propelled her to the depths of despair.
She bravely shares her story…
The bond had suddenly gone
Even though I was prepared, my birth experience was still far from any expectations I had.
After I took Raphi home, I couldn’t connect with him. He was like a stranger to me.
During my pregnancy, I’d developed a special bond with him, I felt so connected to him, but when he was born, that bond was completely gone.
I felt like I was one person around him, and another when he wasn’t around.
I was loving and caring towards him, but it was all fake.
I knew what his cries meant and I knew what his needs were, and I took good care of him. But I was overwhelmed with feelings of shame, guilt and disgust.
What sort of mother was I that I couldn’t feel anything towards my baby?
I felt dead inside.
I’d have flashbacks to when he was born. I was both excited and optimistic to be having my first baby, but my birth experience was horrible.
My water broke and I noticed a green tinge, meconium poo, and I was told to come in immediately.
My obstetrician looked really tired and he was cranky. I said, “It’s good to be living in a time of modern medicine, not 100 years ago.”
He replied, “Your first child would have died 100 years ago.” And things pretty much went downhill after that.
I felt helpless, the drip was put close to my bone and it hurt. Later the anesthetist gave me a stern, “Don’t move or you’ll be paralysed” when putting the epidural in.
A surreal birth
I had a caesarean, and felt the cutting, tugging and tearing.
The whole experience was surreal. My baby was born, and I was so incredibly cold, and shaking uncontrollably – I felt so frightened.
Raphi was wrapped up tightly, and placed on my chest for a few seconds, before being whisked away.
Looking back now I just see haunting images, and snatches of conversation. The nurses talking about medical staff, doctors chatting among themselves – I felt ignored.
It only got worse
I struggled to be alone with Raphi.
I was irritable and I ached physically. I had so much anger inside me, suppressed fury. I shut down instead of showing it to the outside world.
My future looked bleak and hopeless.
Even Mother’s Day this year, which is normally a huge special event for our whole family, was painful. I ate two bites of my breakfast in bed, fed the rest to the dog, then went back to sleep.
I withdrew from friends and family. I couldn’t talk to my husband about how I was feeling. I didn’t really want to see anyone. I was in my own private hell, and it felt as though there was no way out.
I experienced panic attacks, demobilising depression, and anxiety and self-doubt. I went to see a GP who prescribed anti-depressants. But I didn’t want to take them until after six months so I could continue breastfeeding.
I diligently took them over nine months, but they made me feel worse. I wished they’d worked for me like they do for others.
I kept working and I tried to function, I exercised. Friends asked, “Why don’t you smile anymore?” I’d get comments from people like, “Snap out of it” or “There’s something wrong with your brain, you have so much to be grateful for.”
Finally, a diagnosis
A psychiatrist diagnosed me with PTSD, anxiety and depression 12 months after Raphi was born.
I discovered that dealing with the PTSD was the place to begin my healing journey. I went to education seminars. I started to read books, including The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. I’d tell myself over and over, “I am safe,” “I am safe” to stop the feelings of panic.
It’s hard to pinpoint when I finally turned the corner. I began socialising – it was painful but I forced myself to go out. I listened to live music and I did yoga.
I’d been in pain for so long, the healing was at times a two-step-forward, one-step-back process. But I was making progress.
Learning to laugh again
Raphi and I are silly together now and have fun. He is such a happy boy, he lights up a whole room and he makes me so happy.
If there are other mums going through this, find something that makes your heart sing and do it a few times a week.
Each time you invest your energy into something you love, it will help. Leave the past behind you.
I still get flashbacks, but now they aren’t as emotionally charged. I’m feeling things again, good things, sometimes bad things – but I’m experiencing life again with my husband and my baby by my side.
This article was first published on KidSpot and was republished here with permission.