Today, in the middle of #maternalmentalhealthweek is a day I will always remember. I was 28 weeks pregnant and had been told the 20 week scan I had Placenta Previa - everyone seemed quite calm about it because most of the time the placenta moves out the way. I'd already had a minor bleed but figured it was overdoing it moving house.
I think it was about half 5 in the morning when I woke up confused, because I initially thought I was peeing myself...up until that point I'd never seen that much blood come out of my body in one go before. Went into that weird space you sometimes go to in a crisis, where once it had stopped, I went to go and sort myself out a hospital bag (stubbornly).
What happened next was a blur of injections, tests, more bleeding and doctors telling me my waters had broken, I needed an emergency c-section and someone came into chat about having a look around the Neonatal unit.
I literally couldn't even process half the information. I wasn't ready yet. She wasn't ready yet. A day or so passed and the morning I was going to have the section, they were satisfied the bleeding was holding off and it was cancelled, but I was repeatedly told I would go into labour 'within days'.
I didn't. I spent 3 weeks in hospital before I negotiated being able to stay at my parents as it was nearer the hospital - because in there I had very little support in terms of mental health. My anxiety and depression were (quite understandably) at levels I could no longer manage. I got little in terms of rest and had to watch my partner suffer driving the 60-mile round trip at least once per day, whilst having to continue to work and support me whilst I just cried and cried.
6 weeks after I was taken to hospital, we had a planned c-section as the placenta had not moved and she was born at 34weeks weighing 4pound 11oz. That was followed by 3 weeks in Neonatal, where I lived for half that time. The other half I got taken home every night and taken in every morning.
The feeling of having to leave your premature baby behind in the hospital is a feeling that I will never ever forget for the rest of my life. But at the same time, I knew I couldn't continue living in the hospital because she needed me to be her mama.
That part of the journey happened 2 years ago today. So why am I telling you all this?
Because maternal mental health (and our mental health in general) is a complex tapestry. Not situational, able to be pigeonholed, cured with a pill...
It has took me this long to unpack and process fully what happened with my first pregnancy and birth. In my case, I had a HBAC only a year later, and the birth of her sister had what I would say was a much stronger effect on my mental health in the months afterwards. I would say this is probably because the first one was traumatic and I cruised through the first year postpartum on a kind of autopilot from it.
It's a journey of healing. Sometimes situations can affect you much further down the line that you expect them to, or sometime other things like the birth of a subsequent baby can have a knock-on effect.
So to the mothers in Neonatal feeling the very real pain of not being able to take your baby out of the incubator and hold them tight without wires trailing, to the mothers alone at 2am in a hospital bed pumping breastmilk for a baby they're having to look at pictures of... it won't be like this forever. But you'll always remember.