It has been almost two years since my last blog post and in that time, I went through my third miscarriage, was diagnosed with endometriosis and had my first-born child (Miss P) on the 24th of March 2020.
I tried to pick up my blog again in the last month of my pregnancy but each time I wrote down my thoughts I could not bring myself to publish them as I was very scared to talk about my pregnancy online. Call it anxiety or superstition but I just couldn’t get past that wall. Now that my daughter is ten days old, I thought what better time to pick up my blog again as a new mother with bipolar who has just given birth during a pandemic and who is navigating the waters of parenthood during mandatory self-isolation and being separated from family and friends. As I recommence my blog, I will be sharing my experiences as a first-time mother as open and as honestly as I can.
Pregnancy was such an anxious time for me. The entire time I felt as if it was too good to be true, as if it was all just a dream. I was so afraid that this pregnancy would end the same as the others. Even when I passed 8 weeks which was the furthest that I had gotten in any pregnancy. We had dating scans completed for our first three pregnancies and had never heard a heartbeat with any of them. That was the first milestone we had to pass with Miss P. I still remember the fear I had while the technician was setting up that history was going to repeat itself. I felt as if my own heart was just waiting to start up again and then we got to see her heartbeat and I felt as if the vice on my heart loosened and I could breathe again. I can never explain the feeling and even thinking about it now makes my stomach flip with excitement and joy. Despite all the relief of this moment, each new stage of pregnancy brought with it more anxiety, fear and worries.
I struggled with intrusive thoughts, especially in the early stages of my pregnancy. I would often get so anxious that I would feel physically ill and I would feel as if I had a boulder on my chest. Even after several scans that showed my daughter was growing healthily and showed her strong heartbeat I was often gripped with fear. My intrusive thoughts would tell me that my baby wasn’t growing and that something happened after my last scan and I would not know until my next scan. Logic would tell me this was wrong; I would try and challenge my negative thoughts and fears. I would remind myself that my belly was growing and that I could feel my baby moving but the intrusive thoughts would break through my defences and tell me that I was just imagining the movements and the weight gain was a result of overeating not from a growing baby.
It was torture, these thoughts would torment me so much that I went to see my psychiatrist. He believed I was coping well with the anxiety, even though the level of anxiety I felt was quite high. We decided that I would remain unmedicated and at each visit we would revisit the possibility of medication and we would decide again that medication was not necessary yet. I was often mentally and emotionally exhausted because I was constantly challenging my irrational and negative thoughts.
I thought it would get better once I could feel my baby kicking but as I said before, that just brought with it more worries and fears. From time to time I would worry about reduced movement and fear that the worst had happened. I knew that I could go to my obstetrician’s office for a quick scan to reassure me ,I knew that I could go to my birthing hospital for a CGT Scan to make sure everything was ok, but I also knew that if I did this each time I was afraid of reduced movement that I would just be feeding into my anxiety and OCD and making the situation worse for myself. Eventually I was able to cope with the fears of reduced movement but soon enough that was replaced with the anxiety that came with being diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
The last trimester of my pregnancy was probably the hardest for me to deal with because of the gestational diabetes (GD). I feared all the complications that could come from uncontrolled GD. Most people would tell me that the diagnosis wasn’t a big deal because once I had my daughter the GD would go away but what they failed to understand was that I was not concerned about the way GD could have affected me, I was afraid of the impacts it could have on my baby. Uncontrolled GD can result in large babies, disproportionately large babies, respiratory issues, hypoglycemia and stillbirth. I was fortunate in the fact that my GD was purely diet controlled. I am not a person that takes up a diet easily but if it meant giving my daughter the best chance at life then there was no question about it. I craved junk food, I craved carbs but the risk to my baby meant that the brief indulgence was not worth it. I was diet controlled for roughly ten weeks. Thankfully my GD had virtually no effect on my daughter but it was so hard to get closer and closer to my due date with the risks of GD weighing heavily on my shoulders.
My labour was relatively easy even though I experienced over a week of prodromal contractions before my daughter was born. Two days after she was born my mood began to drop. I read that this is normal, after the euphoria of giving birth a woman’s mood will begin to change as all the oestrogen begins to leave her body. I didn’t know about this before it happened to me. You often hear about post-natal depression, but I rarely hear about the first 4-6 weeks where most women will go through this period of low moods and depressive emotions.
What set off the drop in my mood was when I was looking through my photos trying to create space in my phone when I came across a photo of the positive pregnancy tests from my first miscarriage and the pictures I saved afterwards about pregnancy loss. I started crying as I thought about how hard the journey was to get to my daughter, my first-born. I cried because of the realisation that if any of those three pregnancies worked out, I would not have my daughter now. I would go through it all again to make sure that I will always have her. It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the feelings of happiness and gratitude I feel to be able to hold my daughter in my arms when I thought I might never have a child of my own. I often feel overwhelmed by the range of emotions I feel. I feel such joy and bliss when I look at my daughter. I am often in awe and disbelief when I think that I have a child now, she is no longer just a hope or dream for the future, she is real and in my arms.
But having my daughter in my arms can also be quite terrifying. My daughter was born during a pandemic, something that I never thought I would see in my own lifetime let alone my daughter’s. COVID19 hit the news in my third trimester. A month before my due date I received an email from my birthing hospital regarding the new safety measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus. The email said that expecting mothers would only be allowed to have their partner in the delivery room and their partner was also allowed to be the only visitor. I honestly didn’t mind these precautions as I was only going to have my husband with me during labour and we welcomed the alone time to allow us to adjust to having a newborn.
A few days after Miss P was born, the Australian state and federal governments enacted laws to prevent social gathering and enforce self-isolation and social distancing. My husband and I were going to wait several weeks before we let people see our daughter based on the advice of our obstetrician but with new rules in place we are unsure when any of our family and friends will be able to meet Miss P. We could wait until she gets her immunisations done at 6 weeks but that will only protect her from gastro type bugs and whooping cough. It won’t protect her from COVID19. I have really been struggling not being able to see my family. I haven’t seen one of my brothers and his new wife for two months. The rest of my family I haven’t seen for almost as long. They live 15 minutes away from me but as I am asthmatic and have a newborn baby, I must continue to self-isolate.
My siblings and father and mother in-law aren’t the only people I have been missing. I haven’t been able to see my cousins, godparents and friends in over a month. I miss them all. I miss seeing my loved ones and just sitting around chatting with them over a cup of coffee. I cried so much in the first few days after coming home because I miss my family so much. This virus has shown me that I have taken a lot for granted in the past. The silver lining of this virus is that once the lockdown rules are relaxed we will value time with our loved ones so much more, we will make the most out of our time and make sure to see the people we care about more often. Even the little things like being able to go to the movies or go out for a coffee with our friends won’t be taken for granted anymore.
I am looking forward to dinners with my family, to impromptu jam sessions with my dad and brother on the guitar and me pretending I can sing. I look forward to the debates and discussions, I look forward to the banter I had with my siblings and cousins. I look forward to breakfast catch ups with my best friend and most of all date nights/days with my husband but now we have a little babe to bring along on our dates. I hope this doesn’t go on for too much longer.