Morning Sickness & Postnatal Depression: Emma's Birth Story
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
I took my pregnancy test in a bathroom outside a Woolworths store. I wasn’t due for my period until later that week, but there was an overwhelming feeling inside of me that I might be pregnant. It would have been a surprise, but after seven years together, a very welcome surprise.
Once the positive showed up, my whole world would change, and I didn’t even know it yet. My morning sickness began two days later, but as I was in my very early stages, I knew this was a given and figured it would go away at 12 weeks, just like the old wives tales would say. By seven weeks pregnant, I was in the hospital.
The previous three weeks had been a blur. The vomiting and nausea were not like I expected. It was worse. I began with vomiting around 10-20 times a day, ate the dry biscuits, tried the ginger, but nothing seemed to be working. I started losing weight and couldn’t even hold water down. At my first hospital admission, I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a debilitating condition in only an average of 1% of pregnancies where there are constant nausea and vomiting, regular dehydration, fatigue, anxiety, extreme weight loss and decreased urination. From that admission onwards, things just got worse.
I was vomiting 30-40 times a day every day, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t shower, I was in bed for months at a time, I could barely work, and I lost 10kgs. I was in the hospital at least twice a week with multiple doctors and nurses struggling to find veins in my extremely dehydrated body. At 24 weeks I was admitted for seven days with a blockage in my uretra caused by this terrible illness. Mentally, I was struggling. I had lost all sight of my life before, I couldn’t be a good partner, friend, or sister. I didn’t want to answer the phone to talk to people, I just wanted all of this to go away. Truth be told, in the heat of my mental downfall, I wanted my pregnancy to end. I knew what was causing all of this and I just wanted it to go away. But somehow, I pulled through 332,640 minutes of hell.
At 32 weeks we were told our baby had stopped growing and had Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). An IUGR is when an unborn baby is smaller than it should be because it is not growing at a normal rate inside the womb. I was monitored every second day with fluid checks, scans, and heartbeat and movement checks. I held on until 37 weeks when I was induced and our baby boy Kyan was born via emergency c section after some complications. When they showed me my baby over the sheet in the theatre my one and only thought was ’thank god that’s over’. I didn’t care that he was here, I didn’t care that we had just created this incredible life, all I cared about was the fact that I wasn’t going to be sick anymore.
The hospital stay was a whirlwind of visitors, and nurses, and learning to breastfeed (which I ended up not being able to do due to no milk supply), the first bath, hearing tests and trying to get some sleep. When we got home, the hospital bubble slowly started disintegrating and when it popped I knew I was in big trouble. I didn’t love my baby. I didn’t want to hold him, touch him, play with him, or feed him. I didn’t want anything to do with him, and my partner had to pick up every single piece of parenthood that I had just thrown on the ground. I was sad, crying all the time, wanting to walk away from my family, and just wanting to go to sleep and never wake up. This went on for a few weeks until I had my very first panic attack and ended up at the hospital with the psych triage team. Two days later I had my first perinatal psych ward admission and was diagnosed with postnatal depression, anxiety, and PTSD from having Hyperemesis.
Being there saved my life. I learnt to love my incredible baby boy. I would walk around the ward singing ‘you are my sunshine’ continually to him, and I was finally learning how to be a mum. We were discharged seven weeks later, but unfortunately only a few months after, I fell down the dark hole again and ended up in a second clinical admission, this time for six weeks. I realised I was overcompensating and wanting everything to be perfect for Kyan because I felt so much unbearable guilt over how I felt about him in the first place that when things weren’t going right, I would spin out of control. I was trying so hard to make it up to him that I was losing myself while doing so. I really struggled to get out of this headspace, and I still feel the guilt of ‘losing’ his newborn days, and I feel that and carry it with me every single day and I will for the rest of my life. But I’ve picked up the tools and knowledge along the way to work through it and to focus on the good and the positive.
It was in this second admission that I learnt about self-care and how important it is as a mum to look after yourself, to give yourself a break, and do something nice that you enjoy. So over a year after my first admission, I decided I was in a really good place in my life and wanted to give back to mums who are going through similar mental health conditions as I did, or mums who are just having a rough time in their motherhood journey. I wanted to share some love with them and show them its ok to look after yourself and prioritise yourself for a moment, and that’s where my project ELM Self Soothe Boxes was born.
I create boxes for women going through postnatal depression and anxiety and donate them. I do not profit financially from this, and I do not charge for the boxes. I donate them to perinatal wards across Melbourne, and to people who might know a mum friend of theirs going through a tough time.
It brings me so much joy and happiness being able to do this for others, and in a way, I look at it as my own self-care time. I continue to raise money through my go fund me page, and generous donations of products from local businesses to be able to continue making these boxes.
Going through postnatal depression, and anxiety and PTSD changed my life but it made me a better person, and it made me a better mum.