My name is Jayne Gregg, I am a mother of a beautiful baby girl and I am married to a very supportive husband called David. I work as a Psychotherapist supporting adults who are experiencing a variety of psychological difficulties. Recently, my own physical and psychological well-being was put under stress.
We were over the moon to find out I was pregnant at the start of 2018. Unfortunately, like many parents, our journey wasn’t going to be as smooth as we had hoped. Instead, it has been a journey of great testimony.
On Sunday 15th April we were super excited about our 12-week scan the following day. As I walked into church that Sunday evening, I took a sudden and severe headache. One part of me thought something was seriously wrong and the other part was saying “you are catastrophising – it’s only a headache”. One thing I knew – I was in ALOT of pain. After some hours of perseverance I ended up in A&E – “Mrs Gregg, we know why you have a headache…you have two bleeds on your brain. We are waiting on an ambulance to bring you to the Royal for surgery”.
So…on the day we were due to have our 12-week scan, I was being prepped for emergency neurosurgery. The consultant informed us that if they did not intervene I would die, however, the intervention would cause me to have a stroke. We were told I might lose some left side functioning, memory and personality traits; they could not say if our baby would survive. I was petrified; my whole body was trembling like a fish out of water. I thought that if I let them put me to sleep I was going to wake up to learn our baby had not survived, I was no longer able to walk or maybe I wouldn’t wake up at all. BUT there wasn’t really an alternative to undergoing surgery- in my mums words “it was a no brainier”. I kept repeating in my head “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Immediately after the surgery, as I initially woke from the anaesthetic, I kept removing my oxygen – no matter how many times I was told not to. I sat up in the bed and shouted to them “Listen, I climb mountains all the time, I do not need oxygen to climb this one”. Now, I do like mountain walking, but I believe this was God saying “I got this”. It turned out my oxygen levels were 100% and I didn’t need any additional oxygen after all!
Have you ever heard the poem “The Weavers Hand”? Well, God weaved some dark threads into our life at this time, but he could see the beautiful picture on the upper side. You see, in some ways, this was the ‘perfect storm’. The bleed was not caused by pregnancy, but pregnancy triggered it to happen when it did. It turned out that I had a weak vessel in my brain and this bleed could have happened at any stage. At 12 weeks our baby was formed enough to survive, had this have happened earlier or during labour then the risk would have been much greater AND the fact that it happened during pregnancy meant I didn’t take painkillers which could have led to me falling asleep, none the wiser. When I came round in recovery it became apparent that there did not seem to be any lasting damage. I spent that night in high dependency and the next evening we had an ultrasound – on the screen we saw our amazing baby…sucking it’s thumb, as if nothing had happened.
Everyone was amazed at how well I coped with everything that happened – and I did. I returned to work after 3 months off and worked up until the week before my due date. I was physically and psychologically feeling great. On Monday the 22nd October 2018 our beautiful baby girl entered into the world – Rose Elizabeth Gregg. Although I have brain damage as a result of what happened, there has not been any lasting damage to my functioning.
Things then began to hit me; I was experiencing the emotional rollercoaster of becoming a mother, the hormonal changes which accompany childbirth and I guess I began to ‘allow’ myself to consider the gravity of our journey. I noticed I was very hyper vigilant about our daughter’s well being and felt anxious every day. I struggled to believe that Rose was OK and found myself thinking about various illnesses which may have gone undetected – of course I was not thinking about the common cold, but catastrophic illnesses. I also began to worry about my own health. When I was writing in my journal I found myself thinking about Rose reading it on her 18th birthday – except I wouldn’t be there. I thought of all the milestones I would miss in her life and often felt anxious and tearful. This had the potential to be a very slippery slope.
Thankfully, whilst I still experience waves of anxiety (like all mothers), this heightened and hyper vigilant state began to subside. What helped? I talked things through with my amazing midwife and husband, I leant on what I believe in (prayer), I forced myself out of the house, I cried and sometimes I just sat down with some chocolate. I thank God every day for my health and for my daughter.
Pregnancy and becoming a parent, whatever your journey, is an anxious time. Talk to people who you trust; people who you know will validate your emotions and support you. Be aware of what works for you in terms of self-care – a cup of tea, playing an instrument, speaking to friends. Try prayer, even if you have never considered this before – what have you got to lose. Remember you are not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed of, you can and will do it and you are just as amazing as your baby.
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