PND, Children, Loss & Work
by Lauren Joan
My story begins when I became a mum, five years ago this November. My husband and I were married almost exactly one year when our daughter was born. I loved being pregnant and loved the idea of being a mum, it was all very exciting and very new!
Two days after my waters broke, following a scary couple of hours with the help of lots of doctors, surgeons and midwives (what felt like the entire cast of ER!) our beautiful baby girl “Cj” was born! Cj was wonderful and we didn’t have any major worries with her.
At the time I was on maternity leave from a multinational retail business where I was the manager. I had always been career orientated and loved being in work and knew only having nine months off would be fine for me and I would be ready to go back. In the December I even went back for a keeping in touch day and stayed way too long and did way more work than I should.
My DH (A) was mad! He explained that it was no longer just him and me I had to start treating work as a job and not a lifestyle and Cj needed me. Six weeks later the company went into administration and I was made redundant. Funny how things work out? I was devastated but almost seen it as a good thing that now I knew I had to focus on being a mum. Well that lasted 2 weeks!!! I was then offered an incredible opportunity to help with a start-up of a new business and come on board as one of the duty managers. I jumped at the chance. I panicked that with no income we couldn’t survive as I had always been the higher paid one in our relationship. I have to say at this point I have the most amazing, supportive, enthusiastic, loving , caring, drives me insane at times but hilarious husband, who supports every single thing I say or do. He could see that I was getting excited about this new opportunity and felt it had come along at the right time and to go for it. My parents who have always been the most amazing supporters of me thought it was something I should go for.
At this stage Cj was about 8 weeks old, so my sister agreed to look after her on her days off as she was going to come work for the same company. We are all very very close! It was all working out great! Even when a one point my granny turned round to me and said ” aw Cj will probably think Caitlin is her mum now instead of you!” Eh gut wrenching feeling!!! But I believed me working was the best thing after all it was 3 days a week that’s nothing!!
Three days turned into longer days with long hours but my employer was fab and I could often bring Cj into work and she loved the attention. I loved it. I was able to bring skills from my previous job and learn new ones it was a fantastic place to be. My problem is I was lost when I wasn’t there.
My days off all I did was attend a few mums and tots or spend ridiculous amounts of money in pound shops or Sainsbury’s just to do something as I didn’t know what to do with my little one.
Before I knew it Cj turned one! I remember thinking how on earth did that year go quickly but it did. We threw a small party and it was lovely. I remember thinking gosh children are hard work and I think I will do as my parents did and wait until Cj was in school before having another one….. 1 month later I found out I was pregnant! This was not planned! I still had 3.5 years before this was to happen.
I remember taking the pregnancy test with Cj in the bathroom and phoning A who kept saying ” congratulations” while all I could think of was “how how how?! Can we cope?!” Even though I thought A was fine he was just as scared, he straight away found my mum and took her into the store in their work to tell her! (I told you we were all close all working together in some way or another lol) I then went and told my sister who screamed and my dad who hugged me and said “how are you going to afford that” lol so then I had to go and see mum and A in their work. I remember telling mum what dad said and she told me she would “kill him” when she got home. She hugged me gave me a kiss and told me it would all be fine.
Like with Cj I worked up until a couple of weeks before my due date I was still enjoying work and even agreed with my employer that I would be back in about 2 months!
I was due the end of August. My parents who loved holidays had booked Vegas before I was pregnant and they of course were going to be away over my due date. My mum was freaking out! But it was fine nothing was happening, they arrived home and we ordered some pizza, I went to the toilet and called A. My waters broke. A then had to go up to my jet lagged mum and ask for a pair of pants, she thought he had lost the plot. Mum went all high-pitched and sent us straight off to the hospital and said they would watch Cj.
Hospital confirmed my waters had broken but told me to come back in the morning ( this was 7pm) I came back at 2am and Ethan (Epen) was born at 5am 27/8/13. Cj was a small 6lb 3oz Epen a whopping 9lb 1oz. So I had to go to theatre to get stitched up etc from a lovely 3rd degree tear. A had Epen and did the phone calls etc.
When I came out of surgery my mum was waiting for me. All I remember is her stroking my face looking straight into my eyes with so much love while I (probably still high on drugs) talked so fast about the whole thing.
Mum kissed Ethan and said, “sorry little man I have to check my baby is OK first but I’ll spend time with you tonight!” She then kissed me again and said her and daddy and Caitlin would be up later and off she went to work. I remember thinking gosh I can do anything my mum loves me.
Do you remember I said Cj was 8 weeks when I went back to work? So really I didn’t have a maternity leave. Suddenly I had two children to look after and I felt like I hadn’t a clue. It was just too much. I had told me employer it would be a bit longer than the 8 weeks until I was back as I was having to attend Physio after the birth for 6 months. 6 months with no work seemed like a very very very long time. 6 months with 2 children everyday felt horrendous.
I was drowning. I didn’t know what to do. The famous stay at home parents vs work parents argument happened in our house. Who had less sleep. Who needed more time to themselves. All the usual. Though my parents, sister and husband and some friends were very supportive and helped I still felt like I was not doing a good enough job. How could I make sure they both were getting the right attention etc.
I made a point of attending mums and tots and mops just to get me out of the house. They were great but it was once they finished for the day what did I do?? I really felt lost and in a daze. I painted a face everyday but just didn’t feel right. I thought it was just a normal feeling of being a mum.
In Jan 2014 my Godfather passed away from a long battle with cancer! We were all devastated. He was 46! I just kept thinking about it and how it was just crazy and unfair. My mum was up helping her best friend almost every night from his death and I felt like me feeling “not normal” was a ridiculous way to feel after all he was really sick and it was probably all in my head.
My sister-in-law had her second baby 5 months after Ethan was born and we started to go out for walks one night a week just the two of us. I remember speaking to her and telling her I felt awful and like a stranger in my own body. But then felt bad because she had two kids too and I felt like I was just being a moaner.
One day I decided to build up the courage and go to the doctor. I explained I was trying to eat better, exercise,have me time but I just didn’t feel normal. He told me I had make up on and that I looked ok so therefore I couldn’t have PND. I was devastated he almost confirmed what I was thinking that I was a crazy fool.
Around March 2014 my mum was saying she was really tired. This was to be expected she was working full-time and looking after her best friend any spare time she had as well as looking after me Caitlin, Dad etc.
That Easter the Doctors said she had a bad virus. At the beginning of May she turned jaundice. On the first Saturday night in May my dad and her went to A&E. She was admitted and told that it was gall stones. All what she had been told through her X-rays at her private health care doctors office. I remember standing in the parking lot with my mums best friend as she cried and said she just wanted mum to get out of hospital as it was just all too much after her husband. I told her it was nothing to worry about and she would be fine.
Saturday 10th of may I was in Dublin for a conference as I had joined a business. I got a phone call from my DH to tell me he was coming to get me. I knew something was wrong. I managed to get a lift home and when I arrived home he told me my mum had been diagnosed with stage 2 cancer and it wasn’t looking good. My world crashed! I died inside. I went to the hospital and I cried!
Monday 12th the doctors gave “good news” we were over joyed and prayers were answered. Monday 19th mum went down hill. Friday 23rd May 2014 mum died!! Mum was 46! Ethan was 8 months Cj was 2. My mum was gone.
That wasn’t the worse day of my life. The days after that were/are.
My family are very very close as I’ve already said and I thank God that we are. We take each day at a time. Some days we have good days, some days we have bad days, some days we have blah days.
As I previously said my Mum worked with my husband. So he found going back to work very hard. Just before Ethan’s first birthday I was approached by the boss at my husband’s work to say there was a job about to be advertised and what had I thought about going back to work. I thought it was a sign and mum would have loved it so I applied. I had been doing a business course as I wanted to set up my own business and enjoyed working my brain again. So not thinking anything of the job I applied to just apply and managed to get an interview. I was so pleased when I was successful. I had found the most amazing solution of childcare through a family friend. So I knew the kids were in safe hands. I enjoyed going to work again and part of me liked that there was still a connection with mum through the business.
The first year without mum was hard the first of everything is hard. But we found our own way of doing things and as long as we were happy and together we knew mum would approve.
Six months ago I went to the Doctor again. I knew something was wrong. I knew I had been through a lot but I just knew I needed to talk and see if this time a different Doctor would see me as I was trying to explain. I wasn’t sleeping and I just thought I could get something to help with that. My Doctor was fab. He listened, he understood, he made me talk and made me explain everything. He knew the situation and then asked me what I wanted. It was a completely different experience. For 6 months now I have been on medication and I have felt it has helped me. I feel like I can make it through a full day without having mini break downs.
Don’t get me wrong. Some days are easier than others. Some days I can only take an hour at a time. But it’s helping me focus on when I’m in work to do work, when I’m at home focus on the kids and A and my days off to just do what I can and if the house is falling apart that’s ok. As long as the people around me are safe and healthy.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I do know that by talking more and being more open than I ever have it helps. It might not make the situation go away or stop the tears, meltdowns or shitty days but at least If I talk and tell others my thoughts on the day ahead we can all work together to get through life.