MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE: Days and nights were a blur of feeding and crying
BACK IN 2000, Derek and I were living in London. We had relocated to pursue challenging, interesting careers and had just bought our first home there, a bright and spacious apartment in the picturesque commuter belt town of Richmond-Upon-Thames.
Life was good and about to get better. We had been married for seven years at that stage and, although we both wanted children, we were only in our early 30s and felt no pressure. I was thrilled when I discovered that I was pregnant. I remember breaking the news to Derek one lovely summery evening in early May.
I was bursting with excitement as I swapped my customary glass of wine for water and shed tears of delight.
My pregnancy was very straightforward. I never once felt sick, just a little tired at times. Alex was due shortly after Christmas and finally, on January 23rd, two full weeks after my due date, I was brought into hospital to be induced.
The birth was a traumatic one. Progress was painfully slow and Alex got into difficulties during the birthing process with the result that we were rushed into an operating theatre, signing waivers between contractions, to have an emergency Caesarean section. All went well and our baby boy was born perfect.
The period I spent in hospital is a sleepless blur. I think I slept for a total of 45 minutes in three days. I had opted to breastfeed, but my lack of mobility, soreness, tiredness and inexperience made this very difficult.
I was soon supplementing with bottles and allowing myself to feel ridiculously and needlessly guilty.
Once I was discharged, my isolation from family and friends and my inexperience made life with a newborn very challenging. Alex was a beautiful baby but a demanding one. He cried for prolonged periods and refused to feed. He was eventually diagnosed as having acid reflux, a common condition where the oesophagus is underdeveloped and stomach acid is regurgitated, causing a burning sensation similar to bad heartburn and making feeding a very difficult process.
I lost sight of my lovely healthy baby and focused on his failure to gain weight. Days and nights were a blur of feeding and crying, feeding and crying. Derek was a wonderful support, but his job was demanding and I was alone for days on end. I began to suffer from extreme anxiety, a condition I had experienced before in my teenage years. I had violent, debilitating panic attacks and was convinced that I would lose consciousness and be unable to care for Alex.
Our marriage is very solid, but I was becoming increasingly difficult to live with, shrewish and tearful all the time. I was afraid to give voice to the terrible, selfish thought that by having this lovely baby I had ruined our lives. Overwhelming feelings of guilt fuelled my anxiety…