I don’t think many of you will be surprised with my #mamaissue that I have chosen to kick of the series with. It is something I have both touched upon and gone into great detail about before on the blog. My #mamaissue is the lack of mental health support on offer for NICU parents in the UK.
First of all, I know this will not be the case for all, and some will have received the support and care that all of us deserve. Why is it a postcode lottery in this country that determines the care that you receive when you baby is admitted to NICU? In this day and age surely we are all entitled to receive the same treatment? At the time I have to say I feel punished with the lack of treatment and support I had because of the area I was from. This should not be the case, and on a brighter note a friend had a baby in NICU in the same hospital and received some amazing support from a Bliss Nurse. She believes this may have been down to the fact that she was on her own, or that she was in there for a long time. We were in there for 9 days and I had Greg by my side but why did no one ask me if I was okay? Of course, I wasn’t okay but just if I was coping. I wasn’t and it was clear for all to see. A medical professional I would hope would have spotted the signs early on and maybe it would have got to the stage where I was diagnosed with a mental illness, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
I think I can pinpoint the moment where perhaps the support network I had when I was giving birth melted away, the next morning. After Elijah, had been admitted to NICU overnight and I was moved to a side room. I was woken up, and helped to the toilet and to get dressed. The shift must have then changed, as it wasn’t the same nurse that came back. I remember she was very stern and handed me some tablets. I asked her where my baby was, how he was. She shrugged, she didn’t know and left. She didn’t bother to find out and I was left in the room on my own for 3 hours before Greg came up. I think I was still slightly out of it, I had even asked the tea lady where my baby was. I just wished someone, anyone had just made an effort to update me. I understand how busy everyone is, but I was a mother who had just given birth and no one could tell me where or how my baby was. This then impacted when Greg did wheel me to NICU, I was so overwhelmed at seeing Elijah like that I fainted and had to be taken back to my room.
I am not using this post to badmouth the midwives and nurses of the hospital as I think they do an amazing job. I had some amazing midwives who would sit with me, talk with me and ask me about Elijah. I remember one sat with me for what seemed like hours talking about Gone Girl. That’s what I needed, for someone just to talk to me like I wasn’t the poor mother who’s baby had a heart defect and didn’t know would make it. For someone just to notice I was there. Elijah had been in NICU for three days before anyone at all gave us any information about having a baby on NICU. That was a quick visit in the form of some leaflets. I have said this before it is not particularly the best way to get across the information about services etc. when you are struggling to keep it together and just function.
|Just one question, one check could save so many|
For those first few days we heavily relied on other NICU parent support. To tell us how things worked, what we could do, the best Doctors to get something done. That information was invaluable to us, we passed this on to others to. I think in the whole time we were in NICU for the 9 days we relied on the NICU nurses a lot more to point us in the direction of what we needed, and where to get it from. I think back to the time I was in hospital for those 7 days and think back to everyone who came to see me. The heart consultant, the NICU Nurse, the breastfeeding specialist (I wasn’t allowed to so slightly pointless), the Bliss volunteer and discharge rep who wanted me to fill out a survey! Then put her foot in it by asking where my baby was and if I was taking him home today, that’s was it. No one came to see me to check I was okay, that I was coping. 80% of the people that visited were informing me about Elijah’s condition. No one noticed I wasn’t eating, that I was asking for as much medication as they would give me. That I cried all day every day in my room on my own.
I find it unbelievable that they have someone to come around and ask you to rate how you found your stay was, yet they have no one coming to check the mental health of mothers? Especially mothers who have had a traumatic birth, and have had a baby admitted to NICU, mothers who are leaving the hospital without their baby. After we were discharged we were under the care of the NICU Outreach team who were amazing with Elijah. We didn’t particularly need to go and see the Health Visitors as most of what needed to be done, had been done by the Outreach Team. Here is where we slipped through the net I think. As we were under the Outreach Team, most didn’t bother with us. Or if I did have a question was directed right back to them, or the hospital again. Basically, if you have a baby with something wrong they will not touch you with a barge pole. Which I understand, they may not be medically trained to deal with certain conditions, or feel able to give advice. But what about me? Where was the support for me? I never felt able to go to them to say I wasn’t coping. No one ever asked. Why are NICU mothers not being offered support? No one bothered to come and check up on us. Which I find quite odd, I had a baby who was waiting for an impending lifesaving operating and we never received one call from the Health Visitor. In the whole 6 months. Or to check up on him afterwards, or me, nothing.
To play devils advocate, you could be asking well why didn’t you go and get help yourself? Why are you having a go that someone didn’t notice while you sat back and did nothing. I will say you are right. But mentally I was not able to, I was not in a good place. I wasn’t eating, I was abusing medication and my moods were all over the place. I would call up Greg at work begging him to come home as I couldn’t cope. I planned how I would leave. That I would put my passport in an overnight bag and hide it in the play room and sneak out when Greg came back from work. I was traumatised I could barely get up in the morning never mind go and say I needed help.
|NICU LIFE- finally holding Elijah|
It took 18 months for me to get the courage to go and get help from the GP. I was diagnosed with PTSD shortly after. I was worried, they would judge me and take my baby away, or call social services, I was a mess. The counselling didn’t stick, I had a really encouraging telephone call with someone who asked me a lot of questions over the phone, and for once I was completely honest. I was told someone would get back to me, I would be a priority, over a month passed before I heard anything. I chased them, and chased them and nothing. Counselling was over before it began. This made me wonder, if I was a priority how many other mums, NICU mums, PND Mums are we all getting the mental health care we need? I slipped through the cracks, how many others do? Why are NICU parents, and indeed new mums not checked on by a mental health care professional at some point. As surely this is the time our mental health is likely to suffer? Why is there not some sort of check system to go and visit those who have had a traumatic birth or had a NICU baby, or even lost a baby? Early on, with tips and advice on coping strategies or just support.? Perhaps then it won’t get to the point where we are diagnosed with a mental illness.
There are many gaps in the mental health care mothers and in particular NICU parents receive. I am hoping to change this by becoming a Bliss Campaigner. I will do what I can to get improved mental healthcare for NICU parents and mothers too, after all this is what we deserve. I could go on about facts and figures about this, but I think my story has more impact now on illustrating the point I am making. There really is a lack of mental health care support for NICU Parents in this country.
You may have experienced this, or did you in fact receive good support? Did you suffer from PND/PTSD as a result? Did you struggle to cope? Were you offered any support while your baby was in NICU or afterwards? Did any of you have a baby in Norfolk and Norwich NICU? If, so I would love to hear your experiences, I am hoping to collate some stories to illustrate the point to my local MP. Please drop me an email at; email@example.com
If you have a #mamaissue you would like to share and raise awareness for please drop me an email! I would love to feature the in the new series #mamaissue and don’t forget to use the #mamaissue on your posts and pics on social media!
Whatever your issue, no matter how big or small please get in touch I would love to feature a range of issues on the blog and give you the platform to raise awareness of them. Whatever your issue, no matter how big or small please get in touch I would love to feature a range of issues on the blog and give you the platform to raise awareness of them.
Please contact me on; firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description, or if you have a post please attach.
Don't forget if share any pics, posts etc #mamaissue