baby

Catherine desperately wanted a baby. But when she gave birth, there was no love.

When Catherine held her baby Jake in her arms for the first time, she did not feel love.

There was no connection. No fulfilment. Certainly no ecstasy.

In that moment, she was overwhelmed by a single thought. Catherine wanted to run away, as far from all this as possible.

It wasn’t how she’d felt almost exactly 12 months earlier, when she’d held her first baby in her arms, marvelling at his fingers and toes.

There was a difference, though.

Catherine’s first baby never drew breath. He wasn’t alive when she held him.

Along with her partner Chris, they made the decision to terminate the pregnancy due to fetal abnormality.

When Jake wriggled and cried and clutched Catherine’s flesh, she stared back at him perplexed. Where were the feelings? And would they ever come?

 

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(Continued from previous post) They finally offered me an epidural which allowed me to remove the sick bowl from my face and sit up. Jake had a monitor attached to his head and the rhythmic sound of his heartbeat filled the room, suddenly his heart rate started to dip and the next thing I knew, the room was filled with doctors and midwives saying that they had to get him out immediately. I was too tired to comprehend what was happening but my mum said there were about 10 people in the room, one doctor injected the anaesthetic whilst the other gave me an episiotomy and I was cut in 4 places. She attached a ventouse and braced herself against the bed as I pushed with everything I had left. In my head, I spoke to Bud, our first son and asked him to keep his little brother safe. I felt the ring of fire and realised that it would all be over after that bit. Jake’s cried filled the room which was a huge comfort. They placed him on my chest and I waited for that warm fuzzy feeling to appear. It didn’t. I told my mum to take him because I just didn’t want to hold him. I know now that that should have been my first warning sign. I watched Chris bounce over to the doctor checking him over and cut his cord as if I was watching the moment on TV. I felt numb and cut off from the situation in front of me. (Continued on next post) #sharedexperiences #mumssupportingmums #perinatalmentalhealth #postnataldepression #maternalmentalhealth #postnatalanxiety #pnd #perinatalmentalhealthmatters #maternalmentalhealthawareness #perinatalmentalillnessawareness #postnatalanxietyanddepression #mumsmatter #perinatalmentalillness #pna #yourmentalhealthmatters #postpartumdepression #birthstory #birthtrauma #ptsd

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Mothers on the Edge: When Catherine met Louis Theroux

Louis Theroux’s brand new BBC documentary, Mothers on The Edge, opens with Catherine in the Mother and Baby Unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital, six months after Jake was born.

She was sectioned after trying to take her own life.

Jake, rosy-cheeked and chubby-legged, has just learned to sit up, and plays on the bed beside Catherine.

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“Do you enjoy cuddling him?” Theroux asks.

Without a pause Catherine replies, “No.”

She thinks that’s why she took an overdose. “Because he deserves better than me,” she explains matter-of-factly. “Someone who could love him.”

Louis Theroux has two new documentaries coming to BBC Knowledge. Watch the trailer here. Post continues below. 

Despite so desperately wanting to feel love for Jake, she told Mamamia how “completely disconnected” she felt from him.

“I felt really sad about that, and I couldn’t make sense of the feelings I had,” Catherine explained.

Catherine had suffered from depression and anxiety in the past, but the feeling that hit her after the birth of Jake was nothing she’d ever encountered before.

“Absolutely nothing can prepare you for birth,” Catherine said

“It was incredibly painful. I was in labour for 33 hours in the end. I was pushing for four hours and he wasn’t coming out…”

When Jake was finally delivered, Catherine said: “I couldn’t remember anything, I couldn’t remember how to hold him, how to feed him.”

She began to feel ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘trapped’, which threw her into a spiral of shame. She had a beautiful, healthy baby boy, she told herself. What did she have to complain about?

“It’s a natural process. Women have babies every single day,” she said, as though she was still mad at herself that her experience was riddled with pain. “And yet I felt like I did… I felt guilty.”

 

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(Continued from previous post) The postnatal ward was full so I was placed back on the induction ward in the same bay. All I could hear were the sound of heartbeats, cries of ‘my waters have broken’ and moans of labouring women. Another midwife asked if I’d fed Jake, I said no and she proceeded to show me how to breastfeed. I couldn’t take in anything that she was saying and Jake didn’t want to latch, he started to cry again so the midwife left us to it. I couldn’t hold it together any longer. I was alone, dirty, covered in blood, thirsty, my hair stank of sick, I was disgustingly tired, in lot of pain, I couldn’t feed my baby and the sounds of the other women just tipped me over the edge. What the hell had I done? I didn’t want to be here. Alarm bell number 3. I just started to cry uncontrollably, huge great big racking sobs and unable to catch my breath. I desperately wanted to call Chris and wondered if 4 hours sleep was enough for him. He came straight away and apologised for leaving me. We were moved to a side room and I went to have a shower, the pain was unbearable as I tried to walk. I couldn’t get the thoughts out of my head of wanting to leave and never come back. Alarm bell number 4. We were kept in hospital for 5 days in the end, topping and tailing on the single bed to get a couple of hours sleep each night, because I was passing large clots and Jake was lethargic and slightly jaundiced. I had a couple of people come to see me to show me how to breastfeed but I didn’t feel like I was doing it right nor was Jake taking much interest. My milk didn’t come in for nearly 6 days which didn’t help matters and being kept in for so long started to affect my mood. #sharedexperiences #mumssupportingmums #perinatalmentalhealth #postnataldepression #maternalmentalhealth #postnatalanxiety #pnd #perinatalmentalhealthmatters #maternalmentalhealthawareness #perinatalmentalillnessawareness #postnatalanxietyanddepression #mumsmatter #perinatalmentalillness #pna #yourmentalhealthmatters #postpartumdepression #birthstory #birthtrauma #ptsd

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When perfectionism meets Instagram

Catherine has been a perfectionist for as long as she can remember.

Her husband Chris jokes with Theroux in the documentary, “you’re lucky you’re seeing her without make up,” in a scene where Catherine appears defeated.

“I followed loads of pregnancy posts on Instagram,” Catherine says, prior to having Jake, “and I saw how much they love their children and I think that almost set me up to fail.”

Theroux scrolls through Catherine’s own profile. There are no hints of how dark her life has become.

 

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Our beautiful rainbow is 11 months old! ???? No more teeth this month thank god! I can see his canines under his gums though so it won’t be long before it all kicks off again. We finally have a crawler! I didn’t think he was going to bother but he’s obviously decided being mobile is much better than sitting still. He has also learnt to wave goodbye and give kisses which he enjoys doing unless I’m the one dropping him off somewhere. Then we get a few tears until he’s suitably distracted by a piece of food…typical man ???? He completed his first day at nursery and didn’t want to leave when I went to pick him up, he settled in well, slept and even ate cottage pie! I can’t get that down his neck at home ???????? He’s learnt how to climb the stairs which is great fun until you’ve been up and down 23 times ???????? He’s taken a few steps independently but still remains very unsteady and unconfident. We’ll see if he can practice a bit more over the next month! #11monthsold #nearlywalking #babyjake #rainbowbaby #rainbowmummy

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“We were talking about getting him adopted…”

When Catherine first recognised her ambivalence towards Jake, she certainly didn’t tell anyone.

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As Theroux addresses during the documentary, the weight of social expectation placed upon new mothers can be crippling – meaning that if you don’t experience profound joy or gratitude it can feel like the ultimate sin.

Catherine went through the motions, changing and feeding, not sleeping, and then changing and feeding again. But the elephant sitting on her chest didn’t go away. He just bore down harder.

Her partner knew she was tired and overwhelmed, which he assumed was normal.

But when Catherine turned to him one day and suggested Jake be adopted – a baby they had both wanted so desperately – he knew that she needed help.

Some days, she couldn’t get out of bed. She felt like the worst thing a woman count be. A mother who did not love her baby.

“I think you do love him”

There are moments during Theroux’s time with Catherine where his befuddlement is palpable.

It’s not that Catherine does not know how to care for her baby. She knows she can change him and feed him and pick him up and put him back down for bed.

It’s just that she, in her own words, doesn’t love him.

More than once Theroux says, “I think you do love him,” a spectator in what appears to be a connection between mother and child.

Catherine remains silent.

Louis Theroux with Catherine and baby Jake. Image supplied.

While at Bethlem Royal Hospital, Catherine goes missing after being afforded a provisional walk.

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Hours pass.

Catherine had tried to, for the second time since giving birth, end her life. It wasn't long before she regretted it.

She was rushed to the emergency room and revived, before eventually returned to the same Mother and Baby Unit.

"I look back now and feel so sad for that woman," Catherine told Mamamia.

It's been six months or so since that night.

"The way I feel now about him is completely different"

There was a moment, Catherine recalls, when Jake was about eight months old, and he began to giggle uncontrollably.

"I'd waited so long to hear that laugh, and it's something that really helped us bond. We have a really good relationship..." she said.

 

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#throwbackthursday ___His 4 month picture ___ A snap shot in time that represents a moment of pure joy. A smile that expresses a happy occasion. That second it took to capture a flawless photo that fed straight into my idea of perfectionism and an immaculate motherhood. Behind the impeccable Instagram façade that day was a mother who was struggling to breathe. The weight on my chest becoming so heavy it was suffocating. The day I took that photo, I had spent most of the morning sobbing. We were in the depths of a sleep regression and my mental health was slipping. Nothing made sense, I couldn’t seem to grasp any of my racing thoughts or calm the sheer terror I felt at facing a new day with Jake. I remember calling Chris to come home again that day as I didn’t feel  like I could be alone with him. I posted that photo from my bed, that weight wrapping itself around me like a blanket made of lead, leaving me struggling to function properly. I felt like a fraud but in that moment all that mattered was that no one knew how bad it was. We have since got that photo printed and put on the wall. Some mornings it goes unnoticed as we rush to get out the door but other mornings, like today, it stops me in my tracks. When I look at Jake now, my heart wants to burst with love and I wonder how I ever could have felt the way I did when I took that picture. But I did and those feelings were certainly very real and very scary. Where would we be now if the Perinatal Team hadn’t become increasingly concerned with my behaviour? I didn’t even know it at the time but that support network was astonishingly vital. It no doubt saved our lives. I know I keep banging on about this (and I will rather annoyingly continue to do so!) but please reach out sooner rather than later if you are reading this and can relate. #speakup #breakthesilence #sharedexperiences #mothersontheedge #postnatalanxiety #postpartumdepression #postnataldepression #maternalmentalhealth #maternalmentalhealthmatters #perinatalmentalhealth #postpartumemotions #mumssupportingmums #getthehelpyouneed #motherhood #motherhoodandmentalhealth #yourmentalhealthmatters #inthistogether #itsokaynottobeokay

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Medical professionals at Bethlem Royal Hospital suggest during the documentary that her traumatic birth impacted her capacity to bond. Catherine knew what it was like to love someone so much and lose them. She knew the all-consuming grief. Perhaps it was a survival tactic. If she didn't let herself connect with Jake, then if something were to ever happen to him, she'd be okay. She'd never have to feel that again.

It wasn't a strategy that would work long term.

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Is there some of Catherine in every mother?

"What I saw in the mother and baby units was an extreme version of something that many new parents grapple with," Theroux said after filming.

Uncertainty. Fear. Panic. Anxiety. Self doubt. Guilt.

According the the World Health Organisation, 12 per cent of new mums experience a mental disorder, with many reluctant to seek treatment.

Having a history of mental illness increases the likelihood of experiencing postnatal depression or postnatal psychosis, both which are explored in Theroux's documentary.

There is a moment, as the camera pans across the Mother and Baby Unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital, which only consists of a dozen or so beds, that one wonders: Why must a woman be sick and unfathomably desperate to be offered such support?

Why do we wait until a mother is in the midst of psychosis, or in the throes of depression, to provide them with psychologists and psychiatrists and a variety of other experts who essentially teach you how to do this brand new thing?

Imagine if such support was readily available. People who teach you to play, and watch your baby when you haven't slept in four days, and help you feed and change a child.

Imagine too if the care of children wasn't divided so rigidly along gender lines, and if 'maternal instinct' wasn't simply assumed because someone happens to have a uterus.

Imagine if the weight of expectation fell evenly on the shoulders of men and women.

Perhaps then, so many mothers wouldn't reach breaking point.

Mothers on the Edge will air Thursday, July 4 at 8.30pm on BBC Knowledge which you can find on Foxtel. 

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, contact PANDA – Post and Antenatal Depression Association. You can find their website here or call their helpline – 1300 726 306.

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