Becoming a Mum with ME

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I always hoped that eventually I would be well enough to have children but it was always a distant dream. Then I got into my thirty’s and got scared. My health had been improving gradually but how would I ever have the energy to have a child? The pregnancy, the birth, the sleepless nights. How would I cope with an active toddler?
My family were very encouraging and I found enough courage to take a chance on the whole idea, and then I got pregnant straight away! A few months earlier, I had found out that I had endometriosis, which I must have had for many, many years but it was not picked up by the doctors I had seen. How many of you must there be out there with an ME diagnosis who are not taken seriously by GP’s when they go to see them with concerning symptoms? Luckily I finally saw a Doctor who really listened to me and suggested that I might have endometriosis and referred me for investigations. A few months later I had surgery and a few months after that I was pregnant!
I loved being pregnant. For the first time I experienced feeling the same most of the time. Even moods, nothing extreme. Up until my pregnancy I had lived a life in two halves. One half of the month I felt like ‘me’ and the other half I turned into someone else; anxious, insecure, depressed and moody. That’s not to say I never felt those things at all the other few weeks of the month but it was so pronounced. It was like a switch was flicked on. The pregnancy hormones felt amazing.
I went to antenatal yoga birthing classes, which I loved. I was seeing myself as well and strong. I was carrying and growing a little life inside me! It was the happiest time that I could remember having. I read all about natural birthing and psyched myself up for a drug free water birth.
It was not to be. My son was born by emergency caesarian and I never experienced labour. Some people might think ‘lucky me’ to not go through the pain of labour but it was such a shock to be pregnant and then suddenly be handed a baby in theatre. It wasn’t at all how it was meant to be. I thought I should be feeling full of joy and love for my baby but what I felt was despair and desperation. I had thoughts wishing I hadn’t had him and that it was a huge mistake and I couldn’t do this. I felt so guilty. I felt so exhausted. I literally wanted to die some days. Somehow I managed to do what I needed to do. I had a very stubborn determination to carry on breastfeeding and I concentrated on this, eating and drinking and slept at any opportunity that I had. I just wanted to sleep nearly all of the time. It was really hard as my son seemed to have reflux and was distressed when feeding fairly often. I was determined to find the answer to this.
We had been trying to get him to sleep in a co sleeper next to our bed which was always a major challenge and I had to hold him for up to 40 mins after every night feed, day and night before I could put him down to go back to sleep. He was waking frequently through the night. It was unbelievably exhausting. We consulted a lactation consultant and was told that if he needed to feed every 1-2 hours all night long then that was what I had to do. This was not what I wanted to hear at the time. Something had to change. Out of sheer desperation I had started to contact a sleep consultant but could not bring myself to go through with sleep training. It just didn’t feel right. I really do understand why people do it but I didn’t want to do controlled crying or CIO.
I honestly feel that continuing to breastfeed my son and starting to co sleeping all night saved me from the depression that I was going through. Something clicked when I started feeding lying down. When he was about 7 months old his latch was almost magically sorted and breastfeeding became what I’d always hoped it would be. And I could sleep! When I realised that I could feed him lying down and then fall asleep right after with lying on my bed next to me it was like a miracle. I knew the practicalities of this before but I struggled so much to do it as I thought I would never be able to sleep as I’ve always been a light sleeper. It worked though! I could now manage the broken sleep and not only that but I truly bonded with my son in a way that I hadn’t been able to feel before when I was so exhausted.
I just want to make clear that I’m not saying that I think that the cure for post-natal depression is breastfeeding and co-sleeping, I’m just saying that it helped me to bond with my son and relieve some of the exhaustion.
I wonder sometimes whether what I experienced was really shock from the trauma of his birth. I went to an appointment called something like ‘after birth thoughts’ some months afterwards where I met with a midwife to discuss the birth. It did help to talk about what happened and getting some facts straight about what happened and in what order rather than just the bits I could remember. It made me realise that I really had done the best I could and that sometimes these things happen. Out of my NHS antenatal group none of the Mum’s had experienced the kind of birth that they had hoped or planned for.
At one point I had thought I was having a significant relapse of ME but when I discussed all that I was able to do I realised that I would be ok. Not exactly fully well yet but not where I had been either. I still go to bed early, every night of the week and I hardly ever go out in the evening. This may be the case for a long time and for many Mums out there too but I am doing amazingly well now when I think back to the days when I was barely able to leave the house. My son is a walking, talking little guy now and I have a lot of fun with him and love teaching him (although I often feel like he is teaching me!) about the world. For the first time in my life I feel like I can really think about the future and all the possibilities there may be.

Comments

2 thoughts on “Becoming a Mum with ME

  1. Sounds like you’re doing an amazing job 😊. It’s fascinating as I was also ill with ME/CFS when I became pregnant and I felt so much better in pregnancy! You’re right it must be all those hormones! It was lovely to feel normal for a while. I had hoped it may have disappeared (and I have since come across some women who have recovered after pregnancy) but my symptoms all came back about 7 weeks after birth. Still we plod on and do our best! My son also had reflux so I totally sympathise. It turned out he had milk/soya allergies. I wasn’t able to breastfeed but I think we all do what works best for us don’t we! So glad it helped you 😊. My little boy is now 2 and a half – crazy where the time goes! I have also wrote a blog post on becoming a mum with ME/CFS! xx

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    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, I wish I had continued to feel as good as I did when I was pregnant but it really changed my experience of life as I knew what it felt like to be ‘well’ and I am still in much better health than before I was pregnant. It is still a continuous process of focusing any way I can on wellbeing and what that means in my day to day life. I used to think it would be either I was well or I wasn’t and recovery was a goal I could ‘achieve’ somehow but I don’t see it like that anymore. That’s interesting that your son also had reflux. My son also has a dairy sensitivity. I am very passionate about breastfeeding but I know all the challenges that can come up and it certainly doesn’t work out for everyone. My son has just turned two. What is 2 and a half like? My son is very active!!
      I’ve enjoyed reading your blog about becoming a Mum with ME 😀 xx

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