"I feel I should have enjoyed her early months, but simply couldn't" - Eleanor's story

Eleanor discusses how her daughter's difficult birth journey affected her mental health, and how she is coping now.

Having tried for a baby for nearly two years we were overjoyed when we found out we were expecting in October 2018. We had just about given up!

The first 30 weeks went well with no problems, I kept myself fit and healthy. Even my depression, which I had suffered with for the previous three years, seemed to improve and my mood lifted.

However, from the start of the pregnancy my anxiety took a downward spiral and kept a hold of me in many ways, stopping me from enjoying certain aspects of my pregnancy. I always believed something would go wrong and I would never get to meet my baby. The anxiety was overwhelming, I couldn’t even look at the next week in the babies’ progress book, as I believed if I did before that day then something would go wrong.

From 30 weeks, I began gaining weight very rapidly each week 4/5lbs, headaches, pains in my upper right rib cage, with a steady rise in my blood pressure and substantial Oedema. It was also at this point Saoirse, who had previously been quite active started to slow down in movements and sometimes not move much at all in a day.

Every time this happened I would go to the doctor’s or - late at night - the hospital to have baby checked. My consultant then sent me for in-depth scans and they discovered there was resistance to blood flow in the placenta and baby was on the small side, so I began being monitored for her growth. I was also given hypertensive medication to try and get my blood pressure under control.

At 35 weeks they discovered that I had pre-eclampsia with nearly 30 times the normal amount of protein in my urine. Saoirse was also moving less and my blood pressure was increasing and not responding to medication.

At 35+5 I was given two steroid injections and admitted to hospital. A day after I was admitted, baby's movement pretty much stopped and my blood pressure reached dangerous levels so much so the nurses thought the monitor was broken! There was also a big reduction in the amniotic fluid, so it was decided that an emergency C-section was best for both of us.

Saoirse was born on the 5th of June 2019 in Abu Dhabi Royal Women’s hospital. She cried straight away which was such a relief! She had some jaundice however was doing really well given the circumstances. As I was taken to recovery, my blood pressure wouldn't stop climbing. They quickly had to call my husband back as they became worried I was about to have a seizure/stroke. They struggled for what seemed like forever to get the medication into my veins. At this point Saoirse had to be taken away as her blood sugar levels were getting low and they needed to look after her.

I was taken to the high dependency unit where it was discovered I had a blood clot in my right leg and fluid on the lungs which were causing my breathing problems. It was 12 hours after giving birth that I actually held my daughter properly. Trying to breast feed her at this later point was hard but I so desperately wanted to. Luckily, I was able to get the colostrum for her.

I was advised to come off my depression medication prior to the section, which hit me hard the first few days after birth. The baby blues really did set in, especially as for two days Saoirse was separated from me. I then developed HELLP Syndrome due to the severity of the pre-eclampsia with elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count.

After a week in hospital we were finally able to go home, we couldn’t wait! We spent one night at home and the next day had to return to hospital for my continued monitoring for the HELLP and blood clot. On the way back from hospital we stopped off to get some food and found Saoirse was unresponsive in her car seat. Whatever we did we couldn't get her to open her eyes and couldn’t tell if she was breathing. Luckily there was a doctor’s nearby so we rushed in there, the doctor eventually got her to wake up but said she appeared to be holding her breath and needed to go immediately to hospital.

We have never driven so fast in our lives. She was admitted with breathing problems, it appeared she was holding her breath but they needed to monitor to check it wasn't anything else. They told us the apnea was entirely down to her prematurity, they also felt that she wasn't feeding properly. I was desperately still trying to breast feed her but she just wasn't interested and just fell asleep. They gave me breast feeding support in the hospital, and after a week they were happy that her apnea was under control.

My anxiety was through the roof, both paranoid of her breathing and feeding. We slept for weeks with the light on so we could see if she was breathing.

After three months I had been trying to feed her and expressing but she got so many colds she just couldn't breathe properly whilst feeding from me. So, I decided to exclusively express milk, it was so important to me that she had my milk. Even at 18 months I was still expressing milk, something which I am finding hard to give up!

My mental health took a nose dive after moving back to the UK when Saoirse was three months old. I struggled so much with my medication, due to the sedative in it, I was hallucinating at night when I had to get up to feed her. All the while my husband was working away at the time. I had to come off my medication and this, again, had a detrimental effect. I suffered with postnatal depression along with postpartum thyroiditis.

I found this time so hard and don't look back on it with good memories. Something that upsets me as I feel I should have enjoyed her early months, but simply couldn't.

I am coping better with my depression at the moment, due to the constant and unwavering support of my husband.

Today, Saoirse is a thriving 18 month old, who is doing so well and keeps us on our toes!