“Post-traumatic stress disorder and postnatal depression aren’t spoken about enough” – Kelly’s story

Kelly's baby Lily

Kelly gave birth to her daughter Lily at 35 weeks and two days. She shares her experience of post-traumatic stress disorder and postnatal depression with the hope that her story will bring comfort and reassurance to other parents going through a neonatal experience.

We found out we were pregnant back in June 2021. We had a fairly standard start to the pregnancy – a little bit of nausea, but nothing really untoward.

However, when we got to our 12-week appointment, we were very quickly told we were going to be consultant-led. This was because I was hospitalised and put on oxygen when I had Covid-19 in 2020.

This alongside with my weight and the fact that my mum was pre-eclamptic in her pregnancies, triggered me onto a red pathway. My baby was growing at a rate that just seemed a little bit unnatural - she was very big.

I ended up testing positive on the glucose test at 28 weeks. I had gestational diabetes and was told that I needed insulin straight away because it was that bad and they couldn't get my sugars under control. We had regular growth scans and she measured well above the hundred and 10th percentile the whole pregnancy.

I ended up being signed off from 21 weeks as I was completely unable to do my job - I'm a nurse, so I was meant to be on my feet all day. From 28 weeks, I was on insulin six times a day. When we went for our 32-week scan, my baby was measuring at six pounds and six ounces.

The consultant had said that they were going to let me go to 37 weeks initially. However, they then asked me to make the decision for the baby to be born at 35 or 36 weeks, which just threw me and my husband massively because we'd seen a lot about prematurity.

We asked lots of questions, but nobody could give us a solid answer. They were both risky options but if we waited to full-term, we were told the chance of a stillborn was going to be really high. We ended up opting for 35 weeks.

Kelly's husband with Lily on the unit

I was admitted into the High Dependency Unit (HDU) at Crosshouse Hospital in Ayreshire, near our home, two days before we gave birth. I was given steroids and we were told that NICU would be waiting for our baby.

I gave birth to Lily at 35 weeks and two days; she weighed nine pounds and thirteen ounces. The doctors expected her to go to NICU straight away, but when she came out she cried and they were really happy with her. I was shocked as I was so prepared mentally for her to go to NICU.

We got her through to the recovery room, but two hours later, she turned blue when my husband was holding her.

They ended up having to resuscitate her, practically in front of us, with just a blue curtain blocking our view. We could hear them saying, “breathe, baby, breathe.” I was an absolute wreck.

I couldn't move my legs fully and was in an absolute panic trying to get out the bed, but they whisked her away to NICU. We stayed in the recovery room with a lovely couple beside us who had just had twins. It was so difficult as we could hear all these babies crying but we didn't have Lily with us.

I automatically shut down and thought, we are not having a baby. We're not taking a baby home. This was when my postnatal depression (PND) and post-traumatic stress (PTSD) started.

When we got into NICU, the staff were amazing. Our baby just looked so big. Everybody had these tiny babies and mine was this huge baby sitting in an incubator. She ended up needing a nasal gastric feed and was on CPAP for 24 hours.

Lily also had jaundice and was on a bilirubin bed for two days before she was discharged.

Kelly and Lily

I had this really bad, overwhelming feeling of being helpless. I also convinced myself that other parents had worse experiences than mine and I didn't have the right to be upset.

We were on the unit for five days and then Lily was discharged. Since then, we found out she'd had an echo which showed a hole in her heart and stenosis of the valve between her lung and heart. Luckily that's now improving.

The PND and PTSD was the hardest part of the neonatal journey because I couldn't initially bond with Lily. My husband had to do all the care for the first seven weeks because I just couldn't even bring myself to be a mum.

After the c-section and then went through that phase of feeling like a bit of a failure as a woman as I couldn’t give birth naturally, but I suppose any type of birth is natural - I see that now.

I was also surrounded by a couple of friends that said I was lucky to have a c-section as it’s so much easier, and those things start to play on your mind.

I also wanted to breastfeed, but I had haemorrhaged during my c-section, was diabetic and overweight, so I just produced no milk.


When I found Bliss I actually started talking about my experience and sharing that I was suffering from postnatal depression. When I read everyone else's stories, I realised that I wasn’t alone. It gave me that comfort actually being able to see that there were other mums and dads out there that had been through all different kinds of neonatal experiences.

I don’t think PTSD and PND are spoken about enough – I felt the stigma and didn't want the label of having a mental health issue or being a bad mum. Now I’ve spoken to a lot of my colleagues about it and more people have experienced it than you think.

It was a really difficult time and it made me think about people that don't have that support system in place - I was very fortunate that my husband stayed at home for two weeks. Without him, I actually don't know where I’d be.

My husband also had to go through a little bit of counselling eight weeks after Lily was born. Once I'd kind of started to pick up and got myself sorted, he suddenly took a massive dip in his well-being.

Lily is a character - she has an attitude but she is such a beautiful little girl and so lovely - we are very blessed.

I hope that my story will let other people know that they're not failures.