Having a baby after PTSD – am I mad?

For some mothers giving birth is a magical, exciting and altogether positive experience. For many others, including myself, it is an experience that begins with excitement, but doesn’t have the happy ending.
After giving birth to my first daughter I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Odd right? I thought only soliders had that. Turns out mothers quite often get diagnosed after giving birth.  The symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, struggling to sleep, avoidance of certain places, persistent negative feelings about yourself, being easily irritable and a constant feeling of guilt, fear or shame. To name a few. I didn’t have all of these symptoms, but the ones that impacted my life the most were flashbacks, negative feelings about myself and persistent guilt. It hasn’t been my favourite life journey but it has been one that I’ve tried to be as open as possible about with my friends and family.
All these thoughts and feelings were triggered by one event – giving birth. So why am I back here in a situation where I have to do it again?
To put it simply, my love for my daughter and desire to have more than one child, as well as months of therapy has led me to feel like I can face this fear.  It will be easy right? “No two births are the same”, “babies come out much easier the second time round”, “you’ll be fine”, are the most common comments I receive when speaking abour my fear.  The truth is, before I fell pregnant I was adamant that when the time came I would have a cesarean.  
However, now that I am pregnant again I find myself reliving my daughter’s birth more frequently. My feelings of failure and incompetence are trying to reappear and I am panicking about delivery. What do I do? Avoid the trigger completely and ask for an elective c-section? Or try to heal old wounds and give it another go? The only problem is, I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know which option will make me feel better, and which might make me feel ten times worse. 
It has been two years since my daughter was born, but still on the eve of her birthday I layed in bed next to my husband sobbing, asking him when the flashbacks would stop and when I would stop feeling like such a failure for the way she was born. My midwife has referred me to the local mental health team to start therapy again, I have my first session in a couple of weeks. But I still have five months to decide what birth option is best for my baby and I.
Hopefully when I have made my decision I will update, but for now I’ll have to continue in this limbo of wondering what I should do. 

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‘Trying’ to conceive

When a couple decides they’re ready to have a baby they become part of the “trying to conceive” club. For some couples there’s really no *trying* about it. First month of having unprotected sex and boom! They’re pregnant. For others it takes a lot longer…
I was always told at school about how easy it is to get pregnant, basically warned that any kind of sexual contact could risk a little bundle of joy 9 months down the line. I really did think that for me it would be that easy, I’d plan it all out, have baby number 1 when I was 25, baby number 2 at 27 and if I fancied a third I’d have it just before I was 30. What a plan. Can’t go wrong there can I? Or so I thought…
It took 18 months to fall pregnant with our first baby. 18 long, emotional, stressful months.  You see, until you’ve been on that journey you really don’t know what *trying* for a baby really means. It can become a very lonely place, a place that only a few people understand. Until you’ve sat crying every month staring at a negative pregnancy test, sobbed when you’ve heard about the latest relative to fall pregnant, felt exhausted by the heartache of wanting a child, begun looking up every environmental factor that can affect your fertility and changing your lifestyle to adapt then you’ve never really known what it’s like to try for a baby. Of course I meant no disrespect to anyone who hasn’t been there, it’s a dark place and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. But I feel as though it’s best to talk about so that anyone out there experiencing these feelings knows they’re not alone.

After 18 months we fell pregnant with our beautiful baby girl. Pregnancy, for me, was hard. Labour was hard. Being a mum is hard but worth every single tear of stress that falls down my face. Being a mum is also the best thing I’ve ever done, my heart is suddenly full to the brim with love. I have this little human who I would do anything for, who makes me smile when I’m down, who can stress me out beyond belief but with one cute act can make me forget why I was even angry.  Was she worth the wait? Of course she was. Every single month. 

However, we are now thinking about baby number two. This should be easier right? We’ve all heard the stories, “it took me 4 years to fall pregnant with my first but then I was pregnant after the first month of trying with my second”. I thought that was going to happen to me. But no, I was filled with a false hope. I thought it would be easier now that I know I can get pregnant, I’m not infertile. So what’s my problem? Why am I sat here trying not to cry about the fact that it’s 5 months into trying to conceive again and we’re still not pregnant?  I’ve realised that no matter how many babies you have, if your heart wants more and you struggle to get pregnant that feeling of disappointment, stress and heartache stays with you. 
So if you know anyone who is trying to conceive please don’t tell them it will be okay, don’t tell them they need to relax, and don’t tell them they need to stop trying. Just be there for them, listen to them, let them offload. Until you’ve been there you won’t understand how they feel, and that’s fine, but for now they just need someone to talk to, to get it off their chest.  Someone to joke to about it, because if they don’t laugh they really will cry. 
And if you’re trying to conceive then you’re not the only one who has been there. See if you can find someone who has had the same struggles as you, having someone who understands makes a huge difference.  

Everyone falls pregnant under different circumstances. For some the answer really is to stop trying, for others the answer is to try harder.  Unfortunately I believe I fall in to the latter category. When I fell pregnant I was jogging every day, eating healthily, not drinking and cutting out caffeine.  So January is my time to get my body back into tip top shape to carry another baby. I know I can do it, but until then I’ll be here, feeling quietly sorry for myself every month pretending that it doesn’t bother me.