Becoming a mum was shaky start for me, not at all how I had imagined it to be. I had prepared myself in the months and weeks leading up to my due date. I read books, attended antenatal classes, participated in an Australian Breastfeeding Australia workshop, everything and anything to get ready to bring my baby into the world. However on my due date is when things started to unravel for me.

The night of my due date my waters broke and I thought to myself that everything is happening just as it should. The next day I went up to the hospital to get checked out and I was in the early stages of labour so sent home to progress the labour. This cycle continued for the next four days however my labour was not progressing. To be safe my doctor kept me in hospital, I was becoming tired and my baby was starting to show signs of distress. Within the space of 10 minutes I was prepped and being wheeled down the corridor to the operating theatre. My son was brought into this world in the nick of time with a cesarean section.

After the operation, I waited in the recovery ward for my son to be brought into me. And I waited, watching the time tick by, minute by minute waiting. Waiting for someone, anyone to come and tell me what was going on. I could hear commotion beside me with nurses rushing in and out, talking in hushed tones. Not quiet enough to be overhead by me as I understood the whispers of medical lingo to know that the patient beside me had passed away.

Paralysed, both physically from the analgesia and emotionally from being separated my baby, I laid there waiting. In a hospital that allows mothers to connect with their newborn during recovery after surgery, I did not get this precious time with my new baby. It was a long 45 minutes later my midwife came to take me back to the maternity ward where my son had been sharing his first skin to skin cuddles with his father.

On the ward I soaked up the snuggles and inhaled the scent of my baby boy with the biggest, exhausted smile on my face. I was elated to be with my family however no one spoke of what had happened on the recovery ward. Our parents came in to visit their new grandson and my dad noticed that I had the shakes. Little body tremors like my body had gone into shock. These shakes would come and go during the first few days after the birth. I felt quite lightheaded which I put down to having just gone through an operation. I remember sitting up nursing my son when this wave of nausea came crashing over me as I quickly asked my husband to take our baby before I vomited everywhere. The nurses came to our aid and helped me back to bed where they tilted the bed back to get some blood flow back to my head. And I slept, more sleep than I had had in the past 4 days, I rested till my baby needed his next feed.

Breast feeding with a cold cloth on my head

As new parents we muddled our way through the first few days, a blur of feed, sleep, change nappy, repeat. I strongly wanted to breastfeed my son, doing everything by the books and what I had been taught. My body didn’t get the same memo. Each time my son would latch on and start to feed I would get this feeling of starting to warm up to the point of being unbearable, my feet would start to swell and I would start to tremor. I would sit there and clutch my baby as I watched my feet swell up. It was like I was trapped in my body not able to say much as I either got the shakes or passed out. There was a number of times where we would either call my dad or our friends down the street to come and hold the baby whilst my husband supported me to land back on earth. I continued to experience these episodes of tremors and passing out till one episode I felt my chest was going to explode and the ambulance was called.

My feet swelling up

Hours later spent in the emergency department, with tests and a chest x-ray, it was a week to the day since giving birth to my baby. I was in a lot of stress during breast feeding and I had been calling the midwives regularly as I was emotionally upset that my baby was not breast feeding. I was very distressed about the health of my baby as I thought he had not been putting on weight. I had not had decent sleep in days and I had difficulty concentrating. The doctors described my episode as ‘went blank and then floppy followed by nodding of head, trembling of hands and feet’.

Diagnosis: Vasovagal Syncope

On my discharge papers an Acute Community Treatment Team (ACTT) referral was made re postpartum depression/blues with the ACTT social worker stating ‘Not an ACTT issue’.  Over the following days this all changed as I unravelled further…

What is vasovagal syncope? I will let you know in the next blog post!

Global Stress Summit