Kathryn’s story (London)
My pregnancy sailed by in a buzz of baby shopping, scans and antenatal classes. All this changed less than 24 hours after our son was born. We had a very long and difficult labour, followed by a petrifying emergency C-section. We were then placed in the High Dependency Unit, but a few hours later my husband was sent home in the middle of the night. This is when I had my first psychotic episode.
A cruel nightmare
In a medical sense, on that first night, I presented with catatonia. The midwives couldn’t rouse me and I was unresponsive. At first, the doctors thought I’d had a massive stroke. In my head, I had no idea who I was, where I was, or what was happening to me. I did not know whether I had had a baby, a husband, a family, or if this was all some cruel nightmare. I was convinced that I was about to die, that my heart was about to stop, my belly was going to explode.
After that first psychotic episode, my family and I managed to convince the hospital team that it was a one-off event, and that with a lot of family support we could manage better at home. Sadly, we were proven wrong. After just one very stressful and sleepless night, we went to the hospital’s A&E department and begged to see the kindly psychiatrist who had seen me earlier in the week. Thankfully, he swung into action and arranged a bed at our ‘localish’ Mother and Baby Unit [MBU].
At the MBU, things did get worse before they got better. But with the right sedatives and antipsychotics, and lots and lots of rest, I gradually improved. The MBU staff were also incredibly patient and supportive, and it was through working with the unit’s child psychologist that I finally started to see my son as a little person and a future where everything was going to be okay.
Eventually, after many weeks of confidence building in the unit I became well enough to be discharged home. Since then, life has got better and better. I’ve learned how to mother and love my son, and he has become the centre and light of my life.