I’m Steph, thirty-three year old, Bristol based mum to Ciara 5 and Kaiser, who’s still a babe in arms. I’m also happily (most of the time) married to my best friend, Shaun.
Divamum the blog was born when I was pregnant with my first child. I have always been a writer, and spent a lot of my teens writing poetry expressively. As I faced specific challenges with my pregnancies, this blog became my salvation.
Mum life was never in my plans growing up. Maybe as a young girl when I was still keen on playing with my dolls, but once I turned into a teen, full of hormones and fractured conceptions – my only plan was trying and failing desperately to find a man that loved me enough to stick around. Sad, eh? But don’t feel sorry for me, without my heavy dose of Daddy issues and broken ‘relationships’ (I use the term loosely) in my past, I wouldn’t be the woman, mother or the wife, I am today.
In 2015 when Shaun and I found out we were expecting a baby, I was being medicated for my mental health. I have long suffered/lived with/despaired of/ Anxiety and premenstrual dysphoria and by this point in my life, had taken a string of antidepressants, finally settled on one that seemed to be working for me. When I spoke to my GP about my pregnancy, she valiantly encouraged me to remain on the antidepressants, changing me to a different drug, which she assured me was safe to take in pregnancy. As a first time mum I didn’t do my own drug research, something I’ll regret forever. I carried on taking the prescribed medication and upping the dosage accordingly when I found myself disabled at 16 weeks. Symphis Pubis Dysfunction is a condition in which the ligaments in your pelvis become stretchy to make room for the growing babe in your uterus. However with SPD the ligaments become over stretched causing significant pain that is worsened by activity. I was on crutches by 16 weeks and became all the more depressed for it. By the end of my pregnancy I’d long since been using a wheelchair to mobilise. I was induced at 39 weeks with the pregnancy complication preeclampsia. I was rushed fo hospital after a routine midwife appointment flagged severely high blood pressure. It took another five days for our daughter to arrive. Once she was finally here we soon realised all was not well and our daughter was whisked off to NICU suffering withdrawal symptoms (from the antidepressants) This was a factor not known of, or considered when deciding to continue taking the medication I was prescribed. As a result I suffered a huge trauma in relation to that first pregnancy and birth experience. Not just mentally, but physically too. The SPD though much better postpartum, had left my body weak, and the hormonal changes that come with growing a whole human left my immune system battered. I was diagnosed with the chronic health condition fibromyalgia later that year.
Fibromyalgia causes chronic and widespread pain, profound fatigue and cognitive dysfunction. It can also be accompanied by comorbid conditions such as migraine and chronic fatigue syndrome. Managing a condition that often leaves you feeling as though you are wading through treacle with shackles on, is hard. It’s harder when you have children to care for. I found myself pregnant with my son in 2020. Though not an ‘accident’ per say, he wasn’t planned and I was in turmoil about how the pregnancy was likely to effect my health. I made the decision to stop taking antidepressants when pregnant with my son. By this time I was only taking them during the luteal phase of my cycle to manage symptoms of premenstrual dysphoria. In theory with PMDD if you’re not having a menstrual cycle, you shouldn’t experience symptoms. After the trauma of withdrawal with our daughter, I thought I was doing the right thing by my son. On crutches by 16 weeks again, diagnosed with gestational diabetes and repeatedly warned of risk factors and complications. I was struggling to manage life all together. I couldn’t walk and I wasn’t capable of caring for our daughter without support. Despite stressors my mental health wasn’t my first concern, because physically I was so downtrodden I hadn’t considered the impact this was all having on me mentally. However, behind the physical pain and inabilities, my mental health was declining, leading me to suffer a catastrophic breakdown.
I came to regret my decision to stop taking SSRI’s my second pregnancy when I became riddled with anxiety. Panic attacks so acute, and intrusive thoughts so petrifying, I genuinely believed I was losing my mind. I was admitted to hospital at 38 weeks and my previously planned induction was brought forward to assist my mental health recovery.
Fast forward some months, I’m recovering with hope in my heart and a desperate keenness to journal all of the trials and tribulations that come with being a mum, not least one who lives with both physical and mental illness.
“There is good in everyday, it’s up to us to find it” ~ Divamumsteph
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