PTSD always on my shoulder…

Today is a real challenge for me.

I am in hospital again for some spinal surgery. Something that’s completely unrelated to my birth trauma but I am terrified.

PTSD recurring symptoms…

I didn’t sleep last night and feel anxious, nervous, sick and more than anything scared. Will I die? Will I bleed out again? Will I wake up in ITU again?

Deep down in my logical mind I know that none of these things will happen. This is routine, planned surgery for a back issue. But I can’t shake that nagging doubt.

The hospital have been fab. They have acknowledged all of my past history and shown real care and empathy. They have suggested and I have agreed to have a pre med before going down to theatre to calm me. They have have also agreed for my lovely husband to accompany me down.

Wish me luck……!





My PTSD wife’s panic attacks & paranoia / fear of losing our children.

Sunday, 08 January 2012 1am.

Tonight / early this morning, my wife had a minor Panic Attack at the end of us watching Hereafter (A drama centered on three people touched by death in different ways, by Clint Eastwood) – incidentally, a great film that she does not regret watching.

My wife’s minor panic attack this time was only a series of rapid short breaths lasting around 5 minutes. I say ‘only’ as I can say from firsthand experience her panic attacks usually mean her hands contracting & cramping up and the attack lasting around 15 – 30mins. I eventually managed to calm her down, limiting her panic attack – I sometimes wonder how long panic attacks can last for without assistance? (please comment if you know).

She opened up telling me a few truths and thoughts that she experiences on an almost daily basis; largely due to her PTSD, but partly due to the birth trauma experiences we’ve suffered via our son & daughter. Though in my opinion, her thoughts (that I also share albeit less frequently) are simply because her traumatic births make us less able to take our kids lives (and ours) for granted compared to the majority of other parents.

Having both shed tears and tight loving hugs, my wife explained how she often wonders if our daughter is ours – rather, she worries almost daily that someone’s going to prove her 16month old daughter is not hers??!!  Having collectively spent days over the last year researching PTSD via both forums and professional sessions, I believe my wife’s paranoia to be a typical PTSD symptom:

(& depression in general actually) …

I’ve researched what words I can use (and which to refrain from using) to support my wife with her PTSD disorder. Click to read up on Some Good Things to Say to the Clinically Depressed.


1st time tonight @ Fathers Reaching Out.

Tonight will be my first time to ever go to a support group for myself.

I’ve always pursued helping my wife…

Strange as it sounds, 4 years of my wife’s traumatic events has only seen me help my wife.

I’ve bought her a book on PTSD, setup this website about Birth Trauma PTSD, attended her groups with her in order to contribute ideas on setting up a ‘Mum’s Birth Experience Support Group’.

Helping myself: What makes me tick; or not tick more importantly?

My mindset always demands detail.  I’d love to know

  1. if & how the last 4 years may have affected me,
  2. does it contribute to some current flaws in my character and/or day to day living?
  3. Is it holding me back? When I get tough days are they just tough as in General Anxiety issues or is there a more acute form of depression contributing to my ‘tough day’ at times?
  4. Will speaking to others tonight highlight the above for me?  We shall see.

Tonight’s Support Group:

  • 2nd Tuesday of the Month 6-7pm
  • Cwmbwrla Day Centre, Swansea, SA5 8LD. (Centre only: 01792 652101)
  • Support Tel. 07400 78 55 58 –



I will update this post to let you know how I got on!

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Help a PTSD sufferer Habitualise their trauma.

(& depression in general actually) …

I’ve researched what words I can use (and which to refrain from using) to support my wife with her PTSD disorder.

Good Things to Say to the Clinically Depressed…

Consider whether your sentence, ‘what you often say’ or ‘are about to say’, displays whether you care or not, by applying the following simple criteria…

  1. Show: You believe they’ve a disorder
    …many disbelieve unless they’ve experienced it themselves.
  2. Show: That you’re open to listening
    …the majority can’t be bothered, and actually discourage the sufferers ‘moaning & groaning’ – listening actually encourages the clinically advised habitualisation of memories & feelings.
  3. ‘Get over it’, ‘Cheer up’ or ‘Look on the bright side – does not help them get over their spout of PTSD or Depression!
    Rather than insinuate there’s a simple way around their feelings (actually, their mental state) – try the above points instead, ask them to chat, listen to them, ask them to go for a Tea or a Coffee.
    DID YOU KNOW… Getting the person (the sufferer) to habitualise by ‘speaking about’ actually scientifically helps them deal with their condition. So by contrast, getting the person to dismiss their current mental state worsens i.e.prevents their ability to habitualise and process; hence ‘deal with it’.


Our 1yr old & 3yr old kids (and I) would be much better off and have an easier time, if, others around my wife were more accepting of her clinically diagnosed disorder…

Acceptance + Discussion = Support.


It is my belief I’ve witnessed, that others do not understand my wife’s disorder as I do.

I’ve been in her sessions, read PTSD books & participate in such forums, hence, they do not support her anywhere near the extent that I do/can.

In fact, I’d guestimate in relation to my level of support, others give 5% (some even inadvertently into minus figures).  Simply because something called habitualisation isn’t facilitated to occur.  Allowing a depression sufferer or PTSD sufferer to repeatedly discuss or even moan; facilitates habitualisation – a key PTSD healing tool, don’t take my word for it, if you doubt me ask any specialist(NHS link?)


Onlookers often mistakenly assume that PTSD sufferers are simply dramatising the everyday stresses that ‘the rest of us’ suffer. Not so, I believe everyday stresses are known as  Generalised Anxiety Disorder.


“PTSD is a real illness.
You can get PTSD after living through
or seeing a dangerous event, such as war, a hurricane, or bad accident.
PTSD makes you feel stressed
and afraid after the danger is over.
PTSD affects your life and the people around you.

If you have PTSD, you can get treatment and feel better.”

Some light reading perhaps…

Today I went back to work!

After 14 months off. Gulp. I felt sick, nervous, anxious and scared. I didn’t even know if I’d make it through the door let alone stay.

But, I did and do you know what? I enjoyed it. I felt back in control, I enjoyed seeing colleagues, friends and being more than just Mummy, even if that is my most important job!

It helped that I have a supportive husband and amazing Mum who looked after my babies for me and made me feel confident and proud of me.

I’m realistic, I know that I won’t feel like this every day at work but its a start, a new chapter. I have sadness that I’ve said goodbye to my last ever maternity leave but I DID IT!

Our Western Mail double-page spread promotes Birth Trauma awareness.

Picture of Bec Walters (& family) who was diagnosed with PTSD due to Birth Trauma after both children.

Bec Walters (& family) who was diagnosed with PTSD due to Birth Trauma after both children.

One of our Mum’s (&her family) was approached & interviewed by the Western Mail  …achieving a double page spread to promote awareness of Birth Trauma PTSD.

The article reads as follows

‘Call for more support for mums experiencing traumatic childbirth’

MORE support is needed for women who experience a traumatic childbirth, experts said yesterday.

They also believe midwives, obstetricians and health visitors need to be trained to recognise the symptoms of serious mental illness, including post traumatic stress disorder, in pregnant women and new mothers.

The new maternity strategy also states health boards must develop appropriate services for pregnant woman and new mothers experiencing mental health problems.

Mother-of- two Bec Walters was diagnosed with PTSD following the birth of her children. The 38-year-old, who lives near Swansea, almost died giving birth to Joseph, three and Eva, one.

Bec, who has set up a website to help other women affected by PTSD following childbirth, said: “It makes me sad to think that women who have had one traumatic birth become too scared to go on and have another baby and feel they can no longer live their lives.

“I want to do something productive with my experience – I feel almost like I’m on a mission to educate people and hopefully help other women who have been in my shoes.”

Dr Ian Jones, a reader in perinatal psychology at Cardiff University, said: “We now recognise, which probably wasn’t the case some years ago, that women’s experience of childbirth can be a trigger of a wide range of psychiatric problems, not just PTSD.

“Childbirth was excluded from the original definition of PTSD because it was thought the trigger needed to be something extraordinary and outside the bounds of normal human experience.

“That’s changed now because we do see women whose experience of childbirth is so traumatic to them that they experience very classic and typical PTSD symptoms.”

The all-Wales perinatal mental health group, which is led by consultant midwife Grace Thomas, is currently examining the provision of mental health support for women.

Mrs Thomas, speaking on behalf of the Royal College of Midwives in Wales, said: “We need to be very clear how we can identify women with serious mental health issues and how we train midwives to do that.

“PTSD is a specific condition, which is quite rare and must be diagnosed clinically

“We should be offering women the opportunity to speak in detail about their experiences, if that’s what they want.

Both Dr Jones and Mrs Thomas said the key was women’s interpretation of their experience of childbirth – women may perceive their experience to be traumatic, even if obstetricians believe nothing out of the ordinary occurred.

The Welsh Government’s recently-published maternity strategy states appropriate mental health must be available for those women who require specialist help.

It adds: “Each local area should ensure a care pathway is in place, which should be agreed and implemented by maternity services and mental health services.”

But routinely screening or surveying all pregnant women and mothers for symptoms may not be the answer.

Dr Jones said: “Nice [National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] says providing very intensive and structured debriefing interventions for everyone who’s gone through a traumatic experience is not something we should be doing.

“This is not a condition where we should be sending out teams of therapists to see women, but there does need to be education and awareness among those healthcare professionals who come into contact with women during pregnancy and after so they can pick up whether they’re having problems.

“If we get that awareness and get treatment targeted at women who have problems, rather than women in general, then that’s the way to go.”

Credit:  by Madeleine Brindley, WalesOnline – Oct 17 2011.


My Wife needs to accept PTSD

How or where do I start to explain the psychological issue causing such a daily stress?

…my name’s Steve and my wife’s a Guiltyholic.

  • …my wife feels guilty for ‘letting us down’,
  • guilty for ‘feeling sorry for herself’
  • …and guilty for ‘feeling pretty much anything’ to do with her absent womb.

That is, despite Specialist Counselling, a formal medical diagnosis of PTSD and a Hysterectomy, she still feels she ought to ‘get over it’ (as of Aug 2011).

Sadly, I’m pretty certain there are other onlookers whom quietly think the same (some not so quietly I might add).

PTSD Army Badge - Not all wounds are visible!UNLIKE A PTSD SOLDIER:


(My wife’s womb in this case)

If my wife was a soldier missing a leg, I’m sure she’d get more support; more support from the NHS, as well as more understanding (hence support) from others around her.

A simple example of the difficulty…
Even her own Mum, who’s supportive in many respects, often (weekly) displays  her underestimation of the difficulty or upset that my wife experiences day to day.

Example situation…BTPTSD - Channel 4's - One Born Every Minute (homepage screenshot)
My wife’s mum will ask things like “Did you see ‘One Born Every Minute’ last night?” (Channel 4’s ChildBirth documentary set in a hospital environment), and also asks things like: “Why can’t you just be happy for that pregnant mum?” as a response to my wife having shared how difficult it is for her (at times) to be in the company of pregnant women.

The Example adverse effect…
The mention of childbirth and/or such hospital environment issues – can (and has) brought on a panic attack (of which I used to not understand / believe panic attacks myself).

My point?
My wife wouldn’t feel so guilty if, day to day, she along with others could see her wound – i.e. the gap where her womb should be.


My wife apologises weekly for the 2 traumatic births she ‘put me through’.

I often respond with: “Well if you’d ‘set out for 2 traumatic births’ I’d be pretty p’d off at your inconsideration, but you didn’t. You need to realise that and work towards: reducing ‘feeling the need’ to apologise to anyone for such.

May 2012 and I don’t think she gets it still…

OUR first pregnancy went wrong Dec 2006, where a couple of days after Christmas, @3am, we’d all left my wife and newborn son at the hospital. What happened next was not under her control (nor mine) nor was it any of her own doing.

  1. 20’ish hours of labour,
  2. a mis-diagnosed dilation (8cm not 10)
  3. an emergency (unplanned) C-section

…THESE were the main top 3 reasons for my wife’s collapsed womb and haemorrhage; hence birth trauma – not her own doing or anything she could have changed.

So, my wife didn’t cause OUR trauma’s!

‘You must have been daft to try for a 2nd baby’…

Contrary to popular belief, our 2nd traumatic birth resulting in an emergency hysterectomy, was nothing to do with the 1st pregnancy and everything to do with the very real potential danger & ‘chance’ of child birth.


  • My wife’s absent ‘period’ after the 1st traumatic birth dictated GP visits & tests.
  • Many professionals suggested (without our instigation) that we try for more children.


Multiple Scans and Specialist Consultations since our 1st born revealed:

  • A diagnosed worst type of Placenta Previa during our 2nd pregnancy (placenta blocking the birth canal).
  • A further diagnosed placenta accreta (placenta actually attached to the womb wall).

A plan was suggested, insisted and then discussed with us:

  • Placenta Previa + Accreta = very specialist team required.
  • 2 dates surfaced where members of the specialist team could be assembled (Sep 28th or Oct 3rd 2010).

Despite the project management skill (see above) of our Consultant doctor (and later to be surgeon), Mother Nature had other plans; a month ahead of the above proposed C-Section & ‘Specialist Team’ date.  So again not my wife’s fault, but rather mother nature if anything!


1st Septemeber 2010; a month ahead of the Planned Delivery Date (ETA 28th Sep 2010), our emergency hospital visit lasted 24hrs.

My wife’s abdominal pain was wrongly dismissed as Gastroenteritis and scans showed nothing wrong.

Returning home, later that evening we were shocked & scared to learn of my wife’s immense pain and blood clots in our bath. This time, I 999’d an ambulance, literally 3 minutes later we were inside of one; thankfully an Ambulance had just finished a call up the road.

Ambulance Movement Blur

This was the only time I’ve felt so out of control and especially annoyed at myself… waiting in the ambulance outside our house, a mixture of frustrations grew:

  • Why were we not yet moving?
  • Why’s she (the paramedic) asking so many fairly irrelevant questions, of which, I’ve already covered on the phone? let’s get going and talk along the way.
  • Why had I not packed our bags?
  • and where the hell was my mobile when I most needed it?
  • Had I fed my 2 yr old son yet? will he be ok? As he was hysterical when we left him in our house with my mother-in-law.
  • To emphasise: I was so f**king annoyed with myself beyond belief for not being able to fix the above.

Having arrived at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, it seems we’d worried for almost nothing as the staff were calm & relaxed, with my wife hooked up to the usual monitoring equipment – we later learnt the calmness was a well disguised panic – I’m not exaggerating, they’d intentionally tricked us for our own good.


Little were we to know that the next day’s events would bring a healthy baby girl, a hysterectomy ending our parenting of any more children and years of (if not a lifetime of) a new found appreciation for the symptoms brought on by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder post childbirth.

9am the next morning, our Doctor walked in: both relieved and worried to see her, I just remember her saying “There’s good news and bad news. Bad news is: things are going to happen a month earlier than we planned and that means the specialist team I’d planned for will be needed today. The good news is: you’ll get to see your baby this afternoon.” …my renown strong wife was the most scared I’ve ever seen her – I hope never to experience her that scared ever again.

Minute by minute support was my focus …
I had to SMS my wife’s blood relatives as she wanted them close by, but above all, she wanted to see our then only child, our 2yr old son Joseph; both of which were around 30minutes away and unaware of the traumatic news. My wife was convinced that she would not survive. Take it from me, given the diagnosis and subject, her cautious attitude was not extreme nor dramatic.

Selfishly, I felt sick at the thought of losing my wife, but my focus was to get our son here for my wife, as that seemed to be what she pinned her hopes on – our son Joseph gave her hope and the will to fight for her life in this unpredictable and shocking time.

Stress as a Hands-on Dad and Husband…

I’ve just realised that I’ve perhaps not given you a great insight about my stresses in all of this, for those interested, adding to my stress was: I’m a 1-man-band business owner and someone who ‘didn’t feel’ had the option of support from my own family.

I’ve not got a great relationship (if any) with my own parents, so I saw through this second and complicated birth without communicating with nor involving my own family. This may sound cold etc, but that’s not me, strangely however the ‘people dynamics’ actually felt easier than the first birth in this sense – I didn’t have ‘family’ issues to contend with so much.  Plus, it just sadly reflects my own family situation; despite my best efforts over years.

Back to what lay ahead…

So, my wife & I now had an idea of what lay ahead as far as plans for the day go…

  • An Operation under live X-ray – to place stent’s in both her legs/groin as a precautionary bleed prevention mechanism.
  • An emergency Caesarian Operation – to safely get our baby out.
  • Potential emergency hysterectomy – a life saving technique should the Placenta Accreta (attached to womb wall) prohibit the removal of the Placenta.

My wife should feel sorry for herself…

…as later that day, and for the rest of her life, she lost her much treasured child bearing gift – a pity for such a such a natural Mum.

Illustration of Hysterectomy - before and after.

Illustration of Hysterectomy - before and after.


Despite my above word count, believe me, I’ve only summarised some of our 3yrs of stressful unknowns.

If you’ve read the above, you might wonder (as do I sometimes), why the hell does my wife continue to apologise for those traumatic times? Is she being dramatic? etc.

There’s quite a simple answer as to why my wife apologises so often…

  1. She’s always been known for it.
  2. Medically, PTSD states ‘guilt’ as one of the tell-tale key symptoms.


Bearing in mind I’ve only summarised the 2 births so far, the additional following contributing stresses of that time (and as confirmed with a qualified Specialist Therapist) are:

  • A boundary dispute with the idiot who used to own next door – he thought we were up to something in wanting having to register our boundary – so even tried stopping us coming back & forth our house during the above times.
  • My non-supportive (unwillingness to understand) family – they’re nice enough, but they just don’t get it. They think a petty argument happened during & shortly after my 1st born, and state they’ve had their own lives too – they think we should move on and get along with each other.
  • My first Born’s ‘Bilateral Talipes’ aka. ‘Club Foot’ (we hate that expression), that we had to deal with. Getting your baby’s legs in plaster and re-plastered on a weekly basis from week one has it’s own difficulties; time off work (see next point), lack of understanding from others (amongst other individuals, why would my family of all people, distance themselves during those times?), I’ll stop there.
  • My archaic style employer – whom told me he’d ‘never had to go to any of his midwifery appointments; and he’s got 7 kids!’ and he couldn’t see why I needed to go to mine – that employer by the way was my own Dad.
  • British Gas back dated error – for the 3rd time and despite a Direct Debit in place @£80pcm, wanted £2,000 paid immediately for a back-dated mistake on their part.
  • + other typical every day stresses that the majority experience.
So the above + the 2 birth trauma’s are what’s contributed to my wife’s development of PTSD.


Today, my strong wife thinks & says:

  • She should not feel sorry for herself,
  • Nor ‘go-on about’ her Traumatic experiences,
  • No ‘go-on about’ the fact she can not have more kids,

WHY?  … as there are others worse off; she says.

I tell her ‘she believes she should be tougher’ because…

  1. She, along with others, cannot ‘see’ her wound.
    …that is, a female tummy without a womb, has left a hole taking away any possibility for her to give birth again.
  2. There will always be someone worse off,
    …so on that basis, someone who has lost a leg should toughen up as there are others who have lost 2 legs? Those who’ve lost 2 legs should toughen up because there are those who’ve never had legs – I needn’t go on.

The only way to properly move on?

Apparently, the above kind of thinking will not ‘get rid of’ my wife’s PTSD – qualified professionals have told us such. Further, we should all recognise and deal with our own diagnosed stresses & illnesses, it is only this that helps us assess and move on in life.

I love my wife and the 2 beautiful children we are fortunate to have had. Also, I look forward to happy times ahead; free of pregnancy worries and full of planning nice times – just the four of us.

Lovely glowing picture of a Human Fetus in Womb.

Here’s to life and the fragility that Mother Nature sometimes needs to challenge us with.

PS. And for the record, I didn’t want to risk my wife (who is my life) for another child anyway – could you blame me?