The harrowing story of a mother having complications during childbirth is not uncommon but a father suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result is rarely spoken about.
Melbourne father Mick Sheard was unaware being involved during his wife’s traumatic childbirth was going to leave him struggling with PTSD.
As his wife, Melanie, went into early labour the 35-year-old was left speaking to doctors who informed him about numerous health issues his daughter was most likely going to have.
‘My wife was about 30 weeks pregnant, we were walking through Coles on a 40 degree day and we popped in to get milk when her water suddenly broke,’ Mr Sheard told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We were in emergency for about three hours with no idea what was happening before they moved us to another room.
‘They did an examination and the doctors said she was fully dilated and they needed to slow the process down’.
Approximately five hours later baby Edeline was born.
But as a premature baby the doctors did not hold back from informing Mr Sheard about the number of complications his daughter might develop as she grew older.
‘My wife can hardly remember the conversation…they said there’s a high possibility of complications with a birth of 30 weeks and then they started rolling of a whole lot,’ said Mr Sheard.
‘Learner issues, sight problems, attention problems, possibly an inability to move properly which in this case meant wheel chair problems.
‘We were told very early on that she was going to have breathing difficulties so she was on oxygen for a few weeks
As Mr Sheard’s daughter was left in hospital for 86 days, every day meant the possibility of more bad news.
‘One day we were pulled into a meeting and they asked us for permission to run a few tests to see if our daughter had Down syndrome because she had a certain look.
‘The news floored both my wife and I and we didn’t know what to do we were shocked, we didn’t sleep, we were both in tears for hours and I guess with a lot of the illnesses it was probably the best option’.
After waiting for approximately 20 hours the results came back clear taking a weight of the couple’s shoulders.
But the weariness did not stop.
After six weeks of living at home, a check-up revealed Edeline might have a hearing problem.
More tests ensued continuing to keep the couple on their toes as they waited for the results.
‘At the moment she’s ticking all the boxes, she lights up my life every day but there is that weariness that sometime down the track something might happen’.
The stress and anxiety from worrying about his wife and his daughter eventually took its toll.
Mr Sheard attempted to provide his wife the support she needed but was left ‘beaten up inside’ unsure how to feel himself.
‘My wife started having severe postnatal depression and it wasn’t until one day my GP suggested I had symptoms of showing post natal depression and then I started looking in to it,’ said Mr Sheard.
‘The flashbacks of times at the hospital, conversation with doctors and other parents, constant anxiety of (all our) health problems, not being able to go to or near hospitals without feeling a weight on my shoulders, physical and mental exhaustion but then not being able to sleep,’ he said were some of the symptoms that attributed to his PTSD.
According to Mr Sheard accepting that you have PTSD and admitting it to a friend is also one of the main hurdles that must be faced.
Mr Sheard struggled to find services to help him deal with his PTSD having spent thousands on seeking support for his wife and daughter.
As a result doctors made the simple suggestion to start talking to family and friends about what he was feeling.
‘I found it extremely hard it was probably one of the hardest thing I’ve done, to say I’m having problems but once I started speaking about it I realised it was getting easier and easier… We’re a unique breed we tend to hide it [our problems] until we’re stuffed,’ said Mr Sheard.
Many fathers who witness their partners experience a traumatic birth are unaware they can be susceptible to suffering from PTSD.
‘A difficult and traumatic childbirth experience has been identified as a potential trigger for the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,’ writes Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) on their website.
‘This can be a response to exposure to events that involve actual death, serious injury or any perceived threat, as a victim or a witness.
‘Childbirth is seen as a trauma of significance to cause PTSD’.
Although information directed at men suffering from PTSD is limited support is readily available if needed.
If you are suffering from PTsD and would like support contact PANDA on 1300 726 306 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
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