Catriona Ogilvy is pictured with her husband, Mike Smith, and sons, Sam and Jack (Photo: Catriona Ogilvy)
A mum-of-two has described how her sons’ premature births left her with crippling anxiety, flashbacks and constant fear.
Catriona Ogilvy, 35, developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after her first child, Sam, was born 10 weeks early in hospital in 2011.
She suffered terrifying flashbacks and anxiety attacks after watching the youngster being resuscitated and treated in neonatal intensive care.
She experienced similar symptoms two years later when her second son, Jack, was also born prematurely – this time, at a slightly older 34 weeks old.
In both cases, she would hear the ‘beeping’ of hospital monitors and feel sudden waves of nausea after taking her children home with her.
She would also be struck by fear and experience horrific flashbacks – especially of Sam, who had to be put on a ventilator after his birth.
You can sign Catriona’s petition to extend maternity leave for mums of premature babies here .
Catriona developed post-traumatic stress disorder after her first child was born 10 weeks early in hospital in 2011 She suffered terrifying flashbacks and anxiety attacks after watching the youngster being resuscitated
Now, Catriona, who lives with her sons and husband, Mike Smith, in Norbury, is speaking out to raise awareness of PTSD after premature birth.
“When you get home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you have time to reflect on the trauma,” she told Mirror Online.
“You can be quite isolated. Everyone thinks the difficult time is over, but lots of parents have flashbacks. I was absolutely terrified.”
Despite having previously worked in neonatal care as a children’s occupational therapist, Catriona said she felt ‘lost’ after Sam’s birth.
She met her first child, wrapped in a towel, for a few seconds before he was whisked away.
She said: "Shattered and numb, we spent just a short while with our new baby; holding his hand through the portholes in his incubator, taking hazy pictures through the perspex box.
She met her first child, wrapped in a towel, for a few seconds before he was whisked away Catriona said she can still recall the moment she first felt panicked and sick with PTSD
"When the evening came, we called a cab home. I was without my baby for the first time in six and a half months and I felt empty.”
Catriona then spent eight weeks travelling to and from the NICU – a ‘world she did not recognise’ – as her son remained hooked up to tubes.
Every day, she had to go through the pain of leaving her baby, returning home with feelings of ‘emptiness and grief’. However, she was supported by medics in the unit.
“When I was in hospital, I didn’t have any of the [PTSD] symptoms,” she said.
“I was still in shock. When you’re in that environment, you haven’t got any other option but to get through it.
“Sam was in hospital for eight weeks and then came home. When we finally brought him back, I was terrified [he would stop breathing] again.”
Catriona said she can still recall the moment she first felt panicked and sick with PTSD after finally returning home with her son.
Sam spent eight weeks in hospital after his birth, but is now a healthy five-year-old
In a post on The Smallest Things blog , she writes “I was returning to the neonatal unit for a routine four-week follow up. Walking out of the car park and into the hospital I could hear and feel the sound of my heart pounding in my head.
“I could hear the beep, beep, beep of monitors and the motion of the ventilator as air filled my son’s lungs. If I closed my eyes all I could see were wires and the mechanical rise and fall of his tiny chest.
“I felt sick to the bottom of my stomach and although I felt as if my body would completely shut down, there was nothing I could do to stop it.”
She adds: “No-one warns you about the flashbacks and PTSD often presents itself after the acute phase of neonatal care when you are alone.
“The support network of the hospital can disappear overnight and you are left to wonder how on earth you made it through.
"PTSD often presents itself after the acute phase of neonatal care when you are alone," said Catriona
“Family and friends with good intention assume that the difficult times are behind you and the idea that discharge would be the end of your neonatal journey suddenly seems farcical.”
In addition to her anxiety and flashbacks, Catriona found herself constantly washing her hands after returning home with Sam from the NICU.
She also started to think any ‘beeping’ noises – such as the ones on TV adverts warning viewers to test their fire alarms – were from hospital monitors.
But despite her experience, she went on to have Jack two years later.
Again, the birth was premature, leaving her with anxiety, difficulty sleeping and flashbacks.
“He wasn’t born quite as early,” Catriona told Mirror Online. “I had him at home.”
She added: “I thought long and hard about it and I wanted Sam to have a brother or sister.”
Catriona said Jack’s premature birth triggered flashbacks of her experience with Sam, who still suffers from respiratory issues due to being born so early.
The mum-of-two, pictured with her spouse, wants to raise awareness of PTSD after premature birth
The mum, whose sons are now five and three, wants to raise awareness of PTSD after premature birth to let other parents know that they are not alone.
She has also launched a petition to extend maternity leave for mums of premature babies.
“I had no idea that weeks and months of maternity leave could be spent visiting a fragile and sometimes critically-ill newborn in neonatal care,” she said earlier this year.
The petition on Change.org, started last July, already has more than 125,000 signatures.
It states that ‘extending statutory maternity leave and pay would give mothers the emotional and financial support needed at a time of great stress and trauma’.
This, in turn, would lead ‘to better postnatal health, a more positive return to work and better outcomes for babies’ development’, it claims.
To sign the petition, click here .