I was diagnosed with Bi-polar Disorder in 2014 while in my first year of studies. During my first trimester of my first pregnancy, while commencing my final semester of my third year of studies, I experienced a deterioration with my mental health. I was referred to Social Services, then discharged with no concerns few weeks later.
Due to [the relapse in my first trimester] I was introduced to a new course of medication [which produced] a drastic change. The main medication was Olanzapine, and every so often the dose was increased. However, the more the dose was increased, the more drastically sedated I was, causing me extreme difficulty in being able to physically get up from my sofa or out of my bed to reach the bathroom in time to urinate and my mother having to actually wake me up during feeding me meals as I would drift off to sleep while chewing food.
I persisted in complaining about how the medication was affecting me to only be finally responded by the Mental Health doctor from the community team completing a home visit that, ‘pregnant women have more frequent “urination”, but ‘urinating’ was not my issue. I was completely ignored, so I decided that I would meet them at my flat door to collect medication and would refuse them complete entry into my home. Because of this, they said I was challenging and numerous times they escalated my case to the courts to complete Mental Capacity Assessments and in every single one the court deemed me mentally fit and for no further action to be taken.
I then started [taking] Lithium in January 2018, I felt the therapeutic benefits within less than seven days of taking them. However, this caused controversy, because I was [able to go] out and about with family and friends enjoying my final trimester of pregnancy, preparing for the birth of my son and a great improvement to my social life [because of this they said I was erratic]. Previously they would come at random unpredictable times to deliver medication to me, which before was not an issue as I was stuck indoors 24/7 due to previously being sedated.
One day, I was not present at home at the time [because I was now feeling well enough to be out] they refused to make necessary arrangements with me to collect my medication for that evening, therefore left me without medication for that night, [they did this but in the same breath] would state that suddenly stopping medication even a single dose is detrimental to my mental state.
While attending a child in need meeting, because I was re-referred to social services in February 2018, I was criticized for my appearance, [I was wearing] a red and gold kaftan, gold trainers, purple jumbo plaits parted in the shapes of diamonds and designed nail extension. This factor they used in court documents to prove I was unwell. I was also criticised for taking notes at the same meeting and asking for clarification on what was said.
My mother who was my carer made several statements regarding my improved mental state while taking new medication from January 2018, that reduced her input and [she told them that] how I was currently dressed and presented to be normal [it was my style]. However, my mother was continuously ignored and deemed to be mentally unwell also, which was used in court documents.
With the strong side effects of extreme sedation, I did initially extremely doubt myself as a mother, ‘how can I take care of and love a baby, if I cannot help and feed myself?’. I did discuss the possibility of an abortion with the mental health team, however, the person that I am naturally loves children and had always been excited for the future to become a mother with no restrictions of how many I would have as long as I believed God would bless my womb to have them. This was also used against me in court proceedings that I was unwell, for thinking about an abortion.
A court order was obtained two to three days after my son was born, based on false statements and accusations forcing me to either voluntary attend the Mother and Baby Unit at the Barberry Centre or have my child removed from my care. They said that during my mental capacity assessments I was manipulative. The professional doctor from the perinatal services made these statements but was never present at any of the assessments.
The court documents included that I had an extensive criminal record, which later was proved that I have NEVER had a criminal record.
While taking the Lithium, I had to take regular blood tests, even with my fear of needles, evidently stable, however the results would appear that I was not receiving a beneficial dose even though on a high dosage. They used this against me and said that I was not taking my medication. I had to point out that I could have been metabolising the medication faster due to being pregnant and producing two extra litres of blood as well as being of African descent and not European. [The benchmarks do not utilise this information].
I am currently pregnant during the pandemic and my due date is March 2021. I know I will feel vulnerable giving birth without a partner being present. However, the doctor has informed me that in given situations particularly patients with mental health diagnoses, families have been allowed to stay after birth at the hospital to help assist the mother to sleep. This is something that could possibly be an option for me.
I have had some issues with antenatal appointment restrictions because I have had to bring my son on one occasion. The manager at the clinic was amazing at conflict resolution sorted it all out for me.
After my first birth experience my mental state was stable but it was very stressful as I was ‘fighting’ against a system that only saw me as a statistic and a stereotype. Anon