An exclusive extract from Mrs Hinch’s new book This is Me
Jamie and I planned to start a family as soon as we were married, so when it didn’t happen straight away, I started to panic. I knew how much Jamie wanted to be a dad – what if I couldn’t give him the one thing I knew was so important? I was waiting for something to go wrong, like I always do.
However, after being in hospital with a blood clot in my leg, we decided to put the baby plans on hold because of the stents I’d had fitted in my iliac vein. We were advised it wasn’t a good idea to get pregnant and so I put it to the back of my mind.
But one evening in October, I went to my mum’s house for a cup of tea and she was oddly concerned about my behaviour. She looked me straight in the eye and said: ‘Do a pregnancy test, Soph.’
I laughed and told her I wasn’t pregnant because I’d just had my period. But when I got home, I couldn’t get what she’d said out of my head, so I got a test from the cabinet. A few minutes later I was staring at the word ‘pregnant’ on the screen. I couldn’t believe my mum knew before even I did!
I handed Jamie the positive test. He looked at it and then burst into tears.
‘WE’RE HAVING A BABY!’ he cried.
It was the final stages when it went south. I was seven months gone and had a rare day at home as it was bang in the middle of my book tour. I had this horrendous pain in my back and groin. I don’t know where it came from, but I fell to the floor in agony.
An ambulance took me to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, where I was kept in for three days. No one has ever given me an explanation. Maybe it was my bones moving preparing for the baby, but it felt like they were breaking. It was more painful than Ronnie’s actual birth.
I have to be thankful that happened, though, as while the doctors were investigating, they discovered another potentially more dangerous complication.
In 2011, I’d had a gastric band fitted that helped me lose eight stone, but also caused a series of issues. If I’d known how one operation would turn into such a nightmare, I would never have gone through with it.
By the time I was pregnant, the band had long been unclipped, but as Ronnie grew and my stomach got bigger, the band moved and caused what the doctors described as similar to a kink in a hosepipe. No food could go into my stomach and whatever nutrients were going in came from liquids. As a result, I was losing weight. I was getting hurtful comments at the time for appearing malnourished and thin, but people didn’t know what was really going on.
Ronnie was growing fine, and that was what I was most concerned about. I was the one who had been getting weaker.
We were told I would have to have an operation under general anaesthetic. The band was inactive, but needed to be moved. I was shaking out of fear and as I was being put to sleep, I held on to my stomach thinking: ‘Please, please, just let him be OK’.
When I woke, all I cared about was my baby. As the midwife tried to find his heartbeat, I’ll never forget the moment she said: ‘I can hear him. He’s there.’ I broke down. That was when I realised how being a mother is the most amazing, but terrifying, thing in the world.
I ended up staying in for ten days and had the general anaesthetic plus three blood transfusions without my followers knowing. People asked what was wrong, but I just said it was a check-up and we were fine. I knew there were people with worse to deal with.
For all the complications I had, my birth was absolutely textbook. I had my sister, my mum and Jamie in the room. There was no way I was having my baby without all three of them. For some reason, it was my sister who I needed the most. I was constantly looking for her and kept saying I couldn’t do it. ‘But Soph,’ she’d say, ‘you ARE doing it!’
After just two hours and a few excruciating pushes, Ronnie was born and they put him on my chest. After he was weighed and they brought him back, that’s the first time in my life I can say I felt really proud of myself. ‘They’re my boys,’ I thought. ‘My gorgeous boys.’ I couldn’t wait to start our new life together.
I want dads and mums to know there’s no shame in admitting you haven’t got a clue. Nobody does! All new parents have to start somewhere and learn together. Jamie found it hard accepting that for once he wasn’t able to make everything OK. He struggled being dropped in at the deep end. We both did.
I really wanted to give breastfeeding a go because I knew it had lots of benefits and was great for bonding. I tried to persevere, but my confidence was knocked when Ronnie lost weight and I felt like a complete failure.
I kept doubting my ability. At least with the bottles I could see the amount he’d had and in my head that made things better.
After a few weeks, the health visitor told me it was OK to stop breastfeeding. It was like she was giving me permission and that was what I needed. A weight had been lifted. But the mental situation I was finding myself in was far greater than just one issue and I was starting to seriously struggle.
Before you give birth, you imagine being in this magical bubble, but the truth is you’re on edge and exhausted and a newborn changes everything. Add in the raging hormones, anxiety and recovering from labour, and I definitely lost myself for a while.
I felt like a different person. And then I’d hear Ronnie’s cry and think: ‘That’s my baby. I can’t believe that’s my baby.’ It was as if it was all happening to someone else.
I’d hesitate before labelling what I went through as postnatal depression, but I showed a lot of signs. I felt guilty for feeling so down when I should have been happy and grateful to have a healthy baby. Ronnie was a very much wanted baby, so why couldn’t I lift myself out of this lowness I was feeling?
I found myself waking up with my stomach feeling like it had dropped. I couldn’t manage everyday routine. Ronnie started refusing milk and I told myself it was because I was feeding it to him. I looked in his eyes and felt I wasn’t making him happy. It broke my heart.
I love Ronnie so much, but knowing his survival depended on me was huge pressure. I couldn’t help worrying that he could have a better life if it wasn’t me who was his mummy.
Looking back, I know now those thoughts were irrational, but I was on a hormonal rollercoaster and I couldn’t help it. Jamie struggled to understand. But words couldn’t help. You can’t just snap out of it. The midwife came to see me, and I poured my heart out. I felt better for having spoken about it so I left it, thinking everything would be OK. But after a couple of days I started spiralling.
I just wanted to go back to feeling like my old self. I couldn’t imagine feeling relaxed again. Is he sleeping OK? Does he need feeding? Is his nappy changed? Is he too hot? Too cold? You feel like for the rest of your life you’re going to be anxious and it’s exhausting.
It was putting a strain on my relationship. Things came to a head when Ronnie was eight weeks old. I think the two-month mark is where it hits you: this is real life now, no going back. Jamie had taken our dog henry out for a walk while I was trying to get Ronnie to sleep. I found myself crying uncontrollably. I was distraught. Jamie came back and looked at me and said: ‘You’re acting crazy.’ he made me feel like I’d lost my marbles and I felt a huge rush of anger. ‘Don’t ever use that word!’ I shouted. ‘I don’t know why I’m crying myself, Jamie! Let alone being in a position to explain it to you!’ I collapsed on the bed, my body heaving with sobs. He put his arms around me and apologised. I told him to read up on postnatal depression and mental health. And that’s exactly what he did.
Jamie started to understand how seriously this was affecting me and that I couldn’t control how I was feeling. And once I felt he understood, I started to feel more relaxed and supported. we started to talk honestly about how we were feeling. we had been trying without any success to get Ronnie into a routine, but I found it was putting more pressure on an already stressful situation. For us it worked better to let it happen naturally. Ronnie found his own routine. We all did. When I accepted that I wasn’t failing when something didn’t go according to ‘The plan’, that’s when I could enjoy things more.
Everyone is different, all babies are different. I’d tell myself: ‘he’s OK and he loves you.’ The more I said it, the more I believed it.
To all the people bringing up little ones, I’d like to say: it’s OK to have good and bad days. It’s normal to feel like you’re getting it wrong. Don’t feel guilty if you’re finding it tough. we all do. You’re never alone, so talk about how you’re feeling, ask for support and don’t be too proud to accept help. Take advice from trusted sources – your mum, your best friend, your health visitor – and ignore the busybodies who will say you’re doing it wrong. mothers are warriors and we’ve got this. We are all enough, exactly as we are.