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First-Time Mom Opens Up About How She Became Convinced She'd Lose Her Unborn Baby

First-Time Mom Opens Up About How She Became Convinced She'd Lose Her Unborn Baby
Eva and Kelly (PA Real Life/Collect)

A first-time mom who became convinced that she would lose her unborn baby has bravely revealed how she spent £350 (~$460, which is a lot to spend on health care in the UK) on 10 private scans – three of them in the same week – but still continued to catastrophize.

Kelly Smith, 32, was a long-time sufferer of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – which can cause recurring thoughts and repetitive behavior – when she discovered she was pregnant in March 2018, but both conditions were under control.

She had only gone to the hospital for a follow-up appointment about a kidney stone and was blindsided when nurses told her she was expecting – triggering a seven-month battle with anxiety so crippling she refused to buy a single thing for her baby, as she was so convinced she would miscarry.

Kelly (PA Real Life/Collect)

Diagnosed with perinatal mental illness, a set of psychological health issues occurring during pregnancy or the first year of motherhood, when she was three months in, Kelly, of Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland, said:

“I had never heard of it."
“All I knew was that I had this overwhelming feeling that I couldn't shake – that I was going to miscarry my baby."

Despite perinatal mental illness occurring in up to 20 percent of pregnancies, according to the NHS, Kelly – whose daughter Eva was born early, but healthy, on December 8, 2018 – found next to no information about it.

Kelly pregnant (PA Real Life/Collect)

No longer with Eva's dad, she said:

“I spent hours searching the web for testimonies from other women and there was hardly anything there."
“I am fully recovered now and I really want to change that."
“I also want expectant mothers out there to know that pregnancy isn't always the happiest time of a woman's life."

Kelly at her baby shower (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“Sometimes it can be the darkest. But there is an end to perinatal mental health problems and you can recover."

Kelly was completely taken by surprise when nurses at Stirlingshire's Forth Valley Hospital told her she was four weeks pregnant at a check-up two weeks after she had been treated for kidney stones.

She said:

“They asked if they could run a pregnancy test, so I agreed."

Kelly at her baby shower (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“Then the nurses popped their heads in and said, 'I hope you're going to name the baby after one of us.'"
“I couldn't believe it. It was certainly a shock, albeit a pleasant one."
“It was a total surprise to Eva's dad, too, who I was still with at the time."

Like any expectant mom, after receiving the news, Kelly started reading a wealth of information online.

But when she saw a statistic about miscarriage, she became convinced that she was going to lose her baby.

“I'd read that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage in the first trimester and it was all I could think about," she said.

Baby Eva (PA Real Life/Collect)

Eaten up by fear and with two months to wait before her first scan at 12 weeks, she decided to put her mind at rest by paying for one privately.

Sadly, her fears soon returned.

She said:

“I thought I'd walk in and it would put my mind at rest and everything would be fine."

Baby Eva (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“I went for a private scan at eight weeks and they told me everything looked perfectly fine, which reassured me for five minutes."
“But after that I was back to where I'd been beforehand. I was convinced something could have gone wrong in that small amount of time."

Sick with worry that her 12-week scan, in May 2018, was going to show she had miscarried, Kelly paid for another private scan at 11 weeks.

Going for 10 private scans – costing £350 – during her 34-week pregnancy, she became trapped in a vicious cycle.

“I would tell myself that if I had one more scan, it would be fine," she continued.

“But I kept moving the goal posts every time."

Baby Eva (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“I found myself making excuses to go to baby scans. One week I went three times – once with my ex's family, once with my family and once with friends."
“I laughed about it, making out it was for them, but deep down I knew it was all for me."

And, attending her 12-week scan, Kelly's anxiety only escalated when she found out her baby was measuring small.

Baby Eva (PA Real Life/Collect)

She said:

“Luckily it didn't lead to any complication with Eva, but it meant having even more scans to keep an eye on her growth."
“It was just one more thing to worry about."

As well as becoming fixated on having private baby scans, Kelly said she “saw baby loss" wherever she looked.

“It's like when you've decided to buy a new car and suddenly you see it wherever you go," she said.

“Everywhere I looked online I saw posts about baby loss and still birth."

“I ended up logging off from social media for the entire pregnancy."

At 13 weeks, Kelly's anxiety had become so bad that she was terrified to leave the house.

Calling in sick at work and canceling social plans, she decided to pay a visit to the doctor.

She said:

“I'd told friends and family, but they found it hard to understand what I was going through."

She continued:

“Everyone says pregnancy should be a happy, enjoyable time, but for me it was the complete opposite."
“It got to the point where if I wasn't paying for a private scan, I was spending all day on the couch, barely able to eat."
“I was crying all day – the thought of losing my baby was on my mind non-stop."

Baby Eva (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“I was scared to leave the house in case anything happened."

Kelly's anxiety was so severe that she could not bring herself to prepare her home for her baby.

“I bought maybe two or three items of baby clothes straight after discovering I was pregnant," she said.

Eva on the day she was born (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“Apart from that I refused to buy anything baby-related at all."
“If I was given any baby items from friends, family or colleagues, I gave them all to my mum."
“If I liked the look of anything I'd send a photo of it to her."
“I couldn't bear to keep them myself – it felt like a bad omen."

Visiting the GP, who knew she had a history of anxiety, in late May, she was referred to a perinatal counselor.

The following week, at her first assessment, she was diagnosed with perinatal mental illness.

“I'd never heard of it before," said Kelly. “But there was a huge sense of relief that it wasn't just me."

“My attitude shifted. I knew I just had to get through the next few months."

Given eight sessions of one-to-one talk therapy, Kelly was also prescribed an antidepressant designed to increase the brain's feel-good hormones, to help manage her anxiety and OCD.

Eva (PA Real Life/Collect)

“It never took it all away, but it made it more bearable," she said.

“I still couldn't accept that Eva was going to be okay until she was born, though."

With her water breaking at 30 weeks, doctors kept Kelly under observation until, at 34 weeks, they decided to deliver Eva by C-section, who weighed 4lb 2oz, on December 8, 2018.

Eva (PA Real Life/Collect)

Kelly said:

“They decided my risk of getting an infection was too great after my waters had been broken for so long."
“As soon as they lifted her out of me this black cloud broke and my anxiety disappeared."
“I held her in my arms and thought, 'We've done it – she's here.'"

Eva and Kelly (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“It was incredible having all that fear and worry just leave."

And, luckily for baby Eva, her grandmother Elaine, 60, a retail assistant, had bought a whole load of essentials without telling her daughter.

Kelly added:

“Mum had been secretly buying all the items I was too scared to get."

And, this summer – 18 months after being diagnosed with perinatal anxiety – Kelly decided to share her story on Facebook.

“A lot of people didn't know," she said. “The response was huge, people were so positive."

“A friend who had been diagnosed felt comfortable enough to reach out after reading it."

First scan (PA Real Life/Collect)

Determined to help other people, Kelly is now working with medical provider Benenden Health, in collaboration with the Pre And Post Natal Depression Advice and Support foundation (PANDAs) to raise awareness of the mental health condition.

She said:

“My little Eva turns two next month and I couldn't be happier."
“Being a mum is the best thing to happen to me – and just look what I had to do to get here."

Kelly and Eva (PA Real Life/Collect)

For more information about the symptoms and issues surrounding perinatal mental health, and to understand what support is available, visit Benenden here.