FOLLOWING the birth of her baby at Cork University Maternity Hospital in the midst of the outbreak of Covid-19, Kelley Petcu is on a mission to spread awareness about the negative impact visiting restrictions can have on mothers and their families.
“I feel like people don’t know what’s going on and I think they need to hear actual stories of people to understand and to realise why we’re trying to make noise,” said Kelley Pectu.
On July 14, Kelley Petcu gave birth to her first baby and following what she described as “a positive birth”, her experience in the post-natal ward at CUH left her questioning current restrictions in maternity wards across Ireland.
Current restrictions at CUMH meant that Kelley’s husband had to leave the hospital after the birth of their baby girl and following the 22-hour labour, Kelley had some complications.
She fainted twice after the delivery and luckily had sought assistance from a student nurse just before she fainted for the third time after having a postpartum haemorrhage.
“I woke up on the bathroom floor surrounded by nurses and doctors. It was the first time I ever feared for my life or that idea of dying ever came into my mind. It’s hard to describe that feeling in words, unless you’ve been that scared before.
“I looked up at the doctor and somehow found the courage to ask: ‘am I going to be ok?’ What I was really thinking was ‘am I going to die?’ as I had no idea what was happening to me, but I knew it was the worst I’d ever felt in my life.
“On the bathroom floor, I called out for my husband. I needed him by my side more than ever.”
Ms Petcu remained in hospital for four nights alone. While receiving blood transfusions and feeling extremely weak, she had to learn how to care for her baby alone.
“I was so weak. I would get dizzy when I’d stand, headaches, racing heartbeat, extreme exhaustion.
“I went into absolute survival mode, fight or flight mode - and boy did I fight. I fought hard to get out of bed to look after my new baby, learned how to dress her, change her, burp her, breastfeed her-one handed.”
When she finally returned home to her husband her new baby, Kelley began to feel the effects of the nights alone in hospital and she suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder during her first two weeks back at home.
“I was afraid to be by myself, I was afraid of the dark, I was having nightmares and that’s just not the way any first-time mom should have to spend her few weeks with her first baby.”
Following her experience, Kelley has come across many other women who have also faced a difficult time in pregnancy, labour or post-natal care as a result of the current restrictions placed within some maternity hospitals.
“To do this alone is too much to ask of any new mom after giving birth. After giving birth, everyone should have support, women who have babies are superheroes in my opinion, and should be respected and supported.
Ms Petcu is speaking up about her situation in a bid to raise awareness for the many other parents who have faced similar and far worse situations.
From Kelley’s own experience and from speaking with other parents, current “blanket” restrictions within maternity hospitals have had a detrimental effect on the mental health of many families and she is urging for change.
“The traumas that are happening every day in Irish hospitals since March are horrific.
“People at their most vulnerable are being treated without any compassion by the policy makers. I wish that they would have the respect that my midwives had and list out the benefits, risks and alternatives and talk to us parents of the pandemic and listen to the absolute carnage that these blanket rules are causing.
“I am begging for more nuance and consideration for complicated situations. My story is just one of thousand, some far worse than mine but my thinking is, unless we speak-up – no one will know or understand what it’s like.
“I’m just trying to help other people, in the hope that families won’t have to go through this for much longer” she added.
Kelley is urging parents who have recently been impacted by maternity restriction to email firstname.lastname@example.org and to contact their local TDs.