HEALTH Magic moments Mother-of-two Sarah Ryan, who suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum during both her pregnancies, tells Joy Orpen how she started up a subscription service to encourage new mothers to take care of themselves so they might reduce their chances of postnatal depression D espite all that this modern world has to offer, many mothers of new babies battle to cope, especially in the first year. However, some may continue to struggle through the next few years as well, juggling the many complex demands of parenthood. Someone who understands this only too well is Sarah Ryan from south Co Dublin. She had some pretty tough times in the course of, and following, her two pregnancies, and has come to the conclusion that making time for self-care can do much to help new mums deal with some of the pressures confronting them. Sarah grew up in Foxrock, in Dublin. In transition year, she joined a youth group, and that’s where she met her future husband, Colm Ryan. Sarah studied French and Italian at UCD, and then went on to work in the world of digital marketing. Last July, she started Mama Moments, a subscription company that provides self-care boxes for mothers. In 2014, their first child, Conor, was born. But that pregnancy was challenging. “I was extremely nauseous,” she says. “I was vomiting between 10 and 15 times a day. Eventually I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).” Other symptoms of this condition may include dehydration caused by constant vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss. “One doctor said comparing morning sickness to hyperemesis was like comparing banging your funny bone to breaking your arm,” she says. “I had it for about 19 weeks, but after that, I had a pretty normal pregnancy.” Nonetheless, the period following Conor’s birth wasn’t easy, and Sarah often found herself in tears. It began shortly before she was due to give birth by caesarean section, when she discovered that Mount Carmel hospital was about to close. “They didn’t even tell us; I only heard about it on the news,” says Sarah. Fortunately, her baby was safely delivered a week later. She believes she was one of the last women to give birth at Mount Carmel. When Conor was just eight weeks old, the family moved into their new house in Glenageary, and when he was nine months old, they moved out again so renovations could take place. During this period, they were based in the UK for Colm’s work. “It was very stressful dealing with builders while we were in London,” Sarah says. “That first year was very overwhelming. To be honest, being so ill with hyperemesis, you’re on the back foot before the baby even arrives. I cried a lot, and suffered from separation anxiety. I found it very difficult to leave my baby.” So, when she became pregnant for the second time in 2016, Sarah assumed it would proceed in a similar fashion to the first. But in reality, it was much more difficult. “I was vomiting from three weeks into the pregnancy,” she says. “Most gynaecologists won’t even see you until you are past your 12th week. But by seven weeks, I had already been put on sick leave by my doctor. Some women don’t even know they’re pregnant at that point.” From here on in, Sarah was literally marooned by her condition. “I was vomiting up to 30 times a day. I couldn’t leave my bedroom, yet alone the house. But I did have to go to the Coombe for extra scans, and I was put on an intravenous drip for dehydration on several occasions,” she recalls. “Hyperemesis is so taxing on the body. But bad as it was for me, some women have an even harder time, and may even be hospitalised for long periods.” At this point, Conor was attending a “Women are expected to raise children as if they didn’t have to work, and to work as if they didn’t have children” to the therapist was quite a cathartic experience.” Fortunately, Sarah did not experience PND following her daughter Kate’s birth, and she was able to move on with her life. By then she had begun a gratitude journal in which she would record things that were positive in her life such as a child doing something for the first time, or meeting a friend for coffee and a chat. “That helped me to sleep better,” she says. She also began taking time out for herself, even if was just snatching 15 minutes to read a book, have a soak in the bath, or go for a short walk. “I found practising self-care in any form was wonderful for my mental health,” says Sarah. “Our society is so different these days. Women are expected to raise children as if they didn’t have to work, and to work as if they didn’t have children. Any spare few minutes are spent doing the washing, answering emails, taxing your car... on top of caring for the children and working. In the past, the kids creche. Fortunately, both sets of grandparents lived close by, so they were able to help out with lifts and so on. But Sarah says most of the burden fell on Colm, who was basically a single father for the remainder of the pregnancy. Having spent about four months in bed, she then graduated to the couch. “I tried to go out, to take Conor to the park and do normal things with him. But I’d be so sick afterwards, it just wasn’t worth it,” she says. At one point in the pregnancy, Sarah’s gynaecologist referred her to a therapist, as women who experience HG are more likely to suffer from postnatal depression (PND). “The therapist reckoned I’d had had PND with Conor,” says Sarah. “It seems about 20pc of women in Ireland suffer from PND. But I’d thought my tears and anxieties were due solely to the stressful issues we were dealing with at the time. I’d also come to the realisation that I never did anything for myself, and that was an important lesson. So going — LIFE 28 | | Sunday Independent | 21 April 2019
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