Changing course

Sam McCarthy is a Brighton-based producer. She tells about how the birth of her daughter affected her and how she is retraining to be a psychotherapist.

Sam McCarthy’s pregnancy was pretty routine. She describes it as “the average boring pregnancy”. She had planned a home birth and the first hours of labour went really well. However, when it came to the final stages things started to go wrong and she felt the baby was not moving down. “I knew something was not quite right, but I was told she was nearly there. I knew I needed to go to hospital,” she says.
When she got there, the consultant said it was an emergency situation. The baby was stuck due to a rare condition called shoulder dystocia. The consultant tried three times to pull the baby out with a ventouse, an episiotomy was done and then another. In the end, the baby was delivered by forceps. “She looked like a sweet potato. Her head was massive,” she says.
The baby, Cecily, started fitting a few hours after her birth and was put on phenobarbitone, a drug often used for epilepsy and intubated with breathing and feeding tubes.
It was only four days after her birth that Sam was able to hold her. That was not the end of the traumatic turn of events.
Although Cecily latched on straight away and went from strength to strength, she had an MRI scan which showed she had had two small strokes which would be likely to significantly affect her motor development and also impact her cognitive development. Sam also contracted MRSA just before leaving the hospital.
When she got home, she went through a very dark 24 hours. “I was surprised at how negative I was,” she says. “I could not get my head around it,” she says. Her husband helped pull her through. “He shook me back into the real world.”
Sam says that seven months down the line her daughter is very happy and energetic and doesn’t appear to show any signs of the trauma she suffered at birth.
She has regular physiotherapy and extra checks, but she started to crawl at five months and appears to be very strong. Sam says one positive outcome of the birth process has been that she worries less about the small things. She also became very determined to carry on breastfeeding. “It was the most important thing I could do for her as breastmilk helps in myelin development which aids brain development,” she says.

Sam, a Brighton-based producer, had started a psychotherapy course in 2010 before the birth and plans to continue her training.
She had been made redundant from a film company in 2006 and she and an ex-colleague had set up a production company. Even then, Sam had hankered after a career change and in 2009, with the economic crisis taking hold, the work the company was getting dwindled. She applied for a psychotherapy course, but was looking after her grandmother at the time who was in the early stages of dementia. She died three weeks after Sam started her first course. The second course started in September 2010. Her mother-in-law died soon after and she had to defer her course. Then three weeks after she resumed it last April she became pregnant. She deferred again after her birth experience.
She says her college has been very understanding and she plans to start back in September. Cecily will go into nursery two afternoons a week. Her husband, a composer, works from home, as does Sam so they can share the childcare and their work is fairly flexible, for instance, Sam can do a lot of her work in the evenings. Sam’s colleague, Cecily’s godmother, is also around to help.
In the meantime, her film production work has changed. Whereas before the company had focused on animation and commercials, they are now doing more corporate work and have just taken on a new health, beauty and wellbeing client.
Sam, who is nearly 40, hopes to be a qualified psychotherapist by the time Cecily starts school and says it will give her a good work life balance. Sam will be blogging about her experiences on over the next few months.

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