When Sonya Birch-Kaiwai became too afraid to hold her baby girl for fear of dropping her, she knew she had to face her demons.
The Te Puke mother of seven has epilepsy, something she managed to keep hidden for years. But when Ms Birch-Kaiwai gave birth to baby Santana six months ago, the seizures returned so violently that Ms Birch-Kaiwai was forced to reassess things.
"I'd not long given her to her dad to look after for a little while and I ended up going to hospital because I'd smashed my face on the towbar."
Ms Birch-Kaiwai, who damaged her front teeth as part of that seizure, is one of an estimated 2500 people with epilepsy in the Tauranga and Whakatane area.
After seeking help, Ms Birch-Kaiwai has been invited to join a Bay of Plenty Support Trust set up by Epilepsy Foundation New Zealand, in response to a need for support in the region and to break stigma attached to the condition.
"I never thought the one thing I hated most in my life would be the thing that would make me a better person.
It's pretty cool."
The 32-year-old has taken medication for her epilepsy since she was a child but stopped in her late teens, convinced it was responsible for her two to three seizures every week. Since then she has only suffered the odd seizure each year until the driveway episode.
"I brushed it off, you know, but on my daughter's birthday not long after I had twitches. I spent most of my day in my room. I was worried I might drop my baby because the twitches were affecting my arms," she said.
She wants others to also take control and ask for help.
"If there's anyone else with epilepsy out there needing help, it's there. All they need to do is ask."