Maternal Mental Health Week; our stories

By May 3, 2019 General

It’s maternal mental health week and a big thing we hope everyone has taken from all the posts and articles that have been shared this week is that you’re not alone.

We thought we would share some of our stories, from a premature birth, to postnatal anxiety and PND.

If you read any of these stories and think ‘that’s me’ then please contact our counsellor, Helen who is available to talk to and can advise on the best person to speak to.

xx

Catherine’s story

It’s maternal mental health week and this is a picture of me with my first son who was born 5 weeks premature. We’d just arrived home from hospital and I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed. I didn’t want to leave the hospital because at least there, I had midwives at the touch of a button. Someone whose job it was to help me, someone to share the responsibility with me. But once I was home I felt anxious that the responsibility was all on me. Suddenly there was no button, no one to ask, no one to share the responsibility with. I was the one who people asked why is he crying, what does he need?

I felt pretty helpless and overwhelmed (not to mention totally exhausted), pretending I knew what I was doing and what my baby needed. The truth is new mums don’t always know what’s wrong with their baby when they cry for hours, they don’t always have the maternal instincts that everyone tells us comes so naturally. And because we don’t talk about the not knowing and the overwhelming emotions we think there’s something wrong with us. Why is everyone coping so well and I’m feeling like ‘this’?

If I had one wish it would be to go back and do it all again. Knowing what I know now. Knowing it’s ok to feel the way I did – overwhelmed, emotional, lonely at times, a loss of identity, so knackered I could barely function. I’d tell myself the tiredness will get better and to enjoy soaking up every inch of my new born because one day I’ll miss it like crazy. Of course I can’t go back, do it all again and tell myself it’ll all be fine in the end, but I can share this. I can talk about the way I felt back then and help to make others aware that it’s not all coffee, cake and baby giggles, and that’s ok. You’re not alone and you will be ok. The mummy space provides that much needed support from trusted experts who understand and will help share the overwhelming responsibility that motherhood brings.

Catherine x

Jenna’s story

In honour of maternal mental health week I’m sharing why I became a doula…

I was induced with my first baby and knew absolutely nothing really…a bit of NCT and google and that was about it.  I had a long and tough labour ending with forceps and me and my boy just didn’t have the best start after that.

I suffered with postnatal anxiety and hyper vigilance and it was a long road until I realised I needed some real support before I got pregnant with my daughter and not really knowing where to start.  It can be a very lonely feeling when you think all the other Mums are loving it but I feel lucky that I had a lovely GP who signed me up for some CBT sessions and that was the start of me looking after myself a bit better and knowing it was ok to do things to help myself.

I also became a doula in this time and got the opportunity to debrief my birth which was so helpful and I trained in the three step rewind technique for birth trauma with @traumatic birth recovery which is a gentle and holistic way to help process your experience.

And that’s why I joined the Mummy Space to help women.  To have a place where women can go and find out about all the support options available, so they don’t have to wait years to get the right help and know they are safe to ask for help.

As a birth and postnatal doula, it’s such an honour to go in and support a family and ease that transition for them and knowing I can signpost them to amazing people who can help them further is even better and that’s what the Mummy Space is all about.  Women supporting women 💕 #youarenotalone

Stacey’s story

As it’s Maternal Mental Health Week I thought I would share my story.

PND is thought to affect around 15% of mothers, and a significant number of new fathers too. That’s a scary number, considering these are only the cases where help has been asked for. It’s even said to be 10% of mums during pregnancy begin to suffer.

My great grandmother fell victim to Post Natal Psychosis. The nearly threw her baby boy out a window (so I’ve heard). In those days she was locked up. Til the day he died, he had no relationship with his mum, which affected him, her, his father, and his sister deeply. There was no help for them. No understanding. No support.

I can remember the first month after having my baby. I was hormonal, exhausted, had my in-laws staying for more than a month in a small flat, trying to figure out breastfeeding and generally just feeling strung out. My baby also had reflux, but because she was gaining weight, no one would help. I was desperate. I remember screaming like a maniac at my darling husband (who was actually feeling the same as me!) and I walked out. I left the baby, and everything else including my phone and keys. I walked and walked and walked. Many hours later I was calm, cold, even more exhausted than I was before. But I also realised that I needed a bit of help.

Another two weeks later I completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and received a score of 15 (anything over 13 means they have PND and further assessment is needed). With my history of anxiety, I was given some meds (SSRI’s) to take the edge off. It worked. I felt better. My bond with my baby improved. I coped better with the breastfeeding, sleepless nights, reflux and fussy baby, and of course was more patient with my long suffering husband.

Did I discuss this with anyone? No.
Did my NCT friends know? No.
Did I mention it ever to anyone? No.
Why not? Why did I feel like I was alone.

15% of new mums!!! Seriously?? I suspect it’s way more than this. And new dads… they’re in this with us. There’s way more of them than we think!

The worst stat I’ve read in a while is that the highest cause of fatality of mums with children under one year old is… SUICIDE!  It absolutely breaks my heart that suicide is so many mums solution to the mental health problem. WHO says that psychosis isn’t as highly prevalent as overall mental health issues, and yet suicide – the most drastic outcome – is so highly prevalent. How awful.

Since starting my business, my work with new mums has shown me so many feel just like I did. More than half of them never actually say the words to me. But I see them. Trying to cope. Trying. Do I judge them? Absolutely not! Why do they think I do? Why did I think anyone would judge me? I see that desperate, exhausted, emotionally fragile person and I give them a hug, I tell them it’s going to be ok. I tell them they’re a great mum (or dad), and I get them a cup of tea. My small, hardly significant input into this incredibly serious and difficult condition.

PND is real. Maternal Mental Health is serious and it needs to be spoken about.

Ask for help. Get some support. Maternity nurses can help you sleep through the night. Ad hoc nannies can help during the day when needed or for when you need to see the doctor. Lactation Consultants are here for help with feeding. Babysitters are here for your much needed break with your partner. We can help, and we DO understand.

Let us help you.

Stacey, Super Sitters x

Lisa’s story

It’s maternal mental health week this week and I was asked to write about my postnatal journey. I have to say I was very nervous about doing this as I went through a roller coaster of a journey post natally. Although I felt quite sick, my pregnancy was easy compared to some. Being the deepest sleeper in the world before pregnancy my main worry was would I wake up in the night when my baby cried!!!! Little did I realise that I wasn’t going to sleep properly for the next 7 years!!

Although I had a c section, it was great, the team were amazing and put us at ease through the surgery. I felt that I was really listened to through the whole process and my recovery was great. We arrived home, a family of three looked at each other as our baby slept soundly in the car seat and then tip toed around the house, as you do!!! The first few weeks went by in a blur of changing what seemed like a thousand nappies a day, lots of newborn cuddles, lots of sleeping and the pain of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding was not something that came naturally to us, we really struggled and the pain is something that I can still remember, it actually brings tears to my eyes still. But I was a first time Mum and knew the benefits of breastfeeding so I was going to do it. We did have lots of support and advice but despite that I felt that I had failed at the first hurdle. Afterall breastfeeding was supposed to be natural, I should have just been able to do it surely. I think it was probably at the 4 week mark that things started to get really difficult. Feeding got worse, the pain got worse and worst of all what little milk I managed to feed my baby came straight back up, he would writhe around in pain and then scream for most of the night. We had several health care visitors come on a daily basis, all worried about my baby and the issues we were having with feeding and then one day, the health care visitor just handed me the Edinburgh health questionnaire and said that she felt that I had post natal depression. I was shocked, I had always been in control of my life, I had a job that I loved and was pretty good at, I had lots of friends and a good social life, I was good at most things that I did or had done but here probably the most important job to me and I felt like I was failing. I remember feeling so low but didn’t know where to turn to. Despite being a health care professional myself I didn’t feel that anyone was listening to me, listening to how I was feeling. I felt that everyone was talking over me and judging me as a bit of a neurotic first time mother. I struggled on without getting any help as I was so desperate to get help for my son and I look back now nearly 8 years later and wonder how on earth I did it. But as a Mum you hide your emotions and you just get on with it because you feel like you have to and at the time I didn’t know who else to turn to.

I have seen the quote: ‘everyone holds the baby, but who holds the mum?’ a lot this week and it is probably the one quote that has really resonated with me. I can’t remember ever being asked if I was really OK, if I needed any help or I needed to talk to anyone post natally.

It took me a long time to get help, we were in and out of hospital with my son for a long time and my health and wellbeing definitely took a back seat. I didn’t have the capacity to deal with it all I just had to get through the day and the night. I am pleased to say I have a happy crazy nearly 8 year old who is now healthy and thriving. I do look back at my post natal period with sadness because it is nothing that I imagined it would be. Had I known where to turn to it may have been completely different.

I am so lucky to be part of an amazing team at MummyspaceSurrey and I am so grateful that I can signpost my patients, new mums and experienced mums to the amazing team of professionals. I wish that something like this existed when I was struggling. If there is one thing that I cannot emphasise enough is that you are not on your own, help is there. Thank you for reading my story.

Lisa, Women’s health physio x

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Sarah

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