Raising a family is a beautiful, rewarding experience… most of the time. Family Action’s perinatal support services, however, know that new parents – and particularly mothers – can face significant challenges to their mental health following a new addition to the family.
Here new mum Jess tells us her story in an account that’s equal parts engaging, funny and moving.
I ignored my pregnancy, basically!
Because at the time COVID had just started, I was signed off work and sent home for my safety when I was twelve weeks pregnant but, to be honest, I’d only found out I was pregnant just before they signed me off.
I don’t live with the father of my child so, because I wasn’t seeing anybody day-to-day other than my sister, nobody other than her mentioned it.
It wasn’t too bad… I work with data so I could work from home and, other than my really big belly, I could ignore being pregnant – and if I had any pains I’d just stay in bed.
I’m sure that if I’d had to go into work, I’d have started preparing for maternity a lot sooner, but I worked right up until the day I gave birth.
In fact, I think it was literally when my waters broke that I actually took what was happening onboard.
I was with my friend and birthing partner, and she was saying “ok… we need to go to hospital” and even then I was like “I’ve just weed myself, it’s fine”!
She was brilliant though and, along with my sister, I had as much support as possible, both before the birth and afterwards.
My birthing partner booked some time off work so for the first few weeks both she and my sister were here.
When it got to night-time I’d turn to my son and be like “It’s just me and you kid”, but during the daytime it didn’t seem as daunting.
But when they left me alone in the house for good it was difficult, and I think now that I had postnatal depression.
In the first couple of weeks the baby blues hit and I was crying all the time, but everyone told me about that and it felt normal.
But when he was around three months old, I thought I was still a bit down; thinking I wasn’t good enough and feeling angry at myself.
I’d had experience of depression before the pregnancy and had been on medication before, so I went to the doctors but because of COVID it was very different than when I’d been treated before.
Before they would call me and go into depth regarding how I was feeling. This time it felt like they just said “you’ve had a baby, here’s some tablets”.
I decided to join a few online classes and groups for new mums, mainly because it was a reason to get up and put some makeup on, but nothing really fitted.
The mums in the groups were nice but they talked as if their lives were perfect, and their babies were angels and I just thought “mine’s not… he cries all the time”.
But the Family Action one was different because it’s more about your mental health as well – they ask you how you feel, about your partner and your mental health to judge how much support you’ll need, so it’s tailored to you.
“The Family Action [perinatal group] was different … they ask you how you feel, about your partner and your mental health to judge how much support you’ll need, so it’s tailored to you.”
I didn’t join this group until he was about seven or eight months old. I wish I’d known about it as soon as he’d been born as the Family Action classes were more willing to be open about how hard it actually is.
It’s both emotional and practical and the other mums can tell you what they’re trying and what’s working.
My sister has kids and they’ve been through things like her children not sleeping or not eating enough but it was a long time ago for her.
I was whingeing to her and her partner and they were like ”we’ve been there”, but I needed to speak to someone who’d had a younger baby and the group helped me do that it allowed me to speak freely.
Thanks to the group and the passage of time I’ve been feeling more positive.
I’m back at work now and, though it was a nightmare trying to readjust and set up our systems, it’s good to be around adults again!
What’s really nice, however, is that the world has opened back up.
I always said going out for a walk helps me feel more positive and I’ve started getting out with my son in the nicer weather every day if we can.
He just doesn’t stop. He’s feisty, confident and has no fear; he’s not a clingy lockdown baby; he’s a bit of a wild child and he’s very stubborn.
Growing up during lockdown doesn’t seem to have affected him but looking back I think it definitely affected me and I’m trying not to forget how lucky we are to do something everyday like have a drink in a cafe.
It’s been magical as we stepped back out into the world together: Being cooped up for so long, I’d forgotten what it was like, but now we’re both experiencing it together.
If you or someone you know requires support with maternal depression, then take a look at what our Perinatal Support Services can offer.