A young mother explains how we supported her with her mental health during pregnancy and beyond.
This week sees the launch of our new Pregnancy to Three Support Service in Medway which aims to support parents to feel less isolated and build a stronger bond with their child. It’s an area we have a lot of experience with, thanks to our existing perinatal support services across the country which support families with their mental and emotional health during the tricky period before and after the birth of a child. Here parent Rosie explains exactly why a supportive ear can be so valuable during a difficult time.
I was worried about perinatal depression on the first day I found out I would be having my second child.
I’d already needed medication for depression during my first pregnancy and it had been horrifying… I was determined to avoid it the second time.
It’s odd because pregnancy is discussed as such a source of happiness but I felt very anxious about the whole situation – we’d had a number of failures trying for our second, which had put a strain upon our relationship, and I was just worried about everything; including whether having another baby was the right thing to do.
The child was really wanted but it was such a difficult situation.
My midwife referred me to Family Action at around 20 weeks but, to be honest, I was sceptical about making the call.
I couldn’t see how talking to somebody else would have made a difference, as I wasn’t alone.
I had family, friends and a partner to talk, rant and complain to.… in fact I had a very good friend who I knew would drop anything for me and wouldn’t stop calling me saying “is it due yet”!
So I couldn’t see how anyone else could help.
But then I lost my job in a bar due to sickness at the beginning of my pregnancy.
When I was working I was entitled to childcare for my eldest but now I found myself at home a lot more with a three-year-old and it made the pregnancy feel really long.
I’d gone from working and seeing people every day to being on my own again. I would wait for someone to speak to and when I did see someone I would overcompensate and chatter on.
So I made the call and Family Action linked me up with a befriender.
We hit it off straight away… I’d been worried it would be like therapy, but it was like talking to a friend.
She was so understanding about what I was saying, even though she was a bit older. She was like an auntie and anything I told her wasn’t treated with drama or even brought up again unless I brought it up… She understood my need to vent and that whatever I had told her was over and done with if I wanted it to be.
“Family Action linked me up with a befriender … She was like an auntie and anything I told her wasn’t treated with drama or even brought up again unless I brought it up. She understood my need to vent and that whatever I had told her was over and done with if I wanted it to be.”
She was perfect and, as time went on, it became clear that she had experienced a lot that could help me with the experiences I was going through with my daughter.
She was so supportive with what I told her and the frame of mind I was in and managed to make me feel better when, eventually, I did have to deal with mental health problems… but not in the way I expected.
I was deep into my pregnancy when COVID arrived and Boris announced the initial lockdown so, when I was taken into hospital for what ended up being a long labour, I was mostly alone.
The birth itself was traumatic and complicated and, because it was during lockdown, there was no staff around.
I honestly thought I was going to die – for example, I was asking people to look after my child for me when I was gone… and I think I carried a lot of that trauma home with me.
Lockdown meant I had no help at home as my partner was working, and I felt really guilty that I didn’t have time away to play with my eldest.
The baby always needed me, but I felt distant from her.
Don’t get me wrong… I met all her basic needs, but she had colic and I couldn’t sleep or even shower as I was on my own – I thought silly things like I’d broken her in some way.
People would be telling me how lucky I was and I’d be thinking ”how do I tell these people that her crying makes me cry?”.
So when my befriender made her twice weekly call I did the same thing and faked being positive… and she told me to tell her the truth.
I don’t know how she managed to pick up so much over the phone or how she knew exactly what to say.
I would break down and say “I can’t do this” and she’d be like “You can… because you have already”.
My befriender reminded me that it wasn’t a normal delivery, which made my anxieties and my fears more valid.
She didn’t baby me and she didn’t tell me it was ok when it wasn’t, but she DID tell me I was ok to feel like this and looked into therapy to help me deal with the trauma of the birth.
That helped me to realise how much I’d been carrying around and how it had affected my relationships with my daughter and partner.
I’d like to say that was the moment things turned around, but it was tricky as in some ways the worst was yet to come.
My youngest was taken into hospital because of cysts on the brain which were discovered during a routine scan when she was eight months old …and I was an absolute mess.
I’d been through a lot with therapy; I’d realised I loved her so much and would die for her, and now it felt like I might lose her.
Thankfully, however, there were no long-term consequences and, finally, we could pick up our lives again.
I’m pleased to say life has been like a fairytale since then.
My partner and I made it a basic rule that we had to be real with each other, and it’s only in the last few months that we’ve spoken about how our experiences made us feel.
I now know he felt like he couldn’t affect anything or sort anything… He had wanted to help but I would push him away, believing he was only making it harder.
A lot of that understanding comes from the support I received.
If you tell your friends they’ll side with you, but my befriender was totally impartial and would say things like “are you actually telling him what you want or do you just expect it?”.
Looking back now I genuinely feel like Family Action saved my life.
There were things I couldn’t tell my friends and family because they were too close to the situation but my befriender was focused on what worked for me.
She treated me with patience and helped me to re-evaluate how I felt about the situation.
Now life is back on track I’m looking to find a way of sharing my experience with others.
I’m hoping to be that person my befriender was for me for somebody else, as the whole experience has made me more aware that people can put on these brave faces and their lives are falling apart.
“I’m hoping to be that person my befriender was for me for somebody else, as the whole experience has made me more aware that people can put on these brave faces and their lives are falling apart.”
There were times I’d be upset about waking up in the morning, and there will still be people going through it.
But now I don’t fear getting up, because I know what I’d like to do with my life.
To find out more about our perinatal support services, read here.