Maternal Mental Health Matters

Maternal Mental Health Matters

I popped into Sainsburys last night for a few post work purchases, while I was trying to negotiate the self-service checkout without kicking it out of pure frustration, I was stopped in my tracks.

I heard a new-born baby cry.

Strange reason to stop what I was doing you might think? Especially as this new-born baby wasn’t mine.

However, I began to feel a rising sense of anxiety.

I immediately felt transported back to December 2013 when I was in hospital after having my son. He was only 3 days old and I was desperately trying to change his nappy and understand why he was crying, whilst hobbling around in agony, recovering from an emergency caesarean section.

I frantically called my partner; Wes, who had left the hospital a couple of hours earlier. I pleaded with him to make his way back to the hospital.  I felt alone, traumatised and like the walls were closing in on me.   I wasn’t coping.  Heck, I didn’t know what to do next.

This was almost 2 and a half years ago, I’ve experienced a breakdown in that time, endless therapy and following all of this, consider myself to be in a good place both mentally and emotionally now.

Thus, I was surprised to feel like past scars were open again. I was surprised to feel strangely vulnerable at that moment in Sainsburys.

I tried not to analyse my feelings too much, drawing on what I’ve learnt from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy sessions and bringing myself back to what I was trying to do. You know, not lose my shit with the self-service checkout.

While I was walking home from the supermarket, I found myself mentally writing this blog. I found myself wanting to articulate this experience, it felt quite profound.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve found certain smells induce a state of anxiety. It’s incredible just how powerful the brain is.

I’ve often found myself reflecting on the first year of being a Mother. Wondering if I feel robbed of what is supposed to be an amazing time in my life, whereas actually it was the most horrendous at times.

Perhaps I do, perhaps I do feel slightly robbed. When I look back at photos of the first year of my son’s life I can’t help but feel sad.  I feel sad because I knew how I felt at the time, I knew what was to come and I knew the smiles I’d painted on were masking what was really going on in my head.

Recent conversations with my other half have led us both to decide against having a second child for numerous reasons. Some are health (both physical and mental) whys and wherefores, others are more practical reasons.  However, although I feel deep down this is the right decision for us as a family and as individuals, I do ‘grieve’ (for want of a better word) for the time I can never experience again.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that. I wasn’t supposed to have the mental health crisis team visit me 3 days before Christmas to assess my mental health and ensure I didn’t need to be admitted into a Mother & Baby unit.  I wasn’t supposed to find motherhood and all it brings so damn difficult and overwhelming.  It wasn’t how I anticipated life to be once I welcomed my son into the world.

Since writing about my experience with post-natal depression and anxiety in August last year, I’ve been contacted by many women who have told me their experiences. They’ve asked me for guidance and I’ve imparted advice on what I would do in their shoes.  I’ve been candid and explained to them the resources that are available and the roads they should go down to ensure they receive the treatment and support they need.

8 months ago, I wrote about my desire for midwives and health visitors to discuss post-natal mental illness antenatally. I’m strongly of the opinion there needs to be more awareness highlighted at the antenatal stage to prepare women of the conditions that could arise once they have become a Mother.

Mental health is AS important as physical health.  Just like it’s imperative for a midwife to ensure all is well with baby during appointments, it’s equally crucial to ask the right questions regarding Mum’s mental wellbeing.

Post Natal OCD is a condition that requires more awareness. I’ve been a long time sufferer of OCD since I was 7 years old, however, my OCD manifested itself into a terrifying form 4 days after giving birth.

I spent hours upon hours googling my symptoms, trying to reassure myself I wasn’t on the periphery of losing my mind altogether. Visiting my GP to only be told he didn’t recognise my symptoms as OCD and was genuinely concerned for my welfare only compounded my anxiety all the more.

Having spent a great deal of time researching Post Natal OCD and receiving intensive treatment for the condition has highlighted to me just how common an illness it can be. Thus, it needs to be emphasised to all potential mothers, especially women who have history of suffering OCD like myself.

The thought of another woman perched on the edge of the bath frantic with worry that she’s a danger to herself or others is all too much for me to bear.  It shouldn’t and doesn’t need to be that way.

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. You’re absolutely right honey. It should NOT be like this at all! I am so glad you’re so honest about what you’ve experienced it really helps those of us that have experienced such negative and worrying times because it makes you realise you’re not alone in feeling these things and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Love how passionately you’ve written this – fantastic post xx

  2. Although I cannot compare experiences as mine was far better with my mental health issues than I had anticipated. I whole heartedly agree with the issue and just the educating of women to help with signs, triggers and where and who can help. You can feel your concern and passion for the issue through your post. Very well written.

    Ps. It’s ok to have a paddy at self service, I do it often! ?

  3. angela

    Shared on my personal and blog FB pages! LOVED THIS and can relate 100%. There should be more conversations about supporting all parents. I am a single mom and 2 of my 3 boys have been diagnosed with chronic immune disorders this year. The lack of support and how often people look the other way is sad.

  4. THANK YOU. I have been looking at pictures of my son over the past couple of weeks, feeling sad, isolated. And now I know why. It all makes sense. It definitely was not meant to be like that. I get it. #brilliantblogposts

  5. Emma

    Such a brave and powerful post. This is such an important post and it will provide comfort and support to women that have been through or are going through similar 🙂 x #stayclassy

  6. Emma

    Fab post, I’ve been through similar with 4 out of 5 children and people don’t talk about these things nearly enough!
    Em xXx
    #StayClassy

  7. I can completely relate to looking at photos of my first and just feeling a sad and robbed as someone who has experienced and is currently experiencing it. I also agree that there should be more discussions in the aetenatal stage. Many of the mothers I’ve talked to are just shellshocked because it wasn’t something they were told to be aware of. Thanks for posting this and just spreading the support and information to others that may need it

    #StayClassy

  8. Really powerful post. Thank you for sharing yours experience as I believe that raising awareness of these kind of issues is beneficial for all. I also love the way you write, eloquently and candid. Thanks for linking up with #StayClassy!

  9. What a powerful and honest post – it’s so important that new Mum’s read this so they don’t feel alone. In those early weeks, with sleep deprivation and coping with everything all of a sudden, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the difference between baby blues and when it’s more serious. Your experience will be such a reassurance and I love how passionately you write. Brilliant post x #stayclassy

  10. Yvonne

    Such an important and honest post. Thank you for sharing your story, it is so important as it will help others. Unfortunately, I too can relate to looking at photographs and feeling robbed, in fact I have drafted a post which touches on this. You definitely have a new reader in me now #bloggerclubuk

  11. It’s funny the connections our minds make sometimes, and how a smell, taste or sound can bring feelings back that we haven’t experienced in years. I’m so sorry you had to go through pnd and I’m glad you’re feeling better. I think it’s great that you’re helping other people now and I agree that this is something that needs to be discussed a lot more before the birth so new mums can quickly recognise the signs and get treated
    Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK 🙂
    Debbie

  12. What an absolutely heart wrenching piece.
    Thank you for having such bravery and courage to share your story. You’re right, there are sooo many more women than we realize who have these struggles after giving birth. It needs to be talked about more. It needs to be brought to the light. Moms need to be shown that they are NOT alone. And pieces like this are a perfect example. We’re not alone. Thank you for sharing with us x #StayClassy

  13. I wrote a post about PND and my battle with it not so long ago titled Through The Fog. I can relate a lot to what you’ve said. It’s refreshing to see another post so open and honest about this.

  14. Emma

    it saddens me that today we still lack in mental health care. and it is still something which ends up getting stigmatised. I write another blog about mental health issues, purely to try and raise awareness around another issue. postnatal ocd was something a friend of mine had and it was really tough for her #bigpinklink

  15. As always a great post from you! I write often about mental health too – I think it’s good for yourself to write about it and to just say stuff out loud and reduce the stigma surrounding an illness. I didn’t suffer post birth particularly but I have struggled with anxiety most of my life – and completely agree that mental health is just as important as physical health. Thanks for linking Hun #stayclassy

  16. Whilst I don’t believe I went through anything near what you did, I can totally relate to being struck when hearing a new born cry. I can only now look at a new baby and appreciate it as a gorgeous little miracle, rather than breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not mine. Tough gig this mummy job, but I really appreciated your honesty. #Passthesauce

  17. Brilliantly written as always Rachel. It must’ve been really tough for you to arrive at your decision not to have any more children-I can’t imagine how hard that must be for you both. I understand a lot of what you say about feeling robbed of the happiness the first year of your sons life should’ve bought. I feel full of guilt that I was a bit of a wreck for the first 6 months of my youngests life, and that I will never see that time again. I keep thinking about having a third child, being convinced that the same thing wouldn’t happen again, and that the experience would be perfect and make up for the last 2 times it went all wrong. But I know that’s not an assumption I should be making, nor should I have another baby for this reason. You saying about your experience at the supermarket was weird, because I was at the Eastgate centre yesterday, and I was there once at the peak of my postnatal anxiety, feeling agitated, spaced out, and wanting to run away. While I was there yesterday I could suddenly remember those feelings so clearly, my throat started to feel tight and constricted, and I had to leave… You’re right, it shouldn’t be this way.
    #bigpinklink

  18. Thank you for writing this post – I am currently in the midst of PND, awaiting the start of my own journey through CBT. It makes me feel so much stronger knowing there are other people out there who have been through this and come out the other side. I felt robbed of my sons first year due to undiagnosed PND and this time as soon a I felt the issues start to resurface I went out and got some help. But if I had been stronger during my antenatal care I could perhaps have spoken to someone and got things in place ready for the post birth darkness. More people like you need to stand up and say something and maybe all together we can help change the practice around maternal mental health #bigpinklink

  19. Great post and so true. I struggled with PND for a long time with my first child and it was only due to my second child being stillborn that I then received the help I needed with my depression and other mental health issues. With the birth of my last three I was considered high risk of having PND again (which I did) so I was offered antenatal counselling and was closely monitored postnatally. So many don’t receive that help, it’s terrifying really as I know how low I got and if I hadn’t had someone to turn to I’m not sure I would even be here now. #bestandworst

  20. Such a heartwrenching and powerful post. I agree that mental health is very important, and there does need to be support and awareness for antenatal and postnatal mental health conditions. I think what is really important in those areas as well is that work is put in to making sure that women suffering feel supported, not threatened, and feel like they can ask for the help they need, as I think very many end up really afraid that someone is going to take their baby. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that IS what the professionals are looking to do, but it still seems to be a common fear from what I read, that women are afraid that if they are seen to be struggling to cope they will be deemed unfit, and that is only leading to greater anxiety plus people trying to conceal their need for help. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and for linking up to #passthesauce

  21. Ellen

    I totally agree that there needs to be more awareness around mental health and that this could be addressed antenatally. Mental health truly is as important as physical health and I don’t think that’s always recognised by society. Thank you for writing this post and sharing your story, you have given hope and support to many mothers (as I can see on this comment thread alone!). #FamilyFun

  22. What a brave and honest post to share – it’s so important to raise awareness of maternal mental health because there are far too many women out there who are suffering in silence and believing that they are alone in having the feelings they have. I am so sorry that the first year of your son’s life was so hard for you and glad that you did get help. Posts like this make a huge difference in raising awareness and helping others to feel like they are not alone and to have the courage to seek help. I had postnatal depression after my second child was born and really struggled with my feelings – having been a midwife, I thought I knew what to expect when it came to postnatal depression but when I was the one going through it, I realised just how little I actually knew. Well done for helping to raise awareness and thank you for linking up to #FamilyFun

  23. I think this post will really help other women who have suffered something similar. It shouldn’t be like this but it is for a lot of people and the more people who share their stories the better. Its brave though to open up about something so personal and I think its brilliant that you are helping to raise awareness of this. Thank you for sharing on #fortheloveofBLOG X

  24. So true. Nobody said anything to me at all during my pregnancy and I was worried about PND. Luckily all was ok but the resources and preparation would have been useful. It is so fab you are helping so many others by your posts and guidance. Hopefully as time passes maternal mental health will be prioritised. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x

  25. MMT

    I sometimes wonder if I had a touch of PND? Reading these posts always triggers a few simlilarities…
    I know others who definitely did, will feel very connected with your writing Rachel. You are brave – a survivor.
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

  26. Rebecca

    This made me cry. Such an open, honest, and critically important post. Well done you for sharing and thank you for your honesty. I could have been reading about myself as I have been going through a similar situation. And we have also come to the same conclusion about a second baby for both health and practical reasons. Even though you know it is for the best, as you say, you mourn the experience you will never have again. Beautiful post. I really hope you are able to enjoy your journey as a Mummy more and more each day now. x

  27. It is amazing how a sound can take you back to a moment… You are absolutely right mental health should be given equal priority in my opinion. The anxiety or embarrassment around discussing mental health issues needs to go!!! PND is a crippling illness. Thank you very much for sharing this important post with #FamilyFun ?

  28. Nothing I can say will ever make things better, and I’ll never totally understand what it is you went through.. I’d never dare say to anyone who’s suffered from PND “Oh I know what that’s like as I’ve suffered from depression myself.” I know it’s nothing like that.
    I’ve nothing to add other than I hope you’re well and I think it’s great that you’ve written something so honest and real. It’s from the heart, where all the best writing comes from, and I hope that writing helps.

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