The Beginning….

This World Mental Health Day, I’ve decided to share my story. I hope in doing so, it helps someone else who may be struggling. By being more open about our struggles we remove the stigma. Everyone has mental health, good and bad. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t hide it, why should mental health be any different. It effects any and every aspect of our lives, and can manifest itself physically too.

My name is Kate and I’m a 30 something year old living in Birmingham with my husband and our two little men – who I refer to as Little-Man and Littlest-Man.

My journey to motherhood started back in 2017. I’ve never been the maternal type but always knew that when the time was right and when I’d met the right person, I’d like to share a family with them.

So the time comes, and I fall pregnant very quickly. I didn’t have morning sickness or anything like that. Some may say this is a blessing, but if anything it made it seem like it wasn’t actually happening.

This feeling continued throughout my pregnancy. I got excited for scans and appointments where we got to hear the heartbeat, but there wasn’t that sense of joy outside of these times.

Medically, I had a plain sailing pregnancy but none the less I hated being pregnant. I was always tired and uncomfortable. Quite often my stomach looked like it was doing a Mexican wave when Little-Man moved. At times I was even shouting and swearing at my bump.

Knowing what I know now, this was definitely the start of perinatal depression, but at the time I just brushed it under the carpet as being down to hormones.

So, the big day comes. I go to hospital with bleeding and contractions. Despite this, when they checked me over they said I wasn’t dilated at all. I overheard them in the corridor saying I didn’t need to be there and that I’m only being allowed to stay because it was so close to Christmas and because I was past my due date. This doesn’t exactly make you feel great about yourself or the situation!! In the end, it was a good job I did stay as by the time anyone paid attention to me in pain, I was 9cm dilated. A little while later after gas and air Little-Man is born just after midnight. He was in such a hurry to make his entrance into the World that I ended up in theatre having repair work and spent 3 days in hospital.

Nothing prepares you for those first few days with a new-born, especially being in hospital on your own outside of visiting hours.

I tried breastfeeding but this was causing more upset and harm than good for both me and Little-Man. I know there’s mixed views on breast Vs. formula, but at the end of the day, it’s whatever works best for you and your family. I initially felt like I had given up – I didn’t have any aversions to formula, I had just always thought I’d be able to breastfeed. For something so ‘natural’ it’s so unnatural to actually do.

As Little-Man was born over Christmas, hubby had longer than average time off work due to annual leave and bank holidays on top of his paternity leave. It was great to have quality family time, and to share everything – memories and moments as well as workload. This did mean however it was a shock to the system when it did come round to him returning to work.

I won’t lie, I struggled. Not particularly with physically being a mum, but something in my head was making me not feel right. It got to the point where there was someone at my house with me every day, as I felt like I couldn’t be alone with my new-born. I can’t explain what I thought would actually happen if I was alone, I just know it filled me with sheer fear.

The day comes when no one is available to babysit me – I say babysit because that’s exactly how it felt. I lie in bed all night unable to sleep, on edge dreading hubby’s alarm going off signalling it was time for him to start getting up and ready for work. When this comes, I break down completely and ask him not to leave me. I will never forget that moment, as it’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt. Despite having a great support network with the friends and family, I felt so alone.

My amazing hubby drops everything and stays by my side, but I know that this must have been scary for him too. He’s doesn’t really show his emotions very often (unless its sports related!), but he did this day. I heard him upset on the phone to his parents, which led me to call my own mum in floods of tears. She drops everything too and comes over straight away (she lives an hour away from me), to look after myself, hubby and Little-Man.

This all happened a couple of days after my 6-8 week check with my GP. I was very open with her about how I was feeling, and she recommended medication and suggested I look into a local organisation who specialise in supporting those with PND. I think I needed the breakdown to realise that I needed this help – I picked up the prescription and filled in the self -referral form that very night.

Ante and postnatal depression support services
Acacia Family Support – https://www.acacia.org.uk/

It was Birmingham based Acacia Family Support who helped. They are predominately run by volunteers who have lived in experience of PND. They offered a befriending service, where you have a 1-2-1 designated ‘friend’ to talk to each week. This was a great opportunity to do exactly that, talk. Getting things off your chest and talking to someone who isn’t directly involved. There was no judgement, just questions asked to help make you think deeper about things and open up further. It was actually easier to open up to a randomer than it was to friends and family.

After a few weeks of this I took advantage of their Living Life to the Full CBT sessions. This provided different tools and skills to help combat and change the way you think about things. They call this breaking the vicious cycle. This was group work, where you were with other mums/dad in a similar situation, which was good too, as it made you realise you weren’t alone with how you were feeling. This was all done whilst little ones were in their crèche too, allowing you time away from them to focus on yourselves.

I had regular appointments with my GP checking in with how I was getting on, and monitoring medication levels. I’m still on medication to this day, but feel more in control, and know that bad days come and go, and don’t have to define me!

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