It’s Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week…
…I’ve tried to collate the information I’ve found to support parents in Norwich/Norfolk. Let me know HERE if there’s anything I can add.
Maternal Mental Health The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is an independent charity and coalition of UK organisations with a vision to see all women across the UK get consistent, accessible and quality care and support for their mental health during pregnancy and in the year after giving birth.
More than one in ten women develop a mental illness during this time and if untreated these illnesses can have a devastating impact on women and their families. WEBSITE
Best Beginnings – Best Beginnings works to reduce inter-generational cycles of inequality by helping families in communities across the country to build their knowledge and confidence to look after their own and their children’s health and well-being
Get Me Out The Four Walls – Get Me Out The Four Walls was created to ensure that no mother, father or carer feels alone and isolated at home after the birth of their children. By creating informal social meets we aim to give as many people in Norfolk the opportunity to escape their house and meet others which we believe helps prevent the on-set of Maternal Mental Illness such as Post Natal Depression and to help aid stabilisation of mental health and social prescription. We also strive to support as many mothers that become known to us that are struggling with a mental illness by offering 1 to 1 peer support and post natal depression specific social meets delivered by our friendly non-judgemental ambassadors.
If you are concerned you or someone close to you is showing the signs of mental ill health either during pregnancy or after a birth contact your midwife, health visitor or GP immediately for further support and advice. Or if you have a pre-existing mental health condition you can also speak to your mental health adviser.
Is your baby at risk? I shook my head, tears welling in my eyes. Are you at risk to yourself? I nodded, slowly bringing my head up to look at the Doctor in the eye. It had taken me nearly 12 months to even get here. Now, sitting opposite my GP, I was wondering how long it would take her before she called social services and took my baby away. Nearly a year of depression, anxiety, abusing prescription pills, not eating and my mental health was quickly deteriorating further. Instead when I looked up her eyes were full of empathy, of understanding. Let’s get you some help she replied kindly, holding my hand. After what you’ve been through this is a perfectly normal reaction but you need some help processing and moving on. Nobody in 12 months had ever said that to me and the relief was immeasurable. The guilt, the rage, the fear and everything else I’d experienced after my first son was admitted to NICU and needed open heart surgery at 6m old, felt as though it was beginning to ebb away. After councelling, being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, taking anti depressants and finding an outlet of processing everything via my blog I began to claw my way back. When I was pregnant I did not expect my mental health to be affected as bad as it was. No one talks about what happens when things don’t go to plan and as a result I felt alone, and confused and unable to deal with my emotions. The stigma surrounding maternal mental health stopped me getting help and I’ve regretted it ever since. The fear of judgement and that they would swoop in and take my baby allowed me to taint the first year of my son’s life. It pushed me to breaking point. Second time round when pregnant with my second son we were armed with alot more knowledge and experience than we had before. We knew what could happen to my mental health again and we also knew what to look for. I also knew I couldn’t let it fester like last time and would seek help immediately if things began to take a turn. I guess we expected this to be after the baby was born but it seems it was alot sooner; as I suffered from ante natal depression stemming from the fear of having another NICU baby. Again, no one really talks about what happens when you find your mental health struggling and you’ve not even had the baby yet. 6 weeks after my second son was born I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. As soon as all those good hormones left the building I was left holding a baby which I knew deep down I loved but something wasn’t right. I fed, I held, and cuddled him while he slept but I didn’t feel as though I was connected to him. I didn’t feel the bond I had instantly with my first. I had alot of unresolved feelings and it felt as though I was doing what was expected of me but I was on auto pilot. I was numb. I felt the lowest I’d ever felt and planned to leave many times. I was suicidal and felt myself spiralling once again. I felt like I had failed both if my children. I looked at everyone on social media coping, holding it together and spiraled downwards even further. I chose to have my children yet I couldn’t cope. My partner was picking me up and all the pieces of our lives at the same time whilst holding down a full time job. I gave up work, moved in with my Nan and began to see a therapist after I felt anti depressants were just not working. That was nearly 2 years ago now. It hasn’t been easy. I don’t think I fully bonded with my youngest son until he was a year old. Because of how my mental health has been affected we have decided we won’t be having anymore children. As a first time parent I feel I was so uneducated, so under prepared for how I would really feel and cope with motherhood. Regardless of our NICU stay and surgery there was so much more that shocked us about the realities of being parents. I think the best thing we can do for any new, existing and soon to be parents is to normalize talking about maternal mental health. We need to be open and talk about the good, the bad and the ugly especially on social media. Because in reality that’s actually what motherhood is, it isn’t a picture perfect journey of cuddles and baking at home, it’s also feeling inadequate, that you’re failing or the fact you just want to pack a bag and leave. We must talk about our maternal mental health whether it be to a partner, a parent, friend or to a complete stranger you’ll be surprised how much better you do feel after taking the first and hardest step of being honest and admitting how you feel. There should be no judgement, no stigma and we need to start a conversation to normalise these issues and show we are all in this together.
Vicki Cockerill is a NICU/ CHD Mum of two boys and working mum.