Maternal Mental Health Week
Story of Sarah* (name changed to protect identity).
I moved into Dove Cott House Foyer on 18 November 2020. I fell pregnant during the global pandemic; if it wasn’t stressful enough, right?! While pregnant with my daughter during lockdown, it seemed very unfair. Others had experienced baby showers, pregnancy photo shoots and it was very lonely. I had to attend all doctor and hospital appointments on my own, which I found very stressful and upsetting. Where my Mum would generally speak for me and translate what was being said, I now had to do this on my own which was difficult.
It added to my existing anxiety from my previous life experience. I also have dyslexia, so signing paperwork - which I had no understanding of what I was signing - did not help.
On a good note, when I focused on having my baby, this gave me something to look forward to and was how I managed my anxiety levels. I felt happy, excited and confident. I couldn’t wait to meet her and thought it would be easy!
On 5 December 2020 my baby girl was born. This was very overwhelming. Nothing easy going on here! I instantly fell in love with her but I found it hard. I did not feel good enough for her. I felt scared, anxious, overwhelmed, self-conscious, I doubted myself and I had low self-esteem and yet sometimes it was the happiest I have ever been, I was so in love with her. I felt alone with a new born baby and I had just moved into my own flat where I have never lived on my own before. I have never had to worry about anyone else other than myself. I was not very independent and relied on others to get me by. I would worry every time she cried that I would not be able to comfort her or attend to her needs. I didn’t share my feelings with anyone, not even my partner because I didn’t want him to see how uncapable and rubbish I felt.
One night when I couldn’t handle feeling alone anymore, I called my partner to come and take my baby as I felt so low and worthless that I wanted to punish myself so I could stop feeling my emotional pain. I wouldn’t have hurt my baby, but I did not care for myself anymore. My partner came over and took us to his parents’ home. Then it all just came out; my poor partner, who at the time was also going through his own stresses.
We came home and we had a heart to heart. After speaking to him and telling him how I was feeling, he came down to speak to staff who immediately assisted and provided extra time and support alongside my partner, who was allowed to feel protective and part of the support network. Due to the Christmas closure, there were no GPs open or access to any health visitors, so all of the love, support and care had to come from within Dove Cott House.
Looking back, you would not think I am the same person today. I am confident, stronger, more assertive, bossy and feel more like the normal me. I even have friends now. I couldn’t have managed without the care and support around me and being at Dove Cott House for the last six months has really helped me learn how to look forward to the future.
Sarah’s experience is perfectly common; perinatal mental illness affects up to 20% of new and expectant mums in the UK. Having a baby is a big life event, and it is natural to experience a range of emotions during pregnancy and after giving birth.
If difficult emotions start to impact your day-to-day life, you might be experiencing a perinatal mental health problem. Mind provide a list of services that support mental health during pregnancy and after child birth, in addition to specialist resources if you want to learn more about perinatal mental health.
*Written by our Foyer resident, in her own words. Correct at time of publishing.