6 May 2021
CNWL has been speaking with women who have used our perinatal services to help promote Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.
This is a week-long campaign running from 3 to 9 May dedicated to talking about mental illness during pregnancy or after having a baby and signposting to support for all mums.
One of these is Laura who was initially diagnosed with postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety and then latterly PTSD and OCD following the difficult birth of her son Jack.
Laura has given us permission to run her interview in full.
This is her story of how she came to be referred to the Milton Keynes Perinatal Mental Health Service.
You can play the audio here or read her transcript below…
“I didn't have the easiest of pregnancies and I was induced at
39 weeks because of the size of the baby.
So I went into hospital to be induced.
I had an allergic reaction to the second pessary and
unfortunately I then ended up in an awful lot of pain.
The allergic reaction to the pessary slowed down
the process. Ended up having to have an epidural.
By the time our baby, who is Jack, by the time he
was born it was about a 65/67 hour process.
He did get stuck towards the end of my labour, so I had to have an
episiotomy and unfortunately I suffered quite significant blood loss
as a result of being cut. I struggled
immensely. Once I had given birth I was exhausted.
I had suffered severe sleep, sleep deprivation and had
had a couple of hours sleep in about a 72 hour window.
So was extremely exhausted and tired, especially after the long
labour. Due to my severe exhaustion.
I felt quite unable to care for Jack during his first couple of days and when we were still
on the post labour ward. Day two of being on the post labour
ward, I unfortunately had an infection so
had to be hooked up to antibiotics, which again that hindered then my ability
to physically care for Jack.
We ended up being discharged very late day three after Jack
And I can clearly remember the memory of walking through the front
door with Jack and just staring at my husband, carrying him in the car
seat and thinking, who is this baby and
am I meant to now look after him and it just didn't feel real
at all! I developed extreme
fear of falling asleep, even though by this point I was utterly
exhausted and had been up pretty much for 4-5 days solid.
I had intrusive thoughts over if I fell asleep that I would die
or if I fell asleep, Jack would die, and it would be my fault.
I felt that I had zero attachment to Jack.
I didn't feel that I had any kind of bond with him at all.
I can remember looking at him and especially in that first week or
so, and thinking, what on earth have I done?
This is the biggest mistake of my life.
And I felt like my life was over and it just didn't feel real that
this baby was mine.
I didn't feel like I'd look at him and I felt like he was my baby.
And you know, my husband and I had tried for so long to fall pregnant.
We were in such a happy place in our life and our marriage, and suddenly this
baby come along and everything was ruined.
My husband took the first two weeks of Jack's life off as paternity
leave from work and I did find during that that sort of two week window
that I was almost able to once I had physically felt a bit better
and had caught up on a little bit of sleep that
I could put on a brave face.
So I felt like I was making all of the right noises and
saying all the right things when people were coming over to visit and I was
trying my best to hold this baby that I didn't feel the attachment to.
But I was trying to hold him as if to show what a great first time mum I am
and look how attentive I am.
And when the visitors left or if Ian left the room and it was just me and
yeah, it was just me and Jack.
I remember looking at him thinking, "You hate me".
And I felt at the time that I hated him.
I felt like everyone else could comfort Jack apart from me and I was just
I was failing at being a wife and failing as being a mum.
Ian went back to work after two weeks and
I feel that that was the real sort of pinnacle point in
terms of things deteriorating.
I hated every morning when Jack would wake
up and I would have to hold him and feed him.
I hated being isolated in the house all day long.
I didn't particularly want to hold Jack.
I felt like he knew that I was failing as a mum
and therefore he didn't love me and I didn't love him.
And at this point I was developing quite strong OCD behaviour
and the intrusive thoughts were, were really sort of plaguing
my mind for the whole of the day.
I used to feel sheer relief when my husband would get home from work so I could
hand Jack to him and I could then run away and be by myself.
And it was a real, a real hard time.
And it's still quite hard to look back on it now because it I've gone such a long
way throughout this process of my recovery.
And it's still, I feel sad for myself for the person that I was
back then and how unwell I was. Jack was about five weeks old when my
lovely health visitor Jane come around for a bit of a routine
appointment and I felt like it, it was getting to the point that
I knew something really wasn't right, but I hadn't vocalised anything to my
husband or my family or my friends and Jane sat down in my living room and she said,
"And how are you?"
And I remember feeling that, you know, I felt like the wind had been taken
out of me.
It was the first time in about five weeks that somebody had asked me how I
was and I wanted to lie and say I was fine.
But I kind of knew that I really wasn't, wasn't
well and I ended up just offloading everything on poor
Jane, bless her.
And we spoke about how I've been feeling, what's been happening, the thoughts
that I'm thinking about constantly and she was amazing
and she reacted immediately.
She left my house and said she was going to seek some further
support for me.
Within an hour of her leaving she had called me back and she said that she had
referred me to the Perinatal Mental Health Team at Milton Keynes Hospital.
She said that they will look at some care for me and some support,
but just to be open and honest with them. Someone from the team at the
hospital called me and we just ran through some basic sort of questions and
then I think it was in about within about three days.
I had a face to face appointment with a woman in the team and
we went through everything even from things from like my childhood,
all the way up to conception.
And then obviously we spent a lot of time talking about my labour and also then
the time afterwards. It was then decided that yes, I
was suffering from postnatal depression, postnatal anxiety
and I was then put in touch with a therapist who I had weekly appointments with.
And we started the process of CBT therapy alongside
I had that type of therapy for about four or five months and then I
was transferred to a different therapist and
I then was diagnosed with PTSD and
OCD and then we started a sort of a different treatment course.
So I've had EMDR Therapy.
I've also had my medication changed in a number of times and I
am well on the road to recovery now, which is good.
Where would you be now, had you not sought that help?
I would be very fearful of what quality of life
myself, my husband and my son would be having if I hadn't have received
such fantastic help,
support, guidance from the perinatal team at the hospital
and my husband and I always refer to my therapist who
is Emma Cross, we call her my guardian angel.
because without Emma and her support and her
help, I think my life would have stayed
almost definitely in that very dark rut.
What would your message be to a mum who's going through the same thing as you went through?
You're not alone.
I know when I was extremely poorly, I felt that I
was utterly alone in this very dark world and nobody
could even comprehend how I was feeling or what was going on.
But you're not alone and the help and the resources that are available to
us mums is just incredible
and I would urge anyone that's feeling like they're
failing or they're struggling or they just don't feel quite right to seek
support and seek help because the world is an awesome
place and when you are suffering from mental health illnesses,
it just feels a very dark world and you know, there's help and support out
there that can help you to get back to where you were and to start enjoying life again.”
CNWL also runs perinatal mental health services in Hillingdon, Kensington and Chelsea, or Westminster.