Perinatal mental ill health affects almost one in three mothers and one in ten fathers, and is one of the leading causes of death for mothers during pregnancy and the year after birth. Caitlin shares her experience and explains how Aberlour’s Perinatal Befriending Support Service has helped to save her life.
Throughout my pregnancy I had been quite ill. Then a few days before Harrison was born he stopped moving. I was rushed into hospital to check everything was ok. I was then induced the next day, but I was constantly being sick. I then went into labour the next day for 24 hours. It was really horrible: I hadn’t eaten or drank anything for three days. As I was panicking it was putting Harrison under distress, his heart rate kept going up and down. It was a horrible experience that went on for so long. I do think this is where the bonding problem I felt I had with my new, beautiful, baby boy started. I resented him a little for putting me through all that.
I was diagnosed with post-natal depression
Not long after Harrison was born, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. Nothing helped. I didn’t want to get up off the sofa, I didn’t want to get changed or brush my teeth never mind do things with my little boy. I felt like that bond wasn’t there and he was better off without me.
My health visitor suggested I go away for a few days and see how I feel. My friend and I went to Spain for 7 days. The first few days I was loving it: I had no baby, I was care free. But then it hit me: I missed my wee boy. I wanted to go home and be his mum. I am glad I went away as it made me realise the bond I didn’t think was there, actually was. But then I felt worse.
When I got home, I just didn’t know what to do. I hit rock bottom, I felt like I was a terrible mum. I felt like I was letting Harrison down as I wasn’t helping him thrive, to be the best person he could be, to be the best thing in my life. I thought Harrison doesn’t need me, he is better off without me. That then escalated to ‘no-one needs me in their life’. I was so low, and I was having suicidal thoughts.
When Harrison was 6 months old, I knew I had to do something. I needed help. That is when I was introduced to Angie at Aberlour. Nothing else I had tried worked, I knew this was my last chance and it worked!
I met Claire and I started to be me again
Aberlour provide a perinatal befriending service, so I met with Angie a few times to discuss how I was feeling and the help I needed. She then matched me up with Claire, someone who had been through a similar experience, someone who understood what I was going through. Slowly but surely things started to change and I started to come back.
At first Claire would come around to my house. I would sit in the corner of my sofa cooried in. I would make a cup of tea for us both, while Claire would keep an eye on Harrison. We could then talk about me, my concerns and my feelings. Claire would listen and as she had been in a similar situation to me, she would never judge.
On our third visit I asked Claire to come along to local mummy and baby class with me. I wanted to start meeting other mums and let Harrison play with other children. Having her there made me feel confident. I knew if I couldn’t cope, she was there for me to fall back on, someone I could ask to keep an eye on Harrison while I gathered myself together again.
It really is the small things that help. Claire was there to get me out the house to do activities that we love to do together, like arts and crafts or going for a coffee just the two of us. My homework task each night was to get into bed and reflect on the good things that happened that day. Some days these were small things like ‘today I managed to get dressed’ or ‘today I took Harrison to nursery and then to the park on my own.’ I kept a diary of all these things, and it is unreal to see my journey on paper.
Focus on the positives
One of the most important parts of having my Aberlour befriender is that fact Claire listens to all my concerns and understands what I am going through. She would never tell me what to think or do, but she would show me the positives in a situation, not just the negatives which I was focusing on.
At the end of our meetings I felt great, I would see that the positives outweighed the negatives. This helps me so much even now because there are still ups and downs, and the Aberlour Top 10 Tips are always in my house when I need them.
Without Claire and Aberlour I wouldn’t be sitting here today and that is the truth. Which isn’t nice to admit but it is, and the connection I have with my little boy now is the best thing. I am so proud of my journey; I am now off my anti-depressants and back to my bubbly self. I am thriving and so is Harrison. I am strong and know I can handle anything that comes my way thanks to the positive way I now think and feel.
The perinatal befriending service saved my life
This befriending service is a must; this service saves lives. It saved my life. But It isn’t just for the mums it is for the children as well. If you have a mum who feels they can’t look after their child then you are going to have children that aren’t going to thrive or be the best they can be because they need that support from their parents, and some parents need support to be the best parents they can be for their children. The service is needed as if I didn’t have the support from Claire and the Aberlour team my son wouldn’t have a mum right now.