“Before I got pregnant, I had a carefree life. I was 35 and married to my husband for nine years, though we’d been together for 18. My husband works on the oil rigs. He’s away two weeks at a time. Before I had my daughter I would party for the whole 2 weeks while he was away then when he came home I’d pretend I was sensible and do all the housework at the last minute! I was lucky that I was earning good money and could do what I liked, go where I wanted, buy what I liked. I had a good job in the bank, I’d been there for 19 years. I started when I was 16 and the job meant that I’ve travelled all over.
“I had a wonderful pregnancy. We had a waited a long time to get pregnant so when it happened I was so happy. Probably the happiest pregnant person you could meet! Everything was great till 3 weeks before my due date when I was diagnosed as having preeclampsia. I got taken to hospital because my blood pressure was through the roof. The babies heart rate was going up and down. I had to get an emergency C-section. When my daughter she was born, she had pooed inside me and had to be resuscitated. I think a lot of what happened to me stems from that. It was terrifying. She was ok, but when her dad held her she stopped breathing. I couldn’t move as I’d had the section but I could tell that something wasn’t right. She was resuscitated again. There was no lasting damage and she was fine though.
“I got transferred to a ward and thought “brilliant, I’ll get out tomorrow”. Then, all of a sudden, everyone ran into my room and it was chaotic, all the machines going off. My first thought was that there was something wrong with my daughter, but it was me they were running in for. I had developed sepsis. My temperature was through the roof. I was treated for that and moved to my own room. I was in hospital for a week. It was traumatic, but I didn’t realise at the time. I was just so happy to have my baby.
“When I got out of hospital everything was brilliant. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but we were organised and got on with things. A few late nights but that’s normal. I wanted to breastfeed but It didn’t quite work out. So we did combination feeding and that was fine. Then I started to feel unwell. I didn’t think anything of it. I had a sore head and couldn’t stand for long but at first I thought it was just being a new mum. I’d try to stand up and would just fall over. I went to the doctors and was diagnosed with an over-active thyroid. There were some benefits – I lost all the baby weight in about three weeks! But it also brought on a lot of anxiety, that’s a symptom of it.
“I had no idea how bad my anxiety was at the time. My wee sister would come over to stay and help me when my husband was back at work. We had a ‘next to me’ cot that was right beside the bed. She offered to sleep with the baby so I could get some rest, but I couldn’t let her – I thought she would steal the baby. I was worse when she was here than If I was on my own. I couldn’t sleep at all for thinking that she would take her away from me. I think it was because we had waited so long for the baby that I was terrified she’d be stolen. My wee sister is the best Aunty you could wish for, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head that she was trying to steal her.
“When my friend came over and offered to watch the baby while i had a shower, I had to get out half way through because I thought she was conspiring to steal the baby too. I constantly felt that something bad would happen. My thoughts were irrational. If we went to baby swimming classes I was worried that something would happen to her there as well.
“I saw my mum and dad all the time, I didn’t feel isolated. That made it harder for me to understand. I had no reason to be like that. I had a brilliant network and couldn’t understand why I felt like the way I did.
“I was getting out the house and going to classes with the baby. I made myself go to baby classes. I absolutely hated them. I was paranoid and thought they were cliquey but, to be fair, I think that was in my head. But I forced myself to go. I soon made friends with a group of girls and that made it easier. Once I got to know them, they shared that they were going through the exact same thing. And nobody talks about it. And another friend said to me, “I’ve got really bad anxiety since I’ve had my daughter.” And I said “so do I”. It’s brought us closer together.
“I took my daughter to Aberlour’s infant massage group. My partner also took her to a father and baby infant massage class too. Amanda from Aberlour asked me if my partner had enjoyed the class and my response was “yes, I think they both really enjoyed it but I’ve turned into a bit of a psycho since I’ve had her and I don’t really like leaving her with her daddy.” Amanda didn’t say anything but something had clicked for her in what I’d said. She asked to speak to me at the end of the class.
“I thought I had said something mean to someone and she was going to talk to me about it. I overanalyse everything now – before I couldn’t care less. She asked me if I was struggling and that was it, the floodgates opened. It was brilliant though, the best thing that could have happened.
“My health visitor was brilliant too. Amanda called her and after that she came around and saw me every week. Amanda suggested that Aberlour’s Perinatal Befriending Support Service might help. At first I had reservations because I didn’t need a befriender. I had plenty of friends. But I went ahead with meeting Angie. She called me then was out to see me within the week. She was lovely. It was life-changing for me. I was matched with a befriender right away.
“The first time she came over we just sat and talked. She came around to the house, but after half an hour I asked her if she would mind leaving it for today. I was overwhelmed talking to someone. But after that everything was brilliant. It got easier with time. We would go walking come rain or shine on a canal path nearby and just having someone to talk to really helped me. I could talk to my befriender all day, every day. We had loads in common. It made all the difference to me. I don’t know how, maybe it was because she didn’t know me and would never judge me. She could relate to what I was talking about. It was amazing, the best thing for me.
“I wasn’t the type of person who gets anxiety or depression. Strangely, it has helped me with my job and empathising with other people. Before I would think ‘they are at it.’ But you don’t know what’s going on with people.
“Slowly but surely, I started to feel better. It’s been a long journey. I started to enjoy baby and mum classes more. Now I’m looking at them enthusiastically and thinking about what ones we can do.
“I’m back at work now. When my partner is home I’m ok, but the day he goes away I don’t sleep as I still sometimes worry that someone is going to steal my baby. It takes me a week or so to get used to it. I’m juggling so much with going back to work. But my boss is amazing. She’s compressed my hours so I work one Saturday in 4 and then when my partner is away I only work 4 days. It makes childcare easier.
“The service has given me my life back. I’d recommend it to everyone. My friend didn’t seek help from anyone till her son was 14 months and now she’s in a terrible state. She’s on tablets. I have so many health issues that taking medication for depression is the last thing I would have wanted. I think getting a befriender so early made all the difference. The training the staff must get to spot this, it’s just amazing.”
Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support Service – Forth Valley