My pregnancy was very unexpected, and I was nearly 11 weeks pregnant before I discovered I was soon to be a Mum. I was overcome with joy and delight. I was almost hyperactive and hysterical with these emotions. However this was soon overshadowed by an enormous fear. I wasn’t in the best place prior to pregnancy, so my head was soon consumed with so many ‘what ifs’; Will I cope? How will I manage on the days when I can’t get out of bed? Will they take my baby away from me deeming me an unsuitable mother for experiencing depression and anxiety? How do I even change a nappy?

I think most of the stigma I experienced came from myself. I believed that as I suffered from depression, I was automatically deemed an unsuitable mother. I now know that this is not the case but it is not easy when you are fighting a battle with yourself every day to be able to see the extent of your own strength.

I became physically critically ill when 26 weeks pregnant with an acute kidney infection. I was in hospital for nearly three weeks. It was a very traumatic time, which I think in retrospect affected me more than I dared share.

My son was born very suddenly nearly two months early. I was not prepared for labour but he was making his way into the world regardless.

I was in hospital for nearly a month. For the first few days, I couldn’t hold my son – I was scared he would break in my arms, and I felt unworthy of him. Everyone spoke of maternal instincts but I didn’t even understand what this meant. To me, I had no maternal instinct – I couldn’t even hold my baby.

The midwives were very patient with me, and arranged for me to have my own room as I kept breaking down when I saw other Mums seemingly handling their babies with confidence and ease. I had failed my son, and I felt that I would only keep failing him. Eventually, I felt able to hold him and would snuggle up with him and read him stories. I had constant company in him and yet I felt so very alone.

After a few months of being back home, my relationship with my son’s Dad sadly broke down. I moved in with my parents but struggled to do much for my son. I believed I didn’t deserve him and he would be better without me.

I was referred to the mother and baby unit and they offered me intensive support at home. I had the most wonderful CPN who nurtured me back to strength. I also worked with an infant psychologist from the infant mental health team to help my relationship with my baby develop. I also had a great GP and an amazingly supportive family.

Local children’s centres are also a great resource for play groups and support. I have a family support worker who I see regularly, and if I need a chat in-between appointments, I need only phone. I was also referred for psychology myself to try and manage my depression, anxiety and lack of self-worth.

I believed that as I suffered from depression, I was automatically deemed an unsuitable mother. I now know that this is not the case

Sarah

As a result of some wonderful input from professionals, I now feel I am making positive progress. For so long I feared failing my child, I now feel that it is not about failing or succeeding and certainly not about being perfect but about doing the best I can with what I have on offer.

My advice to others: A midwife once said to me when I was upset over having to bottle feed that ‘what is right for Mum is right for baby.’ This has stayed with me. It can be a very lonely, frightening place but the most important thing to do is talk. Open up to those around you whether that be your doctor, midwife, health visitor, friend or family member. Try as hard as it may be to trust in yourself to do the best you are able to at the time with what presents itself. Everyone’s situation is different but from talking, I have realised that some of the emotions and worries I experienced and still experience some times have been and are also felt by others. There is no shame in emotions and difficulties. Be kind to yourself.