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.