Why its okay to take mummy’s little helpers while bringing all your milkshake to the baby yard.

Happy pills.
Smilers.
Mommy’s little helpers.

They come in an abundance of names and have changed many a life. What what you say? I say antidepressants.

I am a big personal advocate for medication. In the midst of a Postpartum Psychosis , when I was terrified of everything and everyone, when I thought I was floating to the sky and the walls were suffocating me, when I spent 100 quid on bags of potatoes and filled the garden with juice extractors after a spree on the shopping channel at 2am, they cleared the fog so I could focus on recovery. I did all this while also having a 24 hour all you can eat milk canteen pumping on my chest.

As you may know from my other blogs, breastfeeding became important to me almost overnight. I had assumed I would mix feed my son so before he was even born, along with the 87 cans of caffeine free diet coke and value strawberry angel delights I became obsessed with, I would order those readymade cartons of formula. I just assumed I would use them. And then I gave birth, became terrified of being near my little boy, refused to look at him or be in the same room as him but felt a desperate pang to feed him myself. I do not know what it was. I found the very idea of being near him beyond comprehension. I remember the day that I ran out into the middle of the road screaming ‘I’m trapped, take me away from this world, he has trapped me’. My partner brought me back into the house, I slumped myself on the floor, crying my eyes out. My mum was there and said ‘Evelyn, what is it love, tell me how you feel, please’. I looked at her, angry and I can remember clear as day saying ‘I hate these feelings, I can’t bear it, I can’t. even.bear.to.look.at.him’. My mum started weeping and said ‘but he is so precious Evelyn. Look at him love, please, cuddle him, please love’, and I just stared at the carpet. And then he started crying. And I did what I was later to realise I always did when he did this – I picked him up , my partner held him to me and I nursed him. I found it hard to look at him but my boobs would tingle when he cried as if they ached to comfort him.

The feelings I experienced were so confusing and terrified me. I was , what was later described in therapy, grieving deeply for my old life. I felt dead, void of positive feelings towards the future and scared of the life waiting for me ahead. But I found myself needing and wanting it nurse the child I didn’t think I wanted.

The day I was hospitalised in a psychiatric mother and baby unit was when I had a sense of realisation that I wanted to not only be my sons mother and carer but I also wanted to feed him. After John had found me wandering around in a daze, I had run into his parents’ room and began crawling round the bed on all fours. I was screaming for someone to help me. John was talking on the phone to a psychiatrist and I was walking up and down the stairs over and over, talking to myself. I suddenly heard another voice. A family member was on the phone to the doctor’s surgery and was asking for the GP to prescribe some tablets for me to dry my milk up so they could bottle feed Joe.  And this was when my brain bolted. I knew I was ill. I knew I was terrified of my role as a mum and the terror of this being a job I would have forever like it or not, filled me with a fear that I had never ever experienced. I was confused, scared, and lost in my own thoughts but I knew something. I knew I wanted to feed my son. I knew I could do that. It was the one thing that I could do for him that no one else could.

I was admitted to the mother and baby unit later that day and prescribed antidepressants that were compatible with nursing and it was amazing. I was able to begin recovering while doing the one thing that was important to me

Yet so many women are still told it is not possible. It is in lots of cases. Of course, for some, it is not possible, but it is not a blanket rule.

Ten years on, I coordinate the UK Mental Health Awareness Week with a small group of people affected by perinatal mental illness. Up to one in five women experience mental illness during pregnancy and the first year after birth – that is what perinatal means. However, apparently only around 50% of these are diagnosed. I want to arm women and families with knowledge so they can get the care they need and deserve and one of the things we at PMHP look at during the Awareness Week is breastfeeding and antidepressants.  We get so many emails from women saying they think they may have to stop feeding to take any medication and are desperately sad and upset about it.

I need help. I do not want to feel this way – how do I get help ?

I have been there. Given birth and thinking at some point soon the hills will be alive with the sound of sweet gurgling baby noises but instead, ferocious waves are crashing around in your head. You are overwhelmed.  You are crying. You are having thoughts enter your head which are scaring you.  You may be questioning whether you love your baby. You want someone and something to help it get better.

You deserve help and support. Please open to a health care professional and tell them about your feelings so they can work out what the best treatment is for you. Even if the thoughts you are having you are scared off . I did an Instagram Live last month about Intrusive Thoughts in the Perinatal Period with Catherine Benfield where we discussed thoughts that are about harm or are sexual in nature. Trigger warning if you do watch and if you have have been having these kinds of thoughts, you are not an awful person at all. Not in anyway. Please let the Instagram Live session reassure you  – https://www.instagram.com/tv/CCWoFeHF4Me/?igshid=11en4xnqxzltq

If you aren’t sure how to open up, you could fill in the GP Appointment Checklist – a simple but innovative perinatal mental illness appointment checklist was developed by my friends Smile Group for mums who find it challenging to articulate how they feel when speaking to GPs, HVs or midwives http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/ . If the midwife or HV is visiting your house , you could pass it to them or if you are seeing a GP over an e consultation because of Covid, you could email a version for their attention ahead of your appointment.

At the start of lockdown , I pulled together this directory of perinatal mental illness support during Covid-19 and beyond.

The article is here : https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2020/03/31/support-when-mums-need-it-most-perinatal-mental-health-support-during-covid-19-and-beyond/

The aim of it is to provide a supportive platform which can reassure families and signpost them to vital resources and support which is what people need most at this time. While we are a few months later and some service provision will have changed , the article provides an overview of services for mums experiencing perinatal mental illness during this unusual time.

The article covers :

1 – Overview of online perinatal mental health support

2 – Online Perinatal Mental Health Peer Support groups / forums

3 – Perinatal mental health charities offering their support in new ways during the isolation period

4 – Maternal Mental Health Online Courses

5 – Useful details of national mental health charities and groups

6 – Regional perinatal mental health support in their usual form

7- Support for BAME mums

8 – Other groups/apps/organisations that provide support to mums

9 – Breastfeeding Support

10 – Covid Support

11- Support Resources

12 – Suicidal thoughts / Help in a crisis

13 – Perinatal Mental Illnesses and their symptoms

Disclaimer

I am not a doctor. I did once receive a letter addressed to Dr Steve Caravan which was meant for me, Miss Eve Canavan but alas, it was not the career choice for me. Therefore , this blog will not be me telling you what meds to take as this is not appropriate for me to do – we need to look at the guidance from health care professionals and so I have placed it all in here in place so it is easy to navigate.

This blog is not about feeding choices or how women choose to feed their babies. It is about plonking all the breastfeeding and antidepressant information in once place , at a time when everything can feel too much and overwhelming.

Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit

Your GP has resources to help you if you are experiencing perinatal mental illness. These include the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit which gives doctors access to things which will help them support unwell mums.

It is below, and anyone can look at it, not just GPs. As someone with lived experience of perinatal mental illness, I, alongside several other women, supported the creation of the Toolkit, giving advice from the lived experience viewpoint.

http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/toolkits/perinatal-mental-health-toolkit.aspx

It contains clinical which offers information on presentation, diagnosis, and treatment both with medication as well as psychological treatment. There is significant geographical variation in the provision of specialist perinatal mental health services across the UK and it is important GPs know where to access further information.

It is absolutely BRILLO-PADS. Thanks for it Dr Carrie Ladd.

Guidelines In Practice

There is also this great article written by my mate Dr Stephanie de Giorgio for GPs about identifying and counselling women with postnatal, perinatal, and current or previous mental health problems, non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatment options and when to refer to secondary care.

https://www.guidelinesinpractice.co.uk/mental-health/top-tips-perinatal-mental-health-problems/453729.article

Medication in pregnancy and breastfeeding

It also has a whole section on this advising that the decision to use medication to treat a mental health problem during the perinatal period is a complex one and individual to each woman. Clinicians should be able to help women make an informed decision and the following resources may be assist them to do so.

The Breastfeeding Network

What a brilliant organisation these are.

At the Breastfeeding Network, they are in contact with, and support thousands of new mums every year and around 15% of the calls to their old Drugs in Breastmilk information service  related to mental health issues.

They also advise on their website that research also shows that more than 3 in 5 women stopped breastfeeding earlier than they wanted to. This shows the importance of providing good quality breastfeeding support and evidence-based information on the safety of anti-depressant medication for mums who do want to breastfeed.

They have detailed, evidence based, information sheets on anxiety and breastfeedingfeeling depressed and breastfeedingfeeling anxious and breastfeedingOCD and breastfeeding, Bipolar disorder and breastfeeding and postnatal depression treatments and breastfeeding. These are written by their qualified and highly experienced pharmacist and can be downloaded or printed out to discuss with your midwife, health visitor or GP.

Drugs in Breastmilk Antidepressant Factsheets – https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/antidepressants/

You can call the National Breastfeeding Helpline which is open from 9.30am-9.30pm 365 days a year on 0300 100 0212 to talk to a trained volunteer, who is also a mum who has breastfed.  The helpline also welcomes calls from partners, family members and friends.

GP Infant Feeding Network

The GP Infant Feeding Network (UK), also known as GPIFN, has developed this website as a clinical resource for General Practitioners (GPs) working in the UK. The website was developed as an independent, voluntary project by UK GPs with assistance and input from colleagues working in infant feeding, maternity and early years.

They advise that the website can be used as a basic reference for learning more about infant feeding issues that may present to the GP. It also signposts to further information from trusted independent sources.

The intention is to help GPs in the UK easily find evidence based information on infant feeding which assists their practice and enables them to complement the work of those supporting healthy infant feeding.

Home
https://gpifn.org.uk/maternal-mental-health/

Dr Wendy Jones MBE – Facebook Lives

During each UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, Queen of Pharmacists Dr Wendy Jones MBE delivers a Facebook live for us about Breastfeeding and antidepressants. Wendy is a bit of a hero to nursing mamas and is truly an incredible, kind, and supportive resource. Take a look at a previous Facebook live she has done about this very subject here  https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=826557897700531&id=587696788088228.

Wendy’s website is here – https://breastfeeding-and-medication.co.uk/

Breastfeeding myths.

There are so many wild rumours about breastfeeding that they can really overwhelm people and make your boobs feel oiled bursting out of their bra for relief. These myths only serve to not support women who wish to feed so I was very honoured to recently have queen of boobs Shel Banks join me on Instagram Live for a Supporting Mums session on this very subject.

Things such as when and how much poo should a week-old baby be producing if breastfed? What does green poo mean – has my baby been fathered by an alien? Do oats up milk supply as I have eaten 4 packets of hobnobs? Can I have some wine when I am breastfeeding, or will it make my baby drunk and climb on a table singing The Wheels on The Bus while pooping into its nappy?

Take a look as Shel is so reassuring and kind – https://www.instagram.com/tv/CDi6GFMFkEp/?igshid=1ggkuzq59xkgw

You will get better. I promise .

For me, medication saved my life and I will be forever grateful – it really was the only thing that helped me when I was unwell. Medication freed me from the hysteria of hallucinations  and I will forever praise them for giving me the gift of my life back.

Diamonds may be a nice present but for me , the best I ever had was becoming Eve again and learning not to be scared of my baby. Who cares if I had to shake, rattle, and roll along the medication yellow brick road to get here?

I wrote this about antidepressants if you fancy another read – https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/tear-up-those-anti-depressant-prescriptions-all-you-need-to-do-is-climb-into-a-magicians-hatnudge-the-rabbit-out-of-the-way-and-abracadabra-youre-cured-in-a-puff-of-pull-yourself-together-smo/

Eve xx

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Follow the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership – https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/

Zoom, zoom, zoom, we’re going to the moon. 5,4,3,2, hang on, I have an 11am, an 11.30, a call with my kids’ teacher at 12.15, have Tesco delivering at 2pm a 3.15 and 4pm. Can we reschedule the moon for next week?

Ahh. Zoom, MS Teams, Hangouts, Skype, House party, Facetime, Moon time, Anytime. That’s what we are now, available anytime as we now all talk to people through our screens. Covid. The gift that keeps on giving. I have had Covid – it is the worst gift ever.

In March, we had to endure hour long tutorials with relatives about how to talk through the computer screen– 4 year olds across the land who could probably be CEO of snapchat by the time they are 5 spent large chunks of their day shouting “ No nanna, I can still just see your foot. Lift the iPad up” or “Turn the camera around. Can you see the button on the screen with the camera logo, press it? No, that is the mute button, no now I can see grandad’s nostril. And you are on mute, I cannot hear anything you are saying “ to which parents across the land shouted from the kitchen wrapped in a vat of spag bol , whilst in their pants and also on a work call on mute , “ just hang up. Tell them you will call later. I am attempting to do a performance review with a team member whilst browning 500g of mince and working out what a bloody frontal adverbial is “.

The ‘new normal’ we are living sounded like heaven initially– working from home while your child received their school work via an app and all would be wrapped up at 3.30 and you could cook dinner at 6pm and I for one was delighted that I would not have to wax my beard each day. There would be no getting on the tube at 7.15am to spend an hour with your foundation being rubbed into someone’s armpit. No being late for your 10am meeting because after dropping your kid at the school gates with 0.5 seconds to spare they declare “I am not wearing any pants, my willy hurts”. No changing out of your 4 inch stilettos in trainers to run the mile to school to collect said child in a time that would blow Roger Bannister out of the water and no cooking entire meals in the toaster as you are too batshit tired to do anything else – note waffles take five minutes on setting number 3. I stick 4 Quorn nuggets in there as well but don’t recommend pouring baked beans in…. something about things exploding apparently. You can cook a whole curry in a kettle though – who knew? Prisoners, that’s who. I learnt it from a channel 4 documentary.

So I thought that my new life would be marvellous and I would be entering lockdown stressed, bit fat, stressed, bit more fat and emerge a few months later relaxed and a bit less fat and that NO ONE WOULD BE SEEING ME .

This is not the case. People see me. All day. All the time. THEY SEE ME BECAUSE MY FACE IS BROADCAST ON VIDEO CALLS ELEVENTY 98 MILLION TIMES A DAY MEANING I HAVE TO SHAVE MY BEARD EVERYDAY. They are also witnessing all my new chins appearing ……

Said new life began by getting Covid. Which was a right old ballache let me tell you. A couple of weeks in bed where my legs stopped working, I was so hot and sweaty you could wring me out and cough, cough, I coughed loads. As I emerged from the illness, I realised I had not seen my mates for yonks so whatsapped everyone saying let’s get on the zoom train and pop prosecco together. As I went back to work, I saw we were all working hard about how to work together virtually while being apart physically. Masterclasses were being run on social media about how to log on to these video conferencing networks and the first month was spent with your team saying “Morning all. Oh David, you are on mute, can you repeat the point you have just been making for 20 minutes as no one heard you.” Sally in accounts thought her camera was off when her doorbell went and everyone saw her emerge from her sofa in her husbands football socks and wrapped in a sleeping bag and my team witnessed my kid handing me 50 quids worth of Playmobil dropped off by amazon at 9am and I delivered my morning hello chat whilst disinfecting a 3 inch swat policeman with the anti bac spray.

My phone home screen starting filling up with the numerous different apps as everyone uses different ones and started having arguments about the right one to use, with people calling you on one to tell you they are dialling you on another one……. And that is just the adults.

My ten-year-old marched into the bedroom one day clad in a face mask brandishing the zoflora declaring “can I get the zoom? I need to set up a conference call with my friends”. One mumble of a yes meant I suddenly became my son’s diary manager and spent the next week whatsapping parents I had never spoken to asking if they would mind me setting up a zoom call so our kids can talk about Lego and what a ballache homework is and generally shout for 40 minutes at a pitch that would send dogs wild. This meant a further week of having the iPad launched at me while I delivering a presentation to 40 people on Ms teams saying “ mummy, xxx says he doesn’t have the zoom link, his mum thinks she got her email address wrong , can you call her please ? “ . Right then. I will just do that then, never mind that mummy is actually at work, the thing which enables us to buy an iPad to have a bloody zoom……. My kid announced to me last week that he had cancelled his 4pm with Alex and could we go for our daily walk at 6pm as he also had a 7.15pm with Andrew which he had shifted from the day before…….

I find myself clicking the camera on and off 800 times so no one sees a babybell being waved in front of it to be opened and the microphone going off mid-sentence so no hears “ mummy, the delivery man is here from Boohoo. Is daddy going to go mad at you as this is parcel number 6 this week?” has become something of the norm.

I am starting to think that the virtual calls are actually all joining together to become a video diary of my expanding body mass and by the end of the day, the word hello starts to sound like it is from an alien life force and question number 598 from my child about whether or not people can physically eat their own faces sends me to such despair , that I consider living at the tip for some peace and quiet. As I park myself at my laptop for the day and stick my earphones in (anyone else wait until 10 seconds before their meeting to then scream like a banshee “where the feck are my headphones? we have 14 mobile phones in this house all which came with headphones and I cannot find any?”), my husband goes around closing the windows so the neighbours can’t hear my meltdown and everyone grunts at me.

I have the obligatory brushed hair and top half fully clothed whereas where the camera doesn’t see, there is a duvet, a hit water bottle, and an Oreo covered crotch. And I spend a fair amount of brain time considering the merits of wearing a bra while on a google hangout. And do not start me on the consideration given to whether my pants are classed as a key worker.

I find myself moving from room to room as the three of us in the house battle for Wi-Fi coverage. Husband has set up his office in the bedroom, I am in the hallway with no windows and child is sprawled out on the sofa surrounded by cushions and snacks.

I spend 15 mins each morning explaining mummy’s virtual meeting schedule while opening up the school app 6 times saying, do you understand fractions? You need to do these this morning while mummy has three meetings. Look up ten high frequency words and make ten sentences with them, can you do that while not interrupting mummy? The work zoom call starts bleeping while child says they don’t own any pens or paper and can’t remember how to read or write and can we bake a cake and have curry for breakfast. Several fucks later and apologies to the team that my child is behind me dressed as a swat police officer while standing on the kitchen counter eating a tin of Chicken Balti and the next meeting is due to start. Child is now in garden attempting to build a tree house out of a pencil and a stone and says they are dying of starvation even though after the Chicken Balti they had 4 slices of toast, a bag of crisps, 3 bowls of porridge, eggy bread, a banana and a packet of chicken pakoras. Team see child beating window with fists saying they can’t remember when they last ate, and they NEED a snack before they wither away. Child says this while holding a cheese string and eating a crumpet.

It is 9.55am.

Mummy needs a break 55 minutes after the working week has started. So then when the working week is done, and I haven’t fallen asleep at 7pm, surrounded by cans of coke zero and empty bowls of angel delight, it is party zoom time. Yup – girl gang chatter central. I give a week’s notice to the household that mummy will be on a call at 7.30pm on sat night for 40 mins as zoom runs out then AND I AM NOT TO BE DISTURBED. I have a shower, put on makeup, nails and false eyelashes while wearing bed socks and march towards the booze cupboard at 7.25pm brandishing hair straighteners and a dabber so we can play online bingo. I haul out a bottle of prosecco, aperol and the 7up as lemonade is harder to buy than paracetamol these days and open a tinny of gin and tonic for the 5 second journey from the kitchen to the bedroom. I sit and await to be admitted to the call and when I see the 8 faces of my girlfriends pop up, I scream like I just won Miss World. We all change our names to things like Fire Crotch and talk over each other constantly and no one has a bloody clue what the hell is going on. We realise after half an hour and 12 wharsapps that Mandy is still in the virtual waiting room and when we let her in spend 15 minutes saying “no you talk. No sorry.. what did you say ? you go..yep we can hear you” while Sarah is undoing her jeans as she has drank so much wine, they are digging into her. We are all treated to a lovely crotch shot as she stands up.

Halfway through, someone’s baby toddles in in an attempt to drink a white wine spritzer while another one’s 3-year-old wanders in with their pants around their ankles declaring they just pood on the floor. We then all ask if anyone has a twatting clue what a split digraph is and Karen says it is the reason she had kid number 3 and we all laugh hysterically before I reveal I am using my kids exercise book to balance my pint glass on and deleted the school app due to my phone buzzing 87 times a day with notifications telling me my child needs to draw an oblong this week as an urgency.

As zoom is so lovely, it extends the 40-minute call for free so 3 hours pass and at 10.30pm someone declares their kid has woken up and puked over the curtains, so they need to go. We all kiss the screen and declare we must do this again tomorrow while telling each other we love each other and spend another 15 minutes saying bye bye bye bye bye bye bye.

I get up, grab the empty bottles and fling open the living room door, falling over my own boobs in the process and attempt to say hello but instead a slur of something that resembles what were probably words come out. I am absolutely incoherently off my face. I have sat in one spot for 3 hours drinking aperol spritz from a pint glass and descended into the pit of drunkville and am now staring at my family with my eyelashes residing on my nose and mouth declaring that I want a kebab and 6 stuffed jalapeno peppers . The next half hour is spent seeing double on the just eat app and misordering due to the false nails playing havoc and 8 boxes of chicken wings arriving instead resulting in me crying as I wanted a lamb shish and all my dreams are broken and life is horrible. My kid sits prodding me while asking “Mummy, while I was sat outside the bedroom door when you were on your call listening in, why were you saying that you pee your pants all the time?I am not allowed to pee my pants” and “Who is Jamie Dornan and why would you divorce daddy for him?”.

By 10am this morning my kid had declared “commas are for bellends” and a refusal to do any work at all. Super. He then ate a chicken madras with a gardening shovel for breakfast dressed as an astronaut complete with visor.

I got my period and feel like a truck has run me over. My husband ate my baguette THAT I BOUGHT FROM THE SHOP ESPECIALLY FOR ME AS I WOKE UP AT 6AM CRAVING IT as he thought I had made it for him for lunch. I was so hormonal I wanted to divorce him as I really wanted to dip it into my Heinz tomato soup with 3 inches of salted butter. I spent a good hour feeling cross about my crusty knob shaped sandwich of dreams being stolen from me and contemplated hiding all the other slices of bread as payback and making him eat grated cheese out of his cupped hands.

And I cant find any of my knickers. None of them. But I did find half a sausage inside one of my shoes. 

I somehow managed to do 7 hours work today as well. With no pants on.

Is it Christmas yet?

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Support when mums need it most – Perinatal Mental Health Support during COVID-19 and beyond.

It is March 2020 and although the sun is breaking through the clouds , the nights are lighter and everything feels a bit crisper, we are experiencing something our time has never seen. Coronavirus.

I had my own personal brush with this for around 2 weeks and am just emerging from the heavy chest and awful scratchy throat to the tiredness stage where I think I could fall asleep on my kitchen floor with my feet in the freezer, I am so fatigued. I am also a fully qualified primary school teacher every day now as well as working full time . ARGH. What a not hoot. Teachers – I salute you. I don’t know about you but while the rest of the country was leaping around to Joe Wicks this morning , I was sat on my sofa in my pants, eating angel delight out of a wok as we had no clean bowls.

But away from this , my work on maternal mental health continues . My husband said to me bloody hell Eve , imagine if this had happened 10 years ago after you had Joe , what would it have been like ? And it made me wonder. I had postpartum psychosis and was so scared of my baby , I couldn’t be in the same room as him. I felt like I was staring down at myself from the clouds and felt like I has made the most terrible mistake of my life that I could not rectify. I felt trapped in my life, the world and wanted out. I need help and after much exhaustive fighting, we got it , but I had to move 200 miles to get it and be admitted to a psychiatric mother and baby unit with my son. Thankfully , my husband was able to visit me every day and when I was discharged, I zoomed up and down the country for my out patient appointments and had a health visitor coming over a few times a week and a Homestart volunteer would visit me and accompany me to mother and baby groups while I recovered and gained confidence . I had a community of support and IT WAS ESSENTIAL to my Journey to Recovery.

But 10 years on , Coronavirus has forced these avenues of support to shut down temporarily , to think of new ways to reach out and help people. To help women. To help mothers . To provide them with the tools they need to help them through what may be a difficult perinatal period. Each day we must not forget there are women giving birth to a new life and with that , comes the birth of a mother and I am all to aware what a dark time this can be for some . 1 in four woman suffer from a maternal mental illness and this wont stop because of coronavirus. In fact, as much of my work with mums over the last month has shown it adds to worries and anxieties. Thoughts of germs everywhere that could make their baby poorly, thoughts of I am so lonely because I cant see my own mum for help, thoughts of I want to see my friend around the corner and tell her I don’t think I like my baby but I cant, thoughts of I want to go to the doctor and tell them I am having scary thoughts about hurting myself but they are closed.

These things are currently not able to happen like they have previously. Grandparents cant come and stay for a month and help out with your 4 year old while you are in bed with your c section aching , lactation consultants cant visit when your boobs are full and your baby isn’t latching , you cant attend the support group you found where there are other mothers who feel the same as you . Becoming a mother can be the most vulnerable time of a woman’s life and at this point, where we are now, they need help more than ever.

I am not a health care professional. Not got all the ologies for that. I am a mum who experienced postpartum psychosis and in 2014 got together with a group of survivors of maternal mental illness to found the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership. We created the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week that takes place each May, and I coordinate that. We have postponed it this year as we don’t feel it appropriate as we think we need to channel all our resources into ensuring mums know how and where to access support right now, during this very uncertain time. So that is what we are doing. The awareness week WILL run this year but not in May.

I am a trained peer supporter and champion safe perinatal peer support, am a media volunteer for Action on Postpartum Psychosis and Mind, a member of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and a UK representative for Postpartum Support International. I also like shoes, false nails, false eyelashes and have a proper job in the civil service. I eat custard on croissants as well.

Why am I saying all this? Well because I’m going to list some of the perinatal mental health support systems that are usually in place to support mums and how they have adjusted their services to deliver them in alternative formats. Note that these are free to use services and while I am sure there are many more available, I thought this was a good place for resources that all can access.

But while I am here, I am also going to put every single piece of information ever known about maternal mental illness to act as a kind of easy to read directory. I have tried to include as much as I know but if you don’t see your services in here, let me know and I will place it in.

DISCLAIMER HERE – while I have insight into lots of these services and very much champion safe support, I do not know the safeguarding procedures and guidelines attached to each reference so please seek this if contacting them for yourself or others.

I will number everything in here as follows for ease:

1 – Overview of online perinatal mental health support

2 – Online Perinatal Mental Health Peer Support groups / forums

3 – Perinatal mental health charities offering their support in new ways during the isolation period

4 – Maternal Mental Health Online Courses

5 – Useful details of national mental health charities and groups

6 – Regional perinatal mental health support in their usual form

7- Support for BAME mums

8 – Other groups/apps/organisations that provide support to mums

9 – Breastfeeding Support

10 – Covid Support

11- Support Resources

12 – Suicidal thoughts / Help in a crisis

13 – Perinatal Mental Illnesses and their symptoms

1 – OVERVIEW OF ONLINE PERINATAL MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

As people are self-isolating (me included , hello everyone . I mixed things up this morning and walked to the kitchen before I did my morning wee for a change of scenery) , I am receiving messages from mums who are concerned about their mental health during the isolation period and organisations across the UK want to do what they can to support them.

We know that using online resources can be a great way to support mental health. We, a group of people at the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership who have experienced maternal mental illness, came together through social media and met via a peer support forum. One of our passions therefore is to promote safe peer support and we are already seeing a huge increase in online peer support groups over the last couple of weeks.

Usually, these groups provide an online space to talk about symptoms and share support which can provide great comfort and help you feel less alone. They can also provide insight into recovery and show that it is possible.

However, you need to ensure the online support you are accessing is safe and Mind Charity have a great list of things to ask before and when you join a peer support group, which are even more relevant for those online – (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/peer-support/finding-peer-support/ ) .

You might find it helpful to ask someone, such as a group moderator, these questions about the peer support they offer:

– How is the support structured?

– Can I use the support for as long as I need to, or is it limited?

– Who leads or moderates the group?

– How many people take part?

– What ground rules or guidelines will I be asked to agree to?

– What can I do if I have a question, concern or complaint?

Groups supporting unwell mums usually have peer supporters who may also have a peer supervisor themselves so that they look after their own mental health and that of their teams, as well as the mums they support. They may have a mental health first aid certificate. If they don’t have these kind of things in place, it should be made clear.

Please also be mindful of accessing open group invites via video etc from sources you haven’t received support from previously. Mums could be miles away with no knowledge of their local mental health services if they are triggered etc. Many charities and organisations are therefore only offering this kind of support therefore to mums currently in their services or if not, are ensuring they have a trained facilitator in place to offer offline support to any mums who may need it.

If you want to learn more about the role safe peer support can play in the recovery of maternal mental illness, take a look at the Facebook live below from 2019 from the lovely Juno in Edinburgh. Juno usually run face to face peer support groups but their advice is relevant for online support

To watch Junos Facebook Live, please click on the following link :

https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/videos/2152564081446913/

2 – Online Perinatal Mental Health Peer Support groups / forums

The Perinatal Mental Health International Online Peer Support Group that Beth Bone and I run, has been recognised and placed in the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit – a guide for GPs on how to support mums with perinatal mental illness. GPs will therefore be able to advise unwell mums about the group.

The group has a defined model of support – having a peer support supervisor, admin with MHFA, trained peer supporter and group guidelines in line with 15 other partner groups across the world.

If you would like to join, follow this link- https://www.facebook.com/groups/1732740973652517/ .

Open House Nottingham run groups in person across Nottingham and also offer pert support at the Nottingham mother baby unit and run a closed group on Facebook where posts are moderated before approval and they have crisis guidelines in place – https://www.facebook.com/groups/152185714921238/?ref=share . During this isolation period, they are trialling a way to set up virtual drop in groups while they have had to close our usual sessions. In order to access these you will need to add this “Open House” account as a friend on Facebook. The same rules are a usual Open House group apply, everything said is confidential unless they have any concerns that harm may come to you or others, in which case they may have to lift this confidentiality – https://www.facebook.com/events/494269337908947/

Sunflower Family Support Group offer peer support to these affected by perinatal mental health in Staffordshire. They have just set up an online group https\;//www.facebook.com/groups/226014221879645 . There are group rules to adhere to.

Postpartum Support International also have a private perinatal group on Facebook. There are guidelines and details about what to do in a crisis. Posts are moderated prior to posting and there four admin which includes the Executive Director of PSI, Wendy Newhouse Davis. Link is here https://www.facebook.com/groups/25960478598/

Action on Postpartum Psychosis offers support to those suffering Postpartum Psychosis and their families. APP are the specialists in this illness and for correct advice, please contact them. They also run a peer support forum as women and their partners and families may never meet another person who has had PP to talk to. There are lots of myths and misunderstandings in the general public understanding of PP, which mean it can be hard to talk to family, friends and other new mothers about the experience.

Their PPTalk online support forum has over 1000 registered users and is open to anyone that has been affected by PP. The PPTalk Community is an open forum, moderated by APP and by APP volunteers – all who have personal experience of PP. They are not health professionals or trained in counselling – they are people who have been there and can offer support from our own perspectives. They advise that they cannot offer urgent crisis support.

https://healthunlocked.com/app-network .

Netmums is the UKs largest parenting website and run an online Maternal Mental Health forum. They very helpfully and responsibly advise that their parent supporters view the content on this board, answering your queries on maternal mental health. They state that the information Netmums Parent Supporters provide is not intended to substitute professional health advice. Outside of the Parent Supporters, Netmums hasn’t checked the qualifications of users posting in the forum. The forum is here https://www.netmums.com/coffeehouse/drop-clinic-984/maternal-mental-health-995/

Channel Mum – I first spoke with Channel Mum during the very first UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. They advised how they have a dedicated Maternal Mental Health forum where they state online support group is staffed by Experts and trained Parent Helpers, who are there to listen and support. Their team however are not online 24 hours a day so if you are feeling particularly vulnerable, are considering harming yourself or are scared by the thoughts going round in your mind they urge you to get in touch with the Samaritans or in extreme situations call 999 and tell the emergency operator you’re in danger of hurting yourself. To see the forum, details are here https://www.channelmum.com/chat/c/mums-mental-health

#PNDHour – Run by my lovely friend Rosey. Follow her on Twitter via @PNDandme and join her every Wednesday at 8pm to discuss maternal mental illness. The main aims of #PNDHour are :

  • To provide a safe space to discuss topics surrounding pre and postnatal illness.
  • To help connect those affected by the illness, and provide support for each other.
  • To increase awareness and encourage open conversations about the illness.
  • To discuss where improvements could be made in all areas of the support provided for those affected.

With #PNDhour, Rosey hopes as we continue to connect and discuss perinatal mental illness openly, honestly and without judgement, we can help break down the stigma attached to this illness and bring together charities, groups, professionals, families and importantly the mothers affected by perinatal mental illness for peer support. Rosey has her Mental Health First Aid certification and the hour is frequented by unwell mums, charities and health care professionals.

To help provide support to a wiser audience in the isolation period, Rosey has opened up the chat on Facebook at the same time via this link https://www.facebook.com/events/s/pnd-and-me-facebook-pndhour-ch/204194430856888/

To read more about #PNDhour, take a look here http://pndandme.co.uk/what-is-pndhour/

The Letters Of Light Project enables mums in the perinatal period to receive letters from recovered mums to provide hope and support. Liv who runs the project ensures all letters are proof read prior to being sent to a mum and there is guidance and safeguarding guidelines. If you wish to receive a letter, please contact the project at hello@everymummovement.com . For more information see http://everymummovement.com/letters-of-light-project/ .

3 – Perinatal mental health charities offering their support in new ways during the isolation period

The Association of Postnatal Illness are operating a reduced service, mainly from home via email or through the live online chat via their website. Their email is info@apni.org and their website is here https://apni.org . There is information for partners and families on how to support unwell mums which ages really useful.

Action on Postpartum Psychosis are offering email and video peer support and their regional café groups will be moving online. They have also launched a book club if you would like to join via https://www.facebook.com/groups/APPBookClubGroup . They have also produced this very helpful guide about Postpartum Psychosis during the COVID period https://www.app-network.org/news/postpartum-psychosis-covid-19/ .

Cocoon Family Support are based in London and are sad to not be able to run their face to face peer support at the moment. Instead, they are inviting their mums to join them every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am via zoom . It is a safe space , led by one of the Cocoon Peer Supporters , and is a space for any expectant or new ( ish) mums in the London area struggling wit their mental wellbeing. Their website is here https://cocoonfamilysupport.org/and details of their online support in this period are here https://cocoonfamilysupport.org/online-support-calendar

MumsAid are a fantastic charity based in Greenwich who have changed how they are offering support. They are offering all their mums online session, or phone for those who prefer/don’t have internet access. They will also be providing some emergency supplies to their young mums who are struggling. Their website is here http://mums-aid.org/

They will also be soon launching their Online Journaling Group for all mums and pregnant women. Send an email to ali@mums-aid.org to see if space is available. They have also started a free online singing group for all mums and pregnant women called Mama Tune Online . Send an email to ali@mums-aid.org to secure your place .

Bluebell Care are based in Bristol and provide a plethora of support for mums and families. All staff are currently working from home and providing their serces to mums via phone – they will be in touch with anyone who has sessions booked in with them, & their Buddies and the rest of the team will be making calls to ensure well-being and to let their mums know that they can keep on providing online & distance support going forwards.

If you would welcome some online or phone support please email them on info@bluebellcare.org and they will do everything they can to continue to help you. Please also visit their Facebook page for regular updates: https://www.facebook.com/Bluebellsupportingfamilies/ . Their website is here https://www.bluebellcare.org/

Shine PND support work in Chichester supporting mums and families with weekly drop in sessions . They run 12 weeks courses including art therapy. These courses have been postponed but they are running zoom workshops for mums , sending out small craft packs and will shortly be starting weekly zoom peer support chats. See shine-support.org for details .

Smile Group who support mums in Cheshire are adapting their services with perinatal mental health snf clinical community and referrers . they will be in touch with current group attendees and home visit beneficiaries shortly to outline how this will work. They are also exploring the potential of offering phone/video link counselling to parents who have been receiving face to face talk therapy via Smile to try to sustain continuity of support. For more information, see http://www.thesmilegroup.org/

Acacia Family Support who run services in Birmingham are continuing their service for their current clients via phone. They are looking at alternative way to run their groupwork sessions. If you have any queries, drop the lovely team an email at teamacacia@acacia.org.uk

Family Action work across the UK and have advised that they are aware that this period means the families they support need help in new and different ways. Their services stretch across the country and so their helpline Familyline will continue to be there to give support .

The phone number is 0808 802 6666. You can text them on 07537 404 282 or you can emails them via familyline@family-action.org.uk. Their website is here – https://www.family-action.org.uk/ .

Mothers for Mothers offer support, advice, information and most of all a listening ear for any worries or concerns you may have. They are funded to help mothers in the Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset areas.

They have made some changes due to COVID meaning all those who previously attended face to face service and their peer support groups are receiving support via telephone . Their helpline and support call service remains unchanged with support calls taking place on weekday mornings. Their helpline number is open Monday to Friday 10am – 9pm and can be reached on 0117 919 5826. Their website is here http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/

Parents 1st – empower parents to be emotionally well through pregnancy, birth and beyond.Peer supporters offer mothers and fathers time to talk. They can recognise signs of depression, and help prevent problems escalating in the crucial early days of transition to parenthood.

With the current restrictions in place, they have changed how their support works and are offering free one-to-one telephone support to pregnant mums and their families in Basildon, Billericay, Wickford, Thurrock and Canvey Island. Their website is here https://parents1st.org.uk/ . To contact them email Info@Parents1st.org.uk

The Daisy Foundation offer a range of classes and workshops whiz support women, families and infants throughout the perinatal period. Due to the new social distancing guidance , The Daisy Foundation has advised all Daisy Teachers that they must now move to a model of online teaching and support. Local teachers will be in touch to let their mums know how they will be supporting them at this time. If you are pregnant or have a little one under 6 months at the moment , you can join them in their new pop-up Facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/daisypopup . Their website is https://thedaisyfoundation.com/

Support 2gether is a charity in Northern Ireland supporting families who live with antenatal and postnatal depression. The charity is driven by people with lived experience and provides support groups within rural communities, one to one support via home visits and telephone support. They are working to create a support buddy telephone service which they hope will go into action from w/c 30th March. I will update this blog as and when it happens. Their website is http://www.support2gether.co.uk

By Your Side – holding your hand through perinatal mental illness are a service user forum working with Coventry and Warwickshire Perinatal Mental Health Team to support families in the perinatal period . During this time, there is a support group which can be accessed from their Facebook page and they meet online twice a week – Monday 10.30 am and Wednesday 8pm. https://www.facebook.com/ByYourSidePerinatal/

Made with Music run singing for PND groups and have started a live stream of their early years class and staff use at a mother and baby unit afterwards . Information at madewithmusic.co.uk
Baby loss support organisations offering their support in new ways during the isolation period

Nova Foundation provide comforting bereavement support to parents. They provide resources for parents, along with signposting, so that no parent walks the path of babyloss alone. They run antenatal classes, including those for parents pregnant after a loss, that will in time fund trauma therapists. They will shortly be running some free online classes, namely restorative yoga for babyloss parents and antenatal classes for families pregnant after a loss. You can find their details at https://www.novafoundation.org.uk/

Petals is a Cambridge based charity that delivers a free specialist counselling to women and partners who suffer psychological distress from trauma and grief related to all the unexpected outcomes of pregnancy and birth. Petals run an established counselling service at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge and are currently piloting the same service at Queen Charlottes and St Mary’s Hospitals, London. The service is unique, providing up to 6×1 hour counselling sessions free, to women or couples who are experiencing anxiety, trauma or loss during the perinatal/neonatal period. During this period of uncertainty and anxiety due to COVID-19, Petals are determined to continue supporting bereaved parents as best they can. They state their priority is to protect the mental and physical health of their clients, counsellors and staff. With that in mind – and based on the latest medical advice – all Petals counselling sessions will be conducted using online video via Zoom, rather than in person, until further notice. This will be reviewed weekly until they can resume a normal service. Read their full statement here: petalscharity.org/covid19 . Their website is https://petalscharity.org/

Sands is the stillbirth and neonatal death charity. They operate throughout the UK, supporting anyone affected by the death of a baby, working to improve the care bereaved parents receive, and promoting research to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.

They offer peer support via their online community . It is a moderated space where you can talk with other bereaved families and learn from others experiences. There are community guidelines that people must sign up tp to keep everyone safe and to ensure it remains a supportive environment . Join here at https://sands.community . Their website is here https://sands.org.uk/

Snowdrops and Rainbows Pregnancy After Loss Support is a closed facebook group run by SFH Maternity . It is advertised as a safe forum to access ongoing midwifery and peer support for those who would like to access it . You can access it via http://www.facebook.com/groups/2913544618729156/?ref=share

Aching Arms UK provide comfort bears to support the emotional and mental health needs of bereaved parents after the loss of a baby. Their website is here http://www.achingarms.co.uk and they have done a lovely Twitter post about how you can access their support. If you would like to speak to someone , you can email them on bears@achingarms.co.uk and Lindsay and Erica will pick up your message.
Support for those who babies are born sick or premature

Bliss have Champion volunteers who normally visit units across the country to listen and offer support to families with babies on a unit. As they are unable to do this at this time, they are testing out 1:1 video chats through Zoom to offer parents vital support .Each session is 30 minutes long, and you can speak to a Bliss Champions whether you have a specific concern or if you just want to talk to someone in confidence.

They have sessions in April to book . Details are in this link : https://www.bliss.org.uk/parents/support/remote-volunteer-support

You can book a time by emailing hello@bliss.org.uk. Please let them know your name and which hospital your baby is in, and they will get back to you with the information you need for your chat. .They also offer email support via hello@bliss.org.uk.

4 – Maternal Mental Health Online Courses

NCT have been working with their course leaders to put together virtual antenatal courses to make sure parents are equipped for labour, birth and beyond. Information on this is here: https://bit.ly/3d9Ptx3 . For information on their live virtual antenatal course please see this link https://www.nct.org.uk/courses-workshops/nct-live-online-antenatal-course .

Tommy’s have a comprehensive website with a specific content area about mental wellbeing. There is information about different mental health conditions, emotional changes in pregnancy, signs and symptoms, treatment during pregnancy, managing pregnancy with an existing mental health condition and where to find help and support. There are also films and case studies about mums and families who have had different experiences of mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy. The Wellbeing Plan(is particularly good. They state that the Wellbeing plan is designed to support your emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and the first year after birth. It could also help mothers and their families think through and prepare the support they may need to care for their mental health. The link for it is here – https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/mental-health-during-and-after-pregnancy/wellbeing-plan.

Netmums Helping Depression Course is aimed at mums with low mood or those who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate postnatal depression. This course is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy strategies have been shown to be helpful for people suffering from depressed, irritable and anxious mood. Sign up here https://www.netmums.com/support/netmums-helping-with-depression-sign-up

5 – Useful details of national mental health charities and groups

Perinatal Mental Health Partnership https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/ . This is the group I am part of and you can follow us for information on the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.

Hub of Hope is an app that can be downloaded and gives you access to a directory of services in your area. Download it for free here https://chasingthestigma.co.uk/hub-of-hope/

Maternal OCD http://www.maternalocd.org/ : A charity set up by mothers recovered from perinatal OCD, who can provide support via email, twitter and Skype. For further details please contact: info@maternalocd.org

OCD Action http://www.ocdaction.org.uk/ : A charity providing a dedicated OCD helpline, email support and advocacy service. Contact details: 0845 3906232; email: support@ocdaction.org.uk

Mothers Uncovered – are an award winning peer led charity based in Brighton enabling mums to support each other through creativity and conversation. Find them at mothersuncovered.com

Tommy’s midwifery-led pregnancy line is available for anyone worried about mental health in pregnancy (0800 0147 800). Their very helpful website is here http://www.tommys.org .

Depression Alliance http://www.depressionalliance.org/ Tel: 020 7407 7584; email: info@depressionalliance.org Information, support and understanding for people who suffer with depression, and for relatives who want to help. Self-help groups, information, and raising awareness.

Home Start http://www.home-start.org.uk/ Tel: 0800 068 6368. Support and practical help for families with at least one child under-5. Help offered to parents finding it hard to cope for many reasons. These include PND or other mental illness, isolation, bereavement, illness of parent or child.

National Childbirth Trust http://www.nct.org.uk Helpline: 0300 330 0700. Support and information on all aspects of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. Local groups and telephone helplines.

Birth Trauma Association http://http//www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/ supports all women who have had a traumatic birth experience. It is estimated that, in the UK alone, this may result in 10,000 women a year developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).They offer emotional and practical support to women and also their families. They can offer email support to mums suffering, for more information please see this link http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/support.htm .

Mums Aid http://mums-aid.org provides inclusive and accessible psychological therapies for mothers experiencing a broad spectrum of emotional and mental health difficulties during pregnancy or postnatally.

Channel Mum is an online community for mums https://www.channelmum.com

Mumsnet – https:/mumsnet.com makes parents life easier by pooling knowledge and advice.

Netmums – https:/netmums.com offers parenting advice , chat and support.

More than a Tick Box campaign to ensure early intervention is available for all those affected by perinatal mental health. They are a great resource – www.morethanatickbox.com

Single Parent Helpline: 0808 802 0925

Young Mums Support Networkhttps://ymsn.co.uk

Pink Parentspinkparents.org.uk offer a range of support services and social activities for Gay and Lesbian parents.

Tamba – the twins and multiple births association offer support for parents https://www.tamba.org.uk/support-menu

Pregnancy Sickness Support https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/ offers support to mums struggling with pregnancy sickness/ Hyperemesis. They have a national support network for women suffering any degree of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy to access support and comfort at times of isolation and distress https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/help/supporters-network/ .

Miscarriage Association – Information and support for anyone affected by miscarriage.Website: http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/ . You can email: info@miscarriageassociation.org.uk or telephone: 01924 200799

Postnatal Depression Ireland http://www.pnd.ie

Mind – Mental Health Charity http://www.mind.org.uk

Sane – Mental Health Charity http://www.sane.org.uk

Rethink – Mental Health Charity https://www.rethink.org

Bipolar UK – Mental Health Charity https://www.bipolaruk.org

Best Beginningshttps://www.bestbeginnings.org.uk/

The Every Mum Movement http://everymummovement.com/ contains information for mums on the illnesses, mum meet ups and how to ‘be mentally buff’.

Maternal Mental Health Alliancehttps://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/ . The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is a coalition of UK organisations with a vision to see all women across the UK get consistent, accessible and quality care and support for their mental health during pregnancy and in the year after giving birth.

Association for Postnatal Illnesshttp://apni.org and helpline 020 7386 0868. Provides telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of volunteers who have themselves experienced PND.

Pandas – advises parents and their networks who need support with perinatal mental illness. Their website is here pandasfoundation.org.uk and their phone line is 0808 1961 776.

Leos https://www.leosneonatal.org/ provides care and support to families who face time in the NICU.They offer peer support to mums in the delivery room, explaining what it’s like to deliver a preterm baby and what the NICU is like, caring for a family when they go home through the transition of being discharged.

International Help – Postpartum Support International http://www.postpartum.net/get-help/locations/international/

6 – Regional perinatal mental health support in their usual form

Parents in Mindhttps://www.nct.org.uk/about-us/commissioned-services/parents-mind-perinatal-mental-health-peer-support . Funded by the Department of Health, Parents in Mind trains local volunteers to support women experiencing emotional health difficulties in pregnancy and within the first two years after birth. They currently offer the service in three locations in England: Coventry and Central Warwickshire , Newham and Widnes and Runcorn

Cocoon Family Support http://cocoonfamilysupport.org/ . Cocoon Family support is a London based charity. It supports those affected by postnatal depression, and mothers who are struggling to deal with difficult emotions before and after birth. They provide a safe and supportive environment where families can get together with others who may be feeling similar to themselves. They also provide a range of services to aid and support recovery. They are based in SE1, NW1, NW3 and NW6 and can be accessed by people across London and its borders.

The Smile Group http://www.thesmilegroup.org/ . The SMILE Group was co-founded by Natalie Nuttall and Ruth Eglin in 2011 after they both experienced PND and felt passionate about the need for parents to benefit from sustained peer support at a local level. They usually run support groups each week for mums in Cheshire East.

Macclesfield – every Friday, 10am to 12pm Congleton – every Wednesday, 10am to 12pm

Raindrops to Rainbows http://www.raindropstorainbows.co.uk . Run by the lovely Steph who is trained to provide support and advice, R2R provide peer support to mums to be and mums in the North East. They currently have five groups covering Teesside, County Durham and South Tyneside areas. The website has full details and there is a Facebook page.

Open House Nottingham http://openhouse-notts.org/ . Open House (OH) was founded by a group fab Mums in early 2012 with the aim of supporting those who are or have been affected by any psychological and emotional condition which has developed during pregnancy or during the postnatal period. These include antenatal depression, postnatal depression, anxiety & OCD. They run drop in groups in Nottingham and details are here http://openhouse-notts.org/our-drop-in-groups/ .

Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support http://www.juno.uk.com/ Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support was founded in February 2015 by a group of mums in Edinburgh who all have personal experience of perinatal mental health difficulties. They are kind, lovely women. They support mums through Weekly peer support groups across Edinburgh where they offer advice and information One-to-one befriending through our outreach program Access a subsidised counselling service out with our groups with a trained professional. They run four groups and details are here http://www.juno.uk.com/our-groups/

Bluebell Care http://www.bluebellcare.org/ Bluebell is a charity based in Bristol supporting mums, dads and families who are affected by antenatal or post-natal depression. They run regular, free groups Mums’ Comfort Zone, together with free creche provision, in South, North and Central/East Bristol. They prioritise the support we are able to provide (due to funding constraints) as follows: young parents from the Hartcliffe/Withywood/Bishopsworth area in South Bristol, parents from the Henbury/Brentry area in North Bristol and parents from St Pauls, Easton, Montpelier’ and Stokes Croft area in Central/East Bristol.

They also offer 1:1, informal, support via the Bluebell Buddy who can arrange to visit mums at home and/or in their local area for a cuppa and a chat. Dads can also access support through their Dads’ Zone group. If you would like more information on their services please contact the lovely Ruth Jackson Telephone 07738628842 or Email info@bluebellcare.org

House of Light http://www.pndsupport.co.uk/ Offering hope and support for women affected by Postnatal, Antenatal Depression & Anxiety in Hull. Call: 0800 043 2031 or 01482 580499 text: 07854 220790 email: help@pndsupport.co.uk

Mothers for Mothers http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/links.html Support Group for mums in Bristol suffering from PND. Helpline details are here http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/contact-us.html .

Homestart Bedfordshire http://www.home-startcentralbeds.org.uk/postnatal-depression-in-bedfordshire/ Home-Start Central Bedfordshire we run numerous pnd support groups throughout Central Bedfordshire.

Acacia Family Support http://www.acacia.org.uk Provide a free wide range of support and therapies to help mums recover from the symptoms associated with pre and postnatal depression. Their services are delivered across Birmingham and they include individual befriending sessions, group work therapy, telephone support, practical support in your own home and massage therapy for parents and your baby.

Cedar House Support http://www.postnataldepression.com/ runs PND support groups in the Surrey, Sussex and South London Areas. The groups are run by trained PND Counsellors.

The Guildford Group

This group runs from 10am to midday every Wednesday, term time only starting on January 13th 2016 at Boxgrove Sure Start Children’s Centre, Boxgrove Lane, Guildford, GU1 2TD. All groups are informal, confidential and a great support for the mothers. A crèche is provided and there is parking. Please contact Liz before attending: lwise@talktalk.net/ 07773283556.

The Balham Group

This group is at St Stephen’s Centre (next to The Weir Link Centre) Weir Road, SW12 0NU.

This group will run every Friday, term time only from 9.30 to 11.30am, a crèche is provided and there is free parking.

It is necessary to book a place for this group, please contact Liz to do so. 07773 283556, lwise@talktalk.net

The Surrey Heath Group (Mytchett)

This group started on Tuesday 12th January 2016 at Mytchett Children’s Centre, Hamesmoor Road, Mytchett, GU16 6JB and runs every Tuesday term time only from 12.30 to 2.30pm. A crèche is provided and there is free parking. Please contact Liz on 07773 283556 or lwise@talktalk.net for further details.

West Kent PND support group https://westkentmind.org.uk/what-we-offer/mums-support-group . Peer support group supporting mums in Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling

Kyra Women’s Project http://www.kyra.org.uk/ is based in York/Selby and offers a range of support services. They offer courses on self esteem and counselling.

Light Peer Support are based in Sheffield and support the emotional well-being of mums in Sheffield and beyond. They have peer support groups in Family Centres across Sheffield , Rotherham and Doncaster . https://lightsheffield.org.uk/support/

If you are in Forth Valley Scotland , check out Aberlours Perinatal Befriending service https://www.aberlour.org.uk/services/perinatalbefriending/

If you are in Guernsey, contact the Guernsey PND support network http://guernseypnd.org/ . They can be contacted via email pndguernsey@gmail.com or you can call their confidential telephone line 01481 520657 .Their regular coffee evening’s are held at Caritas Coffee Shop, Mill Street, St Peter Port and they have given them exclusive access so it’s very private. These are an informal way to come with or without your kids for free coffee and cake and a warm welcome. They are held quarterly on the first Monday evening of each third month from 7pm.

If you are in the Isle Of Man , then take a look at this https://www.gefthemongoose.com/headland/maternalmentalhealth/ and support group details are here https://www.netmums.com/isle-of-man/local/view/support-groups/antenatal-postnatal-support/postnatal-depression-support-group-1

Merton and Wimbledon PND support groups https://www.gettingiton.org.uk/services/merton/post-natal-depression-support-group Located at: Merton Abbey Primary School, High Path, Merton, London, SW19 2JY and Patrick Doody Clinic, Pelham Road, Wimbledon, SW19 1NX and other venues. Support groups run by a health visitor, offering the opportunity to meet other mothers who are experiencing post natal depression and share ideas on how to cope with these feelings. A home visit is offered prior to attending the group and a crèche and refreshments are provided. There are 3 groups run a year and they are held in various children’s centres across Sutton and Merton. A referral is required from health professionals or the client themselves. Telephone: 020 8254 8274/8273

If you are in East Sussex, the NHS run a Perinatal support group https://www.esht.nhs.uk/leaflet/postnatal-depression-and-anxiety-support-group/

If you are in Sheerwater , Cornerhouse run a pre and postnatal support group on Mondays http://cornerhouse.cc/services/depression-support-woking-runnymede/

If you are in St Austell , Untangled run a support group for those experiencing and affected by pre or post natal depression. Contact Cara on 07917008776 or via caca21@hotmail.co.uk .

In Stockport, Rose Buddies Mums and Tots Arts and Crafts Group is run by Mums for Mums struggling with low mood. Sessions are free, but they do welcome a donation towards their running costs when you can. No need to book. For info see https://www.stockport.gov.uk/groups/rose-buddies-post-natal-depression-peer-support-group

Bluebell PND Counselling Service http://www.crossreach.org.uk/bluebell-pnd-service

(Provide generic counselling and a specialist perinatal depression service. Cover central belt of Scotland)

Cross Reach Perinatal Services: Lothians http://www.crossreach.org.uk/postnatal-depression-support-whole-family Provide postnatal depression counselling service in the Lothians.

Southside Counselling Service http://www.southsidecounsellingglasgow.co.uk/ Counselling service covering Glasgow and surrounding areas. Provide a counselling service for women who experience pre and post natal depression.

Home-Start Glasgow North http://www.homestartglasgownorth.org.uk

(Home-Start Glasgow North is a voluntary organisation set up to increase the confidence and independence of families with at least one child under five years old who are experiencing difficulties. They are located next to Maryhill Community Centre)

Happy Mums Foundation – offer maternal mental health support in Carlisle nd Cumbria https://www.happymums.org.uk/

Birth and Beyond http://birthandbeyond.org.uk Provide a mentoring and counselling service for parents in Edinburgh

Dudley Mind – A new space for women with pre- or post-natal anxiety and Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month, 11:00am -1:00pm, at Food for Thought, Victoria Street, Stourbridge DY8 1SP.Please contact Tim at the Dudley Mind Head office on 01384 442938 or by email at enquiries@dudleymind.org.uk. http://dudleymind.org.uk/peer-support-groups/the-haven-mums-group/

Tamworthhttps://www.singleparents.org.uk/organisation/tamworth-post-natal-depression-support-group

If you are in Ireland , Cuidiu Parent to Parent supporters offer a listening ear to Mums who may be feeling low about being a parent or who are depressed. They have two ‘Parent Support’ coffee mornings a month in Dublin. Click here for more information on Parent Support or here for contact details of their Parent to Parent Supporters. https://www.cuidiu-ict.ie/Supports_Parenthood_PostnatalDepression

Southward support group for women who have had children removed due to care procedures http://www.together-uk.org/southwark-wellbeing-hub/the-directory/14159/mums-supportive-group/

Hey Mama – is a peer support community for mums struggling with their mental health in Yorkshire https://www.facebook.com/groups/217063725652780/ .

The Mother Side is a support network for new parents http://www.themotherside.org/

7 – Support for BAME mums

The Motherhood Group – connects mothers with one another providing support . It was set up by Sandra Igwe who experienced anxiety after childbirth and said she found it difficult to discuss these issues in the black community. Sandra has set up a great programme where you can select a wellbeing mentor to provide support, information, encouragement and change in your motherhood journey. You are assigned a mentor for six months, will be entitled to 5 sessions via telephone, face to face or email correspondence. Their website is here www.themotherhoodgroup.com

Menucha – Menucha started in 2019 as a group of Orthodox Jewish women in NW London who have first hand experience of perinatal mental health . I met with the founder Rebecca recently and she is creating a unique model of support and I hope to be working with her in the future during the awareness week. Menucha is aiming to open a fully trained helpline in October 2020 but for information prior to that , do see the helpful website – https://www.menucha.info/

Roshni 2 project – support British South Asian women with maternal mental illness. I am great friends with this group and we have highlighted their work during the awareness weeks. They have operated in the North West, Yorkshire, East Midlands , Glasgow and London. Follow their Facebook page for lots of fantastic support information https://www.facebook.com/Roshni2info/

Prosperity’s – Prosperity’s support maternal wellbeing focusing on prevention and social isolation. Rebecca the founder hosted a #PNDhour during the 2019 awareness week focusing on supporting BAME mums in the perinatal period. They are based in London and their details are here https://www.prosperitys.co.uk/

Black Thrive was created was to help change the stigmatism that exists surrounding mental health in the black community. They would like every person and family dealing with mental health to know they are not alone. Black Thrive is there for them https://www.blackthrive.org.uk/Family-support

The Asian Mums Network offer some great pages on Maternal Mental Health and these linked through here https://asianmumsnetwork.co.uk

JAMI – The Jewish Association for Mental Health https://jamiuk.org/

The Muslim Bereavement Support Service can offer advice to mothers who have lost a child http://mbss.org.uk/losing-a-child/

Praxis run support groups for migrant mums and their babies http://www.praxis.org.uk/volunteer-page-24.html

Sikh Mumsnet – An array of information to support Sikh mums including mental health support at sikhmumsnet.com and their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Sikhmumsnet/

Acacia have a dedicated programme and section on their website for mums and dads from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. They have tried to pull together some resources to help BAME families and professionals who are looking for help with perinatal mental health problems. https://www.acacia.org.uk/bame/

8 – Other groups/apps/organisations that provide support to mums

The Motherload was created in 2015 by Kate Dyson and having started as a small group of 8 mum friends, it now boasts nearly 100k members and is the UK’s biggest parenting community.Fiercly non judgemental, the admin team have built the group to be a safe and supportive environment with posts being moderated before approval. It openly celebrates and supports the lighter side of motherhood but also offers an inclusive supportive network which signposts to support for maternal mental health and domestic violence . During this COVID period, they are running a series of specialist blogs about mental health in this period, home schooling, loneliness in the isolation period and many others. See their website for more details https://the-motherload.co.uk/ and their Facebook group is here https://www.facebook.com/groups/wearethemotherload/.

MAMA – The “Meet A Mum Association”

]http://www.mama.co.uk Created to try and help thousands of mothers who feel out of their depth, depressed or a little isolated when their babies are born Helpline 0845 120 3746

Peanut – Is a free app that connects women across fertility and motherhood. For details on accessing the app see https://www.peanut-app.io/ .

Mush – is an app that allows mums to find friends who live nearby with kids the same age, arrange meetups, get advice from parenting experts and fellow mums. For more information see https://letsmush.com/

The Mum Club https://themumclub.com/about/ run Breakfast Clubs and expert-led evening events in our local areas. They now host events throughout the UK.

HAPPITY is a platform for online baby and toddler classes and information can be found here https://www.happity.co.uk/

Mummy Socialhttps://mummysocial.com/ is a website and app that offers a solution to the isolation so many mums face.

Mums Meet Up mumsmeetup.com connects mums locally and across the UK and mums are able to search their county and locality to find mums similar by age, age of child and circumstances (such as mums to be, working mums, single parent mums & more). Also, mums of children with disabilities are able to search by similar conditions and location.

SW Mummy https://www.swmummy.co.uk/ SW Mummy is a supportive network for London mums and dads.

The Together Table partners up with baby-friendly cafes and provide a table in your neighbourhood, sensory stimulation for the babes and a focused hosted chat about different aspects of motherhood https://www.tinytable.co.uk/thetogethertable

9 – Breastfeeding Support

There are an array of excellent and supportive Facebook groups to provide breastfeeding support and I am a perinatal MH supporter on a number of them. Do take a look at :

Boobs Uk

Side Boobs

Breastfeeding Yummy Mummies

Can I breastfeed in it off topic discussion

Aversion Sucks – Breastfeeding Aversion peer-to-peer support

NCT Infant Feeding Support line is also open 8am-midnight every day on 0300 330 0700.

Find an IBCLC Lactation Consultant of Great Britain at lcgb.org/find-an-ibclc/

10- COVID support

RCGP https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/

MATERNAL OCD hints and tips during Covid https://maternalocd.org/resources/

Mental health charity Mind’s guide on coronavirus support

The NHS have produced a helpful document to help support mental health during lockdown – https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/

Action for Happiness have produced this guide to responding constructively during the COVID-19 outbreak and coping calendar with 30 tips to help look after ourselves and others

Meditation, sleep and relaxation app Calm resources on wellbeing

Domestic abuse charities Refuge and Hestia have also released information relating to covid-19. You can find further support related to domestic abuse via the Bright Sky app.

11- Support Resources

At the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, each year when we run the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, we run a series of Facebook Lives to provide support and tools to enable recovery. They have received thousands of views from mums and families and health care professionals find them useful as well.

How to talk to a health care professional about your symptoms

During the 2018 UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week, our member Dr Stephanie deGiorgio ran a Facebook live session providing information on how to talk to a health care professional about your symptoms. Dr Stephanie suffered from maternal mental illness herself and knows it can be daunting to reach out for help and open up about your symptoms to a health care professional. In this video she provides information to help mums do this

Take a look. It has been viewed nearly 7000 times so far and has been welcomed by both mums and health care professionals.

https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/videos/763409700516935/

The influence of BAME Maternal community groups and mental well-being with The Motherhood Group.

The Motherhood Group takes joy in connecting mothers with one another; through their sequence of events, workshops and fun meet ups where mothers network, get involved in facilitated and focused discussions and interact with inspirational speakers. They create a safe space for mothers to share challenges, triumphs, questions and advice on their personal motherhood journey – such as parenting, relationships and postnatal depression.

Sandra Igwe presented this session during the awareness week. She set up The Motherhood Group – a support network where black women can talk about the issues they are facing.

Take a look at her Facebook live here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=355826345277186&id=587696788088228

Safe Peer Support

Do you want to learn more about the role safe peer support can play in the recovery of maternal mental illness? Aside from the link to the Juno session earlier , take a look at this Facebook live from our members Smile Group.

https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/videos/2152564081446913/

Maternal OCD and Intrusive Thoughts During the 2017 UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, we teamed up with the charity Maternal OCD to deliver this Facebook Live which looks at symptoms and treatment options. This feature looks at intrusive thoughts which we know can be distressing for mums who are experiencing them. We hope this session provides reassurance and insight to both mums and healthcare professionals

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=762568750601030&id=587696788088228

Recovery and talking to children about maternal mental illness

With me and my son Joe . My blog is here https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/ and the Facebook live is here :

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=358895114728754&id=587696788088228

Post Adoption Depression with Brie .

From her own experiences Brie is beginning to raise awareness on this widely unfamiliar and under diagnosed condition. She is passionate about raising awareness of PAD’s and making a difference for future adoptive families. Do take a look and have a read of Bries blog https://thecoloursofadoption.wordpress.com/ and watch her session here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=583758622120866&id=587696788088228

Young mums and Maternal Mental Illness

During last years UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week, we ran a Facebook live session focusing on young mums and their mental health and wellbeing.

The Young Mums Support Network and Young Mums Aid are two social enterprises who are working grass roots with mothers in the local community . They ran the Facebook live and discussed some of the real complex challenges young mums face which impacts their mental health and wellbeing.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=763911260466779&id=587696788088228

Postpartum Psychosis

During a previous UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week ,Action On Postpartum Psychosis ran a Facebook Live session about Postpartum Psychosis.

If you would like to watch the session, take a look at the link below. For further information about Postpartum Psychosis please take a look at APP’s incredibly useful website https://www.app-network.org/ .

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=764093897115182&id=587696788088228

Breastfeeding and antidepressants

Want to know more about breastfeeding and antidepressants? Take a look at this incredibly insightful Facebook live that our lovely friend Wendy Jones held during the UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week :

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=826557897700531&id=587696788088228

GP Appointment Checklist – This simple but innovative postnatal mental illness appointment checklist was developed by our members Smile Group for mums who find it challenging to articulate how they feel when speaking to GPs, HVs or midwives http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/

Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit – Your gp has resources to help you if you are experiencing perinatal mental illness. These include the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit which gives doctors access to things which will help them support unwell mums.

It’s here – anyone can look at it , not just GPs. Some of the members of the Partnership supported the creation of the Toolkit , giving advice from the lived experience viewpoint.

http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/toolkits/perinatal-mental-health-toolkit.aspx

Drugs in Breastmilk Antidepressant Factsheetshttps://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/antidepressants/

12 – Suicidal thoughts

There are time where scary thoughts about suicide may come into your head. It is very important here that if you feel like you are going to hurt or harm yourself and or attempt to take your life, you need to see a doctor right that very instant. Health Care Professionals are trained to deal with crisis situations.

Its ok to call the GP urgently and say you need to see a doctor and tell them why – It’s ok to go to casualty and tell them you are having these kinds of thoughts. You aren’t wasting their time. It’s ok to call your local mental health crisis team. If you don’t know their details, google crisis team and the area you live in and a number should come up.

All these things are more than ok – they are essential. You need and deserve help. You can and will get better. You deserve to be alive. People want and need you to be alive. You are a good person and you aren’t well. I reached the depths where I thought suicide was the only way out as I couldn’t see beyond my illness but there are services, medications, support networks that can help you recover and find your happy again.If you are feeling like death is the only way out, you need urgent help. GP, Casualty, 999. Contact them.

The NHS has a very helpful page specifically for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Take a look if you need to:
http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Getting-help.aspx

13 – PERINATAL MENTAL ILLNESSES AND SYMPTOMS

Overview of Perinatal Mental Illness

Whether your symptoms are classed as mild, moderate or severe, if they are making you feel bad then it’s bad and you need help. From one end of the spectrum of feeling low, you don’t need to be psychotic to deserve help. I see lots of women say ‘but I didn’t think I was ill enough’. You’re ill enough if it’s affecting your life. Whether it’s made you feel teary at the exhaustion of being woken up 27 times a night or hallucinate that your baby is God, (or like me, make you take your clothes off and run into the road while clinging to your hubbys ankles), you are woman and you need to roar. Roar that you need and deserve help. And if you feel you cant, hopefully some of the things in this post will help you take that brave first step.

Perinatal mental health support in medical terms is a bit of a postcode lottery. In one place you might have an amazing dedicated team who fall asleep with the NICE guidelines on mental illness after a baby on their pillow and have a Mary Poppins handbag of amazing treatments to help you. In another place, you might find yourself in front of GP who doesn’t look at you when you pluck up the courage to go and see them and thinks Postnatal Depression is a modern day concoction of middle class mummies who want to have it all but can’t. And then you may find an online doctor who has bought their degree via the University of Google, will only give you treatment options if you buy their book and who suggest a dab of apple cider vinegar on your temples will ease the anxiety away. Avoid these people, stick with malt vinegar and only use it to make your chips taste nice.

Someone once messaged me to say the reason I got ill was because I ate bread. I was unaware eating a product made out of flour, yeast and water and baked in the oven could make me hallucinate , run down the road with no clothes on and fill the garden with juice extractors. Because it’s not true. And I follow a low carb diet, so I seriously doubt a multi seeded sandwich roll resulted in me ending up in a psychiatric unit. So please continue to eat your cheese sandwiches – you have had a baby and need energy to not only look after them , but you as well. Because you being well is important.

For details on mental health in pregnancy and after birth and the symptoms and signs of perinatal mental health problems, please have a look at the links I post throughout . These are proper medical pages and will give you good info.

For a good overview of Perinatal Mental Illness, the NHS website below is good and isn’t overwhelming. Maybe bookmark it on your phone: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/mental-health-problems-pregnant.aspx

The Baby Blues

Ok. So , you come home from hospital and alongside having a sore fandango, wearing a lilo in your pants to soak up your postpartum bleeding and being unable to do a poo for fear of your stitches coming apart, you also feel a little bit sad, weepy and very very tired. Doctors tend to call this initial feeling the Baby Blues.

The Association Of Postnatal Illness say that ‘after the birth of a baby about half of all mothers suffer a period of mild depression called the blues’ and Baby centre say 8 out of 10! In normal terms – this means most mums then. And most mums I know have experienced teariness, exhaustion, and feelings of being overwhelmed, but these feelings pass very quickly and usually need no medical support.

Symptoms of the Blues are :

– Emotional and upset when they have the blues and they cry for no particular reason.
– Tired and lethargic
– Anxious and Tense
– Difficulty sleeping

Why do I feel like this you wonder ? Apparently its bloody hormones. GRR to them. Your body has just produced a baby and it all goes a bit haywire and your hormones start arguing with each other and have a minor falling out. Your boobs are filling with milk and your lovely home is now filled with a crying baby and cards are arriving and you can’t wee without it burning and it’s all just tooooo much.

But….this particular falling out doesn’t last and your hormones sign a peace agreement. The medical wonders say if you have the blues, these feelings may last for a few hours or, at most, for a few days and then they disappear and don’t need to be worried about. If they last longer than this though, seek medical help as it could mean something more serious is happening. Have a look at this link from the Association of Postnatal Illness for more information on the baby blues.
http://apni.org/the-baby-blues/

Antenatal/Prenatal Depression and Anxiety

As the super helpful NCT website says, antenatal depression can rear its ugly head while you are pregnant. Said baby is still in womb, giving you piles. You could have just found out you are pregnant and instead of feeling like those mums on Facebook who post a pic of their wee stained stick with the words ‘2 weeks pregnant’ while jumping up and down for joy with flowers round their head , you think jeepers, this does not make me feel spritely at all.

Or you could sail through said pregnancy, get to 7 month and suddenly get walloped in the head by the depression dodge ball which you haven’t dodged at all. It’s knocked you down and you find it hard and almost impossible to get-up.

This is a real illness. Don’t feel shame because being pregnant is tinged with sadness – antenatal depression and anxiety are becoming recognized and your GP can help. NCT have produced this simple webpage for more information.
https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/antenatal-depression

Birth Trauma and PTSD

Giving birth can be traumatic but some women who messaged me prior to this blog being written advised that they felt “our antenatal classes conned us” into thinking if we master how to give birth on a bed made out of tofu and meditate ourselves into an orgasmic state, then we will simply feel like we are giving birth to a raindrop, hum the pain away and spend the next 20 years talking about how you could give birth every day. Which is beautiful. This is a real quote from a real woman and conveys her real and valid feelings about her own experience.

But for some, birth isn’t that straightforward and can be a terrifying, anxiety inducing experience which leaves a big emotional mark on the mum. The Birth Trauma Association say that ‘when we talk of birth trauma, we mean Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs after childbirth. We also include those women who may not meet the clinical criteria for PTSD but who have some of the symptoms of the disorder’.

The BTA outline characteristic features of PTSD as including:

– An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby).
-A response of intense fear, helplessness or horror to that experience.
-The persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
-Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can include talking about it, although sometimes women may go through a stage of talking of their traumatic experience a lot so that it obsesses them at times.
-Bad memories and the need to avoid any reminders of the trauma, will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hyper vigilant (feel jumpy or on their guard all the time).

Birth Trauma / PTSD is very real. Giving birth isn’t a bed of roses and can be an upsetting and difficult experience and you shouldn’t feel any shame if you are experiencing it. It can put women off having more much wanted children and that’s a horrible feeling to experience.

The BTA have a really helpful link on how and why you should access support here http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/help.htm
For more information see http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/default.asp

Perinatal OCD

Sometimes people call this Maternal OCD. You don’t hear much about this but you should – it’s not as rare as people think and can be distressing. The RCpsych page has piles of very good info so please take a look but as a quick view, RCpsych say the main symptoms are as follows:

INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS. I have put this in big old letters as these thoughts plague LOADS OF MUMS BUT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT THEM. These are basically thoughts or images that keep coming into your mind. These are sometimes called obsessions by docs. They can be very upsetting and you can visualize things you don’t want to see. These are more common than people realize and when I spoke of mine, I found others had them also. Remember, however distressing the thoughts or visions, please don’t hold back from telling medical professionals about them. To treat you properly, they need to know your thoughts and feelings. And I guarantee, you won’t be the first to talk about these kind of symptoms to them.

TRIGGER WARNING
So – let’s talk about intrusive thoughts. This may be triggering, so if you need to stop reading, stop. This blog is for info to help you but if you feel like you can’t read anymore, then put your phone down and stop reading. You can always come back to this when you feel ready.
Ever had that feeling, as you are stood waiting for the 17.58 train to Brighton, eating a Mars bar and reading about how to contour your cheeks like Kim Kardashian, that you want to jump in front of a train as it zooms past? Yep? And you think, that’s a bit weird, of course I won’t jump in front of the train, and you finish said mars bar and the thought leaves your brain in a second.
When I was younger, I had thoughts of grabbing scissors and hacking my hair off. If I HAD DONE, I WOULD HAVE CRIED FOR 27 YEARS, but I found it hard to shake the feelings. I once chucked the scissors up in the air to put them on top of the cupboard but they just fell down on my head and then I got my husband to put them away as I was convinced if I had them, I would perform a bob on myself reminiscent of a 3 year old cutting out shapes – one side short, the other down to my knees and a fringe that is half way up my head performing the conga.

Well, imagine having these thoughts all the time. About your baby. ARGH. Scary isn’t it?

When you are pregnant, people throw advice at you. Your mum says she fed you on a concoction of evaporated milk and strained prunes when you announce you will be breastfeeding, your auntie says she put your cousin, in her pram, down the bottom of the garden with a fly net over her so she didn’t eat them as she screamed and the random lady in Costa tells you that you shouldn’t be eating a caramel shortbread if you want to have a boy. No one tells you however, that when you give birth, it is possible that your mind can fill with terrifying thoughts that will cover you like a black cloak and refuse to go.

I know of one woman who developed a deep fear of batteries being near her baby. She could not stop the thoughts of them exploding near her baby’s face and so she went around the house and took the batteries out of everything. Her mind was filled with horrible thoughts of her baby’s face being burned by batteries and this impacted on her life in so many ways – she didn’t accept toys from well-wishers that were battery operated, the remote controls were rendered useless and clocks stood at a standstill around the house. Her husband told her it was complete and utter madness to march around the house opening up radios and emptying batteries into the outside bin and her mother in law told everyone her grandsons mother wasn’t right in the head. How nice.

Some mums have visions of hurting their baby and refuse to pick up knives or go in the kitchen. They visualise dropping the baby on its head so avoid holding their baby.

The one that NO ONE DARES TO MENTION are the thoughts of a sexual nature. Mums I have supported or spoken to who have had these thoughts are deeply deeply distressed by them and absolutely won’t tell a health care professional about them – with the fear of their baby being removed from them and them being labelled a paedophile and put on the sex offenders register. They have told me that the thoughts just pop into their brain like a poison that won’t go away and totally grips them. They say they would sit in fear, unable to move with thoughts of “what if I actually do what is seeping through my brain? Am I actually capable of this? The fact that these awful awful thoughts and images won’t go is terrifying and disgusting me” and it makes them want to avoid their baby. They say they think , this is my baby, I love them and I want to protect them from any harm and I am thinking these thoughts , these thoughts of harming them in the worst possible way myself ? Does this mean I am going to do it? Should I even be here as their mummy? Should I go and take them out of the way of my harmful thoughts?

One mum told me she would have flashes of thoughts throughout the day, so much so, that she didn’t want to pick her baby up or change its nappy. She would say, why can’t I just be a normal mum? They make me think that I am evil and disgusting
These are deeply deeply distressing thoughts but I need to say this very clearly:
Thoughts of harming your baby do not mean in any way that you want to do this or will do. Quite the opposite in fact.

The charity Maternal OCD (who are absolutely utterly BRILLIANT) says ‘obsessions can be focused on anything from germs to symmetry. When OCD presents itself during motherhood, the responsibilities for the life and well-being of a helpless infant may be experienced as a chronic stress’ and lists some symptoms as :

– Fear of contamination to the mother, child or anyone in contact with the child e.g. perceived risk of HIV, food poisoning
– intrusive thoughts of stabbing/hurting /dropping /touching the newborn baby
– Doubts that harm could come to child e.g. bottle steriliser not working
– Perfectionism e.g. everything around the house has to be a certain way
2) Anxiety – usually as a result of the thoughts. Then, thoughts or actions you keep repeating to try to reduce your anxiety. These are called compulsions.
The charity Maternal OCD says that ‘to try and eradicate the anxiety attached to the obsessions, mothers with OCD will act out rituals to ensure their child is safe and no harm will come to them. In fact, this makes the OCD worsen. Although the anxiety attached to the obsession reduces short-term it returns stronger and stronger. This means that potentially the mother is acting out rituals for a significant amount of her day’.
They list some examples of these below:
– Hyper vigilance when meeting new people or going to public toilets, this will include avoidance of touching other people, planning a day out around toilet breaks and using excessive wet wipes and hand sanitisers
– Hiding anything sharp around the house
– Constantly checking the gas is turned off, the petrol pump is working correctly
– Waking earlier than necessary and going to bed later than necessary to ensure the house is ‘just so’
– Constant reassurance seeking from friends, family members and maybe health professionals that the child is unharmed.

If you experience any of the symptoms, please tell your doctor. There is a great article at http://bjgp.org/content/67/661/376tes which informs health care professionals on how to normalise intrusive thoughts for concerned parents. It states:
Intrusive thoughts or images of causing harm to one’s infant are common in the general population.
Experiencing the intrusive thoughts makes them no more likely to harm their infant intentionally than any other parent is to harm their own infant intentionally.
There is no need to avoid triggers or situations that give rise to the intrusive thoughts or images. Avoiding them actually tends to increase the frequency of the thoughts and it also advises that “Intrusive thoughts of harming one’s baby are common among clinical and non-clinical samples alike. However, they may become more distressing and harder to cope with in mothers who are suffering from mental health problems. Such thoughts can be elicited through careful and sensitive questioning (especially emphasising to parents that these are common and do not mean that they will act on them).
Once parents are able to acknowledge and talk about these thoughts and appreciate that experiencing them is very common, they often diminish in significance and frequency. Where they persist, treatment for intrusive thoughts is available using standard cognitive behavioural techniques.”

So please take this as reassurance that it’s okay to open up to your doctor about your feelings. And this is what you need to remember. Having these thoughts does not mean you will act on them. There are lots of treatments, from CBT to medications to support you through to recovery and help to minimise the thoughts. Maternal OCD have a whole page dedicated to treatment options and emphasizes how these symptoms are very treatable

http://maternalocd.org/about-perinatal-ocd/ .

Maternal OCD also have a great page on how to access help if you have Perinatal OCD and details both professional and peer support – please take a look http://maternalocd.org/finding-help/ .
You aren’t alone with these thoughts and there is help to get you through what is a very distressing time.
Some extra info pages on Perinatal OCD are below.
http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/perinatalocd.aspx
http://www.maternalocd.org/index.php

Postnatal Depression and Anxiety

Everyone knows the term Postnatal Depression or PND as its more commonly referred to but even though the term is known about, mums feel a real sense of shame when admitting they think they are suffering. You don’t need to feel shame – motherhood is no picnic in those early days.

As a mum ,you may have just pushed a melon sized person out of your nether regions or had major surgery to evict them from your tummy, you can’t wee for fear of bursting your stitches , you can’t sit down because your stitches appear to have been too thoroughly done by what appears to be the local seamstress, if you have had a c section, it feel like you are going to break in half at any point, a river of blood is gushing out of you for 6 weeks, your boobs look like they have won the golden ticket to the playboy mansion , great auntie Vera wants to come and stay and help out for the first 3 weeks which is worse than the devil coming over to play with fire in the garden and your baby appears to have laughed in the face of evolution and doesn’t ever sleep. People say oh it’s the best thing ever isn’t it and you’re standing there with sick down your top and someone else’s poo under your fingernails and you think what the dickens , I feel awful. I feel like crying. FOREVER.

Symptoms and feelings like those listed below may go quickly like the baby blues, which I talked about earlier. But if they carry on, they could be leading to postnatal depression or anxiety. What you must remember though throughout all of this is – you are a good mum, a lovely person, a god damn warrior. Social Services won’t swoop your baby away and thinking distressing things doesn’t mean you will act on them. You are going through a hard time and you can’t just snap out of it. At the moment you are in a hole but you will get out of it.

You aren’t awful. Don’t feel ashamed. You are a good mum.

I thought I wanted the baby to live next door and was using up three rolls of toilet paper a day because was am crying so much. Oh god, the tears. They started when my parents dropped us home from the hospital, I clad in DVT socks with legs the size of a squeezable orange carton and the realisation hit me that this baby was here forever and I was in charge of it forever. And the tears then didn’t stop for the next 7 weeks. Wahhhhh . This was a big first indicator that I wasn’t revelling in motherhood.

As the RCpsych pages say, PND or anxiety symptoms can look like these:
Depressed
Irritable
Tired
Sleepless
Appetite changes
Unable to enjoy anything
Loss of interest in sex
Negative and guilty thoughts
You might think that you are not a good mother or that your baby doesn’t love you
You may feel guilty for feeling like this or that this is your fault -You may lose your confidence
You might think you can’t cope with things.

Anxiety

Anxiety can be awful after having a baby. For me , the symptoms were at times worse than my Psychosis. I had a deep fear of my baby and the thought that he was now here forever filled me with such fear, that I felt like I was in a constant panic attack.
My doctor asked me if I felt like I wanted to flush the baby down the toilet – she could have phrased it a tad better but I was just very scared of him. I couldn’t dump him like a boyfriend I suddenly stopped liking and I couldn’t sell him like a flat that I had got bored with – he was here forever now and the fear of that consumed me . But my symptoms are only one experience.
Some anxiety symptoms are below – these again are taken from the RCpsych website.
You may feel like:
Your baby is very ill
Your baby is not putting on enough weight
Your baby is crying too much and you can’t settle him/her
Your baby is too quiet and might have stopped breathing
You have a physical illness
You will never get better
You may feel like you won’t ever not feel like this -You may be so worried that you are afraid to be left alone with your baby.
When you feel anxious, you may have some of the following:
Racing pulse
Thumping heart
Breathless
Sweating
Fear that you may have a heart attack or collapse.
http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/postnataldepression.aspx

Postpartum Psychosis

Action on Postpartum Psychosis says that ‘Postpartum Psychosis (PP) is a severe, but treatable, form of mental illness that occurs after having a baby. It can happen ‘out of the blue’ to women without previous experience of mental illness. There are some groups of women, women with a history of bipolar disorder for example, who are at much higher risk. PP normally begins in the first few days to weeks after childbirth. It can get worse very quickly and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Most women need to be treated with medication and admitted to hospital’.

I was one of those women .You may have heard of this illness for the first time since the soap EastEnders featured it as a major storyline. The charity Mind worked with the BBC to get the portrayal of the illness right, as did APP and myself and another mum, Kathryn Grant, been acted as consultants to the storyline and met with the researchers and actors to discuss our experience.

It is a scary illness – lots of varying symptoms as shown below – for me, I felt very scared of ‘something’. I hallucinated that I was floating and thought the sky was able to be ripped apart. I was terrified of being in the same room as my son and had bright flashes in front of my eyes. Again though, these are my symptoms. My friend spent a day thinking she was the President of North Korea which was terrifying enough in itself.

As they are the very best source of info on PP, here is APP’s list of symptoms: There are a large variety of symptoms that women with PP can experience. Women may be:
– Excited, elated, or ‘high’. -Depressed, anxious, or confused / excessively irritable or changeable in mood.
Postpartum Psychosis includes one or more of the following:
-Strange beliefs that could not be true (delusions). -Hearing, seeing, feeling or smelling things that are not there (hallucinations). -High mood with loss of touch with reality (mania). -Severe confusion.
These are also common symptoms:
-Being more talkative, sociable, on the phone an excessive amount. -Having a very busy mind or racing thoughts. -Feeling very energetic and like ‘super-mum’ or agitated and restless. -Having trouble sleeping, or not feeling the need to sleep. -Behaving in a way that is out of character or out of control. -Feeling paranoid or suspicious of people’s motives. -Feeling that things are connected in special ways or that stories on the TV or radio have special personal meaning. -Feeling that the baby is connected to God or the Devil in some way.

Treatment for PP

PP is classed as a medical emergency and if you suspect you have it or your wife, partner, daughter, sister or friend may have it, you need to take her to a GP or hospital. Mums and little’s are often treated together in specialist psychiatric mother and baby units so to avoid the separation of mother and baby, wherever possible, by joint admission. I went into a mother and baby unit. It was fab.My bed wasn’t chained to the wall and I wasn’t made to wear a straitjacket while watching the TV. It was safe, calm, warm and purposeful and it started my recovery.

I’ve written about my experience in the unit here which I hope you will take some comfort in https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/i-need-a-bed-of-strawberry-creams-in-a-place-of-recovery-dreams/ .
Once discharged, the local specialized Perinatal Outreach and Community Psychiatric Team visited me every day at home. Don’t be scared if you need to go into a mother and baby unit or see a perinatal team at home. They are great and will help you get better x
See http://www.app-network.org/ for more info.

I want to get better from my perinatal mental illness – what should I do?

For all of the things listed above, it’s super important to seek help. There are lots of ways of doing this.
– Contact your midwife, doctor or health visitor and tell them you are worried that you may have a problem with your feelings during your pregnancy or after the baby is born. Perinatal means up to 12 months after your baby is born so even if your child isn’t a gurgling little baba anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t be suffering!
-Doctors are used to seeing mums with these symptoms. Most docs are fab, some, as is life, not so much so. Ask the receptionist who is nice, who has a kind ear and who won’t stare at a computer screen while you are with them. If it’s too much to say in person, write it down and pass it to the receptionist if you can.
– If you see a doctor as they are as useful as a chocolate condom, then book an appointment to see another doctor. You can see 7865 doctors if need be. You deserve to be listened to.
– If you are a friend or relative of the person who is unwell, you may have to encourage them to make the appointment and go with them as they may not be aware of, or believe that there is a problem.

It was long. I may have left out lots of stuff that should be in here so do let me know. I will add as time goes on. Lets all support each other during this time and beyond . Because we are all important .

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xx

I am 39, have a beard and I am buying what is basically iron bru with a percentage. And cauliflower pretending to be a carbohydrate. Please just sell me the booze.

I was asked for ID yesterday in the supermarket. 5 months shy of 40 with my face resembling a road map of wrinkles. I was in leggings with holes in the crotch and a huge wet patch where I had knocked a bottle of piriton all down myself. Buying supermarket brand aperol spritz and cauliflower cous cous.

I said I dont have any, I am 39, fat, have a beard and I am buying what is basically iron bru with a percentage. And cauliflower pretending to be a carbohydrate . I would be pretty ashamed of myself if i was under 18 buying all this.

I then gave her the run down of my son suffering from slap cheek syndrome and how date night with the husband had been canned as his wails shouting I am itchy and hot have taken over so I am planning on a fake spritzer at 1am. My debit card then fell out from my bra strap bent.

She asked if I wanted a seed packet and took my money and wished me good day.

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The dress from afar may look oscar worthy but if you look a little closer, the owner may be pinned into it, with 2 acrylic nails hanging off and a false eyelash going rogue towards the nose.

20200223_121905

Anxiety. Panic attacks. Oh look. A pile of pretty clothes on the floor. Nice but looking a little dischevelled if you look a little closer. Some laid flat all pretty, some scrunched up like a hair band from Tammy Girl circa 1987. Some size 12 from before I had my son. Some size 22 from the 3 and something stone I put on whilst on my life saving happy pills. Most now a 14/16 at my current state. Some with flowers which I wear when I am feeling spritely. Some with stains that I cant bear to throw out as they hold lovely memories. Some black which I wear on nights out so I can spill porn star martinis on my crotch and not have people thinking I have pissed my own pants.

The unfortunate thing about this pile of my lovely clothes is that a load of them have also been attacked by that invisible creeping death wish to material – damp. I could cry. My 89 quid coat I got from a charity shop for a fiver. My , as my son calls it, smarties dress, that I wore when I was pregnant. My blue primark swing dress that I accidentally burned an iron print on (the one and only time I used a twatting iron. They should be banned ) and covered up with a patch now has an aroma of whiff de dampville about it. I didnt see all these things until I looked really close. Because from afar everything looks dandy doesn’t it ?

I had a panic attack at 2.20am earlier this week. The little fella, for the first time in 6 weeks, was sleeping in with mummy after dropping off while reading and John and I had had a lovely evening of watching a bloody gore crime drama eating truffles. All was super in the world. Until I woke up, with Joe’s sweaty little lovely hand holding mine, in a state. My brain felt like it was whizzing 674 miles an hour and I started crying. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I clutched at the covers to get them to hold me. I then yelled out for John , who sprang up like a chicken on heat and held me in his arms. I sat by him and he did my breathing with me as he reminded me panic attacks are not real feelings, it is passing and to STOP APOLOGISING for being a wailing banshee at 2.30 am.

I feel mentally strong but what the past few weeks have shown me is that at times we can all be fragile. But this fragility doesn’t show to others. Much like a pretty dress from afar. Much like damp on clothes. I herniated a load of discs in my neck 6 weeks ago and at one point could not move my neck, arms, chew or cut things up. I have slept sitting up with chicken nuggets strapped to my shoulder and haven’t been able to cuddle or be cuddled for fear of any movement destroying me. I still currently have no feeling in my right thumb or forearm. Fuckles knows when that will come back. Might need to spend another 1000 quid on treatment…. but I digress.

I have been sleeping approx 2/3 hours a night, been off work , and basically been unable to do anything. Not being able to be me has been hard whilst the nutsville of life has been cracking on – I still need to be mummy and sorting all that that entails, I am still a supportive partner , I am still attending therapy and osteo appointments , sorting parent pay, shuffling to the science workshop at school, asking the teacher why on earth my kid was punished for someone elses behaviour, all while in arm strapping, a sling , and a splint.
I have felt somewhat overwhelmed I guess with not knowing when normal service would resume. The horrific lack of sleep finally caught up with me at that 2.20am. The weeks of not having any clue if or when I would get better from neckgate hit home. The feeling that I may have been a snappy mummy while dropping a frying pan due to no feeling in my arm and setting fire to a tea towel. The guilt at not seeing an unwell relative hanging over me while I weigh up seeing them whilst sorting out medical commitments here.

From the outside it looks like I am zooming around with my pink shoes and my feather pen and my hoop earrings but said zooming is at a slower pace, held up by medications and 55 quid half hour osteo appointments and 500 quid scans while supporting others and my commitments to them. I have as a day job as a civil servant and in my spare time organising the UK maternal mental health awareness week with my amazing PMHP bods. I love love love what I do and not being able to do these things or even wash myself had made me feel urgh. I couldn’t write my blog, my lovely release or read a goodnight story to Joe .I have however become an expert in antiques though and court cases and channel 5 TV movies with the 876 hours of TV I have been watching.

The feeling of urghville passed almost as quickly as it landed on me. John had set me a task the morning after to write a list of ten good things about myself. It took me ages to start it as I couldn’t think past -nice shoe collection’ and ‘had great boobs 10 years ago’ but knew I needed to – seeing things on paper shows it different to the jumble in your brain.

I knew at some point, the creases in my head would iron themselves out. I guess the point of this post is to be kind to those you see as you may not know what is bubbling underneath. It may look like fun and games galore in the outside but open the game and a ballache might land on go.

The dress from afar may look oscar worthy but if you look a little closer, the owner may be pinned into it, with 2 acrylic nails hanging off and a false eyelash going rogue towards the nose.

Or that might just be because I am what Stiff rod says, a little mess.

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That saucepan is just looking to be lobbed across the living room…. the symptoms of maternal mental illness that we don’t talk about.

A few weeks ago I hosted #PNDHour while @pndandme had a well deserved rest. I scratched my head with my stick on nails and wondered what the subject could be. I am almost 10 years on from the mummy madness that walloped me on the head so I often talk about recovery, moving on from the illness, allowing yourself to heal, to not feel guilty and so wanted to look at something different. I wanted to talk about something not usually talked about and … and then it hit me like a broken boomerang as my mind went back and forth – why not dedicate a whole hour to the symptoms of Maternal Mental Illness that no one talks about. We often hear on daytime talk shows with a nodding tv doctor saying “mummy might feel quite teary and overwhelmed” but there is such a huge list of symptoms that women can suffer from once baby has been evicted from the vagina or the stomach that quite teary doesn’t really cover it.

So here goes .

Sex. Please go away from me with your trouble inducing bell-end. 

Now. I had a c section. I don’t care what the rags say, just because my vagina wasn’t stretched to planet size proportions, doesn’t mean I was capable of doing the conga after birth. No way lady. No one told me that I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, move half a centimeter, do anything more than be bent double or breathe for the few weeks after birth. Combine being bent in half in pain with a red river flowing out of my fandango held together by a maternity pad the size of my sofa , boobs that looked like a bicycle pump had gone rogue on them and 2 weeks worth of poo in me for fear of going to the loo in case I burst the bum grapes that had taken over my arse ,along with the fairly terrifying reality that I had actually completely lost my mind and was in the midst of a full psychotic breakdown, you must forgive me when I say the idea of a genital stretch and tone with the husband was the last thing on my mind.

You bring your little delight home from the hospital , place it in its cot , look for the baby instruction manual and realize that you are it. This gurgling then screaming ball before you is your responsibility for the rest of your life and as the terror of that hits you, so does a pint of regurgitated baby sick. You are stood there for three hours holding your baby upright so the reflux exorcist doesn’t make another appearance, while in your pants with matted hair stuck to your head. You are swaying back and forth to calm said child while thinking you have made the biggest mistake of your life and feel like your legs, back, boobs and brain simply cannot take it anymore.

And then your fella leaves a trail of roses and tells you he loves you more than ever and wants to caress you with kisses. Or flushes the loo and asks you if you fancy a shag . Regardless of the approach…..

No. No you do not. You have not slept for days on end. Earlier , you put the kettle in the fridge and the cat in a drawer. You think it might be Monday but it could be Thursday but you actually don’t want the days to start and can’t wait for them to end. It’s all a blur and your heart feel like it is pounding so hard with anxiety that it might actually explode out of you and the idea of climbing back on the horse and performing the reverse cowgirl is so incredibly far from your mind that you think you may never ever want to do it ever again.

You may have wanted it four times a day or someone who loved having it once a month before baby arrived and now find yourself so in the midst of a maternal breakdown that the desires you once had have vanished. Some mums say they feel so utterly touched out with a cluster feeding baby on them all day or with being the one that baby gets handed back to if they so much as make a tiny moan, that the idea of then being touched or touching someone else is absolutely horrific. Some of the mums I support have said that this is when they knew something wasn’t right – they previously may loved sex, and / or had a high sex drive, enjoyed being touched. To feel like those desires , those emotions have been drained from you , can be awful. One mum said she told her gp this and was told no one feels like doing it after giving birth and sex drive would return shortly and she felt like this symptom was brushed off. They felt it might not sound as worthy as “I feel sad all the time /nothing gives me joy” but we all experience different symptoms. I always say , we all know our own normal and know if something is making us feel like we aren’t ourselves. I read a blog once where a woman said her lack of sex drive made her feel ‘numb’ and that for her , it was like a limb losing feeling. When her husband touched her , she felt nothing. Not because he had lost his magic touch but because her illness taken her feelings away.

And then there is the fear that doing the horizontal dance might result in another baby. Which is terrifying if you feel like the kid you have now has resulted in you having postnatal depression. So you actively avoid anything where your partners party in his pants is anywhere near you which then makes you worry that your partner will think you don’t fancy them anymore.

There is a great article on this here so do take a look https://postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-depression-affects -sex-drive

Rage . Against all the machines. And all the people. 

This bad boy appears to be super common – but rarely talked about. I posted an article on this last week and it got thousands of views with comments such  as” Oh my god, thank you for this , now I see what was happening to me”. I am talking about overwhelming anger while in the postnatal period. Ever had a baby and opened the cupboard to see the saucepan and think , I would much better if I lobbed that across the living room?

You know the rage you feel when your partner grants the kids their wish of pancakes and gravy for breakfast and so every pan ever purchased is used and you find yourself slipping over on congealed lumps of powered beef fat whilst muttering things about how much of a ballsack is someone to make gravy at 8.30 am for a pack of 3 year olds armed with paw patrol toys and lego swords.  Imagine that that feeling doesn’t ease when you get in the tube because it can’t . This is an anger which needs its own title because it isn’t fleeting or goes away fairly easily . Its an anger you feel while being more exhausted than you have ever felt . You are doing the hero job of being a mother and this rage has knocked you sideways.

Women who experience it in the postnatal period says it creep up on you like a stranger you don’t know and tap you on the shoulder with a fright. It is unexpected and terrifying and you don’t want it. You feel like a pan of rice that has bubbled over and grains go all over the floor and things start melting and turning red and you have no idea how it happened as you were certain you had kept a lid on it . But as things get hotter and hotter and more furious looking, the lid can fly off and emotions pour out. I have always been shit at cooking rice and it always sticks or bloops or overboils so much the flame under the pan goes out. And this is how postnatal rage feels – like it has blown your light out and replaced it with a black smoke of doom.

There was a research study that showed anger in the period after having your baby can be incredibly common and also caused by things that others not suffering don’t see as problematic. When I said I felt overwhelmed by the fact my baby was here forever and I was absolutely full of terror, one person said that I had wanted a baby and that 15 year olds have them and coped so I should be able to and let out a laugh . Head. Bang. Table and and a rising of fury in me like a vulva volcano. I felt like my lava was about to spew out and that nothing could stop it happening. Women have said the volume in the TV while they were trying to settle the baby would infuriate them so much they would think furiously about snatching the remote control and putting in the blender. And it isnt because they are over reactionary females – but because this anger is a symptom they can’t control at the moment and we need to pay attention to it.

Some of the comments during the hour focused on self anger – the feeling of being utterly furious at yourself because you aren’t experiencing motherhood as you expected. White jeans , flowers in hair, an almond latte in that little organic cafe and a baby that has to be woken up because it loves sleep is sold to you by people who have never had babies yet claim to be experts . So when you have your child and it stays awake for 23 hours and 45 minutes a day, you turn your knickers inside out as you haven’t been able to get to the washing machine for days on end due to your boobs being needed every 5 seconds and you aren’t finding weeing in the shower and sitting on a rubber ring and a bag of Tescos frozen peas an absolute ball, it’s quite hard to enjoy it like the guru said you would. Its hard. Its bloody bloody hard. Every waking and sleeping moment , you are on duty. Its like the dream job you applied for but appears to be a horror show. You don’t have a lunch break. You can’t take annual leave. The new staff member you are managing constantly needs your help and attention and you can’t say , think I might go back to my old job as this one isn’t quite the right fit for me because this job is forever.

And then you feel very very cross with yourself because you chose this life. You are lucky – you have a baby so why can’t you enjoy it you think ? Why why why? Stupid me, I am so bloody anger at myself for all of this and just want to scream and shout and let it all out.

And when you do, someone tells you to calm down. And I was watching Khloe Kardashians Instagram today and she placed a quote saying no one ever in the world calmed down because they were told so and she is right. And this is key. Saying calm down to a mum experiencing anger as a symptom of a Maternal Mental Illness is the same as “pull yourself together “ . They would do if they could but they can’t because it is an illness that needs the right help and support to get better. We haven’t told Angela down the road to get on with baking those cakes even though she has broken both her arms do we ? Because we know she needs time to heal. So we go and help Angela stir the bowl and put the cakes in the oven . We need to do this with mums.

Feeling like this does not make you awful. It does not make you ungrateful. It means you are doing the hardest job in the world and are experiencing a symptom that needs help and support. With the right help and support , the saucepan can stay in the cupboard and most importantly, you will feel better. Always remember that this isn’t your fault – it is an illness that will get better.

Take a look at the article I posted which had so many comments. It is super informative and you will see you are most definitely  not alone https://www.mother.ly/life/we-need-to-talk-about-postpartum-rageand-why-it-happens

I don’t like it , I don’t love it , I don’t want anymore of it

Now. This is one people don’t like to admit.

Admitting you don’t think you like or love your baby.

WHAT?? How can a woman not love her baby some wail. She made it , she wanted it , it’s so helpless , how ungrateful of her , are just some of the comments I have heard when a very distressed and unwell mum bravely says she doesn’t think she feel anything for her child.

You may have read comments from mums that say they are in the awful mist that is postnatal depression and they feel so terrible suffering because they love their baby . But there are also mums that don’t have this feeling and they are so scared to admit it. It can start when you give birth – you wait for that moment that everyone talks about , the moment when your new child is placed on your chest and the birds sing, you experience a feeling of bliss and contentment you have never felt before and life feels complete . But you wait and wait and wait and it doesn’t happen. You can’t hear any tweets , the hills don’t feel alive and the sound of music isn’t playing from your heart. Instead you think , why in gods name have I done. I don’t like this . I have made a terrible mistake. I feel scared . I don’t love my baby.

Then you go home and the days go on and you think the tiredness will pass and as it does, the wave of love will float in. But this doesn’t happen and instead you feel like you can never imagine having this baby in your life forever. And what makes it worse if your partner is in awe , the amazon delivery person melts into a puddle as they deliver next doors new juice extractor and see your baby yawning and the checkout girl in Aldi goes ga ga with stars in her eyes when she sees a tiny glimpse of baby toes. And your mother in law cries all the time. Like you. You are crying all the time but she is crying as she is besotted whereas you are because you can’t feel any other emotions. It’s a numbness where you thought a huge pang of love would be . You knew what love was  – you loved your parents , you loved your husband. I am pretty convinced I spent about 5 years in love with Jamie Dornan even though I have never met him, so loving a baby that was made by me would have been absolutely easy.

My friend Kate wrote this a brilliant blog on this very subject and I urge you to read it if you feel this way . For she not only talks about the terrifying feeling of not loving your baby but how this feeling , though it may feel like it , will go. Kate talks about feeling detached, feeling like an alien, feeling like she was playing mummies and daddies as a child. A game of pretend so no one knew what her real feelings were.

And then she talks about the day she felt a pang, but not of fear or panic, but of love and how this grew to a deep bond that knocked her for six . You may feel like this day wont come and are in fear at what you feel now. You may feel like you feel nothing at the moment but it will lift. You will love and PLEASE remember you are loved by your baby and the numbness you feel will not be felt by them. You are not ruining them for life for feeling like this – they know your sound and your smell. They know mummy and that is enough. You are enough .

Here is Kate’s blog https://the-motherload.co.uk/i-didnt-love-baby/

INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS.

I have put this in big old letters as these thoughts plague LOADS OF MUMS BUT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT THEM. These are basically thoughts or images that keep coming into your mind. These are sometimes called obsessions by docs. They can be very upsetting and you can visualize things you don’t want to see. These are more common than people realize and when I spoke of mine, I found others had them also. Remember, however distressing the thoughts or visions, please don’t hold back from telling medical professionals about them. To treat you properly, they need to know your thoughts and feelings. And I guarantee, you won’t be the first to talk about these kind of symptoms to them.

TRIGGER WARNING

So – let’s talk about intrusive thoughts. This may be triggering, so if you need to stop reading, stop. This blog is for info to help you but if you feel like you can’t read anymore, then put your phone down and stop reading. You can always come back to this when you feel ready.

Ever had that feeling, as you are stood waiting for the 17.58 train to Brighton, eating a Mars bar and reading about how to contour your cheeks like Kim Kardashian, that you want to jump in front of a train as it zooms past? Yep? And you think, that’s a bit weird, of course I won’t jump in front of the train, and you finish said mars bar and the thought leaves your brain in a second.

When I was younger, I had thoughts of grabbing scissors and hacking my hair off. If I HAD DONE, I WOULD HAVE CRIED FOR 27 YEARS, but I found it hard to shake the feelings. I once chucked the scissors up in the air to put them on top of the cupboard but they just fell down on my head and then I got my husband to put them away as I was convinced if I had them, I would perform a bob on myself reminiscent of a 3 year old cutting out shapes – one side short, the other down to my knees and a fringe that is half way up my head performing the conga.

Well, imagine having these thoughts all the time. About your baby. ARGH. Scary isn’t it?

When you are pregnant, people throw advice at you – the random lady in Costa tells you that you shouldn’t be eating a caramel shortbread if you want to have a boy for example. No one tells you however, that when you give birth, it is possible that your mind can fill with terrifying thoughts that will cover you like a black cloak and refuse to go.

I know of one woman who developed a deep fear of batteries being near her baby. She could not stop the thoughts of them exploding near her baby’s face and so she went around the house and took the batteries out of everything. Her mind was filled with horrible thoughts of her baby’s face being burned by batteries and this impacted on her life in so many ways – she didn’t accept toys from well-wishers that were battery operated, the remote controls were rendered useless and clocks stood at a standstill around the house. Her husband told her it was complete and utter madness to march around the house opening up radios and emptying batteries into the outside bin and her mother in law told everyone her grandsons mother wasn’t right in the head. How nice.

Some mums have visions of hurting their baby and refuse to pick up knives or go in the kitchen. They visualise dropping the baby on its head so avoid holding their baby.

The one that NO ONE DARES TO MENTION are the thoughts of a sexual nature. Mums I have supported or spoken to who have had these thoughts are deeply deeply distressed by them and absolutely won’t tell a health care professional about them – with the fear of their baby being removed from them and them being labelled a paedophile and put on the sex offenders register. They have told me that the thoughts just pop into their brain like a poison that won’t go away and totally grips them. They say they would sit in fear, unable to move with thoughts of “what if I actually do what is seeping through my brain? Am I actually capable of this? The fact that these awful awful thoughts and images won’t go is terrifying and disgusting me” and it makes them want to avoid their baby. They say they think , this is my baby, I love them and I want to protect them from any harm and I am thinking these thoughts , these thoughts of harming them in the worst possible way myself ? Does this mean I am going to do it? Should I even be here as their mummy? Should I go and take them out of the way of my harmful thoughts?

One mum told me she would have flashes of thoughts throughout the day, so much so, that she didn’t want to pick her baby up or change its nappy. She would say, why can’t I just be a normal mum? They make me think that I am evil and disgusting. These are deeply deeply distressing thoughts but I need to say this very clearly:
Thoughts of harming your baby do not mean in any way that you want to do this or will do. Quite the opposite in fact.

The charity Maternal OCD (who are absolutely utterly BRILLIANT) says ‘obsessions can be focused on anything from germs to symmetry. When OCD presents itself during motherhood, the responsibilities for the life and well-being of a helpless infant may be experienced as a chronic stress’ and lists some symptoms as :

– Fear of contamination to the mother, child or anyone in contact with the child e.g. perceived risk of HIV, food poisoning
– intrusive thoughts of stabbing/hurting /dropping /touching the newborn baby
– Doubts that harm could come to child e.g. bottle steriliser not working
– Perfectionism e.g. everything around the house has to be a certain way

Maternal OCD says that ‘to try and eradicate the anxiety attached to the obsessions, mothers with OCD will act out rituals to ensure their child is safe and no harm will come to them. In fact, this makes the OCD worsen. Although the anxiety attached to the obsession reduces short-term it returns stronger and stronger. This means that potentially the mother is acting out rituals for a significant amount of her day’.
They list some examples of these below:

– Hyper vigilance when meeting new people or going to public toilets, this will include avoidance of touching other people, planning a day out around toilet breaks and using excessive wet wipes and hand sanitisers
– Hiding anything sharp around the house
– Constantly checking the gas is turned off, the petrol pump is working correctly
– Waking earlier than necessary and going to bed later than necessary to ensure the house is ‘just so’
– Constant reassurance seeking from friends, family members and maybe health professionals that the child is unharmed.

If you experience any of the symptoms, please tell your doctor. There is a great article at http://bjgp.org/content/67/661/376tes which informs health care professionals on how to normalise intrusive thoughts for concerned parents. It states:
‘Intrusive thoughts or images of causing harm to one’s infant are common in the general population. Experiencing the intrusive thoughts makes them no more likely to harm their infant intentionally than any other parent is to harm their own infant intentionally. There is no need to avoid triggers or situations that give rise to the intrusive thoughts or images. Avoiding them actually tends to increase the frequency of the thoughts and it also advises that “Intrusive thoughts of harming one’s baby are common among clinical and non-clinical samples alike. However, they may become more distressing and harder to cope with in mothers who are suffering from mental health problems. Such thoughts can be elicited through careful and sensitive questioning (especially emphasising to parents that these are common and do not mean that they will act on them). Once parents are able to acknowledge and talk about these thoughts and appreciate that experiencing them is very common, they often diminish in significance and frequency. Where they persist, treatment for intrusive thoughts is available using standard cognitive behavioural techniques.’

So please take this as reassurance that it’s okay to open up to your doctor about your feelings. And this is what you need to remember. Having these thoughts does not mean you will act on them. There are lots of treatments, from CBT to medications to support you through to recovery and help to minimise the thoughts. Maternal OCD have a whole page dedicated to treatment options and emphasizes how these symptoms are very treatable – http://maternalocd.org/about-perinatal-ocd/ .

They also have a great page on how to access help if you have Perinatal OCD and details both professional and peer support – please take a look http://maternalocd.org/finding-help/ . You aren’t alone with these thoughts and there is help to get you through what is a very distressing time.

I am the coordinator of the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week with my friends in the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, and during the 2018 week,  we asked Maternal OCD to run a Facebook live session to talk about the illness, how to get help and to answer questions live from mums and health care professionals. They did and it was an incredibly gentle and insightful session. The session was delivered by Maria Bavetta who runs the charity and has lived experience and a psychiatrist and the recording is below . It’s been viewed nearly 5000 times and feedback from mums has been that it’s a really useful session – https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=762568750601030&id=587696788088228.

Everyone experiences their own individual and different symptoms when unwell after having a baby. If they make you feel awful , then you deserve help and support. Opening up to a doctor can be scary and I want to do all I can to help make that step easier

My friends at Smile Group have this fab checklist you can fill in with your feelings ( esp if saying them out loud scares the rollocks of you ) and you can just hand it to your doctor – http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/ .

And here is the lovely Dr Stephanie who is a GP who had postnatal depression twice. During the 2018 awareness week she did a facebook live about how to open up to your GP 9 she talks lots about intrusive thoughts ) so if you are feeling anxious, hopefully this talk can ease your mind and prepare you – https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=763409700516935&id=587696788088228

Finally – I wrote this a while back about all the maternal mental illnesses there are , their symptoms, how to access treatment and details of support across the UK. Do take a look and I hope it is helpful.

https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2018/10/10/new-how-and-where-to-access-help-and-support-for-maternal-mental-health/

Its the hardest job in the world being a mummy . These symptoms may not be talked about a lot but you are not alone. I promise you . Take a look at #PNDhour with @pndandme every Wednesday night at 8pm on Twitter-  http://pndandme.co.uk/what-is-pndhour/ – and you will see.

x

 

Melt me in a chocolate Santa and roll me in new year nuts – the resolution to love myself like others love me.

While others are clad in spandex, squatting their way through their new years resolution of eating boiled eggs , a gust of wind and a glass of air, I started 2019 how I finished 2018. Stood in the kitchen naked bar my pants and one sock, drinking the dregs of the New Years Eve bucks fizz for breakfast, making a sausage roll and chilli heatwave dorito sandwich, dipping cocktail sausages in marmite.

I then went back to bed with the chocolate santa. I made a resolution to not make any resolutions and rolled into my husband who put his arm over me and held my tummy and went to sleep. The holding of my tummy made me open my eyes and think . When I was younger , the idea of a man holding my actual somewhat soft tummy that falls to the side similar to an ice cream melting in the heat would have sent me into a right old spin. I wouldn’t have let it happen as I would have feared they thought I was fat and be disgusted and wonder why on earth were they in bed with me. But my husband willingly does it. He likes putting his arm over me and cuddling my tummy . On a Monday morning , while I am on breakdown number 76 since getting out of bed , with 3 false nails stuck in my hair, hollering at my child to move quicker than the half dead slug he is impersonating as we are late for school and if we are late that means the receptionist will moan at mummy for not paying for the last 3 weeks worth of school dinners , my husband walks past me on the way to the shower and strokes my hip and tells me I look lovely. One look in the mirror shows I have roots so grown out that I could be a Jerry Springer guest , all the hairs everywhere appear to have flourished with the rainfall and the underwire on my bra is about to take my eye out, but he thinks I look nice. More than that, he tells me I look perfect. And he doesn’t have mud in his eye. I have checked. Numerous times.

Weird eh? I always assumed I was horrible to look at and everyone would think I was and it has taken quite the time to accept my body for how it is. All curly wurly like a road map. Think kardashians with extra butter and cream on top. With a tequila chucked in.

So I went back on myself and decided to make a resolution – I resolute to like me . To like how I look. To be healthy and happy and show my son how good it is to like the body you are in as it will be with you forever.

During my teenage years, I thought I was fat.Looking back at photos of myself , I had orange tinged hair from a catastrophic use of sun in , purple lipstick with a silver shimmer from my eyeshadow and a foundation ring around my chin. I think I probably smelt of body shop white musk as well, and looked fairly ridiculous. I also had a very avant- garden beige faux leather, probably faux plastic blazer and wore leopard print trousers to my English lit A level. Kylie Jenner I was not. So while my outfit and make up choices were slightly suspect, my weight wasn’t a problem. For me it wasn’t initially anyway. It was for others though and the brief flippant comments about it built up over time which inevitably made me look at my hips, thighs and stomach and encase myself in a measuring tape everyday.

A school ski trip filled me with joy. On return home, someone I knew said, just as I got off the coach, when I was 14 years old “ why aren’t your legs skinny? When I went on the ski trip , my legs came back skinny”. The very fact someone felt they could look at my legs, make a mental note on their thickness level, decide that it was ok to publicly say this to the rest of the playground and then top it with the reduced fat cutting comment of how their body looked better than mine , sent my head into a spin. Another told me a year later that I was ok to look at from the side but from on, my bum was too big.

My stomach was never my best feature but pregnancy and a c section has secured its lack on the washboard front . Who knew it was possible for a stomach to hit a thigh when one walks? Frequent exercise as I can’t drive as it would be a public health risk , has produced decent cardio health but the lower part of my physical body has created its own ladder somewhat.

But motherhood has , I don’t know, made me feel okay to be in this body. Because I feel like I am the body I should be in. I think I actually accept myself and how I look. Over Christmas, I was quite unwell and my sinuses got very blocked and I lost my hearing for a little while. As I have been off work while I try and find my ears, I am aware I have consumed a diet of subtitles , Fanta, scones topped with brandy cream and Yorkshire puddings with jam and broken nothing of a sweat getting out of bed to turn the tv with the occasional terrifying 4 minute walk to the GP and that I have padded out a little. A shirt dress I own currently has my hips making a bid for freedom but I don’t really care. My heart is beating with health and within a wealth of love and acceptance and for that Father Christmas , I am truly grateful.

Joe once asked me what the funny lines are that cross my tummy and my hips. I taught him about periods and sex when he was three so figured a sit down chat about mummy’s stretch marks wouldn’t terrify him too much. I explained that when I was pregnant and he lived in my tummy , that he grew rapidly. And his tiny little legs and arms would stretch out needing room and my skin created these lines while it made room for him.

The marks and shape of my body tell a story. They tell my story. And they also tell Joe’s story. They tell the story of me becoming a mother. The stretch marks that run along my tummy show where my boy made himself comfortable in the home I made for him for 9 long months. My tummy that hangs does so because he grew so big and strong. My c section scar shows how he was brought into the world, into my arms, before he lay on my chest. And my boobs. They kept him alive . They fed him and nurtured him and I celebrate that. This body created a grew a whole new life and then nourished it for such a long time. My mum said, as she saw Joe feeding from me, after not really understanding how breastfeeding worked, “isn’t nature amazing” and she was right. It is incredible.

One of the loveliest memories I have with my son is when he pressed his belly button into mine and said “this is where we were connected mummy”. That belly button that was pierced when I was 15 in a low rent attempt to be like Britney Spears (a drunk in Times Square told me I looked like Britney Spears at 3am, 10 years after said belly button piercing and 5 years after I had it removed as it kept getting stuck on my knickers , being tangled in the uncurling cotton of a pair of pants and I would find my head by my own vagina as I attempted to unravel myself. Bye bye belly piercing ). But now it represents how I nourished Joe as he grew in me. We were connected by our belly buttons and it gives my stomach a whole new dimension.

I do not talk about my problems with eating as a teen much as I don’t want Joe , my lovely son, to pick up the weight negatives that constantly surround us. I cringed when someone said to him as a 5 year old that he would eat a fat tummy if he had another scoop of ice cream.

In the past as a teenager, the food I ate didn’t remain in my stomach. Rapidly and frequently, I would make it come up my from stomach and I would see it floating in the toilet in front of me. I knew I needed to eat to start alive and I enjoyed food, but I didn’t enjoy what I thought it was giving me – a body I felt disgusted with. A body I felt so ashamed to be living in , I didn’t want to leave the house. A body I felt so disgusted by, I didn’t even answer the phone because I thought people would hear I was fat in my voice. The making myself sick period of my life has gone but the remnants of it remain – my front tooth needs to be replaced as it is so thin from acid erosion that it has two cracks down it. One of my gums has completely eroded and two root canals can’t save it. I panic about what I did to myself so now, around 18 years on , I want to treat my body with the nurture it deserves. I can fix my teeth, I am fortunate enough to be able to do that but I want to ensure I show Joe that we are more than how we physically look. But also that we should celebrate how we look because our bodies are our storytellers.

I used to hate my hips. Now people are buying hips. I used to think I would offer them mine for a good price but I think now I am attached , quite literally, to the flesh that provides the softness to my growing old bones. I used to sit and irritate John for a tummy tuck and dream of wandering around the pool on an all inclusive in a string bikini but now I think if I had this flesh removed I would cry that I had got rid of Joe’s old house in my tummy and beg the surgeon to give me a keepsake.

2 months ago, I got the chance to go on a kid free all inclusive with the husband. I grabbed it with all of my hands whilst I dreamt of the time off work, a break from wrestling my child from pissing out of the window and being able to legitimately consume 8 croissants for breakfast.

I can confirm it was a jolly hoot. I had 6 meals a day and shots of gin as a snack. I had no tan. I had a nutritious breakfast of aperol spritz every morning & made it my mission to get banned from aqua aerobics for being drunk. And I achieved it. To confirm, while everyone else having a super time relaxing by the pool, I was asleep on a sun lounger at 11am in a leopard print swimming costume, as a result of the cava I consumed for breakfast. I had the greatest time of my life. I walked around in my pants not breathing in and it was bliss.

This body has seen me through so much. My mental health has tested me and almost broke me. I had Postpartum Psychosis after I had Joe and I felt like nature was playing a terrible trick on me. The brain that played these psychotic tricks however has also proved to be more resilient than 1000 non stick flying pans. Every bit of mental health hell that has been chucked at me hasn’t stuck. It has remained there for a while and at times I thought my symptoms had latched on to me as a permanent stain but after much work, with the right cleaning products in the form of anti depressants, the symptoms came off, like a stubborn stain on a pan does eventually. Every so often something sticks again but I know with time and determination, I will be clear again.

The stomach and hips housed a child and enabled me to give birth via a c section because of my broken vaginas. I can’t give birth vaginally as I have uterus didelphis ( two wombs and two of lots of other things – google will fascinate you about it ) and if a child attempted to exit that route, they would find a road closed sign in their way. So sunroof it was and I had my baby. C sections are major surgery and recovery is tough. My body lived that and it’s done its job well and I am forever grateful. The scars and excess skin are some of the chapters of the story of my body.

Joe looks at me and just sees his mummy. These hands cook his favorite beef stew and rare rump steak with franks hot red sauce. These hands  also wave broccoli  and cut up 3 apples a day for  him. My legs are what he held onto as he learnt to take his first steps. They were his guide ,they were his support that he gripped when he took a tumble. My tummy is a pillow he lays on when he is poorly, my hands hold his when he is scared or nervous.

I used to cut labels out from clothes so I wouldn’t be reminded of my size every time I put clothes on. No more. I am strong , I am me , I am mummy. My body is my story and there is still lots to tell. As I approach 40 , everything is a little bit lower. The lines are forming deeper. I think I have a beard. But it’s okay.  I love working out. I work out almost everyday. I do about 20000 steps a a day and love my fitbit . I shut the bedroom door and shout that I do not want to be disturbed for the next 45 mins. It is my time to dedicate to my own health. It is my time to unwind from the frazzle and its my time to be me. Which is so so important .

This body has served me well and while everything is dropping , I am still standing and that’s all that matters.

Except when I am drunk on a sun lounger in Spain. Then it is the absolute shizzle to not be standing.

Like a dandelion- in the space of a single moment, a single breath, it goes from being there, to gone.

I always knew having a baby would be hard. Having a condition where I have two wombs and two vaginas meant I had been seen by practically the entire medical unit of East London and had had suspected pregnancies before. Some hadn’t been picked up, others were called chemical, others were to be medically removed. My body just didn’t seem to know what to do with them once the sperm decided which womb to swim to and the frustration at not being able to bribe it into working was intense.

9 years ago, I experienced another pregnancy loss. It was this pregnancy that showed us we wanted a family and showed us we needed proper medical support for that to happen.

I found out I was pregnant at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon at the Hospital. No weeing on a stick, no, ooh my boobs feel sore, not even a missed period. Having two wombs means my periods have spontaneous parties, some big, some small, but all seemingly drunk and confused as I often got two at once and none for 3 months. Back to the Sunday afternoon….

I worked in a pub on Sundays and Mondays. I had lived there for years before I met John and it still held a big place in my heart and I loved being there so on Monday nights I ran the bar and sang with the band and on Sundays , I would roast 30 chickens, season 3 topsides of beef, massage 2 pork shoulders and cook a partridge in a Peartree at Christmas time. That morning, I had peeled approximately all the potatoes from Sainsburys and covered myself in enough gravy, I could have delivered myself to a customer’s table and been their own personal dipping sauce. At around 2pm, I had a tantrum that my Yorkshire puddings were stuck in my non-stick muffin pan and went to deliver 2 chicken dinners to a couple in the bar. As I walked down the steps, I slipped and fell down the stairs like a human slinky and found myself at the bottom with half a chicken resting on my boobs and the Yorkshire puddings even more out of shape than me after 3 days at an all-inclusive.

Bar the embarrassment of being a human roast dinner, I had hurt my back and with the hospital opposite the pub, I wet to Casualty to get checked over. As part of the initial tests, I had to give a wee sample and after 10 mins, a nurse came in to see me and asked my friends to leave the cubicle. I was convinced that by some weird medical science thing, my wee was able to say I had broken my back and she was about to tell me, but she didn’t. She looked awkward and said, Eve, is there any chance you could be pregnant? I thought for a moment … hmm. Well, I have had sex with John at some point between the Tesco delivery being dropped off and Christmas, but I can’t remember how, where or why. She looked at me and said, well Eve, I ask this, because this test tells me you are.

I called John, announced it to him in a blaze of glory and he rushed to the hospital to see my bruised back and the doctor reassured me the fall was minor. The morning after, I began to bleed very lightly and went to the doctor who did a pregnancy test on me and declared I wasn’t pregnant and that two lines meant negative. I asked him to be read the instructions only for him to confirm I was indeed pregnant and due to my womb and pregnancy issues previously, was sent to the early pregnancy unit for an immediate scan. It was here I met my lovely lovely Dr who we still think of so fondly now, for a year later, he delivered our son Joe. But I met him here for the first time and was scanned and it was there we saw our tiny pregnancy, all 6 weeks old and the size of a pin head. I was reassured the fall hadn’t affected the pregnancy and I was so grateful.

It was explained that due to my uterus didelphis, I would be looked after weekly by the team to track the progress of the pregnancy. Lots of things around having two wombs and pregnancy being in the smaller womb etc etc but we left elated. Nervous but happy. Maybe our family dreams would come true.

Some weeks past. We had more scans, and all was going well and as we hurtled towards 10 weeks, we knew that shortly we could announce our happy news. One side of my tummy had slightly more swelling the other due to the two-womb scenario and I knew that was my pregnancy was progressing in me. All was good.

Until it wasn’t.

Trigger warning here , as I describe my loss. Stop reading it you need or want to and pick up at another time or don’t read again. Be kind to yourself and only read what you are comfortable with.

I remember the day it happened. Imagine like a dandelion- in the space of a single moment, a single breath, it goes from being there, full of hope, to gone, in one quick fell swoop. I woke up and went to roll into John for a morning cuddle. There has always been a safety in his arms in the morning time – my sleep was broken, and my dreams were odd, so waking up to a hug gave me my strength for the day. But this day something stopped me.

I stopped because as I opened my eyes, I felt wet, like when you wake up having started your period in the night. But it wasn’t that this time, it was another act of nature at play and this time a very very cruel one… I placed my hands inside my pyjamas and felt what I knew was blood. My mind started feeling numb and heavy and I leapt out of bed and ran to the bathroom holding myself, screaming for John. He was shouting what is it Eve, what’s happening. A moment of calm hit me, and I said I need my red hospital book. I need it now. I need to ring the early pregnancy unit. I heard crashing around and he brought it into me. I sat there, with my pants around my ankles, and rang the unit. I wanted to call them and tell them what I had felt. I was calm and straightforward on the phone, knowing that I was booking an emergency appt to tell me what was wrong as I had felt my pregnancy leave me as I sat on the toilet. I never knew it could happen like that.

We got there and sat and waited to be seen. John was tapping his feet nervously on the floor and I stared straight ahead, not daring to think of anything. The noise around me seemed muffled until I heard my name called. In we went with the nurse who had scanned me that first day I found out I was pregnancy. The same nurse who had scanned me the week before. Yet here she was scanning me for probably the last time.

John took my hand and squeezed it tight, kissed me on my cheek and head and told me he loved me over and over. Then he looked to the floor, feet tapping. I was making pleasantries, nodding, shifting my bum down on the table, moving around so the nurse could get the best view – all the things I had done before in my scans to see how my pregnancy was progressing – all those times to be told it was going well.

There was a silence, filled only by brief taps on to a keyboard by the nurse. And then it happened – I looked at the screen, the screen filled with my two wombs yet one of them looked different to how it was last week. At that point it had been filled with a tiny sac that seemed so small but so big in hope but now, now it was gone.

“I’m so sorry” were the words we next heard. She took my hand and said it again and turned the scanning screen away from us. There was nothing left on there for us to see yet that blank space was filling our minds. My eyes, the eyes that had started at the wall, started to well up. John buried his head into me and cuddled me and we started to cry together. The nurse stroked my head and said to get dressed and instead of going out the usual door, to go through the door at the back – as that door leads to the loss room, where we can sit for a while and prepare ourselves to leave the hospital. But this time with no scan picture to hold.

We sat in that room, which was beige and with two seats and one small table and it looked as empty as I felt, and we cried. John held my tummy and me and when it was time to leave, the door opened out into the waiting room, now full of pregnant women, some smiling, some on their phone, some holding pots of wee, all holding their red book. I was holding nothing. And I wasn’t smiling. I wasn’t on my phone. And I had no pot of wee as it wouldn’t need to be tested anymore. People looked at us, both in tears, me wearing a cardigan that I didn’t realise still had the stains of the morning on it and we realised they knew why we were there and why we had come out of a door they had not seen before. Our faces told our story to a group of strangers and my mind went into overdrive. I felt a pang of jealousy that they were pregnant, I felt cross that I had to see them and be scanned in the same place, but I also felt incredibly guilty that I was a reminder to them that not all pregnancies work out and I wanted to run down the corridor and not scare them.

I called work and told them. My boss said it was a shame and that she would see me after the weekend. It was a Friday. There was no way in hell I would be in on the Monday. I was still bleeding, and my body, heart and mind felt like they had burst. I had absolutely no clue how I was supposed to go back to work and face people and make spreadsheets and act as if they were important. I never understood excel and could never get bloody formulae to work and felt useless and now here I was, again feeling useless, as my body couldn’t keep my pregnancy safe. And no one had known about my pregnancy. So, on Monday I was supposed to go back and see Susan in accounts and talk about how my weekend was and what was I supposed to say? It was lovely thanks. I had a dinner of Cajun chicken, watched Weird Science, got some sweetcorn stuck in my tooth, had an internal argument with myself about whether I should shave my legs or not and had a miscarriage.

I phoned my mum in a haze of tears and told her I had had a miscarriage. We hadn’t told our parents as we had been so incredibly nervous. She cried with me and put my dad on the phone who broke down in tears. We then lay on the bed and held hands and at night he ran me a bath, pulling the sofa out for me, making me hot water bottles and surrounding me in pillows and covers. Anything he could do to make me feel better, John did.

Nothing can prepare you or the emptiness you feel especially when you have spent the last month getting used to your body being full of something you didn’t expect. One day it is there, the next it is gone. We didn’t thin about trying again as we hadn’t tried to begin with and everything was such a muddle. I was so scared. Instead, we booked a holiday to travel around America, which we did – I got offered a job by a woman in New York who had 8-foot-high hair and blue eyebrows and a man in Time Square asked me if I was Britney Spears. And I became obsessed with fruit machines in Atlantic City and wanted to move there and play bingo forever with a sherry in my hand.

Almost exactly one year later, after a weekend away where I had consumed enough wine to be considered an international export, I found out I was pregnant. The usual fear, panic, tears and inability to think further than a day ahead took place. We went back to the early pregnancy unit and was scanned by the same lady we saw the year before, we saw the same doctor who had promised to look after us all the way through, and he did again, and we reached the 10-week mark and then passed it.

At 12 weeks, we told everyone, but I was clear and told people about what had happened before. We bought absolutely nothing and asked people not to get us anything – it was just all too scary to think about. I was placed on progesterone therapy until birth, meaning I spent 30 mins each night attempting to get what resembled a dildo shaped candle up the correct vagina leading to the womb with the pregnancy in and then had to lay upside down on the beds as said candle type tablet melted inside me. When I got to around 24 weeks, attempting to get this over my stomach with my very small arms was something of a feat but we were assured this would help keep my cervix strong. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to go the full distance and Joe would be delivered early via planned c section as its nigh impossible to push a baby out of one of two very small vaginal canals.

In January 2010, I delivered my beautiful joyful son Joe by c section and the two wombs meant I was live learning experience for some trainees. My surgeon had looked after me every single week of pregnancy and he was the first to hold Joe. He was also covered in Joe’s urine which decided to gush out as he was pulled from my tummy and we were so incredibly grateful for his support. We had told no one of my due date, even though we had known it from 12 weeks so keep me from having to deal with the “do we have a baby” comments as I feared I would have to respond with a no, it’s not there anymore.

Giving birth brought us new life changing challenges that were never expected. A diagnosis of postpartum psychosis meant I felt scared of my baby and also provided a stint in a psychiatric mother and baby unit as I learnt to be able to be near and hold him. My main fear was of him being here forever and I was terrified of being a mum forever. Now he was here, I couldn’t send him back and I felt terrible guilt that for so long I had wanted children that my body hadn’t given me and yet here I was with the most beautiful child in the world, and I didn’t think I wanted him. It felt so cruel to put me through this when  wanted a baby so much.

My story of psychosis is covered in my other blogs, but I mention it as it the fear of that happening again combined with the very real prospect of further miscarriages due to the uterus didelphis and I have decided there will be no more babies.

I told Joe last year about this loss and how it led to him. At 7 years old, he took my tummy, and asked me what the marks were. I said they were stretch marks where his little feet and arms were growing and pushed my skin out. I showed him my c section scar and said that’s where you came out of and he then pushed our belly buttons together and said, “And this mummy is where we were joined” and I cried. He kissed my tummy and said I know about the other baby mummy. I was in there with her, but I was waiting to be born in the future.

I didn’t even know what to say to this. It was beautiful, it was healing, it was out of the blue and it was the her bit that really made me sit up. He drove his toy car of my stretch marks said yeah, she was a girl mummy, she was nice, and the car drove down my leg. Children say things at times that make you wonder, and John and I stood there staring at each other, not knowing what to say.

Time heals but you don’t forget. At times I don’t think about it and at times, it flashes into my mind when I am putting the lasagne in the oven or having a shower. Out of the blue, it’s there and I know this will probably be the case forever.

If you have experienced loss, my heart is with you.

 

 

 

NEW – How and where to access help and support for Maternal Mental Health.

It has been quite the few years for perinatal mental illness. From the EastEnders postpartum psychosis Christmas storyline a few years ago that I was involved with , the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week that I help to coordinate as a member of the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership ,maternal mental health are the words on everyone’s lips. Which is wonderful.

But for us mums who have suffered or are suffering, it’s on our minds all the time. Being pregnant or having a baby and feeling like a shadow of your former self, has affected women for thousands of years . It’s with us all the time and it’s with us until we recover.

I had postpartum psychosis and anxiety and all I wanted to do was recover. I had my son and fell into a dark deep pit of hell. A doom watch came over me and convinced me my baby was a mistake, I hallucinated about being buried alive and I became so ill, I could see absolutely no way out from the hell I was in. It took almost 2 months to get me the correct treatment and when I emerged from my illness, I knew I needed to use my experience to help others. And this starts with empowering mums with knowledge about their symptoms and how to get help.

Whether you are at the start of what you believe to be or have been diagnosed as having a perinatal mental illness, mid-way through, where the horror of the start may be being chipped away by a sprinkling of golden good days here and there, or nearing the end where the fog has almost cleared, you can see the brightness of life before you with your baby and a smile allows itself to come through and the relief is feeling you want to bottle up forever, you need help and support.

And there is help and support available, provided by people who know what they are talking about and who know what may help you. Everyone’s experiences are different – whether its depression , anxiety, psychosis, OCD, feeling full of sadness , feeling full of fear , feeling alone – but what makes help great is it can be adjusted to help you in your situation.

It may feel like it but you aren’t alone. And it may not feel like it, but you will get better. The whizzy medical bods who like looking at graphs and number porn say that ‘1 in 7 women in the UK will be affected by problems with their mood during pregnancy and afterwards’. All these feelings tend to be termed under the Postnatal Depression in the media etc. but they shouldn’t be – not all the feelings are related to depression. So, the medical bods put these feelings under one banner and call it the perinatal period.

I am not a doctor. I have no letters after my name that signifies I’m a medical brainbox and I can’t diagnose you. I am a mum who has recovered and thought my only way away from my feelings of utter despair was to not be here anymore. But I am. I’m here and I am well and you will be too.

So I may not have a medicalology but what I can do is point you in the direction of good, accredited, proper, real, and decent, not made on the Christmas market type sources of support that can help you.

So, ready? Have a look below and we can go through symptoms and tell you where you can get help. I promise you are going to be ok.

Overview of Perinatal Mental Illness

I feel like a sack of potatoes have been thrown at me and I can’t get up. Does it have to be a big sack of potatoes or can it be just a little one? What do I do?

Whether your symptoms are classed as mild, moderate or severe, if they are making you feel bad then it’s bad and you need help. From one end of the spectrum of feeling low, you don’t need to be psychotic to deserve help. I see lots of women say ‘but I didn’t think I was ill enough’. You’re ill enough if it’s affecting your life. Whether it’s made you feel teary at the exhaustion of being woken up 27 times a night or hallucinate that your baby is God, (or like me, make you take your clothes off and run into the road while clinging to your hubbys ankles), you are woman and you need to roar. Roar that you need and deserve help. And if you feel you cant, hopefully some of the things in this post will help you take that brave first step.

Perinatal mental health support in medical terms is a bit of a postcode lottery. In one place you might have an amazing dedicated team who fall asleep with the NICE guidelines on mental illness after a baby on their pillow and have a Mary Poppins handbag of amazing treatments to help you. In another place, you might find yourself in front of GP who doesn’t look at you when you pluck up the courage to go and see them and thinks Postnatal Depression is a modern day concoction of middle class mummies who want to have it all but can’t. And then you may find an online doctor who has bought their degree via the University of Google, will only give you treatment options if you buy their book and who suggest a dab of apple cider vinegar on your temples will ease the anxiety away. Avoid these people, stick with malt vinegar and only use it to make your chips taste nice.

Someone once messaged me to say the reason I got ill was because I ate bread. I was unaware eating a product made out of flour, yeast and water and baked in the oven could make me hallucinate , run down the road with no clothes on and fill the garden with juice extractors. Because it’s not true. And I follow a low carb diet, so I seriously doubt a multi seeded sandwich roll resulted in me ending up in a psychiatric unit.So please continue to eat your cheese sandwiches – you have had a baby and need energy to not only look after them , but you as well. Because you being well is important.

For details on mental health in pregnancy and after birth and the symptoms and signs of perinatal mental health problems, please have a look at the links I post throughout . These are proper medical pages and will give you good info.

For a good overview of Perinatal Mental Illness, the NHS website below is good and isn’t overwhelming. Maybe bookmark it on your phone:  http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/mental-health-problems-pregnant.aspx

The Baby Blues

Ok. So , you come home from hospital and alongside having a sore fandango, wearing a lilo in your pants to soak up your postpartum bleeding and being unable to do a poo for fear of your stitches coming apart, you also feel a little bit sad, weepy and very very tired. Doctors tend to call this initial feeling the Baby Blues.
The Association Of Postnatal Illness say that ‘after the birth of a baby about half of all mothers suffer a period of mild depression called the blues’ and Babycentre say 8 out of 10! In normal terms – this means most mums then. And most mums I know have experienced teariness, exhaustion, and feelings of being overwhelmed, but these feelings pass very quickly and usually need no medical support.

Symptoms of the Blues are :

– Emotional and upset when they have the blues and they cry for no particular reason.
– Tired and lethargic
– Anxious and Tense
– Difficulty sleeping

Why do I feel like this you wonder ? Apparently its bloody hormones. GRR to them. Your body has just produced a baby and it all goes a bit haywire and your hormones start arguing with each other and have a minor falling out. Your boobs are filling with milk and your lovely home is now filled with a crying baby and cards are arriving and you can’t wee without it burning and it’s all just tooooo much.

But….this particular falling out doesn’t last and your hormones sign a peace agreement. The medical wonders say if you have the blues, these feelings may last for a few hours or, at most, for a few days and then they disappear and don’t need to be worried about. If they last longer than this though, seek medical help as it could mean something more serious is happening. Have a look at this link from the Association of Postnatal Illness for more information on the baby blues.
http://apni.org/the-baby-blues/

Antenatal/Prenatal Depression and Anxiety

As the super helpful NCT website says, antenatal depression can rear its ugly head while you are pregnant. Said baby is still in womb, giving you piles. You could have just found out you are pregnant and instead of feeling like those mums on Facebook who post a pic of their wee stained stick with the words ‘2 weeks pregnant’ while jumping up and down for joy with flowers round their head , you think jeepers, this does not make me feel spritely at all.

Or you could sail through said pregnancy, get to 7 month and suddenly get walloped in the head by the depression dodge ball which you haven’t dodged at all. It’s knocked you down and you find it hard and almost impossible to get-up.

This is a real illness. Don’t feel shame because being pregnant is tinged with sadness – antenatal depression and anxiety are becoming recognized and your GP can help. NCT have produced this simple webpage for more information.
https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/antenatal-depression

Birth Trauma and PTSD

Giving birth can be traumatic but our antenatal classes con us into thinking if we master how to give birth on a bed made out of tofu and meditate ourselves into an orgasmic state, then we will simply feel like we are giving birth to a raindrop, hum the pain away and spend the next 20 years talking about how you could give birth every day. Which is beautiful.

But for some, birth isn’t that straightforward and can be a terrifying, anxiety inducing experience which leaves a big emotional mark on the mum. The Birth Trauma Association say that ‘when we talk of birth trauma, we mean Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs after childbirth. We also include those women who may not meet the clinical criteria for PTSD but who have some of the symptoms of the disorder’.

The BTA outline characteristic features of PTSD as including:

– An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby).
-A response of intense fear, helplessness or horror to that experience.
-The persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
-Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can include talking about it, although sometimes women may go through a stage of talking of their traumatic experience a lot so that it obsesses them at times.
-Bad memories and the need to avoid any reminders of the trauma, will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hyper vigilant (feel jumpy or on their guard all the time).

Birth Trauma / PTSD is very real. Giving birth isn’t a bed of roses and can be an upsetting and difficult experience and you shouldn’t feel any shame if you are experiencing it. It can put women off having more much wanted children and that’s a horrible feeling to experience.

The BTA have a really helpful link on how and why you should access support here http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/help.htm
For more information see http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/default.asp

Perinatal OCD

Sometimes people call this Maternal OCD. You don’t hear much about this but you should – it’s not as rare as people think and can be distressing. The RCpsych page has piles of very good info so please take a look but as a quick view, RCpsych say the main symptoms are as follows:

INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS. I have put this in big old letters as these thoughts plague LOADS OF MUMS BUT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT THEM. These are basically thoughts or images that keep coming into your mind. These are sometimes called obsessions by docs. They can be very upsetting and you can visualize things you don’t want to see. These are more common than people realize and when I spoke of mine, I found others had them also. Remember, however distressing the thoughts or visions, please don’t hold back from telling medical professionals about them. To treat you properly, they need to know your thoughts and feelings. And I guarantee, you won’t be the first to talk about these kind of symptoms to them.

TRIGGER WARNING
So – let’s talk about intrusive thoughts. This may be triggering, so if you need to stop reading, stop. This blog is for info to help you but if you feel like you can’t read anymore, then put your phone down and stop reading. You can always come back to this when you feel ready.
Ever had that feeling, as you are stood waiting for the 17.58 train to Brighton, eating a Mars bar and reading about how to contour your cheeks like Kim Kardashian, that you want to jump in front of a train as it zooms past? Yep? And you think, that’s a bit weird, of course I won’t jump in front of the train, and you finish said mars bar and the thought leaves your brain in a second.
When I was younger, I had thoughts of grabbing scissors and hacking my hair off. If I HAD DONE, I WOULD HAVE CRIED FOR 27 YEARS, but I found it hard to shake the feelings. I once chucked the scissors up in the air to put them on top of the cupboard but they just fell down on my head and then I got my husband to put them away as I was convinced if I had them, I would perform a bob on myself reminiscent of a 3 year old cutting out shapes – one side short, the other down to my knees and a fringe that is half way up my head performing the conga.

Well, imagine having these thoughts all the time. About your baby. ARGH. Scary isn’t it?

When you are pregnant, people throw advice at you. Your mum says she fed you on a concoction of evaporated milk and strained prunes when you announce you will be breastfeeding, your auntie says she put your cousin, in her pram, down the bottom of the garden with a fly net over her so she didn’t eat them as she screamed and the random lady in Costa tells you that you shouldn’t be eating a caramel shortbread if you want to have a boy. No one tells you however, that when you give birth, it is possible that your mind can fill with terrifying thoughts that will cover you like a black cloak and refuse to go.

I know of one woman who developed a deep fear of batteries being near her baby. She could not stop the thoughts of them exploding near her baby’s face and so she went around the house and took the batteries out of everything. Her mind was filled with horrible thoughts of her baby’s face being burned by batteries and this impacted on her life in so many ways – she didn’t accept toys from well-wishers that were battery operated, the remote controls were rendered useless and clocks stood at a standstill around the house. Her husband told her it was complete and utter madness to march around the house opening up radios and emptying batteries into the outside bin and her mother in law told everyone her grandsons mother wasn’t right in the head. How nice.

Some mums have visions of hurting their baby and refuse to pick up knives or go in the kitchen. They visualise dropping the baby on its head so avoid holding their baby.

The one that NO ONE DARES TO MENTION are the thoughts of a sexual nature. Mums I have supported or spoken to who have had these thoughts are deeply deeply distressed by them and absolutely won’t tell a health care professional about them – with the fear of their baby being removed from them and them being labelled a paedophile and put on the sex offenders register. They have told me that the thoughts just pop into their brain like a poison that won’t go away and totally grips them. They say they would sit in fear, unable to move with thoughts of “what if I actually do what is seeping through my brain? Am I actually capable of this? The fact that these awful awful thoughts and images won’t go is terrifying and disgusting me” and it makes them want to avoid their baby. They say they think , this is my baby, I love them and I want to protect them from any harm and I am thinking these thoughts , these thoughts of harming them in the worst possible way myself ? Does this mean I am going to do it? Should I even be here as their mummy? Should I go and take them out of the way of my harmful thoughts?

One mum told me she would have flashes of thoughts throughout the day, so much so, that she didn’t want to pick her baby up or change its nappy. She would say, why can’t I just be a normal mum? They make me think that I am evil and disgusting
These are deeply deeply distressing thoughts but I need to say this very clearly:
Thoughts of harming your baby do not mean in any way that you want to do this or will do. Quite the opposite in fact.

The charity Maternal OCD (who are absolutely utterly BRILLIANT) says ‘obsessions can be focused on anything from germs to symmetry. When OCD presents itself during motherhood, the responsibilities for the life and well-being of a helpless infant may be experienced as a chronic stress’ and lists some symptoms as :

– Fear of contamination to the mother, child or anyone in contact with the child e.g. perceived risk of HIV, food poisoning
– intrusive thoughts of stabbing/hurting /dropping /touching the newborn baby
– Doubts that harm could come to child e.g. bottle steriliser not working
– Perfectionism e.g. everything around the house has to be a certain way
2) Anxiety – usually as a result of the thoughts. Then, thoughts or actions you keep repeating to try to reduce your anxiety. These are called compulsions.
The charity Maternal OCD says that ‘to try and eradicate the anxiety attached to the obsessions, mothers with OCD will act out rituals to ensure their child is safe and no harm will come to them. In fact, this makes the OCD worsen. Although the anxiety attached to the obsession reduces short-term it returns stronger and stronger. This means that potentially the mother is acting out rituals for a significant amount of her day’.
They list some examples of these below:
– Hyper vigilance when meeting new people or going to public toilets, this will include avoidance of touching other people, planning a day out around toilet breaks and using excessive wet wipes and hand sanitisers
– Hiding anything sharp around the house
– Constantly checking the gas is turned off, the petrol pump is working correctly
– Waking earlier than necessary and going to bed later than necessary to ensure the house is ‘just so’
– Constant reassurance seeking from friends, family members and maybe health professionals that the child is unharmed.

If you experience any of the symptoms, please tell your doctor. There is a great article at http://bjgp.org/content/67/661/376tes  which informs health care professionals on how to normalise intrusive thoughts for concerned parents. It states:
Intrusive thoughts or images of causing harm to one’s infant are common in the general population.
Experiencing the intrusive thoughts makes them no more likely to harm their infant intentionally than any other parent is to harm their own infant intentionally.
There is no need to avoid triggers or situations that give rise to the intrusive thoughts or images. Avoiding them actually tends to increase the frequency of the thoughts and it also advises that “Intrusive thoughts of harming one’s baby are common among clinical and non-clinical samples alike. However, they may become more distressing and harder to cope with in mothers who are suffering from mental health problems. Such thoughts can be elicited through careful and sensitive questioning (especially emphasising to parents that these are common and do not mean that they will act on them).
Once parents are able to acknowledge and talk about these thoughts and appreciate that experiencing them is very common, they often diminish in significance and frequency. Where they persist, treatment for intrusive thoughts is available using standard cognitive behavioural techniques.”

So please take this as reassurance that it’s okay to open up to your doctor about your feelings.And this is what you need to remember. Having these thoughts does not mean you will act on them. There are lots of treatments, from CBT to medications to support you through to recovery and help to minimise the thoughts. Maternal OCD have a whole page dedicated to treatment options and emphasizes how these symptoms are very treatable – http://maternalocd.org/about-perinatal-ocd/ .

Maternal OCD also have a great page on how to access help if you have Perinatal OCD and details both professional and peer support – please take a look http://maternalocd.org/finding-help/ .
You aren’t alone with these thoughts and there is help to get you through what is a very distressing time.
Some extra info pages on Perinatal OCD are below.
http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/perinatalocd.aspx
http://www.maternalocd.org/index.php

When we ran the 2nd annual UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2018, we asked the charity Maternal OCD to run a Facebook live session to talk about the illness, how to get help and to answer questions live from mums and health care professionals. They did and it was an incredibly gentle and insightful session. The session was delivered by Maria Bavetta who runs the charity and has lived experience and a psychiatrist and the recording is below . It’s been viewed nearly 5000 times and feedback from mums has been that it’s a really useful session.

Health Care Professionals – you may also find this useful to watch as a training tool and for guidance on how to support mums who present symptoms of Maternal OCD.

It’s here https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/videos/762568750601030/

Postnatal Depression and Anxiety

Everyone knows the term Postnatal Depression or PND as its more commonly referred to but even though the term is known about, mums feel a real sense of shame when admitting they think they are suffering. You don’t need to feel shame – motherhood is no picnic in those early days.

As a mum ,you may have just pushed a melon sized person out of your nether regions or had major surgery to evict them from your tummy, you can’t wee for fear of bursting your stitches , you can’t sit down because your stitches appear to have been too thoroughly done by what appears to be the local seamstress, if you have had a c section, it feel like you are going to break in half at any point, a river of blood is gushing out of you for 6 weeks, your boobs look like they have won the golden ticket to the playboy mansion , great auntie Vera wants to come and stay and help out for the first 3 weeks which is worse than the devil coming over to play with fire in the garden and your baby appears to have laughed in the face of evolution and doesn’t ever sleep. People say oh it’s the best thing ever isn’t it and you’re standing there with sick down your top and someone else’s poo under your fingernails and you think what the dickens , I feel awful. I feel like crying. FOREVER.

Symptoms and feelings like those listed below may go quickly like the baby blues, which I talked about earlier. But if they carry on, they could be leading to postnatal depression or anxiety.What you must remember though throughout all of this is – you are a good mum, a lovely person, a god damn warrior. Social Services won’t swoop your baby away and thinking distressing things doesn’t mean you will act on them. You are going through a hard time and you can’t just snap out of it. At the moment you are in a hole but you will get out of it.

You aren’t awful. Don’t feel ashamed. You are a good mum.

I thought I wanted the baby to live next door and was using up three rolls of toilet paper a day because was am crying so much. Oh god, the tears. They started when my parents dropped us home from the hospital, I clad in DVT socks with legs the size of a squeezable orange carton and the realisation hit me that this baby was here forever and I was in charge of it forever. And the tears then didn’t stop for the next 7 weeks. Wahhhhh . This was a big first indicator that I wasn’t revelling in motherhood.

As the RCpsych pages say, PND or anxiety symptoms can look like these:
Depressed
Irritable
Tired
Sleepless
Appetite changes
Unable to enjoy anything
Loss of interest in sex
Negative and guilty thoughts
You might think that you are not a good mother or that your baby doesn’t love you
You may feel guilty for feeling like this or that this is your fault -You may lose your confidence
You might think you can’t cope with things.

Anxiety

Anxiety can be awful after having a baby. For me , the symptoms were at times worse than my Psychosis. I had a deep fear of my baby and the thought that he was now here forever filled me with such fear, that I felt like I was in a constant panic attack.
My doctor asked me if I felt like I wanted to flush the baby down the toilet – she could have phrased it a tad better but I was just very scared of him. I couldn’t dump him like a boyfriend I suddenly stopped liking and I couldn’t sell him like a flat that I had got bored with – he was here forever now and the fear of that consumed me . But my symptoms are only one experience.
Some anxiety symptoms are below – these again are taken from the RCpsych website.
You may feel like:
Your baby is very ill
Your baby is not putting on enough weight
Your baby is crying too much and you can’t settle him/her
Your baby is too quiet and might have stopped breathing
You have a physical illness
You will never get better
You may feel like you won’t ever not feel like this -You may be so worried that you are afraid to be left alone with your baby.
When you feel anxious, you may have some of the following:
Racing pulse
Thumping heart
Breathless
Sweating
Fear that you may have a heart attack or collapse.
http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/postnataldepression.aspx

Postpartum Psychosis

Action on Postpartum Psychosis says that ‘Postpartum Psychosis (PP) is a severe, but treatable, form of mental illness that occurs after having a baby. It can happen ‘out of the blue’ to women without previous experience of mental illness. There are some groups of women, women with a history of bipolar disorder for example, who are at much higher risk. PP normally begins in the first few days to weeks after childbirth. It can get worse very quickly and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Most women need to be treated with medication and admitted to hospital’.

I was one of those women .You may have heard of this illness for the first time since the soap EastEnders featured it as a major storyline. The charity Mind worked with the BBC to get the portrayal of the illness right, as did APP and myself and another mum, Kathryn Grant, been acted as consultants to the storyline and met with the researchers and actors to discuss our experience.

It is a scary illness – lots of varying symptoms as shown below – for me, I felt very scared of ‘something’. I hallucinated that I was floating and thought the sky was able to be ripped apart. I was terrified of being in the same room as my son and had bright flashes in front of my eyes. Again though, these are my symptoms. My friend spent a day thinking she was the President of North Korea which was terrifying enough in itself.

As they are the very best source of info on PP, here is APP’s list of symptoms: There are a large variety of symptoms that women with PP can experience. Women may be:
– Excited, elated, or ‘high’. -Depressed, anxious, or confused / excessively irritable or changeable in mood.
Postpartum Psychosis includes one or more of the following:
-Strange beliefs that could not be true (delusions).  -Hearing, seeing, feeling or smelling things that are not there (hallucinations).  -High mood with loss of touch with reality (mania).  -Severe confusion.
These are also common symptoms:
-Being more talkative, sociable, on the phone an excessive amount.  -Having a very busy mind or racing thoughts.  -Feeling very energetic and like ‘super-mum’ or agitated and restless.  -Having trouble sleeping, or not feeling the need to sleep.  -Behaving in a way that is out of character or out of control.  -Feeling paranoid or suspicious of people’s motives.  -Feeling that things are connected in special ways or that stories on the TV or radio have special personal meaning.  -Feeling that the baby is connected to God or the Devil in some way.

Treatment for PP

PP is classed as a medical emergency and if you suspect you have it or your wife, partner, daughter, sister or friend may have it, you need to take her to a GP or hospital. Mums and little’s are often treated together in specialist psychiatric mother and baby units so to avoid the separation of mother and baby, wherever possible, by joint admission. I went into a mother and baby unit. It was fab.My bed wasn’t chained to the wall and I wasn’t made to wear a straitjacket while watching the TV. It was safe, calm, warm and purposeful and it started my recovery.

I’ve written about my experience in the unit here which I hope you will take some comfort in https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/i-need-a-bed-of-strawberry-creams-in-a-place-of-recovery-dreams/ .
Once discharged, the local specialized Perinatal Outreach and Community Psychiatric Team visited me every day at home. Don’t be scared if you need to go into a mother and baby unit or see a perinatal team at home. They are great and will help you get better x
See http://www.app-network.org/ for more info.

Again, during the 2nd UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2018, we asked APP to run a Facebook live session to outline the symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis . Two healthcare professionals and a mum with lived experience led the chat and it has had more than 6000 views. Again, Health Care Professionals may also find this useful. Link is here https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/videos/764093897115182/ .

Suicidal thoughts

When you are feeling in such a way as described, suicidal thoughts may come into your head. It is very important here that if you feel like you are going to hurt or harm yourself and or attempt to take your life, you need to see a doctor right that very instant. Health Care Professionals are trained to deal with crisis situations.

Its ok to call the GP urgently and say you need to see a doctor and tell them why – It’s ok to go to casualty and tell them you are having these kinds of thoughts. You aren’t wasting their time. It’s ok to call your local mental health crisis team. If you don’t know their details, google crisis team and the area you live in and a number should come up.

All these things are more than ok – they are essential. You need and deserve help. You can and will get better. You deserve to be alive. People want and need you to be alive. You are a good person and you aren’t well. I reached the depths where I thought suicide was the only way out as I couldn’t see beyond my illness but there are services, medications, support networks that can help you recover and find your happy again.
If you are feeling like death is the only way out, you need urgent help. GP, Casualty, 999. Contact them.

The NHS has a very helpful page specifically for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Take a look if you need to:
http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Getting-help.aspx

I want to get better from my perinatal mental illness – what should I do?

For all of the things listed above, it’s super important to seek help. There are lots of ways of doing this.
– Contact your midwife, doctor or health visitor and tell them you are worried that you may have a problem with your feelings during your pregnancy or after the baby is born. Perinatal means up to 12 months after your baby is born so even if your child isn’t a gurgling little baba anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t be suffering!
-Doctors are used to seeing mums with these symptoms. Most docs are fab, some, as is life, not so much so. Ask the receptionist who is nice, who has a kind ear and who won’t stare at a computer screen while you are with them. If it’s too much to say in person, write it down and pass it to the receptionist if you can.
– If you see a doctor as they are as useful as a chocolate condom, then book an appointment to see another doctor. You can see 7865 doctors if need be. You deserve to be listened to.
– If you are a friend or relative of the person who is unwell, you may have to encourage them to make the appointment and go with them as they may not be aware of, or believe that there is a problem.

Accessing help from Health Care Professionals

It’s really hard to open up to a doctor or health visitor about how you are feeling .So , if you haven’t yet told your doctor about your feelings since having your baby, this may be useful for you.

The Smile Group have this great checklist you can complete and bring to the doctor should you not know what to say or how to say how you are feeling http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/

Dr Stephanie De Giorgio is a GP who suffered from PND herself. During the 2nd annual UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2018, she ran an FB live session to tell people its okay to open up to their doctor, even if they have intrusive thoughts. Please take a look – it’s an incredibly useful session and Stephanie opens up about her own experience and shows you aren’t alone.

Health Care Professionals– please watch this. PLEASE. The Royal College Of GPs always sends out tweets asking doctors to always check on mums and their emotions and I can’t express this enough. If you are unsure how to help when a mum says she is suffering, have a watch and you will get some tips.

It’s here – https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/videos/763409700516935/

The Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit – http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/toolkits/perinatal-mental-health-toolkit.aspx is a clinical resource for health care professionals to help them support unwell mums. However, it’s also a great resource for anyone but if you look after women and are a HCP , please use it.

Perinatal Guidelines in practice – https://www.guidelinesinpractice.co.uk/mental-health/practical-implementation-tips-perinatal-mental-health-problems/453729.article Dr Stephanie, who was referenced earlier, has produced these guidelines to support healthcare professionals when diagnosing an unwell mum. This again is a useful resource for anyone.

As HCPS, you may also find it useful to show mums this little film called Perinatal Positivity. Perinatal Positivity uses the real voices and experiences of women and men who have had mental wellbeing difficulties around the time of pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. The people who made it hope it will help mums emotionally prepare and find support, if needed, at this time. There is a subtitled version of the film on their clips page. It’s brilliant https://perinatalpositivity.org/

I wrote this for HCPs about supporting mums with maternal mental illness https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/a-spoon-full-of-sympathetic-sugar-really-can-help-the-medicine-go-down/

Medicated and Mighty – what will get me better?

There are many effective treatments for perinatal mental health problems such as medication, therapy and support from charities. The vast majority of women make a good recovery. This is an illness like any other and it is vital that you receive help if you need it, so do not be afraid to ask for it.

Medication – sometimes you won’t need this, sometimes you will.
I thank the medication gods – I took so much at one point I was a human maraca but I got better. I’m still on a low dose now – I see meds like that song ‘Tequila, it makes me happy’. There is no shame in needing meds – they can help the awful fog in your head clear so you can focus on recovery. If you broke your leg you would wear a cast. Wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t roll down the street attempting to not land in a pile of dog poo because you thought you could pull yourself together, think happy thoughts and leg would magically be unbroken.
The charity Mind have a fab page on medication here which you may find useful to read http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/medication/#.Vsbx1ErfWrU .

Breastfeeding and Medication
If you are breastfeeding but need meds, that’s ok. There are lots of medications you can take while nursing. I was on anti-psychotics and anti-anxiety meds that were compatible with feeding and if you are wondering what meds are ok, or your GP isn’t sure, then the person to contact is Wendy Jones. Wendy is lovely. And super helpful.

During the 2nd annual UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, one of the main messages we wanted to give mums and families was to empower them with information on how to access support to help their recovery from maternal mental illness.

As one of the main areas of concern from mums is if they can take antidepressants if they are breastfeeding, so we made this little video with the help of Wendy ,which gives info on what anti-depressants you can take whilst nursing. It’s very good and informative and has helped over 15,000 mums!

Also, Wendy’s webpage is below and there is a tab with her contact details. If you are feeling too anxious to talk to Wendy, she is happy for you to send an email.
http://www.breastfeeding-and-medication.co.uk

Health Care Professionals – I beg you – please stop telling mums that in order to take any anti depressants, they have to stop breastfeeding. Please watch Wendy’s session, look at the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit and look at these factsheets from the Breastfeeding Network which simply set out which anti depressants are suitable when breastfeeding https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/drugs-factsheets/ .

Let’s talk – therapy!

You don’t have to be a millionaire to go therapy and you don’t have to lay back on a sofa while someone with a clipboard nods while you are in a puddle of tears. Therapy is amaze balls. It can get to the root of why you are feeling the way you are and then help you develop coping strategies. I had CBT and EMDR therapy – which sounds ridiculous. – I had to follow a flashing light around the room to get over my trauma but it god damn worked. There are loads of different types of therapy so if offered to you, give it a whirl.

Again, the charity Mind have a great website on therapy http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/talking-treatments/types-of-talking-treatments/#.Vsbz20rfWrU

I wrote a blog on treatment options last year. Take a look https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/tear-up-those-anti-depressant-prescriptions-all-you-need-to-do-is-climb-into-a-magicians-hatnudge-the-rabbit-out-of-the-way-and-abracadabra-youre-cured-in-a-puff-of-pull-yourself-together-smo/

Sources of further help

Maternal OCD http://www.maternalocd.org/ : A charity set up by mothers recovered from perinatal OCD, who can provide support via email, twitter and Skype. For further details please contact: info@maternalocd.org

OCD Action http://www.ocdaction.org.uk/ : A charity providing a dedicated OCD helpline, email support and advocacy service. Contact details: 0845 3906232; email: support@ocdaction.org.uk

Association for Postnatal Illness http://apni.org/ The UK’s leading PND charity provides telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of trained volunteers who have themselves experienced PND. Helpline: 020 7386 0868.

APP http://www.app-network.org Association of Postpartum Psychosis offers support to those suffering Postpartum Psychosis and their families. APP are the specialists in this illness and for correct advice, please contact them. They also run a peer support forum.

Depression Alliance http://www.depressionalliance.org/ Tel: 020 7407 7584; email: info@depressionalliance.org Information, support and understanding for people who suffer with depression, and for relatives who want to help. Self-help groups, information, and raising awareness.

Home Start http://www.home-start.org.uk/ Tel: 0800 068 6368. Support and practical help for families with at least one child under-5. Help offered to parents finding it hard to cope for many reasons. These include PND or other mental illness, isolation, bereavement, illness of parent or child.

National Childbirth Trust http://www.nct.org.uk Helpline: 0300 330 0700. Support and information on all aspects of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. Local groups and telephone helplines.

MAMA – The “Meet A Mum Association” http://www.mama.co.uk   Created to try and help thousands of mothers who feel out of their depth, depressed or a little isolated when their babies are born Helpline 0845 120 3746

The Samaritans http://www.samaritans.org/ 24-hour helpline 116 123 . Email: jo@samaritans.org. Confidential emotional support for those in distress who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including suicidal thoughts.

Tommys http://www.tommys.org Tommy’s pregnancy information service provides information and resources about mental health in pregnancy.

Tommys Midwifery-led pregnancy line http://www.tommys.org/mentalhealth is available for anyone worried about their mental health in pregnancy, or that of another (0800 0147 800).

Birth Trauma Association http://http//www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/ supports all women who have had a traumatic birth experience. It is estimated that, in the UK alone, this may result in 10,000 women a year developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).They offer emotional and practical support to women and also their families. They can offer email support to mums suffering, for more information please see this link http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/support.htm .

Mums Aid http://mums-aid.org provides inclusive and accessible psychological therapies for mothers experiencing a broad spectrum of emotional and mental health difficulties during pregnancy or postnatally.

Black Thrive was created was to help change the stigmatism that exists surrounding mental health in the black community. They would like every person and family dealing with mental health to know they are not alone. Black Thrive is there for them https://www.blackthrive.org.uk/Family-support

The Asian Mums Network offer some great pages on Maternal Mental Health and these linked through here https://asianmumsnetwork.co.uk

JAMI – The Jewish Association for Mental Health https://jamiuk.org/

The Muslim Bereavement support network can offer advice to mothers who have lost a child http://mbss.org.uk/losing-a-child/

Praxis run support groups for migrant mums and their babies http://www.praxis.org.uk/volunteer-page-24.html

Channel Mum is an online community for mums https://www.channelmum.com

mumsmeetup.com connects mums locally and across the UK and mums are able to search their county and locality to find mums similar by age, age of child and circumstances (such as mums to be, working mums, single parent mums & more). Also, mums of children with disabilities are able to search by similar conditions and location.

Mumsnet – https:/mumsnet.com makes paremts life easier by pooling knowledge and advice.

Netmums – https:/netmums.com offers parenting advice , chat and support. Netmumsalso have a parent supporter network offering free online support and advice. https://www.netmums.com/support/netmums-parent-supporters .

Single Parent Helpline: 0808 802 0925

Young Mums Support Network – https://ymsn.co.uk

Pink Parents – pinkparents.org.uk offer a range of support services and social activities for all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual families.

Tamba – the twins and multiple births association offer support for parents https://www.tamba.org.uk/support-menu

Pregnancy Sickness Support https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/ offers support to mums struggling with pregnancy sickness/ Hyperemesis. They have a national support network for women suffering any degree of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy to access support and comfort at times of isolation and distress https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/help/supporters-network/ .

Information and support for anyone affected by miscarriage.
Website: http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/
Email: info@miscarriageassociation.org.uk
Telephone: 01924 200799

Postnatal Depression Ireland http://www.pnd.ie
https://www.nurturecharity.org/

Moment Health http://www.momenthealth.io/ has a wealth on info on maternal mental illness including an emotions tracker.

The Every Mum Movement http://everymummovement.com/ contains information for mums on the illnesses, mum meet ups and how to ‘be mentally buff’.

Perinatal Mental Health Partnership https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/ . This is the group I am part of and you can follow us for information on the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mind – Mental Health Charity http://www.mind.org.uk

Sane – Mental Health Charity http://www.sane.org.uk

Rethink – Mental Health Charity https://www.rethink.org

Bipolar UK – Mental Health Charity https://www.bipolaruk.org

Best Beginnings – https://www.bestbeginnings.org.uk/

Maternal Mental Health Alliance – https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/ . The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is a coalition of UK organisations with a vision to see all women across the UK get consistent, accessible and quality care and support for their mental health during pregnancy and in the year after giving birth.

International Help – Postpartum Support International http://www.postpartum.net/get-help/locations/international/

Peer support and support groups

Peer support can be incredible – talking to someone who has been through what you’re going through and got better can give you real hope. However, do check that if you are going to a peer support group, that they are properly safeguarded with trained staff and volunteers, who have access to clinical supervision and support for themselves. Support leaders can have peer supporter training, Mental Health First Aid qualifications an example.

Please don’t attend support groups being run by mums who are still unwell. It’s not safe. The groups below are a snapshot of what is available across the UK .

Perinatal Mental Illness Peer Support Group – if you would like to join a Facebook support group for perinatal illness, this group may be useful to you. Part of an international group of around 15 support groups across the world, this is the UK and International group. The admin have Mental Health First Aid training and are recovered mums themselves https://www.facebook.com/groups/1732740973652517/

The Motherload –  If you would like to join a mums group on Facebook to be amongst supportive non-judgemental mums, then The Motherload could be beneficial https://www.facebook.com/groups/wearethemotherload/

Association for Postnatal Illness-  http://apni.org and helpline 020 7386 0868. Provides telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of volunteers who have themselves experienced PND.

Cocoon Family Support http://cocoonfamilysupport.org/ . The fantabulous Cocoon Family support is a London based charity. It supports those affected by postnatal depression, and mothers who are struggling to deal with difficult emotions before and after birth. They provide a safe and supportive environment where families can get together with others who may be feeling similar to themselves. They also provide a range of services to aid and support recovery. They are based in SE1, NW1, NW3 and NW6 and can be accessed by people across London and its borders.

The Smile Group http://www.thesmilegroup.org/ .  The SMILE Group was co-founded by Natalie Nuttall and Ruth Eglin in 2011 after they both experienced PND and felt passionate about the need for parents to benefit from sustained peer support at a local level. They run support groups each week for mums in Cheshire East.
Macclesfield – every Friday, 10am to 12pm Congleton – every Wednesday, 10am to 12pm

Raindrops to Rainbows http://www.raindropstorainbows.co.uk . Run by the lovely Steph who is trained to provide support and advice, R2R provide peer support to mums to be and mums in the North East. They currently have five groups covering Teeside, County Durham and South Tyneside areas. The website has full details and there is a Facebook page.

Open House Nottingham http://openhouse-notts.org/ . Open House (OH) was founded by a group fab Mums in early 2012 with the aim of supporting those who are or have been affected by any psychological and emotional condition which has developed during pregnancy or during the postnatal period. These include antenatal depression, postnatal depression, anxiety & OCD. They run drop in groups in Nottingham and details are here http://openhouse-notts.org/our-drop-in-groups/ .

Lotus Petal PND https://www.facebook.com/LotusPetalPND/ Support group run every other Monday 9.30-11am at Little Lions Children Centre in Essex. Run by Sarah, who is the nicest lady in the world, she welcomes any mum in Essex needing support. Contact details are on the Facebook page.

Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support http://www.juno.uk.com/ Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support was founded in February 2015 by a group of mums in Edinburgh who all have personal experience of perinatal mental health difficulties. They are kind, lovely women. They support mums through Weekly peer support groups across the city where we offer advice and information One-to-one befriending through our outreach program Access a subsidised counselling service out with our groups with a trained professional. They run four groups and details are here http://www.juno.uk.com/our-groups/

Bluebell Care http://www.bluebellcare.org/ Bluebell is a charity based in Bristol supporting mums, dads and families who are affected by antenatal or post-natal depression. They run regular, free groups Mums’ Comfort Zone, together with free creche provision, in South, North and Central/East Bristol. They prioritise the support we are able to provide (due to funding constraints) as follows: young parents from the Hartcliffe/Withywood/Bishopsworth area in South Bristol, parents from the Henbury/Brentry area in North Bristol and parents from St Pauls, Easton, Montpelier’ and Stokes Croft area in Central/East Bristol.
They also offer 1:1, informal, support via the Bluebell Buddy who can arrange to visit mums at home and/or in their local area for a cuppa and a chat. Dads can also access support through their Dads’ Zone group.
If you would like more information on their services please contact the lovely Ruth Jackson Telephone 07738628842 or Email info@bluebellcare.org

House of Light http://www.pndsupport.co.uk/ Offering hope and support for women affected by Postnatal, Antenatal Depression & Anxiety in Hull. Call: 0800 043 2031 or01482 580499 text: 07854 220790 email: help@pndsupport.co.uk

Mothers for Mothers http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/links.html Support Group for mums in Bristol suffering from PND. Helpline details are here http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/contact-us.html .

Homestart Bedfordshire http://www.home-startcentralbeds.org.uk/postnatal-depression-in-bedfordshire/ Home-Start Central Bedfordshire we run numerous pnd support groups throughout Central Bedfordshire.

Acacia Family Support http://www.acacia.org.uk Provide a free wide range of support and therapies to help mums recover from the symptoms associated with pre and postnatal depression. Their services are delivered across Birmingham and they include individual befriending sessions, group work therapy, telephone support, practical support in your own home and massage therapy for parents and your baby.

Cedar House Support http://www.postnataldepression.com/ runs PND support groups in the Surrey, Sussex and South London Areas. The groups are run by trained PND Counsellors.
The Guildford Group
This group runs from 10am to midday every Wednesday, term time only starting on January 13th 2016 at Boxgrove Sure Start Children’s Centre, Boxgrove Lane, Guildford, GU1 2TD. All groups are informal, confidential and a great support for the mothers. A crèche is provided and there is parking. Please contact Liz before attending: lwise@talktalk.net/ 07773283556.
The Balham Group
This group is at St Stephen’s Centre (next to The Weir Link Centre) Weir Road, SW12 0NU.
This group will run every Friday, term time only from 9.30 to 11.30am, a crèche is provided and there is free parking.
It is necessary to book a place for this group, please contact Liz to do so. 07773 283556, lwise@talktalk.net
The Surrey Heath Group (Mytchett)
This group started on Tuesday 12th January 2016 at Mytchett Children’s Centre, Hamesmoor Road, Mytchett, GU16 6JB and runs every Tuesday term time only from 12.30 to 2.30pm. A crèche is provided and there is free parking. Please contact Liz on 07773 283556 or lwise@talktalk.net for further details.

West Kent PND support group https://westkentmind.org.uk/what-we-offer/mums-support-group

Kyra Women’s Project http://www.kyra.org.uk/ is based in York/Selby and offers a range of support services.

If you are in the Isle Of Man , then take a look at this https://www.gefthemongoose.com/headland/maternalmentalhealth/ and support group details are here https://www.netmums.com/isle-of-man/local/view/support-groups/antenatal-postnatal-support/postnatal-depression-support-group-1

If you are in Sheffield , look up https://lightsheffield.org.uk/support/

If you are in Forth Valley Scotland , check out Aberlours Perinatal Befriending service https://www.aberlour.org.uk/services/perinatalbefriending/

NCT offer Early Days courses for new mums https://www.nct.org.uk/courses/postnatal/early-days

If you are in Guernsey,contact the Guernsey PND support network http://guernseypnd.org/ . They can be contacted via email pndguernsey@gmail.com or you can call their confidential telephone line 01481 520657 .
Their regular coffee evening’s are held at Caritas Coffee Shop, Mill Street, St Peter Port and they have given them exclusive access so it’s very private.  These are an informal way to come with or without your kids for free coffee and cake and a warm welcome. They are held quarterly on the first Monday evening of each third month from 7pm.

Merton and Wimbledon PND  support groups https://www.gettingiton.org.uk/services/merton/post-natal-depression-support-group Located at: Merton Abbey Primary School, High Path, Merton, London, SW19 2JY and Patrick Doody Clinic, Pelham Road, Wimbledon, SW19 1NX and other venues.
Support groups run by a health visitor, offering the opportunity to meet other mothers who are experiencing post natal depression and share ideas on how to cope with these feelings. A home visit is offered prior to attending the group and a crèche and refreshments are provided. There are 3 groups run a year and they are held in various children’s centres across Sutton and Merton. A referral is required from health professionals or the client themselves.Telephone: 020 8254 8274/8273

Marlow women’s group – This group offers social activities to local people over the age of 18, particularly young women experiencing post-natal depression or social isolation. There is a free crèche for anyone who wants to bring their children with them.
Website: https://www.bucksmind.org.uk/
Email: info@bucksmind.org.uk
Location: Marlow
Telephone: 01494 463 364
Referral: Self-referral

If you are in East Sussex, the NHS run a Perinatal support group https://www.esht.nhs.uk/leaflet/postnatal-depression-and-anxiety-support-group/

If you are in Sheerwater , Cornerhouse run a pre and postnatal support group on Mondays http://cornerhouse.cc/services/depression-support-woking-runnymede/

If you are in St Austell , UnTangled run a support group for those experiencing and affected by pre or post natal depression. Contact Cara on 07917008776 or via caca21@hotmail.co.uk .

In Stockport, Rose Buddies Mums and Tots Arts and Crafts Group is run by Mums for Mums struggling with low mood. Sessions are free, but they do welcome a donation towards their running costs when you can. No need to book. For info see https://www.stockport.gov.uk/groups/rose-buddies-post-natal-depression-peer-support-group

Bluebell PND Counselling Service http://www.crossreach.org.uk/bluebell-pnd-service
(Provide generic counselling and a specialist perinatal depression service. Cover central belt of Scotland)

CrossReach Perinatal Services: Lothians http://www.crossreach.org.uk/postnatal-depression-support-whole-family
(Provide postnatal depression counselling service in the Lothians)

Southside Counselling Service http://www.southsidecounsellingglasgow.co.uk/
(Counselling service covering Glasgow and surrounding areas. Provide a counselling service for women who experience pre and post natal depression.

Home-Start Glasgow North http://www.homestartglasgownorth.org.uk
(Home-Start Glasgow North is a voluntary organisation set up to increase the confidence and independence of families with at least one child under five years old who are experiencing difficulties. We are located next to Maryhill Community Centre)

Mellow Parenting http://www.mellowparenting.org/
(Mellow Parenting aim to support parents and their children in making good relationships

Birth and Beyond http://birthandbeyond.org.uk
(Provide a mentoring and counselling service for parents in Edin

Dudley – A new space for women with pre- or post-natal anxiety and depression.
Come along for a cup of tea and a chat with other mums who understan
Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month, 11:00am -1:00pm, at Food for Thought, Victoria Street, Stourbridge DY8 1SP.
Please contact Tim at the Dudley Mind Head office on 01384 442938 or by email at enquiries@dudleymind.org.uk.  http://dudleymind.org.uk/peer-support-groups/the-haven-mums-group/

Tamworth – https://www.singleparents.org.uk/organisation/tamworth-post-natal-depression-support-group

If you are in Ireland , Cuidiu parent to Parent supporters offer a listening ear to Mums who may be feeling low about being a parent or who are depressed. They have two ‘Parent Support’ coffee mornings a month in Dublin. Click here for more information on Parent Support  or here for contact details of their Parent to Parent Supporters. https://www.cuidiu-ict.ie/Supports_Parenthood_PostnatalDepression

Southward support group for women who have had children removed due to care procedures http://www.together-uk.org/southwark-wellbeing-hub/the-directory/14159/mums-supportive-group/

#PNDHOUR And let’s not forget the amazing #pndhour run by the beautiful Rosey @pndandme. A weekly Twitter chat, it takes place every Wednesday between 8-9pm and a different subject relating to perinatal mental health is discussed.
Mums, currently ill or recovered, health care professionals and family members all take part to discuss experiences, share knowledge and provide hope. Join in if you can, it’s brilliant. Rosey has written a little explanation of it here http://pndandme.co.uk/pndhour-explained/. Rosey’s blog is here and it’s a fab resource on all things Perinatal http://pndandme.co.uk. Rosey’s page also has a fab tab which lists lots of brilliant blogs from those who have suffered http://pndandme.co.uk/pndfamily-help-support/ .

Am I alone? Can I read other people’s experiences?

You aren’t alone. You most definitely aren’t and there are lots of stories online from people who have written about their experiences. Remember, reading things could trigger thoughts and feelings so take care of you and only read if you feel ok to. If at any point you want to stop, then do. That’s ok.
My blog is here. I talk about being ill with psychosis and anxiety, recovery, medication and EastEnders https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com

You will get better, you aren’t alone. You may slide up and down the snakes and ladders of the game of recovery but you will get there.

The chronicles of a 0-3 month babygrow with the hidden healing powers of a poo stain

This morning, I tripped over 4 pairs of shoes that had appeared to have had a growth spurt in the night and bulked up to hulk proportions and came spilling out from under the bed where I had stuffed , pushed, kicked and screamed them into submission to fit. The trip made me fall onto the pet rats cage and bang my toe on the box I keep my work stuff in. As with the shoes, overnight , the contents of this box appeared to have opened several cans of spinach and performed a Popeye type boom and grown somewhat and the contents of the box were spilling everywhere. Conscious that if I carry on like this , I might become the subject of a channel 4 documentary, I decided to clean the box out. An unhealthy amount of celebrity magazines found themselves in the recycling bin and if you have ever lost any wires or plugs, come and see me , as they seem to have all congregated in this little red box. This however , is not a one off.

I cleared my desk out in work last year as I was starting a new job. Everyone else had lots of highly important papers while I had contents that resembled a washed up porn stars handbag enroute to a Cher tribute act. It contained :

A learn how to bellydance kit
64 hair bands
9 unopened cans of diet coke
16 keys to open the way to a forgotten land
5 mindfulness colouring books
8 pairs of shoes
A pair of leather chaps
6 tubes of nail glue
5 belts
23 odd socks
A mother’s day picture from my dear child of an assassination
A stapler called Moira
4 umbrellas
4 packets of antipsychotics
A miniature rhino
A homemade hotline bling phone
A cardboard cat that has been to the north pole
A Heat annual from 2007
A holy bible signed by God himself
Oh – and a photo of my kid.

Moira is never being thrown out. She has stuck with me through the good times and the bad. That’s friendship for you – she came with me to my new job though in all my years, I have never learnt how to put staples in her. Still, I will keep her on my payroll as she is practically part of the furniture and that is needed in an office burning with hot desking.

Instead of chucking the rest of it in the bin,I sat cross legged on the floor and reminded myself about about all the times I had with the hair bands. They had seen me during the stage where my hair resembled a Jeremy Kyle guest and had roots down to my ears. They had been there when all my hair fell out due to stress and childbirth and supported me emotionally when my new baby hair started to come through creating a mid forehead fringe circa 1987.

And then I will always treasure that mother’s day picture my son drew for me. Granted , it did make me consider if I was raising a psychopath as while the front of card had an adorable drawing of a very round me with what appeared to be a full length beard and one testicle next to the words “mummy is the sweatiest mummy ever” ( he meant sweetest I am assured ), on the inside, there was a picture of a full blown police chase and someone falling out of the sky with their lungs hanging out. “That is the bad guy mummy. He will go splatter bang cos the police are on the warpath”.

What is this ramble all about I hear you say loudly ? Well this weekend I was reminded of the power of possessions for parents and the memories they hold and how they can help us deal with and close the chapter on difficult parts of our lives. This weekend I went through Joe’s baby clothes , in the knowledge they can’t clog up the laws attic for much longer and it was a heartwarming, sad , joyful, difficult task. I never knew wading through bin liners and space bags could bring up so many emotions at once.

I walked up the stairs and saw the two bags of baby clothes and plastic bowls and almost held back from going in. These were clothes that were with me during the worst , my experience of Postpartum Psychosis and then the best of times, my recovery and beautiful life now. I sat on the floor and opened the space bag and watched the clothes come back to life as the air filled it. The first thing I saw was a huge blue and white woolen blanket and within a second , I felt my eyes becoming wet. I pulled it out and smelt it and my head started to slow dance to the memories it brought back. My mum had knitted this when Joe was born but it hadn’t been used for him. This blanket instead literally kept me warm with my mums love. The night I woke up thinking I was buried alive in a coffin, screaming to be released from the cold hard winter grip of Postpartum Psychosis , just a few hours from floating to the dark clouds of thinking of death and half a day away from being admitted to a psychiatric unit, that blanket served to shield me from that bitterness. As I sat and rocked back and forth in bed , convinced at any moment that utter darkness and doom was to descend upon me , John went and got the blanket and wrapped me in it . He said that your mum isn’t here Eve but this is . I wrapped it round me as tight as I could and buried my head into the wool, inhaling the smell of my mum on it, knowing her fingers had created it . My mum flew over two days later to give me that love in person but while she wasn’t there , this blanket would serve as her stand in.

Under the blanket were the tiny cotton reminders of those early days – Joes clothes. I lifted each one up , amazed at how small they were and lay them in my forearm as I tried to remember what he was like in them. First the vests. Little white vests that looked like they would fit on a doll but were the garments that kept my boy warm when he was at his tiniest. I turned one of the around and let out a laugh – on the back was a yellow poo stain -parents all understand these feral stains , the result of poo explosions , which end up in your child’s ears, their feet , your fingers and everywhere else except in the bloody nappy. When it happens you stand and wonder how the dickens you will get the vest off without smearing your 2 week old in its own face with something that resembles a chicken korma and actually contemplate if you should cut the vest off or chuck the entire baby in the bin and order a new clean one from the shop and get it delivered in the Tesco delivery with the baked beans and bag of wonky carrots.

As I went though each item,my heart and head were becoming full of emotion. These clothes were with me and Joe during the worst time – my illness. I pulled out one top, a little beige top from Gap that I bought as it looked like a top John had and I could dress Joe up like him and stopped and stared at it. I remember this top so well as it is the one that I couldn’t dress Joe in on John’s first day back at work after I gave birth. We said goodbye to daddy and I lay Joe on the bed on his spotty changing mat and tiny little legs were kicking around . His wrists and ankles had little rolls on them where my milk had been helping him grow. He was utterly perfect and squishy and a total delight but I was terrified of him. I stood and stared at this sweet smelling gurgling little boy and felt my hands shaking and my teeth chattering . I lifted his ankle to put his trousers on and I couldn’t do it as I was twitching so much. I would stop and breathe in and out and try again , trying to put his smooth precious shoulders into the top where he would look like daddy and I found it so hard. Here I was with my own child and I couldn’t even dress him as I was so scared and I cried. And cried. And cried.

Each little outfit had memories attached to it. One little yellow one with the words ‘hello world’ on them. When I left the mother and baby unit , I had a community psychiatric nurse come and visit me every day. One day, during our chat, someone came in and said they thought some clothes were too small for Joe now and had put them in a carrier bag for me to take to the charity shop. One of these was the hello world outfit – it was the first outfit I had bought when I was pregnant and made me smile whenever I saw those words . I didn’t want to give the outfit away and I was even more devastated that perhaps I hadn’t noticed my own son was too big for his own clothes. My mind had been taken from me in the grip of mental illness and I was muddled and confused and I found that very hard to deal with. My CPN however was wonderful and said , whatever Eve, it’s a gorgeous outfit. Dress him it in. Keep it forever, it’s special. It’s ok to want to keep some memories Eve as there will be a point where the good memories will totally blur out the bad.

Later that day, I dressed him in it and he looked lovely. And today,nearly 9 years later, Joe has dressed one of his teddies in it and its sitting on its bed , saying hello world to Joe everyday . She was right. The good memories do take over the others.

The little Superman baby grows, the tiny socks that he would never wear and fling off the side of the pram, the smart shirts he would wear at family occasions where everyone would say he looked so handsome. They all have memories attached to them.

But I also know I can’t keep everything forever. Some of the clothes he wore once when we went to get a bacon sandwich and that isn’t a memory with any meaning attached to it . John and I sat and went through Joes clothes and worked out which ones meant something to us as a family to keep forever and which ones could go to a charity shop for other children to have. I have a built in ‘I want to keep everything forever and always’ glitch but , as I am coming to a time where I see that our life has moved on from my illness, it is time to let some of the things that don’t hold a significance , go. The jeans I don’t think he ever wore, the matching socks he hated in favor of odd socks, the clothes with no stains- they went. They don’t have the memories.

My baby sling was there in its box on the bed and the sling is special to me. I was too scared of my own baby to be near him. I couldn’t pick him up, his very presence frightened me. So when I went into the mother and baby unit, I was encouraged to wear him so I could feel his heart beating next to mine. The only thing I would do for him was breastfeed , so he would feed in the sling and during my walks around the grounds of the hospital, while I was learning how to be with him and not be scared , I would wear him and John and I would talk and walk. The sling helped to do the most important and groundbreaking thing I ever needed to do – be near my baby- and I will keep it forever.

My friend Heidi shared with me a quote which I think sums up the power of wanting to hold onto some memories while knowing it is ok to move in from others : “ Being a mother is about learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed”. I think this is so powerful. I saw my strength in ways I never thought possible in recovery and dealing with the fears I had never been told about – being frightened of my own baby.

Becoming a mother provides us with love, tears, good times and bad. I have been at the depths of hell with Psychosis , cried with sleep exhaustion tending to a child who woke up 17 times a night and then having to turn up to work at 8am to deliver a presentation , been pooped on and cleaned up vomit that decorated my feet instead of the bedroom floor. We have all clapped and had hearts filled with love when we hear our little one say mummy for the first time and have 765467 photos on our phone of them holding a fork or stuck inside the wash basket covered in butter which you have smeared all over them to try and pull them out (that was a delightful afternoon). These memories , to others, may be deletable, but to us , they hold meaning and our finger hovers over the delete button wondering if in 25 years we will find that photo of them wrapped in the cling film to be a memory holder or one that just adds to the pile of others.

I will never have another baby and that is absolutely the right choice for me and our family but folding the clothes and saying goodbye to them , without the option of keeping them for the next one, was bittersweet. Saying goodbye to some of these clothes has been hard but as my beautiful son grows , now so does the room for his new clothes and new memories.

It’s strange I have such a connection to clothes considering my track record. One day last year, I went to work and presented myself as a highly competent and fully functioning member of society. I then got the tube at the end of the day , collected my child from school, clapped at his picture of a soldier with 6 eyes, walked the half hour walk home to abide by my fitbit rules of do 98000 steps a day or will spontaneously combust, cooked a lentil dhal, washed my hair whilst writing a letter to the school, shaved half of my calves to the sock lines and tended to my bed ridden husband who had sneezed at weekend and was apparently hanging at deaths door.

I then at 5.40 said I am going to the pub. Lentil dhal had been rejected so opened tin of beans, put chips in oven and left husband with instructions to turn to gas mark 4 for 20 mins when our child starts acting feral.
I left the house, smoothed my frizzy hair with a value baby wipe and began my merry walk down the road and noticed my bum felt cold. I investigated why I felt so chilly and opened my coat to see my tights , my pants through my tights and my bra. I appeared to not be wearing any clothes.

I had forgotten to put my clothes on.

I was 37 years old. I have two degrees.

I forgot to put my dress on. I wish I had been attached to clothes at that moment.

So here we are now. We have a lovely box of clothes that holds all the dearest memories – the baby grow Joe wore after I gave birth, his first little stripy hat, the white vests. All the special things that hold a multitude of memories. And what is so gorgeous now, is we are at that point where our dark memories have been blurred out by the good ones. Some of these clothes were with us as we worked through the fears we never knew existed and as we found our strength and for me, they are more than a factory produced piece of cotton. They show us that we got through that time.

Blogging about motherhood,the madness it can bring and the muddles I find myself in.