I’ve been thinking for sometime that I would write an article about the pregnancy journey and the importance of friendships. This week you may have seen or heard that it’s the UK’s Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week. I thought this is the perfect time to write about my experience.
Back in 2017 when I found out I was pregnant not only did I have the constant worry of whether this baby would end up being a viable pregnancy. I worried if I would suffer with post natal depression.
Mental Health is something I feel passionately about. My brother had mental health issues during his life before he died of cancer in his early 40’s and I understand and feel the pain and anguish that family members can feel. I’ve seen both sides.
With my 4th pregnancy, I was further along compared to other times and I thought to myself that this time it’s really going to happen. Unfortunately my pregnancy coincided with my brother’s illness and during his last few week’s on this mortal coil, our little baby left us. I have no idea if the baby would have gone full term if I hadn’t been so stressed, I will never know. The stress of knowing that his rare cancer never had a good mortality rate, whilst being in the hospital 12+ hrs a day watching him deteriorate, being there for my parents trying to keep everything and everyone afloat. It just wasn’t meant to be that time.
Five weeks later my brother died, over and out in 7 weeks. Just like that. I had never seen anyone die before and its the strangest thing to see, someone you love just go, never to wake up again. After this it was a few weeks of organising his funeral and getting everything organised for my parents. Ensuring that they didn’t have to worry about anything. Thank god for my husband during this time.
They had to do a PM on my brother due to the aggressiveness of his rare cancer, which meant we had to wait for his funeral. This meant being in limbo for weeks which was horrible. It’s almost like you can’t start grieving until you’ve said goodbye and I was dreading the funeral. My hormones were all over the place as you can imagine. I was scared I would start crying and wouldn’t stop!
After this time my mental health started to suffer. The funeral had been and gone, the baby I was looking so forward to having, had gone too and I just felt lost. I just felt like I wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to be a burden to my friends having the same conversations with them time and time again, getting upset when I saw them each time. It’s funny how you have all the time in the world for your friends and their problems, but when it’s you you don’t want to bother them!
I just wished I could pull myself together but that’s not how it works sometimes. I went to the doctors and they prescribed anti-depressants. Now my brother had been on these and to me I just didn’t want to go down that road. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being negative about them nor am I saying they are a bad thing. I know they work for lot’s of people. For me, I just wanted to try and do this on my own without the chemicals, I wanted to try a natural way especially as I wanted to keep trying for a baby.
So 18 months later I went to a grief counsellor. Lost in the NHS system it took a while to be referred and to be honest I think I was almost there, getting myself back to my “normal” self. Grief is a strange beast and how you deal with it. The loss of my fourth baby and my brother at the same time was a lot. Add to that a breast cancer scare and a so called “friend” do something where you can’t ever get the friendship back, it was just a lot to deal with all in one go. It took me time to get myself back to happy fun loving Fi again.
So after this I always feared that I maybe susceptible to post natal depression, if I were ever lucky enough to get the chance of being a mummy. When I fell pregnant and continued to stay pregnant I alway’s kept myself busy. So I threw myself into my work and decorating our new house. Looking back I was probably subconsciously leaving things just incase it didn’t work out. I had enquired about NCT but then left it too late to do.
Thankfully I had signed up for pregnancy yoga. I’d had a lovey chat with the teacher in the village and I decided to go. Previously I had signed up to classes with my pregnancies but then lost the baby so I was always a little cautious about doing anything too soon incase i jinxed the pregnancy. I can remember feeling really nervous about going to that first class, ridiculous really now in hindsight.
Bec our yoga teacher paired me up with another newbie called Karen and we hit it off from the start. As it transpired Karen was moving to the village so that was one new mum I would know! Weeks of yoga and getting to slowly know Karen and then Dee who also went to yoga, friendships slowly started to form. Both girls did our local NCT course (the one I was supposed to do!) and met other girls there and our little gang was formed.
The Support System
I consider myself utterly blessed to have such amazing friends (apart from that one mentioned earlier!). Friends that have been with me through thick and thin. So I never thought I’d find any other friends on par and to be honest I was never really that bothered. Time is precious and it’s hard enough to see all your friends at the best of times, with children, families all taking priority now at our age.
So when I fell pregnant I wasn’t sure how it would work out with friendships. Would I meet other new mums? Where would I meet them? Would they be as old as me?! My friends children are all older now and they are all on different chapters of their lives.
Thankfully with going to yoga, meeting Karen and then Dee and then Kate and Becky I have my new little baby family. These girls have actually been like family over the past 19 months. I dare to think how many whats app messages we’ve all sent to each other during this time, thousands, tens of thousands probably! Through groups such as Baby Beeps and Baby Yoga we meet another friend Sabrina and her little boy.
Also a funny meeting of new mums! I met my friend Becky (another Becky) in hospital. Becky and I met an hour before we both had our C Sections in hospital, introduced by our florist Jan a few days before on Instagram. Both of us having our precious boys!
To have these friendships and support system on top of having your long standing friends means I have been extremely lucky. My maternal mental health has been good, I’ve not experienced post natal depression like I thought I would. Would this be the case if I didn’t have these amazing ladies, who knows?
I will write another article on friendships as these girls deserve their own article. This is about mental health and ensuring you look after someone struggling, if it’s you struggling you need to know the importance of talking and sharing. Trust me my friends had hours of me talking about how things were. Not once did they ever not ask me how I was, how I was coping, what they could do and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Whatever your story or whatever your circumstances there are always people there that can help. Don’t ever suffer alone. Having a baby is such a huge change for a woman, everything changes. As they say it takes a village…
Although I didn’t suffer with post natal I did struggle with my mental health after my miscarriages, anxiety through my pregnancy with Rufus and I only know too well how those grey clouds and that fog can feel day in day out. Don’t suffer in silence, reach out to a friend, family member, doctor or a stranger. One thing I have learned along the way is that you’re stronger than you think, asking for help is not a weakness it’s you having the strength to know you need that help and support. There are so many organisations that can help, please find the link below promoting maternal mental health for further info.
You can find out more information from /https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/news/uk-maternal-mental-health-matters-awareness-week-2019/