I still have no memories of the first year of my daughter’s life.
Maria’s story (Bristol)
My first son was just one day old when he died in 2005. During and after my subsequent pregnancies I struggled with a number of mental health problems. With my youngest boy, I felt very anxious whilst pregnant, and then isolated and depressed following his birth. With my daughter, my postnatal depression was more severe; I also developed maternal OCD and post-traumatic stress disorder, and during her pregnancy, I battled with anxiety and depression again.
Crucial peer support
Following my daughter’s birth, I attended my local Mother and Baby Unit [MBU]. It was day two there and I was very low – I felt ‘zombie-like’ and disconnected from the world around me. A member of the MBU team came over and held my hand and explained that they understood what day two meant to me and that I wasn’t going to be on my own. I hadn’t joined up the dots of feeling disconnected with the acknowledgement that our first son had died on day two.
What also helped me enormously, and saved my life when I had suicidal thoughts, was peer support from women going through similar experiences. Person-centred counselling didn’t necessarily help with my recovery, but it did help me manage intrusive thoughts. And I believe CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy] fast-tracked the end of my recovery.
Need specialist care
I want to use my experience to highlight the need for specialist services and individual care during and after pregnancy. I think it’s really important that women have access to MBUs, and that MBUs support the whole family, especially when the mum has other children and may be feeling estranged from them whilst with her new baby.
I also believe it’s vital that women receive good advice about medication. This will help women suffering from anxiety or depression make more informed choices. In turn, this might help to reduce the severity of her illness and speed up her recovery, giving her a chance to enjoy early motherhood. I still have no memories of the first year of my daughter’s life.
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