Maria’s story (Bristol)
My first son, William, was just one day old when he died in 2005. During and after my 11-year-old son’s and nine-year-old daughter’s pregnancies I struggled with a number of mental health problems. With Joel, I felt very anxious whilst pregnant with him, and then felt isolated and depressed following his birth. With Trinity, 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 Trinity’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 would like to use my experience to highlight the need for specialist services and individual care during pregnancy and following it. I think its 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 a woman 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.