Having my first child triggered a lot of questions about my own family history. I began to ask ‘why was I even having children?’ Having been adopted, I’d always struggled with a sense of belonging, my history, who am I, where do I fit into the world. And so I went into personal therapy to cope with the transition to parenthood and what I now know was post-natal depression. There, I discovered how powerful therapy could be and decided to train as a counsellor.
My experience led to my passion for helping others to overcome their emotional and mental health challenges.
We’d had a difficult experience as a family, not getting the support we needed, and I knew I didn’t want anyone else to have the same experience. Healthcare professionals recognised I was struggling, but at that time, some 20 years ago, didn’t know how to help, the resources weren’t there.
In 2016, I was in Parliament when the First 1001 Days report was launched. That report has spear headed the movement in attachment-led parent infant relationship services. Then in 2017, I founded a charity so that no family would have to go without specialist support, as we had.
How can you identify if you are experiencing maternal mental health problems?
Are you unsure if you are experiencing maternal mental health problems? Here are some tell-tale signs to look out for:
- Disturbing, difficult or intrusive thoughts, such as ‘my baby hates me; I’m not a good enough mum; I think I might hurt my baby; it’s not what I expected, it’s not what I wanted/imagined; it doesn’t feel like it’s my child’
- You and your partner’s relationship breaking down or a new level of arguing
- Any excessive or extreme behaviours that are different to before conception: e.g., increased working hours, increased drinking, smoking
- Not being able to shower, or care for your home
Giving birth can trigger intense memories from your own childhood. Perhaps you’ve not had a good experience of being parented yourself or traumatic things happened? Or you may have a realisation that your own experience of being parented was lacking.
For some, the birth itself can lead to maternal mental health implications.
Consider the following situations, did you experience any of the following:
- Birth trauma – being separated from your baby at birth or are you a dad who witnessed their partner’s suffering?
- Was your baby in intensive care?
- Bereavement of a loved one around the time of giving birth
- Are you struggling with breastfeeding?
Feelings are normal
Aren’t all these feelings normal? After all we all know parenting is hard.
It is but, parenting is also a joy and if you are not feeling that then its probably a good indicator to ask for help.
Any illness, left untreated, is unlikely to spontaneously get better and something like post-natal depression can last up to six years. Support for you and your infant is vital as your illness could impact on your ability to attune to your baby’s emotions and be appropriately responsive.
Parent Infant relationship therapists act as the bridge between infant and carer. They also act as the voice for the child while empathising with parents. They focus on the emerging relationship between babies and their parents.
While this article refers to maternal mental health, Dads experience difficult and challenging feeling too. DorPIP offer support to the whole family.
Our guest blogger:
Huge thanks to our guest blogger, Viv Allen, for her blog. Viv is founder of DorPIP and a single mum of two girls. DorPIP support families in Dorset. They aim to help create a society in which children can flourish through attuned parenting, early bonding and healthy attachment.