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Mental Health Week

It's Mental Health Week and we are sharing our stories to help raise awareness around mental health during and after pregnancy. 

Here is Lucy’s story.

I had a textbook pregnancy with no complications, I was excited and looking forward to becoming a first-time mum. Then at 33 weeks, rather unexpectedly, I went into labour. At 3.32am, 27th June 2016 my baby boy, Mason was born via emergency C-Section weighing 4.12lbs. Being 7 weeks early his lungs were not mature enough to breathe on their own and he was whisked off to the Neo Natal Unit for special care. Although looking back I am incredibly grateful for the nurses and doctors doing what was needed, my heart breaks thinking of myself laying in the theatre watching the incubator being wheeled out knowing that I did not get to see him before he was taken. And this really is where my struggle started. 

The next five hours were a blur of tea, toast and a little bit of shock. I was then able to go up to the Neo Natal ward and see him for the first time. I felt a rush of love when I first saw him however with the wires and plastic incubator surrounding him, it was difficult to get a picture of what he really looked like. Not being able to hold, kiss or smell him, I feel made it hard to bond and get the connection that I dreamt about for me and my baby. But of course, what did I do? I smiled and held back the tears and acted as if I was taking it all in my stride. I am not sure why, but I felt that I needed to look as if I knew what I was doing and I was in control of my emotions in front of the healthcare team surrounding my baby otherwise they would deem me an unfit mother, so I sucked it up and pretended everything was fine.

I expressed milk, I learnt how to tube feed, I changed his nappy in an incubator (not easy let me tell you) and after four days I was able to hold him for a short while but still the bond didn’t come. At the time I almost wasn’t aware it was happening, I was just going through the motions with my new daily hospital routine barely holding it together. 

The constant rotation of nurse shifts meant it was hard to get a connection with anyone in the Neo Natal Unit and I was constantly having to adapt and put all my trust into new people taking care of Mason. He was prodded and poked every two hours for heel prick blood samples, and it became normal to see. After some special care he started to get better and after three and a half weeks we were able to go home. We were so happy to get home and get our baby where he belonged, but it still wasn’t the bond I expected. 

I recall the community midwife coming round to do the usual checks and she asked me,

‘How are you feeling in yourself?’ and I replied, 

‘Absolutely fine, thank you’ and the truth was as soon as she left, I burst into tears because I wasn’t fine, I was not bonding with my baby and I was terrified about what that meant. 

Then sometime later, a few weeks or so after a lightbulb went off in my head and I realised that Mason was my baby, not the hospitals, not the nurses or doctors and I didn’t just have to go through the motions anymore, I could enjoy being the mum I always wanted to be. I remember it so clearly that I tear up every time I think about it. 

I feel I was extremely lucky to have this moment as I worry how long I would have let those feelings carry on for had this had not happened and how detrimental that would have been for my mental health. Fast forward nearly five years on and I feel closer than ever to Mason and with another one on the way, my advice to anyone experiencing anything similar is to speak to someone about how you are feeling and get help, as there are some amazing organisations out there ready to help you and I wish I had reached out sooner.

Please visit any of the below websites for further information and tips-

https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/mental-health/

https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/mental-wellbeing/mental-health-during-and-after-pregnancy

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/about-maternal-mental-health-problems/