This month saw Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. Kim shares how a free service, ‘Parents in Mind,’ run by her local NCT, supported her when she was struggling with PTSD and heightened anxiety after the birth of her second baby.
“No one prepares you for the trauma you experience if your baby’s birth doesn’t go according to plan. Even if you’ve done everything right and done as you were told, you feel like you’ve failed somehow. But often these things are completely outside of our control, and we are not failures.
“I was 33 years old when my first son was born. I’d had two miscarriages before then, so when he didn’t cry after I gave birth, I just presumed my son had been stillborn.
“I was constantly worried that something was going to take him away from us.
“But while I was anxious after my first baby, that was nothing compared to how I felt when my second was born, a little over 18 months later. All of the tricks and tips I had learnt to soothe and settle my first-born just didn’t work. What I didn’t know was that this is completely normal – not all babies are the same, so they don’t respond in the same way.
“Like many women, I presumed I was doing something wrong, or failing, just because I’d managed it before.
“You think: ‘everyone struggles’. And it’s true, but not everyone’s struggles or support networks are the same.”
“I was sure I was the only one in my peer group who was feeling like this. I hadn’t wanted to be diagnosed with postnatal depression, because of the stigma still associated with it.
“The NHS perinatal mental health team put me in touch with Parents in Mind, which is led by volunteers who have all experienced similar situations. It was such a relief to know I wouldn’t be the only person in the room struggling, and that there was no judgement. More importantly, I knew I wasn’t alone.
“So a few years later I decided to train, qualify and volunteer with Parents in Mind – so I could help other women like I had been helped.
Sometimes as a mum you just need someone to listen and hear you when you say you’re finding things difficult.
“I’ve been supporting mums throughout Coventry and Warwickshire, including during the pandemic, with direct 1:1 support and on our WhatsApp group, which can have anything up to 20 participants at a time.
“It can be terrifying to say out loud that you’re not ok. You think people will judge you, but I can promise you: you won’t be the only person in the room who feels that way. It opens up conversations that you might otherwise feel uncomfortable or just not have the opportunity to have. And it’s ok to ask for help.
“Women need to know that it’s ok to admit that being a mum doesn’t feel like sunshine and rainbows all the time and to have a safe, confidential space to share their feelings.
“It’s a privilege to now help other mums, like I was helped.”
Parents in Mind supports pregnant and new mums as well as mums whose children are up to two years old. The service is currently operating in Newham, St Helen’s, and in Warwickshire and Coventry.
You can find out more about it on our website, on Instagram @parentsinmindpartners and Facebook @nctparentsinmind – where all Maternal Mental Health Awareness week, the team were posting videos about mental health. Well worth checking out!
If you’ve been inspired to volunteer with the Parents in Mind service, please get in touch with one of the contacts from your area at the bottom of the Parents in Mind webpage.
You can also find free groups in your area where you can meet other parents for a playgroup, coffee or walk here.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Loneliness. Being a new parent can be a lonely time, so you might find it helps to take a look at the info on our website about how you might be feeling after having a baby, including self care tips for new mums.
The NHS website also has brilliant practical advice for helping you feel less alone.