Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week – Rebecca shares her story to encourage mums to seek support

May 5, 2021

As part of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, 03 – 09 May, Rebecca is sharing her story to encourage other mums in need to seek support.

“After the birth of my daughter, I did not expect the severity of how my mental health would turn my world upside down & also the ones who cared about me the most.

When I first found out I was pregnant it came as a shock, as I’m sure it did to most people first finding out they are pregnant – that overwhelming feeling and loads of different emotions.

But after those emotions I couldn’t have been happier – I was over the moon. I absolutely loved being pregnant, although I started to get nervous around the ending, me and my partner attended hypnobirthing classes so I felt somewhat prepared for my water birth labour.

That being said, in reality I wasn’t prepared at all for the quick and intense labour I experienced.

As soon as my daughter was born I was waiting for that rush of love that everyone talks about. But it didn’t come. I didn’t pay much attention to it, I was so happy and I knew that I loved her but I was in so much shock that it took me days to come around. I chose to breastfeed and she latched on straight away with no problems at all. Everything went perfect in the doctors eyes, both of us were healthy and ready for discharge the same day.

I remember saying to the midwifes as soon as she was born that I couldn’t breathe, my chest felt tight, and it was hard to take a breath (later we realised it was panic and post-traumatic stress) due to how quick my labour was.

When we got home, I didn’t feel right but I just got on with it. I felt like something was wrong with me, I couldn’t bathe on my own, I couldn’t eat, I was so exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. We then decided that we would do formula in the night and I would breastfeed in the day which took a lot of pressure off of me.

I thought I had a good routine. But in reality I’d started to close myself off from my friends and family very quickly.

I couldn’t talk about my labour, it was like it never even happened. My midwife asked me how my labour was and I quickly said I didn’t want to talk about it. She then went on to mention about post-traumatic stress disorder but nothing else was said after that.

Things started to get harder by the day.  I was severely anxious, and my chest felt tight.

I was so scared that something would happen to my daughter, I was trying to keep her away from the world, and keep her clean from the germs that were everywhere. I didn’t even want to take her out in fear of the car fumes in the streets.

I remember my friend coming over to see us. I wouldn’t put my daughter down, I wouldn’t let my friend hold her even while I went to the loo, I just took her with me.  That was when my friend knew something wasn’t right.

That night while trying to sleep I had the worse experience of my life. I thought I was going to die, I couldn’t breathe. I felt my heart racing and I was severely shaking. I woke my partner to call an ambulance. I called my mum and she quickly came over and took me straight to the hospital as I didn’t want to wait for an ambulance. I said goodbye to my daughter and I told her I loved her. I genuinely thought it was the last time I was going to see her. It turned out I was severely dehydrated and also had a panic attack.

Whilst at the hospital I could see the labour ward near where I had been wheeled in by my partner and mother. I instantly got a flash back and I said to my mum “I need to get out of here. I need to go now!”

That is when things started to get worse and very quickly.  I didn’t sleep for around 48 hours. I went home to get some sleep but woke up 2 hours later and then said to my partner. “I don’t want to be here anymore, I just want to die so bad”. Never in my life have I ever thought of that – never mind saying it.

We then decided it would be best to go and stay with my parents.

I woke up the next day and said. “I don’t want my baby. I don’t want to be in this life anymore” my daughter did not feel like my child.  That being said my family didn’t feel like my family anymore. I have never felt so alone. I couldn’t be near my daughter, I couldn’t look at her, I could not tend to her or feed her any more. I felt like a failure. Luckily my partner & family were there to take over. I didn’t know what was happening to me, how could I go from trying to protect my baby to then wake up one day and say I don’t want her any more?  But I didn’t feel safe myself, how could I keep this 4 week old baby safe?

I didn’t recognise myself in the mirror. I didn’t know who I was or who my family were. I have never been so scared. This was the derealisation/depersonalisation that was causing this confusion.

As the days went on I was getting deeper and deeper into my anxiety, depression and the PTSD. I felt like I was in a dream, trapped in my own head and nobody could help me.

I couldn’t cope any longer, the suicidal thoughts got too intense and I was rushed to A&E by my mother. I had to stay in the hospital for one night and in an adult mental health unit for the next night until I was taken to Coombe wood mother and baby mental health unit in North West London.  A 3 hour drive from where I live, I stayed there for around 8 weeks and was then transferred to the Rainbow mother and baby unit in Chelmsford.  I was petrified and didn’t understand what was going on.

But I soon found out that it was the best thing I could have ever done, I was instantly put on medication. The staff were amazing, and helped me with my daughter whilst I was getting treated.  It took a lot of different medications to find the right one for me but I cannot thank the staff enough for helping me at the lowest point in my life.

The best thing I did was to not try and justify why this has happened to me, it can happen to anyone and I am not to blame.

It is an illness and an illness that can be treated. It’s a journey and will take time but I can now finally say that although my illness made me feel like I didn’t love my baby. I have now fallen in love with her even more than I ever did and it’s the best feeling in the world. We have an incredible bond that will never be broken.

It has been a very long journey for me and my family but I am now starting to enjoy life again which I never thought I would. With the help of my friends, family and the amazing team around me, people are saying that the real Rebecca is shining through and I really feel it.

I would like to say a huge thank you to my friends and family that were there for me when I needed them most. They never gave up on me.

Also I wouldn’t have been able to get where I am if it wasn’t for the amazing perinatal team, all of the staff at the units and most importantly my therapist Kate. She saved my life.

Ride the wave.
Take it hour by hour. Not day by day
This feeling is only temporary so ride the wave.
You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.
You will have brighter days ahead..
Remember to ride the wave.
You will enjoy life again so never loose faith.
Where there is hope, there is life. It fills us with courage and makes us strong again,
So never forget to ride them waves.”

Your GP, Midwife or Health Visitor can help to make a referral to our Perinatal Mental health Service. They can also let you know about support available in your area.