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Maternal Mental Health Matters

I've often found myself reflecting on the first year of being a mother. Wondering if I feel robbed of what is supposed to be an amazing time in my life, whereas actually it was the most horrendous at times.
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I popped into Sainsburys last night for a few post work purchases, while I was trying to negotiate the self-service checkout without kicking it out of pure frustration, I was stopped in my tracks.

I heard a new-born baby cry.

Strange reason to stop what I was doing you might think? Especially as this new-born baby wasn't mine.

However, I began to feel a rising sense of anxiety.

I immediately felt transported back to December 2013 when I was in hospital after having my son. He was only 3 days old and I was desperately trying to change his nappy and understand why he was crying, whilst hobbling around in agony, recovering from an emergency caesarean section.

I frantically called my partner; Wes, who had left the hospital a couple of hours earlier. I pleaded with him to make his way back to the hospital. I felt alone, traumatised and like the walls were closing in on me. I wasn't coping. Heck, I didn't know what to do next.

This was almost 2 and a half years ago, I've experienced a breakdown in that time, endless therapy and following all of this, consider myself to be in a good place both mentally and emotionally now.

Thus, I was surprised to feel like past scars were open again. I was surprised to feel strangely vulnerable at that moment in Sainsburys.

I tried not to analyse my feelings too much, drawing on what I've learnt from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy sessions and bringing myself back to what I was trying to do. You know, not lose my shit with the self-service checkout.

While I was walking home from the supermarket, I found myself mentally writing this blog. I found myself wanting to articulate this experience, it felt quite profound.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I've found certain smells induce a state of anxiety. It's incredible just how powerful the brain is.

I've often found myself reflecting on the first year of being a mother. Wondering if I feel robbed of what is supposed to be an amazing time in my life, whereas actually it was the most horrendous at times.

Perhaps I do, perhaps I do feel slightly robbed. When I look back at photos of the first year of my son's life I can't help but feel sad. I feel sad because I knew how I felt at the time, I knew what was to come and I knew the smiles I'd painted on were masking what was really going on in my head.

Recent conversations with my other half have led us both to decide against having a second child for numerous reasons. Some are health (both physical and mental) whys and wherefores, others are more practical reasons. However, although I feel deep down this is the right decision for us as a family and as individuals, I do 'grieve' (for want of a better word) for the time I can never experience again.

It wasn't supposed to be like that. I wasn't supposed to have the mental health crisis team visit me 3 days before Christmas to assess my mental health and ensure I didn't need to be admitted into a Mother & Baby unit. I wasn't supposed to find motherhood and all it brings so damn difficult and overwhelming. It wasn't how I anticipated life to be once I welcomed my son into the world.

Since writing about my experience with post-natal depression and anxiety in August last year, I've been contacted by many women who have told me their experiences. They've asked me for guidance and I've imparted advice on what I would do in their shoes. I've been candid and explained to them the resources that are available and the roads they should go down to ensure they receive the treatment and support they need.

8 months ago, I wrote about my desire for midwives and health visitors to discuss post-natal mental illness antenatally. I'm strongly of the opinion there needs to be more awareness highlighted at the antenatal stage to prepare women of the conditions that could arise once they have become a Mother.

Mental health is AS important as physical health. Just like it's imperative for a midwife to ensure all is well with baby during appointments, it's equally crucial to ask the right questions regarding Mum's mental wellbeing.

Post Natal OCD is a condition that requires more awareness. I've been a long time sufferer of OCD since I was 7 years old, however, my OCD manifested itself into a terrifying form 4 days after giving birth.

I spent hours upon hours googling my symptoms, trying to reassure myself I wasn't on the periphery of losing my mind altogether. Visiting my GP to only be told he didn't recognise my symptoms as OCD and was genuinely concerned for my welfare only compounded my anxiety all the more.

Having spent a great deal of time researching Post Natal OCD and receiving intensive treatment for the condition has highlighted to me just how common an illness it can be. Thus, it needs to be emphasised to all potential mothers, especially women who have history of suffering OCD like myself.

The thought of another woman perched on the edge of the bath frantic with worry that she's a danger to herself or others is all too much for me to bear. It shouldn't and doesn't need to be that way.

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If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.