Laura, who lives in the Selkirk with her husband, Chris, and 20-month-old son Reuben experienced ill mental health due to the difficulty of pregnancy and birth during COVID-19.
Feeling isolated and lonely, and being a new mum to a much wanted baby in the midst of a pandemic meant that her anxiety levels increased.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we hear how National Lottery funded charity Nurture the Borders has supported new mum, Laura, giving her the confidence to go back to work and go on to become a board member for the charity.
I’ve been living with generalised anxiety disorder for a number of years, which I managed relatively well until I became a mum. I was 16 weeks pregnant with Reuben when COVID hit the UK. Pregnant women were classed as vulnerable, and I was convinced COVID was going to harm our baby.
I had experienced two miscarriages before Reuben was born, which impacted hugely on my mental health. I felt like I’d failed, and my body had let me down. Becoming pregnant for the third time, I was convinced we would lose this baby too. COVID amplified this fear even more as nothing in life was normal and we were being told that life was dangerous.
My friend told me about Nurture the Border’s online antenatal classes. I was delighted that I could finally do something to help prepare for our baby. After each class I felt informed and empowered to make decisions about what we wanted birth to look like for us.
As with so many births it didn’t go to ‘plan’ – it makes me laugh that we think we can plan nature! Reuben’s birth was traumatic for me. We were kept in the hospital from the very beginning before I’d even started dilating because Reuben’s heart rate kept dropping. This went on throughout my 19 hours of labour and I was convinced we were going to lose him.
I also experienced flashbacks to my miscarriage brought on by the sensation of contractions. I was on high alert trying to prepare myself that I might lose my baby and willing my body not to fail me again.
I always said that I could only relax when I got my baby in my arms. Sadly, due to needing surgery, I didn’t get the baby in my arms for a while longer which I found really hard.
Seeking more support
Once I was home with Reuben, I booked onto Nurture the Border’s peer support group and it gave me something to look forward to on a Monday morning. The opportunity to chat to other new mums was hugely refreshing and a great support.
After establishing Nurture was a safe space, I referred myself for some 1:1 support. I’d been diagnosed with post-natal depression which I felt extremely ashamed and guilty about. I’d always wanted to be a mum and I’d been given the most beautiful gift of a child – what did I possibly have to feel depressed about?
I was assigned a wonderful perinatal support officer who was kind, compassionate, encouraging, caring and genuine. I felt listened to and like she genuinely wanted to help me get to a better place.
There was never any pressure to move me on or close my case. We worked at my pace which was sometimes one step forward and seven steps back. She helped me to see the importance of self-care and that I was a good Mum.
She also offered me Trauma Recovery Therapy to deal with the traumas I had experienced which were significantly impacting on my mental health. This really helped me to process my experiences, put them to rest in my past and look to the future.
Nurture the Borders was a Godsend during a very scary time of having a baby in a global pandemic. The support was and continues to be absolutely phenomenal. I still get the occasional text or email from the perinatal support officer I worked with despite having finished with her months ago.
I now have new mum friends, a confidence in my ability to parent and a deep desire to support new mums. I have just become a Board member which I am thrilled about and look forward to having opportunities to support others on this wonderful crazy journey we call motherhood.
About Nurture the Borders
Nurture the Borders were awarded £172,168 of National Lottery funding to provide mental health support, education and advocacy to women in the Scottish Borders during pregnancy and for up to two years after birth.
Their services include one-to-one sessions, peer support and workshops on subjects including preparing for birth and mindful parenting.
To find out more about their project, visit: https://www.nurturetheborders.com/