Perinatal Mental Health Podcast 2 Transcript
Episode 2 – Honey Attridge
Sharing experience of birth trauma and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
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The perinatal mental health team at Transformation Partners in Health and Care have created a series of podcasts that focus on perinatal mental health. The perinatal period is usually defined as the time between conceiving a baby and 1 to 2 years after giving birth. We know that during this time around, one in every five women would experience mental health problems which may begin in pregnancy, during pregnancy, or in the postnatal period. Perinatal mental health is different for everyone, and people can be affected in many ways. It can often be difficult to recognise the worsening symptoms in the busy days of parenthood. Getting the right help, support and guidance is vital. But we know that sometimes it can be hard to know where to find it and how to access it.
We understand the importance of beginning and continuing conversations around perinatal mental health by raising awareness of the impact that perinatal mental health problems can have for women, birthing people and their families, and also showing the effect that the right care can have. We hope that we will be able to reach more people, challenge perceptions and change attitudes towards accessing help.
In this episode, we are going to be discussing birth trauma and experiences of the neonatal intensive care unit, as well as how the perinatal mental health team can support the grief process. We are joined by Honey Attridge. Honey will be sharing her experience of when her daughter Sophie was in the NICU after birth, how she navigated both the physical and mental side of this journey and offers advice to parents who may be going through the same thing.
Honey now works as a peer support worker in maternal mental health services. We are also joined again by the wonderful Chelsea. Chelsea is the mother of two young girls, a military wife, worked as a midwife for three years and now works as a lived experience practitioner for Transformation Partners in Health and Care. And me, Meghan Mathieson, Strategic Communications Manager at TPHC and mother of a little girl born during the peak of the COVID 19 pandemic.
As you listen to our chat today, you may feel you identify and relate to what we are discussing and want to find support. We encourage you to use our website to find support that is local to you. TPHC is not a crisis service, and so in the first instance, we would encourage you to contact your GP, midwife or local services to support you.
So, hello to Honey and thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us and share your experiences. Do you want to start by telling us a little bit about what happened to you and your daughter Sophie?
Yeah, Hi, everyone. My name is Honey and my daughter Sophie is now three and a half, and my story starts when I gave birth to her. So, I’d had a wonderful pregnancy. I was really excited, and I felt, I remember feeling that as long as she’s OK, everything will be fine. And that was kind of my mindset before going in really. So yeah, it was a really, really difficult and terrifying birth unfortunately. It was a very long labour and there were some interventions that I hadn’t expected and didn’t know much about, and my labour just wasn’t progressing.
And I was very tired, I was very scared. I didn’t feel like people were giving me much information. And I had this feeling that something wasn’t quite right. And as the time went on and I wasn’t progressing, I just became exhausted. I wanted to speak to somebody. I wanted to understand what was happening, why it was taking so long. And eventually I was offered an epidural. And that took the pain away. And after that, I started progressing a bit more and my labour lasted around about 36 hours. And by that point, the midwife said, okay, you’re going to get to the pushing stage now prepare yourself. And I thought, oh wow, you know, I’ve done it, this is the pushing stage it’s the final bit.
I’m going to have my baby really soon. I got really excited. I remember asking my husband to get me something sugary, to give me some energy to go and everything just suddenly changed. The atmosphere changed and more people came into the room and I was rushed down to theatre and then once I got to theatre you know all the bright lights, the noises, people asking, throwing, kind of throwing questions at me.
And I just remember this kind of urgency and this feeling of being out of control and really, really scared and what had happened was that my daughters, I had birthed my daughters head but her shoulder had got stuck. So, it’s called shoulder dystocia. And that means that it’s emergency situation and there will always be some assistance getting out. So, it was a forceps delivery, emergency forceps delivery and when she was born, she wasn’t breathing.
And I remember kind of it being very silent and not knowing what’s going on. You expect to hear that kind of cry and expect that cuddle and it just didn’t come. I was really hoping for some skin to skin. I was hoping to see her. I was hoping that this was just kind of this was not happening.
This isn’t happening. You know, she’s going to be okay. She’s going to be okay. But kind of the longer we waited and the more that the silence was there I just knew that something was really, really wrong. And so, she was rushed away, and she was put into special care. At the time, I didn’t know where she’d gone, and I was told that she was a girl.
I knew she was a girl, and I was told I’d be able to see her soon. And I was, I unfortunately suffered some physical damage, some physical injuries, and so I needed to kind of be stitched up and sent to high dependency before I could see her. And I’d picked up an infection, so I needed some antibiotics.
And so, it was a really long time before I got to see her. And I found that really unsettling, really scary, because I just I didn’t know where she was, and I didn’t know if she was okay. And I remember begging one of the nurses to please let me see her, please, please. And I remember her turning to me and saying, you need to finish your antibiotics and then we’ll take you up.
And I just wanted to see her, like, I couldn’t obviously move or walk because I’d had the epidural, I was in bed having my going. And I just wanted to see her, just wanted to see that she was alive. And I remember just crying and begging somebody to please just let me, please, can I just go and see her?
And so eventually I went up to see her and she was just kind of lying there and I was desperate to hold her, but I was told that I shouldn’t, and I didn’t really know what to do. I just felt kind of a little bit lost as to what on earth just happened. What on earth has just happened? And I, I thought to myself, we both, my husband and I both said, wow, that was a really bad labour, but at least she’s okay.
And we kind of relaxed a little bit. And when I was cuddling and holding her later on and trying to feed her, she just stopped breathing. She turned blue and was having some kind of seizure and she was again rushed away, and I just didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know. I just didn’t know. I had no idea. I thought the worst. I thought, oh, my gosh, you know has she died? I just, I just didn’t know. And she was in special care, and she was being intubated and there was just a team of people all around her. And she was just lying there very helpless. And this tiny little baby being surrounded by all of these people.
And I just kind of rooted to the spot. I didn’t know what to do. And eventually I was told that she’d suffered some kind of brain injury due to the birth, but they didn’t know what and they didn’t know how bad it was. That’s all I was told. And then a couple of hours later, they said she needs to go to a higher grade neonatal intensive care unit and that she would be transferred as soon as possible, and they would take over her care.
So, yeah, that’s our story. I’ll talk about the NICU later on and I’ll talk about some other things that happened. But that’s basically our story. That was the birth trauma and that’s what happened afterwards. And yeah, it was a scary time.
Honey, I think the first thing to say is thank you so much for sharing that with us, being brave enough to share that with us and speaking about it so clearly and so calmly and beautifully and letting us into one of the most traumatic moments of your life. So, thank you so much for that. And it’s, I can imagine at the time you felt incredibly alone and scared. And I guess Chelsea might want to come in here, but it would be sort of I think it would be interesting to know and to hear about when, sort of, the issue of it being a traumatic birth and birth trauma sort of came to you because I think people often talk about births and what happened to them.
But I think, you know, exactly is as you sort of alluded to, as long as she’s okay, as long as Sophie’s all right, we will be fine. But actually, it’s not because it’s something that you have to live with. And so, I wonder if you would be able to share a bit about that when you sort of started to process it and realise, you know, what had happened and how you felt about it, I’ll just jump in.
Before we let Honey go to that, Honey and I have a very close relationship and yeah, every time I hear your story, there’s different emotions that come to me. So, like Meghan said, thank you so much for sharing that. And I know you as a Sophie’s mom go back to that place. But even, you know, myself as a mom, I can feel it in your story.
And, you know, anybody listening to that would have said, you know, that’s a really traumatic birth and it is the point. You know, you probably did have people say, you know, at least she’s okay. But it, we’ll talk about this a bit later of what that kind of experience does to your mind and body. And it was definitely part of your recovery if I’m right that you kind of acknowledged the way that the neonatal experience and the birth affected the way you think and the way you parent after that. Is that correct, Honey, that you’re with?
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And essentially it was a birth trauma, but I found the NICU experience just as traumatic as the birth itself. And I think people have trouble understanding that. And I think that’s because unless you’ve actually been a parent with a very, very unwell baby, you can’t actually step into anyone’s shoes.
And even though I try to explain what it’s like, you can’t really understand it. And I’ve spoken to lots of NICU parents and they’ve all said, Oh, you just get it or you don’t get it. And it’s just a really kind of intense, intense environment. And the way that I think about it now, when I think of, kind of, what a very strange environment is in that it’s kind of imagine a normal hospital ward and then imagine it being a lot smaller, no windows and a very, very hot room, obviously, for the very small and unwell babies and then you add another layer of machines, you know, there’s machines everywhere and they’re doing all different jobs. And there are so many machines on just your one baby, and I didn’t understand what they were or what they were for, or what they were doing for her. And I was very lucky. And I will say this any time anybody asks me, the staff on that ward were absolutely second to none. They were incredible. So, everything that I say about this experience is coming from a parent’s perspective and not the care that my daughter received because it was absolutely amazing.
And one of the lovely nurses came around and she showed me what each machine was and what it was doing for her. And that really helped me to understand why she needed all of this intervention. And I would say for any parent on the NICU just ask, ask what the machines are for, because that really helped me to process.
So, I knew that this was the feeding tube, and this was the antibiotics, medication or etc., etc. And that was, that was really helpful. And I think when you’re first introduced to the NICU you’re very aware that there are other families going through all of this and there are other very sick babies, but you’re just kind of very focused on yours, your baby.
And for us it was very much, we didn’t know what was wrong with her. It took about six days for us to get a diagnosis. And that diagnosis was that she’d had a stroke due to the pulling of the forceps at the birth. But during those six days, you know, we didn’t know whether she was going to survive.
We didn’t know if this was going to cause her any kind of problem in the future. We just, we just didn’t know. We just had no idea. And nobody could reassure us that she was going to be okay because they didn’t know what actually happened. So, it was a really uncertain time, and it was a very, very frightening time.
And I remember looking at her in that bed and I just didn’t, I didn’t recognise her I could have looked at her and she could have been anyone’s baby because her whole face was just covered. It was covered in bandages; it was covered in tubes. And I could barely see a part of her face. And that, for me was a real shock.
I expected to go in and be able to touch her. And you can’t really do that. And that’s a really horrible place to be because, you know, I’m her mum and I should be the person cuddling her, touching her, telling her she’s okay, you know, and all of those things are just taken away, they are completely taken away from your control, you know?
And I can’t just pick her up whenever I feel like it. I can’t let her just sleep on my chest. And I’d had these visions of being on the sofa at home and, you know, having all these cuddles. And just being able to pick your baby up as a mum is the most natural thing. And I just couldn’t do that.
And yeah, it’s just really quite heart breaking and, you know, even the other things like changing nappies, bathing and, you know, feeding, I couldn’t just feed her. I didn’t know, she had a tube that went down to her stomach, and I would express my milk to then syringe into her tube. And it’s just such an unnatural way, really.
And I just felt guilty all the time. I felt like, oh, I can’t be a mum, I’m not a mum, I’m such a useless mum. I can’t even feed my own baby. That’s, you know, that’s how I felt. And it just felt so kind of unnatural storing my milk. And I turned up to this ward with like an overnight bag thinking I’d be staying in the hospital one, possibly two nights, and I just had nothing.
You know, it’s definitely equipped for babies, but there certainly isn’t a space for parents, really. You know, there’s nowhere to put you bag. There’s nowhere to sit down unless a chair’s brought in for you to sit next to your baby. There’s nowhere really to express. So, you kind of express behind a kind of, a screen. But, you know, there’s people around and people come around to talk to you about your baby and you’re very aware that there’s others in the room. And it’s incredibly difficult.
Yeah. I just, I think it really, you know, when you started your story, you have that anticipation of being a new mom and you know, you just think you’re going to go in the hospital. You can have your baby and then that’s, you know, you get to go home. So, it’s a real grief process for yourself of missing all those firsts with her and not, you know, like you said, you were there. You’re her mom. You wanted to do those things, which is just the only words that come to mind is so incredibly difficult. And, you know, you talk about all the emotional aspects that no one could really prepare for you. But again, you haven’t even mentioned yourself. You told us what a difficult birth that was. And here you are trying to look presentable and in a neonatal unit, after going through quite a hard physical experience for your own body and your own healing, and that just yeah, there’s just so much disconnect, isn’t there, that your experience isn’t working out how you wanted it to, you’re still recovering and you’re still, your first big thing is you just want to be her mom. That must have been so hard.
It was difficult. And I think that, you know, people who have you know, who have their babies are in this really, really, you know, emergency situation, really, because anything can happen at any time. And I think it’s almost forgotten that this woman has just been through labour and your body’s trying to recover and yet you’re not getting any sleep, not being able, you know, not able to lay down and sleep.
You can’t kind of relax. You can’t even hear, the ward I was on the shower wasn’t even working. So, you can imagine how kind of unhygienic I felt at the time. And, you know, people don’t want to go home. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to be there all of the time. I didn’t want to leave her.
I wanted to be there all the time. And, you know, my milk came when I was looking at her. So, I wanted to express my milk next to her and I wanted to talk to her. And I wanted to tell her that, you know, that we were there and we’re here. Mommy’s here, Dad is here. You know, we’re here and, I’m sorry.
And I remember, I remember, you know, the machines are always beeping, so there’s always some kind of beep going on. And when Rob and I spoke to her a couple of times, she reacted, and the machine started beeping. And it was just that terrifying moment of, oh, my God, what have we done? And, you know, we then didn’t want to talk to her because we were so scared that it would set another alarm off and it was just another barrier to feeling comfortable just talking to her and holding her hand because we were so scared that it would do something and sometimes alarms would go off and the first thing you’d think was, Oh my God, is it mine? You know? Is it my baby? And it was just oh, my gosh, it was so stressful because first thing you’d think was, oh my God, is it mine? And then you realise it’s not yours. So, you have this big sigh of relief, but then you feel so guilty because you know that it’s someone else’s baby.
And you know those machines, as I said to you guys before, you know, I still hear those machines sometimes. It’s something that just never really leaves you. What do you think, I guess looking back on the things that maybe helped you with it and with being in there, being in that room, you know, were there any things that you can now look back at and pinpoint for you and your husband that you think, yes, that really helped?
Or, you know, as you said a little bit earlier on that one of the midwives, one of the nurses explaining what the machines were for, whether any other sort of aspects that, you know, helped you understand or kind of gave you some comfort in such a terrifying and uncertain time? I think the most important thing for us was knowing what was happening.
So, we wanted to ask questions and you think that everyone’s too busy to talk to you, but actually they are there to answer your questions. That’s part of their role and including parents in the care of your baby is part of their role and they are very happy to do it. So, I think during the end of her stay, I remember asking one of the consultants if we could just sit and ask a lot of questions. And she said, absolutely come into my office at so and so and just ask anything you want to ask. And it was so helpful because she wasn’t then on the ward looking after all the babies. It was just us as parents talking to her about our baby. And I think that, you know, she was very happy to do that.
And I wish we’d done that earlier. I would say I kept everything to myself. I couldn’t bear just to say the words that she was unwell, so I didn’t call people that I knew. I was just too kind of wrapped up or I couldn’t quite believe it was happening. It felt like almost like a nightmare that I was still kind of walking in and Rob my husband rang his family, and he told them, and he said in hindsight, that that really helped him to process things.
So, I guess I would just encourage you to talk to the right people and just give a quick call. You don’t need to go into details, but just say, oh my God, this is really hard or I’m doing this, or this is happening. And it just kind of it just shares the burden a little bit, even though it’s still on your shoulders by just saying out loud, it does really help.
So, I guess I would say the best thing you can do is ask questions, talk to people, and if you can somehow try to get a bit of physical rest. Yeah, okay. Like we just we didn’t want to go home. So, we for the first few nights we booked hotels around the corner because I couldn’t bear to be away from her. And I know that a lot of families are not able to do that, or they have children at home, or they have people, you know, need to go back to work, etc., etc. But, you know, I, I was in a lot of pain. I was on antibiotics, and I could, I just had to hobble somewhere every night to try and get some kind of rest.
And then I’d be up, and I’d be, you know, and I guess yeah, to be afraid to ask for help. I remember one little incident where we’d gone to this hotel, and I was expressing milk throughout the night and I was walking to and from the hospital to put the milk in the freezer and the lady in reception said, ‘Are you okay?’ and I said, oh, my baby, you know, is in hospital and I’m taking some milk. She says, oh gosh, we’ve got lots of mother staying here. We’ve got a fridge here. She can just store it here with us and it’ll be safe with me until the morning. I put this label on it, and you can collect it in the morning when you wake up.
And I just thought had I just said to them, do you have a fridge I could use, it would have just saved me going to and from the hospital. So, it’s little things like that. I think people do want to help. It’s just you too afraid to ask for it. You don’t know the help you need.
And that’s part of why we wanted to do this, Honey, didn’t we? And we were like, we wish, you know, we could put some peers in. And I think some units are doing that of parents who have been there because it is a different navigation, isn’t it? It’s new emotions, it’s new things to do. And I like, I think part of your story is, you know, it was more started when you actually did get to bring Sophie home and process it all, and the level of care, you know, that you went from having all those machines, all that support. And then they were like, okay, you get to go home now. And I think that’s where you know, your story of getting help kind of started. It wasn’t right away, though, was it?
No, it wasn’t because we’d been transferred to a different hospital. You know, I obviously wasn’t a patient then at the hospital I gave birth in, and when we came home a few weeks later, I’d obviously missed all of the normal kind of midwifery and health visitor visits that you would get. So, when people eventually did come round, they didn’t know what happened. So, I remember just kind of being taught CPR from the NICU and then they kind of said, well, it shouldn’t happen again, but it could happen again. And, you know, to go home with that little information and be worried constantly that this was going to happen again was I mean, it was terrifying.
I mean, how did we know this was not going to happen again? And imagine actually trying to do CPR on your own baby? I mean, it’s just unfathomable, really. It’s just, it’s too much to take on your shoulders. You can’t, you know, and we haven’t processed really what happened. We just come home, and we had people coming to the door saying, oh, right, tell me what happened then. Oh, why haven’t I seen you? Yeah. And you just think, you know, how do you not know? And how can I start to explain what’s happened to you, in a kind of half an hour appointment, and it just didn’t feel helpful. And it would have been really nice if someone had come to the door and said, oh, Honey, you know, I’ve read your notes. I’m so sorry about what happened. What can I do to help you? What can I answer for you? You know, that would have been so much better for me rather than going over and over every time, kind of being retraumatised, every time and getting upset and having to go over it again and again. And yeah, my mental health really, really suffered during those first few months.
You know, I was absolutely elated to bring her home. Obviously, I was so, so happy to bring her home, you know, have a baby at home. I was over the moon, but I was just terrified, you know, I was so, so hyper vigilant. I was watching her all the time. I was making sure she was breathing all the time, like I’d wake up in the night sweating because I hadn’t checked her in 5 minutes to see if she was breathing.
You know, it was just I was having constant nightmares. I was having all these flashbacks. It would take me back to, something would remind me, or I would just be having this daydream and then all of a sudden, I’d get this horrible memory that would just kind of come straight at me and it would be kind of really shocking.
And I didn’t know how to kind of get myself back into the real world. It was like it was really happening right there and then. And yeah, I was just, my mental health just went straight down, and she was born in October, and by the Christmas I was really, really low. I just, I couldn’t, I felt like I couldn’t, you know, get through the next day, get through the next day. It just felt like too much of an effort. I thought it was really overwhelming.
Do you think that was a turning point where you said she was born in October and then, you know, Christmas was your lowest. Was there. Looking back now, was there a moment where you know, the support that you may have found or something happened where you kind of felt that, you know, this sort of that downward spiral stopping and you kind of felt maybe a little bit more, this is this is okay, I am getting there. Was there a moment like that that happened for you?
Not in that period, no, but I do feel like if the midwife or the health minister said, you know, yes, we’re checking the baby’s okay. But Mum, how are you feeling? You know, how was it for you? Are you okay? You get enough sleep, you know, it just wasn’t. It was all Sophie focus, which obviously is of paramount importance. But you know.
Just to jump in how is Sophie now?
Sophie is, so she’s three and a half and she does live with cerebral palsy, but she’s doing amazingly well. So, thank you for asking. The happy, troublesome toddler. Oh, she’s so cheeky. So, I think that people, you know, people listening would have, you know, kind of, you know, this hugely traumatic and intense and terrifying experience, it’s lovely to know that Sophie is well now. And equally as important, this girl right here, Honey, is so well as well. And I just, yeah, I’m so proud of you. And you can go more to where you got help and support because it is a lot of work, isn’t it? It is. And we talk we talk a lot about this that you are, and I and I wrote down because we really talk about this as affecting the way you parent.
But if you look back like you had that labour, then you didn’t get to see her. Then she stopped breathing in the NICU, then you had six days without a diagnosis and then you went home with her with such a high level of care and just saying that, you know, it’s just words. But you physically felt that in your body. You went home and you had this baby to care for. You went through all of that, and you noticed it affecting your mental health because you were, you just wanted to make sure she was okay all the time. And you said you got to about December. Was that when you went for help or was it after that?
So, after that I was at a routine appointment, because obviously we had loads of appointments due to her condition. And in one of the meetings, I just broke down. I got so upset I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. And this wonderful consultant said, oh, are you, you know, are you struggling? because there’s specialist help for this. You know, people who’ve been through similar things to you, there’s actual specialists that will, you know, you can talk to.
And I just thought, wow, that’s amazing. Yes, please. You know, please, please, can I talk to somebody, and I was referred to the perinatal mental health team. And honestly, you know, I owe my life to them. The support and the therapy that I received from them was incredible. So, there are services out there, it’s just knowing about them, because I’ve been previously to my GP and I’d said at the six-week check, you know, I wasn’t sleeping, etc., etc. and you know, he didn’t tell me about any services, he didn’t know anything about them.
When I did go back to him, you know, months later I said, oh, I’m actually, you know, getting therapy from the perinatal mental health team and he didn’t know about them. So, it’s a case of, you know, knowing what services are out there. And it’s an incredible service. I was I was diagnosed with PTSD; post-traumatic stress disorder and I got help I needed.
So, I do feel really, really lucky, really lucky because I know that that’s not the case for everyone. I think that Honey, I think that’s an amazing, you know, an amazing sentiment. And again, I think we spoke about this on the last podcast is that all of the fantastic women that we are speaking to always caveat it with, I am so lucky, and I think that is an amazing place to get to.
After everything that you’ve been through the trauma and the work that you’ve done to get yourself better, you can still say, I am so lucky because there are other people that couldn’t do this or didn’t have that. And I think that’s, you know, testament to you and the strength of your character and how you’ve worked to, you know, to get yourself feeling okay.
I think that’s amazing. And I think that you should definitely recognise that is, you know, in part of your journey. And I just I guess, you know, you’ve as Chelsea said, you’ve come so far, and you’ve done so much and now you are working to help other women and families in the same situation. But I often other things that we talk about in terms of birth trauma and things that happen during sort of that really intense period of the and the triggers that might take you back, unexpected and expected and I just wonder if, you know, if you could explain maybe what those, if any, have happened for you and how, you know, how you work again with what you’ve learned from the perinatal mental team to support you when those happen? Yeah, absolutely, so I had ten months of intensive therapy from perinatal mental health team, so I had weekly and sometimes twice weekly therapy for ten months until my daughter turned one, which was when they discharged.
But actually, that’s changed to two years now, which is incredible. And, you know, I started doing research. I started thinking, you know, once I started to feel a bit better and I was you know, I remember my therapist saying, look, your brain doesn’t know how to process trauma. Trauma like this. You know, your brain, it’s like this memory doesn’t know where to be put in your brain.
So, I remember her saying, if you had a curry for dinner, your brain then puts it into a nice little slot. And if somebody asks you, oh, what did you have for dinner last night, you can just pull out that filing cabinet and say, Oh, I had a curry last night. If you have a memory where it’s so hard to process and your brain doesn’t know where to put it, then it just kind of comes out whenever it feels like it because your brain hasn’t put it in a compartment. And that really helped because I thought, actually it’s not my fault. None of the way I’m feeling is my fault. This has just happened, and this is how my brain’s processing it. And, you know, all of a sudden, I wasn’t the only one. There were loads of people going through this and, you know, it’s something ridiculous like 30,000 women a year get diagnosed with PTSD. And I just find that staggering. Like, why don’t we talk about this? Where is this in the Headline News? Where is this? You know, all the classes that you might do leading up to birth, You know, nothing’s mentioned about, you know, what, if something does go wrong or what if your labour doesn’t go as planned?
What if, you know, you do feel depressed afterwards? You know, where is that kind of signposting? Where is the information? And, you know, there’s such a stigma around, kind of, around mental health when you’re a mum, you know, you see these kind of pictures and advertisements of, oh, you know, having a baby is the most wonderful thing in the world.
And you see these kind of perfect pictures. And if you’re not feeling that way, then you’re going to be ashamed to talk about it. You’re going to feel guilty, are going to feel like there’s something wrong with you. You know, I’d look at the women in the park and think why can’t I feel really happy like them, why do I feel like this?
You know, I’m a bad mum. I shouldn’t be a mum. I shouldn’t, you know, should, should, should. And it’s really shocking that once you find out how prevalent this is, you know, and how, you know, being a new mum or a first-time mum, you know, is such a breeding ground for mental health problems.
Why are we not talking about it? And that was really frustrating for me. So, I just wanted to kind of like raise awareness really. I wanted to share my story, as hard as it is sharing it, I wanted people to know that like, this can happen and also there is actually treatment for it and it’s very, very common.
So yeah, I got involved with some charities. I got involved with my local expert by experience group, which is women who have been through mental health problems during the perinatal period. And we started, you know, we tried to raise awareness, promote the service, and from there really it just kind of snowballed and it kind of became this kind of mission and I became a bit perinatal obsessed.
I just wanted something to change, something to do and to make something better somehow. And as you know, Sophie’s three and a half, it’s been a really long and tough journey, but I’m in a really good place now, and I’m working for a specialist service in the NHS that looks after women who have had trauma and loss and they have severe fear of birth and pregnancy.
So, it’s a really kind of specialised service and I feel really grateful to be a part of it. And it’s a real passion for me. So, I do feel like I’m in a really good place. And yes, of course they do. You are. You are. You are in such a good place, and you are helping women. And I said to the services, they’d be grateful to have you.
Yeah. I think that, you know, the way that you have spoken about everything that happened is, is genuinely inspirational. And I think that, you know, that the fact that you say that why aren’t we talking about this? Why isn’t it talked about. And that’s exactly why you said yes to talking to us today about it because, you know, Chelsea and I both know through work and personal experiences that we’ve had these conversations as well.
Why did no one tell me this? or why do I feel ashamed or embarrassed to say how I’m feeling? or to say why, you know, exactly as you said, I don’t look at like those glossy pictures with a cup of tea in one hand, the laundry folded and a bouncing baby on my knee.
You know that’s not the normal and the normal should be talked about, and what the realities are. And so, I think the fact that you’re doing that now and helping so many women is incredible. And I wonder if there’s anything you or Chelsea would just sort of like to reflect on and finish on for the last part for maybe someone that is listening or that has been through something similar has had birth trauma or knows someone and wants to know sort of the first steps of getting support and where they can go to do that.
I’ll definitely let Honey come in there because it’s her own experience and I think you’re best placed to say where to get support. But I will bring you back again, me writing down notes because I wish I could take everything you say and carry it around with me. But you said that, and this was a big part of my recovery journey, getting help separates some of the worst symptoms from who you are. And I think that’s so important because it’s so easy to just sit there and think, this is just who I am. I can’t be like other people. And you almost think you were a bad mom. But getting help allows you that time and that space and something for yourself to be able to sit there and have someone else say No, your body and your behaviours are from this, this and this. And it was, all that it really came down to was you just wanted to protect her, and you just wanted to be that best mom. But you were battling with the experience with everything that came with it and your expectations. So, I think my reflection on that is everyone’s worth going for support.
And that transformation it can give new parents because it really reassures them that they are normal, they are okay. They just need someone else to stand in front of them and really show them that mirror and say, you know, you really are a great parent, and this isn’t who you are. You’re, you know, if that makes sense.
But that’s really what I took from those last words you said, Honey. That makes perfect sense Chelsea. 100%. I was kind of nodding and felt teary eyed at all of that. Yeah, absolutely. And I would say the best thing that I learned was to talk, whether that be to yourself, to your partner, to your friend, to your sister, to groups, support groups.
That’s the best thing I could have done, because otherwise you hold that stigma, you hold that shame, you hold that guilt. And that’s so unhealthy. You know, let’s talk about, you know, the injuries we sustained. Let’s talk about what it feels like as a woman to have had a baby. And, you know, your body looks different. You feel different, you have a different identity.
Just having a baby in itself is such a life changing thing for anybody. You know, regardless of if something goes wrong or you go through a birth trauma or similar, you know, it’s such a life changing thing and we just don’t talk about how hard it is. We don’t talk about, you know, oh, this happened. And, you know, I wet myself, or you know, all these little things.
You know, we just don’t talk about it. And I just wish we could just be a lot more open. Yeah. You know, it would just be so helpful if instead of kind of comparing each other, we could just chat to each other and just be completely open and honest. Because then you build a connection. And that’s how I built a connection with these incredible women in this group know we’ve all been through something horrible, and we’ve come out the other end and we can talk about it and it’s normal and there’s no judgment and there’s no shame.
It’s just I think the worst thing in the world for me was just feeling completely and utterly alone. I was so isolated. I thought I was the only one, and therefore I couldn’t talk about it. And actually, I think from the total opposite where you constantly talking about it and just a couple of kind of reflections and some support, I just really want to mention the Birth Trauma Association.
They’ve got a fantastic website, they’ve got help on hand, they’ve got volunteers, they have support groups online and you know, I can’t sing their praises enough, also Make Birth Better, I’m a champion for them now and they have a brilliant, again, a brilliant website with all sorts of support. And I joined a specific NICU support group talking to other mums.
Some of their mums were still on the NICU some had just been sent home, some had been, kind of years later and also Bliss Baby Charity. You know, there are services out there. If you join some of these groups, I know it can be daunting, I know it can be scary, but if you just join, turn your camera off. Don’t say anything. The more you do it, the more confident you’ll get. You’ll just hear that these are just normal humans, you know? And they’ve been through something and you’re just here to talk about it. Trust me, it helps massively. And that was a really, really, really big part of my recovery.
Well, I feel like, you know, nothing more to add there. So impressive. It’s just amazing and such great support that you’ve all heard people. And yeah, I just feel incredibly lucky that I know you and that you’re doing the work you are now because it’s going to be so helpful and you know, people listening to this podcast might just go start those conversations because they hear us talking about it.
I hope so. And you know, it will change who you are. It will change the way you parent. It will change the way you look at life, you know, and that’s okay because this experience has shaped you. If you can talk about it and you can recover, then you know what could be better? You’ve had this experience, but actually you can be a better parent for it and a better person for it.
So, yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much, Honey. That was, thank you for, as I said, being so brave and so honest and so inspirational with everything that you have shared with us today and all of the organisations that you mentioned we will link them to this podcast so that anybody listening can find them, look them up and access the help and support that they offer.
So, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.