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Guest Blog by Mrs Yellow
Someone I really admire came out about their PND on Facebook the other day and it really threw me. (And I can’t not mention the amazing Adele which has happened since writing this.)
Not because it’s still taboo (it is) or I think she should keep the darkness from the positive PR machine that is social media (I don’t) but because if you asked me who had it, she would be on the absolute bottom of my list. She is a great character and is super hot and happy and funny on social media even with a small baby in tow. It just surprised me.
With certain sleep deprivation being about 20 weeks away, I have started considering what things would cause me to crack when my first was born. It wouldn’t always be directly caused by a crying or puking baby. Though, that was the cause of the tiredness and paranoia, it would often be something completely unrelated and usually harmless that would cause my bloodshot eyes to fill with tears and a barely audible nasal whine to start at the back of my throat. To help me revisit here are two of my finest postnatal moments:
The Cursed Teaspoon
*Content note: Read the following with the light on as it is very frightening….
This actually happened while my partner was still on paternity leave, so my son would have only been a few days old. I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea as we needed something to dunk all of the millions of biscuits we had been given and therefore decided to live on into. I opened the cutlery drawer only to be confronted with the most unsettling of horrors – a teaspoon I didn’t recognise. There it was, nestled among all my matching teaspoons like a seedy interloper. My blood ran cold. Where had it come from? It wasn’t there before. I called for Shaun, my voice starting to tremble. I asked if he knew where it came from. I pointed at it, unable to bring myself to touch it. He didn’t know. I started to cry. The fact he wasn’t disturbed by this caused me to cry harder. “But how did it get here? Why is it here?”, I kept repeating, until I was lead back to the sofa and had a blanket placed around my shoulders. Shaun finished making the tea and I ate biscuits to calm my nerves. To this day I can only assume it was left there by an evil wizard.
Hurricane Guinea Pig
I was having a bad day. A standard bad day for most, but for someone like me? Yikes. I had forgotten to pay my mobile phone bill that month (probably because I had just had a baby and forgot I was still expected to do normal things as well as keep a small, incontinent human alive) and was unable to pay it because Orange froze my online account. For not paying my bill. Blocking all access to pay. Yes, I thought that was a stroke of genius on their part too. In addition to this my son decided to have an I am not going to sleep or stop crying once day that day, unless I held him and remained in constant motion walking around the house not even stopping to so much as lean against a wall for 5 seconds. Oh, those hazy days!
During lap 659 of my house a thunder storm started to gather. On my way past the dining room window I looked into the back garden. At that moment a huge gust of wind, possibly a small tornado hit the garden flipping over the guinea pig hutch. This seemed to happen in slow motion, the hutch spinning over mid air, an explosion of sawdust and pellets forming a mushroom cloud over the garden. Starsky, the older of the two piggys was thrown clear of the hutch and was rolling across the garden. Mr Piggles who was in the sleeping quarters at the moment this unspeakable natural disaster struck was no where to be seen. I screamed. Quickly I placed my now sleeping baby into his pram, but having the nerve to put him on a flat, motionless surface caused him to instantly wake and cry. Thinking on my feet I ran into the garden. By this point torrential rain had started falling. I picked up Starsky. I tried to lift the hutch but it was too heavy. I opened the door of the hutch and managed to scoop out Mr Piggles. They both kept wiggling and I dropped Starsky. I had no choice but to use my dress as some kind of make shift guinea pig carrying device and lifting up my skirt to turn it into a kangaroo pouch I dropped them in. Unfortunately it had previously boiling hot that day so I had bare legs and had to display my pants to anyone who happened to be looking into my garden at that time (I find it easy to comfort myself that no one was looking into my garden then). Throwing my dignity aside I waddled into the house, undies on display with rescued guinea pigs rummaging around in sundress pouch to be greeted by baby screams and I put them in their travel box. In my trauma and desperation I remembered I had no phone so had to send my partner a lengthy and highly distressed Facebook message insisting that he must come home immediately as the apocalypse was starting in our small terraced house and if he didn’t get here soon we would be overrun with locusts and that Misty our cat was sitting on the travel box to intimidate the piggys. He told me that I needed to calm down and that his boss was not going to let him leave early because the cat is a bastard and the guinea pig hutch had blown over. That’s what you get if you work somewhere without good Union representation I suppose.
Pregnancy has started to cause small warning signs of this behaviour to return. Lately I am convinced there is a spider hiding in my oven gloves making me frightened to put them on. Also thanks to my son, now a toddler, I almost lost it yesterday when he was eating a hot cross bun and decided to individually remove each raisin, had to hold the raisin up saying “It’s a raisin mummy, mummy it’s a raisin”, and wouldn’t eat the raisin until I had acknowledged the raisin was indeed a raisin. This on repeat until all raisins had been removed, acknowledged and finally eaten from both halves of the hot cross bun. That is the last time I buy the extra fruit variety.
The minutes ticked by like hours, one……………two……………..three. I turned the little white stick over in my hand and there it was; the tiny blue cross which signaled the end of our wait. Everything we’d ever wanted was coming our way at long last – only 9 little months to hang on and our dreams of becoming parents would finally be realised.
It hadn’t been easy. It had taken longer than we’d expected and we’d had to hurdle obstacles that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. The reality of infertility was drastically different to how I had imagined it might be, or perhaps that was because we hadn’t given much thought to the possibility. Read More
Back in 2011 I fell pregnant. It was a wonderful feeling. I couldn’t be happier. It was everything I had always wanted and was so excited to tell everyone that I was going to have a baby before the year was out! The pregnancy was great too; only slight morning sickness with everything else going to plan. Then, at 29 weeks and 1 day, I asked my husband if he could remember me making any comments about the baby moving. I tried not to panic. I rested and make a conscience thought to feel for movements. A kick, a tickle, a cough. An hour later and still nothing.
So we went for a walk. Had some fresh orange juice. Then ended up at my mother-in-laws. Another few hours and panic started to set in. I called the hospital and went in. Straight on to the foetal monitor. The happy little thump thump thump sound made us all physically relax. But it wasn’t enough for the hospital. They wanted a scan. The scan confirmed their fears. There was no blood flowing in the cord. My baby was dying and killing me at the same time.
From this moment on, I’m fuzzy. All I can really remember is that I was hit in the leg with steroids and told that an ambulance would be coming to take me to another hospital as there weren’t the facilities for us there. We got the full blues and twos treatment down the m6 only to be told that they were sorry, but there simply isn’t the time for an epidural to set in and I needed a general. Read More
While I do believe that we are making strides in greater public awareness of perinatal mental ill-health, this is a recent development and, unfortunately, as a result, people sometimes assume that postnatal depression (or anxiety or psychosis) is a new phenomenon. A distressing side effect of this is that people can blame the sufferer, as if everyone was fine after having a baby up until the 1990s and so any problems must be self-inflicted, a result of modern lifestyles or weak character.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Postnatal mental illness has always been around, even though no one necessarily understood it. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about the subject around the fourth century BC, proposing that lochial discharge from the uterus could travel to the brain, causing agitation which he termed ‘puerperal fever’. (See Perinatal Mental Health: A Guide for Health Professionals and Users, by Jane Hanley) He is often assumed to be talking about septicaemia or infection, but this could equally be a psychiatric disturbance. Speculative study of postnatal mental ill health continued over the centuries. The best summary I have found is in ‘Sadness and Support.‘ Read More
What will be done to improve the consistency of pre and postnatal mental health care throughout the UK?
CONSERVATIVE (The Rt Hon Grant Shapps) –
There certainly is too much variation in the system at the moment but the problem is we don’t have enough information about who is doing a good job and who isn’t. That is why we have asked the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University to develop a perinatal mental health outcome indicator for the NHS. This will be used to ensure we know how well hospitals are performing. This information can then be used to share best practice and learning and improve consistency throughout the country.
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT (Norman Lamb) –
We want to make sure that wherever you are in the country, pregnant women and new mothers can get the specialist mental health support they need to keep them and their families safe and well. That’s why the additional £250m we have pledged over the next 5 years will be targeted at improving and expanding services, spreading good practice, improving staff training, and ending the postcode lottery that mothers currently face.
GREEN PARTY (Jillian Creasy) –
The Green Party would set national standards of care to make sure that no part of the country is left behind, but we would let local areas to work out the best way of achieving them, because we believe that health professionals are best placed to determine how they should work. Staff in the health service are tired of constant reorganisation which does not always listen to them as experts. Our substantial investments in mental health will make sure that it catches up with physical health in terms of status and funding by the end of the next five-year Parliament. We say five years because it will take time to train all the new staff which are needed. The Green Party is also completely opposed to the introduction of market mechanisms and privatisation into our healthcare services, which put service standards at risk and could mean the introduction of charges for more NHS services, as well as wasting money that could be spent on helping patients. We will fight for a fully publicly funded, publicly managed NHS, free at the point of use for all.
TUSC (Hannah Sell) –
There are nationwide inconsistencies in perinatal care and our approach would involve bringing all services up the standard of the best perinatal services in the country. We would support services to seek feedback from families of what they found helpful and supportive and assist services to act on the findings. Commissioners in areas where services are identified as lacking would have increased powers to draw on the necessary funding to improve things. Funding would be provided for professionals from across the country to meet in health conferences to have access to the latest research findings to further improve on existing perinatal services and to share best practice.
PLAID CYMRU (Heledd Brooks-Jones) –
Integrating health and social care in Wales would ensure consistency and cut bureaucracy across the board.
SNP (Shona Robison) –
Health is a devolved issue in Scotland and local NHS boards are responsible for pre and postnatal care, including the mental health of mothers. The SNP Scottish government is committed to improving mental health in Scotland. That’s why £15 million is being invested in an Innovation Fund to look at better ways to deliver services and, as part of our proposals for higher health spending, will seek to increase this investment to £100 million over the next 5 years.
NHS Scotland keeps under review the range of community and specialist services that it delivers to meet the needs of women experiencing perinatal mental illness. The aim is to identify quickly those at risk and ensure access to appropriate and timely care, treatment and support.
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