The Yoga Mama Supporter – Simone

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I absolutely loved Simone Goldstein’s specialist post natal classes when I went.

Simone, who teaches at Air Yoga Studio in South Woodford, was at the time doing a stint for Redbridge Council so we got her expertise at local value. What was extraordinary about her teaching was not just her positive spirit and encouragement combined with excellent knowledge, it was the fact that she was a post natal Mama herself. Her daughter was only 14 months at the time. So when Simone talked about the post partum exertions on the body or the feelings of lack of sleep, she could fully relate.

On top of this, I hope she won’t mind me saying, I was also amazed by her mental resilience.  Simone revealed in class one day that she was a single parent. So she was supporting other Mamas and managing her new and often crazy baby life, without a partner to back her up at home. Admirable stuff.

Simone is a Yoga, Pre and Postnatal Yoga, ITEC Yoga Teacher Training Lecturer, undergoing a degree in Health Science. I asked her for a few words on how she manages it.

1. Before getting involved in Yoga I was….

Dancing, dancing, dancing. My sporting life prior to Yoga was all about my first love- dance. From ballet, tap, modern, jazz, contemporary to other aspects of performing arts such as singing, acting, music etc. 

As the years go by I learn that dancing is meditative movement (if you allow it to be) just the same as yoga. So really, I think I’d been practising yoga all along. 

2. I started teaching yoga because….

It was a really opportunistic event during a catalytic period of change in my life that turned out to be some kind of intervention I think. 

Although I was well practised, upon reflection my Yoga journey didn’t start until I started teaching others. I taught them, they taught me, and we evolved together. 

I was always inclined towards teaching and helping people. Moving (rather than being static) is second nature to me so it makes total sense that teaching yoga has always felt as natural as walking for me. 

3. My passion for teaching pregnant and postnatal women comes from….

My own experience as a mother. Pregnancy, as well as being the most amazing experience can also be a bit of a bumpy ride too (for many mummies physically, emotionally and in other ways personal to the individual). I feel privileged to assist mummies and their bumps along the way. 

Postnatal Yoga is close to my heart for various reasons. 

I was back to teaching Yoga 7/8 weeks after my daughter was born and without my personal postnatal yoga practice I just wouldn’t have physically been able. 

I see the demand and speed expected for new mummies to get back on their feet in the Western world as a problem but while this is the way we live I love to help women along with the process, becoming stronger in mind-body and recuperating after the craziness or pregnancy and giving birth. 

10 months after my baby was born I was also newly single (a “single parent”) and about to start going through a divorce…something most of my students (and some colleagues!) were unaware of at the time. 

Postnatal Yoga was one of the factors, along with many other factors (the support of my family etc) helped get me through that period of time. 

4. Being a Mum and a Yoga teacher is good for me because… 

I always go to work a little frazzled from rushing around after my little one and return back from work de-stressed, grounded and refreshed. There are not many jobs you can say that about!!

5. Being a mum and a yoga teacher is challenging because…

I miss her bedtime if I teach in the evening. That makes me a sad mummy. 

The practicality is it is a fluctuating job and you need to be on your toes as there are regular changes to your diary and routine. 

6.  The most important thing to me in life is 

Happiness and family. 

My mum tells me that balance is the key to life & happiness and while I’m not there quite yet, the more I learn, the more I experience, the more her words ring true to me. 

My love for Biochemistry, Yoga, Health, my family, my friends and my greatest teacher- my three year old daughter, all seem to lead me towards balance and individuality being the path to happiness. 

#MamaMindChat

Join us for a Twitter chat this Wednesday 26 July 8pm on Mama’s minds, mental health, self care and everything that we can do about it. I’m delighted to say it’s mercifully not about me wittering on, but a chance to get the brilliant advice of two phenomenal expert Mamas, both passionate about reaching out and helping mothers and their wellbeing;

Dr Rebecca Moore

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Dr Rebecca Moore is a consultant in the Perinatal service in Tower Hamlets, East London. Perinatal means during and after pregnancy, and that’s the role of her team – to supporting women’s emotional health through this time.

She has worked for the Trust for over 8 years now and is really passionate about providing the highest quality care for women through their pregnancy and in the first year of motherhood. This may be with new or pre-existing mental health diagnoses.

As a mum herself Dr Rebecca hopes this means she can relate to, and understand the huge changes that happen when a woman becomes a parent, both as a doctor and as a mum. She still remembers vividly her own birth experiences, having two colicky babies who cried a lot and didn’t sleep, the anxiety she felt after having her first child, about the responsibility of being a mum, and the change in life. Dr Rebecca is also a Winston Churchill Fellow 2017 and 70/30 Ambassador.

@dr_bjm 

Suzy Reading

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Suzy Reading

Suzy is a mother of two, a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, and Health Coach. She specialises in maternal wellbeing, helping mums manage their emotions, energetic bank balance and the unique stresses of motherhood.

It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges.

Suzy is a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine and the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics. She figure skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ is due out in December

@SuzyReading 

#MamaMindChat is at Wednesday 26th July 8pm UK time

Please do send me any questions you’d love to ask either here, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and if you’re not comfortable publicly posting, feel free to message privately on any of those platforms or mamasmindmatters@gmail.com.

Looking forward to hearing from you Mama,

X.

 

Inside the Perinatal Mental Health Unit At The East London Foundation Trust

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One of the problems with perinatal mental health illness is that people are extremely frightened by what’s to come if they speak out.

In East London, if after reaching out, you are considered a mother that needs more structured help than available through a GP or local services, you may be referred to Dr Rebecca Moore’s Mental Health team at the Mile End Hospital East London Foundation Trust. And for that to happen can feel scary, to have a label, and a place and a thing to go to.  

And here’s the good news, MamasMindMatters went to check it out and it’s not scary at all. 

“We take referrals from GPs, Midwives, Children’s Social Care and Psychiatrists. We have around 600 referrals per year and we work with around 85% of that number.” Dr Rebecca explains. “Currently I am looking after 170 women!” So no need to feel unusual, or alone.

In the backstreets

And should you get sent to the Perinatal Mental Health unit At The East London Foundation you’ll find it very much like The Toddler and I did when we went to find out what it was like inside.

Firstly it’s tucked away on the backstreets of Mile End. Inside it’s a long long walk to Burdett House, where the service is located, but some kindly staff show me the way and I pass a nice mural, so overall it doesn’t feel cold and clinical.

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We arrive and of course the lift is broken. A kindly man helps lifts the buggy up very windy stairs, and I pray, that now his back isn’t broken.

The reception

The reception area is warm and welcoming. It still looks like a clinical waiting room, there’s the standard issue NHS dark blue seating, but there are a few homely touches here that make a difference. “We’ve worked really hard on this” Dr Rebecca tells me.

For a start there’s a beautiful well stocked child’s kitchen which The Toddler loves. He immediately busies himself playing with it. I find out later Dr Rebecca sourced it from a friend and had it cabbed across London. “It makes a difference to the mothers if the children are comfortable.” Which is true because even I feel happier that he’s playing merrily, and I haven’t even come for an appointment.

East London has a diverse range of patients; from the very comfortably well off City workers to those just about surviving in Social Housing, with pretty much every strand of society in between.  And personally that’s one of the reasons I love the area. In the time I’m waiting there, judging by the patients it’s clear that perinatal illness can affect people from all kinds of backgrounds.

 

Along with all the familiar ‘breastfeeding welcome here’ signs, there is one placed on a screen, again sourced by a Dr Rebecca and team itself. “We found that many of the Bangladeshi women that come here, felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in public. So we got this in for £40 so they can do it more privately.”  

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I’m also impressed by the comprehensive notice board and feedback box which enthusiastically has written on it “Please turn to be amazed!” which I love, because it proves humans are running the show. 

The consultation room

Inside the consultation room itself there are more toys. There are books for visiting students, and even mums who may want more knowledge about their pregnant bodies. I get shown a pristine copy of ‘Bump It Up’, Professor Greg Whyte’s book with a Foreword from Davina McCall, so it’s clear the reading list is very contemporary.

But the books that Dr Rebecca was particularly keen to show me are the ones which fulfil the criteria of gold standard care, books for children of mothers with perinatal mental health problems. “A lot of them were hard to find here so we had to import in from America.” I’m definitely suitably impressed this time.

The consultation room is very small, but also feels unthreatening because of the toys and books. Even with myself, The Toddler, Dr. Rebecca and a medical student, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic.  It’s been, I’m relieved to say, a reassuring visit. As I go to leave, I look up and see a bunch of boxes labelled in marker pen with things like ‘Sleeping Bags, White Babygros’. What’s that? I ask Dr. Rebecca. 

“A lot of the mums we work with have no recourse to public funds or are existing on very low incomes, so we make up bundles of washed clothes to give to them. I started it myself, and asked friends or ex service users to donate.”

I love the idea of Mamas Supporting Mamas, and this hits all of these things.

“A good perinatal unit will care about you, how you feel, and make you feel comfortable, that means you can relax a little and also be able to understand the nature of your personal conversation with the doctor.“ says Dr. Rebecca. Amen to that. 

Other forms of Mama help

Although there’s been recent cutbacks, there are lots of places that can help mothers struggling even if they wouldn’t qualify for the perinatal service. 

“Local Children Centres have great groups and Family Support Workers, who see women at home and help with parenting skills, and social networks, things like that.

“There’s the Community Parents Project by Island House, who match with a peer woman locally who offers weekly support for up to two years. 

“There’s also access to Psychological therapies or IAPT, Primary Care Psychology COMPASS in Tower Hamlets offer therapy and couple therapy.” .

“And then there’s Breastfeeding support groups/cafes, and lots of local gyms/centres offering mum and baby massage, swimming, yoga, zumba and even the local Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green, which offers mindfulness and meditation.”

Hopefully there will be at least some similar resources wherever you are. So if you are a Mama struggling, know that you’re not alone, and that there are lots of resources out there to help.

Now, finally, I know unfortunately access to even basic perinatal care is sadly patchy across the country . But we should know what a top standard one is and why we should be lobbying for it to be everywhere.
To find out more about signs and symptoms of perinatal mental health and what happens in treatment see this.

 

Twitter #PNDHour is Wednesdays 8-9pm

#BirthTraumaChat is Mondays 8-9pm.

Guest Post : Rowan’s Story

This is the story of Rowan, a friend of mine, and her experience of motherhood.

I am flattered, honoured and amazed that she wrote this for Mama’s Mind Matters, and she’s done it simply because she also feels passionate about sharing, and empowering Mamas’ Minds and Health. It is a tale again about how we smile and pretend things are better than they are, when inside our minds our going awry, sometimes in the most unconventional of circumstances. Over to Rowan:

The Things we Hide

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This is a story about the things parents hide from each other. It’s about how we don’t let ourselves be unhappy or confused by parenting and how in the midst of caring for our kids, we can forget to care for ourselves or let others care for us.  

My first pregnancy was heaven. Easy. There was nothing I didn’t love about it. So in love was I with the unborn girl that even labour was exciting. My second… not so much. We had taken six years to conceive our daughter; four years on and having tried and tried again, we had given up on having a second. With our daughter in school, I had just started a new job and we were settled on our single-child family. Then, the day after I turned 39, there were two lines on a stick telling me that, after all, everything was about to change. It was an extremely strange sensation: happiness but slight irritation at the disruption that would ensue. Therein was the first pang of guilt – that I wasn’t happy enough at my happy news, that I should, especially at my age, be more grateful.

The Heartbreak Room

The 12-week scan. As we watched the sonographer locate and measure, there was much joy at seeing the froggy legs, the ginormous head, the oversize belly. She arrived at the nuchal fold, the measurement at the back of the neck which, if over a certain amount, indicates several potential ‘abnormalities’. She went quiet and wouldn’t say what she had found. This being a second child however, I could remember this fold indicated a high chance of Downs Syndrome, as well as some other things I couldn’t recall. I asked but the sonographer said nothing. We finished up and she took us into a small room, which we shall now call the Heartbreak Room.

The Heartbreak Room, for anyone unacquainted, is a small, grim, windowless space with three chairs and a table. Although I’ve only seen it at our local hospital, I feel sure it will exist in every Women’s Health centre across the land. On the table, there are always tissues. These are there because in the Heartbreak Room, everyone cries. It’s almost designed for tears, and if somehow one withstands the design, the lingering sense of other people’s distress will move anyone to weeping. By the time the Foetal Development midwife arrived – for we had immediately graduated to specialist care – I was a snivelling mess.

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The midwife explained the fold measurement, combined with my age, delivered a very high chance of three syndromes: Downs, Edward’s and Patau’s. The latter two children do not survive and we swiftly opted for further investigations to rule those out. The next few weeks saw those investigations, of blood tests and scans and wondering whether to find out definitively about the possible Downs via an amniocentesis. Once Edwards and Patau’s had been ruled out and we knew our boy – because by this time we also know we were having a boy – would be most likely Downs, we dismissed the need for an amnio. And so we carried on. We were happy with a Downs child.

How did we reach the point where we were so sure our kid was Downs? Well, first the nuchal fold, which gave us a chance of 1 in 2 (a high risk pregnancy is 1 in 150). Then a series of fortnightly scans revealed he had a patch of fluid next to his right heart ventricle; he had some fluid in his brain; he had an echogenic bowel. These are ‘soft markers’, indications of Downs that taken cumulatively deliver a conclusion of Downs in a foetus. Of course, because we hadn’t had the amnio, no-one would say definitively that he was a Downs kid. But, our extremely lovely midwife advised us to start making friends with other parents of Downs kids, we began to research groups in our area. We told our friends we were having a boy and he was Downs. I began to feel incredibly protective and proud of him just for surviving this far. He was our special boy.

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He arrived. I saw him and my heart flew away – this boy! He was big and hairy and perfect. The paediatrician was present for him at the birth, there because Downs kids are more likely to have heart and lung problems, took one look at him and said ‘he’s not Downs’ and left the room. I felt surprised and continued gazing nonetheless. It’s a blur, looking back, but I think I thought she must have been wrong.

We had an extended stay in hospital. There were tests and scans. He cried a lot. He had jaundice and wouldn’t feed properly, which turned out to be tongue-tie. The jaundice was fixed in hospital but the tongue-tie not, possibly because there’s an assumption Downs children will have trouble feeding. Feeding was excruciating. More tests indicated he might not be Downs, but might have a thing called Mosaic Downs, where instead of an additional chromosome, there is transposition between the chromosomal structures. Mosaic Downs results in learning difficulties but no physical characteristics. We went home with no conclusions.

 

Visitors came and commented on how he didn’t look Downs. We started to tell people, almost apologetically, that it could be he didn’t have the syndrome. People were pleased and started saying how good he was ‘normal’. I couldn’t bring myself to share their happiness and instead felt oddly sad. I missed the boy I had been expecting. I worried that somewhere, because statistically a Downs boy must have been born to someone else, our boy had been born to the wrong couple who wouldn’t love him and he would be unhappy and neglected and I should really be looking after that boy and not the one in front of me. I felt embarrassed, as if we’d fabricated something.

 

I made jokes about this to my Health Visitor. She asked me if I felt depressed and I laughingly said of course, turning it into something amusing and convincing her I was fine. But each day I would have to force myself to care for my son, while I was regularly furious with my husband and daughter. In hindsight it was very clearly PND, but should it be that easy to fool a Health Visitor? If she went away happy then maybe I should just buck my ideas up, right? After all, the kids were still clothed, fed, kept warm and safe. They were not neglected. But if there was any joy in our home, it was sporadic at best. We had been happy and at that point we weren’t.

 

This was the point at which I needed that care, needed to be persuaded to be looked after. I had an idea of something in my head that didn’t happen and I failed to cope. We expect so much from parents. Yet any act that reveals the neediness of parenting, from the shit and vomit and blood and bodily assault that is having a child to the exhaustion and the shit and vomit and tears and terror, everything that reveals a baby as the fearsome object that it both is and, of course, profoundly isn’t, is sent to a strange foreign land that looks terrible on Instagram. Instead of allowing for the messiness, we fragment ourselves to disallow disorder and impose control.

 

Two months after our son was born, we had a check-up. There was a letter stating ‘no chromosomal abnormalities’. So there it was. All the soft markers and the worry and the research and the everything – it all stood for nothing. Except of course it didn’t – we needed to cut ourselves a break for wanting so much to make life for our Downs boy as easy as possible. There too was the key. Another friend, whose brother has Downs, said to me that it’s terribly simple: the less needs a person has, the easier it is for them to make their way in this world. Our boy, our ‘normal’ boy, will find it easier than if he had been Downs and that alone is a good thing. Once that penny dropped, it felt easier. Gradually the guilt and the anger ebbed away. I still feel guilty for feeling them in the first place. But I got better, accepted my son and fell utterly in love with him.

 

He has the name we chose for our Downs boy, chosen because Downs children often have lisps and we wanted him to be able to pronounce it. They are, after all, the same person: the boy we have and the imagined boy that never was. I’m not supposed to miss him but I always will, just as I will always love the boy I have. And that, in its profound messiness, is just fine.

Yoga Mama

I have been going to Rosalyn Griffith’s classes in East London for a few years now, since I had my daughter. Ros teaches Yoga and Pilates, and for a time I did both sessions back to back in one evening. Non Mama types were impressed. The Mamas knew it was ingenious way to get out of the bedtime routine.

Anyway Ros is warm and generous, and has a sense of humour.  With two girls almost ready to fly the nest, she has a fair bit of Mama and life experience which I asked her to share in her own words.

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1. I became a Yoga Teacher because…. 

I had fallen in love with Yoga! AND … how I felt after class; the wellbeing in my body; the sense of emotional release through conscious breathing; as well as the tradition and history of Yoga.

Attending my first yoga class was down to a recommendation by my osteopath – I’d torn some disk in my spine after a nasty fall down some stairs at my boyfriend’s. Following marriage, first daughter born and a move to East London, I found a regular weekly session to join, and my passion continued to grow from there. Four years later, my teacher said “Ros, you should seriously think about Teacher Training” – and I did!

2. The best thing about my job is

The People I meet!

Prior to teaching Yoga and Pilates, I worked in Sales and Marketing, so I’ve always been keen on Communication. While we now live in an ever-growing Technical Digital Environment, getting down to the mat and motivating my clients to Get back in touch with their bodyminds, through movement and mindfulness, is such an honour.

People find an ability to Open UP to me – and its a privilege for me to know how regular Yoga (or Pilates) really DOES make a difference.

Every day, I am sharing my passion, and to keep abreast of new ideas, I can think of nothing more enjoyable than Reading my Yoga books, Learning a new approach to a posture, maintaining my Anatomy knowledge, and generally increasing my skills base.

Obsession ?? What Obsession ?

3. Being a mother and a yoga teacher is great because 

When the girls were younger, I could teach classes that fit in around their school day and their activities. I actually do pride myself on the fact that I put the parenting first and managed to be at the school gates mostly every day at 3pm. As their independence grew, then my teaching commitments increased.

YES – I have taken them to classes and asked them to sit at the back when they were unwell.

YES – I have rushed dinnertime and practically run out the door, to teach an evening session, and I have been lucky! My supportive husband has looked after our daughters  while I was on Weekend Training courses and hurried home from work himself so that I could leave for evening teaching.

I’m also wondering if maybe I’ve been a better Mum due to being a “working mum” AND having Yoga in my own life. When I’ve felt overwhelmed and stressed-out, my practice has grounded me, especially ‘mindfulness’.  Teaching Yoga gives me a strong sense of purpose and focus. I’ve always been very active in mind and body, and the responsibility of my vocation has channelled that, in a good way, even when feeling ‘below par’.  When I’ve questioned my own abilities, as a mum, yoga philosophy has allowed me to regain perspective and know that I am Enough.

Me Seated Sukhasana

4. Being a mother and a yoga teacher is challenging because

It does mean SHIFTWORK !  That sounds idyllic, but at times, a Routine Day would be a blessing, especially when facing emotional highs and lows of parenting.

You’re often always “ON” – by that I mean – you are Ready To Deliver to your Class Group – which means, when you pop home after say, morning sessions, you know you do have to be ready to teach again, perhaps later on, so that time in between – well its not always “time off”…. perhaps there’s a Tesco Run, or a Wash to load, or homework to help out with.

You may miss out on that important evening conversation, when the family talk, and you are NOT there.  Sundays ARE sacred !

Teaching Yoga is a Business. If you are committed to offering your clients a high-quality service, as I am, then you really are “juggling balls” 5 to 6 days a week.

Of course, At first, it was part-time, occasional classes, beginning with the local Adult Education Centre.   Then, what becomes apparent, is that in the modern world, your self-employed status will only survive and be successful if you put more hours in to the Marketing Side of the business eg Websites, Social Media, Email communication, Posters, Banners, Flyers etc.

Managing TIME is key. And sometimes, that goes well . . . and sometimes not so well.

I have felt guilty when I have missed their evening school concerts, music performances and special occasions, due to my teaching commitments.

But – on the whole, I think I got the balance right most of the time.

Of course – the INCOME IS NOT GUARANTEED…. But again, I am fortunate. There are Two of us in a team, and as money does not rule my life, I am able to cope with the highs and lows.

5. My personal favourite yoga asana is 

That’s really SO DIFFICULT to answer – but I love Backbends and  heart openers so an expansive Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana) is great, as you are opening the hips too and with arms flying high to the sky, it’s so uplifting (especially as part of a Sun Salutation Flow)

AND I MUST ADD – “Savasana” the Relaxation Pose. The restorative benefits of conscious rest, 15-20 minutes just to BE still, restore and reconnect to yourself, mind-body-spirit– This is my “go-to” pose for download, and has kept me calm through many stormy emotional life-waves…

My top tips for helping mama #MamaStaySane; 

“EXERCISE” move your body regularly, whether through yoga, brisk park buggy walks, jogging, swimtime or gymtime!
And …. SING out loud to all your favourite songs from your past, dance to your Club Classics, Have a Laugh at yourself if you can!

You can find out more about Ros herself and see her timetable here. 

Why Mama’s Mind Matters

May your Coffee, pelvic floOr, iin (2)Mamas’ Mind really does Matter. There are a lot of statistics out there about why a mother’s damaged mental health and wellbeing translates to poor bonding and poor outcomes for children and the taxpayer too.

But I’ll tell you why I believe Mama’s Mind Matters.

I learnt the hard way that that an awful lot of Mamas have a difficult time, yet they keep their struggles quiet, and it affects their mental health and emotional wellbeing.  Maybe like yourself, when I became a mother to my baby girl L I expected it to be as gorgeous as the baby catalogues suggested it was. It wasn’t. The birth was what I’m told was a ‘reasonably typical first birth’ in that it was a slow progressing, back to back labour, baby in distress, almost born as an emergency caesarian and eventually delivered with a ventouse. We got her home. ‘The first three months will be hard’ said everyone, and they were.

Scratch and Cry, Cry and Scratch

Then as the colic finished, L got a very unusual and extreme case of eczema that left her entire tiny little body covered in pus, bleeding and with angry red skin, all of the time, without going away. The prescribed steroid creams worked for a while on her skin, but as soon as she had to stop them, the eczema sprang back, worse than before, as she cried and cried.

I know eczema is reasonably common in babies. But L’s wasn’t a little bit here and there, it was all consuming, her and me. The soul destroying part for me was that I just couldn’t resolve my own baby’s distress. Other mothers seemed able to comfort their children by just holding them. L just found a rough patch on my sleeves to rub against, scratching and crying. When Facebook friends’ updates would be jubilant celebrations of their baby sleeping through the night, I’d feel miserable, hopeless and unwilling to share that L never slept for more than 20 mins without waking, scratching, and crying. I also only slept for 20 minutes at a time. So I didn’t say anything on the outside. I quietly drove myself into a tight anxious spring, searching the internet, ready to pounce on any miracle solution – why was her eczema so severe? Why couldn’t I make her better? What sort of mother can’t comfort her child? I tried cutting food groups out of my diet for weeks for breastfeeding. Nothing worked. I kept a cheery face out and about in public, but inside I used to feel like I was failure of a mother.

At around 6 months L was hospitalised with a severe eczema infection. A paediatrician saw this was more than the standard case of eczema and had her blood tested. It turned out L was unusually allergic, with multiple, severe food allergies, so severe in fact, that she was reacting with eczema just through my breast milk. A prescription for a hypoallergenic formula and three weeks later, L had visibly improved.

(6 years later and L is still allergic to wheat, cow’s milk, eggs, seeds, nuts, peanuts and legumes, which includes peas, beans and lentils. Feeding her every day is still a bit of plague on our house and something I still need a better mama mindset for. But that’s probably all for another post. )

 

My Baby Had An Operation

However unfortunately, caught up with her eczema, everyone had missed that one of L’s leg’s was shorter than the other. At 18 months she had major surgery for Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH).

It’s hard to pretend you’re loving this motherhood lark when for 3 months you’re wheeling around a toddler in a plaster cast on half of their body. from waist to ankle. This time I didn’t bother with the cheery face. I let my sphincter off and the verbal diarrhoea flooded out. I began talking about what a hard thing this being a Mama just is. And something amazing happened. From all corners – the baby and mother groups, new and old mum friends, old family friends, friends of friends – was a resolute answer, everyone was having a hard time. No one was wholly loving this motherhood lark, in one way or many, whatever their circumstances, all Mamas were feeling mentally and emotionally sore. It’s just that it seemed unacceptable to say it out loud.

It got me thinking – if everyone I talk to feels like this, can PND (post natal depression) really only be in 10% of the population? If 90% of mothers don’t get it, and are therefore ‘okay’, how is it that so many Mamas are feeling their mental and emotional health take a downturn since becoming a parent?

Now I’m not a  Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist. But having done documentary research in my pre kids life, and with the view I was on to something of what they call ‘a Current Affairs issue’, I spoke to a woman who is.  Dr Rebecca Moore works at the East London NHS Foundation Trust.

She had some really striking facts to share:

It’s possible, if I self diagnose, I had postnatal anxiety, it’s possible that I didn’t. In a way I was lucky. Although I had a difficult time, the things making me anxious were medical problems with a specific cause and end. But what was wholly clear to me was we didn’t have enough knowledge about all of these maternal mental health issues, and we aren’t talking enough about it. It’s possible that if you’re a mother reading this right now you’re recognising that you fit into one of those categories. Or maybe you’re a mum of small or older children, or even teenagers,  and you recognise you didn’t, or couldn’t say.

That chat was a few years ago.

Mercifully since then there’s been various kinds of recognition about the difficulties Mamas face. The stigma has been reduced. There are wonderful campaigns, products, people and schemes out there to unite and support Mamas physically emotionally mentally and morally. The majority of us praise the skies for the rise of The Slummy Mummies and Honest Mums who are showing the real side of parenting, not the pseudo cheery one, and making us laugh and empowered while at it.

However somewhere in the elevation of pregnancy and having a baby, Mama’s themselves and their well being has become a bit forgotten in society. It really is all about the infant when he or she arrives. Yet motherhood is a life changing experience and not a necessarily wholly positive one at that. Mamas truly need a bit of mental and emotional support.

So Mamas Mind Matters is about reminding Mama that her health and wellbeing really IS important and it DOES matter. I want to address the things or the matters on Mama’s mind – information about maternal mental health, inspiration and empowerment to all and any Mamas out there, worrying about how to talk to a doctor, how to exercise, stay calm and sometimes just remember to laugh and help #MamaStaySane.

I’ll be talking about the way things are dealt with in the East London and West Essex area but this is for ALL Mamas – the ones recovering, the ones diagnosed with mental ill health, the ones quietly suffering, or ones simply having to come to terms with that this new and crazy situation of motherhood is all about.

I’ve never written before so I can’t guarantee I know what I’m doing. But then I’d never parented before and I gave that a bash. So let’s give this a go too. I hope you have a cracking Mama day.

Some amazing places that helped me:

STEPS Charity 

Evelina Children’s Hospital 

The Royal London Hospital 

5 Post Natal Mental Health Signs You Should Never Ignore

Mamas Mind Matters is here to inform, inspire and empower Mamas for their mental and emotional wellbeing.

2017 saw the first ever Maternal Mental Health Week, and along with the help of Mental Health Awareness Week a lot of fantastic knowledge has been spread. But still too few Mamas actually know if they have a post natal mental health problem.

So I spoke to Dr. Rebecca Moore, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at the East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), about the mental health signs and signals that suggest a new mum would benefit from speaking to their doctor.

It’s important to say all mothers will feel like this at some points. All Mamas have bad days, terrible days, even goddam awful horrendous days. And not only is that normal, it’s part and parcel of motherhood. Just knowing and accepting that may help you feel a bit better. However when to be concerned from a clinical point of view, says Dr. Rebecca “is when those bad days actually turn into weeks – even just two weeks and the symptoms seem never ending, or symptoms seem to be getting worse rather than better.”

Always speak to someone about how you’re feeling – your partner, family, friends, other Mamas, your Health Visitor, or get on to a Twitter chat such as #PNDHour. Some mothers will find that just talking and opening up is enough. For others more help will be needed and that’s fine too. So let’s look at this list.  

 

1. Low Mood, All of the time, Most days

Feeling tired all of the time. Yes sleep deprivation is a virtually a rite of initiation to motherhood, but when that feeling of tiredness also comes with feeling apathetic, listless, not wanting to do the things you normally do persistently, including not eating, then this is more than what should be right now. Your doctor can help.

 

2. Feeling Persistently on Edge

Again it’s natural to feel anxious as a new mum. There’s so many new things you need to think about and my goodness, it’s hard not to feel a little anxious about becoming responsible for a tiny life! However if you find yourself feeling continually on edge; restless, sweaty, that your heart is racing, or you’re waking up feeling anxious every day, this is not a normal bit of anxiety and the doctor can assist you.

 

3. Feeling Trapped by Very Specific Rituals, Routines or Thoughts

Dr. Rebecca also treats patients with perinatal OCD. These can be obsessive thoughts about dealing with your baby or keeping her safe, made only possible by elaborate routines. So for instance perhaps being so worried your baby may accidentally fall down the stairs, that you start to only carry her down them by sitting and shuffling. OCD can leave you feeling anxious, drained, and unable to cope. “One patient of mine believed her baby’s nappy was extremely dirty and that that she could only change it using plastic gloves. It stopped her from going out because she worried other people would judge her for her behaviour. She became stuck at home, and felt worse.“ A doctor can help find a way to get out of a negative thought spiral.

4. Feeling Unbonded With Your Baby or That You’re a Bad Mother, or Wanting to Harm Yourself.

 

It’s common for mothers to not bond with their baby straightaway. It’s a worrying sign however, if  you’re feeling for weeks, that you have no connection with your baby, or that you’re a bad Mama. Some mothers feel like they can’t carry on and may even want to harm themselves.  “This can take a mum by surprise as she may have never felt like this before having a baby” says Dr. Rebecca. Suicidal feelings of course, should be flagged up straight away.

5. Replaying an Unhappy Birth Experience in your Head, All of the Time.

This could be a sign of Birth Trauma, which is similar to PTSD, and diagnosis is often missed. As Dr. Rebecca explains; “Birth is an overwhelming experience, it is profound, good or bad. So wanting to talk about it is a normal part of processing the event. But if a month down the line that’s all you can think and talk about, or you’re getting flashbacks, seek help.” It’s also important to note that your birth may have been considered a ‘good experience’ – you may have had a straightforward or unrisky birth – but if you considered it in any way traumatic and that’s affecting you, it’s an issue.

On top of these there are a few symptoms which if you’re experiencing, you should get to the doctor right away for help.

Red Flag Signs

  1.  Dramatic deterioration of symptoms – if any of the above start to feel much worse over a course of days, go to your doctor as soon as you can.
  2.  Any Suicidal Thoughts need to be raised immediately.  I’m saying this for the second time.
  3.  Paranoid or Odd Thoughts about Your Baby;  

Postpartum Psychosis (PPP) can come on really suddenly. It can include visions, hallucinations or unusual beliefs about your baby – such as thinking the baby is not yours, has been possessed or is laughing at you. Sometimes the weirdness of these thoughts can make a Mama stay quiet but it’s really really important to talk about them. PPP is rare but it can be very dramatic, escalate quickly and require urgent medical attention. If you or a mum you know seem to believing more than the odd, throwaway bizarre thought about her baby, speak to a medical  professional.

So who to turn to?

Your GP surgery is there to be a big source of help. Says Dr. Rebecca “If mothers are not comfortable with the GP, or the GP’s response when they speak to them, then they can always ask for a second opinion. Ask if there’s someone at the surgery who is a Perinatal mental health lead, or ask to speak to another GP in the team who they might feel more comfortable with.”

And what happens now?  

“I really want women to feel listened to. Some women are very anti medication and some are pro and both views are of course, valid. There’s a common fear for mothers that ‘if I go to the GP they’ll give me medication and that’s not what I want’ – which stops them from seeking medical advice. But apart from very severe cases, that’s not the norm in treating perinatal mental health problems.” Mild to moderate depression and anxiety can be treated with talking therapies such as CBT or Compassion Focused Therapy. A lot of NHS money has been ploughed into this recently” informs Dr Rebecca. The GP might also refer you to a consultant psychiatrist like Dr. Rebecca for more specialised help.

“At ELFT we also look at things like diet and exercise.” Dr Rebecca likes to prescribe a magnesium supplement which can help reduce anxiety, and talk about exercise to help improve mood. Some pioneering schemes at Dr. Rebecca’s Borough of Tower Hamlets also exist, such as having perinatal specific therapists in children’s play centres and a peer support group. Unfortunately perinatal provision is patchy across the country and Tower Hamlets has a gold standard of care, so it’s not always an option. But hopefully such things will be rolled out nationally one day.