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Pregnancy and mental health: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Updated: Jan 14

I’m off my head! Well, this was what I was thinking! I didn't know what these feelings were - I've never ever felt them before. I'm the loud, outgoing class clown who everybody buzzes off. I’m confident and comfortable in my skin. I’d never experienced anything like this. This couldn’t be real. I felt confused. I felt vulnerable.



Before this, I felt like I understood myself. I was comfortable and content with myself. I was proud of this. I knew who I was and what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a mum and for nine years I tried to become pregnant. Then, devastation, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to have any children. I would never fulfill my dream. I felt my sense of identity shift. What about my role in life, what would I become? I was distraught, but this couldn’t be the end….could it?



"You have to be willing to go to war with yourself and create a whole new identity."

-David Goggins


I couldn’t let the darkness consume me. I knew myself, my dreams, my aspirations and, most importantly, my capabilities as a person. I wanted this and, like anything in this world, we are limited only by our beliefs. We have the capacity to fly high, even if life tries to convince you otherwise. I made a decision - it certainly wasn’t the end of my journey!


"Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations."

-Oliver Goldsmith



Like I say, I knew myself and I was going to be a mum – it was my reason for being. This had to happen and I was going to make it happen. I had to endure several diagnostic tests, examinations and operations – it was tough and exhausting, but I would not give up. In 2014, I was informed by the hospital that I had been referred for IVF treatment and, miraculously, it worked first time and I was pregnant by September 2015. The power of the human mind is fascinating – determined and resilient, I had changed my reality. Amazing, right?


"The human mind always makes progress, but it is a progress in spirals."

-Madame de Stael


Tragedy struck! I was at my place of work and started to lose a lot of blood. My mind raced, my heart pounded! I was losing my baby. People watched, helpless and unable to remedy my devastation. I experienced a cocktail of emotions – sadness, grief, denial, panic and embarrassment.


I was rushed to the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool, “your baby is fine, Mrs Roberts. You should go home and rest”. Exhausted, yet hugely relieved I followed the advice of the Doctor. I returned to have my 12 week scan, all was going as expected, but then out of the blue the Midwife says “Oh hang on, I need a Doctor”! The Doctor conducted their examination and informed me that I was pregnant….with twins. This had not been discovered at my 6 week scan. I was informed that I had two gestational sacs, but sadly only one foetus was present. They advised me that the other foetus must have been out of sight at my earlier scan. I carried both sacs for the duration of my pregnancy - again, I was overcome with mixed emotions in the knowledge of what was and what might have been. I had gained a child and lost a child, all at the same time.


"People are like stained - glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."

-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross



I tried to be strong – it’s in my nature. I was a force to be reckoned with. I continued to go to work, but I was constantly being sick and feeling nauseous. I was determined to get through my pregnancy safely; I was going to be a Mum – the best Mum ever! I wrapped myself in my own little protective bubble and I took precautions, but I was informed that I would have to have a Caesarean to deliver my baby due to placenta previa, a dangerous condition which can cause severe bleeding during childbirth – one final hurdle I thought! I smashed it! I was finally a Mum and I was determined to be the best mum possible for this precious child who I've waited so long for.


"Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children."

-William Makepeace Thackeray


Something changed. Something wasn’t right. I'd had time to sit and consider what on Earth had just happened to me. My jubilation turned to anger. My happiness faded. I was traumatised, but I didn’t understand to what extent. I was so angry, I was irritable and I became aggressive - I even punched walls. I wanted to hurt myself. I felt sick; my heart was constantly beating out of my chest. I thought I was dying. I was truly terrified! I was experiencing anxiety and panic, I just didn’t know it; I just knew that it was the most frightening time of my life to date. I was constantly fearful for the safety of my baby – I would fret for him and I would have thoughts that he was going to come to some sort of harm. I made the decision to isolate us both from the world – we stayed at home for a very long time. Nobody was going to hurt my baby and it was my job to keep him safe. I was his Mum!


"A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them."

-Victor Hugo



I mustered up the courage to go to see my GP. I showed my vulnerability and my story came flooding out. I was quickly given a diagnosis of postnatal anxiety and prescribed Sertraline, an anti-depressant medication. I felt fobbed off – all of my distress and devastation was neatly packaged into a box, to be treated with chemicals, not compassion. I was, and still am, appreciative of the help I received, however it goes to show how pressured and poorly equipped our health services are when dealing with mental distress. I would even ask whether they are the most appropriate place to support those with mental health needs. If I had been listened to, with empathy and attentiveness, then my GP would have seen a person full of strengths and assets to be utilised – instead, I was viewed as weak and in need of a ‘one size fits all’ medical approach which didn’t work. My mental state at that time did not define me – I was capable of so much more, but I needed support.


"The human spirit is stronger than any government or institution."

-Fela Kuti


This was the most trying time in my life, for sure - what a horrible experience it was! I made the decision to give up my job. I also lost a lot of people whom I classed as friends, however it is apparent that these people were not my friends as I have not heard from or seen them since this time. You definitely realise who has your back when going through such an ordeal, however I have empowered myself to learn from this experience and I have allowed it to have a positive impact on my life since. I think that everybody can triumph from adversity and there is a lesson is everything in life.


"The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity."

-Ulysses S. Grant


Today, I’m feeling positive – really positive! I feel as though I have grown and I’m definitely through the other side now – which is fantastic, as I now have a huge amount of experience to use in order to continue my progression and to also help others. I’m completely free of anti-depressant medication and I have found meditation, which has helped be immensely . I recently found the Wim Hof breathing method, which is just amazing, and I feel helps me. This can be found on you tube here


"I want to show everyone in this world that the soul is the source of our happiness, strength and health. Love actually comes from the soul, from the light."

-Wim Hof



Finally, I have a healthy happy four year old little boy who brings joy and laughter everyday to everyone he meets. He has an amazing sense of humour and he is told how special he is. One day when he'll understand then I will make him aware of the journey taken to have him here – he knows that the Doctors helped :)




He must know he was a twin as he often mentions “my twin” - I don't deny he ever was a twin, he just doesn't know he actually was. I find this level of insight and intuition fascinating and he amazes me every day.



I’ll also make a point of sharing my story with him. I’ll tell him how strong his Mum was and how special he must be in order for her to have gone through what she has. I’ll tell him he’s worth it and how proud I am of him.


I hope that he is proud of me, just like I am proud of myself!


"Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit."

-E. E. Cummings


Thank you for reading

Helen


#MentalHealth #Perinatal #Motherhood #Postnatal #ProgressingTogether

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