Maternal mental health and me

Part 1 - Becoming a mummy 

 

Becoming a mummy at 19 was definitely not in the plan I had so carefully drawn out for my future. I was supposed to be going to university, travel the world, get married at 28 and have a baby at 30. Yes, I was a bit of a planner back then and this is how I envisioned my future, it was supposed to be that way! However, things didn’t go to plan

 

I met my now husband at 17 and though we loved each other a baby was not on the agenda. Finding out I was pregnant was a shock, how on earth was I going to tell my mum? What would people think? I couldn’t face telling my mum, so Marc came with me to break the news. Thankfully my mum was supportive but would be shocked with our decision to move down South.

 

We then decided that we would move down South where Marc was originally from, we lived in a small seaside town in Yorkshire and I had grown up by the beach whilst my parents or my mum rather ran a hotel. Sounds idyllic, though my upbringing was tarred by domestic abuse at the hands of my dad which by then I had broken contact with. 

 

Moving away from those bad memories sounded great and I was excited to begin my adventure in Kent and become a mummy. We moved just before Christmas in 1997, living with Marc's mum and dad initially. Marc found a job pretty quickly as did I in telephone sales which I absolutely hated but stuck at so that we could afford to move into our own house. We rented a lovely two-bedroom house in a lovely quiet road it was just perfect.

 

As the pregnancy progressed, I often got comments about how young and small I was whenever I visited the midwife or the doctor. My bump was small, and I was only a size 6/8, in the end I was closely monitored as they had concerns for the baby being small. I hated going to these appointments, I was painfully shy back then and knowing no one I had no one to turn to. My self-confidence lowered and my anxiety rose , I was scared and fearful though I didn’t tell anyone.

 

Connor arrived at 00.46 on 7th May 1998 after a relatively quick labour of around two hours, as he entered the world he didn’t cry. Those first few minutes must have been the longest I have ever experienced, they whisked him off and got him breathing relatively quickly. Having him placed in my arms was just an amazing feeling, I looked at him and my heart was full. I had found my real purpose in life as a mummy.

 

In the morning I found myself in the maternity ward, I felt as though everyone was watching me, I was the youngest in the ward and felt incredibly uncomfortable. When Connor needed his nappy changed, I felt all eyes on me as I fumbled over his nappy, and I had changed a fair few as I had always been the streets resident babysitter. Why did I feel so nervous? Oh, my goodness I am responsible for him, what if I break him?

 

Later on, I was struggling to feed Connor I attempted to latch him on, a nurse came in and saw me struggling, she made a very flippant comment about my size, telling me I must fatten up or he will go hungry. I didn’t say anything but that comment stuck, as I was feeding, I noticed Connor starting to shake, I was terrified, and the nurse whisked him off. It transpired that he had swallowed some mucus upon his delivery, and he was perfectly fine afterwards. I however blamed myself, I then asked the nurse for some formula for him as I clearly couldn’t feed him myself.

 

I was so relieved to get home; I remember lying awake just watching him sleep watching for any differences in his breathing. He was just perfect and the love I had for him was like nothing else mattered. Six days later my mum finally managed to come down to visit, she was still busy running the hotel and I hadn’t seen her since the move.

 

We had a few treasured days together before I took her back to the station, I remember clearly waving her off at the station in floods of tears. We often talk about that moment even now; she always remembers me looking so lost. I remember walking home and falling apart on the floor as I entered the house. What was I supposed to do now? How would I cope? 

 

I dried away the tears, picked up Connor and promised him that everything would be just perfect. I said to him in that moment I will be the perfect mummy, how naïve was I?

 

Over the months that followed, we got into a little routine, Connor was a very easy-going baby and we enjoyed the very hot summer of 98 walking in parks as Marc went to work, by this time he was working shifts. I still hadn’t got to know anyone but that was ok it was just me and my boy and that’s all that mattered then. I busied myself creating a home, visiting Marcs parents and making time for us as a family. Money was tight but we managed, I always say we managed better with little money than we do with more sometimes.

 

Though visits to the health visitor was something I would dread, id always feel judged and it was as if I was doing it all wrong. Connor didn’t put on weight as much as they said he should, he was following his own path gaining but not in the set average they used. I was told to wake him as he was sleeping too much and I just felt I was letting him down. I had promised id to be perfect, why couldn’t I be? the other mums seemed to be doing ok.

 

When it came to weaning I did as I was told and began weaning at around 16 weeks as it was back then normal, it was to be a disaster, Connor had a very obvious gag reflex and he would choke on anything. This went on for months and he became quite fussy with what he ate, as long as he was eating though that’s all that mattered. I became quite anxious when eating out with him though, another reason for people to judge.

 

I found some local mum and baby groups, we attended a few but I always felt out of place. I was so much younger than the other mums who I observed, they seemed to know what they were doing so much better than I did. Though I did find one group and got friendly with a girl a few years older than me with a little boy a year older than Connor.

 

We would often meet up though she went back to work soon after, so I didn’t get to see her as much. I too found a job in a card shop which I juggled alongside Marc’s work sharing the childcare between us. It was so nice to have some other conversations and we settled into this routine.

 

Marc then got another job working nights and I gradually increased my hours as Connor started pre-school. We got married in 2001 and Connor was a very cheeky pageboy, this was how it was meant to be, married then children!

 

We began to discuss baby number 2, though how would my heart love another baby? However, I pushed those feelings aside as we decided to try for baby number 2. 

 

You can read part 2 tomorrow

Part 2 – why am I not enough for him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Beginnings Babycare

 Claire is based in Maidstone, Kent and her sleep consultancy, baby massage and baby yoga classes offer a nurturing space for mum and baby to relax, recharge and connect. Claire has an extensive background in childhood studies and baby care. 

 

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