WITH LOVE ...
Motherhood and Mental Health
Motherhood and Mental Health. As if the two were not each a big enough deal on their own – what happens when you struggle with both at once?
I’m Hattie. I’m a friend of Jo’s, and have been since we were both pregnant and met in an NCT group twelve years ago. If I’m brutally honest I didn’t get a great deal from the NCT classes; they were educational and very informative, but a lot of what I learned went flying at breakneck speed out of the window when I went into labour. Strangely, instead of giving me a voice and a choice in how things would go as we had been encouraged to do, the hours I put into writing a birth plan were a devasting waste of time, and from my point of view actually quite damaging. Nothing, absolutely nothing went as I’d expected or hoped, and was very far from the plan I created to welcome my beautiful baby into the World with me feeling somehow in control.
The birth plan for my second child consisted of me saying to my husband “I will take medical advice”, deciding instead to adopt the “expect the unexpected” approach to childbirth.
The one thing I did get from my NCT group was to meet an incredible selection of women, I am now lucky enough, pleased and proud to call friends. I cannot stress enough the value of connecting with people, going through similar experiences as it has saved my bacon on more occasions than I care to remember.
Without going into my whole life story, the years since then have seen many, many changes and challenges – some good, some not so much – and I am now a Counsellor, Clinical Hypnotherapist and a Mental Health Support Worker.
One of the things I do about which I am most passionate, and enjoy most too, goes back to making connections with others experiencing similar things at similar times. I lead and run Mums’ Support Groups for West Kent Mind with an incredible, but small, team of women who are each as passionate about the groups we run as I am.
The unique thing about these groups is that everyone involved in their running has been through one; everyone in that room has some experience, and therefore understanding, of struggling with their mental health or wellbeing in some way, at the same time as trying desperately to keep all the plates of family-life spinning. So often, all they really want to do is stop and hide, but can’t.
The groups are safe, non-judgemental spaces to express and explore feelings. They offer confidentiality (within safe and legal limits of course), which means mums can say how they think and feel in ways they wouldn’t dream of outside the room. It can be such a tremendous relief to say really, truly and honestly what is actually going on, and even more so when, instead of feeling judged or criticised, actually feel empathy and support. Furthermore, it can be empowering and elating to be able to celebrate successes which may seem anywhere else without the same level of understanding, small and insignificant.
There is something so powerful about being in the presence of others who truly ‘get it’; feeling able to be heard, and feeling unafraid of being heard; to feel connection and support, acceptance and appreciation. I guess what I’m really saying is, if you are struggling – big time, or little time – get help, get support. That help may look like a really good friend who can brew a superb cuppa, or it may be an uncertain chat with a GP, or taking a chance on another friend you feel may have it tougher than they let on, it may even be referring to somewhere like the Mums’ Support Groups. Whatever it looks like for you, the support and care of another who ‘gets it’ is worth its weight in gold.