Sarah from Newport talks about her difficult background, her long journey to parenthood, and how toddler groups made all the difference.
Sarah, tell us a little about yourself and your family.
My name is Sarah, I am 32 and I live in Newport, South Wales. I am married to John who I met 10 years ago whilst living in a pub which my father owned.
When I was growing up I lived with my mother in Newport who was an alcoholic, and is still one to this day. Due to this I had to grow up very fast as I had a younger brother who I became parent to at the young age of 12, due to my mother’s illness. Sadly my childhood was stolen from me.
As an adult you wanted a family of your own – tell us about that.
From a young age all I wanted was a family and child of my own to give back what I missed out on as a child. I met my husband John in 2006, within six months we were engaged and had moved back to South Wales to start a life together. After trying for a baby for two years we soon realised there was something wrong as nothing was happening.
I went to see my GP, who ran lots of tests and referred me to see a gynaecologist. It was there that we discovered that I had Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). We were then referred for IVF treatment, but when they ran further tests it was discovered that there was also a problem with John’s fertility.
We had one round of IVF which was unsuccessful. This process was mentally draining for myself and John as we both longed for a chid so much. We were then placed back on the IVF list for our second attempt, which took around 18 months to take place. This time around we were better prepared mentally, and we went into it knowing exactly what was going to happen. Amazingly it worked and nine months later our beautiful baby boy was born on the 11th April.
So, after eight years of trying, you had your little boy. How was life for you after that?
We faced this long journey alone, right up to the day I gave birth. John’s parents are very supportive but they live in London so are not local to us.
After having Caelan, I found I became rather over-protective, I was always thinking something bad was going to happen to him and that I couldn’t protect him from danger. This progressed into severe postnatal depression. I struggled with daily tasks such as simply getting out of the house. I found it very scary and felt that something bad was going to happen – to the point where I couldn’t even walk over a bridge because of the feeling I had that I wanted to take my boy and jump, so that no one could take him from me, or hurt us.
I sought help very quickly from my health visitor. Taking this action scared me as I felt they would take my son from me because I was mentally unstable. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I had such a positive response from my health visitor that this was the start of my road to recovery, and I felt I had to fight these feelings for the sake of my little boy. The support continued with a visit from my health visitor every week making sure that I was OK.
How did you find out about the parent and toddler group you now attend?
A friend of mine, who knew that I was struggling so desperately, told me about a local toddler group, called Liberty Lambs in Newport that she felt would help me and Caelan.
It took me a while to actually get the motivation to go there, but it turned out to be the turning point for me. I have never felt such warmth and comfort from a bunch of strangers as I had from this group! They were my therapy, and every week I made myself go as it was so good for me and Caelan.
You call this group ‘your sanctuary’. How has this group helped you?
They got to know me personally and I told them what I had gone through to get my son. If I had a week where I was feeling down and didn’t feel I could attend, or cope, I had a message sent to me asking if I was OK, and being told that I was missed that week. I also learnt that I wasn’t the only person at our toddler group that had gone through IVF, there were actually four other mums there that had gone through the journey, and we have all become very good friends.
This toddler group has become part of my family, and my sanctuary, and I cannot thank them enough for getting me where I am today.
What would you say to those who are in similar situations to yourself?
I fought hard for a baby and I wasn’t going to let postnatal depression get the better of me.
All I have to say is, if there are people in similar situations, don’t suffer in silence, seek help, go to your local health visitor, and find a local toddler group! They have been the making of me.