Rachael Woods from Burntwood writes about her experience of postnatal depression.
Sadly, it is estimated that postnatal depression (PND) affects between 10 to 15 in every 100 women who have a baby*. And since PND can sometimes go unnoticed, with many women being unaware that they have it or suffering in silence, the true rate is likely to be a lot higher.
In the months that followed childbirth I was tired, tearful, anxious and miserable; somehow motherhood wasn’t living up to all my expectations. I had everything – a loving husband, supportive parents, a lovely house in a nice location, and now a beautiful newborn baby – but deep down there was an overwhelming sense of fear, anxiety, loneliness and sadness. I felt like a failure. Behind the closed door of my house there were so many tears.
As my baby grew we entered the world of the toddler groups, but suffering as I was with PND, some of these groups terrified me. Some groups seemed cliquey, while others came across as very judgemental. I put on my mask and tried to blend in with everyone, but after a few months of trying to fit in I realised that some of the nicest toddler groups were the church-run ones. It was at these groups that I was able to admit that I needed help. I think it was the fact that there was always someone there I could talk to, someone who wasn’t just trying to ‘fix’ me like the GPs and psychiatrists I was seeing, but people who genuinely wanted to know if I was OK and who showed me such love.
After the birth of my second child I attended an Alpha course with one of the lovely church ladies who had been supporting me. It was the breakthrough that I needed. I was able to start relying on God. Everyday just got better and better.
In time, I felt I was ready to give something back, so I began to help out at our church-run toddler group, Little Lambs. I loved every part of it, from the welcome at the door to the song time at the end. My favourite bit, though, was chatting with mums and having the privilege of being a shoulder for someone to cry on. Mums are amazing, especially those who are suffering with PND; they carry on everyday like everything is fine when deep down they are falling apart.
This highlighted to me a real need in our communities. Mums need somewhere they can talk openly and honestly without fear or judgement. They need somewhere safe where new friendships can be formed with others who are struggling with similar issues. I began to search the Internet to see what support was out there for mums and I came across PANDAS, a charity which offers support and guidance for families affected by pre and postnatal depression. It also encourages these families to join or start up new support groups within their local communities.
I asked my pastor if Beacon Community Church would support me in starting up a PANDAS group in Burntwood, and I was thrilled to bits when he agreed. Our group is still in its very early stages but has the full support of the church, the local health visitors and mums within our community. We have already had referrals from our local health visitors and the main PANDAS office, and we are hoping that its relaxed toddler group style will appeal to more mums to come and enjoy the group too.
We don’t intend to become a big group as that would take away from the intimacy and safe place that PND families need, but our hope is that when mums feel able to, they can move on to our regular toddler group sessions and build relationships with the church community.
We are excited about what the future holds. Just as I was able to come to a place where there were no more tears behind closed doors, we hope that because of my experience, many more mums who are suffering with PND will find the love and support they so desperately need.