Our baby girl was conceived summer of 2013. Our 2nd baby. We thought, wow. Our first baby – a boy. Second baby – a girl. I made it a point to keep myself active by keeping up with our 20-month old’s playgroups, etc. regardless of how heavily pregnant I got. It was the only way I could get exercise and I promised that this pregnancy won’t compromise our toddler’s activities.
But then, on my 6th month of pregnancy, anxiety slowly crept in. Countless questions started to drown me. A baby girl? How do you take care of a baby girl? I seem to have been able to manage with a boy, but that’s just one child - but with 2 children? And a girl? How? I tried to draw in childhood memories but none of them consoled me: authoritarian parents, physical work, smacking, not enough cuddles/kisses, siblings I barely knew because we were torn apart, my eldest sister having an unplanned pregnancy and eloping with boyfriend, etc.
My toddler’s Health Visitor seemed to know our family quite well. And so, at one of his appointments, she asked me, “How are you mum?” And I thought, “I have no one to talk to. I have to tell her. Now. I broke down. I told her that I wasn’t very happy. That, I was burdened with worries. That, I didn’t know how to take care of a baby girl. She was genuinely sympathetic and tried to raise my self-esteem. At the same time, she tried to dig a little into my story. She said that she can refer me for mental health support – but she kindly asked me if I would like her to handle my case and conduct the first assessment. I agreed.
After a week, she popped by our flat and we had a little chat about my family history, my childhood, my husband, and how I was managing with a toddler whilst heavily pregnant. Going through the details with her was impossible without crying. She was with us for an hour and perfectly understood why I felt that way and quickly decided to refer me to a clinical psychologist (CP).
Probably on the same week, at our toddler’s bi-weekly playgroup, one of the children’s centre staff approached me and asked me how I am and the baby. I related to her what I’ve been going through and the home visit that we have just had. She quickly told me that she can get help for me and asked me to stay for a bit after the playgroup so she can fill-out a referral form for me. I received a call from Compass Wellbeing UK after about a week or so. I was told that I would be seen by a CP. I went through an assessment with the CP and she scheduled me for weekly counselling (about an hour each) until I felt that I no longer needed it.
Early February 2014, I called my CP and told her that I won’t be able to attend the sessions anymore as I was already having difficulty moving around. She was very supportive and said to call her back whenever I felt the need to see her. The sessions with the CP were difficult as I had to unload my feelings every time. But each session taught me how to handle my emotions, gave more clarity to who I am, and the future of our new baby.
Here are some of the very important pointers that I got from her:
1. As a new parent / every pregnancy can bring back childhood memories. Both the good and the bad.
2. Do not put undue pressure on yourself and expect to bond with your baby after birthing. For some mothers, this is a slow process – but is still considered normal.
3. Your child’s life will be completely different from yours.
4. Give yourself some credit.
5. Try and sit with someone you trust, e.g. husband, partner or friend, and talk more about your feelings.
6. Go out and join groups, e.g. parenting groups / playgroups, and make new friends.
Through the advocacy of my Birth Doula (I found her through Doula UK), the consultant agreed to perform a Natural Caesarean (ironically, this was also an Emergency C-Section as baby did not engage and was swimming in three litres of water). As soon as the medical staff brought the curtain down, I burst into tears. There she was, my lovely baby girl. A few days after I gave birth, I called my CP to update her and told her, “I just needed to see my baby.”