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Mum's Guide To Hertford Blog

What have we been up to recently? Have we a new family recipe we've loved we want to share? Do we want to highlight a particular area of Hertford? From National Make a friend day to pizza dough recipes you can find it here. From Hertford's Number 1 mummy blogger (in google search results- last updated 3/2/21) and Tots100 chart featured parenting blogger and one of the leading parents bloggers in Hertfordshire (Rank 6 Google searches 3/2/21) . #kayleigh&theboys

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Maternal mental health awareness week - my story

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Maternal mental health awareness week - My story

What percentage of women have perinatal mental health problems?
Perinatal mental health problems affect between 10 to 20% of women during pregnancy and the first year after having a baby 1. (Source)

Trigger warning postnatal mental health. 

This isnt an easy blog for me to write. I've started this blog post in so many different ways and then gone back and deleted it. I debated whether or not to put this blog together at all as for so long this has been a subject that I havent spoken about. You will be used to seeing happy smiley pictures of me and my family on various days out or ideas of activities to do with your children. My page is informative and fun and i hope a little inspirational when it comes to days out with the kids, but it doesnt usually tackle hard hitting issues like mental health.Last year I did broach the subject of baby loss awareness week and was overwhelmed by the messages I received afterwards by those of you who have also suffered baby loss. Baby loss is also a subject which is often stigamised and I have passionately campaigned for more support to be given to mothers for many years.

Mental health is an issue which also is hugely stigmatised and sometimes misdiagnosed, brushed under the carpet or treated as something which is shameful.

Now before I continue I must stress that I am writing this from the heart, from personal experience and am in no way an expert in the field. I will however post some links to official resources and places you can go for support if you feel you need to.

My name is Kayleigh, I am a mother, a wife, a businesswoman and I also have a mental health condition but it doesn't define me. 

"You don't look like you have anxiety"

I don't talk about my anxiety very often but those I have confided in have often unintentionally said the wrong thing. "You don't look like you have anxiety" . I'm not entirely sure what people expect anxiety to look like but clearly it's not me.  In the same way that many mental health conditions can be masked by a smile, so can anxiety.

A little bit of background

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when my struggles with anxiety started. growing up I had periods of anxiety but nothing I would consider out of the ordinary. With my first son, I was warned that everyone gets the baby blues a few days after birth but I didn't , in fact i bounced back and days after my son was born I was at a BBQ with friends feeling on top of the world. I went back to work part time with a fairly high end job and took life in my stride. In 2016 we feel pregnant again but sadly we lost our baby. We then struggled to conceive and anxiety started creeping up on me. It will all be ok when i get pregnant I would tell myself and eventually we did fall pregnant, but this was not the magic remedy I had hoped for. This only made my mental health spiral in ways that I could never have envisaged.

"It's normal to be a bit worried in the first trimester"

Most parents will feel anxious at least at some part of their pregnancy and this can be totally normal. But it isnt always , one thing I wish I had done more of in pregnancy was speak out. If only I had spoken more confidently and explained how anxious I was right from the start maybe I would have been able to seek help sooner. I paid for an early scan to see a heartbeat , there was one thankfully but it didnt help my anxiety- at all. My anxiety consumed me so much so that I didnt want to get out of bed, it was on my mind every second of the day and yet when people asked how I was I said "I'm fine".

It was about this time that I also started to feel anxious about everything, my eldest son, my husband, my job, my friends ,everything was spiralling.

Many times I wanted to speak out to my midwife about how I was feeling but those sessions always felt so rushed and I didnt want to waste her time. 

I found myself attempting to keep my anxiety at bay by eating. I put 4 stone on whilst pregnant with Oliver. 

Around this time some of our dear friends lost their baby girl. It was devastating for them , they remain the strongest and bravest people that I know.

My anxiety for my unborn child only grew. 

"You'll feel so much better once baby is here safely"

To those that I did start to talk to about what how I felt nearly all of them told me It would all be better once he was here in my arms and safe. I believed that. I wanted to believe that. All logic suggested that if i was anxious about my child being lost in pregnancy that once he was here i should be fine.. right?

A terrified new mother

In fact that wasn't right at all. When Oliver was born i was elated and totally in love, I had no problems bonding, I adored him,  he latched immediately (which I had also been anxious about prior to birth) and for a day or two everything was perfect.

Until the day the midwife came, she weighed my son and he had lost weight (normal- this stuff happens right?) but to me this only escalated my anxiety, I remember feeling like I couldnt breathe and then I remember making myself wake every two hours to offer him the breast. I didn't want him to get sick because of me. I didn't want people to think that I couldn't cope, that I was a bad mother. I found solace in food again.

The health visitor came a week or so later and Oliver still wasn't gaining weight and I cried. "I can see that's really upset you, have you considered giving him a bottle?" she said. Those weren't the words I needed to hear , I needed to hear "Are you ok?". I was then told that I needed to come into the weighing clinic twice a week to monitor his weight. On one of these occassions when he still wasn't gaining weight I was pulled into a side room so they could check he was latching correctly. I sobbed the entire time. The health visitor turned to my husband and said it's the hormones. 

Now its very important to note that most mothers feel tearful the days and weeks after giving birth as our hormones are all over the place, this doesnt mean you have a mental health condition but I would always encourage you to speak up and keep speaking especially if you do not feel like this is normal. But for me this is when I really started to realise that I needed to seek help.

A long and difficult road

Eventually, some months later,  I confided in my husband just how out of control I felt. My first thought was postnatal depression and I made a doctors appointment. I walked into the doctors office and I just cried and cried and cried. I felt like an utter failure. Luckily she was wonderful I had regular appointments over the coming weeks and was referred for counselling and CBT therapy who correctly diagnosed my with postnatal anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder stemming from my miscarriage. I know for some being labelled is something that they do not find helpful but for me it was trigger that I needed to start my journey back to health. It was almost like Ok now I know whats wrong I can fix it.  I also confided more confidently in my friends this time. My lovely friend Hazel sent me some "happy post" with a badge and a postcard which I still have on my desk today. They say "You're doing a much better job than you think you are" and "Don't believe everything you think".

Journey to wellbeing

My second pregnancy changed me forever. I am not the person that I was prior to falling pregnant in 2017. I don't think that version of me is ever coming back. But in her place is a new Kayleigh, and that is someone I quite like. Now I live with my anxiety and on the whole it is largely at bay. I am still very anxious when it comes to my children and I know that is a trigger for me, but now thanks to the strategies put in place during my CBT training I feel empowered to not only vocalise how I feel but also to put things in place to help me deal with those feeling before they spiral. 

Slowly but surely I was able to take back control, I didnt return to my old job and instead started Mum's Guide to Hertford , which in so many ways changed my life for the better. I genuinely love my job it gave me a renewed sense of purpose and of control and brought some wonderfully positive people into my life. I pushed myself to attend baby groups. I went along to the Daisy foundation tinies class and we had a whatsapp group and i remember very clearly one night telling them about my struggles with postnatal anxiety. My husband had gone on a business trip and I was feeling anxious and I told them. One of the dads (Thom) typed back, "we are all here to get you through it", and get through it i did. In my case my mental health condition was able to be managed without medication but there is no quick fix. What I find really helps me is to write down how I am feeling. On days where I can barely get out of bed as the feelings of anxiety overwhelm me, I make myself get up and I write a list. What is it thats bothering me and how can I manage that?

With my anxiety back in check I also managed to get my weight under control, I lost over 4 stone and discovered the positive impact on exercise on my wellbeing. 

My friendship group also changed slightly. I have found both times I had my children that my friendship group changed, as parenthood brought me closer to some people and further away from others. Instead of obsession over whether or not people like me now I instead try to focus on "do i like myself?". You need to be your own best friend and practise self care. You can't pour from an empty cup so they say. 

And this brings us to where we are now. I genuinely love my life now but I do still have flare ups of anxiety, and maybe I always will.

As a blogger I am very mindful that anything I write will be on the internet forever and therefore I hesitated to type to this. Mindful that it was my third pregnancy which kick started my maternal mental health condition I did not want to run the risk that my son may at some point read this and at some point perhaps blame himself for my anxiety. My darling boy if you are reading this when you are all grown up please know that you and your brother are the best things in my life, I would have gone through all of this 100 times and more over and over again if it meant having you both in our lives. No one is to blame for mental health. There is not a day that goes by when I am not thankful that I am your mummy. 

And to you mummy or daddy, if you are reading this and recognising some of the feelings that I am discussing please seek help. Speak to someone, a friend, a partner, your doctor-speak out. I can't promise you this journey is an easy one, nor that there is an immeadiate quick fix, but I can promise you that things can and will get better. You are not a failure. 

And finally if you are reading this and know people with young children, check in on your mum (and dad ) friends ask them how they are doing, ask them if they are ok, ask them again , don't dismiss any concerns they raise instead shower them with love and support and hold their hand through it all.

As the tears stream down my face typing this I realise perhaps just how far I have come in these past 3.5 years and I hope that by sharing my story it may perhaps in some small way help to reduce the stigma of maternal mental health .

The following support groups and sites are well worth a look

Positive Postnatal.

Postnatal Anxiety 

Perinatal anxiety

NHS Early Days

All my love

Kayleigh xxx 

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