"Although it feels impossible at the time, there is always a way through what you’re feeling."

Kat Walsh 

First time mum 

Tell me a bit about yourself and your maternal mental health journey?


I’m Kat, a first-time mother to a 5-month-old little boy. For the first 32 weeks of my pregnancy, things couldn’t have gone better. I felt great – physically and mentally.


Then, during a routine appointment, I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and admitted to hospital the same day. For the next 3 weeks, I called the antenatal department my home and watched my physical and mental health decline. I’d never stayed in hospital for more than a couple of nights before and, because it wasn’t an ordinary ward, visiting was restricted to 2 named people. Although I was allowed to walk to the main hospital building or leave completely for a few hours at a time, it all hinged on my latest test results that day.


At 36 weeks, the decision was made to induce labour, but it did not go smoothly. In the end my son was born feet-first by emergency C-Section and required a short period of monitoring in the Special Care Baby Unit due to the trauma of his birth. I lost more blood than expected (1.5 litres) and retained some of my placenta during delivery which left me feeling broken and bruised.


27 hours after giving birth, I was finally able to meet and hold my son. Just over 1 day later we were home … only for the rollercoaster of postnatal hormones, new parent fear, and the pain of my physical recovery to sink in!



Did you have support from your employer if you had one?


Yes. Although I didn’t really speak to them about the mental health side of things, they were hugely supportive throughout my pregnancy and continue to be so now. I chose to continue working during my first week in hospital (I needed the distraction!) but there was never any doubt that my health came first.



How did you get better? What did you do?


It’s a cliché but talking really was my biggest healer. I spent far too much time trying not to put my problems on other people only to end up bawling my eyes out to my mum and husband a few weeks after giving birth! Thankfully, it was a bit of a turning point, and that release helped me move past everything that had happened. I started to open-up to more people and slowly felt like my old self again.


I also found peace in the outdoors – taking a walk every day during my hospital stay (if I was allowed out) and staring at the beautiful tree outside my window. I also had a list of positive statements on my phone to remind me that even though I couldn’t control my pre-eclampsia, I was still doing everything I could for my baby.



Did you get help from your local healthcare services?


Not officially but I was really impressed with the postnatal care I received from our local midwifes and health visitor. They paid as much attention to my emotional healing as they did to my physical recovery so I could be honest with them about how I was feeling. My hospital team were also fantastic at finding little ways to give me a boost – like getting me a coveted window bed and allowing me home for lunch one Sunday.



What advice would you give to yourself back then if you could?


Talk to people sooner! I was so preoccupied with how my struggles might impact those around me that I didn’t fully open-up about how I felt for quite a while. There was also a part of me that thought they’d made a mistake with my diagnosis and kept hoping I’d be allowed home which is foolish to look back on now. I also wish I hadn’t discouraged visitors out of fear they’d have a wasted journey if I wasn’t allowed off the ward that day. In hindsight, seeing more people more often would have kept my spirits up.



And what advice would you give to family and friends to help support you?


I am so lucky to have a great network of supportive friends and family who helped me more than they probably realise. Generally, my advice would be to find balance: some days you need to share your struggles but some days you need to think about something else for a moment. Also, ask about both parents and not just baby!




Finally, what advice do you have for other women who may be struggling now?


Talk to someone, anyone, about how you are feeling. If you’re worried about the impact on friends and family, then use healthcare services instead. The main thing is to be honest about what you’re experiencing and remember that, although it feels impossible at the time, there is always a way through what you’re feeling.

Would you like to share your Maternal Mental Health experiences too?

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