How my mental health experiences led me to embark on a career in midwifery
Claire opens up about how her mental health struggles led her to a career in midwifery.
26th July 2021, 4.00pm | Written by: Claire
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OCD is something I have battled with for as long as I can remember; age 4 is my earliest memory of having OCD-type thoughts, which was a catalyst to me developing anxiety and depression as a teenager. Fast forward to adulthood, pregnancy, and the journey to parenthood in particular, the time in your life which people tell you is “the most exciting time” or say that “you have nothing to feel sad about, you’ve got a beautiful new baby”, when for me, the reality of how I felt could not have been further from those statements.
Pregnancy and parenting after previous baby losses, followed by a high-risk pregnancy resulting in myself being admitted to high dependency and a baby in special care, absolutely terrified me. I had palpitations every second of every day. Whilst pregnant I was terrified that every twinge meant something was wrong. When baby arrived, I was scared to leave the house, scared to have visitors, scared of the germs, and the thought of attending a baby group or any situation where there would be strangers or groups of people made me feel physically sick. I was experiencing crippling OCD and anxiety. I did not feel like a thriving new Mum at all, I just felt numb.
I carried on for another 2 years, pushing the feelings away and aiming to survive each day, continuing with everyday tasks, taking my baby to all the classes because that is what I thought was right for her, but inside, my heart would be racing and my intrusive thoughts pushing every possible negative scenario to the forefront of my mind. I then fell pregnant for the fourth time, with who was to be my second baby. I was so overwhelmed, the trauma of the previous pregnancies, combined with my OCD and anxiety engulfed me. Until one day I attended a routine appointment with my midwife, who could see I was overwhelmed, and when hearing about my previous experiences offered to refer me to the peri-natal mental health services.
I was terrified, scared of feeling judged, I worried that my parenting ability would be questioned and was frightened about breastfeeding whilst on anti-anxiety medication. At the time, I felt like the worst mother. In reality I wasn’t, I did everything for my children and all their needs were met and beyond, but I was neglecting my own mental health. I never felt happy or able to enjoy experiences because the anxiety always overwhelmed me. Opening up about my feelings was the best (albeit the scariest) decision I have ever made, and the reality was that there were so many other parents with similar feelings. The initial actions of my midwife, her kind, non-judgemental manner, the support and reassurance from my health visitor, and the significant support from the mental health team, provided me with so much relief and comfort, and has ultimately led to me now being in recovery, where I feel present and living in the moment with my children, and just generally enjoying my life with them. Of course, I still have harder days, but I know what I need to do for myself in those moments now. For me, mindfulness, breathing exercises, going for a walk or a run, and a hot bath, help lessen those overwhelming feelings.
My experiences with health care professionals, particularly my midwife and health visitor have inspired me to take the next step towards a profession I had always dreamt of being a part of but never had the confidence to pursue; so, this year I have completed an access to higher education course, and I am about to start my degree in Midwifery. I want to be able to empower women, facilitating them in making informed decisions about both their physical and mental health, providing a safe space, along with support, comfort, and reassurance. I want to provide what was provided for me, because the listening ears and subsequent actions of those professionals who were involved in my care, helped me to change my life for the better. If you had told ‘new mum’ me that I would be training to become a midwife, she would have never believed you, but here I am.
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