Shortly after the birth of my son, I struggled to bond with him for the first six weeks or so. During this time, I felt so isolated. I had just moved to a different area and it was not an easy adjustment having just become a mother. Thankfully, the health visitor noticed this and understood what was going on and put me in touch with a local GP. I was eventually diagnosed with post-natal depression and PTSD, as the pregnancy also left me immobile. Being able to finally put a name to what I was going through made things easier for me to understand.
During the birth of my son, the medical team failed to numb me before they started with the epidural which meant that I was feeling the pain of the epidural going in my spine. Although I was telling them I could feel the pain, they disregarded what I said and instead told me that I shouldn’t be feeling the pain and then even questioned what I was feeling exactly! It ended up being a very traumatic experience and one that kept replaying over and over again in my head for a number of years. I don’t know if it was my way of processing it but later I learnt that it was part of my PTSD. I still remember the pain now. When it came to my daughter’s birth however, the delivery was a smoother experience as the doctors put me under general anesthetic and performed a planned C-section but recovery was difficult and again suffered with post-natal depression.
I come from a Bangladeshi and Muslim family and community so the idea is that any struggle with mental health can be healed through a ‘spiritual journey’. Mental health is often not acknowledged. Hearing people around me say things like ‘try and pray’ rather than suggesting to see a doctor can be quite normal but is not the right thing for someone like me to hear. Mental health is also a taboo subject in our community which makes family members feel embarrassed if a loved one is suffering and thus made me not want to tell my family what I was going through. I was made to feel discouraged from opening up as people thought the reason for my struggles is because I ‘wasn’t praying enough’. Despite being a vocal person and being a mother, I have been told and been made to feel that this is what I signed up for when having children. It took 4/5 years to realise how much this has affected my mental health. If it was acknowledged sooner, maybe things would have been better. Due to some of the people around me, dismissing what I was feeling and not even understanding me made things so much worse.
Fast forward 10 years, I have re-connected with a friend and we keep in touch more regularly. I’ve known her all of my life but we drifted apart due to life getting in the way. One day I opened up to her and she listened. She understood and could relate to some of my struggles. We are both mothers, so she understood me. We’d talk until the early hours of the morning, and although we don’t talk all the time, we’d resume each conversation like it was yesterday. She really has helped me through my darkest times.
My advice therefore is to reach out to someone – even if it’s just one person. No one wants to see you hurt and you can’t expect someone to know if you don’t say. It’s also important to seek medical help whether it’s through a midwife, health visitor or your local GP. You must go through the tunnel to come out to the light!
Now, I am quite open to say when I am in pain or if I am struggling. I will let my partner and family members know. I felt so vulnerable after my pregnancy and wish I stood my ground more. Now, I look back and think, ‘I did my best – well done’. I hope someone who looks like me and wears a hijab (headscarf) can relate to my story. My motivation in becoming a Time to Change Wales Champion is to give confidence to the next generation and young mums to open up, particularly those from minority ethnic communities. I hope to campaign more in the future and raise awareness of this through podcasting so that we can break the stigma that my community faces.