As part of our #BehindTheBump campaign we caught up with blogger, social media manager and super-mama Maria, aka @cheshiregossipgirl to discuss becoming pregnant after losing a baby.
What have you found to be the toughest element of motherhood so far and what has been your highlight?
Tiredness, probably has been the toughest. The long nights, especially with breast feeding, I don’t know, you just feel like you’re doing it all on your own sometimes, it’s a bit like ‘oh my god, someone help!’.
The highlight, probably the same! Breastfeeding is like the most magical thing, the bond you have with your baby. And the day times when you just sit and cuddle and snuggle, so in a way, it’s exactly the same thing – it’s hard, but it’s those magical moments.
I imagine that makes the toughness so much easier.
Yeah exactly, you have the low moments of it but then other times you just think, this is just so worth it.
You talk really openly on your Instagram and on your blog about your experience with Sebastian being stillborn and how that affected you and your mental health. How do you think that impacted your pregnancy with Gabriel?
With Sebastian, that pregnancy was so positive. I was exercising all the time, really excited, happy, just carrying on as normal. I was so happy, just a tiny bit anxious about having a baby, naturally. But then that happened, so with Gabriel I was so anxious the whole time. I was scared to exercise, I just sort of sat on the sofa worrying, some days I thought ‘how can I carry on with this pregnancy? How can I get any further?’
You spoke in your blog about having access to St Mary’s Rainbow Clinic during your second pregnancy, how do you think having that resource helped?
Yeah it was absolutely amazing. So every two weeks, we’d go to the rainbow clinic and have a scan, they would check the brain (Sebastian had a brain haemorrhage), so they’d check Gabriel’s brain for my peace of mind, as well as the genetic blood tests. It was just so nice to see the baby on the screen. And I had the highest consultant there that specialised in brain development and he would come and tell me everything was fine and it was just so nice to hear that.
My boyfriend hated it, always saying ‘do we have to go again?’, because he just hated being in that environment, whereas for me it was just so reassuring to know that he was ok. They always offered someone to talk to, I could always ring them up if I was upset, which I didn’t that often, but I can imagine if you had no one to talk to how important that service would be.
How did you get referred to the service?
I was at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport with Sebastian, and they said I could have had something wrong with my immune system, basically it could have been attacking him and so they referred me to St Mary’s to do all the checks.
Then because he was a stillborn and I didn’t have a miscarriage, they said I could go to the Rainbow Clinic if I wanted. I don’t know how I would have done it without them, they were amazing, they were really good. I couldn’t have gone back to the same hospital I don’t think, I just wanted it to be completely different.
It sounds like such an amazing resource, probably something there needs to be a lot more of.
Yeah definitely, I don’t think there’s many of them, there’s only like two in the entire country.
It seems to be a real postcode lottery.
Definitely, I think it’s the same once you’ve had the baby as well. With Sebastian, I had no support after at all, the healthcare visitor came once and it was only to sort out the funeral. She said ‘give me a call if you need me’ but in those early days I think you need someone coming to your house just to talk to you about it. I think at the very earliest phase, that family and friends don’t know how to talk to you about it because it’s so raw. You kind of need someone, just like a stranger to just be able to say to ‘I feel really bad today’.
When I tell my friends that I had no support they can’t believe it, after such a big thing happened, to be left with no one to talk to is crazy. There was no one. Whereas with Gabriel, you have the health visitors, you’ve got the breastfeeding specialists coming all the time, they’re checking ‘are you feeling down today?’ and they were really good – but then again we moved house so it could have been a postcode lottery again.
Yeah it definitely sounds like it, especially if you only moved half an hour away! But it is great that you’ve had such a positive experience this time round and it shows that the system is working in some places.
If you had one tip for women who were struggling with their mental health, whether they’re pregnant or post-partum, what would that be?
Don’t compare yourself to other mums, every mum is different. I’m very fitness minded, whereas a few mums have said to me ‘I don’t know how you’re doing it, all that exercise’ but that’s what I have to do every morning. I have to get out the house and go and walk, and it makes my mind a happy place. Whereas some mums prefer to stay inside, do the housework, make sure their home is really clean and snuggle their baby, and that’s fine as well!