Kirsten was referred to parent infant therapist Marie Clark from our NEWPIP service soon after the birth of her little boy, Henry. At the time she had an 11-month-old daughter, Ellie and her eldest, Olivia, who was six. She was in a violently abusive relationship with their father. This is her story, in her own words:
To begin with I was sceptical about psychotherapy. I said: ‘I don’t need to speak to anyone, I’ll be fine. Marie came and she was explaining what she was going to do and I remember thinking, ‘What an absolute pile of rubbish.’
I thought I’d give it a month then say, ‘ I’m really sorry, this is not for me’ and then they couldn’t say I hadn’t tried.
After about four months of weekly therapy sessions, I looked at myself and thought, ’This is actually helping’. It was from then on that I was a lot more open with Marie.
When I first met Marie I was looking after my children because I had to, but I wasn’t interested in them. It was a bit like, Henry’s hungry – I’ll feed him. They need a bath – I’ll bath them.
They were always clean and looked after but I did it because I had to. I didn’t want to be a mam to them.
Marie asked, ‘What do you enjoy doing with them?’ and I said, ‘Knowing that it’s bedtime and I don’t have to deal with them.’ I always loved them, but it was very emotionless.
I did what I had to do to survive that day, knowing they would be going to bed and it would be over. There was no pleasure in them. I didn’t want to spend time with them, it was all duty-bound.
Marie was one of the first people I told everything to. She would never look at me any differently or judge me, she’d just listen. I always felt contained and safe enough to say whatever I needed to say. It takes a lot, and you have to have a really good bond to be able to say: ‘ I love my children but I don’t like them and I don’t want them.’
I had actually booked in to have a termination with Henry because I didn’t want him, the way the relationship with his dad was. I felt I’d been lumbered with these kids I didn’t particularly want. That’s a hard thing to say, there’s a lot of guilt that goes with that and you don’t want to feel like that.
Most people would say, ‘You can’t say that about your own children!’ Or ‘Do you know how lucky you are to have kids?’ But I could say it to Marie.
She gave me the tools to be the mam I always wanted to be and knew I could be, but didn’t know how. She never judged, just listened. She was amazing.
She made me understand that children are actually humans and do feel things the way we do, they are just not that good at expressing it. The most important thing she taught me was to want to understand how they tick. So if Henry is having a tantrum, instead of thinking, ‘He’s a spoilt little brat’, I now think, ‘Why is he kicking off?’
Marie’s explained children can make new neural pathways – she gave me hope that my three kids would not end in disaster even if things hadn’t started well. We would just talk and I would ask her questions and she’d answer them in layman’s terms.
Therapy just changes your mindset a little bit and to be honest I didn’t know it until recently. My mam is very ‘old school’ and Henry had been kicking off and she said, ‘He’s lucky I’m not his mam’. And I said, ‘I’m not going to tell my two-year-old off for having emotions!’
I thought, ‘Marie’s turned me into a happy clappy hippy!’ But I feel like I have more control and more understanding, more enlightenment.
Before, it was horrendous. I was in a really, really dark place that no one was aware of. Now, I worship the ground my children walk on.
*The names in this article have been changed to preserve anonymity