Cara Sidney describes the help she received from our Newcastle Parent Infant Partnership team (NEWPIP) as ‘a lifeline’.
Her mental health had rapidly deteriorated around two months after her first baby Rosa was born following a very difficult birth and the death of her beloved nana.
“I wasn’t enjoying anything about being a mam,” she remembers. “Every single day felt like Groundhog Day and it was pretty depressing.”
The birth itself had been ‘unimaginably traumatic’, Cara recalls. Around a month before her due date, she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, a condition affecting around six per cent of pregnant women, characterised by high blood pressure and sometimes kidney problems.
“As a result, I was admitted at 36 weeks for monitoring and then induced at 37 weeks due to the severity of it,” Cara says.
Following a painful forceps delivery, she and Rosa, who was born with jaundice, had to spend another week in hospital after Cara’s kidneys began to fail, due to the amount of fluid that had built up in her body.
At the same time, Cara’s grandmother, Shirley, was dying from lung cancer so Cara was discharged from hospital, once staff were satisfied it was safe, so she could be at her bedside.
“When we got home from hospital we went straight over,” Cara says. “She was at home and we placed Rosa on her chest so I could take a photo. My nana opened her eyes for the first time in days. Sadly we lost her two days after. And so my nana’s funeral was about three weeks after Rosa was born.”
It was Cara’s Health Visitor who observed her emotional situation and suggested Children North East’s NEWPIP. She began having weekly sessions with one of NEWPIP’s Parent Infant Therapists, Marie Clark.
“I’m not being dramatic when I say it was probably a lifeline. Talking to Marie, my therapist, was confidence building. She pointed out how I was bonding with Rosa in ways I didn’t realise. She was able to see from an outside perspective how we were bonding.”
“It hugely changed the relationship I had with Rosa – even to this day. When I do things with Rosa, I still think of what Marie said, I still think of certain things. I’m not as stressed when I’m out and about with her any more – I do have my stressful times, she’s a two-year-old after all! But I’m much better at dealing with things.”
Rosa’s dad, Benjamin, has been by her side throughout. “My fiance, Benj, has been amazing. He’s been my rock through it all. He got offered NEWPIP as well which really helped. He saw Matthew (Evans, another NEWPIP Parent Infant Therapist). It was good for him to be able to offload. I think it benefited him because he was able to get rid of his stress too and we also had a joint session together, Benj and me.”
Just over a year since finishing therapy, Cara and Benjamin’s relationship with Rosa is thriving. “It was her second birthday in January and we celebrated as best we could, being in lockdown, but it was a perfect day.
“Seeing Rosa as a happy, content two-year-old made my heart feel full but also, knowing I made it to her second birthday and I didn’t let depression take over me. I am in such an overall good place now with my mental health – yes I still have my bad days but on the whole I’m a lot better.”
So what would Cara’s advice be to any other parent who’s struggling?
“I’d say to any other parent feeling like I did, that if you feel like you’re suffering with post-natal depression or anxiety, definitely seek help, talk to your GP or Health Visitor.
“I got put on anti-depressants at the same time as my therapy and was on them for just under a year. There’s no shame in asking for help.
“I remember feeling worried and thinking, ‘What if they think I’m a bad mam?’ But actually me seeking help meant the opposite, it showed I wanted to be the best mam I could be.”
Also, remember that you can be depressed even if you have some good days too, but if you’re having more bad days than good, there’s no shame in reaching out for help.”