It’s one of the happiest times of your life, but becoming a mum can also be the loneliest, scariest and most isolating.
While we all like to think we are a shoulder to cry on for our family and friends, the reality is that many women are afraid to speak up, don’t want to admit they are struggling, and don’t know how to get help.
Now Calderdale mum-of-two Erran Taylor – who had to wait two years for postnatal mental health care herself – wants to help by launching a healthy mums peer support group.
Healthy Mums Calderdale will hold weekly meetings – the first is on Wednesday 8 February 2019, 7:00pm at The Basement Project, Basement House, 10 Carlton Street, Halifax HX1 2AL with monthly wellness workshops. The group is for women at any stage of motherhood, who might be suffering from anxiety, postnatal depression, need extra support or just want to connect.
“The group was born out of my own personal need for a support network,” shares Erran, 30.
“When pregnant with my firstborn, I was the first out of my friendship group to have children and, as my pregnancy progressed, I felt more and more isolated”.
“When I had my son, I had issues from the start; he seemed to never sleep, breastfeeding wasn’t successful and I felt like I was some sort of failure for not getting what seemed like the basics right”.
“I was so desperate to succeed and do what every other mum appeared to be total naturals at and felt like I would be criticised and looked down upon for being so rubbish at what I was ‘made to do’. Very quickly I developed PND and anxiety but was afraid to speak out. It wasn’t until I became really poorly and started getting intrusive thoughts that I eventually spoke to my health visitor.”
Erran started counselling and as she recovered, realised many other women had similar experiences.
“People don’t openly share their struggles”, she says, “and pregnant women aren’t fully prepared for what might lie ahead”.
“We’re not told about post natal depression, the possibility of not being able to breastfeed, the lack of sleep, real post pregnancy body images. All you hear about are either the fluffy and lovely bits of having a baby or what you and baby ‘should be doing’.
“There’s no possibility of contingency planning because you aren’t made aware of the possibility of things not going to plan. If the information isn’t there and if people don’t speak truthfully about their own experiences, especially for those of us with little or no support group, how are we meant to know?”
Erran made it her mission to reduce stigma and normalise mental health issues, connect isolated mums and try to find something to bridge the gap between services and ridiculous waiting times.
She trained as a peer group counsellor, and undertook training with mental health charity Mind.
When Andy’s Man Club came about, she realised a similar group could be successful for mums.
There will be weekly meetings, with one wellness workshop each month to equip members with tools to help themselves stay mentally well, through exercise, meditation and nutrition.
Erran will invite speakers from external services such as yoga, massage, meditation, Sure Start, the midwifery debriefing team, health visitors and counselling service to let mums know which services are available and how they can access them.
She is also exploring mother and children networking sessions so those without childcare won’t miss out.
“We need to bring people from behind those closed doors and show them they’re not alone” she adds.
Healthy Mums Calderdale is open to mums with children of any age. You might be pregnant, have a baby, school-age children or older teenagers and grown up children. Whatever your circumstance, you can come along and be supported by like-minded peers.