I was inspired to write this after a twitter conversation where I mentioned a small thing I needed to hear in the midst of Postpartum Psychosis. It was a simple thing but it would’ve made a massive difference to my recovery. My tweet was, “I wish midwives had given me ‘permission’ not to breastfeed & said it’s OK to stop, battling on slowed my recovery big time”.

I started thinking of other things that would have been invaluable to hear. I can think of many helpful things that could’ve been said & actually, they’re really simple, easy to say words. So why are they so hard to say at that time? Over the years of peer supporting, many partners & family members have asked how they should talk to their partner / daughter / sister, what should they say & how can they help their loved one.

This was also highlighted in the EastEnders episode where the character Stacey Branning experiencing PP, was taken to hospital by her partner Martin & sectioned without her baby after Martin had reassured her they’d stay together. Of course he didn’t have a choice, he did what he had to do & had to get her to hospital – but the shame & guilt he felt made it incredibly hard for him to visit her at first. So he stayed away. He was scared of what was happening & feared how she’d react. She would have felt let down, betrayed & abandoned & the longer he stayed away, the longer it would take her to get over it. It’s so easy to see how destructive Postpartum Psychosis can be to even the most robust of relationships.

People think that we forget those really tough, dark, isolated days, that it’s all a confused blur & we won’t remember who said & did what through the haze of medication. But we don’t forget & the memories are clear even for years afterwards & we don’t forget who was there for us when we needed it most – we do however come to terms with it & accept everything more as time goes on.

The good news is it’s actually easy to say the right things! It’s a very hard, scary & confusing time for everyone & I know it’s difficult to know what to say for the best in the midst of the trauma. But, as long as you care about the person, tread gently & talk from the heart with compassion, you can’t go wrong. I couldn’t have visitors for the first two weeks, only my husband & mum, but after that the very worst thing to do when I already felt so isolated, was to stay away.

So just show you care, be there & talk – just as you normally would.

Here are a few pointers as to the types of things I wanted to hear. They might sound obvious or trite & saying these things may feel alien & not right for you or other mums, but anything along these lines I’m sure would be helpful. If it’s too hard to talk, remember the power of a touch, a hand held or a hug. I’m sure there are lots of others that worked for you, so if there are more to add to this list, I’d love to hear them.

When in Crisis:

“I know you’re scared, you’re safe, your family are safe & everything will be OK.”

“We know you’re not your usual self, you’re ill & you will get better.”

“We can help you”

“We know what it is & how to treat it. It’s called Postpartum Psychosis, which might sound scary, but we know you will get better.”

“We know you’re a good mum, you don’t have to prove anything – you won’t be judged for stopping breastfeeding.”

From Friends & Family:

“No matter how hard it gets, I’m here for you & we’ll get through it together.”

“I’ve never heard of Postpartum Psychosis, but I want to find out more.”

“I found it hard at first too, let me show you the easy way I found to bath & dress my babies.”

“See how baby’s looking at you, you’re a natural!”

“I’m passing by, can I get you anything from the shops?”

“Here’re some spare roast dinners you can heat up, with veg & gravy.”

“I know it’s 11am but I’m coming round for two hours so you can have a sleep.”

“I could do with some company, I’m coming round to yours to do some hoovering.”

“I’ll come & pick you up & we’ll go to the Mother/ baby group together.”

“Come hang out at my house, I’m only doing baby stuff.”

“Let me take you out for a coffee.”

“I believe you”

“I’m sorry. I know I wasn’t there when you needed me, I didn’t visit or keep in touch. I was scared & didn’t know what to say.”

From Partners:

“No matter how hard it gets, I’m here for you & we’ll get through it together.”

“You’re strong & you’re doing so well. You will feel like you again.”

“I love you.”

“We’ll get through this.”

“I still trust you, trust your brain & your judgement.”

“You’re not broken or damaged now. I don’t think any less of you, the opposite in fact.”

“You’re a great mum.”

From my GP & Health Professionals:

“I don’t specialise in this but I understand it & know you need specialist information & care.”

“I’ve never heard of this but I’ll do some research & find out more.”

“I know where the nearest Mother & Baby Unit is, we’ll try & get you there asap.”

“It’s not your fault. It didn’t happen because of anything you did or didn’t do. You couldn’t have stopped it.”

“You’re not weak, I know you’re fighting so hard every single day to get better.”

“Baby will be totally fine, he won’t remember this & won’t be affected at all. He’ll grow up happy & healthy.”

“I know you’re struggling to get out of the house, I’ll come to you.”

“Here are some guides written by professionals & women who’ve experienced PP.”

“There’s this online PP peer support forum which you might find helpful.”

“I know some local support groups & activities you might be interested in.”

“Having another baby is a very real option & would be a totally different experience.”

So, in the words of Ben E King all you need to do is…

“Stand By Me”

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

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