Getting ready to become a mother can bring up unresolved issues from your past which can lead to mental health issues. Here is one mum’s story.
Marian attended counselling when she was 4 months pregnant with her first baby. She was very anxious, having breathlessness, unable to sleep, and unable to be at home on her own. She had been referred to psychiatric services and commenced on medication, but was aware that she needed more help.
She was 36, had been married for 3 years and had planned the pregnancy. She couldn’t understand why she felt as though her world was tumbling around her.
Marian told her counsellor that her mother had died of breast cancer when she was 13 years old. She had a high risk of developing the disease and had a double mastectomy four years previously. She herself was a doctor researching treatment for breast cancer.
As she talked she described how she had a deep belief that she would die young. She was feeling guilty about bringing a baby into the world who would not have a Mum, and was mentally preparing to hand over most of the baby’s care to her husband, as she felt it was important that they would be close. She was sure she would die in childbirth, or shortly afterwards.
In counselling she managed to sort out what were realistic fears and what had come from her own experience of her mother dying. She also worked through her fear of going into her home when no-one else was in, and realised she was re-experiencing the anguish of going home to an empty house after school when her mum died. The fear of this was making her so anxious she was frightened of being alone.
Marian worked through these feelings until she was able to separate past experiences from the reality of her life now. By the time the baby was born she was looking forward very much to being a mum. She was no longer looking for her husband to be the one who would meet all the baby’s emotional needs.
She had an easy delivery of a healthy baby boy. She came off her medication and only attended counselling once after delivery to let her counsellor see the baby. He is over a year now with a calm, but energetic mum who loves him
Counselling before the baby’s birth almost certainly prevented Marian from experiencing postnatal depression, and gave her son the opportunity to have a happy, healthy mum from the very first days of his life.