At the end of last year, we asked our SensoBaby community for feedback on our classes and services. One response had a huge impact on us. We were delighted, moved and humbled by what we read. This week, 30th April – 6th May 2018 marks Maternal Mental Health Week. A week to raise awareness about an issue that effects so many new mothers.
It is with permission that we publish Celia’s story. We hope it inspires others to talk about their experiences, to come forward and seek support.
“Christmas brings back the sense of family, joy and wonder that I experienced as a child. Memories of traditions which I hope to cultivate in my own family. Two years ago, however, I did not feel any of this, nor care that I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t feel or care for anything, including my one month old baby, Annika. After a three week honeymoon period, I had been hit with a terrible case of postnatal depression. A wave of crushing numbness that smothered me and took the joy out of everything, including my baby. Especially my baby. My mum had to fly out from the UK to come and look after me. Everyone else had to look after Annika.
My mum would put Annika in my arms and I would stare at her, wondering why I didn’t feel anything, and what on earth was I supposed to do with her. I had no clue how to engage with her, how to be there for her, how to care for her. While pregnant I had envisaged myself as being an amazing mother. The reality was I couldn’t even get out of bed.
A couple of months later, still in the grips of depression, I was browsing Facebook and came across a post about a mum and baby group. It caught my eye because it talked about designing activities for mum and baby to develop their bonding. Having been disengaged from my daughter for the first 3 months of her life, that word jumped out at me. Annika and I needed some bonding.
Getting to that first meeting was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. At that point, I was so diminished by depression that I barely had the confidence to drive. But my mum held my hand and the three of us went to our very first SensoBaby class.
And that’s where the healing started.
The infant SensoBaby class was such a gentle, supportive environment. The facilitator taught us how to engage with our babies in a way that I would never have thought of on my own. With textures and sounds and light and movement, we stimulated our little one’s senses. We were taught to look for signs of over stimulation and how to calm them. I watched other mums talking to their babies and slowly learned from them how to do it myself. New mums arrived to join the group. My friendship base grew – a group of loving, supportive women who knew and understood what we were each going through and provided useful advice and a listening ear.
SensoBaby introduced Cuppa Love; a morning each week where new mums could come, with or without baby, and just chat in a supportive environment. Each week I felt myself leave with a lighter heart, feeling less alone than when I’d walked in.
By the end of the first term, my confidence had grown enormously and Annika was developing faster than I could keep up with. We progressed to the next age group, run by another facilitator, where we learned songs and baby sign language, and where Annika could zoom around the room exploring soft play, messy play, books, toys, and lots and lots of friends. SensoBaby had developed from being my sanctuary, to our favourite play time of the week. We would have gone every day if we could!
I can’t thank SensoBaby enough for the part they played in bringing Annika and I closer together in those early days, for teaching me how to engage with my infant daughter, for providing an educational and supportive environment, for continuing to inspire us with fun, creative, developmental ideas, and for bringing Annika and I together with a group of the most amazing mums and babies we have the privilege to call lifelong friends.
Re a leboga”
If you or anyone you know would benefit from support, you can contact SensoBaby in confidence through our Facebook page, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or sending a message to 74753883.
We urge anyone who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression or having unwanted or worrying thoughts to contact their health provider as soon as possible.
CUPPA LOVE Sessions are free, open access coffee mornings that are held on the first Friday and Saturday of every month at 10am. This Friday, Psychology Interns from The University of Botswana will be talking about maternal mental health issues and how to access support. Please RSVP by emailing us or responding on the Facebook event page.
If you would like to know more about Perinatal Mental Health Issues, then a free workshop will be held on Saturday 5th May, 9am – 11am at SensoBaby. Send us a message to book your space or enquire about volunteer opportunities and collaborations in this field.