Mental health and the journey to parenthood: Jane's story

It took two and a half years for Jane’s* son to be diagnosed with gastritis. She explains how months and months of pushing for him to get the help he needed affected her mental health.
Women holding baby

Having to push to be heard about baby’s health problems

“When our second son was born in 2016, we diagnosed him with silent reflux at a few weeks old. Trying to give him medication from a bottle was a nightmare. I was breastfeeding and wanted to do combination feeding, but he wasn’t up for that.

For months I went to the GP every week saying, ‘He’s not well, something is wrong with him.’

My son was comfort eating to help with the burn he was feeling in his throat, so he put on weight and was therefore considered by doctors to be thriving. But he was miserable.”

The impact of caring for an unhappy baby

“This all went on for months and my son was really unhappy during that period, and it had a profound effect on me. I really felt myself decline. I was struggling, and I was very teary. (In 2005 I was diagnosed with bulimia and depression, which was successfully treated with CBT and medication, and I could feel I was on a downhill struggle.)

I told my husband that I wasn’t coping, as I needed him to know. He helped and was watching out for me. Just telling him helped.

I was up in the night all the time with our son, and then having to function during the day. A lot of it was down to sleep deprivation.

Then I had a horrible night where I didn’t want the baby anywhere near me. I couldn’t settle him. I didn’t want to feed him or touch him. It was such a horrible feeling that I said I need to see a doctor.”
A baby sleeping

Online mental health support that helped

“The doctor would always ask how I was doing, so when I went in and said, ‘I’m falling apart, I need you to help me now,’ I felt confident that she would listen to me.

I was put on sertraline (an antidepressant). I had a 1:1 chat where they diagnosed me with low mood and anxiety and gave me an online course to do. The next space on a postnatal depression (PND) course was a few months away, so I put my name down and said we’d see how the online course went and if I still felt like I needed more help, I’d do that too.

The online course was reflective, so you had to look what would trigger the way you felt. I was asked questions about why I was responding in the way I did and given alternatives. I then had a follow-up call every week with a clinician to see how I felt.

I found it beneficial. Just having that hour to sit and do that without disturbances from the children made a big difference.

At the end I didn’t feel I needed the PND course too. I didn’t want to take a space from someone who needed it more.”

A problem that could have been avoided

“I kept going to the doctor weekly about my son because I thought that if I kept knocking on their door and saying he’s not happy, the persistence would mean that someone would eventually say ‘We need to do something about this.’

At one point I took my husband along to a GP appointment with me and broke down in floods of tears. I said that this wasn’t just affecting me, but our whole family. They finally gave us some new medication, and we later went to see a doctor privately who doubled the dose. My son was then more settled and happier, and he started sleeping more.

My son is almost three now and it took two and a half years to get the referral that he needed to a paediatric gastroenterologist to find out what he’s got, which is gastritis. We also discovered that he’s anaemic.

I love the NHS, but that’s a long journey to get answers. Two and a half years of him being uncomfortable.
 

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