Motherhood and My Mental Health Journey.

by Sarah Myles

My youngest child celebrating his fourth birthday has put me in reflective mood.

"Someone once said, motherhood is a series of losses".

So said the Health Visitor who had stopped by to chat. It was early spring 2005 in London, and I was finally beginning my journey through the mental health services of the NHS.

My husband and I were married in the summer of 2003, and our first child arrived one week before our first wedding anniversary. My mental health, always a background problem, deteriorated during pregnancy and once our son was born I struggled. A lot. My bond with him was immediately powerful, but I was overwhelmed by anxiety. My obsessive compulsive behaviours took over my life, and I placed myself under extraordinary pressure.

A few weeks in, a Health Visitor arrived for a routine weight check - to see if our son had regained his birth weight correctly. As she placed him in the cradle under the scales, her face fell. He was still losing weight. I was a spectacular failure at feeding my own child. I could not understand it. I spent all day, everyday breastfeeding. He was always hungry, so I was always feeding. My husband would go to work, leaving me in my PJs in the rocking chair, feeding. He would come back 10 hours later and I would still be there, feeding. I would be up half the night, feeding. But it still wasn't good enough.

It was a weekday, so everyone was at work. It was just the Health Visitor, my baby and I. I began to spiral: What if I had starved him of the nutrients required for healthy brain development? What if he couldn't physically develop because I was an incompetent breastfeeder? What if they thought I was an unfit mother and took him away?! As I descended into a full-on panic attack, holding my weeks old baby and sobbing uncontrollably, the Health Visitor said "Sorry, I have to get to my next appointment", and left.

My husband rushed home when I called, calmed me, purchased formula and bottles and the problem was solved. Our child was undamaged by the experience, but for me, it was another big chip in an increasingly fractured veneer. A few months later, I approached a different Health Visitor wondering if I had some kind of hormonal imbalance, since my moods and behaviour were becoming increasingly unstable. We did a questionnaire. She said I had Post-Natal Depression.

The GP immediately prescribed the anti-depressant Escitalopram, and I was placed on the waiting list for 8 sessions of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. In the meantime, the helpful Health Visitor regularly dropped by for chats. At first, I would spend these conversations in tears, explaining that I could not remember what it felt like to be well, and that I couldn't believe I would ever achieve that again. I was, in turns, enraged and terrified, but I could not understand why.

The medication kicked in, and I worked through the CBT. My appointments with the Health Visitor became more reflective. Our baby was crawling now, changing by the day - already more independent.

"Someone once said, motherhood is a series of losses". She meant that with each passing milestone, something is lost. A chapter ends - you will never have that time again. In that time, and that place, this made me feel lower than ever before, and fed right into my anxiety and obsessiveness. Those words have stayed with me these past 6 years, but now they hold different meaning, because I have figured out the next part of the phrase.

Since those appointments, I have worked through the CBT, come off Escitalopram, moved to North Yorkshire, had another baby, gone back on Escitalopram, had a breakdown, come off Escitalopram, been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and had intensive treatment. Now, I can appreciate that the phrase is about looking forwards, not back. Motherhood is a series of losses, but for everything lost, something is gained. For every chapter ending, another begins - full of wonder, adventure and new challenges.

Realising the new meaning of these words makes me appreciate how far I have come on my journey, and that my journey makes me a better mother. And that's the most important thing of all.

Sarah Myles


Wow, that is so powerful and beautifully honest. I have a four-year-old boy and appreciate all you have said. I breast fed for 9 weeks and all the while it was agony. He was tongue tied which we had to have a minor procedure for and I felt a failure in every way for these things, always looking at this beautiful miracle and feeling so unworthy. But you know I am a great mum, and I am sure you are too. Postnatal anxiety is not discussed nearly often enough - thank you so much for sharing.

Charlotte x

Thanks, Charlotte.

It amazes me, looking back on those early days, and looking at my 7 year old now. He's a wonderful young man (and a fab big brother to our 4 year old), and his birth being the catalyst for my seeking treatment - it's like we've learned together. :)

Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with SEO? I'm trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I'm not seeing very good success. If you know plenty of fish dating site any please share. Thank you!
Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with SEO? I'm trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I'm not seeing very good success. If you know plenty of fish dating site any please share. Thank you!

Post new comment