I wanted to introduce myself properly before you read some of my other blogs. Also, so you get to know the mum behind Colby-James and my personal journey which is very much relatable to so many other mothers out there. If I can also make one other new mum out there realise she isn’t alone, or that the thoughts and feelings she’s going through are in fact normal, then I feel like my job is done.
I am Steph living with my husband Ben and son Colby-James. I am a photographer come printmaker and love to be kept active whether thats’s outdoors in a park or down the canal or inside running after Colby or working out at the gym. Colby-James is my first child, but I’ve always been surrounded by babies and children. I have been a babysitter and a childminder to serval families over the years and have many younger cousins in my family, so very much thought I knew what I was doing.
As I have an under-active thyroid I was consultant led for my pregnancy and apart from 2 occasions of reduced movement I had an uncomplicated pregnancy. My labour was even smoother, lasting only 5 hours from the moment I woke up and feeling my waters break, to bringing Colby out of the water and into my arms.
The weeks that followed were those blissful newborn weeks. Ben and I proudly showed him off in the days and devoured him just the two of us at night. Colby was the model newborn, he slept well, didn’t suffer from anything and hardly cried. So what went wrong?
As the weeks progressed I started to get more and more worn down. When I look back at it now, I wasn’t eating properly (although I thought I was), I definitely did not eat enough for someone who was breastfeeding. By week 6 I had to end my breastfeeding journey, it completely broke my heart. Although I had a good supply I’m convinced the quality was not great, this being down to my poor diet. Colby and I tried so hard, and even saw 3 different specialists to try master the latch, but unfortunately I was at a point where every feed became such a fear for me, it was visibly stressing Colby and my milk started to resemble strawberry milkshake from the amount I was bleeding. Once I stopped I believed I was now back in control of my body, meaning the careful planning of what I could eat began, although I knew deep down there was nothing to change, and my body had done an incredible thing, I couldn’t shake it. I think I have a tendency to always feel insecure with my body, so a postpartum body, however amazing it could look to everyone else could in fact spur a relapse.
Naturally becoming a mum means you become the ghost you once were, everyone comes to see your baby and offers to look after it while you get some sleep, or go for a coffee, when in reality all I wanted was someone to come take me for a coffee, or ask me how I was, even though I believed I was fine.
I pined for Ben to come home every evening and cried when he left in the morning. The rest is a blur, until February this year. I had started to notice over the weeks I had lost weight and more and more people were saying it and that’s when it started to become an unhealthy obsession.
The fear of gaining weight crept in as it was the only element of my life I was in total control of. I started to become aware of how much danger I was putting Colby in. I was struggling to get him out the bath and I certainly couldn't walk up the stairs with him. It dawned on me that all it would take was for me to pass out with him in my arms at the top of the stairs and there could be a potentially fatal outcome for one of us.
I then booked an appointment to the doctors, where I was quickly ushered to Urgent Care at the local hospital. On arrival I was poked and prodded until purple. I was so malnourished they couldn't even draw blood. After several hours I started to beg to become an inpatient as I was adamant I wasn't going home. Unfortunately the consultant just rolled his eyes at me, told me I had an eating disorder and to go seek private help.
I weighed 4st 8lbs (32kg), I was numb and exhausted and I was lost and totally alone in my own mind.
Thanks to my mum, she managed to arrange for the NHS eating disorder team to see me the following week. My initial assessment came round quickly and it was there I was hit with the shocking truth that they wanted to section me because of the severity of the illness and how dangerously low my weight was plummeting. The doctor then gave me an ultimatum, he offered me 4 weeks to prove to him I could gain weight and if I did he’d allow me to have community care letting me recover at home. His reasoning was that if I was sectioned the impact on mine and Colby’s relationship and the bond with my child would suffer, which he believed would be more detrimental to us in the long run.
The doctor then starts to mention post natal depression. I could clearly see I was suffering from an eating disorder, and the panic attacks were proof I was a nervous wreck about everything, but postnatal depression? No, I can’t have that. I’d had no issue with Colby, he was a great sleeper, no reflux, colic or any of the other issues some newborns can have. I didn’t resent Colby and wasn’t depressed and didn’t feel detached in fact I felt I needed Colby around me all the time.
A few days later everything started to sink in and my mindset slowly started to change and I was determined to get better and not end up sectioned in a hospital, where the possibility of not seeing Colby everyday started to haunt me. I’ve now been in community care recovery for 20 weeks. I’ve gained over 1stone and have roughly another stone to go. I’m over the worse when it comes to the physical side, but mentally it’s still a battle most days, if it wasn’t for Colby I don’t know if I’d still be fighting. I often have flashbacks of how lost I was, and how I allowed this new little life to consume me to the point I gave up on my own self worth. I’m now totally aware that if I don’t care for myself then I can’t care for Colby and life is for living.
So, that’s my rollercoaster of a year, if I can give any advice to a first time mum feeling a little low, please reach out to someone. You’ll find it isn’t always the people who you want to be the one to tell you it’s all going to be ok, and that’s ok. Just don't suffer in silence and I will always remember what a good friend told me,
“Be kind to yourself”.