#timetotalk – My story

It can safely be said that there are not too many articles on Lib Dem Voice inspired by Adele! But with LDV’s record of taboo-breaking posts on mental health she is a fitting heroine for her refreshing honesty about post-natal depression. She said in an interview a few months ago that it affected her so seriously that she hesitated about having more children. It is something many of us can identify with but few admit.

For me, it was very tied up with having a sick baby and the pressures of being a PPC. The sense of inadequacy of feeling not able to do it all was absolutely overwhelming and is very difficult to describe. There was also a surreal, darkly comic aspect to it when post-natal despair was combined with the instinct of a politician. For instance, I can remember being about to have a meltdown in a hardware store when the baby was wailing and it felt like everyone was looking at us (they probably weren’t). I recall thinking to myself something along the lines of: “I cannot have a meltdown in this hardware store as everyone in this hardware store knows who I am. They had a letter a few days ago telling them that I am a good candidate and would be a good MP. I cannot, therefore, have a meltdown until I get home”. And thus I held it together and wheeled the mithering babe home – with my dignity intact. For the time being.

Anyone with the slightest nous can easily evade the questions of even the savviest health visitor. When I was asked the post-natal depression questions I just gave a politician’s replies! Not exactly lying about how I felt but evading the questions with well crafted “it all depends” kinds of answers.

Obviously, those with extreme post-natal depression or psychosis need professional help but for the rest of us someone to talk to and a community that does not expect us all to be “supermums” is a good start.

* Ruth Bright has been a councillor in Southwark and Parliamentary Candidate for Hampshire East

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  • Tony Dawson 1st Feb '18 - 10:49am

    Excellent article.

    Of all the things for which one might have envied Donnachadh McCarthy, having had Ruth Bright as his ward colleague in Southwark must be right there at the top.

  • Ruth Bright 1st Feb '18 - 1:04pm

    Tony – you are amazingly kind. Also part of our team in our three member ward was Councillor Alf Langley who passed away some years ago. Following Grenfell I have often thought about Alf as an exemplary community politician for the high-rise estates we represented. Would that all high-rise estates had local champions of the calibre of Donnachadh and Alf.

  • Jayne mansfield 1st Feb '18 - 5:54pm

    @ Ruth Bright,
    Thank you for sharing Ruth.

    New motherhood is so hard and sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We internalise the unreasonable expectations that are placed on us and think we are ‘failures’ when we cannot meet those unreasonable expectations.

    I remember thinking I was abnormal because did not feel an immediate special rush of love after giving birth to my first child. Several days later, I was still peering at the child thinking, well I will always love, care and protect you because you are so vulnerable , and without care and attention you won’t survive and thrive, but I don’t feel anything more than if you had been handed to me as a ready -made with no biological link.

    An intensity of love grew slowly as it often does in many relationships, and thanks to an understanding husband, I stopped beating myself up because there had not been that special intense love at first sight that I was led to believe I should feel.

    The pressures on girls and women have increased enormously since my day to the point where sections of the media hold women who lose an abnormal amount of weight immediately post- natal as role models, adding to the sense of inadequacy of those who don’t.

    Working in a different culture, confirmed my belief that we are cruel to new mothers. It was an education to work in areas where relatives and other women in the village cherished a new mother as special, cooked for the mother, cared for other children, nursed the baby so that the mother could rest. Motherhood conferred status.

    We have a lot to learn from these so called ‘primitive cultures’. There were of course, instances of psychosis, but the cultural factors that can lead to the social isolation, sheer fatigue and feelings of ‘not coping’ that so blight a mother’s experience of early motherhood were not present.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 1st Feb '18 - 9:50pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Ruth. How did you get through it?

  • Ruth Bright 1st Feb '18 - 10:36pm

    Jayne is onto something when she talks about other cultures. The Talmud and the Quran both outline the support women should have for two years after birth.

    Caron – did you see any of today’s debate in parliament on baby leave? It was outstanding. If only there had been debates like that in “my day”.

    1. I was lucky. My husband went part-time and we shared things 60% (him) 40% (me).
    2. I read about other women’s experiences. I wonder if Norman Lamb knows about Margery Kempe (daughter of Norfolk) who wrote about post-natal depression in medieval times!
    3. I hung on in there and learnt so much I was forewarned for baby number 2.

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