Here at My Expert Midwife we are committed to tackling the taboos and myths surrounding pregnancy and being a new mum.
We believe that everyone should feel comfortable talking about how they feel and have the right support in place, so they can feel like themselves again.
My Expert Midwife & PANDAS Foundation Partnership
Here at My Expert Midwife we are committed to tackling the taboos and myths surrounding pregnancy and being a new mum.
We are partnering with PANDAS foundation who help parents suffering with perinatal mental health challenges so they can receive the support they deserve, offering them hope and empathy.
We are pledging to raise £10,000 over the next 12 months to help with the amazing support that PANDAS provide.
Want to get involved?
We are on a mission to build a community of women to help tackle those taboos by sharing stories and experiences.
By sharing and being open we can help and empower other women to feel like themselves again.
Share your story...
For the next 12 months, every photo posted on social sharing your motherhood story and telling us what helped YOU to feel like you again during pregnancy, birth or being a new mum using the hashtag #MyExpertMidwifeXPandas, we will donate a £1 to PANDAS.
And for every best selling Mum to be Collection sold we will also donate a £1 to PANDAS foundation.
I’m not sure why, but when you announce you’re pregnant other mothers start telling you their birth horror stories. Like some kind of sadistic right of passage. Thank you Karen, I don’t need to be repeatedly told I’m going to shit myself. We are all aware of what can happen, but we do it anyway and quite frankly after the year I had before having Mallory even the worst birth stories didn’t phase me.
But for #csectionawarenessmonth I wanted to share a positive story about caesareans. Ours was planned because Mallory was in an unstable transverse lie, because I have a bicornuate uterus, so there was nothing we could do that would send her vertical and lord knows I would shit myself if I tried to push her out sideways.
Despite an early morning emergency with Indi (our dog) which almost caused Matt to miss the birth completely, he arrived and we were prepped as the first of the day. We had music playing, we were chatting away with the team and despite feeling like someone was doing the washing up in my tummy, I felt no pain. Then my consultant held Mallory up like Rafiki held up Simba and she let out an almighty scream.
We had delayed cord clamping and skin on skin in recovery. Not all birth stories are horror stories and I definitely didn’t shit myself (that I know of).
I'm proud to say my uterus has borne the brunt of a grand total of 3 sections👊👊👊. My first was an emergency section and genuinely terrifying, with poor old Sophie needing resuscitating. I've never been entirely convinced this labour had to end up in a section, but that's a story for another time.
2nd time round I had zero confidence that my body would labour properly so I opted for a planned section and whilst I can honestly say this section was a calm and positive experience, I do still have the niggling feeling that had I been braver and had more encouragement I could have at least attempted labour, but hey ho. Finally no.3. This lush little fella was a bit of a surprise and because I was already 2 sections down he was automatically a sun roof birth. A LOT had changed in the years inbetween births and for this final round in the ring I was in advanced recovery and home the next day which was fantastic.
For ages I felt like I'd cheated having sections and that I had missed out on some profound life enhancing moment but now I'm just so thankful the option was there. C-section births can be totally wonderful experiences and they are just a different type of labour for mothers. So here's to all us c-sectioners, be proud of your achievement and wear your scars with pride.
Having C-section has always been my boogeyman. It was the last option when I was writing my birth plan, because epidural & my stomach cut open made me always sweat in fear. But, of course, that's exactly what happened to me in the end and I felt for a while as all of my choices were taken from me.
After 2 sleepless nights since the start of my contractions;
1. I was twice advised to "push" without examination if I am fully dilated = my baby's head was swollen. ❗❗
2. Only at the end, right before they went to get the doctor, they informed me that she is facing the ceiling therefore she needs to do more spinning in my birth canal to be delivered. ❓❗
3. I could not go for pee for a couple of hours, which at that moment seemed like no problem❓❓, but in the end it caused obstacle for my baby to be born.
After 2 hrs of pushing, when I was unable to even lift my arms let alone push, we were rushed in (while saying there is nothing wrong, all is well and the baby is nice and happy, although she was distressed.) ❗
As if it was not enough, I overheated while they were stitching me up and my partner watched me as I roll my eyes back, not to mention that he unfortunately seen me "cut open" because they presented our daughter to us over his shoulder - right where my open stomach was.❓❗ It was very hard to digest all that happened. Thankfully I was high as hell on painkillers for most of the time, because otherwise I'm sure my trauma would be even worse.
I felt upset - I am sure if things were done properly, I would deliver my baby without a problem. I felt like I let myself and everyone else down.
Also, thanks to the corona pandemic there were no visits allowed and that only made me feel worse, quite alone. 😔
But I pulled through. The mental pain slowly faded away every time I looked down at my baby. Healthy baby. She is lovely and every day with her makes me happy, no matter how she was delivered. It is my war scar and I'll wear it with pride!! 💜
My route to motherhood was a difficult journey involving IVF failure and several operations to help me get there. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to arrive at the destination, but that turned out to be so much more dark, painful and soul stripping than anything I’d ever experienced before.
6 months after Betsy was born, I’d accepted that the way I was feeling was normal; after all motherhood can be lonely, vulnerable, desperate and make you feel anxious, exhausted, hyper vigilant, angry and depressed. But one day, I suddenly started having the most disturbing dark thoughts about harming her and they hit me like a train. I couldn’t stop them, every time I closed or opened my eyes I was thinking of the unimaginable and it was consuming me. I was scared, desperate and ashamed, but knew then I needed help. This wasn’t me.
I opened up to my best friends who rallied around me and showered me with love and support. My friend Anna shared loads of content with me about post-natal depression and that’s when I found PANDAS. Scrolling their instagram page made me realise I wasn’t alone and that this terrible illness can happen to anyone. It gave me a glimmer of hope that perhaps things could get better and this wasn’t my fault. I knew I was a good Mum and love Betsy to my very core.
My friend Kate took me to see my wonderful GP Dr Gardiner the next day and I opened up and told her everything. I got help immediately – in the form of medication, weekly appointments with my GP, monthly appointments with a psychiatrist, group therapy at The Mount (the perinatal mental health service in Leeds) and marriage counselling, as my relationship with my husband Dan was at rock bottom.
We needed so much help and I’m eternally thankful that we got it. Two years on and my family and friends have been amazing. Dan is amazing. Betsy is amazing. The NHS are amazing. PANDAS are amazing. I can’t thank my amazing support network enough for getting me through the darkest time of my life and staying by my side. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
So to anyone out there not feeling like you any more, please talk, open up and tell people how you feel. Have hope. Things can and will get better. The most important advice I have is to be kind to yourself. We can be our own worst enemy, so be gentle on yourself and don’t under estimate the power of self care.
The one thing I wasn’t prepared for after Birth Is the postpartum body, nothing is toned, i have a lot of stretch marks and everything is a hell of a lot wider.
I’ve been beating myself up about it a lot lately and trying not to cry when I looked at myself in a mirror.
It’s taken a lot of talking to by friends and family but I’ve finally come to the realisation that my body has gone through a hell of a lot, it took me 9 months+13 days 😒 to grow this beauty so I’m not going to “bounce back” after 9 weeks!
My body changes are 100% worth it ❤️ It’s also ok to sit on the sofa all day and eat chocolate 🍫
Mental health illness is something I’ve always grown up with. Depression runs in my family & I myself, was diagnosed in my late teens, so having an awareness of it and feelings of doubt and worthless is something that feels normal to me.
Falling pregnant with Jarvis changed my mental health. I think it was actually the best my depression had been in a long time; pregnancy gave all the things depression made me hate about myself a reason to exist.
My pregnancy was to all intents and purposes an ‘easy pregnancy’. I fell pregnant really quickly, I didn’t suffer with any nausea, etc & Jarvis was a very healthy baby.
However, despite all of this I HATED being pregnant. I was so glad that my baby was growing nicely but the actual pregnancy to me, was a means to an end. I didn’t want to be pregnant; I just wanted my baby & the expectations from everyone around me to love every second of it was overwhelming. No one ever talks about what to do if you don’t.
Pregnancy felt like I lost control of my own life, suddenly everyone – even people I’d never met before felt like they had an opinion on me and my life, from what I ate, the fact I was still at work, the size of my bump, even how I dressed. It was like I was supposed to lose everything that made me, ME. People would tell me ‘you don’t look like a mum’ like I was supposed to magically transform into some bread baking, yoga doing, Laura Ashley floral wearing, TV stereotype ‘Mother’ the second my test came back positive.
Even feeling Jarvis move was hard, I hated feeling like my body wasn’t mine, it was like I was growing an alien and people were constantly wanting to touch it, some without even asking. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, so someone else (that I didn’t know) demanding to touch it was something I just couldn’t get my head around, it felt like such an invasion of privacy. Naturally, I’m small in size and my bump was no different. People expect you to balloon everywhere in pregnancy, and other than my bump I just didn’t gain weight. The questions on how far along I was were constant and then reactions to my response were soul destroying. People were horrified by how small I was for how far along I was and made no effort to hide their views. I felt shamed for something that was out of my control.
Saying out loud to anyone that I wasn’t enjoying it felt wrong, it was like this dirty little secret I had to hide.
I felt broken & peoples’ unrequited opinions & actions just made it 100 times worse. For all the help those ignorant people probably thought they were giving, they were actually causing me more heartache and damage to my mental health than they will ever know.
I was in labour for over 48 hours & spent a good chunk of my latent phase bouncing on a birthing ball watching Bones (because if solving murders can’t get you through early labour – what can?!) I don’t actually remember much about giving birth, I just knew I needed to get it done & get baby out. We spent 3 days in hospital post-partum to check for side effects from my anti-depressants, as I’d been advised to stay on them during pregnancy & then that was it, into the world to navigate life with a newborn.
I’m 18 months on now and have this happy, babbling, mischievous toddler. Being a mum isn’t easy & sometimes, like when he’s having a temper tantrum because I won’t let him chew the dog’s tail, or when I’ve got 18 piles of laundry in my living room & I can’t remember which ones are clean and which ones are dirty, I find myself questioning ‘what’s the point’, but then, all of a sudden Jarvis will do something. It can be anything, a smile, a laugh, a cuddle, even a fart & it makes me go, ‘yep, that’s why. You are hands down worth everything.’
People will always have an opinion. They’ll have had a baby 15 years ago and still think they know best. It’s easier said than done but ignore them as much as possible. Pregnancy and motherhood don’t come with a rulebook, none of it is rigid. If you want advice, ask for it but try see it as a structure and make it your own. I’ve been winging it since I found out I was expecting & still am now, so if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t worry no one else does either!
Pregnancy for me was a wonderful, magical but scary journey which I think I took in my stride most of the time. We experienced a miscarriage before my pregnancy with Reggie so I think sometimes I had my glass half empty as a way of protecting myself from getting hurt. I was so anxious to get to the 12-week mark but then when everything was ok there and the various screenings, I would then just worry about making it to the next milestone. So as much as I really tried to remain positive, there was always a slight fear in the back of my mind. I don’t think I ever really truly fully relaxed until I was holding him in my arms, and he was here safe. I’m proud of myself in terms of how I “coped” during pregnancy. I worked right up until the very end shooting a stunt and a huge episode with loads of running around shouting and screaming. (Reggie must have been wondering what on earth was going on outside the womb).
I kept active going to a Mamafit class every week but also really relished in being lazy and having big lie ins in bed and snoozing during the day when I got the chance as I knew those days would be over when the little one arrived. I actually loved watching my body slowly grow. There were days when I yearned for a big bump and just wanted to be big and pregnant and then there were other days when I actually was massive and pregnant when I just didn’t feel like my body was mine and I felt so uncomfortable and self-conscious. I remember once being in a changing room trying to find something to wear for my baby shower. I remember sitting in the hot changing room literally sweating, swollen and crying because nothing fit me, and I felt I looked awful. But most of the time I tried to just keep telling myself that my body was changing for the most incredible reason and that I was a vessel to bring life into the world. It really is such an amazing time and if I ever had a down day I would just remind myself of all the women out there who are so desperate to be in my position and carry a baby and just remind myself how lucky I was.
Pregnancy is a roller-coaster of emotions and dealing with your body changing through the months can be a challenge. I tried to just go with it and embrace that things were stretching and getting bigger. I think the sooner you realise perfection doesn’t exist the happier you become. If I didn’t have my stretch marks, then I wouldn’t have my son.
When Reggie arrived, I just felt this overwhelming sense of love. We didn’t find out the gender, but I just knew he was a boy. I felt like I knew what he looked like and I just felt like I’d known him my whole life. Literally all the clichés are true, and I honestly can’t remember my life before him.
(I just know it included a shed load more sleep!!)
But my goodness I know people did warn me about the hormones and the “blues” but wowzers I was an emotional wreck! It really did take maybe up until a few months go for me to fully start to feel like “me” again.
It’s nearly five months since the birth of my beautiful baby boy Reggie and he’s well and truly stolen my heart! Words really can’t express the love and obsession I have for my baby boy and my life has well and truly changed for the absolute better in every single possible way. If I’ve learnt anything during my motherhood journey so far, it’s just to do what you need to do and don’t focus on what anyone else thinks. There’s way too much judgement and opinions out there. Every parent just does what they think is best for their child. I want to continue to trust my instinct and find solace in that “everything is a phase”.
I feel incredibly lucky to have such a supportive partner and family and friends around me. but most importantly I feel so proud of myself.
I try my best and that’s all I can do. There’s good days and bad days. Some days I struggle and compare myself with “why isn’t Reggie sleeping through?” “What am I doing wrong” but then I just try and have a word with myself and remember I’m doing what I think is best.
And as long as Reggie is healthy and a happy little boy that’s all I care about. He’s so loved. And I am so, so lucky to have him. He’s my little dude and my best friend and I just need to savour every second of my maternity with him as he’s not gonna be a baby forever and when he’s out clubbing at 18 and I don’t know where he is Ill long for the days when he’s keeping me up all night crying wanting to be cuddled.
I think mums go through so much. It really is the most life changing transition you go through becoming a parent. We all need to be able to talk to our friends/ family about how were coping and our mental health I really think that’s important during this time.
Nadine Mulkerrin xx
Need support now? Here’s how
My Expert Midwife are right by your side providing self care advice from our team of in-house expert midwives and customer care team, any questions you have you can get in touch with us and we will get back to you asap. Contact us
- through our social channels – Instagram @my_expertmidwife or Facebook @myexpertmidwife
- or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Need urgent support from PANDAs? Contact details are below
- FREE helpline 0808 1961 776. Available on all landlines. Monday – Sunday 9am- 8pm.
- PANDAS Email Support: email@example.com available 365 days a year. You will get a response within 72 hours.
- PANDAS Foundation Facebook Page The PANDAS Social Media team are online seven days a week
- PANDAS Dads Facebook Page Developed to support partners and carers affected by perinatal mental illness, the PANDAS Dads volunteers are on hand to offer support and information seven days a week.
- PANDAS Support Groups Offers a fantastic opportunity to meet up with other parents affected by perinatal mental illness. The team of PANDAS Support Group Leaders are on hand to provide information about local activities and services, whilst also offering support and advice. To find your local group call or email.