Baby loss Mental health Self-care

Maternal Mental Health Week – baby loss & early motherhood

April 30, 2019

Louise O’Donnell created her blog after a traumatic experience of pregnancy and early motherhood. In her contribution to #thebigselfcareshare for Maternal Mental Health Week, Louise shares the steps she’s taken towards finding support within a community of like-minded people on her challenging path to becoming a parent.

Louise O'Donnell - maternal mental health week

Tell us about your experience of pregnancy and loss.

I had a twin pregnancy where we sadly lost one baby at 28 weeks. Our surviving baby had to come prematurely to stay safe and was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 9 weeks. I remember feeling so angry and cheated that we had experienced such a sad loss – this isn’t how pregnancy and motherhood are in the fairytales. I also found early motherhood so full of anxiety and doubt.

I feel passionate about reaching out and helping others through our actions, however small.

I set up my Instagram account and blog because I didn’t want anyone else to feel like they were alone in experiencing loss, prematurity and generally not knowing how to navigate being a new mum with all its pressures, especially guilt and comparison. I feel passionate about reaching out and helping others through our actions, however small.

We first discovered each other through the online baby loss community. Tell me, how have you found writing about your experience of motherhood?

I started, as many do, for cathartic reasons and to try and find like-minded people. I was dubious about starting an Instagram account as I know there can be lots of crazy negativity but in the loss community, I’ve found so much warmth and support. It’s one of those situations where you would give anything to not be in the club of bereaved parents, but you also get to meet the strongest most inspiring people.

…through writing about my experiences I’m more confident in how I navigate grief and know I’m not alone – that is an amazing comfort.

For me, I felt so alone in my grief as I experienced a less common form of loss, but through writing about my experiences I’m more confident in how I navigate grief and know I’m not alone – that is an amazing comfort.

Where did you find the most support following the loss of your baby and as a new mum to her twin?

Because I had a twin pregnancy, I used the charity Tamba (Twin and Multiple Births Association) through the good, the bad and the ugly, from the first scans to the loss. After the loss, I used their bereavement befriender service to get me through the early raw stages of the grief. The lady who I was matched with is now a close personal friend who I cherish more than I can say. In terms of Instagram, there is such a wide community of parents who have experienced loss in many different ways and I have found the ones who I can relate to. Grief is so personal and I’ve learned you need to connect with those who ‘get it’. I’ve also recently attended Baby Loss Hour Live hosted by Jess, The Legacy of Leo, and this was hugely significant for me in meeting other parents and again reaffirming that I’m not alone and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

How would you define self-care and how have you prioritised it during this time?

To me, self-care isn’t going to the nail salon or having your hair done (although both are lovely!). I think it also includes looking after your mental health and wellbeing – like going for a walk, taking time out for yourself, picking up the phone and calling a friend. I try to set a realistic self-care plan that I know I can achieve – right now it’s to cut down on alcohol, cut out coffee, make sure I get outside every day and before bed I write a gratitude list and meditate. Usually, I try to make an effort to reboot if my resources are low rather than just taking easy routes of shutting off in front of the telly and pouring a glass of wine! Saying that what counts for self-care for one day might not cut it the next so I stay flexible!

Can you share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you on the path to being kinder to yourself as a new mum?

I would say the thing I find most helpful is getting outside every single day (illness aside). If I don’t have any plans for the day, I get the pram, put on a podcast and pop my earphones in and just walk. It doesn’t matter where. There are times as a new mum where you get to mid-afternoon, you haven’t got dressed, all the day has brought is poo explosions and screaming (from the baby…hopefully!) and you just feel like you’ll go under.

…feeling a loss of identity was a huge thing for me as a new mum and you need to bring the old you back out whenever possible.

Just get out, even if it’s around the streets a few laps! I also think its really good to book out baby-free time ahead in your diary with friends so you can reacquaint yourself with the old you – feeling a loss of identity was a huge thing for me as a new mum and you need to bring the old you back out whenever possible. As much as I cherish being a mum I was someone before that too!

Thank you for your raw and honest contribution to#thebigselfcareshare, Louise, and for sharing your story and the inspiration behind your blog.

You can find out more about Louise by visiting:

www.instagram.com/helpamummyout
www.helpamummyout.co.uk

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