Charlotte Gill is a midwife, and also lives with bipolar disorder. She was admitted to a Mother & Baby Unit after the birth of her 1st baby.  Here she shares some of her story with self-care matters- thank you so much Charlotte!

“Because I was both a midwife and someone with an existing diagnosis of bipolar disorder, I was aware that the postnatal period could be challenging for me and knew what signs to look out for that could suggest my mental health was deteriorating. I was fortunate enough to be having care from a local perinatal mental health team so knew how to access support when I needed it.

As much as I thought that being a midwife would prepare me for motherhood, I wasn’t ready for the loneliness and isolation it brought. I was often alone with my doubts and worries while my partner worked and I struggled to cope with the pressures and demands that came with being a new mum.

Covid 19 lock downs meant that I couldn’t access baby groups or support from family and friends and my loneliness soon spiralled into a significant depressive episode.

It wasn’t until I felt trapped enough to start planning to end my life that I realised how ill I had become. Each day felt painfully long and I would agonise over the time I spent with my baby: was I doing it right, was I good enough for her, surely she would be better off without having me for a parent? The anxiety felt crippling and I couldn’t forsee a future in which I felt happy. I was seen in A&E and admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit.

Because of my job, I knew about these units already. They’re specialist hospitals for mothers with babies under one year old who are suffering with acute mental illness, and they’re designed so that babies can be admitted alongside their mothers too. This, I feel, was so important in my recovery. Having the opportunity to continue to parent while I received treatment meant that my relationship with my baby could flourish instead of it being strained for the two months I was admitted. The unit had intensive support from psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, nursery nurses, occupational therapists and peer support workers and I believe that without this support I would never have recovered.

I still experience some anxiety and doubts, and feel that the experience of my early motherhood haunts me, but I finally enjoy being a mother and have a wonderful relationship with my daughter thanks to the Mother and Baby Unit.”