Postnatal Anxiety. How to save a life.

I had one of those right place and time moments today that actually has left me feeling a little shaken that it could have been possible to miss it and what might have happened if we had.

Sat in a coffee shop working I looked up and saw a mum sitting down across the room to eat a sandwich, jiggling her baby in the pram while she fretted a little.

Because I often feel on high alert for mums and parents who are having a tough moment, I am never quite sure if I walk the right line of helpful & friendly vs. creepy and interfering. I basically try and give out the vibe that someone can approach me or ask for help or offer it if it seems appropriate.

On this occasion I caught the mum’s eye and said “it’s tough to eat your lunch some days isn’t it” and that was all it took to open the doors. She asked if she could come and sit with me (I moved to her) and she told me her story, or a part of it, while I jiggled her baby to free her arms for eating her sandwich.

We chatted for 20 minutes or so. And as we chatted I could feel a cold drip of adrenaline or fear down my throat into my chest - this person felt so lost, so alone, so beyond her own personality that she had left the house with nothing but her purse and her baby, slightly delirious from sleep deprivation. How have we let her fall through the cracks? Why is no one asking if she is OK?

I am not a caped crusader coming to save the day, I did not save this woman’s life by compassionate listening. But I also sort of did. I cannot help but project into the futures of women like her, people who do not have anyone to ask “is it normal when…”, who lose themselves and don’t come back.

If you are reading this wondering what I am talking about, good. If it is ringing all your bells then please know there are so many people feeling the same, and it is both normal and OK for you to not let it continue. Go to the GP, ask for a referral to a mother and infant mental health team. If you are breastfeeding, join a breastfeeding support group - there will be a local one. If you feel like it there are often a couple of local, free groups on at libraries that make a space for you to meet other parents and feel less alone.

It gets better. You can get better. You will laugh again.