Eleanor King, a mother-of-three from Southend-on-Sea, took part in the initiative, and said she had struggled to cope after the birth of her first baby. Finding breastfeeding particularly painful, she got in touch with a local breastfeeding group.
‘After a long labour with my first baby, I vividly remember being up at 3am in the morning, in floods of silent tears from breastfeeding being so painful, trying not to wake up my husband,’ she said.
‘What kept me going was the knowledge that there was a local breastfeeding group, just down the road, where I knew that I would be welcomed.
‘I knew that there would be other people there who understood, who had been there too, and that I would be listened to.’
Eleanor said she made good friends at the group and was lucky it had been nearby.
She went on to complete the breastfeeding peer supporter training, and later helped other mothers at the Children’s Centre. This led her to complete more breastfeeding training with UNICEF, before creating her own project.
‘Since we started, the project has gone from strength to strength. This year we have supported 300 families, and I have provided training for over 20 volunteers who were also keen to help other mums too,’ she explained.
‘There are so many expectations from society on women, particularly on new mums. When people can connect together, and share experiences honestly, kindly and with care, a lot of healing can take place.’
Lucy Parson, a mother of two children aged 11 and 13, from Cheltenham, said she felt isolated during her second pregnancy after moving to Germany with her husband, who worked long hours.
‘I also had a constant feeling that I should be coping. This was what women went through and looking after two young children should come naturally surely? I met some other mums through an International playgroup and that did help,’ she said.
‘I still felt very isolated and alone, terrified and panicked when the children were ill and every day outings seemed like a huge challenge. Sometimes it seems like the rest of the world is striving forward and you feel Iike the only one who is ten steps behind.
‘Later, when we moved back to England, it was the other Mums at the school who helped me realise that none of us are perfect and we’re not meant to be,’ she went on.
‘So much of being a Mum is finding your own way. There is no training. Following your own heart and asking for help when you need it is part of the journey. We are all just trying our best. Whatever that looks like!’
Sarah Simonds, a mother-of-two from East Molesey, Surrey, said she was a ‘coper,’ who would put on a brave face while struggling and sinking deeper into distress.
‘I portrayed an external façade that said everything was fine. I never asked for help, it just felt easier do things by myself,’ she explained.
With her two sons being born 13 months apart, Sarah said she decided to give up work, which subjected her to feeling isolated and overwhelmed.
‘I had no idea I was struggling at the time, I genuinely thought I was coping and this was my new normal,’ she said.
‘But looking back I often found myself crying inconsolably over the slightest thing and getting angry over petty stuff. I still kept going but the world around me was closing in.’
Sarah explained she stopped seeing people and later realise she was suffering from depression and was prescribed sleeping pills by one GP and anti-depressants by another.
She managed to get some counselling for her mental health issues and go better with the help of a psychotherapist and art therapy.
‘My message to anyone who is struggling after childbirth is simply don’t be embarrassed to seek help, don’t give up trying to get help if it is not offered, do make sure you find people who will listen, as it might not be your partner or your family you can turn to you may have to reach out further,’ she said.
‘I wish there was more help offered more openly and freely wen I was going through this at the beginning, there wasn’t. Things have improved hugely over the years and mental health now is not considered such a stigma.’