Ant and I have some news to share, writes Radio Aire presenter Caroline Verdon.
We are having a baby! Not together, obviously, Ant is expecting with his wife and I with my husband. We’re all thrilled and excited and also a little nervous! We told our three-year-old that he was going to be a big brother and he can’t be wait, although truth be told he has asked on more than one occasion if, rather than a brother or a sister, he could have a dinosaur.
I know lots of people relish being pregnant and enjoy every second. I am not one of those people. I am hugely grateful for the ability to be pregnant and to carry a child but truth be told, pregnancy and my body don’t really get on particularly well.
When I was pregnant with our now three-year-old, Arthur, I had gestational high blood pressure and gestational diabetes and, after multiple hospital stays, I had to be induced as my blood pressure couldn’t be controlled. Afterwards I had to stay in hospital for a week as I really wasn’t physically very well. Mentally, I was all over the place.
A year before we had Arthur, we lost our first little boy when I was five months pregnant. It turns out he had something called Patau Syndrome, so we had a lot of extra scans and, during one of them, we were told that his heart wasn’t beating anymore.
To this day, giving birth to our sleeping baby is the hardest thing we’ve been through and something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Whilst pregnant with Arthur, even though I knew he was healthy, I constantly feared the worst. I counted down the days to him being born, convinced that all of my worries and anxieties would disappear when I was able to hold him in my arms but they didn’t.
I’d had friends tell me about this sudden rush of love they felt when they held their child for the first time and I fully expected to feel the same, only I didn’t. I struggled to bond with Arthur initially. I remember coming out of hospital and asking my husband if he could only rescue one of us from the path of a bus who would he rescue and I was devastated when he said Arthur. Partly because I didn’t feel I would put my life on the line for my baby and partly because I hated that I was no longer my husband’s priority.
Having these thoughts made me feel like the most awful mother and I felt extremely guilty. I saw a psychologist and we talked a lot and she had me carry out a variety of tasks - it wasn’t instant but gradually we bonded and I felt that love and I realised I would do anything to protect him. It was such a relief and I expected that to be the end of my anxieties. Instead, all that happened was that my anxieties shifted and I became completely paranoid that something terrible was going to happen to Arthur and that I wouldn’t be able to protect him. I remember going to see relatives at Christmas and stopping at a service station. We went into the Starbucks and I felt myself panic if there was a terrorist attack there wasn’t anywhere I could easily get to or any cupboards I could readily stash Arthur in, in the hope that he would go unnoticed and therefore survive. Needless to say I saw my psychologist for a year after that and slowly but surely I found my even ground.
I know I’m not alone in having had mental health problems as a new mum, or at having struggled to bond with my child but it’s still a taboo subject and it shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to bond, instead we should feel proud for being able to hold our hands up, admit we’re not well and seek help when we need it. Being pregnant again, I’m under St James’ Hospital and the staff have been fantastic, from offering specialist mental health midwives to information on relaxation classes. I am absolutely going to take all of the help I can get.