When 35-year-old Aisha* gave birth to her second child, she felt that the world was completely against her. Her caesarian scar was not healing, her baby son would not feed, he wouldn’t sleep, and it felt like her wider family were blaming her as she wanted to breastfeed rather than bottle feed.
Although her husband and elder son were her ‘rocks’, her husband worked long hours and her older son is only eight, she felt very alone until support came in the form of Home-Start Better Start volunteer Tanya Marshall.
When I gave birth to my eldest son eight years ago, I had to have an emergency caesarean. We had just moved to a new house and I had no family or friends living nearby so I felt really isolated. I had been anxious all through my pregnancy as I had had a miscarriage previously before falling pregnant with my eldest son. I was continuously thinking ‘what if I lose my baby?’
I now realise, looking back that I had post-natal depression, but it was never officially diagnosed. I couldn’t breastfeed my son for long either as my caesarean scar got infected. Eventually with some support, everything got better and we carried on with family life.
"When I had my youngest son, I was all over the place!"
When I had my youngest son in 2019, I was all over the place! I had to have another caesarian and I was very unwell after it. My baby would not feed properly, he was constantly crying, and he would not sleep right from the start. He was losing weight and had to be hospitalised. I had people telling me that it was all my fault, and someone even said, ‘if his dad could breastfeed, he would do a better job!’.
My anxiety levels got really bad and I had to get medication to increase my milk levels as I wasn’t producing enough milk as my son was not feeding properly.
My mum tried to help, but she was constantly telling me that I needed to bottle feed so that I could get some sleep. I didn’t want to hear that. It didn’t feel supportive and the more she said it, the more determined I was to breastfeed.
At this point, my health visitor referred me to Better Start Bradford’s Breastfeeding Support project. Through their support, I began to understand what was happening from my baby’s perspective. They also discovered that his tongue was restricted in movement and that he needed a small operation to allow his tongue to breastfeed properly.
"I was very tired, felt very alone and didn’t want to get out and about."
It was such a relief when he started feeding properly, but I was still very tired, felt very alone and didn’t want to get out and about. The Breastfeeding Support project referred me to Home-Start Better Start as they felt I needed support in the home and someone to talk to.
Then Tanya, a Home-Start Better Start volunteer came into my life.
Tanya made a whole lot of difference and I started to feel ‘me’ again. On the days she came, I would manage to get some jobs done, while she played with my baby son. She helped me with my shopping as I was so anxious about taking my baby out – I just thought he would cry all the time.
"I used to really look forward to Tanya's company."
Tanya would just take on things to make life a lot easier for me. I had really been neglecting myself, so it was great that I was able to go and have physio and blood tests, while Tanya waited with my son in the waiting room. I always feel bad asking my family to help, but I never felt like that with Tanya. I used to really look forward to her company and to have someone to talk through my worries with.
My anxiety levels have significantly reduced since Tanya came into my life and I will now go out shopping with my baby and my son, who absolutely adores his little brother and is such a great help to me.
People need to know about Home-Start Better Start and the difference their volunteers make to the lives of people like me. You don’t realise, but it can be ‘make or break’ for some people: it certainly was for me! I would really recommend Home-Start Better Start to other mums and families.
*names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
About Home-Start Better Start
Home-Start Better Start provides peer support, friendship and practical help to families with children aged under four and during pregnancy. Families are matched with a volunteer who will come into the family home to offer understanding, reassurance, a listening ear and an extra pair of hands to help families cope with everyday situations.
If you are a parent with a child under four, and are finding things tough at the moment, you can ask for free help by contacting the Home-Start Better Start team. Contact details can be found on our projects page.
If you are interested in volunteering, then Home-Start Better Start have a new Volunteer Preparation course starting on 26 February 2020. Find out more here.