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20 May 2024

Maternal mental health: Vanessa's story

In Maternal Mental Health Month, Shout Volunteer Vanessa reflects on her experience of postnatal depression and the support that helped her recover.

Life was going well - I was married, we had our first house, good jobs, good friends, freedom to do the things we wanted to do and to go the places we wanted to go. I became pregnant and things progressed smoothly. Our son was born 13 days after his due date.

Then, my whole life got shaken up. Like a snow globe where all those bits of sparkle get tossed around and land somewhere randomly.


I experienced extreme moods and I didn’t know how to cope with them. My body did not feel like my own. Overnight I became ‘mum’. What happened to Vanessa - wife, friend, traveller, dancer - me?

It didn’t help that the birth itself was a traumatic experience which resulted in many nights in hospital and little to no sleep. It felt like I began life as a mum on the back foot - exhausted, sleep deprived and totally overwhelmed.

It was a relief when we were allowed to go home and start a rhythm as a new family unit. But I was not prepared for the resentment I felt. Towards my husband going to work, leaving the house every day for 12 hours, seemingly continuing with his life as if nothing had changed. Towards my newborn son, for having such great demands on me and my body. Towards anyone who was coping and living a normal life.

Our family lived hours away and we had few close friends to call upon for help. I really did feel very alone and isolated. The other new mums I saw seemed to be managing and coping.

I knew that something was very wrong, but when I mentioned my low mood to the health visitors and GPs during scheduled baby checks, I was told that it was normal to feel this way and that it would get better over time. I hoped that they were right and I became very good at masking my emotions, putting on a brave face and carrying on.

Four years later we also had a daughter. The blip I was in before turned into a giant crater. One day I felt I couldn’t take any more and was one step from leaving the house and my family. My husband intervened and arranged for me to see a private GP. They listened to me, started me on antidepressants and reviewed me regularly. My life changed for the better, although a difficult journey was still ahead of me.

I started seeing a counsellor and was able to voice my feelings. I had experienced great trauma, so there were episodes of hospitalisation, therapy and the care of a psychiatrist. But now I had opened up, I felt that I no longer had to hide and put that brave-face mask on. I finally felt allowed to show my true feelings, my fears and anxieties, my depression.

I realised that there were people around me who wanted to help and support came in many different ways, from a cooked meal dropped at the door, to a chat and listening ear, or babysitting from family.


I have learnt that it is so important to feel able to voice what you are feeling, however big or small. No one should suffer alone and everyone should have the opportunity to be listened to and heard.

There is support out there and services such as Shout can play an essential role. The service runs 24/7, through all hours of the day and night. As a Shout Volunteer, I take great comfort in being there for people and supporting them when they need help, listening to them and validating their feelings, helping them take their next steps to feeling better.

It’s easy to hide from the world when we’re low and feeling depleted, but getting out for fresh air, seeing another face, talking to another, or using a service such as Shout, really does help.