There’s peculiar anguish of feeling suicidal whilst pregnant or as a new parent: the shame, the taboo, the bewildering loneliness, the chasm between others’ expectations and what I was feeling inside, the complexity of being the vehicle for another’s life when you want your own to end.

One of the things that pushed me further from hope was the idea that I could not choose to end my life: because it was no longer my life to take. This paradox – that the very thing so often termed as a ‘protective factor’ was in fact a catalyst.

My suicidal thoughts were not incidental to my status as a new parent rather they were fuelled or even created by it.

The relentlessness of daily life, the resentment I felt to all those around me, the sense of my own life being literally and metaphorically sucked out of me, the loss of any identity, the lack of sleep, the permanence and inescapability of being a parent.

In many ways it also made it easier for others to minimise what I felt or what I was telling them. All too often low mood was normalised as part of the process, a natural hormonal response, an expected consequence of change and fatigue. The difficulty hearing and believing someone who feels suicidal with a new baby seemed even greater than it is at other times.

When I was admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit, the two most powerful factors in my (sort of) recovery were these. Sleep and being believed. Sleep helped me think and to find some release from the relentless darkness which surrounded me in waking hours.

"The idea that I could not choose to end my life: because it was no longer my life to take"

The nurses, doctors and nursery nurses asked questions and were not afraid of the answers. Yes, they challenged my thinking, but they heard what I said and accepted that was how I felt. They did not tell me I couldn’t feel like that or try to jolly me along with meaningless positivity.

The other key point I tried to get across was that there is no clear then and now. Suicidal and non-suicidal, past and present. I am never far from the hopelessness I felt then, and it still feels very present to me. I don’t look back and wonder how I could ever feel that way, rather how anyone (myself included) manages not to. This will be very different for different people, but that is how it is for me.

"I am never far from the hopelessness I felt then"

That is not to say my story devoid of hope. Parenting becomes easier, and treatment has improved my mental health or at least the mechanisms through which I can cope. I found other places I could be honest and believed, chief amongst them at Happy Mums with my colleagues and other members. Nobody shares exactly how I feel and felt but they accept it.

I have also found that the continual effort of finding hope for others is far easier than finding it directly for myself, and in time it rubs off. I can see good in others even though I can’t see it in myself.

Finally here is a poem I wrote quite a while ago about my time in hospital:

In the shadow of the old asylum

Where the cold wind blows

Where the red brick turns to dust

And the thick bindweed grows

There you and I were taken

Into rooms lined with windows and locks

With the care plans and pills in their white paper pots

And the puff of the blood pressure cuffs

Those little walls they held us

And shaped us like cubes of ice

So when we were free and the sun shone free

We melted like dew at first light

To be held in those cold rooms still

With my mind crumbling free

And the meetings and plans with their points and demands

And their tiny pieces of me

That lay on the ground in splinters of ice

Shattered to dust in the snow

And catch the wintery light, so thin and so bright

And glint where the bindweed grows

One day we will lie on a soft bed of white

In rooms with no locks and no keys

The windows look clear on the blue summer air

And the dust moves in time with the breeze

Happy Mums provides peer support groups for mums and Mums-to-be to share how they really feel without judgement.

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Staying Safe

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or feeling like you want to die, it’s important to tell someone.

– Samaritans – Phone: 116 123 Email:
– Contact your GP and ask for an emergency appointment
– Phone 111 out of hours and they will help you find the support and help you need
– Contact your local Access Liaison Integration Service (ALIS) team – Phone: 03001239015 or freephone: 08006522865

If you need immediate help, and in the case of serious injury, call 999 or go straight to A&E