After a textbook pregnancy, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter Alice. I felt such a sense of achievement, and the immediate love I felt for her was otherworldly.
Quickly, the warm afterglow of post-labour dreaminess began to turn into a constant, gnawing anxiety. This was only made worse by the fact that I couldn’t seem to master breastfeeding and Alice began losing weight.
The following months after her birth became some of the most difficult months of my life. I began to struggle with feelings of isolation, exhaustion and a sense of inadequacy and failure. I felt for the first time that my blindness had rendered me incapable of doing the most important task I’d been put on this earth to do: provide food for my child. I felt that Alice didn’t need me – she had her Dad, her Grandparents and her Aunts. The once water-tight bond between my daughter and I was being torn apart by anxiety. I wanted to run and to end it all.
My mum recommended that I sought help, so I made my first call to Home-Start Glasgow South. After a couple of weeks Colette Boyle – HSGS’s then Family Support coordinator – appeared at my door. She told me that Home-Start was there for mums or dads just like me, who perhaps needed a little bit of emotional support. She simply listened, reassured and connected, mum to mum.
She said that HSGS could provide me with a volunteer who could come out once a week to give me some moral and emotional support. I have since had help from four Home-Start Glasgow South volunteers – Inga, Kathleen, Sandra and Lynn. The help they offer me comes in a variety of forms.
Being a blind mum, I find sorting clothes and matching socks a tedious task, so my volunteer would help me organise these at the start of every visit. They also help me tidy all my children’s toys, clothes and books, and organise my personal mail. My current volunteer often accompanies me to the supermarket, pushes Amelia in her pram and carries bags back to my house with me.
Out and about
My volunteers supported me through taking Alice out the house for the first time. Being mothers themselves, they knew the potential dangers of parks, soft-plays and other places. They catered for my lack of sight by advising me of the best places to go with Alice at her age. They gave me enough knowledge to feel confident in taking Alice out unaided knowing that she would be safe.
Reading, writing and bonding
Alice would spend hours staring at the pictures of books. It was hard not being able to sit with her and help her through this exploration as other mums could but my volunteer was able to help. I’d sit for half an hour or so each week with my Braille writing machine while the volunteer dictated the contents of the books. Alice and I could then bond together and I could answer her questions with confidence.
The emotional storm that overtook me after the birth of Alice was nothing when compared to having my second child. Eventually, I was admitted to a mother and baby unit at my local psychiatric hospital. With the help of doctors, nurses, family and friends I was able to make a full recovery. Through all of this, my volunteer Sandra visited me twice in hospital and listened to my worries. Although the help from the unit was invaluable, I found those talks with Sandra some of the most healing of all.
This emotional support has featured strongly in all my Home-Start partnerships. They have developed a bond with my children and I, understand what I can and can’t do and are kind and compassionate. By helping with practical household chores, they give me time and space to play with Amelia and strengthen our bond. They have helped me become the strong, confident mother I am today.