An employee at a top bank in Canary Wharf has shared the story of her battle with postnatal depression in the hope that more women will feel able to reach out and get the help they need.
Rebecca Crow, 36, was so confident and sure of herself that it didn’t even faze her when her waters broke while she was at work at Citi bank on October 20, 2015.
Instead, the senior executive assistant calmly sent a few emails to tell people she would not be in for a while, cleared her desk and jumped on a train home.
But nothing prepared her for what she has described on her website as a “barbaric birth”.
Rebecca was in labour for two days. Her son Zachary was finally born on the second attempt with forceps, after a failed ventouse (vacuum) pull and an episiotomy, before she was rushed into emergency surgery because of the amount of blood she had lost.
By the time she first held her son, Rebecca was exhausted and in constant pain. But, worse than that, she realised that she felt nothing for him.
In the following weeks she met with midwives, health visitors and a GP, who all told her that the way she felt would pass. She wasn’t sleeping, was constantly crying and – far from the confident, self-assured person she had been before – she suddenly found herself overwhelmed with anxiety and fear.
And she still felt nothing for baby Zachary.
Eventually she demanded to be taken to hospital, where a psychologist arranged for a mental health crisis team to assess her. The team prescribed medication but warned her it would take six weeks to kick in.
In desperation, Rebecca told her mum and boyfriend James that she wanted to die and they should look after Zachary. On November 9 she was admitted as an inpatient to a mental health assessment unit in Basildon and, for the first time since she went into labour, she was able to sleep.
From there she was transferred to a specialist mother and baby unit called Rainbow in Chelmsford , which is one of just 23 centres in the whole of the UK that specialises providing mental health care and treatment for women before and after they give birth.
Rebecca said: “The whole thing was so frustrating. I had all these people talking to me but no one was listening to what I was saying, and I knew something was really wrong.
“When I first went to Rainbow I hated it. I thought it was a prison. They get barely any funding so it’s very basic facilities in portable cabins. But the staff were amazing.
“You get to know them and trust them. They teach you to get to know and to love your child and yourself.”
Rebecca, who lives in Brentwood, spent eight weeks in the centre before she was discharged on January 6, 2016. Now she is healthy, back at work and back to her old self, and very much in love with her little boy. She has decided to work to raise awareness about postnatal depression and try to encourage people to speak more openly about their own struggles with mental health.
She has set up a website, Your Song , to offer advice to men and women coping with postnatal depression, and is hoping to be registered as a charity by the end of the year so she can help raise money for centres like Rainbow around the country.
She said: “Once you tell your story, people really open up to you. Friends that I have known for 15 years suddenly turn around and say for the first time they think they had postnatal depression. Even some of the guys I work with talk to me about how their wives are coping with it. It offers people the opportunity to talk about it.
“My colleagues at Citi were really shocked. They saw me as this confident and outgoing person and couldn’t believe it had happened to me. And now I’m back to as I was before, they find it hard to believe things could have got that bad. But it shows it can happen to anyone.
“I’m a different person because I’m a mum now, but I’m a better person. I have learnt a lot about myself, and about mental health, and I have learnt that it’s OK to sometimes say you need to take a break.”
Rebecca also paid tribute to the support Citi have given her, including making her the star of their new campaign to encourage employees to speak out about their problems on Mental Health Week.
She said: “When I was in the unit, I didn’t want work to know there was something wrong with me. But once I was better I realised I need them to know.
“It’s important people know that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. The person you open up to might just be the person who can help you.”
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