History repeating itself?


Im the child of a pp mother. she was sectioned in 1980 when i was 4 after her third child. i am the eldest of the three so the one who felt the loss of my mother most. my middle sister and i were sent to live with my nan for 3 months so my dad could still work. my baby sister went with my mum. i am due to have my 3rd baby in 6 weeks and i am worried what happened to me might happen to my other children. my mother spent so much time (years) trying to "make it up" to my sister for rejecting her at birth that she forgot the pain and confusion me and my other sister went through. This distance and damage still re manes today 35 years later. i have never remembered being "mothered" in my childhood or beyond. this is something my mother is not willing to discuss or acknowledge.Other family members have often said how hard it was for her (i know i was there) when i try to discuss how me and my sister were affected. my nan was the only one who saw how upsetting it was for us but she died 10 years ago. I have realised at no one else is going to see it from my point of view so i have given up. Has anyone here been the child of a pp mother themselves? . and has or hasn't gone on to have the condition?.

3 Replies

  • Hi carat,

    I'm not exactly what you have asked for as I was sectioned in the mid 70's and early 80's following the birth of my two sons. In those days there was such a stigma attached to mental health that my illnesses were never allowed to be spoken about as my mother felt I would be judged. Perhaps this is how it was for your mother? My second son was six when his brother was born. As my illnesses were never spoken about I felt guilty not being there for both of them in their early days but I was in the dark for years as I didn't know why. Perhaps this was the same for your mother? It is only in the last few years when I met Dr Jones and the APP team who confirmed from my medical records that I understood I had suffered PP twice all those years ago.

    I am sorry you have lost the bond with your mother. Mothers never forget and I am sure she has no intention of forgetting the trauma you and your sister went through. Sometimes guilt is so locked away that it's impossible to explain. There was so much guilt attached to mental health, even in my second case of 32 years ago. Perhaps that's why your mother refuses to discuss it with you as it is such a bad memory for her to revisit? I have since been able to discuss what happened to me with my sons, just the basics not everything, and from their reaction I felt 'forgiven' and supported. Perhaps this is what your mum needs to do ... forgive herself .... which is not easy to do .... and I know it must be hard but instead of questioning her, if she knows you forgive her, it might make all the difference.

    I appreciate how difficult and worrying this must be and can see it from your point of view. Have you approached your G.P. for support and advice?

    I wish you the very best in these last few months before your baby is born

    Take care.

  • Thanks so much Lilybeth for replying from the perspective of being a mum yourself in the 70's and 80's. You raise really important points about the stigma of mental illness for families at that time.

    Carat I'm so sorry to hear of the separation and trauma you experienced when you were four. Have you had the opportunity to talk this through with a counsellor at any point? Some Children's Centres offer free counselling for parents and it could be an ideal time for you to look into this if you have some maternity leave. This would be a chance to really feel that your perspective has been heard. Relate also offer individual counselling which could help you think about your relationship with your mum and enabling you to do things differently with your own children.

    Have you been well mentally after your first two pregnancies? I'm sure each time you have been worried about PP but if you have not had any previous episodes this means your chances of PP are lower. Your awareness of how you and your sister felt as young children will also mean that you will parent in a very different way even if you were to become unwell.

    For me personally I had PP with our first child and then severe PND with our second five years later. Both girls were at home with my husband and grandparents while I was in hospital and we worked very hard to make visits as positive as possible. I would often bring craft things for my eldest to do and my husband would make sure I had time to hold and bottle feed our youngest. It was a heart-wrenching time and I felt so guilty that they had to have a time of separation and worry. But it is possible to keep love going in hard circumstances and now three years on we are able to talk about it 'in the past tense' with our eldest. I really hope you stay well after this baby but wanted to reassure you that there are practical and emotional ways through even if you did become unwell.

    Wishing you all the best with your third baby and we're here to chat any time you need.


  • Dear Carat

    I too was a PP mother in the 1980s. Six days after the birth in hospital I found myself sectioned and unceremoniously dispatched without my baby to a general psychiatric ward in Carmarthenshire, a grim and humiliating experience. Fortunately my husband negotiated my removal and a week later I was re-united with my baby in a mother and baby unit in Oxford, and there I made a gradual recovery; going home, and returning to Wales at 10 weeks post birth.

    Knowing that the psychiatric services where I lived were poor to non existent, I did everything in my power to reduce the probability of another episode of PP. My two younger children were both borne at home, and it was particularly with the well-being of my 3 year old in mind that I avoided sharing any information which might result in me being pressured into a hospital admission for these births. I also took progesterone prophylaxis immediately after the birth as recommended by Dr Katherina Dalton at that time. These births, in the supportive environment of my own home were a joy and I continued to be well. It was lovely to have the older child or children so involved in the arrival of their new sibling and I am sure this laid the foundation for the strong affection in which they hold one another.

    When she was still quite young I told my eldest daughter about her 2 month residence in a psychiatric hospital with me. As the others grew older I told them the story, so the whole family were aware of this history.

    Last year my eldest daughter had her first baby. Obviously the possibility that history could indeed be repeated was on all our minds but for-warned is, to an extent for-armed, and I am happy to say that all has been well. Even had it not been she would have been supported by a husband and siblings who under stood the risks and were to a degree prepared.

    I conclude from your story that you have born two children without suffering PP, which promises well for your third. Do try and and ensure that you are in a supportive and kindly environment, and get access to food and sleep (strangely lowly prioritised in many hospitals!) when you need them.


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