A GRANNY'S PP EXPERIENCE - supporting your daughter

(posted on behalf of my mother who was by my side throughout)

The arrival of my daughter's first baby was awaited with great excitement after nine months of trouble free pregnancy during which every care and nurturing of the baby had taken place.

The birth of our little granddaughter was at forty-one weeks, induced and by epidural, and all went well.

With great excitement, happy anticipation and love we travelled to London to meet her. A joyous time indeed, all was wonderful.

Our new little family went home to start this new chapter in their lives but on day five, however, all was to change. My daughter suffered a panic attack at home and was re-admitted to the unit where our granddaughter had been born, amid real confusion as to what was happening to her and a psychiatrist had been called in to see her.

My daughter?? A beautiful, positive, competent, funny young lady! What on earth was going on?

My daughter and I had always had a very close and loving relationship through both happy and difficult times, as is life, and it was therefore a devastating blow to me and to my husband that amidst all this confusion my daughter stated that she did not wish to see us any more. I later understood this was the illness talking.

The next few days were clouded with the pain and guilt that I felt and above all, utter bewilderment. If only I knew where to turn for help but I had no place to go for advice. If only there had been a forum like this one available so I could ask questions and seek reassurance.

After a few days of this, my daughter had been seen by the psychiatrist, diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis and admitted to a psychiatric clinic but thankfully for me, had asked my husband and I to go to see her.

We went immediately to see her and her poor husband and dear little baby. I found my daughter heart-broken, bewildered, anxious, and so sad. The very opposite of her usual self. Where had my daughter gone??

Information was scant, I'd never heard of PP, although I'd worked in hospitals for 30 years and the sadness I felt for my daughter, her lovely husband and their beautiful little girl was truly profound.

The anger had gone from my daughter now and we resumed our close bond and as my son-in-law had now to return to work, I moved to London to their home and helped look after my grand-daughter, Monday - Friday. My overriding concern was that, if possible, my daughter should bond closely with her baby and therefore each day we would arrive at the clinic as early as possible and stay until my son-in-law arrived after work at 7pm, when he and my gran-daughter would be with my daughter together for an hour or so and then the three of us would travel back to their home for the night. My poor son-in-law, it was all so wrong that he should be with his mother-in-law not his wife and heart breaking for my daughter that she was left behind in the clinic alone and without her baby and husband. With hindsight it would have been so much better if she'd been in a mother and baby unit, but we swept along with the perceived decisions of the professionals she was under.

During each day, my daughter and I would do the simple tasks of looking after a newborn, feeding, changing, cooing, washing etc and each day we'd take her for a walk in her pram in the fresh air of Regents Park. My daughter was so sad and so anxious, but did brilliantly at looking after her baby, against such odds. My mantra was "you will get better darling (but would she??) "let's just take it one day at a time.” Constant encouragement and love was all I knew!

This cruel regime lasted for nine interminable weeks and my daughter, although not yet well, was discharged and came down to stay with my husband & me with, of course, her husband and new baby.

It took a few more months, further and different medication from an expert perinatal psychiatrist locally, and being in a loving family unit with every possible support for the gradual return of our darling daughter to us. Six months on from the birth, my daughter with her new family, moved into their new home to pick up their lives together.

Today, nine years on from this heartbreaking time, my daughter is 100% her normal wonderful self, she and her daughter having the closest of mother/daughter relationships, and with the addition of my little grandson, three years after the first birth, (and with absolutely no hint of problems after his birth) the four of them are an exemplary model of a happy family.

Deo Gratias.

For any fellow Granny’s who are experiencing something similar, all I believe we can do is to be as reassuring, loving, positive, and practically useful as possible, even though you feel despairingly sad inside! You will get there and this dramatic illness thankfully has a very good prognosis.

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  • Thank you for writing this. My wonderful Mum is spending this week with me and my 3 children at home. I was diagnosed with PP and although the psychosis has passed I still need lots of support but I don't know what I need. Do you have any words of wisdom I can pass on to my mum for supporting us please? I know she'd do anything for us but my mind isn't clear enough to know what I need. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  • Hi ontheup,

    I have been following your posts over the weeks and know what a very tough time you've been having. I am so pleased you are now trusting the medication and from your posts it seems to be slowly and steadily working well. Hang in there, it can seems like a long road but with the psychosis having now passed, you are well en route back to your old self.

    There is certainly nothing like a supportive Mum at a time like this. I would imagine even telling her how wonderful she has been will mean the world. A combination of practical and emotional support was most helpful to me. Emotionally my Mum's words 'one day at a time' and 'you will get better' helped me the most. Practically, Mum helped change nappies, cook meals, washing, cleaning etc. Sometimes we'd sit and do crosswords together or play scrabble just to take my mind off things and escape in to another world for a while. She would encourage me to go for walks, fresh air and gentle exercise were a great help to lift my spirits.

    In my Mum's words....For any fellow Granny’s who are experiencing something similar, all I believe we can do is to be as reassuring, loving, positive, and practically useful as possible, even though you feel despairingly sad inside! You will get there and this dramatic illness thankfully has a very good prognosis.

    Good luck to you both, we are all thinking of you and sending stay strong vibes.

    Warmest,

    JonesieB (and her Mum!)

  • Hi ontheup

    Really great to hear that your mum is able to stay with you for a week.

    I would echo what JonesieB has said - mums are great at keeping all the practical things of the house and meals ticking over so that you can concentrate on being kind to yourself, resting and being with the children. It's OK too if you need little breaks from the children just to put your feet up and read a magazine or have a catnap, my mum used to take the kids just for half an hour to the park while I was first recovering and it was really good to give myself that permission just to rest.

    Are you doing bottle feeds at the moment? If so your mum could help with washing and sterilising and making up bottles so that you can just enjoy feed times - it's good to make sure you have as much time as possible cuddling and just being physically close to your baby. She could play with or read to your older kids while you do baby's feed time or meals as well just to ease the pressure on you.

    I think it's also great as JonesieB suggested to do small activities for yourself with your mum - crosswords, scrabble, making bead bracelets or sock puppets for the kids, a bit of baking or anything else that helps to feel like you've achieved something and take your mind off the worries of being unwell.

    Tons of good wishes for your continued recovery - be kind to yourself and really patient, recovery often takes a good while longer than we'd like but pacing yourself and not pushing yourself too hard in these early days will really help.

    Naomi

  • How brave you've all been. So many grandmothers experience the kind of fears you have: it's good to read of a strengthened family with a new little one.

    with all good wishes, Lauraine Leigh

  • Thanks so much for posting this - please say thanks to your mum. It actually made me cry, I'm not sure why. I think because I found my mum and dad just so supportive and amazing during the illness, I always felt a little better after their visits - and just to hear a bit of what they maybe felt during that time was quite emotional. The advice was also really spot on, the things she said she gave you when she was ill (emotional and practical support) were what I really appreciated. I really hope this advice helps those grandparents out there supporting their daughters...

  • Thank you so much for sharing this, the way she writes reminds me of my own Mum. Really touching.

  • Thank you so much Mum-of-JonesieB for sharing your PP experience, it's a real insight to hear it from a Granny's point of view. It's clear the shock & confusion when PP strikes really affects parents too, just as much as the PP mums themselves.

    "...the pain and guilt that I felt and above all, utter bewilderment. If only I knew where to turn for help but I had no place to go for advice. If only there had been a forum like this one available so I could ask questions and seek reassurance." Yes, I along with many others wish the community here was around when we were ill too & we're thankful it exists now.

    The importance of supporting/mothering the PP mum is also clear & that helping her with "simple tasks of looking after a newborn, feeding, changing, cooing, washing etc and each day we'd take her for a walk in her pram in the fresh air..." are so important in helping her recovery. It's comforting that even though it was really hard & you didn't understand the illness or know for sure whether she'd get better, your natural instincts were exactly what was needed at that time - "Constant encouragement and love was all I knew!" - perfect!

  • Thank you. I really appreciate your perspectives.

  • Thank you for telling your story. We are continuing to work through this and there is a glimmer of light ! The MBU is fantastic and I am hoping my daughter will be discharged soon.

  • Thanks for sharing this brilliant news Lily54. We are here any time you or your daughter need to talk - full recovery can take a while and it can really help to talk to others who've been there.

    APP research found that mums who have been able to receive treatment with their baby in an MBU report quicker recovery and feel more confident and bonded with their babies than mums who are treated away from their baby, so there is plenty of hope for your daughter.

    All the best

    Naomi

  • Yes that's great news Lily54 that your daughter is improving and that the MBU is a good place for your daughter. I know that it was for me, and just what I needed, and made a HUGE difference to my recovery, as Naomi says, as I am sure it will for your daughter. Take care

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