Action on Postpartum Psychosis
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Impacts on children

What do fathers tell their children when their mother has had a baby and then suffers from severe mental illness? Do children visit their mother and sibling in an MBU? I suffered with PPP after the birth of my son, and he’ll be four years old when I expect to have my second later this year. I’m now thinking about my care plan and wondering how he’ll be impacted if I become unwell and how I’d like the situation to be managed.

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Partners and siblings will be able to visit MBUs :)

I guess fathers should just say that mummy is unwell and needs to get better, but it is a tough one x

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It's a really important question which I'd be very interested in hearing what other people have done... My gut feeling is that the more (child appropriate) information you give the better. Has anyone ever written a children's book about this, I wonder?? (anyone reading this want to write one?!)

When I was in the MBU there were siblings visiting their mother and baby sister so I think that will absolutely be able to happen should you need time there.

It's really good that you're spending time to prepare yourself and him and I'm sure that will pay dividends in the event that you become unwell again.

Hazello

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I’d love to write a children’s book. In fact I drew a simple story plan when I was very unwell with PP. It was called ‘Slug in a Scribble.’

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Hi, my little girl is currently 21 months and we plan to have another baby when she's at least 3.5-4. I had PP after her emergency c section birth in May 2016 and was sectioned at day 13. I was admitted to a MBU where other siblings visited other mums. We wanted to wait for number 2 so our little girl is old enough to have a slight understanding of where I am if I need to be admitted. I will always tell her the truth when she is old enough as it's part of our families life and made us who we now are. I'm planning on a photo book when I get chance! Of her first year and there will be pics of us together in the MBU. She will also be a potential high risk if she chooses to have children in the future.

It's also a tough decision that we will need to make whether I choose to be admitted straight after birth "just in case" or see how things go at home first. Either way I don't want to be away from her. Also backup plans & just in cases are a good idea to make so you don't worry after the birth if everything is in place. I think you just need to do what right for you & your family. Take care x

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It’s something I’m thinking over too. I’m due in 7 weeks, and have a 7 year old.

There is a book called “A monster ate my Mum” available here: lulu.com/shop/jen-faulkner/...

You can even download a pdf version for free. I’ve ordered one for us and one for school.

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One of the things we learnt through experience when my son was 4 and I had multiple hospital admissions due to 2 ectopics and then further complications, was that it’s so important to think it through beforehand.

Obviously in our situation they were sudden and unexpected, so we were unable to prepare our son and it breaks my heart how it affected him. He play acted rescuing me from being locked in hospital for a long time, sometimes with violent results to other children. He is still very protective of me.

I’d say prepare your son for the possibility of it happening. But also think about how. With hindsight I can definitely say they need to understand you’re there to get better, not that you “can’t come home”.

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Hi Jessi_D,

Such a tough question, yet a really important one. APP would really like to be able to produce an Insiders Guide on talking to children about PP, and funding allowing it is something we are looking to do. Watch this space... In the meantime, there is a really good video called "My mum's got a dodgy brain", produced by and for children when a parent has a mental health problem (& one of them is PP related too) - I hope this might be of interest/ use? The link is: dpt.nhs.uk/news/my-mums-got...

To share my experience, this was also something which was a huge thing for me. Our eldest was also 4 when I had a 2nd child, and I was keen to put things in my Care Plan about how he would be supported and cared for if I had become unwell. Thinking about the whole family is really important and it's great you are having these things too. In my experience, professionals are keen to support too. Some of the things we did were:

- having plans for eldest, whether sleepover at relatives, going to a friend's regularly or ad-hoc for a playdate, things he was going to do when the baby was born (regardless of whether I had become unwell again, I think it's important for older siblings to feel special when there's a new baby around and do things without Mum)

- contact names and numbers of people who could help out with this, including friends from his nursery in the Care Plan, and some things set up for the first week or two. Nothing too much, striking a balance between things to do and time at home with all of us. This also meant having conversations with those people and getting their agreement to have their details in there. This was actually quite empowering too.

- for the first few weeks, keeping his days as close as possible to what he was used to before, so going to nursery/ playgroup but having plans for other people to take him as I couldn't drive after an elective c-section (it was also exciting for him to have other people rather than me!)

- having discussions with my partner about how I wanted him to prioritise our eldest, and that I would hopefully be well supported by MH professionals so it was not for him to "worry" about me, had I become unwell again. Sounds easy in practice, but it was about him knowing that I had been unwell, may have been again, but that also I would get better. We wanted to shield our eldest from anything if at all possible, so my care plan wrote about being admitted to an MBU and that I didn't want to be at home and our eldest witnessing me being unwell, if that makes sense. It's a very personal choice, but what we felt was best for us. Hopefully you have a good link with MH professionals to have this conversation too?

- having conversations with my eldest about if Mummy had to go to hospital after the baby was born, that I was OK and he was not to worry about me. He had a very basic idea of being unwell = going to hospital, and at that age, there was no need to go into any specifics as it wouldn't have gone in. The main thing, which I reinforced a lot, was that I had been poorly after he was born, we lived in hospital together for a bit but then I got better and we came home to Daddy, and I was OK now (as was he!)

I hope some of this is helpful to you. As you might know from my other posts, I did not have a recurrence of PP so I can't share any experience of any of this in practice. But we did things like having playdates, going to nursery as he had always done anyway, and it worked well in terms of having a restful time for me too, and eldest not being disrupted. As others have said, MBUs are really proactive about keeping families together and ensuring that siblings can also visit if Mums are admitted. I'm sure your local team and unit, if you are in contact, can also give you some more info and hopefully some reassurance.

I hope your plans are going well and that you are keeping well with your pregnancy . I know it's a really difficult time, but we are here to listen and share experiences too, so I hope you can enjoy it too. Take care, xx

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Thank you all for your responses. It’s great to hear this is something that APP would like to provide guidance on in the future.

I’m planning on my Mum visiting on weekends or taking our son to hers for the weekend, but hadn’t considered play dates. This is a great suggestion!

Also, my Mum plans to move in with my husband temporarily, to help if I go to the MBU.

I don’t think I’ve any photos of me in the MBU, but I’ve asked my husband to double check.

The book and video are good too, thanks for sharing. The video shows the impacts parental health issues can have on children, showing how important it is that they have the support they need too.

Thanks,

Jess

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Hi Jessi

I have two kids that are now 11 and 6. I had a stay in a MBU with my second so my daughter was 4 1/2 then. The first few weeks were tough as I was erractic and confused but once things settled down I found the MLU was fine for her to come and visit me in. The nurses were lovely, she had her 5th birthday when I was in and they helped me make a cake and buy some party food. They also encouraged me to try to keep to a routine with her so we would eat together then I could give her a bath in my room and read her a story before she headed home. I think the nurses could see that I needed to keep connected with her and did everything they could to make it ok for her and me to be together. I think my husband explained I was feeling poorly and that I needed to go away for a bit. We sometimes talk about it now and she remembers her birthday party, she says she understood why I needed to be there even though she didn't like it! hope this helps

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