I am a proud member of the #PNDFamily. I’d like to tell you how the family has helped me, and what it means to me.
The PND Family is the brainchild of wonderful blogger Rosey who created #PNDHour, which takes place on Twitter every Wednesday evening between 8pm and 9pm to:
- Provide a safe space to discuss topics surrounding pre and postnatal illness.
- Help connect those affected by the illness, and provide support for each other.
- Increase awareness and encourage open conversations about the illness.
- Discuss where improvements could be made in all areas of the support provided for those affected.
PND is an abbreviation for post-natal depression. Anyone who has been affected by any kind of antenatal, perinatal or postnatal mental health is welcome to join. There are members of the PND Family who have experienced issues such as postnatal depression and puerperal psychosis, and have been cared for in hospital. There are also women who, like me, have anxiety issues as the result of a traumatic birth.
The traumatic birth of my son Hugo was no one’s fault. I was seriously ill with preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, and I am fully aware that if not for the actions of obstetricians, midwives, anaesthetists, haematologists, sonographers, pathology lab staff and goodness knows who else across two hospitals, I would not be writing this post. With the exception of a couple of staff in intensive care, everyone who cared for me was kind and compassionate; some sat and held my hand and said reassuring words while I sobbed, and others gave me big hugs.
None of these actions, however, can remove the sense of utter helplessness I felt, the sense of terror I experienced once the full gravity of my illness dawned on me (I was too away with the fairies on medication at the time to really understand), the flashbacks and the nightmares, and the resulting anxiety issues. Connected to this is the intense grief related to Hugo’s death, aged 35 days.
I was so pleased to discover the PND Family. We all have different backgrounds, live in different areas of the country, have had different birth experiences and different issues pre-and post-birth. For all our differences, we share many crucial things in common: a passion and determination to support each other, to provide a crutch when one is having a bad day, to use our experiences to help improve services for other women, and to show that no matter how bad things might feel today, with the right support recovery is possible. I cannot tell you how invaluable this support is.
Many very open and frank discussions take place in the very public forum of Twitter. Many might recoil from that, thinking talking about such personal things on the internet is a bit strange. Yes, taking part might not be for everyone, but the PND Family feels like a safe place to talk with other women (and some men!) who get it. They don’t offer platitudes, judgement, or tell you to pull yourself together and get over it. They listen, and send virtual hugs. They can also say “Me too!”, which means we don’t feel alone.
Just as importantly as the above, talking so openly about mental health issues helps break the stigma. Sadly, too many people still suffer in silence because they are worried about the taboo that still surrounds mental ill health. I hope the openness of the PND Family shows people with all kinds of mental ill health that it is ok to talk about it, to seek help, and that non-judgemental support is available out there.
Professionals from all kinds of disciplines are also part of the PND Family. Their input is indispensable, because their contributions can help validate our experiences, provide explanations for things, as well as so much support and advice.
One request I would like to make of professionals is that while interjections are always welcome – it’s Twitter, after all (and I’m always butting in on others’ conversations) – please consider the nature of the discussion before contributing. There have been a few occasions where interjections resulted in the conversation being diverted from mutual support to a discussion about the whys and wherefores of policies and guidelines.
We’re all intelligent women and we understand the professionals’ underlying message, whether it’s about positive birth, or quotes from guidelines. The problem is, they are often irrelevant to our conversation, because the quoted policy or guideline wouldn’t have altered our experiences, and it doesn’t provide any help or support for those of us with unresolved birth trauma issues. Yes, Twitter moves quickly and it can be difficult sometimes to say everything you mean within the constraints of a tweet, yadda yadda and all other relevant caveats but some interjections, however well-meant, can have unintended consequences such as appearing insensitive, or diverting the focus away from the mutual support we are offering one another to a frustrating debate about policies. Please think about whether your contribution is congruent. Sometimes all we want to hear is words to the effect of “Your experience sounds terrible, hugs.” We love virtual hugs!
*Steps off soapbox*.
That said, my experience is overwhelmingly positive. I shall be eternally grateful to Rosey for creating this incredible support network. Considering the reach it has had and everything it has achieved – Rosey spoke on BBC World Service a couple of weeks ago – it is difficult to believe it has been running for just shy of a year.
I’ve met only two of the family in person, but I feel I know them all personally. I was going to start naming everyone, but then worried I would forget people, so I shall say you know who you all are, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness, love and support and for always remembering Hugo.
You are all stars.
*You can find the PND Family on Twitter using the hashtags #PNDFamily #PNDChat and PNDHour
*Most of the family talk candidly about their experiences on their blogs – Rosey has compiled a list.