A Tameside woman has shared her experience of loneliness and isolation while having a baby in lockdown and how she found support to help others in a similar situation.
First-time mum Louise Jean Gill, 32, from Haughton Green, who lives with her partner Daniel and 10-month-old boy, found expecting a baby during the pandemic very difficult to cope with at first.
She has since been receiving support over the phone from Home-Start, who offer families living in Tameside and Glossop access to free confidential help and expert parent-infant mental health (PIMH) advice, which she has found invaluable.
Louise, who was diagnosed with pregnancy type 2 diabetes, said: “I had lots of hospital appointments to go to because of my diabetes and I needed to have regular scans and tests to check on my baby’s progress. My partner Dan was not allowed to go in to hospital with me. I often felt lonely and this made me feel low and stressed.
“Dan could only be with me during labour. He wasn’t allowed to visit when we were on the ward. I felt very isolated and often confused as to what to do with a new born. Things were daunting for me as a new mum having no support from my family and friends due to the lockdown measures in place at the hospital, which made me feel more isolated and in a low mood.”
Having a baby can be difficult at the best of times. Depression and anxiety, a traumatic birth, mental health problems, events from the past or happening now, can affect how parents feel about their baby and how those early relationships develop. Sometimes it can feel hard to cope with a baby’s feeding or sleeping patterns, or a baby who cries a lot.
Louise has felt lonely and isolated at times and has experienced anxiety not knowing how to care for her baby.
She added: “I’ve found talking to Home-Start has helped with my confidence and built my knowledge of my baby’s needs. With their support I’ve been able to share my worries and I feel listened to and this has made me feel comfortable in my own home. I’ve also received a buggy and this has helped me to get out more. Living in a one-bedroom flat is challenging and getting up and down stairs with a lightweight buggy is very useful.”
In addition to the support she’s received from Home-Start, her Health Visitor has also helped her enormously.
She continued: “I am now able to talk confidentially and openly about my feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety, as well as learning ways to cope with my baby boy. I am now more at ease and feel less anxious.”
Home-Start offer support starting in the home – over the phone, virtually online and through online groups and video calling. They have trained staff and volunteers, who are parents themselves, who work in partnership with the Community Infant Feeding team. Their service offers walk and talk visits, adhering to COVID-19 government guidelines using trained volunteers. Local people can either call them directly or talk to their Health Visitor or Midwife for more information and to be referred for support.
Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Population Health, Councillor Eleanor Wills, said: “I want to thank Louise for being brave and sharing her feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation while having a baby during the pandemic. It can’t have been an easy time for her or her partner with the added stresses of not being able to find support from extended family and friends to help with a new born child due to strict measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I’m really pleased that she reached out for professional support and it’s a useful reminder to those who are going through a similar situation that help is available if you’re struggling with feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety.”
If you are a mum or dad and are struggling do reach out – your midwife, Health Visitor and GP will be happy to help.
To access support from Home-Start please visit www.home-starthost.org.uk
or call on: 0161 344 0669.
For details of mental health support during pregnancy, including Dad Matters, please visit Tameside Council’s website at: https://www.tameside.gov.uk/mentalhealth/pregnancy
Resources are also available to download from the GM Hub to help support parents at: https://hub.gmhsc.org.uk/mental-health/whats-new/babies-in-lockdown-report-and-resources/