We chat to presenter Anna Williamson about mental health, nursery brands and welcoming a new baby to her family
After experiencing perinatal and postnatal trauma, Anna Williamson admitted she did have fears about her second pregnancy before giving birth to her new baby daughter.
Having welcomed Eleanora to the Williamson clan in December, Anna reveals how she approached labour this time around, and why we still need to talk more about postnatal anxiety and mental health.
Anna, congratulations on the birth of your baby daughter Eleanora! How’s it all going?
Thank you! The last six weeks have been brilliant – I’m very much in my baby bubble and Eleanora and I bonded instantly. She’s an absolute joy, and I’m really enjoying motherhood.
How has your three-year-old, Enzo, taken to having a sister?
He adores her and is embracing his new role as a big brother, which is wonderful as I was a bit concerned that he wouldn’t. He’s constantly trying to kiss and hug her, which is very sweet.
You suffered from perinatal and postnatal depression with Enzo. How did you approach pregnancy this time?
I was initially very anxious, as I was worried about going through the trauma all over again. But because I knew roughly what to expect this time, I felt a lot more in control and had to remind myself that I’d done it before and got through it.
Equally, I recognised that my body would know what was right in the moment and just go with the flow, which really took the pressure off. I also took more time to relax, and I did pregnancy yoga and practised hypnobirthing, and I ended up really enjoying it.
How were you supported emotionally this time?
The whole experience was completely different, because I had access to the mental health support I needed. I had some counselling sessions, just to readdress any flashbacks or reverse trauma from my last birth experience, and I opted for an elective caesarean, which is harder and takes longer to recover from, but was absolutely the right choice for me.
You’ve been vocal about the stigma around perinatal and postnatal mental health. Are things improving?
It’s definitely edging in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. One in five mothers experience mental health challenges before and after pregnancy, and because we’ve historically just swept it under the carpet, so many people are suffering unnecessarily.
The NHS is now starting to put more into it, but currently new mothers only get three minutes on average to talk about how they’re feeling mentally after birth. More needs to be done to acknowledge that pregnancy, labour and parenthood can be as much of an upheaval emotionally as they are physically, and that it’s okay to say that you’re not okay.
You also made a brilliant documentary on BBC Inside Out. Can you tell us about it?
It’s quite a raw, warts-and-all side to my story, and it gave me the chance to meet other parents who were going through varying degrees of mental health issues, from day-to-day struggles to being sectioned in a mother-and-baby unit.
I felt such an overwhelming amount of empathy for the people I spoke to, and a realisation that it doesn’t matter which race, religion, age or social class you identify with, we can all experience the same challenges. I just want people to know that they don’t have to suffer in silence, and I’ll continue to raise awareness until I feel like there’s enough being done.
So, what do you think needs to change?
Time and space are absolutely essential to allow women to process how they’re feeling, and just as we have six-week physical checkups, I think there needs to be mandatory six-week checkups to address emotional and mental health, too.
The support is there, but we currently don’t have the infrastructure or funding in place for those who need it to access it.
What do you like to do when you have time for yourself?
Guilt-free me-time is important to me, and I like to have a beauty treatment or bubble bath – I’m going for a facial next week, which I’m really looking forward to. The best gift you can give any new parent is time; even the luxury of shaving your legs in peace can make you feel so much better!
Where do you like to shop for Enzo and Eleanora?
There are some lovely eco-friendly brands, like Frugi, that I think are really cute. H&M has gorgeous baby clothes, and I’m a massive fan of Matalan, as the clothes are so affordable and such good quality.
We also have a lovely BabyBjörn bouncer and Nuna travel system, plus an iCandy, which we keep at my parents’ house.
Do you have any favourite interiors brands?
I really love My 1st Years! 3 Sprouts also has some very cute storage boxes for the nursery, and Eleanora sleeps in a Shnuggle Air Bedside Crib at the moment, which is great.
What’s the best thing about being a mum?
It sounds a bit corny, but motherhood gives me this feeling of completion. It took me a little while to get into my mum stride and I feel like I had a bit of a false start, but now I’m three-and-a-half years into the role, I can honestly say it’s the best job in the world!
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