Posted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:32 pm
Post subject: PND - would you trust me?
NB: Names have been changed - to protect my son's identity.
As far as the NHS and Children's Services Department in the UK are concerned, Post Natal Depression is a fatal flaw, an irrevocable dent in a woman's character, and one that inhibits any further plans for 'childcare' in the future.
I am a teacher by profession, I've been working with children for ten years. In October 2010 I gave birth to my first child, Bob. I had left it late to start a family because of many factors, but at the age of 41 I was ready to make a new life as a mum, giving up my career to be with my son full time. My future involved me, my husband and Bob, with me being the main care giver.
About 8 weeks after Bob was born it became clear I was ill - my frequent outbursts were more than the 'baby blues' - and my health visitor helped me recognise that I was suffering from Post Natal Depression. Together we contacted my doctor, and took steps to help me get better. Being intelligent and tenacious, I was not about to let my whole world fall apart because of this illness, and I sought many outlets for recovery. I joined several very welcoming new mum groups; I embarked on childcare and parenting courses; I sought counselling through the local mental health team; I immersed myself in a close 'new mum' social network; and, when I still found myself struggling to function, I reluctantly started taking antidepressants. Throughout my illness I continued to breastfeed my son; in fact I stopped feeding him just after his first birthday, since I wanted to try to conceive for a second time. No steps were taken that impeded my relationship with my son: indeed I did all I could, and he has developed well into a healthy, happy toddler.
Sadly, nine months into my illness, just as I was making great progress, a health visitor who had never met me felt it necessary to interfere in my 'care'. Despite advice from practitioners who were helping me (my GP, my health visitor, my mental health counsellor) she deemed me a 'danger' to my son after intercepting a fax that was not marked for her attention. Reading my notes, she panicked, and without further checks telephoned the local Children's Services team advising them my son was in danger. She did not notify me of this course of action; I was none the wiser, sitting at home with my health visitor talking about the great sleep I had had the night before, how my medication was being changed for the better, how much more positive and confident I was feeling, how the panic attacks had subsided for good...
That was the Wednesday. Thursday morning, about 9:30am, I was bustling about with the housework whilst Bob was napping upstairs when there was a knock at the door. Hushing my dogs quickly i opened the door to be confronted by two women with ID clips hanging round their necks. They advised they were from Children's Services and asked if they could come in. Desperate not to wake Bob I ushered them in quickly, taking them through to the lounge and shutting the door quietly.
The details of the conversation that ensued are not very clear at all - I was in shock, I had no idea they had been contacted, and I thought somehow I had done something wrong and was in a whole heap of trouble. As a parent I feared they had come to take Bob; as a teacher I feared my career was finished. I ascertained that they had been contacted because of the notes in my PND 'thought' diary, and they needed to begin an assessment to see if Bob was safe. Bob was still asleep, and after about 30 minutes I asked if they wanted to see him. I was keen for them to see what a happy, healthy baby he was, living proof he had not been nor would he ever be harmed by me. I took one of the social workers upstairs with me and awoke Bob from his nap. I carried him downstairs, and he snuggled in to me, all the while grinning cheekily at the two women. There were toys scattered about the lounge, kids books piled in a box on the floor, and parenting manuals arranged neatly on the bookshelf. Throughout the 'interview' the social workers made judgements about what they saw.
Smiling, they left. They wanted to visit again, to meet my husband, and I agreed. I wanted to do all I could to reassure them that my son was safe, that I was getting better, that Bob was the most precious person in my life. The following week they visited me again, my husband was home, and all seemed well. They left once again smiling, and confirmed they were happy; Bob was indeed safe, and I was clearly doing all I could to get better. They advised they would send a report - their assessment - shortly.
A month later everything changed, and my world turned upside down where it remains at present.
The assessment report arrived in the post - two copies: I had to sign both then send one back. I read through the report, and despite concerns at some of the bizarre statements and erroneous spelling mistakes it seemed fair. But on the last page I was knocked sideways. Despite the smiling faces and calm reassurances, the report claimed that if I stopped getting help from my counsellor I "may harm" Bob. There it was - black and white: I could still be a danger to my son. There was no evidence for this: I had never harmed Bob, he had my full attention all day every day; my house was clean; Bob had all he needed - clothes, food, toys, family... But somehow the social worker had within her role the remit to 'speculate' on what might be.
That one sentence has done intangible damage, and I am STILL fighting to get it removed. As soon as I had finished reading the report I wrote a letter of complaint, detailing my concerns and asking for the wording to be removed. I delivered my letter by hand to the office this social worker was based in, yet I heard nothing back. I waited - Bob's first birthday, Christmas and New Year passed. I chased it up, was fobbed off several times, telephone calls and emails explaining the situation over and over again. I yelled at my husband to do something: I could not stand having this 'verdict' hanging over me. I had started making enquiries into fostering, after my husband agreed we would be suited to that sort of lifestyle, and Bob was young enough to endorse it. Unfortunately I was advised that with the records held by Children's Services and the aforementioned report I could NOT apply for fostering.
Finally we seemed to be getting somewhere - my complaint was being looked into by a senior manager and we would have a response within 10 working days. At last I thought, six months on, this might be resolved. Alas, no.
The social workers within the Children's Services team have closed rank: my issues have been 'diluted' and I have been informed that the damaging section within the report CANNOT be removed. Indeed I have been advised that it IS in fact the role of the social worker to speculate as to the future, regardless of evidence and circumstance; basically to cover themselves - you know, 'just in case'.
The fact that I am in recovery from Post Natal Depression is irrelevant. The fact that I breastfed my son until he was 13 months old is irrelevant. The fact that I am a teacher with a spotless career record is irrelevant. The fact that I yearn for more children because I am so enamoured by my son is irrelevant - crikey, that will probably make them sit up and take further notice of me, you know - 'just in case'.
As for my teaching career? Well, I'm only working one day a week just to keep the pennies ticking over, I'd prefer to be a full time mum. But if my employer learns about the report with Children's Services and discovers I have been deemed a possible danger to my son - well the CRB are going to need to know about that aren't they? And would YOU employ someone who "may harm" their son?
I don't have the funds to take on Children's Services legally; I see no way of fighting this further to have the report changed. I love being a mum - I never knew it could be so fulfilling. The love that wants to burst out of me every time I see my son is immeasurable. But because of the poor understanding of post natal depression within the NHS and Children's Services I have been placed under suspicion, and branded 'faulty'. We're not talking schizophrenia; we're not talking manic depression: we're talking about a hormone imbalance that took over when my son was born and rendered me incapable of performing basic functions sometimes. Now my hormones have settled down, albeit feeling incredibly broody, I'm ready to do more - whether it be with my own kids, or helping someone else's. But that chance has been taken away from me. My house is crying out for the sound of kids running round creating havoc, a tired but happy mum cleaning up milk and mega blocks. But they've got me, final, no question. It feels like a guilty verdict and although I am screaming inside my mouth is silenced.
Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:56 am
There was a discussion on This Morning today about a lady in a situation really similar to yours.
She ended up going to see a psychiatrist about her depression which was made worse by social services etc being involved and they ended up saying that the mum was NOT a risk to her child. However, it turned out that the psychiatrist that made the decision was the one that told her in the first place that she was a risk to her child.
I dont have any solutions for you hun but I just wanted to let you know that other people have been in the same situation as you.
I hope things are sorted soon. Big hugs xxxxxx
Posted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 3:40 pm
Post subject: PND - would you trust me?
An update: my husband and I met today with the area manager for the team that issued the report, and had a two-hour discussion about what needed changing. I fought, and pushed, and stuck to my guns. She couldn't actually say that the woman who wrote the report had made a mistake, but she did finally relent to agreeing to change the wording.
So - the alarming stuff about my son possibly suffering harm in the future is to be taken out, finally. I am still shaking - had to go over the whole crappy affair, and didn't think she'd back down - but I am so relieved.
Scarily - she told us that my doctor should have contacted social services THE MOMENT he knew about my PND symptoms and horrid thoughts! She didn't comment on what action she's taking against him for failing to tell them. But crikey - it means mums have more to fear: if you suffer from PND and you have intrusive thoughts (about your child) then social services WILL visit you and assess you. I appreciate it's for the child - but they do damage in the process, and because of the baby P case they wave red flags at situations that don't need it. I've done some research, the Munro report has highlighted this and has advised the agency to be more considerate, but at the end of the day they won't relinquish their power.
I was honest with my family and close friends right from the start when I realised I had PND. I sought help in many forms, and attended all manner of toddler groups. I even took my baby swimming. At no point did any of the people we came into contact with have any worries about my son, and they knew I was determined to beat PND. Sadly, one rogue health visitor wanted to express her authority over my health visitor, and she called social services WITHOUT TELLING ME!
I'm more scared of social services rocking up on my doorstep than I am the police....
My advice? If you suffer from PND, consider all your symptoms.
* If you need help - ask for it, and highlight the symptoms that directly affect YOU.
* Do not confide too deeply if you are having intrusive thoughts along the lines of "wanting to throw the baby out of the window when he or she won't sleep"..... (every mother feels like this at some point!)
* Tell your doctor about your frustration, exhaustion, your constant crying, nightmares, panic attacks, headaches, worries that your baby doesn't love you, worries that you are a bad mother. Don't let him/her fob you off - insist that you need help.
* Get counselling.
* Consider medication if you think it will help - it helped me (hormone imbalance caused my PND). I was breastfeeding so could only take certain 'safe' drugs. I tried Seroxat, then switched to Sertraline. [I have recovered from PND.]
* Find a close friend or family member that can help you, so if you are having a 'wobble' you can contact them and they can calm you down.
There are so many agencies that care about child protection, but what about the mum? If mum is happy - baby is happy.
I'm not going to give up on PND - I hope I can help other mums avoid getting mixed up in the mess I found myself in. I have a meeting planned with my local MP at the end of the month!
If anyone reads this and is struggling, feel free to private message me. If I can help, I will.
Posted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:09 pm
Just read this and sorry you had such a hard time with children's services. They are a joke! I am under the mental health team etc as I've been suffering from depression since I was 17 and bipolar disorder and OCD runs in my family which is what they think I have (I know I have OCD but not 100% convinced about the bipolar bit. Anyway I had somebody from the special and complex needs team which is a social services department visit at my request as the school nurse said I might be able to get extra nursery funding and i cannot believe how bloody ridiculous they are. I received their report and most of it was about my apparent mental illness and said I was likely to have bipolar disorder when I specifically told her I did not have a solid diagnosis as of yet and was in the process of getting assessed snd my medication sorted out so she had wrote something she had basically made up. Then my HV came out this week for my post natal visit and she said the social worker was concerned I wouldn't cope because of my diagnosis. I don't have a bloody diagnosis and I am coping fine and she has only spoke to me once! Besides which even if I did have something like that why would that make me unable to cope? Since when is she an authority on mental illness whereas my CPN comes to see me every two weeks and is confident I am fine and coping which is why they let me come straight home from hospital. So I fully. Agree with all the points you made in your last post oven ready. These services are meant to help but some of the people working for them go too far.
Posted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 5:23 pm
It really is quite ridiculous, the number of women I have heard in similar situations. In the long run it does more damage - I would have recovered from PND months ago if social services had not got involved.
They don't help, really they don't. I've heard other extremes where babies actually could be in real danger and SS have done nothing (family member is a paeds nurse and has seen this first hand in hospital A&E).
I fought my cause, and beat them, luckily I was well enough to do so, altho I had quite a few 'I'm giving up' moments.
You have to keep a note of everything that happens, everything that is said - so that when they start making things up (as they do) you can list the facts for them. I had to do this again and again and again, and eventually they had to back down.
I even got my local MP involved - at the point where they delayed posting the amended report to me. She phoned them, and they came running with their tails between their legs, quite apologetic! &*&%^%&^ ridiculous!
Anyone struggling? DO NOT GIVE UP xxxxx