Ruth Durkin: Light Sheffield
Light is a pre and post-natal support charity for parents based in Sheffield. Their aims are to support families affected by perinatal mental illness, to raise awareness of perinatal mental illness in Sheffield and beyond, and to develop a partnership and information network for everyone.
Light was founded in July 2010 by three mums who had an interest in/experience of Post Natal Depression.
I first heard about Light through my Community Midwife whilst I was pregnant. I was suffering from pre-natal depression and she thought I would benefit from contacting them. I sent an email to Light and was offered an informal meeting with a volunteer in a coffee shop. The volunteer had experience of perinatal mental ill health and was willing to share their experience with me. I am sorry to say that in my negative, fatigued state I let this opportunity pass me by. I never met the volunteer, and I didn’t stay in contact with Light.
The birth of my baby was traumatic and we nearly lost him. His birth was followed by a 5 week stay in intensive and special care at the Neonatal Unit at Jessops Hospital. When we eventually were able to take him home, I had to keep him inside for 3 months. His immune system was very weak and it was a risk for him to mix with other people and babies. Whilst on the one hand it was lovely having this exclusive one-on-one time with my baby, I also started climbing the walls.
My son was born in November 2017 and in May 2018 I remembered my Midwife’s recommendation of Light and decided to get back in touch. I emailed to apologise for not taking up their service when I was pregnant.
I received a very warm and friendly reply saying there was no need for apology and that they would still be very happy to offer me help. They booked me an appointment to come to their Norfolk Park base for a chat to complete my registration and see how best they could support me.
I was welcomed with a cup of tea and a warm, accepting environment. From the minute we started talking I knew that I was in a safe space where I could say anything and not be judged.
Over that cup of tea I opened up and was introduced to the various ways that Light could support me. The main thing I remember that day was an enormous sense of relief. It wasn’t just me! Other Mums have and do find this difficult too!
I took the details of the support groups that Light runs across the city, and also registered my interest in seeing a counsellor through Light.
The thought of attending a group still filled me with dread, and I was still very anxious about leaving my flat with my baby. I was reassured that the groups were friendly places where I’d be greeted by other Mums in a safe and friendly environment.
When I first went to one of the groups, I was anxious and arrived late (as usual) as I struggled to find the venue. As I sat down, wiping my sweaty face and trying to get my breath back, I listened in to the conversations around me. Alongside the usual discussions about sleepless nights and feeding, I could hear references to medication and anxiety. I was given a cup of tea and sipped it whilst I relaxed into the environment. I felt at home and accepted, and gradually started to join in. There was no pressure; I could just sit and listen and that was ok. The discussions were informal and flowed naturally. One of the Mums I met on that first day has become a great Mum-friend who I am regularly in touch with.
The other huge support I have had from Light is their counselling. I have a 50 minute session weekly (provided for free). I knew that I was feeling anxious when I was first allowed to take my baby outside, but I didn’t realise the full extent of it until I started exploring it with my counsellor, Kate. What I was experiencing was postnatal OCD, where intrusive thoughts about my baby coming to some sort of harm dominated my thoughts. Some of the scenarios that entered my mind were so horrific that I was scared of admitting them to anyone in case they had the misconception that I actually wanted any harm to come to my baby. With reassurance from Kate I started to share how I was feeling. She did not flinch as I told her what was on my mind and she helped me to understand that these were only in my mind, however powerful they felt. it was liberating to explore these feelings together and to realise that just as I couldn’t predict winning lottery numbers, I couldn’t predict danger happening to my baby. I have learnt to relax and now I don’t feel as terrified leaving my flat with my baby, crossing the road or feeling suspicious of anyone new in my baby’s life.
I was recently asked to take part in some filming for a video being made about Light and its work. I didn’t take part because I’m not happy with my weight since having a baby and didn’t want to be filmed. I regret this now as I think the possibility of helping other Mums is more important than my weight. I intend to give something back to Light as they have helped me so enormously, and hope to be able to volunteer for them once I have finished my counselling.
If you or someone you know would benefit from Light’s support, you can get in touch with them here: