My Juno Anniversary

My first born Ethan – the boy who came along and healed many things in my life, stole my heart and made myself and Chris a family with so much to love for – was born in 2013. He turns 4 soon and this means that I have been accessing and then facilitating peer support for 3 years. My Juno anniversary if you will!


My labour and Ethan’s birth were what I would consider traumatic and the start of family life didn’t go too smoothly either. We slowly began adjusting to the magical, bewildering, terrifying, life-affirming job of being parents and becoming a family of three. The first weeks are a blur, marred by a painful c-section scar and bouts of sickness on my part. On top of all of this I found being a new mother perplexing, questioning every decision we made regarding our son. Looking back he was a perfect, happy boy but anxiety ruled me.


When our wee boy was only 5 weeks old I was taken to hospital in an ambulance. As previously mentioned, I had some ill physical health postpartum but was told and believed it was my body processing and adjusting to a traumatic labour and emergency c-section. After a blurry few days of tests, pain and medication in HDU I was eventually diagnosed with gallstone pancreatitis, which had been the source of my discomfort throughout pregnancy and in the 5 weeks postpartum.


Gallstone pancreatitis and associated illnesses consumed my whole life for a while and I was in hospital away from my beautiful newborn son, my partner and our home for the best part of 4 months. This experience was the single worst thing I have ever had to go through in my life and I feel so sad and robbed of the time I missed when we should have been bonding as a family. I try very hard to have a positive view and know how lucky I am to be in the position I am in now – in a family full of love where we have our health and much else in our life.


It took me some time to readjust to life outside of hospital and also to find my identity as a mother, all the while still battling with ill health. In April 2014 – on the week of my sons first birthday – I eventually decided to tackle my mental health face on after ignoring it for a number of months.


We luckily had a supportive Health Visitor who referred me to a fantastic GP who offered me so much more than just medication. The day I was diagnosed with postnatal depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress I was handed a leaflet of a peer support group. I was in a really awful place but felt determined that I would not become a victim of both the illnesses that had haunted my early experiences of motherhood and attended the group the following week. Those days passed in a sort of blur – I started medication and was on a waiting list for counselling. Peer support became an integral part of my recovery. I think that this may sound dramatic but I actually find it hard to explain how much of a positive impact peer support had on me – in a number of ways – and also don’t know what position my family and myself would be in by now had I not found the help I did to help me recover.


After some time when I felt the capacity to support others I became involved in volunteering. In 2015, with the other members of the committee, I was involved in the ‘birth’ of Juno. I believe so passionately in my heart in what we do because I am proof of just how much of an amazing impact peer support can have as part of recovery from perinatal mental illness. I now co-facilitate the Sighthill Juno group on a Tuesday at Gate 55. It’s so important to me to give something back given how positive my experience of peer support has been. Supporting our mums is a rewarding, emotional and cathartic experience that I love.

Tess Askew, Juno Co-Founder

Juno Edinburgh Post

Dear Matthew

Dear Matthew, 


I know all parents say this but I cannot believe that you are turning 4. When you were first born it was hard to imagine that you would  ever do anything other than feed, sleep, poo, repeat… Yet in the blink of an eye those sleep deprived early days are gone and I am here wondering how on Earth my baby has turned into a full of life 4 year old. 


I always feel very reflective when you and your brother’s birthday come around. A time to look back and look at those early days probably through rose tinted glasses. Days powered by cold cups of tea and dry shampoo. Days of toddler groups, tea and cake and you lying on my chest for sleepy cuddles wishing that you didn’t have to get bigger. 


But it certainly wasn’t all sleepy cuddles and feeling deliriously happy. At 4 Matthew I’m sure you don’t remember a time when Mummy was sad all the time, but for a while after you were born Mummy was very poorly. I hope that when you are bigger I can explain exactly what happened and what it felt like but for now I can say Mummy had something called Post Natal Depression. 


During that time Mummy wasn’t herself at all. Mummy felt very sad, all of the time, not for any reason at all. I suddenly lost interest in things that I had loved before, like a light had gone out and my whole world was grey and dark. I would lie awake all night listening for you, feed you, go back to bed but never be able to sleep. As a result of this I was tired all day and very irritable and I’m ashamed to say sometimes used to take this out on your older brother who was only a baby himself at the time. I would Lose my temper over silly things like him spilling a drink, i can only hope, like you, that he won’t remember much about this. I went from being a confident, organised person to not even being able to decide what we needed at the supermarket. The very worst thing of all was the horrible guilt that I used to carry around with me. I loved you so much that it hurt, I felt like my heart world explode with the love I felt for you but yet I could not find any joy in my life. What kind of Mummy was I? How could I have a beautiful, happy baby like you and not be jumping for joy every day? There were times (and these were the very worst) when I wished that I wasn’t here anymore, because at least if I wasn’t here I wouldn’t have to feel they way I did. 


The answer I found when I eventually spoke up and got help was that it wasn’t just me, that I was suffering from an illness. The good news was that it was actually very common and there a treatment for this illness. With some medicine from the Doctor and also some counselling (a space for mummy to talk every week) I gradually began to get better. 


I can’t remember exactly when but the light started to come back on in my life. Slowly but surely the days with you and your brother were not just monotonous ‘one foot in front of the other’ to make it through. They became fun, I was able to laugh and I was able to enjoy my time with you instead of dreading how I would get through another day. 


Now 4 years on those dark grey days feel almost like bad dream. When I was in the middle of them it felt like the fog would never lift and that I would feel that way forever. All I wanted was another Mummy to say ‘I went through this and got better, so can you’. Some people want to forget bad times and pretend that they didn’t happen. But I’m so proud to say that out of those darkest days something good came- Juno. Juno does exactly what I wanted when I was at my most poorly and I couldn’t be prouder. You could say, matthew that if it was not for you there would be no Juno and I hope when you are older you understand just how important that is. 


But back to my sentiments from the start, I cannot believe that you are turning 4. You will of course always be my baby boy (even though you tell me regularly that you are not a baby, but a big boy) but for now I will look forward to your paw patrol party with the big cake you have requested and watching you open (even more!) trains. I will always remember that the beginning of our journey was not the easiest, but I hope that there might be another Mummy reading this going through something similar and they realise that it won’t last forever and one day they will get to be as happy that their baby is turning 4. 


Love you forever my little man 


Mummy xx