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I

get some odd looks in public. I am


heavily tattooed and dress a bit
diferent. When my baby was three
months old, I was sitting in
Starbucks having a cofee with my friend
and an older lady noticed we both had
tattoos. She announced that it was
disgusting that such a young baby was
being looked afer by such freaks.
Some people can be full of such negativ-
ity and judgment. But I believe everything
happens for a reason, and having a baby
saved me from my very harmful be-
haviour and gave me a purpose in life.
At the age of 18 I was told I could
never have kids. I sufer from PCOS
(Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome) quite
severely, and only have periods about
once a year.
Getting pregnant came totally out of the
blue - I was using two types of contracep-
tion; the pill (also to help with my PCOS
symptoms) and condoms. But I think it
was the single best thing that could have
happened to me.
Ive been self-harming since I was 16. In
early 2011 at the age of 20, I got admit-
ted to Homerton General Psychiatric
Unit, for swallowing a litre of bleach. I
wasnt very with it while I was there, but I
remember everyone being nice to me, and
being supportive.
Afer my stay at Homerton I got
referred for private counselling in the
area. My counsellor was lovely, and we
spoke about how I was feeling, my past
and my relationships. It did help me a lot,
but I got admitted to hospital twice more
Getting pregnant Getting pregnant
saved my life saved my life
Self-harming since the age of 16 and
told she could never have children,
Jodie was trapped in a world of drink,
drugs and depression. But after she
fell unexpectedly pregnant everything
changed. Jodie tells Hannah Cook how
becoming a mum turned her life around
Real Life
35
Self-harming since the age of 16 and
told she could never have children,
Jodie was trapped in a world of drink,
drugs and depression. But after she
fell unexpectedly pregnant everything
changed. Jodie tells Hannah Cook how
becoming a mum turned her life around
while I was seeing her.
I was 21 when I found out I was
pregnant. I had only just started seeing
the father, and had been sufering from
depression for a while. I had been living
by myself in a bedsit in a house share
with people I didnt know, and working
in an art gallery. I used to work really
long shifs and do nothing much but
make cofee all day.
A lot of people in the area were
doing drugs, and things like cocaine and
ketamine became really normalised. I
hated living on my own in a strange city
so much. I used to either stay out all
night, or travel an hour on the train to
an ex-boyfriends house to smoke weed.
Ten I had to get the train back for work
in the morning.
I was probably drinking every day and
going to all night raves once a week. It
was really self-destructive. I wasnt really
having fun, I was just trying to escape,
but no one around me seemed to notice.
Tey didnt really care if my behaviour
was self-destructive, as long as everyone
seemed to be enjoying themselves.
I ended up quitting my job in the art
gallery and a couple of months later got
a new job in an underwear shop. It was
a reasonable job, but I still felt really
trapped. I was turning up every day in
my smart clothes to help middle aged
women pick bras, and then leaving to go
and get wasted and sleep on a friends
foor. It was a very depressing time for
me.
I didnt really have any expectations
about pregnancy or parenting I didnt
really know if I wanted children until I
got pregnant. Financially and practically
it was not the ideal time. Emotionally for
me, it was very much the right time.
I was really scared of the responsibility
and my ability to cope, but I was so
grateful for the opportunity to be a
parent. I enjoyed knowing I was going to
have a daughter, but had a really rough
pregnancy. I was very emotional, and
very sick.
Most of my friends werent very
supportive of my pregnancy, but my
mum was, and my dad came around
eventually. Te father, my boyfriend, was
very excited and we tried to work things
out as a couple.
I didnt self-harm while I was pregnant,
although because of my history, I had
counselling and mental health check ups
for the length of my pregnancy, through
the maternity hospital. I was high risk,
because of my past. I also stopped smok-
ing and drinking, and havent started
either again since giving birth.
When I was six months pregnant I got a
new job working at Lush as a supervisor.
Its my dream job and I was so happy
they chose me, despite knowing Id have
to take maternity leave. Working really
helped me to keep active and keep my
mind of things while I was expecting.
I had morning sickness every single day
of my pregnancy. I was still throwing up
when I went into labour. My boyfriend
took the week of my due date of work,
and I was so grateful because I pretty
much couldnt get out of bed myself.
Even though Id been having contrac-
tions since Boxing Day, I actually went
overdue and spent two weeks walking
everywhere and eating really spicy food.
I had an induction booked for the 21st
January, but at 4am that morning I went
into labour.
Te birth was a long, hard one, and I
had quite a lot of ripping and internal
bleeding aferwards, but I didnt need
surgery, and there were no complications
with the baby. Angie weighed a healthy
7lb13.
Postnatal depression started when
Angie was about a week old. She was
breastfeeding a lot, she would feed for
45 minutes and then want feeding again
15 minutes later. I remember one night
feeding her from 9pm-2am solid, and
pinching myself to stay awake.
It got to the point where every time she
started crying for food, I started crying
hysterically too. I just felt like I was doing
such a crap job. When I asked my health
visitor for breastfeeding advice, she told
me I had to just get on with it.
I was so exhausted and felt like there
was no way any one could help me.
Everyone I spoke to would say things
like: Isnt being a mum the best thing
ever? and I bet youre so happy and it
made me feel so guilty. I broke down in
tears to the nurse at my doctors surgery,
and she arranged for me to go back to
counselling sessions.
Angies father was supportive while I
was pregnant, and while I was in labour.
But when I was struggling with postnatal
depression he was not very sympathetic.
He basically told me there was no point
in trying because I would never get
better, and other mean things like that.
I found him watching porn when Id
just returned from hospital. We started
arguing lots and I needed more emo-
tional support and help with the baby,
so I moved in with my mum for three
months.
Tings seemed to be getting better
between me and Angies father, so we
moved back into the fat with him.
Tis was a mistake because things werent
really better. We argued a lot, and he
made me feel bad when I couldnt get
Angie to sleep, or when I felt depressed.
He used to refuse to look afer her on
my days at work because he 'needed
space'. Once he refused to get out of bed
to look afer her so I had to take her to
work with me until my mum was free.
When my mum took Angie back to the
fat for bath time, hed taken all his stuf
and lef. And he hasnt seen Angie since.
Its not fair that he wont see his
daughter, but at the end of the day its
him who is missing out, not us. Were
actually doing a lot better without him,
and I feel loads better in myself.
I went back to work really early, when
Angie was four months old. It was a
really good decision for me and has been
a massive part of my recovery. It is hard
leaving Angie sometimes, like when shes
feeling poorly, but because she stays with
my mum I dont feel guilty about it.
Work is going really well for me at the
moment; one day Id like to manage my
I wasnt
really having
fun, I was
just trying to
escape, but
no-one
seemed to
notice
Becoming a
mother
snapped me
out of my
destructive cycle
and gave me
a sense of
worth

Jodie getting to
know her tiny baby
at 3 days old
Finally at peace:
Jodie bonding with
Angie in her sling
A mothers love:
Jodie's
'alternative'
hands keeping
Angie safe
Real Life
37
own branch, but not until Angie is older
and in school.
I seem to get quite a lot of unsolicited
comments in public about my parenting.
I think this is a combination of being
young, looking a bit diferent and
practising attachment parenting, because
its not that common where I live.
Attachment parenting is when you
respond to your babys needs and
emotions and let them take the lead. Ive
been potty training Angie since birth and
shes really awesome at it, we co-sleep
most nights and I let her decide when
and what she wants to eat.
Ive been lectured loads in cofee shops
for letting Angie eat a whole apple, or
letting her eat a whole pot of yoghurt
with her hands. I don't really understand
this. I dont want her to learn how to
be tidy, I want her to learn how to feed
herself. And Im dead proud that she can
feed herself a whole yoghurt even if it is
messy.
We also dont have a buggy, instead we
use a sling whenever we go out. Ive had
so many people tell me its bad for her
back and neck, or that I shouldnt be
carrying her because shes heavy, or
that I am spoiling her. I would never
approach a stranger in the street and
say her buggy is wrong, so I dont really
understand this.
When I am with my sister, who is very
normal looking, lots of people ask her
why I am holding her baby. And people
at my baby groups sometimes ask me
why Im dressed up too, which is pretty
funny.
I always wonder if people would be less
likely to comment if I was 30, and had
all my tattoos covered. I hope it doesnt
upset Angie when shes older. But at the
end of the day Im totally happy with
how I look and who I am, even if it isnt
conventional, and I think thats important
for her to learn.
Becoming a mother snapped me out of
my destructive cycle and gave me, not
just a reason to stick around, but a sense
of worth, and validation in myself.
I really think getting pregnant saved
my life. I could not have carried on the
way I was without eventually commit-
ting suicide or overdosing.
Im totally
happy with
how I look and
who I am, even if
it isnt
conventional

Angie demonstrating
that she can feed
herself, all thanks
to attachment
parenting
Contraception:
how effective is it?
~ The effectiveness of a contraceptive
depends on which type you are using and if
you are using it correctly.
~ Male condoms - 98% effective
~ Female condoms - 95% effective
~ The pill - 99% effective when taken
everyday for 3 weeks, with a weeks break.
~ Injection - 99% effective when a follow-up
injection is given every 8-12 weeks
~ Implant - 99% effective when implanted
under skin on upper arm, it lasts up to 3
years but can be taken out sooner
~ Patch - 99% effective when placed on
upper arm and changed once a week for 3
weeks, with a weeks break
~ Family Planning: www.fpa.org.uk
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome:
what is it?
~ A condition where cysts develop in the
ovaries, and affect how they work
~ Women with PCOS usually have, higher
levels of male hormones called androgens
and ovaries that do not release eggs
regularly
~ Approx 1 in 5 women have polycystic
ovaries, but more than 50% are not aware
~ PCOS causes fertility problems for women,
which affects their chances of falling
pregnant
~ Symptoms include: irregular periods,
excessive hair on face, neck and back, oily
skin or acne, weight gain and thinning of
hair on the head
~ NHS: www.nhs.uk
Postnatal Depression:
how can I tell if I have it?
~ Looking after a newborn baby is not
easy, and often the emotional stress and
hormonal changes after giving birth can
make a mother feel down
~ Who is affected? It can affect any woman
who has recently had a baby, but those with
a previous history of depression or anxiety
disorders are more at risk
~ Symptoms include: persistent low mood,
difficulty bonding with baby, fatigue, lack
of interest in world around you, low self
confidence, loss of or increased appetite,
~ Treatment: If you think you are suffering
with PND, help can be received from your GP
in form of medication or counselling
~ Mind: www.mind.org.uk
Real Life
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