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A Christmas Carol at mother and baby unit

MBU Party

Christmas past met Christmas present at a Swansea Bay mother and baby unit to offer hope for a brighter future.

Staff at Uned Gobaith (Unit of Hope), located in the grounds of Tonna Hospital in Neath, held a Christmas party and invited former patients to come along and share their stories.

The unit, which is overseen by Swansea Bay University Health Board accepts women from across Wales, cares for new mums who experience a wide range of mental illness including postpartum psychosis, depression, anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Entertainment for the seasonal event was provided by Live Music Now Cymru’s Lullaby team, who have been working with the unit’s mums to compose songs for their children, and the Avanti Ladies Choir.

Rachel Burman, a social worker assigned to the unit, said: “We thought that it would be lovely to get all of our mums, past and present, into the same room so we can see how far people has come since being admitted to us.

“It’s quite emotional seeing people who were with us a few years ago, when they had tiny babies, and now they have little toddlers running around. It just goes to show the importance of a place like this, supporting somebody through mental illness at a time when they need it most.

“I’ve seen massive improvements in people, really dramatic. People have come in to us really poorly, very depressed, very low, very anxious, and then they are able to stand up and sing a song about their baby in front of an audience.”

Rachel said that the experience had helped the current mums in the unit.

She said: “It’s really lovely for the people who are with us at the moment to actually see that there is hope. When you are very unwell it is easy to lose sight of that hope. These are people who were just as unwell as you, and now are much better. They are not poorly at all. It just goes to show that there is always hope.”

Kerry, who spent time in the unit with her baby last year, said: “We were admitted to the ward just before Christmas 2021, when my little boy was 10 days old, and we spent four months here getting better.

“I was basically struggling to gain any relationship with my son and I wasn’t sleeping or eating – by the time I was admitted, I was incredibly unwell. It was a live or die situation for me. 

“I had become so severely depressed it was a concern for anyone to let me out of their sights.

“We made the choice to come to Tonna and spent four months working with all the incredible staff – nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, midwives, everybody was on standby.”

Fortunately Kerry’s story had a happy ending.

She said: “Four months later I was able to leave knowing that I would have a life with my child.

“I’m really good now. It’s obviously not all sunshine and rainbows, there are bad days, kids are kids, they will push all your buttons, but 90 percent of the time it is everything that I wanted motherhood to be.

“When I first got admitted I could see nothing past a black hole so to sit here at this most wonderful party that they have put on is just amazing. They work so hard, and they put so much love and energy into every person that comes through their door. 

“It just blows my mind how they do it every single day because it’s not an easy job to look after someone who was unwell as I was.”

MBU Staff

Pictured above: (L-R) Anita-Louise Rees, service manager, Gemma Rees-Williams, health visitor, Francis Bowden, health care assistant, Kailey Launchbury, student nurse, and Rachel Burman, social worker.

Kerry was keen to pass on her story to offer others hope.

She said: “It’s the first time I’ve seen some of the mums who I was in here with, including their little ones, it’s just really nice for everybody.

“I’ve spoken to two mums who are here at the moment, and I think that it’s nice for them to be able to see how you can come out the other side. If they are anything like me when I was admitted, there was no way I was ever going to be able to leave this place. It was my life.

“To be able to sit there and talk to someone currently going through that, is almost an out of this world experience because you know that your words may be able to help someone else get out the other side. It’s quite humbling.”

Another mum, Britney, had another successful story to share.

She said: “I was in the unit for two months back in September. It was a very unique experience, there were lots of things going on daily – it was a really good experience. 

“The staff are great, they make your days a lot easier to get through.

“The support I received, and the ongoing support from the community team, has been really helpful to me and my family. I was a different person when I came out to going in.

“It’s nice to see the other mums who I was in with and hear how they are getting along. It’s a surprise to see everyone doing so well after seeing such a dark time myself and with them all in a dark time.”

Anita Louise Rees, service manager, said: “We would like to thank our wonderful supporters who have helped make today possible including the Lullaby project team and the Avanti Ladies Choir. 

“For myself and the team it has been an emotional, humbling and rewarding experience to reflect with families here today about the journey they have been on, and the positive role Uned Gobaith has played in this. 

“To see so many happy and healthy parents, babies and toddlers here today really reminds us the value of having a Mother and Baby Unit and Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service here in Wales. 
“It has also further highlighted the true value of peer support, with people at different stages of their parenting and recovery journey coming together today through shared experience. 

“Giving those at the beginning of their journey a sense of hope and optimism about finding light at the end of the tunnel and happier times ahead. 

“Myself and the Uned Gobaith team would like to wish all the families and friends of the service a very Merry Christmas and happy and healthy year ahead.”

Rydym yn croesawu gohebiaeth a galwadau ffôn yn y Gymraeg neu'r Saesneg. Atebir gohebiaeth Gymraeg yn y Gymraeg, ac ni fydd hyn yn arwain at oedi. Mae’r dudalen hon ar gael yn Gymraeg drwy bwyso’r botwm ar y dde ar frig y dudalen.

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