SURVIVOR STORY: From sleepless nights to social enterprise

In this latest Sleep Thief Survivor story, mother-of-two Sally Bunkham tells us how her experience of postnatal depression inspired her to launch a social enterprise  The company provides hampers for new mums containing all the things they can’t have while pregnant and £1 from each one sold goes to the  postnatal illness support charity the PANDAS Foundation.

This is Sally’s story:

“I cannot believe I have reached the point where I am considered a “survivor”, but it’s true, I really am! I never thought I’d make it.

“Motherhood began in a whirlwind for me, and never really slowed down. My first daughter, Daisy, was born 4 weeks early back in summer 2014. She was a tiny, helpless, beautiful surprise and motherhood hit me like a tonne of bricks. I found breastfeeding really difficult. A long battle & gruelling routine ensued of trying to latch, pump, sterilise bottles and make formula, whilst also trying to eat and sleep. It was hellish. I was finally diagnosed with a medical condition that concluded I was only able to produce a few drops of milk. That hit me really hard. I cried. A lot. It was exhausting. But once over that on we plodded as a new little family. Daisy was a very average sleeper, but we were getting by in a daze. We were high on the “new parents” adrenalin.

“Then, a couple of months later we discovered I was pregnant again. Massive oops! Now without going into too much detail, it was a big shock for a reason. On paper that should not have happened! The chances were VERY slim. But hey ho, on we went. We were ok, we’ll deal with this, we thought. I was really scared. I could barely cope with 1 child, how on earth would I cope with 2?

“I’d love to say that my fears were unfounded, but that would be a big fat lie. Ruby was born bang on her due date, 12 days after Daisy’s 1st birthday. Ruby began life as an average newborn. She wasn’t premature like Daisy, so could go longer in between feeds, and now I had the feeding thing down, it wasn’t too bad.

“Trouble brewed at around 4/5 months when Ruby suddenly seemed to develop terrible digestive issues. It seemed to tie in with the rotavirus oral vaccine, but we’ll never know if that was the cause. She screamed. She cried. She was inconsolable for long periods of the day and pretty much all the night, every night. Nothing we did seemed to help. We tried cutting things from diet. She was allergy tested. She was on all manner of drugs for presumed reflux. We saw numerous specialists. No one seemed to help. I lost track of the number of times we pitched up at the out of hours clinic convinced she must have something seriously wrong. How could any baby cry for that long without it being something serious? We rocked and jiggled and paced night after night, getting by on scraps of sleep. My husband would have to put her in the sling and pound the streets at midnight, 2am, 3am. Nothing would bring relief.

“It was like I’d taken a drug, but that drug was just no sleep.”

“Every day I felt I was losing myself more. I sunk into a horrible depression, made horrible worse by severe sleep deprivation. I wasn’t just tired I was horribly exhausted. I hallucinated sounds. I remember looking at the floor and seeing it wobble and stretch. It was like I’d taken a drug, but that drug was just no sleep.

“Everyone in the family was suffering. I became a really angry person. I lashed out at those I loved. Nobody could say a thing right and no one could possibly understand how I felt. I began developing coping mechanisms that were really unhealthy. I screamed into cushions, I punched cushions, I punched sofas, I ran into the garden at 4am and screamed into the night air. It’s so embarrassing to think of what I did now, but that’s the person I became. Eventually I started hurting myself. I punched brick walls and made my hands bleed. I started dragging my nails down my arms till they were raw and bleeding. It was part punishment for being what I considered a rubbish mum, and part that rush of a release of tension that I was dying for. I couldn’t stop my baby crying. I was not enough. I was failing daily.

“It was after one of these damaging myself sessions that my husband sat me down and begged me to stop and go to the GP. I felt numb and empty. I went. I had nothing to lose. As I sat there and sobbed I somehow managed to tell him the whole story. I was so numb I wasn’t even ashamed anymore. He diagnosed me with PND and going to the doctor was the best thing I could have done. That very act helped so much. It legitimised my feelings. I wasn’t mad, I was poorly.

“Luckily for me, things from there improved. My daughter gradually grew out of her undiagnosed issues. Sleep got slowly, oh so slowly, better. I never did use the prescription for medication. From there it wasn’t a walk in the park, but I could feel myself returning little by little each day.

“My kids are now 1.5 and 2.5, and do you know what…they actually sleep! I never ever thought I’d say that. The days I spent wishing, begging, longing for sleep! Well now more often than not, I get it. And I am grateful for that every day.”

“Having had sleep and feeling better I now realise that my passions lie in helping other women who felt has bleak as I did back there. “Mum’s Back” is my social enterprise project that has literally just launched. We provide hampers purely for mum containing all the things she’s not been allowed whilst pregnant; wine, cheese, pate…you get the idea and £1 from every hamper goes to the PANDAS Foundation.”

To find out more about Sally’s enterprise visit If you are struggling with PND do not hesitate to contact your GP, or seek support from PANDAS .

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