Harnessing the power of words to transform mothers’ experience….


My name is Kaye Heyes and I am a mother with a vision: a world where the term ‘postnatal depression’ does not exist. Instead mothers, midwives, health visitors – indeed everyone – talk openly about ‘postnatal transition’.

My vision includes promoting the power of words to transform mothers’ experience of post natal depression and traumatic births. I focus on three areas: use of language when talking about lived experience, changing self-talk and creative writing as therapeutic practice.

I advocate the use of the term ‘post natal transition’ instead of post natal depression. It is a much more objective way of talking about the sometimes difficult adjustment to motherhood with its overwhelming physical, mental and emotional demands.

About one in eight new mothers is diagnosed with postnatal depression (or PND) but as many as 90% of mothers have a difficult postnatal transition period. It is high time that this adjustment to motherhood is not seen as an abnormal, pathological condition – where often the only support offered is anti-depressant medication – but a normal, healthy response to the overwhelming physical, mental and emotional demands of becoming a mother.

Supporting a mother’s emotional well-being has a lasting positive impact on her children’s lives. But my own experience of postnatal services is that a woman’s mental health is valued much less than her ability to care for her baby. Aren’t they equally important?

During my NLP practitioner training I became fascinated with self-talk: that continual track running in our head throughout the day. It may be the voice of a parent or chastising teacher and very often that self talk is negative: ‘you klutz, you’re always so clumsy’ as you drop your keys or ‘you’re useless, you’re always getting things wrong!’ as you struggle to reverse-park into a tight space. I discovered how simply changing the words, tone or location of your self-talk can help instigate change at a core level.

I also write and perform poetry, which has been central to my own post natal recovery. I am a member of Mewe – a group of creatives making work about the maternal. Most of my work centres on my experiences of motherhood and its recurrent themes of loss and longing. I write to first transform my own experience and then to tell the truth in order to resonate with others.

I am working on a collection of poems – Body of Work: Body of Love –exploring how my relationship with my body has been transformed through motherhood. In 2013 I set up Alphabet Soup: a regular writing group for mothers to improve emotional well-being (as well as eating lovely soup!). I hope to develop an anthology of poems written by other mothers who have struggled adjusting to motherhood or have/had post natal depression through Alphabet Soup and Mewe.

I had to fumble my own way through my darkest days of postnatal transition. Why? All women should be lovingly supported on their journey into motherhood however it unfolds.

Writing, NLP, good nutrition, being in nature and connecting honestly with other mothers all helped reduce the feelings of isolation and conflict I felt in my new role as mother. I know that all these can help others too. But it took me a long time to work out what helped and to find supportive allies that I could be honest with. Time that I could have enjoyed being creative with my children and gentle with myself.

(Photo (C) Kaye Heyes 2012)

3 thoughts on “why postnatal transition

  1. This post was shared on the Positive Birth Movement’s facebook page today and sparked a sensitively handled debate about the experience and terminology of PND. (www.facebook.com/positivebirthmovement)

    I chose the word ‘transition’ because the dictionary definition is ‘change – often major’ (not transitional as has been misunderstood) which I thought summed up parenthood pretty well! I also had a period of time calling it ‘post natal bollocks’ (which helped a lot!) and ‘post natal adjustment’. Anything to stave off the depression label and – for me this was very important – normalise my experience and the way I was feeling. In a way the terminology was only important in that helped me finally be honest – with my partner, family, friends, health professionals and most of all myself. Sleep deprivation, exhaustion, isolation, slow physical recovery after a traumatic birth, immense pressure on my relationships with partner/family/friends, and then – the final nail in the coffin – being made redundant whilst on mat leave. All of this contributed to my struggling to adjust to motherhood, it wasn’t as simple as hormones or dodgy neurotransmitters. Interesting that you used NLP, Sarah Davies, it has helped me enormously too and I want to explore how I can use it with other mothers – especially those who have had traumatic births and may be suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog – and to the brave mothers everywhere who talk honestly about their feelings and experiences post natally.

    • Hi Angie, sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you but I really appreciate your feedback. Honest and gentle is exactly what I aim to be, so I’m pleased you found that approach helpful. When it’s been a tough few days at home it helps to read such positive feedback, thank you! X

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