My name’s Louise and I am 33 years of age. I moved into Life NI hostel in September 2018, 28 weeks pregnant with my third child. I also have a son, Jai, who is ten, and a son, Shea, who would have been four this coming October. But, sadly, he passed away suddenly aged just four weeks.
It was after losing Shea I found my life, as I knew it, slowly starting to unravel. I began drinking a lot to try and numb the unbearable pain I was in. I took drugs just to escape reality and, before I knew it, I was needing something every day just to scrape through. I hid all this from my family and put on a brave face for Jai. I didn’t realise the detrimental effect this would have on him later in the year.
A year after losing Shea, I lost my dad and then I just could not cope any longer. Jai had been living with his dad from 2014, but I had recently got him back for half the week, and I threw that all away and I was allowed no contact. I couldn’t even look after myself at this stage. The whole of 2017, I simply just existed. My family tried in vain to help me in every way possible, but I was just a lost soul. I contemplated suicide on many occasions because living was just too painful. Everything I used as a coping mechanism I started to rely on. Even the thought of facing up to my mental health problems and my grief scared me far too much. I simply couldn’t see a way out.
By Christmas 2017, I just had enough. I turned my phone out, locked myself in my house, and sat for three days and three nights with a rope beside my bed in the dark. Next thing I hear someone entering my house. It was the police, the estate agents, and my mum. My mum broke down and said, “Louise, I thought we were going to find a body”.
Pregnant and Alone
Spent Christmas and New Year down with my mum and realised I needed a lot of help. Shortly after this, my relationship broke down and I just found out I was pregnant. Here I was pregnant with no partner, only my mum for support, and not even a glimmer of hope. How could I get through the next nine months and beyond with no alcohol and no drugs? And how was I going to face having another baby when I hadn’t even grieved properly for the son I lost?
I already had social work involvement with Jai. So they stepped in quite early on raising the concerns of my mental health and also my support network, or for better words, lack of support. I was very open and honest about all my issues. I knew I needed help. I knew I had to fight against my demons. But didn’t know where I was going to get the support to enable me to do this.
I didn’t have my family by my side nor my partner. I buried my head in the sand struggling through every day. All consumed in the fear and the pain that, for the first time, I was facing my problems sober and alone.
The Day Everything Changed
At a routine meeting with social services, they informed me they would be seeking legal advice on the grounds of my poor life style choices previously, and how I became blind and unaware of how bad my mental health currently was due to past experiences losses and life style. It was that day that changed everything. I knew my family wanted involvement in my baby’s life, but I knew they couldn’t provide the level of support required.
I knew I had to find it from somewhere. I trawled through charity after charity page on the internet and came across Life NI. I read about the facility in Belfast and, as I was reading about the services they offer, for the first time, I had a glimmer of hope that this place would be able to help me.
I wrote an email on 7 August briefly outlining my situation. Within a day I received an email back from a senior support worker, Angela, and she asked would it be OK if she called me for a chat. The whole phone call I sobbed and begged for help. I was invited up for an interview and was absolutely petrified. I knew this was my only hope of having a chance to keep my baby. Although I was made to feel very at ease that day, there and then, I knew I was being offered a place for me and my baby to call a home. I was also offered support in ways I needed it most.
On 14 September, I packed up all my belongings, put everything I didn’t need in storage, gave my precious chihuahua, Piper, to my mum, and moved from Carrickfergus to East Belfast.
Happiness and Hope
From my very first night here, it felt like home. Life arranged me counselling and, within a few weeks, I had integrated well into the house with the staff and the girls who also lived here. I outlined my goals for the present time and future for both me and my kids. I started to believe in myself. To believe that I could parent this tiny baby and, maybe, I could actually be happy again.
These women gave me something money cannot buy. They gave me hope. Nearing the end of my pregnancy, Shea’s birthday and anniversary fell close to each other. These had been the dates I was dreading being eight months pregnant and also, for the first time, facing them sober. What if I couldn’t cope with how I felt? And what if all my hard work and hope all fell to the side and my pain took over? But the work that staff did with me on a daily basis helped me to develop healthy coping mechanisms and to focus on the positives.
As the end of my pregnancy drew near, social services made the decision that, due to having a sufficient level of support and residing in Life hostel, the baby would be residing here with me. So at 1.43pm on Monday the 26th of November, little baby Elliott arrived weighing 6lb 11oz.
Thank You Life
I cannot begin to describe how grateful and humbled I am for Angela, and the staff at Life, to go above and beyond in what they do day in and day out. It’s because of Life I was able to face my demons, face up to my mental health, and learn to manage my grief. They believed in me at the start, which then enabled me to believe in myself.
Elliott is nearly 5 months old now, me and my family are closer than ever, and I have been sober for a year. I have my big son, Jai, who comes and stays with me on the weekends, back in my life. My story is just one of many from the women who have passed through Life’s doors. How many people can say their day job makes other people’s dreams come true?
If you are worried about being pregnant and don’t know what to do, Life can help. Please click here.