A SOUTHAMPTON mum who feared that she was going to accidentally kill her baby has spoken out to help others who are struggling with crippling anxiety following the birth of their children.

Maddy Alexander-Grout began to suffer anxiety when she was pregnant with Ben, now two, and was convinced that he was going to be stillborn.

She suffered severe anxiety for the first eight months of his life, imagining horrifying scenarios and obsessively checking that he was safe.

“I had been told that I’d never get pregnant as they thought I was pre-menopausal,” says Maddy, now 34, from Shirley.

“I was told to come off the pill so that some of my eggs could be frozen, but two weeks later I’d fallen pregnant!

“I think the thought that this was my only chance to have a baby set me up to be protective.”

Maddy suffered from gestational diabetes and was closely monitored as she had an anterior placenta and found herself frequently turning to the internet to research various symptoms that she was experiencing, but found that this just increased her anxiety.

“I also had a very difficult labour and when Ben was born he had low blood sugar and was jaundiced and he had to stay in hospital for a week, and I think that contributed to my anxiety, combined with lack of sleep,” she says.

Maddy says that she was very reluctant to leave her house and was constantly checking that Ben was okay . This included obsessively checking his room to make sure that nothing could fall on him and that it was secure and that there was nothing in his bed and checking on him constantly.

“I had a breathing sensor and a video monitor, and I was still checking on him every twenty minutes in the night,” says the training and change management executive.

“I remember one time, he was just in a really deep sleep, but I was shrieking at my husband to call for an ambulance, because I thought he’d stopped breathing.

“They say that when you have a new baby you should nap when they nap, but I would sit and stare at him in case he stopped breathing.”

This fear tailed off once Ben had turned six months and the risk of sudden infant death had reduced, but other anxieties persisted.

“One of my big fears was that I would drop him. I’m so clumsy, and I was afraid that I’d trip over and fall into the road with him.

“It was also very difficult if I had to drive anywhere, as I’d constantly be pulling over to make sure that he was still breathing.

“And I used to imagine every horrible scenario happening, like one of us being killed in a car crash.”

Maddy’s anxiety hasn’t put her off of having more children. She knows it could resurface, but is confident that it would be much more under control.

But she does sometimes find the quirks of toddler behaviour make her feel more anxious again.

“A couple of weeks ago, Ben escaped my grasp and ran into the road, and I literally dived to save him,” she says. “Now my anxiety has reared its head a bit again.”

One of the things that really helped Maddy overcome her anxieties was counselling. She paid to have eight sessions with a counsellor, and found this hugely beneficial.

The other thing that really helped her was getting out and talking to other mums.

“My husband was very supportive, but my anxiety was very isolating,” she says.

“When I started being able to go out, I went to a parents group called Southampton Newbies, and it saved me. I made some really good friends, who understood what I was going through.

“I found it so supportive that I started to volunteer there. This led me to set up the Southampton Baby and Toddler Forum on Facebook, because I wanted to be able to advertise for more volunteers.

“Now, two years on, we’ve got more than 4,000 members. We do weekly meet-up and have things like a Christmas party. It’s a way of helping connect parents so that people don’t feel alone. I think it’s important to speak out.” she adds.

“If someone is feeling the way I felt, I want to help and for them to know that they’re not alone.”