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A stitch in time - help for post-natal depression came from an unexpected source

Former journalist and mother-of-three Elaine Jinks-Turner turned her 'therapy' for post-natal depression into a new business opportunity

Elaine Jinks-Turner and husband, Gary Turner with their children, Benjamin, Jonathan (right) and Florence at their Rastrick home.

Post-natal depression was the last thing Elaine Jinks-Turner ever expected to suffer from.

“It’s not something that I thought someone like me, who is such a together person, would get,” says the former court reporter, law student and mother-of-three from Rastrick.

But after the birth of her daughter Florence, who is now three, Elaine found herself with more than just the baby blues.

She explained: “I was over the moon when she first arrived, but then as time progressed I felt down. There were days when I just thought I literally couldn’t cope. I blamed myself because I already had a child (Jonathan, 10) and had had no problems after having him. I felt I must be doing something different, something wrong.”

Looking back at those early months, Elaine, 36, realises that post-natal depression has a way of ‘creeping up’ on sufferers so that they fail to understand what is happening. Although health visitors had initially identified that she had a degree of depression, she didn’t really see the problem developing. Her pregnancy, after all, had been long-awaited, uneventful and healthy.

She said: “It (the depression) all came as quite a shock to me because Florence was very much a wanted baby. I had been told I had polycystic ovaries and that my chances of conceiving were only 30% — that’s why there’s such a big gap between Florence and Jonathan — and we’d been to the assisted conception unit.

So we were delighted when I fell pregnant. To any outsider, looking in, they must have wondered what I had to feel bad about: I have a good husband, nice home and lovely children.”

But there was worse to follow. After giving birth to her second son Benjamin two years ago Elaine realised that the depression, far from lifting, had deepened.

During the pregnancy she developed pelvic girdle pain, which had added to her distress. “I couldn’t walk and it made me feel bad about not being able to be a proper mother,” she said.

“I felt so low there were days when I couldn’t get out of bed. We don’t have a support network because our families don’t live nearby. My husband (Gary) spent many, many days looking after the children. His place of work has been very understanding. He took holiday time and worked from home and in the evenings when he could.”

Finally, 15 months ago, Elaine accepted that she needed medical advice and visited her GP.

“She put me on anti-depressants, which I thought she would, and the first lot didn’t agree with me at all,” said Elaine. “But now I’m on Prozac and I’m a lot better although I wouldn’t say I’m 100%.

Elaine Jinks-Turner of Baa Baa Brighouse

“Post natal depression is one of those things that just creeps up. The biggest step was admitting there was a problem.”

Throughout her long recovery Elaine, who took redundancy from her job as a journalist during an extended period of maternity leave, found help from an unexpected source — hand-knitting.

She explained: “When it felt as though everything else was falling apart, I found that knitting allowed me to be constructive. It helped me concentrate and allowed me to focus. For me it has been a great coping mechanism. It’s very relaxing because it’s so absorbing.”

Elaine was just a child when her mum taught her to knit, but she hadn’t taken up her needles for many years.

“I was working full-time, studying to join the bar, having done a post-graduate diploma in law, and being a mum, so I didn’t really have the time,” she says.

But since taking redundancy, she has become something of a born-again knitter, so much so that she has set up a small home-based business, Baa Baa Brighouse, selling items she has knitted, yarns, needles and knitting kits.

She also plans to run a series of workshops for beginners. In September she will be teaming up with Brighouse Arts Festival with a Learn to Knit Workshop at Rastrick Library.

Now that she’s getting back some of her old zest for life Elaine is embracing her new enterprise with an almost missionary zeal. She is championing British wool by sourcing Yorkshire yarns from small independent spinners and dyers and has even joined the Campaign for Wool, whose patron is the Prince of Wales.

Her new direction in life couldn’t be further removed from her previous career and she’s given up all thoughts of pursuing her law studies any further, but Elaine is eager to get www.baabaabrighouse.co.uk established and capitalise on the fact that knitting — enjoying something of a revival — is the sort of self-help therapy anyone can do almost anywhere.

She cites the fact occupational therapists are encouraging patients to turn to knitting to alleviate symptoms of depression and stress related illnesses. Engaging in craft activities is also linked to slowing cognitive decline and there are claims the rhythmic movements of knitting offer the same kind of benefits as meditation.

Elaine offers her own experience as proof of the powers of knitting. Will it work for others? Well, as she says, there’s really only one way to find out.

Mood changes, irritability and episodes of tearfulness are common after giving birth. These symptoms, often known as the “baby blues”, usually clear up within a few weeks. However, if symptoms persist, it could be postnatal depression.

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