“When the wind blows, of course the cradle is going to rock. The trick is to recognise it before the bough breaks completely.” – Ali Sanders.
When The Bough Breaks follows the journey of Ali and Michael as they struggle to create their family. Ali, herself, courageously shares their true story of infertility, halted adoption, and the perinatal mental health issues she experienced, after unexpectedly conceiving with a child who had been so desperately craved.
Ali and Michael met at University, were happily married and, in her own words, had everything they could hope for, until they tried to become parents. After battling with fertility issues they decided to adopt and, following approval, were matched with twin boys, aged eight months. Just days after bringing the boys home, Ali and Michael discovered they were pregnant. However, this wasn’t the joyous occasion they had always dreamed of and, due to the physical and developmental demands of the twins, they made the devastating and agonising decision to halt the adoption process. An action which has profoundly affected both her and Michael.
“As Michael and I stood and cried at the door, watching them go, something in my heart broke clean in two.”
After saying goodbye to the twins, Ali began suffering with insomnia which eventually spiralled into severe depression, with a re-emergence of chronic OCD too. Whilst battling with such intense mental health issues, Ali had to find the strength to speak out, to admit she wasn’t coping with a new born, and urgently needed help. She also had to learn how to love the son she had so intensely yearned.
“I find this so hard to write, but I didn’t feel any connection to my son when he was born.”
I felt a strong empathy with Ali, made deeper by the fact that my own miracle boy was due on the same date as hers; there’s actually just one month between them. With that knowledge, combined with our struggles to conceive, her story had a huge impact on me, thinking how different my own experiences of early motherhood could easily have been.
Ali’s writing is open and authentic and incredibly raw. As much as her style is chatty and companionable, it doesn’t make for easy reading due to the uneasy subjects she tackles. I was left in awe at her incredible braveness to write so honestly about all aspects of her life; she doesn’t gloss over the truly heart-wrenching and harrowing choices they had to make, whatever judgement she may face. It’s a reminder that we should always try to walk in another’s shoes. Having a family isn’t a happy and trauma-free experience for all, and Ali truly highlights just how much mental health really does matter.
“If we don’t already put enough pressure on ourselves to be the perfect mum, we also have society’s version of perfection thrust upon us as well. And then we sit in universities across the land and wonder why postnatal depression is so prevalent.”
I’m a great believer that it’s only by speaking out and standing together that we can start to break the silences surrounding so many painful issues, which affect a huge number of people. Just because something makes for a challenging conversation doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen and, through her book, Ali wants to raise awareness and get people talking, to offer advice and support, and make sure that anyone experiencing mental health issues knows they are not alone: “When you’re in the thick of it, it can feel like you are the only person who has ever gone through anything like this.”
Ali’s story is ultimately one of hope, she found she had always loved her son but that it just took a little longer to uncover it. She also discovered that it is possible to live life with a long-term mental illness, albeit a “slightly different version”. She ends with a beautiful and encouraging paragraph for any parents who may be struggling, advising that; “things will be okay again at some point in the future…help is out there. Even if you have to fight for it… And when it gets too much, rope in everyone around you to help.”
Finally she urges anyone living in the midst of mental health issues to:
“Be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much too soon. You deserve to be helped and one day you will be able to see that.”
When the Bough Breaks is published by Trigger, the mental health and wellbeing publisher, and all proceeds go directly to The Shaw Mind Foundation, a global charity that focuses entirely on mental health.
“Our goal is to make help and support available for every single person in society, from all walks of life. We will never stop offering hope.
These are our promises.” – Trigger and The Shaw Mind Foundation.
Please be advised I received a copy of this book for the purpose of my article.