A mother-of-two who rose to fame for her hilarious Instagram posts has opened up about her battle with severe post-partum depression and mania following the birth of her sons which left her feeling suicidal.
Laura Belbin, from Portsmouth, whose Knee Deep in Life account has 441,000 followers, regularly pokes fun at outrageous celebrity outfits, poses and sexy adverts by recreating them with a heavy dose of reality.
She was branded a legend by social media users last year after she poked fun at the ‘upside-down’ bikini trend made famous by an Italian model by constructing her own – out of a bin bag.
In her new book, which is named after her infamous page, the blogger shares a brutally honest account of her early struggles with motherhood.
Laura, who is mum to Elliot, nine, and Toby, five, reveals she started Knee Deep in Life in 2016 following a dark period of several years in which she felt like ‘a switch had been flicked off’ – which she attributed to unsupportive GPs.
Laura Belbin, from Portsmouth, pictured right, who is best known for recreating ‘sexy’ adverts in her own unique style, has penned a book about her experience of motherhood. Pictured: Laura recreating a model’s Insta shot (right)
Laura said she always wanted to be a mother but doctors let her down, failing to spot her symptoms of depression. Pictured: Laura with sons Elliot and Toby
She also discusses the impact of vile trolls who leave hurtful comments on her posts.
Speaking about her experience of postnatal depression after the birth of her eldest son Elliot, Laura told FEMAIL she raised the alarm after experiencing acute insomnia, bouts of violence and feeling like she did not want to have a child anymore.
But she claims her GP told her to ‘get a grip and get on with it’ and insisted all women experience such feelings after birth.
‘I always wanted to be a mum and it’s not how I expected it to be,’ she admitted. ‘I have been let down by doctors who completely failed to see my symptoms of depression and didn’t really treat me very nicely.’
Laura said her doctor prescribed her a five-day course of medication and was told she needed to ‘sort herself out’.
At a later check-up where she cried and suggested she might be suffering from PND, another doctor told her to go on a website, which left her feeling helpless.
Laura was branded a legend by social media users last year after she poked fun at the ‘upside-down’ bikini trend. She joked she was ‘smuggling binbag’ up her bottom every time she swallowed while wearing the skimpy creation. The bizarre ‘upside-down bikini’ trend, which involves tying string swimwear around your breasts, was first paraded by 27-year-old model and blogger Valentina Fradegrada, pictured right
Laura explained she’s taking her musings from blog to book form to help other mums who have experienced similar struggles. Pictured: Laura after Elliot’s birth
Laura said she was disappointed by her experiences with her GP after giving birth and told how she turned to less traditional treatments including acupuncture. Pictured: Laura and son Toby as a baby
After the birth of her second son, Laura stopped washing up and said she barely looked after her children. Pictured: Her husband Steve with Toby, five, and Elliot, nine
In an attempt to improve her mental health she tried less traditional treatments including acupuncture, but they failed to address the root of her depression, which manifested itself four years later after the birth of her second son Toby.
‘I hit a level of rock bottom I didn’t know existed,’ Laura recalled. ‘I stopped washing up, I didn’t want to look after my kids, I barely looked after them. At one point we had to move in with my parents because I just couldn’t cope.
‘And once again, I think my doctor’s surgery really lacked knowledge on post-natal depression. They weren’t listening to me and I really wasn’t getting the help that I needed.
‘I remember this one day, Toby was 11 weeks old, I had terrible insomnia. I didn’t cry, I had no feelings, it was like someone had gone inside a room, flicked the light off and that was it, it was gone.’
What is post-natal depression
WHAT IS POST-NATAL DEPRESSION?
Postnatal depression is caused by a combination of hormones and the psychological and environmental changes brought by birth. It can persist for weeks, leaving the sufferer with a persistent feeling of tiredness, lethargy, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
Mood swings after birth
The emotions experienced by a new mother can be complicated. Postnatal, or postpartum, depression affects about 13 per cent of all new mothers. According to the Institute of Psychiatry in London it also affects around seven per cent of fathers who, while not suffering from the raging hormones of a new mother, can experience feelings of anxiety and panic.
Almost all mothers, regardless of whether they suffer PND, will experience mood fluctuations. Your post-labour exhaustion will compound the confusion you feel on becoming a parent.
Often mothers feel on a high for the first few days after birth, as the excitement of a new baby coupled with all the celebrations and congratulations makes them euphoric. This high is likely to crash after a few days, as the reality of sleepless nights and constant demands sets in.
Many mothers feel a loss of identity, as all attention turns away from them towards the child. You can feel like a mere incubator who has lost an individual personality. Your personality nurtured over decades becomes subservient to one that is only a few days old.
Relations between you and your partner might become strained under the responsibility and the non-stop demands.
HOW CAN YOU TREAT IT?
There are measures that doctors can take in order to accelerate recovery. Talk first to your health worker, GP or doctor.
Your GP might refer you to a counsellor or psychologist. This allows you to talk through your problems and possibly solve them. Trying to build up social contacts, either through your family or through mother and baby groups, can also alleviate your feelings of isolation and anxiety.
Some parts of the UK are covered by a screening programme which aims to identify women who may be showing the first signs of postnatal depression.
Association for Postnatal Illness
National Childbirth Trust
Gingerbread (for single parents)
Laura told how opening up her life to other people by launching her blog helped her to overcome her struggles.
‘There is such a stigma around mental health that you kind of don’t want to be the one in a room raising your hand and going, “Oh, by the way, I self-harmed,” or “By the way, I used to starve myself as a teenager and I live with anxiety.” You don’t want to be that person,’ she said, adding that it was ‘scary’.
‘That was the most horrific thing I could possibly have gone through and to come out the other side of it, being here and being strong enough to pull myself through, talking about it, it needs to be OK.’
Laura also shared her own version of a shot featuring a blonde model in lingerie baking a cake
Laura believes her doctor’s surgery lacked the necessary knowledge on post-natal depression. Pictured: Laura recreating a model’s Instagram shot
She said the positive response to her Instagram account has been overwhelming.
Laura said many women have messaged her to thank her for ‘opening up about some things [they’ve] never been brave enough to talk about’.
Much like her popular Instagram account, the book is full of brutally honest anecdotes, ranging from how her body changed after birth to her bouts of depression.
Laura said social media platforms should make it more difficult to create fake profiles to reduce trolling. Pictured: Laura with her book in one of her trademark satirical poses
But Laura’s online fame has seen her become the target of abuse from vile trolls who leave nasty comments on her posts.
‘These people are missing something that we cannot begin to comprehend. Somebody who chooses to go online and talk nastily about somebody else has deep rooted issues that I can’t fathom, because I am not them nor have I been them,’ she said.
‘I feel sorry for them that they would take that much of their own time to destroy other people. I know people that have been horrifically affected by trolls.’
She added: ‘Social media has a much bigger responsibility to make it much more difficult to create a profile so that one person can’t have 15 faceless profiles that they can hack at people.’
An extract from Knee Deep in Life by Laura Belbin
I think, while you don’t realise it at the time, this whole rollercoaster of birth is painful, emotional and exhausting, but it’s the beginning of your love story with your children. The hideous pain SHOULD make you hate them as soon as they arrive, but somehow it doesn’t.
You just feel relief, happiness and all of a sudden that massive agony you felt no more than a few minutes ago is all gone. You’re just so fucking happy it’s over, and then all that is left to contend with is falling madly in love with them…
And you wait . . . and wait . . . and you think, ‘F***?!?!
Where is my rush? That overwhelming feeling of utter adoration that everyone keeps banging on about? Is . . . this . . . it?? Because I think I am more in love with the Domino’s delivery driver.’
Some say it’s just a ping of magical love. But sometimes it’s a bit more like a nugget of shit being pushed upstream than a PING. It took me ages – weeks for Elliott and months for Toby. Some people say they connect with their children in the birth canal.
I didn’t connect with anything in labour other than my gas and air. But don’t panic when this sticky, gooey thing appears and takes their first breath on this planet as you look at it and feel nothing. I promise you it will happen, it will be worth it and you aren’t a bad mum for taking a moment to find that connection. The most wonderful things that come in life don’t come easy, and being a new mum is one of those things.
I remember Elliott smiling at me for the first time. I was in the middle of a shopping centre, he was about nine weeks old (the prick smiled for everyone else but me at this point) and I cried because it felt so good. I felt a stitch more bonded to him in that moment, but it wasn’t a ping of instant love because he then screamed the whole way home in the car and I wanted to faceplant a bed of stinging nettles.
It’s like, when I left the hospital a new mum, I picked up my dignity at the door but forgot my sex drive was sitting under the bed.
Shall I go back and search for it? Is this normal? There was that horrific conversation where my mum offered support by saying, ‘Don’t worry, darling, you might not feel anything for a while but eventually you’ll enjoy sex again’, and I shuddered from my inner core outwards because A) I didn’t even mention my sex drive to my mum and B) I now know my mum enjoys sex with my dad. Something that all these years on still makes me retch a little.
The first time Steve and I had sex again felt a lot like losing my virginity. I lay there, rigid with the fear of the unknown, as Steve nervously looked at me, saying, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ Under the duvet, with the lights off and making no eye contact.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought, but, honestly, since having the kids, it’s been a bit like dipping in and out of converting to a nun. I have really struggled, especially since having Toby, to be sexually charged like I used to be, and that has been a massive issue for me. I’ve felt ashamed and I’ve felt like there’s something wrong with me.
Knee Deep in Life (Ebury Publishing, £16.99) is available now.