Frankie Bridge lays bare the struggles she faced after becoming a mother for the first time in her latest book, out today.
The Saturdays star, 32, from London, shares sons Parker, seven, and Carter, six, with husband Wayne Bridge, and has always been candid about her mental health battles.
In her second book, GROW, Frankie opens up about her journey with her maternal mental health, and admits she had ‘dark thoughts’ and felt like a ‘rubbish’ mother when she struggled to soothe her eldest after leaving hospital.
Part narrative exploration, part first aid manual for mothers, the book offers a brutally honest account of how hard it can be to grow a baby and raise a child whilst you are still growing into yourself.
Frankie Bridge lays bare the struggles she faced after becoming a mother for the first time in her latest book GROW, out today. Pictured with sons Parker and Carter whom she shares with Wayne Bridge
Frankie, who had her first child at 24, tells how she felt ‘pretty calm’ after giving birth, but everything changed when she brought Parker home.
Having spent her pregnancy feeling the safety of her baby was ‘mainly out of her hands’ because ‘the body just magically does most of it for you’, she struggled with the realisation it was now her sole responsibility to protect him.
‘I suddenly realised that this tiny human that I’ve only just met and known for a few days would be the absolute making of me and bring me pure joy, but that he also had the ability to completely destroy me,’ she writes.
‘If anything was to ever happen to him, and he wasn’t here anymore, my life would be over. Even if he was to be hurt or sad, I knew I would feel that physically for the rest of my life.’
Frankie, who had her first child at 24, tells how she felt ‘pretty calm’ after giving birth, but everything changed when she brought Parker home
In her second book, GROW, Frankie opens up about her journey with her maternal mental health, and admits she had ‘dark thoughts’ and felt like a ‘rubbish’ mother when she struggled to soothe her eldest after leaving hospital (pictured with newborn Parker)
She describes the love she felt for her new arrival as ‘overwhelming and terrifying’ and difficult to put into words.
GROW combines Frankie’s experience with the notes of psychologist Maleha Khan
Frankie recalls how Parker cried all the way home and she found it difficult to soothe him, making her feel like a failure.
‘Every time the baby cried, which was often, I cried,’ she says. ‘Before I had a baby, I was aware that when they cried it mainly meant they were tired, hungry, wanted cuddles and sometimes were uncomfortable.
‘But now he was here, I took it personally. It was a sign I was failing and I truly believed he was deeply unhappy or scared. I was already rubbish at the one thing I had always wanted to do.’
It got to a point where only Wayne could calm him down, as Frankie would work herself into such a state.
Following the same tryptic narrative format of her previous book OPEN, which was a Sunday Times bestseller, GROW combines Frankie’s experience with the notes of psychologist, Maleha Khan, who unpacks the problems she experienced as she became a mother.
It also features additional guidance and parental advice from leading UK pediatrician Dr Ed Abrahamson.
The Saturdays star, 32, from London shares sons Parker, seven and Carter, six, with husband Wayne Bridge, pictured together recently on holiday, and has always been candid about her mental health battles
GROW’s chapters cover the ‘how tos, what ifs?, will Is? and why dos?’ – anxious questions all mothers ask themselves when they believe they’re doing it wrong.
Frankie, an ambassador for the mental health charity MIND, launched her first podcast series OPEN MIND focusing on mental health in 2019, which has featured guests including Anita Rani, Zoe Sugg, Dynamo, Julia Samuel.
Extract from Frankie Bridge’s Grow: Motherhood, mental health and me
I was pretty calm after having my first baby. The hospital felt safe, we were well looked after and the baby and I were healthy. I couldn’t have asked for more. There were moments of stress, but for me, to not feel anxious was a miracle. Once we left the hospital and went home, however, it was a whole other story.
(‘Nothing that you learned in your NCT classes, or books such as What to Expect… prepares you for the first night at home,’ adds psychologist Maleha Khan.)
Unless they’ve had a caesarean, mothers are encourages to spend less than one night in the hospital after giving birth (grandmothers say that they were able to spend a week there in the old days, but I am also told that in those days babies were left parked in their prams outside supermarkets…!)
The baby’s Moses basket will probably not get used on the first night. Baby will probably sleep in the bed with you. If you think of cave men and women, I bet they didn’t put their children to sleep in the cave next to the one they were in!
When the baby is inside you, there’s a part of you that knows the safety of your baby is mainly out of your hands. The body just magically does most of it for you. There’s a fluid to protect them and an umbilical cord to feed them. We can help even further with the foods we eat and the actions we take. But once the baby is out, it’s all on you.
You now have to protect them from so much in the world and everyone in it, for the rest of their lives. I had such dark thoughts and worries.
I suddenly realised that this tiny human that I’ve only just met and known for a few days would be the absolute making of me and bring me pure joy, but that he also had the ability to completely destroy me. If anything was to ever happen to him, and he wasn’t here anymore, my life would be over. Even if he was to be hurt or sad, I knew I would feel that physically for the rest of my life.
Now, the fact that Parker cried the whole way home didn’t help, it was as though we were cast off from the mainland, stranded out in the big wide ocean of parenthood all alone. We just had to figure out how to keep things afloat.
The love I had for this new little baby was overwhelming and terrifying. People tell you the love for your child is like no other, but until you’ve felt it, you can’t explain or imagine it. I had tried to compare it to my love for Wayne or my family. But it’s incomparable. Almost too much to bear. Or think about too much. Every time the baby cried, which was often, I cried.
Before I had a baby, I was aware that when they cried it mainly meant they were tired, hungry, wanted cuddles and sometimes were uncomfortable. But now he was here, I took it personally. It was a sign I was failing and I truly believed he was deeply unhappy or scared. I was already rubbish at the one thing I had always wanted to do. It got to the point that only Wayne could calm him, as I would work myself up so much and just sob all over him. Wayne had a calmness about him and could take the crying for what it was. He had the bonus of not having hormones coursing through his body too though…
Earlier this year Frankie detailed the ‘shame’ she felt while performing with The Saturdays on stage after gaining four stone in her first pregnancy.
During an episode of Loose Women, the singer bravely opened up about her depression battle and told how she felt ’embarrassed’ about singing with the band with her changing shape.
Frankie admitted that at the time, she thought ‘people were looking at me saying: “She is disgusting, why is she there?”.’
Speaking on the panel, the star recalled battling with her mental health and her discomfort at performing sexy dance moves alongside Rochelle Humes, Mollie King, Una Healy and Vanessa White, who all looked ‘the same as before’.
She explained: ‘I stayed on antidepressants while pregnant with help from my GP. For me and everyone, we were quite aware I could get postnatal depression but I didn’t.
‘My depression was worse during my pregnancy because I found coming from someone who really restricted my eating and really controlled my food and my weight.
‘Being in the public eye, that sudden feeling of being so out of control of my body was really hard for me.’
Touching on her four stone weight gain after giving birth to Parker in October 2013, she continued: ‘Publicly people were seeing me be different and commenting on that.
‘I actually felt this real shame of stepping out on-stage and embarrassment of still being on-stage because I was doing all these sexy dance moves and just the whole time, I felt people were looking at me and thinking, “she’s disgusting”, why is she there?’
Frankie went on to say that even today, she still feels an element of ‘shame’ over her post-baby figure.
She said: ‘I do carry some of that shame because I have stretch marks and I have looser skin in places and I feel like coming from the position I was in being in a band, I feel like I shouldn’t have that.
‘I should be some kind of supernatural woman that her body doesn’t change. I don’t “look” like a mum.’
She went on to say of becoming a mum quite young: ‘I was 24. I think for me, what we’re getting better at talking about, we are told we have to love every second, have to be great every minute, every day, it is not humanly possible.
‘It’s why women find it hard in times struggling or not loving it, without having to say: “I really love my child but…” we shouldn’t have to say that.’
In April Frankie admitted it ‘scares her’ to see how much she needs her antidepressants.
The All Fired Up hitmaker admitted she was ‘really emotional and crying all the time’ as she struggled with ‘bad withdrawals’ after forgetting to order more medication.
Frankie told the Loose Women panel she’s ‘sad’ that the issues of mental health are only being discussed because they’ve been heightened during the Covid pandemic, after openly discussing her struggles with anxiety and depression.
Frankie shared a video revealing her struggles with withdrawal symptoms after being left without her antidepressants over the Easter weekend.
She told Jane Moore, Kaye Adams and Paris Fury that these were the worst side effects she’d ever had from failing to take her medication.
‘You’d think after all these years of suffering with depression and anxiety that I would’ve learned when I’m near the end I need to reorder my medication,’ Frankie said.
I had just so happened to run out of my tablets the day before the bank holiday which meant I couldn’t get them even longer.
‘I’ve been having withdrawal symptoms, I get dizzy eyes, I feel sick. I’ve done it a few times before stupidly and didn’t get those side effects but this time it really did get me.’
She added: ‘It scares me how much I need them because my mood just plummeted. I was really emotional, I wanted to cry all the time and having to put on that brave face like everything is OK.’
GROW: Motherhood, Mental Health and Me by Frankie Bridge is out now priced at £18.99 (hardback) and available in eBook and audiobook.