Gazing at her beautiful twins, Grace Sharrock, of Little Sutton, feels like the luckiest mum in the world – but it’s a day she thought would never come.
Eight years ago, after her daughter Ellie was born, she suffered from such an extreme form of post-natal depression that she claimed the baby which she’d only given birth to a few days earlier was not even hers.
So Grace’s concern was understandable last year when she discovered she was pregnant again.
Grace, 31, said: “I was absolutely terrified throughout this pregnancy that after the birth I would suffer again.
“But while having twins is exhausting, I just feel calm and content. Thankfully I feel amazingly well.”
Luckily this pregnancy was very different to her first one – when Grace had become pregnant with Mark, her previous partner, in May 2000.
She said: “Even though the pregnancy wasn’t planned Mark and I were thrilled.”
Unfortunately things didn’t go smoothly for them during the pregnancy.
“I suffered such severe morning sickness I lost weight and was admitted to hospital,” recalls Grace.
When baby Ellie finally arrived after a gruelling 20-hour labour, Grace was elated – at first.
“She weighed 7lb 10oz and had the bluest eyes I had ever seen,” says Grace.
“Looking at her perfectly formed nose, mouth and jet black tufts of hair, Mark and I burst into tears with joy.
“I was overwhelmed with love for her.”
But the next day things started to go wrong. “I kept looking at other mums in the ward and seeing them happy,” recalls Grace.
“Even though I was physically fine I couldn’t help feeling tearful. Everyone said it was just the baby blues but I just didn’t feel right.”
And when after two days Grace went back to her home she started to feel like she was living in another world.
At lunchtime the next day Mark made some soup and suddenly, for no reason, I felt a huge rage bubbling inside me.
“It came from nowhere but I felt so angry I picked up the soup bowl and threw it at him. I couldn’t think straight. I picked up more plates, cups, anything I could get hold of and began smashing them.
“Then I lunged at Mark, raining blows on his body, kicking, scratching and biting. It was as if I was possessed by the devil.”
But worse was to come. “As Mark stood there white with shock, I ran past Ellie in her pram and into the street. Ellie was crying but I ran sobbing down the road. It was March and I was barefoot and could feel sharp stones but it was as if I was a zombie.
“Finally I ran into the chemists and collapsed into the pharmacist’s arms.”
By then, several people had called the police, but Grace didn’t realise all the mayhem was about her.
The next day Grace was sectioned.
She said: “I knew I was in hospital but I couldn’t understand why. Later the next day Mark came to visit with Ellie. It was heartbreaking.
“She looked so cute with her little pink hat and bootees on. But when Mark went to hand her to me, I had no urge to pick her up. ‘Where’s my baby?’ I asked him.
“Then I said ‘This is a lovely baby but it’s not mine – my baby is a boy.’ I couldn’t understand why Mark was so upset.”
Tests over the next few days confirmed that Grace was suffering from puerperal psychosis – an extreme form of post-natal depression.
She was admitted to a psychiatric unit and wouldn’t return home for six months.
Within eight weeks a room became available at a mother and baby unit.
Grace said: “The fact I had recovered enough to look after Ellie again was wonderful.”
A month later Grace went home for a visit.
“This time the house felt like home,” she says, “Holding Ellie felt natural. I didn’t feel agitated as I had done before.”
By July, although still attending outpatients for treatment, she was home for good, but her relationship with Mark suffered.
“Although he had been marvellously supportive, something had died between us,” she says.
“I was devastated when weeks after I had come home – and Ellie was six months old – we split up.”
Fortunately, Grace’s mum Doreen lived nearby and was able to help but it wasn’t until Ellie was eight months old that she finally felt like a good mum.
But things slowly started to improve. When Ellie was 18 months, Grace got a new job as an office clerk and then, four years ago years ago, she met Glyn, 31, a painter and decorator.
Grace says: “Glyn really wanted a baby – but while I desperately didn’t want Ellie to be an only child, I was frightened to get pregnant in case it all happened again.”
Then last August Grace discovered she was pregnant. “Instead of being happy, I was frightened,” she says.
Fortunately, her GP suggested a new treatment.
And this time from six months into pregnancy Grace took lithium, a hormone balancing drug. “No one knows exactly how lithium works but it evens out the moods,” explains Grace.
The big test came when in May, three weeks early, Grace gave birth by caesarean to Thomas, 6lb 2oz and his sister Maggie, 6lb 9oz.
She says: “I was waiting for the baby blues to strike but they never came. Instead, amazingly, I just felt thrilled to have them.
“I can only hope my story gives hope to other women who’ve suffered like I did that you can come through it. And that miraculously another pregnancy can be entirely different.”