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How this Londonderry mum came through postnatal depression to write children's stories that feature her 'miracle' daughter

Mother-of-four Terri Lamberton, who needed surgery to remove a tumour while expecting her second child and suffered depression after every birth, tells Leona O'Neill how she found the strength to pen her books which have now been snapped up by a London publisher

Terri with Lacey
Terri with Lacey
Some of the illustrations from Terri's book Lacey Loo’s Christmas Adventure
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

A Londonderry mum, who took to writing children's stories to bring light to her life during a period of postnatal depression, will this week launch her first children's book featuring a character based on her daughter.

Forty-year-old Terri Lamberton - who lives in the city with her husband Gareth and their children, Ethan (11), Lacey (7), Gail (4) and Daniel (1) - says that reading and writing stories with her then six-year-old daughter Lacey lifted her spirits after she suffered from postnatal depression following the birth of Daniel.

"I suffered a bit with postnatal depression after having all my children," she says. "But after I had my youngest, Daniel, last year, my mood was really low and I couldn't shake it.

"Before Daniel was even born I was suffering a bit with depression. I had been taking antidepressant medication. And when you fall pregnant you don't want to be taking any medicine, so I went off everything.

"When Daniel was born I could see myself just not getting back to where I was.

"About a month after Daniel was born I just realised that the low mood I had just wasn't lifting. It was like I felt a constant fear.

"It wasn't just having bad days, it was an overwhelming sense of despair at times. It can hit you like that and with a new baby it can be crippling.

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"Day-to-day I was feeling like I wasn't functioning as a real human. With having three other children older than Daniel, I was constantly feeling guilty that I was not doing my best for them all. And that just compounded my depression. Anyone who is going through postnatal depression will know what I mean.

"When you have a new baby it is a culture shock anyway, but when that culture shock doesn't lift, and you don't seem to be getting used to the routine or anything that comes along with a new baby, you just feel as if you can't function properly.

"I found myself not wanting to go out of the house. I was okay in the day-to-day life with the school pick-ups and things like that. And, to be honest, I still don't go out that much. It can be hard work getting ready and it's just easier not to at times.

Write stuff: Terri Lamberton
Write stuff: Terri Lamberton

"So I went back to my GP and restarted my medication."

Terri, who has a background in accountancy and retrained in early years education, says her daughter Lacey, who was six at the time her younger brother Daniel was born, was like a little light in her life as she navigated the dark days of postnatal depression.

Lacey would ask her mother to read to her and to make stories up. Before long the two had invented a character based on Lacey and imagined her going off on various adventures. It was a joint enterprise the mother and daughter absolutely loved.

"Lacey was just six years old and just loved story time," she says. "I grew up with my mum telling us stories and I did the same with Lacey. We would all read books at night. Then it got to the stage where they didn't want me to just read the stories, but to make them up.

"We would have made up little stories every night. And last Christmas she came to me and asked if we could write one about Christmas, to actually get it down on paper.

"Lacey Loo is named after my daughter, who has her adventurous nature. To be honest, I was bouncing off Lacey with regards to ideas. We just developed the whole story together and I really enjoyed the process.

"So then I decided to take it further. When I got the children to bed at night I just picked up the laptop and started writing and developing more stories. At the moment I have six stories on this character and there are two now being published, so it's lovely."

Terri says she found the process of writing very therapeutic - and little did she know that her hobby would land her a major publishing deal.

"I found it so great for me to work on," she says. "You get so bogged down with day-to-day life at times, with routine, work and children. So writing for me was like an achievement.

Some of the illustrations from Terri's book Lacey Loo’s Christmas Adventure
Some of the illustrations from Terri's book Lacey Loo’s Christmas Adventure
Some of the illustrations from Terri's book Lacey Loo’s Christmas Adventure

"Every story I finished I gave to my husband to read, the feedback was really great. And as the stories went on he said to me that I have nothing to lose by sending them away to publishers. I got plenty of rejection letters. But then Austin Macauley Publishers in London got in contact and it spiralled from there.

"They picked up two stories - Lacey Loo's Christmas Adventure and Lacey Loo and the Lost Penguin, which is currently in production.

"The Christmas story is now being launched at the end of the month. Lacey Loo is a little elf who loves adventure. She is not like any other elf around at the moment. She loves adventure, is always inquisitive, always asking questions and always looking for something new, just like my own Lacey.

"In her Christmas adventure she decides to stow away on Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. She gets to see all the wonders of the world and, with all the excitement, she falls asleep.

"She wakes up in Derry and from there she discovers the magic of Christmas, how quiet places are at night and gets to see all our beautiful landmarks here in the city.

"It is very textured in how it's written, in the sense that it is very descriptive. I have a background in early years education and I find that we don't really explore descriptive writing until secondary school age. So for me, it was like a soft introduction to that for children around four years of age to eight about writing descriptively and what they see, using their senses."

Terri says the series of books is extra special because Lacey is her "miracle child", surviving surgery her mother had to have while pregnant with her.

"I had a tumour on my ovary and when I was 29 weeks' pregnant with Lacey I had to have surgery and it was touch and go with us both," she says.

"The tumour was growing at such a fast rate that it meant Lacey wasn't able to grow as she should.

Terri with Lacey
Terri with Lacey

"When I was going for scans, the consultants couldn't see anything and couldn't get any measurements and they couldn't really check on Lacey to see if she was healthy. And every week I was going back it was just getting bigger and bigger. They thought at the time it was cancer, but thank goodness it turned out not to be.

"I had to have my ovary taken out and the tumour removed. It was really terrifying. They expected Lacey to be born at 29 weeks, but she hung in there. And I remember when Lacey was eventually born weeks later at full-term, my consultant came up to see us and called her a miracle baby.

"All my children are very special, but I had such a scare with Lacey and I was just so thankful that she was born. She is my miracle and that's why it's so lovely to have her in the books.

"Lacey just thinks it's amazing to be in the book. She thinks she's famous."

Terri says she has been "blown away" by the response to her book, which will be available in bookstores here and across the world, and will even grace the prestigious shelves of Barnes & Noble in New York.

"I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard Austin Macauley were going to publish the book," she says. "It was just surreal. As an author, it's like your book is a needle in a haystack. I never expected to get any kind of response. And when they sent the contract through, I couldn't believe someone actually likes it.

"My friends and family thought it was great, but they are biased. But when someone else gives you credit for something, and doubly so when you are feeling that depression, when someone gives you validation of having something that is good, it really is incredible.

"My writing was like a light in a period of darkness for me. It was a wake-up call also, that life is too short to wallow away.

"When you are in that hole, it is really hard to get out of it. You need something that is going to give you worth. I love my children and family so, so much, but I needed to get out there and do something for myself also.

"I am doing okay now. Anyone who is navigating postnatal depression at the moment, I would suggest trying to find another light. It really helped me."

Terri's book will be launched in Derry Central Library, Foyle Street, at 2pm on November 30.

Lacey Loo's Christmas Adventure is available to purchase through www.austinmacauley.com/book/lacey-loos-christmas-adventure. For more information on further book launches and where the book is available locally, visit Lacey Loo Adventures on Facebook

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