Maternal Mental Health Week: Marie's story

2nd May 2024

Trigger warning: sensitive content. This article discusses personal experiences related to stillbirth, grief and mental health which may be distressing. 

Marie Boycott, Senior Sales Manager at BT, opens up about her journey and offers supportive guidance for managers and colleagues.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience with maternal mental health issues?

I am a Senior Sales Manager leading 2 verticals in Global Financial Services for BT Business – Payments & US Banking. I have been a part of the BT family for 20 years on a fantastic career journey doing a mixture of Sales and Sales Operations. I am currently on international assignment given the geography of our team and customers so spend my time between the UK and the USA.

Naturally when we think of maternal mental health, we often think of Post Natal depression, however there is a wide spectrum of mental health issues that affect both women and men as part of building a family especially when there is the trauma of baby loss. Throughout my BT career I have given birth to 3 children Aiden (14) Cooper (13) & Nell (8). My first son Aiden was stillborn, following a healthy pregnancy this was naturally a complete shock to me – one that I was not prepared for in any way. 

This was a really dark time for me, I was on maternity leave, had a home full of baby supplies and a funeral to arrange. Numb is probably the word to use that I was for most of any day for quite some time. I felt so alone, many people avoided me as they didn’t know what to say or couldn’t bear to see the impact of my grief. Doctors pumped me full of anti-depressants and painkillers, so I didn’t feel the impact to my body, and they weren’t sure what to do with my mind.

I procrastinated every day over what I did wrong – did I eat the wrong thing, not take enough vitamins, too much caffeine, not enough rest. Guilt is still something I feel even to this very day.

I didn’t want to be on this earth without him, visiting a tiny grave every day was something that I felt the need to do but also something that was keeping me in a dark place. Around 4 weeks after the funeral I had to call sands charity to speak to someone who had been through this – that first call saved my life.

All pregnancies come with physical, emotional & psychological impact in one way or another. I’m forever grateful that I have the ability to start a family as many don’t, but I did face many struggles.

Following the loss of my son my next 2 pregnancies were fraught with risk under and I was under consultation with enhanced monitoring. There was no glowing phase that everyone sees on the cover of any pregnancy related media/ product. There was 9 months of nightmares, panic, engaging every medical test or scan to offer some reassurance.  The fear that history will repeat itself but battling through every day so that I get to fulfil my desire to be a mum. I chose to be induced at 37 weeks, my baby was big and healthy at this point but my anxiety was crippling counting every kick every minute of the day.

Many will read this and recognise parts of their own journey and reflecting back on that time, I think to myself – how on earth did I stay in work, managing customers and hitting sales targets?!!  Grief, depression, anxiety, panic attacks – but also a huge amount of resilience and compartmentalising different parts of my life.

In all three of my pregnancies, I suffered with SPD – Symphisis pubis disfunction where I needed support belts/ crutches/ physio from 3 months onwards. This affects 1 in 5 women and often repeats in future pregnancies if you are prone to it. The impact of this on my body have been ongoing for 15 years leading to my recent surgery to stabilise my SI (sacroiliac) Joint to take away chronic pain that many years of physio & chiropractors couldn’t. 40% of women that suffer with lower back pain often have SI Joint dysfunction undiagnosed.

What tools have you found helpful at BT and work more broadly to help you deal with your mental health and grief struggles?

Being open about it is important. Many people in BT have experience loss of  baby but probably don’t talk about it for fear that it is uncomfortable for the other person. Some men have reached out to me personally after I have shared my experiences to ask how they can get support and how they best support their partner.

I had multiple bouts of depression where I had to go into the EAP (Employee Assistance Programme). For CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), having initially tried getting it on the NHS and the waiting list being 12 weeks minimum. Through BT I could access support in a matter of days via the EAP. Counselling is normally for 6 weeks scheduled remotely or face to face and if you need additional counselling it’s up to the manager’s discretion to sign it off for a prolonged period of time. 

I’ve been able to access therapy and grief counselling both at the time when my son passed away as well as proactively throughout the years when I have felt the need. At times I was so impacted by my mental state that I couldn’t even leave the house, and I had to build up from not wanting to leave the house to being back to my normal confident self, visiting customers. Now I take a more proactive approach to getting therapy rather than waiting until I feel at my worst which I find a more healthy approach.

What other resources and organisations have you personally found helpful?

The sands charity and other organisations like  Tommy's ( ensures people who’ve have been impacted by the loss of a baby can get the support they need as well as conducting medical research and push for policy transformation to better understand how and why things like stillbirths happen. 2 million babies are stillborn every year and there is much to be done to educate and improve health services to lower this.

I’ve used their hotline many times, every volunteer has been impacted by loss so they really understand how you feel and are available any time.

There is a global ‘wave of light’ event every year on 15th of October to commemorate the loss of babies, times like these are a time of reflection where the chaos of life can fade into the background and I personally give myself some time to think about Aiden.

There are many charities that is available to support I have listed a few below:

What kind of support have you got from your managers? And what advice would you give managers who are supporting employees with similar struggles?

Before having a stillborn myself I’d never known anyone personally dealing with this or how often it happens. In recent years there have been some more celebrity high profile cases which have created awareness, but at the time it was very difficult for me and my team. I was part of a team of 20 people, some of whom came to my son’s funeral, but it was very difficult for them to know what to say or what not to say. 

One of the things I would say is to ask the person what the baby’s name is and call them by their name. I had a leader a few years ago who knew there was a man in her team who lost his son and asked how she could support him. I said call the baby by his name and put the date in the diary so you know that day will be difficult for him (and may need some time off or might not be able to function as normal). 

It’s a significant day for people so as a manager I would make sure I knew the date my team member lost their child.

As soon as you tell managers the reason why you can’t be in the office or at work on a certain day I’ve seen two different types of responses. Some people are very empathetic and understanding and will ask more about the situation. Others when they hear about it they say ok and move on and don’t mention it again. 

Around mental health issues, I’ve had managers where I could ring them and say I’m really overwhelmed, very emotional and I can’t speak without crying so I need to go to the EAP. They’ve said to me drop everything, hand everything off to them and let’s not speak for a week unless you want to.

Others have been very process driven, asked I come into the office for an official one-to-one and the empathy isn’t there. 

I think more ‘human’ leaders are so important, either you have empathy, or you don’t, and with some managers I’ve been able to open up to them fully whereas others I’ve felt the need to make up an excuse not to do with my grief for fear of being perceived as weak or overly emotional/ incapable. 

Being aware of certain triggering dates- E.g. Mother’s Day/ Father’s day especially the first ones, they are very difficult milestones.

What should managers and employers consider beyond offering women who’ve lost children support? 

My partner at the time really struggled with losing our son too. His employer didn’t have Employee assistance or access to support. He was more focussed on me and prolonged him coming to terms with his loss.

People should remember it’s not just the women but their partners too who struggle with things like stillbirths.  It affects an entire family so increased awareness and creating safe spaces where people can discuss mental health and grief without judgement is important.

What is your hope by sharing your experiences? 

I wanted to open up about my experience so that others feel they can talk about their experience and increase awareness of baby loss and where to get support. My ask is that HR and/or managers should log dates of when their people have lost a child or gone through traumatic events like I did so they’re aware and can better support employees going through difficult periods. 

Just know that you are not alone and I am happy to speak to anyone who needs guidance or an empathetic ear.