'It was tough' - RAF corporal on being a single mum during pandemic

Donna Marie Gibson and her son Oliver 

Donna Marie Gibson and her son Oliver - Credit: SSAFA

A first time single mum and RAF Corporal has spoken of the difficulties she faced following the birth of her son, aged 43.  

Donna Marie Gibson is currently based at RAF Honington, near Ixworth.  

Following a relationship breakdown, Ms Gibson was left raising her son, Oliver, alone during lockdown at a previous base.  

“He was born on April 15 2020, right at the beginning of lockdown,” said Ms Gibson.  

“I work for the RAF, and at the time I was posted 200 miles away from my family. It was tough.” 

On top of having a newborn during a global pandemic, Ms Gibson’s father was diagnosed with vascular dementia and her grandmother died just days after Oliver was born.  

Oliver was also born with a disorder that affects the skull, making the back or side of a baby’s head appear flattened. It required regular hospital appointments.  

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All of this took its toll on Ms Gibson.  

“There were times when I was so tired because I'd been up all night and I wanted a meal, but I didn't have any energy or time to cook,” said Ms Gibson.  

“The lack of help during those early days was really hard and it affected my mental health quite a lot. I really missed having family support.” 

It took time for Ms Gibson to get in contact with someone about what was going on.  

“The health visitor called me 15 days after Oliver was born, and because I said I felt okay at that time, they didn’t contact me again for four months,” said Ms Gibson.  

“I could have picked the phone up, but I didn't really want to bother them with my problems. Especially with everything in the news about the strain the NHS was under. I just thought I was wasting their time.  

“I did eventually pick up the phone to the health visitor to ask them to visit, but I got most of my support from SSAFA.” 

 SSAFA is a charity that supports those in the armed forces.  

“I was worried about how I was going to manage financially as a single mum, paying huge nursery bills and caring for a child on my own,” said Ms Gibson.  

SSAFA helped her take control of what was going on around her.  

“If it wasn't for them and the military doctor, I don't know what I'd have done.” 

Ms Gibson went back to work in January and wants to encourage other mums to speak out if they are struggling.  

“Civilian or military, if you're finding motherhood hard, then you need to speak out, because I feel completely different now,” said Ms Gibson.  

“Now I'm back at work, I have time for me. That’s also helped my mental health.  

“I want other new mums to know, it's not going to stay like this.  

“You're going to need support so don't be frightened to ask for it, even if you don’t find it easy.” 

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