A New Mum Without A Manual

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Postnatal depression

I am a massive oversharer by nature. I can't help it, I just can't.

I have suffered many a social media hangover over the years waking up the next day cringing at a picture i've uploaded or a cheesy caption that i've conjured up in a whim, when the kids are behaving, i've had a good day and everything generally seems quite rosey.
I've definitely gotten better over time. I didn't feel quite the incessant need to inform everyone of Oliver's every waking moment like I did with Eva. I have no regrets though. It is mesmerizing becoming a mum at any time, but first time around in particular is quite the experience. I could have combusted from excitement when she first smiled, grabbed my finger, cut a tooth or made a funny sound. Everything was so brand new to us, I wanted to share it with everyone who would listen.
I definitely lost myself quite a lot of 'followers' in 2014 thanks to my Eva updates, but like I said, no regrets.

In all aspects of social media i've doubted myself, been self conscious that i've annoyed people or offended them with my words. It's a vicious cycle. 
It can be hard to be the most honest version of yourself while remaining mindful of other people and situations that they might be facing. While you're moaning that the kids aren't going to sleep quite quick enough or that you were up at 3am dispensing calpol (I was) and you've got bags that could fill your weekly shopping (I do) there will be someone reading who is struggling with fertility who would kill to be in your shoes. 
Just like there will be people out there watching someone 'haul' their new purchases on a daily basis with zero money in their own account and still bills to pay.
I feel like it's almost impossible to get the balance right when it comes to social media. And I hate myself for using the word 'balance'  the word is so over used.

It can also spark a divide, especially now that everything is an open topic these days. While some of us are ultra private choosing very carefully what we choose to upload, if we even choose to upload at all, other's are comfortable to bare all. It is not uncommon to scroll through your social media feeds and delve into other's experiences with fertility, suicide, drug abuse, financial trouble and domestic abuse just to name a few. 
I mean you just wouldn't have came across this level of transparency years ago. I'll write something and immediately I can hear my mum in the back of my head saying 'that's not for Facebook, Sarah
 I suppose it can be a bit of a generational thing, can't it?
For every person out there who thinks something is inappropriate and 'not for Facebook' there will be someone out there reading who will have been greatly helped, touched, perhaps maybe inspired.
Of course there are things that definitely should be kept off Facebook.. A&E check-ins included...

I am of the generation of 20 somethings who enjoy watching people apply their makeup, 'Hinch' their homes with Zoflora or talk to a camera about their fitness routine.
Sometimes i'll watch youtube tutorials on how to do menial tasks.. and i'm unapologetic for it. I say that, but I also cringe very hard at the 22 year old me who had to watch a tutorial on how to operate a tin opener.
I'm so sorry for openly admitting that if you are reading, Mum.
....Who am I kidding? 
Of course you are reading.

So say what you want about social media and the online communities within it, but they can be so invaluable for sharing and inspiring, and helping overcome.Even if it is just tutorials on how to open your tinned goods.
It has served me well.

Well this has been all a bit long-winded, I know.. but I wanted to explain the reasons why I want to share my experience of post natal depression.
 After all, I created this blog to document this parenting journey and this has been a major stepping stone in it all.
Journey..stepping stone  These are the very phrases that social media hangover's are made of.
Every time i've went to open my laptop and start writing, something has held me back, and it's not just the fact that I'm A Celebrity was back on tv when I first began writing this and I spent every night lusting over Holly Willoughby's wardrobe. 
I'm also aware that Christmas and New Year has come to an end and i'm going to take a wild  guess  that the majority of us are feeling the blues already. No more ham, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches. Nothing left in the Quality Street except the strawberry and orange cremes. Pay day can't come quick enough and the reality of work, school and early mornings suddenly feels very.... real.
The last thing you want to do is read about someone else's woes, but ya know, misery loves company!

I am not behind closed doors about my post natal depression.
If anything, I'm just paranoid of other people's ignorance on the subject. I know I shouldn't take offense because that's exactly what it is, ignorance. A lack of knowledge or information on the subject, and I was once that person too.
Looking back I don't even really know what I thought I knew about post natal depression. 
I'm an extremely empathic person, but I can't recall ever hearing of a woman suffering post natal depression and thinking 'Oh that must be awful'.
 I guess I just assumed she was having a bit of a tough time, and we all know how tough it can be, but there is a massive difference between finding things a bit tough and suffering from postnatal depression. We just aren't educated enough to differentiate between the two. 

If you've ever had a baby before you'll know you're sent off home with hundreds of leaflets, no exaggeration.
Leaflets on breast feeding, the baby blues, coupons for everything under the sun. Leaflets on meningitis, immunisations, emergency contact numbers, cot death. Chuck in your Bounty baby pack (full of more leaflets, coupons and samples) your green book of notes, your baby's red book and not forgetting the health visitor who lands over to your house with yet more leaflets a few days after.
We see the Instagram pictures of the dad carrying the baby out of the maternity ward tucked up in it's little car seat, ahhhhh. Bliss.
What you don't see is the mum hobbling behind with the shitloads of folders, files and leaflets under her arm.
There is a lot of information to take in (or a lot of recycling to do... whichever you prefer) and probably not the time to absorb it all when you're most likely lacking in the sleep department.
But out of all these leaflets, not once do I recall reading anything remotely valuable about postnatal depression. 
Perhaps it was there in front of me but it just wasn't relevant at the time. Who knows.

I patiently waited for the baby blues to kick in the week Eva was born, and like clockwork day three rolled 'round, my milk came in and I was a big ol' hormonal mess. But I knew it was coming, I knew that it was normal to feel a bit 'weepy' as they say. We are conditioned all through pregnancy to expect it.
I knew and Stuart knew.
I cried when I was happy, I cried when I was sad, I cried because I was crying about everything. 
Emotions were heightened to the extremes. PMS on speed.
But it was fleeting, a day or two at the most. 
(Stuart would probably have you believe that it's just my natural personality- I do like a good cry  over anything on tv.. )
But it passed, thankfully. Just like I was told it would.

Strangely I didn't suffer a single day of 'the blues' with Oliver, despite being so prepared for it. 
What I didn't expect was to be sitting with my Health Visitor  six months later filling out a questionnaire about how often I had suicidal thoughts. 
I didn't have suicidal thoughts. Nope, not once. I couldn't even be bothered to have them.
"I want to sleep. I just want to sleep" I cried to her. 
Sleep through it all.
Which really isn't ideal when you've two children depending on you for their every little need. 

When I was feeling at my worst, I remember thinking I can't even imagine how this must feel to a first time mum, how scared she must be feeling to think this is actually what motherhood is supposed to feel like. Because it's not, it's really, really not.
But how are you supposed to know this if you don't have anything to compare it to? 
I'm so thankful that I did.

Like a functioning alcoholic who continues to get up and go to work, I was still waking up early and carrying on with the day, but manically clock watching until Stuart got home so that I didn't feel so much responsibility was upon me. I was paranoid when Eva choose Stuart to put her to bed, when she called out for him if she couldn't sleep, why did she hate me?
The only way I could describe it to my GP was that I felt so overwhelmed, so claustrophobic in my own body.

I know it's a very natural urge to feel responsible for all things big and small when it comes to your own children. Of course i'll never take credit for any of the positive traits that they may possess, but anything remotely negative I can't help but see it as my fault. A trait I must have passed on.
We want so desperately for them to be healthy and happy and will do anything to avoid them becoming the knife wielding lunatics of the future, right?
I was obsessively blaming myself for tantrums and attitudes that come along with being a  independent three year old.
  "Don't be so silly, kids have off days!"my Mum told me repeatedly. I had convinced myself that I had been the root cause of Eva's night terrors. I have to admit, it's what has affected me the most.
Is she not happy at home? Is it something that i've inadvertently done that's going to traumatise her through adulthood? Will she be a knife wielding lunatic because of something i've said in anger?!
If she was bored I would feel like a failure. If we didn't have activities planned for the next day I would lay in bed and literally dread the next day, at the same time I didn't want to put the pressure on myself to make fun plans incase I couldn't live up to them which is just ridiculous in hindsight. Some of my best memories of my childhood were being left to my own devices, watching Playdays with a ham sandwich in hand... Heaven

The summer was long. Really long. I honestly don't remember much about it now, I think i've tried to block it out.. but it's when everything came to a halt. 
After a very public meltdown from Eva in a toy shop (alwaaaays a toy shop)  I burst into tears and couldn't stop. I wasn't even embarrassed.

Coincidently the next day Oliver had his six month review with the Health Visitor. He was measured, weighed and she was about to get up and leave when she asked how I was. "Oh just tired!" I said. 
It could have been the quivering voice, or the immaculate living room with two children under 4... I'm no Mrs Hinch I'll tell you that. But she picked up on it telling me I seemed very 'vacant' 
Maybe my personality is just a bit bland.. I mean vacant, should I have been offended?! 
Or maybe she is just good at her job. But I'm glad she did pick up on it that day, even if i'm absolutely mortified every time that I have seen her since, especially now that i'm convinced she has some kind of Derren Brown mind-reading capabilities. 

Both her and my GP have told me there is absolutely nothing I could have done to 'avoid' this, that more than likely it's been a bit of a hormone imbalance and honestly this has been my biggest source of comfort. A massive relief to be reassured by other people other than my mum and Stuart that this hasn't been my fault.
Nobody wants to feel like they're failing as a parent. Nobody wants to feel like someone else could do a better job raising their children.

I've had two text book pregnancies, the most amazing birth experience.
I personally found the jump from 0-1 baby harder than 1-2. In fact I had never felt better than the first six months of being a mother of two, I felt complete. Soz for the cliches.
But there was no real obvious trigger. It still baffles me. Why six months down the line?
No job, money or relationship concern, we are house owners, two healthy children, a car. You know, things to be super grateful for. Things that I AM  grateful for. 
But absolutely no one is immune, and I think deep down that is why I feel almost compelled to write this blog post. 
When I was officially 'diagnosed' with depression I wanted to find out as much information as possible, I could find very little that wasn't clinical, videos on Youtube that weren't cheesy and scripted. Articles from online newspapers who mainly focused on postpartum psychosis, because y'know the Daily Mail likes a good story that scares and shocks.
There are so many symptoms, and it can affect people in so many different ways, but this is how it has gripped me.

I've been on medication for over three months. It has changed everything in the best possible way. It doesn't work for everyone and it is not something to take lightly- definitely not a quick fix,  but it has cleared the fog away.
Ironically at the time I began finishing this post i've felt the worst I have in a while. A combination of over-eating, lack of sleeping, sick little ones and maybe the fact i've had a two week break from my 13,000 step s a day with the nursery journey.
Getting outside, no matter the weather is not to be under-estimated. 
But I know my triggers now. I know when I need to be kind to myself and when I just need to get on with things.
But being aware is being on the right track.

It doesn't make you selfish or ungrateful. Nor does it reflect who you are as a person or mother. It is an illness, and you are not your illness. Forgive me for ending with the biggest cliche but...
What feels like the end, is often the beginning..


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Life update.

I have been planning on writing this post for the longest time now, constantly rehearsing and mentally writing it out in my head trying not to sound like a complete and utter knob, because ultimately that's the fear isn't it? when you're putting yourself out there in such a public way. It's vulnerable stuff.
There is also the  very important fact that Love Island has ended, and as much as i'd love to pretend i'm far too intelligent and above it, I am 100% not. And I need something to occupy that 9pm-10pm void in my life- Please do not judge me.

You see my life at the minute is a perpetual cycle of preparing meals for little ones. All day long i'm cleaning faces, bums, washing clothes, hands and not to mention  blotting questionable stains off the fabric sofa. Did I mention that it was cream fabric sofa?

I'll admit I am still very much in that  bubble that people often find themselves in after having a baby. I'm oblivious to chart music, i'd describe my style as 'comfortable' and bed time is up there with my favourite time of the day. This won't last forever, so i'm totally OK with this. I am totally OK with living like an 80 year old at this moment in time, I mean after all it's basically Autumn and this makes it perfectly excusable.
My partner? I am not so sure.. 
He's been reminding me to bin my 'comfortable' maternity underwear for years now.
I'm joking of course. 
Kind of.

 My new role as a mother of two little ones is still relatively new to me, and I am quite happily plodding along trying to make it through the day, keeping every one alive and making sure teeth are being brushed and at least something healthy is being consumed, because let's be honest, that in itself is a full time task.  I have an eight month year old who won't stop eating and I fear we will have to take on second jobs to fund his habit, and an almost four year old who has convulsions at the sight of a vegetable. If it's not snackable, free from all texture, colour and flavour she just doesn't want to know.

When i'm not knee deep in changing nappies, trying to get those orange stains out of the bibs (why do they even manufacture white bibs/muslins???) and trying to prevent my kids developing into future serial killers, I like to eat out, drink bourbon, take the odd nap and scroll through my insta feed, mostly to see what everyone else is having for dinner.

Social media seems to be a massive talking point at the minute, particularly the topic of comparison, and it's certainly something that affects my life greatly.

It's so easy to fall into that trap when things become a little mundane. I seem to have quite a knack of comparing myself to women who are up to their arse in endorsements and ad deals and begin to wonder why I can't afford to decorate my whole house in Farrow and Ball paint and pick up clothes in Zara as frivolously as I pick up trainer socks or hair bobbles in Primark.
I scroll on and I ask myself why am I not living in a warehouse conversion with exposed brick and ridiculously high ceilings? Why does my Daughter not eat broccoli like she does Barny bear cake bars? Why does everyone else seem to love their job and I could go through three boxes of Man-size Kleenex at the thought of my return from my maternity leave.
This seems to happen when i'm feeling a bit vulnerable. A bit, blah. 

The majority of the time i'm consciously trying to remind myself to cut myself some slack. I'm in a different stage in my life. This ain't no race.

Career wise, financially, physically or mentally i'm not quite where I want to be, but when I dig deep, I always come back to the fact that ultimately I want to be with my children as much as I can in their early years. I made this decision and have went out to work evenings and weekends just so that I can be at home during the week days. I don't regret it for a minute.
OK. Maybe there has been the odd day (or 50) when i've declared i'd rather work a 12 hour shift...... but let's not dwell on that. 
The bottom line is my children are my everything.

 I have ambitions, aspirations, lists of places that I want to see and things that I want to achieve for myself as much as the next person but at this particular stage in my life I'm slowly recognising that if my main goal of the day is just getting us all up, washed and dressed, then so be it. I'm choosing to celebrate all the little victories. My living room won't always be a shit tip, I won't always spend evenings picking Play Doh out of My Little Pony's hair. I won't always get the 6am wake up calls and have stand offs in shops over £5.99 magazines. 

Does that mean I don't moan about it? Oh please, of course I do! but will I miss it all when they're older? My God, yes! 
Which is exactly why  i'm adamant it's an 'anything goes' policy with Grandparents. They miss it, they miss it all, and some day I will miss it too.
These often mundane moments of my day are some of the things money just can't buy.
 I need to enjoy my reality and stop coveting someone else's highlight reel. 
We all need to.

On the topic of social media, I'm finding that in the four years of mothering I have witnessed a momentum gathering were women are going about their business. They're attending their beauty appointments in the early weeks after giving birth, bringing their kids on long haul flights to exotic places, going on weekends away with their girl friends and just getting back out there..  demonstrating you can still be the self assured, driven woman you always were and be a wonderful mother at the same time. There's a lot of ball juggling, but it's not impossible.

Their careers aren't being held back, and neither are their social lives because life does not need to stop when you have children. It is both fabulous and refreshing. I admire how polished some of these women look especially at times when I can't find the time to wash my hair. 
I know, I know.. we are all given the same amount of hours in the day..
I love how they are giving the middle finger to the many stereotypical images that are built up around mothers. We don't all arrive at the school run every single day in leggings and messy buns. 
There is no one size fits all. We are all unique in our own right, so why wouldn't our parenting styles be?
I mean it's absurd when you think about it. Our financial situations are completely different, as are our family dynamics, our support networks too so of course our prefered parenting paths are going to differ.

One of the biggest realisations  I discovered with becoming a mother, was how much we are judged (often inadvertently) 

It is relentless
From the way you feed your baby, what you feed them and where you put them down to sleep at night. There's even a real snobbery in regards to everything from the products you use on their skin to the pram you push them in. If you go back to work you're judged, if you choose to stay at home you are judged, and if you dare leave them with their doting grandparents for a few hours every weekend, you too are judged! Imagine leaving them with the very people who will shower them with the most love and affection?! 
I think it's just a case of human nature to judge, and I think it's inescapable to be honest
 but recently (and I do think it's through the power of social media) we are now beginning to exercise our freedom to make the best choices for ourselves and our family without fear.

People are opening up about their experiences with feeding, there is no longer such a stigma in regards to formula feeding.. Fed is best, didnt you know? Women (and men) are opening up about their struggles with their mental health, their experiences with anxiety and post natal depression, infertility, miscarriage and still birth. There are so many topics to list but people are opening up, conversations are flowing. You only need to scroll through your Instagram feed and someone is opening up about a struggle they have been through, the comments are rife with replies from people who have been through similar and although we might not agree with everything people are writing it's so enlightening hearing from someone else's side of the fence. 

I have also noticed  a big movement of mother's who are 'pulling up the drawbridge' in those early days https://www.dontbuyherflowers.com/motherhood/pulling-up-the-drawbridge/  and spending 'a week in bed, a week on the sofa' supporting the idea that motherhood is for life, these first few momumental weeks go by in the blink of an eye and perhaps we should be allowing ourselves a few weeks with little to zero expectations and the opportunity to adapt to our new normal. Visitors can wait, as can the house work.

 I can definitely vouch that some of us need this time more than others.
You could say i'm continuing to take the piss and find myself living by this mantra eight months on, but when my second baby arrived I became completely unapologetic to needing time for my sanity more than anything and this was the biggest aid to my post birth 'recovery' 
How can I promote a health lifestyle when i'm too exhausted to eat meals, let alone cook them? How can I promote self worth and confidence when I haven't had the time to do the little rituals that help me feel like the best version of me?
I only wish that I had twigged on to this mentality with my first baby but the baby books tend to stop at the birth.. I always allude back to the moment Andrea, our first midwife walked out of the door. "Errr, now what do we do now?"
To be honest it's been the 'insta mum' (cringe) accounts that have spurred me on during the bad days.

My little girl is now (very almost) four years old and lives each day as though she is on the stage. Everything is a performance and it can be entertaining and draining in equal measures. She is as bright as a button and from the minute she wakes up she is asking me questions such as "Where does my voice come from?" "Have you ever had a drink come out of your nose?" before i've even managed to open both eyes. It is all go go go. Throw an eight month year old baby into the mix and chaos escalates quickly in this house, or perhaps I should say squatters den, it all depends on what kind of day we're having. Eight months on and i'm still cutting myself some slack, because after all i'm on *jazz hands* Maternity leave. 
A maternity leave that is so very nearly at it's end. 

Maybe that's why i've been so reflective.

Reflective of how quickly time passes, how amazing but how hard.. so hard it can be. Reflective of what i've learnt and observed from other mothers. My new found respect for not just mothers, but women in general.

I never had any intention of writing for this long, nor I am 100% certain any of this makes sense. With baby shark being reintroduced into our household, mental clarity is hard to find these days. 
But I hope it does make sense, to someone, somewhere.


Monday, 5 February 2018

Oliver's arrival

On December 11th, just minutes after 3pm on a Monday afternoon, we welcomed little Oliver James Lucas into the world. It was beginning to feel every inch like Christmas outside with a down pour of snow in the days before, but it had finally stopped. And as the snow melted outside, the most gorgeous sunlight shone through the window of delivery room no.3 as we met our boy for the very first time. The little boy that kept us waiting, and waiting, but was every single bit worth the wait and more. 
He was instantly forgiven.

It had felt like a long time coming. At our 40 week appointment I was told to make another one for exactly one weeks time. I let out a (borderline psychotic) nervous laugh.
 'hahaha, hopefully I won't make it to that one!' 
...and I was so sure that I wouldn't.
With my first pregnancy I had went into spontaneous labour at exactly 41 weeks and I have honestly no idea why, but I never doubted that this time around would be any different, despite being told a thousand times 'There are no two births the same!'
 I was perhaps in hindsight a bit naive and had it in my head that it would be another straight forward labour, a natural birth in the Home From Home; perhaps in the pool this time. I had been reading a hypnobirthing book and had maybe got too carried away with the idea of a natural birth- I think it's always good to have a preference, just not to get obsessed with it in case it doesn't go to plan.
I was a second timer and had been there and done that and although I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park (understatement of the year alert) I did take a considerable amount of comfort in knowing that I had lived through it and kind of knew what to expect, which was why my hospital bag was stocked with enough Lucozade Sport to supply half the ward and I remembered a hair brush this time!

...But 41 weeks came and went and I felt nothing. No signs or symptoms, no twinges. 
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
 I begrudgingly attended my appointment in the same old trusty stripey top and maternity jeans that had been on repeat for the two months; the last remaining clothes that could just about stretch over my pretty sizable bump (and 8 weeks post birth I might still be wearing.....)
The midwife I spoke with was really upbeat and supportive and when I told her that I really wanted to go into labour naturally she was completely on board with my decision as baby and I were healthy. So without any cause for concern it was decided that we would just wait it out, but an induction was booked on the off chance that labour didn't start to progress.
 'It's always good to have a date to aim towards' she said, and I didn't disagree. If you've ever went over your estimated due date you'll know that every day seems like an eternity and becomes a bit of mental and physical torture. I was feeling so drained and deflated when people messaged me asking where the baby was that I left them unopened in my mailbox, still sitting there unopened to this very day.

Although I really, really didn't want to be induced, I also knew that we had to balance up the risks as well. I was aware that the risk of stillbirth went up gradually every week after 40, a very small risk, but a risk to consider all the same.
There's also the heightened risk of infections, problems with the placenta and having to be passed on to consultant led care had I went over the 42 week mark, ruling out all chances of  being midwife led.  A Home From Home birth would be out the window, and  the risk of a more medicalised delivery increased. As much as it didn't seem like it at the time, an induction was and would be the safest route to go down.

We had five days before the supposed induction date and so the pursuit of trying to get the baby out began. I'm usually always that highly annoying person who says 'Baby will come when baby is ready' but now I was all about the eviction.
 I ordered all the spicy food, became obsessive over cleaning all the floor tiles on my hands and knees and started bouncing on my birthing ball which had been collecting dust for the last few months. But nothing was happening. This is when I started to become anxious, really anxious. Up until this point I had every belief in my body. I had trusted that it knew what it was doing, but being twelve days over my due date and time passing at an alarming rate, I started to doubt it's capabilities and I genuinely started to panic. Every day that came and went ended in a pity party, and I'll admit I was a broken record to listen to. I decided to phone the girls in the midwife led unit for a bit of advice and was told to come on down.

There I was lucky enough to chat with one of the senior midwives who was the human version of a fairy god mother. Working in the midwife led birthing center specialising in low risk births with little or no pain relief, she completely reassured me that my body was in control, it knew exactly what it was doing, it was all just a matter of time. She talked me through some breathing exercises and helped me visualise a relaxed birth (dimmed lights, aromatherapy oils, controlled breathing, relaxing music etc) 
 Even though none of these were applicable to me in the end, the breathing techniques I can honestly say were invaluable to me and i'm so glad that I went down for a chat that evening, she was the calming influence I needed all along.

It was only when she performed a membrane sweep that the realisation hit home that I wouldn't be giving birth there. "The head still isn't down, but don't be discouraged there's still time for that" 
But the sweep turned out to be unsuccessful with the cervix still too high up.
'.. But I will say you are more favourable than unfavourable'
What I took from that was basically a polite way of saying 'Not a chance are you going into labour any time soon'  but of course in the most encouraging way.
 She explained to me about the hormones needed to kick off labour, and that the more uptight and anxious you are, the longer they take to release. I learnt that this is why hospitals tend to send you home if you aren't dilated enough or tell you to stay at home as long as possible (not always to do with the lack of beds!) Apparently when you are in your own environment, your body tends to relax and in turn your labour progresses quicker. In a clinical setting like a hospital we can become more anxious, tensing up and it is proven that labour can slow down and contractions can even stop.
It made sense. The more time that passed, the more stressed I was getting and perhaps, the more I was preventing labour from starting. 

Unfortunately nothing changed in the days after. No tightenings, no pressure, no twinges. On Sunday evening, two days after the failed sweep we said our goodbyes to Eva at my mum's and headed to the hospital. We had waited all day for the call that a bed was available, and when we finally got the heads up we were more than ready. I didn't think I would be so emotional about it, but I couldn't help having a cry on the car journey that we were leaving behind our little girl, who was still so oblivious as to how much her life was about to change. I felt guilty enough that her favourite activities had taken a back seat over the last few months, but I was equally excited to be giving her the gift of a sibling, even if she had been telling us for the last few months that she didn't want a brother, but rather demanded a puppy instead..

We arrived just before 5pm and were given a bed straight away on the induction bay. With one midwife for six women, I instantly knew this wasn't going to be the relaxing experience I had hoped for, but I did feel relieved that we were finally going to meet our baby.
I had been in the Home From Home the first time. It had been a large spacious room with it's own birthing pool, toilet, ipod dock and tv. A sofa, a nice view out of the window (well, if you looked past the Mc Donalds directly opposite there was some greenery!) but most importantly privacy- A luxury in labour when you're feeling like you're loosing all your dignity.
Here we were in a crowded induction bay with a communal bathroom for six women with the constant bleep of monitors.  People had told me these kinds of wards are reminiscent of a cattle market, and there is an aspect of truth in it. There we were, all in the same situation just waiting to meet our babies, dropping like flies when every so often someone would be wheeled off to delivery suite and another would come in to start off the process. On reflection, it really wasn't too bad, when you're in that much pain you tend to zone out from everything around you and the two midwives I encountered here were nothing but kind, compassionate and supportive and I 100% felt cared for, and not just regarded as another number.
More so these women do not get enough credit or praise for looking after six labouring women on their own. Most men will tell you, one woman is bad enough.

After being monitored for half an hour, the pessary was inserted. I asked how long it would take to 'kick in' expecting to hear the infamous 'how long is a piece of string?'  but was told it could be anything from an hour up to 24 hours. 
Luckily, within half an hour contractions started to kick in. It's amazing how quickly you forget the pain after you've got the final product in your arms, but remarkable how quickly the memory comes flooding back once you're going through it again. 

One of my initial worries about being induced was that I had been lucky that my first labour was slow and steady. Don't get me wrong, it was hard- it's not called 'labour' for nothing, but it was gradual, and therefore mangeable. When you're induced, your body is jump started as it were, into labour and I was worried that I wouldn't cope with the intensity.
I began having six contractions within ten minutes with no resting time in between. Once one ended, another would start and I knew something wasn't quite right. My midwife wrote in my notes that I was distressed, and I do remember having an emotional outburst, but I think the gas and air high as a kite effect helped contribute to that! 
After being monitored , the midwife decided it was best to remove the propress 'in view of hyperstimulation'. With the horrific pain that accompanied the contractions I was certain I was edging 8-9cms, ready to push out a baby.
 I can now completely understand the logic behind some birthing books stating that you are completely within your means to say no to being examined if it's not absolutely necessary. If it's not the outcome you're expecting it can completely knock your confidence. I can totally see how it can lead you to make decisions on a whim about pain relief and perhaps against birth preferences you were so certain on.
'2cms' she said.
And with that I could have cried. I had quite calmly walked into the hospital the last time at 5cms, and here I was 2cms dilated unable to hold a conversation. I was still having constant contractions so after consulting with whoever was in charge, my midwife gave me an injection of terbutaline to try and stop them altogether.
'We'll see if that gave your body the push to bring labour on itself and if not we'll try the propress again in the morning'
And with that decided, Stuart was sent home just before 1am and I used my gas and air throughout the night, attempting to sleep and trying not to curse him for having the house to himself and a night of undisturbed sleep ahead of him!

From the moment I was examined I convinced myself that my pain threshold had changed, I felt embarrassed that I wasn't coping as well as I thought so I kept quiet, shut my eyes and tried to zone everything out, making the most of the gas and air.
I had been advised to mobilise and get up for some breakfast but once I made it out into the corridor, I had to turn back. 
 Stuart was sitting in the chair next to me in and out of sleep and I put my earphones in and really tried to focus on my breathing and finding a comfortable position.

This is when it got a little hazy. Things started to intensify, and I could feel a lot of pressure, just as though I was near the end. The midwife had to leave to attend to someone else and said she would  examine me when she got back and if I was 5cms I could go to the Home from Home, but moments after she left I told Stuart to ring for help as the pressure was getting stronger. I vaguely remember another midwife coming in and and there was a lot of talk about decelerations in the babies heart rate, I was quickly put on my left hand side and when I was examined was told I was 8cms dilated. (Cue the hallelujahs) 
With the decelerations still occurring I was wheeled around to the delivery suite. I hope its the closest to a Holby City like experience i'll ever have, but I remember it all being very fast paced. The student midwife who was there (an angel in disguise) told me to close my eyes, and talked me through my breathing. She was a Godsend, massaging my back between contractions, making me laugh and offering the best advice. If anyone was born to do this job, it was Janette.

When we got into the delivery room, everything seemed to calm down. I used the gas and air and experienced so much relief in between contractions, that I was able to have conversations and even laugh. Janette stopped me from using the gas and air constantly so that it was more effective when I was having a contraction. Common sense perhaps, but those simple suggestions helped massively when I wasn't thinking straight and that honestly made all the difference this time around. 
Having an amazing support team around us made such a positive impact that in that moment it wouldn't have made a difference if I had been in Home From Home, the labour ward or even the car park.. just having the right people around saying the right things was imperative.

After 12 minutes of 'pushing' Oliver arrived. I had been guided into a good birthing position and talked through what I was going to feel and when I was going to feel it. 
Birth is certainly no competition, there are no prizes for using or not using pain relief, for going natural or receiving help, the baby at the end is of course, the prize.
 But I do feel so empowered that I gave birth using gas and air and I can't help but put that down to the midwives guidance and support.

Oliver was lifted up on to my chest and it was a truly unforgettable moment. It had felt like a lifetime to get to this stage, but now he was finally here we couldn't wait to introduce him to his big sister.
It's the strangest feeling to describe. You spend nine months baffled at how you're ever going to love another human as much as your little one, you perhaps feel guilty that the love will be divided between the two. You're told that the love isn't divided, in fact if anything it'll multiply, but there's always that worry, that niggling doubt in the back of your mind that it won't come quite as naturally as that. But then you meet your baby, and they fill a void you didn't know even existed, and you get it. You finally understand what everyone means. 

Oliver Lucas, you are so loved.


Friday, 25 August 2017

Self Love

I don't think I'm alone when I say that I've battled with body confidence/self esteem issues for most of my life. One of my earliest memories of these struggles was as far back as primary school, when I specifically remember running up and down the stairs trying to 'loose weight' before a swimming party which I was going to later that day. A part of me is able to see the comical side to it all these years later, the fact that I thought I could shed a little puppy fat in the space of an hour..  (In my defense I was just a tad naive and once went to bed literally praying that in the morning I would wake as Pocahontas- it's safe to say I woke up just a little disappointed)

But in all seriousness, as a 26 year old mother to a beautiful little girl, there is a part of me that feels massively sad remembering it. I'm a self confessed sensitive soul at the best of times, but it truly kills me to think of my Daughter ever thinking about herself so negatively.

Another memory I have is from a p.e lesson years later in Secondary school. The teacher had us girls all sat together and asked us to raise our hands if we were 100% perfectly content with our bodies and appearance. I vividly remember two girls raising their hands. I could quite  confidently bet money on it that most of the girls who were in attendance that day won't even remember the conversation. I on the other hand, was so taken aback by it and so, so incredibly envious and to be really honest, quite disbelieving that there were actually people out there confident in themselves that I've never been able to forget it.

Both of those girls have went on to have multiple children each and I sometimes wonder if they still feel this way about their bodies. 
I genuinely hope so.

Back to the present day, I am currently 26 weeks pregnant with my second baby and I feel i've been quite body confident throughout the first few months. This time around I knew I know whats ahead,  nothing has came as a surprise. The boobs and strong white nails have grown (the perks) but the stretchmarks from the first time have resurfaced and so have the wispy baby hairs that even the Liz Earle hair oil just won't tame. But you win some and lose some, and having been there and done that I know that the end result is worth all these trivial hang-ups.

Maybe a little tmi, but I didn't expect to fall pregnant so quickly. In my head I wanted to be as healthy and my body as fit and ready for pregnancy as humanly possible. But after loosing almost a stone after a bout of the notorious norovirus, I soon made up for the weight loss and gained over a stone and a half with the stress of buying and moving house with a toddler. Well, that's my story and i'm sticking to it.......

I was a little bit pissed off to be honest starting my pregnancy with as bit of excess weight. I was able to avoid maternity clothes the first time around, the mighty hair bobble trick served me well and I was scared that my body would struggle to get back to any kind of normality after two.
 But I was hit full whack with a reality check when my doctor referred me to the early pregnancy clinic at 7 weeks + 4 after several nights of cramping and shooting pain.

It was a bank holiday and so I had to wait three agonizing days until I could be seen. I had never experienced this with my first pregnancy and had utterly convinced myself that we had lost, or were loosing the baby. So much so, I couldn't even bare to look up at the screen until the wonderful lady doing the scan said 'Don't you want to see? look at that nice steady heartbeat'

Ever since that scare I have never taken for granted how extremely hashtag 'blessed' I am. How fortunate I am to be able to conceive and carry a baby. Not just one, but two healthy pregnancies.
My heart breaks for the women that struggle, the one's that show up to their scan to hear devastating news, the one's that never to experience the things we like to moan about. The one's that have to say goodbye, before they even get a chance to say hello.
It's only when you look up the facts and figures you see how all too common it is. And so i'm adamant to embrace the changes, both the perks and the flaws of pregnancy. To keep in mind exactly how I felt waiting to find out if my pregnancy was 'viable' when I complain of aching hips, lack of sleep or the battery acid rushing up my throat every time my head hits a pillow. I am fortunate to experience these symptoms that tell me my baby is continuously growing. 

This week is the first in 26 that i've hit a low point. Lately i've had so many comments about my 'bump'/ body/ appearance that I came home from work the other night, shut the door and burst into tears. Proper Kim K ugly crying tears if we're being specific. You know one of those crying fits were you can't quite get the words out? that was me. Luckily Stuart was there arms wide open, and was quick to make me a  cup of tea. A double Jack Daniel's,  no ice would have went down a treat- but, pregnant, and all that.

 'Wow, you're massive, and so long still to go!' 'You're definitely a lot broader this time around' 'You're bigger but it's still a lovely bump' 'Are you sure there's not another in there?'  Cue lots of eye rolling and polite laughing. I've never been blessed with quick wit and so a sarky comeback is out of the question.

The icing on the cake was when I walked past two council workers who looked at each other and I seen one mouth 'Holy Shit' when I walked past. Hurt turned to anger instantly , and it's had me thinking ever since.

I know this comes as part and parcel of being pregnant. I'm probably guilty of it myself. In fact I know i'm guilty of it. It's hard not to be face to face with a pregnant woman and not make a comment. Maybe it's because I am carrying more weight this time i'm definitely feeling more sensitive to comments. Last time I was 'all bump' and I was quite proud of it. I know deep down people don't mean anything vicious by it, in fact  i'd say the majority of the time they aren't even aware of how it can make a woman feel and would feel mortified if I told them that I had to literally force myself out of the house the other day to take my Daughter to the leisure center because I was so unhappy with how I felt in my jeans. My two sizes bigger than usual, maternity jeans. No hair bobble trick can sort this one out. I'd sooner go to a supermarket in the next town than have to bump into people I know and hear the same comments on repeat. I'm so proud of my body that i'm so angry at myself for letting other people make me feel self conscious about my body.

I tried explaining to Stuart that it's like
having a noticeable wart on the end of your nose, and everyone you come into contact with commenting on it. It becomes draining. Some days you're more sensitive to comments than others.  Some days you have all the confidence in the world, others you want to shut yourself away.

I am so proud of my body, and the bump i'm growing. Don't mistake this for me moaning, because I am so flippin' grateful for this experience. But I am also sick of feeling like public property, and working in a retail environment, hearing these comments are all too familiar.  Instead of basing them on my appearance, it would be refreshing to hear more people ask how my pregnancy is going, how i'm feeling instead of telling me how big I'm getting.
Would we ever go up to a stranger in the street and comment on their size?  Or run into an old friend from school 'I haven't seen you in years! has your nose always been that big?!'  'Your acne isn't as bad as it was in school' Why does it suddenly seem so acceptable when they are pregnant? 
The mind boggles.

I'm sporting a big bump, but i'm growing one healthy baby. I'm trying to limit the unnecessary evening snacks, not because I medically have to, but because my partner's family have a history of birthing 10lber babies and that kinda puts the fear of God into me. But sometimes those salted caramel cookies are just too damn tempting.

I've done enough ranting, crying and moping about the house in over-sized tshirts  these last few days to last me a lifetime. No more hiding away and having a pity party over meaningless throwaway comments. 
I'm down to double digits now.  My app says it's less than 94 days until we meet our baby, and as the kicks are getting stronger, it's all becoming very, very real. 
 I'm so excited to see what he/she looks like, I can't wait to see Eva's reaction to her new sibling, intrigued as to what he/she will look like, scared at the level of exhaustion i'm going to experience with two. But I can tell you that no amount of stretchmarks or numbers on the scale are going to change how ecstatic I am about meeting this little one. The one I feared I would never have the chance to. And if anything that makes me want to love my body that little bit more.


Friday, 5 August 2016


For what feels like a very long time now, I have been so mentally detached from all things 'baby'. Our good ol' trusty Perfect Prep machine that served us so well, is all boxed up and collecting dust in the attic. Meticulously sterilising bottles has become a thing of the past and I can't even recall the last time I had to nip into Mothercare for anything, and my bank account is delighted about that!

 Pregnancy feels like a very vague, distant memory- more like a surreal dream if anything, and when a friend asks for advice or product recommendations for their little ones, I am dumbfounded-absolutely clueless. If it wasn't for my Blog and the baby book I wouldn't know off the top of my head when all these changes even occurred- When did she started sleeping through the night? When did a bottle every three hours turn to one a day? When did she start knowing she wanted cereal instead of pancakes?! When did it become so normal hearing her talk and telling me what she did at Nana and Grandpa's?
  More importantly, how have we even managed this far?! I can't quite believe it, though I have the eye bags, and Stuart the grey hairs to show for it.
I literally cannot believe i'm about to write these words, but even the sleepless nights seem like a distant memory now, and it's only if you know me, or have ever read my Blog will you understand the enormity of that statement. 

....and i've probably went and jinxed it.

The transition from little baby to toddler seemed to happen so suddenly, without us really even noticing.
 One day we had a little baby who was dependent on us entirely, the next we had an independent little girl who just wants to run really fast and free, has no fear (...except loud noises!) She doesn't want to come in from the garden in the evenings for dinner and has learnt the word 'NO' .. throws some pretty impressive tantrums, and only ever in public.
But oh my- we are having the very best of times. 

I loved having a newborn baby, I really did. I could have watched Eva sleeping for hours upon hours. The scent... ah that smell of a newborn alone is enough to make even the least maternal of people, broody. I absolutely love how scents can evoke a memory, and every time I open a box of Fairy non-bio, some Cusson's Mum and Me 'Bump' lotion or a packet of extra sensitive Johnstons wipes i'm immediately transported back to those early weeks, and it makes me feel all warm and cosy inside.
Staring down at those pouty lips and kissable cheeks, the teeny tiny little fingers and toes that grasp and curl. I loved the  morning feeds tucked up in  a toasty bed watching tv while she lay milk-drunk in my arms. I was very much happy  in our maternity leave bubble. The world outside seemed to carry on at a fast pace, while we took it nice and easy, and only really had to make sure that we were washed, fed and dressed. If it was raining outside, we didn't have to go out. Visitors came and went, copious amounts of coffee and cake were consumed, and it really was a lovely little set up, and I honestly really would live it all over again if I could, and if some mystery benefactor could post a couple of grand through my letterbox. 
All that cake eating is expensive.

But at the same time, I found being a mum to a new born really hard. Looking back it was probably more emotionally if anything, and it sounds kind of silly, because now I can't remember my life any other way, but I definitely mourned the loss of my 'old' life. I don't think I was really prepared for things to change just as much as they did, and I sure as hell never read about  experiencing these feelings in any of my baby books.
 It took me a very long time to adjust to our new lifestyle and I remember nights feeling so exhausted, and so frustrated and not really knowing who I was anymore. I'm totally aware that just sounded as cheesy as a Dawson's Creek script, (Joey, Pacey- anyone??) but it's true. I know in my case at times I felt so out of the loop knowing that everyone else was out at work, or had busy schedules all week long, while this was the first time in my life I had so much free time. Sometimes it felt like too much time.
Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing and having being back at work for over a year now, if  given the chance  to take a nine month paid leave, I'd be out that door like nobody's business, you wouldn't have to ask me twice.

I look at my almost two year old and honestly can't believe how quickly time has passed by  and how much she has learnt and developed and grew in that space of that time. It's amazing to watch her little personality emerge, -bossy, but oh so sweet. She can talk for Britain, but soaks up information like a sponge. So feisty and independent, but i'll catch her eyes wander  from across the park looking for me, just to make sure i'm there.
And i'm there, i'm always there. I'll stand and give her a great big smile, even when inside i'm wincing at how dirty her clothes are because she's carried about  a stick she's found, in and amongst the trees, or  she's pulled her bobble out and is rocking the bed head look in public. 
But i'll put these thoughts to the back of my mind, because right now, it makes my heart so unbelievably happy to see her happy, no matter how muddy or scruffy she can be.

'Let them be little, 'cause they're only that way for a while. Give them hope, give them praise, give them love everyday. Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle. Oh.. just let them be little'

© A New Mum Without A Manual

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