104 days postpartum

It’s funny how days are marked by our worst memories and our great ones, are often lost in mind with no clearly accessible date and time attached to them.

At 5am on the 11th October I woke up, eyes barely even open before I was thrust deep into a panic attack. My body wracked by the sensations, my mind reeling from the racing thoughts. To say I was devastated is an understatement, this is the first acute anxiety attack I’ve had in just under three weeks. Three weeks isn’t very long to most people, but it felt joyous to be able to think clearly for a while without the feeling of dread hanging over me. Without ruminating and catastrophizing. Without the pain in my teeth from my clenched jaw. Without the fatigue that hits you after yet another night of insomnia. Sleep when the baby sleeps… haha, if only.

What I’ve noticed though, in the fifty something days since I last updated my postpartum progress, is how hard I’ve tried to implement grounding techniques. How dedicated I have been to my recovery. I started a new contraception eight weeks ago to try and eliminate my periods, ergo reducing symptoms of PMDD. I’ve been on similar contraceptives in the past for the same reason. In this instance I have bled non stop for eight weeks. I am so run down I have ulcers in my mouth and reoccurring shingles pain, requiring more medication to combat. Around the same time I started the new contraception, I also switched my migraine medication for a slow release version and this has helped immensely with preventing attacks.

My son is now fifteen weeks old, he can hold a toy in his hand, chatter and laugh. but he rarely sleeps. His charming little face is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen, that is when it’s not screwed up like a tomato that’s past it’s safe to eat stage, wrinkly in places and as red as hell.

In the last one hundred and four days I have felt every emotion to ever exist. My days are now spent trying to wrestle a screaming baby into a car seat I’m unable to lift, and reading books about Biff and Chip with the big kid. I don’t get any opportunity to rest, which is hard when you have an illness that requires it. I’m mortified to admit some weeks it takes me three attempts before I manage a shower, and even then it’s hurried.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I find it much easier to remember all of the hard bits, the downs, the panic and the tears and I’m very good at choosing to ignore the successes. Deeming them unworthy in their minutiae. Such as; getting the baby down for a nap on the first attempt. Watching his sister cuddle up to him or gently bounce him in his bouncer with her foot, whilst idly watching yet another episode of Bluey. The beauty in the pumpkin patch photoshoot we’d had recently, a windy autumn day surrounded by orange and forest green, the memory of the rain pelting down on our clothes afterwards, and rushing home to drink hot chocolate.

Watching my son grow, though hard, has not been wholly clouded by my poor health. It’s been beautiful in so many ways, and I’ve enjoyed very much time spent with him. I can feel my confidence as a mother returning somewhat. I have my first night out coming up and I’m anxious. When my daughter was a baby I couldn’t wait to get out, feeling more than ever that I needed to let off steam. Now the only steam I’m interested in, is the steam coming from a freshly boiled kettle and the piping hot tea that comes after the boil.

My pelvis hasn’t healed, I am still struggling with walking as with any physical activity. Unfortunately, it does seem this is likely to be yet another long term problem, but we knew that was a possibility.

I use the word progress to explain how far I’ve come and it’s the reason I’m utterly disappointed when I come up against relapses like that earlier panic attack. Im devastated when Im unable to rationalise my intrusive thoughts. Yet in spite of relapses, hard days, long nights and tragically cold cups of PG tips, I’m grateful. Grateful for the support I’ve received from an amazing perinatal mental health team, from my family, and from those few close friends who selflessly and with conviction, care enough to remind me I’m doing ok.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and there are many people whom have contributed to my progress. Thank you. And here’s hoping for another 100 days of progress to follow.

54 Days postpartum

23.08.21

My daughter was on her way to bed last night when out of nowhere panic hit me full force. My son, lying in the crook of my arm, suddenly started to spit milk out from the sides of his slow flow teat, and I realised, the hand that was holding his bottle was shaking. I felt hot, from the feet up, like a flush, my brain scrambling for grounding thoughts that just couldn’t make their way to the forefront of my mind. It’s coming I thought, knowingly.

My husband comes when I call, and holds me tight. Our son, bewildered at why he’s suddenly had his bottle snatched from his mouth, our daughter, obliviously cleaning her teeth in the bathroom above our heads. Breathe Shaun tells me. Why am I like this???? I sob, trying to catch my breath. You’re not like anything, Steph. It’s a panic attack and it will pass. He reassures me, never letting me go.

It’s been 54 days since I gave birth. Our son will be 8 weeks old on Thursday 26th August.

This isn’t a birth story, because my birth story is too long, the trauma that surrounds my pregnancy will not shrink into an Instagram caption or a rushed blog post. This is a progress report.

When my son Kaiser was born, and during the days preceding, I was in a constant state of panic. I would have moments of calm, but they were fleeting and hard to grab onto. I’ve plateaued at a panic attack approximately once a week now. I know that a large part of their occurrence is directly linked to hormone sensitivity, yet that gives me no control or reassurance regarding their assault on my life.

I’m currently under the care of the most amazing perinatal mental health team, they are some of the best medical professionals I have ever come across in my entire life and I’ve met a few. Sadly this support was massively lacking during my pregnancy – but that is a story I’ve semi already told and one that would take up the duration of the rest of this blog. The point, is that I have some amazing people in my life at the moment helping me heal from acute anxiety, intrusive thoughts and various states of panic. I genuinely don’t believe without their consistent support during the postpartum period, that I would have gotten these bastard attacks down to once a week on my own.

The trouble is, I’m still very much in a state of fight or flight. During the periods of calm, I am logical. In fact I am probably calmer than I’ve ever been in my life and generally laid back (a term probably not often used to describe me as a person) but I can’t stay there, because as quick as I’m calm, a storm cloud opens up the heavens on my head and I am ready to flee the country as though I’m being chased by a hungry tiger.

However, during those moments of calm I have reflected. I have corrected, and I have made changes to my mindset. Living with chronic illnesses as I do, migraine, fibromyalgia, PMDD etc it’s easy to become all consumed by pain and suffering. The shift in my mindset has been that I don’t want to be consumed by this suffering anymore. I know I am going to suffer, bad days, sometimes bad weeks and maybe even bad months, but I don’t want it to consume me. I want change.

My community nurse said to me this week you have to do different to feel different and so I’m doing different. Every day I’m fighting tiny fires of fear. For example, I’m frightened of being alone with my kids in case I have a panic attack, but I’m staying alone with them anyway, because I know if I avoid this fear it will only grow.

I was absolutely distraught about Shaun returning to work after paternity leave, but I knew if he delayed that process I would be as scared, if not more so, when he eventually did.

I’ve been avoiding books and television that might be triggering or that contain storylines of anyone with mental illness, but very slowly I’m reintroducing those things into my life.

I’ve been too afraid to walk or drive anywhere on my own because of how much pain I’m in. What if I get stuck with the kids? And then what if whilst I’m stuck, I panic?

I’ve been too scared to enjoy days out for fear of repercussions on my body, or to go places more than half an hour away from my house in case I panic and need to flee, but slowly I am doing both.

I’m making this sound easy, and yet it’s been the hardest most hellish experience ever, doing things I’m so desperate to avoid goes against the grain. But I’m using these examples to measure my progress, because it’s so easy to feel as though I’m making absolutely no progress at all when anxiety strikes.

I want change. I want my life back. And I have to do different to feel different. I have to be open to the idea there are positive outcomes in life, because if I don’t open myself up to this possibility, I will forever be living half a life.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

A topic so close to my heart and one that I always feel needs highlighting, but also one that I myself am finding particularly triggering at the moment – if you’ve been following my second pregnancy journey you’ll understand why. If you haven’t I’ll explain in short, that I am finding this pregnancy, similar to the first, in that it’s detrimental to my mental health.

Whilst this time round I don’t feel utter desperation and despair, I do feel hopeless and flat. My physical pain has hugely contributed to my mental health during pregnancy. I am so pleased to see maternal mental health reach such heights with awareness, but I feel it’s important to understand how intrinsically linked our physical and mental well-being is. Something that I feel is often overlooked for women who are pregnant and managing illness and physical challenges as well as poor mental health and low mood.

This will be my only post on maternal mental health this week, and the reason for that is stated above – I’m finding it all a bit triggering. I feel so lucky to have come so far on my journey of regaining my strength and mental stability after the birth of my daughter, but equally I feel a strong pull back to that dark time, right now.

There are a few messages that I often shout about in my need to highlight, and want to again here:

You can dislike pregnancy and still want your baby. You can resent the process and it’s toll on you and your body and still feel a deep connection to the life you’re creating.

You can feel sadness and loss at your sense of self in motherhood and still love your children.

Maternal mental health isn’t just present postnatally. It doesn’t just occur during the process of pregnancy or immediately after. It can strike at any time. It can be dark and all consuming, during phases of exhaustion and sleep deprivation, but it can also be triggered during the quagmire of everyday life. When you feel like the old you has gone missing for a while and the responsibility of caring for others takes it’s toll on you emotionally. It can occur with setbacks and regressions in your child’s life, and sometimes it will pop up at any given time it likes.

Postnatal depression isn’t always intrusive thoughts and hiding from the world. Sometimes it’s high functioning anxiety that actually powers you through the days only to hit you like a tonne of bricks when things seem to be going ok.

Depression and anxiety are not always prompted by birth trauma, or tragedy. It can manifest in many ways, sometimes presenting as irritable or snappy, other times as rage, bouts of tearfulness and friction at home. And sometimes it can creep up on you with a dull flatness, you may not even realise you feel depressed at all until the things you used to look forward to in life start to lose their appeal. The things that used to excite you suddenly don’t anymore and everything just feels a bit grey.

When I was pregnant with my daughter six years ago there was no such thing in my area as a perinatal mental health team. It shows great progress that such teams are now in place across the UK helping women come to terms with difficult emotions during and after pregnancy. It has definitely provided me with some reassurance when going through the process again. The only thing I will say that I feel to still be somewhat lacking and this doesn’t just refer to perinatal mental health but mental health in general, is there still isn’t enough preventative measures in place to support people who have a history of depression but aren’t currently depressed.

When I found out I was pregnant this time my anxiety was in full force but when referred to talking therapies I was deemed to score low on the mood charts and therefore not particularly high risk or in need of additional support. Unfortunately this is all too common when seeking support for mental health. I believe I know myself best and after having come through many bouts of poor mental health I feel I’m the best judge of character to preempt spirals. It’s frustrating when you know you could go either way but the support is only in great supply when you are close to crisis.

I’ve found great support this time in grassroots organisations such as Bluebell Care probably even more so than I have in my midwifery team.

Maternal mental health has been highlighted even more in the last year because of the pandemic and if anything good was to come from that it would be that we’re shining a light on mother’s struggling.

There’s a long way left to go and it’s not easy to be candid on such topics – but one thing I do know is that however you’re feeling, you’re not alone. It takes a great strength to open up about parenting struggles because societal judgement is still placed so heavily on a mother. Speaking up is the first step, becoming aware is the next one.

For more information on maternal mental health support please visit Maternal Mental Health Alliance

A letter to myself.

I wrote this because I had to make sense of my thoughts as mother and an expectant one, one who is trying to find the strength to be both whilst battling the demons that are chronic illness and mental health.

Reach out they said, so you did, and it didn’t immediately help, and when it didn’t help people stopped reaching in. You are not their responsibility, this is not their fight, and they have their own shit going on. In the middle of a pandemic everyone has their own shit going on, some worse than yours. People can’t take on your shit too. They don’t want to, they shouldn’t have to, so what are you supposed to do now?

You have spoken to your doctor, you’ve got yourself in touch with organisations that can help support your mental health, but your physical health is declining further, your hormones are sending you crazy and you’re in limbo. You’ve requested help, but there’s no magic pill, no imminent cure for your troubles. So what happens next? You’ve written a thousand blogs, almost as many poems, you’ve cried, screamed and forced yourself to calm.

Keeping busy helps, keeping moving, except you can’t do anything because you’re immobile. Stay positive, think happy thoughts, so you try, really hard to do both but your mind is clouded in worry. You wonder sometimes if you have the strength to be the person everyone needs you to be. To get back some of your fire. You’re losing interest in the things that have previously brought you joy, like reading, and writing, you feel blocked. Getting outside is increasingly difficult and because you’re not going anywhere you’re not getting up and ‘ready’ because your whole body is racked with pain you’re not focusing on getting outside, it feels too hard.

You know you need to nourish your body to give your growing baby what it needs but even eating is becoming boring, a chore, you don’t have the ability to stand at a countertop and cook, you can’t be bothered to decide what to have next so takeaway’s are your go to, but they’re distorting the view of what you see in the mirror. Your need for medication increases with your pain and with that comes more guilt because it’s not just about you anymore.

You tried to do ‘yoga’ and got stuck on the floor for an hour with only your four year old home. You tried to shower but you can’t stand so even cleanliness is taking a backseat. You have to depend on your husband to help you in and out of the bath and you feel your self esteem being crushed further, your sense of humour no longer able to gloss over the hard parts with a funny anecdote.

People care, you know that, but they don’t know what to say, so they stop saying anything. You feel like a shit friend because you know your life is consumed by your disability and as much as they can’t take on your burdens you can’t take on theirs either, so thats another stick you can use to beat yourself with. You’re still trying to be everything everyone needs you to be but it’s draining. You feel like your lack of positivity confirms your worst fears – that you can’t be saved.

You feel more connected to strangers you talk to online than anyone you know in real life, because strangers can’t judge you in the same way friends can. They don’t expect you to man up, or try harder because your lack of effort doesn’t impact them.

You spend most days led down trying to find a focus, trying to be better, to do better, to find some joy in anything.

Glimmers of hope come from your loved ones. They carry on loving you despite your struggles and your children carry on depending on you. You know that without them, your life doesn’t mean all that much to you, but to them it’s everything it means everything, you are their everything and so you snatch the glimmers, you pocket them, and you remember that this period in time isn’t forever.

Your life isn’t what it used to be and you grieve it, desperately, sometimes so much that it physically hurts, but you’ve grieved it before and you’re still here, you still have a life. You still have a future. It’s a new version, and not everyone will walk your new journey with you, not because they don’t care (that’s just your brain telling you that) but maybe because they don’t understand and your own acceptance of the things you can’t change takes time.

Learning to live a newer life, a more conscious life, a life that has limitations, isn’t easy. Sometimes the grief will be daily and feel renewed, but someday, in your future you will look back on this time like you’ve looked back on all the other hard times, times you thought you couldn’t live through and you will know that you survived it. You survived it because you put one swollen foot in front of the other, because you held on when you thought there was no hope for you, and you found a way.

You know with certainty, that you have grown. This is a set back, this is not a failure, your health has declined as a result of you trying to do what’s best for your baby.

So Steph, the message is clear, when you really aren’t ok and you feel like you’re alone with your troubles, don’t take it day by day, don’t wait for tomorrow to be better, take it hour by hour, do the things that you feel able, even if that is nothing, because it won’t always be nothing. Each day that you wake up is you doing something. You’re surviving, and when you find a way to survive you can find a way to thrive.

X

A Decade Of Lessons

The last 10 years

Well, it’s been a testing decade that’s for sure, but it’s also been the most amazing pilgrimage of self discovery I’ve ever been on.

I feel like the last decade is where I really became an adult and anything before was part of my youth.

In 2010 I was glassed in a nightclub in an unprovoked attack whilst out with friends, and it shook me beyond measure and took me to a place I didn’t know existed. I’d been in fights before, been given a slap when I probably deserved it, in my teens, I’d even (believe it or not) been hit with a bottle before, but it hadn’t shattered the first time and this was on another level. This was in response to me just being out having a laugh with friends, and it could have left me blind. Thankfully, physically most of the scars are on my décolletage and not my face (though I do have a dent in my skull) it could have been a lot worse physically.

But despite keeping up appearances, mentally I was scarred beyond recognition. I was scared too just by the weight of the attack, but in being scared I got angry.

I went ‘mad’ for want of a better word. I was wild. Following that night every time I went out I braced myself for a row and alcohol only fuelled that self destruction. I got in more rows and fights than I’d ever had before. I rowed and physically fought with my then partner, and when I ended that relationship I continued down a rabbit hole of hell.

I did some messed up things and 2013 saw the catalyst to that phase of crazy.

I lost my job, almost my house, and I was alone. Friends had given me a wide berth and my nights out were spent with people I didn’t even really like and who only hung out with me for some drama or entertainment.

I’ve always had a need to fill the shoes of the life and soul of the party, but I’ve filled them by acting like a fool. Being the loudest, the craziest and the wildest person in the room.

I met my now partner at the end of that year. I saw the new year in in Ireland with a good friend and it was like something just clicked, an epiphany if you like, and I didn’t want to be that self destructive, unemployed mess, that I had become.

I got a job, a pretty good one, and from there life has progressed at a steady pace. The following year I was shaving my hair off for charity and raising thousands of pounds. I’ve had some backslides, like being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and it’s affect on my both my physical and mental health. Having a baby wasn’t an easy feat for me, and it can be hard work just being ‘normal’ most days, but I’m surviving it, and thriving too.

Last year my mum nearly died from a freak fall and I can say with certainty, I’ve never been as scared as I was then. It puts what’s important into perspective.

Nowadays I don’t feel like I’m falling from Beachy Head every time I wake up. I don’t want to hide for a week after a night out anymore, and I don’t wish I was dead. Even on the bad days, I’m glad to be alive.

I still feel like some days I fight stigmas and a bad reputation, but it took me a long time to make it, so I guess it’s only normal that it will take me a long while to break it, too.

That being said, my future is bright and I’m lucky. All the people in my life are in it because they want to be and contribute in some way to helping me be and feel better. So I’d say, despite all of that drama, this past decade has been pretty spectacular and I’m looking forward to the next one. Taking nothing for granted is my only resolution.

Happy new year 🥳

Anxiety Behind The Screen!

My experience with anxiety is, or at least has, been a parody of Prozac Nation. Have you ever watched it? It’s a film with Christina Ricci, I recommend it to anyone who feels like they’re going insane. I’ve learned over the years to control it better. I function these days for the most part, and it’s rarely all consuming as it was during my first panic attack.

I remember that day like it was yesterday, I was 14 years old, and maybe unsurprisingly, it came on after I’d been hacking a bong full of hash. But it wasn’t the stoned feeling that was scaring me and making me panic. It was every wrong thing I’d ever done in my life come back to haunt me in those moments. It was all the things that I couldn’t undo, couldn’t unsay. Teenagers do a lot of questionable things during adolescence and I was no exception. Those things now enveloped me and choked me as though I was dying. I was so swamped by thoughts of my failings I couldn’t breathe. I was physically trembling and my heart was beating so fast it’s a wonder it didn’t pop out of my chest.

For about two years following that first panic attack I was quite severely mentally ill. I had nightmares, I had obtrusive thoughts and my poor mum couldn’t leave the house without me phoning her every twenty minutes. Every time she did go out, I had convinced myself she was going to die and the fear of that was beyond what my young mind was able to rationalise. I was out of my depth, popping antidepressants like sweets and using everything in my power to numb the constant noise inside my head. I often wondered then if I was some kind of monster. If I had a kink in my armour that made me mental. If I deserved to feel so helpless and desperate every moment I was awake. I lost friends, my relationships with my family suffered and I feared everything.

Now I’m in my thirties plodding along with a bit more self control and the strength to be open (at least on paper) about how I’m feeling. That doesn’t mean I feel any less though. For example I have a hormone imbalance and when I’m feeling a dip, like now, I get a bit introvert. I actively avoid people and places. I don’t have any patience for small talk and I get irritated easily. Sounds like a bit of PMT eh? But it’s not just a bit of PMT it’s my life. The school run for instance is a nightmare for me this week. I’m really struggling with it. I don’t have a good network of school mum friends as yet and I feel like I have to keep part of myself, this part, hidden. For fear of judgement. So I avoid talking to people. I know you may think that’s silly but whether you believe it or not, there is still a stigma around mental health, especially mum’s with mental health problems. I’m trying hard not to take medication at the moment for other reasons, but yesterday morning, given my hormonally anxious state, I took a Valium to enable me to get through a meeting. I was sat in Pret A Manger drinking decaf coffee with sweaty palms and a knee twitch that I couldn’t stop. It worked (The Valium) and I did some self care by way of talking myself round. I don’t sit there chanting to myself or anything, I just try and focus on something else and remind myself there’s no reason to panic.

Some days it isn’t as easy as that to shake off those feelings of impending doom, even with the aid of a tranquilliser. The mind is a scary place, followed by you’re body’s reactive physical symptoms, you really do feel like you’re dying sometimes. I’ve had days where I’ve felt so out of control I’ve wanted to run away. Before I became a mum it was easier to hide. We all know the mental health service is practically non existent, extremely under funded and under resourced. You only have to try and get an appointment with a counsellor to realise how unlikely it is you’ll ever receive said appointment. All the more reason for us to be more mindful of each other, to look after ourselves. To learn new techniques to manage our symptoms. Of course intervention will in some cases, always be necessary, but there’s a lot we can do to help each other and ourselves too.

    Listen – Ask someone how they are and actually listen to the answer. Check in with your friend who’s gone a bit introvert. He/she might not reply straight away but they’ll know you care, and in times of anxiety that can be a real comfort.
    Practise Self Care – It sounds so cheesy doesn’t it? Self care! Breathing exercises and all that bollocks, but for some people these are a ritual that does the job and kicks a panic attack where it hurts before it’s taken hold. Cut yourself some slack too, rest when you’re stressed and do some feel good things, even when you don’t feel like doing them!
    Ask for help – I know I’ve given the psych services a bit of a bashing, but you don’t necessarily need a qualified professional to help you through a period of high anxiety. You might just need a friend. Tell someone. I am guilty of not doing this because it’s something I feel stupid for feeling, so although I’m able to write about it now, actually talking aloud is still a struggle.
    Don’t play it down– In doing so you’re lying to yourself too. You deserve to feel safe and if you don’t it’s ok to say you don’t.
    Think rationally– I know you must be reading this last one thinking, if it was that fucking easy I wouldn’t be panicking. But I don’t mean during an attack (well, then too if you can) but I mean the rest of the time. Tell yourself over and over again when you’re not in the midst of an attack why you don’t need to worry and why you’re not going to have another one. Psychosomatic!

I’m not an expert and everyone’s symptoms of anxiety will be different. I’ve said before and I’ll keep saying it, mental health doesn’t discriminate. There are hundred of different types of mental illness but they will all meet over lapping symptoms. We are each at risk of having some period of depression or high anxiety during our time on this earth, so we need to work together to educate people and ourselves. We need to mean it when we go around saying it’s ok to not be ok.

When you see this pic of me, perfect make up, fresh hair….. What do you see?

Do you see a happy girl?

A girl with her shit together?

Confidence?

If you answered yes to any of the above you’d be wrong. I got up this morning and it took me an age to feel like I looked ‘ok’ I’m not feeling my best at the moment.

I have no job so deffo don’t fall into the ‘shit together’ category, and my confidence is under par. My anxiety is bad, I’ve had about 4 hours of broken sleep and I’m tired. So fucking tired.

Moral of this post: Don’t assume. All is never as it seems. Looks are deceptive. You never really know what’s going on behind the screens.

Mum guilt and chocolate teapots

Mum guilt, if you’re a mum, you’ve had mum guilt at some point. You may even have it regularly – let’s be real about this, it’s a thing that has blown up in recent years because we (I, in any case) spend far too much time comparing ourselves to other mum’s on social media, at the school gates, during a PTA, at soft play or on someone’s follow Friday post.

A friend of mine called me earlier this week to say she’d been called into school about her child’s behaviour. They were acting out and she felt tremendously guilty. She felt like she’d failed as a mother. Let me be clear here, she is a bloody fantastic mother, but seriously, she tore herself a new one over this. I went away and thought about the times I’ve been criticised or not even criticised as such, but spoken to about Ciara’s tantrums and or her lack of sharing and I’ve felt like the worst person on the planet. I’ve gone on social media to make myself feel better and been faced with everyone gushing about their perfect kids or at least that’s what I’ve taken from it and ended up feeling worse. I’ve been penalised for being ‘real’ for admitting when my child acts like a knob. People have said ‘no wonder if you call your child a knob, they’ll act like one.’ FYI I don’t sit there calling my three year old a knob to her face, but sometimes people, she acts like a spawn of Satan, so she gets the finger when she’s not looking, and sometimes….. she’s cute and shit. If you complain about your child’s behaviour or chastise them, you are branded an awful mother, and if you don’t, you are still an awful mother as you must not even notice or worse, don’t care!

It’s funny because when I thought about this in more depth I thought about our mothers and grandmothers. There weren’t parenting books and baby led weaning, or the Ferber Method. There also weren’t tens of thousands of mums on social media talking about being one. (I’m aware I’m that person too) What I’m getting at is, they had nothing to compare it to accept real life experiences from friends and family. There was hardly even any reality TV when I was a kid. None of this teen mum stuff or one born every minute (which I love by the way) but we all sit there and have a little ‘ooh I wouldn’t of done it like that’ moment when watching. Don’t get me wrong, there are just as many mums taking a stand against mum shaming on social media as there are ‘perfect’ parents, but where does this end.

If your kid acts up these days it’s because they have something wrong with them, or there’s something wrong with you, or you’re neglecting them, smothering them, missing something, and so on!

This is a time when if you kiss your child on the lips and photograph it, you’re branded a paedophile. Has the world gone absolutely bat shit?

My mum always gave me a big smacker before bed, she wasn’t/isn’t a paedophile. The only difference is, back then she didn’t photograph it and post it on social media. We seldom take pictures of our babies cute little bums or let them waltz around starkers because let’s face it, there are some sick people in the world and we’re quite rightly protecting our kids, I wouldn’t ever condone anything that put them at risk, but come the fuck on people, can you not give your child a kiss or a cuddle in public anymore? Loving your child and showing affection in a positive way does not make you a monster.

My daughter doesn’t eat any veg, or fruit, accept in the form of juice. We have tried EVERYTHING! Her eating has gotten worse the older she’s got and it’s a real fight in our house some nights to get her to eat pizza and chips, let alone home made vegetable ragu. I can assure you, it’s not for lack of effort on our part as parents, whether you believe my assurances is another matter.

When Ciara’s tired and in an ‘I want Daddy only’ mood – I wonder to myself if this is because I’m a terrible mother. Does she hate me? What am I doing wrong?

When she forgets to use her ‘kind hands’ at preschool I wonder why it’s my child that plays up, what did I do?

I know I’ll go away after this post feeling liberated for all of five minutes for the rant I’ve allowed myself, and then I’ll get back to wondering why I can’t do better or be better. Why nobody looks at me as an idol, why I’m not up on a pedestal of perfect parenting.

BUT when I look at my daughter each day and see her happy and healthy little face, when she randomly comes and plants a kiss on my cheek or puts her little hand in mine, I’m going to try and see myself from her perspective. I’m going to try and love myself a little more how she loves me, and I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for every day we finish a meal, every time I refrain from referring to her as a little knob, and every time she’s kind. Fuck it I may even get myself a reward chart because I am a good mum. Deep down I know this because my perfect girl is so loved, and guilt, guilt is an emotion I render as useless as a chocolate teapot.

10 things people without children should never say to Mothers.

10 things people without kids say to Mum’s that they need to STOP!

1: When I have children I’ll _______ The likelihood is that whatever _______ is, you wont.

2: I’d never co sleep.

When you’ve been up for 15 hours straight with a colicky baby, you’ll do almost anything to make them sleep so you can close your eyes too.

3: I know having kids is hard but everyone does it.

You haven’t done it yet Julie, so why not pipe down.

4: I would never let my kid do that! If we’re talking about eating a happy meal or an ice cream before dinner or even staying up past their bedtime, sometimes Diane, you will.

5: If my kid doesn’t eat their dinner they won’t get offered anything else.

I didn’t believe in giving your kids coco pops for tea or letting them eat off of the floor either, but when they’ve turned their nose up at 5 different meals and found a wotsit behind the sofa that they actually WANT to eat, trust me Wendy, you’ll believe in the power of orange corn puffs.

6: I’m going to establish a routine from day one. NEWS FLASH babies are human beings, that means they have their own brain, and do pretty much what the hell they like. But good luck with setting those ground rules by day 3 Keisha.

7: My kid would never get away with that!!

Ok darling. Keep me posted when they draw all over the walls in pen, punch another child for no reason or eat a tampon, feel free to give your advice on a suitable punishment.

8: All kids are the same.

NO, No they’re not.

9: I wouldn’t do that if I was you. Great thanks for that Rebecca.

Please feel free NOT to give me advice on what you wouldn’t do.

10: You look tired. YES, Yes Stacey, I am so fucking tired, my tired is tired, thanks for pointing that out.

Motherhood is hard. Mums are tired, and hormonal, and sensitive and everything in between. Please be mindful of this when giving out unwanted and it most cases unnecessary, advice.

Try saying ‘How are you feeling?’ in place of you look tired.

Or ‘Can I do anything to help?’ In place of I wouldn’t do that if I were you.

Lastly, you could just keep quiet and provide an ear to listen.

Antidepressants vs insulin.

I’ve been on antidepressants on and off since I was 14 years old. More on than off. Over half of my life. I’m not depressed, not anymore, I haven’t been for some time now, but I do GET depressed when in pain, and I also have varying forms of anxiety. When I say varying, it can go from mild to unbearable in seconds, if you have anxiety, you’ll know where I’m coming from. I am insecure and often struck with self loathing and paranoia.

So, I’ve always taken antidepressants to kind of keep me on a level. They do work, and if they aren’t working for you, you might need a different type or dose adjustment.

I’ve never felt shame in taking them even before it was ‘cool’ to talk about your mental health. (I mean that in the best possible way, being that I think it is cool we talk about it)

Diabetics don’t feel shame at taking insulin and therefore depressives shouldn’t feel shame in taking antidepressants.

Today I am 14 days free of Duloxetine (Cymbalta).

I’ve been on it for 2 years 8 months for fibromyalgia pain and low mood. I still have both of those, so why you ask, am I ceasing treatment? Well the main reason is because, Ciara was born withdrawing from antidepressants that I was told by my healthcare professionals, were safe to take during pregnancy. They weren’t safe for us though, and she fought for her life for the first 6 days following her birth. So before I contemplate having another child I want to be drug free.

I take a variety of other drugs too for my condition, and therefore this is just one pill in a long line of pills, that I am planning to quit.

The withdrawal has been hard, I’m not going to pretend otherwise. The brain zaps are something else, like electric shocks through the temples and the emotions have been flooding out of me like someone pulled the plug on a whale tank. I’ve cried, laughed, snapped, it’s been the proverbial whirlwind alright. Even more reason I refuse to subject another baby to these symptoms. I live with a lot of guilt about the start Ciara had, and even though I know I absolutely needed those drugs at the time, I still don’t think if I knew of the consequences I would of continued to take them. They potentially saved my life whilst almost costing me my daughter’s. So you can see why I’m conflicted?

I’m using CBD oil now and whilst I’ve used that before, I’ve never used it to combat withdrawal, it’s probably a bit early to say whether or not it’s helping, as like I said, the withdrawal definitely has been noticeable.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this isn’t so you go and throw away your pills, it’s so you don’t feel ashamed when making decisions about treatment.

I would go back on them tomorrow if I felt suicidal again or my functionality was off because of my mood. I’m not precious about taking drugs and if something works for you I think it’s important you feel comfortable with whatever treatment you decide upon. Depression can be, a life long condition, it’s also often a life threatening one when left untreated. It’s so important to remember you’re not the minority! So many people take antidepressants these days, they aren’t as invasive as they were years ago. Even the ones I took when I was 14 were a whole lot more zombifying than the ones I take now. Most people function well with treatment. My excuses are quite lazy, I need to do some more natural boosting of the endorphins in order to combat the repercussions of coming off my meds.

It’s not a case of flick a switch and everything’s fine, and it would be naive of me to expect it to be. I do however want to share the journey of transitioning from pills to plants and homeopathic therapies. Mainly because I want to review whether it actually works and if there are other ways for me to combat pain and depression aside from prescription drugs.

Today I drank celery juice for the first time and you can find me gagging on Instagram. It was vile, but I’m told these things aren’t instant, so I may need to try it for a while longer to feel the benefit! I’ll be buying a nose peg and hoping for the best.

Feel free to share your tips of what works for you. So many people say exercise and I’ve always got an excuse as to why I can’t do it. 2019 needs to be a year of less excuses because, time doesn’t wait and the clocks are ticking.

A shit load of reasons why you should not ask a woman when she’s having another baby…

Reasons why you should never ask a Mum when she’s having another baby….

I’ve updated this with extra points to reflect my current situation. I originally wrote this blog after Ciara was born in 2016. The minute people became aware that Ciara is starting school this year, they have been on me with the second kid question, like flies on shit, seagulls to a sandwich. It’s a throwaway question. It’s rarely asked with any intent to upset but there are so many reasons as to why you shouldn’t ask it. Most of my friends know my situation already, so they don’t ask. If they do ask it’s a conversation that is a two way, it’s a chance for me to talk about my hopes or reservations, but strangers? Strangers go straight for the jugular. Strangers need to back off. Auntie Aggy who you haven’t seen in 10 years but proceeds to tell you how bad an age gap is for children, she needs to shut the fuck up. Or Ethel next door giving you the third degree about your biological clock. So here’s my reasons newly extended as to why you should still not ask a mum when she’s having her next child!

1. She may not want anymore. She might be happy with her one beautiful child. Period.

2. She may not be able to have anymore. Your body goes through all sorts of changes after pregnancy and secondary infertility is a very real and very common problem. Please be mindful before you approach a woman you seldom know, with a loaded question like when she’s about to pop another human out.

3. She may have only just got her body back to a perfect 10. (Not me obvs) – but some women are passionate about returning to their pre baby bodies and that’s their choice. Just because you can’t think of anything worse than going on a diet or hitting the gym post pregnancy, remember we’re not all the same.

4. She may be suffering with her mental health and or PTSD from the trauma of her child’s relentless screaming, or her toddler throwing themselves on the floor screaming NOOOOO over and over again, she can’t yet bear the thought of having 2 irrational psychopaths living in her house. Jokes aside – these phases our children go through are not all roses and rainbows are they? Give the girl a break.

5. She may of had such a bad pregnancy that the thought of going through that trauma again, whilst also being a whale with a swollen fanny and fat ankles, just ain’t on the agenda for the foreseeable. If you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know my pregnancy story, I won’t bore you with it again, but pregnancy wasn’t enjoyable for me and no matter how many well wishers tell me it’ll be different with number 2, I still don’t get excited at the prospect.

6. Sex is so much better without another human inside of your abdomen. Ok so if you’ve just had a baby you might not be at it like rabbits, but maybe resurrecting your sex life is on the agenda. You go Goddess!!

7. Her and her partner/significant other only just survived the first baby, give them chance. Babies can have a negative impact on relationships as much as they can a positive one. The early stages can be particularly traumatic and resentment can fester. Maybe your girl isn’t ready for the second wave of hating her other half for his measly 2 weeks paternity leave, or the fact he gets to avoid night feeds whilst she’s breastfeeding.

8. Similar to the above, she may have found herself single, or be going through relationship difficulties, and therefore the next baby seems too far off to contemplate. You wouldn’t ask her when she’s getting her next boyfriend would you? So leave her be.

9. They like spending their money on holidays, date nights and stamp collections. The M Word. It’s a big one. Let’s not pretend money’s not a factor. Yes you will find the money and do your best to survive the financial toll of having a family, but some people want more than just survival.

9. They are just too tired. The first child is just about sleeping through the night at 2, let’s let them sleep a while eh?

10. Their child has disabilities, health problems or learning difficulties that they are navigating their way through and managing. The next baby hasn’t been thought of yet. Their first child needs all of their attention.

11. They had a traumatic birth experience. Birth trauma is very common but also very seldom talked about. Women who have negative pregnancy and birth experiences unsurprisingly might have their reservations about baby no 2. Don’t make them spell it out for you, it’s much kinder to just not ask.

12. Maternal mental illness is serious. It can become life threatening. I was suicidal during pregnancy and for a long while after too, that has had a big influence over my decision to not get pregnant again yet. Women who suffer ante and postnatally with their mental health will naturally be more anxious about going through that experience again or worsening their current symptoms.

13. My baby nearly died. Babies are rushed to NICU often. 44% of full term babies are taken in to special care and it’s scary, that’s without even looking at the premie stats. In fact for new parents, it’s terrifying. Nobody in their right mind would want to go through that twice and the thoughts surrounding the possibility of it happening a second time can influence a mum’s decision on whether to have a second child.

14. Mum has her own health problems and she doesn’t want to discuss them with Doris in the corner shop. So Doris if you’re reading. Drop it, Hun! Contrary to popular belief mums get sick too, and this might be affecting her ability to parent one child, let alone two.

15. It’s not the right time. Maybe the mum you’re questioning has gone back to work and got herself a promotion, or she’s decided to further her career by going back to college to learn a new skill. Maybe they’ve just bought a house and are doing it up. Maybe they’ve got a big birthday coming up and are waiting until after then so they can get suitably shitfaced for the occasion. Maybe it’s just not the right time. And that’s ok.

16. They’ve been trying and suffered baby loss. Imagine getting asked when you’re having another one if you’d just miscarried? 1 in 3 women miscarry. I’ll let that sink in.

17. Finally, my personal favourite: Because it’s none of your business. #justsaying.

Us women often share our thoughts with our friends, so it’s likely if she wants you to know, she’ll tell you. This question of ‘are you having another?’ Or ‘do you want more?’ is honestly I think the most personal question I’ve ever been asked.

It’s likely to get awkward real quick if I start reeling off the above reasons in answer to your questions, so to cut out this embarrassment for both of us, drop the question. We know you don’t mean anything by it. We know you’re just making conversation but you should know, it makes us uncomfortable. (It does me, anyway)

It’s not just the question either, it’s the unsolicited advice that naturally follows…. Why you mustn’t have an only child, or how you’ll regret not doing it sooner if you don’t start now. How no two pregnancies are the same.

We’re not listening. We don’t want to answer you anymore – Our bodies. Our minds. Our families. Our choice.