34 weeks of growing you

Well what can I say, the change in me has been so good this week. Though it’s not remained plain sailing on the medical front. Last week I was called several times by the consultant and I felt reassured re the likelihood of a cesarian. Because of my fibromyalgia I don’t recover well from, well anything, and the idea of having major surgery, needing more rest and recovery time without the opportunity to get into rehab for my pelvis, really scares me. The reason being is, at the moment I cannot walk without crutches, and how the hell do I care for you on crutches after major surgery? However these concerns were countered by the consultant who reminded me it was after I had your sister via vaginal IOL that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, so recovery for either isn’t likely to be great. Whilst this sounds ominous, it’s reassured me that neither is likely to be worse than the other, for me anyway. I will chat to them again on Wednesday to discuss where we go from here.

The reason I’ve been somewhat pissed off with them again this week, is after complaining about the lack of contact from my midwife I spoke to someone else who was really helpful and arranged a new referral to a physiotherapist- only for my original midwife to phone me on Friday to tell me I couldn’t have physio at the hospital because I’m an out of area patient, they’ve known this since the minute I found out I was pregnant, and I’ve been begging for physio since 16 weeks and was told over and over that I couldn’t be seen face to face because of the pandemic. I was given a glimmer of hope at being seen face to face finally at 34 weeks, only to now be told no, again! It’s frustrating, and I feel like the system in place doesn’t work for pregnant women in physical pain.

Irrespective of the setbacks I do feel more positive in general. As seems to be standard recently, your sister is boosting my mood every single day, making life feel more manageable. I’m still in pain, I’m still without my independence, but I’m not without my family and they, you, are all that matters. Your dad, your sister and I, all went away the weekend and it was amazing. The weather was abysmal, and we spent much of it in the caravan but the change in scenery, the togetherness, was so uplifting it was worth all the exhaustion that is now befalling me upon return. Despite the aftermath I’m so glad that I made the effort. Your sister rode a donkey for the first time, talked about you lots, and before we left for our trip on Friday she even drew on my bump writing baby Cullen I love you xxx

I feel stronger and less weighted by what everyone else might be thinking. Less embarrassed to admit what I need. Less guilty about how I’ve been feeling, more accepting of myself, my limitations and prognosis. We know our journey is tough, we also know some people have it a lot tougher. We know it’s worth it and we know we’ll face whatever challenges come our way together. It’s a startling shift that has taken so long to come I wonder why and how I’ve not been able to pull myself out of the fog sooner – but who cares? I’m here now and I’m thinking more clearly. I’m trusting myself and my ability to get through this, and I’m doing it for you, for us, all of us.

You will be here, before we know it, so soon and we are excited to meet you. Apprehension still resides, and there’s still uncertainty, but I’m trying to focus on the things within my control. Soon we’ll be taking trips as a family of four and we’ll be together, for those days, I cannot wait.

32 weeks of growing you

TW: Perinatal anxiety & depressive thoughts.

Too many tears. Too many days in bed. I’m done now. I have nothing left. Except I’m not allowed to be done, because there is more time left, there is more to do, there are more weeks you must stay inside of me to keep you safe, and despite feeling like I am losing my fucking mind and having no control over my body, my goal is still to keep you safe. You’re still the most important thing.

It has been over four months now that I’ve not been able to walk, drive, leave the house alone, spend one on one alone time with your sister. Four months of being told over and over again ‘it’ll all be worth it’ and that ‘it’s not long now’ it is long, it feels like fucking forever. Every single day feels like ten years. My skin feels like it’s crawling with insects. I cannot move without feeling like I’m rolling around in glass. I have put on so much weight, because I can’t move. My anxiety is through the roof, I am getting no sleep, and I cry all the time. What will I do when you come? How will I cope?

Nobody will tell me what happens next, I still don’t know if I will regain mobility and if I do, how long it will take. I’m just waiting, and wading through treacle, with limbs that don’t work. I feel like I can’t plan anything, look forward to anything. I feel physical pain so acutely, but I’m mentally numb.

People message to ask me how I am and when I tell them, they don’t reply, because they don’t know what to say. I think it’d be easier if they stopped asking, because it’s worse to open up and be vulnerable, only to then get ignored.

Everywhere I turn I keep seeing messages of hope, speak out, don’t suffer in silence, etc etc…. it’s everywhere, but it doesn’t feel real, because when you do speak out, when you do open up, people judge you. People think you should be doing better, feeling a certain way, being more grateful. People give you their opinion on how you should treat your mood. They tell you what they think, they try and fix you, they tell you that someone else has it worse, and they aren’t really listening.

It’s the honest, ugly, truth that nobody wants to hear. Not really. They say they do, but they find it uncomfortable. People tell you how well you’ve done when you’re out the other side of something. When you’re in it, they don’t know what to say, and I do get it. I really do, I understand, because it’s hard to support someone whose in a negative place. But sometimes you don’t have to say anything, you definitely don’t have to ask questions or have answers, sometimes you just have to be available to listen.

I don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to be ungrateful or feel like a burden. It’s not a choice, it’s a lot of self doubt, and it’s a reaction to a difficult situation.

With all this in mind, I’ve been working really hard to try and change my mindset today. I know it’s only me that can do it. I know I can’t expect to be rescued. After days in bed over the weekend, today I got up. I had a bath and washed my hair, it was an exhausting task, but I know it helps. I put on clean clothes, I had soup for lunch instead of binging on crisps and junk. I took painkillers, because I needed them and tried not to feel any guilt. I watched a comforting film that felt like a hug and downloaded a feel good book to read. I’ve drank plenty of water, and the cloud is lifting.

I know I can do this, I know I have to do this, I know I’m strong enough to do this, but sometimes I don’t feel like doing any of it.

I’m downstairs now, waiting for your sister to get home from school, with a smile plastered on my face. I will watch another film with her, talk to her about her day and she will give me the hope I need to keep going and do the same tomorrow. I won’t sleep today, because if I nap now, sleep will evade me again tonight, and I need sleep. I need it to allow my brain to switch off. I need it to keep going. I need to enable me to focus on the positives, and they are that we are lucky, we are lucky to have you and I want to feel that. I want to feel joy override all these other emotions. I want to feel better, excited.

The below pics were taken less than 24 hours apart. It’s hard to believe that the extremes can peak and trough so rapidly. But I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter what other people think, I’m surviving a hard and long journey, and I’m doing it whilst keeping you safe. I’m doing my best. I’m going to be okay, and so are you. ❤️

Pregnancy Timeline

I use writing tools a lot to make sense of feelings, I always find it gives me clarity and as I’ve had very little actual support for my mental health this pregnancy, despite being under the perinatal mental health team, covid restrictions have played a huge part and the fact I can’t attend groups because of lack of mobility. That said, I’m pretty good at managing these phases if I let myself feel them. So I decided pulling out some old tools might help, and here started the pregnancy timeline.

I’ll explain at the end why this was such an important process for me.

4 weeks – Found out I was pregnant had to reduce and abstain from medications that had been keeping me well. Very anxious, unsure and not feeling excited.

5 weeks – withdrawal symptoms, migraine, nausea and vomiting, unable to get routine appointment with GP. Lots of tears.

6 weeks – Hormonal migraines started coming every 3-4 days and increased in severity and duration. Unable to reduce Migraine meds. Mental health sketchy, had to fight to be booked in with the perinatal mental health team.

7 weeks – High temperature, still sick, time off work, negative covid test, later confirmed UTI at emergency GP appt and course of antibiotics

8 weeks – Booking appointment with midwife. high BP and protien still present in urine. More antibiotics. Discussed medication benefit vs risks.

9 weeks- low mood, tearful and anxious. Migraines still severe. Several trips to maternity in the same week to check blood pressure.

10 weeks- pelvic pain present. ? SPD. Fibro flare up. More time off work.

12 Weeks – First scan. No physical abnormalities present with baby. Heart beat strong. Consultant advised go back up migraine medication. Blood thinners prescribed

14 weeks – Pelvic pain increased referred to physio, no appointments because of covid, sent exercises in the post.

16 weeks – Pelvic pain so severe can’t bear any weight, SPD confirmed, back on crutches again. Heard heartbeat at routine appointment.

17 weeks – Unable to drive, can’t do school runs, more time off work. Mood swings, hormonal allergies and itching.

18 weeks – Felt baby move for the first time.

19 weeks – Reactivation of shingles virus causing more pain & long fibro flare up, prescribed antivirals. Permanent exhaustion.

20 weeks – Start using Avulux glasses, migraines decrease and can reduce migraine medication further. praise be. Twenty week scan delayed.

21 weeks – Gender scan. It’s a boy 💙low lying placenta picked up but not mentioned to us. Warned not everything can be seen on a scan but all good so far with baby growth. 28 week scan booked.

22 weeks – crutches becoming unmanageable with fibro – mobility scooter purchased, gaining weight fast.

23 weeks – Spotting after sex. Reduced fetal movement monitoring. Feeling ashamed and embarrassed of my immobility, weight gain rapid.

24 weeks – mobility worsening, mental health struggling as a result. Feel like a shit mum. Social services agreed for adaptations made in the home, grab rails shower seat etc

26 weeks – Glucose tolerance test – came back negative. Praise be

27 weeks – Almost every day spent in bed, midwife doesn’t reply to message for 10 days. phoned doctor in agony and tears begging for pain relief – Shaun having to lift me from bed every morning before he goes to work.

28 weeks – Growth scan confirmed placenta previa – talks of early cesarian birth. Talks of baby needing to stay in hospital post birth. Talks of NICU and breathing difficulties. Must abstain from sex. 36 week scan booked. Consultant okayed using tens machine for pain.

30 weeks – shingles flared up again, back on antivirals, sitting on ice packs, barely moving from bed. Tens machine doesn’t reach nerve pain.

31 weeks – Not long now but still feeling uncertain – not much advice about mobility after birth specifically if needing cesarian birth. Midwife appointment moved for the 3rd time no support re reducing medication further for delivery to avoid withdrawal in the baby.

In 7 months I’ve had approximately 10 good days. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s the truth. I’ve been unable to work, drive, leave the house on my own, cook a meal, take my daughter to the park, walk our dog. In 31 weeks I’ve been told by people who have absolutely nothing to do with my medical care that I’m just depressed, I’ve been told ‘at least the baby is ok’ and I’ve been told to ‘wait and see.’ And to ‘stay positive’

I’ve been hit with statistics, risks, percentages and ‘can cause’ (‘s) at every appointment.

In 31 weeks my husband has gone from being my lover to my carer. My daughter has gone from having a mum who actively participates in her life, to one who just watches. She has spent more time with her Dad and Nanny than anyone else. She has been going to school for 10 hour days because I can’t do the school runs and I can’t care for her alone in my house when her dad isn’t home. I can’t care for myself alone in my house.

I have gained weight like a duck pending foi gras.

I’ve been told not to wish pregnancy away. To enjoy it. I’ve been told that I’ll forget all of my pain once he’s here.

Despite all of this, every single day all I do is think of the baby. All I do is wait and see. All I do is think of my family. I have lived the last 31 weeks in agony and begged for the pain of labour over how I feel daily – at least then I could have some decent pain relief without worrying it’s going to cause my baby long term developmental damage.

So the reason this timeline was helpful is because, actually, despite all of the shit I have dealt with in the last 7 months, I have kept going. I have made decisions for the sake of the baby and my family that have negatively impacted me but have been important in supporting them. I have survived. I have tried, and I have kept going. I have found ways to push on.

My friend told me about a quote the other day that says

Everyone wants to hold the baby, but who holds the mum’

And I have needing holding. I have needed reminding, though even when I have been reminded, I have failed to remind myself.

I have sacrificed a lot in hope, in knowing it’s worth it, in putting other people before myself. I’ve been in agonising pain, I’ve cried and screamed and complained but every single day I’ve still got through it. I’ve had a great support in my close family and friends and I’ve been lucky that people have taken the time to remind me how well I’m doing despite the challenges – but I wrote this to remind myself. It might seem like as long as the baby is ok everything is fine, but that’s so far from the truth when it comes to pregnancy and health. A healthy baby might be the most important thing. But it’s definitely not the only important thing.

And while I’ve been thanking everyone for their help, I’ve been condemning myself for needing help in the first place. I’ve been drilling myself every single day about how useless I am. When actually I’m not useless. I’m not redundant in this journey, I am the journey. And when we come out the other side whatever the outcome looks like, I plan to celebrate the fact that I made it.

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

30 weeks of growing you

With each week my mobility decreases, yours increases. You are kicking those feet like your life depends on it whilst my vagina feels (and looks) like a punched lasagne. (I hope you grow up with a sense of humour because if I stop making jokes I will die)

Thirty weeks of uncertainty and stormy waters.

Thirty weeks of tests and tears.

Of what ifs, of percentages. Of comparisons. Of risks.

Thirty weeks of unanswered questions, of time spent in survival mode, counting down and hope.

You are so precious. So physical. So big, so heavy. The excitement I’ve been holding back, too scared to make room for, is pushing it’s way through my fear. I won’t lie and say I’m not scared, because I want you to know it’s okay to be scared. I won’t lie and say it’s not been horrifically hard, because I won’t lie to you, ever. With the exception of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, maybe also that the ice cream van is out of stock, oh and superheroes are totally real too, your dad is mine.

What I will say is, it’s worth it, I know this every time I look at your sister. She is so worth it and her start was hard too. Carrying her felt hard too. It’s harder with you because we have already had a taste of what it feels like when nightmares happen, but we also know how it feels to pull through them.

I wonder sometimes how people manage to love all of their children equally when they love the first so much. With such visceral intensity. However, I know with certainty that I will love you as much. I might love you differently, but it won’t be less. I will love you as hard, and you will probably be as much of a pain in my ass as she was (occasionally still is) but none of that really matters. Nothing diminishes a mother’s love. It is unconditional. I didn’t really understand it before I became a mum. I love my own mum unconditionally, with forgiveness and without limits, but it’s different when you become the mum. I can’t explain it. I can’t make sense of it, I just know you’ll be loved as fiercely with the same primal instinct that is ever present in my love for your sister.

You’re not an accident, you’re not a mistake, you’re not unwanted. Just because I haven’t enjoyed carrying you, I haven’t loved the process, I just don’t love it. I don’t even like it, but I still know how much I will love you, because I already do.

I’m not a maternal person, I don’t brood over babies, I don’t love being surrounded by other people’s children and chaos. But I love my own children more than I have ever loved anything. With such ferocity, that it scares me sometimes.

Being a mum is scary generally, it’s always guessing what to do for the best with nobody able to give you a definitive answer. It’s always wondering if you could of done something differently. I wonder that about the last thirty weeks. I wonder if I had done anything differently would I feel differently, would I feel more able, less disabled? Sometimes I think I could of tried harder to fight through pain, fed you better foods, looked after myself better. I’ve done my best though, the best I know how with what I have.

I’ve tried, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that my best is all I’ve got, and it’s enough. I hope when and if you ever read these, you will know that despite hopelessness and despair, fear and pain, the goal never changed. The goal has always been to add you to our family someday, even before we knew about it. To love you, to bring you into this world. A world full of uncertainty, but one in which you will be loved with certainty.

The doctor has told us now that you might come early, they’ve told us you might have a hard start, they’ve told us a lot of things that we didn’t want to hear, lots of things that impact both you and I, but we can’t predict what will happen. So I’m holding out for the might nots, because with risk comes worse case scenarios, and we aren’t in control of those, but with hope comes dreams, and we have big dreams for you.

Thanks for sticking with me for these 30 long weeks. Reminding me that every sacrifice, every ailment, every ‘bump’ in the road, brings me closer to you.

28 Weeks of growing you

After your sisters birthday it was my own. An event that used to have such a big place in my life but that has dwindled in importance over the years and many are now spent in recovery after the buzz of your sister’s celebrations.

We have been out a few days, me on my scooter and had some fun with it too. There’s no denying that it takes it out of me so significantly now, just popping out for a few hours leaves me feeling like I’ve ran a marathon. The SPD is worsening as you grow, and for the last few days I have been completely unable to get myself up in the mornings. Your dad is having to lift me from bed and before I’ve even got my feet on the ground I am crying in pain and it’s hard. It’s not in my nature to be this dependent on another person it’s also scary and feels like another string in my bow of can’ts at the moment.

On the plus side, and there have been pluses, mentally I feel a little less erratic and panicked and more prepared for the worst in terms of my health and mobility. We have had some changes made to the house which is enabling my independence whilst you’re inside me, and will hopefully continue once you are here. Grab rails are appearing everywhere and though cosmetically unsightly, they are providing me with much needed independence.

We will see you again this week, on a scan and talk to the consultant about your arrival. I hope we’ll be able to avoid going overdue with a planned induction rather than a cesarian, just because my recovery is already a worry, but what will be will be. Now things are opening up again and restrictions continue to ease, I hope extended family will make more effort to be involved and help with your sister if only to take the onus off of your dad. He returns to work this week after a week off, being without him will impact me again. He has been so hands on and it’s fair to say I don’t know what I would do without him how I would of gotten through these months without his undivided support. Your sister is going into holiday club for a few days this week to take the edge off and we’re lucky that she is a sociable little darling who’s happy to make new friends.

She went quiet for a while asking about you but her interest has piqued again and we are getting back to our daily chats and cuddles, though your kicks don’t seem as exciting to her at the moment, your pending arrival definitely still is. Onwards we move through the quagmire of a loose routine and no real structure, getting by on a wing and a prayer, but getting by we are with a lot of love and a little help from our friends. 💙

Week 23 of pregnancy. Growing you.

Urgh little mate, our boy, you’re really making my life difficult. There is no hope for me on the mobility front until you are here and in my arms, but I know you’re worth it. I know this struggle will bring you to me.

Your sister and I have been reading and singing to you this week. Your dad and she still can’t feel your kicks, which I find so odd because they are bloody ferocious. I’ve finally started compiling an Amazon wish list of all the things you need. So much has been forgotten since your sister was small. The trivial things, like what toys to buy and whether to buy muslins or bibs. I remember all the other stuff though. I even remember labour. I remember being high on gas and air. I remember swearing a lot and refusing to push when your sisters head was crowning, I remember her being rushed to NICU and feeling like I couldn’t help her. I remember the trauma and the tears but I can’t remember what brand of nappies I preferred or how long I waited until I got the wet wipes out instead of cotton wool and boiled water to wipe her bum.

I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated this week. I feel like whenever I try to speak to a doctor or a midwife I’m being dismissed or considered a nuisance. I know the NHS are struggling and I am just one person but I’m still a person who is struggling too.

We know your name now, but your daddy won’t let me tell anyone. Your sister helped us choose it and funnily enough she hasn’t told anyone either. She is so funny and excited and I know she wants to meet you as desperately as we do.

I feel fragile and emotional but stronger because of you. I feel needy but content in being solitary. I have a great urge to protect you from the world and the mess that it’s in.

People have been sending us food and we have had some support from my mum, your nanny, but there’s no denying that a pandemic puts a very harsh limit on people we can ask for help during a time that we really need it.

We have a dog Frank who will be one just before you arrive and we have already started to play him baby cries. Though we hope you like sleep more than your sister did. I’m awake at 2am writing this. Your sister has been stirring she has a bit of a cold. I can feel you waking up with me. I hope we both manage to get back to sleep soon.

My baby boy. 💙

I think I’m failing but my kid still thinks I’m a superhero 🦸🏽‍♀️

It’s no secret that during pregnancy your hormones are all over the shop, one minute you’re chomping on cheese on toast and the next your crying into your cottage pie that your friend drove 25 miles to deliver. It’s a funny old game this growing a human malarkey.

Because my health has been on a steady decline since my daughter was born, this pregnancy though a lot like hers, has been overshadowed with worry and feeling unwell constantly. When I say constantly I mean it. It’s either not being able to walk, migraines, sickness, feeling faint, high blood pressure and the rest, it’s been bad, and not fun. Also those people who said you never get two the same, you were wrong.

That said the guilt of ‘wasting’ days in bed in an attempt to make the next one better and unable to do all of the things I want with my family has had a negative impact on my emotions. Team this with hormones and you have me, an unstable, anxious, dribbling mess.

This week said emotions have been on overdrive and I’ve spent countless hours in tears, I’m surprised there were any left after the first ten or so. My husband has looked at me with puppy dog eyes and a need to fix my broken spirit and my daughter has looked at me with longing and frustration. I haven’t been able to meet their demands, particularly those of the little person. She doesn’t get why mummy is always in bed and at one point I was worried she was going off the idea of having a brother because he’s been making her mum so poorly. It all hit a crescendo on Tuesday when Ciara wanted 5 things at once and I couldn’t even give her the simplest one, which was turn the volume up on the TV. I couldn’t do it because the bastard NowTV remote is a dodgy little fucker and it just would not work. Off she stomped whilst moaning at the dog and calling for her dad to come and fix the problem that mummy was incapable of rectifying.

Once I heard her footsteps on the stairs I burst into a fit of hysterics, threw the remote which bounced off the bed and smashed a photo on the bedroom wall. It wasn’t my finest moment because I couldn’t even roll myself off to pick up the glass before Shaun bursts in asking me WTF I was doing!?

Picture it, 5 month pregnant woman whose legs don’t work, rolling around on the bed with no bra on and crying inconsolably. It’s not a pretty image is it?

I don’t want to do this anymore I wailed, like an actual whale. To his credit, Shaun turns the tv off and shouts down to Ciara that they’re going to watch tele downstairs instead. I didn’t see them again that evening because I cried myself to sleep and woke up at 10pm and waddled into her room to give her a kiss goodnight, something I abhor to miss.

The next day I’m feeling full of shame and still in pain wondering how I’m going to get through the days for the next 4 months. But I needn’t of worried about the rest of the family because like clockwork they traipse in from school and work with smiles and cuddles for me and chat shit about their days as if the previous ones have been erased.

Ciara was pleased that I had finished colouring in her tiger costume with a sharpie for world book day and asked if she could come and snuggle in my bed.

This morning I got up at 7 after being awake from 2am with possibly the worst nerve pain ever. I say this because I can’t treat flare ups in the same way I would when I’m not pregnant ie with heavy drugs. The pain relief I’m taking at the moment just isn’t working to the same effect. Anyway up I get and by ‘up’ I mean sit up in my bed and paint my beautiful daughter’s face and send her off to school with a smile.

It doesn’t matter that I collapsed back in bed after and slept until lunchtime, because she was happy. When she got home she found me asleep in the bath because it’s the only place I don’t feel like my body is on fire and she poked me to tell me about her day. Including poo gate by another kid in class which we all found highly amusing.

I do feel like I’m failing life on the reg at the moment and somedays I can’t get on top of those crazy emotions and pretend I’m bossing it, because I’m not. But what I do know, with absolute clarity is that when it comes to my kids my best is good enough, and the need to be moving all the time and trying harder is born out of my own insecurities, not those of my five year old. She loves me on all of the days, even the really shitty ones. She loves me for all of the things I can do, not all of the things I can’t.

Week 22 of pregnancy, carrying you, baby #2

We didn’t know what you’d be. We weren’t sure you’d show up on a scan as healthy. Our twenty week scan was nearly two weeks late and it made us impatient and anxious. We still don’t know what the outcome will be or if you’re truly ok in there. All we know is that you’re wanted.

Now I can no longer walk again it’s difficult to associate pregnancy with positivity. It was the same with your sister, causing me pain so difficult to overcome that I never really know what each day will bring. We’ve been left to our own devices by the health care system. Lots of people told me it happens with second babies. You’re an assumed pro by number two, you don’t need any support. Except I do need support. I do need reassurance. I am not a pro.

You present me, your mum with symptoms similar to the ones your sister did, but it’s different this time. They keep telling us about the risks to you, but don’t really do anything to help us overcome them. Maybe there’s little they can do, or maybe they expect me to know, I don’t. Medication that I need to function, to care for your sibling too, means you might need help when you’re born.

They have offered me mental health support that has been good, but physically I’m in worse shape than ever and I still have to care for your sister, so it’s hard.

We weren’t amongst the chaos of a pandemic when she was on her way. This time our support has lacked and your sister has been home for most of it. Waiting for your arrival with baited breath. With hope, but also with boredom. She longs for a playmate but she doesn’t fully understand the implications of pregnancy and why her mummy has become less fun.

Me, your mum, I have a few health issues already. Ones that were present before you were even a thought in my mind, a seed in my belly. Ones that haven’t gone away, that never really will, but that we’re working hard to escape. We love you already. That much we know, but each and every day that we will you to grow, we are scared that you’ll have a hard start. That your life won’t begin with all of the joys of a hot July summer. We worry that I might not be strong enough to care for you. That the help we need might not be available or accessible. Maybe we should have been more prepared but you showed up with two lines three weeks after my last period and we weren’t prepared, all we knew is that we would keep you.

I’m off work at the moment. Pregnancy isn’t kind to my health or my mind. I was struggling to hold down a job before you came along, but I’m trying. I fall into a category of disabled that isn’t well recognised or even always believed. I don’t get financial help for my disability and your Daddy works very hard but we aren’t wealthy enough that I don’t have to work. We are looking at ways to accommodate my return, and we have to hope that I will be well after your birth. Well enough to care for you. The trouble is I get periods of wellness that don’t really last. They are usually days and not weeks or months. I hope you don’t grow up having to care for me. I hope that I will always be able to give you what you need.

I love you. I love your heartbeat and your tiny feet. I love your kicks and I hope that when you arrive you will know that whatever challenges we face, my love for you will continue to grow.

I hope that you and your sister will always know that Mummy tried. She will never stop trying to give you a good life and will always be there to share it with you.

What’s it like to be half way through a high risk pregnancy?

Lonely. Because everyone experiences pregnancy differently and when you’re more worried than you are excited, people think you’re being negative.

Hopeful. Because hope is all you really have. We can’t change the future or the past but we can hope for better.

To get excited could mean to jinx it. I don’t want to rave about how excited I am when I still can’t fully envisage a happy ending.

Only another 4.5 months to go, I can do this.

Oh shit another 4.5 months left of this, I can’t do it anymore.

What does high risk mean?

Different things for different people, even pregnancies for mums without underlying health issues come with environmental risks. Sometimes the risk will be more prominent for the mother and sometimes for the baby. But risk factors can be present for both.

What does in mean in my case?

For me, it’s meant the risk of long term immobility because my Symphis Pubis is at risk of rupture and I can no longer walk. It means another 4.5 months minimum of immobility to go. If the SP ruptures it could mean further more extreme long term disability, loss of mobility, incontinence and need for surgical intervention.

Preeclampsia. You are more at risk of preeclampsia if you had it during a previous pregnancy, which I did. I have had also high blood pressure throughout this pregnancy along with chronic migraine. Migraine can be an indicator of preeclampsia and I’ve had one every 3-4 days for the last 22 weeks. So you can imagine the worry is ongoing, and the risk of early onset preeclampsia is higher. Survival rates for babies increase significantly if preeclampsia is developed later in the pregnancy.

Withdrawal. 1 in 3 babies exposed to medication in utero are at risk of being born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Ciara was born with NAS from antidepressant medication. I no longer take antidepressants but I still take medicines that I need to be able function medication that I will be on for the rest of my life in all probability. I take more medicines than I was taking when pregnant with Ciara so our risk is already much higher this time.

Underlying health conditions. Though Fibromyalgia & Migraine don’t directly impact the baby during pregnancy, the reduction in medication along with hormonal changes exacerbate symptoms drastically, and I have spent the last 22 weeks in pain, every second of every day. There are no ‘good days’ we are getting good hours and that is the best we can hope for. We know pregnancy is impacting my health, but we don’t know what it means long term.

When you tell me it’s not forever I am reminded of how long I have left to go being unable to walk, dress myself and cook, and that actually as a functional human being I was already struggling. A positive mindset is very difficult to hang onto when you lose your sense of self through physical disability. Your mind knows what’s going on but your body doesn’t do what you want it to.

When you tell me you’re excited for me I’m reminded of how scared I am. I’m reminded that I too should be excited, instead I’m fearful.

When you ask how’s the baby? I’m reminded that I’m their house and I don’t know really how they’re doing, not really, because until they are here and in my arms I won’t know if all of the above risks have impacted their development. I wish you would ask me how I am instead because that’s a question I can answer. But when you do and I’m honest I feel like it’s the wrong answer and I’m a burden, so again I feel forced to stay optimistic about something that scares me.

It’s been 22 weeks of anxiety, worry and physical disablement for me and though we have hope, hope is still all we have.

Nobody knows what to say so they stop saying anything at all and some might question why I even bothered to get pregnant in the first place if all I am going to do is complain. But my complaints are not born out of a dislike for pregnancy. They aren’t because I don’t want my baby. They are born out of fear and worry and the inability to fix a broken body. They are born from exhaustion, and guilt and trauma.

I do need help, but I won’t ask family and friends for it because it makes me feel like more of a failure and because I know that every single person in the world right now needs something. I know that people are all going through stuff, maybe worse stuff like dying and losing loved ones and everybody’s mental health is in a state of decline, so what makes me special? Nothing.

So why am I speaking up? Why don’t I do my wallowing in private? Because I still want to feel connected. Because I don’t want to be the person who suffers in silence anymore. Because if it was my daughter going through this I would want her to feel able to open up in whatever form that helped her, and incase you’re new here. Writing is what helps me.

Today we found out the gender of our baby, and all I could think was at least they’re alive. Grief does not only come from loss, I am grieving the excitement I want to feel, I’m grieving the process, and I’m grieving past pregnancy and birth trauma that still haunt me vividly whilst I wait for the arrival of my second child and hope that when they get here I will be strong enough to keep them safe. I am grateful that we have gotten this far, and I am hopeful that will can get to the end.

I’m grateful for a little girl who can’t wait to find out if she’s having a brother or sister and who has enough hope and excitement for all of us.

Mum Guilt

I think I’ve definitely titled a previous blog mum guilt but I’m doing another one because these last weeks I’ve felt it. In the 4 and a half years I’ve been a parent I’d say it’s only the last year that I’ve managed to keep a tighter lid on the guilt. This is because most of the time, I know I’m doing my best and that has to be enough, doesn’t it?However every so often imposter syndrome will strike and I’ll have a wobble and feel like a shit mum. That happened last week. You may have read somewhere on my socials that I’ve been ill again (rolls eyes.) It’s been bad, I had a UTI that had me feverish for 8 days and kicked off a PEM flare like never before. On top of my day to day fibro symptoms and hormone fluctuations I have been sleeping the days away and Ciara my daughter, made a few comments about when I would be better. She said she was fed up because I’d been unwell since Halloween! She also said she had been wishing in her dreams for me to get better. It hurt my heart, because I try really hard to make an effort to be present in her life even when I’m feeling unwell, we do movie afternoons in my bed and make dens on the bedroom floor so she can feel close to me even when I’m laid up. Then I try desperately to make up for the flare days on the good days and we cram in activities when we can.

I have had to rely on my husband and my mum to do many of the school runs and activities these past weeks, so I’ve been feeling pretty redundant and guilty in return. Of course not everybody is in a position to lean on family for support and I know how lucky I am to have that option. With recent lockdowns and tier restrictions we’ve had those taken away from us somewhat and there are less people to lean on for support now, the bubble getting smaller. It feels as though I’m going backwards to the early days of parenthood where I felt like I was letting her down because I didn’t breast feed and I couldn’t establish a routine with a baby that screamed 15 hours a day. She woke up the other night after having a bad dream, thankfully a rare occurrence, but when I questioned her about it she said her dream was of me being cross. This really upset me because despite my constant state of being pissed off, it’s so rare for me to get cross with Ciara and that’s not a ploy to get you onside, it’s the truth. She is so rarely naughty she doesn’t have a lot of tellings off, but I have been more stressed than usual recently, and I’ve done some shouting at Shaun. I forget that she hears and understands everything now, she takes it all in. I don’t want her childhood memories to be of me in bed or me shouting at daddy but I feel powerless to prevent either somedays.

So whilst berating myself relentlessly about all the things I’m doing wrong I tried to tell myself that I also do a lot right. Shaun reminded me that Ciara remembers Halloween because I threw her a party and picnic with one of her friends. He reminded me how I never forget to be creative and go all out for school dress down days and elf of the shelf adventures. He reminded me that I never break promises and I don’t give her false hope and that whilst she is complaining about my being sick, it’s only because she wants more fun with mum.

I talked to a few of my friends that are mums recently to find out if they felt the same and they all said yes. They all said that this year has seen their patience wear thinner than ever, their ability to juggle the work/life/parenting quagmire has suffered and lines have been blurred. Self isolation and working from home with kids has seen to many mum meltdowns. One of my friends actually said to me: What would you say to me if I were you, Steph? Would you tell me I’m a shit mum for being unwell or losing my rag occasionally? And of course the answer is, no, I wouldn’t.

I feel like guilt is something we have to live with throughout our lives whether or not we’re parents, but as parents, every decision we make for our kids is based on assumption and guess work. There is never a right or wrong answer when parenting. There is consideration and gut instincts and pros and cons, but that’s pretty much it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no handbook, there’s winging it, and there’s doing your best, do plenty of both, and you’re probably doing ok.

With Christmas comes a lot of pressure. In the world of parent bloggers there’s a whole heap of posts just waiting to press your mum guilt buttons, and there was a time when I would compare my parenting to perfect Instagram pictures on other mum accounts, but not anymore. I’ll keep it real and tell you, I still compare myself sometimes, how I look and what I’ve achieved, but I never compare my parenting, because I know that being a mum is as unique to me as my fingerprint. We all have morals, traditions and family values and they’re never the same as someone else’s. So if you too are feeling a bit overwhelmed with guilt, just remember you’re not alone and you’re not a shit mum! My mum once said to me that shit mum’s don’t worry about being shit, they just are, but good mums always worry about being good enough. How true is that!?

Your best is enough.

I SWEAR IN FRONT OF MY KID, AND I MAKE NO APOLOGIES FOR IT….

Ok so if you followed my stories on Instagram over the weekend you’ll know this sparked great debate or rather, C-gate as I’ve now coined it. I said the word cunt on my stories, then quickly followed it up with the fact that Ciara was in bed with me at the time. She was, but she had headphones on so I was less inclined to be choosy about my words.

I say the word cunt a lot. It’s a firm fav in my house. If you met my mum you’d think she was posher than Hyancynth Bucket, but she is also a fan of the C word, years of being partnered with a builder will do that. If you’ve been following me for ages you’ll know it’s in constant use in my company, in our circle of friends and in general. I think I picked it up whilst working in a transport cafe back nearly 20 years ago, where builders and tradesmen throw it around like a term of endearment. I don’t go into the corner shop and chat on the phone whilst calling my husband a C U Next Tuesday. Nor do I use it at work, but I do swear in good company and I do swear often.

My daughter hears the words fuck and shit daily, yet she’s only said either once, back when she was two years of age and describing a fly as ‘that fucking fly’ (her exact words.) And she called our dog a shitbag recently, I assume after hearing me say it. I swear in front of my child, I don’t swear at her. I think there’s a significant difference. When she has on occasion repeated words that aren’t age appropriate we explain to her that they are grown up words and she isn’t to say them until she’s a grown up. I don’t judge people based on their extensive, colourful or in cases, otherwise limited vocabulary. Having said that, here I am explaining myself. The reason I feel like this needs a justification is because after having a lengthy discussion with my husband about getting trolled because of my use of it, and he said ‘Well if you put yourself out there, that’s what happens’ and I responded with ‘That’s the kind of ignorance that causes people’s suicide.’

Why? I’ll tell you….. It’s absolutely not ok to berate someone online just because they use a word you’re not okay with. Please let me be clear I am not referring to people using facist or racist terms, of course that is NEVER okay, but in circumstances similar to my own where I used a word to describe a crappy situation, I don’t feel it’s justified to attack my parenting.

If in a social setting someone told me they didn’t like the word I’d used I would apologise for offending them, sure. BUT if I use a word inside my home and post it on my Instagram it does not call for me to be dragged over hot coals in punishment because ‘I must be a terrible mother.’ Firstly – Get over it! And secondly – Scroll on by, hun!

I see things every single day about conspiracy theories, politics, and god knows what else, that I find distasteful. Do I message everyone who posts these things and ask them to sort their lives out? No. Why? Because I’m not a total ‘c*nt’ that’s why (pun one hundred percent intended)

I also don’t judge people based on words they use, how they speak, or similar. My daughter is loved more than life itself. Yes she has a hard time sometimes witnessing my health struggles, but she is never not loved. She has two loving parents, two sets of grandparents and 8 godparents 4 of whom are very much in her life, so she has plenty of people looking out for her making sure she is okay and cared for. Whatever you think about someone’s parenting, unless the child is in danger or being abused in some form it is not your place to tell the mother how to speak in front of them. It’s also never your place to give your unsolicited opinion on how someone speaks. I’ve met parents who never swear and their kids are still petulant and badly behaved, and I’ve met parents whose first language is profanity and their kids are some of the politest children on this earth. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we all parent differently. Not wrongly.

Just because I am someone’s mum does not mean I automatically lose my own personality. I have made no promises under oath to never swear or get annoyed. I’m human. And I think other humans would do well to remember, to judge less, scroll on more often, and in essence Chill The Fuck Out and mind their own business. What’s that saying about keeping your mouth shut until you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes??? Yes, do that.

We are still telling Mums how to feel?

I feel like I needed to share this. Not just to moan about feminism and stereotypes (though there is some of that) but because it irks me that the message isn’t yet clear. For some unknown reason we still feel it’s our right to tell other mums how to parent. How to feel. We are still putting mother’s in boxes of ‘she should’ or ‘you’d think she would….’

So to put this into some context for you, my daughter started school the first week in September. It’s her first year. Before covid she was at preschool 4 days a week, but since covid she’s been home with me since March. No childcare because preschool didn’t reopen until September either, by which time she was ready to start school. The most common questions I’ve been asked since people learned she was set to start school are 1. When are you having another baby? And 2. I bet you’ll hate it when she’s at school won’t you?

Note question 2 is in fact a statement, posing as a question. An assumption based on zero background information. It’s only merit is that because my daughter is starting school the presumption is I’ll have too much time on my hands. I’ll be bored. I’m her mother so I’m bound to miss her implicitly when she isn’t around for any length of time, but more so when that time is spent at school. Right?

Well sorry to act offended at your presumption but it does in fact feel offensive that you assume my life is less fulfilling when I am not around my child. There’s an undertone that when I state how, in fact I’m excited for her to be starting her new journey, and I’m excited for me too, getting to have some time to myself again – it’s as though I’ve implied in some way that I don’t love her or I don’t enjoy being a mum.

What’s more disappointing is that these statements are usually made by other women. Perhaps women who do love being at home with the kids. Which by the way is perfectly fine. There’s no right or wrong way to be a mum. You might love being with them so much that you’re going to feel a sense of loss when they go to school. Nostalgia for their infancy, and that’s perfectly acceptable, but so is looking forward to them going to school, looking forward to snippets of alone time or getting back to work and routine. A lot of women have to work nowadays in order to support the household, and this means we have to leave our children, but just because we have to, doesn’t mean we can’t want to at the same time.

I love the quality time my daughter and I spend together but I also love time to myself.

My circumstances might be unique because I’m chronically ill, and this often means I need to lean on people for support with childcare, sending her to school just means less relying on others and more time to recover. I’ve waited a long 7 months for some rest and I will wait less than 6 weeks at the start of term, for a week off with her when half term comes around.

The climax or crux of this article is this. We all parent differently, we all feel differently about our children as they grow. Some long for the baby stage whilst I love the here and now stage. The one where’s she chatting, drawing me pictures and telling me she loves me. Just because you don’t miss your kids every minute of the 360 she spends at school a day, doesn’t mean I love her any less than the next mum. I feel like we need to get better at normalising feelings of discontentment in motherhood. Feelings of normalcy. Feelings of desperation and in this case the lack of feelings in regards to empty nest syndrome or ‘school mum life’

As mothers we are weighed down with responsibility, organisation, emotional reactions, not least the physical endurance that is required to keep up with our mini me’s. We don’t need to feel the weight of someone else’s judgement whoever that someone is, but particularly less from another mother. We’re part of the same club now hun. The Mum Club. And I think we should try and make it wholly inclusive. What do you think?

Three things

I was having a little rest from socials wasn’t I? But the truth is I often feel so much relief when I express how I feel here, insta or on my blog, that it’s become a compulsion to just get it out of my head. This is me. Straight up. No bullshit. Being my true self.
I know I will never win any prizes for flying under the radar, but what of it?
My latest battle is a cycle of Mum guilt ergo
Wifey guilt. Guilt about work. Guilt about shit I did 15 plus years ago and since. Guilt about guilt. Guilt on guilt.
Currently I have this desperate need for a break from our diva child. It’s like a certified panic button that only she can force me to press, followed by an overwhelming sense of ‘This is her last summer before school take in every second. Finish that scrapbook. Build a fucking tree house and what not.’
I feel like I’m depriving her of valuable time and offering up instead stale days in front of a screen wearing 2 day old pjs.
We fucked off last week, down the coast for a bit of R&R. Our honeymoon holiday in the costa brava with a hot tub clad chalet got cancelled, and we’re still waiting for that refund so we settled for a caravan substitute. Nice caravan too, but of course I ruined it with an obligatory 2 day migraine. Throwing up battered cod into a 2×2 toilet with zero soundproofing and spending the following day with the curtains closed and crying about my uselessness.
It’s so traditional for me to ruin holidays with my health now, that we don’t even consider planning excursions without a day in between for little ole’ me to catch up.
Such is the Spoonie life. Ciara didn’t care less of course. She had Daddy to herself for a day and as always he dutifully complied with her ever growing demands.
So lucky am I to have him as my husband aren’t I? Queue more guilt about how the poor fucker just signed his life away to a woman only capable of frolics approximately 2 days a month – the rest of the month is spent recovering from that thing we take for granted called life.
Anyway whilst I’ve been torturing myself, and it has very felt much like torture in this chubby little head of mine, I got to thinking. So there’s a list as long as Peter Crouch’s leg that consists of why I’m the worst wife and at best, average parent, but I reckon there’s a few things I’m good at. Surely?
I’ve been using this app for a while called Three Things. (Not an ad! It’s a free app too) Every evening you are prompted to write 3 positive things that happened during the day. Somedays though, I just can’t do it. And somedays I’m so trapped in a negative spin cycle that I just don’t want to. So instead I’m doing something a bit different starting today. I’m going to write 3 things I like about myself, every day. It’s a challenge, but I have to get back on the positivity train soon, before I go off the track to no return.
3 good things might not occur on a day spent in bed with a migraine or crying into my pillow cause I can’t find the T-shirt I wanted to wear and I’m due on BUT…..What if I just decide that I have good hair, which I do (if a little grey under the ‘natural colour’ that I now dye it) or that my toes look cute on my tiny feet. Or that I did a good deed and I like myself more because of it? ✔️✔️ ✔️ 3 things. Everyday. I’m no therapist but even I know the key to my happiness isn’t hanging on someone else’s keyring. Whitney said it didn’t she?…. “learning to love yourself…” sing the rest. 🎵
So I’m starting today. I haven’t thought of the 3 things yet, so I can’t share them, but if you think of 3 things you want to share over here, please do. And even if you can’t, start with 1. Start today. And just keep going. Practice makes perfect. Pick something about yourself that’s a quality you’d want in a friend, or don’t. Maybe this is a bit ‘cheese on toast’ but I’m feeling positive about feeling positive, even if it’s just for today because one day at a time, right? Three things. ✅✅✅💗

When you need a break give yourself one

I know, we all need a break from the relentlessness that is parenting in lockdown. Thanks BoJo for your imminent easing of restrictions (I think) I personally won’t be running to the pub as of next week, (I won’t be running anywhere) but not necessarily for a lack of want, the specifics are more that I am unable to physically recover from such outings anymore, that it’ll probably be some time before I feel like getting shitfaced again, if ever. My days of organised carnage as well as spontaneity are pretty much kaput.

It’s funny when you realise drink just doesn’t do for you the things it used to and your body cannot recover as well from it’s onslaught, is basically your body’s way of telling you to quit without actually telling you, but that’s for another blog. This one is about parenting, and the fact that I am not coping well being the primary carer 24/7. I know it’s ‘my job’ as mum to suck it up and that’s exactly what I’m doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not heavy. Sucking up is all well and good until you’re full to the brim from all the sucking and your glass is spilling over into some form of depression.

I have battled depression for 20 years. I was 13 when I saw my first shrink and took my first antidepressant. It’s something I’m able to recognise quite quickly and also pull back from with reasonable ease when I recognise its arrival, but when the days become dark in the middle of summer and you find yourself caring less about the things you used to, it’s usually a red flag.

I know the fact I have a chronic illness is one of, if not the main reason for my constant feeling down, and like I’m failing at life and motherhood, because I can’t just do all the things anymore. This can make life seem really shit sometimes. This is not a pity party, it’s the truth. The joy in my life often comes from my family. Specifically my daughter and I love her with all my heart but the truth is I’m running out of structure and patience. 

I need a break.

Ciara is my reason for staying alive. She is my life support and I hers, but sometimes we need a break to recharge, refocus and get off the merry go round. 

I want to not feel stressed 24/7 and desperate for ‘time off’ I want to look forward to picking her up from school again, and spending our days chatting about the bugs we’ve found or hunting for an ice cream van. Sometimes we mums need a break. Sometimes we won’t be able to have one. So what do you do if you can’t have a break? You give yourself one. Meaning, you stop hounding yourself about the fact you’re not baking cupcakes (tried and failed) or building treehouses and homeschooling. You give yourself a break and remind yourself you are doing your best. You’re showing up for the people that need you and you’re sucking up all that heavy shit and nobody might tell you what good a job you’re doing but you are, doing a good job. You’re soldiering on even when it’s hard and your kids love you. Even when they hate you, really, they still love you. Even when you’re disciplining them or enforcing rules they don’t like, they’re grateful, and the truth is they don’t care if you give them too much screen time just to get by, or let them have a few more sweets in a bid to keep them happy. They are happy if you’re happy. So when you need a break, give yourself one.