When I Grow Up

When I was a little girl I had a dream for my life. Where others wanted to be Doctors, Astronauts, Entrepreneurs… I wanted to be a mother. To so many it seemed so mundain, what a boring choice. Of course I had other aspirations, but growing up I’d always been so maternal. I begged my parents to have another child and couldn’t wait until the day I’d have my own.
I fell in love with my dream man, we got engaged, had our first baby and then married – the modern way!
I thought conception would be so easy. I was still young, healthy and fertility would be no issue. But after 9 excrutiatingly long months Tiny One was conceived and 39 weeks, 2 days later there she was.
So life carries on, baby grows and parenting becomes easier and after a little while we knew we were ready for Baby 2.
It seemed like a bigger decision in a way because our little Tiny One was and remains the apple of our eye. Spoiled, loved more than all others – how could we do such a thing to her? Maybe she’ll be jealous, maybe she’ll be okay. But silly worries subsided and the pull of maternal love grabs at me once more.
Lets just see what happens. The famous last words, and amazingly for us, straight away it happens.
Two little blue lines. One little baby.
The joy of growing a new life is worth so much. Overwhelming happiness consumes every bone in my body as my little family is growing and life is almost complete.
The worry of pregnancy sets in quickly. The post-pregnancy-test bliss has faded, why am I not experiencing any symptoms? At 6 weeks it hits me like a tonne of bricks. I was one of the unlucky few with severe pregnancy sickness. Those who have it so bad it has a really long unpronounceable name.
A bunch of trips to the hospital, handfuls of drugs, several injections and even being admitted and after a few weeks I was feeling better.
Bloody hell, I’d forgotten how hard pregnancy was. Dragging yourself around and trying to look after a toddler whilst your body is literally killing itself is exhausting.
But as I said after a few weeks I was on the mend and a few weeks later I nearing the joy of the second trimester.
I couldn’t wait for the 12 weeks scan, that time when you feel safe to finally announce to the world that, woohoo, we are having another baby! My head spun with clever and witty pregnancy announcements. Maybe we’d have Tiny One in a big sister t-shirt? I’ll use my professional camera, take a lovely picture. I wonder how many people will congratulate us. I can’t wait to tell so and so.
Nothing can prepare you for miscarriage.
On the morning of the scan, I started bleeding. At 11 o’clock the sonographer tucked the paper towel into my jeans, put the cold jelly on my stomach and the screen produced a black and white image of our unmoving child. Our worst fears were confirmed.
We had lost our baby.

17966041_1911565859057648_705281186070373854_o(Photo: 11 weeks pregnant. So full of joy for the future. A memory I can hold, forever.)

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It’s not what it looks like..

I spend an unreasonable amount of time on my laptop with 2 businesses and one part-time job. I also spend a lot of this time on Facebook. I have to advertise, post, create events etc, it’s about 10% of what I do. I’ll often find myself scrolling through Facebook, as most of us do, checking the news feed I checked only an hour before, and not really looking for anything.

You see another mother doing sensory play at home, again with her baby younger than yours and feel guilty as you sit watching the same episode of the Twirlywoos for the 14th time this week. Another baby being pushed in a swing, taken to National Trust locations. One mummy seems to be able to juggle 3 children, a business, the school run, 7 after school activities, host a coffee morning and even have time to bake the cakes too.

Someone you went to school with is travelling the world, becoming cultured and experiencing all the things you never wanted to, but you still feel jealous that its not you out there. Career women post photos of them out with work colleagues at fancy cocktail bars in dresses worth more than your TV. Another Facebook friend shows snaps of ‘All the girls’ for their weekly lunch date at that restaurant you really want to visit, but isn’t child friendly and even if you did go with your husband you wouldn’t be able to order more than a salad and tap water as you calculate the cost of the meal to tubs of formula and boxes of nappies.

I envy all of these people. I wish I had the career woman lifestyle, with my gorgeous child in tow, with my husband who took us to fancy restaurants and the regular holiday in paradise, with a business that didn’t require any effort but still afforded me success and I had all the time to take our baby to National Trust parks and the energy to do sensory play each afternoon.

But the truth is thats unrealistic. Darcy is happy to watch Twirlywoos, Bing or the Teletubbies while I catch up on some work. I don’t have all the time to do everything with her and to be the world’s craftiest, most entertaining mum but I do make her laugh and play with her for hours and if I find the time to do some sensory fun, then well done me! Holidays will have to wait, but we’ll get there in time. Daddy and I will reserve ourselves for the rare Date Night to relive our misspent youth at fancy Cocktail bars.

But more to the point. What you see is not necessarily what you get. While I envy these people, to my surprise, a lot of people have told me they are jealous of my life.

Now I won’t pretend that my existence isn’t full of happiness, but its certainly not perfect. Just remember, you can edit photos, type what you like and paint your life through rose tinted glasses on social media. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. So before you start doubting yourself and feeling depressed with what you have… just remember. It’s not what it looks like. 

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The Importance of Being Bad

Recently I read an article about the current generation of mothers who are no longer striving to be perfect. These so called ‘perfectly imperfect’ mums are happy to do their best and cut themselves some slack. Thank fuck for those mothers. I am one of those mothers.

Anyone with kids will tell you that having children is bloody hard work. Its definitely something you take into consideration before you get pregnant, but nothing can quite prepare you for the absolute lifestyle shock.

So every now and then we need time to ourselves. Time with our partners and time to just be you. No children hanging off your trousers, watching you on the toilet or trying to stick their tiny dribble-soaked fingers in the one plug socket in the house that doesn’t have a safety cover. The truth is, that even as Mums, we need to let our hair down once in a while!

The problem is, this heart-wrenching bond you have with your child and your need to be near them. So even when you’re ready to pull your hair out, ready to give them anyway to just about anyone – why is it so hard to leave them? They will be fine without you. Your parents, sister, brother, babysitter have it covered. They know your number, the bed time schedule, how much they will need to eat and that they can’t sleep without their favourite blankie.

So what was I saying earlier? Having a baby changes you. It is a love like no other and your purpose on earth is to care for, love and protect your child. Just remember, take time for you. It took me a long time to find myself again after having Darcy. A part of me was lost and I was a stranger in my own body. But small moments, was all I had, where I felt like my own person again. Just simple things really, like a bubble bath or, reading a chapter of a book. And as I grew more confident in leaving her with family, I was able to go out. Joe and I rekindled our love over date nights at fancy restaurants, cocktails at local bars and recently watched the fireworks together and cuddled up close. I could join new friends and old, for nights out and a few drinks. I even relish in the odd cigarette. The odd shopping spree. The odd glass of whiskey.

Its so important to take some time away from your children. Even five minutes to recoup can make the world of difference! As babies they will not remember every day and every little thing you did together, so take the opportunity to feel like yourself again, and give yourself a well-deserved break. The guilt of leaving them will fade, eventually.

Now my little girl is fast asleep, its time for a hot cup of tea and a bit of Poldark. See – just the little things! 

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(Darcy is still the greatest thing that ever happened to us – even though we need a break sometimes!)

 

Tiny One

Once upon a time there was a tiny baby. She was no bigger than a doll. Tiny baby was small and new and cosy in her parents’ arms. She slept and dreamt of new things, and when she awoke love surrounded her. She was met with smiles from strangers and cuddles from her family. The world was blurry and big, but each day she saw more, knew more and felt more.

Sometimes Mummy cried, sometimes Daddy got frustrated. But tiny baby knew that with a simple smile she could make them better.

Anyone with children knows that they are hard work. Its the most challenging time you’ll ever experience but its also the most worthwhile. When I’m feeling down, I hold my daughter a little tighter, play longer and make her laugh harder.

They grow so fast, so cherish each day. I often look back fondly at the newborn stage, remember the sleep deprivation and the complete and total fear of a first baby. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

To my darling Darcy,  you’ll always be ‘Tiny One’ to me.

 

 

 

Self-Involved Mothering

Women never stop. Honestly, never. Mothers, when do we get five minutes to ourselves? We’re lucky if we get the odd day with friends, or lie in or a night out with hubby. These seemingly simple things have become luxuries. And even when we are out all we think about is our children! Motherhood is completely all consuming and non-parents simply DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

You know what really pisses me off? The lack of understanding and bloody cheek of people without children. Being told off by old friends for not speaking to them in weeks. Uh hello, we have a baby. Yes it’s not all we do, but its 99% of the time. They fill our heads and days completely and in the early weeks you’re lucky to remember your own name, let alone when Susan’s Birthday Party is. Its not something we choose to be, but all parents, mums especially, become extremely self-involved when they give birth. Its our natural instinct to focus life around our offspring.

Luckily we have parent friends to rely on to cut us some slack. They understand that when you say you’ll be there at 7pm, they should add at least an hour on to that time. And sometimes all you need is a day in, or a night out or someone to look after the baby when you’re ill. Sometimes you need to rant about your mother, husband, father-in-law, whoever. Or spend 15 minutes explaining the new noise your baby makes, how many times they pooed yesterday or simply boasting about what a clever angel they are.

We must all surround ourselves with other mothers and fathers because they are such an underrated asset. If Darcy does something out of the ordinary, I ask my yummy mummies their advice. They are always there to lend a helping hand when you need it.

And although you may lose touch with your old friends, just console yourself with the fact that when they have children, they’ll be ripping their fucking hair out too  they’ll understand. 

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(Please note: This photo was taken before I was a mum, or pregnant as you can see I am wearing make-up, enjoying a guilt-free Sobranie and have straightened my not-sicky hair) 

The Whole Truth… and nothing but.

So its been a while… I’d like to be strong and pretend I’m not ashamed to say I have Postnatal Depression. The truth is deep down I do feel shame. Lets be honest, now you know you think differently of me. I can’t help that, as humans we can’t help but judge others, the difference is whether you act on your judgements. I feel very fortunate that I have no psychosis (wanting to hurt your baby) but only get the weepies.

So I’ll set the record straight about my diagnosis, straight off the bat. I’m also addressing all my friends with PND.

In no way does your condition affect your ability to be a good mother. Read that again. Remember that, if nothing else. Please please remember that.

Secondly, its not your fault. Its a chemical imbalance in your brain, purely scientific and out of your control. No one chooses to be depressed.

Thirdly, it will get better. It is treatable. Unfortunately like most forms of depression its not something you ever live without but you certainly will get better. Surround yourself with good friends and family and most importantly get the professional help you need.

The decision to visit the doctors came about when my daughter turned 3 months old. I realised the baby blues really wasn’t going away and as someone who has battled with depression since my early teens, I knew the signs. I obviously got very down. Spent all my energy on caring for my baby and forgot about myself. I lost my appetite and my anxiety went through the roof. I spent my evenings crying, holding my child and imagining all sorts of horrors happening to her. I stopped letting anyone hold her, constantly worried about her health even though there was nothing wrong and I even panicked leaving her with Joe for a few minutes while I got dressed or did something necessary. For some reason I thought he would harm her, even though she is the love of his life and the thought is absolutely ridiculous my anxiety had spiralled out of control.  This was around breaking point and after Darcy was asleep soundly in her cot, I lay cradled in Joe’s arms sobbing and declared that it was time to get help.

My darling fiance gave me the gentle push in the right direction and I went to the doctors the next day. In the Doctor’s room, I couldn’t talk at first. I burst into silent tears, while Joe told the her how I was feeling. I managed a few words of confirmation and surprisingly felt relief as I was told, that was I was feeling was normal. I had Postnatal Depression.

I was put on antidepressants specifically targeted at PND patients and was to be visited by my health visitor soon. I began to feel better after a few days and I’m pleased to say its onwards and upwards.

I still have the occasional bad day but I just view my situation as a small hiccup in an otherwise very very happy life.

 

Breastfeeding – The First 10 Days

Darcy was tongue-tied. We asked them to check when she was born as its often hereditary. Myself, my brother and my own Mum are tongue-tied so we knew they’d be a strong chance. Cutting the tie is a very simple procedure with minimal pain and usually no bleeding. For some reason, they don’t do the 2 minute procedure when you’re already there, but you have to ring a certain number, a certain person in the hospital to book it to be done ASAP. The midwife who discharged us called the number and left a message for, lets call her Beatrice. (I would name and shame, but I’m feeling nice tonight.)

At home, I was exclusively breastfeeding my daughter and after 3 days my milk came in. For those that don’t know, this is when your body stops producing colostrum – yellow rich concentrated milk – and real breastmilk appears. I was thrilled. Up until it changes you can never really tell if your baby is getting anything at all, because you never feel your breast emptying or refilling. We’d called the day after we arrived home and left two messages for Beatrice to call us regarding booking the procedure. No answer.

A few days on and with her tongue-tie, breastfeeding was really starting to hurt. We called again, we kept trying with no answer, we left messages. Our community midwife rang and nothing. The next day my nipples were so cracked and sore and were starting to bleed. That night around 1 o’clock in the morning Darcy was sleeping and vomited up bright red blood. A teaspoon amount, even a drop was enough to scare me to death. Shouting and shaking Joe to wake up, I rang the emergency 24hr number to the Maternity ward. The midwife calmed me down and told me lightly ‘its just from my boobs’, as if its a perfectly normal situation.

Around day 6 I was losing the plot. It hurt so much and she was constantly hungry. I sat from 7pm until 1am with her attached to me, too scared to remove her incase she cried and  it hurt so much to latch her back on. Joe sat me shakily on the toilet with Darcy feeding on me, so that I could go for a wee. He had to pull up my knickers and support me as I was crying so much.

In the morning we tried Beatrice again, several times Joe rang. He rang through the switchboard to different departments desperately trying to find anyone that could help us. He was shouting down the phone, so upset seeing the state I was in over something that took only minutes to fix. No one could physically locate Beatrice and in some stupid bureaucratic move, she was the only one capable of booking the appointment. We weren’t even allowed to go through the man who was actually doing it!

I begged the midwife on the phone to let me express and bottle feed Darcy at 9 days old, I was in so much pain and began to dread when she was hungry.  She was physically hurting me and I started to resent her. The midwife on the phone told me I shouldn’t bottle feed her. I should ‘cup feed’ instead. But at 2 o’clock in the morning we’d have to drive to Worcester to be taught how to do it. Like lambs to the slaughter we went. I breastfed before we left, praying she wouldn’t cry in the car. We arrived and were taken to the postnatal ward where I produced the 1oz of frozen breastmilk I’d collected that day out of the changing bag. She defrosted and warmed it and began showing us what to do. She held Darcy swaddled in a blanket and tipped a drop at a time into her mouth. It was excruciating to watch. If you tipped too much at once she could choke and it felt so dangerous and unnecessary. Why couldn’t I just give her a bottle?! She was fed the ounce and then passed to me to put her on the breast. Half an hour of that and we left, changing her nappy before we went out to the car park. Before we made it out the main doors she cried to be fed and we sat for another 30 minutes in the deserted dark Costa of the hospital before returning home. Upon arriving home she cried again and back on my boob she went.

I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Joe cup fed her again that night as I watched and jumped every time he did it, crying and begging him to “be careful!”. It was so traumatic. We saw a different midwife at the doctors the next day as my community midwife was booked up and she weighed and checked her over. We’d been told at the previous appointment that she’d lost 8.1% of her weight in the first few days so they’d booked us the appointment to have her weighed again. They are only supposed to lose up to 8% so she’d have to be monitored.

I told her the situation and she couldn’t believe how pushed into feeding her myself I’d been. I felt the need to ask her permission if I could bottle feed my own child. One bottle a day, expressed breast milk, to try to let my boobs heal. Expressing didn’t hurt as much, because Darcy had latching problems, the breast pump didn’t! She told me do two or three or however many  because she was my baby and as long as she was healthy I could do what I wanted. She may not go back on the breast, I was told, as they are easily confused but at that time I wasn’t sure I was fussed if she didn’t. So that was Day 9. I gave her my milk, the recommended amount for a baby her age, in a bottle and she slept for 2 hours straight. We went to Tesco and it was like having a new baby and with it a new lease of life. I could put her down, she was happy, I was happy, Joe was happy! Why had I waited all this time?!

Day 10 and bitch Beatrice finally called us. No apology. Nothing. Only one day after struggling with the decision to bottle feed and she called to arrange Darcy’s tongue-tie appointment. We decided not to book it in the end as she would be mostly bottle fed from then on and it was nice to have something in common with her, so silly but for some reason it meant a lot to me. To this day I hold this woman responsible for ruining my experience of something I was really looking forward to and for a time, enjoyed.

Even though my story highlights a lot of bad things about breastfeeding, the bond I felt with my daughter is something I will always cherish. In the early days I felt so empowered, so proud that I was a BF Mummy! I’d take selfies and I look back and smile at what might have been if only things had been different. But what they don’t tell you is that breastfeeding is really hard. Not everyone is capable. There are hundreds of different factors that affect your ability to. But with me I felt myself slipping into Postnatal Depression. I felt useless and hateful towards my child who never stopped crying or feeding off me. I felt the life being sucked out of me, like a ghost I just existed. I spent my days unmoving in the same chair, with tears streaming down my face and forgot to eat or look after myself. I forgot that I was a person. I forgot that there was another option. I forgot to be brave and to forgive myself. I wish I’d have known sooner and been strong enough to be decisive, to release some of the pressure I’d put on myself and enjoy those days.

I’m jealous of the women who had no troubles. Whose babies thrived and they did with them. I’m proud of the time I did it and pleased that I tried.

But life changed for the better, when I found formula…

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