Thursday, 15 October 2015

Sad times

I should have been here - sunbathing, pregnant and eating delicious food

But instead I was here - in pain and eating crappy hospital food

A few months ago (after some military-style trying!) we were over-joyed to discover we were pregnant. After five long years of battling with post-natal depression, a 'challenging' child and no sleep, we finally felt we were ready for child number two so were delighted.

We were so scared about having another baby for all of these reasons but also nervous about the pregnancy itself as we'd had an early missed miscarriage last year (unplanned and definitely not ready). So we booked a private early scan at seven weeks where everything was blessedly ok.

This gave us enough peace of mind to finally let ourselves start making plans for the next six months and beyond. We told a few people as my non-drinking was far too suspicious (!) and their excitement for us fuelled our excitement. A few more weeks until our official 12 week scan and we could properly relax and tell the world.

Just before we were due to go on holiday, I booked another private scan as wanted to be totally sure everything was still progressing ok before we went. I never for one minute actually thought anything was wrong as I felt very pregnant with nausea and bloatedness and my clothes were starting to feel tight. I just wanted reassurance and to see the baby growing healthily on screen.

Chattering away about going on holiday while the lovely sonographer started the scan, her words didn't register at first - "oh Faye, the heart's stopped". At first, I thought she meant my heart for some reason!
I crumpled.
My world collapsed in an instant and all the plans we'd made faded to dust.

The sonographer explained my options and asked me what I wanted to do but I couldn't think straight and didn't really care what the options were as none of them included me still being pregnant and my baby being alive :(

The next day I went to the hospital and was advised I could let things happen naturally or be admitted to have a medically managed miscarriage. I couldn't cope with prolonging things so we decided I should stay in hospital and we'd postpone our holiday.

The hospital and staff were amazing but the experience was horrible. We both felt completely heartbroken and devastated about the loss of our baby that we already loved so much. Telling our families was awful as they didn't even know we were pregnant and we couldn't tell R what was happening as he's still too young to understand.

We did end up getting a last minute flight to join our friends on holiday as felt that was the best place for us to recover and regroup - a peaceful location with best friends around us to help us heal. Times like this make me feel so appreciative of our wonderful family and friends. And of course more than everything, so extremely grateful for our beautiful, funny, clever and caring little boy who, despite being a handful, we love more than anything in the world. I hope he gets to have a little brother or sister one day but maybe it's just not meant to be.

My thoughts go out to everyone who's experienced the loss of a baby or child. It's the worst thing in the world but they will always live on in our hearts.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Raising a spirited child

A friend posted a plea on Facebook today that went something like this -

I honestly don't know what to do with my 2 yr old... And I'm at my wits end. Please does anyone have any advice on dealing with a challenging, demanding, fearless and clearly very bright child who finds mischief and naughtiness any second my back is turned.

I feel like this about little monster most of the time so read the comments with interest - and in the hope that someone had a magical solution for taming a 'spirited' child!

Within the 50-odd comments, other mums with similar children consoled, empathised and offered a shoulder to cry on/ bottle of wine to cry into. No magic solutions but a few people thought it was because she's a girl and/ or a second child. 

As my only child (for a reason!) is a boy and exactly the same, I don't agree with either of these but I do agree, as many suggested, that temperament and will are down to a child's innate personality and genetic make-up. And unfortunately there's not a lot we can do to change any of that so it's ultimately about how we deal with it and try to manage their behaviour. Easier said than done! 

If you've never tried to manage an uncontrollable little monster and stay calm in the face of non-stop noise and naughtiness, let me give you a little insight into what you're missing out on - 

Every morning you're woken by a tiny human dynamo jumping on you and shouting demands in your face. No time to have so much as a leisurely yawn before it's 'Get up Mummy!', 'I want breakfast!' and 'Why aren't you playing with me?!' (because I'm making your breakfast like you asked, you annoying little....!) Forget lie-ins - if you manage to get an undisturbed night's sleep, it's a miracle!

Mealtimes can test the patience of the calmest parent. An un-winnable exercise in negotiation with the rudest, loudest, most obnoxious diner who does nothing but complain, can't sit still, doesn't bother to eat the food and definitely doesn't leave a tip. Repeat exercise three times a day until you go insane and let them have jam sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner because that's the only thing they'll eat.

Trying to do any kind of chore with a little monster in tow is pointless. Every now and then you stupidly forget this fact and delude yourself than popping to the shops will be quick and painless. Don't do it! Remind yourself that the only thing you're ever going to achieve is being embarrassed in public and it always ends with you trying to wrestle a screaming midget home/ to the car without anyone getting hurt.

And finally, when you've had enough and just want some peace and quiet, there's the final challenge of bedtime to get through. None of that snuggling up and reading a story before kissing your sleepy little one on the head and leaving the room. Bedtime with a spirited child is more like trying to get a tiny, crazy drunk person to shut the hell up and go to sleep. 

So to my Facebook friend and everyone else raising a spirited child - I clearly have no useful advice to offer but I hope there's some comfort in knowing you're not alone. 

All we can do is support each other and I assure you - you're doing an amazing job of raising a bright, curious, tenacious, fearless, courageous and confident child. And at the end of the day, just keep telling yourself it'll all be worth it when they become highly successful adults and can look after us in our old age! 

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Massive Friday Meltdown

Fridays used to be fun - and typically went a bit like this.....

Sadly, those days are nothing but a (really) hazy memory now and Fridays have a very different feel to them. They tend to go something like this....

It's all about The Massive Friday Meltdown.

Or rather - trying to AVOID The Massive Friday Meltdown/ attempting to keep my shit together while The Massive Friday Meltdown is in full force.

Definitely not the sizzling start to the weekend of olden days. Oh how I miss those days!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

One child and done? Or ready for another?!

Before I had a child, I thought we'd have two or three in total and couldn't imagine stopping at one. After the birth of our energetic little monster though, we quickly legged it in the other direction to the 'one child and done' camp and swore to anyone who would listen that we were NEVER having another! They would knowingly shake their heads in disbelief but we were adamant we couldn’t go through it again.

Nearly 5 years, many discussions (arguments!), hours of counselling and changing of minds later, we've done another about-face and decided we would like and might be ready for the challenge of a second child. Translation: if we ever do manage to get pregnant, we're going to spend 9 months panicking. And praying. And making plans to kidnap Supernanny and force her to live with us!

If you've read 'My story' post, you'll know why we're scared as hell. But before we start panicking, we actually need to make a baby. That should be the easy (and fun!) bit right? We managed to get pregnant once before so how hard can it be?!

Well - unlike some of my jammy friends (you know who you are) who find getting pregnant as easy as sneezing - it doesn't happen easily for us and we have to work at it. The first time around that was a pretty enjoyable experience - we could practice whenever we wanted, had lots of energy, weekends were spent going out and having lazy lie-ins together - and all was good. It still took us almost a year but that was ok because we had all the time in the world and it happened in the end.

This time around, it's a totally different story.
At nearly 5 years old, my son still finds various excuses for waking us up at night and would love nothing more than to sleep in the middle of us every night if we let him. He asks - 'Why do Mummy and Daddy get to sleep together but I have to sleep alone?' - How do you answer that one?! The cats like to sleep on our feet or heads or just lick us until we move out of their way. As our bed is too small for all those wriggly bodies and us, me or the hubby usually lose the nightly game of musical beds and one of us skulks off to the spare room. When we are actually in the same bed alone, we're way too exhausted for sex and sleep is our number one priority.

None of this is conducive to making a baby and at 38, my biological clock is ticking so loudly it sounds like a time bomb about to explode!

So now it's ovulation sticks, military planning and doing it (very quietly) when the grandparents are staying as that's the only time we get to go out/ have a lie in (sorry mum and dad!). Definitely NOT easy or fun and let's hope we get pregnant pretty bloody quickly this time as I'm not sure how much longer we can keep it up (ahem) before we run back to the 'one child and done' camp and beg to be let back in!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Getting fit

So I've started this blog to provide an honest account of motherhood - the challenges I've faced since having a baby (the biggest one by far being PND - see 'My Story' blog post to find out more) and the ones that are underway or yet to come. 

Now that I feel fairly mentally fit to be a mother, I've decided it's time to concentrate on my physical fitness.

Until now I've definitely been an unfit and unhealthy mummy with a diet that consists of (far too much) wine, chocolate, leftover fishfingers and more wine. Not good! It feels like crunch time - I either stop caring and totally let myself go or I give myself a firm kick up my (wobbly) backside and get the hell off the sofa.

I don't really want to give up wine, chocolate or fishfingers but I'm fed up with feeling lazy and lethargic and I hate how chunky I've become since having a baby. So it's off to the gym I go - with my wobbly fat arse and a red wine hangover!

I'll let you know how I get on if I manage to make it back without collapsing!

Me right now:

Me in 6 months time?

Saturday, 16 May 2015

My story

Its mental health awareness week so now seems like a good time to finally launch my blog. I battled with post natal depression for over 3 years and this is my story.

After almost a year of trying for a baby, we eventually fell pregnant and couldn't more excited, happier and hopeful for our future as a family. While many of my friends who were pregnant at the same time suffered terribly with morning sickness, I had an easy pregnancy and enjoyed pretty much the whole 9 (10!) months. My husband said he'd never seen me so happy and I truly felt it. Pregnancy brought out the best in me - I loved being taken care of, growing a new life inside me and feeling like I had a purpose in life. Being a half glass empty kind of person, I secretly worried that I would be susceptible to the 'baby blues' but I had always been maternal and good with kids so my over-riding feeling was that I'd be ok. I could do this!

My labour was exhausting as it lasted 3 days. From the start of my contractions on a Friday evening to the time my son was born on a Monday morning, I'd been in and out of hospital twice, had numerous pain relieving drugs, been awake for almost 72 hours and had various instruments of torture inflicted upon me! None of this was in my water birth plan but it was all worth it in the end when my beautiful son eventually emerged in fine healthy form....with a scrunched up red face and the loudest scream I'd ever heard!

I imagine birth is a traumatic experience for a baby (thank god none of us can actually remember it!) and his certainly had been eventful. Little wonder he came out screaming really. Unfortunately he continued screaming for the first 6 months of his life and this was, I believe, the main trigger for my depression.

The books and internet all tell you that, as a mother, you'll quickly learn to interpret your baby's cries and, as their needs are pretty simple (tired, hungry, wet/ dirty nappy, need a cuddle) they'll stop crying once you meet them. Bullshit! What if they're crying for none of the above reasons but there's something seriously wrong that you can't see? Or if they're frustrated because Mummy isn't making everything better? Or if they're just upset at being forced to live in the outside world after 9 (10!) long months of warmth and protection in your tummy??

I tried to tell myself the crying wasn't as bad as I thought and I was being over-sensitive due to lack of sleep. No one else seemed to be worried so maybe this was normal?? I tried to convince myself that everything would be better if I could only get some rest but I was breastfeeding every 3 hours for up to an hour and he screamed as soon as I took him off the breast - as well as screaming when he was falling asleep and the second he woke up. Surely this couldn't be normal?!

Attempting to pull myself together, I sought professional advice from my health visitor and personal advice from my family as my rational self was telling me there must be something wrong with my child for him to be crying so much for no apparent reason. Everyone firmly reassured me there was nothing wrong with him and he was a normal baby. If this was true, the only logical conclusion I could come to was that there must be something wrong with me and I was an unfit mummy. I felt like a complete failure and was consumed with sadness, anger and frustration. And tears that just wouldn't stop.

I was sad that motherhood wasn't anything like I'd imagined but most of all I was angry and scared. I was angry with my baby and I was angry with myself. The strength of my feelings scared the shit out of me and I was afraid I would hurt my baby. I wanted someone to take him away from me. I wanted to leave his pushchair in the street and walk away because I couldn't bear the sight of him and how he made me feel. Or how I made him feel. I wish I'd never had him. I wanted to put him up for adoption. I didn't deserve him and he certainly didn't deserve me as a mother, poor thing. I didn't feel any love for him and didn't think I ever would. I definitely wasn't fit to be a mother and I knew it. I'm crying as I write this.

My husband was supportive but work and his commute meant we barely saw him and our only time together was at the end of each long, fraught day when I was at my worst or early in the morning when I often begged him not to go to work. I was resentful that he got to spend the day with adults and continue his life almost as before. He didn't understand what I was experiencing and couldn't understand why it was affecting me so much. I started to pick fights at 4am because I was sick of getting up to breastfeed or deal with the crying while my husband slept peacefully.

After several long months of hell - arguments, a rollercoaster of emotions and little or useless help from anyone - I went to see my doctor. I didn't think he could do anything for me other than give me anti-depressants (which I didn't want) but I thought I could at least try once again to see if there was something causing my son to be so upset - other than having me as a mother! The doctor thought he might have acid or silent reflux (we'd previously tried every colic medicine under the sun) which would explain why he screamed after being fed as he was in pain. Also why he wasn't feeding very well and that he was probably upset the rest of the time because he was still hungry. The medicine worked wonders, the crying abated and my baby seemed more content. If only I could sort my happiness out, everything would be ok!

Easier said than done. I still wasn't able to shake my feelings of despair and unhappiness and I constantly flip-flopped between being sad and angry. One minute I wanted to run away from it all and cry alone in a dark room for days and the next I wanted to shout and punch everyone around me. I didn't want to talk to anyone about how I felt as I didn't want to admit most of it to myself, let alone anyone else. I started drinking to try and block out my feelings. I couldn't seem to pull myself together and didn't understand why. So I drank some more and I cried some more and I sank further into a state of depression.

Eventually a good friend urged me to go and see my doctor again but this time about me. I broke down in the doctor's surgery. My doctor was amazing but it was so hard to fully admit how I felt because I didn't want him to know what an unfit mother I was. He diagnosed me with postnatal depression and suggested I try anti-depressants but more importantly counselling as I clearly needed someone to talk to.

The anti depressants didn't seem to make much difference and I found it hard to open up in counselling but it still felt like I was making progress. Very slow progress. By that point, my sadness, self hatred and anger were so deep rooted that I didn't know how to express myself without falling apart. And I was desperately trying to hold it together (whilst drinking myself into numbness and crying myself to sleep). I had overpowering feelings of resentment towards those closest to me - my child for my failure as a mummy, my husband for not understanding and my family for not listening or supporting me in a way I needed. I blamed everyone but most of all I blamed myself.

Two years and many counselling sessions later made a huge difference in helping me understand my feelings but I don't think I'll ever come to terms with, or get over, my experience. My son is now 4 years old and I adore him but I still find it hard to control my feelings of anger and often lose it with him when he pushes me over the edge. When I'm feeling low, I can't help but dwell on the dark times and berate myself for being an unfit mother. I live in constant fear that my depression could return at any time.

I'd like my story to have a happy ending though and intend this blog to be a positive step forward towards becoming a FIT mummy - both mentally and physically! I feel more in control than I have for a long time - so much so that I even feel like we could finally think about having a second child - which scares the crap out of me!!! This, to me, is the biggest indication that I'm finally over the worst of it. If we are lucky enough to have a second child, I hope and pray that it's an easier experience this time around and I can prove to myself that I'm fit to be a mummy. If the worst were to happen and I  get PND again, I'd like to think I'd at least recognise the signs before they completely take hold this time and seek help before it's too late. But who actually knows until it happens to you?! All I can say is that I know I'm not alone in this and thank god for the recognition and support that's out there :)