My husband was working, on a Saturday. It turns out I can just about keep sane 5 days in a row, but that 6th day and I go completely nuts.
It started out well, Issy played upstairs until 11am whilst Alfie and I slept. Then he woke and all went a bit kooky.
I was casually scrolling through Facebook when a post about Christmas presents budgets came up. I then started thinking … I don’t even know what we’re going to get the kids yet.
What is our budget? It certainly can’t be some of the high numbers being chucked around on this post!
We did £100 each last year but as they didn’t have a main present each it ended up being a lot of stuff they haven’t wanted to keep.
I started to feel overwhelmed. Where are we going to put more toys? We’re going to have to get rid of some.
Next thing I know I’ve got the kids filling up black bags and a few Asda crates from when the delivery guy just left our order outside our front door!
It was only the other day and I already can’t remember what we kept and what was given away.
I tried to make it fun, explain we were giving their toys to be sold to other little girls and boys, so the money can help poorly people.
But inside I was jumbled.
My heart thumbing in my chest. I wasn’t able to keep still for even a minute.
Once the playroom was pretty clear, we moved to the shed where I decided the huge box of clothes that don’t quite fit Issy anymore should go…along with the clothes we have in larger sizes for when Alfie is bigger.
I don’t know why but I needed to get rid now. I needed that space.
Once we’d heaved four black bags and a large storage container of clothes to the charity shop a few doors down I felt relief.
Then I started to think about Christmas presents again.
Before I knew it I had agreed to buy second hand bikes for each of them on a selling site, had downloaded my Christmas organiser app and decided what to buy everyone on my list and obviously budgeted accordingly.
My thoughts went into overdrive. I’ve looked back at my messages and I contacted over 30 different people, messaging about their bike sales post in just under 30 minutes. I knew I could type fast but jeez. I couldn’t stop myself. I was jittery.
I felt like I was moving, tapping, constantly. Nails bitten to the point that the skin around the sides bled. My hair greasy from rubbing my hands through it goodness knows how many times. Sweating. Hot flushes. I tried to focus my breathing and calm down.
I was so focused on my task that I left the kids to it. I heard shouts from Issy and discovered she had done a pee in the potty (brilliant) but Alfie was now splashing it about everywhere! I shouted no and stop but he wouldn’t listen. It was like I wasn’t even there. I flipped in an instant. I snapped and took him to his bedroom. It was 6.15 and he hadn’t napped so I decided he could just go to bed.
I crawled into bed and cried.
Oh hello crash, I thought you’d be showing your face soon.
So I haven’t managed to do any actual writing in a while, I’ve had lots of ideas and inspiration but not enough time to actually sit down and get to it! I’ve had some amazing opportunities come up recently so now the dust has settled I thought I’d be a bit big headed and update you all on what’s been going on 😉
Gosh, where do I even start?! I received a phone call from a lovely lady at Fixers UK called Liz asking if I would like to start my own ‘Fixers project’. Fixers are young people using their past to fix the future. They are motivated by personal experience to make positive change for themselves and those around them. I wasn’t really sure where I fit in to this. She had found me after researching into the Devon Sports Awards, wanting me to do a bit about my cycling group, however she stumbled across this blog and decided we could do something even bigger and better!
We had a chat and Liz explained how she had recently returned to work from maternity leave and was keen to get the message of just how hard parenting is to the wider audience. She decided I was the person to do this – AHH! The following day she had arranged for her colleague Jo to come down from London to meet me, that day. I told my husband and he was confused, some big shot in London was coming all the way down to little old Crediton to meet me?! It was overwhelming to say the least! Jo was lovely, she was keen to get my ‘story’ out there and we would begin filming the following Tuesday. We went camping that weekend, and once we arrived I got a call from the producer of my short film – HA! Dave found it hilarious when I casually explained that I was “just on the phone to my producer”.
Tuesday came and we spent the whole day filming, it was bizarre. Overwhelming, exciting, nerve-wracking! The kids were brilliant, which I was very surprised by as they’re being quite a handful at the moment. I was quite surprised by just how long it takes to film just 3 minutes 15 seconds. It took all day and we had so many takes. Luckily the parts where I had to actually do my interview and tell my story in narrative only took one shot, as I’m not sure I would have been able to go over it more than once. The whole thing was exhausting. But I’m so pleased how it has turned out. We watched it together the following Thursday on ITV Regional News and I was so proud. It was an amazing experience. Once I receive the footage we will be using it to advertise the support group myself and my friend Lucy set up. And of course I will share it for anyone who didn’t get to see it on the day!
In between the whirlwind that was my Fixers project, I finally attended the Devon Sports Awards. I went with two very lovely friends and we had a great time getting dolled up. We got ready together and did each others hair and make up whilst listening to music and having a few ‘pre-drinks’. Unfortunately I didn’t win, a young girl of 16 who runs a local swimming group did. I’d like to say all that crap about how I’m just glad to be nominated la di dah but to be honest I was disappointed. We did get lots of free booze though! I also got a picture with James Cracknell OBE, and he’s quite attractive, so it wasn’t all bad…
We then had a very busy day at Rosemoor Gardens where the kids modelled for the Spring/Summer 2018 JoJo Maman Bebe catalogue! The day started awfully with an hour long bus journey where Issy puked – twice. It was awful as she went through all her spare clothes. I found a top of Alfies that fit her and spare knickers but no trousers. Just as I was about to panic that she would have to run about half naked, we went into the baby change toilets and sitting on the change table was a pair of 18-24 month pink leggings! Honestly I could have cried. I don’t know who left them, and feel a bit bad for essentially stealing but those leggings saved the day!
To finish our crazy couple of weeks, myself and my friend Roxie took part in a 25 mile cycling sportive. We’re really enjoying cycling in our Active Mums group, so decided we’d take it a step further and do it for ourselves. The lengths we take to get a day without the kids 😉 It was so much fun and the views along the track were just stunning. It was nice to have some time just us, even though we were also cycling! We finished in just under 3 hours, which we are very proud of, and we even got medals. Our husbands and children waited at the finish line for us and we both teared up seeing them all cheering us on. It was a lovely day out!
I’d like to say things are slowing down but of course I don’t do ‘nothing’ very well. I’m busy planning a sponsored bike ride, bringing together my Active Mums group and the post natal depression support group I help run. 22 Miles of riding where we’ll hopefully raise lots of money to advertise the group and help more local Mums.
I’ve started my CBT sessions and things are going well so far. I’m not quite convinced but I’m putting my all into it with hopes it’ll work. My meds have leveled out which has helped tremendously. My psychologist has determined I’ve definitely gone back into ‘high functioning depression’. I’m not quite sure if that’s a good thing or not. I know I’m spreading myself too thin, I’m constantly on edge that I’m about to crash.
But for now I’m floating on a bit of a high so I’m just going with it! Stay tuned for the crash 😉
I often worry how people perceive me since I have started writing this blog. I am honoured to have received lots of positivity from friends as well as strangers. However I often worry that by being so open about my struggles, that people focus on my mental health more than me as a person. I know I was once seen as a Mum of two who seemed to be perfect, I played this role so well. But now they know the truth, I cannot hide as well as I used to. I feel like people see through me easier.
I guess this is to be expected when opening yourself to the wider audience, and I understood this to a point when I started. I did not realise just how differently people see me now though.
I have just spent a weekend with my in laws, without the children. It was an interesting experience. I hope they don’t mind me delving into our conversation. #bloggingfamilyproblems
Since moving to our new house six months ago, I am forever offering to babysit one of my nephews. He isn’t at school yet, and with both parents working and not going to pre school every day, he often stays with Grandparents. As I don’t drive, it would not have been easy for me to care for him and my two, but now we live in the centre of town, it just makes sense for me to help out. So I offered time and time again and whilst they said they would think about it, they would never take me up on it.
So after we had all had a few drinks, I asked them why. They admitted they worried that it would be too much for me and that I might struggle. They didn’t want to put on any pressure on me. I admitted that I was quite offended by this. I can see they were thinking of me, with best intentions and kind hearts, but I was a bit annoyed.
My main ‘trigger’ when it comes to my mental health is that I see myself as a bad mother. No matter how many times people tell me otherwise, I am not what my crazy mind sees as a ‘perfect parent’ and in that mind, anything other than perfect is imperfect. One thing that keeps me going is hoping others don’t see me as a bad parent.
So by my in laws admitting their worries, even though their concern was with me, not my parenting abilities. I took it to heart. And then started to doubt myself.
Do my in laws see me as a bad parent? Do they talk about me behind my back? Do they feel sorry for me? Do they feel sorry for my children?
I have always had quite a good relationship with my husbands family, of course we had a few boundary issues when Isabella first came along, what new family doesn’t? But they were resolved quite quickly and I really feel part of their family.
But maybe by opening myself up in such a public way, I didn’t quite take their opinions into consideration?
However my worries were quickly eased as following the weekend, I was asked to look after their son. I was overjoyed. He was a bit shy at first but we ended up having a fantastic day. As much as people don’t believe me when I say it, having the responsibility of others children, makes my days so much easier. Especially now Isabella is getting older and harder to keep entertained. She loved having her big cousin around to play.
Turns out by being honest, a simple issue was resolved. So a few drinks had to be involved to get the conversation going, but it worked. I feel I have been given a new trust with my husbands family.
I didn’t think I could love my husband anymore, and then we became parents.
There is nothing more sexy than seeing your man love on your children.
There is nothing that brings me more joy than seeing my husband come home from work with a smile on his face and arms open wide as the children rush towards him screaming “Daddy! Daddy’s home!”
He is everything I could possibly ask for in a husband.
He is everything our children could possibly want for in Daddy!
I sometimes worry that I don’t appreciate him enough, I certainly don’t tell him enough.
So that’s why, when Snapfish gave me the opportunity to review their new personalised Father’s Day gifts, I jumped at the chance. I’m a sucker for personalised gifts and I wanted to do something big for Father’s Day this year.
It’s been a tough year for us as a couple, as well as a family, so I wanted to create something that shows him just how grateful we are for all he does for us.
There were so many great options to choose from, however I finally decided upon a photo collage pillow. He got me one for Mother’s Day a few years ago, so I thought it appropriate to return the favour. They are also super comfy, perfect for snuggling on the sofa.
Choosing the photos was the next tricky part, luckily the uploading was made easy with connections to Facebook, Instagram and Flickr, as well as the option to download from your computer.
The new project area has so many fantastic features. There are lots of different layout options so I was really able to personalise it just to my liking. I’m very stubborn in that I have an idea in my head, and if it doesn’t look exactly how I imagined, I tend to give up. However with so many editing functions, this wasn’t an issue!
I wanted a collection of images, but something a bit different to the basic 6 square photos in the middle. Being able to arrange them to fit the size and shape of the photo meant all of the pictures are clear, and I also think it looks quite unique.
I was a bit overwhelmed with the thousands of embellishments to choose from, but in the end chose a small heart and some text – “Our Family”.
I’m super pleased with how it looks so far, and can’t wait for it to arrive in a few days – I’ll make sure to share pictures when I do! I also created a Father’s Day card, with the help of my daughter, I’ll be writing up a separate post about that once we receive it 🙂
You have been given a baby. An actual human being. A human being that for most of it’s day, is completely reliant on you. That human being is now going to be with you, pretty much 24/7.
So why do you feel so alone?
Motherhood can be so isolating. The first few weeks you live in a dazed little bubble. You have this new baby, most are lucky enough to receive lots of support from their partner, close family etc. Then all of a sudden they leave. That bubble bursts and it becomes just the two of you.
What are you supposed to do now?
You are told to go along to a Mum and Baby group, but the thought of walking into a room full of people terrifies you. So you stay at home, you might even get into a routine. Your baby is content, but you are bored out of your mind. Turns out babies aren’t that exciting.
You start googling what to do with a baby, and feel Google laughing back at you. You try tummy time and the baby screams. You try singing and feel like a dick for singing nursery rhymes to a baby that obviously doesn’t give a shit.
Or maybe you do pluck up the courage to go to a Mum and Baby group. You walk in and sit down. Everyone else already knows each other. They try to welcome you. But someone is telling a story and you don’t know the back story and are too scared to ask so just sit staring at your baby, thinking of something interesting to say. By the time you have built up enough confidence to say something, the topic of conversation has changed.
You take the baby for a walk in the pram. You walk to the park, then realise that your baby is too young to actually play with anything. So you sit on a bench and watch everyone else interacting. Wondering how everyone else does it. You start day dreaming. If only you had the confidence to go and say Hi to that other Mum. You play the conversation in your head over and over. You’re probably muttering to yourself out loud. You decide to just go for it, look up and she has already gone. Hmm, maybe next time.
But one day someone will find you.
Whether it’s at the Mum and Baby group that you push yourself to go to each week, despite hating it. Or you bump into someone you used to go to school with but lost touch. Or you connect with someone online.
Someone will find you.
And maybe it won’t be so scary anymore. It just takes one person to make the change.
It may not get easier, but at least you won’t feel so alone.
At least you’ll be struggling through motherhood together.
I have had a very bad few weeks, and I am in a very bad place at the moment. Sometimes I find writing quite cathartic and helpful in trying to resolve my worries and concerns, but this week I haven’t had the energy, motivation, will power, mind set or anything else to get typing. This is just a mass of jumbled thoughts coming out as I write them, I might not even edit this – how daring of me!
I was in a good place. I had a good support team behind me and I felt like my new medication might actually be working. I was having weekly visits with my attachment psychologist, monthly visits with my Health Visitor and six weekly visits with my GP. Then everything seemed to go a bit pear shaped.
My attachment psychologist couldn’t see me for a few weeks due to holiday and training. During this time I had a visit from my Health Visitor, where she decided I was stable enough to go to bi-monthly meetings. I wasn’t entirely convinced but agreed we’d give it a try, knowing I could call her if things changed. And they did.
I was starting to drop, I could physically feel it.
I was exhausted. Drained. Getting constant head aches.
I didn’t really know what to do with myself. And I still don’t.
When my attachment psychologist told me she wouldn’t be able to see me for a few weeks. We booked in an appointment for as soon as she was able. I was waiting for that appointment. As cliche as it sounds, it was the light at the end of my tunnel. I was sure as soon as we had a chat again, I would understand what was going on and start to go forward again, instead of backwards.
I waited in all day, and she didn’t turn up.
I called the office and they didn’t know why, they eventually got hold of her and it turned out she had forgotten the appointment whilst on a different training program. Now I am one that truly believes in the NHS and am so grateful for all they have done for me, but I was devastated. She could tell, and agreed to call me in the morning to try and squeeze me in somewhere. But she forgot to call.
I went to my six weekly GP appointment and expressed my concerns about my health. She agreed to chase up with my attachment psychologist, see what was happening with my next phase of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which I am still on a 3-4 month waiting list for, and decided to double my dosage to see if that would help me in the meantime.
It didn’t help. I know it takes time to kick in, but in the meantime, it has made everything worse.
I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, I have had a few good days, mainly on the weekends when my husband is home to support me. We even went to the Zoo and actually had an amazing day. The kids were good, there weren’t any arguments. It was a good day.
However the following day was back to normality – I wake already exhausted. My husband takes my daughter upstairs for breakfast and pops something on the telly whilst I get a lie in and the baby sleeps, then goes off to work. My daughter wakes me every now and then for snacks, which I oblige despite barely being able to move. My whole body aches. My son wakes, I give him a bottle and put him back down, I’m lucky that he goes back to sleep quite easily. Eventually my daughter will come back to bed with me, and we’ll snuggle, watch YouTube videos on my phone and wait for the baby to wake and start the day. This usually happens around midday.
I want to get out of bed, but have no motivation to do so.
The rest of the week continues in a similar pattern. I don’t get out of bed unless I have to. My body is starting to feel the effects of this in the form of bed sores. Everything aches. My shoulders, my joints, my head, my jaw from constant clenching and grinding.
Sometimes I sleep, sometimes I just hide under the covers, hold myself in a ball and wish it could all be over. I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m not in a good place and I don’t know how to fix anything. My medication doesn’t seem to be working, maybe medication just isn’t for me? It certainly doesn’t work on everyone. Maybe I just need a new one, or a combination of different ones, but the thought of weaning off to move onto another also terrifies me. But then can things get even worse? I’d hope not, but then I’m sure it can.
I called my Health Visitor and she made an emergency appointment with me. ‘We’ have decided that I need more than they can offer me anymore. I have been referred for Adult Mental Health Services. It has been confirmed that attachment psychology isn’t needed anymore, as I am on the way to building a meaningful, loving relationship with my son, which is one positive.
Turns out I’m just completely mental on my own now. Apparently it still is ‘post natal depression’ due to my sons age and the fact it has been ongoing throughout his life so far, but it’s also a bit more than PND, I am showing some manic tendencies, which is interesting I guess?
I’m seeing things, I’m not feeling like I want to kill myself. But I definitely would rather be anywhere but here, maybe a holiday, or some kinda funky rehab centre where I can learn yoga and find myself and inner peace? Ha.
I feel like I am not being the parent that I want to be, and that my children deserve. I am letting them down. And I am letting my husband down. And I am letting my Mom down. And I need help.
But for now I’m on a bunch of waiting lists.
I’m ready for help.
And I’ll just keep plodding along until the help is ready for me.
Around the same time I had my mental health crisis (which you can read all about here), my son became difficult at night. He had always been brilliant at dropping off to sleep shortly after a feed, with the help of a white noise machine. From my peer supporting training, I knew 4-6 months is a massive developmental milestone, and most babies can be fussy at night during this time. I knew I should just power through it. I knew I had done exactly this with my daughter. However, I wasn’t quite the same parent I once was.
His cries coursed through my body like an intensity I had never experienced before. My whole body would seize up, my fists would clench without me even realising. If he would not settle on the breast, I would wake up my husband, sometimes nearly throwing my son at him and storm out of the room. Or just hide under the covers in the hopes that my son not being able to see me would settle him. I was sure it was my fault he would not sleep. It was because he didn’t like me. It was because he knew I didn’t like him.
Sometimes he would fall asleep on my husband. I hated this. Why could he sleep on his daddy but not me? Other times, my son would cry himself to sleep with my husband patting his back. I would just wait downstairs for it all to be over. Eventually, it got too much for us all, and my son was starting to wake up my daughter.
It became too much. No matter what I did, he would not go to sleep. I wanted to throw him against the wall. I wanted to give him away. I just didn’t want him here anymore. I was worried for his safety.
In my frustration, I took my son in his moses basket and placed it in the spare room, with his white noise machine on as loud as it could go. Then I shut the door and went back to bed. With all of the doors shut, I could still hear him. I buried my head in my pillow and eventually fell asleep. We all woke in the morning, my son had slept through. I felt awful.
I immediately discussed what had happened with my Health Visitor and psychologist. Both didn’t really seem to be bothered. I explained about all of the research, showing how my son would probably grow up to be a murderer or be an anxious child or have mental health problems when he’s older. They explained the age old…so many did it ages ago and we’re all fine. Hmm…this is true. But maybe not. They all didn’t use car seats, that doesn’t make it okay to not use them now. And I continued this battle with myself. I knew what I was doing was wrong, according to my own values, and yet I still did it.
Within weeks, my son was sleeping through the night, on his own, with little crying. He still cried, but not the screams they once were. We had moved his crib into the living room, as the spare room was a bit too cold. He would go to bed with his white noise machine on, lie on his front and toss his head from side to side for a few minutes before settling down to sleep for the night. He would sometimes stir in the night, but we just left him to it. He continued to be his happy self, with many compliments on what a cheerful boy he is. He continued to be a laid back baby, nothing seemed to bother him.
Of course, I continued to worry. What if he became damaged? That by not going to him when he cried he would think no one would ever come to him? My therapist reassured me.
If he hurts himself, does he cry? – Yes
If he hurts himself, does he come looking for you? – Yes
Then he’s not damaged.
I’m sure I sound like I’m just making excuses for my laziness. That I seem selfish for putting the needs of myself before the needs of my son.
However, I am starting to come to terms with my decision.
My son is content, he is cared for. He has clothes on his back and food in his belly.
He is finally connecting with his Mummy, after nearly a year on this planet. We are finally getting somewhere.
And maybe it is the wrong decision. But right now it is the only decision for me and my family.
Being a Mummy to two very confident little ones, I don’t think a day has gone by where we haven’t had some kind of bump, bruise or scrape.
For most of their little lives, I did what most breastfeeding mums do, and shoved booby in their face at the littlest cry. They were immediately ‘fixed’ and it saved me a headache. Now I am no longer breastfeeding, I am feeling a bit lost when it comes to resolving their life problems.
Since the move to our new home, we have been able to enjoy the outdoors even more thanks to our new garden. Unfortunately the garden was left in a bit of a state by the previous owners, so is now a jungle of thorns, brambles and stinging nettles. So far, this hasn’t stop the big one from exploring, playing football, hiding in the fantastic weeping willow den or climbing the few trees we decided not to chop down. Jungle garden brings a whole new set of injuries, the worst being nettle stings!
Recently, the big one stuck her foot in a bush of stinging nettles. She was not happy. I finally found a dock leaf (aren’t they supposed to grow next to nettles?) but she was not convinced by their healing powers. Not even magical kisses seemed to do the trick! Desperate to shut upcalm my screaming toddler, I moved onto the next step – bribery.
I started with healthy choices (LOL)
Grapes – nope. Apple? Nope.
Onto junk food…
Crisps? Nuhuh. Pombears (obviously different to normal crisps) Nooo! Chocolate? NOOOO!
Jeeez, chocolate always works.
Then I had a brainwave…I remembered the plasters I had been sent by Elastoplast for their #TearsIntoSmiles campaign.
We’ve never really used plasters before so I conjured up a little white lie. I told my daughter I had special Frozen stickers that would magically heal her nettle stings. Currently obsessed with Frozen, she bought it and was immediately cured. She happily paraded around showing off her special ‘Elsa sticker’ to anyone within a 50 mile radius. It stayed on for three days before it ‘disappeared’ in the bath.
They’ve been used a few times since, like when the big one decided she wanted to “shave her legs like Mummy”, got my razor off a high shelf and sliced her finger. Or when she scraped her knee when jumping off something high I had obviously told her not to jump off multiple times. #bloodytoddlers
Luckily I haven’t had to make use of the super cool Star Wars ones…yet. However I have been told by a friends little boy that they are super awesome, so that’s cool.
This post is an entry for the BritMums #TearsintoSmiles Challenge, sponsored by Elastoplast.
Did you know the UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world? Isn’t it mad that a first world country is getting it so wrong when it comes to our children’s health? I honestly think this has a lot to do with our education system. How breastfeeding isn’t a part of the curriculum is beyond me.
I never really had an opinion on breastfeeding. I knew that I wanted children and I knew I was supposed to feed them myself. However I had no idea how I was to go about this and for how long! So I asked my Mom, she told me that she fed both myself and my little brother to six months, before we then moved to solid foods. This made sense, as I assumed they had milk to six months then only solid food after.
So I got pregnant, and entered the world of online pregnancy support groups. It turned out the world of parenting was a whole like the world of high school. A little group where everyone shares similar opinions, there were groups on how to feed your baby, how to carry your baby, where they should sleep. It was overwhelming!
I gave birth to my daughter and even though we had a very difficult after birth (which you can read about here), our start to breastfeeding was relatively easy. I went along to a local breastfeeding support group, as I wanted to weigh my daughter, and ended up making some amazing friends. It became a weekly thing and after a few months, I was asked to become a breastfeeding peer supporter. It turned out they only asked me to fill the course up, but I’ve ended up becoming a regular volunteer so good thing they did! 😉
That course taught me so much, not only about breastfeeding, but how to correctly bottle feed too. By the end of the course, my daughter was six months and I had no intentions of weaning. My goal changed to 2 years old, following the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
My period returned at 8 months PP, and we decided to let nature take it’s course…at 9 months PP, I was pregnant! You can read more about that here. Straight away I got comments about weaning my daughter…”Well, I bet you’re regretting bed sharing now!”….”Oooh, you’ll have to stop coddling her”….”Time to get her off the boobie, eh?”
However I saw no reason why I had to stop. I knew it was safe to continue to feed throughout my pregnancy and beyond. I didn’t think it was fair to stop feeding my daughter, to take away her one source of comfort, just because I had become pregnant. The pregnancy had made me become very protective over our bonding time, I was worried that if she didn’t feed anymore, she might not need me anymore.
I started to research exactly how tandem feeding would work, seeking advice from every possible avenue. I read La Leche Leagues ‘Adventures in Tandem Nursing’ and ‘Mothering Your Nursing Toddler’, both great reads if you have ever thought about tandem feeding. I was nervous as to what my consultant would say however was surprised when they supported my decision to continue and confirmed that it would have no affect on the pregnancy or my sickness.
Baby came and feeding was the only thing that did come naturally. You can read my seconds birth story here.Once my daughter arrived to meet the baby, we were both eager to feed after a long break. She watched me feed the baby, then immediately became upset, wanting to feed too. I latched her on and felt immediate relief. I had been so worried that she wouldn’t want me anymore, all of my anxiety released, at least for a few hours.
Once we got home, we started experimenting with different feeding positions. For some reason I was determined to feed them both at the same time, however, I found it very uncomfortable. It was a sensory overload. I could not focus on feeding both children at the same time. My head buzzed, my arms and legs got pins and needles, and I just wanted to push them away from me. I started to worry that this would be the end of our tandem feeding journey. I joined as many Facebook ‘Tandem Feeding’ support groups as possible. Scrolling through, desperate for someone who felt the same as I did.
Finally, I plucked up the courage to ask the question…was it just me? Was it possible to feed both of my children without physically feeding them at the same time? Turns out the answer was yes! Over 100 mums from all over the world commented to let me know they felt the same, some had been feeding two, even three children without actually feeding them at the same time. I was elated.
Having the toddler feed first, meant that she did not feel jealousy for her new sibling, I barely became engorged, the baby would get a comfortable feed and I wouldn’t be hassled by the toddler! We continued with few issues until my son was coming up to a year old. I seemed to be prone to mastitis, having had it a few times with my daughter, I was used to seeing the signs early, getting the medication and it not being a big deal.
However one morning my daughter woke me as usual for her morning feed. There was a bit of pain from a small lump, so I massaged it whilst feeding and it seemed to reduce. An hour later and the kids were up and watching telly, I went to the bathroom when suddenly I was overcome with uncontrollable shivering, I started vomiting and was unable to move. Luckily a dear friend came over to take over child watching, I called my GP and was asked to go in straight away. My husband picked me up and took me to the doctors office, where I collapsed in the waiting room.
After a quick visit in hospital with some IV antibiotics, I was on the bend again. Then it happened again, the following month. And again the following month. No one could figure out why it kept happening, but it was starting to make me hate breastfeeding. After the fourth month of recurrent mastitis, I decided enough was enough. My son was 13 months and my daughter was 2.5 years. My breastfeeding ‘journey’ was over. Crying in bed, in excruciating pain, I decided to go cold turkey. I didn’t document my son’s last feed. We had never bonded over feeding. It was a chore.
I avoided feeding my daughter and she seemed okay with this. Distraction was key. Two days into not feeding, I was severely engorged. I decided to give my daughter one last feed. We cuddled up into bed together and I explained that this would be the last time she would have booby. I told her I would still love her very much, and we could still cuddle every morning and evening, just like we do when feeding. We had our last feed. I took as many pictures as possible. Once done, I felt comfortable again. My daughter thanked me, as she always did, then told me that she loved me very much, even though she won’t have booby anymore. I teared up.
I returned to the breast clinic shortly after a stopped breastfeeding, to check on the lumps that had become infected. It turns out, they were connected to the hormone change during my menstrual cycle. The consultant explained that I would probably experience mastitis each time I had a period. This confirmed that I had made the right choice to stop when I did.
It’s been a good three months since I stopped feeding. I have found this time very difficult. I feel guilty that I only fed the baby to 13 months, when I fed the toddler to 2.5. I had always defined myself as a breastfeeding mother, so now that part of my life has come to an end, it has taken some time to come to terms with this. I have had to find new ways to comfort my children, new ways to distract, new ways to get them to sleep!
I continue to support other mothers at my local breastfeeding support group and antenatal classes. Just because I am no longer breastfeeding, certainly does not mean I cannot continue to support others!
Having PND can change a womans life, but we sometimes forget that it also changes the life of their partner, family and friends.
It can be extremely distressing for the loved ones in a mothers life to see them struggling. We all know most men like to ‘fix’ things, so when they are in a situation which cannot be fixed, this can be a very frustrating time for us all. When everyone just wants to be happy at the new arrival, a mothers sadness can be confusing and upsetting to see.
Here are my Top Ten tips on how to support your loved one with PND. . .
Do some research
In order to help and support your loved one through this difficult time, you have to understand exactly what she is going through. Know the facts, read about others experiences. I personally recommend PANDAS Foundation and MIND, you could also check out my experiences in my ‘Where it all began…’ series 😉
Put yourself in her shoes
To do this, I like to use thesaurus.com. If she says she is tired, search tired. What does it feel like to be tired? Exhausted, drained, frustrated. Read into what she is saying.
Encourage her to seek professional help
Let her know it is okay to seek help. Be there for her, drive her to the appointment. Look after the baby in the waiting room so she can truly express herself without the baby there to distract her. Help her seek talking therapies, and support her should she decide to start medication.
Understand that it will take time
There will be good days and bad days. Remember that a good day does not mean she is cured.
Help her find her tribe
It can be so difficult to get out of the house in those early days, but also so important. As tempting as it is to spend any paternity leave you have as your new little family, encourage her to get out. Take her to a baby and toddler group, even if you only drive her there and back. She will need the support of those Mums once you return to work.
Sit down and listen
It might be annoying to come home from a long day at work and yesterdays dishes are still piled by the sink. Try to ignore them. First, sit down and actually ask how her day was. Praise her on something she has done (even if that is just getting the kids dressed and out of the house!)
Build a team
Talk to her friends and both of your families. Help them understand too and ask for their help. Don’t take shame in having her Mum clean the kitchen or your Dad mow the lawn. Accept their assistance and focus on your loved one. An untidy home can lead to further anxiety, stress and paranoia.
Make time to attend therapy with her
If she wants you to, why not ask and find out? Attending a therapy session does not mean you are having issues with each other. Sometimes it is helpful to fully understand what she is actually going through. Listen, learn, and it will only make your relationship stronger.
Encourage self care
Look after the baby whilst she does something for her; whether she ventures out for a walk, goes to the gym or meets with friends. If she is not yet ready to leave the baby, suggest a girls night in or even a long, hot, bubble bath or an afternoon nap could help her mood.
Look after yourself
It can be exhausting to support a loved one with mental health issues. Take time out for you, whether that’s a trip to the gym, a round of golf or a beer with friends. In order to look after your loved one, you also need to look after yourself.