Open letter to that Helicopter Mum at the Soft Play Centre

This post first appeared on MeetOtherMums.com.

Dear Helicopter Mum at the Soft Play Centre,

I get you. We’ve all been first time mums. We all get protective. We’ve all had that feeling of just wanting your baby wrapped in cotton wool forever. Where you just want to shove them back up inside you where it’s nice and safe.

I remember crawling through the small tunnels, squishing your face into plastic that smelt like a mixture of puke and detergent. Squeezing my fat arse onto slides that were just not quite wide enough. Banging my head on every low bar whilst scrambling after my tiny child that was suddenly able to move at lightening speeds, despite taking THIRTY MINUTES to put on her darn coat that morning.

We have ALL been there.

You’re doing what makes you feel safe, by keeping a close eye on your baby. And that’s great.

But that doesn’t mean you should judge those that give their children a bit of leeway.

You saw the other child in the ‘baby area’. You could see he was perfectly safe. But you felt the need to search for his Mum.

His Mum, that was exhausted. His Mum, that was sitting down for the first time that day. His Mum, that had just started her antidepressants earlier that week and was on the verge of tears whilst seeking advice from her friend.

But you didn’t see that, did you?

 

You saw a Mum gossiping with her friend instead of keeping an eye on her child. You saw a Mum not caring for her child. So when that Mum came to check up on her child (who was still happily playing) you took judgement upon that Mum.

“Oh, there you are, we had been wondering who’s baby this was, shouldn’t be left on his own really” *insert snide look*

Really?

The baby, who was nearly 1. In an area solely for babies. In clear eyesight of his parent. Where the highest he could climb was no taller than himself, and should he fall, he would have a soft landing. You know…SOFT play?

Why did you take it upon yourself to put another Mum down, just because she didn’t parent the same way as you did? Why did you continue to glare at that Mum, making her so uncomfortable she collected her son from the soft play to sit on her knee? Why couldn’t you just let it slide?

I doubt you even remember making that comment. But I remember. I remember questioning myself. I remember feeling as if everyone looking at me. I remember that tightness building in my chest, feeling like I couldn’t breathe. Like I wasn’t good enough.

Next time you see a Mum taking a break. Please think about why she might need that break. Please think before you judge her.

Signed,

Mum who just needs a break.

 

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The Important Meeting

Since having my first child, I have been heavily involved in the local Children’s Centre. From becoming a breastfeeding peer supporter and volunteering at the weekly support group to being a part of their Parent Partner committee, organising Family Fun Days and everything in between. I really thrive off being a part of something good. I love volunteering and being part of a community.

However once I realised just how ill I was, my son was around 4 months old, I started to close in on myself. I stopped going along to the weekly breastfeeding support group as I felt like everyone was watching me. I felt like they knew I was having difficulties, despite the happy smile I plastered on my face each week. (Even now, many people tell me they wouldn’t have a clue to my struggles, I hide them too easily). I felt I was a hypocrite, giving advice to others based on guidelines that I wasn’t able to follow myself.

Once I was in a better place (which I’ll write about in more detail in my ‘Where it all began…’ series) I decided to start up a support group along with a friend who had also experienced post natal depression and anxiety. We had only had two meetings when I received a call from the volunteer coordinator for the Children’s Centre, someone who I had quite a good relationship with until I got ill. She had heard about the support group and was inviting me to attend an Advisory Board Meeting for Mid Devon on the topic of Mental Health. They wanted to hear from real parents going through mental health issues to find out their experiences and how they can help support parents and their families cope during these difficult times.

I was very wary to go. I had been to these meetings before as a Parent Partner, so understood how they worked. This also meant I knew who would be there. There was a long list of ‘important people in suits’ including a local MP and my primary school head teacher. Did I really want to go and open my heart to a bunch of strangers?

Apparently I did…I talked it through with my husband and psychologist and decided to go for it. Once I confirmed with my cycling group that I wouldn’t be able to lead that week, I decided if I was going to be telling my story to a bunch of important people, why not finally take the leap I’d been thinking about for so long and start a blog? And here I am…

I traveled to the meeting with the volunteer coordinator and we caught up. I took my son whilst my daughter was in nursery. I was very nervous, and it seemed my son was too as just as we arrived, he projectile vomited all over himself and his car seat. This is when I realised I had forgotten to pack spare clothes and wet wipes, I assume out of nervousness! Luckily we managed to find him some spare clothes and clean him up.

Completely flustered and feeling like I’d made myself look like an even worse mother than I feel most days, I entered the meeting room. I was relieved to see my Health Visitor sitting right in front of me, this gave me a little confidence boost, to know she was there and had my back if I needed her. Another Mum I knew through the support group PANDAS Tiverton (find out more here) was also there to share her experiences. I kindly let her go first πŸ˜‰

It was emotional to listen to, but in a way comforting to know we were in the same boat and supporting each other. A few people made comments, mainly apologetic that she had such a bad experience from the team of people that were supposed to help her. We learnt that Health Visitors, the professionals that are a mothers first point of contact during the first six weeks post partum, actually have no mental health training. Isn’t that in itself shocking? How are these professionals supposed to diagnose and support mothers without the correct training?

Although I had a bad experience with my initial Health Visitor, I feel immensely lucky that I agreed to see a student Health Visitor on short notice, who is now fully qualified and one of many in my support system. She is fantastic, mainly due to the fact she was previously a mental health nurse, but also as she is so personable. I wouldn’t have been able to open up to others in the way I did with her in the beginning and I can’t thank her enough for all she’s done to help and support me. Whenever people talk badly about Health Visitors now, I can’t help but stick up for her!

I told my story and what I felt needed changing. In particular I am having trouble at the moment finding childcare in order to start an intensive Cognitive Behavior Therapy course. It seems somewhat ironic that I need this therapy because I’ve had children, yet can’t receive the therapy, because I have children.

The room was opened for questions, mostly positive and I felt confident answering them. Then a man asked a question, I looked up to see my old primary school headteacher…”Let’s get to the bottom of this then, I think PND is caused from too much pressure to breastfeed!”

Er, what?

I felt awful, mainly because I knew the other Mum had felt an immense pressure to feed when she didn’t feel well enough to. I could see she was getting emotional but couldn’t help but stick up for myself. My hand shot up. Everyone turned to face me. I felt like I was in school again.

I explained that I had breastfed both of my children, one I had no experience of PND and the other I had quite an intense experience of PND. I explained that mothers needed support in feeding, not told to give up because they were depressed or anxious. That for me, breastfeeding was my only connection to my son in the early days. And if I hadn’t felt that need to feed him, I probably wouldn’t have held him at all.

Both with tears in our eyes, my Health Visitor confidently told the room that the discussion was over and the topic of conversation was changed.

Despite a negative ending, it was overall a positive experience. I gained a few contacts who are looking into the possibility of holding a creche for PND/A sufferers to attend therapy and have been asked to attend various other meetings to build more awareness in our area.

I am determined to support as many local mums as possible through our support group and awareness campaigns and help others, through this blog, feel less alone and slightly more normal. #1in4

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And then there were four…(where it all began part 3)

So where did I finish off…I guess I was just waiting for 37 weeks. I continued with my weekly admissions for re hydration and also continued to breastfeed my daughter. I got a lot of flack for this as people thought that me feeding her was making me sick. I was however reassured by my consultant (the nice one), my doctor and my breastfeeding practitioner that what I was doing was perfectly safe and had no relevance to my pregnancy and sickness. [I will probably write a whole post about this one day, when I do, I’ll link it here!]

So I got to 36 weeks and my midwife brought me in for my first sweep. She told me I was looking promising, which is great to hear whilst a hand is rooting around your nether regions, and I was told to wait for my induction date.

We went in on the afternoon of the 30th December. I was all set so had regular monitoring then waiting for a delivery room to become available. We ordered the 4 day TV package, knowing now that we would be in for a long haul. Had dinner then my husband went home to look after our daughter, promising to bring her in for a visit tomorrow.

The next day was quiet, we walked the hospital halls, making it a game by touching each end wall. My daughter came for a visit with Nana, we bounced about on my birthing ball, went on lots of walks and had lots of cuddles as well as she has her last breast feed as an only child. I was emotional. I didn’t know this would be the last time I saw her and that she would return not as my baby, but as a big sister.

Walking through the hospital, little did I know next time I saw my daughter she would be a big sister!

We were just trying to decide whether to order a Dominoes or a curry when we were told it was our turn to go onto Labour Ward! We had not been expecting this. Well, we had, but not so quickly! I called my Mom and told her it was go time, she squealed and rushed in to be with us. Lots of people frown when they find I had my Mom with me for both pregnancies, however I think it is important to have a second female birth partner (someone other than your partner). Research shows mothers who have a female birth partner, have an easier childbirth. This is because they get double the oxytocin, not just there own love hormone flowing, but the love hormone of the other female flows through to the birthing mother. How awesome is that? Besides, due to our first scary encounter (which you can read about here) I needed her there in case it all went wrong again.

So Mom arrived around 5pm, just as they were inserting my cannula to start the Pitocin and break my waters. Seeing as it took around 8 hours with my daughter to start pushing, we decided to order a pizza anyway and I settled onto the birthing ball in the hopes to speed things up.

By the time the pizza arrived (double pepperoni and jalapenos) I was getting very strong contractions. The midwives were finding it difficult to keep a track of the heartbeat and contractions using their wireless monitors with me bouncing, I ended up with around 8 different straps to keep them in place! Otherwise, they left us alone, with the lights lowered and the radio on. I asked my husband to text in and get some words of encouragement but he said it was lame – I think he’s lame. I ate a slice of pizza, I was determined to not let it go to waste, but the contractions were getting stronger and stronger. I needed the gas and air already, but I felt like such a wimp for giving in at only 1.5 hours in, once checking my contractions, they gave it to me and I started sucking like mad. I hadn’t felt much effect the first time around, however this time I felt light and dizzy after the first inhalation.

But then, I felt the need to push. I panicked, don’t we all? I wanted to stay sat on my ball, well they could maybe move the ball to catch the baby…however the midwife was insistent I get up on the bed and go on all fours. I tried this position with my first and hated it, which I told them, but they thought I should try again. So up I went, I started not being able to move myself properly so my husband lifted me into position. I was still inhaling the gas and air without stopping. This is where it all went fuzzy…

I remember my Mom asking me if I wanted to turn around. I tried to say ‘Yes’ but nothing came out. I tried to nod my head but I couldn’t. I tried to signal with my hands but felt like I couldn’t control them. Then everything went black.

I had overdosed on the gas and air and had started having hallucinations. The following did not actually happen in ‘real life’, but purely in my head. In ‘real life’ it probably lasted about 3 minutes tops, but in my head it felt like hours.

I saw my husband pulling the emergency button, just like during my first pregnancy. I was screaming, asking if my baby was okay, no one would answer. Doctors and nurses rushed into the room and rolled me out to theatre. I was given a gas mask and all I could see were the harsh lights above me. Then everything went black again. I heard a voice, it was asking me whether I wanted to live or die. I couldn’t respond. It asked me whether I wanted to live or if I wanted my baby to live, I shouted ‘No!’ The voice then told me I needed to breathe, I responded that I was trying. Then the voice told me to let go. So I did.Β 

I don’t know what the first voice was all about, it still haunts me now. However after shouting ‘No!’ the voice was actually my Mom’s. She was holding my face and trying to get the mouthpiece out, I had clamped my jaw shut in my hallucinated state. She managed to get it out and told me to breathe. My eyes refocused and I was ‘back in the room’. I had basically had flashbacks to my daughters after birth disaster. I asked if my baby was okay but had completely forgotten I still had to actually birth my son.

I pushed, and out he came. He was 7’13 and covered in vernix. He looked gross. He was placed skin to skin, but I asked for a towel to wipe all the gunk off me. I felt nothing. My Mom cut the cord whilst I gave him his first feed. The whole room was tense, none of us could relax and be happy until my placenta had been birthed. I passed him to my husband so I could concentrate on the final phase. I pushed and out it came. Oh, was that it?

I was a bit confused, I had been expecting some drama at least, so when nothing happened it was just a bit odd. We held the baby and started taking pictures, I watched him be weighed and even dressed him myself. I asked my Mom what I was supposed to do now, I didn’t know what a normal person did after birthing a child. She ran me a bath and I shakily stepped in, the adrenaline was still rushing through me, I couldn’t stop my legs from twitching. Apparently this is normal. My Mom and husband held my son as I looked on from the bath, wishing for an emotion, anything to come to me, but nothing.

My Mom left, it was New Year’s Eve so she was off to the pub to celebrate the news with friends and family. My husband was allowed to stay overnight this time as policies had changed in the 18 months since my first born. We both admitted we just wanted our daughter with us. I had assured myself once our daughter was here, that rush of love would come. The fireworks started, but we couldn’t see any from our window. I text a few family members and close friends the good news. I fed my baby and he was so content. I tried to get him to sleep on my chest, just like my daughter did, but he squirmed and wouldn’t settle until I handed him to my husband where he slept soundly.

I lay in my bed, confused and just wanting to sleep. Everything had gone perfectly. This was what I had always wanted, our little family was complete, so why did I feel only emptiness inside?

To be continued…AGAIN!

[Geesh, this is taking way longer than I had anticipated. I could write a novel! I wonder if anyone is actually reading this…]

 

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Pregnancy, HG and Me (where it all began – part 2)

We were blissfully happy.

I went through the typical ‘Baby Blues’ on days 3 to 5 post partum, which included a good cry in front of my in laws on day 3, as for some stupid reason I decided going to a family BBQ was a good idea. It wasn’t.

I felt like I eased into parenting. Breastfeeding went really well, we managed to prove all of our family wrong by actually using our cloth nappies, we were peacefully cosleeping and I had made some lovely new friends from various Mum groups, including the breastfeeding support group I later trained to be a part of. I thought I had it down. And I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was very judgmental of those who didn’t parent in the same way that I did.

We were so cocky in fact, that when my periods returned at 8 months post partum, we decided to let nature takes it’s course. Which was a good thing too as at 9 months post partum, we were pregnant!

It all went down hill from there…we were gleefully happy, but within days my Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) came back twice as hard. Over the course of the next 32 weeks, I was admitted into hospital for rehydration and fluids a whopping 30 times. 30 times where I had to leave my little girl; my breastfed, cosleeping, little girl, to sit in a hospital where I received IV fluids, anti sickness and pain relief medication until I was able to keep down a dry piece of toast then sent on my way… until the next week. It was heart wrenching.Β This baby inside of me, that was supposed to fill our lives with joy, was breaking me, mentally and physically.

We had always decided we would only have two children, mainly due to how my body can’t seem to handle pregnancy very well. This meant I put a lot of pressure on trying to enjoy my ‘last pregnancy’ as much as possible. I forced myself to take weekly photo updates, plastering a grin on my face for my family and friends to see on social media. I got a maternity photo shoot done, to try and find some beauty in a crappy situation. I already felt detached from the baby inside me, I resented it from taking me away from my baby girl. I wanted to bond with it just like I had the first time around, but the sickness made it so hard.

During one hospital visit, at around 20 weeks pregnant, a female consultant sat me down and calmly asked how everything was at home. As these are usual questions to ask when a woman is alone in hospital, I thought nothing of it. But then she asked again, I again answered that everything was perfectly fine, my husband was at home looking after our daughter to keep some routine in the upheaval that was this pregnancy. A few hours later, at around 3:30AM, she came back and asked again.

By this time, I was quite annoyed. I knew exactly what she was hinting at, so asked her outright why she was asking. She explained that it was ‘impossible’ to have HGΒ so severely that I would be admitted weekly, whichΒ must mean I am trying to get away from an abusive relationship.

Eh, excuse me?! You can see me, not able to even keepΒ water down, and yet you are accusing me of making my condition up because you think my husband is beating me? I was shocked. After finding my words and assuring her my husband couldn’t hurt a fly, and that our relationship was anything but abusive, the doctor then started a different route. She started talking about my daughter, and stated that I must miss her so much during these hospital visits. Of course, hormonal pregnant woman starts crying when she thinks about missing her darling daughter. The doctor smiles, tells me I’m obviously mentally ill, which is why I’m getting so sick, refused to give me any more medication and referred me to the peri natal mental health team.

I didn’t know what to do. I knew that althoughΒ I was quite down, I knew I was down because of the sickness, not sick because I was down! I was a part of a few HG Facebook support groups, so posted about my situation that same morning. Luckily, I was put in touch with the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support (find out more about PSS here). They were able to explain to me my options, and gave me some great advice on how to change consultants and who they recommended from my hospital, as well as a volunteer peer supporter who had also been through HG. She was my rock. I was able to change to a brilliant male consultant who understood HG completely, we got a game plan and decided that should the HG continue throughout pregnancy (like it did with my first pregnancy) then I would be induced at 37 weeks due to bile acid build up and liver troubles in myself.

Now I knew there was an end, I just had power through. I had assured myself as soon as the baby arrived, everything would be fine. Our family would be complete, we’d live happily ever after…if only life worked like that, eh?

[Next time, our baby boy’s birth and delivery…]

(Oooh, I feel like I’m writing a drama series, it seems so much more intense all written down!)

 

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Where it all began…

My step-dad was a lorry driver, he died in a road traffic accident when I was 7 weeks pregnant. I was one of those stupid pregnant ladies that was insistent on waiting until 12 weeks before telling anyone.

This meant he never knew he would have been a Grandad.

My pregnancy was used as the shining star to make everything okay again. I was told over and over that I had to be happy, because I was growing a baby now.

I never got a chance to grieve.

I saw various counselors during my pregnancy, all of which warned me that I was most likely to experience post natal depression once my baby arrived. My first pregnancy wasn’t easy, with hyperemesis gravidarum forcing me to be admitted into hospital on 7 occasions due to dehydration.

At 38 weeks, my midwife came to visit me for a routine check up, my blood pressure was extremely high, so high that I was told to go straight to the maternity unit. With not being able to drive, my husband working an hour away and my Mom working six hours away, I had no idea what to do.

In the end my Mom’s new boyfriend left work to take me to the hospital (baring in mind he had only been reintroduced as her boyfriend a few months before!) we awkwardly talked about all kinds of crazy things to take my mind off what the heck was happening.Β My husband arrived at the maternity unit just after us, we were both clueless about what was going to happen but I had packed all mine and baby’s bags just in case!Β With my blood pressure soaring and not changing enough with the blood pressure medication, it was decided I was to be induced. Luckily it was not severe enough to warrant immediate action so we agreed to start the induction process in the morning.

Following an uncomfortable night’s sleep, I was given the pessary and told to entertain myself. We walked the hospital halls and played games of travel Monopoly and Connect 4. My Mom had traveled back from work as we wanted her to be there during the birth. The day dragged. Nothing had happened and I was getting increasingly frustrated. Another uncomfortable night alone, with the promise that my waters would be broken first thing in the morning. It didn’t happen. I found it so frustrating that they weren’t keeping to their time scales. Silly looking back as obviously it was because more important cases needed to be dealt with. I couldn’t see it like that at the time!

After a snappy shouting match with my Mom, in which she stormed off, I was told I was finally off to the labour ward to have my waters broken and induction started. Time for the grovelling call to Mom, in which I had to apologise profusely before she would come back! My waters were broken with ease and I was started on Pitocin. We ordered Thai food and settled into a long night. 8 hour laters, using gas and air (but not really inhaling enough to get any benefit) I gave birth to our beautiful daughter. She was perfect and healthy. We had our first feed and felt the burst of love straight away.

The midwives were started to look a bit concerned and made me pass my baby to my husband so I could focus on pushing out my placenta. It wasn’t budging. Before I knew what was happening, the emergency bell was pressed and the room was swarmed with nurses and doctors. I was told to sign a piece of paper, I still don’t know what that was for? I was wheeled into theatre where it was decided I would be put under General Anesthetic.

I woke up 4 hours later to my Mom hovering above me. I had no idea what had just happened, I cried for my Mommy, asked her if I was dying, she told me it had been close, but I was fine now. Then I remembered my baby, and was reassured she was just fine too.

I don’t remember much of our first day together, we spent most of it still in our delivery room. I was very woozy from the GA, I couldn’t really eat and was catheterized so couldn’t move from my bed. I remember two midwives literally milking my breasts into syringes so my baby could be fed, as I had so many cannulas fitted I couldn’t hold her properly. By evening I had managed one feed, meaning I was deemed well enough to be transferred to the post natal ward – alone. My husband was told he couldn’t stay with me to help our baby. Even though I was still catheterized so unable to move from my bed.

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Where she would sleep for the next 18 months

I felt so scared, and buzzed for a midwife at any opportunity. When she started hiccuping, I wasn’t sure what to do! She only stopped crying when being fed or laying on my chest, with it being so difficult to pick her up I decided she’d stay there. I had done so much
research during pregnancy and was adamant I would not be bedsharing. My little girl ended up sharing our bed until she was just over 2 years old.

We left the hospital the next day, with the promise to return the next day for further blood tests. We now had a baby, and we were so blissfully happy.

To be continued…duh duh duhhhhhh….

 

 

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Random compliments…

So I have started a ‘compliments book’, in which if I ever receive a compliment regarding myself or my parenting, I have to write it down in an effort to feel better about myself.

So far it has a compliment from my therapist (duh) and a few from my husband (double duh). A task I took on with an eye roll is proving pretty worthy right now.

That was until this afternoon!

Walking along the high street, pushing the pram whilst dictating to mine and a friends toddler about which way we need to go. As every toddler seems to do when you’re in a rush, they were dragging their feet and swinging about without a care in the world. I was starting to get very frustrated by constantly having to screech behind me ‘COME ON!’ ‘THIS WAY!’ and other such words of encouragement. I see a lady approach me, bracing myself for some evil eyes or snide comment as the girls are now jumping over cracks in the middle of the pavement, stopping anyone from passing them.

However, I was shocked when she instead cooed over the girls, calling them very adorable, I smiled. Then she said “I can imagine how frustrating them dawdling must be for you, you’re being so patient!”Eh what?!

I certainly wasn’t feeling patient, however this lady taking time to reassure me was so lovely, it immediately put me in a good mood. So much so that we spent the rest of our walk playing monsters and dinosaurs, meaning the girls ran excitedly and we were on time for once!

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