So I plodded along…(where it all began…part 4!)

So I plodded along. I relished in the days both children would nap at the same time. I would scroll and scroll through various ‘2 under 2’ Facebook parenting groups in the hopes someone felt the same as me. I felt an intense love for my daughter, and continued to resent my son. I lightly brought up topics of having a ‘favourite’ child, to which I was always shut down with how absurd that was.

“We all love our children, equally” – friends and family would stutter.

“Well I don’t!” – my heart wailed.

I continued to breastfeed both him and my daughter, my daughter increasing her feeds out of jealousy. Whenever I fed my son I would get pins and needles in my hands and arms, my legs would become restless and my body tense. My phone became my crutch, I became obsessed with Candy Crush as it was the only thing that would take my mind away whilst feeding him. My son would feed, but at the same time push himself away from me. As if he wanted my breast, yet no other form of comfort or connection.

I looked forward to when my daughter fed, I would feel relief and a rush of oxytocin. It was the only time I felt truly myself again. I constantly battled with the possibility of not feeding him, but didn’t want to wean my daughter. I knew people would find it odd to continue feeding my toddler, whilst giving my baby formula. So I plodded along.

My husband had managed to take six weeks off work to be with us. I loved it and loathed it. Having him around made me dependent on him. It was too easy to hand him the baby and leave the room. To complain of back ache when carrying him on days out. My son slept for hours on end, still does now. It was too easy to lay him in his moses basket and pretend he didn’t exist. He barely made a sound.

He continued to refuse to sleep on me. I settled for him sleeping in the cot attached to our bed. Our toddler still sleeping in bed with us. I felt guilty that my son wasn’t experiencing the ‘attachment parenting’ ways I had become dependent on, despite the fact it was him choosing his path.

I had been honest with my midwife and health visitor from the start. Stating I didn’t feel anything, but their advice was pointless. Bathe together, do skin to skin, look into his eyes, breastfeed him. I was doing all of this, but I couldn’t force him to connect with me. He would wriggle and scream, the only time he seemed to be upset, other than when he was hungry, was when I tried to cuddle him. They were sure I would figure it out. So I plodded along.

I went to my usual baby groups, reconnected with old friends I had lost touch with due to my sickness. We seemed like the perfect, happy family on the outside. On the inside I was becoming increasingly low, depressed, frustrated and incredibly anxious and paranoid. I was determined everyone was looking at me. That they could see we didn’t bond. That everyone would talk about me. Thought that I wasn’t coping. That they felt sorry for my children.

I couldn’t cry. No matter how low, how frustrated I was feeling, I just couldn’t shed a tear. I was exhausted. I just wanted to feel, something, anything! I started watching sad films, anything to bring some emotion to me, read sad novels. I would sit in bed and think of all the horrible things that had ever happened to me, but nothing worked. I felt like I was going to explode. I was sure I would break at some point, I just didn’t know when. So I plodded along.

Four months post partum. The day everything changed.

My husband was back to work, my daughter woke as soon as he left. She clambered on top of me for a feed, as she did most mornings, but accidentally knocked her sleeping brother awake. I cracked. Both children started screaming. I didn’t know who to sort first. After a while, I decided to feed my daughter, she would be content watching telly whilst I sorted my son afterwards. He continued to scream. Once sorted, and happy with a DVD on, I calmed my son and gave him a feed but he wouldn’t settle. I just wanted him to sleep so I could go back to sleep.

I put him down on his tummy, as he always slept, and started to pat him on the back. He would normally settle in minutes with a rhythmic pat on the back. However that morning he just wouldn’t settle. He cried and wriggled. My daughters DVD had ended. She started crying. I just wanted to go back to sleep. My head was banging. My whole body tense. I continued patting my son, he just needed to go back to sleep. My daughter continued to scream. They just needed to be quiet so I could go back to sleep. I started to pat faster and harder without really realising.

Just. Go. Back. To. Sleep.

My son cried out. I gasped. My daughter was silent.

My bubble popped. I burst into hysterics. Tears streamed down my face.

My daughter started to cry again, my son’s cries became even more loud and intense. I struggled to breathe. White noise streamed my ears. I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t see anything. I hid under the duvet and waited for it all to end.

I don’t remember what happened after that. The next thing I knew, I was on the phone to my husband, begging him to come home. He came home to find us all fast asleep. I explained what had happened. I broke down. I admitted I wasn’t coping. That I didn’t want to do this anymore.

We called the peri natal mental health team in Exeter, a number I had been given previously and was put on a waiting list for. They spoke to my husband and decided to send the crisis team out the following day. I called my brother to come down from university, to look after me and the kids. My husband was told I shouldn’t be left alone.

The team came to my house to discuss my mental health. They gave me a new health visitor, put me on the waiting list for an attachment psychologist and sent a request to my doctor to discuss medication.

I had a plan of action.

They said I was going to get better.

So, I plodded along.

(Disclaimer – I have an array on health professionals working with me on a regular basis who are aware of my entire history of mental health issues and also read this blog.)

 

 

Shit happens…

Can you believe I’ve nearly been blogging a whole month? No – me neither!

I know I keep saying it, but I’m so grateful for everyone who is supporting and following me so far. You’re all incredible!

So, you may have seen I posted my first feature on MeetOtherMums recently…you can check out the post here. But it basically contained a massive moan about Helicopter Parents and my bad experience at a soft play centre.

Typically, a week after this went live, my son had a nasty fall at the play centre. The exact one where a Mum previously told me to watch my kid…oops.

I was with the same friend and as always, I placed him in the baby section where I knew he would be safe. Once happily playing, I went back to my friend and we started discussing a new campaign for our post natal depression & anxiety support group. The next minute, a loud thump and my son was screaming. He had tried to climb out of the baby area, tripped over the entrance and face planted the hard floor. As I wasn’t nearby, another Mum (wearing a cream jumper) picked him up. In the two seconds it took for me to rush to him, they were both covered in blood.

I panicked. I had never seen a nose bleed in a baby before and his little nose had already started swelling and turning blue. I sat on the floor cuddling him as lots of parents rushed over to help. It was so kind of everyone to help, but at the same time was very overwhelming when I didn’t know what to do. The bleeding just wouldn’t stop, I was soon just as covered as him. I decided to give him a bottle and the pressure against his face eased the bleeding. A lovely Mum wiped the blood from my face and neck whilst I calmed down myself and my son.

The crowd of parents were all asking different questions, people were starting to discuss calling 999 or an ambulance being sent. I was concerned, but my instinct told me he wasn’t hurt enough to need medical treatment, however I didn’t want to seem like an awful parent for shrugging off their concerns. What if he was horribly injured and I didn’t do something about it? I already felt like the worst mum in the world for leaving him to hurt himself.

I probably seemed so clueless as I asked around me what I should do. It was eventually decided I would call 111 for further advice. After a few basic questions they decided an ambulance needed to be sent. Soon 2 paramedics arrived, one of which I actually recognised from when my daughter was younger and had a similar fall at home. They confirmed he should be fine, but suggested we should go into A&E to be on the safe side.

As we climbed into the ambulance, my son became very sleepy and limp. The paramedics told me I was white as a sheet. I actually felt incredibly concerned for my son. I had never felt this much worry for him before. Emotions flowed through me. Was he going to be okay? I started to contemplate my life without him, having previously done this with ease, for once I felt like I would do anything to make him be okay.

He snuggled into my chest and rubbed my back. He seemed to be comforting me more than anything. He fell asleep and we enjoyed a moment which I still can’t quite describe. I welled up and felt a burst of emotion. A lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach which stayed until we arrived and a doctor confirmed everything would be just fine.

We returned to the play centre the next day (we have membership!) and filled out a few accident forms. The manager discussed future risk assessments and has decided to install additional padding around the entrance to the baby area. Apparently the accident had happened before, but not to the same extent. This calmed me.

Maybe it would still have happened even if I had been hovering over him? Should I really give up my down time, my time to vent with friends, on the off chance my child could injure themselves?

I’ve decided I won’t. Call me selfish (well, don’t as I will probably cry…at least do it behind my back) but I am not going to let that one accident control how I parent. My children are happy to play independently or with friends and without my guidance. I deserve a break every once in a while. To sit on my ass and eat junk, gossip with friends or just scroll through my phone. And I still stand by my previous post. No one deserves to be judged for their parenting decisions. Even if they are sometimes wrong.

Accidents happen. Guilt happens. Shit happens.

 

 

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 😉

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

Sunday Morning Smells…

I woke up to my daughter shouting ‘Boo!’ at the side of my bed. My husband had left me to sleep in whilst he caught up on Match Of The Day upstairs with the baby. I picked her up and gave her a cuddle. Lovely…or not?

I could smell something.

‘Darling? Have you done a fart?’

My daughter laughs and shakes her head. Fart is quite a funny word in the eyes of my toddler right now.

I shouted upstairs to my husband, asking him if she’d done a poo recently. He said no, but that she had been alone in her bedroom for a while.

I quickly rushed into the kids bedroom. I don’t know why I rushed as it obviously wouldn’t have changed anything.

Crap. Literally.

Over the floor, over her bed, on her pillows. Oh look, some actually made it into the potty!

I cleaned it up, changed the sheets, opened the window and shut the door. But why could I still smell it? I had washed my hands, but did it again just in case. I turn to my daughter.

‘Mama, I couldn’t find any wipes so I came to you!’

Of course she did.

Happy Sunday!