You Matter Too

Lately I’ve been coming across a few posts on social media like this one that just wind me up!

I mean wtf?! On one hand us women are meant to be encouraging each other to feel empowered and self confident and then we go and post stuff like this?

This in particular really got me riled. I mean what bull. I get my hair done every 8 weeks and I own a Samsung Note 9 so that means I must be neglecting my child, right? Wrong. I only started getting my hair cut and coloured with regularity last year but the difference it made to my confidence levels and mental state is incredible. Should I feel guilty for taking those few hours every couple of months to do something for myself? Of course I shouldn’t! And neither should any Mum who takes time out to do something for herself. Because you matter too.

Statements like the one above seem to suggest that everything a Mum does should be for her child or she’s failing somehow. But actually, in my opinion, I don’t think this is healthy or sustainable. I think it’s so important for Mums to make sure their needs are met too. I appreciate this isn’t always easy if you’re a single Mum, a special needs Mum or you simply struggle to juggle life or find the time, but even if all you can manage is that bubble bath you never get to have, it makes a big difference.

Now I’m going to throw a few stats at you.

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and one year after birth.
  • 7 in 10 women will hide or underplay the severity of their perinatal mental illness.
  • More than 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year of having their baby.

(statistics taken from Maternal Mental Health Alliance)

Clearly, looking at those, there’s a big problem. And I believe it also reaches way beyond that first year. Mental Health is a major issue worldwide full stop. I talk to women all the time who appear to struggle but are just battling on because they feel that to take the time out for them would make them a “bad mum”. This kind of thinking really needs to stop. Because how can you be the amazing Mum you are if your mental health is failing? You can’t. At some point it will come to a head. For me it did last year. I felt that I was struggling for a lot of Noah’s first year but it wasn’t till 2018 that I realised that I couldn’t carry on this way. I felt I’d lost my identity and I needed to get back a bit of me. So I started doing a few things for myself, like getting my hair done, and I’m not saying it’s a cure all for mental health illness, because of course it isn’t, but it made a difference. When I was taking anti-depressants and feeling anxious, it gave me a focus. Something to look forward to. I still have bad days now but when I do I try to do something small for me. And it always helps. Till you read posts like the one above. Posts that are anti self care, anti mental health recovery and frankly anti-you! Because of course, you’re Mum. You have no other purpose than to look after your children. Posts like that basically promote the idea that you no longer matter.

So I guess all I really want to say is never let ANYONE make you feel guilty for taking some time out for you. Because you DO matter. Yes it’s important that your children are well cared for but in order to do that you have to be ok too. If there’s one thing I want you to take from reading this it’s You Matter Too.

Excited!

Can’t believe it’s only just over a month to go until our first clinic appointment for our frozen embryo transfer. I’m definitely getting so excited now. I’m nervous too, mainly when the odd thoughts creep in along the lines of “what if it doesn’t work?” etc but I’m trying to think as positively as I can. I did this with our IVF cycle for Noah and I truly believe that my positive attitude had a bearing on the outcome. I just keep picturing that this time next year we could have a tiny newborn addition to our household! A crazy but amazing thought.

With all this in mind I’m slowly trying to get more prepared mentally and physically. I’m not on a diet (even though I’m overweight) as, honestly, diets don’t really work for me. I stick to them for a while but then end up binging and self loathing so I’m determined not to go down that route. Instead I’m aiming to eat more fruit and vegetables, drink more water and generally eat a bit healthier. As well as taking my prenatal vitamins. I’ve also been preparing in other ways by making a list of things we will need for the new baby and trying to think through how we will organise the flat to accommodate them. We are still currently in a 2 bed flat with no immediate plans to move but we are pretty confident we can make things work. We really didn’t want to delay treatment further as we feel beyond ready to give Noah a sibling so we figured we will find a way to make it all work. It’ll be worth it.

Aside from all this planning I’m also just enjoying any time with Noah I get. He is learning new things so rapidly it blows me away. His speech is coming along so well now. It makes me laugh so much when he randomly says to me “Mummy be careful!” or “You’re welcome!” when I’m cleaning him up after dinner!

He’s also moved away a little from his obsession with Frozen and he’s now ALL about Zog. He watches the recording of it that we saved from Christmas Day, then demands we read him the book a gazillion times. I even purchased the follow up book Zog and the Flying Doctors just so we could add a little variety!

He has also well and truly mastered stacking his bricks and can now do a tower of around 7 bricks with his small fiddly bricks. And he had great fun colouring with felt tips for the first time! We’ve also been taking him for trips to a local football field and he loves to practise his dribbling skills!

Above all I’m just loving seeing his little personality develop further. He’s really showing such a caring side now. He pretends his bunny is a baby pushing him around in the shopping trolley toy which he pretends is a buggy. It’s so adorable to watch. Of course he has his moments with tantrums as is to be expected but he truly is a delightful little boy (though we may be a tinsy bit biased!).

Reading back and am amused by how this post started by being about our excitement for our FET and turned into updates on Noah but I’ve been so lax on posting lately that it seemed fitting to combine the two! Aiming to post more and more in the future esp as treatment approaches so watch this space!

If you’re on Instagram then check us out at @justimperfectlyme where I regularly update on our goings on!

Feeling the Fear….about having a second child

So if you’ve been following this blog a while then you may know that we are planning to try to add to our family pretty soon! Noah was conceived via IVF and we have 2 frozen embryos from that cycle, one of which we hope to transfer in May. Whilst that seems ages away yet, the first appointment to kickstart the process is in March and it feels like it’s coming up fast!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am unbelievably excited at the possibility of being pregnant again and having another baby but there’s also a part of me that’s out and out terrified. You see, when Noah was born, I struggled. In fact I began to struggle even before he was born. I remember when I was heavily pregnant with him, waking up in the middle of the night thinking “what have we done?”. I was so anxious about the impending onset of responsibility and whether I was up to the task. I knew I loved my unborn son deeply and I was excited to meet him, but the fear was there.

Then he was born. And I was wrapped up in adoration for this tiny little human who depended on me for everything. But before long, the sleepless nights, resulting tiredness and postnatal hormones had me feeling so low. I’d struggled with depression before but this time I really couldn’t comprehend why I felt this way. This baby was everything I’d ever dreamed of during the 4 long years it took to conceive him, so why did I feel this way?

To cut a long story short, over time things eventually improved but now I find myself scared of history repeating itself. What if I can’t handle the tiredness again? What if my depression rears its ugly head? I feel like it robbed me of so many precious treasured moments with Noah, I don’t want to repeat that. Then there’s also the transition from raising one child to two, finding a new routine and adjusting to life as a family of four.

I feel like I keep looking for someone to come along and reassure me that, this time, things will be different. I am no longer that scared first time Mum who didn’t have a clue. I’ve done it once before, I can do it again! Right? Even if, at first, it seems like things are out of control, we will figure it out. We can do this.

I feel like I have lived so many stages of my life feeling afraid. My anxiety has put me off doing so many things, I don’t want it to put me off doing this too. If there’s one thing I feel like I am actually quite good at, it’s being a Mum. I may not be perfect but it feels right. It feels like (at the risk of sounding corny) that it was meant to be. So why am I afraid? Maybe it’s because I care? Because I’d love any children we have so much and I would want to give them the best lives possible? Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m afraid. After all, the truly neglectful parents, they don’t care about their neglect.

I know deep down that everything will be ok. I wont fall apart if I get depressed again and I wont let my children down. We will find a new routine and we will be just fine as a family of four. It’s natural to feel anxious at the prospect of having another baby. It doesn’t feel ok to admit it but it is natural. Whether it’s your first, second, third, fourth etc…the feelings are valid. Another child is always a major responsibility whichever way you look at it.

So if you’re reading this, maybe pregnant and feeling anxious about what lies ahead, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. I felt similarly anxious during my first pregnancy and no doubt, if I am lucky enough to get pregnant again, I will feel anxious this time too. It’s all normal and ok. I wish I had known that when I experienced it. But just remember these words that a friend once said to me…

“you’ve got this”.

always happy to be in your shadow

A much needed Birthday & Christmas update!

Hope you all had lovely Christmases & New Years, sorry I’ve been a bit absent on here of late! I definitely owe you all a big update so get comfy!

Noah’s birthday was on Christmas Eve and I’m still a bit in denial that our baby boy turned 2. I think I was even more emotional on this birthday than I was for his first! The night before I’d laid out our living room with his presents and a load of balloons as he loves the things. Well when he first got up he beelined for the balloons and didn’t care about the presents! I joked to Jamie that we should’ve just wrapped up a box of balloons and had done with it!

For lunch, when his presents were finally opened, we headed out for a McDonalds treat. And he loved it!

In the afternoon his Grannie popped over to wish him a happy birthday (sadly Grandad was ill in bed) and we enjoyed some cake and fizz (the fizz being for the grown ups!). Noah loved his Frozen themed cake (made by Jamie’s lovely and very talented colleague Mishka) and he loved eating it even more!

That evening he was shattered from all the fun and excitement and after we got him all tucked up in bed in his Christmas pjs it didn’t take him that long to fall asleep!

All ready for Santa to appear that night!

Unfortunately, come Christmas Day, Noah seemed a bit overwhelmed and didn’t really want to open anymore presents. He still doesn’t really understand the whole concept of birthdays and Christmas yet so I think it was all a little too much excitement. But he did open a few presents and get into the Christmas spirit with some dancing to some Christmas tunes over breakfast! (his favourite banana pancakes!)

For the rest of the day we headed to Jamie’s parents and had a lovely Christmas lunch and Noah enjoyed being spoiled by Grannie & Grandad.

All before he was mince pied out!

So, all in all, it was a pretty quiet family Christmas this year, just what we needed. Boxing Day we returned to Jamie’s parents and Noah inadvertently ended up sleeping over, and we spent the rest of the break relaxing as a family and mentally preparing for the onset of 2019!

Happy New Year everybody and I hope 2019 is happy year for you all.

love

The Martins

xoxo

Noah’s Nearly 2!

I can’t believe that tomorrow our little boy will be 2 years old. It honestly only feels like a few months ago he was born! I think I feel just as emotional about this birthday as I did about his 1st. I think it’s the fact that, this year, he seems to have transitioned from baby to little boy and my heart can’t cope!

Looking back it’s been a big year for Noah! He learnt to walk at 13 months and quickly progressed from those first few stumbles to tearing around like the little hurricane he is. His speech is coming along nicely and, despite being told he was a little behind, he’s starting to form more sentences and his speech is getting clearer each day! His little personality has developed all the more and we love how he is such a loving, caring boy but is also so cheeky all in one. Even when he’s causing mischief we can’t help but fall for that cheeky grin!

He’s also learning to socialise more and has developed some little friendships at nursery which is so adorable to see. One girl in particular seems especially taken with him and it melts my heart when I see her run up to him saying “Noah?” with her hand outstretched, asking him to come and play. Normally he trots off after her with the biggest grin on his face! It honestly makes me so happy to see him making friends already and it is something that I hope continues easily for him as it has never been an easy journey for me. I struggled through most of my school years trying to fit in, getting mentally bullied and making friends just felt like a massive mountain to climb. So my biggest hope for him is that he doesn’t have to go through that. If he does, however, he will have our support through it. But for now it’s nice to watch him relish in the joy of these new friendships.

As well as feeling emotional, I am so excited for his birthday. Unfortunately it already seems to easily get overlooked as it’s so close to Christmas but we will always ensure he gets made a big fuss of as birthdays should be! This morning I picked up his balloons ready to go and later we are collecting his cake (Frozen themed! Because we can’t do his birthday without his favourite Elsa making an appearance!). I can’t wait to see his face tomorrow.

These are the moments I live for as a Mum.

Have I Failed My Child?

Is a question I’m sure, as Mums (or Dads), we’ve all asked ourselves at some point. This has hit me particularly hard lately.

A few weeks ago we had Noah’s Parents Evening. I know it sounds bizarre right? A Parents Evening for a not even 2 year old? But actually they are pretty useful. The Nursery have them to update the parents on their child’s progress and we get to look through Noah’s “book” which shows said progress as well as some lovely photographs of what he gets up to at Nursery.

At this particular Parents Evening all was going pretty well, they said his motor skills are really good, his social skills have improved, the only thing they said that he is behind in is his speech. To be honest I wasn’t really surprised by this. I’d noticed that he didn’t seem as far along in his speech as other toddlers his age but it didn’t really bother me till I saw it there in his book in black and white. At this point he was 22 months old but, according to them, his speech level was more around that of a 16-18 month old. Not a huge difference but when you’re told your child is behind in something, it feels a big deal.

And I felt instant guilt. The first thought to enter my head was “is it my fault?”. Have we not talked to him enough? Have we let him watch too much TV? Have we not read to him enough? Is there some way I have held him back? Deep down, however, I know that we have tried our best to help him along. We talk to him all the time. I try my best to ask him questions as we do things, talk through what we’re doing etc. Admittedly at times I forget but heck I’m only human. I read to him every night but maybe I should be reading more with him in the day too? He does watch a fair bit of TV I confess. Normally Cbeebies or Disney movies. But often it’s background noise as he plays. There will be some shows he pays attention to but I’d argue he’s learnt some bits off them too! I caught him mimicking signs from Something Special the other day! We’ve also been doing flash cards with him which he loves. I got a “first words” pack from Dorling Kindersley and I love them because they show actual photos of the objects rather than just cartoons. He recognises most of them now and can say a number of them really clearly. But others he is struggling with. You can tell he knows what it is but he can’t quite form the word.

He can say a fair few words now. “Hi” “Hayo” (Hello) “Bye” “Yes” “No” “Mummy” “Daddy” “Milk” “Peas” (Please) “Ta” “Potty” “Beebies” “Elsa” “Dancing” “Ball” “More” “Bubbles” etc are all words he can say without too much bother. I’m sure there are quite a few more than that but those are the first that spring to mind. However he doesn’t really form sentences yet and some simple words like “Cat” and “Dog” he struggles with. I am noticing some progress though. Like the other day he said “Get Down” when he wanted to come down from his chair which took me aback as I hadn’t really heard him put together two words much before. So I definitely think he’s moving forwards, it’s just taking him a little longer than some children.

But then he was always way stronger with motor skills than communication, even as a baby. He crawled from 6 months, could feed himself with a spoon before he was even a year old and, for the last year, has been very confidently feeding himself. Nursery even tell me that lately he’s been practising threading raw spaghetti into small holes which I think is pretty cool for a child not even quite 2 yet.

I’m not quite sure what the point of this post is. Maybe to reassure myself that he’s doing ok, that I’m not letting him down, who knows? I think a lot of my feelings stem from my battle with depression. There were definite points at my worst where I felt like I could have done more in my parenting. Don’t get me wrong, Noah was well looked after, cared for and happy but there were moments when I felt I lacked the energy to really give it my all in terms of teaching him and playing with him. It doesn’t help that he’s always loved to amuse himself and can be fiercely independent in wanting to do things alone, even at this young age. But I have felt so guilty about it. And wondered if I had not been so absorbed in my mental health, would he be behind now?

But I could spend forever and a day beating myself up over it. The truth is, none of us are perfect. We all have days where we think “I could have done better today”. But there were also many many days where I gave and do give it my all. I’d take him to the park, do painting, invent games etc and do as much as I could to stimulate him and help him learn. Do some off days make me a bad Mum? No they don’t. They make me human.

So my answer to my original question is, No. I don’t think I have failed my child. If he does turn out to have a speech delay then it’s most likely one of those things and he will catch up eventually. And in other areas he is doing very well indeed. So it balances out. And perhaps it’s unfair on him and me to keep comparing him to others anyway. He’s developing and learning at his own pace and it’s all amazing. In fact it’s my favourite thing about this age, watching them learn new things and grow and develop.

So let’s take the pressure off, stop worrying that we’re not doing enough and just enjoy our children whilst they’re still young.

Agreed?

Our Breastfeeding Story

Let me begin by saying that I wanted to breastfeed. I really did. Before Noah was born I researched breastfeeding, attended NCT classes, learnt about positions, bought nursing bras, supposedly did all the right things because I believed that I was going to be a breastfeeding Mum. Sadly things didn’t quite work out that way.

If you’ve read my post on Noah’s birth (which you can find here) you will know that things didn’t go particularly plain sailing. Unfortunately I had a post partum haemorrhage which led to me losing 1.5 litres of blood. So I really didn’t feel that we had the best of starts in terms of getting our breastfeeding bond and my supply established. One of the things that bothers me the most is, Noah was born at 20 minutes past midnight and I didn’t even get to try to feed him till mid morning the next day. Now I’ve no idea if this is normal for when a baby has first been born, but I never could shake off the guilt that he went without food for so long. I don’t remember much of those early hours due to feeling out of it from blood loss, and when I was finally with it, I was too absorbed in getting used to being a Mum for the first time, to query back to those early hours.

Our first attempt at breastfeeding that morning didn’t go too well as I just couldn’t get Noah to latch properly. So instead we tried some skin to skin, which I have to say, I adored. Just feeling his little body warm against mine was heaven. I remember looking down at his tiny face and thinking “This can’t be real. I must be dreaming. How can he be ours?”. I don’t fully remember when our next attempt at feeding was but I do remember that I finally managed to get him to latch on which was a huge relief, albeit a painful one. And that was my general experience of him latching throughout our short breastfeeding journey. It was always painful and I never felt like he was quite latched on properly, despite being reassured by midwives and health care assistants on duty that Noah had a “good latch”. I discovered months later that he had a lip tie so maybe that affected his latch…who knows!

Our second full night in was very difficult. We were still in hospital and Noah pretty much cluster fed non stop. Now at this point I had no clue about cluster feeding. I hadn’t been warned of it in my NCT classes (not to my recollection anyway) and I hadn’t come across it in any of the books I had read. Maybe I’d read the wrong ones. But all I had heard was that initially the baby would feed frequently, as much as every 2 hours for up to an hour at a time, and that sleep would be extremely broken. This I was prepared for. What I did not expect was the hours of continuous feeding non stop. By the time 6am came around I’d had about 2 hours of sleep all night if that and I felt exhausted. And Noah still seemed to be hungry even after feeding non stop for all that time, switching from breast to breast. I asked the midwife on duty if this continuous feeding was normal only to be met with a curt “Yes it’s what they do. You’ll get used to it.”. That was as much of an explanation as I was going to get out of her. I felt her tone came across a bit “well duhhh what did you expect?” which upset me a little as, as a first time Mum, I felt clueless. Here I was scared that my baby wasn’t getting enough milk and that I was unintentionally starving him and all I wanted was some reassurance.

But we persisted. I kept just hoping that things would improve and that feedings would get less painful as time went on. Lanisoh nipple cream became my best friend. I was applying it after every feed in the end, desperate for some relief.

We were discharged home when Noah was 3 days old and things continued in pretty much the same vein. During the day Noah was pretty sleepy but the nights were relentless. He would feed continuously from around 10pm till 3am and finally he’d fall asleep, only to be back awake again an hour later. My nipples were sore and bleeding and mentally I felt broken. I felt weak-minded. I knew having a newborn would be tough but this felt like something else. I think what got to me the most was the pain my nipples were in. I would dread the sting of Noah latching on and I’d wince as he’d suck. I had hoped to enjoy the experience of feeding my son but instead I came to resent it.

I turned to anyone I could think of for help….community midwives, my Mum, friends, online communities but I just ended up swimming in conflicted advice. I tried expressing which I found surprisingly easy. This gave me a temporary boost as I thought I’d maybe found an answer to the agonising nights! I would express a bottle of milk that I could give Noah in the night if he was stuck on cluster feeding, just to give me a reprieve. Only to read online that this wasn’t advised as the baby cluster fed for a reason and it could affect my supply. I felt deflated. I purchased nipple shields to help with the pain and bleeding, only to read that these were no good as they would confuse the baby. During the odd night I caved to a bottle of formula when, after hours and hours of feeding, Noah just wouldn’t settle. A few oz of formula and he’d be out like a light. I just felt like he wasn’t getting enough from me. I was reassured continuously that this was all normal, as it probably was, but mentally I was not coping. I had considered combi-feeding for a while until my supply came in fully but was told by a midwife that this would “damage my baby’s gut”. It was the final straw. I felt like there was an obstacle to any idea I had just to find some slight relief.

I felt so depressed. I knew the early days would be difficult but I felt more and more like I was resenting Noah for simply wanting to do what we are all programmed to do, eat. I went back and forth on what to do and I felt so confused and conflicted. In the end I decided that I couldn’t take anymore. I was nearly 2 weeks into breastfeeding and I didn’t feel like my milk was fully in. Noah’s weight gain was going ok but my breasts just never felt full. Again, maybe this was normal I don’t know, I had no frame of reference. But all I knew is I felt like Noah was never fully satisfied on my breast. He rarely seemed to finish a night time feed looking full. Ironically though, daytime ones seemed ok, which I still can’t figure out.

So, after 2 weeks of breastfeeding, I decided I had had enough and we switched to formula. I cried buckets that day. I felt devastated, like I had failed Noah and I wasn’t worthy of being a Mum. And if I’m honest that feeling stayed with me for a good few months at least. I felt so jealous of anyone that had managed to push through and breastfeed and of people that had had no issues. It wasn’t their fault, I was being completely irrational, but I just felt so envious. After spending years struggling to conceive, this had been one thing I had really wanted to do for our much wanted, miracle baby and I felt like I’d let him down. I still battle those feelings occasionally and he’s nearly 2 now.

But, importantly, I have come to learn I didn’t fail him. I did what I felt was best at the time. Breastfeeding was causing me to sink into a deep depression and, at that point, I’d had to weigh up the benefits vs the impact on my mental health (and on my family) if I’d had a relapse into depression. There were times when I deeply regretted stopping and other times when I felt it was the right decision for us and I still go back and forth on that. I don’t think I’ll ever have a concrete answer in my head. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! I have learnt something though…and that’s to listen to my instincts. If we are lucky enough to get pregnant again, I do plan to try to breastfeed again. But this time I am going to take the advice (unless medical) with a pinch of salt and I’m going to listen to my instincts. Because, at the end of the day, we have them for a reason. There’s a massive part of me that feels that if I had done that to begin with and expressed if I wanted, used nipple shields if I wanted and even occasionally combi fed if I wanted, that maybe I’d have continued breastfeeding longer. I could be wrong but my guts tells me that that would’ve been the case as I’d have been relaxed and confident and doing things MY way. So this is the approach I intend to take next time. I will do what I feel is best at a given time and I will go with the flow. And it may work out, it may not, but I will try.

Our bond remains unbreakable regardless. Breastfeeding doesn’t make the bond, parenting does.