You Matter Too

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.

Feeling the Fear….about having a second child

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
Have I Failed My Child?

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?

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

First I have to start this post by apologising for my lack of posts lately. Those of you that follow me on Instagram or Facebook may have gathered that I’ve been struggling with my mental health lately and you wouldn’t be wrong. Hence my radio silence on here, as I just didn’t know what to say or write or I felt like everything I wanted to say or write just came out as a rambling mess. A bit like this.

Lately my anxiety has been sky high and my moods have been buried low. I find each day harder and harder and it’s become a real effort to just find the strength to put on a smile and get on with my day. But I’ve had to. Noah needs looking after and bills need to be paid. But I do feel incredibly sad. I hate feeling this way. It’s like I’m watching someone else from a distance. It’s just not me.

I feel guilty that I’m not being the best Mum I could be. Sure Noah is well fed, dressed, clean and generally happy but am I playing with him enough? Teaching him enough? Does he know how much I love him? I feel every day I feel this way that I’m failing him.

I debated whether or not to write about my feelings then remembered that I set this blog up to be honest. About motherhood, depression and life in general. Warts and all. My posts won’t always be doom and gloom and I hope there’ll be many happy ones too but, for the moment, this is me.

I’m hoping over the next few weeks my moods will improve. I’ve got a couple of days of work next week to relax and a health in mind telephone consultation on the 20th November, so it’s all steps in the right direction. But for now I know I need to be kind to myself. Self care becomes extremely important. It’s all too easy as a Mum to neglect yourself but if you’re not happy and well cared for then how can you expect to care for a little human being?

I just want to finish off by saying thank you to everyone who has reached out to me with words of support. It all means an awful lot especially in my lonelier moments. Hopefully I’ll be back here with a more positive and upbeat post very soon.

Much love

xoxo

Mum Guilt

Mum Guilt

Why do we do it to ourselves? Lately I’ve felt plagued by Mum guilt. Whether it’s that day I felt poorly so stayed at home and we didn’t go anywhere, or that day when I struggled to deal with Noah’s tantrums and I couldn’t wait till bedtime. Or the day where I had to go into work on a Saturday to catch up and felt guilty that I was missing out on time with my boy even though he was having a blast with his Dad. I just end up feeling so awful at times, like the worst Mum in the world and a lot of us do it. But in reality we are just Mums trying to juggle busy lives and parent the best way we know how.

These feelings got exacerbated lately when, outside my son’s nursery, during a heated debate over parking with the neighbours (in which I was not directly involved) I got told “Well you shouldn’t be sending your son to nursery anyway. You should be looking after him. That’s what we did in my day.”

I’m not going to lie I saw red. I couldn’t believe the audacity of someone to say that without even knowing the reasons why I’d had to send Noah to nursery or anything about me. I’m also not ashamed to say that I cried over it, cried for most of that evening. Think it had hit a nerve as I’d definitely carried a lot of working Mum guilt on my shoulders for a long while. Every time I drop Noah off at nursery I feel an ache in my stomach and I miss him so much. But I have to work. I have to help keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table and I shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

I felt guilty when I struggled to breastfeed. I so badly wanted to breastfeed him but when it came down to it I couldn’t get him to latch comfortably, it hurt so much, my nipples bled a lot and I came to dread him needing a feed. So I stopped. And the guilt hit me in a massive wave and never fully left. But he was well fed, still thrived on formula, so why do I put myself through the guilt?

I feel guilty whenever Noah sees me upset. If he catches me crying I swear he knows and I can see his little face looking puzzled trying to understand what’s going on. He doesn’t understand that I’m just having a bad day. So I feel guilty and try to put a brave face on and not let it show.

I feel guilty if Noah seems behind other children his age. Is it that I’m not doing enough to stimulate him? Am I not playing enough with him? When the truth is all children develop at different paces in their own ways. He’s not particularly behind, he just has different strengths to that child’s strengths.

I feel guilty if I give Noah an “unhealthy” treat. Am I encouraging him to prefer sugar? Is this why he refused to eat his broccoli last night? Do I spoil him too much? I mean come on. What are things coming to when Mums even feel guilty about giving their kids a treat?

I could go on for pages and pages about the reasons I experience Mum guilt but I won’t. Because the reasons, in some ways, are irrelevant. The point I want to make is that, unless you are neglecting or abusing your child, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Whether you have an off day, are struggling to manage your toddler’s tantrums, can’t get them to eat their veggies, whatever it is; you’re only human. You are raising a child and that is bloody hard work and the choices we make as Mums won’t always be perfect and we won’t always get it 100% right. But so what? Our children our happy and well loved and looked after and that is the main thing.

To be OK or not to be OK?

To be OK or not to be OK?

So often I find I get asked “How are you?” or “Are you ok?” and I’ll mostly just automatically respond with “I’m fine” or “I’m OK.”. And today I found myself asking….why? Why am I so afraid just to answer honestly? Is it a fear of being judged? That that person won’t want to talk to me anymore? That they won’t understand? Or maybe it’s all 3.

When you’re struggling with depression this way of thinking can easily become a vicious circle. You need your friends and family around you and people to talk to but your natural impulse is just to shut out those who care. It becomes easier to respond to an inquisitive text with “I’m OK, how are you?” rather than “Actually I’m really struggling today and could use a friend to talk to.”. Because if you answer honestly then you have to explain your feelings and why you have them. And, if you’re anything like me, you often won’t know why. You could literally tie yourself into knots trying to explain it and yet the recipient of your explanation would still be none the wiser.

So you stay schtum. Then you end up feeling lonely because you feel like you have no one you can talk to, no one who understands. You end up isolated, avoiding friends and you get consumed by the black hole that is Depression. This is what happened to me. Except I tried to bury my feelings and convince myself that I was ok. And this went on for a long time until it became plainly obvious to me, and those close to me, that I wasn’t ok. Which was when I sought help.

But maybe if I’d felt able to say something other than “I’m OK” when people had asked me how I was then, who knows, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so bad? Maybe I’d have gotten help sooner? Maybe if more people felt able to answer honestly there’s be lower suicide rates as people would be getting the support they need? I think it comes down to a huge need to break the stigma that surrounds all mental health. Sufferers should feel able to talk without fear of getting labelled negatively, judged or discriminated against.

That was my little bit of food for thought for today. So next time you talk to a friend who’s willing to open up about their mental health, just listen and be supportive, because, that day, you could just save their life. Not always literally but even figuratively as, just having someone caring to talk to, really can make all the difference.

Hard Days

Hard Days

Today has been a hard day. We all have them although we feel like we shouldn’t. We put pressure on ourselves to be perfect and have perfectly happy days but, nope, we all have hard days.

Today I woke up feeling like a black cloud had descended over me. I felt so sad though I couldn’t pinpoint why. Everything just felt an effort. Like I was trudging through mud, fighting for every step.

I did my best to soldier on. To “snap out of it” but it’s never easy. To be honest I could have quite easily just headed on back to bed for the day but, with a toddler to look after, that’s just not possible.

So instead I did the best I know how. I got my cleaning done, tried to play with Noah (though he likes to be Mr Independent and do his own thing), and we headed to the playground in the afternoon, even though it was grey and grizzly, just so Noah could blow off some steam. And, in the end, we had fun. I revelled in watching Noah exploring the playground, laughing as he slid down the slide and chatting baby talk as he befriended an older boy.

Now I’m sat here at 9:50pm writing this. Jamie’s gone out to table tennis, Noah’s fast asleep, and I feel exhausted like someone’s come along, inserted an IV and used it to drain all my energy. But I feel like I’ve taken a hard day and made it just a bit better. It’s still been a hard day but I made it through.