“Just smile and be thankful you’ve got such a lovely baby!” –midwife the weekend after the birth of my firstborn
Hmmm…this didn’t go down well. I’d been in hospital since the Monday, ICU for 3 days, emergency C-section, then the regular ward for maybe 3/4 days. Phones going, people chatting all hours, catheters, various tablets, nurses, doctors, consultants in and out, expressing every 2 hours and almost zero sleep since I’d been admitted. When I’d had the C-section, I’d had so many medical drugs in me I couldn’t move from the neck down. Straight away they’d put my son on my skin which was incredible, but I couldn’t hold him. Then I had to watch him be whisked away with my husband hot on their heels to see if my little 4 ¼ lb six-week early baby needed to go into neo-natal. Thankfully he could stay by my side on a heated mattress until his body could regulate his temperature. Anyway, throughout I’d tried to be positive and I have to say 99.9% of the staff were incredible.
Now this must have been the Saturday or Sunday. I had been watching other mums and families on the ward coming in and taking their babies home without any idea of when it would be my turn. Not to mention that the other babies on the ward were getting heat rash as we couldn’t open the window as my son couldn’t get cold. In a fuzzy haze and at my wits end and in tears I begged this midwife if there was somewhere quiet I could go just for an hour or two to sleep. “Yes, if you pay for a private room. Welcome to the NHS. Now cheer up! Be thankful you’ve got such a lovely baby” …. Me with a very raised voice and sobbing and snotty: “So you basically want me to just be happy keep positive and keep smiling like I have since Monday???” Her: “Yes that’s right” and off she walked leaving me, curtains drawn shut around my bed, in floods of tears, very emotional, very down and screaming like a lunatic “DON’T OPEN THAT BLOODY WINDOW!” every time someone mentioned it was getting a bit hot.
Then very luckily, one of the midwives, who had known me since I arrived and knew my story, came in cheerfully, big smile “How’s everything going?” expecting my usual “He’s doing brilliantly, I’m doing well with the feeding and feeling a bit better etc etc”…instead I just cried even louder and said “I’m so tired, I feel awful I can’t get any rest and everyone’s coming and going with their babies and I’m still here….” And then I explained what the other midwife had said. Her response? She sat. She listened. She gave me a hug and she said “There’s a lady leaving one of the side rooms. Let me go and sort it.” Do you know what? She did. I heard her have a gentle word with the other midwife. That afternoon I lay on the bed in the peaceful side room and slept and started on the road to recovery, while people moved my stuff in around me. I was so exhausted. Anyway, almost 3 weeks after being admitted to the hospital I came home, and it was wonderful. Being with my family, in my own home…just the tonic.
Then Baby number 2 comes along. This time we were a little more prepared (pre-eclampsia both times). I went in on the Wednesday, got induced, ended up having another emergency C-section though thankfully this time not as dramatic at all. I could move from the neck down, they held him up like something out of the lion king and generally felt a lot better than the first time. This should have been a breeze. Then 5months in I didn’t feel so right. My eldest who had always slept, was now waking in the night with teething and my youngest was waking in the night well because he was a baby. I thought number 2 would have been easier and felt a bit confused that in some ways it was more difficult and tiring. I felt like I was rarely happy and generally a bit moody. My husband’s responsibilities at work had increased before baby was born so as amazingly supportive as he was I felt alone.
So, when I went to my very lovely doctor about something else, I mentioned my feelings to her. My doctor asked the question which changed everything… “When was the last time you did something for yourself? Just for you?” I thought and thought and realised I couldn’t remember. So, that weekend I bit the bullet, expressed some milk and went to the Shopping Centre for 5 glorious hours. I got a coffee, had a wander and you know the scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts is dressed to the nines and goes into the shop with oodles of confidence? Well it was sort of like that. Except I wasn’t exactly dressed to the nines (a bit of lippy maybe) and instead of coming back with loads of overpriced designer stuff I couldn’t afford, I came back with….wait for it…a packet of nappies and some kids’ toothpaste. It was still relaxing - I actually felt like Julia Roberts.
Apparently according to the National Childbirth Trust approximately 1 in every 10 women suffer from Postnatal Depression. There are a great number who don’t report it. Some of the reasons are: that they don’t want people to think they’re a bad mum, they might be worried that they will be judged, and people feel they might be labelled or that postnatal depression has a stigma attached. A support network is key. Whether the support network is with your family and friends, strangers in the same boat as you or a fantastic organisation like Motherwell Cheshire, it’s great for the soul to reach out and talk about how you are feeling.
In my area, there’s a baby group in a coffee shop for parents and pre-walking babies. When the boys were little it was a life saver. I think you could go in your pyjamas and you wouldn’t be judged. All the mums were in the same boat with the same bleary eyes just happy to have a natter and a coffee. It feels so good to be able to chat about anxieties with other mums going through the same things. I was stressing about the state of the house and chatted with someone who had older children. When her kids were little, she had a friend with young children but her house was immaculate. She asked her how she did it and her friend replied “if people were coming we shoved everything in cupboards”… just goes to show never judge a book by its cover!
Anyway, I’m waffling now. Back to the point. It’s good to talk. It’s a relief to acknowledge your feelings, to realise you’re not alone and to get help and support if you need it. If you’re feeling anxious, down or you simply don’t know how your feeling, please talk to someone and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Perhaps you’ve had a traumatic birth, perhaps you haven’t, perhaps you have a baby who screams all night, or baby might sleep all day and all night, perhaps you’ve got the most wonderfully supportive family in the world, perhaps you’re on your own…it doesn’t matter. Post-natal depression can affect anyone. It’s non-discriminate. The important thing is to take the first step and get the help you deserve.
I hope some of these links might help:
This year’s theme is #RealMotherhood #NoShame and across the world people will be encouraged to talk more openly about how Motherhood can impact women’s mental health.
Mental health generally is becoming less of a taboo subject thankfully and now it is time to shine the spotlight on how pregnancy and motherhood can affect women’s mental wellbeing.
This is what our work at Motherwell Cheshire is all about – we are a team of Mums wanting to support other women at every stage of their Motherhood journey. We have been there ourselves, sadly suffering loss, difficult childbirths, postnatal depression…you name it, one of us has been there.
We know how overwhelming it can all be and we want people to be less embarrassed about discussing it. Look at how mental health has been approached in the media – it is only through more people talking about it and public figures like the Royal family being open about their own experiences that we are slowly shifting the dial and helping see that it is ok to not always be ok.
As a Counsellor I am privileged to hear people’s stories and help them through sometimes very difficult times in their lives. It is fair to say that when we think we are the only person in the world facing the issues we are facing, there is always someone going through something similar. I am passionate that talking can really help people to work through their challenges and have a hashtag ‘let’s talk more’ that I am using to spread this message.
Through our programme of events, workshops and wellbeing days we encourage Mums to meet up to share their experiences and make new friends. We are sensitive to the fact that some women might come to us after suffering a loss and therefore we will always tailor our approach to ensure we meet the needs of the individual, with counselling and peer support when women need it the most.
I am lucky to have my own radio show on This is the Cat 107.9 fm Fridays at 11 am where I talk about the untalkable and I have been humbled by the bravery my guests have shown coming on and sharing their own personal stories of mental health. You can download previous episodes at the podcast which is available on Mixcloud Motherwell Show. I am always looking for guests to come along and share their stories, so do get in touch if you are interested.
This week we will be holding a whole host of drop-in sessions where Mums of all ages can find out more about Motherwell’s services as well as picking up one of our fabulous goody bags filled with lots of treats. I hope to see you at one of them.
Motherwell Cheshire Head Office
Almost New Year’s Resolutions…
Slightly late to the party but Happy New Year (how long can you keep saying that for…am I still within the time limit?)
Have been thinking about what to write about for my first post-New Year blog…what better way to start the year than New Year’s resolutions? A thing I normally never do, never make and rarely stick to if I have made them.
Typically, I don’t make promises at the beginning of the New Year. Or start diets on a Monday. My theory is that if I want to commit to doing something then it shouldn’t matter when in the year or what day of the week it is.
Don’t know if it’s having children but this year I’ve found myself thinking “I really should do this…” or “I must remember to….” and so far I haven’t “done” or “remembered” to do very much at all.
Apparently, a lot of New Year’s Resolutions fail as the goals are unrealistic. Other reasons include because people don’t keep track of them or simply forget about them.
So hopefully by writing them down, making them achievable and sharing them with you it might help me to stick to them.
Do you have any? What are they? These are my own top 3 (list number 2 - the first list was almost: 1. Eat more chocolate 2. Do less housework 3. Let the kids watch more TV...certainly achievable but not sure how practical!):
1. Take the kids to the library…..This is a shocker. It’s only around the corner, they love books and I’m there every week for a story time that I run but (ahem confession time!) I haven’t taken myown children since the oldest was about 9months. Libraries are lovely places for children and quite often run activities for children such as singing session for little ones, Lego clubs, treasure trails and much more. I’ve taken the first step and now got a library card so watch this space
2. Walk more. I am sooooooooo lazy when it comes to exercise. Find it so much easier to hop in the car or get the bus. The silly thing is when I do walk I really enjoy it and so do the kids.
3. Make more of an effort to spend time with friends. It’s so easy to stay at home or not invite people round because your knackered from being up with the kids in the night, housework, normal work etc. I miss girly nights and (can I be really honest?) chat that isn’t just related to the children. It’s so important to have time that’s not family related. Went for lunch with a friend the other day and realised how good for the soul it was!
Good luck with yours! Would love to hear about them. Please let us know how you’re getting on!
Let today be the start of something new…
Hello again! Think I need a lot of strong coffee today. Last night was pretty interesting and Julia Donaldson has a lot to answer for…got woken up at 1.30am by my 3-year-old who was demanding “Gruffalo Stew!”.
On a different note it looks like it’s been another busy month for Motherwell Cheshire. I loved the inspirational “Let Today Be the Start of Something New” motto on the Facebook page.
It really got me thinking. Thinking it’s about time I pulled my finger out and started to do something that wasn’t just about the kids, husband or home. Something that was just for me. That’s why I started writing the blog, poetry and stories back in the summer and I do really enjoy doing this but also felt it was important after 3 years to get properly out and about again. Start feeling like a human being, who has hobbies and interests (as much as I love my family dearly!).
I've volunteered to help at a kids’ literature festival for next year. Still child-related and it might seem a trivial step for some but it’s something I’m passionate about and think I’d really enjoy.
Even though it’s at the early stages of the application, it felt liberating to have a conversation on the phone with someone who wasn’t just talking to me as a mum. Talking to me as someone with thoughts and ideas and opinions that don’t relate to “what are we having for dinner tonight?” or “how shall I entertain the children today?”. I just bit the bullet and emailed the organisers without trying to overthink “Will I have the skills they’re looking for?” or “Am I good enough for the role?” and “What happens if they call me and I get nervous about what to say and end up sounding like a jibbering wreck?”
Guess what? I spoke with the person and they were friendly, we even had a laugh and I’m really looking forward to the next steps. It’s easy as mums to forget how we were pre-kids.
Easy to forget that there’s a world out there where we can occasionally be a little bit selfish and do something just because it makes us feel good and we enjoy it for enjoyment’s sake. It’s sometimes hard to find the time, with noses to be wiped, dinner to make, tantrums to tend to… but read (or even write!) a book, meet with friends, join a group, do your nails, shut your eyes for 5min when the kids are in bed and listen to your favourite song.
Parenting can be one of most the difficult, stressful jobs in the world which is why sometimes you need a bit of time to just be you.
Even if it’s just for five minutes! Would love to hear what makes you sparkle?
Well where to start? Firstly, thanks to Motherwell for the opportunity to write for and support this much needed charity.
Having had tricky end of pregnancies (pre-eclampsia both times – my first born was 6 weeks early), I’m a big fan of any groups and organisations that give a helping hand to mothers and parents. It doesn’t matter how old the kids are – they don’t seem to come with instruction manuals and they’re never the same child twice!
Teething with my youngest is a very different (and more exhausting!) experience then it was with my 3-year- old. Anyhow, we’re getting there.
I think one of the most important things is to try and remember to have fun along the way. Not always the easiest thing to do when you’re ratty from no sleep, pressures of day to day life, rushing to work etc etc.
At the moment our silly time comes in the form of Paw Patrol. I kid you not, my husband took my eldest son to football on Saturday and was told “Chase! Chase! I need you Chase! Come and help me…. Skye and Rubble are at home, so you have to help me!” It also helps when I need him to do something (the 3-year- old not my husband!) “Ryder – I have an important mission for you!! You need to get in the car, so we can rescue the cat….” Bonkers but it works for us.
My own escapism comes through books, story writing and encouraging children to use their imagination. I loved books as a child and think it’s so important to get kids into reading.
Not necessarily just for the academic side of things and the doors reading can open but because of the fun and joy that comes from reading a good book. Picture books, fiction, fact books (we’re looking at a lot of pictures of trains at the moment!) It also doesn’t matter how old the child is. In fact, they say the younger the better, even from birth.
This link is quite helpful: http://readtoyourbaby.com/read_literacy.html
There are so many worlds that can be accessed through books: The Gruffalo, Green Eggs and Ham, Mr Men books, the Beatrix Potter series and many more. Books bring out not only a wide range of vocabulary but an imagination and curiosity in children. There’s something special about seeing your child looking at some of the same books you did when you were young and loving them all over again!