How I Got Here

How I Got Here

I’ve always been an introvert, slightly socially awkward, and anxious about what could happen if…

I’m the person who gets somewhere early, because she doesn’t want to walk into a filled room on her own – but not too early, because being the only one in a room or at a restaurant table may mean you’re in the wrong place, which can lead to the former.

I’ve been through different stages of depression throughout my life, and have mostly, but not exclusively, found my way out of them without medication (sometimes your body needs a little help). Anxiety, however, is something that takes practice: changing your mindset to not worry ‘what if…?’ and act and react logically. The problem comes when you can be logical; you know the ‘correct answer’ but it doesn’t change the feeling of your heart pounding out of your chest, your stomach tying in knots, your breathing becoming shallow or your eyes welling up with tears. So, feeling like this at times of stress, or sometimes just because the day ends in ‘y’, is a rocky start to being a mum. As is the struggle to become a mum in the first place, and then the hormones flooding your body in preparation for D-day and all of the years that follow.

I loved being pregnant! Yes, I got sickness; yes, I got cravings; yes, I got cramp that meant I couldn’t walk for days, but I loved it. I loved feeling the movements, seeing the scans and hearing the rapid heart beat of our little miracle. But it is also a deeply anxious time. There were times when I worried because I couldn’t find the heart beat with my at home doppler (a reason not to have one), or hadn’t felt her move for a while – but then she’d get hiccups and all would be well. Or so I thought…

Hiccups, so many hiccups. Was this normal? Google will tell you that hiccups after a certain point in pregnancy could mean that the cord is wrapped around baby’s neck. A new worry! The midwife had said that it was fine. Hiccups are just hiccups. But what if she was wrong? What if my baby’s hiccups were the type Google described? What if she came out blue, and I would have known (because Google said so) and done nothing?

She didn’t come out blue – she just has a lot of hiccups.

My anxiety with travel and my job was too much towards the end of my pregnancy. With anxiety attacks at the weekends – I’m still not sure why then, when I was the most relaxed – the stress of dealing with people at work, and driving an hour and a half a day in the winter months caused me to take a slightly earlier maternity leave. No problem, right? As I was convinced Baby Girl was going to arrive early, I didn’t worry about being at home; work had me covered, and I gradually switched off. 5 weeks later, still no baby: I worried I had wasted my leave, let work down and should have stuck it out for a bit longer. My logical side said what the midwives said, what women at work had said, and what my husband said: “Enjoy this time, you’ll never have it again. You can get ready for the baby.” And I realised that getting ready for the baby meant mentally and emotionally, as well as having all of the washing done, the nursery ready (even though she won’t sleep in there for months), and the hospital bag packed. I can do tasks, but my mind was a different challenge.

Control is a big part of my anxiety, but I had trained myself to be prepared to lose control during labour – not knowing when, where or how it was going to happen – I had calming aromatherapy oil ready, was taking plenty of walks (for several reasons: 1) the dog, 2) the air, 3) to relax and 4) to get baby moving) and had made my birth plan as clear as possible with my preferences, my non-negotiables and what I was ‘prepared’ for should it need to happen.

3 days after my due date, the contractions started, and I was surprisingly calm. I didn’t tell my husband when they started at 12.30 am, instead waiting until 5.30 am when we were both awake. I was excited; he began to realise what was about to happen, and 3 days later, we were at out final destination. Yes, 4 days of labour (although it doesn’t count before 4 cm dilation apparently, and that took 3 days). It was after 3 visits to our local hospital, the ambulance to another hospital, the epidural, the hormone drip, and 5 different midwives that I was told I was ready to push. Panic hit. I didn’t know how to do that. No-one had prepped me for that. I had to get this long awaited baby out of me, and it was happening now. No time for the panic to take hold, I had a job to do – now.

I’ll skip the details, but she arrived and we spent 3 days in hospital to keep an eye on us both. It was comforting to know I had midwives and doctors around should I need them; it was not comforting having my husband leave at the end of visiting hours and it just being me. I had to keep this new life living, and apparently she did not want to sleep.

I had hardly slept for 4 days, and then was awake for each night in the hospital, trying to feed Baby Girl. My worry became that I would fall asleep while feeding her, and squash or suffocate her, so I walked for hours and hours, backward and forward on the ward. I sent growingly desperate text messages to my husband through the night, counting down the hours until he would be back on the ward with me and I could rest.

So, no sleep, new hormones, the most painful nipples thanks to Baby Girl being tongue tied, a constantly hungry baby and no husband allowed at the precise time I needed him. A rough start.

My midwife had already said she would keep me on her list for longer than normal, due to previous bouts of depression, and my confession to anxiety during my pregnancy. I, therefore, knew I would have plenty of visits, which were great when I got home, but it still left me with a lot of time where I had to keep her alive.

And so, this is what happened – not everyday, but these posts are some of my anxieties, concerns, questions and events that make me an anxiety filled mum.

Thank you @HonestMum for the #Brilliantblogposts


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To Sleep or Not To Sleep

So having two little people is a lot harder than having one… who’d have thought?

I was terrified about having the two of them, how I would balance them, whether I’d have enough love…

Turns out, it is the tiredness that gets to you. It’s the tiredness that means you can’t enjoy every moment. It’s the tiredness that means your body aches and you still have to get up, play, feed and survive.

A month ago we made a decision, not formally, but it just happened, that – instead of getting up for 3 hours in the middle of the night while Baby Boy slept on me – him sleeping in the bed with me means we all get some sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still terrified. Every night I hope I’ve followed the Sleep Advice and met his needs at the same time, and that nothing will happen. That he doesn’t overheat. That I don’t roll on him. That I don’t smother him with my chest. It’s a long list.

But we need sleep.

My husband and I are actually able to deal with the day because we are getting some mildly interrupted sleep rather than a few hours in total. And our children deserve the best of us.

A lot of people will judge us: ‘you’re making a rod for your back’ ‘I suppose it’s a short term solution’… No. My baby needs me, and while I will try to put him into his own cot, there is no hurry.

I just need to take a breath each night before bed and know I’m doing what’s right for us.

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What do you do with two?

So today I had a positive mummy moment; it was born out of Baby Girl still recovering from whatever illness had possessed her, her own clumsiness and no Daddy around.

She managed to knock herself on the head with a toy, which shocked her a little. A minute later, she came running to me, tears streaming, nose running and arms outstretched. She clambered up onto my lap and clung to me as if she had been apart from me for years. My heart melted as I tried to reassure her: stroking her hair while holding her with the same arm.

Why didn’t I use both arms? I would have, but this was also the time that I was feeding Baby Boy. I had both babies on my lap, taking from me what they needed for comfort and growth.

I didn’t really think about it at the time, but my sister was amazed that I was managing this. It seemed like nothing to me, I was doing what needed to be done, but on reflection being a mum and doing what needs to be done – whatever it is – is amazing. Being a mum is amazing.

I will remember that moment in the hard times to come; the days when they are both demanding everything from me, the minutes or hours of tantrums and tears to come. I will remember that I can do it, I can hold two babies and give them what they need.

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Poorly Bubba

A poorly baby is stressful, anxiety inducing and the biggest pull on you; how do you deal with this when you have two babies?

This is a genuine question. I am currently watching Baby Girl intently on the video monitor – making sure she’s breathing, moving, not choking on her cough. She seems to be more poorly than well lately. This could be nursery, playgroups, just other people being near her – none of which I can stop.

Today, she slept in and then dipped in energy and mood by late morning. Without finishing her lunch, she went to bed with a bit of a temperature so had a shot of calpol. I have Baby Boy finally asleep, but on me.

If Baby Girl gets worse, what do I do? Baby Boy needs me, I’m breastfeeding so Daddy doesn’t always cut it. I want to be there for Baby Girl, but I have to pass that baton to Daddy. I have to suffer the heartbreak of a sick child, to ensure the health of another, while I let someone else comfort and look after her. Even writing that makes me well up.

So my anxiety hasn’t disappeared, and is actually still very apparent with Baby Girl rather that Baby Boy.

What if? What if? What if?

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And so it begins… again

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. The end of last year was a super busy one:

    Back to work, almost full time
    An independent toddler
    Pregnant

My anxiety settled with regards to Baby Girl, other than the time we ended up in hospital with her having a chest infection. Fortunately, this was only for the morning – leaving with antibiotics.

Happy new year and happy new baby!

Less than a week ago, I gave birth to a beautiful Baby Boy. With this new arrival comes a new wave of anxiety, exhaustion and (a lovely new one) guilt.

Even while writing this, my head is starting to contract and my eyes go fuzzy, due to the immense lack of sleep thanks to Baby Boy seeming to be in a different time zone.

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I had to put the phone down and sleep at that point.

We’re now just over a week…

I am finally attempting to sleep in my bed, having spent the last 6 days sleeping on the cuddle chair downstairs, thanks to my beautiful new arrival living in a different time zone to the rest of us. The exhaustion of giving birth, the hormonal overtake and the lack of sleep have been tough; especially as I have to be positive and smiley and mum to Baby Girl too.

I had forgotten about the anxiety that comes with having a tiny, dependent piece of your heart in your arms. While I am a little more relaxed than I was with Baby Girl, but it’s still there – making sure he’s breathing, making sure he’s eating properly, making sure he’s healthy… it is all so much pressure.

Mum guilt is the newest addition to my emotions: I want to spend the time with Baby Girl, I want to be able to bath her and put her to bed, I want to be able to “play horsies” with her; all of this has to wait, I have to take it one step at a time and nurture Baby Boy and leave some things to my husband, mum and mother-in-law. I need to accept I cannot do everything at once, it needs baby steps.

The first step of which, is SLEEP!

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Surprise!

In my last post, I expressed my frustration and anger at the world. Thank you to those of you who checked in on me.

It turns out my anxieties, anger, frustration and general despair was not just being tired, or me just being me (what a relief) but was brought on by hormones. Not menstrual cycle hormones but baby hormones!

I now have the heightened anxiety of expecting another little one while my Baby Girl is still becoming a little girl. Don’t get me wrong , it’s wonderful news – especially considering the struggle we had to have Baby Girl – but, oh my god, it’s scary!!

What do I do with two of them? What if I can’t give Baby Girl the attention she needs? What if I don’t love Newbie as much as Baby Girl? What if I have to be in hospital for days?

These are just a few of my questions; questions keeping me awake, and bringing a tear to my eye when I attempt to voice them.

Everyone says how great it is that there’s a small age gap, that “won’t it be wonderful for them as they grow up” but all I can think is how will I cope? I’m lucky and have a supportive husband and family 5 minutes away – but sometimes, that’s not enough to help you cope. It takes away a pressure, but can fill you with others. It should be me looking after them. If I can’t show attention and love to my own children, what’s the point? I’m getting ahead of myself, and stressing about something I don’t know enough about, yet.

My aim for the next few months is to attempt to practise mindfulness, go back to my journal of gratitude and hopes and prepare myself in a constructive way for what is to come, while enjoying Baby Girl while she’s on her own.

Wish me luck!

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Going Down the Rabbit Hope: Where’s the Map?

I’m going to start with saying that this is not an easy post. In fact, it’s probably the most difficult because I’m not reflecting, I’m living it. This is my current state of mind, my current struggle, my current confusion.

For the last few weeks I have been increasingly angry, frustrated and defeated. I know a lot of people have times they feel this way: women at their time of the month, parents when they’re sleep deprived, anyone when they are a little stressed at work with no way to change it. I could say it’s all three for me. I could also say it’s none of them. I honestly don’t know at the moment. As a side note, I’m probably not helping myself by watching emotional episodes of Scandal! Each day is a struggle depending on several factors, including Baby Girl’s mood, my amount of restful sleep, my day at work dealing with other children – no, teenagers – and whether my hormones give me a break. Not knowing what is going on is an additional stress for me, which adds to my anxiety, which feeds into worse mental health issues.

What I do know is that when I work out my way out of the rabbit hole, I will feel wonderful and strong, and be ready to take on the next stage of motherhood, the next stage of my career at a new school and the next stage of life. Until then, I need to find the bloody map! I need the guidance of others, but ultimately I need to work out my own route home.

This week is mental health awareness week, and so I hope this just reminds some people they are not on their own, and that it is real. It happens and it’s rubbish, but I need to have faith that it gets better, like it has done before.

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What Changed?

I have been so lucky to have Baby Girl described as happy, smiley and calm. She is an absolute delight – but I am bias.

In the last few days, my happy and calm baby disappeared and was replaced by a screaming, moaning, sleepless Baby Girl. So, what changed?

I should say – while I write this she has been asleep for a record time in the last week – I don’t want to jinx it!

My anxiety levels are super high, waiting for Baby Girl to scream like she’s being murdered, like she’s been abandoned. The scream that makes my heart rip from my chest, fly up the stairs to her and merely wait for my body to catch up with it. It’s a new scream, one designed to make a mother’s heart break and one that has had me in tears almost as much as she has been. It’s a scream that wakes me in the middle of the night (a new event) because I am not in the room when she wakes up.

I am exhausted, my heart is pounding in anticipation of a disastrous night’s sleep, and I don’t know why it’s happening!

My first thought was teething: she’s been chomping and rubbing at her gums. I’ve given her granules, Baby bonjela, calpol… nothing seems to work.

Then I thought she was just hungry: she’s not been eating properly, throwing most of her food to the dog – she’s definitely learnt the word ‘no’. This also made me think it was teething; she clearly wants to eat, I just have to guess what she wants. Today she had eaten and eaten, and so far it’s better than the last few days.

Is she having a growth spurt? Is she allergic to something and she’s uncomfortable? Is it just a change in routine as I’m on school holidays?

She has refused to nap in her cot, satisfied only with a constant walk around in her pram. She clearly thinks I need the exercise, which would be fine if I weren’t so exhausted. So, what’s a tired and emotional mother supposed to do?

Pray? Savour each second of quiet? Go to bed early?

Consider them all done!