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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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!

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International Women’s Day

Bitchy, catty, moody, hormonal: these, and more, are words we hear attributed to strong women. These are words that show how society still views women. These words need to change!

Everyday, I meet, work with and am privileged to have in my life, strong and inspirational women. Women who fight for what they believe is right, women who put others first – their children, their friends, their family – women who power through the tough times with a smile on their face. Everyday, I wonder where these women find the strength; and I hope it’s the same place I do – from those other women in their lives.

We, as women, are always pushing to be taken seriously, to be respected in the same way, to be recognised as equals in so many areas. We need to remember to come together too. With the fight daily, we don’t need to be against each other too. Recently, I have seen too many incidents of women acting in a way that puts us back decades, that makes me doubt that every woman is on our side, and that needs to change. I am calling for all women to come together and support each other. We have a duty to care!

I am raising an independent little lady, and I hope she will continue to grow into a wonderful woman who can be strong, determined and loving. If we all did this, the world would be a little better. To those raising young men: if they can grow up respecting and valuing women, you’ve done a good job!

While this post is not about anxiety directly, it is under everything I do, and possibly those super women you know. Celebrate our strengths and cherish those women!

Strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.

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Snow, Snow, Snow!

So, the ‘ Beast from the East’ has hit, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Baby Girl and I were up at 6.20 and out in the drive by half past, watching the tiny flakes and fingering at the snow on the car.

I want to take her out more today, it’s just working out where, and making sure she’s wrapped up for the Arctic temperatures.

I’ve had to say I’m not going to her normal baby class – although I love the snow – I’m not risking driving anywhere! This is time for trudging.

While she naps, I am watching the heavier flurries with a cup of tea, and getting super excited about what I could do today!

Stay safe and enjoy the snow!!!

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Where has the time gone?

Baby Girl is 10 months old! And if that wasn’t enough to be worried about, she is not only crawling with the speed of light, but is walking like she’s training to be an Olympic Athlete – which Hubby would be very pleased with.

She appears to be so advanced, watching and learning everything just a little too soon, that I don’t know what to expect from one day to the next.

She has never been one to be fed from the spoon, always grabbing in from my hand and thrusting it into her mouth, but now she blocks it, bats it away and (if we manage to get any food to land in the mouth) spits it out with a look of disdain and a scrape of the tongue. Miss Independent!

As well as Baby Girl developing into a Little Lady faster than I would like, I am back to work. It was nearly a year ago that I went on my maternity leave, and for the last month (minus the school holidays) I have been back at it.

3 days a week I have to leave the house while it is still dark with Baby Girl waving from the door (she’s become very good at waving), engulfed in the arms of Hubby. 3 days a week I have to leave the house with my heart breaking ever so slightly. 3 days a week I look into the back of the car via the continual mirrored reflection of the rear view mirror and the baby mirror, and see no Baby Girl in the car seat. For the first couple of times I had a small heart attack as I had forgotten that she was not supposed to be in the car on my 40 minute journey to work.

So, where has this time gone?

A year ago I was counting down to my maternity leave, waddling around and preparing to start our antenatal classes. Now, I am sat watching a small person – not a baby – eat her lunch while humming and dancing, waving her Ella’s Kitchen biscuit at me and sharing it with the dog via the floor.

I have a not so baby Baby Girl – and THAT is terrifying!