.. and me
I feel like it’s been a long while since I’ve sat here and just typed.I feel like so much has changed since the last time I sat here and typed.
I do not suppose for one minute that I am alone in thinking that this somewhat surreal and strange experience that we’re living through has allowed us some time so really figure a few things out. Without the pressure I put on myself and expectations that I set to “fulfil” this new role (whatever fulfilling it truly looks like) I have felt peaceful, calm, and for some reason, suddenly capable of achieving many things.
Before this lockdown, an afternoon or a morning spent at home had huge potential to send me into a negative spiral. Partly because I felt bored carrying out what I refer to as ‘the mundane jobs’: the dishwasher, hoovering, washing, mopping, etc. Partly because I felt trapped in the house unless I felt capable enough to tackle what can sometimes be a battle to simply get out the front door without tears, frustration, or forgetting something and feeling embarrassed about it later – the amount of times I have forgotten muslins/baby wipes over the past year is astonishing, but I adapted and now these things don’t always make the list of necessities anyway.
Partly because I felt like my purpose has been taken away from me, despite being a mum. I’d dropped into the background and became just a loosely fit cog in a huge expanse of other, more efficient, and more necessary cogs; anybody can load a dishwasher and mop floors can’t they? .. and it felt like that’s all I had.
Partly, and finally, because regardless of how many baby/toddler groups I attended, I came away feeling lonely. I haven’t made ‘mum friends’ as such – I’ve had more conversations with more mums since having Arthur, naturally, but I haven’t got a mum gang to share coffees with or invite round for cake. I feel guilty sometimes seeing or talking to friends of mine that are without children, I feel like I waste their time when they make an effort to see me and talk to me for me to repay them with distraction, stop-start conversations, and ‘mum chat’.
I know all of this might seem a little bit dramatic to some, and I wouldn’t disagree at times but this was my reality that I struggled to find positives in (again, despite having Arthur) every day, and it was tough.
I’ve written about some dark/er times so I won’t make you relive what goes on in this head of mine!
So, lockdown 2020.
Maybe its due to being inundated on social media with positivity quotes, quotes about the moon (which I do love), quotes about finding peace, love, happiness, contentment; all THOSE things!
Maybe it’s due to the fact that somewhere up there I’ve recognised that if I fall at this hurdle, shits going to continue to be really tough and probably get tougher; I am going to drive people away, maybe even myself.
I’m stuck here, yes, but do I feel safe here? Totally.
I have found ways of reducing my anxiety. Simply sitting silently next to Arthur whilst he munches away on whatever number snack/meal we’re on that day whilst completing a sudoku (in a bright pink pen no less) is so calming.
I’ve even done some yoga which has helped with reminding me to breath AND I’ve started indulging myself in some exercise aside from our daily walk.
The slower pace of things has made me slow down too and do you know what? I get WAY more done. I feel like I achieve so much more (don’t be mistaken, there is always a long list of things I need/want to be doing).
I used to rush to leave the house in the morning through fear of feeling that boredom that I hate. I’d feel reluctant to come home and was easily distracted; I’d end up at my mums for hours (which whilst lovely, just prolonged the inevitable of having to go home and cook dinner or something). Then I’d spend the remainder of the afternoon trying to get everything I possibly could done in a bid to make myself feel useful and good. Perfect timing for Arthur to start getting hungry and tired. I know it sounds so obvious, and I have absoloutly no idea why I have battled with my own expectations versus reality for so long and allowed myself to become so frustrated at times.
I am thankful that this lockdown has encouraged me to slow down, adapt day to day depending on simple things, like the weather, and to take pressure off myself because I can be my own worst enemy – if I feel like walking, I’ll walk, if Arthur gets unsurprisingly bored of me folding the washing, we’ll move on to something else and come back to it.
I suppose I sort of knew all of this deep down, and others were witness to me doing it and would say that I do it well – I’m not a hot mess every day but I am human! Appreciating my alone time even if it does consist of folding washing; I get to fold washing mostly in silence whilst Arthur generally occupies himself with the contents of a draw or if I’m really lucky, something slightly less counter-productive. It might not sound ideal but I’ll take it in return for spaghetti flavoured kisses, aggressive cuddles, high fives, mini fist pumps, and the rest, any day of the week.
I battled with it because I didn’t want to give up so much of what I was used to, despite already giving up so much, much like many parents do naturally without question. It’s been a journey that has frequently changed direction and taught me so much as a result.
It actually feels kind of wonderful so cheers to that!
First year – Expectations V Reality …
Over the last year, I have spent A LOT of time on my own, but even more time pondering the many things you get told when expecting a baby and also whilst in your first year of parenthood.
I’ve somehow managed to narrow all these things down to almost a handful .. so here it goes ..
Expectation One : The Baby Bubble
I do believe the ‘Baby Bubble’ to be a real thing. I think some couples experience overwhelming feelings of love and are so wrapped up and in awe of their babies, and I don’t blame them. I experienced the baby bubble for a short period but if I think back to the early days, I remember feelings of overwhelming anxiety. I didn’t really want people to hold Arthur, I didn’t really want people coming round to our home, I didn’t know how to say this to anyone. I felt like it was a selfish thing, that it was my issue so to speak or that I was in fact being over protective or simply unfair on all the people who had been so desperate to meet him.
The thing is, nobody had been more desperate to meet him than me. I’d carried two, however briefly so Arthur’s arrival felt long overdue. All of a sudden I was watching others cradle him, trying to soothe him whilst he screamed and felt helpless. I was his mum, and totally helpless.
So .. yes the baby bubble exists but it’s sometimes short lived unless you follow through with those “selfish” “overprotective” thoughts and feelings.
I wasn’t ready to share him with the world.
Expectation Two : Sleeping When the Baby Sleeps
Huge congratulations if you have ever achieved this by the way!
It started out as me being a super human, almost to prove a point to myself that I could do everything – setting the bar extremely high for the reality of having zero time/motivation to carry out meaningless tasks (like mopping the floor that will inevitably be covered in food waste and muddy dog prints in a matter of hours – probably even minutes OR trying to battle against the ever growing tidal wave of washing!) BUT i was managing. My recovery was fairly straight forward for which I am hugely grateful (thank you, body!)
HOWEVER .. when it got to that stage post baby where the pure excitement of it all starts to dwindle and the sleepless nights creep up on you (I use the word ‘creep’ loosely -I woke up one day feeling like I’d been beaten to near death and am yet to recover) I tried to take peoples advice.
On many occasions, in fact every occasion aside from two, I lay awake paranoid that as soon as I’d fallen asleep Arthur would wake and it would have been 1. Pointless or 2. I would feel ten times worse than I did before I attempted to sleep. This happens EVERY TIME (I’m not entirely sure why I’m still trying to sleep when he sleeps!)
So the reality is, accept that laying staring into space is your new nap.
Expectation Three : Making Mum Friends
Firstly, I need to just put this out there .. SOME of the baby groups I have attended have been HOSTILE to say the least. An example: I attended a local group every week since Arthur was 8 weeks old. I saw the same people every week – they still do not say hello to me! I’m not entirely sure what message I’m giving off to warrant pure ignorance but hey, people are weird.
I have met some lovely people at some lovely local groups for which I am thankful for but the reality is this: I coffee alone, or I coffee with my mum! and if I’m not getting a takeaway coffee or having coffee with my mum, I’m generally on my own (obviously with Arthur but bless his heart, there are zero sane conversations taking place in our house between the hours or dawn and dusk!)
Expectation Four : Making Time for Yourself
Oh that ‘self-care’ thing that everyone bangs on about but don’t often succeed with.
I have to plan my self-care time myself – I’m bored of being the planner – I plan meals, days out, washing and cleaning schedules in a bid to get it all done (it’s never done!)
Unless I have a melt down, I am not entitled to self care being forced upon me by a loved one.
Sometimes, I simply can’t be arsed!
Sometimes, I make special plans to lay in a hot bath with a face mask on listening to a podcast which often ends in me getting out of the bath, settling Arthur and jumping back in numerous times over and over – how RELAXING!
Sometimes its a spur of the moment things and its absolutely and unexpectedly fabulous!
So I suppose what I am saying is:
1. Do not listen to the expectations of your journey into motherhood set by others.
2. Expect the unexpected or better still stop expecting. I once read that expectations = disappointment because what we expect is rarely our reality. Our expectations are often where our anxieties lie.
3. If you don’t want people holding your baby, passing them around like a cuddly toy, TELL THEM – if you’re not ready to share after nine months of being the exclusive caregiver to your unborn baby, you should be in no rush to share.
Alternatively, if you hate the clinginess, dive straight in! – I totally experienced this at some stages! A result of only being handed your baby back when they are inconsolable, or hungry, or being plain annoying – THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
4. Prepare to be spontaneous and a bit slap dash with your self-care.
Some days it will look like you having a peaceful coffee having had your nails freshly manicured, and some days it will look like 5 minutes to plait your filthy hair.
A Decade of Lessons …
I am a sucker for the post Chirstmas blues! No surprises there!
This is mostly *I think* down to the preperation for the new year; not just the celebrations but the hopes for the year to come.
Like many others, I do some reflecting on the year and years passed. This year, I’m doing something a little different to the usual “New Years Resolution” situation. Instead of setting expectations for myself (mostly based on irrational ‘wants’) I’ve decided that the turn of the decade is the perfect time to change two things:
1. To change the way I look after myself.
I often put myself last but by “last” I do not mean I get nothing or I am a less valued part of our family unit because some days I readily and without thought make sacrifices so that I can fulfill in other areas of our little family life.
However, I make RUBBISH choices: eating, self care routines (or even attempts), exercise, you get the gist. So this I’d like to change.
2. To work on my mental health.
It’s been a battle this decade that’s for sure. It’s hit me like a ten tonne truck at times and crept up on me slowly on many other occasions but I do feel like I’m starting to get somewhere with it so why not keep going.
So to get started, I’m making a list of all the lessons I’ve learnt this decade, to take to the next!
1. I can be brave. When I absoloutly need to be, I can be SO brave. I should carry bravery with me where ever I go, just in case.
2. I am surrounded by incredible people. They accept my worst, and celebrate my best.
3. I understand how my body and mind can work together and I should use this not simply to birth a mini human (to be honest, I might never want to use it for this ever again.. mini humans outside the womb can be right little demons!).
4. People that give a damn about you may resort to tough love in a bid to get you out of a situation they don’t like seeing you in. It’s pretty much always for your own good. Listen!
5. I’m a good person. I try my hardest. I don’t always get it right but I recognise when I do and recognise when I do not.
6. I am fun to be around. In the right company, I’m pretty darn hilarious.
This Christmas I mastered a sea lion and an ostrich impression and this confirmed my suspicions.
7. I don’t always have to be the bigger person.
I try to apply the rule; If I won’t be bothered in a week, I won’t bother now – this applies to situations in which someone has pissed me off (generally speaking) BUT I’ve learnt that sometimes losing your shit about someone not putting cushions on the bed, or loading the dishwasher, or other ridiculous things is sometimes necessary, you’ve just got to follow through and get it off your chest sometimes.. you’re only human.
8. I cannot save the world and everyone in it (animals included – obviously).
I’ve come to realise that despite best efforts, its totally not possible unless I develop some kind of super power BUT I can still help people find their lost cats and dogs, recycle, be kind, and do a good deed when I can.
9. Being honest is always best even if it’s difficult.
10. It’s okay to be scared of your own ambitions. Just go through with them anyway. Nobody following you or watching you knows that you find putting yourself out there intimidating so it doesn’t make a difference to them whether you do it or not. It matters to you, so do it.
So that’s it I guess, this is what I’ve learnt this decade. It might not seem a lot to some, but it’s got me through TEN YEARS.
So here’s to another year, another decade of going with the flow of life and all it brings with it. To remaining ambitious even if it scares the crap out of me and appreciating every success – even the little ones.
Talking about self-care…
Self care has been what we’ll call a ‘hot topic’ across social media of late. I’m all for it but a post I read recently summed it up perfectly, albeit potentially negatively depending how you look at it.
Now I never thought I’d find myself starting sentences so frequently with “as a mother…” but I am one and so it’s the only experience I’m able to offer you all .. Sorry about that.
That being said, as a mother I do believe that in many if not most cases, women naturally or eventually take on a significant ‘caring’ role post baby.
In a way I’m head of the house, I fight against the ever growing wash pile, try my best to plan meals (often failing to find or remember to buy key ingredients), whilst also trying to do all this and more meanwhile entertaining (for the most part) a mini human that carries traits of your own stubbornness but who is WAY cuter.. Imagine two of me ! In another sense, I’m totally bottom of the pile (I know my partner like many others probably cringe when they read this-mine hates that I feel like this).
I do not for a second mean that my partner doesn’t help me out – he does- but truthfully, I think about myself just before Arthur wakes or once he’s tucked up in bed. This often goes something along the lines of “can I get away with not showering today because I can’t be naffed with fighting Arthur for the shower screen?” .. “How can I make myself look reasonable enough that I won’t scare myself walking past a mirror?” Or “what can I bothered to do now that I’ve finally sat down?” So it’s not that I don’t think about myself it’s just my “self care” looks drastically different and is much more sporadic than I was used to. I don’t know if that’s ok or not.. I mean some days I need it more than others and I FEEL it because I’m ratty and impatient but some days I choose not to bother with painting my fingernails and sit watching Hugo sleep instead.
So I guess what I’m wondering is whether self care as a mother looks more like being aware of when we really need it and delivering for ourselves and simply accepting like we have many other things (the soft tummy, the lack of sleep, the never ending food mess, you get the idea!) that it will look less like the Sunday ritual of filing and repainting your nails, a hot bubble bath on a Friday night just because, and a LAY IN (!) and that’s kind of ok for the most part.
I recently saw my dentist who almost immediately and sternly told me that I had forgotten to look after myself once he’d looked at my teeth (that makes it sounds like my teeth are falling out which they thankfully are not, they’re surprisingly much healthier than I thought they’d be!) and found myself thinking ..
Something as simple as spending a few more minutes at bed time with my teeth could actually be quite pleasant and if that’s my new level of self care, I am happy with that (at least today anyway!)
9 Months in 9 MIonths out…
Since having Arthur, naturally I have found my Instagram feed flooded with baby photos, mum photos, body progress photos and the like.
Amongst these are many 9 month in/9 month out photos which I love – it’s great seeing the change in our babies from womb to walking and so on!
One thing people always say to me is “haven’t you bounced back!” –
I guess I have been lucky that I have been able to squeeze myself back into my jeans with minimum effort on my part – with the additional help and support of my everyday spanx situation. However, I often find myself responding by informing people that despite appearances, my body (at least to me) looks and feels VERY different. My belly absoloutly wobbles, i absoloutly have stretch marks, my belly button is not the button it used to be (need I say more?) and well my boobs feel a lot softer than they did in the early days of post partum!
So .. why are we here?
I wanted to share my 9 months in/9 months out photos but for slightly different purposes.
Aside from the obvious comparisons on the progress of babies; what they’re eating, when they started crawling, babbling, walking, etc, some mums compare themselves to other mothers – what they look like, how they’re exercising, what diet they’re on, etc.
The aim of this post is to firstly put myself wayyy out there and out of my comfort zone to demonstrate that every post partum body goes on a different journey of its own – no matter what path we decide to take. Despite fitting into my size 10-12’s, I have days where to put it bluntly, I feel like a fat wobbly mess! (Who doesn’t have these days?!)
I never weighed myself whilst pregnant – I simply wasn’t interested. However, when we turned on the scales that we had brought for Arthur before he was born, I stumbled across my one and only weigh in (I had to weigh myself during the set up process) and CRIKEY! I had put on 3 stone in the first 5 months of pregnancy and at that point I was glad I hadn’t continued to pay attention to my inevitable pregnancy weight gain!
I was fascinated at how quickly my body started to shrink after having Arthur and so took photos fairly regularly (mostly because we don’t actually own a full length mirror!).
On top of this, I still believed that my stretch marks were dark, deep, and obvious, but having taken a fair few photos of them over the last few months, it is very clear that most of what I imagine myself to look like is just that – my imagination.
One thing I really thought I’d struggle with post baby and post birth was my appearance but weirdly enough I kind of love myself more now than ever. Every mark, every wobble, and every soft bit is worth all of what we’ve been given in return – Arthur, and a new life full of opportunities to make wonderful memories and go on adventures as a family – none of which require me to have a six-pack or zero stretchmarks.
So yes, its bloody difficult amongst all the other changes we go through as women, mums, and families to accept our bodies not looking anything like they did before but embrace it – YOU MADE A BABY, SISTER!!
Miscarriages .. and me.
It’s miscarriage awareness week AND yesterday it was mental health awareness day.
I’ve wanted to write about miscarriages for a long while but I am FOREVER struggling to find words that do the feelings involved any justice.
BUT, having read many posts yesterday in particular that of Deliciously Ella’s about mental health it became very apparent that I didn’t have to try and be profound or eloquent when writing about something so close to my heart (it would obviously be great if I could do all of these things!) but instead, simply sharing my experience MIGHT and will HOPEFULLY encourage others to share their own.
It’s not about how things are said necessarily but simply that it IS said. I found so many similarities in stories from people of all walks of life whilst scrolling Instagram and reading posts last night. One of these similarities is that many people felt embarrassed by how they were feeling. Totally relateable!
So, why am I here?!
I have decided to share my experience of miscarriage so that hopefully other parents feel that they are able to share their own because so many of these stories carry so many similarities, so why are we not talking about them?!
My miscarriages were very different. Both early, but different.
I found out about our first pregnancy fairly early on. We were due to move house and everything was so surreal. We moved into our new home, desperate to add to the magic of moving house (I am aware I am one of very few people who enjoy moving house!) by announcing our pregnancy BUT choosing not to because ‘it’s too early on, what if something happens?’
I agreed with this statement until the day came. I’d started spotting the night before and I kind of just knew. I felt pressure in my back, hips, legs, almost everywhere and I spent hours sat on the loo- mostly because I just needed to cry but didn’t know how I would explain that I knew what was happening to my partner.
Eventually I made it out of the bathroom but only to the hallway of the bungalow we were living in, leaning heavily against the wall because standing was too painful.
We went to bed and I sat on the side of the bed in agony whilst my partner slept beside me. In that moment I sat on the edge of the bed just waiting for the inevitable.
The following day the bleeding continued and phone calls to the doctors/midwives were made. I took the morning off work so I didn’t have to experience a miscarriage whilst surrounded by 30 lovely children. Eventually, I decided to head to my mums. She just had to know. How could I do this without a Mum hug? I turned up, convincing myself that I would be able to hold my shit together. The second I saw my mum my shit fell apart at great speed and I found myself in a heap sobbing on the landing. The poor woman had no idea that I was even pregnant and here I was telling her I wasn’t any longer.
The second miscarriage happened much quicker and thankfully was less painful (thankful seems an odd word to use in this context). I felt prepared for this miscarriage, I think I had little hope after the first time, and maybe instinctively I knew.
It happened and the following day (a snow day) my partner and I headed to my mum and dads (again, we see them often !). I sat on the sofa, completely numb and I just blurted out “I had another miscarriage last night”. We had a team cry and then went and slid down snowy slopes on bin lids like nothing had happened. For me it was the most sad and lonely moment going down the snowy hill sat on my bin lid (this tickles me now but I was SO sad).
I felt like it was never mentioned again. I sat amongst friends and family just thinking about what we’d lost, what they could have been, what might never be , and felt numb and sick for months wondering why nobody would talk to me about it.
When we found out we were pregnant with Arthur we had already passed the miscarriage mark but I felt nothing, just fear, and sadness. How can I be happy about another pregnancy when I don’t know if it will continue or end and I miss the children I’d never meet. When we finally got to 13 weeks we told our families that we were pregnant again. My mums response was “please tell me you’re 12 weeks”.
I think at that point I made a decision somewhere in my mind that I would always include my brothers, sisters and parents in the whole journey of pregnancy, no matter how long or short because I needed them at the beginning in the same way I needed them at the end. The pressure and guilt of telling them only to tell them what could have been broke my heart. I do believe that if they’d known what was going on the whole time, more conversations would have been had and it might have been easier to accept or prepare myself for. Maybe.
Positive birth stories..and me.
To give a little background, before I became pregnant I whole heartedly believed that labour and birth was going to be the closest to death I would come in my life. A bit dramatic, maybe? I believed this thought to be rational because it was based on stories I had heard from many mothers. Positive birth stories were few and far between and often tinged with an element of “I must have just got lucky”.
I was so terrified of giving birth having listened to such stories, watching dramatised births on the TV, and being bombarded by my own fearful thoughts. The word ‘labour’ used to send such a wave of adrenaline through me that I would experience pins and needles in my hands and feet!
Thankfully, in a desperate bid to avoid a painful, ‘near death’ birth experience, and with a little metaphorical shove from my eldest sister, I looked into Hypnobirthing.
All of it made sense to me but I found it difficult to believe that I would have a positive birth experience because I had heard so few similar experiences.
In normal day to day life, words that we hear enter our minds consciously but are processed subconsciously having an effect right down to a cellular level.
Despite being able to respond rationally to negativity, our minds naturally process what we hear. If all we hear about labour and birth is negative, our subconscious will simply be full of negative ideas, feelings, thoughts, and responses.
Imagine how these thoughts and feelings would differ if we indulged ourselves in positive birth stories?
So, pregnant or not, I make it your mission not only to avoid or redirect women and their negative birth stories by helping them identify positivity and empowerment within their stories but also to find the positives in them all for your past, present, or future self.
- “what was the best part about your labour?”
- “What do I want my experience to be?”
Visualise, imagine, and indulge in that.
My Hypnobirth and Me ..
To tell you the truth, the idea of being pregnant made me feel extremely anxious (which I thought for a long time had something to do with our two miscarriages). The thought of feeling ‘something’ moving around inside my enormous belly was WEIRD, and well the rest of the process just completely terrifying!
Thankfully, my wise sister pointed my in the
direction of an amazing book. I read the book, and within the first chapter, i
genuinely felt some of my anxieties lift.
I listened to the affirmtations on my way to work every morning, I used some of the breathing techniques on many different occasions, and listened to relaxation scripts before bed every night, sometimes whilst indulging in a lavendar bath (bath and relaxation scripts together are not recommended for hopefully obvious reasons!).
Without little effort on my part (side note: I’d put in way more effort next time!), a few weeks later, in conversation with a friend about “the labour” I found myself talking freely about options, potential complications (because there are always potentials!), “pain” and many other birth related topics without feeling anxious AT ALL.
It became apparent to me after this conversation that this book that I have been reading, those mp3’s i had been listening to might have been doing the trick!
Fast forwards to a few days before our birth, I had
no fear, just excitement. This excitement continued throughout the 40+ hours of
labour, an induction, a drip, and eventually a c-section.
My partner and I had the most chilled couple of days we’ve probably ever had. I bounced around on a ball whilst listening to Snoop Dogg and Sean Paul amongst many other questionable choices and felt little pain, just a lot of energy. We discussed choices slowly and carefully with each other as well as our midwives and I still truly believe every decision was finalised by myself.
Hypnobirthing is about empowering women by teaching
them about the capabilities of their birthing bodies. As well as this,
hypnobirthing teaches women and their birthing partners about the power of the
subconscious mind and its relationship with their bodies therefore allowing the
two to work in harmony and more efficiently (which helps to reduce pain etc).
Alongside all of this, is choices and understanding. Choices about where they
birth their baby, choices about options that are offered to them and an
understanding of the risks and benefits of all of their options.
This enables parents to remain relaxed knowing that they are well informed and confident in making decisions when and where necessary and most importantly of all, that birth is not scary, because we are calm, confident, and capable.