Lessons to learn, regrets not to repeat.

Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

There is so much I would do differently about labour and my early parenting days if I had the wisdom and experience I have now. Things I hope I will do differently next time, should I remember. I love my daughter more than I ever thought possible. The guilt I feel at her early days is driving me to despair. I will not allow this to happen again.

So, to the future me, to the me carrying baby number 2, these are the things you need to remember.

It Hurts
It is as bad as you remember. In fact, it’s probably worse. In your favour is the fact that the first time it was quick, which probably means it will be quicker next time. With that in mind, say no to the opiates. Remember how much you regretted it the first time, remember how much you can’t recall about the birth and early hours of your daughters life and remember how much this upsets you. Chances are it will be over quickly. This time you want to experience it, be in control and take part, rather than have it happen to you.

Check for tongue tie, and insist on immediate action
Do not believe the midwife who tells you that you have a “perfect latch” and are therefore not in pain. Ignore the nurse who tells you pain is normal. This time round you are blessed with knowledge, experience and an army of supportive friends. If breastfeeding is painful then trust your instincts, demand action and do not settle for “immediate” when immediate means 10 days. (Pack, in your hospital bag, the telephone number of someone who will divide a tongue tie privately, and, if absolutely necessary, insist to your husband that you go down this route)

Labour will not be how you imagined, (and that’s ok)
Even with hindsight and experience there is no way you can predict the birth of your second, (and any further future babies). Abandon your idealized view, remember only that moment of sheer joy when your daughter hit your chest. Yes, it is important that you do not repeat previous mistakes, you will only anger yourself by repeating actions you regretted the first time, but you also can not write a script for characters you do not know. Go with your body, allow it to guide you. Trust your body.

You don’t need to feel guilty for the rest of your life. Forgive yourself.
It’s OK to say it was tough, it’s OK to need help. This does not make you weak or less of a Mum. Guilt will ruin you if you let it. Don’t.

Be strong, be firm and say what you think.
To everyone. Remember all thone comments you wish you had made. Remember the wishes you were to scared to share. Well not this time. This counts for labour and beyond. Tell the midwife that you know your body, insist that they believe you. Tell your family that you know your baby, insist that they refrain from “suggestions”.

Skin to skin skin to skin skin to skin
No doubt that this will be much harder second time around, when your first still needs you and must not be forgotten, but remember your regrets. Remember how your hormones did not balance, and how you felt like you had failed. Wear your baby in a sling, wear them skin to skin and don’t, for even a second, pass up any moment that you can hold your new addition close. Hold them both.

There is no right and wrong.
Labour is not a test. You can not fail it.

Lock the door and switch off your phone
Have a proper babymoon this time. Do not feel like you need to show your baby off to the world. The world can wait. Do not spend more hours of your baby’s first days on Facebook than you do staring into their eyes.

Wear extra breastpads when shopping
Remember, first time around, how your boobs leaked at the sound of other peoples babies crying.

The world doesn’t stop, but it feels like it should
And for you, it can. You have two now, enjoy them both. It really does go fast, don’t blink. Time passes while you are worrying, don’t waste a moment that way.

No one else loves their baby the way that you love yours. At least that’s how it feels.
Life is not a competition, and parenthood is not something to ve won or lost. Just value your family. Know that you love them, and make sure they know it too.

Two, now there’s a scary thought. There is nothing I can say to prepare you for that. I am yet to experience that fun.

Double the love, double the joy.

Take control, when the time comes do not allow it to also be double the guilt as double the regret.

Today I felt a Rainbow

Ever get bored of the standard “Fine thanks” answer to the obligatory “How are you?”

I have already told you What I really mean when I tell you I am fine. I’ve decided it’s time for a new answer. One that gets across an honest answer, quickly, but does not drag the unsuspecting questioner into an awkward conversation.

I have started answering that question with colours.

Colours can mean a multitude of things to different people. Each colour invokes memories and images that in turn help you relive emotions. This is all personal. Here you will find my colours, and what they mean to me. I have deliberately left them as a series of words rather than a clear sentence as my use of colours to describe mood aims to negate the need for succinct sentences.

Beige, boring, time is running out, unnoticed, unloved, unloveable

Black, dark, alone, fear, safe from acknowledgement

White, blinding, dangerous, truth, clean, hospital

Orange, sun, sunset, warm, fire,

Yellow, danger, mocking, noticed too much, humiliated

Red, love, blood, lips, sex

Purple, loud, false, uncomfortable

Green, fields, ill, ignored, alone

Grey, death, power, stench, jealous

Pink, carefree, hopeful, young, fresh

Blue, disconnected, disjointed, forgotten, failing, failed, failure

Today I’ve felt a rainbow.

I’ve found it! The Meaning of Life.

I stumbled upon it, almost by accident, tripping over it as I searched for happiness.

It came to me in the form of Stephen Fry. Or rather, in his voice. Stephen Fry has just narrated a series of short animations for the British Humanist Association.

I do not belong to any Humanist groups, but I do consider myself a humanist. My husband and I did not have a religious wedding and we chose a Humanist Naming and Welcome Ceremony for our daughter rather than a Christening. I respect other peoples religions and views on the world but I have never felt religious myself. I first researched Humanism after my grandfather’s funeral, saddened by the suggestion that God will comfort those who believe and that if you are Christian then you will receive support. It angered me that a time of grief I felt was being lectured about God.  I felt that there had to be a way to celebrate life and to guide people to live good and just lives without it being because God told them to. For me, humanism fits. It makes sense. It just works.

So, anyway, I stumbled across this animation, and I had a light bulb moment.

At first glance, I can see that a video about death, being the catalyst for me finding a reason for life, may seem a little contradictory, but, think about it.

Here and Now.

Meaning and Purpose.

For the one life we have.

This is it folks. I realise that to some that may seem a bit depressing, frightening even, but for me it has given me a burst of energy and positivity.

This is it.

This is all there is.

ENJOY IT.

I will live on in the minds of those who I loved, and who loved me. The good things I have done with my life, will have an impact on the world I am in, the world my daughter (and any future children and grandchildren) will grow up in.

This inspired me to watch the other animations on this page, and “How can I be happy” sums up exactly the conclusion I had come to myself.

The time to be happy is now.

I can do it,  and I will do it. In fact, I’m doing it now!

These animations have really given me the kick I needed to get up and get on. And to do that with a genuine smile on my face, not a mask, a genuine smile.

I am not naïve, I have post natal depression and I know that this will not go away with the discovery of a cool cartoon. But it will go away with support of medication and with a practiced new way of thinking.  For now I have found that, and I am working hard and practicing hard.

I will enjoy life, and live it to the full. I will continue to strive to make an impact on the world and to  develop myself through creative and intelligent projects. (I have one simmering right now.)

Myth busting, (or why I told the Facebook world about my PND)

The Diary of an Insecure Mother

I shared.  I opened up to the Facebook world. I admitted to my post natal depression.

It was terrifying- and it was done somewhat impulsively, but I am pleased I did.

I realised that as long as I, and others like me, continue to keep quiet about things like this, then change will not come.

I was scared of judgement, scared of what people will think about me.

Yes, I have PND, let me explain to you what that means, and what it does not mean.

I do not regret being a mother. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a mum, and now I am I feel complete. My life, pre motherhood, was missing a piece, and now it is not.  I have regrets about labour, I have regrets about how I parented in the early days, but not for one second have I ever regretted…

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A mind marathon?

Suggestions needed for a challenge please.

I am forever inspired by and in awe of those who can climb mountains, run marathons or succeed at some other physical challenge.

I can not. Sport is not my thing. I am not physically fit, and although I am in reasonable health I was not designed to put my body through that kind of stress.

I do however, constantly strive to better myself, to rise to, and to complete a challenge. I thrive on the attention and praise of such an event, I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and I long for the pride and happiness success brings.

But what can I do? I want it to be something that I need to work at, something easy would negate the point.

I want something with a measurable end result. So I can see success and so others can share it.

I want something worthy.

I want something that is unique to me.  What’s the creative equivalent of a marathon? What’s the non physical version of climbing a mountain?

What can I do that not everyone can?  What is special about me?

What do you do to challenge yourself?

Myth busting, (or why I told the Facebook world about my PND)

I shared.  I opened up to the Facebook world. I admitted to my post natal depression.

It was terrifying- and it was done somewhat impulsively, but I am pleased I did.

I realised that as long as I, and others like me, continue to keep quiet about things like this, then change will not come.

I was scared of judgement, scared of what people will think about me.

Yes, I have PND, let me explain to you what that means, and what it does not mean.

I do not regret being a mother. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a mum, and now I am I feel complete. My life, pre motherhood, was missing a piece, and now it is not.  I have regrets about labour, I have regrets about how I parented in the early days, but not for one second have I ever regretted becoming Mum.  This post explains my before and after feelings.

I do appreciate what I have.  Please stop reminding me that life is great and I am lucky to have a healthy beautiful girl, a job, a house, a loving husband and anything else you may think I am ungrateful for. I know all of this.  I do not choose to feel miserable (who would!?), and your expectation that I should be happy only adds to my depression.  It leaves me feeling guilty and feeling selfish.  I am fully aware of all that I have, and I value and appreciate it.  I count my blessings every single day. Twice.

I did not have difficulty bonding with my baby. I fell in love the moment I urinated on a stick.  I fell deeper in love as she grew inside me, and when she was placed on my chest as she entered this world my heart stopped. She and I have an amazing bond. Nothing can rival it. The joy on her face when I return from time away from her is beaten only by the joy in my heart.

I do not avoid spending time with my daughter. In fact the opposite is true. Whilst it is the case that some women with PND may not want to spend time with their babies please do not assume that this is the case for us all. In my case, time away from my daughter is like time away from oxygen. A half life with half my heart missing. This is how my PND manifests.

I am not a risk to my child and I would never ever hurt her. In reality this is incredibly rare. There is a different condition which does require strong monitoring to ensure baby is safe, I am no expert on this, (but I do know that this also is an illness and not a choice), PND does not, in any way, mean that I will hurt my child. If anything, I am a risk to myself, but support has kept me from that dark path.

I am not sad or crying all the time. Equally, just because I smile or laugh does not mean I am better. I can function in the world, granted, some days I find this harder than others, some days you will find me crying in the stationery cupboard, but not every day. Not all the time.

I do not need to be told to cheer up. Or to look at the beautiful flowers and enjoy the glorious sunshine. This shows much more about your ignorance than about my illness.

A good nights sleep will not “fix” me. Yes, it is true, I have not had a full nights sleep in over 8 months. However, sleep is not the problem. I actually love my nighttime cuddles. I no longer feel exhausted all the time, my body has adjusted and sleep is really not an issue.

Stopping breastfeeding will make things worse, not better. I breastfeed. I love it. You may think that the hormones attached to this are causing my problems, you would be wrong. The truth is that if I were to stop before my daughter weaned herself naturally then I would be overwhelmed with such deep feelings of loss, guilt and regret that I would fall deeper into the pit of depression, not start to climb out. I breastfeed because I want to and because she’s worth it.

Having PND does not make me weak.
In fact, I was once told by a therapist that it is usually stronger women who get the illness. Strong women who hold things together, over analyse and strive for perfection.

I don’t expect, or want you, to offer me solutions Please don’t suggest ways for me to cheer up. Please don’t offer advice or helpful suggestions. Just listen. Smile at me, and nod in the right places. I am receiving professional help for my illness. You would not try to cure someone who had flu or asthma with helpful tips, please treat my illness with the same respect.

My daughter is not starved of affection. You just need to look at her to see that. She is a loving, kind, strong, confident and secure individual. She has a mother who loves her and who tells her so every day.

A Facebook status and picture can hide a thousand truths. That status that tells you I am happy is not a lie, but nor is it the whole truth. It does not tell you how hard I have worked for that happiness, nor does it tell you that the happiness is singed with guilt and worry. The picture of my daughter crawling or laughing does not show you what is behind the camera. A mother who is so proud that she cries. Cries for the time that has already passed, the tiny life that is already going so fast. She cries for opportunities missed and with guilt that she can not spend every second with her daughter. She takes this picture, and all the others, in an attempt to hold on to the moment, to record the memories and make them last forever.

I am not a bad mother. I will repeat that. I am not a bad mother. In fact, do you know what? Excuse the pride, but I think I am a bloody brilliant mother! I love my daughter, I put her first and I consider her in everything I do. I chose my words carefully and I praise often. PND does not change this and it certainly does not, in anyway, make me a bad mother. (Although in my lower moments it might make me question myself.)

So, here I am. I have post natal depression. But it’s not what you think. 

Please don’t assume you know me, please don’t stereotype me. I might need you to smile at me more than others, I might worry more than others, I certainly have days when I feel like I have failed at everything and I may well cry more than most.

Don’t judge me. Just try and understand me.

In search of Happiness, without a map.

Happiness.

That elusive thing for which we all search.

What actually is it?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary Happiness is “the feeling of being happy”, with happy being defined as “feeling, showing, or causing pleasure or satisfaction“.

When you then look up pleasure you are met with “enjoyment, happiness, or satisfaction, or something that gives this” and looking up enjoyment leads you to “to get pleasure from something”

Happiness, is, it seems, so difficult to define, that even a dictionary can’t manage it, taking you round in circles and unable to give you a simple answer.

It will be no surprise to regular readers of my blog, that happiness is something that I am often lacking, but when I analyse this more, I realise that I don’t actually know what it is I am missing.

So, like all great investigators in life, I turned to the obvious source with my question. Facebook.  My friends were generous in their answers.

Children and family featured heavily.

Happiness is…

Hearing “I love you mummy”

Family and friends

Having my girls and their families with us to share special moments.

Late morning family cuddles in bed.

Getting into bed with a hot chocolate, husband and baby all ready for sleep with a quick cuddle from all three cats before they get shut out the bedroom for the night.

The first big smile I get from my son when I get home.

The giggle of my little girl.

Coming home from work after a hard day, spending the evening with those that you love the most and appreciating what you have worked hard to achieve. Feeling blessed.

Food was also popular, in particular, tea and toast.

Happiness is…

Marmite on toast

A cup of tea

Gin

A warm bun

Prosecco

Toast

Cold Sancerre

Cake

Cold beer in the sunshine

Nature and places also featured.

Happiness is,

A good cup of tea by my (late) nan’s roaring coal fire. The memory of this still makes me smile…perhaps it’s a Welsh thing 🙂

Crisp blue skies

Being in an amazing new place and taking fantastic photographs

Long walks

Material objects had a place on the list;

Happiness is,

New shoes

Beautiful notepaper

Sparkly things

Bed socks

 

There were a few that didn’t fit categories, ranging from learning, doing and feeling to selfless and altruistic answers,

Happiness is

Tidiness

Flirting

Anticipation

Happiness is when everyone else is happy…. X

Making things

A good book

Friends

A long lie in

Clever TV

A snow day!

Happiness is…..lots of simple, little things all rolled into a squiggly ball of love!   X

A full night’s sleep – with a long lie in!!!

 

However, these answers, although interesting, don’t really answer my question.  I see these as answers to the question “what makes you happy”, which is of course different for everyone.  My original question of “what is happiness” remains unanswered.

 

There were some answers that dug slightly deeper;

Happiness is

“Knowing that although life isn’t perfect and we never have all the money we need, it’s pretty damn good”

“Banging two pots together and discovering they make a noise, rolling balls down a baby walker and managing to put a lid on a pot! Happiness is so simple when you’re a child.”

“In the small things.”

“never to be taken for granted…”

“A state of mind”

All the above gave me food for thought.  How great to acknowledge that even though “life isn’t perfect” you can still be happy if you appreciate what you have.  How very true that happiness can often be found in the small things, sometimes overlooked when searching for the bigger things in life.  Indeed happiness should never be taken for granted, a fact I know only too well.

Happiness is a state of mind.  How very very true.  How wise and how perceptive.  A state of mind that I am still trying to gain.  To make my brain work in that way.

How true it also is, that through the eyes of a child happiness is so simple.  I often envy my daughter.  She can spend hours on end playing with her foot. She can light up the room with her smile and her laugh sounds like a thousand hearts filling up with love. She always seems so happy. The simplest of things can keep her smiling for hours.  She is magic.

However, perhaps the answer that gave me the most to think about, the answer that I will now focus on is this;

Happiness is, loving the life you live, so you can live the life you love.

Loving the life you live, so you can live the life you love.

I need to love my life.

So – What is it about my life that I don’t love?  The answer?

Me.

I don’t love myself.  Everything else about my life, though not perfect, is, to quote my friend above “pretty damn good”.  I need to examine what it is about me that I don’t like, and I need to change it.  I have the power to change, and a reason to change, and now, having had enough of this, I have the will to change.

I won’t bore you all with the long list of things about myself I need to change.  The important thing is that I take control.

I need to stop complaining and get up and change things.  It can be done.

And perhaps, just maybe, I really can reclaim my happiness after all.