My shameful secret…

I’m a mummy teacher.  A teacher mummy. 

It’s reaching the end of six heavenly weeks with my girl.  Six weeks of fun, games, adventures, new words, new sentences, new skills, love and a whole lot of laughter. 

And I can’t wait to get back in the classroom.  

Here’s why…

In the classroom I am seen as the expert

Although the odd teenager may question whether I really do know about Victorian Melodrama, the students, on the whole, accept that I am the one with the Drama degree and I am therefore the one to be listened to. Not at home! My toddler questions everything I do. “No mummy, this way, no, mummy, naughty mummy”

At school I can wee without an audience. 
None of my students shout “mummy, where you going? I come big girl toilet with you! I sit on floor! Tissue mummy?” I am so looking forward to those private wees!

At work people do as I ask them. 
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not without the occasional argument. Nor do I want to live a life where everyone bows down to my every command, but, in my work life at least, it’s lovely to not hear “nope” to my every request.

At work I can dress without worrying about boob access. 
I can wear dresses with high necklines. I can wear jewellery without worrying about it being “borrowed”. Yes, I can even wear high heels! (I may kick them off when I’m teaching stage combat, but that’s another matter!) I can feel good about how I look.

At school I can eat lunch without sharing and without someone sitting on my lap. 

Granted, I may not actually get a lunch break with the rehearsals and clubs, but, in my many years of teaching, not once has a student climbed onto my lap and taken my lunch from my hand while it was en route to my mouth.

At school, every day, I get to return home to cuddles and love and time with my perfect, cheeky, loving and wonderful toddler!

The bedtime realisation.

My two year old has decided that tonight we need to lie on the floor. Not in her bed as we usually do, cuddled up for that last breastfeed of the day as she drifts slowly off to sleep, but on the floor. In the middle of her bedroom.

She points at the ceiling and declares that she can see “egg mummy egg”, then rolls towards me and wraps her arms around my neck. I smile, and inwardly chuckle as she presses her face against mine, only to look up and realise that, yes, she is right, the shadow of her lightshade is indeed egg shaped.

She’s clearly not in the bedtime mood right now, as the requests are coming thick and fast.
“drink”
“other drink”
“big girl cup”
“milk cup”
“blue cup”
“wait there mummy.”

She’s cupped up. No more excuses. We move into her bed and attempt to snuggle down. “sing songs from Annie Mummy, tomorrow mummy.”
“twinkle twinkle mummy”
“sing yoghurt and mnanas mummy”
She points at the feet of her fairy dolls as they poke out over the edge of the shelf, “six, seven, eight, nine, ten! I did it!”

I squeeze her tight. So proud of the forthright and independent toddler she has become.

And suddenly, it comes.

I am hit by a wave of emotions.

The last two years have flown, and yet been the most fulfilling of my life. But equally full of hurt. One by one the pains of the years play out in my head, starting with events from earlier this year, heading back to the first few moments of her life.

The ectopic pregnancy.
The lost baby.
The lost baby sister or brother for my perfect toddler.
The threat of methotrexate and the fear of early weaning from the breast.

The PND.
The guilt of returning to work.
The anxiety at leaving my baby.
The lost time.
The mistakes I made that I can never undo.
The early breastfeeding pain.
My failure at labour.
My inability to stop crying for the first 8 months of her life.

They run on, over and over in my head, cycling round and catching me harder each time, an unforgiving whirlpool of tears.

Then I look down.

She’s latched onto my breast and she’s feeding. She’s holding me as tightly as I am her. And I realise.

None of it matters. Not anymore.

What matters now is the child in my arms. The way that my breath makes her hair move, the heartbeat I can feel against my tummy.

And the love that consumes us both.

Breastfeed on, and stop pressing share.

NF, JC and the like do not need or deserve our time of day. Their opinions on breastfeeding are neither educated nor relevant to my life. What they are however, are dangerous and inflamitory.

Every time a public figure, (even those as ridiculous as NF) comments on breastfeeding, a vulnerable new mum is led to believe that it is OK to question and judge her parenting choices. It is not.

Yes, the London restaurant in question here made a big error, but so have we. By constantly discussing and quoting the celebrities and politicians we are giving these people and places more publicity, when we should instead be praising the many many wonderful places that support Mums, (however they feed their children.). I support a woman’s right to protest. I support a woman’s right to choose how to feed their baby. I do not support the use of discussing feeding for political agenda or publicity.

Breastfeeding is hard work, it is difficult and and exhausting. It is also best for baby and recommended by the World Health Organisation to two years and beyond. It is a a wonderful experience for mother and baby and it has innumerable health benefits. But, at its simplest, it is feeding a baby. For some reason, there are people in the public eye, (and out of the public eye) who feel the need to comment on this. Ignore them. They have nothing else to talk about, and, worse still, they are using their comments on this simple act as a way to get attention, publicity and potentially, your vote.

Do not give them your time. Let’s stop sharing. Stop commenting and stop liking.

Just feed. And if someone doesn’t like it, well that’s too bad. You have a legal right to do so.

End of.

My Mother’s Hands.

4am and I am downstairs with an overactive toddler on top of me. As I try to convince her to let me snooze on the sofa, she tries to convince me to read just one more book. As the hard and cold board book is shoved in my face I look down and see my mother’s hands as they delicately open the book and pull the toddler onto their lap.

My mother’s hands. These hands have given love beyond all measure.

They have wiped snot from sore noses. As the face attached to that nose squeals and twists away, making things harder and the quick job a long one.

They have tapped out a beat on the steering wheel as the voice has sung along to the radio. Driving the child wherever she needs to be this time.

They have rocked and stroked to sleep. The daughter who couldn’t settle without her mother there and then later, the grandchild who needed someone to soothe her while her mother had a moment’s rest.

They have patted the baby’s back. Mimicking the mother’s heartbeat in the womb they have continued to provide safety and security in the unpredictable and so much scarier “real” world.

They have held back hair. As the head leaned over the bucket or toilet the mother’s hands held back the hair and soothed the child. Sickness bugs received the same care and sympathy as the alcohol induced moments in the teenage years.

They have applied lipstick. On the wedding day, when hands were quivering and tears were rolling the mother’s hands calmly applied the pink gloss and sent the daughter to her happy ever after.

They have squeezed and stroked and held me with joy. They have clapped and covered gasping mouths. They have taken the grandchild into their arms as she entered their heart.

As I look down once again at these hands, my mother’s hands, I realise they are my hands.

The long fingers are paler than I remember, less plump and seem more aged. The palms are lined with tales of love and laughter and I am sure that a clairvoyant would see happiness in their future.

I am awash with a sense of both gratitude and pride.

My mother’s hands have held me up when all was falling around me, and I couldn’t be prouder that my hands are set to do the same for my daughter.

What does post natal depression feel like?

I am a survivor. I am surviving. There were times I did not think I would.

Now, with the clouds above my head allowing sunlight through, I find myself reflecting.

My husband, a kind, generous, sensible, modern man, is not a great believer of mental illness. It is one of very very few areas on which we disagree. A disagreement this evening has led to his admission that he is only now starting to understand how ill I have been.

And so am I.

It is an impossible thing to describe to someone, but I am going to try. Post natal depression, for me, was, at its worst, a series of questions and statements. My post natal depression was triggered by the financial necessity that I returned to work when my daughter was less that six months. This still haunts me.

Why can’t I stop crying?
I cried a lot. And I mean a lot. It breaks my heart that my memories of my daughters early life are seen through blurry eyes and tears. I know, people cry, it doesn’t make them depressed. But when that crying becomes a large part of your daily activity, when that crying becomes the first and the last thing in yours day, there is a problem. When your eyelids swell from crying so much, when your face mottled with dried on tears, then, those tears are taking control.

I did everything wrong, and I am still doing everything wrong now.
I feel guilty. I didn’t do labor ‘properly’, I didn’t have enough skin to skin, I didn’t hold my daughter enough at the start, the house is messy, I haven’t cooked for my husband and I haven’t been the mother or wife I should have been. I watch too much TV, I don’t read to my daughter enough, I eat too much, I eat too little, I failed and am still failing at everything.

I’ll never get that time back.
My baby girl is already grown, I missed it. I looked away and I missed it. It hurts, I’ll never regain the time I missed, ever. Time has taken my baby and I let it.

I don’t remember that.
Now, this one is different, and this one scares me. There are chunks of January and February that I can’t remember. Colleagues have talked with me about days I “seemed a bit out of it” and told me of things I did. I have no memory of these days. January and February were very dark days, my mind seemed to have shut them away, to protect me from the pain.

I’m tired.
Curled up here in bed, with my daughter on my breast, we could sleep all day, we could snuggle and pretend the world is OK. We don’t need to leave the room and face the reality outside. Let’s stay here, let’s forget the truth, let’s avoid thoughts of how much I have failed, of how soon my maternity leave will be finished and how much I will miss you.

How could you say that? You don’t love me at all.
You don’t understand. It hurts, I miss her when she is near me, the thought of her being more than arms reach away leaves me short of breath. My stomach hurts and my eyes sting. I can’t swallow and my pulse races. You don’t understand. Nobody loves her as much as I do, and I am failing her.

Everyone is judging me.
Everyone. They are laughing at me, they are mocking me. Every Facebook status I write, posts I share in a bid to convince myself, and those around me that my world isn’t falling apart, they laugh at them all. They whisper, they snigger and they talk about what a bad mother I am.

I am a bad bad bad mother.

I deserve to feel this way.
If I had done things differently I would be happy, this is therefore my fault.

I don’t deserve to feel this way.
But I tried, I really tried. I love my daughter, I work hard, I am a good person. It’s not fair that it hurts this much. Life hurts. Life itself actually hurts.

I need to snap out of it
My husband is fed up of seeing me like this, I need to put that brave face back in. It must stop skipping, pretend pretend pretend.

Why won’t anybody help me?
Please. Anyone. I need to be a mother, why won’t anyone help me? Please. Please.

The ultimate question. Would everyone just be better off if I wasn’t here?

And so, the next time you hear of someone who is depressed, a new mum, struggling with their new world and an overload of feelings, please don’t dismiss them. Please don’t roll your eyes and sigh to your friends about “attention seeking” or “drama queen”.

Just be thankful that it is not you.

Mundane is amazing.

Supermarket shopping made my Saturday.

I stood in the cleaning aisle of my local Tesco, and I had one of those moments. A ‘grin like a lunatic, sing to yourself and start skipping’ moment.

There I was, my 11 month old sitting in the trolley, looking at bin liners and the complete normalness of the situation overwhelmed me.

Mundane is amazing.

Boring is great.

The bread and butter of everyday life is what makes the world such a great place.

I’ve started to notice things more now. I don’t mean that in a hippy, look at the sky and the flowers and hear the birds way. I mean this. I notice life. I notice all the little things about family life that I do everyday. I notice the opening of the curtains in the morning and the pop of the toaster. I notice when I am stuck in traffic listening to the radio and I notice when I get the bus to town to meet Mummy friends for lunch.

The small things matter.

I love noticing them and I love the fact that they happen to me.

No.

I love the fact that I make them happen.

I’m leading a normal life and doing normal things. Mundane things. Yay. Go me.

Appreciation I forgot to give…

Annoying parents like me are forever saying “Just you wait until you have kids. Then you’ll realise how easy you’ve got it!”

In life before baby I used to smile and nod politely at this, whilst internally sighing and rolling my eyes, feeling certain that I was appreciating everything that I had.

I was wrong. So, in the style of the annoying parent that I am, here is a list of things I forgot to appreciate.

TIME
I wish I had appreciated time when I had it.

I always thought I was so busy. I was a multi-tasker exrrodinarie and housework still rarely got a look in. Work from my job was bought home too often and nights in front of the telly invariably also included a pile of marking. Fitting in seeing friends and shopping and the like meant I barely stopped.

Now of course, I really understand the meaning of the word busy. I can mark books while supervising playtime, I can eat dinner with a baby on my boob. I can ice cakes, feed and change a baby, bath, wash and dry my hair, make a packed lunch, wash the breast pump and organise expressed bottles and still be at my desk checking emails before 8am. I am busier than I ever thought possible, and I’ve never been happier.

A PRIVATE WEE
In my previous ‘busy’ life I used to take my mobile phone to the toilet with me, seeing that as my only spare moment to reply to messages. Never did I think to myself, “gosh, isn’t it nice to wee without an audience.” In fact the thought never crossed my mind.

Now my 9 month old comes with me. Far too mobile to be left alone to play, and immediately hysterical if left in her cot, the safest and easiest option is to let her sit on the floor while I go about my toileting business. While I appreciate the smiles and cheers, I do miss weeing alone.

SELFISHNESS
Although I’ve always been in a career that requires caring and sympathy I have primarily always been a selfish person. I would plan my day around me and I would do what I wanted when I wanted.

Now a small person dictates my schedule, (and certainly has no schedule of her own!) I do what she wants when she wants it. I can count on one hand the selfish moments I have had since I became pregnant. I have become a different person.

THE LACK OF UNSOLICITED ADVICE
This is one I really wish I appreciated more when it was the case. Before pregnancy and birth I was free to make my own choices and my own mistakes. I could walk down the street, or into a room without being given helpfultips. The only advice I was given back then was the advice I asked for. I really miss those times.

Having a baby is like wearing a badge. please give me advice, please tell me how you did things in your day and please tell me how it never did your children any harm. Advice is something you can certainly have too much of. At points I’ve nearly drowned in it. I certainly miss the days when people didn’t try to help.

LACK OF JUDGEMENT
I used to make it through a day without being judged. I didn’t appreciate how nice it was to be able to do something without being told I was wrong.

When you are a parent, not only does everyone have ‘helpful tips’ to give you, they also have an opinion on your parenting style. Sadly, it’s almost always an opinion that they can’t keep to themselves. Breast may well be best, but that is not understood by those from a previous generation. People, for some reason, feel it is appropriate to tell me I am spoiling my baby by going to her when she cries. I long for the days when I could live without judgment.

IGNORANCE
Ignorance really is bliss! I certainly never appreciated how worry free my life was. I was totally ignorant of the fear of parenthood. I didn’t understand breastfeeding, or attachment, infant sleep or any of the many things I have now become well versed in. Not understanding meant not worrying.

Knowledge is power, but it’s also a drain, a worry and a constant anxiety.

EATING FOOD WITHOUT SHARING
Biscuits, chocolate and crisps. I used to eat them on the sofa without a second thought. A bar of chocolate in front of the TV was a regular luxury. The thing is, I didn’t see it as a luxury at all. I didn’t appreciate that it would soon be a thing of the past.

Now, not only am I expected to share my food, I then have to clean up the mess it has made. Snacks that don’t take place in the high chair are simply asking for trouble. And my chocolate intake has to be in secret. I have no desire for my daughter to become the chocoholic that her mother is.

CHOOSING CLOTHES FOR FASHION
Before motherhood I found shopping hard. I could never find anything I liked that suited me. I found the shops a challenge and invariably came home feeling fat and frumpy. I had no idea how easy I had it!

Despite my new, slim body, (thanks for that by the way breastfeeding) shopping is harder than it has ever been. As a nursing mother every item of clothing has to be considered in view of how easy it is to ‘pop one out’. I finally have the figure for hip and stomach hugging long dresses and it just can’t be done. Yet.

So really- appreciate it all while you can. Life will change forever once a new one joins you. But it’s worth it. Even if I never again wee without an audience.