The lost baby.

imageI never met you, you never really existed. Getting lost on your journey as you were formed and not making it to the womb you were not able to grow as you should.

No pictures of you were ever seen. The only evidence of your attempt to join us was in the form of lines on sticks, and of the words “Pregnant. 2-3 weeks” as they stared at me from that tiny screen. I think, deep down, I knew that we would not meet, but that does not remove my love for you.

Unable to understand what has happened to our family I turn to the dictionary for help. (The Cambridge Online English Dictionary to be precise.)

Lost: adjective (PLACE UNKNOWN)

…not knowing where you are and how to get to a place:

Place unknown, that very phrase so accurately describes you.  Pregnancy in unknown location, suspected ectopic. You did not know where you were, your journey was cut short and you never made it to your destination.

I wish I could have helped you.

Lost: adjective (PLACE UNKNOWN)

…if something is lost then no one knows where it is.

No one. Not the doctors, not the sonographers, not the nurses and not me.  Your mother.  The one person who should always know where you are.   They offered me surgery, to “bring the hormone level down “, but they, the professionals whose job it is to hunt you out, were not confident that they would find you. So lost were you, that you were only visible to us as levels on a blood test, levels that continued to increase, “but not as much as they should.

Lost: adjective (CONFUSED)

…not confident and not knowing what to do in a particular situation.

I have never felt so lost.  Perhaps in sympathy for you. No amount of talking, or reading, or listening, could help me to understand what I needed to do. Without your daddy and your sister I would not have searched for the way out of the dark maze I found myself in. I did not know what to do.

Lost: adjective (ATTENTION)

…be lost in something.

I was lost in you.  In the idea of you.  In the dream of you.  The complete family you would have created. The hole that you have left instead.

And then you left.  As quietly and as discreetly as you arrived. Apologetic in your departure as you were in your arrival. Saving mummy medical intervention you remained selfless to the end.

Lost.

I lost a baby.

My baby got lost.

A lost opportunity- a lost life, a lost sibling, a lost grandchild, a lost niece or nephew.  Who knows what you may have achieved had you have arrived to your destination.

Lost.

It’s time to find myself again.

Advertisements

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.

Happiness. I owe it to my daughter.

image

Post Natal Depression is a horribly selfish illness. Not selfish in the way that many assume, not always selfish in the “I don’t want to spend time with my child, I want my own life back” way that is the common perception. But, for me at least, selfish nonetheless.

I feel guilty all the time, I constantly feel like I am failing my daughter, (despite much evidence to the contrary) and I often find myself crying without reason. The selfish side is in my lack of happiness. My daughter is a happy, smiling, amazing girl. At 9 months she is the light in the dark, and thankfully, she seems completely unaware that her mother is a wreck. But I fear this will not last. My PND is selfish because I owe it to her to be happy.

Like all parents I want my daughter to grow up to be happy. She can be rich, famous, intelligent, married, single, unemployed, a stay at home mother, a business woman or anything else she wants, I don’t mind what path she chooses for her life, as long as she is happy.

My daughter will learn from me. Like it or not, I am the most influential person in her life. Therefore, I want my influence to be a good one. My happiness is essential, not for my own mental health, but for hers.

Imagine the following; as a child of six you see your mother drop a bottle of milk the kitchen floor, it smashes and the milk goes everywhere. She says, ‘Whooops, never mind, accidents happen.’ As a child, learning from their mother, you will learn not to panic, you will learn that accidents happen and are not the end of the world.

Alternatively, at age six you see your mother drop a bottle of milk on the floor and she says, ‘Oh no, what a disaster! I keep getting things wrong, I am so stupid and can never do anything right, now everything is ruined, I spoil everything.’ As a child learning from their mother in this situation your learning would be very different. You would learn that mistakes are awful, that there is blame and that when things go wrong it is very difficult to fix.

I do not want this for my daughter. I want her to learn love, to learn happiness and to learn resilience.

I want her to have what I call “bouncebackability”. I don’t want her to spend her life full of anxiety, jealousy, concern, sadness or fear. I want her to get back up after falls. I want her smile and intelligence to change the world.

Therefore I need to be a role model. If I want her to be happy, to be calm and to be confident then that is what she must see in me.

Happiness. I owe it to her.

How did I fall in love with boobs? How did I get from there to here?

How did I get here? How did I become the breastfeeding obsessed lady that I am today? When and where did it happen?

Let me paint you a picture.

As a child, like most, I bottle fed my dolls. I didn’t really think about breastfeeding so I didn’t have an opinion on it either way.

Until the early weeks of my own daughter’s life I had always assumed I was breastfed as a baby.It turns out that I wasn’t for long. (due to pain- as tongue ties are hereditary I suspect I also have one, but that’s another story.)

Fast forward a few years to teenagerdom. The arrival in my life of Little Britain’s “Bitty” and documentaries made to shock, showing fully grown children tearing at their mothers shirts for milk as soon as they leave the school gates. Again, I was relatively uneducated about breastfeeding, having had little experience or thoughts about it, so I remained fairly ambiguous in my feelings towards it. I suppose I thought it was a matter of choice but there were lots of “crazy hippies” who went “too far” and that was “gross”.

Skip ahead a few more years. Hormones and natural maternal instinct had completely overwhelmed me and I knew, that more than anything in the world, I had to be a Mum. And yet, still, breastfeeding hadn’t crossed my mind one way or the other.

Then, the time came when family and friends were having children and I watched them feed. I was alarmed by how restricted those who breastfed were and when one friend fed well into toddlerhood I was secretly horrified. I was very much of the opinion, sadly like most people, that once baby had teeth or could ask for the milk then it was well beyond time to stop.

I had mummy friends on Facebook who regularly posted about feeding. Always a believer in standing up for people’s rights I read with anger the stories of women who were asked to move or stop feeding, and I started to read and understand the health benefits of breastfeeding over formula feeding. I decided I would probably breastfeed my baby when it was little.

Finally my turn came. My husband and I were delighted to discover that we were expecting our baby so soon after getting married. We attended antenatal classes and prepared ourselves for the birth and beyond. At the start of my pregnancy I had to stop taking some medication as it was not tested during pregnancy or breastfeeding. I was managing the pregnancy OK but we knew that if it needed I may have to restart them after birth- meaning the choice to breastfeed may not be in my hands.

The day came and my happiness was born. And I hated breastfeeding. My breastfeeding journey has already been shared with you so I won’t repeat myself, but suffice to say, it wasn’t an easy path. It took a lot of work, and in those early days, (even weeks) I frequently wished that I did in fact need to restart my medication and felt betrayed by a body, that was finally being healthy, at the one time I wanted it not to be.

So how did I get here? I am positively boob obsessed. I am now the friend that won’t stop talking about my boobs, or indeed other people’s boobs. I am the hippy crazy mother who wants to feed beyond teeth and into toddlerdom. What has made me this way?

I think it’s the fact that it was difficult. Had I have found it easy I perhaps wouldn’t have valued it as much.

Perhaps it’s because I like to shock. I like to argue. I long for someone to tell me to cover up, but in reality this has never happened, but I can’t pretend that a small part of me doesn’t enjoy the opportunity to preach to the misinformed.

At the start, the insecure me really wanted other people to have problems too, I didn’t want to suffer alone and I assumed that everybody would be breastfeeding. I really didn’t want this to become yet another area that I was ashamed of.

The true picture is very different and I was surprised to learn how few people in this country do actually breastfeed for the initial six months and even less beyond. 

This gave my confidence a huge boost. I have succeeded at something that not many others do. (despite the struggles) And I guess that’s why. Why I want others to know that I breastfeed.

It makes me proud. I want a “well done”, a “congratulations”, hell, maybe even a “I admire you, I couldn’t do it.”

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel just a little bit superior to those that don’t try to breastfeed, but more than that I want to teach them. I want to educate and inform and share my love of boobs.

But most of all, I’m obsessed because I know, that evidence has shown, I am doing the right thing for my daughter.

The definition of perfect has changed

“I was waiting for the perfect moment, but you are upset, and I am ill, but this is life, and life is perfect. Will you marry me?”

These words, from my now husband, have stayed with me. Not just because, as expected, I remember the moment he proposed, but because he was right.

You can’t spend your life waiting for the perfect moment.

Perfect has changed.

As a young child I dreamt of the perfect grown up life. Playing at house I had a doll that grew teeth when you squeezed her leg and one that wetted nappies on demand. I dressed up in my mum’s shoes and wore peel off nail varnish as a treat. I enjoyed making mud cakes and instructing my toys how to make the perfect sandcastle in the sandpit. I would be rich and famous, probably as a Blue Peter presenter.

Now my house is a mess, my daughter is not a doll I can control at the press of a button and I rarely cook. I do not have the perfect body and I still don’t see myself as a proper grown up.

But perfect has changed.

My house may not be immaculate, but it is mine. Actually it is ours, and that makes it all the more prefect. Every dusty corner, and every overflowing bin was worked for. Every carpet (all of them Storm!) was our choice. Each table, each chair, each coffee matt, has been put their by us. Yes, some may be hand me downs, and they don’t all match, but we have made a home.
And to me, it is perfect.

I have stretch marks, I have scars and at the age of 30 I still get acne. My body is far from the one shown to us in magazines as perfect. I am mismatched and unbalanced. I have boobs so big that they have gone beyond sexy and hit scary, and a chin that sticks out like a witches. But, for the first time in my life, I am wearing size 8 jeans and I am starting to like the way I look. On a good day I can look in the mirror and smile, and my husband always tells me I am beautiful.
To him, I am perfect.

My daughter cries, she scratches and she bites. She does not sleep through the night and she constantly has a runny nose. Her skin is not flawless and her hair is patchy. But she has a smile that can light up the darkest of days and a laugh that sounds like golden raindrops. She is clever and bright and strong beyond all measure. She crawls, and nearly walks, at such a young age and is settled and confident with new people. She is healthy and she is growing well. She smells like happiness and her eyes show a million thoughts in one go.
She is, in every possible way, completely and utterly perfect.

I am not a genius. There are far too many questions on University Challenge that I don’t understand and I nod and smile too often in conversations. I frequently have to look up definitions or ask for my husbands support and I am not as up to date with politics as I would like to be. But I am educated and qualified. I am good (with outstanding features) at my job and students and parents thank me often. I am certainly not a mensa candidate, but my brain does its job, and is working hard to improve itself every day.
And to me, it is perfect.

My health is poor, plagued by asthma all my life I am still invariably in need of steroids at least three times a year. Chest infections and throat infections are a regular occurrence. But they are part of what makes me me. And, to those worse off than me, I am sure my health is seen as perfect.

I have an obsessive and jealous personality. I am attention seeking, lazy and and judgmental. But I am kind, I spend hours plotting and planning exciting surprises for family and I lose sleep worrying about my students. When I love it is beyond all measure and I will fight for those that need me for as long as I can breathe. I give second chances and I run with new ideas.
To many, my personality is not perfect, but to me, it’s just the way it should be.

I do not have hundreds of friends. I am not little miss popular and I annoy people easily. People drift in and out of my life and tire of my insecurities easily. But I have friends I can rely on – friends I can turn to and friends that turn to me. Some I speak to daily, others much less often, but regardless of how often I see them, I can proudly say, without any doubt, I have some perfect friends.

My family is closer to that in a soap opera than that in an classic novel. We argue, we fight and we make each other cry. We have secrets and skeletons in the closet. But we make each other laugh and smile. We make each other proud and we share each others achievements. There is no problem I could ever face that I couldn’t find at least one family member to support me.
They are, without question, perfect.

I am not rich and I am not famous. We have enough money to pay the bills, (most of the time) and we work hard for that. I do not host a chat show or perform nightly on stage. But I am respected, I have had a impact on people’s lives and I have made a positive difference. I have money for the things I need and I am rich in love.
To me, that is perfect.

Perfect. Messy hair, handprints on windows, snot on my tights, bills on the doormat, confused looks, stretch marks and washing up piles. Arguing and tears, shouting and screaming. Spots and scars and far too many dirty nappies. And smiles and laughter and, above all, love.

The definition of perfect has changed.

Thank you darling. You have taught me so much, and this is a lesson I will work hard to live by.

Stop waiting for the perfect moment, and make the moment perfect.