Can everyone stop procreating please?

It’s everywhere.

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, as I drive down the road, as I walk through the supermarket.  There I am, surrounded by ultrasound pictures and bumps.

Each one reminding me how empty I am.

Each black white and grey ultrasound picture, taking me back to that room, to that moment, when the sonographer confirmed what we already knew. 

Each perfectly rounded bump making me feel small and flat.

Even at home. In the safety of my family, each time my darling daughter picks up her doll, and feeds it, lifting her top and proudly telling me, “baby wants boobie mummy”. Each time she baths it, pats it’s back as it rests on her shoulder and shushes for it to sleep.

I am reminded.

Reminded of that baby, the one that was lost, the one that should now be a 6 month sized bump.

And it hurts.

Everytime.

“at least you know you can get pregnant”

“at least you have one already”

“aren’t you going to have another one soon?”

“do you only want one child?”

I want, I need, to be pregnant again. To show that I can support and grow another life.

My lost baby will never be forgotten. 

And the reminders are everywhere.

And nowhere are they more powerful than in my heart.

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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.

One small step for a toddler

One giant leap for my heart.

She’s walking. My darling girl is on the move. She took her first steps a week shy of 11 months and is now, at 11 months 2 weeks, running around the living room giggling.

What mix of emotions those first wobbly steps created.

Excitement
With every new milestone and achievement from my darling, comes a new rush of excitement. There is no joy I have found that can equal that which I feel when she laughs. And with each new discovery she glows. She laughs and she smiles. How exciting! I have a walking baby- and she is not yet 1!

Fear
My heart is walking around outside my body. I feel intensely vulnerable right now. With every step she takes she is at risk of hurting herself. This scares me.

Useless
This independence is just the start of my redundancy. (I realise this is a tad melodramatic) First she starts solid foods and doesn’t rely on me for 100% if her nutrition. Now she doesn’t need me to get about. What next?! Potty training?!

Regret
I am once again reminded that my baby is growing up. In fact, she is no longer a baby, she is a toddler. I am reminded of the time I failed her and all the things I did wrong in the early days and weeks. That time has gone and I will never get it back.

Pride
My baby is walking!!!

Snot on my tights, my life as a working mother.

I often read posts arguing why being a stay at home mother is harder than working full time, or why working from home is tougher than being a working mother. Well, here is my argument.
Why working part time does not make me a part time mother. (and is, in my opinion, the hardest of the lot.)

Context first. I am a teacher. I work 3.5 days a week and ‘finish’ a day without meetings at 3.30. I have no more than 7 weeks in a term before at least a week ‘off’. (those who teach, or know teachers, will understand the irony of the terms ‘finish’ and ‘off’.)

I work at home in the evenings. This means that despite getting home at 4.30 and having time with my daughter, my working day often does not really finish until gone 11pm.

Lack of sleep. Being a breastfed 8 month old my daughter still wakes at night for milk. (about which I am NOT complaining before anyone tells me to ‘stick her on the bottle’). Functioning at home on limited sleep is tough. Functioning at work, surrounded by other peoples teenagers, when I have had less than 4 hours sleep, or been awake since 3am, requires patience in bucketloads.

Early and rushed starts to the day.
I get up, (when I’ve not been woken up already) at 6am, run the bath then breastfeed my daughter while it runs. My husband takes over while I bath and then I dress and dry my hair while she watches. (her favourite acitivity of the day!) She has breakfast in her vest before a full clean up and being dressed herself. On a day when I work a full day, we are, all three of us, out the house by 7.20. At some point during the morning dance her nappy is changed, my lunch is made, our bags are packed and she plays. She wipes her nose on my tights and is sick on my top. Sometimes I have time to change before work.

Meetings and parents evenings. There are days I don’t get home until gone 6. Missing lots of quality time. Worse still are the parents evenings when I am not home until gone 8.30. Returning to a sleeping baby that I want so badly to wake and cuddle.

I can’t switch off. Ever. About either role. I’m a teacher because I care. I worry daily about grades, assessments and planning. I worry more about the pastoral side of matters, finding myself lying awake worrying about X’s fight with their parents or Y’s low self esteem. I spend my weekends thinking about how to differentiate for those with additional needs, while still making sure that the gifted are stretched and reach their true potential. THEN, while at work, I can’t switch off mummy mode. Constantly wondering what my darling is up to. Does she miss me? Is her cough OK? Did the nursery remember that she likes to be cuddled to sleep for her afternoon nap? Has her nappy been changed? Is she getting enough attention? Will she forgive me for working and not spending time with her when she is old enough to understand?

Disjointed social life. In the evenings I don’t want to go out drinking with my teacher friends, I want to be at home with my girl. In the day I can’t go to soft play with my mummy friends as I am stuck at work.  On my days off I cram in as much as I possibly can, but feel sad when they plan events on days I have to work.

Missing moments. I hate missing my daughters firsts. This needs no further explanation and is one of the things that makes me want to stop working the most.

Part time teaching is never really part time. If you work part time in other fields, for example retail, 3.5 days a week would mean that on the 3.5 days you are not working, you do not need to work. You show me a teacher who does not work weekends, or a part time teacher who does not work on their days off, and I will show you their mammoth, never to be completed, to do list. Emails don’t stop being sent because it is your day off, and deadline don’t change. Staff forget that you are not in school and expect work turned around as quickly as it was when you were full time.

Aspirations do not go part time. I want to get involved with everything in both roles. Having always been keen to help others this now works in both of my lives. At work I will volunteer to mentor, to give up breaktimes for homework support, to call parents and help with revision. At home I want to join committees, I want to run groups, to organise coffee mornings and to take my daughter to every group and session that I can possibly fit in.

Two way guilt and lack of me time.
When I am working I feel guilty that I should be playing with my girl. When I am playing then the pile of marking stares at me, shouting at me to remind me that I have year 11 again tomorrow and they need their feedback. At the end of the day, when little one sleeps, and marking is complete, I finally have some time to myself. But it is now 11pm and I know that if I don’t sleep now then two lots of year 9 first thing could be my breaking point.

The truth is, I am not part time at either job. I am a full time mummy and a full time teacher. And, despite how much I love my job, there is no question in my mind about which I prefer.

Today is a bad day

…and I don’t really know why. The smallest things are making me feel awful. Resulting in tears, shakes and that horrible dry mouth and heart in head feeling.

It has been a busy year with some huge changes so I guess it is not too surprising that my PND has taken a downwards turn.

Today I feel like a failure. A failure in so many ways. Today I am focussing on the negative and finding the positive in myself very hard to see, with the positive in others drowning me.

Until today I had only cried once this year, today I have cried all day.

Today I visited Facebook again. I saw a comment from an individual which reminded me why I had stopped. This individual also has a new baby, and has chosen the polar opposite parenting route to me. This is her choice, and I respect that. Sadly, there are enough people who know us both to make comparisons possible. Sadder still, comparisons happen. These comparisons leave me feeling hurt and angry. Angry as comparisons also include my daughter. Of course, I inevitably make comparisons too.

Today I feel like a bad wife. I have failed my husband.

Today I feel like a bad mother. I have abandoned her by returning to work so soon.

Today we started weaning my daughter. She enjoyed her sweet potato, but I had so wanted to be able to say that I exclusively breasted her for sixth months, that starting 3 days early feels like I have let her down.

Today I feel fat.

Today I feel emotional about a friends new baby, saddened by the end of ny own babies first chapter and jealous of the excitement and newness of a newborn.

Today I feel guilty for feeling this way.

Tomorrow is another day.