Thursday, 17 May 2018

Motherhood: The Modern Day Crisis

Motherhood is in crisis.
Childhood is in crisis.
Our health system is often failing new mothers. The number of parents being diagnosed with perinatal depression and/or anxiety is at an all-time high.
Mothers often aren't even given the change to tell their birth story. Speaking from experience, this is a really important thing to do.
Mothers are more often than not, sent home from hospital exhausted, physically and mentally; beyond depleted in every way. 
Where are we going wrong?

Nicole Kingston, the family therapist/sleep consultant/all-around-wonder-woman I have been heavily relying on for all things parenting for well over a year now, aims to find out, and bring these issues and their solutions, to the attention of as many parents as she can.

It's no secret how much anxiety can rule my life at times. It sneaks in everywhere and I know it was affecting the way I parent, even when I knew I had to somehow reel it in.  Enter Nicole.   She introduced me to Nancy, and now, I will introduce her to you (you can thank me later).  Short answer - she's a huge bitch. She's that little voice in your head who tells you all kinds of untrue things that feel true. Sometimes, she completely takes over and it seems impossible to decipher what is Nancy and what is actually you.  I was in this predicament for a long time.  It doesn't take long for me to slide back there, but thanks to Nicole, I have the strategies and know-how to kick her to the curb most of the time. Are you feeling like you are constantly berating yourself?  Is there a voice that often starts by saying: "You should..." "You are..." "You can't..."?  I think most of us do. THAT bitch, is Nancy.  She's negative and loud and causes so many issues.  One of Reid's favourite things to say to me is "what would Nicole do/say?"  She has become the voice of reason in our parenting, and even our marriage at times!  The two are so intertwined after children, it seems to mesh into one big pile of emotion quite frequently. 


Why is it so hard? How did previous generations do it? What's different about this time to be a mother; to bring children into a world full of screens, technology, constant information and overwhelming loneliness amongst constant technology-related connectedness?  There's no doubt that being a mother, no matter what the time/era, is hard work.  It is also hard to be a father, I am not trying to take away from that at all, but as I sat amongst a room full of mothers at one of Nicole's workshops a few weeks ago, we all agreed that mentally/emotionally, mothers usually struggle more, for a number of reasons.  (We did grow and birth our babies [naturally or by C-section is completely irrelevant], causing so many physical and hormonal changes - maybe that has something to do with it!?) We are trying to be everything, for everyone, all of the time.  The mental load on us as women, as mothers, as wives/partners, as people, is simply too much. Click here to further understand the idea of the mental load.  (Side note: I am a proud feminist, truly believing there is a lot of work to be done in the name of equality. I am not, however, a "man-hater/basher", I am merely expressing my own opinion that has been sharpened by talking about others' experiences and also my own research).


We work, we clean, we wash, we cook, we are expected to look a certain way, feel a certain way, act a certain way. A lot of this pressure we feel from others, although most of it, I think, we put on ourselves.  Social media provides "company", but also endless dangerous and unrealistic comparisons. Watching people's highlights can make us feel inadequate, unworthy and helpless.  We very rarely pick up the phone to actually call people.  This leads me to a very important point and something Nicole discusses in depth:


We don't have a village anymore.


I totally understand that not everyone was lucky enough to have a village in past generations, but a lot did.  Mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters - they were to help, to nurture, to teach.  Now, they are usually at work, while we begin maternity leave with a baby we often have no idea what to do with, regardless of how much experience with babies/kids we might have.  It's no secret that I have heavily relied on my Mum, but she also works full-time.  Not only that, but there seems to be a widespread feeling of shame in asking for help with mothering/parenting today.  We somehow expect ourselves to be able to provide   EVERYTHING for our children, no matter what the circumstance. I just don't see how that is possible.  They need more than us.  They need to develop relationships with people other than their parents.  They need safe places to go when they can't stand us.  They need space.  We all need space.  Nicole has helped teach me that it is unrealistic to expect to be everything for your child, 100% of the time.  Nancy will try to tell us that we are failing if we need help.  That we should just be able to do everything and cope.  Often we think that's what "everyone else" is doing. Once again, we have social media (mostly) to thank for that. The bottom line, however, is that we DO need help, and we shouldn't be ashamed to ask for it.


We live in a demanding world.  We are over-scheduling, glorifying being busy, aiming for perfection (that doesn't exist), finding conflicting information at our fingertips, being bombarded by articles, blog posts, perfect Instagram photos and Facebook updates - no wonder we are confused, lost and tired!  I know I might not speak for everyone, but most of the Mums I know are depleted and overwhelmed and struggle to really know what their intuition is telling them.  How do we parent intuitively if we can't even hear what it is saying? Nicole puts it so simply. What do you want? Do you want your baby to sleep? Do you want your baby to play independently? Are you willing to make changes to get what you want; what you know, your intuition is telling you.  What deep down you know is best for you and your child, regardless of what’s simply easier. That is your intuition. It takes me a LOT of effort to actually listen to mine.  For a long time, I simply didn’t think it existed.  That’s because Nancy was absolutely running the show.  I think we could all stand to try to tune into our intuition more.  Trust me, it’s there


Here's some truths from me:
I struggle a lot. I need lots of help. I need a break a lot. I probably shouldn’t have another child because I struggle with just the one, but my heart aches for one. I love Isaac so much, but I find the whole motherhood thing incredibly overwhelming and exhausting. I am so tired, all the time. I feel like I can never quite get my focus in the right place. I can never fit everything in. I am scrambling around, trying to keep everything afloat, my mental load is heavy and I drop things frequently. 
I am also a fighter.  I keep going.  I reach out to people who know me well and whose opinions I trust to give me advice and offer a hand with Isaac.  Raising a human is a really big deal.  It’s not just about keeping them warm and fed and safe after a certain point.  What kind of person do you want them to see as they grow up?  I certainly don’t want Isaac’s main memories to include a constantly frazzled, rushed, grumpy Mum.  Obviously that’s who I will be at times, but I don’t want that to be who he sees for the majority of the time.  I want to be able to enjoy him, to enjoy being his Mum, to have fun, to laugh and play and also not feel guilty when I need a break.  We put such high expectations on ourselves, it’s just so damaging.  It doesn’t have to be this way.


You might not have a village right now, but you can have Nicole as part of your support system.  What I’ve discussed is just the tiniest snippet of the knowledge she has and offers to parents who work with her.  Head to her website and have a look, you won’t regret it.


You don’t have to have it together all the time.  Ask for help.  Take a breath.  You deserve some calm among the chaos.  You’ve got this Mama. x

Sunday, 1 April 2018

The Skeleton Tree

I spent a lot of my childhood with my Dad in the bush.  His favourite place to be.  Mine... not so much.  I am a beach girl.  Give me sand and waves and salty air any day.  My parents own a 500 acre bush block that I have honestly avoided going to as much as possible.  It has no phone reception, is in the middle-of-nowhere and is just not a place I love to be with the bugs and snakes and no flushing toilet.  The last two times I have been, however, the pure joy that Isaac has experienced, has helped me to see it in a different light.  No reception is actually really freeing.  It forces me away from my phone (other than to take photos here and there) and seeing my little boy running and laughing and leading his Poppy around in his very bossy two-year-old manner has made me realise that it's actually a pretty relaxing place to be.  It definitely helps that there is a shack-like building there now with chairs and beds and running water.  I'm planning on going there more often to really stop and enjoy the fresh air, the fact that I can't access Facebook or Instagram, the fact that my Dad and Isaac (particularly) are SO happy there.  Reid loves it too and even my Mum is forced to slow down (marginally) and just... be.

I have somehow rambled on about something that's not overly relevant to this post, although I guess somehow it all ties together in the end.  These thoughts comes from a pretty raw, emotional place with an analogy that my brain can't let go of lately.  Here it goes...  

I have always been fascinated with skeleton trees.  They are kind of scary.  They have always represented something strong and dark to me.  As we were driving home from the bush block yesterday, I was thinking about the corners of the mind, and how sinister some parts are.  Skeleton trees can be surrounded by green grass, fresh growth, trees with endless leaves and peeling, brown bark - yet there they stand; grey, gnarled branches reaching to the sky, encroaching on what could be seen as a perfect landscape.  To me, anxiety and depression is a lot like a skeleton tree.  New growth and positive things can grow and blossom and be at the forefront, but the reality is, the skeleton tree remains.  Sometimes it lurks in the background but its branches can easily puncture a positive memory, moment or even weeks of time.

When I was first diagnosed with postnatal depression, the entire landscape of my mind was like a desert.  I spent all day, every day, fighting inwardly with myself.  I tried desperately to grow new trees, or even some new grass, but all I could see was an endless expanse of those white tree trunks, their spindly branches seeming to grow more and more as grief took over.  I find that grief is a really appropriate way to describe my experience with PND.  It's the whole reason I still talk about it, because I continue to grieve so many things I lost.  The loss of breastfeeding, the loss of certainty around having more children, the loss of being there for Isaac overnight for over 6 weeks of his new life, the loss of positive associations to do with pregnancy, birth and beyond.  It hits me with such force sometimes that I honestly can't breathe (cue panic attack).  It's not something I will get over.  It is something I am still learning to live with.  I have pushed and fought and persevered against those dead branches that threatened to completely take over at some points.  I planted new trees with every ounce of energy I had.  Some days I literally sat in a chair all day; staring at my baby, sobbing my heart out, holding him close and begging myself to feel something positive.  It is not something I will move on from.  Those memories will always be there.  The branches will always encroach when I think about expanding our family, when I look back at photos of Isaac as a newborn, when I remember that I didn't want to exist.  That I wanted it to end.  Being that low and afraid is something that haunts me.  I write about it and talk about it because I won't "move on" from it.  It is my journey and to be able to see how far I have come, I need to be able to look back even though it hurts.  It's not something I can control.  I also know that I am not alone in this fight and that talking isn't only healing for me, it opens up so many conversations about the importance of maternal mental health.  Mums need to be emotionally cared for better post-birth.  My concerns were brushed aside during and after labour.  I knew I didn't feel right, that what I was experiencing wasn't "normal", but nobody took me seriously which made me feel ashamed and even more depressed.  I should never have left hospital feeling the way I did.  Talking about it is the only way we will ever create change.  So, I will always keep talking.

I am so glad that a lot of new trees have grown in my mind since then.  I am able to marvel at the recovery I have made, although clearly I haven't made peace with everything that has happened.  The skeleton trees are there, they always will be, but maybe I can come to appreciate them one day and realise that I didn't let them win.  They are part of the landscape but they aren't the defining part.  Their branches might reach out at times and they can win momentarily; but there is much more green than desert.  The new trees are tall and strong, and the wind they blow bends the skeleton trees away from being my constant focus.  The focus is my beautiful boy.  My resilient, sweet, amazing little boy.  He runs through the trees and doesn't even see the skeletons, he's much more interested in the green grass and the trees that thrive and grow because of him.  Every new memory we make is a new tree to plant.  The skeleton trees will remain, but the new trees are beautiful, solid and still growing.  They grow alongside you, Isaac.  You are the reason I fight.  You have taught me that skeleton trees can be beautiful too.  You have taught me that new trees will always grow with you holding my hand and leading the way.  You have changed my life so indescribably.  You are everything to me and more little one; I only hope that you will always see our journey as constantly having new growth, despite the skeleton trees that remain.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Good Things

It's not a secret that I tend to be pretty negative sometimes (a lot).  I thought I might try to write a post about all the positive things that are happening in my life right now.  There is always heaps going on, both good and bad - but I'm trying to consciously switch my focus more and be present in the moment.  Having a little boy who is evolving before my very eyes is really making me feel like I need to slow things down and enjoy every minute with him and Reid as every day things are changing.  Things are good.  There is always so much good.

The Gym: Yep, you read that right - I am loving the gym! I haven't exercised properly in years, and to back in the swing of regular exercise feels great.  I had a PT session and a program was made for me that is a moderate, full body workout that I do 2-3 times per week, gradually going up in weights as my strength improves.  This will be reviewed in 12 weeks and my program will be changed.  It's such a good way for me to workout as I have NO idea what I should be doing otherwise.  I have a long way to go but I feel stronger and fitter already, and having that bit of time to focus on my health is really good for me mentally as well.

Reid's new job: About two months ago, Reid was approached by a building company he had been working closely with in his previous job.  They told him he was the best salesman they had ever come across (coming from people who have been in the industry for over 30 years!) and they wanted him to be in charge of their sales/marketing department.  This was a scary decision for us, as a new job always is - but after a lot of thought, Reid took the job.  It is less hours, more money, closer to home and is basically his dream job.  I am SO proud of him.  He has come such a long way and is really passionate and dedicated to making this opportunity work.  Not to mention he now has so much more time at home with Isaac and I - it is already making such a big difference to our family dynamic and having the load shared more evenly is doing wonders for all of us.



Having a two year old: Isaac is blowing our minds right now.  The talking, the playing, the determined independent behaviour, the eagerness to learn and explore and just his general outlook are incredible to be a part of.  I am finding this age is my favourite to-date.  Yes, there are a few more tantrums but I honestly don't see that as misbehaving for the most part.  I try to be empathetic - it would be so hard being a two year old.  Wanting so badly to do things for yourself and have some control over your life but just not quite being big enough yet.  His favourite phrase at the minute is "my turn! I'll do it!" which covers everything from trying to peel a banana, to putting his shoes on and picking a plate to eat from.  His little voice and mannerisms and personality just melt me.  Last night as we were putting him to bed, he wrapped one arm around my neck and one around Reid's and pulled us in for a family cuddle <3 "love you Mummy and Daddy" - he literally makes my heart burst!




Lessening of social anxiety: The first eighteen months of Isaac's life were spent in the Mother Baby Unit and then our house. That's pretty much it.  Sometimes I was able to go places with Reid or Mum and have Isaac with us but this was rare.  Gradually, over the last six months or so, I feel like I can go places with him.  We have been getting out most weekends and I even took him to the doctor by myself for the first time a few weeks ago.  This is a huge deal for me because going anywhere with Isaac used to cause me to have major panic attacks.  Things are changing and it feels great.

Medication changes: I still have a long way to go with this one but two years ago I was taking one clonazepam tablet three times a day, now I only take half a tablet, once a day.  The weaning process from this has been really tough (and it continues to be) but I am getting there, and I know it will be worth it in the end.

Fundraising Ideas: Being a community champion for PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) has opened my eyes to so many ways to help struggling parents.  Their annual fundraising week is in November, which I know seems far away but will be here before I know it.  I have been brainstorming ideas and liaising with the coordinator of the program and I think I am coming up with a few good options (more on that later).  It feels so good to be actively doing something that I am passionate about.  Sharing my story, helping an organisation that exists purely to help people like me and hopefully being able to raise money for them is a really exciting thought.

Writing about good things that are happening has me feeling uplifted and grateful.  I should probably try it more often!  I know I am beyond blessed to be living this life of mine.  I am surrounded by so many good people, good things, good moments. Trying to focus on these is something I am working on.  It may sound silly to have to force yourself to be positive and remind yourself of all the things in life that are going well - but for someone with an anxiety disorder it can be really difficult.  I am feeling very lucky and content at the moment.  Good things are always there, even when I might be struggling to see them.  I have come a long way, and there is a long way to go, but all of this is a step in the right direction.


Sunday, 11 February 2018

Away

Right now, I'm sitting on a beautiful outdoor couch, looking over a gorgeous beach and have just finished my second glass of wine for the day.  I am feeling refreshed, the knots that have been in my stomach for weeks are slowly untangling and my head feels clearer. 

It has been a really hectic start to the year.  I just want to begin this post by saying I find this topic incredibly difficult to be objective about.  There are so many factors that go into needing a "break" and what that entails for every parent; and not just parent, every person.  Some people desperately need a break but don't have the luxury of being able to have one.  Some people don't have a village, and that thought makes me incredibly sad.  Some people feel they can't leave their children, and I totally get that as well.  Before I had kids (those famous four words...), I was never going to leave them. "I didn't have kids so other people could raise them".  Is a sentence I strongly believed in... and then we had Isaac.  And then I was struck down with severe PND/anxiety.  And then we couldn't get Isaac to sleep.  And then I went back to work.  And then Reid got sick.  The list goes on.

To sum it up; a lot has been going on.  Just over two weeks ago, Reid was really unwell.  I think the biggest reason for this was stress. Migraines, head spins, extreme fatigue.  It really worried me and it took him a while to be OK again.  During that time, I spoke with my Mum and asked if she would mind having Isaac for two nights so we could just "get away".  I am incredibly lucky that my Mum already has Isaac once a week while I work on Fridays, and she usually has him that night as well and I pick him up early on Saturday morning.  That break alone is more than a lot of parents get, I totally understand that and am beyond grateful.  Friday nights, Reid and I usually crash onto the couch and then go to bed by 9pm for a full night of sleep (side note: Isaac is MUCH better than he used to be with sleeping, but some nights are still a struggle, as they are for all parents).  I booked a holiday house for us in the beautiful little town of Orford, only a bit over a 30 minute drive from where we live and proceeded to get very excited at the thought of two whole days of relaxing with Reid.  Then it appeared - the GUILT.  This whole post is inspired by it, really.



How can I bear to be away from Isaac for two nights? Why don't other parents feel this overwhelmed? Why do I always feel like I'm drowning?  Why do I need so much help from my Mum? She's already so busy and does so much, am I asking too much of her? I'm already away from Isaac 4 days a week while I work, why do I feel like I need this time away?

My mind then goes to every single parent I know.  Do they ever feel like this? Do they think I'm a monster for wanting to go away? Are people just constantly judging me?

It's exhausting.

I have to argue with myself and weigh up every possible option and formulate an argument about why we are going away, just in case someone asks.  Just in case they don't understand why we need this.  Just in case they think I'm a bad mother who doesn't want to be around my child.

It's just not true. I love Isaac more than anything.  I do find him exhausting, but aren't all nearly-two-olds?  Our situation is ours, and ours alone.  I am a better Mum when I realise I need a little bit of time to breathe, and I am lucky enough to have a great support system so that can become a reality.  And the more I think about this little break Reid and I have had, the more I realise that it hasn't just been for us, it has been for Isaac too.  Not only does he get to build beautiful relationships with people other than just us, but when we get back home, we will be more patient, more tolerant and rested enough to tackle the tantrums without melting down ourselves. 



Every parent is different.  Every child is different.  I am a Mum who gets depleted really quickly while I try to juggle all the different things we have going on at the minute (more on that in another post).  I am a Mum who needs to fill up my cup so I'm not a horrible person to be around.  I am a Mum who believes in fostering independence in my son and him building relationships with other people.  I am a Mum who works really hard inside and outside of the home.  I am a Mum who needs time to connect with my husband and talk with him about topics that don't involve work or washing or whose turn it is to change Isaac's nappy. 

I love my son, but in order to love him the best way I can, I needed a break.  Reid needed a break.  We were running on empty and that just wasn't good for any of us.

The last day and a half we have lazed around in lovely holiday home.  We've walked on the beach, gone to restaurants and cafes, read books, watched movies, drank wine/cider, relaxed in a lovely spa bath and talked. 

We needed this.  We don't need it every weekend, but we need it occasionally.

I didn't go into parenthood thinking I would ever want to be away from my child.  Now that I am away from him for longer than usual, I miss him like crazy, and know I will appreciate him all the more when I see him tomorrow. 



I still feel guilty for doing this, but the more I talk about it, the more I am confident in my decision and realise how necessary it was for us.  I still worry about being judged and people thinking I am a bad Mum, but I have to come to terms with the fact that I know what I need to do to love and cherish Isaac the best way I can.  The term "it takes a village" doesn't exist for no reason.  Parenting has changed SO much in recent years, the support of extended family just doesn't often exist like it used to.  One or two people can't possibly be everything for one child.  Our incredible family therapist, Nicole Kingston, so aptly put it like this in a Facebook post just as I was feeling at the lowest point about our decision to get away:

They learn different things from so many different people.
We can't teach them everything, we can't be perfect, we can't be their village.
They need so much more than us.
But isn't that a lovely thought. A freeing thought. We don't have to be everything.
We can relax.
We can take a breath. We can make mistakes. Knowing that they will get what they need from all those loving people around them. 
The pressure is off.
Yes, we are very important to them, but we are not the only important ones.

I am so grateful that Isaac is loved by so many different people.  Reid and I will always be his number one supporters, but we have our own supporters who we would be lost without.  I have to be confident in my choices and beliefs, and right now, I believe Reid and I needed this time together.  Most of the time we have just talked about Isaac and missed him and discussed where we will take him on a family trip we plan on taking soon, but we have had that chance to actually talk to each other, rather than just sitting, exhausted on the couch in front of the TV. 

We love our son, but our cups were empty.  Returning to him happy and relaxed and looking forward to being with him makes me feel like a good Mum.  As I said before; everyone is different.  Our reality is beautiful and messy and chaotic (and we only have one toddler!), and I know this little escape from that reality will make me all the more grateful to return to it.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Happenings ~14th January 2017

DOING: Sitting in mine and Reid's room, typing this post for a bit of "me-time" while Reid and Isaac have some quality time together.

HEARING: My weekly "chill mix" from iTunes, nothing is really jumping out at me as a worthy of downloading yet...

DRINKING: Lots of water, coffee and a delicious green-chai tea blend I grabbed from the supermarket yesterday.  I've been making ginger/lemon water and keeping it in the fridge for through the week and it's really refreshing and helps get that water intake up.

EATING AND COOKING: I was gifted Jamie Oliver's 5 Ingredients recipe book for Christmas and I'm loving it!  I made a beautiful harissa chicken that's cooked with onion and capsicum and roasted some beautiful Dutch Cream potatoes to go with it last weekend.  Tonight I'm making pesto-stuffed chicken breasts with beans, plus I just finished making a standard garlic/hoisin beef stir fry for Monday and Tuesday night and I frittata for Isaac for tonight.  I'll portion the rest up and put it in the freezer for those nights I haven't got time/can't be bothered making him something from scratch.

WANTING: My anxiety to go away for good.

LOOKING: Today Mum and I went and looked at a local gym we are thinking of joining.  It was great! A small, family-run gym with a really lovely vibe.  Great class choice, good equipment PLUS a crèche and a café - ticking all the boxes for me and definitely helping me feel more inspired for my 2018 "more exercise" intention I wrote about in my last post.

DECIDING: What to do for Isaac's 2nd birthday.  We are definitely keeping things pretty casual this year, just family and maybe some close friends over for an afternoon tea, with a homemade cake, some balloons and music.

ENJOYING: Conversations with Isaac.  He is so chatty, making the most adorable little sentences and is VERY clear at communicating what he wants.  He is still obsessed with trucks and buses, playing outside (especially with water "bawder", as he calls it "more bawder pease Mama!") and music/dancing.  His little personality is developing so quickly, he definitely has a very intense grumpy side, but he is also absolutely hilarious and has become very cuddly of late; running into our arms and saying "awwww" as he snuggles into our necks.  SO cute.

WATCHING: Reid and I just finished season two of Better Call Saul which we really enjoyed and are currently finishing season 3 of Orange is the New Black.  We aren't enjoying that show as much as the first two seasons but it's still good.  I am also incredibly excited for season 3 of Grace and Frankie which is coming out this Friday!

READING: Reid bought me a beautiful book of poetry for Christmas that I just finished today while Isaac napped called The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur.  It was beautifully written, I really enjoyed it.  I am also getting through All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which is an absolutely incredible book. 

BUYING: We just ordered some good quality shoes for Isaac; a little pair of slip on sneaker type ones and a cute pair of sandals.  I feel like it's important for growing feet to have good support so this is something I was happy to spend a bit of money on.  We ordered them from Walnut, which I have heard is a really good brand.

PLANNING: Reid and I are both taking a couple of weeks off in April, and we are trying to decide whether to go away for a few nights; somewhere where Isaac can run around and we can just get away for a bit. 

CRAVING: My answer to this always seems to be coffee or chocolate, or both!  And today is no different haha.

LOVING: How much I'm cherishing Isaac.  I look back at photos when he was first born and honestly feel like I'm forgetting things already.  My mental state at that time probably doesn't help the memories, but I don't want to forget.  The sound of his voice and the way he says words.  The way he is CONSTANTLY running and jumping and climbing.  The way he hates having his hair dried after a bath.  The way he lines his trucks up in a perfect row before he goes to bed.  The way he says "Mama" or "Mummy" and runs into my arms.  Just, everything.

PLAYING: With Lego, with trucks, with water, with dirt and sand.  Pretty much anything and everything.  I take Isaac's lead and especially love the moments he is happy to play by himself, immersed in his own little world.  It is beautiful to watch.

FEELING: A bit sad.  It's been a long couple of weeks.  My anxiety has been pretty bad and I have been feeling really guilty about any negative feelings I have about motherhood and the struggles I've had in the past and present.  I feel like I could never explain postnatal depression to someone who has lost their baby, who can't have a baby, who has miscarried or had a stillbirth.  I feel like they would think I am incredibly selfish and that conditions like PND are ridiculous, when they would do anything to have a precious baby in their arms.  Nobody has said anything to me directly, and I am absolutely aware it is my brain saying that this is what people would think - but I have seen things online and watched people experience some of these horrible, incredibly unfair things and it makes anything I have felt seem so insignificant.  I can't imagine the heartbreak, the immeasurable pain of losing a child in any way.  If anything, these feelings have made me hug Isaac tighter, breathe through his tantrums and try to put my stupid phone down (I really need to limit my phone time more) and just be with him.  I don't know if I will ever come to terms with what I have been through and how insanely stupid it must seem to some people.  I know, I am so beyond lucky.  Even though I have and still do battle with PND and anxiety, every single day, I am thankful.  I am more than grateful for Isaac and would be completely lost without him.  My heart goes out to any parent who has suffered the cruel, devastating loss of any child.  It is unfathomable to me.  My heart breaks for you.  At the end of the day, I need to be aware that PND is an illness and most definitely not a choice, and I can only hope that by talking about it, that becomes common knowledge and more widely understood.




Sunday, 31 December 2017

Reflections and Intentions



It's customary to reflect on the year you have had when December 31st rolls around.  It's also customary for lots of people to make resolutions for the new year.  I'm not a fan of resolutions.  I usually make a couple in my head but never really commit, never really believe that they will happen.  This year I've decided that I will focus on intent; intentionally living, intentionally trying to better myself physically and emotionally.  Not focussing on words that I can so easily turn into negatives (because hello, that's kind of my thing).

Reflections:

2017 was a hard but beautiful year.  I don't think I have ever grown so much, fought so much, loved so much.  At the end of 2016, I could barely walk to the end of my driveway or be in my backyard without having a panic attack.  In the last few days alone we have been to the beach, the park, and a vineyard with friends.  Not to mention the copious amounts of time Isaac and I now spend outside playing.  Partly to do with his age but also hugely to do with how much better my anxiety is. I am still on three medications but have halved two of them - that is such a big deal to me.  For a few weeks there I fell back into the most horrible depression and anxiety and was physically ill, but unfortunately that's all part of the weaning process. I'm really proud of where I am now and plan to fully cut out those two medications by the end of 2018, hopefully sooner.  I have learnt the hard way that this process just can't be rushed.

This year I have felt much more confident as a mother.  I don't question my every move, I don't worry constantly about how things may or may not affect Isaac when he is older (I am convinced I have psychologically scarred him somehow) - I have started to live much more in the moment.  I have enjoyed the cuddles and giggles and marvelled at each learning milestone.  I have struggled with the tantrums and have once again needed help with establishing how important sleep is to a growing child and ways I can be creating this environment for Isaac (and Reid and I!).

I have become a different wife.  I have snapped and pushed Reid away on numerous occasions as my anxiety and panic screams at me from the inside.  I have apologised.  Our marriage has evolved so much.  We respect each other more than ever.  Reid works hard to understand me and to support me in the best way he can.  I work hard to be patient (I often fail) both with myself and with Reid.  I lean on him like never before.  I am so grateful to be sharing my life with him and raising our beautiful little boy together.  He is a fantastic Dad.  Nothing comes before Isaac.  Nothing ever will.

I have worked really hard.  I have exceeded my expectations since I went back to work in July.  I have been overwhelmed at times, but I have consistently performed well since I have been back in the office.  I thought I would flounder around and not remember anything.  My confidence is still not 100% but I can definitely do my job well and I feel that going back has made me a better Mum.  I am more appreciative of the time I have with Isaac.  I am tired (aren't we all), but it's been worth it.




Intentions:

This is going to sound so cliché because losing weight would have to be the number one resolution made around the world.  Once again, I'm not using the word "resolution" to describe my situation or my aim.  I intend to exercise more in 2018.  When I say "exercise more", I really mean, I intend to exercise at all.  I have all the excuses under the sun for why I haven't been making this a priority. I'm not going to get into it, because at the end of the day, I want and need to be healthier.  My diet is pretty good, I intend to cut my portion sizes down and it's always a good thing to add a heap more veggies to everything; but I don't want to feel self-conscious, and I do.  I don't want to be thin (I never have been and I never will be), but I want to FEEL healthy.  I want to have more energy and fit into my old clothes (the ones I haven't angrily donated to charity in a fit of self-loathing rage...) and more than anything I want to keep up with Isaac as he grows and runs and plays and jumps and swims and basically is obsessed with anything even vaguely active.  I still haven't worked out exactly when/where/how I am going to do this, but it is the biggest intent I have for the year.

I intend to be kinder to myself.  I have made some headway with this in 2017 but I know I have a long way to go.  What is it about self-love that is so hard?  Why do I feel like I can't possibly like anything about myself without feeling like an idiot?  I intend to try to answer these questions, either with a psychologist or on my own - the negativity just has to stop somehow.

I intend to cherish Wednesdays.  I will be going back to work four full days a week as of 2nd January, so will only have Wednesdays at home with Isaac.  I intend to fill these days with play and laughing and catch ups with friends and things I really want to do, not things I feel like I should be doing.  I intend to read books and watch nursery rhymes and sing and dance and follow Isaac's lead.  I intend to make memories from these precious years where I am Isaac's world.  Where he doesn't care what I wear or what I look like, where he wants me to hold him and where I am his number one playmate (along with Reid).  I intend to go with the flow wherever possible on these days and not get caught up in any bad moods/tantrums/general toddler behaviour.  I know that I will look back and be desperate for these years back.

I intend to look into a counselling course.  It's no secret how passionate I am about talking in general, and sharing experiences of mental health and reducing stigma.  I feel like I need to put these passions to use in a more practical way.  I would love to be able to help other Mums as a professional, specialising in PND/anxiety/birth trauma - the thought of turning my experiences into something positive is something I think could be incredibly healing for me along with the ultimate goal of reaching out to other Mums and Dads who might be struggling.

I intend to feel grateful.  I know I am beyond lucky in so many ways. I have a beautiful family, I have some of the most incredible close friends, I have goals and dreams while I know so many people are just trying to figure out how to survive another day.  Putting things like that into perspective makes me realise how blessed I am.


 
To anyone reading this, I hope 2018 is everything you hope for.  I hope your intentions come to fruition and your reflections bring you mostly happiness.  May next year be full of beautiful moments and more good times than bad.  May we all realise how fortunate we are and try to focus on being kind to ourselves and to others.  Happy New Year everyone, thank you for following my journey; it's far from over xo.



Friday, 1 December 2017

The Journey




I haven't written for a while.
Things have been... hard.
I don't like to be negative, I feel like my last few posts have a positive vibe, I felt like I was finally starting to have a positive vibe.
I forgot about the journey.  I forgot that things can change really quickly.  I forgot that there is no such things as a straight, upwards line when it comes to recovery. 
I forgot how it felt to have that panic grabbing me, I forgot how fast that lump could come back to my throat, how my stomach could so easily twist into knots and I could dread facing the day.
I can't believe I forgot.


Unfortunately, over the last few weeks - I have been reminded.


I can't really pinpoint when it started.  I was feeling good, I was coping well, I was smiling.  All of a sudden, I started crying a lot.  I started losing my patience must faster than usual.  I felt sick.  I didn't want to get up and spend a day at home trying to keep Isaac happy, but I didn't want to go out either.
I mentioned in a previous post that I have started weaning from one of my medications (google clonazepam if you're interested).  I have been doing this slowly. Going from two tablets a day, to 1 and three quarters over several weeks, then one and a half and so on. I'm currently taking one a day.  It has been so much harder than I thought. I guess that's why it's so addictive and generally only used short term.  But I had no choice. It was the only medication that really  helped my anxiety enough over the last 20 months.  It makes me sad to think that I'm not OK without it.  I hope I will be eventually, but right now; it's hard.


Isaac is nearly two.  His toddlerhood is in full swing.  Obviously, that's hard.  Tantrums, demanding, clingy, "NO!", stubborn, constantly changing - I feel like I am wishing time away.  I want to enjoy this stage (as much as I can) and treasure everything while he is this little. Every day I try to remind myself of this but still find that I am counting down the seconds until bed time.  I know that's normal for most parents, and I'm under no illusions that parenting is meant to be some magical stress-free experience, but I want to be present and be able to realise that this won't last forever; and one day, I will be wishing to go back to these days, right now, with all the chaos and the snuggles and the giggles. It's hard, but it's beautiful.


I feel like Isaac soaks up however I'm feeling and mirrors it back to me a lot of the time.  Kids are incredibly observant, emotional and sensitive to their surroundings.  There is a bit of a long-running joke that Isaac gets grumpy around crowds.  Is that because of me?  Can he feel that I'm uncomfortable?  I don't know for sure, but I would hate to think I am somehow stunting his social development.  There is absolutely no evidence to back-up what I've just said, it's just where my anxious mind goes.  I also feel like it's so blatantly obvious when I'm struggling.  We were at a family function last week, having a lovely time - Isaac of course was grumpy and whingey but he's a kid.  It doesn't bother anybody but me.  I just want him to be happy and play and some of the time he did, but mostly he just seemed overwhelmed.  I could barely keep it together while we were there and I have no idea why.  We left early because of Isaac's bed time (something else I hate doing and feel guilty about but I just can't cope with changing his routine), and when we got to the car I started sobbing - complete panic attack meltdown.  My Mum had walked to the car with us and I asked her to apologise to everyone for me - turns out nobody even noticed I was anxious.  My brain plays these horrible tricks on me and I feel like everyone can tell that my heart is pounding out of my chest, I'm hot and bothered and it seems so clear that I'm about to lose it.  Apparently not.  Go away, anxious brain.


It's my road, I have to travel it the best way I can and remember it is a journey.  It's a long journey.  Things will look up again and I will try and focus on that thought while I get through the current rough patch.  I'm not great at being kind to myself and automatically feel like a failure.  I feel like I should be better now.  Why have I gone backwards??  There isn't usually a straight forward answer; often it's lots of little things that gradually pile up and I find myself caught up in a bit of an anxiety battle.  Here's to taking it one battle at a time and looking at the bigger picture rather than just the here and now. It will be OK.  Repeat.  It will be OK.