Parent in progress

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When you become a mum for the first time the changes you go through are not just physical. We’ve all heard the cliché phrases “you life will change when the baby comes along” and others like it.

I think what I felt was that I didn’t fully appreciate who I was prior to having a baby and had no idea of the actual impact becoming a mother has on your whole life, life style as well as the mental and physical changes.

As women in particular we are always reminded how quick celebrities get back into shape, loose their baby weight etc. To be honest I do not envy that pressure but it still doesn’t take away the fact that inside we feel that pressure to get back into our pre-pregnancy shape.

Now don’t get me wrong this is not a post about the acceptance of who you are now you have become a mum. It’s more about seeing yourself both mentally and physically as a “parent in progress”.
We all know the physical changes a woman’s body goes through when pregnant but what is rarely spoken about is how long those physical changes take post birth. Do our bodies really go back to how they were before we pushed a human out or had a major op (c-section) to have our baby? The media and society in general would have is think that it is super simple to return to our pre-pregnancy size and weight. However the only truthful analogy I can think of is that when you blow up a balloon and keep it inflated for half an hour and then deflate the air out of it there are always going to be physical changes that just can’t be rectified. Medically I’ve heard that it take 2 years for the bones and muscles of a woman’s body to return to anything like how it was before being pregnant.
I certainly know that my hips have moved and even though my size has changed and I may have once got back to my pre-pregnancy size, the fit is still not right.

My weight and size is still a niggling ear worm for me. A constant nag inside my head. My relationship with food is an odd one. I’m not one for diets. I remember my mum dieting and going to slimming world, seeing her place a “thin” photo on the fridge for motivation and then becoming a consultant running groups but just as with me her weight has always yo-yo-ed.
I don’t really remember her happy or sad with it she always seemed quite comfortable with her body and certainly although there was an eating healthily routine she never portrayed that desire to be skinny and seemed very happy whatever size she was. If those clothes fitted then that was fine. I have kind of adopted the same attitude. I have tried the weight loss programmes but to be honest I just get more anxious and then hate food and constantly think about it.
I also find it sets of the same anxious feelings I had when I was weaning my babies; that constantly thinking about food, are they eating enough?
Part of my anxiety and postnatal depression symptoms tended to manifest themselves within my weight loss. The physical symptoms of IBS and anxiety meant that I lost weight rapidly. Family and friends would say I looked great which was always a boost but inside my head was in a very bad place. The stress and anxiety diet is not to be recommended. Looking back before I had the children and was preparing to get married, although I would have said I wasn’t nervous or worried about getting married my anxiety symptoms were there. I had just put it down to possible food allergies and was then surprised when on our honeymoon I then was “allergy-free” and the IBS symptoms has seemed to disappear.

I feel it now as well. The weight is dropping off yet I’m not eating healthily or enjoying food at the moment. I prefer that my hubby works late as it means I can eat with the children and that means I don’t have to think about cooking for him or me. Tasting food had lost its appeal too and I’m completely off alcohol and have no desire to even have a sip. Mocktails are now my new tipple.

Often new mums and those mums suffering from postnatal illness the feeling of not being the same person as they were and almost mourn that loss is immense. Often there is a strong desire to run away from your new life as a mum and want to briefly just for that moment go back to who you were before they had their baby.

I’m not sure I ever felt that feeling but I know I felt the loss of myself. I would question who I now was. My self esteem was at an all time low and even now my self confidence often fails me and I can find myself wallowing in self pity. I now then that it’s time to give myself some self-care.

Self-care is something I know all about but at this moment there is an invisible force preventing myself from doing anything about it. So I’m going to work on it and ultimately start to treat myself as I treat others, with a little bit of love. 💗

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Bedtime stories

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Inspired by Mole’s Babies by David Bedford and Rosalind Beardshaw
Reading to my girls before bed is something that I really enjoy doing. My eldest is learning to read so often we take each page in turn with her reading it and then me. The thing I love most is the way they snuggle down on me although now they getting big and their bony elbows and knees find it hard to nestle comfortably on me, their heads always find a place on my chest.

It’s a nice moment and the final thing we do even after the most frustrating and tiring day. And ultimately I know that after story time it’s their bedtime and my rest time. My, at least 12 hour mummy shift is over.

Reading Mole’s babies, it reminds me of our own doubts and anxieties about parenthood. The mole family are expecting their mole babies very soon and mum-to-be mole is “nesting”. Dad-to-be mole is looking around his farm and watching the other animal families trying to see what makes those animal daddy’s good dads. He tries to copy what they do but soon realised he can’t hop, flap, splash etc.
His wife then reassured him that their babies don’t need him to be like the other daddy’s. All they need is love.

It remind me that all of us when we are embarking on new journeys in our life, whether we are becoming parents, extending our family, moving house or starting a new job. All of us have these normal moments of self doubt and slight anxiousness surrounding the situation. Often we cannot control the circumstances and even though we are happy in the decision we’ve made to start on that path it doesn’t mean that by having and acknowledging that we have those misgivings about our decisions that it is a path we no longer want to take. It just means that we need to be more aware that we need to allow ourselves that time to adjust to the new circumstances. If our new path is rocky or immediately feels like we are walking up a steep incline remember to see the positives. Look around at the view, take a seat and have a well earned rest halfway up that hill, notice the flowers or wildlife along the way. And before you know it you’ll be at the top of that pathway. It’s no race and the more you take your time the more positive our journey will be.

So remember mole and his self doubt, his bruises from falling over trying to hop, his muddy face from falling in the mud and his worry that he might not be a good dad. That you too can feel like this and be reassured that he found his family niche; Love.

Brother, husband, Dad, friend, sister, wife, Mum, friend. Whatever your worries, it’s okay to feel like this and your journey will be okay too.

Mama guilt please go away

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There are so many things that mums/parents feel guilty about. Almost too many and it’s very unnecessary but one thing that never fails to make me feel guilty is the milestones of my second child. I know when she started to wean as it was a double guilt trip of me being mentally ill with my postnatal depression that determined my milk source not to be enough to feed her properly so at 5and a half months she started on formula milk and solid food. A huge achievement but one that will always be tinged with guilt.

I can remember when she learnt to crawl, roll over and got her first tooth as it all happened at 10months. Before then she had two positions; laying down and sitting up and a big sister who would fetch and carry for her! I remember her starting to pull herself up and “cruise” around the furniture as it was Christmas, she was 14 months and again two more teeth came through. But after that it was a blur. Looking back I know I had a blip in my postnatal illness at that point so perhaps it was down to that reason which I can’t recall things or is it perhaps because I was living in the moment with an 18month old and 3 and a half year old!

I know I have tonnes of photos that I haven’t put in Photo albums of my second daughter, I was meticulous with my first child photographing and noting down every gurgle, giggle and smile. I know this isn’t by any means a new phenomenon as my mum has a great first photo album for me yet not much for my brother. It’s hard, life kind of takes over and soon we have just memories and memories fade.

Thankfully we have a little memory app on Facebook! This only works if you actually noted down the event or milestone on Facebook in the first place but it appears that in this instance I did. One of my guilty thoughts is that I couldn’t remember when my second daughter took her first steps. My first was super keen and had taken them by the time she was 9months old! I remember the moment clearly. Mr Facebook reminded me today that today, 3 yrs ago we took my youngest to Clarks shoe shop to get her feet measured as she had taken her first steps that weekend. Yay I can finally work out that she was 17months. I think it would have been another month before she mastered it properly so 18months old. I still don’t recall the actual memory but at least my memory has now been jogged.

There are too many things is life to feel guilty about everything, some things I can shrug off and others eat away at my mind constantly reminding myself I’m not good enough. It’s a skill in learning to accept that we are by no means perfect. Somehow I can learn to accept it in other aspects of my life, such as gardening. With gardening and growing things you have to learn to accept imperfection and failure. I talk about this all the time. You can grow a flower from seed, carefully tend to it to help it grow strong, plant it up in a bigger pot so it has more room to grow and at the right time let it grow outside, watering it and making sure that it is supported so it grows strong enough to be left on its own to flower. You see the bud forming and the anticipation of the beautiful flower that will unfold. Then the next day you come to see the flower and find that a pesky slug or snail has literally devoured it overnight. That feeling is gutting, you feel upset but know it’s just Mother Nature reminding us that we are not in control despite our best efforts. And that is exactly how motherhood seems to me. It’s not perfect and despite my best efforts I can’t be in control all of the time. I need to accept that and embrace it. Maybe now I can listen and adhere to my own advice…. Or maybe I’ll still have a little bit of that mummy-guilt.

What International Women’s Day means to me

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Happy International Women’s Day
March 8th 2016

So 2 days ago it was Mothering Sunday in the UK, and now it’s International Women’s Day. I’m certainly feeling the love across my newsfeed and not feeling that same guilt that I felt for my childless friends or friends who have experienced loss of a baby. I’m not actually feeling guilty for the fact that it’s not International Men’s day, that incidentally in November 19th 2016.

What does International Women’s Day mean to me? Well I see it as a celebration of all the amazing women that have come and gone and are here to stay in my life.

My lovely mum and grandmothers who all have their life stories of strength through adversary and are and have been the greatest influences in my life. The fact that I am a life long member of the largest female organisation worldwide; The World Association Of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). I have had and met so many amazing girls and young women all over the world and has the pleasure of being part of some incredible projects. None more so that my Honduras GOLD (Guiding Overseas Linked with Development). Being given the opportunity to work alongside my peers and the Guides of Honduras we ran workshops encouraging girls as young as 6 to gain confidence and self esteem. To see their spirits lift and know their own worth in the world was an amazing experience.
All my Guiding friends are amazing women and every week give their energy to girls and young women ensuring they have a safe space to be girls. To be given that chance to be influential in someone’s life is an incredible honour.
To the lovely mums I see and speak to online who are my #pndfamily, supporting each other and giving each other strength is something I will always love.
To the girlfriends I have, some I speak to daily others not so often I love our friendship beyond words.
And lastly to my own two beautiful girls whose life is just being shaped and created, you are just carving your way and I am proud to be your mummy, always.

Happy International Women’s Day
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The curse of the maker of magical memories

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There are some mums who totally go overboard with the whole magic, make believe and fairy dust. Ensuring Santa has glitter snow footprints and tooth fairies which write beautiful notes and there are others who scrabble together one minute before they go to bed to place a coin underneath their child’s pillow and some for who the magic never really happened when they were young so do the same with their children. For all of these, it’s okay to be doing what you do.

I however fall into the “totally over the top fairy dust sprinkling crazy mum” for whom all other mums throw their hands up in despair and say “there’s always one who has to go too far!” Yep that’s me, I am my own worst enemy and another mothers nightmare. I don’t think I’m over compensating for a lack of magic memories in my own childhood as I never did find the stash of special Santa wrapping paper my mum would use. Equally I don’t recall the day I found out that Santa or the tooth fairy didn’t exist, just merely remember pretending to believe for the sake of my younger brother.

So here I am a crazy fairy dust welding mum pretending there’s a dummy fairy, sleep fairy, tooth fairy, Santa, and magic elves for the 24 days in December causing mischief! I mean it’s enough to make a perfectly amazing mum hold her head in her hands saying I can’t compete with this. I didn’t intend to do this, or set a precedent for others to aspire or feel guilty about in equal measure. I just do it. I have to confess I do love the look of wonderment on my children’s faces and I know that in only a few short years they will be of an age when they and their friends don’t believe and it certainly won’t be cool to admit even if you half believe.
So I’m making the most of it and keeping the glitter makers in business!

However there came a day when it really did come and bite me on the ass. A morning that is etched in my memory as a day that truly rocked our little family unit, all because of a sprinkle of fairy dust.

Now like I said I like to go OTT about magical things, so now my eldest daughter is of an age when her teeth are falling out, the tooth fairy visits are frequent. This night was no exception. So with the tooth carefully wrapped in tissue and placed under her pillow, the expectation was already high. Her little sister is longing for her teeth to wobble and is a little sad that she is missing out on these magical moments too. Hence my little concocted story I told her. The tooth fairy still visits you and she checks that your teeth are nice and clean too. This story also helped her take a more active role in her teeth cleaning as we had been lacking in enthusiasm for this of late.
With that they both went to bed, once asleep I then dutifully placed the little tooth fairy note and coin under the pillow of the top bunk with a sprinkling of glitter and on the bottom bunk where the youngest sleeps I placed a small sprinkling of glitter too so she would know that the fairy had visited her too.

When she woke in the morning she was so excited to come and tell us that the fairy had visited her bed too and left her glitter, it filled my heart.

Now my youngest sleeps like a statue where as my eldest flails her arms and moves quite a lot in her sleep; and here where the chain of events unfolded. Once the eldest had woken up she had already knocked her tooth fairy note on the floor and in doing so saw the glitter on her sisters bed, and thought that it was the glitter from her tooth fairy visit in her bed. Wailing and crying ensued. Explanations were given but it wasn’t enough. We were now into full on crying hysterics. At this point it was probably around 6.50 on a school day week day morning and I was in the middle of getting dressed. Realising this was getting out of hand hubby and I were tag teaming trying to take control of the situation whilst reassuring the youngest one that it’s okay. This wasn’t working and all of us were feeling the stress and anxiety kicking in.
Somehow amidst the crying chaos I managed to salvage both fairy dust portions into pots so that once the situation had calmed down it wouldn’t kick off again.

Needless to say I handled things badly and was very emotional. Hubby got fed up and both children were crying. I totally lost it and sat sobbing holding onto my youngest who was now comforting me. It took seeing me so upset by this for my eldest to finally calm down and for my husband to know that he could now leave mentally bruised household to go to work. I’m sure he got to the top of our road and just thought to himself “what the hell just happened then?!!”

I was an emotional mess. The girls was very subdued over breakfast and the school run and I just donned my winter hat and strode purposely and quickly in and out of the school gates not wanting to face anyone. I was so emotionally raw from that mornings events I just came home and went back to bed exhausted.

Come school pick up time I wanted to speak to the girls more calmly about the morning so did so. My eldest in particular wanted just to forget it. Then when it came to bedtime they spotted the pots of fairy dust that I had kept and wanted to take them to bed with them. I agreed. My youngest looked in her pot and promptly tipped it over the carpet…I was lost for words!! Then my eldest settled herself in bed and saw that the cats were at the bottom of her bed and said that they should have some fairy dust too. She then started to sprinkle the fairy dust over the cats. I mean seriously I literally think I imploded right there. I was so gobsmacked that I just got the giggles in a hysterical kind of way.

But there it is. The beast that is the curse of the maker of magical memories. Never underestimate the importance of fairy dust and always assume that there’s more fairy dust where that came from.

I think internally I’m still reeling from that morning which was horrendous, trying to come to terms with what I want to create for my children with the balance that they displayed that evening of it really doesn’t matter and it’s not important. Whether I will ever strike that balance I don’t know all I know is I need to come up with a plan and quick because the next tooth is wobbling….
Footnote: I have a dear Great-Uncle who once told me off for creating this magical make-believe for my children. He said “there is enough wonder in the natural world, teach them that and enjoy watching them discover it.” He is a wise man and I should definitely listen to his advice.

Lights, Camera, Action!

 

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Eeeeeek!!!! And Breathe.

I’ve just finished my first TV interview for the Chrissy B show which specifically talks about all aspects of mental health and wellbeing.

With the adrenaline still coursing through my body I am attempting to write about my experience. Firstly I personally found it more nerve-wracking in the build up but once on camera and in my element of, well talking about me, I kind of found my flow. What can I say, those who know me well will vouch they I have no problem with talking especially when I am passionate about something!

I sat on the sofa with the PANDAS Volunteer Manger Donna Collins who despite us only meeting that night at the coffee shop near the studio was lovely and very reassuring. She was armed with all the stats and PANDAS facts and figures, which meant that I could concentrate on not stumbling my words.

Chrissy B, the host was great at putting me at ease and asked the first question; tell me about how pnd all started with your story. I really only briefly spoke about things. As you know from reading my blog I could have said the anxiety pretty much kicked in from 20 weeks pregnant with the worry about my baby, I didn’t even mention the traumatic start to parenthood by experiencing a baby having an operation at 36hrs old. But I did say how I felt with my Pnd the first time and second time and how those symptoms were different. I know mums can relate to that. I went on to say how I met my wonderful friend Natasha and we started our own PANDAS peer support group. How we’ve been running for 2 yrs and seen over 30 mums. How we offer that safe space for other mums to sit and chat and ultimately somewhere where they don’t have to put on that exhausting act of “being a happy mum”. Donna was able to elaborate on that fact that PANDAS offer support in a number of ways; peer support groups, a helpline, social media and Facebook closed community group. If it wasn’t for me being on Facebook and a member of the closed support group I would never have found my other fantastic peer support group leader and together we have given each other the confidence to set up our own local peer support, and for that I am truly thankful.

I have no idea how long our segment was, perhaps 15 minutes, it went quick but covered at lot. I’m now hoping that I came across well, coherent and that the camera didn’t put on extra pounds and the strategically placed flower bowl directly in front of me hid most of me. I say that not to get overwhelming positive endearments in the blog comments but just because of my own self consciousness. Accepting me in my new mummy body is a whole different blog post!

So apart from the adrenaline rush which I am slowly coming down from, of which no doubt when I get home and chat about it to my husband will kick in again. I do know that this week has been particularly anxious inducing for a number of reasons. The end result means that I know that it will have taken its toll on my body and mental health. Tomorrow is relatively less stressful but I know I need to take that time back for me.

http://chrissybshow.tv/

The show will air on Friday 4th March 2016 10pm UK time on Sky 203 and will be uploaded onto YouTube by Tuesday 8th March 2016. Now I’m excited and nervous about this at the same time!!

 

Myself beside Donna Collins (L), Host Chrissy B and Jordan Martin another guest.