Remembering the positive moments

 

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There’s nothing quite like patting yourself on the back when you e achieved something.
Well for me it’s the little moments,….
Travelling with the children semi-solo. In the middle of December when the girls had broken up from school we embarked on an impromptu adventure abroad. Hubby had some business to attend to so we combined a few days to make a little family holiday. Along with the usual Christmas build up my anxiety was at an all time high. This trip added extra stress as I knew I was to be sitting with the girls for the entire duration of the flight whilst my husband was in another part of the plane. They were really good, ate a little of the inflight meal, and watched copious amounts of TV and no arguments, generally good they even attempted to sleep on the overnight flight. That said we slept for about a couple of hours. Whilst my youngest is always smiley and happy my eldest is exactly like me if she hasn’t had enough food or sleep and that is like a grumpy bear. So we landed and the grumpy bear awoke. We had to endure a long wait on the plane before we disembarked to a bus to take us to the terminal. The grumpy bear got grumpier…my patience was at its thinnest as hubby had disembarked earlier and was nowhere to be seen. So I managed to get the 2 sleepy girls on the bus with our hand luggage and through passport control whilst maintaining that “daddy is on the other side just getting our bags”. Praying that he really was doing just that despite my anxiety trying to convince me that he was elsewhere in the airport waiting for me and we had missed each other.
I was pretty chuffed with myself that I had managed that stressful situation with calmness and confidence.

Christmas; always an anxious inducing time (see previous post). This year felt a little different. I knew I had managed to get everything on the children’s “Santa list” so was feeling confident about a smooth Christmas morning. It was lovely. I could relax and feel happy that everyone was enjoying their presents. I knew we were seeing family for lunch and felt no anxiousness about going, which is another first.
Even after we returned home and were sat together once the girls had gone to bed, I felt relief and stress free. I can honestly say that this was the first Christmas since becoming a mummy that I enjoyed the day.

Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) is traditionally in the UK a national holiday and when the shop sales are on. My husband works for the National Health Service and so we decided that so we could be together over new year he would work this week. Now the girls are older then it is slightly keep them occupied. We bedded down in the house getting cosy in our pyjamas and they could watch to and play with their Christmas gifts. It was such a sunny day that I decided to take them out for a walk. I had a couple of things planned such as taking some magnifine glasses so they could hunt for things in the wood and the eldest was enjoying taking nature photos with her new camera, I had plenty of picnic food too. We had a great walk, there were lots of families doing the same and instead of feeling sad and sorry for myself that we weren’t doing it together as a family I felt happy that I was feeling anxious free an actually enjoying the time with the girls. Knowing that they get a bit bored on the return to the car and having passed several people who barely gave eye contact then I challenged us all to say “merry Christmas” to everyone we passed. It certainly passed the time quickly and spread the Christmas cheer too.
Another first for me. Yay

So to all you mamas out there who are finding it hard like me then remember the little moments and pat yourselves on the back too.

Xx

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Random acts of kindness

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Last Friday was the end to a rather hectic week of school nativities, Santa’s grotto and the school cake sale. We were going straight from the school run in the afternoon to the girls end of term ballet show. I had forgotten that they might need some food so popped into the local garage to grab some sandwiches. Whilst waiting to get on the forecourt parking I was stuck behind an ambulance waiting to fill up with petrol. It was a neonatal special care ambulance. Seeing it reminded me how lucky we were to have used this form of transport to transfer our first daughter hours after her birth from hospital to Great Ormond Street Hospital. I decided there and then to pick up something extra so that I could give it to the drivers. To me they are the angels who looked after us with such care when we were going through such a traumatic time.

I told the girls about the special ambulance and they wanted to choose their special gift to the drivers.
So armed with the girls sandwiches and snacks stood in line I bought the biscuits and turned to the ambulance driver who was waiting in line to pay and said “these are for you” I pointed to my eldest stood clutching her snack and told him the she was transferred in an ambulance 7yrs ago so we are very grateful and wished him happy Christmas. He was surprised and I can’t deny I felt emotional and had a little feel good factor going on. I went on my way to bundle the girls back in the car so we could get to the show on time, I then saw the driver show his colleague and we waved. He then came over to the car and said to us that there wasn’t anyone in the ambulance at this time and would we want to come and have a look. The girls were excited, I was a little hesitant we went to the ambulance and the girls clambered in. As soon as I went in the emotion hit me. The drivers were explaining all the bits and buttons to the girls who were wide eyed. All I could see was the incubator that my baby had been in. I couldn’t stop the tears. The girls were confused “why are you crying mummy?” The drivers played it down saying they are happy tears because mummy is glad you’re better. 7yrs on, those moments make me catch my breath. I don’t think I will ever forget those first defining moments of becoming a mummy and experiencing something that I would never want any mother to experience; a baby in neonatal care.

I’m glad that I didn’t stop my emotions from doing our random act of kindness but perhaps that’s why I’ve had a strange feeling of “meh” this weekend which I haven’t been able to put my finger on.

Christmas cheer?

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Christmas-time with postnatal depression.

Christmas for me marks my postnatal depression journey quite clearly. I am such a fan of the festive season, yet for the past 7 years have been battling with postnatal depression (which I am now recovered) and also with anxiety. (And still struggle with)

I really love Christmas and the planning and preparation. I love the traditions that I have kept from childhood and created with my family too. Stockings for everyone. Hubby is now on board with this and usually does quite well. Choosing our real Christmas tree, Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for Christmas Day breakfast, Elves visiting and causing mischief and encouraging kindness during December and visiting Santa of course. I love getting the house all cosy and festive. I admit I will always love it to look like the features in the John Lewis adverts or Country Living magazine but hey I can keep it real and know that it’s not about the matching crockery and perfection on the table. It’s not Christmas if there isn’t mismatched China on the table and the tallest guest sat on the smallest stool!.

Having a 7 yr old and a 5 year old girl, this Christmas I will have learnt that I can only give my best. I shouldn’t use up all my energy in the build up to Christmas Day leaving me exhausted on the one day that should be lovely. Should it really be that though? That this one day that should be lovely? I pose that question to my own statement and wonder if even by saying that I’m putting that pressure on myself subconsciously.

All too often we know the increased pressure and how it builds up. You over hear conversations as you pass people in the street or coffee shop: “….all set for Christmas?” You can’t escape the marketing ploys of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, 50% Sale etc almost panicking you into buying something you don’t want or don’t need only to feel guilty of you do or feel guilty of you don’t. It sucks you in. And makes me anxious. I feel it bubbling up inside, questioning; have I bought everything, it’s not enough, I should buy more etc etc.

The over jolly Christmas music blaring out of the shops music systems, on the radio, on the TV adverts. It’s Christmas and there is now escape from it. I love Christmas and all that it brings but I would rather do it at my own pace, there is always going to be the presents for our children they know Santa has a lot of presents to give to all the other children and so far during the last few years of requests they have been fairly modest gifts. A singing Santa Claus from the local Hardware shop went down a treat and has been the best present and the one always remembered too.

For me I have to curb my train of thought as I can go overboard in my planning. Feel guilty for not providing or doing what is expected of me when it is only me that expects it and no one else. This is where I have to stop and get back to the basics. Family, laughter and love are what I want on Christmas Day. Wherever we are and what ever we do that is the most important.

I certainly know that I’ve learnt this the hard way; that last year I spent most of Christmas Day in tears. I had done all the build up, got more and more manic about providing all I could for everyone despite me crunching that credit card and hoping that in January it wouldn’t be noticed by my husband. I Volunteered at every school fundraiser and got more and more and more Christmassy to the detriment of my mental health, I was exhausted. The final straw that broke me was that on Christmas morning the children woke up excited to see what Santa had left them….and my daughter having asked for the impossible “Elsa powers” i.e the ability to freeze people like the character in the Disney Frozen film. This was one present Santa couldn’t deliver, and yet hearing my daughter genuinely gutted that Santa hadn’t left her Elsa powers totally floored me. The tears couldn’t be held back, I felt a total failure. I wanted to curl up in bed and practically did that leaving my husband to have breakfast with the children and watch Christmas films with them. I remember skyping my mum so that she could watch her grandchildren open their presents and really not wanting to be in the same room, trying to hide the fact that I had tears running down my face. I forced myself to go to a family festive dinner but before I did I decided to make the best decision for me and that was to go back on my antidepressants. Popping that little pill on Christmas Day after being off them for a year was such a huge step but one I knew was the best one. That action alone made me feel like I was taking ownership of this awful awful feeling.

So this year, I’m determined for it to be different. Christmas Day is just another day. We will eat whatever we want, and not feel pressured to do anything. These are the things I want to remember and remind myself;

You are not the sole provider of Christmas cheer
You do not have to make everyone happy
You do not have to buy everything and be everywhere to have an enjoyable Christmas
You deserve to be happy.

And most of all the best present your children can have is you.

Merry Christmas everyone

Charlotte x
If you do feel the need to talk to someone this Christmas please call the Samaritans
116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI) or if you are in the USA 1 (800)273 TALK
Australia 135 247

An open letter to Adele

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Hello Adele

I’m writing to you because you’ve stepped into the light. I don’t mean the celebrity spotlight or the here’s my new album media limelight. But the light at the end of the tunnel of postnatal depression. You’ve taken that huge decision in your recovery journey to be open about how becoming a mum made you feel.

I remember the first time I told my close friends, I couldn’t even tell them face to face, I did it by email. I can remember the feeling I felt after writing it all down. “This is why I’ve been avoiding you lately… I’ve been to see the doctor and I have postnatal depression.” Their responses were amazing, and I feel totally blessed to have such a fantastic network of supporters and friends and family.

Once I told people I saw on a regular basis I felt instant relief. I felt I could be honest and be myself. I also would not feel I had to explain myself either. Having postnatal depression is not all about sitting in a corner feeling down, it can be just getting through your day, sometimes with a smile on your face sometimes not. If you do smile and seem outwardly happy then that’s ok too. Pnd can be different things to different people, there are good days and awful days. There are moments when you feel great and Instagram that cute picture of your baby sitting in the garden enjoying the sunshine and the next minute feeling like you’ve jumped from a skyscraper and are lying splat on the floor. That was my feelings anyway.

Admitting to yourself that you don’t feel how you think you should do after having a baby is the first step in your recovery, the next is telling someone else, seeing your health care professional and finding outside support, talking to others and sharing your story. Finally being open and honest and passing on the kindness you have received from others to new mamas going through the same thing you did is a huge step in becoming a well mummy.

Using your fame as a platform for this is immense. I’m not sure you even realise how much it has meant to other mums to hear and read about your motherhood journey. Yesterday my social media news feed was pinging with retweets, shares, bloggers and perinatal mental health campaigners and friends all sharing your words and theirs telling other mummies that it’s important to talk. And it really is.

My #pndfamily is so important to me. They are speaking up about the importance of perinatal mental health because they know what it is like to experience that awful feeling of knowing we should be enjoying being a mummy but aren’t. As a result of this they have been inspired to set up their own support groups, Twitter chats, campaigns, local charities and generally being amazing advocates. It’s is finally getting talked about more openly yet many mamas and dads too don’t feel confident to speak up about their own struggles through parenthood.

So thank you Adele. Thank you for being so honest and telling the world.

You can read the full article here.

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2016/10/adele-cover-story

 

Look to your heart

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My public and private mummy face is totally different. I’m sure yours is too. I often find I parent better when I am in front of friends. Somehow I emit this calm persona when I’m with others, to the point that they even comment that I’m so calm. Even though I might be fighting those feelings of frustration or trying not to listen to the “you’re such a bad mum, everyone is looking at you and humming that too” script that goes round in my head.

When I was on maternity leave (7yrs ago) and at home more, we had a neighbour who had 3 young children, I saw her to say hello to but generally only ever saw her coming in or out of her house to get the children in or out of the car. A lot of the time she would be shouting at one or all three of the children. I nicknamed her “shouty mum”. I couldn’t understand why as soon as she was in public that she would be raising her tone of voice and crating such a negative atmosphere……

However since having children I can totally relate to how my neighbour was reacting. I have often found myself getting out of the house still cross at the girls and the getting ready for school routine. Then I feel terribly guilty for my reaction and hate the fact that I am sending the girls off to school upset because I’ve shouted at them.

I came across this short article by Dirt and Boogers

How to Stop Yelling At Your Kids – One Simple Tip

One, she admits that she yells at her kids, for which I admire that admission greatly and two, she had found a way that enables her to take a breath in that moment of pre-shouting that means she can take stock and focus on calming herself down. Leaving hearts all over the house means she can see them, stop reacting and breath.

I’ve got another week of half term left, perhaps I should try this idea……

Free Me Time

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Here in the UK we have just gained an hour. A whole hour of time, but what does that really mean? Well the children still get up at the same time their body clock always tells them to except it’s an hour earlier. We have a whole extra hour in which to entertain the children, joy! The evenings get darker earlier, and when I mean earlier I mean from 2pm in the afternoon on a dull grey day can seem like dusk. And in the height of winter in December it’s dark by 3.30pm. That’s a whole 4 hours to kill in the dark with children whilst waiting for bedtime. Because if you fool them into think it’s bedtime and go to bed early then you’re guaranteed that they will wake all the more earlier and defeat the object of them having an early night as it always equals an early morning!

I don’t think I get seasonal affective disorder, but I am certainly affected by the clock change and the early dark nights. I think it didn’t exactly make my journey into motherhood easy as I had my daughter in the October so really felt those darker afternoons. I remember thinking what to do at those times of the afternoon, I would head to the shopping mall or a local 24/7 supermarket which had a cafe and while away the time in a lit busy environment. I didn’t learn from this, as I then, two years later had my second daughter at the same time of year. This time I didn’t go out as much, as logistically I found it too difficult.

So today I got to thinking, if someone gave you a child free hour what would you do with it?
Would you run round the house tidying up? Would you run yourself a bath? Have a manicure? sort out that cupboard? Sleep? Read? Have a hot cup of tea? Go food shopping? Go clothes shopping… For yourself?! I’ve had those rare occasions when I’ve been given that time from my husband, or a friend who has said go and do something for yourself. The elation I felt was totally joyful, wow I’m on my own without the children what should I do? Then confusion, what can I fit into that time? I’m thinking about it too much I’m wasting time. Quick do something! I found that I couldn’t think what to do and wanting to make the most of that time wanted to cram everything in from the above list into that 60minutes. Therefore feeling guilty that I didn’t make the most of that hour.

I have so much that I want to do for myself, tidy up areas of my house which make me feel unhappy and guilty I’ve not done it sooner; the toy cupboard, the wardrobe etc. I want that pamper time for me to indulge myself; manicure, washing and drying my hair. Sleep is a definite priority and depending on my mood or sleep deprivation or stress levels that often comes first.

I have that time , now that the children are growing up and at school, I have a precious 5 hours between drop off and pick up to do things for myself. That includes working and being me. And yet still I try and cram it full and feel guilty I’ve not ticked everything off my imaginary list. It has to be imaginary because if it was actually real and taped to my fridge then that would be even worse that it being in my head. Technically it’s still the same though, sitting there calling to me, telling me I’ve not done enough. Sometimes my logical mind will tell me that “I am enough, I have done one of those things therefore I have done enough”. Other times it will make me feel that I am inadequate and totally lower my mood.

It is not new to me or my personality or character that I am like this, my postnatal depression and anxiety haven’t made me like this. I have always been like this. I have always done too much, filled my diary and life with lots of things, never seeming to have enough time to just sit and do nothing. I have never known what it is like to not have anything to do. When I was younger I couldn’t fathom how people could not have the focus I had. But thinking about it was I filling my time and head with things to do so I didn’t give myself the time to think, otherwise I might have dwelled on experiences I would rather have not thought about.

The only thing pnd and anxiety have done is to highlight my own feelings of inadequacy more and make me feel unnecessary guilt. In time I know that I will overcome those feelings and embrace that “me time” more.

So, what did I do with my free hour of time this morning… I played solitaire on my iPad, in bed, because I could!

Happy Birthday dear Mummy

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It’s not my actual birthday but in a way I think it is exactly how the title of this blog says “Happy Birthday Mummy”. It is exactly seven years since I became a mummy and seven years since me and my husband became parents for the first time. I often reflect on my time as a mummy and find it particularly poignant at this time of year as this is birthday week for both my children. Yes we had them within 2 years and a week apart. This despite the jokes of “only doing it once every two years” to fall pregnant at the same time of year! Having them close in age and birthdays at the same time of year has had its positives as well as its hindrances. Yay for the double party, over in one sitting, boo for the stress that it brings. I like to do things big and see nothing of organising a joint party for 40 children. Not unlike the one we are having this weekend. I vow every year that I’m not going to do it, and then find myself booking a hall in July!

That said it has taken me a while to not have my blips of postnatal depression and since I’ve recovered from my pnd I have had small blips of depression around this time of year. Particularly when, with my first daughter, it brings back memories of her induced birth and subsequent operation she had to mend a blockage in her small intestine at 36 hrs old. This is something that I haven’t even found the strength or the right words to blog about yet. But as you can imagine a very traumatic time for all of us as a new family.

Although I think about my journey through postnatal depression as having really started when my babies were 2 months old. I think with hindsight the signs began to creep in as the nights drew in and got darker earlier. It is understandable that when it came to my daughters first birthday that I was in the full throes of postnatal depression, having only acknowledged it by the time she was 4 months old. I was also having triggered memories of the traumatic experience we had. The fact that I spent most of the time wandering to neonatal and the maternity ward and not spending the time holding my baby girl. Or sitting by her bedside whilst she was wired up to machines and tubes for the first 6 days of her life. Seeing her smiling, laughing, crawling and walking and hitting all her milestones within the year I always saw as bitter sweet. I found it hard to relate to others who hadn’t experienced the worry we had been through whilst feeling guilty that I wouldn’t want to wish that experience on anyone.

Fast forward and I had my second daughter one week before my first daughters second birthday. Again feelings of guilt. I got to hold her without her being whisked away. I got to stay in the ward and have the official photographs which I didn’t get with my first. I got to change her first nappy. I got to establish breast feeding without it being sucked out of the nasal gastric tube to check how much she had taken. I got to go home and be there to receive the flowers, gifts and cards which arrived daily through our letterbox. All those things came with that bitter sweet guilt of not having that the first time around. My first daughter got to celebrate her second birthday with her new baby sister.

Fast forward again and this year they are celebrating their 5th and 7th birthdays! It seems cliche to say “where did that time go?” But seriously although it feels like a lifetime ago I really do feel that I am stepping forth blinking into the light.

I have overdone it again with the party planning this year but think that I always will do, despite me telling my friends to remind me of all the stress I out myself under with the organising. I see it as a celebration of heir birthdays as well as me becoming a mummy.

On that note I will raise a glass of bubbly and bask in the glow that I’m celebrating 7 years of parenting.

Right now I’m off to pack 40 party bags……