1-Month old

Hard to believe a month has already passed since my baby girl was born. I love her with all my heart – hard to imagine there was enough of my heart left to share.  So how has this first month been?  Let me share the highs and lows…

The first two weeks were so easy. Little one slept most of the time, waking only to feed and only waking once in the night. I was able to catch up on sleep during the day, and made the most of the break watching movies and chilling, which was great in aiding the recovery.  Then the fussy evenings started and what I now affectionately call ‘the twilight zone’. An evening of crying (screaming) and wanting to feed every hour! With every feed lasting nearly an hour the evenings slipped by in a feeding frenzy and by the time I went to bed I felt like I’d run a marathon (not that I’ve ever run one to know what that would feel like!)

That fussy period lasted about a week, and I set about starting to plan how I would spend my days. Sad I know, but I actually got excited about my newly devised cleaning schedule and the thought of being able to get a load of washing washed, dried and ironed in the same day 😳! But madam had other plans, and having sensed that I was planning my time and it didn’t involve her, she quickly switched the fussy period to the mornings, hindering any plan I had to keep myself busy with anything but feeding and cuddling! So now we spend the morning feeding, but the upshot is that once she’s accumulated enough milk in that little tummy of hers she seems to settle down to sleep for the afternoon. We have a few catch up feeds during the evening, but no fussiness, and get a reasonably good nights’ sleep, being woken at 3am and/or 6am for feeds.  

I’ve noticed a real change in her little personality this last week. She seems to be really looking at things now. Smiles come easier and are clearly different to the ‘smiles’ we now know were just wind!! She has developed into a bit of a diva.  During the fussy hours she is only quiet when she sleeps (5 minute power naps) or feeds (which is often). When she wakes, she wakes angry, generally because she has wet or dirtied her nappy (diaper for my American readers!), and when she’s been changed she becomes immediately angry that she hasn’t been fed since the last time (which was most likely less than an hour before!) A friend told me about a great app The Wonder Weeks which tells you all about the stages your baby is likely to be at, describing all the developmental leaps your baby is taking. My little one apparently entered the first developmental leap today – I’ll keep you posted on the accuracy of the information, but it makes for interesting reading nonetheless.

I’ve had my first night out with the girls! Boy it felt good to let my hair down again! However, waking the following morning with immensely painful engorgement was no fun and I couldn’t wait to feed little one for some relief. Except following the health guidelines, I had to wait for 24 hours before I could feed safely so I spent the day expressing my valuable milk just to see it tipped down the sink 😢. They say don’t cry over spilled milk; I think I cried tears of milk that day!! The jury seems to be out on whether alcohol is transferred to your breast milk, and there is a lot of conflicting advice. Here in the UK the NHS advises complete abstinence but that if you do drink, you should leave 2 hours for every unit of alcohol before feeding your baby. Expressing milk does not help the alcohol to dissipate any more quickly. Some will argue that alcohol doesn’t transfer – given the size of my baby’s liver at this stage, I’m not taking any chances.  If I want a drink (which I most definitely will!), I will abstain from feeding my baby directly and she will be fed expressed milk or formula from a bottle.  I am now combination feeding and it is working pretty well so far. 

As for the family, how well have we adapted to the new addition? Me, I go from absolute adoration for this beautiful little being, to sheer exhaustion from the ‘constant’ screaming.  My son (he’s 5) gives the little one a cuddle every day but is way more interested in playing Minecraft on the iPad.  My husband is mourning his daily gym attendance (he’ll get over it). My daughter (she’s 10) has been amazing up to now. Like a second mum! But yesterday she sent me a text message (yes, I know!!) to tell me that she feels left out, and that she feels that all I am interested in is the baby.  We’ve had a chat about how impossible it is for me to change how much time I have to devote to looking after our new family member and I’ve made a mental note to try and spend more time with my very sensitive, emotional and hormonal eldest daughter (remind you of anyone?! 😳).  The apple never falls far from the tree does it! 

Well, that’s a few of the highlights of month one. I’ve been writing this whilst feeding, and seeing as little one finished some time ago and it’s now past midnight, I guess I really ought to get us both to bed. In the meantime, here’s a picture of my beautiful daughter at one month old…  

Writing 201: Poetry Day 7

Day 7 gave us fingers/prose poem/assonance.   Not sure if I managed it or not…

Gentle fingers linger on my swollen belly, trying to work out where she’s lying.  Some days I feel like crying when I think about the change that is about to come.  On those days, the movement seems like an alien being, wriggling and writhing, bits protruding here and there.  But when I’m calm, it’s like a warm balm to my skin and my soul, and I feel whole.

Weekend Pot Luck

So, I haven’t got around to completing Day 5 with one thing and another, but I can at least share some of my love of poetry.

I usually have my head firmly in an old book, and have so many favourites, but metaphysical poetry has always been top of my list. John Donne can be a bit heavy going, but I have always loved Twicknam Garden and can still recite it despite not having read it for years.

I love the opening lines and how very woeful and dramatic they are in setting the scene for the rest of the poem:

Blasted with sighs, and surrounded with teares

Whenever I’m feeling melancholy those lines pop into my head.

The Joys of Sleepless Nights

So it’s gone 1am now and I can’t sleep! I think this little madam is preparing me for the sleepless nights to come. Either that or she is going to be a dancer when she grows up! She has been wriggling constantly since I came to bed over 2 hours ago and I could cry! I’m so tired but just can’t sleep. It’s not the nice little kicks you get either – it’s full on squirmy wriggling that just feels so bloody uncomfortable! And she’s that low down it’s like she is tap-dancing on my cervix. Sooo uncomfortable.

I know I shouldn’t complain, and I should be grateful of the signs that she’s ok in there, but seriously! I just need to get some sleep. Add a snoring husband to the mix and I think you can get some idea of my pain. I really could just lean over and punch him in the nose, a) to shut the snoring up, and b) to show him my utter indignation at his ability to sleep!

Not being enough to have lost the luxury of my favourite sleep position (I usually sleep on my tummy) it’s now a battle to get into any position where I can be comfortable and ‘Peanut’ can be still.

Brainwave – been at an all day meeting today and drank a lot of tea and coffee! I wonder if the overload of caffeine (yes, I know you shouldn’t have too much, but it was all that was on offer) has got this little lady wired. Will try a caffeine free day tomorrow and see if she is a bit calmer at bedtime.

I’m 24 weeks pregnant tomorrow. Imagine what it’s going to be like when she is actually here, lol!

If anyone reading this has any tips for comfy sleep during pregnancy, please feel free to leave a comment 😊. Meanwhile, I’m off for a walk around to see if I can ‘rock’ this unborn wriggler to sleep 😴. Wish me luck x

The Horror of Mental Illness

Today the news of missing Charlotte Bevan and baby daughter Zaani has served as another sad reminder of the horror of mental illness.

I cannot claim to know the details of this situation. What I do know is that mental illness claimed another victim today, and I wish it had been so, so different for all concerned.

People who have never suffered with any form of mental illness do not realise that decisions made during the very depths of despair are not something that can be controlled. Who knows what was going through this poor girl’s mind when she made the decision that she did. Perhaps she felt she was doing everyone else a favour – relieving them of the burden she may have felt she was. Maybe she just wanted to get away from the voice inside her head that told her she couldn’t do it, that she would never be good enough.

I am pleased to say that even in my darkest hours I never seriously considered taking my own life, or that of my child. Or did I? I had lots of moments when I felt that my family, my child, would be better off without me; that if I just took myself off somewhere they could never find me they’d forget about me soon enough and be happy in my absence. I felt that I was no use to anyone, particularly my baby girl, and that all I did was bring those around me misery. I fantasised about living in a hut in a remote part of the country where I could write and think and cry until the end of my days.

Sometimes, if I was driving on the motorway, I would find my hand hovering over the handbrake and a fleeting thought would cross my mind “what would happen if…” If I was driving across a motorway bridge, I’d think about what would happen if I veered off the edge. I never felt like I was seriously considering ending my life, it was as if I were subconsciously thinking about an escape, and my daydreams were at risk of becoming a reality.

I remember (and this is something I have told very few people) watching my daughter in the bath and wondering, just for a split second, what would happen if I just held her under for a bit…

I’m shocked that I’ve shared that, but I think it is appropriate to do so in illustrating my point. My aim has always been to be as candid as possible about mental illness and how it has affected me personally. I lost 3 years of my life to post-natal depression. I will never get back the moments of my daughter’s development that I missed when the darkness had me in its grimy clasp. 3 years that I needn’t have suffered if I had felt that I could talk to someone and tell them the thoughts I was having in the murkiest parts of my mind. But I was afraid. I was afraid they would take my daughter away from me and that I would be placed in some kind of institution. I was afraid that if I told the people closest to me how I felt and what I thought, that they would think me a monster and I would lose everyone.

In those dark years the only person I really lost was myself, and then only a bit of me was taken. I am thankful for that. I’m thankful that somewhere deep inside of me there was a voice, however quiet, that pulled me from those moments before it was too late. It is deeply regretful that Charlotte’s voice wasn’t loud enough. Not loud enough to ask for help, not loud enough to bring her back from a decision that can never be reversed.

So please do not judge. Though I have felt and thought some very bad things at the worst times in my life, I know I am a good person. I love my family and I would never want to see them come to any harm. I was mentally ill and I had no control over the thoughts that overwhelmed me, or the strength at first to address them. It is time we started to give mental illness the respect that it deserves before more lives are taken by it.

10 Reasons why pregnancy is a pain

So in the true spirit of my blog I feel today is a day to share some of the reasons why pregnancy can be one big pain!

Before I do this, let me reassure you that there is balance – I have come to terms with the little life wriggling away inside me and am beginning to see a glimmer of excitement on the horizon.

So after your friends (and often strangers too) have tried to avert your attention from the reality of this wonderful physical state you are in by affectionately patting your bump and asking you what names you’re thinking of, take a look at this list and stop feeling guilty about being a grump sometimes!

1. Breasts
I have breasts the size of melons that no manner of contraptions can manage to hold up where they need to be! It feels like I am carrying 2 small children around with me as well as the one inside me!

2. Back ache
Perhaps due to the melons coupled with the force of gravity? Whatever it is its agony across my shoulders and I missed ‘must be capable in massage’ off the checklist when I picked my husband!

3. Thrush
Irritating beyond belief and recurring every other day! Dr called today to say that microbiology dept have confirmed that there is no long term treatment suitable in pregnancy. So it’s daily treatment until DD arrives! Perhaps I should name her after a bird, lol!

4. BV and Group B Strep
Ok so I can’t tell you if either of these have any symptoms because the damned irritating thrush seems to be able to outshine them both somewhat. But it’s just plain annoying that I even have them and that’s all I want to say about that!

5. Muscle pain
Spent the weekend walking around London and feel like I ran the flaming marathon! Even the muscles in my toes are aching (haha, not really, oh hang on yes I just had a wriggle and they flipping ache too!)

6. The low down
DD is so low down there that I can’t even sit up straight without a) stabbing pain or b) a little madam giving me the boot! Over-the-bump maternity jeans are ok except for the seam that is meant to sit under the bump. That is, if your bump isn’t practically in your faff! 😳

7. Braxton Hicks
Don’t remember much about these in either of my previous pregnancies, but I sure am getting them in this one. It’s not the tightening that’s the problem – it doesn’t hurt, but it takes my breath away for a few seconds and is the strangest feeling. They also cause me worry as they feel like the start of something that is too early to be starting.

8. Spaced Out
Every morning about 11am I come over all woozy like I’ve taken cocodamol on an empty stomach. Found out today that my iron levels are low so I need to take iron tablets. Looking forward to the side effects, which brings me onto my next point…

9. Constipation
God knows why! I’m sure there’s some scientific reason that I haven’t bothered to read about but seriously?! Isn’t everything painful enough without making a basic toilet activity hard (no pun intended)! Which brings me onto my next point…

10. Piles
Enough said. Look it up!!

One Girl, One Day

Advance warning – this is a long one! But please don’t lose heart at it’s content. The ending has more value than the journey…

It is approximately 21 years since I left school. 21 years! I don’t remember very much of it, yet there are some moments, events, days that I remember like it was yesterday. One day in fact. Don’t ask me to remember the date, but it was sometime in the 5th year, just before I sat my GCSE exams. I was sat with my best friend, packing away at the end of a Business Studies class, when two girls whom I can barely remember approached and asked if we wanted to go with them for a cigarette (I had unfortunately been sucked into a belief that at 15-16 years of age it was a cool thing to do, and had begun smoking). This might not seem like an unusual event, but picture a girl who always felt a little uncomfortable in her own skin, a girl who desperately wanted to be liked and had a misguided desire to be liked by the ‘it girls’. Here was my ticket to the top! The moment I had waited for, acceptance at last.

I remember heading down the side of the school playing fields to the gap in the fence that led to a clearing in the woodland that surrounded the school. There were a number of girls there (it was an all girls’ school), dotted about in the clearing. My best friend and I headed over to a fallen tree and sat down, lighting our cigarettes. I can’t remember what made me turn around, perhaps a change in the atmosphere, but I must have sensed something as I turned to see two girls making their way through the fence. My heart dropped. One was an older girl, the other was a girl from my year – the latter was the school hardcase, whose name will remain anonymous from these pages.

I can’t recall if she spoke to me, the next few minutes of my life appear kind of shady. I remember her removing the cigarette from my mouth and me thinking that this was some kind of intimidation game. And I remember her grabbing my high ponytail and yanking my head back to pull my face up to face her, and then I remember the punches. One, then another, then another. I don’t know how long she continued to punch me in the face for, but when I look back it seemed like an eternity. She stopped for a moment and I remember her saying, “So, are you scared of me now?” I have no idea why I did this, but I looked her in the eye and said “No”, which was clearly the wrong answer as she relaunched her attack, continuing to punch me in the face to ensure a more positive response. I recall one other voice, my best friend pleading for it to stop. And I remember the silence of the others as they watched. I don’t know how it ended, I think I managed to get up and I ran. I ran with blood smeared across my face and tears stinging my cheeks to the Headmistress’s office. “Oh, what has happened? Have you fallen?” (being a girl’s Grammar School, they didn’t see much of that kind of action).

You might be wondering why I decided to write about this today. Well, there are a few reasons. But let me start by telling you about the effect that this one girl on one day has had on my life for the past 21 years

My self esteem issues were with me before that day – if I’d have been confident and assured I would never have been so eager to accept the unexpected invitation, let alone set foot through that fence. The incident didn’t make me afraid of confrontation or physical attack – in fact I remember it not hurting at the time. I guess adrenaline, fear, shock had all kicked in after the first punch was thrown and it was remarkably painless. Until the next day when the mouth torn apart by my braces, the bruises and the gashes on my neck where the nails of the hand that gripped my pony tail had clawed at my skin became apparent. It was the psychological impact that that day had on me that has lasted the longest. I knew the girl didn’t like me – she had made that crystal clear through sneers and threats in the classroom and beyond. I hadn’t actually done anything, but I was always larking about in class and I guess to her I was an irritant. The more my classmates laughed at my joking around, the more I seemed to annoy her. I was surprised by the physical attack, yes, but the thing that has stayed with me is the fact that I was lured into the situation by a bunch of other girls. That has made me question the integrity of every smile, every compliment, every invitation that I have ever received since that day. And I guess my friend ‘ANT’ was there even as long ago as that, telling me that what that one girl had done was carry out the secret wishes of everyone else. I wasn’t an irritant to her and her alone – I was an irritant to the whole school, and she had served me my punishment on behalf of all the others.

Fast forward 21 years, send me an invite to a school reunion, and watch the memories come flooding back. Any of you that know me, in person or via these posts, are likely to guess that wouldn’t be a good thing. God no, far be it for me to recall all those happy times, of smearing the class projectors with vaseline and laughing out loud at the teachers’ failure to write on the transparencies, or sunny days and jolly hockeysticks. Nope, not me, I remember one girl, one day. And that one memory has become so distorted over time that it has served as the moment that defined my worth in that school, with those girls; I was worth nothing, I meant nothing. There was no action on my part that triggered that event, it was my personality that earned me a beating.

However, during the course of a few weeks the reunion began to unravel, and as a result a small splinter reunion was started. Just me and one other girl who I had been in contact via social media for a number of months. We planned a weekend away in London. Shortly after, another girl joined in, and yesterday we met for the first time in 21 years.

I cannot even find the words to describe the past few days. What ought to have been awkward was effortless. I have had the most amazing time with two beautiful ladies, inside and out. We talked and talked, about everything and nothing. I shared my insecurities about meeting them after all these years, I mean why me? Why of all the girls in that school did they want to meet me? They shared their memories, and I learned about the girl that they remember. The girl I’d always thought I was until that fateful day in the woods. I’ve had a hard time believing it, but I have to assume it was real because I was there, and they were there – with me!

I awoke at 4am this morning, my head swimming, and I guess I had a kind of epiphany. Here were two girls telling me I was ok. I continue to have contact with other girls from school, who would appear to think I am ok. My friends, my work colleagues, my boss, my husband, my family, my beautiful kids – they all think I’m ok. I don’t even really know who was there in that clearing or whether they thought I was ok or not. I just know she was there, and she didn’t think I was ok. So why the hell did I hand her so much control over the last 21 years of my life? Automatic Negative Thoughts.

I was at that school for 7 years. That’s about 2,500 days. That one day doesn’t even amount to half a percent of my time there. That one girl didn’t even come close to 1% of the population of girls in the school. That day doesn’t account for even 0.01% of the days since. I was so busy colouring my school life in shades of grey that I failed to see the joy of the remaining 99%! I don’t know if the girls will read this, but I thank them from the bottom of my heart for bringing the full set of colour pencils with them this weekend! They have helped me prove my old friend ‘Ant’ wrong for once. And no matter how unnatural it feels still, I am going to allow myself to believe them. I am going to give the power back to the positive, and metaphorically punch that one girl right back.

Today is the day that I start believing that I am ok. It is the day that I accept that I am never going to be to everyone’s liking. I know I have a good heart, and I know the people who matter know that too. From now on, I am going to give the power back where it needs to be – with the positive – and stop letting the minority take so much control. Today is the day that I let it go.

Feedback is a gift…

Nothing worth posting today, so whilst I had committed to myself to blog every day, I am a strong believer in not speaking for the sake of it.

Bit of a contradiction in terms, seeing as I am right now blogging about why I’m not going to blog today 😳!!

But while I am here, I just wanted to say that I appreciate all of you for stopping by to read my posts, and I would encourage you to comment, like or share anything that you find interesting (or even if you find it quite the opposite).

It would be useful for me to know how you feel when you read a post, whether you hate it or love it. And I’m more than happy to answer any questions you have if something catches your attention but leaves you guessing.

Anyway, I’m new to all this so I don’t know if you have visited my page by chance, you’re here for one look, or you pop in to check me out on a more regular basis. Either way, thanks for dropping in 😊

Positive thoughts

I had my 20 week scan today and found out that all my worrying was completely unnecessary! Not only is my baby perfectly healthy, but she is a girl!

After the scan I legged it to the toilets to relieve myself of the ridiculous quantities of water I drank on the way to the hospital. Once I’d locked the door, the tears came. I was relieved and overjoyed. But I was also overwhelmed by a feeling I can’t describe. Not regret, but something close to that. I thought about all the time I’ve wasted obsessing about what could go wrong. And I shook myself off and told myself “You see, you ARE a lucky person!”

My joy was short lived because waiting for me outside the toilets was the lady that carried out the scan asking me to take a seat in the consultants room. To cut a long story short, I have Group B Strep and a low lying placenta. Both fairly common, neither without their risks. A nurse explained everything to me and I left feeling deflated. My bubble had been burst, and it had been such a good one.

Now, I have had time to think it through though. My old friend Ant was there for me as usual this morning (for those of you who haven’t met my friend in previous posts, please let me introduce you to ‘automatic negative thoughts’, my ever present, acutely annoying and destructive ‘friend’). The news marked the end of my joy, another reason to mope my way through the rest of this pregnancy.

It was a link to a website that a friend sent me that put things into perspective. “If you know you carry GBS during pregnancy, it is good to know.” One simple sentence. My friend ‘Ant’ had told me this was yet another sign that something would go wrong. He tried to make me feel stupid for allowing myself to feel joy for even a moment. But actually, the news I got today was lucky. It is good to know. The risks of any negative effects on a baby from GBS are far greater when the mother doesn’t know. Perhaps it was a sign after all. A sign that everything will be ok.

Tonight I will allow myself to dream 💕