Saturday, 22 April 2017

Dear Elijah, it has been two years…

A bit of background, Elijah was born with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) called Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF),  this means there were four structural abnormalities wrong with his heart. These were repaired, via open heart surgery at Great Ormond Street in April 2015 when he was 6 months old.  Please be CHD aware 1 in 100 babies are diagnosed with some form of CHD. To mark Elijah's two year heart anniversary, I will be sharing some CHD/ heart related posts of our journey that have appeared on the blog through the last year over on the Honest Confessions Facebook page this week.

Elijah and Alice celebrating two big occasions this week.

Elijah, this week marks two big occasions, your friend’s Alice’s second birthday (Happy Birthday Alice!) and something else that you are likely not to remember.

It won’t make much sense to you now, but one day it will.

This week you will see Mummy and Daddy look at you funny a lot, and you will get extra cuddles and kisses and you will not know why.

You might hear us talk about when you went down to London, this week is your two-year Heart anniversary.

Two years ago, I held you as they put you to sleep and laid you on the operating table, taking your dummy from you and keeping it with me.

Two years ago, they took you away to the operating theatre and performed open heart surgery on you to repair your heart, to save your life.

I didn’t know if I would ever see you alive again, I didn’t know if they would bring you back to me.

If I would ever breathe in your smell,  get you dressed, change your bum or put you to bed again.

I wish I could have taken the physical pain for you, to have it performed on me and not you. You were so young, so small, it wasn’t fair, was it?

I felt as strong as a tissue in those 5 hours you were in theatre, wondering what the outcome would be.

Those hours were spent walking aimlessly across London wishing the time away until we would get the phone call.

The relief of when we did and that we could see you again shortly, is something no words could ever describe.

We saw you as you laid in intensive care with a small incision mark down your chest covered by a plaster, and a chest drain stitched into you that looked like something from a horror film.

You looked peaceful, asleep amongst from all the medical equipment. We were also back on familiar territory with the machines, and alarms, just like our NICU days.

You were amazing, you fought from the get go, you were stronger than me and your Dad that week.

We read books to you, we sat by your side watching Muppet's films and C Beebies trying to awkwardly hold you while you were hooked up to the machines.

5 days later, you stunned everyone and we brought you home to begin your recovery.

We all came back with scars from the hospital, some physical, many of them mental.

I still see it in the flashbacks, the nightmares and the feelings instantly return. They never seem too far away.

It might seem weird to some that we celebrate this anniversary especially as it is a hard time to remember and come to terms with again.

However, it shows how far you have come, how far we have all come since that fateful trip to London.

Here we are two years later and you are on the brink of becoming a big brother, and you are a kind, funny, (bloody annoying) but frankly brilliant little boy.

Always everyone’s favourite where ever we go with your cheeky smile, never did I think back then we would be where we are today.

Now, we barely see a consultant being reduced to one consultation appointment a year, and you were even discharged from the development clinic.

Two years ago, you earned your heart warrior status by overcoming something that most do not have to ever experience in their lives.

We have tried to raise awareness, you have always enjoyed getting involved in the fundraising, or just by letting me write or as you call it, ‘Mummy’s work’.

Our fight is not over, and it is one we will all have for the rest of your life, but for now we can celebrate.

Celebrate your heart anniversary, and show the world how bloody amazing you really are.

You were 1 in 100  to have been dealt this card, and you have done it with that mischievous smile on your face.

You got me through this, you are my hero little one.

My strength.

I love you, always.

Mum x

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Fear


I don't know what's right and what's real anymore
I don't know how I'm meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear
'Cause I'm being taken over by the fear

We are one week off going into the third trimester with baby number two, and it is official the fear is now returning. I find when you’re pregnant the fear ebbs and flows through the 9 months. When you first find out you are pregnant, you are just aiming to get through those first 12 weeks, the fear is ever present on your mind. Every cramp, twinge and symptom is scrutinized and the worry of miscarriage is rife. Until you see the baby on your scan, you cannot relax that something may be wrong. The scan gives you some reassurance then after a few more weeks the fear dissolves slowly as you enter the second trimester. Then something magical happens and as it the baby knows you are worried they begin to signal to you all is well or in my case, kick the crap out of my insides but it is reassuring. Then there may be a day they are slightly quieter or they decide to switch up their daily routine and throw you right back into the fear. Being a high-risk pregnancy we have had a few more scans than normal including two anomaly scans and I have been told all is well. But, there is a doubt in mind that I was told this with Elijah and something was wrong. Yes, they were not looking for a problem with him as they were with this baby but the creeping doubt is always lingering somewhere in the back of my mind. If it can happen once it can happen again. Up until last week I was feeling okay, positive about the birth and that I would go in and own this delivery. Now, entering the final 13 weeks, I am crapping my giant maternity pants about giving birth again.

I guess, it isn’t the pain of birth, but more if something goes wrong. With me or the baby. When Elijah was born, I became something I didn’t plan for, or expect, a NICU Mum. I am worried this will happen again, but I am equally as worried that I may not be able to hack it as a ‘normal mum.' After all being a NICU Mum is all I have ever known how to be. The loss of control is terrifying and at the end of the day I don’t think there is much I can do that will change the outcome. What will be, will be and that is something that scares me. I have given birth before so I vaguely know what’s going to happen, I know what could go wrong (ish) and can prepare myself in some way for it. What I cannot prepare for is how my body will react t giving birth again, as although it gave me a beautiful little (well 8.12lb) baby boy it didn’t fare so well. I was very ill and stayed in for 7 days. In the back of my mind this time, I cannot really afford to do that as I have another child to get back too. I also know that I must make sure I take time to recover so I can be the best mum of two, I can be. Catch 22. I have been wondering if my body will be able to cope with breastfeeding as last time I could not. I wonder if Elijah will adapt to being a sibling, and cope with not having all my attention on him. Something he has been used to for nearly three years. I wonder whether we have got everything we need, and if being new-born parents will come back to us easily. I also wonder if we may all end up trying to kill each other through lack of sleep again. I wonder with me going on maternity leave soon if I will cope adjusting to being a full-time mum again, if I will feel lonely, if we will have enough money. Greg is a chef and works some unfriendly baby hours, can I hack it solo with two? I hope I can still make time to write after all this is what keeps me sane and I hope to be working on a book idea I have. It is the fear of the unknown. As a parent, I think you operate on 90% fear, are you doing a good job? Are you messing them up royally? Are they happy, healthy and well adjusted? Pregnancy fear really is just the beginning. Talking of fear, do not mention to Greg that we only have 13 weeks to go, although he of course knows this, he currently is like a deer in the headlights at the prospect of becoming a dad of two.

Another major fear is how my mental health will be after I have given birth. Last time, whether it was the circumstance, or just becoming a mum my mental health took a battering. It took me a very long time to admit there was something wrong and I hid a lot. First time round I am not sure you are really educated enough about the perils of PND, and PTSD to arm yourself with an arsenal of protection. Or just to recognise that what you are feeling is normal but you may need to acknowledge there is a problem and there is no shame in that. I felt abnormal, a rubbish mother and didn’t want to admit I felt like a failure especially to myself. This time round, yes, I think I will see the signs and act on them earlier but going back to the place I was in after Elijah was born scares me. If I did end up there again, I don’t know if I could come back again. I have been so honest on the blog before about what I was really going through, what I was really doing that I think Greg would notice. When I fully admitted that there was a problem and what I had been doing he was shocked and I had hidden it so well. So, far in the pregnancy I have been feeling okay mentally. As much as a hormone filled pregnant woman can feel. But, recently I have felt some old feelings reappear from the depths of where I thought I had left them.

Whether this is just because I am at that stage in the pregnancy now where things are getting quite real or I am doing what I do best and overthink, EVERYTHING. I have been feeling slightly off. Overwhelmed that in 13 short weeks I will be a mum of two. Something else is playing on my mind too, my weight gain. Now, I don’t think I have put too much on and yes, I haven’t been eating the healthiest I could have been (I ate pizza for breakfast the other day). However, last Sunday I had a slight shock. I was walking Elijah through town and I spotted myself in a shop window. Now of course I have a large bump, after all I am 6 months pregnant. What I didn’t realise was how the pregnancy had affected my rear end! Dear lord, my bum cheeks were actually moving separately from one another! Was it the ill-fitting leggings? Perhaps, was it the box of Lindor chocolates I inhaled the night before, more than likely but that old self-conscious feeling came back as did my body instantly reacting in the way it used to when I had an eating disorder. That day, I noticed I didn’t eat junk, I was obsessing over the amount of weight I had put on. For 6 months, this hadn’t bothered me and I have laughed along with the jokes that I was becoming bigger and them not even penetrating the surface. That day something changed, I questioned Greg over and over and made him look at my bum from all angles, he wasn’t quite sure what to do, bless him. I know, deep down this does not matter. That I am in fact growing a life and as long as they are okay, it doesn’t matter what you look like. Those new-born days you tend to look like a bag of crap anyways. I would also never let myself get to the point where my eating disorder returned but the thoughts have been plaguing me. This then led to what I will look like after the baby is born. Your body becomes unrecognisable, I just hope I am strong enough to accept and handle this. Or hopefully be too bloody tired, to give a crap.

I think Lily Allen had it accurate in her song, The Fear. It is a perfect representation of how and what I am feeling now. This all just feels like one long ramble that came spewing out but I am glad it is that, out. I cannot remember really feeling like this with Elijah. There was so much I didn’t know, this is what I think has given me the apprehensions I have about the birth, mine and the baby’s health because I know it can go wrong. Hopefully, now I can focus on the positive, let go as much as I can of the fear and enjoy the rest of the pregnancy, fat ass and all.
13 weeks to go.
 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Calpol Brigade

I have come to a realisation recently. Elijah is ill, A LOT. He is basically a germ factory. Or he is licking
everything, I do catch him doing this quite often. I even caught him putting his head down the toilet the other day.  I don't think we ever go for longer than a month or so before germs invade the house, and take us out one by one. He does not really get ill any more than a child of his age, in fact I think he is considered one of the healthy ones. He even takes his squidgy vitamin once a day which I am pretty sure is just a wine gum in disguise. But, every so often BAM! The house becomes an array of half empty Calpol bottles, snotty tissues, vomit/snot/ any other unidentifiable bodily fluid on the sofa and round the clock Disney films with three sleep deprived zombies inhabiting it. One thing that is certain he will always be ill when we have something planned, work,a night out, or for the last two years on my actual birthday. 

It comes in stages, normally it is at it's peak in the winter months but I have begun to recognise the tell tale signs. A few days before the illness officially breaks, it will go one of two ways. Elijah will sleep really well (thus lulling me into a false sense of security) or he won't be sleeping at all and it is put down to another, 'phase'. He becomes Damien from the Omen and begins to act out, and gets angry at the smallest things, you know like looking at him. Then upon closer examination a small snot trail escapes from his nostril and all begins to make sense. Or a small spot is found and the yells of, 'GREG, GET THE GLASS, WE NEED TO DO THE GLASS TEST!' can be heard from across the land. Cue lots of photos (normally of his bum) mass sent out to every mother, father, grandmother and anyone who may remotely be able to identify this spot. Which is normally just that, a spot.

As a NICU Mum, I have been known to slightly panic at times and haul him down to the Doctors at the slightest sign he is not 100%. This in the beginning was very tedious, a GP would look at his history and send to send us directly to hospital. They then confirmed a cold and 5 hours later, tired, hungry and stressed we would be sent home again. After nearly three years I have relaxed slightly, but I do have a ready stock of Calpol, 'magic cream' and vapour refills that would rival Boots. I mean when you really need it why is it that every bottle you have seems to be empty? Why have we kept them if they are all empty? Why on one day can you find 500 of those syringes and when you actually need one you have to improvise with a spoon and end up coating you, the kid and the whole house in a sticky pink residue? Why are they in my handbag making it a glorified ant farm?

I do tend to go into overdrive when he is ill, basically becoming Florence Nightingale but with more sweaty cuddles. I even let him sleep with me if he wants, it is easier than getting up 200 times in an hour. It is fairly laborious, however I enjoy a nice day time nap on the sofa as much as the next person. This normally is rudely interrupted by Elijah's snoring or him coughing so much he vomits. All over me. Normally after eating Babybells. We normally stay quarantined for a couple of days, watching Toy Story and Mr Tumble on repeat with me in my slightly sick stained pj's and not washing my hair. This is usually due to the excessive amount of washing he has created, when every sheet/pillowcase/cat that has to be washed again and again.

Image result for calpol drawing
Drawing Credit; Life; page 77; Cody and Calpol; DoodleMum
We are fairly lucky, so far we haven't had anything too bad other than some pretty nasty chest infections. The illusive chicken pox/ hand, foot and mouth and sickness bugs have not yet graced us with their presence. Colds though? We have probably had about 20+ in the last few months and they all go on to his chest which leads to a lot of coughing which turns to vomiting and then the cycle continues with me and Greg then becoming ill ourselves.I have never been so ill in all my life, how long does this last? Until he leaves home? What happens when I have two of these germ attractors? Will I ever set foot outside of the house again? (I am now Googling Family germ protector bubbles.We can become the bubble family).

So after Elijah's last bout of illness seems to have left the building, for now. I thought I would put together some top tips for having an ill toddler!

Or a survivalguide if you will.
 
1. You will not be getting out the house or getting anything done, don't even bother trying.
2. Become at one with the sofa after all you're not getting off it for at least two days.
3. Stash a full bottle of Calpol somewhere, so you know you are stocked up then forget where you have put it.Try and scrape the last drips of the empty one out at 3AM and end up with the little plastic protector coming off and coating your hand in the last dosage. Consider scraping this off hand onto spoon.
4. Don't let Nan round, as much as she is a help, no one wants to see Nan thrown up on. She then may get the dreaded lurgy and have to cancel future babysitting duties!
5. Just accept in two days time, you will feel like crap, and the little bugger has made you ill AGAIN. Cancel your appointments now, less hassle.
6.If you do the drop off at nursery and smell sick come home and bathe in bleach. #breedingground
7.You can never have enough Calpol.
8. Google is a friend, and also an enemy especially with identifying rashes be weary it is fairly likely your child does not have small pox,the plague or a tropical disease when they don't even have a passport yet.
9. Eat biscuits. Everything is better with a biscuit. (Or if after 11am drink GIN, and you are not 6m up the duff, *sigh*.)
10. No matter what you will instantly regret trying to catch sick in your hands.

If you have an ill toddler right now reading this, have learnt all the words to the 'Goodbye, Goodbye' song before 7AM, been up all night, are covered in sick, haven't washed in a few days, or are considering eating the Oreo you have spotted under the sofa or having to wash the cat with a wet wipe after snot has been wiped on her again. This is dedicated to you. 

I salute you all, we are all in the Calpol Brigade.

p.s this post was not way endorsed by Calpol.

p.p.s It should be I am a great spoke person.

p.p.p.s Calpol, call me.




Sunday, 26 March 2017

A letter to my son on Mother’s Day


Dear Elijah,

Today is Mother’s Day, our third one spent together (fourth if you include when Dad brought me a present when you were still in my tummy).

The NICU days seem more distant now, and we seem to be on more of an even keel.

This one is also extra special because this is our last just me and you.

This time next year we will be celebrating Mother’s Day with your future brother or sister, as a family of four.

I have been thinking a lot recently about the last 2 and a half years. So much has changed.

You have come so far, and you are frankly amazing. Bloody annoying but amazing all the same.

We have spent this week on your first ever holiday and you were the happiest I have ever seen you.

We are on the brink of so much change, and I hope you will embrace it.

I want you to know it wasn’t because you were not enough, or not good enough because boy are you, and then some.

I hope you will know that I will love you just the same when your new sibling gets here, I could never love you any less.
I will love you, always. (Points if you get the Harry Potter reference.)

Being your mother made me, and that’s why I am so embarrassingly mushy about days like this.

The ups, the downs (there have been a lot) made me the mother I am today.

I didn’t think I could hack it as a heart/ NICU Mum, but you guided me.

I didn’t think I was a good mum, at times I didn’t know if I could even see it all through.

The lack of sleep, the reflux days, and all the times where you drove me up the wall and I counted the hours until your Dad was home.

Then there are all the firsts, watching you become the funniest little boy and seeing you with your friends. It makes it all worth it.

I never knew how much being your mother could mean to me, I wouldn’t change a single thing about you. (Well maybe you could be less stroppy but you are my son after all).

You make me laugh so much, even when you are repeating things you shouldn’t be.

You make my heart explode when you tell me I am your best friend.

We can fall out, like when you get angry that your trousers do not meet your socks and you refuse to leave the house until I have tucked them in.

Or when you demand you have not done a poo, when you smell worse than your Dad after too much cheese.

You surprise me on a daily basis, you are sweet, temperamental, sensitive, loving and frankly hilarious especially when you do your Mr Tumble impression or fart and blame your Dad.

You are a smart arse and I love it, you tell me milk comes from the fridge and that a pig makes the sound “PORK”.

I have never known such an honest kid, you even dob yourself in which makes me laugh no end.

I have my faults, as do you, I can shout too much, I don’t play enough and I really need to make you eat more veg.

You can be a bit of arse at times, and so irrational but I can see a mirror image of myself in you.

I wish I could protect you against the ugliness in this world, the hatred, the pointlessness but I will teach you love, I will teach you to be kind and to always have hope.

Forever I want to keep you close, but I will teach you strength.

But, today it is all about me and you and one I always want to remember.

Because, frankly kiddo me and you one of a kind, secret handshake and all.

I love you kiddo, but if you could sleep in a tad later I would appreciate it.

Love Mum x
Me and The Boy. Always.
 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Walking on a tightrope.


I sat on the bed, Elijah was screaming, after refusing another bottle and being up all night. I stared out of the window with the tears running down my face and came to the crushing realisation, I was a crap mum. I couldn’t do this. I began to regret our decision to even have a baby. I bombarded Greg with messages whilst he was ay work begging him to come home. I couldn’t cope, I didn’t know what to do. He offered to send his sister round to help but the shame of someone seeing me like this, that I had failed tore me up. I pleaded for him to leave it, I would be okay. All you want in the world is for someone to help you, yet the minute that offer is there you cannot possibly take it. Instead you continue to punish yourself. Self-destruction intimate, I carried on barely holding it together for more than a day. I tried to control how I was really feeling by not eating and abusing pills.
Our start to motherhood wasn’t the typical kind, and I am unsure if I would have felt like this if we didn’t go through a NICU stay and Elijah’s op. In my heart, I think I would have. Becoming a new mum was both the best and worst time of my life. I loved Elijah with every inch of my being, but I also dreamed of having our pre-baby life back. I even planned of leaving thinking they were better off without me. After all, if a mum who was questioning her decision to have her baby in the first place was surely not cut out for it? That I was trying to get through the day by wishing the time away until bedtime. I crawled into myself, and when I got there, I hated who I had become. I didn’t like any part of me.

Every choice I made, I tormented myself with. I never felt good enough. I pushed everyone away, thinking if I cancel plans and stay in I wouldn’t have to face their questions, their pity. In reality, I was just pushing that help further and further away. Looking back now at those first 18 months, I feel awful knowing how much I tainted those first months of Elijah’s life. I shouted, I had no patience and I was unhappy. I am also glad that I can recognise now it was because I was unwell. There is no need to be ashamed. Many mums suffer a form of Post Natal Depression (PND) and in my case also, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is the most isolating and lonely illness you could suffer from. But, we must not suffer in silence. We must talk about this, be honest and help one another kick its arse. I didn’t get help for a very long time as I was worried what people would think. That one trip to the Doctors began the course that saved my life. My relationship, my chance to be the mother I could be. This is what needs to change, we should not delay getting help because we are scared of the reaction we will receive. PND is an illness and needs treating just the same as if you have an infection.

It can be hard to talk about mental illness. To put those words out there, you are also admitting it to yourself. I shared my story because I wanted it to help someone, to recognise they are not alone, not abnormal and that it is okay to not be okay. There are days where everything is a struggle, you know that the tightrope you are walking on will feel like it is going to snap, that you will fall off and not be able to get back up. But you will. That is also why I resonated with the singer Sandi Thom’s honest account and why I am proud to share this on my blog. There was no doubt when I was invited by the amazing charity PANDAS to share it, that it would sit alongside my story. After all we really are in this together. We must educate ourselves and others of the signs, have more accessible help, even if it is just reaching out to someone via social media. Nobody is alone, nobody deserves to be judged for how they are feeling, and this is what we must strive to change. For now, I am between happy and okay, and that’s enough.

Below you will find Sandi’s experience with PND which she bravely shared with PANDAS.
Sandi Thom
 
“I felt like I was slipping into a dark hole that I was never going to escape from” – Sandi Thom opens up about her struggle with post-natal depression, how she contemplated suicide and her work with pre and post-natal depression charity, PANDAS, in time for Mother's Day.

If you don’t know the name, then you’ll know the song that sent Scottish singer-songwriter Sandi Thom into the realms of international stardom. Her debut single, I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair) topped the UK Singles chart in 2006 earning Sandi the title of fifth biggest selling single of that year, and went double platinum topping the charts in Australia for an incredible 10 weeks at number 1. Sandi then went on to release five studio albums and is set to release her first album since the birth of her baby boy Logan later this year.

Many will remember her infamous webcam rant in 2015 which saw the singer-songwriter take to the internet to condemn BBC Radio 2 and Bauer Media for rejecting her single Earthquake. However, few know that she was actually suffering from pre-natal depression at the time. Sandi’s condition persisted post-pregnancy, with it reaching an all-time low when she contemplated suicide: “I felt like I was slipping into a dark hole that I was never going to escape from”.

After the pregnancy, Sandi had a hard time shaking feelings of intense shame and guilt, stating that “because I had people visiting regularly, asking to see the baby and expecting me to be over the moon, I couldn’t understand where this huge feeling of shame was coming from”. It was only when her anxiety became so unbearable that Sandi decided to come out of the shadows and take control of the situation, “when I started to feel the cloud lifting and could finally enjoy my little boy, I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to feel happiness again”.

Now 11 months old, Logan is currently on the road with his Mum and is all-set to follow in her footsteps: “I’m so used to being on the road and Logan has been with me for it all. My Mum is amazing. She helps me when I tour and work. Logan is even training to play the tambourine in my band when he’s older. It’ll be a real family affair!”

Sandi’s upcoming single, Tightrope, captures the inner turmoil that saw her teetering dangerously on the edge for well over 6 months. All of the profits from the single which is out just in time for Mother’s Day will go towards PANDAS Foundation, one of the very few charities in the UK that deals with pre and post-natal depression. Sandi hopes to continue her close work with the charity, saying that she’s ready to do whatever she can to raise awareness for an illness that is still very much a taboo subject. "I don’t think parents feel they can be open about the illness and, therefore, try to push it back. I hope to help PANDAS allow women to be more open and potentially we could save lives, because sadly it is the leading direct cause for maternal deaths in the UK.”

Donna Collins, Managing Director of PANDAS Foundation said; “PANDAS Foundation is so excited to have been chosen by Sandi to benefit from her immense talents as a songwriter and performer. Although writing ‘Tightrope’ was a very personal experience for Sandi, many parents across the UK and indeed the world, will feel the lyrics resonate with their own feelings and emotions whilst battling with a pre or postnatal mental illness. Those feelings of losing control, feeling lost, lonely and walking a tight line between functioning and struggling are so familiar to many, but in her bravery of opening up and talking honestly it reiterates why no one should feel shame about their illness. So that they ultimately talk to someone and get the help and support they need. We are proud to have Sandi Thom as an ambassador for our charity, helping us to spread awareness of pre and postnatal mental illnesses.”



Tightrope is released on 24th March 2017.

Song Download - https://www.dropbox.com/s/1lwcb0e8e5wtgir/Tight%20Rope%20-%2024bit%20Master%20RADIO%20EDIT.wav?dl=0

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Should we all just be waiting a bit longer?


For those that follow me on social media, will know that last week we overcame a pretty big obstacle. We gave up the dummy. I never really planned on using a dummy but when Elijah was in NICU, he constantly wanted to suck and this gave him comfort so the nurses made him one. I vaguely remember freaking out before Elijah was one because he was waking up about 100 times a night for it. I was very sleep deprived so sought advice from friends how to kick it.  Cold turkey was the favoured option, we lasted 2 hours and a failed nap time before I wanted to chuck myself out of the nursery window. We sacked it off, and I gave in and relented with the excuse of, well he will need this for recovery after the op. We will address it after (that is pretty much the theme for my first year of parenting.) But, then the year crept up on us, and he was sleeping better, he would wake up and put it back in himself, unless he couldn’t find it,  which was normally embedded in his ear for some unknown reason. After Elijah’s second birthday we began to consciously try to cut it down during the day, and this worked well. He would wake up, put it in a special box and not have it until bedtime. We went on like this for perhaps a month or so, then he got ill. Then low and behold the dummy was back in full time work.

This brings us up to last Friday when something occurred, something that would bring terror to many a parent. I LOST THEM ALL. By all I mean three, but it was tipping down and I was certainly not dragging my 5-month pregnant arse off the sofa and a grumpy toddler out to get more. Bedtime crept closer, there was some silent panic and I looked EVERYHWERE. We were facing bedtime on our own, dummy-less for the first time in 2 and a half years. I am not sure where it came from, but, ‘Maybe the dummy fairies took them for other girls and boys and they might leave you a gift’ left my lips. He brought it. I was smug with my impromptu bull. Oh lord, it is 7pm and I have no ‘gift’, a quick text to Greg resolved this and before you knew it I had even penned a letter from the fairies. Might as well go the whole hog. He slept through. I was shocked, he asked for it a couple of times in the morning but loved getting his note and magazine. So, day two without the dummy how was it going to work? Well I wouldn’t be around to find out, I did what every sensible mother would, and dumped him at Nans and ran for the hills! After him finding a dummy in the garden that the fairies should have taken that is. Whoops. I have now also found the other two! That was a week ago, and we are still without it, looks like we cracked it. It wasn’t planned, I wasn’t even too bothered he still had one. I knew he wasn’t going to get to 15 and have on even though I do still suck my thumb, ahem. I remember putting all that pressure on me and him to get rid of it before, but for what? To stop the dummy police from arresting me? Neither of us were ready to give it up.  Because I was pressured by social expectations and other parents to fit in and loose the dummy? It has led me to revaluate milestones and big changes like this, weaning, sleep training, potty training, losing the dummy. Should we all just be waiting a bit longer? I mean does it really matter when and how we do these things?

We of course, didn’t have the average start to parenthood but we still faced the same problems all new parents do. I remember vividly the 4 month sleep regression, and I think this was when I can pinpoint where I mentally I started getting very ill too. Elijah was waking up a lot, and we would then bring him into bed with us. I then couldn’t sleep so went and slept on the sofa. This went on for a good few months and I was miserable. One day I remember Elijah was experiencing silent reflux but at this point it hadn’t be diagnosed. He was crying and crying I called up Greg at work begging for him to come home. I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to leave. I had even planned this. I would have a bag and my passport packed and hidden in the dining room. When Greg came home from work, I would ask him to go put Elijah to bed and this is when I would sneak out. I didn’t really plan what I would do after I left, but I thought about that for a really long time. We read all the books, we scoured Mumsnet, Baby Centre and tried EVERYTHING. I mean the whole lot, white noise, bath and bed routine, story, stopping naps (BAD MOVE), a late snack just before bed so he was full, a warm bottle. You name it we tried it. Being a NICU baby waiting for an op, I pandered to Elijah, I let him fall asleep on me and wouldn’t put him down. I gave in so easily and I didn’t want to stress him out. He became very dependent on us. We co slept and this was fine up to a point, when we returned from having the op me and Greg were incredibly strained. We were not sleeping in the same bed and neither of us where happy. So, I trotted off to the library and found a Supernanny book, we tried the control crying technique. Elijah was probably about 1 by this point, so old enough to know roughly what was going on. By night two he went to sleep on his own and in his own bed. All night. Yes, he still wakes up now and again on the odd occasion but getting that book and sleep training saved our relationship and our sanity. I think it worked because he was older.
Would we ever sleep again without the dummy?
With the new baby, we potentially could do this from a younger age, as there is no risk to their heart. They will not need an op. I have learnt a lot from having Elijah but I still think I will wait. It just seems with the sleep training he got it because he was old enough to understand, the same with the dummy. I used to drive myself insane with trying to do what everyone else was doing but the truth was this was pointless. If they are not ready, then there isn’t too much you can do. It is just a lot of stress, fighting and being miserable for nothing. Socially there are a lot of expectations from you and your baby to tick these things off at a certain age and if you do not you feel like a failure. If we are honest, I spent most of Elijah’s first year being completely depressed. Driving myself mad for him to be exactly like everyone else. I have learnt to relax and one of the best pieces of advice I was given was if it isn’t a problem for you, then there is no problem. The same with weaning, go with your gut and your baby will lead you don’t worry about everyone else. Stick two fingers up to the unspoken competitiveness. I recently learnt the hard way about potty training (seriously when will I learn?) I thought he was ready, others his age were so he was right? Wrong. After many wet patches on my bed/sofa/ carpet/ cat, I gave up. The stress and pressure I was putting on Elijah wasn’t fair. If he didn’t want to go on the potty or toilet, then he wasn’t ready. I am letting him lead me, he likes wearing pull ups, staying dryer a bit longer, telling me he is wet, and coming with me to the toilet for now that is enough. I wanted him out of nappies before the baby comes, but if he isn’t then so be it.

It has taken 2 and a half years for me to realise but I do think as parents, we just need to relax. I could say not to compare your child to another, no point you will. Then you will feel crappy because they are eating curry with a fork, peeing on the toilet and can count to 50. You look at your child and they are rolling around the floor like a weeble eating fluff. I can’t even remember where all this pressure came from but I knew Elijah had to be dummy-less, sleeping through the night and should be able to thread a bead on a string whilst walking with a book on his head. My one regret with Elijah was that I just didn’t enjoy him. To take in everything he was doing, to think that was enough. That we were enough, that I was doing a good job. The pressure is crazy, so are the unreal social expectations. Give yourself a break. I think if we all did this, we would be a lot happier. I most certainly am, when they are ready, they are ready. It is so much easier to do these things when they are willing too, if not it’s like hitting your heard against the wall. Take a step back and evaluate it, is it worth it? Does it really matter? If it isn’t life and death then just leave it, and wait a bit longer. It will be worth it in the end, and you won’t have fought a never ending war to get there. 

 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Who am I? The Mum change.


I have been feeling out of sorts recently. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Is it my 22 week pregnant hormones? Perhaps. Maybe, it is being on the eve of my 27th birthday, who knows. It came to me more when I recently went to spend some time with some old best friends. I felt different, was I different? I think I was. I think I have now come to the realisation that I have changed, I am in a weird sort of limbo where I have gained a new confidence, am interested in new things, have new passions but I am still adapting with how I present the ‘newer version of me’, to the real world. I have been more honest by sharing my life online then I have been in real life. I find it easy to write the words of how I am feeling, to relive what we have been through and most of all to be honest in my writing. This is how I process, how I cope, but face to face? I am still very much the anxious acne ridden teenager who was rejected by her mum.

Can we change? There is the old age phrase of a ‘leopard doesn’t change his spots’. I disagree. I have changed, but I think the change occurred when I became a mother. For 9 months, you give your body over to someone else, you grow a human and give birth. You, then become consumed with looking after this new little person. ‘You’, takes a back seat while you adjust and become responsible for keeping someone else fed, happy, rested, clean and well alive. You are then dealing with more hormones that a HRT convention whilst living on a diet of no sleep and caffeine. You lose yourself, sometimes you don’t even recognise the person staring back at you. Then when that first piece of freedom is offered to you for a night out, a coffee date, a night off, you have no bloody idea how to enjoy yourself. When you first go out, especially with non-mum friends it can be hard not to talk about anything other than the baby. I still worry, I may talk about Elijah too much, but hay that’s me now, I am Elijah’s Mum. I find when I am childless, I will suddenly have something pop into my head he has done, and need to share it, or rush off to check in that he is okay. I think, I may be boring. I can’t help it, I spend most of my time with him, that when I am not, my thoughts are still consumed by that little bugger. I am boring, in the fact I would rather stay in, than go out drinking (happy to accept home deliveries of gin however) and I most certainly cannot handle a hangover. I don’t like clubbing. I watch the clock and begin to panic if it is gets too late worried about the effect it has if human one decides to make an early 5AM appearance. I have been known to cancel plans, just because I cannot bear to leave him, or deal with the consequence of going out. I guess I feel safe staying in, I am content but this is where I have lost a part of me, and I am unsure where to find it again.

Being a NICU Mum my start to motherhood wasn’t ‘normal’. I left Elijah maybe twice in the 6 months leading up to his op. If Elijah had an episode whilst we were gone, I would have been terrified and felt guilty for the person looking after him. I was also going through a tough time mentally. I can look back and realise how much of a battering my mental health took. I was broken, and suffering. I abused myself and tore myself up about every decision I made for Elijah, and that it was my fault he was going through this. I shut myself of from the world. I didn’t let anyone it, not even Greg, happy with punishing myself through drugs and eating disorders. This buried what little part of myself was left, that bit deeper. I couldn’t enjoy myself, I felt I didn’t deserve too. How could I when Elijah was going through what he did? I am aware that we will face a different journey to other kids as Elijah gets older and he may need another surgery. This is a hard pill to swallow, especially with us being pregnant with a second baby where so far everything seems okay and normal. I want Elijah to be normal, and it is something I put to the back of mind and just carry on. I can find it hard to talk about it out loud though. Emotionally, I am still a bit of a mess going from one extreme to another. Emotionally, it is draining. Since, I overcame PTSD, I came to accept my NICU Mum title, when for so many months I was in denial about it. I am proud, it shows how far we have come, and I am determined to help others and raise awareness. But, all I have ever known is being a NICU Mum, when the new baby arrives can I just be a normal mum?
New hair, new skin, new me?
Then there are the physical changes you undergo having a child. You’re still carrying some baby weight, you don’t fit into your skinny jeans, your boobs still leak and your acne is back. You lose your hair that you gained when pregnant which leaves you with a patchy bird nest. Your confidence is as flimsy as a tissue. There is the assumption that once you have a baby, you will need to lose a few pounds and boom you are back to your pre-pregnancy self. WRONG. My body changed and it was permanent. My hair thinned, my skin got worse, my stretchmarks stretched, and I was still a stranger in my body. It took maybe a year after Elijah was born to accept my new body but that’s not to say I wasn’t still hung up on the insecurities. Of course, you do what you are advised not to, and compare yourself to every other mother you can think of which does not help at all. Now, I am pregnant with my second and going through the adjustment all over again. Random hair growth, leaky boobs, and ever expanding stomach are just a few. I am a mum to Elijah and this is all I have known for two and a half years. Now, I am going to be a new mum all over again, with a toddler, and I am excited and scared in equal measures! I guess, this time round I have more of an idea of what to expect but I am not sure where ‘I’, will fit it being on mat leave with a toddler and a new born.
My sense of identity becomes blurred at times, and I feel lost. I have never been pregnant and had a toddler, and with everything my body is doing I am once again trying to find myself. I find my confidence is a lot like a rollercoaster ride, sometimes I find it is at an all-time high and I am ready to take on the world. The other time I have nose-dived and I find myself falling off the tracks. Having eating disorders, and skin issues growing up it led to me to be very self-conscious and I do find myself feeling like my teenage self did again. With my hair, weight and skin all going haywire I do struggle with, ‘me’. It has been hard to admit but I haven’t enjoyed this pregnancy at times, and it adds to wondering, who I am now.

So, who am I? I am a mother. That’s is who I am. That is what has changed me. The rest I am still trying to work out.