Thursday, 29 September 2016

NICU MUM'S HEARTY #GIVEAWAY!

 
Today the 29th Sept is an extra special day for me, it was my original due date with Elijah and is also #worldheartday so now seems a great time to announce the #NICUMUMHEARTYGIVEAWAY.
 
For all of the support the social media community has given me with my #bigkidsforgosh campaign,and for the amazing response my #PNDAW16 blog series got. I wanted to give something back. Whilst at the same time, saying thank you to some of you awesome people who have supported me too!

It is to say thank you, to my readers I cannot believe when I first started back in March I would be nearing 20,000 blog views, 1.5k Insta follwers, 1k on Twitter and nearly 100 likes on the blog FB page. I truly am grateful and as long as you keep reading, I will keep writing. I will forever be in debt to you as starting this blog saved me, and it really did help me get over PTSD.

I never thought I would be helping fellow NICU and heart mamas and papas, and even have my own online store. That I would be raising awareness for NICU parents, and making sure everyone is #CHDAWARE.

So for this, I wanted to launch a giveaway! And also help promote some amazing brands along the way. After all if it wasn't for people spreading the word about my blog all those months ago I may not be where I am today. These brands are also AWESOME.

Some of the awesome brands who have donated some fab prizes are;

Strong as a Mother Club
Rachael Kellett
Bloody Nora Pam
Bo &Bel
Lemon Drop Books
Essex Mama
The Little Magpies
Mumlife Stickers.
Mum's Milestones
Mummy and Little Me
Some goodies from the NICU MUM store!

So what do you have to do I hear you ask?

The giveaway will be running from today the 29th Sept- 7th October and a winner will be chosen at random by my main man Elijah at 7pm on Friday the 7th OCT GMT. UK winner only.

Well  quite simply;
  • Head over and like The Honest Confessions FB page
  • Ensure you are following me on Twitter and Insta.
  • Tag as many Insta Mamas and Papas (one per comment).
  • Go show some love for the amazing brands above and like, follow and repost any Insta posts, Tweets or FB messages.
  • When reposting/ regramming use the #NICUMUMHEARTYGIVEAWAY
May the odds be in your favour!!

Love NICU MUM X

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Sammie's Story- #medicalfiles

Generally when I have featured stories on the #medicalfiles series it has been with the focus on the baby. But what happens when you yourself have a life threatening condition when pregnant? How will this affect your baby? Your pregnancy? Your birth? Find out about how Sammie @tattooed_mammy coped with being pregnant, and suffering from PDA. As you all know Elijah was born with a CHD. 1 in 100 babies are born with CHD. This is a brilliant post to raise awareness for another form of CHD. Please be warned this is a journey, and I will guarantee you will be emotional by the end!
 
8 months pregnant
My PDA and me during pregnancy.

So I don't really know where it all began, I guess you could say I was going through a pretty bad patch during 2011/2012 and one day I found myself in hospital due to an overdose. After numerous physical checks I thought it'd all be okay and I'd be allowed home. After a check up on my heart/breathing through a stethoscope, I saw the doctor's face shrivel up, quite confused, she walked out without really saying much. Not long after she and two other doctors walked in, asked to listen to my chest and back and confirmed I had a murmur. With further tests, ECG's and scans, they revealed I had a rare condition known as a continuous left to right Patent Ductus Arteriosus flow (PDA), commonly known as a hole in the heart, as well as the 'loud continuous machinery murmur in the left sub-clavicilur region,' and because of the placement of the hole, my heart had been pumping blood round my body under too much pressure and so they also said there was too much muscle around my heart. I lay there and listened to the mumbled long winded words I had never heard of before, petrified I had caused this to myself. I was later reassured it had probably been there since birth, but now they knew it was there I had to be closely monitored. At first I had 6 monthly appointments to cardiology. It was all new and overwhelming at first, especially because being 21 at the time, I was always the youngest in the waiting room! But I soon picked up the routine and knew the score when I went in. I got quite used to a group of students rushing in and asking to listen to my heart, as they had only read about it in books or online. I was advised to be careful with open wounds and advised against tattoos and piercings (not something somebody with 17 tattoos and 13 piercings wants to hear!!) in case it caused infection that could shoot to my heart. I was also advised to monitor any palpitations, extreme sweating and extreme tiredness, all of which previously I thought was just normal. 

At the time I was a keen dancer and runner, attending weekly dance classes and would run up to 5k a day. I was also doing some charity runs, and ran 10k raising money for British heart foundation. In October 2013 I ran the half marathon for Mind charity in 2 hours 42 minutes. The cardiologist saw no problem with me continuing my passion in running, and unless any symptoms arose from it, I could continue to run. 

My appointments then changed to yearly, and in May 2015, I was told my heart is coping quite well with it, and although I would need open heart surgery in the future, at the moment I would just need it monitored, and so I was told to come back may 2018, unless my symptoms change, get worse, or if I get pregnant. Chuckling to myself, I thanked the doctor and said see ya in 3 years! 'No more tattoos Sammie!' She chuckled back as I walked out. 4 months later, I found out I was pregnant. My heart was one of the last things that came into my mind, as a swirl of emotions ran through my body. 

At my first appointment with the midwife, my chronic heart condition came up, and I was immediately put on consultant led and saw a cardiologist soon after. My partner and I remember the first appointment clearly. We got called to a small room, I entered first and saw 5 people; doctors, an anaesthetist, and others I couldn't quite catch, I couldn't catch their names either because it seemed they all immediately stood up at once, and shook my partner's & my hand and sat down again. They explained the rarity of my case and how dangerous it may be to carry a baby full term, or carry a baby at all. It was said I had mild symptoms NYHA II which includes mild shortness of breath and/or angina, extreme sweating, and slight limitation during ordinary activity. At only about 14 weeks pregnant we were already discussing labour plans and pain relief, so my heart wouldn't be under too much pressure. This was all new to me, never mind the fact I was going to be left with a newborn at the end of it. 
 
Being monitored at the hospital
So the cardiologist asked to listen to my heart, and again, just after saying it'll only be her that needs to listen, she asked if the other four professionals can have a listen in. Of course I agreed and a plan was drawn from there. I was to attend antenatal cardiology 6 weekly and see my midwife weekly. 

As the weeks passed my heart was coping tremendously well, I was able to work full time in a nursing home until I was six months, and part time up until I was eight months carrying out light tasks. I was still attending my evening class in college every Thursday night, which started a week before I found out I was pregnant! Baby's heart was also strong, but it was too soon to tell anything yet.

It was then stated that the hole in my heart had become more prominent, it made sense, my body was pumping blood for two. I was exhausted. They kept a further close eye on the hole, but like in pregnancy, everything becomes more prominent. I was told I would need to go back six months after birth to possibly talk about surgery to close the hole.
 
Revising in labour
At 8 months, I remember leaving one of my last appointments with the cardiologist in antenatal, she asked me to take it easy and not to partake in anything that can cause the slightest of stress. I chuckled again, at the time I was living in a single person hostel, waiting to hear where I'd be living next, the stress and anxiety of packing and moving was building. Luckily I didn't tell her that my second college exam (GCSE Biology) was a week after my due date, and the next two just 3 weeks after that. So yeah ok, no stress! We planned our next appointment for 40weeks +1 day gestation, 11th may 2016, and on leaving she said 'hopefully I won't see you as your baby will be here by then!', seeing by then I would've had 3 stretch and sweeps. But no, after three unsuccessful stretch and sweeps my due date came and went, and 1 day after I attended our appointment.

I was asked to come back Friday the 13th May to be induced, just two weeks after moving into a mother and baby hostel, as if we left it too late it could cause pressure on my heart. That being said it coped well throughout the whole pregnancy, despite the hole growing slightly. An epidural before my contractions even started was advised and accepted. I was admitted on the 13th, ready for the Unknown, not ready for possibly the scariest two weeks of my life.

With 4 days to go until my GCSE exam I was quite possibly naive enough to think I'd give birth and be home in time to make it- although it was possible for some! Women were coming into the induction ward after me and leaving before me. I felt like I was doing something wrong, and on the verge of giving up. After the longest four days of my life, bouncing on a pregnancy ball revising, revising in the bath, resting and revising, walking and revising, eating hot food and revising, eating pineapple and revising, the day of my exam arrived and safe to say I wasn't going to make it. After 5 induction drugs and one 24 rest day, I'd finally reached 3cm dilation, and although my cervix was off centre, they were able to break my waters during the time the exam was taking place! 
 
He has arrived!
Everything was new to me, I've always been a calm person and that seemed to override the stress. Although I was a tad anxious about the big needle going into my spine! But as usual I zoned out, and it passed. The epidural was topped up frequently, I was examined throughout the day and on numerous machines to monitor my heart and my blood pressure, and of course baby's. I was given a drip to speed up my contractions, as nothing was working and the longer baby is still inside whilst the waters have been broken, especially over 24 hours, the higher risk of infection. So as my contractions grew longer and stronger, the stress of the pain multiplied significantly. The midwives soon realised the first epidural wasn't working, and another had to be inserted. Because I wasn't in active labour during the first insertion, there was no way of telling if it had worked or not; but it hadn't! So in goes another needle.

23hours after having my waters broken, I was under great stress and a c-section was on the cards. Baby was also starting to struggle and appeared to be stuck in the birth canal. A doctor was called to apply forceps, but by the time they arrived baby's head was on show. 23 hours and 57 minutes after having my waters broke, several top ups on the epidural, plenty of gas and air and an episiotomy later, Joshua was born and was placed in my arms for a fraction of a second. 

It was soon clear that something was wrong, Joshua wasn't breathing, he was rushed to the baby table. Everything went silent yet so loud. Everyone was rushing in slow motion. My legs were in stirrups, I couldn't run, my throat was bone dry, I couldn't shout. A handful of paediatricians ran in to receive a 'you're almost five minutes late' off the doctor. He had revived Joshua, it took that long, and he was rushed to NICU with oxygen deprivation. Joshua also came out 'smelling of an infection', tests were sent and he was started on antibiotics immediately. 
 
NICU Days
A couple of days passed, and my partner and several nurses took me down to visit Joshua in NICU by wheelchair. I was in a great deal of pain and fainted in the chair one of the first times visiting. A midwife commented one night about how I should be walking by now, considering Joshua was 2 days old already. So that Friday night I took a walk down to Joshua's ward. On arriving back about an hour later, I didn't feel so good, and collapsed before I reached my bed. The midwife took my observations and ran out of my room immediately. 

She made several calls and came back and took numerous blood tests, swabs, checks. My temperature had risen dramatically and I was in agony. It appeared I had the infection not Joshua. A sepsis pathway was sent off, my temperature had risen to 38.8 degrees Celsius and I was moved upstairs to be on constant observations. I was given so many antibiotics, strong painkillers, gas & air, a catheter, and an oxygen mask that that weekend was a blur. I was hooked up to so many monitors and had tubes coming out of both arms. Despite the pain and feeling freezing cold despite running a temperature, my heart was coping well. I was run down, had rigor and palpitations, but my biggest worry was Joshua, as I was too unwell to visit him, and he was poorly too. 

It appeared the infection in my blood moved to my episiotomy. My stitches had to be ripped out. This experience, in my opinion, was worse than child birth. The fact that I was so upset that I couldn't visit my newborn son didn't help. One evening, the midwife brought Joshua to visit for ten minutes. This little gesture, this little ray of hope, was better than any morphine or in fact any drug. And after days of being bed bound I could finally stand up to shower, my catheter was removed, and I was moved back down to the postnatal ward. I was still in my own room, as the women on the ward had their baby's with them, and I didn't, plus I was still in pain. I am thankful to this day that the infections did not travel to my heart and it was found & controlled relatively fast. I am anxious about my next cardiology appointment, I know the hole will have to be closed at some point, and at the age of 25 I feel mentally prepared to face whatever the doctor suggests.
 
Going home!
Joshua had many check ups on his heart, and it appeared I did not pass it onto him. He has to go back to neonatal this month for a check up on his brain. But he is a healthy 16 week old little boy and he melts my heart every minute of the day. 
Raising awareness via an awesome tat!
 
Happy little chappy!

To follow Sammie and her gorgeous little boy please check out her Instagram @tattooed_mammy


Similar NICU MUM posts in the medical files series;
 
Show your support for a NICU MUM by wearing a NICU MUM badge/ bracelet, or if you just love the blog and want to help spread the NICU MUM message.

They make a great gift for anyone who is going through the NICU journey and to show you are thinking of them.

They are a symbol of strength for the NICU MUM.

Wear em' loud and wear em' proud!

10% from each one will go to Bliss charity.

Vicki Moore and The Honest Confessions of a NICU Mum Blog are proud to support Bliss, the special care baby charity and we make regular donations to support babies in the UK who are premature or sick. To find out more about Bliss please visit bliss.org.uk



 
 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

My Mummy (and one Daddy) tag!

 
 
I was tagged by the brilliant Me Becoming Mum to take part in the ‘Mummy Tag’.  This is a post where you can find out more about me... NICU MUM.
 
Are you a working mom or a stay at home mom?
I work part time as a supervisor for a care hire company, and am at home for the rest of the week with Elijah. I do two, two day weeks, and two, three days weeks. I am also a full time blogger and have recently opened the NICU MUM online store!

Would you have it any other way?
No. I need some time to go off and be an adult. I love Elijah unconditionally but I also need my own life. It makes me a better mother.
Do you co-sleep?
Yes, we did until Elijah was about a year old. Even now and again, he will come on our bed early in the morning. It doesn't bother me too much. As long as we all get sleep. I liked sleeping with him before and just after his op and I could keep a close eye on him.

 What is your must have item for your child / baby?
C Beebies! Dummy! Without a doubt!

How many kids do you plan on having?
2, then when they are older we hope to adopt. I would love to be a foster parent as well.

Date night: How often do you have them?
Once a month if that. Greg works as a kitchen manager and works really long hours! Our date night is normally watching a film on the sofa!
What is your child’s favourite show?
Peppa Pig! That bloody pig! I have seen them all about a gazillion times.
 
Name one thing you brought before you had a baby and never ended up using?
Bottle warmer. Never used it once. I think we gave it away?! Nothing a good ol' plastic jug could do!

What is your child’s favourite food?
Cheese! He is obsessed with cheese! In any form. I blame my love of mac and cheese, I ate a ton when I was pregnant.
 
How many cars does your family have?
0. Greg is currently learning to drive and I will follow after.
 
Talk about your weight gain, before pregnancy, during pregnancy, after pregnancy and now.
I was a 10-12 before I was pregnant, a 12-14 when pregnant and now a size 8-10. Having an underactive thyroid can  affect my weight.

What is your dream holiday with your kids?
DISNEYLAND!
 
What is your dream holiday without the kids?
I would love to go back to the Dominican Republic, we had an amazing holiday there a few months before Elijah was conceived.

How has your life changed since having kids?
Its been hard with Elijah being in NICU, and having his op. I have struggled with mental illness and eating disorders. I have suffered with PTSD. I wouldn't change it for the world though it has made me who I am today.

Finish this sentence, ”My heart melts when…”
Elijah grabs my hand and snuggles into me when we are watching TV. Or when he just wants a kiss, for no reason. When he tells me he loves me.

Where do you shop for your kids?
Primark, Morrisons, Peacocks and we are super lucky that Elijah's godfather works in NEXT!

What is your favourite makeup and skincare product?
I cannot live without bb cream, and foundation. I suffered with acne and still occasionally do so it is a must! I am not fussy any will do!

Huggies or Pampers?
Pampers!
 
Have you always wanted kids?
It was after we got engaged, and had lived together for a while that I did. I am naturally fairly maternal but this has increased ten fold since I had Elijah.

What is the best part of being a mom?
To love someone else so much it feels like your heart will burst. But, also no matter how hard a day you have had, what ever they have put you through it takes one little thing and everything is forgotten.

I would love to learn more about some amazing Mamas and one Papa so I am tagging;

Rod- Moderndad pages,
Nina- Mummy and Nina
Jenny- Mamazou
Ally- Life with my little Duck

Thank you so much for the tag ;https://mebecomingmum.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Strap-on (a trolls guide to baby number two) by The Mum Coach

I connected with the gorgeous Selena @themumcoach when I first started blogging and she kindly let me feature on her amazing blog. She was one of the first bloggers to take a chance on me. Now after the birth of her second baby, she has written a brilliant and honest post about pregnancy. I have to say although I suffered from 90% of the below, I think I blocked it out. When I think of being pregnant I think of being a big, happy weeble. Perhaps this is what happens, we block it out so we go on to have more babies. What I stand for is honesty and this post certainly is. This is the truth about pregnancy number two by The Mum Coach. Be warned if you are reading this on the commute to work you will be laughing like a hyena by the end.

Okay, so I now have an eleven week old baby. Baby number two (number one is nearly four) I love my children. Admittedly I'm not mad keen on the threenager stage but I love them both unconditionally. What I do not love is pregnancy.

There, I said it, I hate it. For a woman with PCOS I am very blessed to have conceived within a month or two of trying, particularly as I was overweight when we started trying for our second child. I knew I wanted to write a blog on pregnancy.

An alternative to the ones we often read about blooming and blossoming women with the occasional stretch mark. I know these woman exist, and hats off to them. Well done for remaining dignified and beautiful during pregnancy....I am NOT one of those women. I found that even sharing these pregnancy woes with friends left me feeling like the only one (becoming a Mum does, at times, come with a superiority membership), while others gave me the old "thank fuck it wasn't just me"

 So for those women who turn into haggard, gassy old witches during pregnancy this is for you. Pour yourself a glass of cranberry juice (great for cystitis right?) and have a belly laugh, and likely wee (pelvic floor probs), on me. This one is free.

Below are some unedited points I wrote in the note pad on my phone whilst pregnant, for reference when it came to writing this blog;

"Knotted hair" That's right folks. I let myself go during pregnancy. For me it's a right of passage, before you pass a baby through yours. Even so, finding an unplanned dreadlock was an all time low.

"Monobrow, lip and chin hair" I am half Jamaican and have very dark hair so yes, I do suffer from a bit of fluff now and then. So what? On this occasion however, I distinctly remember being both shocked an appalled to discover that I had actually developed facial hair my bearded husband would be proud of. I guess the real question is....how long had it been there for?

"Large, veined breasts. Black huge nipples. Leaking. Smell" Well, isn't this one delightful?! It kind of speaks for itself. Luckily for you, dear reader, I have not attached a picture but I am ASTOUNDED at how large my nipples have become. I am certain there is a world record with my name just waiting to be collected. As there is no monetary reward I'll leave it for some freaky porn  star to claim, she will have likely worked harder for those nips than I. I do feel I should explain "smell" In addition to all the wonderful changes to my body that pregnancy brings I also get anxiety. Driving at 20mph convinced I'll be swerved off the road at any given moment (this was the same with both pregnancies) but this was a new one, thinking that my ever leaking breasts had left me smelling like a continental cheese counter. My husband assured me this was not the case....

"No belly button, black line" Pretty standard stuff but as with the ol' digestive nips the line was darker than dark. I looked like my toddler had gone at me with a Sharpie.

"Large vagina" I got fat. As my fanny and I were in this together, so did she. I am confident that the eight pounds lost in my first week dieting was directly off the old girl. She's lost her pregnancy weight. Me, not so much.
Selena and her gorgeous family
"Thrush" Ah, this bastard plagued me throughout my pregnancy. Despite mortified reactions from the odd friend when I announced this and the alien like plasm, I am assured by medical professionals that I am not alone. It was so awful, so repulsive that I considered taking up residence at the end of the production line in a Canesten factory or living in a bath of natural yoghurt. I think "thrush" was my most used word while pregnant. Post-pregnancy the words "laxative, suppository and birthing a shit" were......

"Mr Tumnus" Yeah, I didn't shave my legs. They got so hairy I just couldn't be bothered. Sadly for me I thought that ripped maternity jeans were the best pregnancy fashion choice. So, what did I do? I shaved were the holes in my jeans were, of course! The final point came courtesy of my good friend Hayley. When I messaged her to say I was writing this blog she simply replied "don't forget the piles" I will NEVER forget the piles.

So there you have it, the trolls guide to pregnancy. Ah, I almost forgot - the title of this blog is "Strap-on" There hasn't been any bumping uglies, kinky or otherwise, but that is just the advice I wish I was given. Sort the straps. If this is your second child then sort the straps on every fucking baby holding gadget you have. I learnt this the hard way.

With a 10 day old and plagued with guilt from the lack of fun my toddler had 9 months prior we ventured shopping, to lunch and then to the farm. When we reached the farm we spent 20 minutes pissing about with the buggy straps in the car park only to later abandon the buggy for a sling. I waddled (bad back and after pains) smelling like a handful of pennies (blood loss) past the payment desk to the first bench I saw. I sat on that bench for nearly two hours while my husband and child explored, my feet swelling so much I had to adjust the buckles on my sandals. I sat on that bench alone sweating like a bitch and you know what? I couldn't do the fucking straps on the sling either!

To follow the brilliant and beautiful Selena you can at;

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A letter to my son turning two.

Well here we are little man, your second birthday.
 
I am sure most parents get emotional when their child’s birthday approaches, however you don’t know this yet, but you are extra special. Not just extra special in the fact that all parents think their child is, but you have proved everyone wrong in just 24 months.

You are so strong, so amazing and you do not even know it yet kiddo. This year started off well, with us not needing to see the heart consultant until Jan 2017, then you being discharged from the development clinic all together!

You moved up in nursery 2 months ahead of your little friends of the same age and you have settled in and learnt so much. Wow, haven’t you? Your love of cars, motorbikes, lorries anything with wheels! Your Grandad would have been so proud.
 
You can say so much now! Your love of singing is infectious and I love our movie days together. I love how you look after your little babies and tuck them in at night, you are so kind and gentle. You love your cats and help me look after the hamster. You sleep with a mammoth number of teddies and when I take a sneaky peek in at night I can barely pick you out, you are always clutching one to you tightly.
 
You look after me when I am ill, you share your snacks with me and even make me drink water. Mummy wasn’t very well at the start of this year was she? But, you saved me. You did something for me, that no amount of medication or counselling did. You gave me the push to change. To take just a little bit of your strength and get through the PTSD diagnosis. You gave me a fierceness in my belly to do something, to make something of myself and to be happy again. I wanted to make you proud. I don’t even recognise myself anymore, I am the happiest I have been in so long, that’s because of you.
Me and my heart warrior
Every day you find a new way to make me laugh, or make me grateful that yes we did have a hard start but it doesn’t matter, because I have you. It took a long time, and a lot of work to process the journey we had but I think I have done it. I am proud to be your mum, your NICU MUM, your heart warrior mum. You picked your own 'Minion' themed birthday party and have been telling me who you want to invite from nursery. You have been telling me exactly what toys you want from the advert's and how much you cannot wait for cake!
 
My little one I am looking at you now pretending you are on the phone to Nanny, on your little ride along car and my heart nearly bursts. You have grown so close to her, your God parents and family. You have become such a loving and confident little boy, when you used to shy away.
A whole two years ago
Looking back at this time last year, you were nearly walking and now you don’t stop running about! You could say a few words and now boom you can say and sing so much! I love how you hold my hand, no matter what we are doing, or stroke my arm, I always want to be able to look and see you there holding my hand. I want you to always be as kind, gentle, and have the openness to accept anything or anyone. You are a kind soul and it radiates out of you, everyone loves you. You are everyone’s favourite no matter where we go!

You are my little Price George look alike, but really you are my one and only Prince.

I can never thank you enough for what you have done for me this year, you will not understand until you are older but I can never repay you for saving me.

I am so proud to be your mother, it is an honour and a privilege to watch you grow, you have made me the person I was supposed to be.

Happy 2nd Birthday Elijah I cannot wait to see what the next year holds for you.

Love Mummy (or Mummummummumum) xxx

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Too Much Mothering Information for #PNDAW16

I planned on featuring a piece that I was going to write for the last day of #PNAW16. However when I received this amazing piece by Nicola from Too Much Mothering Information I knew I found my final show stopper. As soon as I greedily read this in about 2 minutes I knew it was perfect. It was honest, heartfelt and emotionally moving. At times I actually could imagine her reading this to her daughter face to face when she is older. When you suffer from PND/ PTSD there is a degree of guilt you feel. You feel guilty for feeling like this, guilty for how you feel about your baby. I have also wondered what Elijah may feel when he reads back on what I have written and how bad I really felt, how depressed I got. I wonder if he will feel differently about me as his mother. This is the last post in my #PNDAW16 series, so if you haven't already go check out the others!
 
 
Dear Ada,

You are three years and ten months old. I am 35. And you have taught me more than I ever knew there was to learn about who I really am.

You know all of the letters of the alphabet and can write your own name. You shine when you dance and sing, draw and paint and when you grow up, you want to be a decorator. This, simplicity...  

You still can’t say your ls, vs, and rs in the right places and every time you shout, “Let’s go to the yilling yoom and watch teyelision” my heart skips, then swells. 

You are a brilliant big sister who makes her little brother feel he is the most important person in the room.  You laugh at his jokes, and involve him in everything you do. His first word was your name and he lights up when you are around. You are his hero.

You are sweet, you are caring, you tell me I am the best mummy in the world. I cry when you say this and although you are clueless as to why, one day you will find that, for so long, I wasn’t even close to the mother that I wanted to be. 

To hear those words prickles me with the guilt that I let you down in those early days. But they also fill me to spilling over with the knowledge that you are here, you are mine, and there is nothing I would do to change any of it.

I’m writing to you now as I imagine you one day discovering what I have written. Like in a secret diary, hidden under the mattress, or in a shoe box at the bottom of the wardrobe, I have given voice to the most intimate of thoughts, and the bleakest of feelings. But in public. For other people to read, find hopeful resonance in, and one day, for you to find. 
 
 

I imagine you finding it in your teenage years, alone in your bedroom, and I wonder whether you will be uncertain whether this discovery is something you should admit. 

Admit it, keep it secret, that decision is your’s, but one thing I want to say for certain is that it was never about you. 

But how could that be? I imagine you thinking. How could it not be my fault? It was my birth that tore you down. It was me who left you flattened and hopeless. It was me. 

But it wasn’t you. That was illness. And that wasn’t me either. I thought I was gone, but you showed me there was a new way, a new me, that I was always meant to be. But most importantly, the darkness was never about you.

You will have read how I struggled for months to feel how I thought a mother should feel, how I didn’t feel I could do you justice. But please trust me, no responsibility is yours.

Call it chance, circumstance, fate, it makes no odds. The stars were aligned, the Gods had spoken, and your birth was just not supposed to be smooth. It was sent to test me, to prove to me how strong I could be, but it took time for me to see this, embrace it, rejoice in the lessons I could learn from it.

And in amidst a swirling storm of blackness and scarlet and the dark deep emerald envy, I lost myself for a while. But you? You were the light. You are my light.
 
 

Your arrival heralded a new time, new lessons, in empathy, patience, understanding and forgiveness. I have learned to be humble, to not suppose or assume, to think about the path others may have walked before and honour their survival. 

You have showed me my strength and ability, and your arrival has sent me on new adventures of the mind and heart that without you would never have happened. 

Every day I envelop your hand in mine, and for a moment forget the duties and performances demanded by life. I look down at you and there is a squeeze in my chest, a momentary stop to my centre. How can you be so small, and yet, in my mind, in my heart, so huge? 

Know that you are loved. Know that I am grateful for what you have shown me. Know that I wouldn’t change a thing. Not. One. Thing. 

Because out of all that, came you. 

Thank you, my magic.
 
 
You can follow the brilliant Nicola;
 
 
 


If you would like to donate to PANDAS (Pre & Post Natal Depression Advice and Support) to help them support sufferers of perinatal mental illnesses please text PANDAS £3, £5 or £10 to 70660 or visit their website for further information and support. (Texts cost donation amount plus network charge. PANDAS Foundation receives 100% of your donation. Obtain bill payer's permission. Customer care 01691 664275 Charity No 1149485.)
 
 

Saturday, 10 September 2016

How blogging helped me cope with PTSD- #PNDAW16


Today I wanted to share a piece that I wrote when I first started writing about my PTSD, and our NICU/ CHD story. I didn't know where the blog would take me and in just a few months I am overwhelmed with how far I have come. For the first time in quite some time I feel happy, positive and in control of myself. Something I was the complete opposite of back in March. I was a shell of myself. We are now approaching Elijah's 2nd birthday and for once I am looking forward not backwards. It just goes to show the difference of what you can happen when you begin to talk and start a conversation about something like PTSD. I was very frightened when I was first spoke out, what would people think of me? We need to stop the stigma, stop the fear and let other speak, free from judgement.

Until only a couple of months ago I didn’t even have a Facebook account. I used my partner Greg’s to snoop on other people’s, did not understand Twitter (I still don’t tbh), and thought Instagram was something Kim Kardashian used to help her take over the world. It was on a whim one day when Elijah was at nursery and Greg had moaned at me for uploading MORE baby spam on his profile I decided to join Instagram.

The light in the darkness
My own little place to put my baby spam on where people didn’t really know me. I was then introduced to the wonderful world of mum blogs; dad blogs the whole parent blog shebang. I looked through all of the pictures of toddlers making a mess, picturesque walks on the beach and the many posts on; pregnancy, birth stories and day to day life of being parent. But I noticed something was missing. Where were the stories of babies being admitted to NICU? Of them staying in hospital 7 days after you have given birth? Going home from hospital without your baby? Of babies needing life threatening surgery? Where the honest and funny posts of being diagnosed with PTSD from the events that happened in your son’s first 18 months? To be depressed, rather than celebrating the milestones your son is achieving?

The NHS’ definition of PTSD is; Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

Greg came home that night, I had an idea. On a whim I typed up an open letter to other NICU parents about how I really felt being a NICU Mum and how they too will get through it. I emailed it to a few of my best friends and they loved it. I don’t think I had really been as truly honest as I had then. Some of them cried, some were shocked at the darkness in the pieces. I began to think maybe I could do something with this. I came across the Selfish Mother site and decided to join and post it on there. It was not my best work, there were errors, it wasn’t edited but it was a true and honest account of how I really felt. People seemed to respond to this, so I wrote another one and began to tell our story.
Strangely once it was out I felt so much better, like a weight had been lifted. I began to process what had really happened to us. Something I had not been able to do for 18 months. I saw how the many parent blogs reached out and helped others. I thought mine could do this. When we were in hospital, and waiting for Elijah’s surgery date I spent so much time reading others surgery stories, success stories and anything that was related to what we were having to go through. What if my story helped other mums and dads who were facing or had been through what we have? What if it provided just one person with comfort?


Before I knew it I had a few pieces that I had written, actually I couldn’t stop and I was writing away each night. I had submitted two pieces to Selfish Mother, but didn’t know what to do with the rest. Then it came to me. I would start my own blog. The honest confessions of a NICU Mum. I would tell our story, about how we really felt at the time as well as sharing other posts about the funny highs and lows of raising a toddler. People seemed to really enjoy the funny side as well when I put the photos on my Instagram feed. There was an underlying fear no would read it and Greg would spend hours refreshing the feed himself but I thought I would give it a go.

I am far from technical, so Greg’s friend who had a blog helped me set one up and I slowly learnt how to upload all of my pieces. To gain more readers, I then started a Facebook and Twitter as well. I am now a fully-fledged Mum Blogger. People did read my blog, and guess what they have carried on!  I have had countless messages from other NICU Mums, or mum’s who have had their child go through surgery and to be able to connect, chat and feel that I can truly understand them and to be really understood feels amazing. No one I knew had been through the extent what we have. It felt like at times I was alone in dealing with this and it had only happened to us. Now I know this is not the case. I feel for the first time since Elijah’s surgery that things are going well, I feel positive. I am no longer in the spiral of self -pity, denial and depression. I feel like I am tackling the PTSD in my own way with the help of the blog and all of the lovely mamas and papas out there that have helped me, made me laugh, allowed me to submit a guest post on their site or have given me blogging tips.

Blogging has inspired me to explore other parenting subjects and have the confidence to provide my opinion publically. It has helped me in ways no amount of counselling or medication had in 18 months. I have begun to help others, provide support and help to them and even consider becoming a parent mentor to other NICU Mums. From that one afternoon of starting an Instagram account I can finally say I am in control of my PTSD for the first time and coming out the other side of it. I am beginning to love what I am doing, and can see a future for us as a family for the first time since Elijah was first diagnosed. Guess social media isn’t really as bad as people make out is it? It helped save this Mama and I hope to use it to save many more.
                                   

If you would like to donate to PANDAS (Pre & Post Natal Depression Advice and Support) to help them support sufferers of perinatal mental illnesses please text PANDAS £3, £5 or £10 to 70660 or visit their website for further information and support. (Texts cost donation amount plus network charge. PANDAS Foundation receives 100% of your donation. Obtain bill payer's permission. Customer care 01691 664275 Charity No 1149485.)
 

 

 

 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Anya Hayes for #PNDAW16

When I decided on becoming an official supporter for the first ever #PNDAW16 there was one lady I wanted to have on board. Straight away Anya Hayes (@mama_cheetah) was one of the first people I emailed and I was delighted when she agreed! I had been talking to Anya for a long time about my PTSD and felt I really could share my real story with her. I will warn you her story is more than emotional. I think about 3 paragraphs in I held my breath and didn't exhale until the end. It is incredibly real, honest, raw and one of the most moving pieces of writing, I have ever read. I am honoured to be able to share her story. She really is amazing. You will think so too after reading this, so go give her some love afterwards, she deserves it.


PND…That’s not me…is it?!
I didn’t identify with the label “postnatal depression”…that
means women who are distant, detached, disconnected from
their babies and totally not able to get on with normal life,
doesn’t it? I was just exhausted, yes, just a bit tired and
overwhelmed. But I loved my baby. It’ll be fine. Yes, I’m
totally fine.
It’s only with the clarity of hindsight, 5 years later, that I can
see how deeply stuck in the bottom of a trough I was. The
way your baby comes into the world, particularly your first
baby, has a huge impact on whether you can frame the early
relentless months in a positive energetic light, or if you feel
you’re being washed up on shore and in danger of being
pulled out to sea again.
My birth story was one of those classic “horror stories”, and
so my subsequent malaise, melancholy, depression…call it
what you will…was inextricably linked to my trauma of
birth...it still makes me feel sad to know that the birth of my
son was probably one of the worst experiences of my life so
far.
After 3 days of labour, emergency crash caesarean
saved his life, although when he came out he was
silent…lying on the operating table I was told I’d had a baby
boy, but that he wasn’t breathing. Utterly helpless to do
anything to change my destiny and that of my baby’s, trying
to breathe although it felt like there was a ten-tonne truck
sitting on my chest. Thankfully (thank you thank you thank
you), he was resuscitated, but he was very tiny (5lb 12). I
was sick, and couldn’t move myself or hold my poorly baby
for the first 8 hours of his life, so there was no skin to skin,
none of the calming hormonal triggers to allow things to get
off to a good start…and then thrown into the breastfeeding
battlefield on a public ward in the middle of the night at the
lowest physical and emotional ebb I could’ve been at,
confronted with a tiny and unhappy wailing creature, both of
us shocked and traumatised by what we had been through.

Not really any time for a rush of love it was more of a “panic
stations state of emergency”, holding on for dear life. My
scar is a grizzly jagged smile across my lower belly, a
testament to quite how quickly they had to tear me open to
get him out in time to save his life.
With every “perfect” birth story I heard, it felt like someone
was thwocking me round the head with a small mallet. That
feeling lingered, like the annoying person at a dinner party
after you’re clearing the plates and doing the hoovering
trying to hint at them to leave. When my son was 2, I
remember one friend who had had a speedy home birth with
no complications, telling me at 3 weeks postnatal she
couldn’t wait to start running again, her newborn was calm
and slept all day, she was baking lemon drizzle cakes and
muffins, she was practically fizzing with energy and
abundant joy. “You know that feeling when you’ve had a
baby that you’re all-powerful and can do anything?!” she
said… I smiled silently on the outside but all I could think in
my head in response was no…no, I really truly do not know
that feeling at all. AT ALL.
Another friend when I was
pregnant with number 2 said “Ah I’m so jealous, I loved that
newborn phase, so calm and peaceful”…and I bristled inside
thinking NO IT WAS THE WORST TIME OF MY LIFE. I felt
like I was sitting at the bottom of a well and calling up
tentatively for someone to come and get me. Please, come
and help me get out or show me how to do it, please.
Three weeks postnatal I was a car crash, deep in a sleep
overdraft that had started during my labour with two nights
on the public induction ward. I was in pain with mysterious
pains deep within my scar, and my boobs felt like someone
was merrily stabbing me incessantly with a steak knife.

I was in shock, my newborn was a colicky little soul who cried all
the fricking time and slept maybe 5 hours in every 24. I once
called NHS Direct as he had been crying for over 4 hours
and I simply didn’t know what to do. I was an attachment
mama, wearing him in a sling, singing, shhing, loving, I
wasn’t leaving him on his own to cry alone, but still he cried,
and cried. There must be something wrong with him, there
must be something wrong with me, I’m a disastrous failure of
a mum I can’t even stop my baby crying. Help. Help me. But
I’m not depressed…I’m just exhausted. If I could just pack
my baby safely away in a cupboard for a night and catch up
on sleep, give my boobs a rest, I’d be fine.

I went to the GP when he was 8 weeks old and still crying all the time,
discovered he was losing weight and failing to thrive - he
was tiny at birth (pre-eclampsia) and I was desperately
struggling to breastfeed exclusively because I felt so so
much pressure not to fail at that “natural easy mothering”
thing too – I was told to “top up” with formula (which I felt I
would be judged for, and so that wasn’t a happy solution for
me), and also, most helpfully, to “get some rest”. I looked,
glassy eyed and in the silence beyond tearful, at this GP and
basically laughed/cried in his face. Get. Some. Rest. I still
cannot believe that he didn’t refer me then and there for
some counselling. But then, I wasn’t depressed. Obvs just
needed a bit of “me time”, that’s all.

Every day, little needles of self-blame pricked their way into
my consciousness. It was my body, my birth, it was
obviously my fault I didn’t do it better. Like a triathlon or
marathon, your result is in the training you put in. I obviously
hadn’t trained in the right way, maybe I hadn’t been positive
enough in my preparation, maybe this is what I deserved. I
was a complete failure. I felt quite a lot of pressure from my
inner circle to have had a “perfect” home birth. I did all the
homework and research to prepare myself for a wonderful
birth experience, and according to the laws of adult life so
far: you do your homework, you jump over the hurdles, you
reach your goal successfully and with sanity vaguely intact.
Ah, but so the laws of regular life don’t apply to birth and
motherhood? Bugger.
We had a family friend whose baby was due the same week
as mine. Four days before my baby arrived, she had a
smooth home birth and emerged glowing and euphoric into
her mothering experience. She lovingly would make light-
hearted remarks about how breastfeeding was “too easy to
think about trying bottles”, and I felt like I was wading
through jellyfish infested waters, sting sting sting with every
glowing positive remark. I always came away from mums
meet ups feeling slightly bruised, taking all their loving
descriptions of their babies sleeping beautifully or smiling or
being calm as snippy barbs as to how crap I was doing as
my baby couldn’t breastfeed/sleep/be put down/was always
crying. I once jokingly (I hoped) asked my NCT group on
email (before the days of Whatsapp, we used to email a lot)
if it was normal for me to still be crying every day after 3
months, and was met by a stony silence and the next email
reply much later simply ignored the question. Ah. Maybe not
normal then. Do I have any friends?

So gradually I started to withdraw from meeting up, feeling anxious about being the
“weird” one whose baby was always crying. I didn’t leave
Peckham for 7 weeks…and this was before Peckham got
cool… as I was simply so paralysed with anxiety about
having to deal with a baby meltdown on public transport.
On one of my many lone walks around Peckham rye (trying
to get my baby to sleep I must have walked a gajillion miles)
I texted an old friend, saying “I can understand how women
get postnatal depression”…but I wasn’t depressed. No. Just
a bit tired and it would be fine once he stopped crying so
much and started sleeping a bit more. Can you die of
tiredness?
Depleted, emotionally and physically. I then got pregnant
again when my son was 15 months old. Excited but fearful, I
serendipitously met a consultant midwife at Kings hospital as
she was coming to a Pilates class I taught there. She must
have sensed my trepidation and suggested that we could go
through my maternity notes from my first birth. She came
over to my house, and generously gave me a whole
afternoon of her full ears and shoulders, walking me through
what had happened, letting me cry while my toddler bumbled
around us. It definitely allowed me to understand aspects of
how things had gone so spectacularly wrong, and made me
feel slightly stronger about the reality of facing another birth
and another newborn (surely it couldn’t be as bad again…?).
But, this pregnancy wasn’t to be.

At 9 weeks I had some bleeding, so I went to the maternal assessment unit for a
scan. A perfectly healthy robust heartbeat and the snowzone
whir of a baby’s form wriggling on the screen. The consultant
said with a reassuring smile, “well, now that there’s a healthy
heartbeat your chances of miscarriage go down to about 1%,
so go away and enjoy the rest of your pregnancy”. And away
I went, exhilarated, excited, thinking about due dates and
age gaps and being humungously massive at my son’s 2 nd
birthday party, and all that kind of shizz. Three weeks later, it
wasn’t so positive. At just shy of 12 weeks pregnant I ended
up at Kings again in A&E with a bitch of a miscarriage which
was so painful it felt like early labour – screw anyone who
ever tries to belittle miscarriage as “just a heavy period”. It
was just before Christmas, and the lovely doctor suggested
to me that rather than having an ERPC (evacuation of
retained products of pregnancy – rather lovely name for it),
under general anaesthetic, I should just go home and try to
enjoy Christmas as much as I could. How I came to rue that
decision.
We decided to go to Sri Lanka on our belated honeymoon, to
make things feel brighter and better. I won’t go into too many
details (for those of you still with me!), but in a nutshell, I
ended up having a haemorrage as there indeed must have
been “retained products” of my little bean that needed to be
evacuated. So, with me bleeding and faintly terrified we had
to rouse our sleeping 19 month old and take a drive in the
middle of the night to a hospital which was reminiscent of a
Vietnam war film in its hot sticky mosquito-infested dirty
conditions. Maurice was on my lap as I was wheeled in a
wheelchair through open air corridors to a maternity “ward”,
and he called out to the mangy street dogs roaming around
“dog! Dog!”. The ward was overflowing with people, lying on
the floor, seated on chairs, who silently pointed at me, a
weird scared looking foreigner with blood all over her dress.
And I genuinely thought that I might never stop bleeding that
night, and that I might just dissolve and disappear and Ben
and Maurice would have to make their way home without
me.
I didn’t, I’m still here. But depleted doesn’t really cover how I
felt after that. I was anaemic and constantly just feeling
slightly low and lacklustre, probably in shock about the whole
experience, particularly as everyone (understandably) kept
saying “how was Sri Lanka, did you have an AMAZING
holiday?” Errr…no it was actually possibly joint number 1 in
the worst experiences of my life so far.” But I wasn’t
depressed – I was normal, I was totally absolutely fine.
Getting on with normal life just fine. Except maybe a few
lights have gone out. But it’s fine I can still see.
This kind of experience tends to be locked down into your
fibres. If not addressed, it gets packed under many layers,
remembered in your muscular and emotional tissue, even
manifesting as physical aches and pains if the emotional
ones don’t have a release. I got a really bad shoulder injury,
then a knee injury, and felt like a 100-year old woman. I got
pregnant again. I had another miscarriage. And that’s when I
thought, you know what. I’m not fine. Not at all. I’m feeling
shit. I’m not coping very well. I’m struggling. This is crap. I
want to turn all the lights on again.


I made an appointment at my local GP to speak to the
mental health nurse for an assessment with a view to being
referred for a course of counseling. I got my appointment,
and from the moment I sat in the chair opposite to her, I
broke down sobbing. For a full hour – one of my friends
asked me when I told her this, “oh do you get an hour’s
appointment? That’s good”….and it occurred to me that
perhaps it should have only been 15 minutes, but the nurse
was too polite to stop my sniffling snotty blubbing and
unstoppable stream of consciousness of stuff I’d been sitting
on for the past 2 and a half years. I wasn’t crying in my
“normal” life, not at all. I was totally fine. The lights may have
been dimmed but there was a mask with a headtorch on.
I was referred for counselling. But, there’s a lot of pressure
on mental health services and I got stuck in traffic in the
waiting list. For 9 months. Every month or so I would check
in and ask how I was doing on the waiting list, are we there
yet?! I got pregnant again. On a bit of a clock here now
people. I felt pretty sure I could do with having this whole
“possible depression” thing looked at before I had to face a
new bubba.
Finally got my appointment confirmation when I was 38
weeks preggers, and had to therefore cancel the course I
was given.
So, for me personally, acknowledging and letting go of it, like
allowing a balloon to sail up into the skies, involved talking
about it, with the right, sympathetic, empathetic people. After
a few miscarriages I was truly doubting that my body was on
my side in this motherhood whole journey. And once this
“second” pregnancy was well under way, I noticed
aftershocks that began to rumble when it became
unavoidably clear I was going to have to get this baby earth-
side at some point and I couldn't just sneeze him out. I'd
have to face up to the trauma I had experienced before. So I
talked about it, a LOT, found my tribe – including Nicola
@toomuchmotheringinformation – sharing honest
experiences of motherhood malaise without berating
ourselves for not being “better” or fearing not loving our
children enough. Learnt to congratulate rather than berate
myself. Connected rather than withdrew. I also saw a cranial
osteopath, which rejigged the energy in my body and made
me feel like something had been realigned with the stars as
well as with my pelvis, that things were going to be ok this
time round. There is a huge emotional power of reconnecting
to your body and rediscovering a faith in it which may have
been lost. I teach Pilates, and through Pilates, yoga,
swimming, running… by gaining strength in my body again I
was able to forgive myself for my perceived failings and fill
up my self-love tank.

I had an elective caesarean second time round. I thought I
would need a redemptive VBAC, that I would always mourn
and feel like I’d never given birth. But my pre-eclampsic
tendencies saw that notion off and actually I felt a blissful
calm once I knew the decision was out of my hands. And,
truthfully, glad I didn’t have to go through a potentially
horrendous labour again. My second baby was born loudly
protesting at being pulled out of his warm soothing cocoon,
pulled straight to my skin, latched straight to the boob. And I
noticed after his birth that although the sleep deprivation is
the same (an utter bitch), I kept congratulating myself or
noticing that “hey, I’m not crying and it’s 3 weeks in, high five
me…is this weird, I’m not crying, I don’t feel like crying all the
time…?” I got on buses, I went to cafes, I was out and about
and felt like the world was a normal busy sometimes tricky
but not malevolent place. People’s comments about
breastfeeding and about how other mums are “doing really
well” “looking amazing” didn’t feel like personal barbs of how
I’m obviously the opposite. It definitely helped that second
time round I had one of those “normal” newborns who slept a
lot and was generally not an Olympic-standard crier.
Definitely, definitely helped.

I look back on my first-time- mum self and I’m sad for me, I
feel sorry for how battered I was, how mean I was to myself,
how sensitive to others’ comments and perceived
judgements I allowed myself to be. It’s a work in progress of
course. Occasionally the lights get dimmed, but being
mindful of mental state and constantly looking to nurture it
ensures that the lights won’t go out. Much as you would
plant a garden and then have to tend it daily, weekly, rather
than expect it to always look fab year round, neglected. I’ve
got my watering can ready now at all times.

If you would like to find out more about Anya than you can on;
http://anyajoeli.wix.com/bodybalancepilates
http://memoandjoepilates.wordpress.com/
Author of My Pilates Guru and A Little Course in Pilates, Pregnancy, A Naked Guide.
Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/mama.cheetah/

If you would like to donate to PANDAS (Pre & Post Natal Depression Advice and Support) to help them support sufferers of perinatal mental illnesses please text PANDAS £3, £5 or £10 to 70660 or visit their website for further information and support. (Texts cost donation amount plus network charge. PANDAS Foundation receives 100% of your donation. Obtain bill payer's permission. Customer care 01691 664275 Charity No 1149485.)