Sunday, 25 June 2017

Wish me luck...


38 weeks and baby got low low low.... 
So, the mark of a new week is also my last two weeks of pregnancy with baby number two. However, with the twinges I have been having it may be a tad sooner that so this may be my last blog post for a while.

I will aim to update when I can, but I have planned to take July off  (unless a rant post needs to come out with the baby!) Looking after a new-born and a toddler I am sure my notebook will be full to the brim with material I can share with you in August!

For those wondering, I am still ploughing on with my book A Year in the life of a NICU Mum and good progress is being made so watch this space...

As readers of the blog, I am sure you all know I write for a variety of parent websites and the Huff Post and I have submitted my last pieces to them for the next month but please do continue to check them out! I will be back and present on all after July.

Mummy and Little Me Blog

Up All Hours

Salisbury Parenting Magazine

If you do not already, please do give me a follow on social media and I will be continuing to update my Instagram and Insta Stories no doubt daily with ALOT of baby spam.

Instagram @vicki_nicu-mum

Twitter @MumNicu

I will be posting the Honest Confessions Facebook page with various bits and bobs throughout July so be sure to go over and give it a like!

Wish me luck and I will see you all on the other side!

NICU MUM X

Bedtime


Bedtime

It seems I spend a lot of time counting down the hours until bedtime.

Tea has been made, served and abandoned.

Iggle Piggle has buggered off in his boat and I have fantasised about Tom Hardy reading me a bedtime story… in my bed.

Now begins the battle.

C Beebies goes blank and you use this to signal that it is time to go upstairs.

The protests of, ‘I don’t like bedtime’, are shouted in my face (Give it twenty-five years and a few kids then let me know if you still don’t like bed kiddo).

We slowly ascend the stairs and filter into the bathroom, the fun really begins.

Bathroom flooded and hair washed amongst the screaming, a small naked wet toddler is now running around the upstairs settling into your bed where he leaves a huge wet patch.

Military negotiations begin to convince said toddler that cleaning your teeth is a good idea, and bribes can just be heard over the enthusiastic Blippi Youtube video.

After telling me twenty times that he doesn’t like the toothpaste (it’s the same one he has always had) we make it into the bedroom.

The pyjamas that were picked are of course the wrong ones, and this needs be rectified immediately to some mis matched bottoms and a top that doesn’t really fit anymore. One where the picture has been incinerated by the tumble dryer and only one Paw Patrol dog has a face.

A pull up is wrangled on and he is wrestled into bed.

We argue for about 5 minutes over what story to pick, finally settling on one we have read 100 times. (The Gruffalo anyone?)

Once we near the end, whines of ‘I want another one’, echo around the bedroom.

I sigh, getting cramp from squeezing on the toddler bed with you but now begins my favourite part of the day.

After arranging your teddies in the order known only to you, slowly you crawl under my arm and nestle in.

No matter what day we have had, how much you have driven me up the wall now is the time all is forgiven, all is erased.

After a lot of sweaty fidgeting and me wondering if I will ever get up of this bed again, I hear you snoring.

I begin the dubious task of getting up and sneaking out the door.

Every day is the same, sometimes more arguments, sometimes less but one thing that is the same no matter what; that as I creep out of the room I look down at you my sweet devil child and realise how lucky I am to have you.

Also, that you are asleep.

I love it when you are asleep.

Bedtime, done.

Now pass the Gin.

Oh bugger, he has just got up.

Sigh.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Enter stage right… you.


The Cockerill Boys, my boys.
When we first had Elijah, I envisioned myself as a creative sensory activity, organic food making all-encompassing helicopter mum. I would do it all, and I could do it myself. Fast forward a few weeks postpartum and I was quite frankly a mess. I was as far from ‘super mum’ as I could possibly be. A mother barely holding it together and who was planning her departure.

Enter stage right… you.
You stood by me right from the beginning. You visited me every day, when we were in hospital and even spent two days in your own in the NICU with Elijah when I was too ill. You were the mother, the father and everything in-between to our son. When we brought him home you did everything by my side even when I didn’t want you to be there. When I pushed you away and shouted that I hated you, that I resented you. When I begged you to come home from work, then demanded you to leave.

I had my ideas of how I wanted everything to be done, and that was it. You never did it how I wanted, but what I didn’t appreciate back then was the fact that you did it in the first place. It was hard for me to let go, especially when we were waiting for the op. I felt like I had to do it all as I blamed myself, and when things didn’t go as planned I felt like a failure. I took it out on you. I blamed you but it was never you.

I have never said this to you before but I was jealous of you. I was insanely envious it was you who got to feed Elijah for the first time, to change him, and be there for him in a way I couldn’t be in those first days. I was jealous that you could hold it together, that you would get up and do the night feeds and be able to function the next day when I could barely hold my eyes open or function. I resented that you got to escape and go to work, that you got to be you. When you became a Dad, you took it all in your stride and became an even better person. Me? I lost myself. We didn’t talk for those first months, but I am telling you now I will always be grateful for the fact you were there for our son. You never left even when things got tough, when they got messy. When we hated one another and threw sleep deprived insults at 3am.

You always made sure we came together, and that we stood strong even though I knew sometimes you didn’t feel that strong. Sometimes, you let me do what I had to, never judging and always being a silent presence that was always there. You get up with Elijah at the crack of dawn and let me sleep in nearly every morning., You work all the hours god sends, yet you still come home never complaining to play with Elijah, to give him a bath, to read him a story and put him to bed. That ‘super mum’ that I wanted to be back then? Well I think you maybe it.

For nearly three years you’ve been Elijah’ rock never faltering, when I did. You’ve been my rock and just got on with it. I know that you try your best for us, and we may not seem it but we are so grateful for everything you do for us. When you spend your only days off redecorating the house or doing the weekly shop. You strive to give us whatever we want even if it means putting yourself last. Even when things are strained you will always make us laugh. No one does make us laugh as much as you.

I know you are terrified about being a father of two any day now. I’m not, do you know why? Because we have you, and just like always you will step up and get it done. You will once again adapt and be an ever-better father than you are now to two of the small humans we co created.

You will still put us all first as you always do.

You will still make us laugh.

You still won’t be able to eat white sauce.

You will have to wait until next year to go to Bloodstock old chap, for now you will have to settle for a beer and a pizza after work with the Cockerill Clan.

Our clan, the one we built, but the one you hold together.

Happy Father’s Day.

We love you lots, like ‘jellytops’.

Xxx

Twitter; www.twitter.com/MumNicu

Instagram; www.instagram.com/vicki_nicu-mum

Thursday, 8 June 2017

A letter to my son on election day.


Cockerills go voting
Dear Elijah,

You didn’t really understand what was going on this morning, or the importance of today.

Other than the library looking different and not being able to look at the books like you normally do you had no idea what mummy and daddy were doing.

We explained we had to go and vote, go in and tick a little box.

That little box is your future.

Your unborn brother or sister’s future.

The next five years.

Until we had you, we were never too bothered about voting, partially not understanding the importance of a lost vote or just being too cool to care.

I always took those women who fought so hard for us to be able to go and vote for granted. But they should be honoured, remembered and thanked that we do have the ability to be part of the decision of how our country is run.

I  believed that I wouldn’t be able to change the country with my vote, so what was the point? I didn’t want to vote for those parties so why bother?

However, things began to affect us and we grew up. Tax, pensions, the inability to buy our own house, being burgled but most of all YOU happened.

You were born in a hospital, a NHS hospital that both me and you stayed in for over a week.

The NHS saved your life, they repaired your heart and you are here today because of them.

In some countries, we would have had to pay for this treatment, and it is something we likely could not have been able to afford.

We may not have had you here today with us.

For all the criticism of wait times, lack of GP’s I will always be grateful to the NHS for letting me be a mother, for giving me you.

You need lifelong care now, and a another surgery and it is likely that we will have the NHS to thank for this, AGAIN.

We are so privileged that yes you have a pre-existing condition but you are looked after.

Recently, I have feared your future, with the ugliness that is happening in the world.

I worry for the world we live in, the lack of compassion, kindness and humanity that seems to be rife today.

I will always teach you to be open, accepting and help others who need it.

We are not well off by any standards, but we will always give to charity, to give to those who have less than us. We have begun teaching this to you too and already you have helped me raise money for the hospital that saved you. We have given to the old soldiers with the buckets in town, the Big Issue sellers even though we rarely read the magazine or we slip some coins to a homeless person.

I always tell you how lucky you are compared to some children, you have access to food, water, toys and two loving parents and a family that adores you. So many in the world do not have this, being a mother this makes my heart ache.

I can never understand those who do not want to help these children and their families who instead spread their bigoted views that they have stolen our jobs and resources. However, just like us, I believe as a country even if we are not as rich as some in the world it is important to show some empathy and help others. Not leave them, or to pretend they are not our problem, to shut the borders down and fob them off to someone else. After all, if we were in that situation surely, we would appreciate the help?

Something we never had to worry about before until now was the future of your education, your rights, your equality, your safety. I want you to have the best education and opportunities in life, with no restrictions dependent on your sexuality, your gender. I want you to be judge on your ability not your appearance or your background. I never want you to be attacked for your beliefs whatever they may be because someone does not understand or agree with them.

I want you to stand up for what you believe in, and to demand change if you do not believe something is right. Never do I want to see you criticize other’s choices for what their opinion is or attack them because of it.

In a way, I am glad you do not understand too much of what is going on with so many although commendable for their passion, for their opinions on the election and who they want to vote for, they are being so unkind to those who may believe in something differently, even family and friends. Having an opinion is one thing, being nasty about it is another thing entirely.

Social media is a sea of who people are voting for and what you are if you do not vote the same way. This makes me slightly uneasy. Me and Dad always vote together so far, we have always agreed, but no one else is privy to who we are voting for. Mainly as this is private, personal to us and what we believe is right for us and our family.

You may wonder why I am running on about all of this but the thing is whoever is elected today, will also need to consider these things to. They will need to consider the future of this country for the next 5 years and perhaps beyond and this will affect you, Elijah.

I hope for the sake of you and your brother or sister that they make the right decisions. That they show humanity, compassion and kindness. I am not going to pretend to know what half the policies mean, how they will affect us personally or how to run the country and fix the problems.

All I want you to know Elijah, is that we voted today with our hearts and we didn’t vote tactically, or for whoever is the favourite is. We didn’t judge others for who they have voted for.

We voted with who we believed are displaying the qualities of getting this country out of the darkness that it is in now.

Whoever it may be that gets elected (you will no doubt learn about this in history class which makes me feel so old), I hope people remain kind.

A naïve hope it seems, with slurs on social media, flights at the polling stations but really, we need to remember we all want the same thing. We may be voting differently for who we believe will bring this we are all voting for a better future.

Our future, your future and your children’s future.

Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up- Jesse Jackson

Love Mum x

Friday, 2 June 2017

From the Inside - From One to Two, From Two to Three...

I was invited by the brilliant Jade Anna Hughes to share my thoughts on transitioning from having one child to two. I have been incredibly lucky to share my pregnancy journey with Jade although she is across the pond we are due only days apart. Bets are being taken now who will get to the delivery suite first!

So, on the brink of becoming a mother to two, and Jade to three we discuss our musings of another member adding to our families.

(Also please do check out Jade's debut book When Spring Comes Hope available to buy on Amazon now! It is worth the read, take it from me!)

The Cockerills are going to be welcoming a new member in just 5 weeks.
 
The Cockerill Quadruplet - by Vicki Cockerill
 
I was asked the other day if I am ready to become a mum of two?

I guess so, I shrugged, I don’t really have much choice now, with the baby arriving in less than 5 weeks! Ready or not this baby is coming.

It got me wondering, was I ready? Can you ever be ready for the arrival of another small human that will descend into your lives and turning it upside down?

Of course, there are books/blogs/expert suggestions out there all about coping with two kids, what you can do to help yourselves with a routine but I found I could never get Elijah to follow the routine they suggested never mind throwing a new-born into the mix as well. The more the baby didn’t follow the book, the more stressed I got and ended up lobbing them across the room thinking my baby was broken. This time round, I guess we will just hope for the best and see where it leads! In textbook terms I think we are ready, the baby has somewhere to sleep, it has clothes, toys, the pram and car seat are ready, but are we?

Read the rest by visiting the brilliant From The Inside............

Sunday, 28 May 2017

10 signs you have entered the manic nesting phase of your pregnancy.


There has been some unrest in the household this week.

The reason?

I am 34 weeks pregnant and I am nesting like a maniac.
Irrational, impatient and neurotic, my desire to clean is something else right now.
There are no words you can use to describe the overwhelming urge to completely bleach and disinfect the whole house, all its contents, animals and family members to your partner at 11pm. Or why you are reorganising your books that you haven’t touched in 2 years, and yes it does have to be done NOW. RIGHT NOW, no I do not care if we are going out the kitchen tops need scrubbing down.

Cleaning products have basically become foreplay to me, and I have endless lists of what needs to be cleaned, chucked away or done before the baby comes.
Here are a few signs to look for when you enter the nesting stage of pregnancy.

1.       You begin to dream of bleach and fantasise about cleaning products.

2.      You begin to look at your house in a whole new light, examining every mark, every piece of fluff, each smudge and you will spend all day wondering how you can eradicate it, normally with BLEACH (have I mentioned how much I love bleach atm?). In my house with a two-year-old toddler, it is never going to happen and it is driving me MAD. I have considered banning all jam products. Or maybe the toddler.

3.      It begins to be a turn on going down a supermarket cleaning aisle, I could spend hours looking at cleaning cloths.

4.      Your hands are bright red from boiling water and bleach, you are only satisfied doing it yourself, no one else can do it properly.

5.      You have rearranged the whole house twice; your partner comes home and doesn’t know where anything is anymore.

6.      The baby’s clothes are in an order than only makes sense to you. (Mine are organised in size order, each new size has its own draw; new-born, 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6 months+.

7.      Never have you wanted to scrub the floors, tops and doors as much as you do right now. You cannot rest, sit or relax until it is done.

8.     Despite you being the size of a small rhino and not at your most mobile, you still manage to get down and scrub the skirting boards.

9.      The bin men begin to resent your house as the sheer weight of the bins from chucking everything away has caused many a back injury.

10.   You may be having contractions but you will still Zoflora the hell out of the bathtub.
A friendly warning to partners/ family members; NEVER GET IN THE WAY OF A NESTING PREGNANT LADY.

P.s You will get bonus points by bringing us storage boxes, cleaning products and a Wispa Gold.

Pregnant lady porn right there.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

My Little Tiny Ticker


Before Elijah was born, I didn’t have any experience with heart problems, other than the odd family member having a ‘dodgy ticker’. I didn’t really know what this meant or what could cause it. I certainly didn’t know what Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) was. Soon, that was about to change and I was going to become somewhat of an expert on the subject.

When Elijah was born, 12 hours after birth he began having what we now know are called ‘Tet spells’, or, ‘dusky episodes’. Changing colour to a bluey/ purple colour and then regaining his normal pink colour. Upon his admittance to NICU he was diagnosed with a critical CHD called Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). According to the NHS 1 in 111 babies born, are born with a CHD, this is also the cause of 1 in 13 infant deaths. Nothing was picked up on my scans, and we even had extra ones, all through the pregnancy we were told what a healthy heartbeat Elijah had. Never in a million years did we think there was something so wrong with our baby’s heart.  

I remember the crushing realisation our baby was severely ill when we were pulled into a room before our NICU discharge to be told what to do if Elijah had a spell, or if he needed CPR after going into heart failure. Because of this, in those first pre-surgery months I rarely left him with anyone. We were told to look out for the signs Elijah’s heart may be failing like having a blue tinge to him especially above his lip, not feeding, not putting on weight and sleeping a lot.

When Elijah was diagnosed, I felt my world crashing around me, family and friends were devastated for us, and all asked the same question. Why wasn’t this picked up on? After all we had numerous scans, and with 4 structural defects surely this is something that should have showed up? We were so lucky that we were in the right place at the right time when Elijah began to spell. If we were at home, this could have been missed and who knows what might have happened. Depending on the severity of the condition and the baby’s general wellness, the surgery for TOF is normally carried out within the first year.
However, the importance of early CHD detection is paramount for those that may need surgery within the first few hours of life. Time and lives can be saved if the CHD is picked up on a scan before birth. I came across the work of the charity Tiny Tickers when I began writing and blogging about Elijah’s journey. I have written for them, and proudly promoted them across social media for the amazing work they do for the CHD community. They are the only charity that focus on improving early detection and diagnosis of CHD which happens to be the most common birth defect. This surprised me so much when we were in NICU with Elijah. I knew no one else whose child had been born with CHD, however slowly and surely on our journey we found out about someone’s friend, a brother, and aunt or even a celebrity that had CHD in one form or another.

Tiny Tickers, have two main goals, one is to provide essential and lifesaving training to hospitals, medical staff and sonographers about the early detection of CHD during the 20-week scan. They also provide a support network, advice and support for those who have received a CHD diagnosis. This is vital as it can be a very isolating time. They believe no baby should die from an undiagnosed heart condition.
I recently posted about their ‘Think 20’ campaign which I myself used at the fetal medicine scan I had with my second child. I urge anyone who is pregnant to head over to their website and request a Think 20 pack. You take this with you to your 20-week scan and give it to your sonographer. It gives them guide of what to look for when they are examining the heart. They also provide packs on what to symptoms of heart failure in a baby as well. The more informed you are, the more educated we become on CHD via the awareness we raise the more lives we can save.

The shocking statistic is that every 2 hours in the UK a baby is born with a serious life threatening heart defect just like Elijah. More awareness needs to be raised, and more training and research must be done to save lives. Tiny Tickers will be doing just that when they appear on BBC Lifeline with Gabby Logan on Sunday 21st May at 16.00. Afterwards this can be viewed on the following link;

www.bbc.co.uk/lifeline
It shows the stories of two babies, and their two very different stories and the harrowing realisation how important early diagnosis of CHD is. To carry on their amazing work donations are needed;

£5.00 could pay for 2x Early Diagnosis Packs

£10.00 could help provide 1000 heart cards which display the signs and symptoms of heart failure

£25.00 could provide 40 Doctor’s surgeries with lifesaving info on heart problems in babies

£75.00 could train 1 sonographer to get specialist training


These amounts do not seem a lot, but they could have a huge impact on the lives they could save.

Please do check out the Lifeline Appeal and spread the word via social media, let’s raise as much awareness as we can and help give others the chance that my tiny ticker had.
Visit the Tiny Tickers Website




Sunday, 14 May 2017

To You, the mother on social media

To You,

The other mother on social media.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

You do not know me, not really, we have only ‘connected,’ online but you have changed me.

Changed me as a person, as a woman and as a mother.

I can never repay you for what you have unlocked in me.

You made me feel normal, when I wanted to scream, to cry, to shout that I can’t do this anymore.

I regained by sanity when speaking to you, and saw I was normal.

You made me feel like it was okay to feel like a complete failure when the baby had colic and cried for three days straight.

That it was alright I hadn't washed my hair and was covered in sick.

To be proud when I achieved something that seemed so small to many like getting out the house, or putting my make up on.

That yes, my house is also covered in toys and when the baby was napping, I didn't tidy, I ate a packet of Oreos instead.

You shared a small insight into your life, one photo, uploaded it and sent out there into the world of social media. You may have thought it was nothing.

It wasn't nothing to me, it was hope.

Hope that I knew I wasn't the only one feeling like this.

That I could and would laugh again. Even about the poo nami explosion in Costa on our first trip out as a family.

You made me realise I wasn't alone.

In turn it became more than a double click, it became a comment, a DM, a friendship, a meeting.

My life changed the day you put up that photo of your family walk gone wrong with a face planted toddler on the floor and a screaming baby in the carrier. It changed because even with all of that you were smiling. You were happy. You were laughing.

You gave me the strength to do this, to share my ups, my downs.

 To you the other mother on social media, I thank you for being there.

Always.

Life long friendships forged via social media 


Friday, 5 May 2017

The off days, a letter to my partner.

This letter was never written to be published, this was a letter to Greg, my partner trying to tell him I needed help.

I needed him to know that it wasn't just being tired and hormonal that was causing me to be a bit down, I was pregnant and depressed. I cannot really put my finger on the exact reason, and I felt ashamed, insensitive and selfish I was feeling like this when so many are struggling to get pregnant or have lost a child. I know they would swap with me in a flash if they could. That's why I kept it in, pretended I was okay but as the weeks went by it was getting harder and harder to hide, and it was beginning to creep out.

I lost my appetite, I had no patience with Elijah and spent most of the time lashing out at Greg. Enough was enough I knew these feelings, and knew I couldn't let them get the better of me. Not this time. Not much is out there about mental illness in pregnancy, as after all isn't this supposed to be a happy time? I wanted to share this in honour of Maternal Mental Health Week, to try and raise awareness, to try and encourage no matter how you do it, if you feel like this then just reach out and tell someone. Do not be ashamed or fear you will be judged, we need to break this stigma.

I have shared more via my writing then I ever have with anyone I know including Greg. I still could not tell him how I was feeling even after my PTSD diagnosis after the birth of Elijah. Frankly, I was ashamed and felt guilty I was even feeling like this, I was a failure on the brink of being a mother to two and couldn't hold it together.

This is the exact letter I sent him before he came home one night, as I couldn't face him reading it with me in the room. As soon as he walked in he picked me up (as best as he could being 7 months pregnant) and held me. I could see in his face he was scared but trying to be strong, trying to convince me it will be all okay. He would make it okay. A plan was made and so far, we have kept to it and I feel better. I do still have an off day but we deal with it together now. I was worried once he had read the letter he wouldn't want me to be around Elijah anymore, or would act differently with me. He didn't, he has been my rock and it gave me the confidence to share this with a friend too.

This isn't about gaining sympathy, and honestly it terrifies me I am putting this out there but, this is about raising awareness of Maternal Mental Illness, depression in pregnancy. This is about sharing my story in hope it helps someone or at least breaks the ideals we have of Maternal Mental Illness. This is about one person reading this, and feeling like they can relate, that they are not alone.

Be honest, no matter how much it scares you to be. Remember you are never alone, do not suffer in silence.

For more info on Maternal Mental Illness Week please visit;

http://mmhcoalition.com/mmhawarenessweek/


Was I just letting them both down?
Everyone has an off day, don’t they? One that calls for a GIN at the end of it, after a trying day of teething, tantrums, potty training or when your kid is frankly just being an arse.
But, what then happens when the one-off day becomes two, then three, then a week and before you know it you are in the grips of something that frankly scares you.
When is it you begin to see that you are wishing the time away until bedtime? Or dreaming of when you will finally fob your child off onto someone else.
There are times where I can imagine myself jacking it all in and leaving, this was an occasional sleep deprivation thought, and now it has become a daily thought.
After all, wouldn’t you all be better off without me? What kind of mother really imagines herself leaving? Or feeling this unhappy without a valid reason for it.
Or in the morning when I can’t bring myself to get out of bed, and all I can hear is our child screaming, ‘I want to see Mummy’, again and again. Yet, I just lay there staring at the ceiling wishing I could just get up and be a happy mother to him.
I want to feel like my body hasn’t failed me, and this is leading me to feel so low.
There are times during the day when I shout so loud I scare myself, and by the look on our child’s face I have scared them too. The loss of control is frightening.
When I go into the kitchen to cry just because I am so overwhelmed, I don’t know how to tell you how I feel.
When I have no patience, and can’t bear to be around him, or you and where every little thing sets me off. I look forward to people being around to help, but when they do, I want to shout for them to leave. Hopefully taking my child with them.
Where all I want to do is scream at you, in hope it will release the pent-up tension and stress I have been carrying around with me like a bomb about to go off. That you will see something isn’t right.
I think that bomb is now detonating, I know these feelings, I have had them before and they also lead to the same thing, self-destruction.
Self-harm, suicide attempts, eating disorders, drinking too much and abusing pills are things I have all dabbled in before as you know, when I was trying to manoeuvre my way through the depression.
But, when your only release from the darkness inside is to punish yourself what do you do, when it isn’t just your body to do it anymore? That there is in fact someone depending on you to nurture, care and ultimately when you punish yourself you are putting their life at risk? When you are 7 months pregnant.
I always blamed myself for what was happening to me, to us, therefore I deserved to punish myself.
Eventually, there was some sort of break or release to it, and things dissolved, the tension went away and things went back on an even keel. We were happy.
Not this time, I cannot do what I want to so badly, as I will harm our unborn baby and you and Elijah again.
Writing helps, but then to read the words on the page makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me. For you to read them, makes me feel ashamed that I feel like this.
The waves of negativity that have a hold on me are like vines, swirling around and trapping me in my own head.
I have you,  a loving partner, our amazing little boy and now another who will be arriving in a few short weeks, so why do I feel like an utter failure as a parent? Why am I depressed?
Why I am shouting at our child? Picking a fight as I am so irritable and agitated I can’t enjoy our time together. I can’t relax or rest even when I am on my own, and the guilt of how I have acted, how I feel then creeps up on me. The daunting thought that I am a crap mother smacks me in the face as soon as Elijah has gone to bed, as I replay the day in my head over and over. Honestly, how will I even cope with two?
I feel I have no reason to be depressed, yet I am, I am on the brink of being a mother of two and I am miserable.
I have fears, the same I am sure many have, that even you may have, a premature birth, another NICU stay, more health complications, will we adjust as a family of 3 to 4? Can we afford to live when I am on mat leave?
My main worry was if I became ill again, one that I think has already come true and I haven’t even given birth yet.
I feel like once again I have let you down by getting myself ill again, that I am even ill again in the first place.
I once again am a selfish, ungrateful failure of a mother/partner who cannot seem to just be content and happy.
Just as I tainted the first year of Elijah’s, I am leaving a smear on the remainder of my pregnancy and our final moments as a family of three.
Are things now going so well for us, that I have to destruct and ruin it, because I don’t deserve this?
Am I preparing myself for when something will go wrong, as at least then I am ready for it?
I feel like a failure just admitting that I need help, that no one else seems to speak of this depression when they are pregnant or showing of their glowing bump pictures.
This must mean I am not normal?
This isn’t hormones, tiredness or the stress of being pregnant and potty training a toddler. This is more. This is Alice falling down the hole and not finding her way back out of it again.
Isn’t being pregnant a time of happiness and joy? Then again, the birth of our son also brought these feelings.
You cannot always see what is going on, I can hide behind my Instagram feed pretending I am happy.
I want to be honest, I want to work through this, I want you to read this and know I am trying.
I want you to know I am not sure how to make it stop, I don’t know how to tell you this all face to face. Again.
I am sorry for being a failure, for living in my head and for letting this effect our family again.
Most of all I want you to know when I say I am okay, I am not and that is alright.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Let's talk about mental health.



    




Maternal mental health to be precise.

Every mum no matter what their situation deserves to have access to non-judgemental mental health support. Why? Because, every mum matters.

May 1-7th marks Maternal Mental Health week, and one I am proud to be an official partner of. It is something I have regularly blogged and spoken about.

This week will show the gaps that so desperately need to be addressed in mums receiving the care they need.

After the birth of my first son, I was diagnosed with a mental illness, at times I was let down by the system and have struggled a lot to come to terms with the first 18 months of becoming a mum.

I have also found this is the case with mental illness in pregnancy, now pregnant with my second and approaching 30 weeks, I have only been asked once how I am feeling yet it clearly states in my notes I had PTSD.

It is so easy to hide, as mental illness seems to be judged on appearance. If you look semi put together and smile politely you won’t be asked what you really need someone to ask you. Are you okay?

It is so important weeks like this are recognised, so we can all get involved and raise awareness and demand change.

One thing I have learnt is how supportive the social media community are, how honest they are about sharing their raw experiences but we all had one thing in common.

The fear of the stigma, the shame, and the judgement of admitting you need help. This NEEDS to stop. This NEEDS to change.

I will carry on telling my story in hope that it goes towards changing the way we view maternal mental health and the changes that are needed.

No one deserves to suffer in silence in fear of being judged, we all need to have easy access to reliable support and help that we may need from time to time.

The more we talk, the more open and honest we are at sharing our stories, will hopefully one day break down the walls that have been put up around maternal mental health.

When I was pregnant with Elijah, having mental health problems during pregnancy or post partem didn’t even factor in to my preparations for welcoming him into the world.


I worried about the usual things, breast vs bottle feeding, did we have enough clothes? Would we be good parents? Would I be okay giving birth? What I didn’t worry about was that I would be so depressed post-natally that I would abuse pills, have an eating disorder return and plan on leaving my family all within 6 months.

We were given a leaflet by the midwife about looking for the signs of post-natal depression, but you do not really read it, never mind learn the signs of it. I mean I wouldn’t be affected would I?

But, you cannot know that for sure, and 1 in 5 mothers will be affected by mental health issues during or after pregnancy.

Turns out, I was affected badly after having Elijah taken away and admitted to NICU within 12 hours after he was born, later needing lifesaving open heart surgery.

I was angry, in denial, resentful to all and began to slowly close of everyone one by one, including Greg. I shut down and did what I did best, self -destruct. I punished myself as I believed this is what I deserved.

It came slowly, eating away at me as I tried to gain control of the situation we found ourselves in. Did I think I needed help? Did I recognise that I did? I don’t think I really knew what was going on. I felt like I was the only one in the world feeling like this, feeling such a darkness have a hold on me and suffocating me from the inside out. That I wasn’t normal, everyone else had it together didn’t they? Yet, here I was failing at being a mum. So, I turned on myself even more for, failing, for being a crap mother, for not being normal.

When we were in  NICU, we met so many people, the staff turnover for shifts is high. A few leaflets were given about support groups, other parents who have had children in NICU most of this is focused upon premature babies. Honestly, at the time I was in such bad denial that they would turn around and say they have made a mistake I didn’t want to acknowledge that we were like the other parents in there.

We were discharged determined to forge our way as new parents whilst awaiting Elijah’s surgery date. The NICU outreach and health visitors came to check in now and again, I smiled politely, held back the tears and pretended that yes, I really was fine. This became a familiar disguise I put on to family and friends as well.

As with most things, if you hold them in for too long something with blow up, I was lashing out any anyone even Elijah. It couldn’t go on I think the real time I realised I wasn’t well was when Elijah was 18 months old I couldn’t just keep pretending it was what we had been through that was causing this. Elijah had his op and recovered well. I couldn’t move on.

Eventually, I plucked up the courage to go to the GP and throughout the whole walk there I was petrified they would take Elijah off me. That I was an unfit mother, but I wasn’t, I was an unwell one.

I felt ashamed sitting in the chair being asked if my child was at risk from me, that I had failed him. But, no matter how hard this was to accept, this is what was needed.

I was prescribed anti-depressants, and recommended counselling. I had never been offered this in the whole 18 months of having a baby in NICU, or having a child need a lifesaving operation. If this was my experience were other NICU parents going through the same thing? Turns out yes, the lack of mental health care on offer for NICU parents is deeply saddening and one I am in talks with my MP to try and change.

Due to the extensive waiting lists, the promises that I was a priority suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder I never did see a councillor. Due to the extensive wait times Instead I began to try and reach out to other heart parents on Instagram, and pour everything I could into writing my blog. This saved me, but I feel the lack of support that was offer, the stigma, the judgement around being mentally ill all led to me going down a path that was the darkest I had ever gone on.

I can see how and why some mothers end up sadly ending their lives due to the lack of support on offer. The system seems to be quite flawed and it tends to now be down to other mothers supporting one another and picking up the pieces for at times for complete strangers. The network of parents talking openly about maternal mental illness is a revolution and one that could save so many lives. Even Kate the Duchess of Cambridge has recently opened up to her struggles and is campaigning for better mental health care.

Post Natal Depression is something that is now becoming a more open and acceptable conversation to have. Depression in pregnancy? Perhaps not so much. This is something I didn’t experience with Elijah but 7 months into my second pregnancy some familiar feelings have started to stir. However, from learning what I did with my PTSD I knew I had to stop them and quickly. I couldn’t self-destruct, I couldn’t bury my head and pretend it wasn’t happening. Greg thought I was tired and hormonal, I knew it was more. I have shared my story online, all the gory details of how I felt, yet I could not tell the one person standing in front of me, I needed help. I did what I do best, I wrote it down and was honest about how I was really feeling and he knew straight away I was not just being tired. You feel like you cannot talk about not enjoying your pregnancy, or it frankly making you miserable as you will be seen as ungrateful, selfish and insensitive to others around you who perhaps are struggling to get pregnant. But, I had to face facts this is how I was really feeling.
It seems that becoming a mother and mental illness went hand in hand for me, and on the brink of becoming a mum of two it is something that is never too far from my mind. That is why I have included some personal blog posts from the last year to showcase maternal mental illness. I will also be sharing these articles across social media through out the week. I will be posting my personal and honest letter that I sent to Greg asking for help at the end of the week to try and break down the barriers around maternal mental illness and depression in pregnancy.

Below are also all of the details for you to get involved from May 1-7th. I would also like to highlight, The Every Mum Movement who is asking everyone to raise awareness by changing their profile pics on social media with the following message on Maternal Mental Health Day which is May 3rd. I’m in, are you? Find out more info on the Facebook page or Instagram.

https://www.facebook.com/MMHCoalition/

https://twitter.com/MMHCoalition/




MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH BLOG POSTS FROM A NICU MUM

The Longest Wait

Why blogging helped me cope with PTSD

Is there enough support for NICU parents?

Goodbye Old Friend  

The World Book Day disaster and the musings of a failing mother, a letter to my son.

Who am I? The Mum change.

Walking on a tightrope ft Sandi Thom

The Fear

The darker side of pregnancy

Are we judging mental illness on appearance?

Slipping through the cracks of NIICU parent mental health care

My body secret, an eating disorder

Why I grieved for my healthy baby

You think I am strong but I am not

NICU parents need help too












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