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;
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.


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;

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.


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

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Calpol Brigade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A letter to my son on Mother’s Day

Dear Elijah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Mum x
Me and The Boy. Always.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Walking on a tightrope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tightrope is released on 24th March 2017.

Song Download -