Realising what is causing damage

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One of the things that I have started to realise over the last few weeks, is that there are certain things that trigger emotions and reactions within me that I don’t expect. I have realised that some people live in their own bubbles and miss what is going on in other peoples’ lives. Sometimes this is intentional, and sometimes this is completely unintentional. And this really sucks.

It makes me put up barriers in relationships as I take personally things that were never intended to be personal. That were written without any thought of me. And that is ok. That’s how it should be. But I need to find a way to cope with this and to accept that these are not aimed at me.

This has also made me more aware of what I share and how it can be perceived by others. It’s about remembering not everyone has the perfect relationship, had the perfect childhood, has the best relationship with their parents. Not everyone gets their happy ever after. Some people have to kiss a lot of frogs. Some people are having to discover who they are. I am still having to discover who I am.

At the moment the only way I can cope with this is to put barriers up and shut myself away. Cut myself off while I re-evaluate where I am at, and give myself time to recover. And I know that this then confuses people. It isn’t easy to explain to anyone, it’s just how it is at the moment. I don’t always understand it myself. I just know when it happens that I cope the best way I can at the moment.

This week I have had to deal with a middle of the night panic attack for the first time ever. It was scary. I don’t know what caused it and I didn’t know how to manage it, but I managed to get myself back under control after a couple of hours. The only way I have been able to cope since is to stay where I feel safe – my home. I have seen a couple of people, but in my space. I know I will have to face the fear of going out again soon, but that battle is for another day. The anxieties running through my head some days are crazy! They are often irrational. They are almost always unfounded.

I can’t explain the ins and outs of PND for everyone, or say how each individual will be affected. All I can say is what affects me. For me anxiety and obsessive and controlling behaviour are 2 of my big “symptoms” of the post natal depression. I don’t understand why, and i really don’t understand the nuances of it at times – why the position of a knife in the kitchen drawer will drive me crazy, but i’m ok putting away a sock without a pair for example. It’s illogical, and I know it is illogical, but it is how my body is and I am having to learn to manage it.

Writing this blog helps me express where I am at. At times I struggle to vocalise it, even to my amazing husband. But I can write it down. My only hope is that my musings and downloading of how I’m feeling helps someone else out there.

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Getting ready for the next stage

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One of the things I am really struggling with at the moment is every time someone tells me that my little girl is growing up. I know that she will be my last baby, and so in someways I want to make all of this time last as long as possible.

In 2 days time she will be 7 months old. That is more than half of her first year gone, and I feel at times like I have missed so much of the first few months. I am constantly trying to capture in my mind and my heart each moment, as I know I can never have them again. While I am celebrating her moving on in her development, part of me keeps feeling ‘Not yet’! Part of me isn’t ready yet for her to start being mobile, becoming more independent, needing me less.

And I know that some of this is a long long way off.

My toddler still needs me daily. My teenager needs me – but not as much as it feels like I need him. And my daughter needs me. I know she does. But I also know that she doesn’t always miss me like I miss her. I know that none of my children do.

My husband and I joke about my behaviour when I am apart from my teenage son for any period of time. I feel like I have lost an arm or a leg. I find it really hard. I struggle with letting go, as I can still remember holding him in my arms nearly 18 years ago, and  realising that this small person was suddenly totally dependent on me.

I struggle with how willingly my toddler runs off to his childminder – and only because she is so amazing at what she does, and he absolutely adores going. But I struggle because it is a time in his week when I am not needed.

At the moment I am struggling with the idea of returning to work. I love my job. I have really enjoyed my Keeping In Touch days. I adored the day I had back in the office a couple of weeks ago. I love my colleagues. I love what we do. But I am struggling with the idea of not being there for my daughter all day every day. It’s irrational, I know. I know she will be having an amazing time with our wonderful friend and childminder. I know I can touch base whenever I need to. But I am struggling.

What I have realised is that I am human, I am normal. I am not superwoman. I am allowed to feel like this. Loving my children is the hardest but the easiest thing to do, and each stage require me to let go a little bit more.

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A mouth smile and not a heart smile

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I’ve been honest before about my struggles with depression and post natal depression. I wasn’t truly surprised by being hit with it again this time around, but I have been surprised by how hard it has hit me, and how it has affected me in different ways.

This time it really hit me hard. I had days where all I could do was cry. A black cloud had come down, and it wasn’t shifting. I started retreating more and more into myself. Not communicating with people and wanting to be in my own safe bubble. I also felt my anxiety levels shoot up and I became  worried about so much. From little things like what my children were wearing and what people would think, to bigger things like what would happen if…. and imagine extreme situations. And then on top of it all my need to control and have things in an order I can cope with have spiraled.

This time I have taken the step of medication. Small tablets that have the power to stop the tears falling daily. But they have also had the power to stop other emotions too.

I have been really struggling to connect with the joy that I should be feeling with my children. I have struggled to rejoice in all the positives. It has been heartbreaking when I have been smiling at my daughter, as it helps her learn to smile, but they have been mouth smiles, not heart smiles. Celebrating milestones has never been a struggle before, but this time it is, and it hurts.

At the same time I am struggling to connect with my toddler, and struggling to find time for my teenager. They all need me. They all have their own needs as children, and as a parent, my role is to meet those needs. But at the moment I know there are days when I can’t. My husband is amazing, and he does so much, but I also know I am not meeting his needs at times either. My parenting guilt has never been greater than it is at the moment. I constantly feel like I am failing them.

But I have learnt that I also need to prioritise. I have learnt that while for some, going out daily helps, for me, being busy is exhausting. I need to find the balance. I need to know I have people I can see when I am able, but that they also know if I don’t see them, or respond immediately, then it is nothing personal. It is just me trying to prioritise me and my family. I have discovered an amazing online support network. Other mums who gave birth around the same time, that I can connect with as and when I am able. But they are there even at 2am! I also have friends I can see when I am able, but who also understand if I have to say ‘Not today’.

I have been lucky. My GP and health visitor have been supportive, and are helping me with next steps and moving forward with a long term solution, but it’s not going to be a quick and easy fix. This cloud can thin and clear a bit, but it may never completely go away. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I don’t have a choice.

What I have discovered is that my job helps. It makes a difference. In the last few weeks I have started doing some of my keep in touch days, and they have helped me refocus and find a bit of who I am again. I also know that I need to make sure that I can get the balance right in September when I go back to work fully.

Right now I need to focus on me. And on being the best mum I can be to my 3 children. Meeting all their needs at all their different stages in life was never going to be easy, but I can only do the best I can. I carry mum guilt round on a daily basis, and wonder if all I can do is enough, but I can only be who I can be.

I don’t ever write my blog for sympathy, but I write it to show others that they are not alone, and to help me process where I am at. I also know it is how some people find out what is going on for me, and I am sorry that for some this is how they find out, but at the moment I can’t always talk it through. I have a small number of people I am able to talk about this with, and if that is you, then thank you so much for listening and being there. Especially when it can be one sided. And if it’s not you, then I am sorry. Please don’t take it personally, it’s just how I am coping.

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The toughest 5 days of parenting ever!

So a month in to being a mum of 3, and 17 years of being a mum, and nothing could have prepared me for the last week. I know other parent’s have been through the same, and I personally know parent’s who have been through worse, but for me, it has been the worst few days of parenting I have ever been through.

Within 48 hours I went from celebrating Christmas with my extended family, to sitting in a side room on a Paediatrics ward in hospital, watching my 3 week old daughter struggle to breathe. Her oxygen saturation levels couldn’t get over 80%, and at times she would go blue round her mouth as she coughed and couldn’t catch her breath. They put her on oxygen, and then the long night started. The put in a feeding tube, to rest her from having to juggle breathing and feeding. We were put in a side room, and I was given a bed alongside her cot. I was lucky if I got 2 hours sleep that night in more than 20 minute blocks.

Move on another 9 hours, and the consultant made the decision to move her quickly to the High Dependency area, put her on a pressurised oxygen system to aid her breathing, moved her straight on to IV fluids over the feeding tube, started her on IV antibiotics and took lots of blood for testing. Watching 3 doctors and 2 nurses focus solely on one tiny baby was not part of my Christmas holiday plans. Especially not focus on my baby.

Seeing your baby lying there, with 4 different wires/tubes coming off her, all doing a different job to help her breathe and keep going is scary. My response was to ask friends and family to start praying. It was the only comfort I could find in a place of fear, and almost desperation. Being told by the doctors that a delay of a few more hours in taking her in, probably made the difference to her needing to be ventilated and not, was scary. Realising how poorly she was, from what had been a cough a few hours before, to a cough that she couldn’t catch her breath from, to a baby on oxygen was a lot to take in. In the midst of it all, I was trying to communicate with Paul what was going on, arrange child care for our toddler and let our teenager know what had happened as he was away with friends.

We were so grateful for the speedy response, with offers of help and support, from our friends. Taking the toddler out for the day, and others having him overnight, meant it was one less thing to worry about. But as a mum, I never stop worrying. I miss both of my boys whenever I am not with them, so I couldn’t completely switch off. What I am discovering as a mum of 2 or 3, is that rather than share the love you had for your previous child across more, you become capable of a bigger capacity to love others, and so you can’t just turn it off, or switch the emotions to another child. You don’t stop loving or worrying about the others, when one needs a greater focus.

I did also discover that my daughter is a fighter. She proved the doctors wrong, by being able to cope with breastfeeding again a day earlier than they expected. (She had pulled out her feeding tube 3 times first, and they then agreed to let her try, expecting to have to put the tube back in.) She proved them wrong again by weaning herself off the oxygen sooner than expected, so that when they removed the pressurised oxygen to replace with the normal oxygen, she was about to keep her saturation at 97% without any oxygen!

I learnt a lot about the virus that is Broncholitis. It’s nasty. It causes a baby a lot of discomfort. I also have learnt how easy it, and the related RSV are to pass to babies. And as a result, I am more protective. I won’t be letting others to be kissing my baby anywhere near the mouth and nose – including my own children and Paul and I. I won’t be encouraging her to be passed round by lots of people at any one time. I don’t want to repeat that week again. It even beats having a child with peritonitis on the stress scale.

I’m also so grateful for the NHS. The staff who looked after my daughter we all phenemenal. From the care assistants that made sure I got all my meals. to the consultant who insisted on putting in all her IV lines etc himself to ensure minimal distress was caused to my daughter.

As I’ve always said, this blog is a bit of a processing space for me. It’s a safe place where I can share my feelings.It’s a place where I can get my feelings in some kind of order. So please see this as that. I am still processing, and this is an easy and safe way to do that. As a parent you need to find, or carve out, that space where you can process and work through situations, and this is where I can do that.

Enjoying memories

I’ve been spending some time recently liking back over photos of when my eldest was a lot younger. The photos of the day he was born, his first nativity, starting school, learning to ride a bike. The list goes on.

At times it feels like I’m looking back on someone else’s life. My life as an individual and as a parent has changed so much since they were taken. The wonderful world of timehop also reminds me of moments. Recently it’s reminded me of the day my eldest son was seriously ill, and how the support of amazing family and friends got us through. Its reminded me of when he broke his top jaw at school and how we’re still fixing the mess now, 7 years later! But it’s also reminded me of other big milestones….. concerts he sung in, being enrolled as a Beaver Scout, scoring for his basketball team.

I’ve seen memories of friendships that still last today, and of others that might not be the same anymore but are great treasured memories. I’ve seen images that remind me of all the milestones. All have made me smile.

Importantly, this has all reminded me about the importance of continuing to make more memories. Not just with my teenage son or just with the toddler, but with them both. Together and separately, that time is important and can’t be got back. Its also important for us to value our family time and not lose it in busyness and technology. One day in the not too distant future my teenager will be an adult and will be making his own life away from us. So i will keep cherishing the moments with him as i know those are going to be more and more limited.

Children spell love… T-I-M-E.” – Dr. A. Witham

Goodbye to Facebook

So this might seem like an extreme post, and it might seem odd that I am sharing this on Facebook, but I wanted to share my thoughts and how I have got to this place, and not just disappear.

Over the Christmas period I chose to remove myself from Facebook. It was starting to take up too much of my life, and I was getting to tied up in a virtual world and was starting to feel judged and assessed by that world. In this period I can honestly say I haven’t really missed it. What I have felt is a freedom from the perception of what the world thinks of who I should or shouldn’t be. Of what I should or shouldn’t share, and of what kind of person I want to be.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some groups I am part of that have been a great support to me, and I may choose to continue to interact with them at different points. But what  I have realised is that I don’t need to share parts of my life on Facebook for value and worth. I, like many, will only post the parts of life which I want the world to see. But that isn’t healthy or constructive. It has meant that I am not being true to myself.

The other thing I have noticed, is that many people think that what you post on social media is you life, and that by reading your posts, they don’t need to interact with you on a personal level. Friendships are becoming warped. People think they are your friend because of what they see online. I’ve learnt that my true friends are those who are around me at the times when life gets tough. That doesn’t mean they all live 5 minutes away….in fact some of our closest friends live many many miles away. But they are the ones who take time to get in touch, and check that all is ok.

Also when I was pregnant, we made a decision that  we did not want our baby growing up thinking that a presence all over social media was the norm, or what was expected of him. We wanted him to decide his own privacy boundaries and to choose what of his life he wants to share. We also have made a decision for him not to expect to watch TV or spend his life in front of screens. In fact, the only programmes he watches regularly (by this I mean a couple of times a week) are Fireman Sam and Thomas the Tank Engine. Watching him grow through his creative play and his imagination is so rewarding…..live TV at home!

Note: This isn’t us judging anyone else, it is just how we have chosen to raise our son.

So I have decided in light of all of this to take a permanent step away from Facebook. Yes I  will still use other social media channels at times. I will still have an account as I need it for work. I will still visit the site (yes the site, not the app) occasionally. But I won’t be on here day in day out. I won’t be aware of notifications, as my phone won’t beep or stick an icon in the corner.I will still blog from time to time, which will be shared. I can still be contacted on Messenger, and all manner of old fashioned means of communications! Just don’t expect me to hear your latest news on FB or expect to hear what I am up to, as it won’t be happening. Do keep in touch……I love receiving letters in the post!! (An emails work well too!)

Doing things for the last time for No 1

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Today I have loved seeing posts on social media from family and friends as the big September return to school starts. 4 years ago today I shared the post of my eldest as he started secondary school. But I’ve also found the start of this week emotional. Today I labelled up his school uniform for the last time. We went out and bought the stationery to cover a mass of subjects for the last time.

Tomorrow my son starts his last year of secondary school. He’s starting this year taller than me! He’s starting as a Senior Prefect. He’s only got just over 2 terms of school left. Next month we are going to look round his potential sixth form college. We’re talking about choices that will have an even bigger impact on his future.

I know he’s growing up, and enabling him to become the independent young man he has become I see as one of my greatest roles in life. He’s an amazing son, friend, big brother, leader, discipler. But he’s also in many ways still my baby. He’s the baby I held in my arms seconds after he was born. He’s the boy I’ve picked the pieces up of after accidents, the boy I’ve cuddled on the tough days and celebrated with on the good days.

I’m sending him out to school tomorrow confident that however hard the next few months are, he will certainly give it his all, and do it with us and God on his side. So yes I’m going through some “lasts” but we are also going towards the next season of “firsts” and I am excited for him and what his future holds.

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