A Motherhood Taboo: Antenatal Depression #timetotalk

It’s funny, since I picked up the phone to a therapist in 2014 at three months pregnant, a number of people have said that I shouldn’t talk about ‘thinking’ I had antenatal depression.

Apparently it makes me sound bad, unloving and ungrateful about my pregnancy. I’ve even been told by healthcare professionals that I shouldn’t say I suffered with antenatal depression as I wasn’t diagnosed – so much so I place a million caveats ahead of broaching the subject with anyone and this really is the first time I’ve spoken about it to most of my friends. While we’ve made huge in roads with talking about post natal depression, my experience has been that the less common antenatal depression still has a load of taboos attached.

Prior to getting pregnant I had never suffered proper anxiety before. I had always been pretty up and down with stress, but proper debilitating can’t breathe anxiety was a new one on me. I first became aware that I wasn’t OK when I was sitting in the shower, tears streaming down my face unable to stand… I’d missed every sign up until that point but I couldn’t miss that one. It’s like my brain was screaming for help and as a last stand for me to take notice, it resorted to physical breakdown.

Of course, the crying in the shower wasn’t the moment it all started. No, no. With fresh eyes and perspective I can trace it back to the very moment the sonographer told me at 12 weeks, ‘It’s twins’.

The out of body experience I felt from that moment should have been my first clue. I saw my plans for me and my little baby disappearing before my eyes –  living simply and travelling the world. You see for anyone that doesn’t know me, I’m a planner and a control freak and a virgo (sorry for stating the obvious for those that do know me!). This huge life curve ball rattled my plans and the well oiled machine that was my life, and it did not sit comfortably.

As the weeks went by and the excitement from everyone around me intensified I felt myself disappearing. No longer feeling like a person people cared about, now just a vessel for these two little beings to come into the world.

Long story short, I did get through it. I found help quickly in the form of a wonderful therapist who created an open forum for me to say everything I felt too afraid to say to anyone else. Who listened and didn’t judge and offered me incredible coping mechanisms to help me put one foot in front of the other on the path to motherhood.

Now I’m going to resist the caveat of stating the obvious – that never for one moment have I not loved both of my boys – that I would take a bullet for them, and that they are my world – because you know that already. (Oops looks like I didn’t quite manage it) Mental illness isn’t about that. For mothers it’s the worst, because it’s just about me, and as soon as that stick turns blue you know it’s can’t just be about you anymore.

Fast forward four years, in fact from the time I gave birth – those feelings of anxiety have subsided and the attacks that had been frequent in pregnancy have eased. Most importantly I know the warning signs and the triggers so I can (hopefully) start working on myself long before I’m crying in the shower.

Occasionally it does happen though. I’m learning that’s just me. I am a work in progress, I’m not perfect but I’m constantly striving to improve and evolve. I continue to have epic highs, but  you have to come down eventually. By taking time to talk I’ve learnt the crash doesn’t have to be too great.

In honour of #timetotalk day today I wanted to make it clear that I will always have Time To Talk to anyone about mental illness. It’s OK, it doesn’t make you sound bad, unloving or ungrateful. It makes you real and honest and brave. 

Motherhood: The great unknown

New Zealand’s current Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has announced she’s pregnant. Hold the front page.

Even with the current social climate as it is, this announcement seems to be pushing even some of the most liberal men I know. One particularly close to me (ahem), debated that it was at least worth questioning whether it’s appropriate for a current prime minister to have a child. I think I saw him flinch a bit as he said it.

But it did get me thinking – not about whether Jacinda Arden is capable to be a mother and prime minister at the same time. After all our very own Queen Victoria had NINE children in her 63 year reign of the UK – and that was back in a day when the royal family really did rule the country.

What I was considering though, is whether Jacinda Arden has considered how she might change through the process of Becoming A Mother?

A friend recently asked me why mummy bloggers are happy to ‘just be known as a mother’. Meant innocently enough by a twenty something friend, the implication being that women have so much more to offer than just being a mother. I smiled a wry smile which may have appeared to be in agreement, but is a well practiced look when talking to someone who just doesn’t understand. They’re not in that place and if you haven’t been in that place you really don’t know. How could you?

The birth of my sons was in the main, raw and painful and terrible and harrowing. It wasn’t the worst birth story I’ve heard and very very thankfully it ended happily but equally it was not the best.

In my hormonal state I felt let down by medical decisions at the hospital, I was given a full spinal block that worked too quickly and petrified me with full body paralysis. I was literally torn in two by the ‘need’ to give birth to my twins naturally (not my need) and when it came time to sew me back together, I was told there was literally no skin left to sew.

If I’ve ever come close to telling that story to friends male or female, I stop short of the ‘gory details’ unless of course they’re mothers themselves… no matter their own birth story when talking turkey with a fellow mum we can take the pain.

We’ve looked life in the eye and been to the point of no return. The point when anyone in any other situation may turn away, say it’s not worth it, pack their bags and leave. The point where self preservation kicks in. But in this instance it doesn’t. Because you’re not the most important person anymore. You are secondary, your body, your pain is no longer important. And it doesn’t really seem to matter (from my anecdotal research) how your baby comes into the world – the pain of healing post major abdominal surgery of a c-section or a childbirth led by hypnobirthing where pain was minimised, the common thread is that we became mothers. In that moment you witness exactly how far your body and mind will go for someone else.

And when you’ve been through all that, how can your perspective on life not be forever altered? And we’re only at the birth! Not mentioning the moments of utter joy married with moments of complete darkness that can seem relentless when bringing up these young men and women.

This shift can often be unexpected. I’ve had many a friend who was previously the last in the office, driven in their career shift to a new found need to be with their child that sees them not return to work. And vice versa too.

An individuals version of motherhood is impossible for anyone else to comprehend – we don’t even know how we will feel, change and evolve ourselves.

Slow down mummy

Well it’s June and after a run of good weather I think we can say Summer is here!! So much fun to be had – swimming, camping, fairs, road trips, adventures to enjoy and the beach is calling.

We moved down to the South Coast for this very reason. Away from the hustle and bustle of the ‘big smoke’ with nature and wildlife on our doorstep. It’s with this enthusiasm that I wake up every Saturday at 6am (if I get to lie in that long) bounding with energy, packing the car with twin stuff, dog stuff and parent stuff, while planning a route for the day’s adventure. A couple of weeks ago we headed off to Camber Sands, a few before that it was a campsite in Basingstoke (I know, Basingstoke right, but it’s gorgeous and you should definitely check it out http://www.campingunplugged.com) and Dorset and Devon get regular visits.

I’m so excited to see the world with my little family, I throw myself in with gusto. And I have an envible Instagram feed that tells the tales of our little trips… full of spontaneity.. smiling sandy faces… salty kisses… and chips for tea.

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But what you don’t see is what’s happening on the other side of the camera.

Because all these little trips are not just blissful days of making memories with my family… they are that but they are also, if I’m completely honest, pretty stressful. And not just on me, but on my husband, the kids – even the dog feels it.

It all came to a head on the last trip to Kent. A stressful day was rounded off with a rush back to the car to get home – yapping dog and two screaming kids in tow – and then it happened. One of my sons fell over in the rush, head smashing on the idyllic cobblestones. THANKFULLY he was alright, a big cuddle and a little sit down on the pavement and it was all better, but it was enough to rattle me.

The guilt of the day’s events hit me hard. I felt terrible for pushing my family with a long car trip and a billion things I wanted to see and do – when let’s face it, they would have been happy enough to stay at home and play in the garden (or, while we’re being really honest, watching peppa pig).

With this guilt fresh in my mind, I’ve made a resolution. I need to slow down. The desire to be spontaneous and have great adventures, while definitely coming from a good place, isn’t what my family want or need.

My kids find wonder in everything. Literally everything – the rubbish on the floor, their reflection in a spoon, a spanner from the shed.

I’m not promising to stop all trips and we will definitely camp and travel lots. It’s what we do and who we are, but the desperate need to do something spontaneous on a Saturday morning needs to end. When the urge takes me I need to ask, who am I really doing it for?

 

Outfit Outcry on Strictly… And it wasn’t the dancers

aa8e39b09276cd4f13a42e4850a8c53bLike most mums in the UK, Saturday night usually consists of a take-away and a glass of wine watching Strictly Come Dancing. God it sounds naff when you write it down, but there we are.

I don’t mind, going out usually results in a god awful hangover. And I stopped being able to function with a hangover in about 2010, add kids into the mix and its a MASSIVE no no.

Anyway, so this Saturday like no other, I was watching Strictly with the 10.7 million others with my usual judgement on footwork, judges comments, which dance partner fancies which celeb. The usual. But what, or should I say who, got the most comments on the show that night completely took me by surprise. Susie Verrill, journalist and wife of long jumper Greg Rutherford.

Actually, that’s a big lie. It didn’t take me by surprise at all. In fact I was pretty much on the look out for the mum judgement army, peering over the hill with their judgemental tweets at the ready, waiting to strike.

And strike they did. Why? Because Greg and Susie’s son Milo was ‘dressed like a girl’.

FFS.

Are you kidding? How have we not moved on from this kind of conversation? What are girls clothes and boys clothes for a 2 year old? And who the hell cares?

Someone actually commented (and I quote) ‘Greg, tell your wife to grow up, she’s not a Kardashian trash bag, get the boys hair cut and put some boy clothes on him, the child looked a mess. Like as if she wanted a girl so she’s going to mess with his head!’

What?

Don’t get me started on the fact that its so assumed that Susie is the only one with any say on what little Milo wears. Let alone whether Greg needs to give poor old wifey a talking to and make sure she gets back in her box and start mothering properly.

Sadly though this is just another example of mummy shaming.

And it is so OK in our society its almost expected. I’m not writing anything new and ashamedly I have caught myself mummy judging before. Wondering why friends have made the choices they have with their kids, why they breastfed, why they bottle fed, why they went back to work, why they didn’t.

But I had a big epiphany myself 6 months ago and I decided it had to stop. I also decided I would never stay quiet when a mother was being judged.

The woman on the train with screaming toddler, that was me calling out the guy who was grumbling. I explained that nothing makes a toddler scream like a stressed mum so quit sighing.

The woman in John Lewis who was trying to sort out a tantrum while her friend was embarrassed trying to get them to move out of the way. That was me who smiled and waited patiently and told you if we weren’t patient with each other, who would we be patient for?

I almost questioned writing a post on mum shaming. In my industry its known as a very ‘done’ topic in the press without much media value. But is it if these incidences keep happening? I’m a big believer that if you keep quiet, you are part of the problem so here we go. Susie Verrill has thick skin and has written her own great piece on her blog Milo and Me, but the next woman you sigh at or comment on may not.

So please, seriously quit the judgement. Zip it. End it. Enough. Now.

Who the hell cares?

I am a Selfish Mother

picture1And proud! And that’s why this post has to be one of my first.

This is one of my most favourite things I’ve discovered since becoming a mum is Selfish Mother a blogzine and shop for REAL mothers.

At the core of Selfish Mother is the The FMLY Store selling the coolest jumpers and tees around. Not only do they look awesome (see them beautifully modelled by moi below) but money goes to awesome charities. And my favourite one is Mothers 4 Mothers. Is there anything cooler than mothers helping mothers?

I am acutely aware that I am so so so lucky. As I write this, my boys are having the time of their lives at a lovely nursery. Shortly I’ll be picking up, bringing them home and putting them to bed. I know their bellies ate full and that they’ll be safe and warm. I am so so so lucky.

I can’t imagine being a new mama and not knowing how to soother my starving child. Being a new mama who is attempting to walk for days with twins to a new life, because the alternative is too terrible to think about.

If you know a mama, are a mama, about to be a mama, this is one of the best gifts you can buy.

 

 

Snap Happy

img_9679Gosh pen to paper is hard! Or should that be fingers to keyboard. I’ve being documenting my life through photos and social media since it all began. But never more so than when my twin boys showed up 18 months ago. That’s when things went intergalactic.

I am massively guilty of an over share. Tanith Carey wrote in Stella last year that the average parent will share 1000 posts of their kids by the time they’re five.

Hah!

Even if I get a twin hall pass, 2000 images were easily shared on my (private) Instagram in the last 18 months. And I’m not sure how I feel about that for two reasons.

One; you can’t hide from the plethora of scare stories about sharing pics of your kids online, the need to protect their identity, not getting their opinion on sharing their pics. I put this down to the ‘add it to the list of a million things I need to worry about as a mum’ list. Something I would send myself silly over thinking about so I pop it to the back of mind.

Worry two does concern me more and that’s being a Mum Bore. The mum to normal person ratio on my Instagram feed is pretty much 50:50. I can still claim some cool city dwelling friends whose feed  is filled with holidays to Ibiza and dinners at the current cool pop-up (I couldn’t even name one… but that’s another post!). And I’m pretty sure the Fox’s latest tantrum isn’t that funny to them likewise the Bear’s latest obsession with his dolly.

So that leads me (finally) onto why I’m here. Because this my friends is my spot to obsess, brag, commiserate and congratulate myself on the wonder of my life. It’s mental and bloody hard work at times, but I love it. I really really do and sometimes you need a reminder of what you’ve been through.