So the kid started nursery which has been a big change for us as a family. Mostly, it’s been great. There were no tears at drop off and the teacher said he’s the first kid she’s met that has cried because he doesn’t want to go home. I’m not sure what that says about us as a parents but I’m glad he’s happy. We are assuming it’s going well based on the fact he comes home with a variety of “well done” stickers nearly every time he goes there. Four months in, and the novelty hasn’t worn off for him yet.
The other thing that hasn’t worn off is the germs. Why were we not warned about this? Where was my parent newsletter to inform me that our kid would bring home every illness from the cold to the black plague on a nearly weekly basis? I’m not even joking at this point. I’m so done with it.
Covid has meant our toddler hasn’t had much experience with germs or illness. He was a relatively healthy baby when it came to colds and bugs so this has been a completely new scenario. He is literally ill every week. There are colds, coughs, sickness, hand foot and mouth, and this week it has been tonsillitis. With that comes a whole bunch of covid tests.
He’s taking it in his stride. I, however, am not. With an already dodgy immune system, I am catching everything our kid brings home and the worst part – it won’t leave. I have been ill for about two months with lung infections, hand foot and mouth, and tonsillitis which won’t budge. It’s draining. Will it ever end?
Hopefully my immune system will sort itself out. Thankfully, the kid’s system is faring well to the challenge and he isn’t staying unwell for very long. For now, we will just have to deal with this added annoyance as we continue to enjoy a new adventure as a family. So far nursery is a success!
I decided to write this blog post after a lot of consideration. It is something I have wanted to discuss more fully for quite a long time, but I chose to wait. There’s been a whole load of reflection on this subject and it covers some experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, the medical profession, and mental health which some people might find too distressing to read. If that is you, please step away. Seriously, I won’t be offended.
Firstly, I want to be transparent that I am talking about my personal experience, I’m not going to throw out facts and figures because this blog is for me primarily. For about a year I have had a rough idea of what I would want to say if I wrote this down. This last month on my twitter I have seen two people talk about their experiences and what they said really resonated with me. One was a man talking about the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he lives with after having to give CPR to his newborn baby and how he has to live with that years after the event. The other was a woman talking about how much importance is placed on the initial bond between a mother and baby at the expense of the woman I.e expecting women to come fresh out of a c-section and be capable of looking after their baby with no support (often not allowing partners to be there due to visiting hours etc). These topics plunged keys into the locks of my own traumas surrounding pregnancy, birth, and especially recovery. I now live with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and post traumatic stress. This blog is going to dive into the events that I feel have led me down that road.
When it comes to pregnancy I’ve spoken before about how rough mine was, especially physically, but ultimately I don’t think that is where the real problems started. The first initial hit to my mental health came towards the end of my pregnancy. My baby was big. He had shown up as big in every scan and I had queried the dates because I was 90% sure I had conceived a week earlier than they insisted. They told me things like “It’s hard to get an accurate scan because of your weight” – towards the end of my pregnancy and after, it became very apparent that my weight was so high because of a big baby, a huge amount of waters, and excessive fluid retention.
Even without a scan, I knew my baby was big. There were moments where he was kicking my ribs so hard I was starting to worry one would break. At 37 weeks I visited the hospital twice because of reduced movements. Again, I told them that the baby was too big and had nowhere to move to. At 38 weeks I met with my consultant, cried a lot, and she told me “your baby isn’t that big, we could induce you at 39 weeks but your baby will only be around 8 pounds”. I was now being monitored for movements most days as requested by the consultant, but nobody was listening to my concerns as to the size of my baby. After an induction process that went on for days, my baby was born at 39 and a half weeks of pregnancy weighing at 10 pounds and 6 ounces. He was so big they had required forceps and I lost 1200ml of blood. He was strong enough to lift his own head from the moment he was born. Had he been induced at 38 weeks when I asked, we most likely would have had a birth with no assistance and avoided the state that I was in and my baby’s issues with adjusting. If I had been listened to, much of my ongoing trauma could have been avoided. Though I must say the consultant came and apologised to me the next day.
We were moved to the recovery ward to get cleaned up and so they could assess whether I would need a blood transfusion. I had beautiful cuddles with my new baby, I was wrecked but happy. My new son was doing great. We had a go at breastfeeding but he wasn’t cooperating and I was told I would get plenty of help with it when I was moved to the proper ward. They moved my baby to the crib at the bottom of the bed while I got cleaned up. Five minutes later, another midwife walked past, shrieked, and slapped my son across the face. He had gone blue around the lips. It was the single most terrifying moment of my life and I felt that I had failed my baby within the first two hours of being his Mother. For those minutes I had been focusing on my own needs, and had not seen that he needed me. I think this moment was a major blow to my mental health. It created an internal battle that would play out for months to come where I was too scared and too guilty to consider my own needs. There seemed to now be a battle at play where only one person could have their needs met – and I was determined that my son was not going to be left in a near death situation ever again. How I felt about that moment in recovery was never spoken about again by any medical professional.
We moved to the main ward shortly after, where I was told a paediatrician was coming to assess my baby and that this was normal procedure. The Doctor was lovely and he told me my son was going to the neonatal unit for some quick checks and would be back with me in a couple of hours. The ward staff would not permit me to go with my baby because my epidural had not worn off. At that point I was completely reliant on those staff giving me updates about my son. Hours passed and he didn’t come back. The ward staff said he was coming up shortly and to be patient. I waited. And waited. And waited. A nurse came to tell me that my son was hungry and I told them I wanted to breastfeed, that I knew giving him a bottle could create problems initially, and asked them to spoon feed my son as he would be coming back to me soon. They said that was fine. At 9pm a nurse came to complain that my husband had not left yet – we explained we were waiting for news on the baby. We had been told there was nothing wrong with our son. The nurse came back to say they thought something might be wrong with our son’s heart and he wouldn’t be coming back that evening. I asked for a wheelchair to go to see him and they said no as I still had a catheter and they couldn’t find a wheelchair at night time.
My husband was sent home and I was left in a shared ward with other ladies who had their babies beside them. I had no idea where my son was and nobody was willing to give me much information as to his condition. The next morning a paediatrician arrived, apologised, and briefly explained what was happening. Again I asked for a wheelchair to visit my son as it was now apparent that I had bruising to my spine and walking was excruciating – the staff said they couldn’t find one. Twenty four hours after being separated from my baby, I forced myself to walk the long journey to the neonatal unit while experiencing pain more horrific than any contractions. A nurse came to me and said “where have you been?! Most parents are here with their babies from the beginning. We have all been wondering why you haven’t been here.”. It was the single cruelest comment a person could have said to me at that moment. I already felt like the worst new mother on the planet and then here was a medical professional confirming that I was failing.
The remainder of our time in neonatal was unpleasant. For years I had heard from parents of premature babies etc. that the neonatal staff had been glorious, supportive and kind. To me they we’re cold, indifferent and often rolled their eyes when I asked any questions. My mind convinced me it was because they all thought I wasn’t a good enough Mother. I hadn’t visited my baby and that was enough to show I didn’t care. I asked for help with breastfeeding and, when my son was resistant, they sighed and said to just give him a bottle because otherwise it’s too much work for them. Later that night we sat through a detailed heart scan, and then were sent back to the ward (thankfully with our baby).
My husband was never allowed to stay past 9pm and wasn’t allowed to arrive before 9am at the earliest. I could barely lift my son. Bending over to change him caused so much pain in my back that I would be dripping with sweat and have to take breaks – even with strong painkillers. Women in beds next to me, recovering from c sections, were left entirely on their own. I once asked for a breast pump and was told “you should have told us you were breastfeeding, you’re a bit late now, you should have been doing it since the first hour he was born”. I added this to my list of failures as a parent – I hadn’t pushed hard enough to breastfeed. Later that night I asked for more painkillers and was told “You’re not even supposed to be here, you’re only on this ward because your baby has to finish the antibiotics so I shouldn’t have to be dealing with you.”. I was desperate for us to go home.
I was also terrified. They told us my son had not transitioned properly because of his birth and it hadn’t cleared his lungs out. They said he was fine, but I kept flashing back to that midwife slapping him in the face. What if we went home and it happened again? I was a nervous wreck. My anxiety was so high, I was scared to sleep, even though my baby was an excellent sleeper and generally unproblematic. I was convinced if I wasn’t watching him or ensuring someone else was watching him literally ever minute of the day and night, that he was going to die and it would be my fault because I wasn’t good enough.
This came to a head when I had a breakdown on our first night at home. I needed to inject myself with blood thinners. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I lost the plot. My mind went back to all the needles and interventions I had already gone through and the prospect of one more medical intervention was enough. I told my family I would rather take the risk of dying from a blood clot – there was no way I was forcing a needle into my stomach. They asked me how I could possibly say something like that when I had a beautiful new baby. This was when I fully convinced myself I was not a good parent. I wasn’t able to do what needed to be done for him. I believe this was the moment when I tipped over into full postnatal depression. In the end, I agreed to letting my mum do the injection for me each night. I still have issues with needles which I never had previously.
From that point onwards every experience with medical staff visiting the house was depressing. One woman told me there was no point referring me for breastfeeding support because I had already introduced a bottle (I was expressing because my baby still had problems latching – later confirmed as a minor tongue tie…). A health visitor dislodged my son’s umbilical cord before it was ready, causing an infection, and laid him out on a cold wooden floor (she wouldn’t wait for me to get a blanket or towel). We had a different health visitor for nearly every visit. My scores were not high enough on their surveys for them to do anything about my declining mental health. By the time my son was six months old I was self harming daily, considering suicide, and was very nearly admitted to a psychiatric ward.
My son is now three, he is thriving. He is confident, charismatic, articulate, intelligent, brave, funny, independent, and well mannered (mostly). At nursery he is doing well, his teacher likes him, and he is always so proud of the stickers he gets for various great things he has done. I am so proud of him. But I often feel that I haven’t played enough part in making him the great little guy he is now. I still suffer daily with my mental and physical health. My back never really recovered. I was run down for so long that it likely contributed to my ME diagnosis.
And then, other times, things are good. The night I’m writing this is the same night that we carved a pumpkin as a family. Our son did so much of it himself, and that memory will always be special. I may have to live with my mental health issues and my physical issues for the rest of my life, but there are glimmers of hope. I just hope other women don’t end up in that scenario – I hope they fight for themselves and help arm their partners with the information they need to fight on their behalf if they need to. I’m still a work in progress, but I have a tiny cheerleader to keep me going.
With Covid still rampant, it can be frustrating to not be able to get away. Still, I’ve never felt a great need to go abroad. The UK has plenty of amazing sights, and I’m lucky that in Scotland we have no shortage of outdoor space (if you’re willing to deal with the weather). So last week we took a family trip out to a big house in Oban overlooking the water.
It was idealic. Quiet. Peaceful. Fresh air, no noise outside, and the house we rented could not have been any nicer (shoutout to the jacuzzi bath). I loved spending some time with my family, I just wish I hadn’t spent so much time asleep.
This is the part of ME/Fibro that I struggle with. Physically, everything is an uphill battle. Being awake is a challenge. Mentally, I want to be doing things, engaging in experiences and conversations. I have yet to find a balance between the two.
But the best part was spending some time with my kid. He gave me so many cuddles it was impossible to be down. Plus he told me my face was pretty – what more could a girl ask for?!
A while ago I published my first book – it’s my other book baby and I’m proud of it. But it’s been a while. Overall, people liked what I published (and not just friends and family!) so naturally people tend to ask; when is the next one?
It’s a fair question. I have been asking myself about it too. In truth most of the next book is done, it needs some editing, and it needs a cover. Still, it’s within the finish line. Life just got in the way. Mental health got in the way.
I lost my enthusiasm to write during the pandemic. At first I thought all the extra time would give me so much space for productivity. In reality, I was trying to entertain a toddler who was getting more irritated by the day. We were also bored. It would seem boredom doesn’t do much for my desire to write. I wasn’t doing anything so I had nothing to say. There was no fuel for creativity.
Throughout that time I dabbled in some other projects. I have a good chunk completed for a novel, and another sizable chunk for my Evolved Energy series. Right now I’m giving myself some room to explore new characters and ideas before I revisit older projects. Ideally, I want to look at what I have for this next novella with fresh eyes. I refuse to publish something I’m not feeling excited about. If I don’t feel interested, then I don’t think a reader will.
So the shorter answer is – I don’t know yet, but it is coming soon, and it hasn’t been abandoned. I hope you will love some of the other characters I’ve been spending time with – I hope I can share them in the near future!
This poor blog has been neglected for a while. I never forgot about it, and I probably should have used it more than I have. Writing has always helped me with life but recently I haven’t been in a place to process that. More accurately, I didn’t want to.
Anyway, I’m taking the plunge. There’s so many things I could write about and loads of topics I want to catch you all up on but….. that’s another post. Instead, I want to tell you that I am now the parent of a THREE year old. My kid is three.
I started writing this blog in earnest when I was expecting my son. Time flies. Back then, I was struggling with postpartum depression and it has left me with serious, lasting health issues. What I would love to say is that I’m in a better place but I think the more honest answer is just that I’m in a different place. All the challenges and goal posts have changed. The person I want to be has changed – partly because life is moving on. Time didn’t stop for me to get healthy and catch up.
I will always be a little heartbroken that my mental health robbed me of so much time I can’t get back. More importantly, I missed out on memories and experiences. A lot of the time I still am. As the list of regrets stacks up, the fight to combat my health gets harder.
In the meantime, I am blessed with an intelligent, funny, curious and confident little boy. He strolls into nursery without looking back. Today he told me he’s making friends. A new chapter in life has commenced for him and while I’m so pleased that he has hit the ground running, I’m sad because I feel as though I’m standing still.
Physically my health is problematic- it’s a world of pain and fatigue. Pushing myself to do things for a day or two often leaves me in bed for over a week. Mentally, the world is a little bit darker.
But my son is thriving. Despite all this, and all the grey clouds looming, my son spends the day smiling, chatting, learning. It is those moments that show me it was worth fighting to stay alive two and a half years ago. It’s a reminder to keep staying alive for what will come next.
Before anyone gets too far into this post, I’m going to be brutally upfront about the fact that this isn’t one of my cheerier posts. I keep this blog for me, and to help organise my thoughts so I can reflect on them so if there’s anything about mental health that makes you uncomfortable, I won’t take it personally if you find the off ramp.
I’ve been thinking a lot of late about the possibility that my mental health issues could be permanent. When all this started, I had it in my head that it was going to get better, it was all fixable, and by the time Gabe was a bit older I would be back to “normal”. It’s nearly been three years and I’m not far off where I was at the beginning. In many ways I’m worse. Sure, I’m not self harming but it’s a very fine line more often than not.
Laid out in front of me, I can see the many things that contribute to my mental health feeling worse. Much of it is not fixable right now but, what concerns me the most, is that I know there are elements that I may never be able to resolve. There are thoughts within me that repeat on a loop during my darkest periods to the extent that even when everything is already bleak, I can’t dig further than their surface level because I fear the drop into an abyss that will swallow me whole. I can patch up surface wounds, but I’m not able to fix internal damage. Some scars will always be visible.
So what if I never get better than this? I’m not actively suicidal, I’m not self harming, I don’t want to leave my kid without a parent or anything like that. But I also don’t really want to be here. There is a glimmer of sadness each morning where I think “damn isn’t it a shame that I woke up again”. I’m not saying that to alarm anyone – I won’t leave my son – but it’s exhausting pretending to be enthusiastic about life. If I were to be hit by a bus tomorrow, I wouldn’t have had a hundred things I still wanted to do beyond seeing my child grow up. So it’s getting harder to imagine living like this forever.
This situation is exhausting for me, and it’s exhausting for the people who love me.