Mental Health Monday: Keeping up Appearances

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has been interviewed by ITV news recently and shared the stark reality of her feelings when she became a new wife and mother.

The thing is, how many of us recognise that look in her eyes? I’d be willing to bet we all do in one way or another.

But as she says, nobody has really asked her how SHE was doing. She’s been keeping up appearances, looking so incredibly strong on the outside, that it probably never occurred to anyone that she might not be feeling that way on the inside.

How many of us are guilting of doing that, too?

How many of us have a picture just like this one? Smiling and happy on the outside, but actually suffering a lot more than people would realise?

When you have a baby, you’re “someone’s mum”, and all of a sudden everyone is concerned with the new baby, how they’re doing, if they’re okay. It’s a lot less often that anyone is concerned with how YOU are doing, and if YOU are okay. It’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that you are your own person, especially in Meghan’s case, where she has the entire world watching her through the eyes of the press. I felt lonely and isolated enough after having a baby, that I cannot imagine how it must feel for her.

I recently had the strange experience of actually having some time off work, and decided, for once, to treat myself. I took care of ME for once, invested in myself a little bit, and felt so much better for it.

It’s important to remember that every “new mum” is still a person in their own right. It’s important to remember that YOU are still YOU, not just “so and so’s mum”, no matter how many people call you that.

Meghan, thank you so much for being honest about how you’re feeling. Being a parent is so hard, but if you’re only ever told how amazing it is, so that you’re never fully prepared for when it isn’t so amazing all of the time.

I don’t think I’m alone in being in awe of how inspiring a woman Meghan is, all the more so for this honest and frank interview. But there are SO many other mums in the UK and abroad just like her, feeling like things aren’t really okay.

Rosey (@PNDandME on Twitter) is also one heck of an inspiring lady, working so hard every day to make sure parental mental health is taken seriously, and providing an amazing support network for new mums and dads who are suffering with their mental health. I 100% recommend her weekly twitter chat #PNDHour on Wednesdays at 8pm if you feel like you’re alone and could do with a supportive network of people around.

If you are reading this and could do with some extra support, check out these online resources to access help with mental illness:

  1. http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk
  2. http://www.samaritans.org/
  3. http://www.papyrus-uk.org/
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4WLs5NlwrySXJR2n8Snszdg/emotional-distress-information-and-support
  5. https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services

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What Hyperemesis Gravidarum meant for me

This week, I spoke to my lovely friend Becki about her experience of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. For those of you who don’t know, around 10,000 women in the UK suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) every year. It is often dismissed as normal morning sickness in pregnancy, but in reality can leave the women who experience it with PTSD, a torn oesophagus, burst blood vessels and eroded tooth enamel. 



What did you know about HG before you were pregnant?

I can remember reading a news article online about the Duchess of Cambridge suffering from it when she was pregnant with Princess Charlotte and feeling sympathy for her, but not really understanding exactly what it was. It was initially described by the media as “extreme morning sickness” which I’ve come to learn is not the case at all. I knew next to nothing and I didn’t think I’d ever need to educate myself. My friend Roo has also suffered with it, but I had no idea to what extent it affected her- it was pure ignorance. 

 What treatments were you offered through your pregnancy to combat HG? Did they work?

When I was finally diagnosed in September 17, I was initially prescribed cyclizine and ondansetron-both anti-emetics. I was advised to take them in tandem with each other, but the ondansetron soon ran out. It’s the more expensive for the NHS to prescribe. Unfortunately for me, cyclizine didn’t do the trick on its own. I continued to take it, but it wasn’t effective and I ended up back in hospital a few times, quite poorly.  People did make suggestions for foods that helped them. There were some foods that helped for a time, but my body seemed to tire of them really quickly and I’d end up not even able to think about them, let alone eat them, without throwing up. 
In the end, rest and putting my body and it’s needs first was the only thing that kept me going. It meant missing out on a lot of stuff and sacrificing things but I needed to be selfish.

What strategies or coping mechanisms did you employ to deal with your HG?

Hypnobirthing techniques and mindfulness breathing really helped, especially when I felt completely overwhelmed emotionally.  Baths helped too. Washing my hair always made me feel better again after feeling really lousy. Having a risk assessment and plan in place at work, as well as a few key people I trusted who I could warn if I was having a bad day and they’d keep an eye out for me. 

 What was your HG like at its best and worse?

At my best- I could manage a nice meal and a day out and go to bed and sleep without being sick. Our anniversary weekend away was one such time.
 
When it was bad- I remember kneeling on my bathroom floor at 3am, after being sick for the 7th time that night, crying and apologising to my husband for the umpteenth time, and just wishing I hadn’t gotten pregnant. 

At its worst – We thought we were losing our baby, and could do nothing about it. 
 

 

How did HG affect your mental health?

It made me feel so guilty. All the time. Guilty that I was possibly and inadvertently harming my baby, that they were suffering (they weren’t), guilty for putting my husband through it, guilty for bailing on parties and birthdays and events, guilty for being angry at people who just didn’t understand and made flippant comments, guilty for wishing I wasn’t pregnant, when I knew full well I had friends who were struggling to conceive. I felt guilty for myself, that I wasn’t having the pregnancy I had envisioned and I felt like I’d cheated myself somehow. 
 

 What do you wish people knew about HG?

That it isn’t “bad morning sickness” or even morning sickness at all. It’s a genetic and hereditary condition that affects around 1% of pregnancies and has an 84% chance of recurrence in subsequent pregnancies. It’s so debilitating that some days getting out of bed is hard; keeping water and food down is hard. I lost weight in pregnancy because I struggled to keep things down- that was a huge worry. Some women report being sick of 50 times a day. 

Personally, I wish people knew how lonely HG is. It’s so lonely sitting on the floor of your bathroom crying because you’re in pain from the stomach muscles used to be sick, or your teeth ache and throat hurts from the acidic vomit. It’s hard but I promise you, it does go. Within minutes of her being born, my nausea lifted and I honestly felt instantly better. 
 

How can family and friends best support you if you have HG?

  • Be there. My husband was a complete and utter rock. He was up with me every day and  night no matter how many times I was sick; he rubbed my back, held my hair, let me cry and didn’t judge or make me feel like I was doing a bad job. He helped educate those around us who just didn’t know and ensured I was supported at work. Having a support network was one of the most fundamental blocks we needed during our pregnancy and we are really grateful for that.
  •  Be accommodating. If someone you know has it, expect them to cancel on you. Don’t make them feel guilty about it. But also, don’t stop inviting them! There are good days where I could go out and I honestly lived for them. 
  • Educate yourself on the facts surrounding HG. My family were brilliant at doing that and so knew triggers and anxiety points and how to avoid them. My Dad and husband in particular loved the phase I went through where only a certain fast food chain’s greasy burgers and strawberry milkshake would stay down!
  • Avoid strong perfume or cologne- my poor Husband had to retire his expensive bottle because I couldn’t stand the smell. It still remains a trigger for me. 
  • When you go to the loo, run some toilet cleaner or bleach round the bowl and floor. Not for your benefit, but for the poor girl that can’t face cleaning it but knows she’ll have her head in it later! 
  • Remind them they’re doing an incredible job. Pregnancy is tough full stop. HG in pregnancy is horrible. 

What was the most helpful and unhelpful thing people said and did in regards to your pregnancy?

The most helpful thing was along the lines of  “Yeah. This is really really crap and it suck that you have to go through this. I’m sorry”. To have acknowledgement from someone that actually yeah it wasn’t great and glamorous (!) was so affirming and refreshing. It didn’t make it go away and it didn’t make me physically better, but it made me feel less lonely. 
The least helpful comments included “It’ll all be worth it in the end”, “maybe it’s all in your head?” “It’s just bad morning sickness- mine stopped at X weeks”, “I hear ginger helps”, “Try eating certain foods or doing certain exercise, maybe

that’ll help”, “it’ll soon be over and you’ll miss being pregnant”, “maybe you won’t have it with the next baby”… I could go on!

What advice (if any) would you give to someone who has (or thinks they have) HG?

Tell your health practitioners- your doctor, midwife, consultant whoever. There is much more advice and info out there now, so if you think you have it, find out about HG and take that info with you. Not all maternity health care professionals are fully up to date or even aware of the symptoms. You CAN take anti emetics safely in pregnancy. If you need them, ask for them! 

Ketones are NOT a lone accurate indicator of dehydration in HG. Make sure that if you aren’t well for a long period of time, you get yourself checked and if necessary, admitted to hospital and on an IV drip.

**I’m not a medical professional, but at times I had to really push to be listened to**

There’s so much support out there. Pregnancy sickness support UK is an incredible charity that helped me through and continues to help others. It’s partnering with specialists throughout the world to develop more research all the time. Their helpline is a lifeline for when you are really struggling, because these are real women who have experienced it and they can give you practical advice, as well as a shoulder to cry on when you feel really lonely. 

Embrace every craving. Seriously. You may only like it for a short period! One day I chowed down on an entire bag of iced gems. They revisited me a few hours later, but I really enjoyed being nostalgic for a time! 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

 My blog, “Dear Luna: Love letters to my Daughter” talks quite openly about my experience in pregnancy and HG and the various times I was hospitalised.

Would you like to know more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or had experience with it yourself? Let us know in the comments below

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Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day

HG Awareness Day, also known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day, is being observed today! It has been observed annually on May 15th since 2012 to raise awareness of a dangerous and chronic condition that plagues many pregnant women.

Here is Mummykind’s H to G (well, more A-Z!) of Hyperemesis Gravidarum for HG awareness day! 

H Hospitalisation – In more severe cases of HG, a woman may require hospitalisation. Treatment for this may include tube feeding and intravenous fluids to restore lost nutrients and hydration to both mother and baby.
Y– You. As an individual you know the limit that you can get to before needing help- bare in mind that with another little life thrown into the mix, you may need to seek help more quickly than you would do if you only had yourself to look after. A good rule to stick to, is if you’d need a doctor for a condition if you weren’t pregnant, you definitely need one if you’re are pregnant. Self care is important, look after yourself!
P– Peppermint – Interestingly peppermint tea can be used to combat nausea and often can alleviate sickness symptoms, even if only for a short while. However using mint toothpaste is one of the biggest triggers for nausea in pregnant women!
E– Everybody – HG does not discriminate , an body can fall victim to Hyperemesis and it’s debilitating symptoms.
R– Royalty – Kate Middleton, the Duchess or Cambridge has suffered with HG and Severe morning sickness with all three of her pregnancies. Although I hate to think about how unwell she must have felt and how hard it must be to suffer HG in the public eye- I’m very grateful for the awareness she has raised for this debilitating condition!
E- Emotions – Hyperemesis gravidarum can make sufferers unable to do even the most basic of tasks, simply going to work can be impossible for some women. This makes many sufferers feel depressed and unhappy. These feelings could develop into postnatal depression, so it’s a good idea to seek support with a counsellor or see a doctor for anti-depressants.
M– Morning Sickness – 80% of all women experience morning sickness in the first 3 months of their pregnancies. only 2% of pregnancies are affected by Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
E-  Empathy – If someone in your life is experiencing HG try hard to be empathetic. Offer to help when and if you can. I faced so much stigma when I had HG because people around me just didn’t understand. The last thing a lady suffering from HG wants to hear is “well, I had morning sickness and I was fine.”… HG and morning sickness are worlds apart!!!

S- Sickness – About 45% of pregnant women suffer from nausea with vomiting while an additional 25% suffer with nausea only.
I- Impact – Thankfully there are no known links between HG and adverse effects for the foetus.
S – Safe – There is a significant decreased risk in fetal loss among women with HG versus women who do not vomit during pregnancy.
G- Go Galllll! – Hyperemesis is debilitating, if you’ve had HG and you’re here to tell the tale (or been brave enough to go on and have another baby!)- give yourself a massive pat on the back. You’re so much stronger than you know!
R- Rest – Bed rest is commonly prescribed to women with the HG and can be vital in helping to regain strength.
A- Amy – Mummykind’s own Amy and Harriet have experienced HG first hand.
V- Vomiting – Lightheadedness, nausea, fatigue, exhaustion, dehydration, vomiting and fainting are the most common symptoms and characteristics of HG.
I- IV – In severe cases of HG intravenous fluids have to be administered under inpatient conditions to keep ladies and their unborn babies hydrated.
D- Differences – Those with morning sickness suffer from nausea, but may not always experience vomiting. Usually, the condition lasts during the first trimester, yet some women experience it beyond the initial 12 weeks of pregnancy. Women who do vomit are unlikely to become dehydrated. In contrast, HG results in severe vomiting and, for some women, constant nausea. The condition can last for the entirety of pregnancy and can lead to extreme dehydration. It can also result in the loss of 5 percent or more of a woman’s pre-pregnancy weight and aversions to certain foods.
A- All associated symptoms – A full list of symptoms consists of… dehydration, malnutrition
weight loss, slowed metabolism, increased heart rate,
bloodshot eyes,
stress and depression,
heartburn, reflux, stomach ulcers, constipation, ketosis,
deep vein thrombosis,
hallucinations,
low birth weight in the baby and premature birth.

R- Re occurrence – Around 80% of women who experience HG in their first pregnancy will go o
n to experience it in their next.

U- Untreated – Fortunately, unborn babies won’t be affected unless the nausea and vomiting goes untreated for an extremely long time period. The majority of babies will get the nutrients they need from the reserves stored in their mother’s body at the mother’s expense – this means her teeth and bones can become brittle, and her hair and skin can become dry and dull.
M- Motion Sickness – Traditional Motion / Travel Sickness remedies can often be beneficial to women suffering from HG. Peppermint and ginger teas. Ginger products like sweets, gum or biscuits and even anti travel sickness wrist bands have been used by women to ease HG symptoms.

Mental Health Monday: Speak Up

Although we may have all spent our teenage years trying desperately to get away from embarrassing parents, parents are a class of people that we will all come across in everyday life. Hopefully, many of you reading this post are parents – mothers or fathers. It’s so important to understand and raise awareness of not only maternal mental health but of parental mental health generally.

Particularly important is raising awareness in our workplaces, because of the progress that has been made towards diversity and equality across this sphere generally – though much still needs to be done. Gender equality is increasing and this progress cannot be undone by a lack of support or awareness of the issues faced by new mothers and fathers, who, of course, make up a significant proportion of our working population.

Work-related stress is something which has affected so many people, so it is increasingly crucial to make sure that parents have no further stress upon returning to work, either by making admissions that they are seeking help for mental health conditions, or by suffering in silence and perhaps struggling in the meantime. Postnatal depression is not normally a topic spoken about widely enough for others to recognise that it can affect both mothers and fathers equally, and potentially adoptive or other kinds of parents as well.

At the moment, postnatal depression is diagnosed in around 1 in 10 mothers (though the actual number affected may be much higher!) and, according to recent NCT research, it also affects 1 in 10 fathers, though it may sometimes be called paternal depression rather than postnatal.

But I truly believe that nobody should have to suffer in silence in fear of a backlash if they do make a public admission of his or her postnatal depression. Encouraging an open dialogue around parental mental health brings us one step closer to ending mental health stigma altogether.

In some respects, the stigma of postnatal depression is more difficult to overcome, as many people can’t even fathom how a happy event such as the birth of a baby can lead to depression, psychosis, PTSD or anxiety as a result. The truth is that there is no logic to mental health conditions, and the expectations we are given to feel a certain way can make us feel inadequate, or undeserving, which can be where it all begins.

So how do we overcome the stigma surrounding mental health concerns? It’s necessary for the proper functioning of society that we’re able to move forward, and we have to raise awareness in order to do just that.

Personally, I believe that we should endeavour to be accommodating in our lives and particularly in our professional careers for new parents, encouraging and helping people to speak up, as they may be fighting battles unknown to the rest of us.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds campaign.

Have you checked your lemons, melons or mangos? 

How many of us ladies can honestly say that we check ourselves out frequently? When did you last check? I know that we’re not quite as bad as the boys at checking ourselves… But I am very aware that I personally only ever used get round to doing it when I get reminded by online campaigns

CHECK. YOUR BOOBS png

As it is breast cancer awareness week, I thought i’d share my scare experience with our readers in the hope that it might encourage some of you to get checked out, if you’re having any breast related worries!

A few months ago, I finally made the big step in getting myself checked out after having a boobie scare. Why am I telling you lucky lot about it?! Because changes to our breasts honestly need to be spoken about more!

How many of us ladies can honestly say that we check ourselves out frequently? When did you last check? I know that we’re not quite as bad as the boys at checking ourselves… But I am very aware that I personally only ever used get round to doing it when I get reminded by online campaigns etc.

I saw the image above, on Facebook and decided that it was time to confront one of the changes I had noticed since having Florence nearly a year and a half ago. I knew that changes in your breasts and breast tissue was very common after large hormonal changes, like having a baby, but worried because I had a mark that looked like a cross between what these two lemons depicted…

Lovely I know,  but I have no time to blush when I’m here to inform! 

 

I called up my local doctors practice and asked for an appointment to discuss a concern I had with one of my breasts. I was told that as no female doctors were in and that there wasn’t a chaperone available, that I’d have to wait for the duty doctor to call me the following day and book me in, to see a lady. I said that as I was so concerned, I didn’t mind who I discussed my worries with but that I’d prefer to be checked over by a female when I came to practice.

Sure enough, the duty doctor called me the very next morning. I explained my worries over the phone and put me down for an appointment to see a lady doctor for less than an hour later. So off I went!

She asked me what my concerns where and tried to make me feel comfortable before instructing me to remove my upper layers and lye down on the examination table to be checked over. She checked my nipples, breast, armpits and even commented on how my glands felt perfectly normal.

The changes that I had been so worried about, was slight scar tissue, all caused by to me trying to breast feed and pump for almost two months with no supply. She told me that this was nothing to worry about but well worth getting checked out.

I am so relived that my scare was down to nothing more sinister and felt pleased that I had finally been brave enough to seek some help and advice for my worries.

The doctor explained how I could check myself and said that either in the shower, bath, lying or sitting down in bed whilst relaxed would be the perfect time to check myself and to try and do it as frequently as possible (but to aim for once a week!).

How do you check yourself? 

Strictly speaking, there is no right or wrong way to check your breasts. It is so important to know what your breasts usually look and feel like. Then you’ll be more likely to spot any changes quickly and get help from to your GP.

The NHS state that a good way check yourself is to “Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, all the way up to your collarbone. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit.
You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side and also with them raised.”

So- when should we seek help or advice from a GP? If you experience any of the following symptoms make sure you book to see your GP as soon as possible…

  • a change in size or shape
  • a lump or area that feels thicker than the rest of the breast
  • a change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like the skin of an orange)
  • redness or rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
  • your nipple has become inverted (pulled in) or looks different in any way.
  • liquid or any discharge that comes from the nipple without squeezing.
  • pains or pangs in your breast or your armpit
  • a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone.

Any of these changes could be down to normal bodily hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy, labour, breast feeding or menopause- but please, if anything is new or is worrying you, GET CHECKED OUT…

Useful links-

NHS information about Breast Cancer.
Breast Cancer Care Org

Thank you for reading!
(Please remember that you can never be too safe!)

Baby Loss Awareness Week ‘17

This is for the families of babies born too small, born too sick or born sleeping. For, the 1 in 4 women- who have carried a baby that she never got to meet, that she never got to watch grow. For all of the broken hearts, tears, pain, loneliness, loss of hope, isolation that losing a baby causes.

I know SO many (painfully far too many), incredible families and amazing women who have had to face this pain. Women who have had one or multiple miscarriages. Women who have had babies born too small to survive. Women whose babies have been born sleeping. Women whose babies were born appearing healthy, but never made it home. Often these women feel like they have to grieve silently, they feel numb, they need far more support. So many of these women manage to keep holding on, when it must feel like they are falling apart.

I had a substantially large bleed at the start of my pregnancy with Florence (around 7 weeks), which was put down to the loss of a second baby. This is something that it took me a year and a half to even discuss with anybody- I constantly convinced myself that surely I don’t deserve to be upset over this? That as I’ve got Florence I should just put up and shut up? It’s so incredibly hard to know how quite how to deal with these feelings, but depriving myself of a right to feel was just about the worst way to go about processing such an ordeal. I now know that I shouldn’t be shutting any of these feelings away, I’m entitled to every single emotion I have felt and every emotion there is left to feel. I’m no longer convincing myself every time I hear bloody “everything happens for a reason” out of the fear of sounding unappreciative or ungrateful. I count my blessings for having Florence in my life every single day, because no medical professional could make sense of quite how she managed to stay. This was one of the reasons it took me so long to announce my pregnancy. I was convinced that I would lose her. I feel that I am often referred to as ‘melodramatic’ when I refer to my daughter as a ‘miracle’- but when I think of everything we’ve been through and that she’s still here, I really feel that I am the luckiest Mummy alive.

If your pain demands to be felt- Feel it. You’re not alone. You’re never alone! Please enable yourself to feel. Please never feel that you’re not allowed to be pained or upset because ‘you already have children’ or any other reasons you may find to invalidate your own feelings at an already very painful and very difficult time. Talking to my counsellor and being open with my amazing Mum- Was the best thing I could have done for myself and I wish I did it a lot sooner.

Lots of love to all of the mummies we know; your family, children, babies and angel babies are in our heart and prayers this week and always.

7 Actual Important Things all Pregnant Women Need to Know…

There are so many practical things no body ever told me when I was pregnant and I never even thought to ask  – You don’t know what you don’t know, right? 

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I see a lot of posts on this subject that focus on the funny side, about how everyone will see your nakedness and you won’t care, about how you’ll get used to being puked on etc etc.  This post isn’t that, there are so many practical things no body ever told me when I was pregnant and I never even thought to ask  – You don’t know what you don’t know, right? 
 
So, here is MY personal list of really important things that I should have been told, I’d love to hear yours in the comments!

1. Group B Strep 

It’s strange, I was asked several times on the maternity ward whether I was Strep B Positive and I always assumed that I must have been tested or they wouldn’t be asking (after all, they nicked enough of my blood for testing over the course of my pregnancy) I also assumed I must have been all clear or they would have told me. WRONG. It wasn’t until Harriet got her results that I found out what it is and why it is so crucial for EVERY mother to be tested in EVERY pregnancy. (Read her story here)
 

2. Your birth might not go according to plan

Okay, thats a pretty obvious one and I guess on some level we all know that but what I mean is that no one told me exactly what it was that could go wrong and how that might be resolved. Nobody prepared me for emergency procedures in theatre. I suppose nobody wants to scare a pregnant woman, well, I’m gonna do it. You might have to have major abdominal surgery. You might have to have your lady bits sliced and diced. Your lady bits might rip and you could lose a lot of blood. If you are pregnant I would strongly advise you to talk to your midwife (or relevant healthcare professional) about what you can expect if you need to have an emergency procedure. What the risks are, why they happen and what you have to sign when they thrust the surgical permission slip at you between contractions. It’s going to be easier to take that information on board when you aren’t 15 hours into labour and drifting in an out of consciousness.
 

3. Packing for hospital stays 

I see a lot of posts about hospital bag essentials. I disregarded most of them because they contain bluetooth speakers, tablets and essential oils. I packed a small bag of actual essentials (clothes for me, clothes for baby, nappies, sports drink, vaseline, maternity pads, granny pants, phone charger, hospital notes) which would have been absolutely fine if my birth had  gone smoothly and my son wasn’t crazy jaundiced. My poor husband was back and forth with clothes and supplies all week. He doesn’t drive so he was walking three miles to the hospital and three miles home (what a trooper). So, pack a bag for if things go to plan. Pack another, bigger bag for if they don’t. Oh, and hospitals don’t give you shampoo. 
 

4. Tongue tie (and other feeding issues)

This is a huge deal to me and I will be talking about it in more detail in another post soon. I did hear tongue ties mentioned when I was pregnant. ONCE. It was in the following context; “You can’t breastfeed a baby with tongue tie because they can’t latch to the breast”. This is possibly the single worst piece of misinformation I was given. My son had a tongue tie and he latched and fed, just not very well. None of the midwives or health visitors picked up on it and I had no idea what to look for. I was supported by amazing local services which are now facing massive budget cuts (see their campaign here) but I wish I had gone to see them when I was pregnant for some advice and again after my son was born before I was told that his behaviour was normal or that it was my fault.
 

5. Nappies

You are going to be changing a LOT of nappies. I decided to use cloth when I was pregnant but my dinky baby didn’t fit in them to start with. If I had realised just how many disposable nappies we’d get through in the first three months (around 900) I would have invested in some smaller sized cloth nappies. Obviously a lot of people told me that it would be a lot but the actual figures still startled me. If you’re in the UK you can find your local cloth nappy library here.

6. How and when to bathe a newborn 

This one was a source of panic for me from around 20 weeks. I asked at an antenatal class but I was shown with a rigid toy doll and no actual water so I was ill prepared. When I was presented with a mucky baby fresh out of the womb I had no idea if I should be washing the gunk off of him and how I might go about that. I avoided it for a while and picked the crispy bits of womb lining out of his perfect hair as best I could. He was eventually washed for first time at a week old by a lovely member of the maternity ward team who talked me through top and tailing. I still had no idea how to give him an actual bath so I just didn’t, for weeks. I’m still not 100% sure but if you’re concerned I hope you find comfort in the fact that it isn’t just you.
 

7. Dressing your baby 

How do you get those tiiiiny little vests over the head of a baby with zero muscle control? (Answer – you put the head hole under the back of their head and pull it gently over the top). As silly as it sounds, no one ever told me or showed me and I had not slept much so how was I to know? It took me a week to figure it out – luckily I have a summer baby. He lived in fully poppered sleepsuits most of the time. Also, everyone kept telling me I needed a going home outfit for him and that is a lie. I needed a clean sleep suit for him to go home in. I did pack an outfit but he was too tiny and I didn’t care one bit, I just wanted to get home.
 
I’m sure I’ve missed some because… well because my son is two and my brain is mush from all the parenting. As a bonus, I asked my husband what he wished he’d known. Apparently he’s quite traumatised. Here is his list:
 

Labour is terrifying

Seeing your partner in labour, in that much pain and not being able to help is awful. Seeing them in theatre and having to hold it together when you’re worried you might lose the woman you love and your child is the scariest thing. 
 

Babies are terrifying

How do you hold them with out breaking them? How do you change nappies? Dress them? Undress them? Put them in the carseat? Pick them up? Put them down? HOW?
 

The weight of the world is terrifying

Your partner just made a small human. She is in no position to do anything much so you’ve just gone from being responsible for yourself to being responsible for you, your wife and your baby… and all of the cooking and cleaning. Two weeks in and you have to work again. It’s a massive adjustment to make and it can be a little overwhelming.

The soft spot is terrifying

Every time you touch the soft spot you think you’ve hurt your child. Absolutely. terrifying. 

 


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Cuddle Fairy

Breastfeeding Blues

Initially I tried for almost 48 hours straight to breastfeed and had to beg a midwife for formula as my baby was screaming as she was so hungry. I continued to try for weeks and weeks. Pumping didn’t work and neither did feeding. I never got a ‘let down’, I don’t know what if feels like to have one.

Looking at my happy, healthy, strong and beautiful little girl, it’s hard to remember why I worried so much. My daughter is 18 months old, she’s 95th centile for height and 91st centile for weight. We couldn’t have a more incredible bond. I’ve struggled with Postnatal Depression- but I’ve always adored her and I know that she loves me too.
It’s breastfeeding week this week, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t shed a few tears when reminded of the fact that I couldn’t breast feed my baby.
I was scrolling back through photos when a found this picture of Florence latching. I didn’t realise it had been taken, but seeing it soothes me and reminds me of how I tried my best. After a major artery was ruptured after a tear during labour I had a massive haemorrhage and lost around 66% of my total blood volume. I had to have a triple blood transfusion and a plasma transfusion but despite this, I was left very anaemic.
I was later diagnosed with sepsis due to complications of being strep b positive. When I wasn’t fighting for my life I was trying to feed my baby. My milk never really came in and due to my mother having to bottle feed my baby whilst I was in intensive care, my already almost non existent supply couldn’t match that of a whole formula feed.
Initially I tried for almost 48 hours straight to breastfeed and had to beg a midwife for formula as my baby was screaming as she was so hungry. I continued to try for weeks and weeks. Pumping didn’t work and neither did feeding. I never got a ‘let down’, I don’t know what if feels like to have one.
We started our journey trying so desperately to breastfeed, but this journey was cut painfully short due to circumstances out of my control. My heart still breaks about this, because after a difficult labour and pregnancy, it would have been lovely for something to work out!
A family friend who is a lactation expert came to see me a few months ago, we talked through it all and she tried to reassure me that I have no reason to feel so awful, I really did try my hardest and she truly believes that it would have been almost impossible for me to breast feed, given the circumstances such as fighting for my life, the medications I was on and other factors such as having an underactive thyroid and PCOS.
Some people don’t want to breastfeed and that is fine. Babies who are bottle fed still thrive… But I wanted this so much for my baby and it still hurts that I couldn’t even provide her with something as simple as my own milk.  Yes she is incredible and she is thriving, but every time I see someone else feeding their baby, I feel like a failure. I can’t help it, but that’s how I felt then and often how I often feel now. One day it might stop hurting, but for now it is still a very sore subject. My body physically couldn’t feed my baby. My body failed me and my baby. Without formula, my baby would have starved.
I’m sure that the colostrum and the action of poaching my daughter on my breast helped to lay the perfect foundation for our incredible bond, but formula, and my love, influenced our incredible girl to blossom so beautifully.
Don’t buy into the “Only 1% of women cannot breastfeed” … it is a load of crap. Think of the Mummies on medications, the Mummies who are mentally or physically unwell, or fighting for their lives through illness or after a traumatic labour. The babies born prematurely or with a tongue ties. This supposed statistic leaves far too many parents feeling inadequate or like failures and it isn’t okay!
Shout out to all mummies in the same boat who have ever felt inadequate because of feeding problems and complications. I completely feel your pain, this week and always.

Group B Strep – Aware.

30-50% of women carry strep b at any given time. Generally it’s harmless to the women who carry it. Yet, it can be fatal for the babies that they carry.

Strep B.
Strep B was knowing Mummies who had needlessly lost their babies.
The stories lead to worry.
Worry became research.
Research became awareness.
Awareness became knowledge.
30-50% of women carry strep b at any given time.
Generally it’s harmless to the women who carry it.
Yet, it can be fatal for the babies that they carry.
Knowledge had to become taking action.
Strep B was asking my midwife if I could be tested.
Just to be told that it’s very rare and it’s highly unlikely.
Strep B was taking matters into my own hands.
I ordered my own testing kit through the list of GBSS approved ECM tests. 
I waited.
I waited until I was 35 weeks pregnant to do my test.
35 weeks came. I did the swabs.
Sealed, Labelled.
I wrote a cheque for £37.
£37 to potentially save my babies life.
£37 well spent, regardless of the result.
It was all put in an envelope and posted.
I knew that the results would take up to two weeks.
I waited.
Two weeks had passed but no results had arrived.
I sent them an email.
They replied straight away and were very apologetic.
This email had an attachment.
I opened the attachment.
The seconds that it took to open and load felt like years.
*POSITIVE* *POSITIVE* blared at me like red lights.
Is it my fault?
What had I done?
I cried and I cried.
My excitement to meet our baby turned to fear.
It was midday, but I fell asleep in tears.
I told my partner and I told my parents.
I reminded myself that it wasn’t my fault.
Strep B isn’t sexually transmitted. It is naturally incubated.
There was no way I could have known.
Fear had to turn into action.
Action…
Action, was raising awareness to my pregnant friends and acquaintances.
Action, was passing on the results of the test onto my midwife.
Action, was including my strep b positive diagnosis in my birthing plan.
The community midwife stuck a small “STREP B” sticker on my pregnancy notes.
This was to supposedly alert the team that were to help me through labour.
A sticker wasn’t certain enough, but my voice was.
I couldn’t count how many times, I had to get medical professionals to clarify that they would take this seriously.
Would they have enough of the antibiotics on the ward?
Would I get access to them?
Would I get at least 2 rounds of antibiotics?
Will I get the antibiotics at least 2 hours before she is born?
Would she get checks after she was born to insure that complications had been completely avoided?
What if I couldn’t get to hospital quickly enough after my waters broke?
The 31st of January came.
I was unwell.
I went to maternity day care and was diagnosed with preeclampsia.
I was to be induced.
Starting that night.
I was relived!
I would be in hospital until she was born.
I could be sure that everything will be ready for her arrival.
I had many conversations with midwives about strep b.
Where did you get tested?
I tested myself at home with testing kit.
How did you get tested?
I tested myself after I paid for a test.
How did you know about strep b?
I have had family friends affected by it.
How muc
h did you pay to get tested?
£37
A couple of days passed.
My waters broke.
Fear kicked in.
I was moved from an induction room to a labour room.
A drip was started to protect my baby from strep b.
But my black and blue hand wouldn’t take the drip.
I became very worried and begged them to swap to another cannulation site.
They did.
I was finally getting what I needed to protect my baby.
One round.
Two round.
Over 5 hours.
She made her entrance.
It started to go wrong for me, because of a tear.
Yet- She was okay.
I didn’t know it yet.
But my baby was safe.
My Mother made sure that she was getting her after birth strep b checks.
They were made every 4 hours.
She was fine.
My baby was going to be okay.
I came round.
Went from theatre, to recovery to being back on the labour ward.
She was having another lot of checks.
Temperature.
Stethoscope to the chest.
Movement.
Breathing.
Our baby was okay.
She was healthy.
But it all could have been so different.
I was feeling cold.
Then hot.
Then freezing.
My temperature was taken.
Then my pulse.
Blood was taken.
Blood was tested.
My tear had became infected by strep b.
I was diagnosed with sepsis.
I was left fighting for my life for the second time in 24 hours.
I was administered antibiotics.
Strep b had given me sepsis.
It took over a week to recover- Despite me being well equipped.
But if it was my baby who had become unwell.
It could have been so different.
I don’t want to think about it.
I can’t think about it.
I will not shut up about strep b until it is properly addressed.
Until every mummy to be, knows of the danger.
Of the risks.
I will not stop, until strep b is no longer an issue.
It doesn’t need to be an issue.
Every woman pregnant should be screened for strep b.