Why I refuse to be ashamed about my miscarriage

Unfortunately, my husband and I experienced a miscarriage in May. If you’re close friends or family, this will probably not be news to you, but if you’re not, there you go.

When it first happened I felt totally lost. We told only the essential people, and spent lots of time giving our 18 month old daughter lots of extra cuddles and attention. However, when the time came that I felt I wanted to tell a few more people what had been happening in our lives, I was amazed by the amount of women who said ‘I’ve had one too’.

The one statement that I heard more than anything else was ‘it’s not something you just talk about’. Why is that? I was met with a few different responses

I was only 6/7/8 weeks. Not far enough to be too upset.

While I understand that the pain felt due to an early loss would be different to stillbirth, that’s not to say that experiencing pregnancy loss doesn’t hurt. At the end of the day, a life is still a life. From the moment a woman discovers she is pregnant, she starts to form an emotional connection with her baby. She has plans and dreams for them. It’s painful to lose that, and be totally out of control.

2. I don’t want to burden people with my problems.

I want to start by saying that pregnancy loss can be absolutely devastating. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some incredible people during our difficult time, and anyone who knows me knows that I do not mince my words and I tell it how it is. I do this because I want my daughter to grow up and know that her feelings are VALID, she’s not a burden, and that she deserves to be listened to.

BUT I do understand that not everybody feels comfortable to do that.

However, telling people about your miscarriage or asking others for help does not make you a burden. It makes you BRAVE. The people that love you are happy to help, and it doesn’t make you any less of a person to need help with something that, at the end of the day, is a big deal. Telling people about your miscarriage helps dispel the idea that there’s something wrong with discussing it. It helps you feel less isolated and alone, and it helps reality set in.

My body was designed for one thing, and it failed.

Yes, your body was designed to reproduce, it’s true. But you know what it was also designed for? To run, climb, laugh, love, eat, sleep, play, sing – the list goes on. Yes, you are created to reproduce, but you’re also designed for SO much more. While it’s difficult, don’t reduce yourself to that one function.

1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage. It’s a scarily high figure, but it means you’re likely not alone. 1 in 4 means for every three children you see, a woman somewhere is mourning for theirs.

So, I refuse to be ashamed about my miscarriage. I won’t keep quiet about it or pretend it never happened. Instead, I choose to see it like this: my baby was never cold, or hungry, or scared. There was never a time in their short little life that they were not loved, and cared for and wanted. They will never have to know how it feels to be alone.

And that’s enough for me.

12 things I’ve learned in 12 months of being a mum

Somehow, my teeny tiny person is a year old this month. It seems like yesterday that I was panicking about breaking her every time I touched her, and it’s a little crazy to me that she’s gone from this tiny human on the left, to the cheeky monkey on the right that would rather eat cheerios than do anything else.

So, in the spirit of turning one year old, here are 12 things I’ve learned in 12 months of being a mum.

1. It’s ok (and normal) to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing 100% of the time

Let’s be honest, when you deliver a baby, they’re not born with a handbook too (though that would be super helpful). While everyone would like to think they do, nobody has the perfect formula for the ideal way to raise a child – you can only follow your instincts, do your best and listen to guidance from sources you trust. Don’t let people make you feel like less of a person if you’re unsure on the best way to do something, it’s perfectly natural.

2. While babies are fragile, they’re more sturdy than you give them credit for

When my daughter was born, I was so worried I was going to hurt her because she looked so fragile. In the months to come, however, I’d learn she was anything but. At 8 weeks old she was diagnosed with Pyloric Stenosis (you can read about that here) and had emergency surgery to correct the issue. It was a scary time for us, but it showed us that she was stubborn, and a born fighter. Since then she’s been learning to crawl, and she’s now walking. I’ve seen her fall (and bounce) so many times and been worried she’s hurt herself, but she just carries on like nothing has happened.

3. It’s ok to ask for help

Everyone needs a break from time to time. Being with your little person 24/7 is physically and emotionally draining, and it’s really hard to keep up with everything and keep up with them at the same time! If you read my previous post on being a disabled parent, you’ll know I have a lot to contend with at the moment, so this is probably the thing I’ve learnt most in the last year. Before I had my daughter, I was so stubborn and tried to do everything myself. I’m trying to be better at knowing when I’ve hit my limit and realising I need to ask for help before I burn out!

4. Cloth nappies are a game changer

This one was a major learning curve. Before trying out cloth nappies with my monster, I’d never come across them before! Thankfully, with some encouragement from Maria we got to grips with them fairly quickly. You can read Maria’s post about cloth nappies here.
It’s so handy knowing I’ll never have to run out for nappies in the middle of the night, it keeps the £££ down and they’re good for my little one’s sensitive skin. The prints are adorable, and that extra chunky butt is oh so cute. Plus, they’re good for the planet, so they’re a win win really!

5. Make time for yourself and your partner

This one is for all of you who are in a relationship. Make time to maintain that foundation, because you model your relationship every day to your kids. Even if it’s just half an hour at the end of the day, make sure you sit down and communicate properly with your partner. And for those of you who aren’t in a relationship – make time for yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

6. Be your child’s advocate

This (along with my next point) has taken me a while to be comfortable with, but honestly it shouldn’t have. At such a young age, my daughter isn’t able to verbally communicate that she doesn’t want to do something, but as her mum I can tell when she doesn’t want to do something, and I need to be there to back her up. This includes not making her hug or kiss people when she doesn’t want to. You can read more on this on Harriet’s post on sex positive parenting.

7. Be clear on how you want to raise your child, and don’t compromise for others

If you want to discipline your children a certain way, make sure you’re clear about it with everybody who will be taking care of your child, because there is nothing more frustrating than teaching your child for six weeks that they cannot play with your glasses, only to look over and see someone handing theirs over as a chew toy.

8. Your house will never be tidy 100% of the time and that is ok

Everyone knows that if a baby is having fun, there is a high likelihood that they are making a massive mess! I love having a tidy home, but I love seeing my smiler having fun more, and I’d rather take the time to enjoy her while she is small and have a tidy house when she’s older (read:she can clean up as payback) and make some brilliant memories now. Plus, as soon as she’s gone to bed I hide her toys away inside the TV unit and suddenly my living room is tidy again. Who knew.

9. Take photos, but be present

I love taking photographs as much as the next person, and now that she’s learning to walk I’d love to get it on video, but I’d rather watch it happen in front of me rather than through a screen.  We do tend to limit screen time in our house; little one doesn’t watch television so is fascinated by the television in other people’s houses. In 2017, researchers at the Illinois State University and the University of Michigan Medical School published a paper funded by The Pennsylvania State University, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, in which the conclusion was that parent’s excessive use of mobile phones can drive behavioural problems in children under 5. You can read the NHS’s assessment of the paper here. While the study has some issues, I did feel convicted when I read it and resolved to try and be more present in the day time when my mini me was up and about.

10.Be prepared or prepare to fail

I’m an organised person anyway, but since having a baby I find I have to be an organised person on steroids. If we don’t have a meal plan for the week, we’re in trouble and I fall behind. We have a column in our calendar for jobs, and I write the jobs I have to get done each day, even the basics like hoovering and putting a wash load on (which is a must if you’re keeping on top of washing cloth nappies). We have spare clothes, thermometers, every cream you can think of, bibs, bottles, and practically the kitchen sink in our nappy bag, but it’s better it’s spare than desperately needed.It may sound like overkill, and I feel like I make lists for my lists sometimes, but it keeps us afloat so something must be working!

11. Always carry snacks

There is nothing worse than being hangry. Hanger. Is. A. Real. Thing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, The Oxford Dictionary defines being hangry as

“ADJECTIVE – informal. Bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.”   

There is no shame in keeping a snack in the nappy bag for adults and babies alike. It sounds like such an obvious thing, but you’d be surprised how many people have been shocked that I keep food in there for me too. Try it. You’ll thank me.

12. Allow yourself WAY more time than you’d think to leave the house

This. Took. Some. Time.
Ask anyone who knows us, and they’ll confirm, we were at least an hour late for everything until baby was at least a month old. It sounds stupid because at that age, they don’t move around, but my goodness was it a challenge. I’d try and leave the house 47 times and realise I’d left something vital inside every single time. Somehow, even though it’s much tougher to get little one ready and dressed now (think crocodile wrestling) we’re rarely late. It’s taken us some time, but we’ve finally got there.
I honestly can’t believe that time has flown so quickly and my little miracle is going to be one in just a few days time. The last year has been tough but so rewarding, and she makes my day every day.
What did you learn in the first year of being a mum?

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Moving house with a little one? Here’s 5 top tips to keep your sanity

It’s all go here in the Piper household as we’re just about to move house. Given that this is our third house move in 2 years, you’d think we’d be seasoned veterans by now, but moving with our little one is SO much harder. She needs constant attention, which makes getting the packing done much more time consuming, and I constantly feel like there’s something huge I’m forgetting! With that in mind, I’ve come up with 5 top tips to stop you pulling your hair out on move in day.

1 – Get some help

By this I mean childcare, whether that is letting Grandma look after Little One for the day, or having an extra family member/friend/extra pair of hands around to look after them in your new home. The first is preferable, as it can be dangerous for little ones to be underfoot with big boxes being moved about. If you have to have your little one in your new place while you’re moving, try and keep them away from all the action – it’s safer for everyone, and you’ll be so busy getting boxes and furniture in to your new place and directing people as to where you want them to put things down, it will be so much harder if your baby is on you like a limpet all day.

2 – Make a box of necessities

Pack a box of all the things you are likely to need for your baby in the next day or two. Things to remember include:
  • Nappies, wipes and wash things
  • Clean clothes
  • Toys
  • Bottles (if formula fed) and food if baby is old enough
  • Any security items, like a dummy or favourite teddy
Mark this box as important and make sure it is one of the first things delivered to your new home. You’ll be grateful later down the line that everything you need for baby is in one easy to find place.

3 – Unpack baby’s room first

Make unpacking your child’s bedroom a priority to give them a better sense of security in a new place. Having your little one’s room ready first gives you a safe place to let them play while your’e unpacking, a comfortable and familiar place for them to nap and sleep, and peace of mind for you that at least one room is done – you can keep unpacking while baby has gone to bed!

4 – Stick to baby’s schedule as much as you can

Move in day isn’t just stressful for you, it’s stressful for your little one too. The difference is that you know exactly what is happening, but your little one doesn’t. Moving house can be especially stressful for toddlers who often feel the loss of a safe environment. You can read more about helping your little one through this transition here. Try your best to keep meal times and nap times to your usual schedule. This will be easier if you’ve followed tip 3 and have baby’s bed ready!

5 – Take a breath

Moving is stressful. Psychologically, it is only outranked by loss of family members, and is rated more stressful than divorce and loss of employment. Moving house can be a huge upheaval, which is all the more reason why it’s so important to just take a breather. Make everyone stop working so you can all eat together, or ask a friend to put the kettle on.
You’ve got this mama.

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Frank Fridays : the realities of being a disabled parent

I’m honest with my friends about my health struggles, and I also write for The Mighty about some of my experiences. Now I feel it’s time to open up to you, the Mummykind family.

The truth is that my health is often poor, but I don’t make a habit of advertising it. Honestly, I find it so difficult to be honest about my struggles as a disabled mum, because so often people hit me with ‘if you’re disabled, don’t you think it was selfish to have a baby?’. It stings because they don’t understand that I’m a good mum, only that I have difficulties and that must mean I’m a bad parent, right?

Newsflash. EVERYONE has difficulties. It’s how you deal with it that matters.

I’ll try and keep the medical jargon to a minimum while explaining some of what I have to deal with day to day – having dealt with some of my conditions since birth I’ve been told that I sound like I ate a medical textbook!

I currently have seven conditions diagnosed, with more in the pipeline (lucky me, eh!)

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – This is one of my most prevalent illnesses. I was born with EDS, and while every day is different, most days are an uphill struggle. EDS is a rare condition that affects connective tissues. Connective tissues are present in skin, organs, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones (so basically everything). Symptoms I deal with every day are loose, unstable joints that dislocate every day, chronic pain, easy bruising, muscle weakness, fatigue, and problems with internal organs.

Orthostatic Hypotension – When my new Orthopaedic Surgeon heard I had this, he said ‘really? But you aren’t old!’. Well, newsflash Mr, young people can have Orthostatic Hypotension too. Put basically, when I change position from lying to sitting, or sitting to standing, my blood pressure plummets to dangerous levels, and I lose consciousness and faint.

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome – the cells in my body that react when you have an allergic reaction are over active, and my body spontaneously develops new allergies all the time, even to something that was safe yesterday.
Gastroparesis – my stomach can’t empty itself as effectively as other people’s can, which means food stays in there for far too long. Glamorous.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – I’m super tired all the time! Yay!
I also have Celiac disease and Asthma, but those seem pretty pale in comparison!
Now that’s out of the way (and well done if you’ve got this far, medical stuff can be snooze inducing!) hopefully some of what I’m about to say will make more sense!
I think it’s important to start with the fact that the realities I experience living life as a disabled parent will be very different to someone else’s. Life is so variable, and what’s difficult for me might seem like a walk in the park to someone else, and vice versa.
The biggest reality I’m trying to deal with right now is that parenting my daughter is nothing like I thought it would be. Though I try to do the best I can, there are days like today where I really can’t function enough to look after myself, let alone my little one.  I’m blessed to have my husband at home with me all the time (fainting unpredictably means I can’t often be left alone) and my wonderful John is often left to care for my little climber while I have to rest. I often feel a real sense of guilt because I’m not living up to the perfect image in my mind of what a mother should be. I’m faced with the reality that I can’t do all I want to for her all the time. And that’s ok. It doesn’t make me a bad parent for having to take a step back and recover my strength. It’s a good example of self-care to set my daughter, if anything.
It also strikes me that my monkey won’t grow up in the same way other children will. While it’s great that both her mum and dad are home with her all the time, it worries me that I’ll miss out on important things later down the line because of my health. Because my illnesses are so unpredictable, i’m often fine in the morning and struggling in the evening, or the other way around, and that can be difficult to understand for one so little.  I might not be able to take her to the park when she wants to go, and I might have to watch her play from a distance rather than getting involved.
Not being afraid to ask for help is a big lesson I’ve learnt over the last few months. It is practically impossible to look after a crawling explorer while you’ve got a hip that is constantly dislocating, you’ve got a migraine which is making you vomit and see stars, you’ve taken enough prescription medication to tranquillise a horse, and you’re dealing with an allergic reaction from something (and it really could be anything at this point). When I first asked for help, I have to admit that I felt a little ashamed, as though I was being naughty for asking for help. But that’s when I realised we have the saying ‘it takes a village’ for a reason. And in our family’s case, it really does.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. While I may have painted a bit of a dreary picture, I get to see my daughter grow up in a way most people don’t. With any luck, I won’t miss any firsts, and while physically I might not be able to do as much as I want to, I’m still able to raise my daughter to be a kind and considerate human being who is already being exposed to diversity at a young age.
While I may struggle more than most, my struggles don’t define me, and more importantly, they will never beat me.
If you’re intrigued by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, check this awareness video I was involved in!
What realities are you struggling to come to terms with?

Mental Health Monday: Postnatal anxiety and me.

As a new mum, I thought that the anxiety of leaving your child, leaving the house with your child etc. was normal. What I didn’t realise was that not wanting to be alone with your child and having the constant fear that you would do something wrong and having your child taken away from you was not normal. This is how I felt 90% of the time and it completely ruined the bond I so badly wanted with my daughter. 90% of the time I’d be at somebody’s house, or out of the house with people around because I was scared of being alone with my daughter. Scared that something would happen and nobody would be around to help me. Or if I did something different to the mums at baby group, I would panic that I was doing it wrong and my daughter was going to taken into care because I didn’t know what I was doing.

I started to see this as abnormal when my daughter was around 4 or 5 months old. I saw other mums staying at home alone with their children and taking a different approach to parenting and wondered why they seemed okay with it but not me. I mean, this was normal right? Hmm… not so much. I went to see my GP who suggested I saw a therapist. So I agreed, reluctantly at first, to go to the first session and I was so bloody nervous. The anxiety had kicked in 100 times worse. What if I say something and they think I’m an unfit mother? What if I go there and they think Evie is unsafe with me? I could go on…Surprisingly, they were incredibly understanding and instead of judging, they listened. They listened to me ramble on about my worries, my fears and my goals. I was diagnosed with postnatal anxiety which, once explained to me, made perfect sense. I didn’t feel any less anxious after that session, but my thoughts were out there. Thoughts I hadn’t even told my partner about because I was scared of sounding crazy or stupid but I finally knew that I wasn’t either of those things.

I continued on with a therapist but this time, with CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy). Each week I would have a different thing to do e.g. messy play at home for 15 minutes, watching a TV show with Evie at home on my own etc. Slowly, I started to create that bond with her that I had been so desperate for and could cope with being alone with her. Don’t get me wrong, the anxiety still creeps about and springs up on me when I least expect it but the bond between me and Evie now is amazing. She genuinely is my best friend and I love spending mummy & daughter time with her! I wish I had known that postnatal anxiety was a thing sooner. You hear a lot about postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis during pregnancy but never the anxiety part. (Not in my pregnancy anyway). So please make sure you are familiar with the symptoms!

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/perinatal-anxiety/#.WuegOKXTWJ0

https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/after-birth/symptoms-of-postnatal-anxiety-and-depression

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.