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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Sarah’s Birth Story – How We Met

Dear Olivia,

It’s 4:30am on a Saturday and I’ve just woken up with pains in my abdomen. I had been having false labour contractions for about three weeks prior to that (you were exactly a week late) so I wasn’t too quick to wake up daddy and tell him that I thought it was for real this time. Instead I went downstairs, used the toilet, bounced on my birthing ball and put on the nightie that I wanted to go to the hospital in.

I was timing the contractions and seemed to be having them about every 7 minutes, and they weren’t too painful at that point.

At about 5:30am I ran a bath. In the run up to having you I was adamant that I desperately wanted a water birth, and thought that the warm water would soothe the pain from the contractions. I got in the bath for all of about 5 minutes before deciding that it was actually irritating me and I didn’t want to be in water at all!

It’s now 6am, contractions are speeding up a bit, once every 5 or 6 minutes and getting a bit more painful. I decided to go and wake Daddy up. Now Daddy is not a morning person, as you will learn, and we had a late night staying up and watching films with Kiera, so I had about 3 hours sleep and Daddy had about 5. Needless to say Daddy was a bit grumpy at first, but he got up quickly, made me a cup of tea and looked after me while I rang the midwife. He also put on the music channel, and for some unknown reason I was listening to Cotton-Eyed Joe and bouncing on my birthing ball at 6 in the morning.

At about 6:30am I started being sick and there was a bit of blood in it too, so Daddy rang the midwife again and they told us to come in as they weren’t that busy anyway. So Daddy went and woke Kiera up and got her dressed. We got into the car and Kiera was crying, you see, we’d booked tickets to watch the new Alice in Wonderland and she was upset that she couldn’t go! You were so inconvenient.

We dropped Kiera off at her mummy’s and by about 8am we made it to the hospital. Between about 8:30 and 9am the midwife came in and asked if I wanted to use the birthing pool, to which I responded with my bath story, and then checked me over and told me I was 3cm dilated, and then my waters broke all over her hand and the bed and everything! Oh great! We thought we would be in for a long while yet.

I got hooked up to the tens machine and Daddy was rubbing my back (though the wrong end, the blithering idiot) and all of a sudden it was too much and too painful and the midwife came in to tell me that as I had a long way to go I should get transferred upstairs to the labour ward for an epidural, and I gave in and agreed to have a bloody huge needle in my spine.

But here comes the twist…

The times become less accurate here because of gas and air (bloody good stuff btw) but roughly an hour later I had another examination upstairs and I was 8cm dilated!!!! Oh, and the anaesthetist was dealing with an emergency c section so no epidural for me! You were coming too quickly and about an hour later again I was being told to push.

Uh oh, there’s another twist…

You got stuck!

I was pushing for about an hour and a half, my legs flatteringly up in stirrups and about 6 people at the end of the bed, Daddy next to me with a straw and a cup of water and the room being like the tropics to everyone else as I shouted at a health worker not to turn the air con on!

I convinced the doctor that I needed help, and so more people came in wielding forceps before they changed their minds and used a kiwi cup instead. They asked Daddy if he wanted to watch but he said no as he knew I didn’t want him to see all the gross stuff. Then with 2 or 3 pushes you were out, and up on my tummy. I said “oh my god” and Daddy laughed. Then he cut the cord and you were moved further up my chest so we could have skin to skin.

It was perfect for a few seconds until I started being sick again and had to have someone put you in the crib as I was shaking so much from the adrenaline and the gas and air comedown!

Once the atmosphere had settled I cried, more out of guilt of having someone move you as I couldn’t hold you straight away after you came out, and I asked Daddy and the midwife if you were okay. You were fine, sleeping peacefully as if nothing had even happened.

I asked if I was just being a blind mother or if you really were that beautiful. And you are. You’re more beautiful than anyone on the planet and I love you so much.

So there you have it, that is how you arrived at 13:06 on your birthday weighing 3.9kg/8lbs 9.5oz.

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Does social media make it harder to be good mothers?

Since the evolution of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., millions of parents have flocked to social media to show their family and friends pictures of their little ones, experiences they’ve had and problems they’ve encountered along the way. This may seem harmless, but picture this…

Mum one- Only posts on social media about the amazing things her child does, pictures of her child being perfectly behaved. Only shares experiences where she felt triumphant as a parent. Lives a seemingly perfect life with her perfect child. Meanwhile, her toddler has stressed her out all day, nothing has been done around her house and once her toddler has gone to bed, she gets to finally sit down to hot food for the first time today.

Mum two- Checks mum one’s social media frequently, amazed at how well she is coping with motherhood. She scrolls through her social media posts in awe, as her toddler pulls out the clothes she has folded three times already and screams at the top of their lungs for juice!

Both mothers are in the same position, yet mum two feels like she is failing. Why isn’t her child well behaved? Why doesn’t she have her life sorted?

The answer?

Because social media is the perfect platform for creating a better version of your reality. We can be anyone we want on social media in the hope that nobody will find out our flaws and mistakes. This is what is making a lot of mothers feel like failures. The constant reminder that the ‘Mum ones’ out there are doing better than we are.

‘Mummy groups’ do not help with this. I don’t know about the rest of you, but seeing photo after photo of kids, my daughter’s age, doing things she isn’t doing yet or seeing people show off how much they have got their kids for birthdays/Christmas, makes me feel inadequate as a parent. Why isn’t my daughter doing that? Must be something I’m doing. Why didn’t I spend that much on her for her birthday? I must be such a bad mother. Right?

NO!

Every child is different and every parenting journey is different. You can try to be like all the ‘Mum ones’ in the world, but chances are, it won’t work. You are the best mother you can be to your little one. Your parenting journey is exactly that. YOURS! Don’t let other people influence it or even change it completely.

So does social media make it harder to be good mothers? In some aspects yes. It definitely makes us question some of our abilities and choices, which then leads us to question our parenting in general. But in other aspects, no. Social media is a great place to socialise with other mothers, pick up tips on the harder parts of parenting e.g. breastfeeding, potty training etc. And social media mummies, 80% of the time, will be there to support you when you feel like the worst parent in the world.

So go ahead, scroll through social media, but stick to your choices! After all, mummy knows best!

10 Amazing Benefits of Babywearing

I thought I would be a good time to talk about the amazing benefits I’ve experienced as a babywearing parent. If you like the sound of any of this then you need to get yourself to your nearest sling library and take a look at the options available. Please ALWAYS make sure you follow the T.I.C.K.S guidelines shown at the bottom of the post. 

As International Babywearing Week draws to a close I thought I would be a good time to talk about the amazing benefits I’ve experienced as a babywearing parent. If you like the sound of any of this then you need to get yourself to your nearest sling library and take a look at the options available. Please ALWAYS make sure you follow the T.I.C.K.S guidelines shown at the bottom of the post. 

 

 

1. Settle that fussy baba

Week 1 of my son’s life was spent in hospital. Week 2 was a hellish nightmare of constant screaming. Week 3 my babywearing journey began after a friend leant me her Close Caboo sling and I was able to settle my little guy and keep hold of him without getting dead arms.  Newborns need a huge amount of closeness; they aren’t designed to go long without human contact so popping them into a sling is a great way of keeping them close and content. I’d highly recommend a stretchy wrap for a newborn because it’s soft, warm and ergonomic for their scrunched up little bodies.

2. Hands-free cuddles 

Once your baby has settled you can do crazy things like attend to basic human functions or even stretch to a bit of housework. For several weeks the only way I could feed myself, use the loo or do any washing up was by having little man in the sling. 

3. No more pram-induced invisibility 

There is a crazy phenomena that turns parents and their children invisible as soon as they touch a pushchair or pram. People just do not see you (I can’t be the only one who has experienced this?). The number of people who walk into me or straight towards my son’s pushchair is insane, I’m literally taking up twice the amount of space that other people take up, why can’t you see me? With a sling you can dodge in and out of crowds pretty well without people constantly sideswiping your pushchair. It’s really convenient in busy places.
 

4. Go off road!

Go for a walk in the woods. Climb steps. Paddle at the beach. The possibilities are endless because you can go anywhere your feet will take you without lugging a massive bit of kit around, just a little baby wrapped close to your body. Perfect. 

5. Sleepydust 

‘Sleepydust’ is a word that gets batted around the babywearing community a lot. It’s the magic that a sling has that just makes your kiddo fall asleep quickly and peacefully. Most slings have it and any child who is remotely tired will just conk out once they’re up. 
 

6. Get snuggly 

Babywearing is warm and comfy and most importantly it is an excellent way of bonding with your little one. That level of closeness helps keep you in tune with each other and is a great mood booster because cuddles = oxytocin.

7. No strollers allowed…

It’s not often this happens but there are some places that don’t let you take pushchairs or prams in with you. One place my family loves to visit is Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens (if you’re ever in Kent during the warmer months you have to go there!). They don’t let pushchairs in for conservation reasons and although they provide carriers at the ticket
office they are not the most ergonomic and the ones for toddlers are framed and bulky. Having our own soft structured carrier there makes our trips so much easier. 

 8. Work it mama!

Okay, we need to talk about the obvious benefit of carrying around the extra weight of a baby… think of all those calories burnt! If you’re looking to get a little leaner then this will help you along the way and if not just think about all the chocolate cake you can eat after a day out wearing your baby.

9. Sneaky bit of boob

If you’re breastfeeding then with a sling you can feed easily on the go and if you’re worried about discretion then you’ll love this – no one can see a thing! It’s great, I lost count of the number of times I’ve browsed shops with baby happily attached to the boob.

Please note, this is not a safe carrying position, I was just about to feed him.

10. Community Spirit

Something I was not expecting when I got my first sling was the amazing community that comes along with it – much like the cloth nappy community – the sling community is friendly, supportive and a great source of knowledge and experience. Join a Facebook group and get chatting to some likeminded parents.


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Baby Bonding Guilt

When you’re pregnant, people try to prepare you for the birth. They tell you about their birth stories, some of which may be more like horror stories to a first time pregnant mum! They ask you your birthing plan. They even tell you that you won’t sleep properly again, or at least for 18 years…

But no one prepares you for what I found a real struggle
…the bonding.

You spend your 9 months of pregnancy preparing. You buy all the bits you’re going to need, you stock up on what feels like, (but never is), more than enough nappies and baby wipes. You plan and sort out a welcoming nursery. You prepare the hospital bag and write your plan with the midwife. You get excited! This little baby is going to complete you!

But what if no matter how much you want this baby, no matter how much you have planned and no matter how much you want to love this baby.

What if when they’re born you don’t feel anything?

I hope that by talking about  it I can encourage mothers and fathers to be more open about their feelings and to not feel ashamed if they found the bonding process hard and not immediate. I truly believe that this affects more people than they’re willing to admit. After all, who wants to admit that they don’t love their baby? No one!  I want to show others that they shouldn’t feel guilt and shame, it will come in time even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

Giving birth to a baby, as everyone says, very rarely goes to plan. But even if you are fairly relaxed on what you want during your birth, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be left thinking about it afterwards. Births can be traumatic and they can leave mums feeling as though they didn’t do things properly. Perhaps they had a C-section, rather than the vaginal birth they had hoped for. Perhaps they needed plenty of rest following the birth so weren’t able to be as active and do as much of the feeding in the early days. Perhaps they had trouble breast feeding their baby. Perhaps the baby had colic and wasn’t able to sleep comfortably very easily. These can really affect a mum’s and dad’s ability to bond, even though these are things completely out of their control!

What you’re not told is that the bonding process can take a few days, a few weeks or even months and if you’re one of those people who it takes time for, it can fill you with feelings of guilt; this is what I felt, I felt like an awful parent. It may seem that every other parent has this instant bond with their child but in all honesty I don’t think that is the case for a lot of people and I think that parents feel uncomfortable to admit to it because they worry that others will think they don’t care about their baby. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

The health visitors will suggest ways of helping… skin to skin, which is lovely, but if you’re unable to pick up your baby because you’re in pain or if you are having trouble because the desire to do so isn’t there, then that can be hard.

They will most likely suggest breastfeeding which is viewed by many as a good bonding method. However, I feel that if you’ve been unable to breastfeed for a number of reasons, (you can read our breastfeeding stories), then it can be unhelpful for the health visitors to push this suggestion because it may increase the mother’s feelings of guilt.

I think that in those early days that it’s made harder because of the broken sleep. The fact you are doing all these things for your baby and not getting much in return can make it difficult. It may sound daft but once you are recognised by your baby and you get reactions from them, which could be something as little as a smile, it makes the bonding so much easier. Even without these reactions, your baby knows you from your smell, your heartbeat and your voice, they’re just working out ways they can communicate with you.

These are some things I tried that you might like to try too:

  • Singing to your baby.
  • Talking to your baby.
  • Reading to your baby so they get to recognise your voice.
  • Lying next to your baby.
  • Wearing your baby in a sling.
  • Baby massage.
  • If possible, holding your baby against your chest.

Please remember that you are doing your best. It may seem like every other parent is finding parenting a walk in the park but I can assure you they’re most probably not! If you’re finding the bonding process hard it is not a reflection on you as a parent. Your body and mind have been through a huge change! The birth and early days may not have gone exactly as you’d planned as well and this is not your fault!

It is so important to forgive yourself for these feelings and to seek help if you feel you need it, there really is no shame in talking about this. You are an amazing parent and you will get through this difficult time, it might take a few months, but that’s not something you should feel ashamed about. Other parents you know got there earlier, that is their parenting journey. You will get the close bond with your baby that you have looked forward to throughout your pregnancy and it will be worth the wait. Some things you can plan for during the pregnancy, unfortunately this is one of those things you can’t and you don’t expect it to happen to you. I hope that by talking about this that other parents won’t feel alone like I did in those early months. When I look back on those times I don’t associate it with those bad feelings anymore, I only remember the good.

Writing this has made me feel quite emotional because I now have such an inseparable bond with my daughter and we are so happy. I hope my daughter knows how much she means to me everyday and I ho
pe she never doubts my love for her. I never saw myself getting here but once I did it made me feel like the richest woman alive. I have no doubt that you will get there too. 


Lucy At Home

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. 

 


If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

harriet labour
 
 
sarah birth story
 
tongue tie
 
We are linking up to some of these amazing blog linkies!
 
Mummies Waiting

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

 

Cuddle Fairy

My breastfeeding story

During my pregnancy breastfeeding was the only option I wanted for my baby, well for the first few months at least. My mum had bought me a steriliser, bottles, the teats, the bottle brush and although I was ever so grateful, in the back of my mind I thought “I want to breastfeed, so these won’t be useful… or at least not for a while.”

I wish I could say that breastfeeding worked for me but I can’t.
During my pregnancy breastfeeding was the only option I wanted for my baby, well for the first few months at least. My mum had bought me a steriliser, bottles, the teats, the bottle brush and although I was ever so grateful, in the back of my mind I thought “I want to breastfeed, so these won’t be useful… or at least not for a while.”

I watched the breastfeeding DVD to prepare myself and I attended a parent event where I spoke to two very lovely ladies who demonstrated with a woollen boob just how the baby would latch on. I found some different outfits to wear for breastfeeding and I even spoke to people to find out where I could breastfeed in town. I prepared myself for the odd person I was undoubtedly going to meet who would have a problem with my feeding  in public. How did other people deal with it? I read articles to find out. I knew it might be a bit difficult at first, but this was what I wanted and I was going to keep trying until it worked. I wanted to provide the milk for my baby and everyone I spoke to at that time had told me it was the best option for my baby.

My contractions started at a parent evening class on the Tuesday. I was too embarrassed to say anything because the lady running the group had joked that she’d “never had anyone go into labour at her pre-natal classes before”, and I was the silly sod who left it a week before my due date to attend the first class! I also attended the class on my own because for some reason, despite the fact it was called a ‘parent event’, it didn’t click in my head that my partner could come. I am going to blame the baby brain for that! I gave birth to my daughter on the Friday.
After giving birth to my daughter, despite feeling exhausted, (as I’m sure is the norm in that situation!), I had a new wave of energy and adrenaline.

This was it, I was going to do it. I was going to provide the food for my daughter.

The rest of that day we had a bit of trouble, but my daughter seemed to be latching on for short times. We were both just learning!

That first night though I must have had my finger permanently on the buzzer for the poor nurses. “I can’t do it.” It just didn’t seem to be working. The nurse would try to help me with the latch on each time. “You’ll get the hang of it.” “You’re tired.” In the end we were all getting a bit frustrated and the nurse thought she would try a premade bottle.

‘Hmmmm ok’, I thought, ‘just this once, just while I get the hang of it, but I don’t want her to get too used to the bottle.’I kept trying that day and as far as I was aware we were getting there.

That afternoon we were able to go home and me and my partner were full of excitement and adrenaline… we were mentally ready for this…
… but our daughter cried and cried and cried and cried.My partner sang to her, rocked her, we fed her, we played music, we even played womb sounds from YouTube.

Nothing was working.
By the early hours of the morning our confidence had been crushed in one foul swoop. The experience from that one night was enough to dampen our spirits for the next few months. We felt like absolute failures and we did the only last thing we could think to do at 2am in the morning and it was to phone for the cavalry. My partner’s mum came over, (I’m sure she was absolutely thrilled at that time of the day), and we were grateful that we weren’t alone because we thought clearly we can’t do this.
“She’s hungry,” she said.She can’t be, I thought. I’ve been feeding her constantly!

“We’re setting up the steriliser.” My partner and his mum proceeded to feed my daughter and I sat in the bedroom and sobbed, for what felt like hours. This isn’t what I wanted!

I’m pretty sure that what I was feeling that night was heart ache.
My partner then confirmed to me that she was feeding quite happily from the bottle. She was feeding from the bottle… but she couldn’t feed from me. This was obviously my fault. All I could think was that I was unable to do something that should have been the most natural thing in the world.
During those early weeks I was expressing milk slowly. I tried the nipple covers too but it just wasn’t happening. I had to accept it in the end that she would be bottle fed.
When my daughter was only a few weeks old we ventured out to some baby groups together. There were mums of course at the groups and they were breastfeeding. I felt embarrassed. I’d get the bottle out for my daughter and hide away somewhere to feed her. If someone saw me I felt I had to explain why I hadn’t been able to breastfeed… “My milk was slow in coming through.”
Looking back I think why on earth did I feel so embarrassed? It wasn’t a sign that I wasn’t looking after my child properly!
Over the next few weeks it came to light that as well as my milk being very slow, my daughter has a tongue tie which had been making it difficult for her to latch on.It wasn’t MY fault at all! It was no one’s fault.

In those early days you are just trying to do what is best for your baby. It’s all new and it’s all daunting, because you have this little person relying on you to understand what they need when they are crying and it can all feel a bit like trial and error.
I have the utmost respect for mums who breastfeed and I have the utmost respect for those who bottle feed. We are each going through our own parenting journey. We are the specialists in our own children’s needs.
Please go easy on yourself. You are doing the best you can and that’s all you can do.

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.

The New Baby Bubble

I remember coming home from the hospital and seeing my family’s faces light up when they finally got to meet their granddaughter and niece. I remember thinking that nothing could ever ruin this perfect little moment.

The ‘New Baby Bubble’ is amazing… You feel like you’ve been blessed with such a supportive family, a content baby and the perfect daddy to your bundle of joy. I remember coming home from the hospital and seeing my family’s faces light up when they finally got to meet their granddaughter and niece. I remember thinking that nothing could ever ruin this perfect little moment. Then my daughter did, and I’m not lying to you, she did the biggest poo I’ve ever experienced. But it was okay, because Daddy was there. Grabbing a nappy, a new change of clothes and telling me to sit down and take it easy. It was fantastic. I lived at my parent’s house at the time, so even they would take over and help with ‘Wiggles’.

Life in this bubble was perfect and I never wanted to leave it.

I would spend hours just staring at my perfect, content, sleeping daughter just thinking about how this wasn’t bad at all. What were other parents going on about? But that changed so bloody quickly!
Because I’d had a C-section, everyone was very wary of me doing anything. If I got up for anything, I would have everyone screaming at me to sit down and that they’ll get it. Now, for those of you who have never had a child… this gets very annoying very quickly. I was allowed to do two things without getting into trouble. Breastfeed and pee. Which is basically all my daughter would let me do anyway!

Towards the end of week two, the ‘bubble’ was starting to go. The excitement of a new baby had worn off for my family and friends, Daddy was due to go back to work in a couple of days and I had only just realised that I had no idea what the hell I was doing. And then it happened. The ‘bubble’ burst and left me with a very different situation. Daddy was back at work, I was allowed to do things again and everything was down to me.

Shit.

As new mothers, this is where the stress kicks in. We find ourselves frantically searching through MumsNet at 1am to check every little thing. But why are we so afraid of leaving the ‘bubble’ and entering the real world of motherhood?

Midwives and health visitors tell you everything you need to know about being pregnant, how to breastfeed etc. You’ve probably researched what to expect when you’re expecting, watched multiple episodes of One Born Every Minute. Heck, you probably had an app that told you which vegetable your baby was the same size as each week (thankyou BabyCentre). But what you didn’t find out was what happens next. After the excitement has died down, when your midwife signs you off and you’re expected to just know what to do.

And the truth is, nobody knows what they’re doing. They are simply winging it. No two babies are the same, so although other mums may have ‘advice’ on how to calm your baby or how to get them to latch properly, at the end of the day it’s all about doing what works for you. Creating your own routine so that you can create a new ‘bubble’ for you and your little family to live happily every after in… until the next obstacle at least.

No More "Do this, do that" – Let Me Raise My Baby

with all the things I prepared for when I was pregnant I didn’t even think to prepare myself for the endless stream of well meant advice that I was going to listen to, nod along with maybe even consider but mostly just ignore.

It turns out that becoming a parent is a confusing minefield where, at every single step, the whole world wants to give you their two pennies worth and frankly, they are very often wrong, outdated, or occasionally just plain dangerous.
From the day my son was born I had midwives lecturing me about only using one breast per feed and your baby MUST sleep on his back and my mum telling me it was nonsense – “20 minutes on each boob and sleep him on his side” she’d say with the voice of experience. I had people telling me “it’s cluster feeding but it gets better” and people whispering in my ear that it never gets easier. Mums on the internet telling me that he’s overtired and it’s probably my fault and well-meaning parents and in-laws telling me not to give in to his crying because I will make a rod for my own back (I always ignored this one – I’m a cuddler). Even old ladies in the supermarket stop me and tell me how to get him to stop crying, wrong again – he’s actually a bit hungry, I know how to make him stop crying but I’m in the supermarket, leave me alone so I can get this frozen stuff home and feed my child.
No wonder my head was spinning – with all the things I prepared for when I was pregnant I didn’t even think to prepare myself for the endless stream of well meant advice that I was going to listen to, nod along with maybe even consider but mostly just ignore.
The thing is, he’s my baby and he is different from every other baby in the world and I am different from every other parent in the world. That is not to say that there aren’t some very close similarities between him and other babies or between me and other mothers but lets face it, no one is going to have all the answers, you need to work them out for yourselves with a lot of trial and error (read: blood, sweat and tears).
Together we have been muddling through and finding out what works for us – and as luck would have it, every time I think we’ve got it sussed he’ll have a growth spurt or catch a cold. Here we go again, be back to square one, stumbling blindly through it all and accepting advice from all directions before cherry picking the bits that seem to hold the most credit and trying them. 
Of course if there is ever well documented medical advice or safety advice from experts in their field then there is no such thing as ‘mother knows best’. If that kind of information is presented to you and you have been doing the opposite then that is the time you need to swallow your pride and take the advice but please don’t ever get upset if someone points out something that could be safer; they aren’t usually doing it to shame you, they just want what is best for you and your child. 
All that said, I have had some helpful tips and reassurance from all sorts of places – it’s not  all unwelcome advice, but it can be very overwhelming.
I wouldn’t want people to not listen to the people around them that have experience or professional qualifications but I will say this, your baby does not have an instruction manual and you will get to know what works for them and you. If something works and it goes against the advice of your great Aunty Betty because that worked 40 years ago with her babies it doesn’t make you a bad parent – you are doing everything you can for your baby.