What motherhood means to me

Motherhood… Something I never imagined myself writing about at 22. After being told it was unlikely I would conceive naturally, I had gradually adapted to the idea of not having children, plus I never really saw myself as the maternal type. However the day that I had the positive pregnancy test, something changed… I felt different, physically and mentally.

I felt this overwhelming urge to protect my stomach, even throughout the pregnancy when people were feeling my bump or feeling Oliver kick, I had this need to protect my bump ESPECIALLY when my midwife would feel my bump. In my first/second trimester I was hit/pushed in the bump and that overwhelming sense to protect it got stronger. My mum would joke that it was my maternal instinct kicking in but looking back perhaps she was right.

When I was in labour, I was tiring very quickly. My blood pressure was low and Oliver was being starved of oxygen and the minute the doctor told me he needed to be out quickly something glazed over me and I had this burst of energy. I needed to get my baby boy out and I was prepared to do whatever needed to be done to get him out safely, even if it meant sacrificing my health to do that.

Then once he was born the definition of ‘mum’ changed. When the midwife called me ‘mum’ I almost forgot that, that was me now. My name had changed, and I was suddenly Mum. Despite being poorly with postpartum psychosis/PND after Oliver, I still felt like a mum, I just felt distant in a way, as if he was better off without me.

Looking back I realise now that the reality is nobody else will be Oliver’s mum and no-one ever can or will replace me in his world. He will never look at anyone the way he looks at me. Even now some nights I look at him in utter disbelief that I made him, I grew his little eyelashes and his massive feet…I did that. All 8lb 11oz of him.

I guess it’s true what they say, you do change when you become a Mum. I found myself looking at every way to make my son’s life better, he had colic so I was analysing every food I put in my mouth… If it had too much garlic I would avoid that in case it affected my breast milk and exacerbated his colic. Even now, I work as much and as hard as I can despite my physical and mental health to give me and him the best lives possible.

To me, I guess motherhood means protecting my boy, being everything he needs and more. I want him to grow up knowing he can talk to me about anything and that I will do whatever I can to help him. I want to have the relationship with him where he never has to worry about telling me anything in case I get angry. I want to be that mum who his friends think he is really lucky to have.

Finally and I cannot stress this enough… to me being a mother isn’t about whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, co-sleep or let them cry it out. Working mum or stay at home mum. None of that matters. We are mothers first and foremost and our children are our priorities, not our social beliefs or parenting styles.

What does motherhood mean to you?

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Mental Health Monday: It’s okay not to be okay

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So we all have times where we’re not ourselves, and if you suffer from mental health issues then you’ll know what I mean when I say sometimes it’s okay not to be ok. It has come out in recent news that Demi Lovato was hospitalized due to a relapse in her mental health, and it truly baffles me as to why people felt it was okay to criticize her for this? Mental health isn’t something you can take a tablet to fix it takes years, sometimes lifetimes to be in a good place…and that’s okay because everyone copes in different ways.

I have had my fair share of experiences with mental illness;  Anxiety, depression, paranoia, post-partum psychosis and BPD to name a few. My experiences are completely different from those of my friends and family members that have experienced these conditions, so to people who don’t have any experience with poor mental health (and I mean this in the nicest way), what might have worked for your Aunt Becky’s hairdresser’s niece isn’t going to work for me. You see, this post isn’t just aimed at mums – as humans we are not expected to hold it together every minute of every day, nobody is expecting you to be perfect and that’s okay.

One thing that really grinds my gears on mental health is the stigma surrounding it. Why are people so ashamed and afraid to talk openly about how they are feeling? Having a broken mind is no different to having a broken arm – both take time and care to heal. Of course, in this day and age you still find people saying, “Oh get a grip”, “Mental health isn’t a real illness” or my personal favourite… “Stop attention seeking.” These are always the people that have had no experience of mental illness and I’m super glad life has been peachy keen for them, and I honestly hope they never do experience it.

When I think back to the time my mental health was at it’s worst, I reflect back and look at how far I’ve come. I would be lying if I said I’m completely cured… I still have a hell of a long way to go, but when I look back and remember sitting on the edge of a bridge over the M20, I tell myself it’s okay. I’m only human and some days I’m going to be a mess, some days I’m going to feel worthless but until anyone has walked in my shoes who the hell are they to judge me?

Recently, I discovered a young person quite close to me was suffering with depression and self harming, it broke my heart that they felt they couldn’t talk to anyone about it. When I asked them why they didn’t talk to anyone they replied, “people will think I’m a freak, I have seen how people at school get treated for being like this and I don’t want that,” and I was left speechless. Why do we live in a world where people, even more so young people, can’t talk about their mental well-being in fear of being bullied for it? Why do they feel they can’t discuss it openly or freely without fear of being judged?

So my darlings, don’t ever be ashamed of who you are or what you are going through, you are NEVER alone and you will get through this. You are worth so much more than you feel you are and it’s okay not to be okay.

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(Mental Health Monday): Maternal Mental Health awareness week…The night that changed my life

In light of the fact that this week is maternal mental health awareness week, I wanted to do a post about something a bit personal. I’ve previously blogged about how I had postpartum psychosis,  however I didn’t really talk about the thing that changed it all for me, and that was probably the lowest point of the journey for me but equally it was also the start of me getting help. This was the night I was sectioned after trying to take my own life.

It was the 12th of April 2017 and my little boy was 3 months old, I had already been diagnosed with postnatal depression at this point, but I could feel myself getting worse. After an argument at home I almost had an out of body experience, I don’t remember having control of my emotions and took myself on what I thought would be a walk to calm myself down, from then I guess I went into auto pilot…my phone was ringing but I kept ignoring it, after all…I knew my boy was safe at home with his dad and family. My mind was doing over-time making me feel useless – I had all these thoughts rushing through my head and I remember thinking “you’re just a burden on everyone at this point, people like you don’t deserve to be happy”. I snapped out of my auto pilot and found myself stood at a motorway overbridge, I got my phone out to call someone and it had died. I found myself sat on the edge drowning in my thoughts and at this point the adrenaline was starting to kick in. I was ready to go, then I felt from behind me a pull, and two random strangers driving past had got out and pulled me back, one man’s girlfriend had called the police who arrived shortly afterwards but I still remember trying to push them off me because I wanted to jump. The police arrived just as I was pushing the men off me, and used quite strong force to pull me back. At the time I couldn’t understand why they were shouting at me…but looking back, it was the only way they could get through to me.

“people like you don’t deserve to be happy”…
Actually, yes I do deserve happiness, and it took me a long time (and the shock of what I almost did) to realise that
I was placed in the back of the police car where the officers were comforting, they introduced themselves and asked what got me to this state but I couldn’t bring myself to talk. One of the officers rang the crisis team and got their input and shortly after that call I heard something that completely changed my life;
“Amy, it is the 12th of April 2017, the time is currently 20:30 and I am sectioning you under the Mental Health Act of 1983”.

I immediately let out a wail. I thought I would never see my boy again. They assured me all this means is that they would be taking me to a mental health hospital and a place of safety. They rang and asked for an ambulance escort but was told there was a long wait and was told providing I wasn’t going to harm myself there would be no need for an ambulance escort, and at this point I was exhausted so just nodded and said I wouldn’t attempt anything.

The journey there felt like the longest journey of my life, the officers tried to make small talk and shine light on the situation, but I felt numb… I was in no mood for small talk. The officer who wasn’t driving rang my mum and told her what had happened and I felt like I had let my entire family down.
When I arrived at the hospital I was greeted by a team of people, who discussed my situation and said they all just wanted to help. After discussing everything with them, they said I could go home providing I spent a few hours there. For the next 2 weeks I had daily visits from the crisis team, I was heavily sedated for a fortnight for my own wellbeing and, gradually, from then, I have overcome so much with my mental health. I later went on to be diagnosed with BPD/EUPD.  I used to be embarrassed about the night I was sectioned, but now I am open about my experience and not at all ashamed. So, if me blogging about this gives some people knowledge, if it gives some people an insight and helps to end this stigma that we currently have on mental health then that’s even better.
Finally, to the two men who stopped what they were doing that evening and saved my life I am eternally grateful, and I can only apologise for what you witnessed that night.

A Reflection: My first year as a mum

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So as my little boy’s first birthday approaches (5 days to go to be precise ) I’ve found myself overwhelmed with different emotions…Where has the year gone? Am I a good mum? I’m asking myself so many questions and the truth is…I don’t know the answer to any of them. It seems like yesterday I was sat in the corner of the bathroom on the floor with a positive test in my hands shaking and freaking out (little did I know about all of the complications I was due to face with my pregnancy).

I blinked and my pregnancy was over, one minute I was being prepped for an emergency C section at 27 weeks…the next I was having a healthy 8lb 11 due date baby, and now he’s turning 1?! Where has the time gone? There is so much I’ve learned over the past year and I feel there is so much I’m yet to learn because nothing prepares you to be a parent, I read all the books, took all the advice I was given but yet I was still sat at the end of my hospital bed scared with not a single clue what I was doing, which leads me to what I’m about to say next…I’ve decided to share the best 5 things I’ve learnt over the past year.

1. There is NO such thing as “the perfect parent” – I can’t even begin to stress how important that one is. I was so determined to be this super Disney princess-like mother when I was pregnant, but the reality is that I’m sat here in my pyjamas after giving my little boy nuggets for lunch (and yes I did steal a few) and looking back, I’ve put so much pressure on myself to be like other mums. The truth is, I’m still learning…I still find myself messaging the other mummykind mums at 23:45 practically begging for advice to get Oliver to sleep (I have the youngest baby of the group so I always go to them for advice).

2. Things change physically, emotionally and mentally – this one is the biggest thing I’m still coming to terms with. My world has changed, and speaking as someone who hates change…it’s a big deal (even though Oliver is the best thing that has happened to me). I still find myself staring at my body wondering when my mummy tummy will go… I still think it’s pretty unfair that the only thing that has got smaller since having Oliver is my boobs, but there you go! Plus, nobody explains how tiring motherhood is, how you lay awake at night either worrying about your child/children or sit up trying to get them to sleep, making you emotional and mentally drained the next day…I’m admitting now, I’ve been that tired before that I’ve called a customer munchkin at work and found myself humming the peppa pig theme tune. Despite the exhaustion, with parenting comes the overwhelming sense of pride you get when you look at your child, and that moment when you just look at them and you can physically feel your heart bursting with love and pride.

3. Colic. Need I say anymore? The one word that will send shivers down any parent’s spine… I say colic, Oliver had reflux and colic so I’m not sure which one is the lesser of two evils. I remember being a new mum, scared senseless at 4 in the morning convinced something was wrong with my baby, why was he screaming? He was fed, changed, cuddled…the works. Frantically flicking through the pages of the parenting bible then a family member casually said one day “it’s probably just colic, it’s pretty normal”…I remember sat there thinking normal? NORMAL? Nothing about that is normal…but after taking him to doctors and an osteopath (who surprisingly actually helped with his colic) it was just colic and reflux, and it started to fade away once Oliver was about 4 months with the help of infant Gaviscon and ranitidine both prescribed by a GP. Just a tip for any parent with a colicy/reflux baby…Look up the tiger in the tree baby holding pose also carry lots of muslins. I remember having to apologise countless times to Sarah (one of the mummykind mums who is Oliver’s godmother) for the amount he would throw up on her, her sofa and her carpet. 

4. Tongue ties. Ah this takes me back, It all started one day when I was round for a play date with Sarah and Olivia (Sarah is my go to for 99.9% of my baby problems…well all of my problems actually). I remember getting a bit flustered as Oliver kept unlatching while I was trying to breast feed and Sarah mentioned tongue tie, I saw a breast feeding advisor who confirmed it was a tongue tie, but this was at nearly 4 months and I was starting to give up on breast feeding and was put in “boobie bootcamp” as it was called, to get my supply back up in hope to get his tie snipped, but I was so exhausted from post-partum psychosis and other stresses that I found myself giving up the fight and reluctantly accepting the fact it wouldn’t get snipped…so my tip here is never give up that fight.

5. It isn’t all doom, gloom and stress. The past year with Oliver has been packed full of smiles, hugs and laughter. Every day I look at him and feel so proud…especially when I think that at 27 weeks he was given a 50% survival rate with a weight of 2lb 2oz. I look at him and know I’m going to have so many happy memories with him…of course, there are more tears and tantrums to come but for now in light of how fast this year has gone, I’m going to cherish every second I have with him and I now know what they mean when they say a mother’s love is unconditional.

I get called many things but Mum is by far my favourite.

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.

Coping With Postpartum Psychosis

I wouldn’t want to leave the house and I would completely isolate myself from the outside world. Postpartum psychosis led me to being sat on the edge of a bridge on the motorway at night, I was sectioned under the mental health act and taken to a place of safety… the NHS provides incredible support

I thought long and hard about what my first post should be, I wanted it to be something personal yet something people can relate to…. something informative. I decided to write about postpartum psychosis. Now, I know soap dramas have done previous stories but they’re not entirely accurate.

People always stress about post-natal depression but not so much postpartum psychosis, firstly let me give the NHS symptoms of postpartum psychosis;

    • a high mood (mania) – she may talk and think too much or too quickly, feel ‘on top of the world’, or be more sociable than normal
    • a loss of inhibitions
    • paranoia, feeling suspicious or fearful
    • restlessness or agitation
      • a low mood – she may show signs of depression and be withdrawn or tearful, with a lack of energy, loss of appetite, anxiety, irritability or trouble sleeping
    • severe confusion.
My official diagnosis was “post-natal depression with elements of postpartum psychosis”. The stresses of being a new mum had gotten to me, I felt I could hear people talking about me, judging me…I would lay in bed at night and was adamant I could physically hear people talking about me, I wouldn’t want to leave the house and I would completely isolate myself from the outside world. Postpartum psychosis led me to being sat on the edge of a bridge on the motorway at night, I was sectioned under the mental health act and taken to a place of safety… the NHS provides incredible support and I urge anyone with any of the above symptoms to seek medical advice. I was placed on the following medication which helped massively;
  • ·         sertraline 200mg – an anti-depressant that is commonly used for postnatal depression and is safe to breastfeed with
  • ·         risperidone 1mg – an anti-psychotic that unfortunately isn’t safe to breastfeed on
  • ·         zopiclone 3.75mg – a common sleeping tablet
  • ·         diazepam 2mg a tablet used for multiple conditions however used as a sedative in regard to mental health.

My battle is still ongoing, my battle with postpartum psychosis has come to an end, however my battle with postnatal depression is still ongoing, the stresses of being a mother (finances, family stresses and chronic health conditions) are difficult to overcome. I feel this country has a stigma on mental health especially postnatal depression, but this blog is very open and supportive to mental health.
Postpartum psychosis isn’t as commonly spoken about as postnatal depression, however is gradually becoming more common, more mums are speaking out about it and more awareness is being made. I hope this small introductory post from me has been helpful, and I look forward to writing more in the future 😊

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