Sunday, 20 March 2016

Supporting parents suffering with PND or PTSD

I have been procrastinating over writing this blog post, wondering if I am qualified to give out advice. I have come to the conclusion what better person than someone who has come out the other side of a traumatic birth and come through the main difficulties of postnatal depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (whatever label you want to choose it was a very difficult time). So here goes...

PND and hormones: Before, during and after birth every woman's body is affected by a surge of hormones and chemicals which can balance out differently for different people. Some women get a huge surge of oxytocin, others a huge hit of adrenaline. This leaves you in completely different states, one mother is loved-up, the other in a heightened state of anxiety. Hormones take a long time to recover equilibrium and sometimes need a helping hand (see 'take the meds' below). Months or even years later women can still feel the after effects of PND or PTSD. If you've felt confused, angry, anxious or tearful after birth those hormones might need bringing into line.

It does not discriminate: I am an outgoing, happy, loving lady. I have lots of experience with children and expected to love every second of motherhood. I think that is part of why I felt so robbed. PND is not just finding motherhood hard, it is an illness which prevents you from being yourself at a time when you most want to be loving and caring.

You are not at fault: Mother's guilt can be overwhelming when you are suffering with PND or PTSD. When dealing with these illnesses the usual advice does not apply. You need to do what is best for you and your baby. I moved my son into his own room at 6 weeks, you may gasp but it helped us all to get a good nights sleep. I stopped breastfeeding when he was 7 weeks, every time he fed I felt drained and cried. I should have stopped earlier but the huge pressure made me carry on. Bottle feeding helped us to bond and I have no regrets now. He is a happy healthy toddler and we are very close. 

Your inner voice could be hurting you: 'I don't want to feel this way, I should be good at this, I'm not fit to be a mother, I should love my baby.' I could go on and on about the inner monologue which may be undermining you. Instead you could try to accept that PND or PTSD are making you have these feelings. Try to be kind to yourself and forgiving during this difficult time. Tell yourself.. 'it's okay to feel this way, these feelings will pass' or 'I am okay just as I am.'

Sit with the feelings: If you feel sad.. feel sad. If you feel anxious.. feel anxious. These are feelings which cause a physical reaction like tears, a tightening of your chest or heart palpitations. The more you battle or wish they weren't there the stronger the feelings can become. Try saying to yourself, 'today I feel sad and that's okay.'

Take the meds: A friend of mine said that, at first medication made her feel worse. She was worried about the stigma and the reaction of others. Then slowly the meds started working and she felt like the clouds had parted and through that gap a tiny ray of light shone. She began to feel better, sleep better and then her feelings towards her child began to emerge and grow. She realised that if a pill can make her feel normal again no-one else has the right to judge her decision.

Keep talking: Try to share how you are feeling with your partner, family or friends. If there really is no-one who understands tell a GP who you trust. You need to get support with what you are going through and your GP can refer you to a counsellor who should be able to support you. You can also go privately, make sure you find a counsellor you trust. I needed a whole team of people to pull me out of my dark place including my husband, friends, doctors, counsellors and my family.

Accept help: My friends who had been through similar experiences were a huge help but so too were the family members and friends who offered practical help. Try not to be too proud or guilty to accept help with cooking, cleaning or childcare... I am so much closer to everyone who helped me to recover.

Try not to compare yourself to others: When I finally posted pictures on Facebook I was smiling, it was a good day, the sun was out and I was cuddling my son, all looked well with the world. Only those on the inside knew that I had cried my way through the previous days or hours. I have since learned that a cousin, my best friend and a colleague of mine were all posting pictures of their lovely new families, while secretly battling PND.

Lift the dark clouds with fresh air and exercise: Sometimes I felt so hopeless I would protest and say nothing could help me. I would think going for a walk was silly, how could it possibly lift my sadness, then I would put my baby in his pram and walk. I literally walked off my blues. I always felt better after getting outside, it felt like freedom, it felt like a release and it felt like normality to be surrounded by others.

See people: If you feel up to it, go out to playgroups or classes. See if your health visitor can recommend a local support group. I did baby massage with the health visitors and met some lovely other Mums who were also struggling. It was a wonderful thing to do and it helped to build my confidence as a new Mum.

It is hard on relationships: Having a baby is challenging but having a baby after a traumatic birth and while dealing with PND is a massive strain. Understand that your husband might also feel anxious, sad, lonely and scared. He too thought that fatherhood would be a magical time and this time of transition is hugely hard on both of you. All I can say is, seek as much support as you can, concentrate on yourselves as well as the baby. Allow yourselves some 'me' time even if that is just a warm bath or a jog. Also, try to put in some couple time, I know this is very hard at the beginning, but it is important. If you feel your partner does not understand get him to read a book about PND, this can really help him to see things from your perspective and to understand how he can help you.

Remember there is life beyond this: I kept a diary as I was getting better, when I had bad days I would look back and see that I'd had a good day a few days previously. I would read about my positive mood on that day and it would give me hope. Then one day I thought 'I can't remember my last bad day' I looked back through my diary and realised I'd had weeks and weeks of good days!

Am I completely better? I still have some issues with anxiety and I am working through those but I am back to my old self. I smile, laugh and joke just as before, maybe even more, as having known such darkness I now enjoy the light so much.

I used to count down the days to my son's next milestone, now I want him to stay as he is for just a little bit longer. I know not everyone gets their happy ending as quickly as I have and I know how hard this illness is but my best advice is keep going because the day you wake up and realise you've had more good days than bad is a day worth waiting for.

Some other places to seek support: -National PND support groups - Volunteers offering practical help to families with one child or more. - Twitter Peer support and blog for anyone experiencing PND or PTSD - support and counselling and helpline - Postnatal illness support and helpline - Information and peer support through Facebook group

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Mami 2 Five

Sunday, 6 March 2016

If relationships were like having a baby

If relationships were like having a baby

So you're in a new relationship..

1) Getting to know one another

Some relationships start with a burst of love, others with a little trickle which grows and some start with you feeling like a bewildered mess of emotions with both partners not really sure what they've let themselves in for. Let me re-assure you all these feelings are completely normal!

2) Co-habiting

Feelings of wanting to have a minutes peace, wanting a tidy house, wanting there to be less washing or wanting to run away screaming should not alarm you. The first few months of co-habiting can be tricky especially when your new addition is a smelly, noisy, whiney person who is not good with communication skills.

3) Co-sleeping

If you co-sleep you may roll over and squash your partner - so please don't do that.

Kissing (akin to breastfeeding)

When kissing, hold the back of your partner's head firmly and thrust it forward, towards your face. Ensure there is a tight seal otherwise you may be unsuccessful and your partner pull away or worse bite you! DO NOT try your own technique of simply softly holding you partner and gently introducing them to kissing, even though  this has been used for centuries it is WRONG and does not work.

You must persevere even if your partner seems unhappy or wails incessantly - even if this makes you miserable.

It is okay to kiss in public but please cover yourselves with a designer veil when doing so.

4) Cuddling

Always cuddle your partner on the floor.. not on a bed, never on a bed! You and your partner may roll off the bed and seriously injure yourselves.

5) Eating

Always feed your partner organic only produce as any introduction of processed food could cause ill health and ultimately you are poisoning your partner. If you cannot afford organic food it's better you both starve.

If your partner was not breastfed as a child dump them - their immune system has been hugely compromised by their selfish mother.

6) Professional help

Now you are in a new relationship someone will be assigned to come into your home every week to assess how your relationship is going. This will not be a person chosen by you, who has the same ideals, hopes and dreams. It will not even be someone who knows you, it will be a complete stranger.

As you are in a vulnerable state this person will advise you on how best to conduct your relationship. 99% of these professionals are lovely, caring and knowledgable. Good luck if you get the 1%.

7) Your 1 year anniversary

Congratulations! You have made it through 1 year together.

At this point, you are beginning to feel like you really know one another.

If things are going well all professional support will be withdrawn and you will now soar through the rest of your relationship like a consumate professional, either that or you'll completely blag it like the rest of us. Enjoy!

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Mami 2 Five

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Losing the baby weight (or not)

Me: I just don’t seem to be able to lose the baby weight.

GP: What does your day consist of?

I wake up at around 7am (as that is the time my son wakes) and change his nappy then go downstairs to get him his breakfast & drink. Every morning, after breakfast, I sit on the floor and put together an elaborate train set for him, which he plays with for 10 minutes before he beckons me to join him on the floor and I pretend to be Percy/James or some other Thomas character.. he is always Thomas!

I empty the dishwasher, restack with pots from the night before & put on a wash load, I then grab some toast & tea before folding the dry washing from the previous day.

I then sit on the floor playing number or alphabet games with my son for 10 minutes.

After that we take the clean washing upstairs and distribute it into various drawers and rooms. I then give him a wash, clean his teeth and get him dressed. We tidy the upstairs, from the disarray caused by spending half an hour upstairs, e.g. toys, books, PJ’s everywhere.

We go back downstairs, I rebuild his train-set (which he has an amazing ability of re-arranging so it no longer fits together). I clear away the breakfast pots and clean down the kitchen surfaces. It is now getting close to 9am and I have been on the go, non-stop for 2 hours.

At this point we normally go out to a class, playgroup or friends house, which means my mind is alert, overseeing my child, but my body is not really on the move. However, this is not relaxation time and as such by the time I’ve got home, prepared myself & Ben’s lunch, cleared the dishes hung out another load of washing and put a new load in, it is time for a well deserved rest. I put my son to bed for a nap.

I then do any online business, shopping, making appointments & any household filing.

Then I sit for an hour of pure bliss.

When my son wakes we watch TV for half an hour and then we play games, do art activities or have a dance around. I then prepare the tea for all of us, hang out another load of washing, eat tea, clear up or bath Benji & put him to bed.

Benji is asleep by 7.30 and the chores are all done by 8pm, then my hubby & I sit down for an hour of well-deserved TV before going to bed at 9ish, as we are exhausted.

GP: And do you see anywhere you could make a change to add in those 20 minutes of exercise?

Me: Ahhhhh, I can see now it’s an impossibility! Thank you for your time, I feel much better.
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Worry monkeys

The worry monkeys come at night,
They creep inside my brain,
They wait until I'm sleeping tight,
Then wake me up again,

They toss my worries in the air,
And make me feel quite nervous,
They tell me that life isn't fair,
And all I do is worthless,

I worry about everything,
That could possibly go wrong,
I feel like such a weakling,
When really I'm quite strong,

In the morning I feel drained,
Rather than refreshed,
Those worry monkeys in my brain,
Won't let me get my rest.

Anyone else had this problem?

The worry monkeys overwhelmed me when I had PTSD & I literally could not close my eyes. Luckily for me counselling & meds really helped, my worry monkeys are being controlled.

What do you do to get rid of yours?

Love to hear from you - comment below or Twitter @newmumkaboom

Newmumkaboom x

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Real mummy life

Idealistic pre-mummy + Frantic actual mummy = Real mummy life

Things I thought I would do on maternity leave..

  • be very tired
  • stare lovingly at the baby for hours
  • sleep when the baby slept
  • sleep with the baby next to me
  • enjoy smiles and giggles from the baby
  • sunbathe while the baby slept
  • go out for coffees and lunches
  • have date nights while the baby's with a babysitter

Things I actually did on my maternity leave...

  • Realised why sleep deprivation is used as a tool of torture
  • stared at the baby with a growing sense of confusion
  • discovered that some babies grunt loudly when sleeping (apparently quite normal -who knew?!?)
  • realised that grunting makes it impossible to sleep next to the baby
  • found out that babies don't smile or giggle for bloody ages.. they just poop, eat and cry
  • found out that instead of sunbathing, coffees and lunches I would be constantly feeding, changing, washing and sleeping
  • As for date nights... ha, my husband was lucky if he found me dressed in something other than a fluffy dressing gown covered in baby sick & smelling of poop - I certainly wasn't bringing sexy back  

Things I thought I would do with a toddler...

  • finally leave the toddler with a friend so my husband and I could have a date night
  • teach my toddler lots of new things
  • get stupidly excited when my toddler learned something new
  • dance around the living room to cheesy music
  • jump in lots of puddles
  • sing songs
  • run and run until we could run no more
  • kiss my toddler lots
  • cuddle my toddler a bit too much
  • giggle until our tummies hurt

Things I actually do with my toddler...

  • all of the above
I hope my lists made you smile! 

Below is a pic of my little man joining in with some dancing at Kew Gardens - you can't see it but he's smiling from ear to ear. 

Having a baby is really hard work for all new parents. This especially true for parents who experience PND or PTSD. There is support if you are struggling, please seek help through your GP you can be referred through the NHS or through private healthcare.

It might take a while to get there but you can recover... you are great parents fighting to emerge from a grey cloud. Keep on going ... it's worth the fight. 

Mums' Days

I am taking part in #thebabyformula

Baby Brain Memoirs

Monday, 2 November 2015


In triage I was told I was doing great, 
That the baby’s now coming and it’s all down to fate,
I entrusted myself to that clinical place, 
I trusted the professionals to keep me safe,  

The doula told me that I could breath through the pain, 
That I didn’t need to feel anguish or shame, 
That my baby was coming in this lovely room,
With candles and music and it would happen so soon,

But our perfect birth was not meant to be, 
The midwives rushed in just to tell me, 
The decision to put you here was all wrong, 
The baby’s in danger you’re being moved along,

The words you spoke ripped through my calm,
They caused me to feel unsafe and alarmed,
The next contraction hit like a wave,
A pain so harsh it ripped me away, 

After that time went by in a blur, 
You told us how unlucky we were, 
To be there on the busiest day, 
With no-one available to relieve my pain,

I entrusted myself to that clinical place, 
I trusted the professionals to keep me safe,  
But there weren’t enough staff to care for us, 
And now I will tell you what that does, 

It causes women to suffer in pain, 
It makes them scared to do it again, 
It sends their mind to a dark place, 
It wipes the smile off of their face, 

It triggers nightmares, panic and tears,
It fills women full of anguish and fears, 
It takes women who should be great Mums,
And makes them feel like terrible ones, 

This is too high a price to pay, 
For any woman on any day,
Ensuring a woman has a supported birth,
Now can you tell me what that’s worth?

Friday, 30 October 2015

Representing! Baby dolls for boys

Not really a list more of a catalogue of what I did when faced with the question do I buy my boy a doll?

So, my little man is starting to engage in small world play and I was faced with the question - Do I get him a doll? Now the husbands immediate response was obviously NO. However, I managed to talk him around pretty swiftly after explaining as a 'new man' he had changed as many nappies as me, so why is it strange if his son has a baby doll? At which point he started to relent. I went on to explain that small world play brings on a wealth of routine language which otherwise boys can miss. (This can also be achieved with teddy but I did not tell my husband that)We change the baby's nappy, the baby goes to potty, we feed the baby etc. 

Now I had got the husbands agreement, with the caveat that we were to get him boy baby doll, I set about looking on google for said doll. (By the way, now I am well into recovery from the PTSD, shopping is a fun, leisurely activity rather than that frantic, obsessive type of shopping! As discussed in previous post here.

I decided that if my boy was only getting one doll, we should get one that:
- looked like him 
- one that represented his origins
- I'm South American and my husband is white 
- so I needed a doll somewhere in-between

Here I ran into the first problem, most baby dolls in the UK are white, dark brown or black. He is none of the above so I:

- searched for mixed-race dolls and drew a blank
- searched in America - again nothing
- then I found an American thread which advised looking for a hispanic doll.. bingo! I found this gorgeous baby doll.


Now this baby doll cost me £25 and took weeks to come over from the states, it was also quite small when it arrived but I felt it was worth it, to give my son a doll which he could relate to. One which he could feel close to & which he could bond with. 

The day it arrived I unwrapped it with excitement and handed him his new baby. I carefully showed him how we put the baby to bed, and hug and kiss the baby... after 5 mins of small world play, I looked at him feeling super happy with myself. At which point he chucked the doll in the corner, picked up his train and his power toys and tore off round the living room shouting, "train, hammer, train, hammer, hammer, train".


Mums' Days