The Beautiful Struggle

mmh

 

“Do one thing every day that scares you”, easier said than done. However, for Maternal Mental Health week (30 April – 05 May), I will try my best.

As I write this, the clock is fast nearing midnight, the kitchen is still scattered with the days happenings and my bedroom resembles a mass of suitcases, moving boxes and washing baskets of either dirty laundry or laundry waiting to be put away. I have messages on my phone that I have not had time to answer all day and my to-do list is forever growing.

My youngest daughter is 15 months and when I look back on this time, there are of course moments of joy but overall, I fear there have mostly been moments of anxiety and apprehension. I have an older daughter of 5 years so I am not even what some call a ‘new mother’ but I feel I am struggling at the whole motherhood thing. On the outside I have two wonderfully behaved, polite, beautiful children who adore one another and I walk in the outside world with a smile and an upbeat attitude, internally I feel I am drowning and everyone is watching from the shore but no one is coming to help me.

I remember after the birth of my first child, my health visitor asked how I was feeling, I replied honestly and said I was a little tearful. Instantly her back straightened and she looked at me and listened to what I was saying for the first time it seemed since she arrived. She proceeded to ask me whether I had thoughts of harming my child etc. but not once asking about me. I have never had such thoughts of either harming my children or myself but occasionally still feel tearful and overwhelmed but would not dream of contacting anyone from the medical field for help. For all I know these feelings could be perfectly normal and the sensible less emotional side of me knows it is, but there are times I convince myself I am the only one to feel this way.

The birth of my second daughter was traumatic and recovery was more problematic than for her sister. During the birth of my youngest, not once was I examined in the delivery room. The midwife had her back to me the entire time and I delivered my daughter with no input, guidance or support from the midwife until the very end. Due to complications, I had to go to theatre and the effects of the operation I had still affects me today. My daughter’s tongue and lip tie were not diagnosed effectively in hospital even after being checked at least twice, breast feeding was hard, painful and not at all natural and on top of everything else, I had my eldest daughter to consider. She and I have a special bond and it was extremely hard for both of us in the early days when I was not so readily available for her. I felt I was just expected to cope and I was not allowed to feel anything other than overwhelming joy. Having said this, I think I am getting to terms with motherhood ‘for two’. The guilt I feel for my inability to split in two is lessening as I watch my girls together and witness the love and adoration they share for one another.

I wish I did have someone to talk to though when my youngest was born. Some of the time our feelings of apprehension and lack of confidence and self-worth do not rear their ugly heads until days or even months afterwards. Then they start to build and subsequently you are then dealing with a mountain of negative emotions and a new-born. I am still plagued with feelings that my daughter doesn’t love me or that I am not good enough for my children. For most of the time, I internalise these feelings but I know they are revealed in my lack of confidence and self-doubt as a mother. I think all mothers, first, second, third or even ten-time mothers should be given the opportunity to talk to someone as routine, not just given a leaflet but someone to listen to them. I know of one new mother who returned to work for a very well-known and reputable company a year after her daughter was born, on the outside she had it all she adored her husband and daughter but just weeks after starting back to work she threw herself in front of a train.

We are often taught to be kinder to others for everyone is fighting their own battles. It is similar to motherhood, on the outside we may watch someone enjoying a well-paid job, a bigger house, more money but there will always be battles that person is fighting behind closed doors, and rather than alienating people due to jealousy for their perceived fortune or to castigate others due to their parenting styles/choices children we should offer support and friendship. Depression is still deemed a dirty word, a weakness rather than an illness. We need to change that. We need to normalise the need to talk, particularly with mothers, encouraging the notion that needing to talk does not equate to being a bad mother.

Motherhood is definitely messy. Motherhood is sticky counter tops, it’s toys all over the floor and it’s laundry upon laundry upon laundry but it is also cuddles at bedtime, it is open-mouthed kisses and it’s overwhelming pride at their first steps, first words, first gold star at school. Motherhood is messy for all these reasons but also for all the emotions we face every day. It is messy for all the judgements we receive from the outside world, from fellow mothers, family members and those in the medical profession who are placed there to ‘help’ us.  Motherhood is messy because we are forever fighting to be enough, but we never are. There is never enough time for each of our children, for our partners, for the house, for ourselves. We are never enough. Motherhood is messy because sometimes its sitting beside an untouched fruit bowl while you comfort eat your way through your chocolate and marshmallow reserves in one evening.

This is real motherhood and there is no shame in struggling with the mess and not always enjoying it. It is not a reflection on your affection for your children if you don’t enjoy motherhood all day every day.

As I finish this, the kitchen is scattered with the days happenings, my bedroom still resembles a mass of suitcases, moving boxes and washing baskets of either dirty laundry or laundry waiting to be put away. The fact that I manage to prep for dinner as my little one naps feels like a huge accomplishment, after 3 hours sleep. Motherhood will always be messy but at the same time it is oh so beautiful.

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Opening image: www.passtheproseccoplease.co.uk

Closing image:  www.nextstepintegral.org
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Happy Birthday, James xx

james-imgDear James,

I am so sorry those boys were mean to you and they hurt you.

I am sorry that they were not in school, huddled together in the school playground debating their football team’s performance maybe sharing or swapping football cards. I am sorry that instead they were skipping school, enticing you away from the safety of your mother’s side, forcing you on a 2 ½ mile walk before torturing and killing you on a railway line.

I am sorry they weighed your body down with bricks in the hope of making it look like an accident and that they left you with 42 injuries on your tiny body. I am glad though you were spared of the pain the train would have caused when it severed your body in two.

I am sorry I was not there to save you.

I am sorry that those nasty boys were and still are treated as the victims. I am sorry that  the state has bent over backwards to reward those nasty boys with what was taken from you: your education, your first girlfriend, your first pint, learning to drive even starting your own family.

I am sorry that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time as those nasty boys were watching children and choosing their target.

I am sorry those nasty boys were never punished for what they did to you and your name will always be associated with them.

I am sorry you never got to see your third birthday.

I am sorry your mummy and daddy has had to fight for justice for you all these years and no one has or is listening.  *

I am sorry I never got to meet you.

I am sorry it took what happened to you for people to be appreciative for what they have, myself included. I was a year older than those nasty boys when they hurt you, I do not remember a lot of the news reports about you but I remember you now. I remember you as I kiss my children goodnight, I remember you as I watch them play and run. I remember you as I watch them enjoying what those terrible boys took from you.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy, always remembered, never forgotten. May you always be surrounded by love and laughter.

Rest-in-peace-pictures

 

* More than 211,000 people have signed a petition raised by Denise Fergus, James’ mother, calling for a public enquiry into James’ murder case. Although parliament has finally agreed to debate the petition (after originally refusing to), please do continue to sign and show support for little James who would have been 28 years old: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/206851.

You can also show your support for James by visiting www.forjames.org, a charity set up by his mother to help and support young people who have suffered either through bereavement, a victim of crime, hatred or bullying.

 

Opening image: forjames.org

Closing image: clashroyale.wikia.com

 

 

 

A Letter to my Second-Born Child

mother and baby

My Darling Girl,

Nobody warned me that one moment you would be a new-born baby lying in my arms and the next moment you will suddenly be a year old.  You came into a family already with a set of rules and routines but you slotted right in as if you were always there.

We have been a team from the start as due to poor care during your delivery, it was only you and I working in a rhythm that bought you into the world.  You slept in my arms your first night a little ball of vulnerability I promised to protect with every fibre of my being.  In the blink of an eye, you no longer seem a little ball of vulnerability as you stretch out on my chest in your twosies pyjamas that you are fast growing out of. But, I still whisper my promises to you every night to protect you with every fibre of my being.

Do not for one second allow anyone to make you feel second-best. You were so wanted by all of us. It really is true that when a mother has children her heart grows to accommodate the love. Like you I am my mother’s last and there remains something special in being a mother’s last. You have made motherhood feel brand new.

We have shared special moments this year that I will forever hold dear such as the way you fall asleep in my arms, resting your head on my shoulder, clutching a toy or item you have quickly grown an attachment to that day, whether it be a teddy or a little bottle of olbas oil. Once you are ready to sleep, you bury it between the two of our bodies, tucking it down safe. I will miss your open-mouthed kisses, the way you raise your head from my shoulder, look at me and smile before you kiss me on the lips and go back to sleep.

Every day I feel so lucky to experience motherhood again but also to experience it with you. No matter how old you are when you read these words I hope it reminds you that your Mummy loves you more than anyone. No matter where you are, what you do that will never change. I love you and your sister equally, regardless of your birth order. Your clothes and toys may be hand me downs from your sister but my love for you is most certainly brand new and I promise you now it will forever remain that way.

Thank you, my darling girl, for coming into the world. Thank you for completing our family and showering it with your love and laughter. Thank you for your patience and your smiles, your open-mouthed kisses and your night time cuddles. I can’t wait to spend the rest of our days together with you, loving you, guiding you and nurturing you.

Happy Birthday my little flower,

Love Always,

xxxxxx Mama xxxxxx

 

Opening image: thelibertarianrepublic.com

A Promise Of Kindness

images2018

It’s that iconic time of the year again. The time for looking forward to new beginnings and fresh starts. Resolutions and promises. The time for new hope. It was at this time in previous years, I would make grand promises and resolutions for change that I would invariably break before the sun set on the first month of the year.

It’s that iconic time of the year again. The time for also looking back and reflecting on what has been. Of facing our regrets and remembering what we have tried so hard to forget throughout the past year. Fortunately for me, the birth of my second daughter has overshadowed many more melancholic times and looking back on the past year all I see is our family becoming complete.

I recently came across a wonderful video by the wonderful Kristina Kuzmic, entitled “The Things We Tell Ourselves” and it resonated wholeheartedly with me. There have been things I have told myself this past year I would not dream of saying to anyone else. So, instead of making a long list of resolutions and promises, I will be making one change this year. To be kind to myself but also to push myself. To be strong enough to ignore the television in the lounge and write. To grab whatever time I have as a parent and achieve what I need to, rather than using tiredness or having children as an excuse. I do not want to be in the same position as I am right now. I may not be the CEO in a multi-million company but I am the CEO of the company that is most important. Despite this, I want to write more. I want to read more. I want to sleep more. I want to like myself more and in order to do that I need to be kinder.

So in order to be kinder, I will be writing once a month on my blog on various elements of 2018 including my dream of finally publishing a public piece of work that I have delayed for five years now. I want to fall asleep reading or listening to music rather than trawling through social media sites or Amazon.

dale street 2 1984

So with the help of Kristina, I want to be kinder to myself. I want to tell the little girl in this picture that she is good enough. That it is okay for her to be first sometimes. That she is a good mum, successful and important. She is a good person and valuable. When I think of what I have told myself this past year of my performance as a mother and my value as a person, it breaks my heart that I have in essence been telling this innocent little girl who is an image of both my daughters and how I would feel if anyone would ever be so harsh to my girls.

So as Big Ben chimes in 2018, I look forward to much of the same as this year but more importantly I look forward to treating myself a little more kindly. So Happy New Year, everyone. May it be a year full of love, happiness and more importantly kindness.

 

Opening image: medicalnewstoday.com

Second image: my own

Dreams Really Do Come True

love you celine

Tuesday night a dream came true.  I fought back fear and was seated in the O2 arena, listening to what some have deemed the eighth wonder of the world: Celine Dion.  I say fought back my fear due to the recent terror attacks in London. I was debating with myself whether it was selfish of me to go. What if something did happen?  Having children has definitely made me more fearful. More fearful of everything.

I was very uneasy of leaving my children anyway, my youngest is not even 4 months and my eldest is old enough to know that I won’t be home for bedtime cuddles and kisses. Getting to the O2, the security was much more stringent than I remember and despite my earlier protestations my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful meal together prior to entering the actual arena. To be honest, I felt uneasy throughout the night and when we found our seats I couldn’t help but look for the nearest fire exit and wonder how many people could make it out of the arena safely.

It was not long until Celine’s supporting act entered the stage. I had not heard of Veronic DiCaire before but I hope this night was not the last time. She was beyond amazing and although I knew Celine was coming on stage as soon as Veronic completed her set, I was left wanting more. She reminded me a lot of Celine in her looks, the way she spoke (as a French/Canadian she had the exact same accent) and she definitely warmed the arena with her voice and her charm. Commenting on the recent terror attacks, she remarked on the British resilience with such feeling, I was left in tears. She remarked on the need to celebrate music and that was exactly what we did. Terrorism is more than how many people are killed (as heart-breaking as each death is) but how much fear they bring to our lives. They want us to stop living as we do and I am so glad that I refused to let them win.

Excitement was building when the time came for Celine to come on stage.  What seemed to be from out of nowhere she was there.  Although the concert tickets were sold out Celine Dion is able to make you feel she is performing to you only.  She converses with the crowd throughout the show with humour and compassion and you feel she is talking directly to you. It all seemed so natural and unrehearsed. There was no grand display on stage, or grand costume changes. It felt more about being there for one another rather than putting on a show with grand lighting effects.  My husband fortunately brought good seats, however towards the end of the show, Celine broke with protocol and walked off stage, through the crowd and sang the last song from a podium less than 15 feet away from where our seats were. Having an aisle seat meant that Celine walked straight past me. Most people had their phones up to their faces and taking pictures but I wanted to remember that moment.  The moment she looked at me and smiled. The moment I felt that she and I were the only two people in that arena.

She may be thirteen years older than me but I feel I can relate to her on so many levels, as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister. We have both suffered the loss of a loved one through Cancer and know that grief is like the disease itself. You will forever be recovering rather than free from it. As she dedicated the song to the victims of the Manchester and London terror attacks, you could feel and hear the compassion she felt for everyone. 

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Celine Dion, despite her ‘diva’ status has no pretence in front of others, there was a moment when she was overcome with emotion during the concert. She is not shy at showing her feelings or at laughing and joking, even at herself. I feel I have walked away from the concert with a new friend. For me she is so relatable on so many levels as a person rather than a product that just happens to sing beautiful music. It was the memories of her singing at the O2 that helped me through soothing a feverish 4 month old to sleep in 33 degree heat while her older sister was crying for me to cuddle her. 

So many people say it is risky meeting your idols and that often our expectations do not meet the reality. Watching Celine at the O2 was reminiscent of seeing my daughter walking behind Elsa in the parade at Disneyland. Elsa spotted her and several times blew her kisses, made a heart and even sent her some magic. The look on my daughter’s face was unforgettable. Now I know how she felt. Reality did not meet expectations, it exceeded them. Not only that but I am determined to keep those feelings safely tucked away for times when I need to draw on them. Like last night.

It just goes to show that you never know the effect you have on people. In a similar fashion, you never know what is going on behind closed doors, behind the smiles that people portray.  That is why we must always be gentler with people, kinder and less inclined to judge them. I had always known that and have tried to put that in practice in my relations with other people, however it was watching Celine that bought it home for me. There is a reason that Celine Dion is as successful as she is, having a good voice is not enough. You need to be likeable. Relatable. Human. That is exactly what she is.

Celine

Opening image: my own

Second image: www.metro.co.uk

Closing image: blastingnews.com

The Silent Cry of Mothers

baby-fingers-motherWe  have seen a black US president, the UK is now governed under its second female prime minister, we have legalised same-sex marriages and depression and mental health issues are now beginning to come to the fore and slowly becoming less and less of a ‘dirty word’ attributed more to the unfortunate deaths of famous, well-known personalities than any form of social awareness.

Recently I have come across an article describing the unfortunate suicide of an acquaintance and a new mother. Rather than writing about her mental health issues and lack of medical support and diagnosis, sordid details of her death and her past have instead been published in detail in what I am presuming is a delusional act of raising awareness.

What puzzles me is why there was a need to report it so publicly online and via paper media ensuring that the details contained will remain within the public domain. She was not a public figure but a mother possibly battling the proven medical condition flippantly termed as the ‘baby blues’. Should her symptoms have been taken more seriously, she may still be here, watching her daughter grow.

Unfortunately there is such a fine line between the “baby blues” and post-natal/partum depression that many more women are suffering unnecessarily and in silence, particularly as it does not only affect ‘new mothers’. As with every disease, the longer it is left untreated, the worse it gets. The trouble is, those suffering from baby blues fear they have depression, and similarly those suffering from depression are not provided with sufficient care to have the mechanisms in which to manage their depression.

post-partum-depression

It has been proven by European scientists that pregnancy not only alters a woman’s body (sometimes permanently) but also introduces a chemical imbalance within a woman’s internal system that unfortunately also remains permanent, particularly if the new mother has a tendency for vulnerable thoughts and acts. In fact in just analysing the brain function of women, scientists were able to pinpoint which of the women were or had been pregnant and which had not. However, this was not mentioned in the article.

We need more social awareness of this condition following pregnancy and those entrusted with our care need sufficient knowledge and training in dealing with such symptoms. With regard to the sad and preventable story of my acquaintance to whom this blog post is dedicated, to have feelings of mental instability following the birth of her daughter and having previously been diagnosed with mental health issues but only being prescribed sleeping pills from her GP  is frankly a severe gross misconduct of care.

bad-momentsMore attention needs to be paid to the existence of post-natal depression so that new mothers are not living in fear of having their children taken away from them or being classed as bad mothers if they seek help. How long will it take before mothers will no longer be afraid to admit that motherhood is not a natural state for everyone? That it is a struggle and remains so for the rest of their lives? How many lives will have to be irrevocably changed before adequate measures are put into place? How many trashy, sordid and disrespectful articles will need to be written in the name of journalism, raking up feelings and hurting those left behind before a decent article is written that raises awareness of issues so many women face daily yet silently?

As a society we are proud of our changing attitudes to social issues yet depression and mental health issues remain on the back burner of our social conscience. It is as much a disease as Cancer yet sadly preventable if taken seriously and diagnosed properly. People should be treated as individual people. We should not be a tick boxing exercise and just because my acquaintance may not have had a troubling home life and had a secure and respectful job, does not mean that she was not depressed. Depression is not necessarily associated by external factors but is a mental health issue. A chemical imbalance. An unfortunate disease that can not be helped and is not the fault of the sufferer.

Due to the inadequate and thoughtless care from the medical profession and the insensitive, callous reporting, a little girl will have no memories of her mother and will grow up surrounded by the sordid details and may I say proven discrepancies of her mother’s death. If my acquaintance’s daughter reads anything concerning her mother’s death online years from now, I hope that it is this: your mother loved you and it was not your fault, neither was it hers. It was ours and I’m sorry.

Hands make heart shape

If you are experiencing feelings and emotions of post-natal depression or know someone who is, please do reach out for help.

The Samaritans 
Mind


Further reading:

www.bbc.co.uk

www.herviewfromhome.com


Opening image: www.abc.net.au

Second image: slideplayer.com

Third image: littlecackles.wordpress.com

Closing image: girlpowerhour.com

Dunblane, Twenty Years On.

Dunblane SnowdropsI was 14 years old on 13th March 1996 and to my memory in English class when we were told there had been a shooting at a primary school in Scotland in a village I had not heard of. At 14 years old, I could never really comprehend what had happened. I watched the news reports and read the newspaper articles and I brought the charity single which made it to number one in the charts. I never even thought to try and grasp how those mothers felt the following weekend on Mother’s Day.

The trouble with motherhood is that it makes you so much more vulnerable to feelings you never knew you could have. Every week day I hug my daughter and kiss her goodbye as I drop her off at nursery. I say goodbye to her teachers whom I trust with her care. As I walk past the window I look in and watch her for a minute or two, running around with her friends, playing dress-up or showing her teachers the clothes  and shoes she chose to wear that day.

I still after three months of her starting there, get butterflies as I sit in the car outside the school gates waiting to collect her and I hope I will never take for granted hearing her name being called at home time and having her showering me with kisses as I struggle to help her with her coat.

My 14 year old heart went out to all those families who lost their loved one that day but 20 years on, my heart as a mother is breaking for those parents at the school waiting for six hours for news of their children’s welfare, and then coming to terms with the news and having to live with it afterwards.

Not only did they carry themselves with dignity, but it is with thanks to those grieving parents that our gun control is as stringent as it is, with no further school shootings. Their political campaign in the midst of their grief makes their achievements all the more commendable. The killer was known to the police and yet had done nothing against the law up to the point of opening the door to that gymnasium twenty years ago today.

They campaigned so that our children will not need to be identified by the name tags on their clothes or by school photographs. They campaigned so that we will always hear our children’s names being called at home time and so that we could always sneak glances in the window and watch our children play.

Evil entered the school grounds on that day but in the end love prevailed and twenty years on that is what we should remember. We should remember the beautiful children, their teacher Mrs. Mayor and the love that returned from that gymnasium.

For the Bairns of Dunblane.

 

 Opening image: www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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