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

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The Myths of Labour and Motherhood Revealed

Mother and ChildIt has been two months since my last blog post, not including the Alphabet Games Review from WordPress.com. It’s no surprising really as three days after The Casual Vacancy Review my beautiful daughter decided she was ready to enter the world. Since then, I have been knee-deep in nappies, struggling with sleepless nights and coming to terms with the reality of motherhood and also recovering from the realities of labour. I must say my labour experience was not as I expected it would be. There was a time when one midwife refused to see me when I needed her because I wasn’t making a big enough fuss. Even in the delivery suite, high on gas and air I remember looking over at my midwives annoyed because they were not paying attention to my contractions or even telling me when to push. My reality of labour was a far cry from One Born Every Minute I can tell you. I am a person who likes to know what to expect, I watched every episode of One Born Every Minute to learn what to expect in various scenarios, I wanted to feel in control. So for those of you who join me in the quest for control, below is a list of twelve facts I have discovered throughout my pregnancy and early motherhood:

1- Although you may not necessarily forget the pain of labour, you forget the intensity of it more or less instantly (at least I did).

2- Despite the sunny imagery of motherhood, you may not feel a surge of love for your baby straight away. I felt a great need to protect my daughter but only felt the overpowering wave of motherly love once we got home two days later.

3- The  recovery process does not end after labour. Do not expect other people who have not had children to understand this. In giving birth you are ultimately setting foot in the boxing ring with Mike Tyson with no protection. You will feel like you have been hit by a tonne of bricks and there is no let up. It will take months to fully recover.

4- No matter how supportive your husband is, parenthood is never an equal partnership. As the mother, you have to carry the child, you have to give birth. Ultimately it is the mother’s ‘say that goes’. The mother opens the gates to fatherhood and as the mother you have the ability to open them as wide as you wish. Take my advice though, do not open the gates so wide that you feel excluded, particularly during the early days.

5- Breastfeeding does not come naturally to many people, you are NOT a failure should you be unable to breastfeed. I was not a breastfed baby and neither were my brother or sister and as 6’6″ and 5’10” respectively, it did not stunt our growth.

6- Everyone fumbles in their journey into parenthood, even the rich and famous and country leaders.

7- Your body will become more or less public property and you will think nothing of showing your body both during and post child-birth to even the most good-looking of doctors (!)

8- Babies are not textbooks. Each one is different. My best advice is not to treat all the advice offered as the be all and end all. Listen to your baby more to understand what he/she wants and needs whether that be bottle feeds, cuddles or nappy changes.

9- It’s not a competition for who gets the first smile, neither is it a competition for who stays up the latest, who changes the most nappies.

10- You can’t learn parenting through Google. Sometimes Mummy really does know best. As Mummy you essentially have to learn read minds and will need to have the confidence to hold fast to your convictions as a parent.

11- You are not superwoman and can not do everything. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to or postpone visitors and/or accept help from family and friends.

12- The role of the father is to support the mother. Pregnancy and birth are very much an experience for the mother and child.

It has now been over 2 months since my daughter was born. Although I do miss my old life of spontaneity, I miss waking up after a good night’s sleep. I miss wearing jewellery, straightening my hair. I miss writing but I would not change motherhood for the world. I will not deny it, it is hard from day one but as a mother you will be rewarded one hundred fold. Looking into the eyes of my daughter, seeing her smile and watching her grow makes everything worthwhile. I would do it all over again in an instant.

Motherhood

Listening To The Voices

As I sit here typing these words to you, a beautiful cot bed has taken residence in my bedroom and a room has been painted with farm animals. A little Christmas stocking is being packed and a ‘going home’ outfit has been brought and cooed over. This time next month, should I have not had my baby, I will be nearly a week overdue. Alternatively my life may already have changed irrevocably. Selfishly not only have I got the excitement of Christmas but also the birth of my first baby to enjoy. Being pregnant at this time I think has made it easier to push aside my fears for labour and concentrate on preparing for Christmas. On the other hand, it has not been easy juggling the different demands on my time. Whichever way I look at it though, for me having a baby at Christmas time is a blessing and I foresee no disadvantages for my child of having a birthday so near Christmas. In fact one of my school friends has a birthday on my baby’s due date and in no way felt disadvantaged growing up.

It is funny that as soon as the pregnancy test confirmed a positive result, as a new parent my mind quickly became flooded with ideas and wants for my child. It is only until recently that I have thought about what I want out of motherhood. My pregnancy has not been easy and despite the fact that my job was far from ideal, I have not relished in being signed of sick for the past four months. I am not one to relax easily and actually enjoy working. For this reason, I have spent the past months working more solidly on my writing and have enjoyed working 9-5 in my office (a.k.a the spare bedroom) on my various writing projects.

Becoming pregnant has not been a private experience, many people have felt it their place to give advice on how to do things, how I should feel, what I should be doing, how I will cope (and in some cases not cope) with the impending birth and life afterwards. It has often been hard for me to find my voice among all the others and this is one of the things that has frightened me the most. I have for a several days sat in front of my laptop willing inspiration to come but my mind seemed to be clouded with the echoes of all the advice that I have been given either in person or via pages of a magazine. I know parenthood will not be easy and I know there will be times when I may want to turn the clock back but what I will find the most difficult to cope with is if I lose my voice. Becoming a mother was all I ever wanted to be since I was a little girl. Having said that, being a mother is not the only thing I want to be known for.

Being the youngest by ten years, I have often been expected to ‘do as I was told’ and have done so on many occasions even though my inner voice has had an opinion of its own. Since my sick leave has begun, I have allowed myself to be immersed in writing sometimes at the cost of housework and to the surprise of some, the nesting instinct of many pregnant women. Ultimately, I want to be taken seriously as a writer and although I know it will be a struggle to juggle motherhood with writing, I will enjoy and am already enjoying the challenge.

In my mind, what is more important than anything is not what you are doing to prepare for parenthood but how you are preparing. I’ve learnt to listen more to my inner voice and although I should have succumbed to the nesting instinct more readily or earlier than I have done, I needed to have those months to myself beforehand. I needed to find my inner voice before it was completely overwhelmed by well-meaning advice, nappies, bottles and sleepless nights.

One of the best pieces of advice I have been given is that in order to look after baby, I need to look after myself. The only voice I truly need to listen to is my own. I may have taken on too much in the lead up to such a life changing event but in listening to me, I have written a children’s book and am in the middle of illustrating it in preparation for self publication; I am reviewing books more regularly now, writing research reports on chosen topics and even examining the possibility of starting my own business. I appreciate that I have been lucky to be given this spare time, however I also appreciate now the age-old expression that your future does not simply fall in your lap, you have to work for it and in some cases burn the candle at both ends.

I am now beginning to think like a writer. Now when people ask me what I do for a living, that is exactly what I will tell them. When I look at my child in a few months time, I will know that I have laid the foundations for a new career and fundamentally their future. What more could I ask for?

Opening Image:  Parchment Place
Second Image: NonStopQuotes.Com
Final Image: Mixedmarriages.wordpress.com

Raising Awareness for GBS

Since becoming pregnant nearly eight months ago, I have worried about every single thing under the sun as I am sure every other pregnant woman out there has done. A pregnant woman seems to quickly become a public possession, even those planning on getting pregnant are soon inundated with advice from those in the seasoned motherhood club. It seems that as soon as you mention the ‘P’ word (either pregnant OR pregnancy), you have herds of people offering advice and soon you will find yourself fighting to make yourself heard, at least that is what I have experienced at times.

Your body is no longer your own. Not only do you have someone growing inside you (my midwives have described pregnancy as having a parasite growing inside you) but your body becomes public property for the medical profession, personally I am more or less prodded and poked at least two times a week by either midwives, GPs, Consultants or Haematologists.

Prior to my first ante-natal appointment, I mistakenly thought I would be inundated with information and advice but it was the complete opposite and the information I have obtained has been through books, television programmes or family and friends including information on the flu and whooping-cough vaccine. I found out about another simple test that could potentially save the life of my baby through  a chance sighting of a pregnancy magazine – one I do not normally buy.

Apparently this test is  not routinely available on the NHS and neither will a midwife raise awareness of it, however apparently a quarter of women are unknowingly but  harmlessly carrying the bug called Group B Streptococcus which is a virus associated with sore throats and is passed to babies either just before or during labour and which is also widely recognised as the most common cause of life threatening infections in new born babies.  To put it bluntly GBS can kill. Pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) are all complications of GBS thereby raising the danger level even higher.

To find out if you are a carrier, you can contact the Doctors Laboratory and they will send you a swab test pack for £35 which can be done in the comfort of your own home during 35-37 weeks of pregnancy. I called them on the number provided on the website and received the pack within a day or two. I did not need to pay the money until I send the pack for testing.  Apparently the method used by the NHS is less reliable than the one offered by the laboratory and has been known to give a false negative result. (In my opinion it doesn’t particularly matter how much the test costs if it could potentially save my baby’s life).

If you discover that you are a carrier you can then request intravenous antibiotics during labour and the baby’s chance of developing GBS will fall from 1 in 300 to less than 1 in 5,000. (More information can be found on www.gbss.org.uk). Group B Strep Support have set up a petition to make GBS testing routinely available on the NHS. Unfortunately the petition closed in August, however the charity is currently awaiting a response from the Department of Health on whether such testing will be routinely available for expectant mothers.

Whether the petition is passed or not, at least I can say: I’m now GBS aware and I hope you are too.

First image: Mumsnet.com
Final image: DotBabies

The Fear Of Motherhood

We are all in exile from something in our lives, particularly from the past and we especially feel this when we are preparing for a dramatic change in our lives.

I am now 30 weeks pregnant and although I am so very excited to finally meet my baby after what feels like so long, I also feel a little bereft. I have enjoyed the time that I have had on my own while being signed off work and have thoroughly enjoyed using that time to work more on my writing. Already I know I will miss this time and I have tried my best to not take a single moment for granted.

What is more intimidating now is that my life is completely changing and permanently changing. When I got married, it was not such a re-adjustment in my life as I never really led the traditional single life. However, soon I will no longer have my own life. As a mother my life will be forever intertwined with someone else’s. I have enjoyed caring for my niece and nephews. However during the midnight feeds and the incessant crying, the rocking to sleep I always knew it was for a short period and in effect I can hand the child over and return to my life. Soon I will be unable to do that.  For me that is extremely daunting. Will I be good enough? Will I know instinctively when my baby needs me? Not only that, but my body has and is still changing so much, even though I was never particularly ‘body proud’ prior to my pregnancy. I’m proud of my pregnancy bump but the thought of my body no longer belonging to me alone is not something I have been able to easily comprehend.

I have never been ambitious in terms of a career and always felt my career would develop once I had children. This belief became increasingly prevalent as I embarked on a number of jobs that were primarily to assist me to reach my goal of a family life and not any vocational advancements. On top of becoming a mother for the first time, I am now thinking of where I want my career to take me. I know I want to progress more with my writing and of course to be published would be my ultimate goal. However, I have a family to take care of, there are never-ending bills to pay so I will need a day job while I continue to pursue my dream.

How many dreams can one person chase? Motherhood vs a career. My dream is to be a mother and I believe being a parent is the most important, demanding, frightening and exciting job there is. The most unnerving aspect is there is no job description or person specification to follow. It is very much learning on the job.

I have absolutely loved being pregnant, I can genuinely say I have loved every single moment. Despite the effects of Thalassemia  I know that it is all worthwhile. I can not understand why people have felt sorry for me due to the complications; even though I am scared to venture out on my own and scared of even driving in case I faint or become too dizzy. As I sit here now, the room is spinning and although I have had to learn a different breathing technique to help me become less breathless, I have enjoyed every kick from the baby; every ache; every pain. Motherhood is most definitely a labour of love. I understand that now.

So although my life will never be the same again that is not necessarily a bad thing. My purpose in life will soon be tangible and soon enough I will be most likely sitting here writing another blog post wishing for these days back again. If motherhood is really learning on the job, the first lesson I’ve learnt is to appreciate the time I have because it will be over before I know it.

It’s important to not miss where we have been but to look forward to where we are going.

Title image from: Creating Opportunities
Second image from: Yummy Mummy Club 
Third image from: Comerecommended.com
Final image from: Jesslively.com
 

Thalassemia in Pregnancy

As you have probably guessed by the altered tagline of my blog and previous post, I am pregnant. In approximately 12 weeks time I will have another little person in my life that will need my undivided love and attention. It’s an amazingly, exciting yet scary time. I’m now in my second trimester and everyone and all the literature  I have read tells me that the second trimester should have me feeling my best. My most energetic. In fact I am at my least best. My least energetic. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying this pregnancy and I love being pregnant. I love hearing my baby’s heartbeat. I love seeing my baby on the scan monitor. I love feeling my baby kicking inside me. I love the changing yet deeper relationship I have now with my husband.

What I don’t love so much is the tiredness. The exhaustion. The Beta Thalassemia Trait/Minor I inherited from my father. I always usually joked that all the ‘unfortunate’ aspects of my physical make-up I inherited from him: my height,wide hips, my frizzy hair, blood disorders. Thalassemia Trait is a blood disorder that results in a reduction of haemoglobin or in other words a lack of oxygen in my blood.  People with the trait also have pale skin, weakness, tiredness and are also prone to breathlessness and mood swings.

Thalassemia Minor is the fortunate kind though, the kind that you do not suffer from any great symptoms – except when you are pregnant. The oxygen in my blood is now low enough for the doctor to have signed me off work until my maternity leave starts. For the first time my iron levels are also falling and I’m sitting here now, stubbornly trying to write this blog entry while fighting the desire to sleep.

The trouble with Thalassemia Trait is that apart from perhaps looking slightly pale, there are no other outward signs to others. In fact, this past weekend I was told on several occasions how well I looked.Other people play down the severity, others play it up while it is clear that no one really understands what it feels like unless you too have Thalassemia. My haemoglobin and iron levels have fallen suddenly which has caused me to faint or to feel substantially dizzy. I am now scared to drive and am nervous of travelling alone. Each time I go out, I worry – even when I am with others. I feel I can’t plan anything as I don’t know how I am going to feel from one day to the next, even from one hour to the next.

Since becoming pregnant, I have researched countless times for information and details of being pregnant with Thalassemia, even Thalassemia Trait. The only information I have been able to find is the effects of Thalassemia on the unborn child. I have been constantly told babies are like parasites and they will take all they need from the mother. I hope that my children do not inherit Thalassemia, particularly if I have a daughter. Even if they do though, I truly believe I am best placed to understand than most what it means to have Thalassemia and what it actually feels like.

The care I have received has been such that I feel like I’m constantly fighting for someone to listen to me. Constantly fighting for the head consultant in the hospital to monitor my haemoglobin, to reassure me that there are actions that will taken should my iron and haemoglobin levels fall even lower. I have been faced with misdiagnosis and thank goodness I stuck to my guns and did not follow the medical advice I received for the sake of both myself and my unborn child.

I don’t understand why there is no information out there or at least information that is readily available for those suffering from Thalassemia, whichever group the individual has inherited. It was only today while conducting research for this post, that I discovered people with Beta Thalassemia are prone to changing moods while all along I thought and was always told I was just being moody. Now I know there is a reason to my mood swings. Not only that but it is well-known that pregnancy causes a mix of emotions so a question for you: does this mean my emotional rollercoaster ride during pregnancy is twice as fierce?

So many changes have taken place recently. One day I am working, the next day I’m not. Reading and writing once grounded me. It was what used to drive me. Although the baby and thoughts of the baby ground me, the written word provided the stability I needed. Both reading and writing remained the only familiarity I had in what has sometimes been an unfamiliar world.  Now I feel my mind is so crowded, I am so exhausted that I have lost my passion and drive. I feel I have at least three books inside me just begging to be let out to play but I won’t let them. I just can’t help but wonder if I had been forewarned about the possible side effects of Thalassemia on pregnancy, I would be better prepared. Still, Alphabet Games remains my constant outlet, my familiarity in an unfamiliar world. I’m hoping that in clinging to the WordPress cliff edge, I will eventually have the strength to climb to the top and in some ways to safety.

Do any of you suffer from Thalassemia or know anyone who does? Do feel free to get in contact with me through my blog. I think perhaps it is about time a support group was launched for Thalassemia sufferers. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Title Image from ineedmotivation.com
Last image from Eric-Cristenson.com