I love mothers. I love reaching out to other women, women that have grown and nurtured another human being. It creates this magical bond, somehow. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I feel connected to every other mother in the world.
We’ve all been through the most awesome, overwhelming thing of wonder. We all carry the weight of motherhood. Some more easily than others, and we all parent differently, but we’re all the same. Bound together by the gift of a child
Our stories and journeys will be miles apart. Some of us are mothers to multiples, preemies, angel babies. Some of us struggle daily to provide for our children. Some of us try really hard to love them, some of us worry we never will. But we’re all united by motherhood. In this together.
I love that parenting forums and Facebook and Twitter and my blog have meant that I can connect with so many people. Whether we’ve got exclusively pumping in common, or post natal depression in common, or whether it’s just that you’re also a mother, it’s amazing. I genuinely feel tied to each and every one of you. It’s a kind of love, we’re sisters. Soppy hippyness, but it’s true.
Thank you for all the support, for every ‘like’, comment, email and tweet. Thank you for all the cups of coffee and advice and late night texts. Motherhood is that much easier when you don’t go it alone.
Dom as in Domperidone, before you minxes get any ideas.
I’ve taken Domperidone since the beginning. As soon as I knew breastfeeding wasn’t working and I knew I’d need something to help keep my supply going. I’d been told that a supply can’t be maintained through pumping alone, so my goal was to pump until I inevitably dried up. Then an Internet forum (Pumping Mummies on BabyCentre UK) led me to Dom, which my midwife was happy to ask my doctor to prescribe.
At four months, I was able to give Moo breast milk alone. I hadn’t dried up, my milk supply was in fact increasing. I soon had bags for the freezer. I stopped taking herbal supplement Fenugreek and my supply didn’t dip, confirming that it was the Domperidone truly helping me out.
My lactation consultant advised that I try to wean from the Dom. I dropped the dose slightly, and my supply nose dived. I tried this several times over the following months, with the same results. My supply was Domperidone dependent. I worried that constantly taking a medication would take its toll, so did some research. An article by Dr Jack Newman put my mind at rest (http://www.breastfeedingonline.com/Dom19abcombinedpdf.pdf), so I continued to use the Dom that my milk relied upon.
I have to apply for more Domperidone every few weeks, writing a note to my doctor. Recently I gave the task of dropping off the note and picking up the medication to my husband, I was stuck at home with Moo who was suffering with a stomach bug. Long story short, the note was dropped off late and the Domperidone was picked up late. During the few days in between, I ran out of Dom.
My supply dwindled away to almost nothing. Even I was surprised at how little I could pump with no Dom at all. The freezer stash was eaten into and I topped up a few bottles with cows milk.
Eventually, the Domperidone arrived. I’ve never been more pleased to see a bag of drugs. I got stuck right in with my regular dose, 80mg a day. This was a mistake. All was well on the milk front, I was soon back up to my 7-8oz output. But I believe my mental health suffered. I was incredibly low for several days, anxiety attacks, feelings of not wanting to live. I hadn’t felt that mentally unstable in a long time. I can’t know for sure that it was the Domperidone, but it would be awfully coincidental. I’ll most definitely ease my way back in if I go without again.
I’ll always be thankful for Domperidone. It’s all that has kept my milk supply going and has meant that I haven’t had to pump continuously around the clock for 28 months. How long I’ll be taking it is an unknown. I go through phases of looking for other ways to boost my supply without going back to pumping regime of the beginning. Until I either wean or find the magic herb that’ll give me double my output, the Domperidone is always there.
A Monster Ate My Mum – Jen Faulkner
Illustrated by Helen Braid
I so looked forward to receiving this book. I’ve often wondered how I’ll explain my depression and anxiety to Moo. She most certainly suffers at the hands of my short temper and has seen me cry. I’m not sure how I’ll deal with the guilt, but at least I now have a way to open up the channels of discussion about mental health issues with her.
The book is beautifully illustrated, capturing Moos attention. There are short bursts of rhyming text, so it’s easy to read (if you can get your voice past the lump in your throat). The first time I read this with my two year old daughter, I struggled to hold back tears towards the end. Perhaps I should have read it on my own first.
It depicts mental illness as ‘monsters’ that take away parts of the mother, but they’re not scary, just hungry. A perfect balance between an unwanted creature and being friendly enough not to spark fear. The idea that the monsters have ‘borrowed’ the mothers attributes (her smile, for example) is wonderful and offers comfort in knowing that the change isn’t a permanent one. The book pinpoints symptoms of post natal depression that readers will find familiar, the lack of smile, sleeping all day and being ‘snappy’ and delivers the message that mum will be back to her old self one day.
The young boy desperately asking the monsters what had happened to his mum was so poignant, “I want her back I want some fun. I want to see her smile my mum”, without being too upsetting for younger readers. The book ends with the boy being comforted with the knowledge that “it won’t be bad like this forever. She can and will one day get better.” This statement is beautifully touching (it had me welled up!) and a reminder to the parents reading that the difficult times will pass. Therapeutic for both the adult and child reader.
I would love to see this book in all settings, children’s centres, schools, nurseries and in homes up and down the country. Whether you’ve suffered with post natal depression or not, this is a great gateway to conversation about mental health issues. Perhaps we can raise a generation filled with understanding and empathy and end the stigma surrounding ill mental health.
The book is available to buy here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/jen-faulkner/a-monster-ate-my-mum/paperback/product-21305413.html;jsessionid=9B02255C55557C1C8B05874E85D6216A
I get comments such as ‘you don’t know how good you’ve got it’, ‘it was your choice to have a child, you wanted her’ and ‘you do a lot of moaning about Moo’.
Those people obviously don’t get it. They don’t get depression. They don’t understand that it’s quite often my mental health issues talking , not me. Reading my blog is obviously not raising as much awareness as I’d hoped. The people making the comments are usually not parents, or parents to children who have grown up and left home. They’re not living in that all consuming parenting bubble that can be suffocating at times.
The way I feel about being a mother, about Moo, isn’t really *about* Moo. It’s not *her* that makes me feel the way I do. Her behaviour isn’t exceptional, no different or worse than any two year old. Its *me* that has the issue, the depression, the anxiety. It skews reality completely, creating a world in which the smallest thing is life’s greatest dilemma and rage builds far too quickly.
I’m not ungrateful for Moo. I know how blessed I am, that she’s healthy, that I conceived easily, that she’s even here. I’m thankful for her existence. Have I regretted having her at times? Yes. Do I feel guilty about it? Always. But I’ve been honest and open and shared, knowing that I can’t be the only mother that’s felt this way.
Commenting that ‘I don’t know how lucky I am’ does nothing but make the guilt worse. It somehow invalidates my feelings. I felt them, they’re real, I can’t help them. Please, walk a mile in my shoes. Read my blog entries about my birth experience and the days that followed. Research a little on post natal depression. Summon up some empathy, and realise that I’m doing the best that I can.
I’m so sad. It’s just hit me, just then, in the last few minutes. I’ve had a great day until now, and one photo of a baby nursing has set me off.
I needed someone there, pushing me on to keep trying with the breastfeeding. I didn’t need people telling me I’d tried hard enough, or that it was ok to quit or that bottle feeding was good too. I needed someone to slap me across the face, tell me to get it together. I needed someone to tell me that it was ok to stop trying for 24 hours, to compose myself, take some deep breaths and to try again tomorrow.
I needed someone there after Moos tongue tie snip. I needed someone that new a damn thing about exclusively pumping. I needed cool suggestions, like using a bottle teat as a nipple shield. I needed someone to help me with the SNS when it was fucking me off. I needed someone to tell me that it was never too late to keep trying.
Health visitors? Midwives? Lactation consultants? Doctors? I don’t know who that person should have been, but where the fuck were they?
Anyone but me.
Today has not been a good day. One of the worst I’ve had in a long time. I’ve got a cold, which doesn’t help, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to become mega shouty monster mum.
My patience has been ice thin. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve snapped. It’s the opposite of what I think a parent should be, how they should react. I’ve not dealt with Moo’s behaviour well at all, I’ve been far from a gentle parent. I’ve sworn under my breath, told Moo she’s naughty and said ‘in a minute’ more times than I can remember. I’ve felt like climbing out of my body at times, feeling totally touched out.
Moo’s not been in a great mood either (probably something to do with getting up at 4am), throwing cups full of drink, throwing dinner on the floor, climbing on furniture, rolling on the floor screaming and slamming doors. But she’s also been very affectionate, giving me a cuddle and sitting on my lap whenever she has the opportunity. I imagine she’s been after reassurance, with me not being myself, and has been acting out her boredom at being stuck in.
I can’t help that I’m feeling rough so can’t do much with her, but I wish I could control my temper better. There isn’t time to even start counting to ten before I’ve exploded. I pity the neighbours today, hearing the screaming, crying and shouting, from Moo and from me. Moo deserves better than the mother I’ve been today. I know we all have bad days and we can’t be Mary Poppins all the time, but shit, I can do better than this.
I’m ill. This is not cool. I don’t have time to be ill, I’ve got so much to do. There are two types of ill people. The ones that soldier on in the face of infection, continuing to work and run the home, tissue in hand. And then there’s the second type. The type that whine and moan and cry about how ill they feel, that don’t cook a single thing the entire time and let their child(ren) run wild for an easy life, sprawled on the sofa under a duvet.
Guess which type I am?
As much as I’d love to power through, to get shit done, to show this bug what I’m made of, I’m just not cut out for it. I indulge in self pity, beg my husband to massage my sinuses and pray that someone else will offer to take care of Moo. I’ve been much better since she’s been born, as there’s much less opportunity to lay in bed, wasting away. My immune system has been better over all too, maybe pregnancy kick started it into functioning better.
Tomorrow will be a long day. My anxiety usually gets worse when I’m ill, and I’m generally more short tempered. I foresee a lot of wet hankies and a gallon of hot honey and lemon.
I’ve just had a beautiful moment with Moo. She was crying in bed, half asleep and half awake, unable to tell me what was wrong, if anything hurt, if she’d had a bad dream. She didn’t want anything that I offered, milk, some music, a soft toy. So I just held her. I held her tight, drawn in close to me, and I rocked. She fell asleep and I cried.
I cried because of the beauty of it, just my baby and I, late at night, her peaceful face juxtaposed by tear drenched eye lashes. I cried for the memories that I don’t have, of feeling so in love with her when she was small enough to hold all day long. I cried with sadness that she’s not a baby any more. She was a tiny, beautiful, baby in need of her mothers loving embrace, and I missed it.
These moments are so rare now. She’s scarcely still long enough to hold like this, still, quiet, breathing so softly. Every day she’s learning new things and becoming her own person, that tiny bit less reliant on me. I know she’ll always need her mum, and that with new growth comes unexplored joy, but I regret missing so much of the growing that’s already taken place, the cuddles I could have had, the times I didn’t appreciate the curves of her face or softness of her skin. You can’t get that back.
I asked my husband to take a picture. It’s dark, and blurry, but it’s wonderful. Just my girl and me, being together, my not-so-little baby Moo.
Is it ever ok? I’ve never given it much thought until this week, when Twitter (@thepumpingmama) led me to the story of Thorpe Parks ‘Asylum’ attraction and the campaign against it. I’ll admit, at first I thought it was a little over the top to be so riled up over a fairground ride. But the more tweets I read, the more it made sense. Why is it ok to ‘imitate’ patients with mental health issues? Does that mean other illnesses are fair game? Perhaps a ride featuring cancer patients, lunging at you in the dark, bald heads and IV lines? Would that be distasteful? Offensive? Yes. So why is mental illness treated so differently?
I sometimes make jokes about my insanity. Usually to ease tension or break awkward silences. If I don’t laugh about it, I’ll cry about it, and I do enough of that already. But perhaps I’m not helping the cause. If I can take the piss out if depression and anxiety, why can’t anyone else? I guess it’s similar to jokes made by anyone of a minority group. If you’re in the club, you can join in with the banter, but its a huge faux pas if an outsider laughs along.
Mental illness is real. It’s crippling, all consuming and life threatening. Nothing about it is fun. Sufferers of ill mental health are amongst the worlds most vulnerable people, yet it’s ok to make their condition a fun game. I don’t know how to change that. I don’t know how to alter society’s view that mental health patients are ‘scary’ or something from a horror movie. I guess all I can do is blog about my experiences with it, and hope someone listens.
The dreaded Bumble. ‘What’s that?, I hear you cry. It’s the dummy. The pacifier. The ridiculously expensive plastic object that my daughter is addicted to. And I mean *addicted*. Bumble is just some silly family word for it, we quite often speak in code.
I originally gave it to her when she was a few days old. I promised myself I wouldn’t when I was pregnant. I was not even going to go there. I knew that it could be detrimental to breastfeeding becoming established in the early days. I worried about buck teeth and oral development. I worried about it delaying her speech if she had the thing stuck in her mouth twenty four hours a day. But, during those first weeks, when breastfeeding wasn’t working and Moo cried most of the day while I pumped, I caved. Moo wanted the comfort, but would struggle and thrash around at the breast, unable to latch. I couldn’t wear her, as I needed to be attached to a breast pump at all hours to build up my almost nonexistent milk supply. And so, the Bumble was introduced.
It comforted her, she settled (most of the time) and I was able to pump, get some rest and rock in the corner in between. As she got older, I came to rely upon it. Any issue was soon fixed with the Bumble and a cuddle, much in the same way a breastfed baby seeks comfort with a nipple. I couldn’t offer that to Moo, who had no idea what to do at the breast, now accustomed to bottle teats. And, here we are, 27 months later, and it’s still here. They were nearly gone at one point, only used for daytime napping. The plan was to do away with them when the nap naturally disappeared. A seamless plan. But, alas, hand foot and mouth disease descended upon us, followed by a urinary tract infection. Moo was inconsolable at times, feverish and in pain, unable to eat or drink. The only thing she’d put in her blister covered mouth was the Bumble. He was back with a vengeance.
They’re such a pain. They cost a small fortune, almost £5 a pair. The companies that make them must be surrounded by piles of gold, laughing at the desperate parents queuing for them in Boots with their last fiver. You never have one to hand when you need it. And when you do find it, it’s either split from the constant chewing or covered in bag fluff and that sand from the beach six months ago that just never goes away (what is up with that?!?). My life would be much simpler if Moo loved the boob. I could just whip it out when she fell over or was ill or tired. But, such is life.
Where to go from here? How can I ensure Moo and the Bumble are forever divorced, without too much heartache and trauma? Her little begging face, asking where he is (Bumble is a ‘he’, by the way), it’s so hard to say no. And at 4am, when she won’t settle after a drink of milk, I’m more than happy to oblige. Damn you Bumble, with your delicious silicone teat and obscene price tag. Damn you.