Monthly Archives: October 2013
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.
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.
Your baby asks to go to bed. You follow your nightly routine. Tuck her in all snug, bottle of milk, bedtime story (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), you’ve looked at the page with the egg several times. You kiss her, tell her you love her and will see her in the morning.
You slip out of the room, run a bath and sink into the warm water with an OK! Magazine. That’s your big mistake. The assumption that the child will now sleep. Three quarters of the way through an interview with Katie Price you hear the bedroom door banging. Slamming against the bedroom wall. Repeatedly. And so begins the evenings drama, all dreams of hair washing shattered.
You try another book. Her Postman Pat story tape. Heating her weird wheat bunny thingymabob. She asks for more milk, which you heat and deliver as per her request. You give in and provide the dummy. And every time you leave the room, with fingers crossed tightly and muttering under your breath, you’re praying the silence will last. You even attempt the bath again, topping up with hot water. Then you hear her. “Mummy, I’m awake now”.
A night such as this is a wonderful contraceptive. Your bath is stone cold, your hair wet but untouched by shampoo. You’ve not yet had dinner and you’re running out of time to watch that TV show you’ve recorded. You’ll be making a trip to the shed at the bottom of the garden to get more milk out of the freezer in your dressing gown, as she’s drunk all you’ve painstakingly pumped fresh for her during this marathon bedtime. Even the sound of her ever-so-sweet pitter pattering feet on the floor boards upstairs is not enough to quash the rage building in your stomach.
But, *deep breath*, tomorrow is a new day, with fun adventures to be had. Things will look better in the morning. And I’m sure she’ll go to sleep soon. Won’t she?
Sometimes I’m an absent parent. I’m physically there, I only work one day a week, but I’m quite often mentally elsewhere.
Playing with a toddler is time consuming. Moo would happily have me sit there next to her all day. It’s dull. There’s only so many times I can build a tower or quack like a duck before my mind wanders or I feel myself slipping into a state of semi consciousness. Some days I’d much rather check Twitter or pretend to go to the toilet to have five minutes laid on the bed by myself. No ‘parent of the year’ award here.
Sometimes I’m emotionally detached too. I have days when functioning is difficult enough. I long to be hidden under the duvet, sobbing, or staring into space. I go through the motions, Moo is fed and dressed and I’ll go out for something to do, but I’d rather be anywhere else. 10mg of antidepressant sometimes just doesn’t cut it. A vodka would be nice. I pray that Moo doesn’t know. It breaks my heart that I’m not 100% in the moment with her all the time.
But, there are days, occasionally, when I’m just there. I make time to do all the little things she wants to do. We pick up stones, I hold her hand as she walks on every wall, I let her help me hang the washing, I sing with her, I brave the chaos that is arts and crafts. Today was one if those days. We spent longer than I thought necessary to pick up a shrivelled leaf. I sat on the floor until my knees hurt and longer, playing with the dolls house. We bought stickers and I tirelessly picked off the backs just for Moo to stick them one on top of the other. It was blissful. I was there, I was savouring it, I was living for her, just as it should be.
I can’t keep it up. There’s no way I can work at a Blue Peter presenter level day in, day out. But I need to try. Moo deserves my all, the least I can do is put in the effort. The joy on her face as we ‘row the boat’ or her cheers as she helps me unload the washing machine is totally worth it. I’m sure I’ll always need ‘toilet’ breaks, but I vow to give her more of me. To be there in the moment. To imprint these days together onto my memory, as I know they won’t last forever.
The decision to only have one child plays on my mind a lot. I’m a fan of the phrase ‘never say never’ as there are no guarantees in life and I like to remain open minded. Who knows how I’ll feel in two, five, ten years? But for now, there’ll only be Moo. This makes me incredibly sad. It’s not what I dreamed, not what I wanted for my child. I sway between having a fraction of my mind considering another, while my heart longs for it, and being totally relieved that I’ll only have to raise one child and not relive any of the experiences I’ve had over the last two years. There are a few reasons why my family won’t be getting any bigger.
My Birth Experience
Labour was wonderful. It was empowering. I felt so determined, so strong, so powerful. The pushing stage and the events afterwards were nothing short of horrific. I cannot risk another haemorrhage and I was told the chances of it happening are higher a second time around. If I died, I’d leave my beautiful girl without a mother, my husband without a wife. To be laid in theatre like that again, my body convulsing with shock, cold and crying, begging to be anaesthetised… No, no, no. I don’t want to live that again. I don’t want my husband to be left in a room on his own, holding a baby just minutes old, watching the cleaning staff mop my blood from the floor. I couldn’t put him through that again.
To fail at breastfeeding a second time would break me. It most certainly contributed to my post natal depression. I’d try so damn hard if I had another child, and if it didn’t work out then the disappointment would be even greater. How could this happen again now that I know so much more? What would I have to do to get this to go right? I can imagine it now, feeling the ultimate failure. The dream being taken away twice. Absolutely soul destroying. I’ll pass.
The post natal depression was, and still is, simply awful. The anxiety, the panic attacks, the feelings of regret and resentment, the anger and frustration, contemplating suicide. I’ve been through some pretty dark times that I never want to experience again. I never want to feel that way for even a moment. The guilt of wanting to hurt Moo or run away from her was (is) overwhelming. I don’t want to feel that way about another precious life.
Don’t get me wrong, I think its awesome too. I look back at pics of my swollen belly and remember the detail at our anomaly scan and long to feel the anticipation after peeing on a stick, and it all seems great. But actually, I spent a lot of the time moaning. I felt exhausted, I felt nauseous the whole time. My fingers were stiff, my back hurt constantly. I had sciatica. I couldn’t get comfy at night and I cried because I never looked nice in anything I wore. How would I cope with that and take care of another child? I just wanted to sleep all day and eat cheese and onion crisps. No toddler is compatible with that.
Being A Parent Is Shit
I’ve found it so, so much harder than I ever envisioned. I assumed I’d love it. I knew it’d be tough, I’d been an auntie for years previously, but how I’ve reacted during those tough moments has taken me by surprise. The absolute rage I’ve felt at times has been shocking. Parents aren’t bull shitting you when they tell you that *nothing* can prepare you for it. It’s one of the truest cliches. The sleep deprivation, the constant whining, the inability to leave the house in less than half an hour, the knowledge that you’re forever stuck with this energy-sucking, all consuming human being. It’s, at times, a waking nightmare.
Rocking The Boat
I quite like having one. Moo is lovely. It’s me and her, the girls together, the pair of us, hanging out. I can hold her hand and still have one free. My husband can push the buggy and I can wander at my leisure. I won’t need a bigger house. All my efforts and energy can be put into her. I’m finally pretty happy, getting the hang of things, feeling more like me again. Some days I even think I do a good job of being a mum. Why risk ruining things by adding someone else into the mix?
I’m sure there are plenty of counter arguments to these reasons. I’m sure if I focused on them enough I could almost convince myself that it’d be a good idea to have one more. Some days I do float off into a little fantasy world where I have six kids with beautiful names, all racing around the house with odd socks on. But then one of these concerns creeps in and I thump back to reality. And I know that I just can’t do it. There’ll just be Moo.
…Would I breast feed it?
I don’t mean ‘would I be successful?’, I mean ‘would I even try?’
I’d know who to call, where to turn. I have so much more knowledge now than I did before. I’ve lost that rose tinted view of popping a baby out and just latching it on. I know about mastitis and tongue tie and perseverance. I know more about the miracle that is breast milk. I’ve trained as a peer supporter. I have hundreds of pounds worth of breast pump to fall back on. I wouldn’t hesitate to spend money to see the best lactation consultant I could as soon as possible.
I certainly have a million times more passion for it. But that would be my downfall. I have so much more to lose now. I drove myself crazy the first time around. Quite literally, mental. I can’t go through that again. I have Moo to look after now, and I’ve come so far from that dark, desolate place.
It might be a wonderfully healing experience, if all went to plan. I’m sure I’d feel sadness, that I didn’t have the same relationship with Moo, but I think it’d put demons to rest. I’d fulfil an overwhelming dream, reach a sense of completeness as a mother, as a grower of a human being.
But if it didn’t, then I’d be thrown back into a state if mental chaos, an absolutely horrific nightmare. I don’t think I’d manage to exclusively pump again, at least not for this long, not with a toddler in tow. I’d have to relive the guilt, the disappointment, the grief, the feelings of inadequacy. No thank you.
So, would I just formula feed from the off? When I was in hospital after having Moo the woman in the bed next to me had chosen to do just that. Her difficult experiences first time around had led her to choose to formula feed her second baby. I remember feeling angry with her, as I spent hours trying to latch my newborn and express drops of colostrum into a syringe. She had it so damn easy. I wished I didn’t care so much. Perhaps choosing formula next time would stop any potential heart ache, lesson the chance of post natal depression and grief and blackness.
I don’t think I could choose formula and live with myself. My love for breastfeeding and breast milk just wouldn’t let me do it. The guilt and regret of never trying would eat me alive, surpassing any feeling of sadness if things didn’t work out for a second time. You don’t regret the things you do, you regret the things you never did.
This dilemma is one of the reasons I’m not planning any future babies. As I see it, there are three paths I could find myself on. The first is to breast feed and it be wonderfully successful. Baby can latch and transfer the milk well, they thrive, I get to make my dream a reality. Beautiful. The second is that I try to breast feed and it does not go well. Thus follows the mental trauma associated with that. The third path is to not try at all, to feed my baby the ‘closest thing to breast milk’, that I know jolly well isn’t particularly close to it at all. I then live with the guilt of not trying to provide the best for my baby and taking the easy way out because I’m not strong enough to try, I’m weak.
I can’t guarantee that the first option will come to fruition, and I’ll be damned if I choose either of the others. So I choose to avoid the dilemma completely. I give up my dream of a big family and concentrate on pumping and being sane for Moos sake. It makes me sad, but I know that it saves me from worse.
Apologies for the random pity post.
I have days when it gets to me, as I’m sure it does other exclusive pumpers and mothers who tried so hard to breast feed. I see photos of babies smiling, with a mouthful of boob, and I so wish that was my Moo. It hits me like a sudden wave, absolute grief. It’s almost physical painful, my heart is hurting. I could curl tightly into a ball and sob.
I’m reading a book at the moment, that’s helping me understand why breastfeeding didn’t work. I get it. I know what could have been done differently. If I was to ever try again (which is unlikely), I’d know who to call and where to turn. But I don’t know what to do to get over the heartache of losing something that I never had.
Answers on a post card.