Monthly Archives: March 2014
It’s been a year since I started The Pumping Mama Facebook page, as a way to escape abuse on my personal profile when sharing images and articles that I found to be interesting and/or inspiring. I became free to discuss breastfeeding in a way that I couldn’t before, and soon connected with other mamas on the same journey of exclusive pumping. The WordPress blog followed, along with Instagram and Twitter accounts. I’ve been profoundly touched by the messages of support and encouragement, particularly when my writing became much more focused on my ill mental health. Depression and anxiety can take you to very dark, lonely places so I’ve deeply appreciated every kind word typed to me over the last twelve months.
The Facebook blog has developed from being a pumping diary, to a support page. Being able to post questions and worries on behalf of other women has been a gift, something positive coming from a very difficult time. I’ll always be heartbroken that I didn’t breastfeed, but contributing something to the exclusively pumping community has eased the pain. The range of topics I write about has broadened, to parenting in general and mental health. Blogging about postnatal depression and my mental illness has been free therapy for me and my online support network is invaluable. Although my pumping journey has come to an end, I hope that this new direction of blogging continues for a long time to come.
It’s funny that this anniversary falls on Mother’s Day. I’m not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, it’s lovely, and somehow fitting. This whole chapter of my online life came about because I became a parent, a mother. But on the other hand, Mother’s Day is a difficult time personally. Something about the whole celebration doesn’t sit right with me, as though I’m some kind of fraud. I don’t feel deserving of a special day of recognition for my mothering skills. I’m barely a parent at all most days and often don’t want to even be a mother. Brutal, but true.
I had hoped that Mother’s Day would be a very different affair by now, that I’d be much more ‘sorted’. But as it turns out, I’m not quite there. I shall try to enjoy the day, embrace it. I know I’ll savour the lie in and the restaurant dinner and I’m looking forward to holding Moo pretty tight. As with all parents, I’ll muddle through the next year as best I can, potentially making (hopefully not too catastrophic) mistakes and learning about myself along the way.
Here’s to all mothers, of Earth babies and angel babies, mothers to be and mothers of the future, to all women raising children, doing the best that they can with the hand they’ve been dealt; I hope you have a beautiful, beautiful day, filled with love and peace.
This is how getting a toddler to eat goes.
You carefully consider the meal choice. You don’t want anything too fussy. With too much chopping. You need to include lots of veg of varying colours. That’s the healthy thing to do, right? You must dig to the very depths of the freezer at turd’o’clock to ensure that the necessary items are defrosted in time. You settle on spaghetti and meatballs. Who doesn’t like that? It’s quick, it’s tasty, you can hide some nutritious type food products in the sauce. And Mummy gets to eat garlic bread.
You contend with the ‘helper’ with gritted teeth. The simple act of chopping an onion becomes full blown culinary warfare. There’s no distraction tip in the world that will shift the toddler from around your ankles so that you can approach the work top. It’s finally cooking, the meatballs are on the heat. Two toilet runs, a spilled drink, a story and two DVD changes later and they’re cemented to the bottom of the ‘non stick’ pan.
Once the ingredients have been almost literally thrown together, it’s time for the precious, life changingly important act of sitting to the table together. If you don’t do this, your kid will grow up to smoke crack. You must get this bit right. You seat the toddler, whose future hangs in the balance at this point, and return to the kitchen for the plates. A maids trolley would come in handy here, with a seat on the back for the offspring. At least then you could get the two vital components of this meal to the table at the same time. She’s not there upon return. As the once ‘blow it, it’s hot’ meal slowly cools to a ‘could have done with a quick ping’ temperature, you wrestle the child back into any one of the four possible seats. A game of musical chairs ensues. But finally, the breaking of bread can begin.
Now, I’ve shortened the following events into a concise list. For the full effect of the actual time taken to complete these tasks, read in your best ‘Dory’s Whale Voice’ impression, approximately one word every three seconds.
~ Roll up child’s sleeves, twice. Potentially clip back hair to minimise the bathing aftermath, depending on fringe length.
~ Load a fork. Unload and load the spoon. Unload and chop it smaller. Load on fork (that you’ve sent out a search party to find amongst the previously edible debris on the very recently cleaned floor) and watch with eyes wide in horror as toddler misses her mouth.
~ Endure several rounds of the ridiculous aeroplane game that you swore blind you’d never reduce yourself to. And the train game. Basically insert any mode of transportation you’d like, you’ll exhaust them all.
~ Play dinner plate switcheroo. Why just eat your meal when you can sample them all?
~ Pick out all the mushrooms to avoid the mother of all hissy fits. (Keep in mind that your dinner is rapidly becoming room temp.) Put them back. Pick out all the peppers. Then put them all back. Pick out all the *green* peppers. Pile all these slippery, half chewed, cold items on the side of your own plate.
~ View every carefully deployed tactic to avoid eating anything of sustenance. Nose picking, show and tell, the top ten run down of CBeebies theme tunes.
~ Fetch drinks, new cutlery, more pasta, a cardigan, squeeze in a toilet run.
And then, somewhere within the chaos, you realise, the meal has been eaten. The goal has been achieved. The high five playing out in your head is one of the greatest ever witnessed by yourself. Thank you Lord. The gargantuan hurdle of the day has been overcome, and until darkness falls and the monumental task of ‘Sleep, Child, Sleep‘ begins, you can breathe out.
The tidy up operation is intense. You’ll never get that tomato sauce orangey tinge off of the table cloth, however ‘wipe clean’ it claims to be. Unless you adorn the child with a shower cap, there’s no amount of sweeping back that will avoid the hair chunks. The face is flannelled, the floor is swept (is spaghetti coated in No More Nails?), the dishes washed up, along with the four cups, seven spoons and plastic sea horse that was dressed in slices of aubergine.
Parenting is very much about reflection. You balls it up, realise you have and then try to come up with ways to balls it up less the next day. What could you have done differently in this scenario? Less sauce? Cooked the meal whilst she slept instead of watching Dawson’s Creek in bed? Fixed her to the chair with cable ties? You hatch a plan to dice the vegetables smaller next time, have the full armoury of cutlery already on the table to avoid completing a half marathon while you eat. Would classical music playing softly have the desired calming effect? A new placemat? Her own pretend cooker so she can play chef while you prep? Maybe she’ll grow out if it? Bribery? Blackmail?
And then as you lie awake in bed, mentally and physically drained, and yet wired at the same time, it comes to you.
Fuck it, tomorrow we’re having fish fingers.
Moo needs someone to wipe her nose, put her hair in bunches and pull on her wellies. She needs someone to kiss it better, hold her hand and roll out the playdough. She needs to snuggle in, feel the warmth and comfort of a beating heart, be read to and sung to.
She’ll need someone to walk her to school, to pack her lunch, to carry her home when she feels unwell. She’ll need someone to cheer her on at sports day, listen to her practice her spellings and film the nativity. Someone to guide her, lead the way and be an example.
She’ll need someone to confide in, to cry to, to stick up for her. She’ll need someone to explain the birds and the bees, give her a lift to the party and recommend her for a part time job. Someone to buy her Tampax, build her up and boost her confidence.
She’ll need someone to help her pack her things, test her on the Highway Code and badger her to get up. She’ll need someone to wave her off at the airport, collect her newspaper clippings and someone to call at 2am. Someone to never judge, to help her find her way.
She’ll need someone to help her choose that perfect dress, weep with joy and get stuck in to the decorating. She’ll need someone to take the photographs, crochet the blanket and rock the baby while she bathes. Someone to support her as she mothers, be part of the village she needs.
She’ll need someone to encourage her, support her, enable her to grow. To pick her up when she falls, celebrate her successes and hold her tight. Someone to depend upon, to bounce ideas off of, to be her crutch when she feels she can’t go on.
She needs a mum. I can’t take that away from her. I mustn’t.
Here are a few links to my random ramblings that have appeared on other blogs and in publications. Feel free to have a browse!
I dreamed of being a parent when I was young, and the fantasy looked very different from the reality. Sure, I pictured chaos and piles of laundry, but I certainly didn’t predict postnatal depression and a catastrophic mess. I imagined home-cooked wholesome meals and a tidy, organised play room. I could not have been more naive.
A lot of my blog entries are kinda ‘woe is me’, pity parties and totally self absorbed, which is pretty much what depression is about. But, you know what? I’m still here, I’m still being a mother, I’m still pumping, which is a lot more than I thought I’d achieve around this time two years ago.
Thank you for letting me down.
Thank you for not reading my birth plan, for ignoring my wishes, for arguing about my care while I laid bleeding to death.
Thank you for forcing Moo to the breast, for making her first nursing experiences as traumatic as possible. Thank you for not calling on specialist help.
You dreamed of breastfeeding. You hoped to nourish your baby with your body, to watch them gently suckling at your breast. I understand that desire. I too wanted that experience more than many will ever understand. I’m not sure why I wanted it so much myself. It was instinct, natural, one of the strongest, most intense needs I’ve ever had.
LLLGB: Breastfeeding Matters Magazine March/April 2014
Every day is such an up hill struggle. Every waking minute, a fight. Even the simplest tasks become akin to climbing Everest. Every ounce of energy I once possessed has been entirely sapped from my body, eaten up by the rabid monster that is depression.
It destroys all that is light and good, diminishes hope. All that is left is a barren wasteland of intrusive thoughts, gnawing away at my insides, crippling my soul and accelerating my beating heart. How can my pulse and thoughts race so quickly when every movement feels so weighed down, so much effort?
I don’t have the strength within me to fight this demon. So much energy is expelled achieving the most mundane and trivial of tasks, dressing, moving, speaking. How can there be anything left for the war? Just summoning the words and hand mobility to write this is draining.
This mental illness is strong, it’s relentless. It seeps into every pore. Nothing is pure and wonderful, even the happy moments are tainted. It lies in wait until it catches you smile, then taps you on the shoulder to remind you it’s there. It’s unforgiving, reminding you of every flaw, every moment of weakness. It plays out every mistake and fear and upset on the big screen in your mind, on a continuous loop.
I must try to soldier on, if not for mine, then for my child’s sake. I’m plodding, movements heavy, muddling through as best I can. I don’t want to have to think and feel and act. The responsibility of managing my own life seems too much for me. I need a hand to hold from somewhere, some divine being to carry me so that I can rest a while.
Where can I muster some energy from, for this fight? I need a source to plug in to, to replenish myself, to begin to heal. I’m surviving by sucking the life out of those around me. I can’t let the toxicity of this beast destroy the lives of others too. For now, I’ll envelop myself in my little cave, my sanctuary, and rest. I’ll try to clear my mind, empty it of dark thoughts and muster up the courage and strength to fight the upcoming battle; another day with mental illness.