Birth Beyond Trauma: Baby Number Two

Now we’ve settled (a little) into new family life, we would officially like to introduce the latest (and possibly last) edition to our family, Henry Robert Francis. Born a healthy and round 8lbs at 14:12 on Monday 16th December, we have been soaking up every little moment as a family of four this holidays and for almost the last two months but I feel now is the time to update you all on the last leg of my pregnancy and my positive birth experience second time around.

Refacing any trauma can be a harrowing experience no matter what that trauma was. For most, it’s unlikely you’ll be faced with the exact same situation again, it may have been a one-off event that caused it but can cause all kinds of after-effects like PTSD, depression or panic attacks. Birth trauma is very different and can be a recurring nightmare for many women. You have to consciously make the decision to revisit events and whether you’ve had a traumatic birth through treatment, events or overall experience, it can seem impossible to even imagine going through it all again. If you are struggling to decide to have another baby, remember you can reach out to other mums or speak to your local hospital to revisit your previous birth notes – this can really help you understand why certain events unfolded. I chose to do this after experiencing PTSD and anxiety and it honestly made a massive difference. So let’s take a step back and look at how I made the journey this time round for baby number two.

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Four days before Henry was born.

As most of you who have been following us for a while will know, my birth story with our firstborn Rory was a traumatic one. 36 hours of labour and an emergency cesarean left us shocked, broken and took me several gruelling months to recover – both physically and emotionally. After that, I was almost adamant I’d never have another child but as time passed, I dreamt of growing our family and giving Rory the gift of a sibling. Before I knew it, I was pregnant and thrust into the carnival hall of mirrors forced to face my fears after neatly tucking them away in a box for a while. We didn’t exactly plan on having Henry but it was on our minds and a second child was something we were actively discussing and, apparently, not exactly actively trying to avoid. Immediately, after finding out we were expecting, I instantly pushed the idea of birth out of my head and gained the ‘it will just happen’ attitude, knowing deep down I would have to face it at some point.

The Preparation

That point came and smacked me in the face after our 12 weeks scan and check-up. After being asked about our previous birth, we were happily referred to the consultant to discuss my birthing options for this time around. Feeling privileged to have any at all, I was still deeply unsettled at the thought of birth. During the appointment, we went through my options fairly briefly: I could either attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) or I could go for an elective cesarean. I was always leaning towards the latter but again, it was nice to know I’d be supported in whatever I chose. Following on from this, I was scheduled an appointment at 36 weeks where I was given another opportunity to decide but this decision had to be the final one. From this appointment I would be offered dates for cesarean, dates for pre-op medication and any other bloods/check-ups required pre-surgery so everything would be set in (almost) stone. This is definitely the point where you can be scared out of making your choice. The realities of surgery are nothing to be sniffed at and a can be rather severe – obviously based on several external factors and your health history. I’m quite fortunate to have a fairly straight forwards health history and with not being able to imagine facing another difficult labour, I took on board the realities of surgery and chose an elective cesarean.

Time flew by and things were all going swimmingly until at my 36-week consultant’s appointment; I had started measuring MUCH larger than I should have. For those non-children folk, for every week pregnant you are you should measure on average around 1cm. So here, I should have been 36cm but I was measuring a whopping 42! They sent me for a scan the following day to investigate and luckily, little Henry was doing fine with no signs of any issues but the scan did show was carrying excess fluid. This sent me into mild panic as Dr. Google was the only one who seemed to be able to provide any form of literature on the subject. Excess fluid in pregnancy can be a sign of conditions like diabetes in pregnancy or can be a result of a series of birth defects; for me, the most worrying side effect was that it can cause early labour. All panic aside, the hospital were good and were able to offer me a glucose test along with a test for any infection to help cross off the list of potential causes and I was given the all-clear for both. This just left a gaping hole brimming with questions that no one seemed to have the answers for… and then there was the biggest question up for debate: When could my section be scheduled for?

Now, we did have a few issues from here regarding dates and getting booked in. It’s typical for straight forwards pregnancies, elective c-sections are carried out during the 39th week. It’s only in special or emergency circumstances that a baby would be delivered before this (things like twins, excess fluid with infection, cholestasis, etc), so at our 36-week appointment, we were given 2 choices: Wednesday 18th or Thursday 19th December. We chose 18th with the view of being home and settled to enjoy Christmas as a family of four. HOWEVER, we ended up in a consultant’s office very late afternoon on Friday 6th debating that this excess fluid malarkey (‘polyhydramnios‘ for those medically inclined) was obviously causing some concern; I was booked in for a section due to previous birth trauma so naturally, the chances of going into spontaneous labour became increasingly terrifying. It actually turned out our appointment had been moved without notice to the 19th which then sent me into a downward spiral of panic – a whole 24 hours extra? No thank you! I begged and begged and luckily one spot remained for Monday 16th December, third in line. I took a deep breath and accepted it. The 10-day countdown was on; On Friday 13th I went to my pre-op appointment, had my iron levels checked, was given my prescription for my anti-sickness and antacid medication and was sent on my way with instructions to arrive at 7:30am Monday morning ready for the big day.

BIRTHDAY SNUGGLES & THE LAST DATE.

We did very mundane things that weekend. Kyle & I went out for a date night (fajitas and enchiladas FTW), we took Rory out to the park and we tried our best to relax. It was here that it dawned on me quite a lot that weekend that our lives were about to change forever. I lay awake wondering if Rory really knew what a baby was, how much I would miss it being just me and him sometimes and how I felt guilty that we were bringing another person into the world and Rory wouldn’t be the only one at the center of our worlds anymore. In case you were wondering, ‘Mom Guilt’ is by far one of the worse, most backward and heart-breaking feelings a mother can feel. It can strike when you least expect, when you’re trying to do a good thing, usually what you believe is best. We always wanted a bigger family, for Rory to have a sibling(s) and to grow up never being alone so this time was going to come, I just never thought about how I would feel when it did. And when I packed our hospital bags for the thousandth time, my nerves began to build. We were about to take the leap and, in all honesty, I was never going to be any readier than I was right now.

The Birth

It was pitch black out and I had my brave suit on. I was ready to have this baby and nothing and no one was going to move me out of this groove. I had practiced my deep breathing for when the nerves would inevitably kick in, I’d packed enough changes of clothes for me and our wee boy for a week (or two!) and I hadn’t eaten anything since 9pm the night before and I was ravenous. The car journey flew by and before I knew it I was on the delivery ward. I was given a modest, oversized gown and some super sexy stockings to change into before lying down to be hooked up to monitors and briefed – the day had only really just begun.

We had little to no idea when we arrived at 7:30 that we would be waiting for 6+ hours before we would meet our little Henry. We were unfortunately moved out of our room as the next mama arrived that morning. She was scheduled in before us and there was another ahead of her too so naturally, we fell to the end of the queue and took a perch in the waiting room with over spilled bags and a heart-racing faster than the speed of sound. It was in this room I started to lose my sanity. I tried to get some sleep propped up against Kyle’s arm listening to the monotonous TV ads running from the promo TV but it just wasn’t happening and then we were told there was an emergency and we’d be pushed along another slot. I cried (and got over it within the hour) as we spent our last hours taking over the waiting room, holding meetings with our anaesthetist, signing forms and going over our baby name choices; the time quite quickly slipped away and our time had come.

THE SIX HOUR WAIT…

It was 13:40 and we were called to a delivery room for surgery prep. I took the deepest breath as I stood there in nothing but an ill-fitted gown and my favourite slippers, feeling our baby wriggle for the last time. Kyle was handed his scrubs and I was escorted into theatre by the cheeriest anaesthetist assistant; he made me feel so relaxed. As I arrived at the theatre, I was quickly popped onto the bed, told to arch my back and sprayed with THE coldest antibacterial spray ready for my spinal. Again, it all happened so fast and before I knew it Kyle had joined us and my legs started to feel numb. I was gently laid on my back as the feeling rose into my chest as the busy theatre team prepped for Henry’s arrival. My wonderful midwives were ready, the anaesthetists were by my head controlling my drips and helping me choose my music – we went for female powerhouse Pink after my idea for Christmas music was denied as we only had somebody’s iPod. My surgeons arrived and I was ready.  An all-female duo came in an introduced themselves – this made me feel in very good hands and I had a small ‘YES, this girl can!’ moment -there was no turning back now.

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Terrified & Impatient.

As the surgery began the body shakes arrived and nausea kicked in. This is a horrible consequence of a drop-in blood pressure but luckily this was rectified immediately and I was able to continue being distracted by mindlessly waffling on about a Pink concert I went to last June (PS it was absolutely insane). Within 15 minutes, the countdown was on – Henry was about to be born! Lifted into the air and born half asleep, he needed a warm rub-a-dub to welcome him earth-side. It took a few painstakingly long seconds for that first cry but it came and it was loud, he was here; it was 14:12 and he was a wonderfully round 8 pounds. We couldn’t wait to snuggle him straight away. In that moment, once again our lives had changed forever and we couldn’t have been happier. In less than an hour, I was in and out of the theatre munching toast in recovery.
It was everything I had hoped for, spent countless sleepless nights wishing for and a fair few hours crying for – my calming birth experience had arrived and I was overwhelmed and overjoyed that I did it. I’d conquered the debilitating fear from Rory’s birth and birthed another cute and chubby little boy. I really do believe having a child is one of the most priceless gifts we can give ourselves, our parents and even our grandparents. Bringing someone new into the world to share our adventure with and create a perfectly imperfect life with, can be just magical. Although adding more babies can alter a family, it really can be one of life’s biggest achievements to be able to share a bit more of ourselves through an ever-expanding family.

HENRY ROBERT FRANCIS – 14:12 – 8LB

The Recovery

Well, it was no surprise that my recovery was a million times better after a planned than with an emergency c-section. My body was prepared, my mind was somewhat in the right place and I could plan and prep for what after-birth could be like (of course no one really knows but previous experience helps). My mental health really benefitted from knowing this and at times where I thought I’d be panicking, I found great comfort in being in control (as much as I could be) of the situation and whole birthing process.

The First Few Days.

Now, just to be super clear, I am in no way saying that this recovery was easy, nope, not one little bit. It was just as hard to be bedbound for 24 hours after, it was incredibly hard to stand/walk/shuffle when I was allowed to get up and YUP, going to the bathroom was pretty much non-existent for A WHOLE WEEK but we made it through one day at a time. I was still starving after almost 24 hours and having only consumed a slice of toast in recovery – I was ready to stuff my face and nothing was better than a good old fashioned Maccy’s! It was devoured in record time and we had a really good first night with two feeds, a fair few bum changes and lots of cuddles.

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Large Quater Pounder Meal, No Cheese, Extra Pickles, Fries, Cheese Dippers, and a Fanta. (Yes, that is a token orange).

We stayed in the hospital for two nights in total, leaving on Wednesday evening. This gave us a good bit of peace & quiet before we remembered that Christmas was now less than a week away and we had a toddler at home eagerly awaiting our return. *Cue blind panic* but not so fast! Turns out that pre-birth me had remembered to do all the shopping, present wrapping and festive organising so we didn’t have anything to do before the big day; I didn’t really need to panic at all. We quickly settled into new family life and the hectic period that is Christmas & New Year. After just two weeks, my physical recovery was remarkably better than before; I was walking all over town with ease but this led me into a dangerously false sense of security that I was, in fact, Wonder Woman reincarnated. Disclaimer: This was heartbreakingly FALSE.

Sparkly spandex aside, I still wasn’t anywhere near as superhuman as I felt. My sudden recovery was definitely masking the progress my scar should have been making in healing. It wasn’t bonding despite having been amply stitched and my running around was only making it worse. On New Year’s Eve, I had a stern word with myself and stopped pretending to be Wonder Woman and took myself off to the doctors where I was given antibiotics for infection and extra dressings to keep it dry and clean but this didn’t work. Over a week and a half later, I was still having issues with it and was referred to an out-of-hours clinic late on a Saturday night where I ended up with more antibiotics and now, follow up appointments every few days to check up on it. This was the biggest downer in my recovery and all my post-birth confidence slowly dribbled away. I was back wearing baggy oversized clothes to make sure nothing was rubbing or even touching my scar area, I was changing sticky dressing after sticky dressing which only aggravated my soft stretchy mum-tum and I’m pretty sure I cried enough tears to rehydrate a medium-sized dead plant. I ended up with Silvercel dressings to speed up the healing process which, thank the lord, worked a treat. Even though this still took a good few weeks more to heal, I was still enormously grateful and proud of how well I, in fact, all of us, was coping with it all.

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The Fitzpridding’s.

Our New Normal

For my body, I truly lucked in. As I was already still in my new ‘mom-bod’ before conceiving Henry, I grew back into my saggy, stretched skin in just a few weeks or so. Now, growing back into my ‘new skin’ took months last time. My ‘deflation’ period was a good 3-4 months and a painful few at that. This time round I definitely discovered a newfound respect for my body and all it has achieved. To have grown and birthed two babies, recovered from major life-changing surgery twice and still have enough gusto to repair and progress felt like a mini-miracle. My mental health surrounding my body isn’t the healthiest and I’ve always been conscious and critical of it but nonetheless I feel I’ve improved. There is no such thing as ‘snapping back’ for me and in reality, for millions of other women too; these are the ones who are regularly shamed for their stomachs, legs, boobs and every other part of their bodies when in fact we’re all different and there really is no ‘normal’. For me, it’s been a long hard journey into learning that it is ok to look different, it’s ok to be a new you and always remember that this version of you is a superhuman mother! My relationship with my body definitely has a long way to go but I most certainly am not actively looking to lose weight. My plan is just to make sure I’m healthy, happy and somewhat confident – not much to ask right?

MY POSTPARTUM BODY.

For the relationship between Kyle & me, I was terrified that another person in our relationship would cause a certain degree of separation between us but in all honesty, it’s only brought us closer. Turns out being vulnerable, and more aware of birth this time, can help you gain a deeper appreciation for the people you are and what you have created and now share. I always feel brand new things can sometimes put such strain on a relationship (moving house, getting a dog, having a baby – the usual life changes). It can create distance, stress and can put you on a different wavelength for a while but I do believe once you’ve experienced it once, you find your way and, in time, if you come to face it again you’ll have a new way of handling it. As Henry graced us with his presence, it amazed me that all of a sudden, we looked and felt like we knew what we were doing – just like putting on an old pair of shoes. And our little Rory took to big brotherhood like a total pro, wanting to share his toys and kiss Henry on the head from the moment they met. We’re a complete set and maybe, just maybe this might be it for us… but only maybe for now!

So there you have it, our birth beyond trauma something nearly three years ago I’d never had thought was possible. There’s no denying it’s taken all my mental and physical strength to bring Henry into the world but with a superb support system and surrounding myself with so much love, we’ve been able to bring another beautiful boy earth-side to join our crazy clan.

If you want to talk more about birth beyond trauma or about planned c-sections, please do get in touch. Where I obviously can’t give medical advice in any shape or form, I would be honoured to give my emotional support woman to woman!

Love to y’all, OCM .xo

Facing the Fear: Birth After Trauma Part One

No matter what anyone will tell you, cesarean sections are NOT the easy way out. Yes, they might be the best decision for you but we must remember that everybody is different. Your recovery could be a walk in the park or could be a little similar to mine: a small slice of hell with severe abdominal pain, severe swelling from excessive drugs, months of ‘deflating’, months of poor movement and continuous body-confidence nightmares. One of my biggest fears I will have to face this time around is birth and I’m going to try my best to document the process of pregnancy & birth post-emergency cesarean, step-by-step to help any other mama’s out there – whether it’s your first or fifth!

Now, you non-newbies will know I’ve previously talked about my birth story with Rory, my battle with mental health that followed and the ways I’ve tried to face these many demons in the hope of expanding our family –  well the moment has arrived for me to put my money where my mouth is and face ‘The Fear’. I plan for this to be the first of a few blogs following my journey through consultant-lead care and how I make my birth choices.

This pregnancy started off like every other: you make a midwife appointment and meet somewhere around the 8th/9th week of your pregnancy, you go forth and have a 12-week scan and see your midwife at the 16-week mark too – all textbook and running smoothly but it was here I was reminded that no matter how I look at things, this pregnancy will (most likely) result in childbirth – whichever form that comes in! It was at my 16-week appointment that my midwife (coincidentally the same midwife I had for Rory) asked whether I had thought about a natural or assisted birth this time around. I, of course, panicked and jumped straight in with ‘elective C-section is my preference’. WAS I MAD!? Who would think surgery would be a sensible idea? Why and how had I made this decision in my mind already? I worked out that it all boiled down to wanting a better experience than I had. With that, our first consultant appointment was booked and I was ready to fight my corner.

Let’s start off by saying I am lucky. We saw the consultant last week and it was so much more relaxed and successful than I had played over in my over-active brain. You can hear some real horror stories of consultants telling mamas-to-be that they can’t choose a cesarean birth and trying to put them off but I am fortunate not to be in that boat – PHEW! The meeting was calming and I felt listened to. *Worth noting here that we were seen by the consultant and a midwife*. I went in and was checked over as normal. We listened to the baby’s heartbeat, the midwife had a feel for the position and we sat down with my previous birth notes and went through what the situation was and what my choices are going forward. Did you hear that!? CHOICES! Hurrah, the words I so very longed to hear: ‘Whatever you wish to choose, we will support you in those choices‘. Absolute result! I was handed an A4 4-page leaflet on the benefits and disadvantages of both an elective cesarean or a VBAC (‘vaginal birth after cesarean’ for those not aware of today’s lingo!), which I am yet to divulge into, and sent on my way. Now, here are some FAQ’s the consultant answered for me during our meeting:

  • ‘When do I need to have decided my birth preference by?’
    In your second consultant appointment, which will be booked for around 36 weeks.
  • ‘If I chose one, when will my C-section be scheduled?’
    Between the 39th and 40th week mark allowing the baby to be as ‘cooked’ as possible. This means the chances of your baby having breathing issues or needing NICU attention is minimal.
  • ‘What would happen if I go into labour before this date?’ 
    You can either choose to progress with your labour naturally if you so wish OR you can be brought in for an emergency C-section straight away.
  • ‘If I decide on a VBAC how long will I wait after my due date before induction?’
    You will be induced at 41 weeks and no later.

So as mentioned, following on from an initial appointment, you are given a second appointment around the 36th week of pregnancy – so for us, this is around the 28th of November. This will be crunch time. This is where you should have done all of your research and be able to tell the consultant what it is you want. From here, if you wish to choose an elective you will be advised on a date (or selection of dates) for your baby’s big day – again, as mentioned, this will be around the 39th week of your pregnancy to be sure that the baby is fully cooked and ready to be brought earth-side.

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I am yet to make my ‘final decision’ or even half of it – we do still have 10(ish) weeks to go before I absolutely need to have decided and I am in no rush to put this in concrete. I know it’s going to be a very personal decision and one I am rather unlikely to take anyone’s advice on (in case you were unaware, I can be stubborn!). However, if you are reading this and have had a successful VBAC or a positive elective cesarean second time around, I would LOVE to hear from you. I’m trying to build a much bigger picture and would really like to feel as well informed as possible before I decide. Please head to our contact page if you would like to get in touch!

For the rest of y’all, we will be back soon with more updates!

Love and all,
OCM xo.

Forever Keeping Up with The Fitzpriddings!

A family of three

The Fitzpriddings

I always say this (and you know I do) but after hiding away for a little while, we are in fact still here and SURPRISE, we are multiplying! Yes, that’s right – we are going to become an awesome foursome – WOO!

It’s been a hectic first half of the year with sensational birthdays and holidays with a few beautiful surprises and nasty hiccups along the way but we’ve made it this far and will be here a lot more often starting very soon – more to come on that! To kick start it all, this August we’ll be looking back at our Rory’s second birthday and our first stay-away family holiday to Disneyland Paris along with looking at what it really took for me to be a working mum (and why I chose to walk away) and how we are going to be preparing for our baby number two this Christmas – YUP, we planned that one really well. Taking it all in our stride, this year will be faced with many new and very difficult challenges but we are determined to turn it around and make the best of it.

We hope you’ll stick around and join us as we wade (or waddle) through the rest of 2019 –  we look forward to the journey!

Love as always, OCM .xo

 

 

Greed or Guilt: Asking Too Much or Just Wishing For More?

Now, I’m not sure if this is a vent, a series of ‘but why’ or even a collection of deep thoughts but I’m attempting to make sense of what it means to have a second child, to look at the logical aspects as well as the emotional.

There are questions without answers and plenty of food for thought, but stick with me – maybe you can help?

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If I had a pound for every time I was asked ‘so when are you going to have another?’ or ‘time for another baby soon hey?‘ I would be a little less crippled by a mortgage size nursery bill, have a little more money for a gym membership and maybe enough money to fund my morning coffee obsession, just for starters.

As I push all bad jokes aside, I started to question ‘how do I actually feel about this?’ I honestly started to feel put on the spot and a little exposed too; but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that wanting another baby was something I hadn’t put much thought into. It started making me feel an overwhelming concoction of emotions; this mixture of guilt, greed and emptiness began to sew itself with curiosity, excitement, and many wonders of what could be. It’s no secret that I’m not sure I am mentally ready to have another baby or to put my body under so much pressure again. Rory’s birth and my c-section recovery were traumatic and tough but part of me is slowly becoming obsessed with the fact Rory is now 18 months old – I know I want more children but how long of an age gap is too long?

Motherhood: Feeling Guilty, Going Back to Work, Having a Family

Growing up, I always used to say I wanted three children: a boy, then a girl, then whatever God would grace us with. To be honest, I don’t think the big G was so keen on 17- year- old me’s plans if Rory’s arrival into the world is anything to go by – this definitely gives me a small heartache when thinking about wanting Rory to have siblings. Growing up with a sister just 19months younger than me meant we were quite inseparable as kids; we dressed the same, we acted the same and always had one another. Yes, our teenage years were super rocky for sure but thick or thin, we pulled through because having a sibling is a bond for life with always a lesson to learn; whether it’s how to share or learn to care, how to steal clothes and go unnoticed or even how to sneak a passport for an underage boogie whilst getting caught and forking out £200 for a new one a week before holidays… We really have been through the lot and I wouldn’t change any of it for the entire world. It’s something I want Rory to have for sure.

With all of the above swimming in my mind, the idea of more children, and money worries, I made the decision to go back to work full time. After 12 months maternity leave and 3 months back part time, I knew if I didn’t make the move at that point then not only would I really struggle to adjust to full-time work, but I would really have to fight further down the line to get a job doing something I actually wanted to do. I also knew the longer I left it to make a final decision about a new job and my career, the further away potential family expansion would become. It just so happens that I was incredibly fortunate in landing a job I used to dream of but we had bigger worries on the horizon.

I took a big leap of doubtable faith when I took my current job and was left wondering if we could really afford for me to go back to work. As I mentioned earlier, crippling nursery bills is our little black rain cloud. At an amount that matches 85% of my wages a month nursery bills, could you just imagine the cost for two!? Bankruptcy and a resounding ‘no thank you’ to parting ways with so much cash is left ringing in my ears.  How are mothers of children under 2, 3 or 4 supposed to have a career, contribute to better their family, not seen to be having ‘time away from work’ and have that something for themselves when the whole system is against them and nothing short of fatally flawed. Team this with £40k in debt from university (I always call it fake debt I know but they’ll come knocking for it one day) and maternity leave which left me borderline bankrupt there is no wonder I have such little savings. FYI, statutory maternity pay is beyond a joke and at a grand total of £141 per week, which was a 57% pay cut for me, only covered 9 of the 12 months leave which really scrapes the icing off the cake, onto the floor, and into a deep dirty puddle. Like dropping the perfect 99-er into the sand on a sunny summer day – a total freaking liberty.

Aside from my money worries and what feels like pounds (lbs!) of career-guilt, I’ve now got a new anxious pot of thoughts sat waiting to be dished out; I’ll start with question one: WHY, oh why do I now feel greedy for wanting another baby? Why does it seem that even wanting to talk about it seems quite taboo and something a little shameful – why do I feel like I’m asking for more than I’m ‘allowed’? The worst is feeling like I’ve put so much effort and time (and money) into going back to work and fighting to make it work, how on earth am I supposed to put it all on pause to have another baby? There are a million external factors outweighing the positives of having another member of the family, it always seems to come down to ‘we can’t afford another baby’ but can anyone ever really afford a baby? I feel like I’ve jumped down a black hole of unknown thoughts, feelings, and landed in a pile questions with not a lot of direction. ‘Mom-guilt’ is something I think needs to be talked about more often and more openly; we should never be made to feel this way and supporting each other could be the ticket outta here – with this in mind, please send advice, help or if you have any experiences you’ want to share, I would LOVE to hear.

Motherhood: Feeling Guilty, Going Back to Work, Having a Family

I’m not sure feeling guilty or greedy is something that will last forever and I’m sure somewhere out there, there must be an answer for all this weird family and money maths; I just can’t think there isn’t something out there that would work for us and that could help us grow and not make us lose every penny in the process. Right now, it’s just looking like an unmarked path in the fog: no road signs, no help and no sense of direction.

To all those struggling to juggle it all but muddling through – I have a profound respect for you. For those never knowing which way to turn – I’m right here with ya!

Motherhood: Feeling Guilty, Going Back to Work, Having a Family

Love as always,
One Curious Mother .xo

 

Postpartum Mental Health: How Can We Talk About This?

As mental health awareness week comes to a close, I’ve decided to share this rather personal post with you. I’ve always felt rather alone when it came to understanding and talking about my own mental health but with all the media attention surrounding it of late, it still stands that there can never be enough done to highlight the importance of mental health and well-being. Sharing our experiences in the hope of helping others has become a blooming good start.

Having toyed with the idea of sharing this with you all, I once again find myself thinking that if one person reads this and it helps just one person, then it was worth the vulnerability and honesty of sharing my personal journey. I’ve discussed mental health before; wrote myself a letter in March about things I wish I’d known, things I would tell myself, but I always find that no matter what I would tell myself, I come back to my fears and the anxiety-inducing moments that surround the trauma of childbirth which can creep into the corner of even my sunniest days. When the smallest of thing that can set off a wave of panic, sometimes it’s unavoidable to suppress.

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Newly Dazed

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year; Motherhood in unapologetically all-consuming but motherhood with mental health challenges is nothing like I expected. After writing our birth story last May and writing a letter last March, I’m now revisiting that day with a different set of eyes whilst looking at the journey that got me here today. As I’ve watched our little man start to grow up, my body and mind have changed. Regularly asked about the possibility of ‘Baby Number Two’, there are countless things I need to face and accept before that thought even enters my anxious brain. Looking back at my last month of pregnancy and Rory’s birth, I’ve struggled to accept the way things panned out.

My pregnancy with Rory wasn’t anything out of the ‘ordinary’. In fact, if you have read any of my previous blogs, I’d say I was rather lucky. I discussed my fortune in having no morning sickness or having any other debilitating symptoms or side effects. This lasted right up until I left work on maternity leave. That week magically flicked a switch and changed everything: I developed PUPPP. Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy is a nasty condition that develops in late pregnancy (and apparently more common in women having baby boys) and left my skin searing. I was itching with blisters and hives all over and burned at every hour of the day and night. Sleep was a thing of the past and doctors’ appointments became every other day, being tested over and over for Obstetric Cholestasis (a liver condition that can sometimes require induction) which luckily always returned negative results. I was exhausted and getting nervous at this point, I entered my final week of pregnancy feeling and thought was prepared. Still walking a mile or so in the afternoons hoping to induce early labour, I was offered a sweep – I need not go into details but DO NOT DO IT… I’m only joking but, in all seriousness, if ever in a position where this is offered: enter this with caution as at the very least it insanely uncomfortable and incredibly invasive. It was just 3 days later that I went into labour and 5 days later that I had an emergency c-section: the scariest eventuality that I was unprepared for. Leaving me swollen, cut and stitched, in agony and barely mobile, I felt couldn’t help but feel traumatised. How on Earth do you prepare for that!? Unwilling to talk about the event in depth or great detail, it became easy to brush the emotional side under the carpet and focus on my physical recovery which became unbearably tough on its own. It took me a good 5 months to realise how I truly felt about Rory’s birth.

Whilst speaking with a health visitor and NHS maternity service worker just last week, I found myself still feeling overpoweringly conscious of what I had been through. Without a doubt, I always find myself referring to how much worse it could have been or how there are women every day who face far worse but for me but I can’t help but linger on the single thing haunting what should be one of my happiest memories: it is the pure fact I was astronomically unprepared for a birth like that. My mind forever replays a scene from one of my favourite films, ‘About Time‘, during these moments. In a scene involving an accident that the main character Tim tries to change, he narrates a quote from a song by Baz Luhrmann called ‘Sunscreen‘: ‘He says worrying about the future is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life will always be things that never crossed your worried mind’ …No matter how hard I try, I’m still the one starring at the equation chewing that gum.

When I first opened up to a health visitor about how I felt, I was afraid what she would think of me. Mental health issues are associated with weakness but it takes incredible strength to face such inner battles. As I eased into talking about how I’d been feeling after surgery and how I’d coped with accepting the birth, PTSD was brought up. Always the person to think ‘but I haven’t been to war,’ or ‘I don’t live in a war zone‘, I needed to stop being so naive. PTSD isn’t because of a specific type of trauma and it can arrive and linger in many forms. It can be your memories keeping you awake in a cold sweat leaving you terrified to think too deep into what you’ve been through; It can be the very thought of how close to death you came and how it sends the blood rushing through your body, leaving you light headed and nauseous. It’s every time you see your scars, your stomach churns and the thought of how you wanted it to be makes you angry and somewhat irrational about the most basic of activities. It’s all consuming and something I’m now actively working to get through and I’m ok that it may take some time. Turns out the NHS have a fantastic service available where you can go and see specially trained midwives. They can talk you through what you’ve been through and help you process your feelings or fears surrounding your pregnancy, birth or motherhood. I’ll be taking part in a session in the next month and I’m both curious and anxious but hopeful it will help.

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Walking has become the best way to clear my head

Another side of mental health I find challenging is handling my anxiety. As I’ve become less afraid to admit it, it’s become easier to recognise. Postpartum anxiety is something I’ve talked about, previously in the form of separation anxiety and just like most mental health matters, each can take many forms. For me, it’s been an unexplainable jealousy, an underlying bitterness and twisting in the gut. A strange paranoia and relentless envy. It’s restless nights, toxic social media scrolling, actively avoiding every mirror, shop or car window. It’s taking hours to get dressed, noticing every extra stretch mark, wrinkle, crease or fold. It’s nightmares of what could or could’ve happened, the unimaginable and unthinkable. It’s all-around emotion, tears and upset and it’s also easy to slip into covering it up and hiding it far too often. Once again, it has taken me a while to actively seek help. You don’t always recognise it and you don’t always want to speak to those closest to you or anyone at all then there’s the option of medical help. For me, when I’ve seen GP in the past I have always been handed a ‘self-referral’ leaflet. These are without a doubt the most disheartening handout of information to be given when you’re in a doctor’s office trying to explain yourself after it’s taken weeks or even months to get yourself that far. I’ve learned that the doctors were no help, but when I turned to the health visitors, they appeared to be angels in disguise pointing me towards the NHS service I talked about earlier. It’s little steps to help put the pieces back together, to adjust to a new normal and to accept what has happened and move forward.

Our Little Monkey

Becoming a mother can be the hardest but the most rewarding thing you might ever do but you’ll never be the only one doing it. Avoiding being swallowed up in mental health challenged always comes down to being honest with yourself. Even in your darkest hour, only you can start the process of recovery. No matter how many times you try to suppress or hide how you’re feeling or the way you’re thinking, it will only deteriorate. Take charge of your health – it may be completely out of your comfort zone but try your best to reach out, find local groups or speak to your local maternity services. Opening up can be one of the scariest things you can do and yes, it is sometimes so much easier to lie, to really hide how you feel but sharing your experience can kick-start a very important process that will, first of all, help you feel a damn site less alone. Please, if you’re feeling low, sad, feeling like you are struggling, find someone who can help you in whichever form works for you!

As my title ask ‘how can we talk about this’, I’ve come to think the answer is far simpler than we thought. I believe it lies in empowering one another to speak out, share experiences and challenges. It’s guiding each other through difficult times and becoming a support network. We as women, as friends, family, colleagues could and should be supporting each other whatever the cause or type of mental health issue it is. Support is priceless.

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I hope, if you’re looking for help and need assistance, the links below help point you in the right direction and help you start your journey

As always, thank you for reading

Loves to all,

OCM xoxo

Why Is Turning One So Much Fun!?

After our mini hiatus from being online, we are bloomin’ back. We have a brand new look, a brand new structure, and so many new questions to ask – that’s why we are One Curious Mother. While we were away we’ve been less than quiet with a first birthday to celebrate, two snow days and a four-day Easter bank holiday weekend. Family time has been so important and we’ve loved every minute.

I recently wrote a post about being a mother for a year; I wrote a letter to year-ago-me about how my life had changed, the things I wish I’d known and the things I should remember to tell myself. Whilst doing this, I realised that I should be questioning things a lot more often; why were there things that I didn’t know, why were there things people didn’t tell me and why do babies not sleep when they’re so obviously tired!? So many questions and never enough time. We’ve tackled some intense and profound subject matters since we started back in December 2016 and I didn’t want to bring One Curious Mother back to you with a post that was too harsh or thought-provoking so without further ado, today we’re coming straight back at ya with our first post: ‘Why Is Turning One So Much Fun’ – Happy reading!

27750817_1756135944417876_1229448006099829969_nKing Rory the First

WHY IS TURNING ONE SO MUCH FUN!?

Rorysaurus. Part boy, part dinosaur, and a whole one-year-old! How did it become twelve months later? Fifty-two weeks, three hundred and sixty-five days  – I can’t comprehend that it’s been that long since he arrived into our lives via that ’emergency c’. I will never understand the cause of time speeding up as you get older but my golly gosh it certainly has since he was born. Within a blink of an eye, Rory has gone from a little glow worm in a swaddle to walking-slash-running and shouting ‘HIYA’ whilst scrunching his tiny hands open and closed at literally every single living thing. Damn, I am ever so excited for this year and with him growing so fast before our eyes, boy do we have so much to look forward to. Kicking things off in style, we threw him his very first birthday party – somewhat dinosaur themed of course! 

Party & Presents

After having a really large christening party for His Royal Highness, we decided to keep his birthday really low-key. We had family over for an old-school party lunch where we played games like ‘pass the parcel’ and ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ where, as per usual, we ate a ridiculous amount of cake. No party in our house is ever complete without party rings, cheese & pineapple sticks and sausage rolls. We stayed fairly low-key with the decorations but still managed to squeeze in some paper fans, oversized foil balloons, cone party hats and a super sparkly cake topper.

We tried to stay sensible with his birthday presents as we are still overwhelmed by all the gifts from Christmas. Despite this, we couldn’t help but fall for some fantastic finds with thanks to the closing sale by ToysRUs (RIP childhood!). Originally looking for sensory toys, We went for little musical instruments but ended up with a Buzz Lightyear backpack for our upcoming holiday, a Green Toys seaplane bath toy and a Vtech ‘My First Till’ as well. Our little dinosaur was nothing short of spoilt rotten by the rest of the family with a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe from his Granny & Grumps, money for swimming lessons from Grandad, a Little Tikes Shopping Trolley with all the felt food available to purchase in Ikea (to go with our till) from Great Nanny & Papy and a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Swing & Lawn Mower from Nanny, Bampi & Auntie Banana. With his Activity Garden from Christmas, you would definitely think our living room was now sponsored by Little Tikes! Now running around and fascinated by everything that moves, why wouldn’t anyone absolutely love playtime? I know I do and might just enjoy playing shop a bit more than Rory does – I’m not worried yet, I know he’ll come to love playing shop with me eventually!

Present Time!

On Rory’s actual birthday, we took a little day trip and Woburn Safari Park was our destination of choice. We are aiming to do as many zoos and aquariums around the UK as possible in the years to come and decided this occasion was perfect for ticking off another one. As the safari park was a little drive away from home, we packed up our car for the day, hoping to avoid the generous pounding of snow we had just the day before. With weather worse to the north and west of us, we decided on Woburn as it was further east where the weather was far less intense. By the time we arrived, there wasn’t a flake of snow in sight. Choosing a drive around safari was the perfect activity for a one-year-old. Sitting on my knee in the front, strapped in together going 2mph looking at bears, tigers, monkeys and more, had Rory completely transfixed. Even though the weather was still cold, most animals were out of their little homes and some even came a little too close to the car for my comfort (those bears were much scarier up close!). Once the safari was over, there was an interactive part of the park to enjoy and wrapped up beyond belief, we braved the freezing wind-chill and enjoyed looking at penguins, goats, otters and even found a Noah’s Ark super soft play area for us to have a run-around. It was the perfect sensory experience for a one-year-old and were so glad we made the decision to have a day out.

Safari Fun!

A lot of articles, blogs and forums said that a first birthday isn’t one for taking your child anywhere as they’re too young to enjoy anything and won’t remember it. I think it’s safe to say, we respectfully completely disagree! We had the most amazing day as a little family and yeah, Rory might not remember it but I know for sure that as parents, we definitely will. Family days out are always the best and I’ve got a list of future days out to get through this year.

So, what are we looking forward to this year? Well, we have a few exciting happenings coming up. First off, we’re going to support our Auntie Banana at her Masters’ graduation in London next week. It’s Rory’s first visit to the capital which is all very exciting as he loves people and new places are always fun. Then in June, we are heading on our second family holiday: a road trip to the South of France. On deciding to drive, we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to plan a mini detour via the most magical place on earth, Disneyland Paris! Rory doesn’t know that he’s excited about it yet but he will grow up to be as excited as me, I’m absolutely sure of it. In addition to these, we have his progressional second-year milestones to look forward to; talking more, taking the next chapter of Waterbabies and moving on up to ‘Toddler Two’ at nursery school to name a few. With all our traditional celebrations like Halloween and another super festive Christmas, we are all set for another super busy year and cannot wait.

I think in answer to our original question, ‘why is turning one so much fun?’ I believe it’s because we are about to have so much fun before we turn two, there is just no way it could ever be boring and we hope you’ll enjoy joining us on this journey as much as we’ll enjoy taking it!

Speak soon & love to all,
One Curious Mother xoxo

PS here are some sources for some of the things in today’s post:
Happy Birthday Balloon Banner (affiliate link)- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inflating-Birthday-Balloon-Bunting-Letters/dp/B06XY6S77C/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=onecuriousmot-21&linkId=ae09f2eee267c8d05e848223d2ea245a
Giant Green 1 Balloon (affiliate link)- https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B072XSP7KQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&psc=1&linkCode=ll1&tag=onecuriousmot-21&linkId=21d6cb7390e231c6cece654d2a7cc7a0
Dinosaur ‘One’ Cake Topper (affiliate link)- https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01N7049KQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&psc=1&linkCode=ll1&tag=onecuriousmot-21&linkId=6857913e91e68626b9587be879bd3883
Little Tikes – https://www.littletikes.co.uk
Woburn Safari Park – http://www.woburnsafari.co.uk
Disneyland Paris – http://www.disneylandparis.co.ukhttp://www.disneyholidays.co.uk/disneyland-paris/

Mother for a Year: An Open Letter

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As we approach our little Rory’s first birthday I’ve decided to write myself an open letter, a letter to year-ago-me in the first days after giving birth. Things I wished I’d known, the advice I’d give myself and the hope that past-me really would have needed to hear.

I’m not going to waffle on before this, I’m going to let it speak for itself, so here goes nothing…

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Dear New Mama,

How you holding up?

I know you’ve had a difficult few days and you’re exhausted and emotional but your body has been through a lot in such a small amount of time. Bruised and drugged up to the eyeballs, I know you’re not feeling the full effects of your surgery yet but be nice to yourself, you undeniably deserve it.

I know you’re disappointed and upset. Surgery was the last thing you wanted but just remember, you were a fighter right to the bitter end. You were determined to birth your baby unaided and you did everything you could for this during those thirty-six hours. You produced a determination and strength within your body and within your mind that you never knew. You’re feeling damaged and defeated and it’s ok to feel that way – things didn’t go the way you wanted but you must never think of this as a failure. You absolutely did not fail. NEVER, ever, ever stop and think for one minute that you failed in this. You’ll read many articles, comments and blog posts this year about c-sections. You won’t believe how many people have opinions (and some don’t even have a uterus!) but please, don’t listen to all of them. People are always trying to convince women that a c-section was the ‘easy way out’ or that by having one you ‘didn’t really give birth’ but girl, you grew that baby with your body like a mighty warrior! The surgery was imperative to saving both your lives.

It’s ok to feel angry. Angry that you don’t recognise yourself, that your body is scarred and in so much pain. You’re angry that your body is still healing three, six, nine, eleven months later and it’s normal to feel this way. Start by stepping away from triggering social media. It’ll really hurt you. Stop looking at other mothers on Instagram that had a baby last week and lost 3lbs off their pre-baby weight already. Stop obsessing about those with post-baby abs – it’s not going to happen for you sweetie. Don’t beat yourself up about doing exercise. Take it at your own pace and stop looking at those ‘fit-moms’. Despite this, you should have done more of those exercises the physiotherapist gave you to do. Even though they were uncomfortable and make you ache, they were designed to help you even if it doesn’t feel that way but don’t be hard on yourself, it’s justifiable. Don’t worry about running or pushing yourself too hard. You’ll end up finding badminton is your sport and you’ll take up Waterbabies both you’ll really enjoy. It’s all about finding the new normal for you as a mama, not you as the size 10 young twenty-something year old – she has left the building and isn’t coming back. Always remember your body was pushed to the furthest limit; it’s still recovering and it might be for some time yet. You’re still recovering now, a whole year later and you still have appointments and consultations to come. I know this is crushing you and you’re going to take this really hard for a long long time but please be kind to yourself. You’ll try and take care of your body but trust me, those little extra TLC moments will help with your recovery in the long run.

Our little moments…

Really focus on those real mothers out there sharing every drama and every mini-triumph. There are moments when you’ll feel so lonely and isolated; it’s in the many dark moments to come, that these mothers will make you feel grounded and the ones who make you feel like you’re never truly alone. Never feel embarrassed to talk about your mental health. It’s always as important as your physical health. There are loads of resources out there to help you and your health visitor is number one. Don’t shy away like you used to. Remember in the past that this has caused more harm than good. If you want to cry then cry and if you want to be angry then you be angry. It’s ok to feel helpless and on some days for your anxiety to consume you – you’re only human and having a baby has challenged every ounce of you. Don’t hide away, confide more in those you love and they’ll help you step-by-step. Take longer walks; ‘Have baby, will travel’ – bundle little one up and try your best to walk as far as you comfortably can. The fresh air will help clear your mind and you’ll feel so much better for it. I know it’s hard to envisage but in just six months from now, you’ll go on your first family holiday as a three to Holland. It’ll be a fantastic first holiday and you’ll think back on it almost every day. It will bring you the happiest of memories and make you excited for future holidays.

Our first holiday: Holland

Don’t feel like you have to answer everyone’s questions and there will be millions. ‘How was it?’, ‘Are you having visitors?’, ‘Why are you home so soon?’ etc, etc. Don’t hide, if people ask about your birthing experience, own it. Tell them straight up how hard and traumatic it was, that surgery was gruelling and recovery is unimaginably hard. Equally, you don’t owe anyone an answer. ‘Are you thinking about more kids?’ Sure, you’ve always wanted a minivan full but right now: HELL NO! You’re not even going to want to entertain the thought and getting pregnant will truly terrify you from this moment on. You will spend hours thinking about this. It will enter your thoughts and creep into your mind when you least expect it: you’ll be at work, out for a walk or trying to eat. It will keep you up at night, make you feel instant dread and even make you panic. Don’t over think it – you’ll have plenty of time in the future to tackle those fears and right now, in recovery doesn’t have to be that time. Try your best to keep those precious night-time hours aside for sleep because god only knows you need it. You’ll learn to cope better with this as the months go by so if you don’t think you’ll get through it, my dear you will. You’re stronger than you realise.

Breastfeeding will come in time. Persevere and don’t fear the formula, it’ll become a saving grace when you’re feeling like you’ve tried everything. Once it all starts to run smoothly, you’ll feel such a sense of triumph as all your hard work does pay off.  Breastfeed wherever the hell you want! You’ll shy away and feel nervous, you’ll worry about other people looking or telling you not to in public but babe, if a baby has to eat a baby has to eat. You’ll avoid doing things at the fear of these very thoughts but looking back now, you didn’t need to be. This isn’t always how you’ll think, you do eventually get past this fear and realise you literally don’t care. ‘Insta-moms’ will help empower you with this one – #normalisebreastfeeding (normalize if you’re from across the pond!)

Leaving your baby after spending every waking minute together will be hard. Separation anxiety is totally normal, hell it’s part of the postpartum package alongside buckets of tears, body hatred and sleep deprivation. It’s the real frickin’ deal but don’t feel like everyone is trying to take the little man away. It’s ok to hate being away from him and you will feel like no one knows him like you do. You’ll feel like you’re the only one who can comfort him and you’re the one who went through so much to bring his little precious life earth-side that you don’t ever want to be away from him and quite frankly don’t want to share him with a soul. Really though, don’t feel rushed into being without him. Do every step in your own time and at your own pace, after all, no one can tell you exactly what to do and when to do it when it comes to you and your son. You do you and let everyone else fall in line. (By the way, this totally works and you didn’t have to feel bad because you did what was right for you!) You’ll learn how to let other people, family and loved ones, take the reins every once in a while. You’ll find a balance where you’ll go to those mother-baby classes and have some time for yourself too. It’s all about finding the new normal.

Too many shades of beige! 

Now lastly before I say goodbye, my last piece of advice: SOAK. IT. ALL. UP. Every little hour, minute and second because it will fly by. Rory is amazing. He’s smart and happy and the just the bee’s knees. He’s got a smile that’ll make you weak and a laugh that makes your heart burst; he’ll develop this amazing personality and you’ll love his sense of humour Look how perfect your little boy is! You’ll spend hours looking at him, working out who he looks like most, what colour his eyes really are and how on earth his skin is so soft. You’ll cry many, many times just watching him sleep wondering how you made something so perfect and so beautiful. Don’t worry – all mama’s do this, I’m sure of it.

Enjoy every high and low; every long night and rainy day, every cuddle and snuggle, every laugh and cry. Someone once told me ‘The days will feel long but the years will fly by’ and by god weren’t they right!?

Lots of love,
Future Mama xxxx

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I don’t feel like I need to say much more: my life has changed so much in just a mere twelve months. I’ve learned a lot along the way even though there is so much I wish I’d known before. I’ve dealt with things I never thought I would and although it’s been unimaginably tough at times, it’s those moments that have shown me just how rewarding motherhood can be.

Love to all,
One Curious Mother x

PS. No sources for today’s post but here is a list of helpful links!
Postnatal Depression – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/symptoms/
Postpartum Anxiety – https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/anxiety-type/postnatal-anxiety/
Parental Separation Anxiety – https://www.babble.com/parenting/parental-separation-anxiety/
Babies with Separation Anxiety – https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/separation-anxiety-0
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/ptsd-and-birth-trauma/#.WpwE7SOcZ-U
Birth Trauma – http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/help-support/what-is-birth-trauma
Loneliness – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201703/the-unexpected-loneliness-new-mothers
Peanut App – https://www.peanut-app.io