Where I Drew The Line: Choosing My Health Over a Job

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It’s been 11 weeks and 6 days since I left my job and became unemployed.

Yes, I voluntarily quit my job and decided to put my mental and physical health first to be (excuse me for want of a better phrase) a ‘stay-at-home-mother’ (for now!).
So many people often laugh and belittle the title but it hasn’t been without complication and is definitely the hardest decision I’ve made to date, one I absolutely did not take lightly.

Mentally and emotionally, I was admitting complete defeat. Although not difficult for some, personally my previous job wasn’t the easiest to contend with – as with many, over-prescribed and under-appreciated, and despite putting up a fight, it didn’t take much to feel like a total failure 24/7 after many unhappy 10 hour days, 5 days a week.

Financially, feeling this unmotivated and under-appreciated came at the unforgivable cost of £1,200 a month in nursery fees, £50 a week in fuel and many a Great British Pound in forgotten lunch boxes and ‘run away from my desk at lunchtime to survive snacks’ – I’ve now left all that behind in addition to an entire salary… Another ridiculously hard parting for sure. As well as this, my departure prior to what’s known as the ‘qualifying week’ for maternity pay, has also left us rather short-changed.
So when did I decide to put myself above my job, money, and stability I hear you ask? In all honesty, it hit me like a train in slow motion for a few months then the fire started and I burnt out in the blink of an eye.

For months, it started as a series of small interferences with my day-to-day life: things like feeling overwhelmed, regularly crying on my way home from work, not enjoying anything outside of work at the fear of heading back the next day. This quite quickly snowballed after finding out I was pregnant in Easter earlier this year. Emotions running higher and baby brain swallowing me whole, I was tripping at every hurdle and it began to show it all aspects of my life, work being the hardest to go unnoticed. As the pressure mounted, I became a stressed-shell of my former self and found that I couldn’t stand up for myself at the fear of confrontation or worse, dismissal. It was all-consuming and I slowly lost my ability to concentrate, my confidence in decision making and imposter syndrome kicked in HARD. Recently, I read an article (forgive me, I can’t remember where) about how imposter syndrome is actually more about colleagues making you feel inferior and not accepted than you being bad at your job. It was a shocking eye-opener that, yes I could have been getting worse at my job through stress and anxiety but feeling inferior was, in fact, more a part of feeling inadequate. I was jumping through hoops, working away and for many weekends and extended days but it never ever felt like enough.

Now, here’s a bit of advice pregnant mama to pregnant mama – whatever you do, research your rights and make sure your employer follows the guidelines for pregnant women in the workplace. It can make a HUGE difference in how your role and job load is handled and a risk assessment is an absolute necessity, wherever you work. I felt at a disadvantage with this and only wish I’d been more outspoken at the time; this was an unignorable protruding factor on my ‘why I should quit’ list.

As we reached early May, heading towards my 9th week of pregnancy, the downward spiral only got more slippery. The dread of the job took over and I’d lost every ounce of gusto for my job and my home life; my entire life felt unbearable and with that, I sort medical help. Having previously had fairly negative interactions with the NHS and mental health, I was fortunately not ignored and was signed off work with ‘work-related stress’ for two weeks – even that felt like I was letting my job down. I didn’t quite know what to do with my days and regularly lay around feeling unmotivated and generally unwell; the weeks passed quickly and before I knew it I was back to the constant dread. On my return to work, my absence seemed like the elephant in the room. If it wasn’t for the lovely ladies who sat around me reassuring me with ‘are you ok’ and ‘if you need to talk, you know where I am’, I’m really not sure I would have survived the 6 weeks that followed.

As I slumped into my corner desk and tried to plow through the never-ending tasks that seemed to have festered in my absence, I’d never felt so behind or snowed under with jobs where deadlines had passed or were imminently due. With no assistant or colleague to share the load with, I started to crumble all over again. Nothing had changed and almost seemed like my time away had never happened. It was never really discussed beyond a short and sweet meeting where I agreed that I was fit for work again. In no time at all the tasks began piling up and it only got worse – it was then my overall capability was beginning to be questioned.

As I entered my yearly appraisal, I knew I was officially failing. I’d appeared to have stepped into a losing battle with little to no lifelines left to use. After raising many flags about my concerns, there was no mention of my increase in workload, my work quantity being constantly chosen over quality, me being signed off work with stress and certainly not a peep about how my role had changed since becoming pregnant. Needless to say, I was rung out and hung out to dry. My mind began to ponder whether I could survive 5 to 6 months more of this without a. being fired or b. miscarrying – it was at that exact moment, mid-meeting, that I had already made up my mind: to leave was my only option. I spent the following 2 weeks vigorously researching my maternity options and entitlement, spending almost every lunch breaks on the phone speaking to god knows how many people in the Government’s benefits department. Devastatingly falling short for statutory maternity pay, I luckily qualified for maternity allowance but this was going to leave me with an 8-week pay gap which we couldn’t really afford to do, but what choice did I have.

On Monday 24th June, I handed in my notice to an unshocked response. When asked why, my schpiel of ‘my health absolutely has to come first’ came pouring out – this was greeted with even less shock but the deal was done. Feeling oddly free but unnervingly cut off, I began my shut down almost instantly. I took on zero new tasks and wrapped up every piece outstanding in the 4 weeks that followed. I guess, for myself, I still wanted to prove that I could do the work at hand (when it came in reasonable and realistic quantities!). I left with my head held high and my mental and physical health just about intact. I regretted nothing and still don’t.

 

 

We didn’t know how we’d cope with one income but have picked up a few tips for how to save our pennies along the way – we’ve had to:

  • Cut down nursery days – the biggest saver! From 4 to 2 days with the help of Granny Day Care twice a week has been a godsent – plus the added bonus of spending more time with Rory at home has been priceless!
  • Condense our cars to having just one – in order to save the next wedge we condensed to paying for just one car, one tax & one insurance by handing my lease back to the garage and trading in Kyle’s for a bigger, more economical car (hello Kadjar with a humongous boot and space for us all – new baby included!)
  • Stop needlessly buying food (a biggie for us!) – plan, plan, plan! Impulse food buying is a wallet emptier for sure! Now we always check out which days/times supermarkets reduce their meats and have sometimes chosen to batch cook for lunches to help save a few more £££’s!

There is a definite moral to the story guys & gals, and that is never ever take your health for granted and whatever you do, do not hesitate to put yourself first, even if it seems impossible. You only have one you and driving yourself into the ground will not be doing anyone any favours.
It’s been the toughest and weirdest few months of my life so far and to think if I hadn’t have been pregnant I would have moved on to another job has made it a tricky one to swallow. I guess being unemployment has to be my title for now – I know it won’t always be like this and it won’t always be this tough! Just remember, you can never bloom the most beautiful flowers without a little bit of rain!

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Love to y’all, OCM! xx

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.

Happy 70th Birthday: Why I’m Infinitely Grateful

Even though I’m a little late to the party, I feel my thank you to the NHS had to be a piece carefully considered. This took longer than expected and this isn’t a particularly long one but here it goes…

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As we all know, this year The National Health Service has reached its 70th birthday; an incredible milestone for a service that can sometimes be the hand to hold in every step through the circle of life. Today, this piece is an open letter on why I’m grateful for the NHS.

Happy 70th Birthday to the NHS: Thank You Flowers

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To The National Health Service,

What an incredible job you’ve done. A job you do with such courage and compassion, every single day. I’m beaming with pride and thankfulness whilst writing this as it is not without you that I sit here today, cuddling our precious son. 

After years of studying, racking up debt and working around the clock, your journey into a job becomes a role of unimaginable pressure, expectation and at any moment of every day, you could be faced with any possible and sometimes impossible problem. This is aside from the negative press, the government funding issues and the struggle to recruit; the overworked GP’s, overcrowded surgeries and in many cases, lack of available resources, you are without a doubt pushed to your limits every day. Despite this, in our deeply personal experiences, there has always been above and beyond treatment and care for each and every one of us.

As a family, we’ve faced some terrifying times; from my Great Auntie Lesley’s brain tumour and stroke, to my Papy’s viral heart failure, my Dad’s appendicitis to much more recently, my emergency c-section for the birth of my son, Rory. It wasn’t long after this that my parents wrote a letter to you expressing their utmost gratitude and thanks for Rory’s safe delivery and both my antenatal and postnatal care. A letter they were so eager and so proud to write you.

My most recent care through The Trust has been for an incredible postnatal care programme: ‘Every Birth Matters’. After struggling to come to terms with and face Rory’s birth, I was left unsure how to feel. Traumatised by the events and lacking a true understanding of what had happened and if it was at all, preventable in the future. With a fantastic midwife to walk me through my pregnancy and journey through labour and birth, she fully explained every step going into tremendous factual and emotional detail. This has been the most intense but worthwhile hour of therapy I’ve ever received. It has not only helped me accept what has happened but I’ve learned that there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome of Rory’s birth: He hadn’t progressed into my pelvis enough and after 30+ hours, they weren’t willing to give him any more time to try to. It was to save us both but what has saved me the most is knowing I didn’t fail, that my body did its job and even with the harrowing recovery – there was nothing more I could have possibly done: the outcome would have lead us down the same path. Even with this breakthrough, the best news was learning that I wouldn’t have to go through it again if we chose to have more children. That I could successfully have a VBAC if I wanted or a scheduled c-section should I wish. For someone who struggles with personal control, knowing that next time the choice could be mine, feels like a weight has been lifted. The Trust has been invaluable to my recovery and one day, I just hope I can express my gratitude enough.

Life is fragile and every day it’s put into your hands: a birth, a death, an illness, a broken bone. The list is endless. Nothing can prepare us for what life brings and no one will ever know what’s coming around the corner but it is from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all you have done and all that you continue to do.

In our deepest and most desperate times of need, even in the most stretched state, you provided the absolute best treatment, care, and support for us to heal and move forwards without fail. You are a service that has become priceless for those who need it most.

You are priceless, you are treasured and most of all you are lifesaving. Happy 70th Birthday superstars!

Yours gratefully,

Naomi Pridding

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We must, must try everything to help the National Health Service and respect it for what it is: a life saving, irreplaceable free service providing an incomparable and incredible care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

I really don’t think I want to say any more for this – I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m just forever grateful for the care we’ve been provided with.

Loves to all,

OCM xoxo