I’ve always loved Christmas. But as you are rather dramatically told (after you have had a baby – nobody tells you this before) that you will at some point during those early weeks and months, ‘mourn your old life’ – well that definitely hit home for me during last Christmas. Although it was of course, so incredibly special as it was Rafe’s first Christmas, I must admit I did feel rather sorry for myself too. Don’t get me wrong – I knew how incredibly lucky I was. But there was a lot going on inside my little head (I understand more about that now) and Rafe was only a few months old and I really didn't (and still don’t) know if I was doing anything right at all. And for me, before Rafe, Christmas had of course been about being home and being with my family and friends. But honestly – without sounding like a plonky – it was also a time where there would be a merry amount of booze consumed. Especially when I was younger and didn’t have crow’s feet and saggy boobs, Christmas Eve in Whitley Bay was like the best night ever. Starting in Weatherspoon’s, drinking a jug of woo woo and dancing to Christmas songs all night was at the time – pretty fabulous. And a few years ago, I loved going out on Boxing Day for a ‘few’ drinks (and shots of tequila) with my friends. And I remember last year, sitting upstairs while my family all chinked their prosecco glasses while I was trying to get Rafe to latch on and I felt a mixture of guilt because I had my little boy and was so lucky – but also aware that I wasn’t going to be drinking tequila and singing Mariah Carey and I felt well - a bit pump. And it wasn’t about the boozing that I was missing – I guess it just hit home that my ‘carefree’ life where I could pretty much go out anytime I wanted, wherever I wanted, at the drop of a hat with a shot of tequila – well that was over. And I wasn’t ‘mourning’ the jugs of woo woo, I just realised the ‘old’ me had become the Ghost of Christmas past. But you know what? What is even more special? MORE SPECIAL THAN GETTING DRUNK TO MARIAH CAREY? You ask. Seeing Rafe’s face light up when he sees the Christmas tree for the first time after his mum and dad tried quietly to put it up – without killing each other the night before. Although he still doesn’t really have a clue what is going on, it just feels even more magical. Like real magic. And I love Christmas even more than I ever did. And in years to come, when Rafe believes in Santa – he can leave him a couple of shots of tequila and a jug of woo woo out for Rudolph….
Like I said last week, I’ve been a bit poorly which hasn’t been overly fun and juat as I was thinking, it's been almost two weeks of no nursery germs...Rafe has literally just come down with another cough and cold. Last night was particularly rough as he was so blocked up, coughing and teething. His big bad boy teeth are coming in (think that's the right term) so he is really not happy. Poor lad. Amen to Calpol and baby Bonjela.
Literally counting down the days until the Christmas holidays – it will be the first chunk of time I have had with Rafe since maternity leave. And my husband is home so just looking forward to family time – and having Chris do everything. Jokes…Although his Christmas leave will be a bit bittersweet as early January he is going away for a couple of months so not overly excited about that. He’s been away since we had Rafe, but not for such a long stint where he won’t get to come home at all and contact might not be great. So although he’s not around normally during the week, we’ve been lucky for a while that he’s been home most weekends. But we will survive, just always the thought of it and those first few days that are really hard. Will just have to stock up on the chocolate and make sure I have plans to keep us busy every weekend and fingers crossed it will fly by.
Rafe’s not walking yet – and some days just doesn’t seem bothered to try at all. At first I was starting to worry as I was comparing him to other babies of the same age who had been walking for a while – but I need to not do that. And remember he will walk when he is ready. I remember the health visitor saying some babies don’t walk till 16-18 months and that’s normal. He just loves whizzing around crawling at the moment. We try and encourage him best we can but at the end of the day, Chris and I are incredibly stubborn and like us, if Rafe doesn’t want to do something. He simply won’t! So will see. Would be nice to think he will be wobbling around over Christmas – but equally I’m not going to stress about it if he doesn’t. He’s at such a special age at the moment that I am just loving seeing how he is developing his little personality every day. The way he chats away (no idea what he is saying!) to himself in the morning, to how he loves to share his food/stuff it in your face and how he finds it hilarious if you jump out and give him a shock. I’ve been watching Babies, Their Wonderful World on BBC 2 (highly recommend) which looks at the incredible changes in the first two years of life and it is just fascinating. You don’t actually realise how much babies are taking in at such a young age. So best start curbing the ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ conversations with my husband….
Until next week,
As much as I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, I am also very aware of how exhausting it can be. Especially in those early days. And as we have plodded on and come over some pretty big hurdles, now Rafe is 13 months, as I have said previously, it is something I have grown to love and cry every time I think of that last breastfeed we will have. And I almost forgot, with him only nursing morning, before bed and once in the night, (all quite short feeds) how much it can drain you. Not just physically – my boobs resemble a Bloodhound’s ears, my skin is so dry – my feet, my feet look like something from Lord of the Ring’s – I’m basically a mummified corpse. So, yes, physically draining – and mentally too. With Rafe being poorly, he has totally gone off his food (something else to worry about…) so he has been having mammoth nursing sessions lasting over an hour. Which I forgot how hard they can be sometimes. A much-needed comfort and nourishment for Rafe but I think the exhaustion of being up so much in the night with this never-ending cough and cold and nursing for hours on end, I feel like the life has been sucked out of me. Slightly dramatic I know but like I’ve drank that Hocus Pocus potion and my youth has been stolen. Again, dramatic I know. Think I just need a spa day, a full-night’s sleep, someone to pluck my eyebrows, shave my legs, a spray tan, a bottle of wine with friends…Just maybe a few hours where I don’t need to work, take the dog out, feed the baby, change the baby, clean the house, put another load in the washing machine, have a poo in peace - just some me time. What is that?! Urgh, now I feel selfish (damn you mum guilt) as Rafe is a snot monster at the moment and it’s not his fault he’s poorly (NURSERY GERMS) but guess I’m just a bit Hocus Pocus’d out. Can anyone else relate?
So yes. Poor Rafe is still poorly – he is getting better but this cold and damn flipping cough is just lingering on and on. The last cough he had lasted bloody five weeks – honestly if he is ill for Christmas I will cry. Positive thoughts Faye, positive thoughts. I kept him off nursery this week but when he goes back next week (I hope he is well by then) I am honestly dreading what he is going to catch next. Yes, I know it is good for him in the long run and his immune system but the thought of going through another cold, cough, viral rash, if he does get hand foot and mouth, chickenpox…just fills me with absolute dread. I just feel like we haven’t had proper happy Rafe for a while now and just snotty, tired and grumpy Rafe. He came into my bed the other night as was just so snotty and upset and he fell asleep holding my face and although I was so tired and just wanted sleep, it was the cutest thing in the world and although he is poorly and I’m a mummified corpse, it was a precious moment that I needed.
Oh Lordy, this is turning into a moaning mini post! So…Christmas! Too soon? I know it’s still only November but we have got into the Christmas spirit this weekend and has done us all good. I managed to get tickets for Fenwick’s (department store in Newcastle if you have't heard of it) Santa’s roof top experience. There's a couple of experiences you can do, we chose to watch The Snowman, eat popcorn and drink mulled wine. Also met Santa's elves obviously! Was so lovely. And Rafe didn't try and escape and sat relatively still though was enhaling popcorn for most of it. And Rafe saw his first Fenwick’s window which carried on the Snowman theme which was just magical. My mum and dad took my brother and I every Christmas when we were little so it’s so lovely to carry on that tradition. I also wore make-up for the first time in a long time and even straightened my hair so was nice to feel half human! We are off to see our local Christmas light switch on later so well and truly getting into the Christmas spirit. Can’t wait to eat my body weight in food.
I thought I had gotten over the stress of what Rafe should wear underneath his flipping sleeping bag but prepare for questions….so it has been getting quite cold in his room at night – going down to about 16 degrees. At the mo he is in a 2.5 tog with a vest and babygrow but I have bought a 3.5 tog but now I don’t know whether that will be too hot for him? Help! When he goes to bed, because the heating is on, it’s normally 20-21 and then gradually drops. I think he might be too hot in the 3.5 straight away – but then don’t want to disrupt him by changing him in the night but guess I could change him mid feed but want to keep him sleepy. HELP!!
Again, a bit of a short one this week. I’m off for my spa day…WHO AM I KIDDING? Need to take the dog out, put another wash in…
Nursery can be great for interacting with other children and for learning and development. But you know what it is NOT good for? GERMS. NASTY NASTY GERMS. Basically nursery is a place where germs go to party. Finally, after over a month of Rafe being poorly with a cough and viral rash – a few days into feeling well again. BAMB. He is loaded – and I mean loaded with cold. (I have to wash his sheets every day as they are green. Yup, barf.) He has another ear infection and also we suspected hand foot and mouth. I have been dreading that bad lad for a long time. I had to go and get him from nursery on Wednesday as he was not settling (he had a cold, but seemed okay, although did scream when I left) and they noticed a couple of blisters in his mouth – and he does have a little rash around his mouth too. They’ve had a case of hand foot and mouth going around so they thought it was best to get him home. Major mum guilt again as when I walked in he was crying and I thought they might think I was the worst mum ever for not noticing the blisters. But I thought it was just from banging his lip – really didn’t think anything of it to be honest. So felt like poo. And you know what I should have not mentioned last week? I should never have uttered those blissful words ‘my baby is sleeping through the night’ – as well, that has gone out the window. Poor bubs is coughing and sniffling all night. It’s literally never ending for the poor champ. I know it’s good in the long run to build up his immune system but ain't a laugh a minute now.
So in the end, I don’t think it was hand foot and mouth. The doctor was unsure as was only one ulcer/blister and he had no rash anywhere else but his mouth. He is just absolutely loaded with the worst cold. He coughed and was a bit sick the other day and it was literally just snot. Honestly feel so sorry for the champ. You can tell it's really taking it out of him - he pretty much slept all day yesterday. It’s just a never-ending cycle of cough, cold, cough, virus, bloody virus. Sleep has been as you can imagine, fucking shite. But just got a plod on and pour coffee into your eyeballs. And then vodka later on.
Randomly – and I don’t know whether this has anything to do with him being poorly. But he hated swimming last week, even though he seemed well. And then for the past week, he has got really upset in the bath. Holding on to the sides for dear life. And he normally loves the bath and splashes away. I just can’t think why he would suddenly hate the bath – unless it is all connected to being poorly. Who knows? Another thing to add to the: ‘What the fuck is wrong?” baby list.
Thank you for everyone’s advice on how to get involved more in offering breastfeeding support. Once Rafe is better (hopefully soon!) going to look into how I might become a peer support worker/breastfeeding support worker in my area. I’ll keep you in the loop!
Sorry it’s bit of a short one but in-between working and cleaning up snot – it’s been a bit manic this week. Any miracle cures on getting rid of colds would be greatly appreciated!
Till next week,
At nursery this week, the staff told me another child accidentally knocked Rafe over. He was absolutely fine and wasn’t upset for long – and it was an accident but I honestly just wanted to cry! (And find the kid...) I just can’t get over sometimes how unbelievably and fiercely protective I am of my little boy. Before I had Rafe, I of course knew about maternal instinct and imagined it was incredibly strong but until you have a baby, I don’t think you can comprehend how overwhelming that instinct is. And it makes me laugh as I remember thinking in my head I am going to be a super relaxed mum, give my children their freedom to explore, make their own mistakes, travel the world, loosen those maternal reigns. My husband and I use to argue as I went travelling to Oz, NZ and Fiji when I was 18 and I always said that I would let my own children do the same. And he would say: “absolutely not! The world is a dangerous place.” And then we were at fireworks the other night and he said to me: “Just imagine Rafe when he is a teenager asking to go watch the fireworks with his mates.” And I replied, “absolutely not! I will have to go with him.” Haha. Oh what a change. I know I’m not going to be able to follow my teenage son around to make sure he is safe – or stop him from travelling the world if that is what he wants to do (and I must remember what an incredible experience that was) – but I just worry so much. Is this just me? I mean I worry about him going to school, if he makes friends, if other children are nice to him, growing up, dealing everything kids have to deal with these days - just everything. All I want to do is protect him forever. All this over a kid knocking him over?! Do I just need to go get a wine? Imagine what I am going to be like when he brings his first girlfriend home? MOTHER-IN-LAW FROM HELL. HAHAHA. Joking. Not joking….
I thought Rafe was going to be quite upset when I took him to nursery this week as he hasn’t been for three weeks due to half term and being poorly. He was a bit shy to start with but didn’t cry when I left and I was told he was quite happy all day and was just commando crawling everywhere and playing with all the toys and doing some painting. When I arrived to pick him up, I was confronted with the sweetest sight in the world. Again I wanted to cry. He was worn out from a busy day and he was fast asleep on a little beanbag. Honestly I thought my heart was going to explode. He looked so blinking cute! I had to wake him up though and carry him into the car in the rain so that was a fun moment. But all in all a success at nursery. And they have this little app now where I can sign in and see what Rafe is up to – if he is napping, photos etc…which is so reassuring and lovely to see what he is getting up to.
Thank you for all your support again on the breastfeeding front. I always worry a little when I write about breastfeeding as I don’t want to upset anyone who may have chosen not to breastfeed – or who struggled as I honestly aren’t judging either way. And I don’t want to come across as someone pushing breastfeeding down people’s throats – but, at the same time. Just as nap refusals and zero sleep is part of my life – so is breastfeeding. As time has gone on, I’ve started to become quite passionate about breastfeeding – again, not about waving my boobs in people's faces.– but just that I wish there was more support out there for women in the UK who choose to breastfeed – especially as our breastfeeding rates are so incredibly low, which I find quite shocking. I just wish I could help in some way. I signed UNICEF'S call on UK Health Ministers to break down the barriers that make it difficult and often impossible for women to breastfeed in the UK (you can sign it here) but really want to try and do more. To offer more support to mums who do want to breastfeed. Become a breastfeeding support worker maybe? Or should I be brave and share more breastfeeding photos to ‘normalise breastfeeding’? Or is that just going to come across as ‘pushy’ and annoy people? Anyway, just want to know if anyone else feels the same – and if they have done anything about it? Any bf support workers out there? Any good groups to join? Or maybe start some kind of campaign? (I have no idea what I really mean by this!) Or shall I just put my boobs away and keep my mouth shut?!!
Rafe’s been so much better with food this week. So much so you put a mix of food in-front of him and he shoves it all in his mouth! Going to start trying him out with different recipes again as he is so much better. What’s your baby’s (I should really start saying toddler now but doesn’t feel right!) favourite meal?
At the beginning of the week, I was still pretty wiped out as Rafe’s cough, although better, it seemed to be never ending and still bad at night. But something unheard of happened twice in a row this weekend...RAFE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT. Yup, can you actually believe it? I'm hoping this is the start of something beautiful that will continue because I scared my neighbour the other day in my wrecked state and well...Wouldn't a week of full night's sleep be the dream? Imagine?! I wish I could share something I tried differently that suddenly worked but I honestly did nothing different from our routine. Sorry, not very helpful I know. I think maybe it is a mixture of him being much better, able to self-settle now and with his appetite increasing as he got better, maybe he is just also quote full? Who knows?! Babies are so confusing. I'll keep you all in the loop!
Oh and before I forget. Fireworks was a success! Kind of. I think Rafe was overwhelmed with the amount of people around and by the time they started he was pretty tired so he had a bit of a cry. To be fair, he probably didn't have a clue what was going on! But all is all, a nice little family day out. He still won't be going out to see a display without me when he is older though, haha.
Till next time,
P.s Christmas! I need some inspiration! What are you getting your little ones? Obviously don't want to go over the top, just a few gifts and stocking fillers.
Who would have thought one whole hour of the clocks going back would have caused so much mayhem? Gone are the days I used to think that an extra hour in bed to nurse my hangover was the dream. No, no. Children have other plans. Like waking up at 5am every day. Refusing naps. Being over tired at 5pm. IT’S ONLY ONE HOUR. WHY? HOW? I honestly think my permanent look for life is going to be a bedraggled witch. But on the plus side, it gets dark earlier so no longer have to continue to re-stick a black-out blind or obsess about the sunlight peeping through a tiny crack. You can’t win them all I guess. But we've had self-settling success, finally! And I've figured out what to say to people who want to question why I'm still breastfeeding - starts with F...
So it’s been yet another exhausting week. Like seriously, I don’t need no Halloween costume. Rafe still has a cough, but is getting better. And his ear infection and viral rash seem to have gone the distance (thank God). But since his birthday he has been poorly. So pretty much the whole of October he has not been not himself. Cough, viral rash, ear infection – plus teething. It’s been a laugh a minute. I do feel so sorry for him as he really has gone through it and just hasn’t been himself at all. He’s been nursing quite a bit in the night too but think it’s been more of a comfort thing than the fact he is hungry. So we are both pretty wrecked. I genuinely find it hard to string sentences together which was fine when I was on maternity leave – not so much when I’m at work. But he is so much better and makes you realise how much being poorly takes it out of them as he is full of beans now.
Rafe’s still being really fussy with food but a lot of it is down to him being poorly so haven’t tried anything new or even attempted to tackle it to be honest. I’ve just been giving him what I know he will eat – just to get anything down him at the moment. The dog still gets a lot of his food and I find I am picking remains of Rafe’s tea off Yankee’s ears on an evening, but hoping he picks up next week. Though however poorly he is – wave a yogurt, biscuit - anything sweet in front of him and he is like a moth to a flame.
Thank you for everyone’s advice on breastfeeding the other week. As always, it’s good to know other people have gone/or are going through the same experiences I am. Especially when people touched on the pressure they felt. I guess it’s kind of funny that to start with, you are encouraged to breastfeed, yet it seems, from my own experience and also others – that once baby hits one, it seems like you are then judged for still breastfeeding. Like you can't win. I have had the ‘you’re still breastfeeding’ comments and ‘when are you going to stop?’ question seems to come up more often than it ever did. A few months ago we were at a local park and there was a woman there with her friends, all of them with children. Her little boy was walking and must have been maybe 16-18 months old. He was running around and then he wanted to nurse. So his mum sat on a bench and breastfed him for a few minutes while she chatted to her friends. He finished and then happily started playing again and as the other mum covered up, her two friends looked at each other and both rolled their eyes. It made me quite upset and really angry. Your supposed to support your friend when they are breastfeeding, however long they decide to nurse. It's fucking hard sometimes! Honestly, still gives me rage now! I would never question/judge how anyone else chooses to feed. At the end of the day, I just need to do what is best for Rafe and I. So just going to keep on doing what I'm doing. The World Health Organisation recommends to feed until 2 (obviously can carry on for longer or less) so I think I will aim for that and if we stop in-between that time, that’s okay too. And if people have an issue with it, well in the nicest possible way they can fuck off.
I think we might have had some progress with self-settling at night…So since time began, I have been shushing Rafe to sleep. Tried self-settling a while back but then kind of gave up after some success and then a regression came and it all went tits up again. And I honestly didn’t mind the cuddles. But as he gets bigger and heavier, my back is absolutely hanging out. And it was just by chance that one night I was desperate for a wee so I put Rafe straight in his cot after he fed and he cried (obviously), but after going to the loo and popping my breast pads in, pottering around for a few more minutes – BAM he was asleep. WHAT THE FUCK? So, in the night, when he fed and I put him down, he cried a little, then went to sleep without shushing. So I have been literally just saying night, then put him down, walk away and I leave him to have a little cry then normally, within 5-10 minutes he is a sleep. I don’t leave him longer than 10 minutes as I know that he is just not going to settle but fingers crossed – it seems to have done the trick. I never really liked leaving him to cry it out, but for a few minutes if he doesn't go down straight away works for us. So there’s hope kids – hope!!
Taking Rafe to his first fireworks display tonight. He's not a huge fan of loud noises so this could be an eventful night...We've bought him some special headphones so hopefully they will do the trick! Wish us luck...
Until next week,
The stages of breastfeeding by me….
Pregnant me: “I really want to give breastfeeding a good go – but won’t put too much pressure on myself. Will aim for six months.”
Day 5 postpartum: “HOW IS THIS SO HARD? IT’S NATURAL. IT IS WHAT WOMEN HAVE BEEN DOING SINCE TIME BEGAN YET I CAN’T GET HIM TO LATCH ON TO MY FLIPPING NIPPLE.”
Day 10 postpartum: “Okay, so I’ve ordered my 7th breastfeeding pillow – I’ve got this.”
Week 4 postpartum: “Why are my husband’s nipples so useless? Does he snore when I’m up all night feeding on purpose?”
Week 8: “CLUSTER FEEDING YOU WILL END ME.”
Week 12: “It’s clicked – finally! I am so glad I didn’t give up. Can I have wine though?”
Six months: “I don’t want to give up quite yet. Actually I’m really starting to love it. Still wouldn’t mind husband’s nipples being more useful.”
Eight months: “Oh hi mastitis. Ffffff.”
Ten months: “Goodbye nursing bras (as dropped most of the day feeds) that make my boobs hang low and wobble to and fro.”
Twelve months: “How has it been a year? Really can’t imagine and don’t want to stop breastfeeding yet. As much as it has been the hardest things I’ve ever done, especially those early months – it’s actually turned out to be one of the best.”
“When are you going to stop breastfeeding?” Someone asked me this week and the answer was honestly, I don’t know. I know I don’t need to put a timeframe on it, but I feel like I need to – just so I can prepare Rafe – and also myself for it. Does that sound dramatic? I just want to know when his last feed will be – not because I need to be congratulated – or have my husband playing a fanfare on a French horn. (Tempting). Just because it’s been such an important part of my life, I don’t want to just suddenly stop. Although I know that might be out of my control. Maybe I’m being over sentimental – but for me. Breastfeeding has been, in such a noisy, busy world, outside and in my own head, a much needed quiet time. And when Rafe holds my hand when he’s feeding, it’s like it’s just me and him in the whole world. It’s also been something that has become so engrained in my own routine – it’s going to be so strange when I stop. Liberating also! And so many shots of tequila will be drunk. Who my kidding? I’ll have a hot cuppa and give my saggy boobs a high five – while my husband plays the French horn (not a euphanism).
(And I must say, this is not a smug, look at me, I breastfeed post, it's your boobies – so absolutely your own choice. NO JUDGEMENT HERE.)
Been a bit of challenging week this week. Rafe still has a nasty cough so think I will take him to the doctors this week. Or try get him seen today. He is fine in himself, just can’t seem to shift it and seems to get worse in the night. We also had the dreaded 12 month immunisations on Wednesday. Can you believe they do FOUR? Anything medical, or a time when I know Rafe may be scared or be in pain – can be quite a trauma trigger for me. And immunisations are not a fun experience for any mum or dad – and of course the child. My dad came with me which massively helped and made me more ‘level-headed’ about it. And although he sobbed his little heart out when they were getting done and for a few minutes after – he was absolutely fine within five minutes. A little grumpy in the afternoon but nothing to worry about at all. I think it’s us who dread and hate them more! I felt okay during, it was more a few hours later I started to think about them – and get a flashback to Rafe crying. But then I grounded my breathing and reminded myself Rafe was okay. And he really was okay - he bossed them really!
It’s also been a challenge as I have had a water infection. Honestly – I won’t go into too much detail but holy fucking crap. I was sat on the toilet for basically two nights. It was the first time where I really felt it hit me that my husband wasn’t there. I couldn’t just say, “oi, stop snoring and go see to Rafe.” Only I could do that and I just felt horrendous. So it was a difficult couple of nights – but AMEN to antibiotics.
Rafe’s very, very, very wobbly first steps are starting to become less wobbly and this week, he is pulling himself up everywhere and wanting to be on his feet. Yet hasn’t quite worked out that he needs to still hold on to things or he will fall. But it’s exciting to see him become even more mobile/also scary. When people say – you can’t turn your back for one second. Never truer words spoken. I felt soooooo bad the other night. I normally just put Rafe in his cot if I’m upstairs and need to do things but I was running the bath and just needed to turn the tap off. I put Rafe in the middle of the bed – surrounded by a sea of cushion and was literally a second. Then a heard a cry. FFUCCCKKK. He had fallen off the bed. He was fine – he wasn’t hurt, he obviously just had a shock. But I had major, major, major mum guilt. And felt so stupid. But honestly thought he wouldn’t be able to pull all the cushions off and crawl to the end of the bed in literally a second – but he obviously can. I know accidents happen – but can’t help but feel so guilty. So yeah – when people say you can’t turn your back for one second. You bloody really can’t.
Rafe wasn’t in nursery this week as he had his jabs and I took the day off work so it felt like a ‘maternity leave’ day. And it was lush. Lots and lots of walking to get him to sleep (oh, those days…) and getting annoyed at Yankee for walking into the pram – but just what we needed. It’s been a lovely weekend too – and I’ve literally eaten my body weight in chocolate (no exaggeration) which is what weekends are for right? Oh and my husband was home. Must not forget about husband. On that note, I'm going to shovel some more m&m’s into my face.
Till next week,
“The baby stage is HARD.” “Just get through that first year.” Okay, but now what the fuck do I do?
When Rafe turned one on Saturday I was hit with every emotion under the sun. I think your baby turning one is such a momentous occasion. Not only because you look back at the year and think – where the actual fuck has the time gone? But because your baby is not a baby anymore. Although I know deep down he will always be my baby and hate me telling him that when he is 18, but throughout these months, people have said: “just get through this year!” and now I have, I’m like, what do I do? It’s still hard! He’ still not sleeping! I still don’t know what the fuck I am doing! It’s also a sobering reminder that I still look like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards and I can’t use the excuse of, “well I just had a baby a few weeks ago” or can I? It’s just a huge milestone. I’ve been taking those little photos every month, four months old, five months old, six months old…and now I’ve reached the end of the pack, I feel similar to how I felt when maternity leave ended. Like a little chapter has ended. And I have a lump in my throat again. It’s also been a time where you naturally look back. My time hop is littered with first photos of Rafe and I just hand on heart wish I could do it all again. Despite all my struggles – just give me a time machine and get me back so I can smell that newborn smell, hold his tiny hands in mine – have one more newborn cuddle. I think another reason I have been so emotional in the days leading up to Rafe’s birthday and the day itself is because you and your family are naturally quite nostalgic. “My contractions started this time last year.” “I would have been getting checked over by the midwife now.” “This was about the time you rang and said you were in labour.” And for me, certain memories and flashbacks were at the forefront of my mind. And I had some wobbly moments. I was naturally so overwhelmed with emotion that Rafe was one, feeling so lucky, surrounded by my friends and family celebrating such a beautiful occasion – but I was very much aware that I was also teetering on the edge and keeping a lot of my emotions in. And I felt guilty because among all the ‘good’ emotions I felt, I didn’t want to taint the day because of the anxiety I felt over my personal traumatic memories of the day Rafe was born. Yes, I am able to better manage my flashbacks most of the time now and I am coming out on the other side of all this – but I think Rafe’s birthday definitely was a natural trigger to make me feel like I had taken a step back. I did feel anxious and those flashbacks I felt were becoming more ‘emotional memories’ – kind of hit me in the face and I just wanted to block them out. I was a bit hard on myself to be honest, instead of accepting that I was going to possibly struggle that day, I just felt guilty for even having these feelings on what was such a lovely celebration. So I just kept it all in and then once Rafe was asleep and I was off to bed, I creeped into his room and felt overcome with emotion and had a good cry. Because that is what I needed. But I must say, for anyone else worried about a first birthday, all those emotions connected with the trauma of the birth, didn’t stop me from enjoying the day. It was lovely to see Rafe with all his presents (he was more interested in wrapping paper and balloons…), with his little pals and some of my close friends and family celebrating the day. Sometimes you forget that for a year, Rafe has not only brought joy (and exhaustion) to your life – he has changed other people’s lives too. And in the end, Rafe loved the day and that’s all that really matters. And his birthday cake was INCREDIBLE and I was eating the Hey Duggee icing figures for days after.
So now Rafe’s one. Does that mean he is a toddler now? I honestly can’t believe it. I just think back to all the times people have said – “just get through that first year” I think I believed after these 12-months I’d kind of know what I was doing but if anything, I have even more questions than before. (You never really know what you’re doing do you?) The health visitor came round this week for Rafe’s 12-month check (he has his immunisations next week – ahhhh. Are they bad? It's his normal nursery day so took the day off work in case he is upset) and she was happy with how Rafe was getting on. I mentioned replacing his afternoon formula with cow’s milk and she recommended a few things that although massively helpful – have confused the fuck me:
Rafe’s been poorly this week (cough and literally snots everywhere, he doesn’t quite understand ‘noooooo don’t do that’ when he sneezes and there is a snot explosion so he rubs it all over his face) so night-times have been very sleepless. Had to sleep on the floor in the nursery a couple of times as he had a temperature and was not a happy chappy. Although uncomfortable, having him shuffle to the edge of the cot to put his hand out for me to hold was pretty damn cute. I had major mum guilt this week as he was feeling better and less snotty so took him to nursery but had to go pick him up early because he wasn’t settling and wasn’t quite himself so felt so shit and guilty for sending him in the first place. And when I walked in, he was sat on a little table, with his little pals eating an apple, looking all grown up and it literally broke my heart. And then a little girl sat next to him was crying and he reached out his arm to touch he shoulder and that just tipped me over the edge. So back to sleep before I cry again…a mixed bag of SEND WINE to erm, okay you randomly slept through the night. Someone messaged me and recommended looking at ‘Save our Sleep Bedding Guide by Tizzy Hall. I haven’t had a look at it properly yet but I never thought that possibly the reason Rafe wasn't sleeping could be to do with what he was sleeping in. I always presume he is quite a hot baby but the other mum said she thought the same but since adding more layers (I think it’s more technical than that, like I said, haven’t had a proper look yet!) her baby has slept through. So quite frankly – it is worth a look once Rafe doesn’t have snots all over his face.
I honestly can’t even explain how overwhelmed I was with the amount of support I received after I opened up about my struggle with PTSD. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took the time to read, share, comment and send me messages. I am not going to lie, I have found it quite difficult as I think because I’ve been holding everything in for a long time, to be so open and transparent, I felt - I still feel quite vulnerable. But hearing about other people’s experiences and everyone’s messages made me glad I have opened up as I do want to help other mums – in any way I can. Other mums have contacted me to say I have inspired them to open up about their own birth trauma – so for me, any vulnerability, fear, worry I feel about being so transparent, is totally worth it. Because being a mum is hard enough. So please message me if you need to talk to someone. This website is also a good starting point if you don't quite no where to go - https://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/ I also need to accept that I will be living with this for sometime, some days, such as Rafe's birthday where there are obvious triggers, where it will be hard, or times I am caught off guard, or days where I can just sit down and talk about it and feel 'okay'. I do feel like I am coming out the other side of it though and hope that gives people hope.
And I think – on a less emotional note. Now Rafe is one I really need to start doing some fucking exercise. Can you send me some enthusiasm and motivation please? Realistically, I can only really exercise on an evening when Rafe, does anyone else do homework outs? I just know that once I’ve put Rafe to bed, all I want to do is still eat biscuits so the thought of doing anything but that makes me want to eat even more biscuits.
And finally...although Rafe has been saying dada and mama for a while - he's the past couple of weeks been saying mama to me, like he knows who I am. Which is just bloody wonderful.
Till next time,
Remember when you used to lie-in on a Sunday morning after having a few wines? When you had time to put on some make-up and brush your hair? Remember when you used to pluck your eyebrows and not have facial hair? Or sleep? Remember when you last had a full night’s sleep? Or a hot cup of tea? Nope. Those days are gone sunshine. But it’s been a pretty amazing year hasn’t it? People will tell you the first year will fly – but you don’t quite believe it. It’s been the toughest year of my life. But also the best. And it gets easier right? I mean toddlers must be a breeze...
So what have I learned since becoming a new mum? What words of wisdom would I like to pass on?
Okay, maybe a few more things…..
1. You can’t prepare for being a mum
You can read all the baby books in the world, google everything, download sleep routines, talk to all the mums you can find. But nothing can prepare you for the whirlwind of green poos, mustard poos, the first solid poo (HOW DOES IT SMELL THAT BAD?), the exhaustion, the routine-stress, naps – oh fucking naps are the devil, the cracked nipples, when your baby first smiles (your heart will stop), when they laugh, when they do something for the first time and you want to shout out to the world “MY BABY IS A GENUIS”, then they do a big poo explosion, the constant worry, routine, routine, routine, having to live with the fact your saggy ass boobs will remain saggy ass forever, the mum guilt, the really, really tough days, the monotony, the unconditional love, when they wrap their tiny fingers around yours, saying goodbye to your ‘carefree’ life – you can’t prepare for any of it. There is no manual for your baby. All babies are different. And you know your baby better than anyone – remember that. Oh - and everyone else is just winging it too.
2. The first six weeks are HARD
Those early weeks are tough. And you don’t quite understand how tough it is going to be until you’re sat alone at 1.30am, trying to get your four-day-old baby to latch on to a cracked nipple. And you’re so tired. So so so tired. And you feel so lonely. And you’re sat on a rubber ring. You haven’t been able to poo yet. And you’re scared. To poo. And you’re just scared because you have this little baby in your arms and you really don’t know what you’re doing. And, well you never really do. But you’ll get through it. And some days you will even wish you could go back to those days – get one more newborn cuddle because you will regret not treasuring those moments. However hard they were, you won’t remember them ever being that small, or how they ever just laid still and didn’t pull your hair.
3. There are a lot of white noise machines
And you will probably end up buying them all. Or at least spend half of your fucking maternity pay on a white noise machine that doesn’t actually fucking work. (Bit of a soft spot, can you tell?)
4. Hangovers and babies do not mix
“I’ll just have one more drink, I’ll be fine in the morning, we can go to the farm! Swimming!” The soft play!" Nope. Nope and definitely nope – YOU NEVER WANT TO GO TO A SOFT PLAY HUNGOVER. OR DURING HALF TERM.
5. Mum guilt is real
You will feel guilty for feeling guilt about feeling guilty. And judged. So judged. Judged for breastfeeding. Judged for not breastfeeding. Judged for not making your own chicken stock. Judged for going back to work. Judged for deciding not to go back to work. Judged for wanting a break. Judged for not wanting to spend a night away from your baby. Judged for having a drink. Judged for losing your baby weight. Judged for not. Judged for basically everything. But trust your instincts. Do what is best for you and your baby.
6. Your love for your baby is overwhelming
The love you feel for your baby will some days take your breath away. Like literally stop you in your tracks, you have never known a love like it. It’s a deep, in the gut, totally overwhelming, fiercely protective love that knows no bounds.
7. Women are strong as fuck (pardon my French)
We are all struggling one way or another – some more than others – and that’s nothing to feel ashamed about. Just because being a mum might not be all rainbows, giggles and joy every second of the day – it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mum, or you love your baby any less. And it doesn’t mean you don’t feel lucky, or grateful – you can feel lost and alone and sad, but still feel so lucky to be a mum. And it’s okay to ask for help. From sharing my own experiences with PTSD, I have been overwhelmed with the amount of messages of support and all the messages from other mums who can relate to my experience. Some who I know personally, who I never knew had been through such trauma. But as one mum said – as mothers, we find the strength from somewhere. We may feel like we are failing, or we can’t see our way out of the dark, or we simply don’t think we can take another sleepless night with our husband snoring away next to us (HOW CAN THEY SLEEP?), but we do. And you’re never alone. Remember that.
8. The world becomes a scarier place
You will be so much more aware of the tragedies that take place in the world and you will worry so, so SO much more. The world does seem scarier than it ever did before. All you want to do is protect your child forever. And with that – your own life becomes more important. I’m not saying I didn’t value my life before – but I definitely think about the future more and I hope with all my heart that I will be around to see my baby boy grow up and have his own family.
9. Your respect your parents more
You love your parents more than you ever did because you now know how much they really love you. They have been through the four-month-sleep regression and survived - and I'm a twin so double respect goes out to my mum and dad! And a particular high five goes out to your own mum as you know how much she has been through and sacrificed (boobs and hips and a few other things).
And finally, probably the most important one…
10. CBeebies is life
You will learn so much from CBeebies you will find yourself watching it when you’re not even with your baby. Hey Duggee is literally the BEST programme in the world. And like I said, you learn so much. The other day from Bing you know what I found out? “You know the rule. If it isn’t a wee, paper or poo. You mustn’t put it down the loo.” Fucking life-changing.
So yeah, it’s been a rollercoaster. Of the highest highs – and at times, some real lows. And I’ve cried – a lot. But it’s been pretty fucking fabulous too.
I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has reached out to offer me their support after my post on Sunday. I have received such encouraging, incredible, heart-felt messages and comments, I can’t put into words how much it has meant. I have also had people open up to me about their own birth trauma, which I have felt deeply moved by. Because I know how hard it is to put into words. I was so nervous and scared about being so honest about my struggles with PTSD but I kept reminding myself that my honesty could help others. If I can help just one person open up – or one person to feel less alone, then it’s all been worth it. I’ve had local media interested in publicising my story– which I’m slightly nervous about as I must admit, since publishing the post I have also felt quite overwhelmed. You keep something in so long and then to so publicly announce it, I’ve had wobbly moments. But if writing this blog has taught me anything – it’s that I am not alone. And it’s been good for the soul as they say. From day 1 of writing my first post, to week 16 deep in the four-month sleep regression, to the weeks of nap stress and no sleep (we’ve had some rough nights this week), to last week – when I spoke about my birth trauma. It’s been good to know that I’m not alone – and there are other people out there who have one eyebrow and look like the bird lady from Home Alone 2. And also, most importantly, what I write gives people reassurance, comfort, a bit of courage – and a laugh (hopefully). I’ll be doing a little post on Sunday to mark Rafe’s 1st birthday. HOW IS RAFE ONE ON SATURDAY?!! Then back to the ‘normal’ so to speak with the blog posts. I will of course touch on what I wrote about on Sunday and I no doubt will also be talking in depth about the child who DOES NOT SLEEP. (He's cute though isn't he? ❤) Thank you again for all your messages and comments – means the absolute world. And if I do end up in any newspaper articles – I promise to try and at least comb my eyebrow.
After having some amazing comments about carrying on writing my blog last week, I felt it was only fair to share something I have found very difficult to talk about – and still do. I have been so honest about motherhood and all its ups and downs, it only seems right to be open about this – and I hope I can help other mums that might be going through the same thing. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at the beginning of the year in connection with Rafe’s birth. I kept my feelings hidden for a while and I didn’t really know what was going on – but I knew something wasn’t quite right. I was experiencing flashbacks of certain traumatic parts of the birth and it was causing me to have what I can only describe as panic attacks. You would never know I was having them – I became very experienced in hiding them from my friends and family. But it was affecting my relationship with my husband – and that is why I reached out for help. I was so closed off and detached from him because of what I was going through – I couldn’t even bear to be hugged. I was referred to Obstetrics and Gynaecology Health Psychology Service and during my initial assessment, I had to do a number of questionnaires. On one of the questionnaires connected to the diagnosis of PTSD – I scored 50, the guideline for diagnosing PTSD was 33 and above. To start with and to an extent still, there was a huge feeling of shame and embarrassment. PTSD is something I am aware of due to the nature of my husband’s job. “All I did was give birth – I haven’t been to war,” was what kept circulating in my head. I didn’t know much at all about PTSD and birth and I have always been someone that has just kind of plodded on and got on with things so I felt frustrated I was 'stuck'. I couldn’t just ‘get over’ this. My psychologist put it well when she said because of my husband’s job, the PTSD bar was set quite high and that, along with my own self-judgement, was where this shame and embarrassment came from. That worry about what people would think and how I would be judged. “Her husband has done four operational tours and it’s HER that has PTSD.” Irrational maybe – but that’s how I felt. Also, so many women give birth, their experiences can be incredible – or so, so much worse than mine – why have I got PTSD? Why has this happened to me? Why is this affecting me so much? I kept comparing myself to others, like my trauma wasn’t worthy enough, but was reminded that everyone's own experience of trauma is incredibly different. And my psychologist reassured me when she said that I was not alone in suffering from birth trauma and reminded me that when giving birth, you are at your most vulnerable, you are in the worst pain of your life, your body is in flight or fight mode - and then to throw in a genuine fear for your baby's life, it was understandable why I felt traumatised. I had to write a trauma script (the part of my birth story I most struggled with) which was extremely difficult but shows where the trauma originated. It wasn’t the whole birth – just certain moments that seem to have had a huge impact on me, moments where I genuinely thought my baby’s life was in danger. I will share the script with you as it is hard to put into words really. If you have read my birth story (which I look at now and I think that was a PG version of what happened, although you can see the trauma sifting through a little) you will know I was blue lighted to another hospital as Rafe’s heartbeat was dropping (I planned to give birth in a midwife-led hospital). The flashbacks that have plagued me were all connected to the genuine feeling that Rafe was going to die. And I wouldn’t be taking him home with me. I haven’t even properly talked about this to my husband, family or friends as I just sometimes can’t seem to find the words – but I find it easier to write down. I thought if I had known more about birth trauma and read about someone’s experiences – that might have helped me, just to know I wasn’t alone. And I wouldn’t have felt so much shame and avoided getting help. So that’s why I’m sharing today. It's quite a big step for me to do this as I haven't openly talked about it in great detail to anyone and I must have changed my mind about sharing this a million times. Quite scary to share this to be honest! But I’ve been so honest about the exhaustion (HE IS STILL NOT SLEEPING), the nap obsession, the routine stress – the first gorgeous smiles and poo explosions – it didn’t feel right not to talk about this. Because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Although giving birth is an incredible experience (minus the pooing yourself) - it’s a huge trauma on your body, you not only need to take time to heal physically, sometimes mentally too.
My flashbacks started back in December last year and just seemed to come out of the blue. I don’t know whether Rafe being in hospital when he was 6-weeks old for bronchiolitis and finding out about the hole in his heart had maybe suppressed my feelings – or had triggered them. But they do say symptoms tend not to appear until after those first few months. Makes sense as you are pretty much in a fog of nappies and hormones and don’t really have time to think about much else other than baby. One of my flashbacks, although a less common flashback, was when Rafe was in hospital and they had to put a feeding tube down his throat which was difficult to watch as I just felt so helpless while he was crying. I don’t know whether that hospital stay, finding out about the hole in heart - on top of the birth trauma all just came together and collectively caused these feelings – or I was always going to struggle because of the birth. I guess I’ll never know. I always felt quite emotional about the birth and would often think, fuck that was scary, but the flashbacks and feelings of anxiety were on a different level a few months down the line. I don’t know if I would have ever actually reached out to get help if it wasn’t for my feelings towards my husband. As far as I was concerned, I was managing the flashbacks and I wasn’t depressed, I had no negative feelings towards Rafe – I was doing a pretty good job at this mum malarkey. But take away the genuine feelings of husband hate that I often joke about – and what we all have experienced! I felt detached emotionally from him and claustrophobic if he tried to touch me – I knew that wasn’t right. We have always been really affectionate so this was on the total other scale. And I’m aware that after you have a baby, weeks, months and months down the line, the majority of women aren’t like, you know what I really want to do right now? Have sex. Nope, we just want to sleep. And we couldn’t feel less sexy in our maternity bras and dry shampooed hair. But this ran deeper than the ‘norm’. And I felt quite angry a lot of the time - not at Rafe, just a feeling of anger and I didn't know why. So I spoke to my health visitor who referred me to my doctor and then eventually a phycologist. Both my health visitor and doctor queried Post Natal Depression but I just kept saying, “I’m not depressed”. “I don’t feel detached from Rafe”. It’s difficult as we are all quite rightly so, clued up on PND – just not all the other stuff to do with mental health and having a baby. So initially I just felt a mixture of – I don’t have PND so I must be fine – to what the fuck is actually wrong with me?
After I was told I had PTSD, I felt a huge wave of emotion as it was almost a relief that there was a ‘label’ on what I was feeling – but then all those other emotions came into play – shame, embarrassment, guilt. I had to write and then read my trauma script out during one of the first sessions and it was like the floodgates opened – it was hugely emotional as I had been suppressing a lot of those feelings for a long tine. Here it is (underneath the line, is what my psychologist and I wrote together in one of the follow-up sessions when Rafe was 8-months):
My waters broke in three separate gushes and I knew something had changed. My husband had to go and drop our dog off at a friends and I was alone in the house when they broke. I felt quite frightened. But then almost talked myself out of the fear and kept repeating everything would be okay. But the pain had gone from totally manageable to horrendous. We went back to Arbroath and the midwife who greeted me wanted to hold off until the midwife who had saw me earlier came back from a community visit. I remember standing in the corridor and having one of my contractions and the midwives looking at me as if to say: “yeah, she’s definitely in labour.” I was taken into a side room and while we were waiting for the other midwife to come back. However, she then saw me have a contraction and wanted to check me over herself. She checked my pulse at first and she kept checking it and checking it. She had an almost confused look on her face. I thought that maybe something was up but she wasn’t saying anything so I tried to stay calm. She then checked baby’s heart rate and immediately wanted me on the monitor. My heart rate was sky rocketing and the baby's heart rate began to dip. There were a couple more midwives in the room now. All of a sudden the baby's heart rate dropped to in the 70's and the midwife screamed out for someone else to come in the room and things started to get more frightening. When I say screamed – she screamed. “GET THE OXYGEN.” And she looked so panicked and frightened. Her face I can’t get out of my head – I can see it so vividly and I can hear that scream. I know health professionals are still human but you expect them to not show their fear or concern – to reassure you. But her fear made me realise something was seriously wrong. I was in so much pain and I felt totally out of control. I couldn’t control my pulse, my breathing, my body, my baby. I felt totally helpless. They shoved the oxygen mask on my face and told me to breathe and be calm, which felt impossible. They were trying to explain that baby’s heart rate was dipping really low and that I needed to be transferred to Ninewells hospital. I don’t remember whether I was saying this out loud but in my head I was saying: “please let my baby be okay, please.” I starting pushing and couldn’t stop and they kept shoving the oxygen mask over my face and the midwife was telling my husband he had to get to Ninewells now, again with such urgency and panic I just felt like I didn’t know what was going on. My husband looked so scared too but was holding it together. I didn’t want him to go. When he left the contractions got worse and they said I was five cms but I still kept wanting to push. They kept telling me not to but I literally could not stop myself from pushing. Everyone seemed so panicked around me and moving fast. When they checked me over I saw that there was blood/mucus discharge and they were unsure if the baby had poo’d inside me, which I knew meant he/she was distressed so I just felt so terrified. And alone. My husband had gone and I although I was left with midwives, I felt totally alone and scared – for my baby and for me. I thought something bad was going to happen to me – and even worse, to my baby. I had this image of me giving birth to a dead baby and I couldn’t get that out of my head but kept trying to tell myself it would be okay. But I felt like nobody could reassure me. The paramedics came and they strapped me into a stretcher which was horrendous. I just remember them looking at me as I was quite vocal about wanting to stand up and how much pain I was in and I felt so vulnerable. These two men were trying to help me but I was in my most vulnerable state and I had nobody there who I loved who could reassure me – and I just kept thinking that something serious was going to happen to my baby as his heart rate kept dipping. I was desperate to move during my contractions, so being strapped in made the pain seem unbearable. And I kept wanting to push. In the Ambulance, I kept saying, “why am I pushing?” The paramedic looked quite concerned as there was no way of monitoring the baby’s heart rate in the Ambulance, so I had no idea what was going on. I kept imagining being rushed into theatre – and giving birth to a dead baby. That image – and that midwives face screaming for the oxygen just haunts me. Absolutely haunts me. Because I felt that fear I had – was the fear she had on her face. Because nobody could tell me what was going on, because they did not know. My instincts knew something was wrong and the speed of everything meant I just couldn’t take anything in. I couldn’t breathe. Although the blue lights were on - it was still a good 20 minutes to Dundee and felt like the longest journey of my life. Between contractions I was trying to talk and be calm but I just wanted to see my husband. And for him to hold my hand and tell me that everything was going okay. His face when I was wheeled into the hospital is also a face I can’t forget. I can’t even put it into words how I felt at that time. So vulnerable, frightened, in the worst pain of my life, out of control and totally alone, with this overwhelming fear that this baby I had felt kick in my belly and had sang to every night and I had dreamed about and had spoken to and dreamt of that first smell, that first kiss was going to be placed in my arms – but I wouldn’t be able to take them home.
Can’t write anymore for now.
Once we got to Ninewells and I recognised the midwife and saw Chris, I started to feel safe again. When the midwife confirmed I was full dilated, it validated what I knew and I felt relieved I could let my body do what it was trying to do and felt natural doing. I knew I was in the best place and I felt in calm, safe hands.
Now Rafe is nearly eight month’s old, he is happy, safe and healthy. I am safe and healthy but have found managing the impact of how absolutely terrifying labour was – not so much actually giving birth, but the emotions, the vulnerability and the fear of losing my baby that has come to take over any other emotions I may have had. I am working hard to validate and come to terms with how I felt. It is okay that I am feeling what I am feeling. I am human and it is entirely understandable. By showing myself compassion, I can begin to feel better and we can move forward as a family.
I must stress that in no way are my criticising the midwives - or hospital staff during my labour - they were all incredible. Superheroes. My psychologist said that if that midwife didn't have that fear - then maybe she wouldn't have reacted so quickly and did what she had to do. She also summed up my symptoms in a letter to my doctor: In terms of Faye’s mood, she told me she does not feel sad or depressed, but is aware she feels highly anxious a lot of the time. Faye describes regularly experiencing sudden waves of panic, feeling intense fear and as though she can’t breathe. Triggers to this can be external, for example a TV programme which reminds Faye of her birth experience, or internal, for example when a particular thought comes into her mind, again related to her birth experience. If Faye is alone with Rafe, she will manage by steadying her breathing and then grounding herself with a task in the house or with Rafe. However, if she is with anyone else she instinctively feels she must hide what is happening to her and puts significant pressure on herself to hold her panic in. In those moments, she is unable to communicate with others other than to snap at them if they ask her what is wrong and there is a sense she almost tries to hold her breath until the fear passes. It has been a significant step for Faye to access our service as she feels deep shame about her current difficulties. Faye has been someone who has always “coped” with life events and circumstances independently and had anticipated that birth would be no different. During labour she was overwhelmed with feelings of fear for her own and Rafe’s life and how out of control she felt and is now experiencing significant trauma symptoms.
Faye has managed her trauma symptoms by trying to keep a “tight hold” on all her emotion, fearing that if she were to let any of them out, she would “fall apart”. Faye has become incredibly skilled in this, to the extent that she can experience a panic attack in company and those around her would not be aware of the severity of her distress inside. An unintended consequence of this understandable emotion avoidance is the maintenance of trauma symptoms, as the difficult emotions and memories are unable to be processed. In order to keep such “tight” hold of her emotions, Faye has also become emotional distant to those around her, with the exception of Rafe. The magnitude of this task is meaning her emotions are then intermittently “busting out” as irritability with her husband, which is reinforcing the distance between them and a cycle of Faye feeling frightened and guilty to express what she is feeling inside and others now knowing how best to support her.”
I wasn't necessarily affected by my PTSD every second of the day. It just wasn't helped by the fact I kept suppressing my emotions and I did not want to deal with the flashbacks, the fear and the anxiety. The moments I did have these flashbacks, they were difficult and I felt incredibly anxious. I was an expert at just batting the feelings away. When I was with Rafe and my life with him, the day-to-day, was never affected by my panic attacks, I was able to carry on as 'normal' - it was more the detachment from other people, in particular my husband that was an obvious sign something was wrong. I think I was working so hard to keep the trauma in, I was unable to show any form of affection to my husband, to allow any type of intimacy. But looking back, especially I would say before I got help, so December/Jan, the beginning of the year in particular I was quite anxious in certain situations. And when I had these flashbacks or these feelings of anxiety, I would describe them as me being on the edge of emotion, tottering along, knowing something needed to give but not willing to let it.
One memorable and difficult panic attack happened when I was in the car with my husband on the way back from the cinema. Randomly – like a lot of my triggers, had been from a film. There was a scene where a young gorilla was basically watching his mum be killed and I was suddenly overwhelmed by my flashbacks. It could literally happen at the most random of times, over a TV programme, a film, a newspaper article, if Rafe was poorly - if I heard bad news - or just out of thin air sometimes. I can only describe the attack as like I was punching out of my body erratically but trying to keep it all in and not show I was in any distress. But these are few and far between now. I haven’t ever been able to read my trauma script again like I did that first time. However, we were able to break it down (I went every two weeks for a 50-minute session), talk about it, how I felt then, how I feel now, how Rafe is safe and along with cognitive behavioural therapy and me working hard to try and deal with the flashbacks through breathing, grounding – and not pushing them aside, the flashbacks are less frequent – and are more like emotional memories now. But the connection with my husband will still take time as I guess I’ve switched my emotions off – and need to re-connect again. (He has been INCREDIBLE through all this, so so supportive - it's obviously been really hard on him too). So it’s not like I’ve suddenly woke up after months of therapy and went WOW, EVERYTHING IS OKAY. It’s better. And I don’t feel so ashamed or guilty. And I never want to paint birth as always being this terrifying experience. Mine just went so far from what I imagined, from hypnobirthing/water birth to totally out of control and fear, that I don’t think all the calm breathing in the world would have helped me get over it. And the actual giving birth part isn't a traumatic memory for me (despite feeling like my vagina was on fire). It was just the bits in-between that have caused me distress.
Like I mentioned earlier, another thing I’ve struggled with is that I know people have went through worse trauma than me – and they haven’t got PTSD. Why me? Everything worked out okay. Rafe was classed as a ‘normal' delivery in the end. That’s where a lot the embarrassment and shame has come in – but shame is quite a common symptoms of PTSD too. So I'm learning to accept that it doesn’t make me weak for struggling. My feelings, the flashbacks, the trauma were out if my control, it’s just up to me to deal with them now. But I'm okay. And most importantly so is Rafe - I will forever be thankful for that.
I realise I have written a lot here – and maybe also glossed over it a little. But that’s what I wanted to tell you. It’s just hard to put it all into words. So if anyone wants to chat further, please just get in touch. I do think that birth trauma is something that needs to be talked about more. Sounds silly and naive for me to say this now, but I didn't even connect that you could suffer from PTSD from giving birth. I also wanted to reassure everyone that all my emotions I have been writing about since the birth – the husband hate, the nap obsessions, the exhaustion, the worrying about what the heck I'm doing – those have nothing to do with PTSD – I was always going to feel those normal feelings that come with being a mum! And I will keep writing about those exact feelings every week – (thank you for all your amazing comments on my blog last week, I felt hugely emotional knowing that my blog had reached so many people) and I still live in hope with you all that we will sleep again. And I will probably touch on the PTSD sometimes (I have been discharged from the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Health Psychology Service for now) – and like I said, if anyone wants to talk to me about it, please do get in touch. If you’re going through something similar – don’t be ashamed or scared – you’ll be okay. Just make sure you reach out and get the help you need. It can happen to anyone. It doesn’t make you a bad mum – or a bad person. There’s nothing wrong with asking for some help.
Thank you for reading.