5 things I miss about life before child

5 things I miss about life before child

I don’t think any parent would disagree that becoming a child rearer changes everything about your life – your body, your relationships, your finances, your sanity. It completely tips your world upside down and shakes it around like a crazy life washing machine. It is the most incredible yet equally terrifying thing you could experience and I wouldn’t change my current life for anything (lie, I would totes love me a money tree in my yard and a wine tap in my kitchen) but there are definitely things I miss about my former life, you know – before I became a slave to a miniature human.

  1. My body. Now this is something I never imagined I would say due to my horrible body image that has affected me for many many years, but I wish I had appreciated my pre-baby body a lot more. And not just my shape but my ability to do what I wanted with it when I wanted. I definitely appreciate what my body went through growing and birthing a child and I’m proud as hell of it, but I still get a little sulky when I look back at my pre-baby pictures of my smooth unmarked belly without any floppy skin or deep red stretch marks. My stomach now resembles a deflated overstretched whoopy cushion, my boobs never shrunk after my very short breastfeeding journey so they are not proportionate to my body and I don’t think my navel will ever return to the cute little inny it once was (and I know I’m extremely lucky to have been blessed with the ability to carry and birth a child, I’m not ungrateful for that in the slightest. Just saying I have definitely taken on the mumbod form in it’s full glory). And just to be able to sit by myself and watch a full movie or even a news segment without having a toddler crawl all over me, or to be able to cook dinner without holding Chloe on my hip as she can’t bare to be more than a meter away from me – not to mention peeing without her on my lap. To have my body just to myself for one full day would be heavenly, I can’t believe I once felt ripped off that Chloe wasn’t a “cuddly” baby. I jinxed the shit out of myself there, she’s pretty much my 5th limb now.
  2. My bladder control! I was fortunate to never pee myself while pregnant (I hear it’s a thing) and I was very strict about my pelvic floor exercises twice a day throughout my entire pregnancy. But I won’t lie, I’ve had to do the dash to the loo legs crossed tight more than a few times since giving birth. Coughing/sneezing fits, laughing too much, running and trying to hold it for too long all result in near leakage situations. I’m still yet to actually require a discreet nicker change but we have had some extremely EXTREMELY close calls.
  3. Money. I remember saying a lot throughout my pregnancy “Babies aren’t that expensive, they just get expensive when they’re older”. Baha-fucking-ha, you silly woman! Although I still believe that to be somewhat true if you’re smart with your baby spending (I was one of those “It’s my first so I want everything new” mums, Gumtree will be getting a work out for number 2 that’s for sure) it’s the living off one wage instead of two when your are accustomed to a certain lifestyle that is difficult. We never really lived beyond our means but we absolutely should have been smarter throughout my pregnancy with budgeting to prepare for my maternity leave. Gone are the days of freshly manicured nails each fortnight or new threads with each payday, god knows what bacteria mini cities are growing under my nails nowadays and I can’t remember the last time I went into a change room to try something on for myself. That’s a lie, I do remember – it was when Chloe was 13 months old and I had worn the crotch out of my favourite pants so I took her into Target and promptly left in tears sans new pants as she had an epic tantrum in the fitting room and I couldn’t bare the scornful looks from fellow shoppers. It was her first public meltdown and it seriously sounded like I was murdering her.
  4. My ability to sleep through anything. Prior to Chloe you could set a blender of nails to turbo next to my bed and I wouldn’t flinch, I was one of those people that would fall asleep seconds after my head hitting the pillow and I would wake up in the same position 7 – 10 hours later (side note: can’t wait till Chloe is old enough to get herself out of bed and start her day without me so I can sleep in past 6.30am – literally cannot wait!). Surprisingly I’m still able to sleep through my husbands alarm, showering and starting his obnoxiously loud motor bike for work but as soon as that baby monitor flashes on from Chloe coughing or groaning in her sleep as she’s bumped her head on the cot wriggling around for the 13th time I’m wide awake and generally won’t get back to sleep. And bloody anxiety, I bet I’m not the only mama out there awake at stupid o’clock worrying about ridiculous things like if Chloe will get picked on at school (she’s not even 2 yet) or if I’m feeding her enough iron. Wish there was an off switch for the mum-worries!
  5. My sex life. I know my mum and mother in law read my blogs so I won’t go into too much detail but what they say about your sex life post children is unfortunately proving to be true. Don’t get me wrong, we still do the horizontal dance at least a few-ish times a week-ish (sorry mum) but the old “I’m too tired” or “I have a headache” gets thrown around a hell of a lot more nowadays (or in recent months “Your devil spawn has driven me pretty close to the edge today so I don’t want to chance an oopsie baby from a broken condom!”). I’m not saying we were sex crazed maniacs pre Chloe but the frequency of bonking has definitely dissipated. In fact, the most romantic thing my husband and I have done together in nearly 2 years is share a tub of ice cream in the dark and watch Ghost Adventures after Chloe has gone to bed. Needless to say we are in desperate need a date night without Chloe before my libido packs it’s bags and leaves me for the fantasies of spontaneous overnight hotel getaways with the hubs that I haven’t seen wandering my thoughts in a hot minute.

But with all the things I miss I still couldn’t imagine my life without my little wild child in it. She may have changed my life dramatically but in the most incredibly, exhausting, exciting, terrifying, amazing way. No matter how many times I say becoming a mother has flipped my world upside down, it has made my life more meaningful and whole. It is a journey but a journey I wouldn’t want to do with anyone else but her. But I would still love that money tree or wine tap if such a thing exists. 

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But what is a “good mother”?

But what is a “good mother”?

Fail…a word I hear a lot among quite a few of the mothers I know. I know I have used it plenty of times myself (shame on me) yet I’m always the first to jump to their defense and tell my fellow mama’s that they aren’t failing. I usually hear it in the context of “I have failed my child, I am not a good mother”. But my question is, what is a “good mother”?

One that loves her child unconditionally?

One that would do just about anything to keep her child safe and happy?

One that leaps out of bed several times a night to her crying baby and feeds, burps, changes, rocks, sings and cuddles them for possibly hours on end to make sure they are rested and content?

One that plays peek-a-boo behind her hands for hours in the hopes to make her newborn smile and hear the beautiful sound of their giggle?

One that takes her baby to the doctor for the seventh time in a week for a cough she feels just isn’t quite right only to be met with rolled eyes and assurance that it is just a cold?

One that worries at least a few times a day about the world her child is growing up in and if they are going to be safe and happy as they grow into adults?

One that looks at her child as they sleep with tears rolling down her face from pure gratitude and joy that they were chosen to be their baby’s mother?

If you are any of the above then I’m sorry (sorry not sorry) to tell you, but you are a good mother.

I don’t actually know where societies expectation to be a perfect mother has come from. I am yet to meet the perfect mother as I am pretty sure she doesn’t exist. We are all human and we all make mistakes from time to time, it’s how we learn and grow. How boring would life be if we never made mistakes, if we never forgot to restock the nappy bag and had to learn how to improvise with random pieces of used tissues and old rags in the car after a poo-splosion, if we never took our eye off them for just that eighth of a second and they rolled off the couch so we scooped them up and squeezed them tightly as they cried (more than likely also wailing ourselves) and then within seconds they continued trying to master eating their foot showing us how resilient they are (disclaimer: not condoning leaving children unattended on furniture), if we never accidentally shouted “FUCK” with a toddler in ears reach and then they randomly said “fuck” in front of their grandmother and strangers for the next week coz they are just too darn smart for their own good. Shit happens, but that doesn’t mean you failed – it means you’re learning.

We as mothers put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves to be supermum that we neglect to see how lucky we are to just get the title of mother. I don’t know if it’s more of a comparative thing with other mothers or just us thinking we need to be the best at this mumming gig so people don’t think we were undeserving in the promotion to Mother Dearest.  It’s like there’s this unspoken expectation to have your shit together to be considered a good mum. I know I’m never going to be one of those mums that has perfectly mannered children that don’t play up in public, that always has a ‘show home’ looking clean house, that never has clothes on the line overnight (or over-three-nights lets be honest) and I’m definitely never going to look down or judge another mother for how they choose to parent or make them feel like they have failed.

For me the expectations started when I was pregnant, I would always ask myself what kind of mother I was going to be and if I was going to be good at it. There are things I said I wouldn’t do that I have done many times over and there are things I thought I knew how to deal with that have had me absolutely bewildered at times. Being a mother isn’t something they teach you in school, there isn’t any special qualifications you require before you can procreate and that’s because no ones parenting journey is going to be the same. Just because what you are doing it differently to Susanne next door doesn’t mean you have failed, just because her DS (dear son for those that don’t speak mum) crawled at 6 months and your baby is still doing the downward dog and that cute nappy-bum twerk doesn’t mean you failing at teaching them to crawl – it means they are still learning just like you (and lets be honest, once they start crawling they don’t stop so don’t be too disappointed). The perfect mother doesn’t exist, just as the perfect baby doesn’t (and if it does tell me where to find him/her so I can clone it’s DNA for when I am ready to have another) – they are perfect in our eyes and that’s all that matters.

Something I will definitely be reminding myself and my mama squad the next time we feel like we have failed or that we are not good mothers is that we are doing the best we can and if anything else we love our children more than anyone could ever possibly love another human. And for me, that is more than enough. 

I thought about hurting my baby 

I thought about hurting my baby 

Disclaimer; I was medicated early on for my PND and have seen psychologists and have received professional support. I think it is important to recognise when your thoughts aren’t normal or that you’re really not coping and seek support, for the wellbeing of yourself and your family. There are many amazing organisations out there such as PANDA and Ngala (details at the end of this blog) that can offer support and counselling but I definitely recommend speaking with your GP first and compiling a Mental Health Plan together. If my story were to help just one person realise they need to speak to someone about their thoughts then the fear of publishing this will all be worth it.

I follow a lot of mum bloggers and I love it when they share something that just resonates with me so deeply, it’s like a moment of relief that I’m not the only one going through a particular situation that is making me feel helpless and alone. I have been pretty honest about my new mum struggles on my blog and on my Instagram but something I haven’t shared from paralysing fear of judgement is some of the effects post natal depression had on me. Although I am in a much better place now I am still haunted by some of the things that went through my mind back in the early days when I hadn’t got a grip on my thoughts or reality yet.

I don’t think there was a defining moment I realised I needed to go and see someone about my mental health, it was a series of moments over a number of months. Looking back now I know I should have sought help sooner but I was afraid and I was in denial. A bit of quick back story, Chloe had Infant Silent Reflux from 5 weeks old, my husband was working away FIFO at the time and my parents had left the state for work so I didn’t have a lot of support at my fingertips. My sister was a god send but with 3 children of her own and a FIFO partner I didn’t want to call her every time I was about to crack, I would have been calling her a few times a day at the very least.

Chloe cried a lot back in her infant days, her whole wake time was battling to get her to feed and trying to calm her down from crying and screaming in pain. She was on medication for ISR from about 6 weeks of age and wasn’t weaned off till she was just over 10 months old so it was a long and exhausting 9ish months. The silver lining is that she slept, I think if she hadn’t been such a good sleeper we wouldn’t be were we are now and this may well have been a much more terrifying and heartbreaking story. I know what you’re probably thinking “Come on Sami, all babies cry a lot – surely it wasn’t that bad?!”. Well it may not have been as bad as I perceived or as bad as some other babies but this was my first experience with a baby and with little and at times no support around me I struggled to cope. I would cry just as much if not more than Chloe and I would say out loud as if there were a higher power listening that I didn’t want to be a mother anymore and that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I would sit by Chloe as she screamed for hours on end and just shake in a ball of rage as I couldn’t handle the sound of her cries and I was so terrified to pick her up in fear of what I might do. I felt like the worst human being and not worthy of being a mother.

One day when Chloe had cried all morning and then was in so much pain that she wouldn’t settle for a nap I snapped. I had screamed at her so much that my throat was sore, I dumped her in her cot, punched my fists on the mattress in a rage and ran out of the room slamming the door behind me. I collapsed to the floor and screamed banging my hands on the floor until they were red and sore. I went into my bedroom and laid on my wardrobe floor and cried hysterically for about 15 minutes, to the point where I almost passed out. I was defeated. I was scared. I was broken. I could hear Chloe crying but no longer in pain but in terror. Something in me clicked, I needed to go to her but this weight just held me down. Like a force keeping me there for just a few minutes longer so I could clear my thoughts before I went to her. Finally I got myself together, went in and scooped her up and sat on the floor with her in my arms and bawled my eyes out. All I remember saying was “I’m sorry” over and over again while rocking her and kissing her. This should have been that defining moment to realise I needed help but it wasn’t, sadly there were many screaming sessions and “I’m sorry’s” to follow.

During the months where I tried so hard to “fix” Chloe’s Silent Reflux I turned into this shell of a woman. I didn’t leave the house much, I lost contact with a lot of my dearest friends and I cried – more than I have ever cried in my lifetime. I told myself several times a day everyday that I didn’t deserve to be a mother, that I was a horrible human and that it was no wonder Chloe was so unhappy being around someone like me. I pushed my husband away out of resentment that his life was still normal and he didn’t understand what I was going through and when he was home I took control of looking after Chloe as I felt like I was the only one that knew how to care for her. I became a woman possessed with trying everything I could to get rid of the ISR thinking that as soon as it was fixed Chloe would be happy and I could start enjoying motherhood. I wished away Chloe’s infancy, I just wished she was older and would grow out of it. I saw doctors, pediatricians, health nurses, Ngala, just anyone that would listen to me just trying to find a magic cure. I wasted so much time looking for answers instead of bonding and connecting with my daughter, time that I will never get back.

There was another dark day that I will never forget and it could well be the moment I knew I needed help but I was still afraid so I think it was another few days before I actually went and seen my doctor. Chloe had been screaming for about an hour solid and was wriggling and arching her back so much that I couldn’t even hold her to feed or sooth her. I put her on the couch next to me and cried with my head in my hands and the most terrifying thought faded into my mind. I saw that there was a burp cloth beside me and I pictured for a second myself holding it over her face to stop her crying, so she would just be silent. I sat there staring at that cloth for what felt like a lifetime, battling my mind and body whether or not I was going to pick it up. My whole body was in a cold sweat, I picked up the cloth and held it in my hand tight, I couldn’t move my hand further even if I had wanted to. Again, it was like there was a force holding me back from moving. I strapped Chloe in her bouncer and I went into my bedroom and cried in pure terror. What would have happened if I’d moved? Could I really have hurt Chloe? What kind of person was I, to think about something like that? I called Ngala later that day and spoke to their help line, they asked me like they had so many times before – “Are you having thoughts about hurting the baby?”, I replied “No”. I don’t know why I didn’t say yes, maybe fear that they would come take her away from me, maybe fear that someone other than myself would see that I was a horrible mother. I don’t know, but whenever I was asked that question by doctors or nurses I would always say no.

A few days later with the encouragement and support of my husband I went and seen my doctor. The appointment was actually for Chloe but as soon as he asked how I was coping I burst into tears and he immediately made an extended appointment for me within a few days. He gave me some questionnaires to fill out and bring back and a few days later he assessed me and diagnosed me with Post Natal Depression and prescribed me a low dose of Citalopram which I am still taking today but plan to start weaning off it after my next review with my doctor. We also made a plan for me to connect with a Mental Health Nurse and we talked about coping strategies I could incorporate into my days such as walking and relaxation methods. I am lucky to have found such an amazing GP in my area, he will definitely be our family GP until we move out of our area (then I will probably still travel to him if it isn’t too far).

Chloe is now 20 months old and is still quite the handful but I am well into my recovery journey and no longer let those thoughts of being an undeserving mother enter my mind. There are still hard days that knock me on my ass and drive me to tears but I know I am right where I am meant to be and I’m proud to be my little cheeky monkeys mama. I know she doesn’t remember all of those early days when I screamed a lot and left her crying more times than I can count to take 5 minutes to try to calm myself down, but if she does I will try with every ounce of my being to replace those memories with ones of cuddles and laughter and unconditional love.

It doesn’t make you weak to ask for help and you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit you’re not coping. More mums are going through similar feelings than you think, you don’t have to live with PNA or PND and it doesn’t define you as a parent or a person. If you feel like your thoughts are not quite right and you aren’t coping please speak with your GP or seek support from one of the amazing resources below.

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) provides a vital service across Australia by offering the only specialist national perinatal mental health telephone counselling service, as well as reducing stigma around perinatal anxiety and depression, and providing education services to health professionals and the wider community. Their help line is available from 10am – 5pm Monday to Friday on 1300 726 306 or you can visit their website http://www.panda.org.au for more information.

Ngala is a provider of Early Parenting and Early Childhood services with a passion for supporting and guiding families and young children through the journey of parenting. They have a help line that is available from 8am – 8pm 7 days a week on 1800 111 546 or you can visit their website http://www.ngala.com.au for more information.

They were right, it does get easier. 

They were right, it does get easier. 

Well there’s something I never thought I’d ever say, this parenting business really is getting easier. Now don’t get me wrong, I still question everything and there are still days you’ll find me curled up under the computer desk rocking back and forth whilst ferociously writing an adoption ad with a wine bottle firmly in my grasp, but I certainly feel more at ease at this stage of my parenting journey than I have so far.

Anyone that has followed my journey will know I haven’t been a natural at this whole mumming thing. I spent the first year googling everything, taking Chloe to multiple specialists to help ‘fix’ her (note to anyone dealing with Infant Silent Reflux – it cannot be fixed. The pain can be managed but there is no magic pill to cure it unfortunately – gee I sure found that out the hard way), I would cry most days from complete exhaustion, frustration and guilt that I was a horrible mother as I hated the thought of having to feed my child, I would compare my journey to everyone else’s and felt extreme resentment that I didn’t have the same happy baby and incredible experience they were having. But what I neglected to realise was that everyone has rough days, everyone has moments where they think they are completely failing at parenting because it’s a normal feeling for all parents at one point or another. But just know, you aren’t failing – just trust me, you’re not!

I’m ashamed to say that it took me so long to see that everyone’s journey is different and everyone experiences the ups and downs. I spent so much time feeling ripped off that I was dealt a hand that I didn’t think I was strong enough to handle. But look at us now, we made it. Not completely unscathed, but we are thriving none the less. It was unfair of me to judge and think that everything was perfect for everyone else, in hindsight we have been extremely blessed to have experienced the first year and a bit without a single hospital visit, without any serious medications, without any heartbreaking diagnosis with uncertainties for the future. We are so lucky to have a beautiful healthy child, to think about all the children out there with life changing illnesses and the challenges them and their families have to face, it just breaks my heart and makes me feel so remorseful that I have ever taken any bit of our journey for granted.

Ironically enough the one thing that the majority of parents struggle with is the one thing that we have been quite blessed with. Luckily Chloe has always been a pretty decent sleeper, if this wasn’t the case I probably would have admitted myself to the loony bin long ago. I know of countless other mamas still dealing with terrible sleepers so I am extremely grateful that this has been the easy part for us so far (touch wood! I hear the transition to toddler beds and dropping that one last heavily nap can come with a whole new set of sleep struggles). I definitely feel for all the mama’s and papa’s out there still struggling with sleep deprivation, you are fucking soldiers and I’m sending so much positivity and strength out into the universe for you (I know that may not mean much as you imagine yourself in an eternity of restful uninterrupted slumber or swimming in a pool of coffee but I really do admire your resilience and hope that you break that sleep barrier soon – stay strong troops!).

Food is definitely something I thought would be easier at this point, but at the end of the day Chloe does eat relatively well. She can be fussy but what toddler isn’t. We haven’t come across any allergies yet, she will try most things and as long as she can feed herself (rice can be tricky) then we are usually tantrum free at the dinner table now. Some things that I thought were programmed into a toddlers brain to love that Chloe will not eat include chicken nuggets, sandwiches, cheese (unless its Laughing Cow which is her ride or die and can’t say I blame her, that shit is delicious) and strawberries. Some of her favorites are pasta (girl after my own heart), watermelon (gets that from her dada) and popcorn. She will also demolish a bowl of peas – frozen or cooked. It has been a long battle for calm at the dinner table but in all honesty is was me that was making it more difficult by getting stressed and agro when Chloe wouldn’t eat something. I think my biggest bit of advice, and something that I admittedly should have listened to from my sister (sorry sis), regarding toddlers and food is not to stress – they will eat when they are hungry. If you set good eating habits and offer nutritious foods it is up to them if/when they will try it. Make it fun, be a bit silly with them but don’t panic if they don’t eat everything offered the first few times, keep trying and they soon will give it a go.

Tantrums are something I absolutely did not prepare myself for, but who can really prepare themselves for a completely unpredictable mini human tornado of emotion. I hear people use the phrase ‘terrible two’s’ a lot but Chloe started her tantrum throwing at around 11 months so I’ve either been given a faulty child or it should be re-phrased ‘terrible one/two-ish’. Apart from Silent Reflux this has definitely been the hardest part of my parenting experience so far. I would like to say it has gotten easier but I think I have just developed selective hearing and improved my ability to not give a fuck if she can’t carry 4 books, two stuffed animals, a blanket, her empty milk bottle and a dirty sock in her hands all at once. You gotta pick your battles and trying to explain to her she is trying to carry too much is just one I don’t need to face every other hour so generally I just let her have her moment. The tantrums certainly make me question my decision to have any additional children in the future but if it’s the worst thing I am dealing with in my life then it really isn’t that big of a deal. I am finding a good tight cuddle and sloppy kisses are working more and more to ease the tantrums but I don’t want to jinx it so that is all I will say about it.

In my opinion Chloe has not been the easiest child, she has always been unsettled and overly emotional and I haven’t always been as calm and understanding as I should have been in moments of chaos. But I think it is wrong of me or anyone to downplay their parenting struggles, just because they aren’t as difficult as someone else’s and the challenges we have faced may not be as intense as others it doesn’t make them any less of a challenge. Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever and possibly will ever do in my life. It is something that takes all your strength, love and patience and changes you in so many ways it is actually indescribable. There are days where I didn’t know how I would get through the day without loosing my voice from shouting and there are days where I feel so much love and pride I spontaneously cry tears of happiness throughout the day. I know there are many more hurdles for us to get over and there still will be days where I pull that draft adoption ad out to update it but it really does get easier. Enjoy the journey, every day past is a day that you can’t change so make everyday one to remember.

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Am I ready?

Am I ready?

An old friend told me that when Chloe is around 18 months the thought of another one won’t seem so crazy. Recently I’ve found myself welcoming the thought of being pregnant again, I had such a lovely pregnancy and the thought of growing another human excites me a little. Then of course my toddler throws something at me in frustration or squeals like a mini banshee right in my ear as it’s her preferred way to communicate with me and the thought of another Chloe scares the thought from my mind. It’s only fair that I have already had one difficult baby that the next one should be a breeze, right?!

When I scroll my camera roll and see pictures of Chloe as an infant I feel like I missed her as a baby, it was a really hard time with her Silent Reflux, my PND and my husband working away so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. In a way I feel I was robbed of the newborn experience and there are so many things I would do differently, I would love another chance at it if I am lucky enough. But when is it ever the right time to have another baby? I don’t know if there is ever a ‘right time’ to bring another life into the world and fill your heart with more love for another human (and your belly with more coffee coz #sleepisfortheweak) but it’s a battle between my heart and mind to have another. My heart wants another sooner rather than later so I can give Chloe a sibling and I would love for them to grow up close in age but my mind knows we a. cant really afford to have another mouth to feed right now (and I am hoping to succeed in the breastfeeding battle next time but new babies still come at a huge expense – i.e. one wage and a zillion nappies) and b. Chloe was (and lets be honest,still is) quite a handful, I don’t know if I can actually survive another Silent Reflux devil baby and a demanding and emotionally unstable toddler. With all of my husbands siblings and nieces and nephews having Silent Reflux I know there is probably 99.9% chance the next is going to have it too, but I like to think I will be more prepared. But even with all the preparation and experience I have already had with it just the thought of going through all of that again makes me want to book in for a tubal ligation. But I could get really lucky and get one more like me than it’s father, Chloe inherited Brett’s temper, stubbornness and large ears so the next one surely should be more like me.

I never really considered age gaps when I was pregnant with Chloe, the doctor that discharged me when I had her asked me when I was having the next one and I felt like taking a sip of water just so I could spit it out in astonishment. Like, geez woman – my uterus is still contracting back from the size of a bowling ball to a 5c piece from this one, lets give it a minute. I always imagined a shorter gap, my sister and I are 3 years apart and although we had our usual sibling rivalry going on (she wouldn’t let me play barbies and I did my fair share of dobbing to mum on her) we still made some pretty amazing memories growing up together. I have always said I would like Chloe to be able to entertain herself to a degree before I pop out another one but as she currently still looses her shit if I step into the kitchen to wash a coffee cup which is only a few feet away I am picturing her clinging for life to my leg as I stumble around the house with a newborn. I also secretly hope Chloe will calm down a little when we do have another, but I also hope for world peace and I don’t feel the chances of that are very high so I’m not lulling myself into that false sense of security. 

I’ve definitely had to theoretically punch my ovaries in the dick a few times (settle down guys, it ain’t the time yet!) but as I post Chloe’s pre-loved baby items such as her bassinet and bouncer on Gumtree I feel a little hesitation to let go of it just yet. I know the hubs will need a bit more convincing and I don’t think it’s one of those ‘ask for forgiveness, not for permission’ situations (in the heat of the moment it can seem like a dance on the wild side not reaching for one of those little rubber sperm catchers but we both come back to sensibility and whack one on before the big event) so I guess it will be a little while yet untill 3 becomes 4. Or maybe not, he can be convinced pretty quickly at the promise of a visit to a motor show and a boobie grab. 

Who am I? 

Who am I? 

I feel like all new parents go through a period where we lose our identity in the blur of having a newborn and trying to find our feet living our lives with a new tiny human. I don’t doubt that for some it can take a while to “find yourself” again once you get into a manageable rhythm of parenthood. But after 17 months I am still trying to figure out who I am. It’s almost like I’ve been on autopilot and when I stop to take a moment to think about the last year and a half it’s like I’m watching on a projector screen from an empty room. Like shit, did this all just happen without me?! I know it has all been real and I have grown and learnt so much but I look at myself now and I just can’t figure out who I really am other than a mother.

I haven’t shared Chloe’s full birth story but it was traumatic to say the least. It was quick but so quick that I feel like I was watching from outside my body. I was alone and terrified, everything happened so quickly and before I knew it I was holding my precious baby in my arms, in a room by myself (and one midwife who I never even got her name) being stitched up from a tear that I had been more nervous about than giving birth. Did I mention I was alone?! Giving birth is so life changing (ah derh Sami – pushing a baby out of you hoohaa isn’t exactly an everyday occurance), it’s supposed to be this glorious occasion when you connect with your partner and cry tears of joy as you both look deliriously lovingly into your new baby’s eyes, my experience was so far from this so I think I’m still coming to terms with how it all went down. I never made a birth plan but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting at all so it has shaken me and still feels so surreal.

The whole deepest of deep loves for Chloe didn’t come right away and I thought that my mummy switch was broken. I didn’t know if I was just traumatised from her birth or if my motherly instinct would ever kick in. For the first year I didn’t love being a mother, I resented it. Everyday I would go through a wave of feeling helpless, then guilty, then undeserving, then sad and it would just keep circling. I felt like I just didn’t deserve to be a mother, I didn’t know who I was anymore and I didn’t know when I would ever feel normal again. I wasn’t a good mother (or I didn’t feel like it) and I was far from my former pre baby self. I was lost in a haze, trying to be a good mother, a loving wife and still trying to maintain my own identity but it was slipping away so quickly. I was, and still am, so focused on being a mother that I stopped taking care of me and lost who I really was. I know am I still me, the quiet one but the one that will say what is on her mind (not in the way of offending others but just not always filtering to be more socially demure), the one who craves deep connections but only has a handful of close friends, the one who wants for big adventures but is afraid to leave her comfort zone, the one who is slightly over dramatic but finds humour in the strangest of things. I’m still me but I’m lost in a shadow, like I’m not the same as who I was but not quite who I want to be.

I didn’t have a lot of support when Chloe was a baby, my husband worked FIFO and my parents were travelling over east. I have a sister that lives in the same city but she has 3 children of her own and a partner that also works away so I didn’t want to rely on her all the time (although I know she would be here for me at the drop of a hat if I needed her). I didn’t feel comfortable asking for help from friends, this was my life now and I needed to learn how to do it myself. I’m not stubborn, I just struggle to ask for help as I didn’t want to bother other people. I went to such a lonely place, I didn’t want people to know how much I wasn’t coping so I just hid away. So many of my friendships changed, it was like I didn’t know how to be happy anymore so I didn’t want to fake a smile and hold back tears around people if they asked how I was doing. I’ve always been introverted and quiet but I secluded myself so much over the last year and a half that I sometimes struggle to make connections when I meet new people. And the connections that have now faded are ones that I know I will never get back but I miss them so deeply.

I’m still somewhat unfamiliar with the person I see looking back at me in the mirror. I still look at her and think “Wow – you have been through a lot, you’ve been so close to breaking but you are still here. Your daughter is beautiful, yeah she’s a handful on the best of days but you’re doing it when you thought you couldn’t. You’re doing ok babe” (I don’t actually stand and talk to myself in the mirror, I’m not that crazy..yet). I am still learning and growing, still trying to figure out what kind of mother I am, what kind of friend I am and what kind of person I want to be. I can only hope that I find peace with myself soon so I can be the strong, courageous and wise teacher that my daughter needs to guide her through life. Maybe I am closer to finding “me” than I think, as a non-New Years resolution (I don’t believe in making New Years resolutions, I feel like they are just promises you make to yourself that you will likley break – yes, I am the eternal pesamist) I want to practise more meditation and gratitude so maybe I will find my peace through that. Or maybe I will one day recognise that woman looking back at me in the mirror as the beautifully imperfect woman she is. 
 

Still searching for the light 

Still searching for the light 

If you weren’t aware this week is PNDA Awareness Week. In the last few days I have read some beautifully raw and inspiring stories of other mums journies with pre and post natal anxiety and depression. It is so liberating to see mothers sharing their stories and it’s very comforting to be able to relate with other parents with something that can make you feel so alone.

1 in seven new mothers and 1 in ten new fathers are diagnosed with post natal depression, I am one of those statistics. I am still struggling with PND and over the last few weeks I have sunk deeper into my depression so I thought it only appropriate to share my story to show that PND can be a long journey and to hopefully help someone else feel less alone. 

I think all new mothers will say the first few weeks with a new born is a blur, it was no different for me. I was anxious to leave the house, I was terrified of doing something wrong and I doubted myself a lot. Chloe would feed every few hours around the clock, there were days where she wouldn’t settle and the dramatic turn life had taken into parenthood took quite some time to sink in. I feel like I thought I knew what I was doing but then something would pop up that would cause completely overwhelming and crippling anxiety and my confidence would halt. Something as simple as her not drinking as much as she usually would or not sleeping as long as normal, I would spiral out of control trying to stay in control of the situation. I just wanted so badly to be a good mother and to do the best job I could possibly do. I didn’t and still don’t give myself enough credit to realise I am doing just that, the best I can do. But that’s what PND does, it makes you feel like you are not good enough and it clouds a lot of the joy that you should be feeling.

When I first realised that how I was feeling about motherhood wasn’t right I put it down to stress. I thought that Chloe’s silent reflux (I have mentioned this in other blogs so I wont go into details) was to blame and that as soon as that was under control I would be happier again. No mother wants to see their baby crying in pain constantly and not be able to help them, I was just not coping with that but it time the SR will go away and so will my feelings of helplessness. Well so I thought. Granted the SR did take 9 months to get even slightly better and to the point where Chloe would only cry for half an hour each feed rather then nearly 2 hours, but the damage was done. I had spent that whole time trying to figure out where I was going wrong, trying method after method to make my daughter happy and comfortable and I didn’t let myself enjoy her as a newborn. I was trying to fix her and was riddled with anxiety and fear about everything. I feared that this is my life, I will forever be dealing with an unhappy baby and unable to control my emotions about it. I thought the crying until I hyperventilated and the anxiety causing dizziness and heart palpitations was my normal. When the voices in my head started telling me that I didn’t deserve to be a mother and thoughts of self harm started entering my mind I knew it was time to get help.

I started my search for light (you know, that light at the end of the tunnel everyone tells you about) with Ngala. Their support line was and still is essential for my PND recovery. They are amazing at what they do and I have come to trust them as I know that they are truly concerned for my health as well as Chloe’s. I then turned to my GP at the recommendation of Ngala, he was someone that I trusted as he is a wonderful doctor and he has always been so amazing with Chloe. After a Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale score of 17 (I believe 30 is the highest but a score of 13+ is considered concerning) he suggested I speak to a councilor as soon as possible and after a few follow up visits for Chloe’s silent reflux ending in complete breakdowns from me he also prescribed me Citalopram. At first I didn’t take the Citalopram as Brett was still working away and I didn’t feel comfortable being under the influence of medication whilst being Chloe’s primary caregiver but after a few months of talking myself down of a theoretical cliff I knew it was time to start taking them before I had to talk myself off an actual cliff. I was lucky enough to have not experienced any side effects and it has definitely helped stabilise my mood. I only recently had a review of the medication with my GP and we agreed that it will continue as a part of my Mental Health Plan and we would re-visit it in 3 months. Taking medication can definitely be scary and can make you feel like you are weak or you may think that you don’t need to be taking pills to be a good mother but in all honesty, sometimes you just do. They have made a world of difference for me but everyone is different and some people may find therapy alone successful so speaking to your GP and discussing a Mental Health Plan is something I highly recommend.

I also saw a councilor but I didn’t feel we ‘clicked’ and that connection is crucial when it comes to a councilor or therapist so that you can build trust and feel safe to open up to them. I also saw a psychologist but again I didn’t feel 100% comfortable telling her how crazy I was so of course I turned to blogging, why not share potentially with the world (I don’t think my little blog will ever reach as far as the USA or Europe but you never know) how I feel rather than just one university qualified individual that is bound by patient confidentiality. But my anxiety has been heightened recently due to Chloe starting her terrible twos a tad early and on the extremely tough days those thoughts of self harm have started creeping up on me again so I know it is time for me to reach out to a new psychologist to help me process those feelings. This is something I know I need to do but sometimes the grip of PND can be so tight it doesn’t let you reach out for help, it makes you think that seeking help is not something you are capable of but you are! You deserve to seek help, you deserve to feel safe in your own thoughts and you deserve to know that you are a capable mother.

I guess for some people the thought of sitting face to face with someone and admitting that you are not coping is too hard, I know for me I found it extremely hard admitting to my loved ones that I needed help as I didn’t want them to think I was failing so that’s why I picked up the phone. If you are not comfortable speaking with family or close friends then there are some amazing resources out there for parents who are struggling with PNA or PND, the first step is as simple as dialing a number. Please, if you are feeling that you are not coping then make the call, speak to someone you trust and let them know how you are feeling or if you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to a loved then there are helplines available that in my experience are invaluable;

  • PANDA is an incredible organisation that offers support for any parents struggling with unfamiliar thoughts and feelings, you don’t need a diagnosis to call. You can call The National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306 Monday-Friday 10am – 5pm (AEST) or visit their website http://www.panda.org.au/ for more information
  • Ngala is a provider of Early Parenting and Early Childhood services with a passion for supporting and guiding families and young children through the journey of parenting. Their helpline is available from 8am – 8pm (AWST) everyday on 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 (country) or visit their website http://www.ngala.com.au/

 

I am still searching for that light, some days are nearly more than I can handle but I will beat PND because I am stronger than it. It doesn’t define me and I won’t let it define my mothering journey. Don’t be afraid to speak out if you are struggling with your parenting journey, there is always someone who will understand and listen.

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I still can’t believe she was ever that small