Postnatal depression, music and me

A weird thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago and because we haven’t had any wi-fi, I haven’t been able to write about it (even though I really, really wanted to.)

Back in July, I was listening to Lauren Laverne on BBC6 Music; as part of the show, she has a weekly feature called ‘Memory Tapes’. I’d been listening to a girl talking about her life and listening to Sigur Ros as she flew over Iceland and I thought maybe I could email in my own memory tape. So I did- and promptly forgot all about it. Except about two weeks later, I got an email back asking if I would be free to be on the show on August 10th. OBVIOUSLY, I said yes.

p04415kn

Source: BBC6Music

My memory tape had been built around Benn and D, specifically songs that reminded me of key moments in my life with both- and I mentioned in my email (it’s on this page here) that I had struggled with PND. Although I’d never been explicit about my struggle with it online, I have been vocal about it away from social media and the blog. I knew that this element interested the producers of the show and I was determined to talk about it openly. So I did. (Despite the aforementioned lack of wi-fi making it bloody hard work to organise the whole thing.)

Now, I’m a massive fan of Lauren and have been for years, so I was dead nervous. Turns out, she’s absolutely lovely and encouraging. It was a bit weird hearing her do radio stuff before my call was cued in, but I tried hard to focus on what was being asked. I talked about how music was the anchor that threaded together my memories of D’s early months-I have huge swathes of stuff that’s forgotten or unknown to me and I can piece them together through a few songs. I spoke about how I knew I was lucky that I had had an excellent health visitor and GP, but that I knew not everyone was so fortunate. I guess I wanted people to know that you can get through it, but that we need to be more open and less dismissive when someone asks for help with their mental health. It took me months to admit that there was something wrong; when I was pregnant, I’d been assessed by a team as to how likely I was to get PND. They had been happy with my prognosis and I felt a bit of a failure when I realised something was up. In fact, I’d gone to the doctor about something else when it all came out. I am so, so grateful that she picked me up so quickly. It meant that it was nipped in the bud relatively early, although I would continue to be on medication until D was nearly three.

The aftermath of the call was slightly surreal; people sent lovely messages to the show which were read out on air and I had loads of supportive tweets. It felt good to talk about something that has been so important and shaped my life not so long ago. I’m fine now, but I know how it felt to not be fine. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Keep asking until you get it. Don’t be fobbed off.

After the call had gone out, I received an email asking if I minded if it went on the website- they’d had a huge response. Of course, I said it was fine. If you want to listen to it, it’s here. (Weirdly, I sound so much like my sister, it’s *creepy*.) I don’t know if it helped anyone, but hopefully it showed that PND is something that can be overcome with the right support. We need to talk about it more openly and make it less taboo to discuss it; to listen when someone asks for help and to notice maybe when they are unable to.

27 things I’ve learnt about being a parent

On Wednesday, D will be a year old. I have no idea how that happened so quickly, but there it is. As I have been a mum now for 51 and a half weeks, I thought I would share some ‘interesting’ nuggets of information that I’ve learnt through the School of Hard Knocks (Parenting Department). Feel free to leave any others in the comments.

1. The best bit of advice I was given, pre-baby, was from a colleague. “It’s OK to want to throw the baby out of the window. As long as you don’t throw the baby out of the window.” Oh, how I heard her voice telling me this many, many times during D’s colic stage.

Image: Dadcentric.com

Image: Dadcentric.com

2. I learnt that big babies are a godsend for the baby-inexperienced like Benn and me. I once told my health visitor that I felt that D would bounce if I dropped him.

3. Don’t post a status announcement on Facebook expressing surprise that you’ve got to six months without any major incident. The baby WILL fall off the bed that day. And then again two days later.

4. Oh, God, THE GUILT. About everything. Seriously, now I understand why Catholics encourage people to have children. It heaps MORE guilt on already guilty feeling people.

parentsclue1

5. Children’s programming is actually a lot better than what I remember having as a kid. Except when they tamper with the 80s classics and make them CGI. No. (Also, avoid Milkshake on Channel 5. Way too much makeup and enthusiasm for 6am.)

6. Babies are essentially tiny drunks.

7. As soon as you get used to a lack of sleep/getting enough sleep (sort of), the baby will change its routine JUST TO SPITE YOU.

8. Babies are more effective at helping you make friends than vodka.

9. You never, ever get used to what are euphemistically termed ‘toxic nappies’ in the Pomfrett household. Never. You just invest in better air fresheners.

10. The relationship between cat and baby goes from fear, to love/hate, to a thing to behold.

954895_10151629400942267_1512948389_n

11. It is not always necessary to take the entire contents of the baby’s room when popping to the corner shop.

12. I really felt sorry for Prince William when it was revealed that he’d changed Prince George’s first nappy. I remember what that looked like. *Shudder*.

13. People will express surprise if you manage to do anything that’s not involving the baby: reading a book, painting your nails, baking etc.

14. If you say you don’t want another baby, people will tell you you’ll change your mind. But they won’t say that to your (male) other half.

15. Reading aloud anything by Julia Donaldson will make you sound like a master storyteller.

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

16. Libraries with good children’s areas are a complete godsend. Even if you do have to crawl around with your son, apologising to everyone when he tries to eat their food.

17. Weaning is lots of fun and it is OK to occasionally chuckle at the faces your child makes as he tries broccoli for the seventh time.

18. Derek Jacobi is under no threat from my re-tellings of In the Night Garden stories.

19. Once the baby could crawl, pyjamas became a godsend.

20. You can never have enough of the following: vests, sleepsuits/pyjamas, Sock Ons, plastic spoons, books.

21. Although I have fully accepted that D sees Benn as the cool parent, I quite like the fact that I’m the one he wants when he’s poorly (even if it means being pinned to the sofa all day watching endless CBeebies programmes.)

22. As much as I would like it to be true, I highly doubt D is speaking Russian when he says ‘da’ repeatedly.

23. Babywearing is cool, but impossible when your child is determined to grow into the BFG.

funny-pictures-history-parenting1

24. It is very  important to ask for help if you need it.

25. It really is easier to provide grandparents with an Amazon Wishlist for birthdays and Christmas.

26. Even if you’re not a mushy parent, you do feel immense pride whenever your baby does a ‘first’.

27. I am genuinely looking forward to when D is old enough to enjoy the things we do. I need another Doctor Who fan in this house.

Good luck, bad luck

Do you believe in fate, or are you more of a ‘we make our own luck’ type of person?

Image: Fanpop.com

Image: Fanpop.com

I ask this because, quite frankly, I’ve had a sucky couple of weeks when it’s come to luck. I’ve lost my library card twice (and almost lost it a third time), lost my debit card, had some stresses at work that were not necessary, had daft rows with people and D has had a cold. Sometimes it just feels like the world is against you, right?

Naturally, I’m an optimist, but this can be hard when my depression is playing up and I feel like I’m walking through treacle on a daily basis. What I can say is that having D is a good grounder; I can’t stay in bed all day when I have a little chap who’s reliant on me for food, cleaning and entertainment. I have to force myself into a certain manner and that’s a good thing.

I’m also mindful that this too shall pass; we all have periods in our lives when, to varying degrees, we feel like luck is either for or against us. I know that it’s all relative and I live a comfortable life by many standards, but luck is a fickle mistress. I just started thinking about whether we make our own luck. Is it the circle of life (naaaaa, mnemenahhhhhhhhh) or is sheer bloodymindedness? I’m hoping it’s the former, as I’m not sure I have the brain juice for the latter at the moment.

We all know that person who seems to have been smiled on from the very moment of birth and the other person who seems to have constant bad luck. Sometimes you can see what’s caused their situation in life and sometimes it’s a bit more baffling. A bit like this rambling blogpost, in fact!

Oh, look- it’s time to baby-proof EVERYTHING

Hooray! D is trying to kill himself in new and interesting ways on an almost daily basis. It’s time to sort out proper safety measures around the house. Let me show you some ideas that we’re currently mooting, thanks to Safetots, chez Pomfrett.

One of D’s favourite past-times is to slide around on his belly (no proper crawling here!) and trying to annoy the cat. His latest trick is to try and eat the catfood. Ergo, we need to keep him fenced in to certain areas of the house and a baby gate has been indispensable- we use a BabyDan wooden gate like this one:

BabyDan MultiDan Gate Beechwood

I decided that a wooden one was best for our house as D is always banging his head and I figured, in what could possibly be flawed logic, that this would be less painful for bumped heads. Also, it fits the décor of our current house nicely!

Another trick of D’s is trying to get up our chimney. Yes, unfortunately he was born 150 years too late to be of optimum age for a chimney sweep, no matter how hard he tries. This means, although our fire doesn’t actually work (who can forget the gas-leak drama of last October?!), we need something more substantial that pillows to cordon off the area around the fire. Something like this fireguard would be perfect:

Safetots Original Fire Guard

It’s hard work when you have a kamikaze baby on your hands!

*Written in conjunction with Safetots*

 

The inhabitant of a ‘post-baby body’ speaks

This last couple of weeks, I have been RAGING at the popular tabloid media. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the media. I studied it, I teach it, I even contribute to it from time to time. But seriously, Media, you have got to stop this obsession with a post-baby body.

When the Duchess of Cambridge came out of the hospital last Tuesday, the fragrant Kay Burley asked: “Why does she still have a bump?”

Kate Middleton Post-Baby Body

Image: The Hollywood Gossip

Um, because she spent nine months growing a baby? (I didn’t have a bump after D was born, incidentally because he was MASSIVE and my waters had broken earlier than my contractions had started, meaning I lost a load of fluid.)

On Wednesday, I saw that Marie Claire were tweeting triumphantly that Fearne Cotton was showing off her post-baby body that had ‘pinged’ back. Oh, how I loathe this phrase. Also, seriously considering a boycott of Marie Claire for promoting such vapid nonsense.

The thing is, it’s highly unlikely that 99% of mothers ‘ping’ back into shape. I know I haven’t. I did lose some weight after having D, but that’s because I live on a massive hill, walk everywhere and am in possession of a gigantic baby who weighs a ton. Of course I was going to lose weight. But once I went back to work and there was little chance of walking and more access to biscuits, I put some of that weight back on (I do, however, possess the most muscular upper arms this side of Jess Ennis.) It’s not rocket science. Those celebrities who ‘ping’ back into shape have money and access to a plastic surgeon, a personal trainer and/or oodles of time to bore themselves to death on a treadmill for the sake of a string bikini in the Maldives when their interestingly named child is two months old. I have neither the wherewithal, money or interest to go down this route. My flab is probably here for a while. Meh.

I thought Kate looked lovely as she left hospital; I couldn’t have managed to look so composed and be so charming 24 hours after giving birth, even with a personal hair stylist. I was torn between sobbing and pretending that I was compos mentis enough so that the nurse would give me codeine to take away the pain. Also, bravo to Kate to walking out of hospital with grace- I could barely hobble to the loo that was ten feet away from my bed.

Since having D, I am aware that my body has changed. I have loose skin, stretchmarks and during the pregnancy he caused havoc with my teeth. I suffered from postnatal depression. Do I regret any of it? Nope. I grew a human, which is pretty cool and that requires my body to change. I’m less hung up on how I look now, because I know there’s a reason for those changes (i.e. baby and chocolate.)

Thoughts?

Guest post over on Mumsnet

Mumsnet asked me to write a guest post about being a one child family (and happy about it!) You can read it here.

And if you’ve popped over from Mumsnet, hello! Once you’ve had a look round here, you might fancy reading the baby blog I co-write, which is here.

 

Keeping a sense of myself

When I was pregnant, a lot of people told me that my life would change irreversibly (obv.) But what’s been really weird is the expectation by some people that I would completely change my life and who I am now I am a mother. That my life becomes simply about the baby and that everything I enjoy or do for pleasure is forgotten. Interestingly, no one has made the same assumptions about Benn (not to me, anyway.)

18-09-2011 13;30;12

Before I go on, I want to make a point that some things have changed; D is indisputably the most important person in my life. He’s amazing and funny and frustrating and bloody hard work all rolled into one. He’s not the easiest baby in the world, but I wouldn’t change him- he’s mine and Benn’s and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that he grows up to be a pretty awesome individual.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve found the switch from seeing 100+ people a day in my job to sometimes just seeing D, Benn and the postman hard. The lack of routine, from a world where my entire life was ruled by a work routine, has been very hard, too. I’ve just started to acknowledge how big a struggle I’m finding this change and I’ve begun to ask other people for help. During the hardest time, I forgot about myself. You do. You become so on edge, thinking about what the baby needs, when the next feed is due, whether you have enough nappies, that you don’t really eat much and you get used to sleeplessness. It can drive you barmy, in the end.

31-12-2011 16;59;14

But once that fuzz started to clear, I decided that I wanted to reassert something of myself. At Christmas, I used the vouchers my family gave me to buy perfume. I’ve never really been into perfume, but now every time I go out, I spritz a little bit on. It makes me feel a bit more… human. I’m not just someone’s mum, but I’m someone who has a preference for something.

I also read somewhere that, as a stay-at-home mum, it’s important to get out and also to wear a bit of mascara. It seems a bit flippant, but it is true. The days that I go out are happier for me and D (as long as it’s not for his jabs!) and I will usually try and make a bit of effort (tinted lip balm is my friend!) It’s good for me to see friends and family and D enjoys the interaction and the opportunity to flirt with old ladies. I’m starting to get a bit braver and go and attend mother and baby things now he’s more predictable as well.

One of the hardest points was when we had the snow. We live on a very steep hill and getting out of the house was nigh on impossible. I was trapped in the house for a week with a cranky baby. It was not fun. I started to go ever so slightly mad; I could tell because I volunteered to do the food shopping and I HATE doing the food shopping! Since then, I’ve decided that I’ll go out somewhere, without the baby, one night a week. Benn is really good at helping with D when he’s at home and I get to have really long, hot baths very frequently, but sometimes, I need that complete break. And it’s working. It’s not like I’m going out raving or anything, mind. I usually leave the house at about 5pm and return about 8ish. I might for something to eat or meet some friends to do a bit of crafting. Whatever I do, I come home happier and relaxed- and a happy mum equals a happy baby!

It’s been really important to try and remember that I am my own person away from my son and my husband, because otherwise I’d probably be really bored and pretty depressed. At least this way, I’m the best mum I can be, right?

(BTW- the photos are from a blog I used to run called Ladies in Monochrome. Do have a look if you like old photos!)

New Year’s Resolutions

I know, I know, TOTAL cliché  but 2012 has been an interesting year and I think that some resolutions will stand me in good stead. However, I’m not a complete fool; I’m only going to set resolutions that I can actually keep… so, y’know, giving up chocolate is a bit of a stupid one to set myself.

I hate New Year’s Eve, so I’m hoping that we have a fairly quiet one, baby permitting! I do like looking forward a little bit though and wondering what next year might bring. Who would’ve thought last year that I would have a baby a year later? It still seems a bit surreal, really, especially when I consider that I’M SOMEONE’S MUM. Last New Year’s, all I was bothered about was the fact that I wasn’t as fit as I was normally and dreading going back to work. Now, I’m all like “Oh, I hope that this colic goes/I’d really like some sleep.” I’ve changed, maaaaaaaaaaan.

Funny New Year's Ecard: This year I resolve to be less sarcastic. Yeah right.

Learn to bake– Brilliantly, you can join me on this epic journey, which I’ve written about here.

Use stuff up- I am a hoarder, although I will never admit it when Benn says it. My worst area seems to be toiletries and skincare- lip balms, body lotion and facial moisturisers. Maybe 2013 will see the start of me doing ’empties’ posts. I’m not allowed to buy any more products in these categories until I have used some of them up! I’ve been giving stuff away that I don’t think I’ll use and I feel lighter already. I just have to walk on by exciting offers in Boots. IcandoitIcandoit.

Do some fun exercise- Last year, I started jive and yoga classes (before I found out I was pregnant!) and I would like to do something along these lines now that D is here. At the moment, I’m thinking lindyhop classes and yoga at home on DVD…

Not need any more dental work- My teeth are rubbish; they always have been.  I needed a tooth out just before Christmas. I am never, ever doing that again. I need another filling next week (joy- most of my mouth will be metal) and I’ve bought a whizzy toothbrush. Cutting down on fizzy drinks (I was terrible, especially in pregnancy when I used them as alcohol substitutes.) I’ll do everything I can on this one!

Take the baby to some mum and baby things- I’m not sure which ones though, but I do need to be brave with this sort of thing so that he socialises with other children. I can’t imagine having a shy child, really. Might as well start him young.

Drink more water– I just need to do this!

What are your new year’s resolutions?

Christmas traditions old and new

xmas1

He knows if you’ve been bad or good…

This year, Christmas is a bit different at our house, what with having a small baby. We’re doing things much more quietly and this means traditions are changing.

The above decoration was made by my mum. She made nine and said that each of her children, as we moved out, could take three with us. I like this Santa (each decoration has a different type of Santa on it), I think he looks pretty traditional and friendly! Every year, these are the first baubles to go on the tree after the lights and the tinsel. I like the idea of collecting decorations for D as he grows up so that one day, if he wants them, he has some decorations of his own.

I think it’s really exciting that we’ll have new traditions in the coming years. D is too little now and probably will be next year as well, but I’m looking forward to visits to Father Christmas and watching A Muppets Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. I’ve always loved traditions; as a child, we would have Burger King for tea on Christmas Eve and my mum would put the turkey in at midnight, so we got up to the smell of it cooking in the morning.

A camp reindeer hides behind some tinsel

A camp reindeer hides behind some tinsel

This year, instead of our annual Christmas Eve meal out with Benn’s parents, we’re staying in and will probably have an early night, so that we can deal with the inevitable night feed with Christmas cheer instead of the usual exhaustion. Then I reckon there will be a Skype call to my mum (we’ll be up there next year, all being well), and a breakfast of croissants (part of Christmas that hasn’t changed!) Maybe we’ll go for a walk in the park, weather permitting, and watch all the kids on their new bikes. Then we’ll go to Benn’s parents for lunch and visit his grandparents at some point too.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I think traditions are wonderful and it’ll be fun to see which ones we develop over the years. I have a feeling that they’ll be a mixture of our own from childhood and new ones.

Merry Christmas!