Tag Archives: motherhood

Don’t count the rain clouds, count the rainbows

I remember being very small and very sad. Mummy and Daddy seemed very sad and very angry. When Daddy lived at someone else’s house, Mummy cried lots. She seemed lost. When my stepdad moved in everyone was very happy. I didn’t like having to share all my things or having to sleep on the fold out bed because it was closer to the door, closer to the toilet. I had lots of bad dreams and lots of wet sheets. 

Mum got very sad again when the Baby was born. We all thought she was lovely but very noisy and very smelly. When I was 9 I went to live with Dad. My sisters came too but not the Baby because she had her own Daddy. It was weird living with Dad. We didn’t see our brother everyday anymore and Mum never seemed to smile anymore. Then Grandad got sick and I wasn’t allowed to cry because it would make him feel bad. I wasn’t allowed to sit on his armchair with him anymore, we needed to be very gentle with him, just like we were with the Baby. Mum let Baby come to visit when our brother did! We showed her how to use the dollshouse and we played in the garden. Grandad died when I was 11. I would smile everyday because Grandad liked it when we smiled but I didn’t want to smile. I wanted to cry every day.

At school we were told about taking drugs, how bad they were, how even paracetamol could be very bad for you. I remember wondering how bad it must be, it couldn’t be any worse than the way I felt inside. I stopped looking in the mirror. I stopped caring about good food and ate lots of chocolate ice cream with fresh orange juice. I stopped talking to people, no one listened anyway. 

Dad had a few relationships with other single parents. They all seemed very nice and they liked that he was taking care of us girls. They just didn’t seem to like us very much. I preferred it when we were left home alone. I would stay up until 2am watching rubbish telly. I kept paracetamol on me all the time. We had one of the medicine bottles and I could hold just enough tablets inside. I liked counting them, making sure there was the same amount all the time. Dad’s new girlfriend was just like everyone else. She seemed nice enough but had no interest in us girls. She had two of her own and that was more than enough. 

I wrote a note one day. I was so sorry, I didn’t want anyone to cry, I wanted them to know that it would be better without me. My sister came home from school early and I chickened out. My Dad found the note but never mentioned it. My kind of stepsister took an overdose. She had to have her stomach pumped and drink charcoal liquid. I opened up to her, told her she could confide in me at any time. I can’t remember us ever having a conversation after that day. I didn’t mind, I didn’t want to talk to anyone either.

At 14, I moved back in with my Mum. I wanted to take my younger sister with me but she admitted that she didn’t really know our mum nor did she know her. I missed her terribly but I would see her every school day. My Dad was very angry with me. I just felt numb. He would call me names, hurtful lashing out, but I couldn’t stand being ignored anymore. 

I tried to be happier at my Mum’s. I got to talk to my brother, play with the Baby although she wasn’t that anymore! Mum would cook with me, make sure my uniform was clean every day, that I had brushed my hair. I stopped carrying the pot of pills everywhere. It wasn’t perfect but it was my home. I felt loved and wanted. I felt happy. 

At 15, I was trying to become independent, find friends closer to my new home. The first friend I made raped me. He took advantage of my caring nature and I found myself alone with a fairly drunk, slightly older guy. At any other time, I would have fancied him but actually I had a boyfriend (well, kind of, in a silly teenager way) and I wasn’t the kind of girl to mess around.

He stripped me of my innocence and violated my thoughts. I couldn’t get his face out of my mind, every face in the street was his, every squeaky male teen had me struggling not to wet myself – I didn’t always manage to prevent accidents. Going to school every day was like walking through hell for me. I couldn’t tell anyone, how could I explain it? I had put myself in a position which made me weak and vulnerable. Why had I been so stupid? 

The guilt, the shame, it stayed with me for years. The following years at school saw me skip more of it than I actually attended. Even when I got a proper boyfriend, I craved attention, I needed someone to notice how numb I was. At school I would jump around on tables, act ridiculously, sing and dance and be a fool. Then I would spend nearly every Wednesday alone, I would draw my isolation, dark sketches of my broken mind. Still it went unnoticed. My pill pot came back into use, the pills being counted out one after another. 

I resisted the urge, I swung back and forth between my parents, I lashed out, I clung to the few wonderful friends I had and I focused on staying alive. It took every part of me to stay alive. It would have been easy to opt out, to follow through on my carefully constructed plan, to stop the pain.

I didn’t, couldn’t, go through with it. I looked at my two younger sisters who I love and adore and realised that these two were happy to see me, willing to waste time with me. I had to keep going until these two were old enough to stand alone.

When I first saw Mr Bear, I instantly fell in love. I do not make light of this. I whispered to my friend standing next to me “I’m going to have his babies”. I didn’t even know his name or even if he was into women (he was and is a very metrosexual male – confident in his own skin and happy with his life). I was in awe of his ease, how he didn’t even notice that a fair few of his female cohort found him extremely likable. I was so lucky to have him know people in our small group of friends, blessed to have his bestfriend know one of my closest friends and so I got to know him well very quickly. He seemed so comfortable with life. I watched him as he went through trading cards, as he finished homework, as he ate pizza like I ate biscuits but he was satisfied and full whilst I felt empty yet fatter by the bite. 

When I was with him, my pain dissipated. In his arms, I slept for the first time in two years without a nightmare rerun. I am so safe with him. He is the love of my life.

He hasn’t cured me. I have bouts of depression, normally triggered by the most mundane things yet their consequences gain momentum in my mind and the darkness descends yet again and I question my worth, my value to society and to my family. Being a mother is everything I ever wanted and more and I wish these human beings were enough to push away the vacuum that sucks me in whenever it feels like.

Postnatal depression is the most common name they’ve used to describe me. The flooding of hormones, the waves over the body as you adjust to life without a mini being inside of you, they would once again show only the dark shadows and the place of rest looks warm and inviting once more, a place where there is no more pain, no more failure, no more guilt, just the end of everything.

My children are everything to me but the darkness is all consuming and I fight with all I have every single day to keep the waves away. Some days the fight beats me. On those days I want to hide away from the world and forget that anything else exists. That isn’t a very practical response and I most commonly find myself at a stay ‘n’ play, a fake smile playing on my lips and the words of other mothers merging into a string of convenient white noise. It is oddly comforting, to be reassured that the world is still turning, the universe still expanding. These days ebb and flow, my physical pain often leading to more frequent bouts of shadow. The longer the flare the harder I find it to climb out of the pit but I have to. I can’t give my children the early childhood we had. My mother loves me, I know that although she has never said it or shown it. I tell my cubs at every opportunity that I love them, that they are most loved and most wanted. I couldn’t be half the parent I am without the Mr’s help and support. He can be a proper irritant with his teenage strops but he steps up to the plate and he tries his hardest to be a very active and enthusiastic parent. None of us are perfect but he does an excellent job of pretending he is.

It’s strange how I have ended up suffering from two very different, very similar, invisible illnesses. Both are under explored and under funded, both leave me in pain which we try to manage using only one type of drug, one is hidden in the brain, the other in the muscles, nerves, and immune system. It is only within my relatively short, relatively recent time of diagnosis that Fibromyalgia has been recognised and reacted too. Poor mental health, especially amongst young women, has been known about since the dark ages and the use of trepanning to release demons from the cursed and yet we still do very little to treat the illness but prefer to hide it under a layer of mood suppressants and stabilisers. 

Have we come so far only to ignore the increasing recognition of poor mental health amongst society? Why do we turn our backs on friends and family when they need us the most? 

Today was Mental Health Awareness Day. I want to stand up and be counted amongst the many other people who I know and love who struggle daily to avoid the shadows, who orbit the black hole of depression each night terrified that it might be the last night it can stay in orbit, who haven’t made it but who still desperately show a glimmer of survival amidst the darkness.

Never stop reaching out. That friend desperately wants to join you for coffee in the park café, they just haven’t been able to make it out of the house yet, but she will, if you just give her the chance.

I was told a story of grey iced cupcakes with rainbow coloured cake which sparked a beautiful friendship between two extraordinary women. I wish we could all find our rainbows. One day, I hope to reach my own.

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Nice people have nice thoughts

I’m fat. I get it. I look at myself every single day. I don’t need you to tell me. More importantly, your kids don’t need to tell my kids. They know I’m fat too.

This morning, whilst driving to school in more pain than is good, my little fiery Redhead told me that her friend had called me “oomph”. I explained that as her wonderful aunt was also “oomph”, I was obviously in good company. Miss Redhead then explained “yes, but you’re still more oomph”.

That’s what you call a kick to the gut. 

This evening, my wonderful Unicorn obsessed daughter explained that she is writing a poem inspired by “Truth”. She has to write about a secret those at school won’t know. She has chosen to write about me and my Fibromyalgia. She has chosen to write about being bullied because her mum was so fat she needed a minibus instead of a normal size car.

A kick to the guts and ice cold shot to the heart.

My baby was bullied because *I* am fat. Nothing she could do would stop those children from finding me a funny one liner to hurt her with. Kids are cruel. That doesn’t just happen. Normally it is a sign that an adult they spend time with speaks with such prejudices and insults that it becomes a normal way to talk to others. I want to be angry at these little snot noses but I can’t. I feel sorry for them. To be 9/10/11 years old and already be aware of language that you know will cause mental anguish is such an unfortunate roll of the dice.

I have tried to raise our family in a way that allows them to see others in a positive way. Isn’t it brilliant that they also have a large family. How cool is it that she has Minion glasses. Perhaps we could give our old clothes to the charity shop so other families like ours can get good stuff for cheap. They give pocket money to all the charity pots they see, they offer help to anyone who needs it, they look after the local green areas, and they stand up against bullies, casual racism, slurs against a person’s shape and size or mental capacity. These kids don’t kill spiders even though they give some of them the curly whurlies. With all the good that they are, it is that very kindness and compassion to others which leaves them vulnerable to attack from kids who haven’t been taught that it is never okay to make fun of another person who is just trying to live their life.

I get it. I’m fat. I’ve always been the biggest of my siblings and I have spent my whole life learning the ever new and imaginative insults to the fat girl. Guess what? You insulting me isn’t going to make me magically drop half my body weight. I spent so much of my teen years hiding from mean girls; what insult would they use today? Are they going to aim for my weight, my second hand clothes, my intelligence, my big feet, my body odour? Maybe today would be a wonderful mixture of all of the above. I never once found their insults the key to change. Instead, I would hide inside myself, gobbling as many chocolate bars as I could afford and wiping snot on my unironed shirt, picking at threads on my washed grey black skirt and bashing the heel of my ugly clown shoes on the floor over and over. Trust me, I didn’t go running through the park home to fix up a tasty salad. 

A few years ago, I decided to improve my health. I walked for miles and miles, even completed a Race for Life 10k fun walk. I made sure I ate three meals a day, including loads of lovely veggie goodness and drinking at least 2 litres a day. I had pain but I was managing it well. I finally, for the first time ever, felt in control of my destiny. I lost 3 stone and maintained the weight loss through pregnancy to be my lightest since baby number 2, over 11 years before. Then the fibro took an evil twist.

I had a contraceptive implant, started 4 different regular medications as well as daily painkillers. I have a long list of terms to describe my condition and none of them pretty. I’m depressed, sleep deprived, in pain, and uncomfortable. Seriously, I know I’m fat. I am trying to get a hold of my physical health, to work on my mental health, to get back my fitness. My insecurities are not going to disappear with your “you certainly like your food” comments or the “now you reach for the diet drink” said under your breath and probably never meant to be heard. You can’t taunt me skinny anymore than you can tell an anorexia sufferer that they “look fine, definitely not fat”. 

Please don’t tell me what works for you or tell me what to try. If I want your help I really will ask for it, like I have done with my close friends and family. When the time is right, I will be able to get off meds that seem very much connected with weight gain, my already fairly good diet will realign itself and I will stop squirrelling chocolate bars in my bedroom, until then, try not to openly say thoughtless things in front of your children and try teaching them that we are all unique and all the more wonderful for it. Talk to your children about why we are all different and how when we assume something of a person, we may be doing them a disservice.

My disability is invisible but it’s symptoms are not. I’m fat. I live with it every day. I will one day fix it. Perhaps, one day, you’ll learn to be a bit nicer to the fat girl at school, to the short man at the shop, the kid at the park who can’t help being clumsy, or the person in the town centre who you can’t work out if they are male or female, as if their gender should ever be any of your business.

I’m fat. I’m disabled. I’m a human being. I’m also kind, considerate, and polite to strangers. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, and a member of the human race. 

Sweeping it under the carpet

With our size family, we often have to deal with issues of self esteem. There are 3 gingerlings, some bean poles, some belly woes, a few geeklings and a couple of nerds, a bookworm and a sports enthusiast. We have been exceptionally lucky because none of these things have led to any sustained bullying or upset. The issues we have had is because of the sense of justice, the choice to follow the rules, the lack of “tell-tale” mentality at home which allows for a greater sense of needing others to do their best and the reporting of poor behaviour or rule breaking.

My children get pulled apart for doing the right thing. It is absolutely frustrating that they have to deal with back handed name calling, pinching, pushing, isolation tactics etc. and when I try to discuss the issue at school, it is *my* child who is told to ignore poor behaviour in others, to walk away from troublesome 10 year olds, to find a new place to play, to stop taking things so personally. 

This doesn’t wash with us nor does it mean that the school get to deny they have a problem with bullying. As a parent, it is my job to protect my children, to encourage a positive attitude and install a compass to help steer them clear from trouble. When I drop them off at the class door I expect the staff to put the same effort in and 10 years ago, mostly, they did. As I now approach our youngest two entering the system I can see definite flaws in how things are being handled and the way the schools mark down incidents.

At a recent meeting with one of the Heads, it was mentioned that the mother of the boy who *slapped my child around the face* was not keen on the school’s behaviour policy so although it would have been mentioned the school had not given the child any sanctions beyond asking him to say sorry. So, as an adult, I can go into the playground and smack a member of staff and all I’ll have to do is say sorry….. No. I can’t see that assault being let go quite so easily and this is what children face everyday at school.

There’s one of those urban legends about a young lad who twangs a girl’s bra strap multiple times and when he doesn’t back off the female turns around and punches him in the face. Parents are called to the school and the girl looks to be excluded for a day or three for violence when the mother, quite rightly, steps in and explains that if the young adult isn’t punished she will be forced to press charges for sexual assault. It is almost certainly a lesson based on some truth but also one that doesn’t seem to be being heard by those in a position of power and responsibility.

My beautiful niece, only 12 years old, was having trouble with the snidey kids at her secondary school. It started with giggling as she passed, whispers in the class line, notes being passed around reminding others that she wasn’t to be talked to. Her mum tried to do right by our little Smiler, explained to not let these kids get the better of her, remind her that she isn’t any of those things being talked about, to be “the better person” and walk away. That worked for a short while but when these bullies saw it wasn’t working they stepped it up a notch and eventually became physical. One day she finally had enough. Smiler had done everything she was supposed to; walk away, tell a parent, tell a teacher, tell head of year. Now she had nowhere else to go and felt that she wasn’t worth as much as these other delightful tweenagers because no one had her back at school, a place where she spends the majority of her time, where she is supposed to be as safe as, or better safer than, home. She stood up for herself and when the leader tried to trip her up, again, she told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to pack it in right now. The other girl laughed before grabbing a handful of Smiler’s hair. She defended herself brilliantly and matched her enemy pull for pull, scratch for scratch. She was put in isolation for the rest of the week and made to apologise to the other girl.

What does that teach the next generation? Do the right thing but you might get hurt in the process but stand up for yourself and you will be punished and probably more harshly than your bully..? Why are we allowing the bullys and their bullying parents to dictate how we handle these situations? Why should our children be putting up with hurtful behaviour, attitudes, and violence, the consequences of which stay with a person for a lifetime? Accidental headlocks, recommending the wearing of shorts under skirts to prevent bullies from showing your knickers to the rest of the school, ignoring others blatently breaking school rules, holding back the tears for fear you give the bully more ammunition. Our children shouldn’t have to feel scared at school, they shouldn’t have nightmares or breakdowns as you insist that they attend classes. 

I urge all parents to stand up to bullies. Speak to the teacher, the Head, explain that you will not stand by and allow your child to be subjected to poor behaviour because the school fail to see it, or worse, see it and do not appropriately handle the situation. Our children have the right to an education free from harm and harrassment, lessons that don’t involve being kicked under the table, lunchtimes free from people ruining food, and also to walk home without a group of kids following or crowding around them.

School isn’t always fun, we all know how far the government have gone to make tests the most important part of the learning process, but as adults, we have the capability and responsibility to keep our children free from physical AND mental harm. 

Apple for Teacher

Once upon a school class, I wanted to be a pediatrician. I felt a compelling sense that I needed to help people especially the young. Little by little I grew as an individual and decided that my path had led away from medicine. I could not stand to be in school and the idea that I had to spend another 10 years of life not being able to help children whilst I studied and amounted a vast debt just didn’t seem right.

The Mr and I met at college. He is the reason I absolutely believe in love at first sight. He came out of a meeting in the hall and swaggered down towards the common area and I knew with every fibre of my being that I was going to have children with him. Fourteen months later our first child was delivered by caesarean section, a more than healthy 9lb 15oz and a beautifully fuzzy ginger top. Looking at this tiny (!) human being I knew that I had found my path. I wanted to be a mother, a really good mother. 

Mothering is so much more than making sure you meet the 4 Bs. – bottle/boob, bottom, burping, bundling. Bundling is my favourite part. The mini human gets laid in a lovingly made blanket from a nanna, aunt, bestfriend, and you tuck the edges around them almost too tightly. Some like their arms tucked too whilst others have one arm out, a thumb in their mouth, and then you hold them. Just hold them. 

In the late hours, when the world seems quiet and it is just you two, that’s when the lessons are learnt. You teach your child about love, acceptance, joy and laughter, even fear. In return your child shows you compassion, independence, loyalty, faith and trust.

Oddly, that isn’t exactly what I had planned on exploring but it is a good start to where our family finds itself right now.

The youngest gingerling has just finished doing some “fun” quizzes and as a reward she will be going to the seaside. Miss Diva didn’t find them so fun. You had to sit in boring seats and you weren’t allowed to even laugh! But she got to write a really good story only she didn’t have enough time to finish it and that isn’t fair.

Year 2 SATs suck. I have always had a passionate dislike of them. They tell us nothing about what truly matters when we look at our 6 and 7 year olds. It doesn’t state their favourite colour or toy, whether they prefer Science or Art, how high they climb on the bars or how much their handwriting has improved this year. My wonderful 6 (and a half! Very important to Miss Diva) year old has spent the last 6 months learning how to pass a test. She was told how to write with a start, a middle, and an end – like those are the only options available when writing a story. She knows how to work out a word problem in maths, which is useful in the long run but not so helpful in encouraging her how to remember her times table and then how to use that to work out division. The last time she worked on a beautiful piece of artwork was Christmas and they haven’t had a music lesson since the class assembly in January. She has had afterschool booster sessions and even a couple of days of extra mini quizzes during the holidays. My beautiful prancing, dancing, singing, smiling, giggling 6 and a half year old wasn’t even alloed to laugh.

Yay. I’m sure that tells the government lots about my child.

My not so little anymore CEO is just about to start her “fun quizzes” except without the sugar coating. She knows exactly what is expected of her by her teachers and is not sleeping because of it. Her SATs prep started last school year. As soon as My Daydreamer went off on her school leavers journey the lines were laid down to start teaching the year 5 class how to “do well” in their SATs. For the whole of the last 12 months they have had it drummed into them just how important these tests are and they have worked for nothing else. I have every faith in my rule enforcer, my little teacher’s pet, my stressed and anxious nearly nearly 11 year old. She has the most awe inspiring spirit, her mind is so enquisitive, always asking questions, always fighting for the World to be a better place to grow. I know she is intelligent, probably top 10 at her school, I have no desire for her to do these exams which leave her despondent and fearful. To see the light ebb from her as her shoulders slump and her wrists need rubbing from cramp. 

The tests don’t show that though. They aren’t interested in my child’s personality, her strengths and weaknesses, they only care about how well she can decipher the maths word puzzle, how her teachers have taught her the difference between clauses, how to use adverbs correctly, the humble comma, and when to use there, their, and they’re. She must also resist the use of emoticons because they’re not appropriate. 

>.>

My no longer little but my almost fully grown red head has been stuck in his bedroom for the last two years. The once vivid green walls are now adorned with a revision timetable covered by an exam timetable, post it notes in various shapes and sizes, thought maps, English quotes, and words of hope that soon this month long stressfest will soon be over. 

The GCSEs are the ones that terrify me. The teachers have high hopes for my biggest boy. Meeting after meeting, email after email, each one telling us if he just studies a little longer, revises just a little harder, pushes himself just a little further…. He has bitten each and every fingernail, you can see the little patch of fringe where he has been tugging and twisting, he is mainlining chocolate and his light hasn’t been out before 2am in a ridiculously long length of time. 

We have spent so much of the last five years battling the anxiety and handling the stress so that he can explore his identity and then embrace his transition. My boy doesn’t need this extra burden. He would have put himself under enough pressure to do well. He desperately wants to do well, he wants to get the qualifications he needs to move forward on his career path and help children in a way I absolutely understand. He is determined to make a difference in this world and he sees the educational route as his future journey. 

His GCSEs won’t show that about him. They won’t show off his absolutely enchanting voice, his delicate style of drawing that he has no faith in, his dark sense of humour which he shares with his father, his passion for politics causing voices to shake and hands to clench. They won’t count the tears he has shed because he doesn’t think he is good enough, the notes screwed up because they need to be just so.

The numbers at the end of the day won’t matter to me, they won’t change how much I love and cherish them, I am not concerned about competing with the other mums in the playground or stealing the Best Mum award of 2017. 

My children have been, otherwise, fabulously educated and by some of the best teachers – when they leave compulsory education at 18 they will be articulate, well-rounded, informed young adults but a good chunk of it will come from us, as parents, family & friends, who have all worked just as hard as the professionals to ensure that the next generation are ready for what comes next.

They are going to be awesome adults. 

Jus’ Sayin’

😉

Mothering the hard way

I was fairly young when I became a mother. I had turned 18 about six weeks previously and had just taken the keys to my first home. 

I can tell you that from a very young age, all I could think about was jobs that helped people and being a mummy. I played with dolls for a lot longer than I would admit to my peers, I recall quite clearly wanting to breastfeed too which seemed quite alien having never actually known anyone to feed in this way. I loved the idea of cloth nappies and baby clothes hanging on the line to dry, trips to feed the ducks and hiding behind my fingers as I listen to a little voice saying “watch me, mummy!”

Nobody warned me about the sleepless nights – well they did but I thought it meant the occassional night because of teething or a bit of earache. Why did no one tell me that some babies just don’t sleep? Seriously. I’m pretty certain that The Boy got by on these 20 second cat naps for a solid three years. I am not exageragerating. There was only one night when he slept for very long whilst my breast was out of reach and I used it to escape. My depression was at the point where I just kissed him goodbye, nudged the Mr to look after him and I fled. 

It was gone midnight, I parked at the top of a hill which meant I had a clear view of our local area and I cried until I ran dry. It was also across the road from my younger sister and my heart leapt when I saw her light go on at near 2am. She welcomed me in, gave me tea, listened to my rantings and bemusedly told me that there was nothing she could do, I had to seek out help for myself. I wanted to cut her tongue out and feed it back to her. She was, of course, quite right. No one could help me but myself. I arrived home to the familiar sound of my tiny son’s wail and knew I was back where I belonged. Still wanted to kick my little sister under the table for being a know it all.

Also, dithering. I never dithered before children. I wanted to achieve something so I did and if I didn’t I just tried again. Or not. It wasn’t a big deal. When you’re a mother every decision counts. It starts before they are born with finding out the gender, writing a Birthing Plan, choosing pain medication, to give Vitamin K or not, to swaddle or wrap, to bottle or boob, choosing a name, a cot, a nappy brand….. When you reach the stage where you are choosing their educators you freeze all over again. You ask yourself why it took so long to settle on the Supermarket label over Big Brand Names when *this* choice is the one that really matters. I cheated. I couldn’t work out what I wanted from a school so I just let the council decide for me by submitting the forms late. This is not a recommendation. We were thankfully offered a place at the first choice school about 2 weeks after the Firstborn started which was handy because so far I really didn’t like the second place school we were given.

I thought I would do things differently when time came for secondary choices but it was no easier and I darn sight harder. Five years later, at the end of secondary school life, I’m still unclear on if we made the right decision but I think it’d been mostly okay. Best of a poor bunch possibly.

And that’s just the important stuff. Accepting the vegetarian declaration followed by another child being a pescatarian was a bit of a nail biter. Allowing Tellitubbies back into my life? I wish I had the choice to say no! I swear, the smalls know how to navigate our tellevision setup better than I do. That’s the other big small issue. Tech time. The (nearly) seven year old comes home with Internet based homework. With each year they spend in school the tech time needed continues to climb. I can’t even say much because, well, the Mr is Mr IT. He spends all day fiddling and fixing technology so it seems only wise that schools are cluing in to this situation and making students tech savvy but that ultimately means that the children have more screeen time each day than they do PE or playtime. 

Everyday I’m winging it. I have no guru waiting with sage advice, there is no one size fits all “idiots guide” and the only advantage I have over most others is that we have enough children to keep experimenting and trying to get it right.

I don’t think I’m doing too badly either. The strength of their characters is plain for all to see, the spirit with which they each grab life keeps me on my toes and astonishes me daily, their warm, kind, giving, generous hearts is often mentioned by those around us and we both consider ourselves blessed to end each day with our children having taught us more about the world, the human race, ourselves, than when we awoke. 

I find children to be so utterly enthralling. Yes, of course I have days when I am just glad that *my* bedtime has finally arrived but I would never choose a do over. I’m ready to start a new day and see how many lost shoes there are, how many chocolate krispy cakes survived the night, and how just one night will have altered at least one of us just enough to say that our family has grown in one way or another. 

There may well be 10 in our bed but not for all the riches in the world would I change it. I am already the richest of mothers and though it may be very hard at times, I’m loving every minute of it.

 

You’re still my baby

I watched you sleep that first night in a plastic crib next to my bed. I couldn’t reach you with my new favourite scar still recovering from your arrival. The midwife, Hazel, “walked” you  over to me, she said she loved it when the babies were still new enough that their legs stiffened instead of folding up. She handed you over and I held you close all night long. Your long legs filled the newborn babygrows and your beautiful orange fuzzy head wasn’t going to cope with the first size hats! 

As you grew so did my love. You outgrew the crib and slowly but surely outgrew the cot, before I knew it you were at school and then secondary. That was when I noticed. You weren’t as happy, you lost confidence, you seemed unsettled in your own skin. I tried to help, to offer an ear and to try and relate but you knocked me back. You didn’t want me to relate, didn’t want my empathy and you pulled away. 

I was saddened when your peer supporter got in touch. I wanted to be the person you relied upon and I felt that I failed you. I didn’t, you told me as much. You wanted me to know but didn’t know how. Having a buffer helped you to communicate with me and made some breathing space for you.

My heart broke when I saw the red lines from where you cut and smashed when we realised that you were suicidal. I couldn’t help you, this part of your journey you did alone. It was almost a relief when you finally admitted what was going on. You were my son, no more the hormonal girl of yesterday but my son.

I have never been more humbled than by your open and honest expression that day. I thought I was losing my child, I was terrified that you were following my own dark path of depression and I didn’t know how to help you there, I’m barely helping myself over 20 years later! 

For the last two years I have watched you transform. The last summer holidays you were so happy, so free spirited and filled with this bristling energy which was such a joy to watch. I felt awful sending you back to school, truly. Watching you make the decision that your education was worth more than your wellbeing almost broke me. I would have done anything to stop you retreating back inside the shell of your female persona but your adamance demonstrated, yet again, that this journey was your own and I was just a rather useful passanger. 

The day we legally changed your name was just awesome. I could see the calming effect it had on you and the pride you took seeing your name in print. I know, I know, I had to have my meddling way with name order but (and don’t tell your dad this) I was never as keen on your birth name as he was. It was my choice to add that middle name and, being mum, I wanted to be able to keep that bit of you. I will own it. I choose your name because I wanted you to know that there was no ceiling upon your life – you can go as far and as fast as you possibly may, I want that for you, to know that it is okay to actually stop and make a life wherever you think is best and that I will continue to love and support you no matter what.

I made a promise to you, to the baby that swam in my belly all those long years ago, it went like this:

Baby, I don’t know whether you are a girl or a boy but I already know that I love you more than I ever thought possible. I will fight for you until the end. I will stand in front of you to prevent you from harm, I will stand behind you and push you when needed and I will stand beside you always. I love you, Baby. If that is all I can offer you then I hope it is still enough. 

That has never changed, it could never change. You are my baby, you’ve always been my baby, you will always be my baby.
I am so completely proud of you. It is my honour to have you call me mum. 

The Big D

If you know anything about me you probably know that being a mother is everything. I’ve never not wanted to be one, I told the Mr on our first date that I wanted a big family and a home full of love and laughter.

I was never going to be “one of those” mums who allow themselves to be depressed…..

Blimey, I was an unthinking fool. 

My depression probably hit immediately. I looked at my beautiful blue baby with orange fuzz and the rush didn’t happen, that overwhelming sense of “wow” that I thought happened. I kept waiting for it. I knew with every fibre of my being that I loved them and would do anything that was needed to protect them and yet, I felt nothing else. 

I think we were 3 months in before the HV persuaded me to speak to the GP after a routine vaccination appointment. He shoved pills at me. I should at this point tell you that I was badly depressed as a teen, I was suicidal and able to spend a ridiculous amount of time alone, I regularly skipped school but was able to hide it from the adults in my life, I tried stealing from shops but no one ever noticed the slightly chubby school girl walking up and down the makeup aisle. I was utterly miserable and as pills were my weapon of choice – counting out just the right number of paracetamol I could take without my body self-emptying to avoid danger, the pills moving from pile to pile and each one having the name of the person who pushed me to the edge. So when I was offered pills by the Dr I felt invisible yet again. 

I battled alone, took more fresh air, planned a wedding, watched my little Gingerling grow. At the 11th month mark, I threw my back out and I was given a huge box of paracetamol and I knew the darkness was lifting. Had they been placed in my hand 6 months earlier I would have seen it as a sign that fuel had been given to my journey, that devil on my shoulder would have grown further and the light finally extinguished.

This has been the pattern for as long as I can recall. At times it was easier, the process shortened, the help more readily available, and then there was the time we do not talk about. I have birthed in many ways but by far The Dare Devil’s delievery pushed me to my limits. I had an urgent ceaserian section due to breech presentation. He had spun again and again before flipping one last time in early labour, bracing himself against my ribs, stubbornly refusing to exit as expected.

I cried throughout the warm up, I cried throughout the surgery, I cried throughout recovery, I sobbed silently all night long so as to not upset the other new mums. I had some of the best friends at this point. My two Young Aunts took control and made sure that I stayed healthy. They filled my day with visits and playgroups, they insisted on lunch out and let me cry when I needed too. It wasn’t easy, this recovery process is never easy and I don’t think you ever fully recover. I have nightmares on the weeks leading up to Easter and his birthday, as I did last night. I remember so clearly sitting in my car, the engine running, looking at the wall across the junction pondering if it would matter, begging for sleep that was never found. The light was so hard to find, almost invisible, buried in the darkest of corners where I was forced to admit that I wasn’t the best person for my baby son nor for his older siblings, forced to accept that I needed help and could no longer pretend that it was all okay. I was pregnant again before I asked for help, my younger sister holding my hand, reminding me that, just like Pooh Bear, I was stronger than I seemed, that not only could I but I *would* come out the other side and that actually, I wasn’t failing my family who were all safe and warm, fed and loved but that it was myself that I kept beating up, it was myself who had taken one too many beatings and needed time to heal and to feel the love that my Dare Devil was giving me. I had spent so long surviving that I had forgotten what laughing felt like, I had forgotten what fear felt like. I was numb for so long whilst I hid from storm clouds that I missed all the bits that reminded us that we are human, that we are alive.

I admitted the fear as I wallowed in the soothing water of my birth pool, I embraced the feeling of love as I opened my arms with trepidation and became a mother once again, I smiled as I looked down into the deep soothing eyes of my newborn and I knew things could get better. It took a truly scary moment 6 weeks later to know that it would. The Dare Devil flew. Or crashed. I sat nursing the baby whilst he decided to climb on the top bunk before falling over the edge. He bit his tongue nearly in two and I didn’t know if it was possible for a child to survive after loosing so much blood. He bounced. I’m sure he must have because by the time we reached A&E he was miserable and tired. He had lost his latch so could no longer latch and despite this ravine along the length of his tongue showed no other signs that he had been involved in an accident. That was the first day of my future. Don’t get me wrong, I still have days when I feel lost and alone but somehow I am better equipped to deal with the storm. 

My family, and the friends I consider family, taught me how to dance in the rain whilst seeking out rainbows. They taught me not to be afraid of a storm but to ride it out, to see it for what it really was, just a darkness not a blackhole. They said that it was okay to talk about it, to share that of course it can, and often is, the most terrifying of places but also to share the hope, to let others know they are not alone, that others have gone before and found their own path out, to allow me the chance to be the hand that holds another so they no longer feel so utterly alone.

You, yes you. You are not alone. Maybe your depression came hand in hand with the baby, maybe it came from a young age and a chaotic family life or innocence lost to another by force. Maybe it is the result of years living with pain that no one heard, the physical condition which has no name, no cure and no hope.

You are not alone. There are many friends waiting to offer a handand they are ready whenever you are. There is no time limit, there are no conditions, you can have the support time and time again if need be, we really don’t mind. As long as you know you are not alone because we are here. Always here.

#depression #pnd #postnataldepression #mentalhealth #youarenotalone

Crash and Rebuild

Fibromyalgia, the illness that keeps on giving.

This past year has seen my living condition deteriate. My joints have becoming incresingly stiff and tender with the lightest of touches sending a seering pain through my arm making holding hands with the Toddler a rarity. Likewise, my knees are working against me so when said Toddler decided to wander close to the road I had a challenge reaching her.

Today was a perfect example of how stress changes my delicate hold over my body.

Yesterday, my CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) hit hard and I was asleep for the night at 8pm – issue no1: I didn’t take my night time meds. I woke around 2am with everything screaming at me – issue no2: where did I leave my meds? FibroFog is a kicker. Found some and then looked at my extra big bed filled with the Mr and child 5th, 7th, & 8th. No room for mummy 😦 Starting to sound like Peace At Last, if you ask me 😉 so off to the Pre-schooler’s bottom bunk. Oh I’m so glad she’s got a delicate bottom – issue no3: over sensitivity. Every spring in that mattress wanted to say hello but my impolite response seemed to be ignored (obviously learning from the children) Around 6am, I heard the start of the alarms. It took 10 minutes to get off that bloomin’ bunk and another 10mins to walk the 15 steps to the loo. By this point I know I’m on a losing battle. Found the wonderful tramadol and flopped on to my slowly emptying bed. Game over – issue no4: joint lock. My shoulders pulled together and clicked, my hips pulled apart and locked, and my back hummed the inner hum of a mother on the edge.

I admitted defeat and the Mr stepped up and took charge. I often moan about his helpfulness but he didn’t miss a beat. I think we both knew it was due and we are in the incredibly fortunate position of having the Mr’s parents ready, willing and able to help out. 

The whole family has felt the implications of an accident last September but it is only know, 6 months later, that we can start to move forward and destress, hence my body fighting back. I’ll talk more about that another day but for now I want to just be thankful for the NHS, mostly, who continue to provide me with pain altering meds although I’m waiting for a new referral which may lead to a new combo! Also, for having a family who understand that my body is a bit more than a little broken and so step up and help when help is most needed.

I had the whole day to myself today which was used for sleeping and another day to myself tomorrow which I’m going to use for more reviving. My FMS shows itself in different ways to my sister and probably to other lifers too. Today, I was ruled by the fatigue and governed by the joint pain and nerve sensitivity. The fog kept hitting me hard so comprehensive thinking was somewhat delayed and now, at silly o’clock, the insomnia wants to say hello >.> but I’m going to say Night Night regardless in the hopes that this yawning is a positive sign…

TTFN – ta ta for now
#fibro #fms #fibromyalgia #CFS #insomnia #family #NHS

Mum’s night off

I had made wonderful plans all in advance (this is not me as I currently never know when a bad day will hit!).

I paid hard earnt cash for a train fare and a hotel room for the night.

I had everything packed, I even remembered my toothbrush before I was ready to leave.

Boom. Every single digit sang, every limb as heavy as a sack of potatoes, my head suddenly squeezed like a boa constricta had it locked down for dinner, my heart pounding second after second before randomly stopping and then exploding through my chest. Weekend over.

Does my body hate me? Every week I pay attention to a new symptom, for example, my right hand pointing digit has been stiff for a good while now and last week it looked a little bruise. Today I could draw a circle across half of my hand’s back as I outline this tight, puffy portion of skin. Good job I can type with four fingers, I guess :-/

However. In true Mumma Bear style I decided to fight back. I couldn’t do anything about the train fare and at £22 it was a loss we could just about cover. The hotel room was a different matter and, quite frankly, I wasn’t about to lose a good night’s sleep!

Here I should mention I have issues with talking to people on the phone. I won’t accept unknown numbers, I’ve learnt that restricted numbers tends to be the GP calling me back, anything that looks like a call centre gets sent to voicemail. Making calls is hideous. I get clammy, twitchy and I can feel the bile in my stomach rising 😦 normally I would try to find an email address and go from there but I had no choice with this. We had less than 3 hours to sort something out and sort it I did!

The lovely lady up in Birmingham emailed the “Booking Gods” explaining that I wouldn’t be able to make it up north so was there any possibility of getting a bed in the closest branch to me here in South London… Success! There was a bed available and it had my name on it. 

I lost a few hours as I needed a lift from The Outlaws but I was determined to spend a few glorious hours all by myself with no “mummy, can I?” or “Mum! He hit me” followed by “she hit me first!”

I took a shower uninterrupted. I sat on the toilet without chit chat. I trumped without apology! For 15.5 hours I could just relax and stop for the first time in I don’t know how long.

Do you know what I realised? I live for the noise, the chaos, the never ending questions starting with “why?”, the mess – so much mess!- and the hugs. There are too many days were hugs aren’t possible, when I have no control of the pain and the slightest featherlike touch releases the kind of noise only bats can hear. I want to get as many hugs as I can whilsy they still want to hug. Slowly but surely, those days are numbered. 

#timeaway #fibromyalgia #disabledmum #hugs #anxiety #showernotbath #largefamily

One painful step forward, two excruiating steps back

I rang the doctor today, cried as I explained that I was in pain, that I really needed to see a specialist now rather than wait *again* for yet another GP at the practice to see that the regime of meds I’m on simply isn’t working.

Nope, no can do. Ring again tomorrow and talk to “The Man Who Can” only he was the one who said that upping my vitamin D would help. If only it would. 

Every day is now a struggle. From the exercises I do to get my legs in a working state before leaving my bed to the exercises I do with my neck and shoulders to try and sleep at night. I can no longer tie shoe laces, or put my hair up (nor brush it first), putting on a coat is a struggle and taking it off more so. And what I miss most, lifting the little ones. I can’t grasp them enough to pick up, I can’t sit them on my knees because of the pain, I can’t snuggle tight if someone can see the wince of pain in my eyes, but, I’m still breathing, my days are not yet numbered, I *do* wake each day and the pain reminds me that I still have time. 

Time to say I love you, time to say I admire you, time to eat too much, time to laugh until I pee myself (8 babies = not very long!), time to stop and take stock and time to remember that I am me. Fibromyalgia might be my diagnosis but it isn’t who I am. There are days when I might forget that I am a writer, a musician, a cook and a baker, a joker, a lover, a sister, a friend, a daughter, a mother and then a person managing as best she can with what is now her disability.

I’m also going to be late!  

#fibromyalgia #nhs #morethanmysymptoms #disabledmum #largefamily