It is not all shit

I feel that it is really important to talk about our mental health. When I write I try to make sure that my posts are real and honest, because it is fucking hard. I often think that anything worth having is hard, this is definitely true with raising a family.

I aim to raise awareness of the importance of our mental health. My own mental health is more important to me than anything else in my life. If it is not good my husband suffers, my children suffer, my friends suffer, the dog definitely suffers, but most importantly I suffer. As far as my mind is concerned I need to be at the top of my game. I neglected my mental health for so many years and it destroyed me. It has taken me thirty three years to realise this and after my recent diagnosis of Autism, I feel that everything is slowly falling into place.

For me it is important to talk and reach out and normalise difficulties when it comes to coping with my mental health. If I broke my leg I would not feel ashamed to go to A&E, if I had a chest infection I would not be ashamed to visit my GP and this is how I am learning to be for my mental health too. However, dealing with any form of mental illness and anxiety may make this incredibly difficult for many people, so I talk about how hard things are because I want others to see that it is ok for stuff to be really tough sometimes. It does not mean that it is hard all the time, a lot of the time it is absolutely Bobby Dazzler, but for me it is important to acknowledge that sometimes things are tough and look for healthy ways to deal with this.

I LOVE my life, my family, my home but I want to normalise the tough times as much as the wonderful times. I want my smiling family photos to be followed by stories of sleepless crap, toddler tantrums and days where the only thing that I have consumed has been eight cans of Diet Coke and a Mars Bar.

For me life is about owning those challenges and difficult times and focusing on ways to make it better for next time. Nothing is perfect, but not everything is shit.

Here we are today after 3 coffees, 2 diet cokes, 1 brew and 2 pieces of cake 🤣

It’s hard, right?

Yes it’s hard

when it’s 3am

and you have finally settled the baby to bed

but then the toddler wakes up

and you start over again.

Yes it’s hard

when the baby is crying

but you are chasing the the toddler

because he has taken his clothes off

and you are in the museum.

Yes it’s hard

when the toddler wants toast but

he has to butter it himself

or it’s not quite right

and the baby is still crying.

Yes it’s hard

when your clothes do not fit

and your hair needs a wash

but the baby needs milk

so you just stay inside watch cartoons and eat biscuits.

Yes it is hard

when your heart breaks

because now you are less

because the toddler needs you

as much as baby does too.

Yes it’s hard

when they are forced to grow fast

even though they did not ask

for this tiny new being

to take over their bed, their routine

and their things.

Yes it’s hard

but it will be ok

because together they will grow and learn and play

and the years will pass faster than the long drawn out nights

sat lonely, wondering… am I doing this right?

Birth Story

Baby Girl

Delilah is now four weeks old, I cannot quite believe it. She is still a tiny little dot, I feel like I am going to break her, it is so strange getting used to a newborn again.

Some of you will be aware that my pregnancy was not an easy ride, I struggled with Hyperemesis from day one and it lasted right through the pregnancy, tapering off finally at about 36 weeks. I still was not quite right up until the birth, it was a complete shock especially after the very easy going pregnancy that I had with Cass.

My waters broke very early on Saturday morning. Will had only just returned from work at 3am and around 3.30am I woke up convinced I had wet myself. I just put it down to a really low point for my bodily functions (there have been a few) and tried to go back to sleep. It was only then that I thought that rather than my bladder and pelvic floor finally throwing in the towel, it was probably my waters. After a quick google (to make sure) I contacted the midwife who told me to make my way to the hospital.

My wonderful sister jumped in her car and travelled nearly two hours to collect Cass, who was over the moon with his early morning adventure. Will and I travelled the short 15 minute trip to the hospital. It was 6am and at this point I was having a couple of niggles but nothing regular, I just thought I would be sent home after a quick check.

The midwife examined me at 6.30am and said I was around 1cm dilated which is normal for someone who has already had a child, but not to go home. She suggested going to Costa Coffee for a brew. Off we went.

We made it to the front entrance of the hospital and I could not move any further, the contractions came from no where and they were fast and strong. I am not really sure how we made it back up to the ward. Lots of people kept offering to help and I remember thinking all I wanted to do was take all my clothes off and lay on the floor.

By the time we made it back to the ward it was 7.15am. I immediately removed all my clothes and got on the floor, I could feel baby coming and the midwife rushed off to fill the pool. I think I jumped in the pool with about 2cm of water in it, this baby was definitely coming and fast. As I felt her move down and her head crown, she seemed to be taking longer than I would have liked. I told the midwife that I needed to push as well as let my body do the work.

At 8am and one and a half songs into my Florence and the Machine playlist, Delilah Paige was born. She was as quiet as a mouse and I could see that the midwife was concerned, so she cut the umbilical cord earlier than planned, thinking that Delilah may need some help. It was then that she let out few squeaks and a huge cry and we knew she was ok.

I was so overcome with emotion and could not stop crying and saying ‘she looks like Cass.’ I kept asking the nurse to check if she was ok, it all happened so quickly, it didn’t feel real. Will took Delilah and had skin to skin whilst I attempted to make my way out of the pool, the after pains were so strong this time I just felt like I could not hold on to her and I wanted to get out of the pool as fast as I wanted to get in it.

The hours following Delilah’s birth were absolutely perfect, we were in an exhausted, shell shocked, blissful bubble. After a twenty hour labour with Cass I just could not believe that Delilah had arrived in approximately two.

The staff at St Mary’s, Manchester were unbelievable and we were home that evening by 7pm. I was mentally prepared for a long, back to back labour with lots of drama, so what had happened was a wonderful surprise. I am grateful for the birth that I had and put it down to my body just giving me a bit of a break after the past nine months.

Hospital Birth Plan

This is my hospital birth plan, I handed it to the midwife on admission to the hospital. Had I been more prepared and gone into labour on time, I would have emailed it to my community midwife so that they had a copy before hand.

I hope it may be of use to someone else.

Birth Plan

ADDITIONAL NEEDS

I am Autistic and would request that the minimum amount of people are in the room as much as possible during labour. I would politely request that no students are to be in the room during labour for this reason.

I have sensory needs and difficulties and for this reason I ask for people to remain as quiet as possible and communicate through my birth partner please. I also request that artificial lights are dim or off during labour but that natural light is available at all times.

BIRTH PARTNER

My birth partner is my husband Will, he will be with me throughout the whole birth and we have written this birth plan together.

INTERVENTIONS

If their are any concerns regarding the progress of the birth or feel that intervention is needed at any point please can you speak with Will first rather than myself.

Please could you allow us some time alone to discuss any suggested interventions before they take place.

With regards to intervention in a NON EMERGENCY situation please can the following be discussed before anything is agreed to

Benefits – what are the benefits to going ahead with this decision?

Risks – What risks are associated with this decision or procedure?

Alternatives – What alternatives are available in this situation? What alternatives are there that might not be available here but might be available elsewhere?

Intuition – What does your gut tell you?

Next or Nothing – What comes next if we say yes? What if we say no and let things progress naturally?

If I require an assisted birth or an emergency procedure I would like Will to stay with me at all times.

POSITIONS

I would like to remain upright and as active as possible for as long as possible. I would like to be on all fours for the actual birth and not squatting. I would like to lie down as little as possible.

PAIN RELIEF

I would like to try to avoid all pain relief for as long as possible. I would like to try and avoid gas and air too but I may change my mind about this. I would like to use the pool during the final stages of labour and not before.

SPEEDING UP LABOUR

I do not want any interventions to speed up labour, I would like to wait and see what happens naturally.

MONITORING HEART RATE

I would like intermittent monitoring with a hand held device.

THIRD STAGE

I would like a natural third stage without drugs. I would also like delayed cord clamping and to be able to birth the placenta naturally.

SKIN TO SKIN/FEEDING

I would like baby to be placed directly on to my tummy straight after birth.

I will be breast feeding my baby and do not wish for them to have any formula at all.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read our birth plan

Lucy and Will

Parenthood, Age and Time

I find a lot of social situations and expectations confusing or overwhelming at times, not always, just sometimes. I do not get anxious, I just sometimes feel a bit odd or uncomfortable.

Friendships can sometimes feel the same, one minute people are around and the next they are gone. I immediately think that I have done or said some horrific, offending, unforgivable thing and need to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

As I become older and encounter different groups of people and social situations I am starting to realise that most of the time it is nothing to do with me and I cannot fix things, no matter how hard I try.

I am terrible with things like this, I struggle to understand the ‘friendship game’ at the best of times, especially with girls. It is like a code to me, a club with rules and ways to behave and things that you can and cannot do. You have to remain in contact just the right amount of times, but not too much as that is just as bad as not being in touch at all.

You have to say the correct thing, in the correct order. When people ask for your opinion, they do not always necessarily want YOUR opinion they want THEIR opinion from your mouth. Honesty is not always the correct answer. It is so very confusing.

My growing interest in the behaviour of others has moved up a level over the past two years. What was a professional understanding of the behaviour and psychology of children during the early years, has expanded greatly. I have learned that my childhood and experiences have greatly impacted how I raise my children and how I behave in situations of extreme stress and exhaustion. I have also been watching others go through the same thing, and how their behaviour can suddenly change depending on the challenges that they are faced with.

Human beings are amazing and I know that parenthood has definitely changed me, we adapt to whatever is thrown at us in times of extreme exhaustion and a natural instinct protect and survive kicks in. We are doing what we can to get through the day and for some people that means shutting down and turning the world off.

I do not think that it is personal, I think sometimes people just change and move on, in an attempt to protect themselves from something that they are afraid of or cannot quite figure out. My sudden need to find out the reasons to why someone would stop talking to me comes from my insecurities. I need to learn to take a step back and see that it is not always about me. Yeah it can hurt, but sometimes you have just got to let go.

It is ok to be like that too, it does not make me weak to walk away from something that I do not necessarily understand and I do not need all the answers. Sometimes there just are no answers and people just are not meant to be in your life forever. I am learning to be grateful for the amazing people that I do have in my life and pouring my energy, time and understanding into them. Which is easy because they are all fantastic. I am also learning to be kinder to myself and not waste my energy on people who do not have time for me.

Parenthood, age and time has taught me that life can be beautiful and slow paced as well as manic and wild. It has allowed me to understand that it is important to try to see the positive in everything and to try to not always look for reasons to why things happen in situations that are out of my control.

People are complicated and although they may hurt you sometimes, it is not always personal. Everyone is still growing and although we think that it is only events from our childhood that shape who we are today, I feel that every day can change who we will be tomorrow.

Spinning Plates

I am thirty five weeks pregnant today, but what I can only describe as being an eventful and at times traumatic pregnancy, does not mean that it has been all doom and gloom. I have learnt a lot about myself and put a lot of positive changes in place over the past few months. It has been really hard and I have had to face up to a lot but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Deep down I am a bit of a control freak, I do like to know where I am heading with things and a take great pleasure from following a good plan, however for the past eight months the plan has well and truly been abandoned. I have had to take what can only be described as a huge step back from life. I have had to say no to a lot of things and to a lot of people, family, friends, work, fun, food. At times this has been extremely hard but I have had to listen to my doctor and just ride it out!

I have realised that I have a constant desire to be busy, to always have five or six plates spinning at the same time. Like I have been conditioned to believe that I should be multi-tasking my way through life without taking a moment to breathe. Is this something that as women we are led to believe we should be doing, or is it something we want to be doing? Is it actually nothing to do with gender at all and more a trait of certain personalities? For me it is almost like a desire to accomplish so much in such a small amount of time, like a challenge to reach a certain point as fast as possible. Where ever it came from I realised very quickly that it had to stop.

Initially letting go of everything and conserving energy to focus only on my health and Cass was bloody hard. Years of balancing everything and keeping those plates spinning will obviously have an impact on who you are and what you do. Gradually though I started to see how letting go was having a positive impact on my mental health. Granted the circumstances were a bit shit and I would have rather not been throwing up all day for the best part of a year, but maybe it was what I needed to stop all the noise. I gradually realised that life is a bit too short to be constantly feeding a need for being busy and attempting to accomplish too much in such a tiny space of time.

Some days getting out of bed was an achievement and sadly that had to be my only goal for the day, but once I had come to realise how great an accomplishment that actually was I was able to move on and stop beating myself up. Some days we went for a walk in the park and some days that was just too much so we watched telly instead. It has made me realise how important it is to take time to just be still. To enjoy your family, your work, your friends and not be distracted by a million other things that are going on and to give yourself a break every once in a while and ease off on the plate spinning.

Life is too short and our children grow too quickly, change happens so fast. I have spent the past thirty three years of my life trying to be busy and get to places where I think I need to be when actually I think I just needed to appreciate what I already have and be still.

I am Autistic

It is National Autism Awareness Week and last month I received my own diagnosis as a person with Autism. I have had Autism since I was born, however I only received my diagnosis at 32 years of age and as a woman I feel that it is important to share my story.

The rate of women and girls diagnosed with Autism compared to men is disproportionate. There are many theories to explain this but it is thought that Autism in women presents differently to Autism in men and the assessment system that is place is outdated and designed for men only. Many Autistic girls and women slip under the radar and never receive the diagnosis and help that they may need. However, there is currently a lot of research and changes taking place with the diagnostic procedure to allow for both men and women to be assessed and supported equally and to meet their needs.

After repeatedly being misdiagnosed with a range of different mental health difficulties I was becoming frustrated and annoyed that I did not have the answers to why I found some aspects of life so challenging. At times I felt like I was watching life from inside a goldfish bowl, I did not really quite understand how others managed to achieve what they did without the problems and disasters I often seemed to encounter.

Certain situations, heightened senses and social interactions were making me have frequent meltdowns, these manifested in many different ways, and were causing me to become more anxious, especially now I had children of my own to care for.

For years I had devised a complicated and stressful ability to camouflage and concealing my difficulties. This ranged from observing and mimicking the behaviour and language of my peers, to over working and overloading myself to breaking point, in order to complete tasks to a high enough standard that no one would ever notice my struggles. I would often camouflage for an entire day, resulting in a meltdown as soon as I had got home. I would then have to spend the whole evening in a state of anxiety and exhaustion, attempting to recharge myself for the next day.

My growing inability to change routine and my frustration at even the smallest, last minute alteration to something as insignificant as what we were having for tea, was beginning to take its toll on my husband and to be honest myself too. I felt like having Cass gave me the strength to say, ‘this is really fucking shit and I’m not willing to do this anymore.’ I needed answers in order to recognise and deal with my difficulties in a healthy way and with a bit more knowledge and understanding about myself.

Since getting my diagnosis I have been trying to unpick a web that is now 33 years old. I understand the main things that I find difficult and challenging, but I do not want to stop doing them, I just have to work out a way that works best for me and my brain. I am learning to be more forgiving of myself and not push myself to breaking point. If there is something that I feel like I cannot do today, then I will just do it the next day or find a way to do it that makes me comfortable, happy and does not result in a melt down.

I am giving myself more time to indulge in the things that I enjoy, my ‘hobbies,’ allowing myself to hyper-focus for large amounts of time on the things I love, without feeling guilty. Having more open conversations with my husband about even the smallest of things that may lead to a meltdown, instead of pushing it to the back of my mind and becoming anxious. The most important thing for me now though is having the confidence to say no to people if I know that I am going to find a situation difficult.

Autism for me is not a mental health condition, a common misunderstanding, it is a neurodevelopment condition that means my brain is wired differently and without the correct treatment and knowledge can cause poor mental health. I identify myself as having a communication, understanding and sensory disability. I believe that without my diagnosis my mental health would have suffered greatly, but this would be a product of me lacking self-knowledge and being Autistic.

This is Autism. I am still the same person I have always been, just better, because now I have more knowledge and understanding of who I am and what I can achieve.

Big brother

We are now past the half way mark and despite being so poorly, baby girl is growing and so is my belly. Cass is starting to notice too, finding my belly button hilarious and jabbing it with his little fingers. He is starting to stroke my bump too whilst saying ‘baby’ which is amazing.

Even though he is still only a baby himself, I can feel that Cass is aware that something big is about to happen. It has been hard on him with all the hospital visits and quiet days in the house with me throwing up everywhere. However, I cannot wait to see him as a big brother, he is so loving and playful, but I know that this baby will bring about some huge changes and my baby boy will suddenly grow up overnight.

I love to watch Cass grow and it fascinates me how he learns and changes every day and I know the arrival of a new little person will change us all. I think it would be silly to think it will not. I feel like I need to really cherish these last few weeks alone with my baby boy, he has not asked for the chaos that comes with a new baby and as resilient as he is, at times he is going to find it hard. We all are.

I am trying to appreciate each moment with Cass as much as possible before we become four, but I also want to try and prepare him too. He is off to choose his own baby and pram this weekend with his dad, so that we can talk lots about the new baby arriving and how he can help be a big brother. He also helped me dig out all his old baby clothes ready to be washed for baby girl.

We have been taking time to talk to Cass about the new baby, asking him questions about the baby’s name and what he thinks is growing in mummy’s tummy. I still think he is a bit too young to understand fully but he is definitely interested, I cannot wait for him to feel her kicking.

We cannot wait for the arrival of our new baby girl and going from three to four is obviously going to have its challenges, but we are working to prepare Cass as much as we possibly can. Like most things with children though, it is impossible to know what is going to happen and in my experience, a waste of time and energy to plan every last detail. With Cass my expectations have always been exceeded, the good times have been better and the tough times harder and on many occasions my mind has been blown away. So, we are taking each day as it comes and going with the flow as much as possible.

Bring it on baby girl, we are ready for you! (Kind of)

Changes

When you have small children everything shifts, my social life is pretty limited and I just prefer a quiet ten minutes with a brew rather than going for a run or heading to the gym. I am not complaining, I think if I attempted to go on a night out I might actually die and running is definitely out of the question.

A number of years ago I gave up alcohol. Those of you who know me well know that I can put away a few drinks, those of you who know me really well know that that is not necessarily a good thing, I do like a good party.

As I got older I found that drinking made everything so complicated, one night out and a few drinks made me feel terrible for days. Anxiety attacks, mood swings, not to mention memory blanks and all of the embarrassing things I may have done or said. I could not deal with the hangovers or the fall out of a night out drinking.

Giving up alcohol was not an easy thing to do, I had worked, managed and hung out in bars and restaurants for years. I had to change a huge part of my life. What would my friends think? Who would want to hang out with someone who never drinks? I was worried that the boredom alone would kill me.

This was half of my problem, I was worrying about what everyone else would think, how I would be perceived as a sober person. Worrying that I would be judged for ordering a soft drink and driving home rather than drinking all the wine and getting absolutely smashed. I was worried that I would not know what to talk to people about, that I would not be able to dance without worrying what I looked like. Seems silly really, but at the time it felt important.

To be honest though, I was judged, people did make comment. I remember one person telling me that they ‘didn’t trust people who didn’t drink!’ – that said more about them than me though. I did and still do find it really hard, I had to learn about myself and actually become an interesting person rather than a drunk person chatting nonsense all night. I had to spark up witty and scintillating conversation whilst being sober. You learn very quickly who your friends are when you stop drinking and that is absolutely a good thing. You also learn that your drunk conversation would have never been ‘witty’ or ‘scintillating,’ and you were actually giving yourself far too much credit than you deserved.

I have been on nights out sober and danced more than anyone in the room, most of the time people are so drunk they just think you are as drunk as them and to be honest no one really cares. Once someone even tried to take my car keys off me after only drinking orange juice all night. I have learned more about my friends and who my real friends are, because when you are sober you remember everything. You remember stories and conversations and you remember organising when you are next getting together. You also NEVER lose your stuff (well, almost).

I also learned that I do not have to be the last man standing at a party. The worry about leaving early and missing out does not exist when you are sober, because you realise that very drunk people become very boring, very fast. They also become very sleepy and less fun than you remember. I take as much enjoyment as possible from going out and then when it’s over, I just leave with amazing memories.

Being sober is not for everyone and I am not trying to preach about the evils of alcohol. I worked with alcohol for many years and I have a lot of knowledge about the drinks industry and it has been something that has fascinated me for years. I met most of my best friends drinking and working in bars, I met my husband in a bar. However, personally it has been and still is, good to take a break.

There is nothing better than waking up hangover free, remembering all your conversations, not worrying about who you may have offended and how badly your shoes have been ruined and where your phone and keys are. Now I only feel anxious about things that are real not things that I think I may have done or said when I was drunk.

Having Cass has ensured that nights out have been well and truly off the cards for a long time, but I am happy about that. I would rather spend a weekend in the Summer taking him to a festival or be able to get up with him on a weekend without feeling like death. Drinking made everything feel too hectic and stressful. I do sometimes miss going out, but I would miss feeling this good more. There is plenty of time for being wild again when the kids move out!

Hyperemesis Gravidarum and some surprising news

This pregnancy has been absolutely nothing like my first, with Cass everything was a breeze. I did not have a toddler to look after nor did I have Hyperemesis.

The sickness has been bad, with two hospital admissions from being sick up to 30 times a day and an ongoing trial of many different medications, at times I’ve just forgotten how amazing pregnancy really is. It has been a struggle and it has been tough on Will and Cass too.

Hyperemesis is not just morning sickness, it is much more serious and can be life threatening for both the mother and the baby. Pregnancies can lead to organ failure in the mother and impact the life of the foetus. It has had a negative impact on my mental health, the blood vessels in my eyes burst, my throat has bled from vomiting so much and my mouth has been constantly covered in ulcers. I have had to continuously monitor my fluid intake and be extremely cautious when eating food. Smells, too much fluid, not enough fluid, movements, getting out of bed too quickly, not getting out of bed quick enough, doing too much, stress and food have all triggered uncontrollable, all day sickness. Hyperemesis has been the most unpredictable illness I have ever had in my life and the only real relief that I have felt has been the IV drips and intravenous medication that I have received at the hospital.

I have been lucky and I have had the care of an outstanding GP and the care of the staff at the Manchester Royal Infirmary has been amazing. I felt like my condition was taken seriously and a plan was put in place immediately. However, this is not always the case for a lot of women and I realised last week when I had to speak with a different doctor, just how little some professionals actually know about the illness.

His advice to me was to eat some ginger biscuits and have a herbal tea, and that, ‘it’s just morning sickness and I should just put up with it, most women get it.’ At the time, probably due to exhaustion I was in tears, but afterwards it just made me so sad that this is the level of care that some women get in the face of a life threatening illness. I had only just been discharged from hospital the day before and was so frustrated by the ignorance of someone who was meant to help. If any women reading are struggling with sickness and you feel you are not getting the care you need I would suggest that you look for a second opinion.

However, despite all the sickness, we are still over the moon about our newest addition. I am feeling lots of movement now which is magical and puts everything in perspective, my bump is getting bigger and bigger each week and the consultant reassured me that despite me suffering so much, the baby is growing and doing fine.

I was convinced we were having a little boy, but an early scan revealed that we are actually having a little GIRL. Cass would like to name his little sister ‘Roar,’ we have told him it has been added to the list.