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.

Time to think

Over the past couple of weeks I have had quite a lot of time to think and I have had to make a few decisions about the future. The past nineteen months have been eye opening and I am slowly learning a lot about myself. At times it has been great, but being honest with yourself is sometimes really tough.

At my last midwife appointment the midwife wanted to know where I wanted to give birth, at first I thought, well obviously at home. We planned a home birth with Cass and it just seemed easier to stay at home.

After a while I started to think that maybe this was not actually the best option for me and my family. When I was pregnant with Cass I literally spent the whole nine months planning his birth. I wanted to be as prepared as possible for whatever happened.

We went to Hypnobirthing classes, opted for a home birth, hired a pool, wrote a birth plan, I thought we were going for a laid back approach. I knew I wanted to avoid unnecessary medical intervention and I did not want any medication so it just seemed easier for everyone if we just stayed at home.

Looking back now it was all quite stressful. Elvis, the dog, had to go in the kennels (I do not think he has fully forgiven us for this), we had to pump up a massive pool in our tiny kitchen and hang sheets from the windows as there are no curtains in there, what was meant to be a calm, tranquil birthing environment was more like a cave.

There were what felt like hundreds of people in our tiny home, I had lost all concept of time and space, the night became day and I did not even realise because the curtains were still closed. I felt like I was at some never ending afterparty in a strange house. It is hard to relax when there are total strangers walking round your house, I kind of felt like I should be making them a cup of tea or offering them a snack. No amount of Hypnobirthing was going to make me feel calm.

The worst thing was that the toilet was so far away, every time I needed the loo I had to try and climb the mountain face that is our stairs, and with a back to back baby this was not pleasant.

Home birth is such a wonderful experience for a lot of women and to be honest it did start off wonderful,but in the end, and in hindsight I can see it just was not for me. What I really learned is that I love natural light, routine and space. I feel like I need the routine of the hospital to keep me on track, I need to be able to just move and walk and the hospital will have a lot more space than our cosy little home. I also would like the pleasure of just coming home to a house that is not full of medical equipment or the stress of having to put away a birth pool.

It is not about me thinking my choices are the best or the right choices for everyone, it is about seeing what works well for me and choosing that. Also, learning to understand why it works for me and trying to avoid falling into trends or being easily led. This time I am not going to try micromanage the birth and everyone involved, I am just going with what feels right at the time and hopefully everything will be slightly calmer. Who knows though, I’ll probably end up having the baby in the car on the way to the hospital.

My Valentine

Sometimes we live our lives at such a fast pace that we become totally unaware of those around us. Not because we are selfish or thoughtless, just because we are trying to survive and do the best that we possibly can for our families in a hectic and busy world. I am never fully aware of what is going on around me especially when it comes to thinking about Will, I am guilty of taking him for granted and I am working on this.

These past three weeks have consisted of me not actually doing very much and Will, doing everything. I keep saying, ‘oh I’ll do that, I’ll see if I can take Cass out for an hour,’ and then not really having the energy to move or just feeling so sick I cannot face leaving the house.

It has given me time to think about how lucky I am. I am so guilty of using the line, ‘I do everything around here,’ and can often be seen piling washing into the machine in a rage. But actually, having some time at home has made me realise that it is not me that does everything, in fact I do very little and laying here feeling sorry for myself (with good reason of course) has been quite humbling.

It is actually Will who takes on all the childcare, Will who cooks all the family meals, Will who does all the food shopping and tries to keep the house clean with a pint size dictator in tow. It is Will who takes the bins out, Will who walks the dog and takes Cass to nursery and Will who does all of this whilst having a job and studying for his Masters.

I go to work and almost forget that all of this goes on, come home, do bedtime and then eat a delicious home cooked meal. Working all day is hard and it is exhausting in a different way, but that does not make what I do any more important that what anyone else does with their day, especially my husband.

I have come to realise that I had become so stressed out and consumed with myself and how I felt about working all day, that I have forgotten to appreciate how much Will is actually doing to care for us. It is only now that I have been forced to stop my weekly routine, that I can see really how lucky Cass and I are to have him.

Families are built up of so many different dynamics, with people taking on different roles. From single parent families, with very little support to those who have close family living near by to help out, but all families face challenges. Cass only has me and Will, as all our family live in other cities. Sometimes it is a struggle and sacrifices have to be made, it is hard work but it is manageable. I need to take the time to be more aware of what is going on around me and with our family, I will be working hard to keep this going and just taking sometime to look around me has helped me realise just how lucky I am.

We do not normally celebrate Valentine’s Day, not for any deep or social reason just because we are bloody lazy and by the time one of us remembers all the cards have sold out. But this year my Valentines gift to my husband is to be more thankful, considerate and present. This will probably be the year where he decides he would prefer a card instead.

Rest

So my body has finally forced me to slow down and after being admitted into the hospital yesterday afternoon, I have been diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (big bad morning sickness). I am being cared for by the absolutely amazing staff at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and hopefully I will not be here for too much longer.

I have suffered horrendously with morning sickness and nausea through out this pregnancy and it has been debilitating at times. I feel like I have had to excuse myself from so many things over the past three months without really knowing why and then feeling awful for letting others down. I just thought it was normal and just kept going despite wanting to curl up in a ball. I guess I should have listened to my body sooner and then it would not have become so bad, knowing when to stop is not one of my strong points though.

Although it is not ideal, I am so happy that they have finally found out what is wrong and has been causing all the sickness, dizziness, migraines and general feeling of ‘rubbishness’.

Four

Between the morning sickness, dizzy spells, migraines and absolute exhaustion this pregnancy has totally wiped me out. All this alongside looking after a toddler and working full time, I am starting to feel somewhat beaten.

We have just reached the 14 week mark and we have been for our first scan, which was amazing. Up until now, despite the horrific pregnancy symptoms I feel like I have not even had a moment to think about being pregnant at all, let alone plan for becoming a family of four. There are at times moments when I forget that I am even pregnant.

Last week I went back to pregnancy yoga, the teacher there promotes and teaches Active Birth, it helped me so much during Cass’s birth and I can not recommend it enough to anyone out there who is expecting. It also meant that I got to spend sometime thinking about our new baby and having a couple of hours to myself. It was bliss. It felt like the first time my mind and body had finally agreed that something new was about to begin. It really put everything, all the sickness, crappy weather and exhaustion into perspective.

Cass is becoming independent fast, he loves to lead the way and be the boss so there is not as much opportunity for wrapping as there used to be. Cass is big on exploring, but we have our moments and those snuggles are so special.

My baby boy is growing up. I do not wish for him to stay a baby and I am not sad to see him becoming more independent, I honestly thought I would be. I love to look at photos of when he was a tiny squish and my heart melts when I fold away his tiny little clothes that no longer fit him, but every day he does something new, it amazes me and makes me realise how lucky we are. It is fascinating to see him change and grow so much, he teaches me more about myself than anyone I know, every single day.

We are looking forward to what the future holds and I am feeling excited about our growing little family, even though I am absolutely knackered!