Nobody told me…

That you will NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. That your boobs will be forever pointing down. Down Boobs will be their new name. That you will never wee alone unless you have planned it, like some covert operation. That even though your yoga teacher or some other birth ‘guru’ told you that your ‘baby is the perfect size for your body,’ your vagina will still split all the way to your arse hole and look more like a cross stitch project, than your previous well groomed lady garden. That your nipples will be so red raw, that you will develop an irrational resentment towards your husband for not being able to lactate. That you will never drink a truly hot beverage again. That your hair will fall out (nightmare). That your period will come back (bigger nightmare). That the chub rub between your thighs will continue to be the ruiner of all Summer dresses and hot days for months (years) after you have given birth. That cycling shorts will save you. That you will now have to bath with 46 rubber ducks and a plastic boat. That you may never bath again. That your sofa will never be clean. That you will no longer think Mr Tumble is a weirdo and that you would actually quite like him to come and live in your house. That Happy Meals and Fruit Shoots are ok and that you needn’t have been such a judgey dick before you had even had kids. That you will forgive yourself for being a judgey dick. That you will never reach the bottom of the wash bin, NEVER, don’t even try. That you will smell like a milky armpit for at least twelve months and that you will probably be ok with this. That one night they will sleep through, but then you will wake them because you got scared. That you will trade your handbag for a nappy bag or a Bag for Life. That at some point you will get actual human shit on your face and someone else’s sick in your pants. That you will have your favourite shows on CBeebies, and you will be excited when they come on. That you will never be on time again. That you will know every word to their favourite book. That you will cry and scream because you are broken and you cannot get up one more time. That you will sit up all night stroking their head because they’re too sick or too tired or too emotional or just too toddler. That you will wish and dream for a moment alone but when they go you will long for their return. That your heart will be so full it could burst. That you will cry when you find the smallest sock that no longer fits. That your exhaustion, frustration and the absolute chaos can be forgotten with a smile, a word or a cuddle. That you will burst with pride at the smallest change and your heart will swell to see them grow. That you will miss those first few weeks. That you will lose some friends but gain the world. That you will change in ways that terrify you but you will like it. That you will achieve things that you never thought possible.

That it will all be worth it.

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.

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.

Keep Calm and Carry On

‘Keep Calm and Carry On,’ a slogan adapted from posters distributed by the British Government in 1939 during the build up to the Second World War. The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public during a time of imminent air strikes.

I feel that the damage caused by this thoughtless slogan continued long after the war had ended, with the demobilisation of thousands of men returning to Blighty. What is often portrayed as a young couple sharing a loving embrace on the platform of a station, with the imminent return to marital bliss, is now known to be far from the truth of post war life for these families.

These young men suffered horrifically from the horrors of war. Post traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, guilt, fear, anxiety, panic, how did society expect a whole generation to go through such trauma and then return to life as they previously knew it? Were these families expected to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On?’ What support was available for these people?

This attitude of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ has long resided within our society here in Great Britain. People are not encouraged to talk about their ‘feelings’ but to just get on with it and to toughen up. I think that this is even more so for boys

Fears and anxieties are trivialised by parents, teachers, employers, friends. With others making comparisons of our own emotions, ‘if you think you have it bad then you should think about…’ and ‘oh it could be worse.’ It is like our emotions and thoughts have been shut down before we have even begun.

Telling people that they are alright when actually, they know that they are not, is a direct attack on their own personal judgement of their situation. People think that they are helping when in fact they are doing the opposite, causing individuals to question themselves and push problems deeper.

Mental health is something that I spend a lot of time studying and researching, it is an extremely important aspect of my job and the work that I do to support young children and their families. My own mental health is something that I care passionately about and after having Cass my need to know as much as possible order to support him, grew.

On average, around 6,000 people take their own life by suicide in the UK every year. Around three quarters of all suicide attempts in 2016, were male. Mental illness is killing our family and friends, and it is terrifying.

So as my little boy is growing up I will encourage him to, STOP, talk to someone, work it through, get help, get answers, make a plan, don’t just fucking ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’ We should all take time to listen and support each other, give our family, friends, partners, children, students time to speak to find someone that they can trust and someone that cares about what makes them scared, and really make a difference.

It is ok to not be ok.

Real Nappy Week

It’s Real Nappy Week and we are loving our cloth bums!

Initially the thought of using cloth nappies filled me with genuine horror. Giving birth and breast feeding just seemed like enough for me and why on earth would I want to add more washing to my already mountainous pile of tiny dirty clothes?

After the dust had settled I became very aware of the huge amount of waste this tiny little person was creating. At his peak Cass was getting through 15 nappies a day as well as all the baby wipes. It just felt wrong filling the bin every day with items that are designed to never decompose. On top of all the guilt, the council then decided to collect the bins every three weeks. I did not want to to experience a three week old nappy at the height of Summer.

So we decided to make the switch to cloth nappies. There are lots of styles and brands out there and what works for one family might not necessarily work for another. I was initially very confused and intimidated by the whole idea, I didn’t want to throw money away buying the wrong product. After asking a few questions at our baby group, I found lots of parents who were willing to offer advice and lend us a few nappies to see what we thought before taking the plunge. There are also lots of groups on social media that can help you and answer any questions that you may have. 

We chose to order Tots-bots nappies through Babi-Pur. Babi-Pur do a starter pack which included 3 different styles of nappy so we could see what worked best for us. Their service is quick and they send a discount code with every order.

When I found Tots-Bots I loved them because of the Velcro fastening at the front, I found the poppers on other brands fiddly and hard work. The Velcro made the nappies quick and could be adjusted with ease. 

We tried three different nappy styles from Tots-bots, Peenut, Bamboozle and Easy-Fit. The Peenuts are my favourite, they consist of two pads and a wrap. The wrap is water proof and the pads just pop inside, the whole thing comes apart and dries very quickly. I also put in a fleece  reusable liner to protect and draw away moisture from the skin. We did try disposable liners but they just stuck to Cass’s bum and stressed me out.

The Easy-Fit are just one whole piece that folds up. You can put in inserts to add extra absorbency, they are fantastic as they never leak but I find that they do take some time to dry so we only have a couple.

We use Bamboozles at night time, they are a complete towel nappy with inserts for extra absorbency, to ensure that they dont leak a water proof wrap goes over the top. 

I can honestly say that the switch was a lot easier than I expected. The nappies are washed on a 40° cycle with antibacterial washing detergent and are line dried. Although the initial spend was around £14 per nappy, we were spending an absolute fortune on disposables every week. The reusable nappies never leak and they keep Cass’s bum nice and dry. We invested in a pack of reusable fleece liners, which not only protect the nappy, but also draw moisture away from the skin. 

When we are out and about I just fold the reusable nappy up and store in a water proof wet bag. I sort it out with the others when I get home. 

I’m amazed at how fantastic cloth nappies are and I feel so much better about reducing the amount of waste we produce as a family. There is a lot of support out there to get you started through Cloth Nappy Libraries or local baby groups. Some local councils even offer incentives for switching to reusable nappies to reduce waste. 

What we use

▪️7 cloth nappies, (Tots-Bots easy fit and Peenuts)
▪️Tots-Bots reusable fleece nappy liners
▪️A wet bag for travelling 

https://www.totsbots.com/
http://www.fill-your-pants.com/councilnappyincentives.html
http://www.babipur.co.uk/