Want to know what I think?

At twelve weeks in the comments really start to begin.

‘Oh wow you really are looking so small,

has your baby even started to grow at all?’

‘I just do not think you are eating well,’ quickly followed by

‘Oh my god you are starting to swell!’

‘I wouldn’t do that, I would do this…

(Just in case my previous comment you missed)

Do you want to know why I would do it this way?

Why won’t they listen to what YOU want to say?

You are nearing the end, you are tired and feel past it,

but their obsessive prying and comments, I wish they could mask it.

‘They’ll probably come late, at least two weeks over,

I’d just forget your Birth-plan.’

I’m not sure how I kept my composure?!

Baby is here! My world is complete

but still they drone on, they will not be beat.

‘Oh baby looks small, are they not eating well? Wow, look at their belly it’s starting to swell!’

How are you feeding them, bottle or breast? You want my opinion… ‘cus you know, I KNOW BEST!’

The opinions and comments they go ON and ON!

About mother and baby and how things ‘should’ be done.

So next time you see a new mum and her child,

hold on to your judgement and offer your smile.

Lucy

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?

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.

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.

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’.

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.