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.

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.