How’re you feeling?

“How are you feeling? I find you really hard to read at the moment”.
This is what my husband just said to me. The truth is, I have no idea how I’m feeling. 7 weeks ago we had our second baby, a girl named Luna, and the new born whirlwind began.  More nappies, more night feeds, more laundry, more worry. More smiles, more cuddles, more kisses, more love.
When he asked me this question I was feeding our youngest daughter whilst watching what our eldest was doing and wondering if she was going to have another meltdown if adverts dared to come on in between dancing to the Trolls soundtrack on YouTube.  We’d just come back from a weekend away and I was also going through the list of things we needed to unpack in order for the bedtime routine to run smoothly.

  1. Gro clock? Check
  2. Monitor? Check
  3. Bed guard? Check
  4. Next to me crib? Check

As well as making sure there were matching pyjamas (there weren’t), towels, nappies and a clean comforter for my eldest. This then led to another train of thought about putting more laundry in the washing machine, making a mental note to buy more washing tablets and wondering when the hell I would have time to iron it all.

In addition to the above, my overall ‘to do’ list looks a little like this:

  • Take Luna’s passport photo and submit application
  • Take Luna’s birth certificate to the bank to set up savings account
  • Set up direct debit for both girls’ savings accounts
  • Make appointment to write wills
  • Pick up baubles from pottery painting place
  • Have appointment with April’s potential school about application process
  • Fill out checklist for April’s 2 and a half year check
  • Buy birthday present for friend
  • Buy and wrap Christmas presents
  • Go to post office to pick up husband’s Christmas present and pay the import duty
  • Order Luna’s stocking
  • Organise life insurance
  • Book catering for Luna’s christening
  • Attempt to maintain some form of social life.

I’ve known from a young age that I wanted to have children, in fact I remember being in a rush to grow up just so that I could have babies. But ever since being a mum my mind sometimes feels like it’s full of cotton wool. Concentration is not my strong point, especially as I usually have one, if not two, small children crying for my attention. I’ll come off the phone to people having no idea what they said because I was too busy chasing a 2 year old around making sure she doesn’t start a fire whilst my back is turned (okay slight exaggeration but it’s shocking what an unattended toddler can achieve in 30 seconds). And now that our new addition requires constant rocking from 5pm until 10pm it’s no wonder my brain is mush.
The truth is, sometimes I feel like I have no time for emotions, I have far too much shit to do to think about the way I’m feeling and it makes me realise how parents whose partners aren’t as supportive as mine feel like they’ve lost their identity.  I’m lucky that my husband makes a conscious effort to give me some headspace from our children. He has work where he can get away and process his thoughts, I have broken sleep during which I try to process mine.  Something as simple as him suggesting I have a bath whilst he watches both children may seem so small but can be so important.  It gives me time to hear silence.

Sometimes I see photos on social media of parents who seem to be out all the time and I think “where are their children? Are they really out every weekend?” and then I have days like this when I realise that these parents just need some headspace, a time to breathe, time to themselves and there’s nothing wrong with that. Without it, we’d all go mad.
Being a parent brings with it a rollercoaster of emotion, one minute your children are being little angels and you’re full of happiness and pride, the next they’re screaming at you for completely irrational reasons and you just want to sit in a dark room in silence.  It’s no wonder we don’t know what emotions are going through our minds if someone asks.
But if you’re a parent reading this then I want to ask you one thing: How’re you feeling?
If the answer suggests you need more “me time” to get some headspace and stop to think about who you are then do it. If you can’t do it right now then please set aside some time to do it. You and your children deserve the best version of you, and if you need to take some time out to breathe then that’s okay, don’t feel guilty for it.

 

Oh and if you’re wondering how I had the time to write this, I wrote it one handed whilst rocking a baby on a nursing chair!

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Having a baby after PTSD – am I mad?

For some mothers giving birth is a magical, exciting and altogether positive experience. For many others, including myself, it is an experience that begins with excitement, but doesn’t have the happy ending.
After giving birth to my first daughter I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Odd right? I thought only soliders had that. Turns out mothers quite often get diagnosed after giving birth.  The symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, struggling to sleep, avoidance of certain places, persistent negative feelings about yourself, being easily irritable and a constant feeling of guilt, fear or shame. To name a few. I didn’t have all of these symptoms, but the ones that impacted my life the most were flashbacks, negative feelings about myself and persistent guilt. It hasn’t been my favourite life journey but it has been one that I’ve tried to be as open as possible about with my friends and family.
All these thoughts and feelings were triggered by one event – giving birth. So why am I back here in a situation where I have to do it again?
To put it simply, my love for my daughter and desire to have more than one child, as well as months of therapy has led me to feel like I can face this fear.  It will be easy right? “No two births are the same”, “babies come out much easier the second time round”, “you’ll be fine”, are the most common comments I receive when speaking abour my fear.  The truth is, before I fell pregnant I was adamant that when the time came I would have a cesarean.  
However, now that I am pregnant again I find myself reliving my daughter’s birth more frequently. My feelings of failure and incompetence are trying to reappear and I am panicking about delivery. What do I do? Avoid the trigger completely and ask for an elective c-section? Or try to heal old wounds and give it another go? The only problem is, I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know which option will make me feel better, and which might make me feel ten times worse. 
It has been two years since my daughter was born, but still on the eve of her birthday I layed in bed next to my husband sobbing, asking him when the flashbacks would stop and when I would stop feeling like such a failure for the way she was born. My midwife has referred me to the local mental health team to start therapy again, I have my first session in a couple of weeks. But I still have five months to decide what birth option is best for my baby and I.
Hopefully when I have made my decision I will update, but for now I’ll have to continue in this limbo of wondering what I should do.