So there is no right or wrong way.

So here we are. I don’t believe there is any right or wrong way to parent. I do believe that people judge, we question others and make people feel bad for their decisions. Decisions that are right for them and their family. In turn, this has an affect on our mental health. Being a parent is really hard. It’s tiring, emotional, stressful. It’s wonderful and the good will always outweigh the bad but it is hard. I don’t think we should feel judged or guilty for our decisions. Those decisions are not always easy to make and we might even doubt them ourselves but I don’t think we should push our own opinions onto others.

Arthur is now completely bottle fed, do I still feel judged at times because of this? Unfortunately yes. Plagued by comments, pictures, old sayings we are pushed to believe “breast is best” but it might not work for you and that’s okay. Dummies, not for everyone but a lifesaver for others. I remember when I first gave Arth a dummy and I said “only when he’s going to sleep” did that work for us? No. Unfortunately sometimes he’s just very unsettled, he’s not hungry, he might be a little bit tired but not ready for sleep, he might want to play but he also wants his dummy. It works for us so that’s what we go with.

I’m not encouraging or trying to discourage. I’m just explaining that sometimes you have to find what works for you. As long as you do it safely, you have to do what’s right for you and your mini human. They aren’t all the same. They have their own mini personalities. I had to carry Arthur around a lot of the time in a sling when he was younger. He wouldn’t let me put him down, I needed to eat too, even if it was just chocolate!

Playpens? Some people think they trap our mini humans, (yes I have actually heard someone say “trap”) others think they are a safe place to play. For me, having somewhere to put Arthur where I know he’s safe whilst I pee is kind of a godsend! I don’t think he’s trapped because if he wanted to come out I would bring him out.

I feel like we are too dependent on labelling who we are as parents and what we are doing. We try and justify our decisions and explain what kind of parent we are. But I have seen first hand how this can affect our mental health. How by being pushed into what we think we have to be, how we have to feel, how we have to parent, at times it can be too much.

Don’t get me wrong I do believe we are empowering each other too. I believe we are banding together at times and showing support for one another. But I don’t know if we realise how an odd comment or old saying, picture or story can make others feel. I have seen firsthand how the pressures of parenthood can affect your mental health. Those pressures haven’t come from nowhere, we created them. We create arguments and debates, judgements and feelings of doubt in one another. But for some this is harder than others.

I felt the pressure of breastfeeding, the stab of the sayings; “breast milk is liquid gold”. I’ve seen the hard work of handling two children close together. I’ve felt the judgement of having a dummy. Heard the comments of “well you need to be able to manage on your own”. When we say these things, post them, write them, whatever (I say we because I know I have been guilty of it too) I think we just stop for a second and think about how other people might take it.

Think about the parent who has been up all night because they can’t sleep with their baby in their room. Think about the Mum whose despite everything her milk just cannot keep up with her babe. Think about the parent who stays at home and feels guilty for missing work. Think about the parents who look and feel like zombies after another sleepless night. What you say could mean more to them than others. It might have a lasting effect. It might hit them hard.

I still remember many of the things that have been said to me since becoming a mother that have stayed with me but not in a good way. Other people’s opinions or views, stories and beliefs, ones that may be different than mine. Different is not wrong. Different is different. I hope one day we can go about our ways without feeling that judgement, without accidentally putting it across, without doubts. I hope one day we just parent our own way, parent the way that works for us and own it and boss it.

Stay tuned peeps.

Love, Kate x

, P.S Thank you to family, friends, peppa pig, teddies, dummies, playpens, and wipes (apparently a pack of wipes are just so fun) for saving our bums with a moany baby many a times. We parenting the way it works for us!

So what is my PND?

So here I am. I’m not an expert on PND, I don’t pretend to be. I can only talk about my personal experience. I’m not a professional, I don’t have any knowledge. I just have my own journey.

I always find it hard because I feel like you say PND and people automatically assume; you don’t enjoy motherhood, you haven’t bonded with your baby, you don’t feel connected or feel love, it’s not what you thought it would be. Is this the case for everyone? No. That did not happen to me. I never looked at Arthur with anything but love from the second he was here. That’s why when I started to have these thoughts about harming him, my heart broke.

These thoughts would pop into my head when I was feeling anxious, or scared. But I hated them, I hated myself. I never doubted for a second how much I loved my son. I was breaking that this was happening and despite loving him so much I felt like I didn’t want to live. I felt like he would be better off without me. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be alive and be in his life.

PND does not necessarily mean you don’t know what to with your baby. It doesn’t always mean you struggle to care for them. Caring for Arthur, it felt natural straight away, not easy but I just sort of took to it. I was terrified but he arrived and I didn’t know all the details but I knew it was my job to love, protect and care for him. My anxiety would plague doubts in my mind and I often needed and wanted reassurance. I felt like I was winging it but I sort of already knew my son a little bit. I did grow him for 9 months after all.

We have to remember there is no black and white when it comes to PND. My experience is not the same as others. Do not assume you know what someone has gone through because they tell you they have had PND. Mental health isn’t easy and simple, you can’t just fix everybody in the same way because we all go through the same thing.

They are so many different illnesses and they are so many different stories. They are many reasons why somebody may develop PND. They are different levels of severity of the illness. Some can manage it at home, some may need to go to an acute ward, others like me, go to a mother and baby unit. We’re all different.

I met people who had already had one baby and thought because their first baby was very easy going their second would be the same. I met people who previously had mental health illness’s and then developed PND. Some struggled to cope with having two so close together. No two people are the same.

I’ve seen PND show itself in different ways. I have heard from people’s experiences that they became very angry at others. Some left the situation and couldn’t face parenthood, others struggled to bond with their babies which resulted in low mood. For me, I had instructive thoughts about myself and Arthur, I had intentions of taking my life. If you meet someone with PND, let them tell their story, if they want too, don’t think you know just by hearing “PND”.

It’s hard because everybody goes through something different, I think sometimes people don’t know what to say or do. What I found the most helpful is just people being there. I didn’t like being alone during recovery but it wasn’t because I couldn’t cope or didn’t like being alone with Arthur, it was because I wanted my loved ones with me at a really difficult time. Even if we didn’t talk, even we just sat down together, watched a movie, had something to eat, they were there.

If your reading this and you think somebody might be going through PND or you know they are, let them talk. Be there and listen.

Stay tuned for the next one peeps.

Love, Kate x

Image from Metro.co.uk

So sometimes you need people.

So there I was. I remember when I first became unwell I was scared to tell my friends, my family. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know how to say it. I asked Jord if he could call my sister, who could tell me Mum. I asked him to phone his Mum too, and to tell our friends over the phone. I couldn’t face saying the words. I couldn’t face them.

I’ll never forget being in A&E explaining how I felt to professionals and my loved ones crying. I felt devastated that they were going through this too. That they had to see this. It sounds strange but I don’t like to need people. I want to be able to do things myself, to be strong and to be independent. I love my family and friends and want to be around them but I want to be able to be alone too.

The thing is sometimes in life you need people around you to help you. Even if your stubborn as hell like me, you can always get through what life throws you on your own. When I was first admitted to Nottingham Mother and baby unit (MBU), I didn’t want to come out of my room. I was afraid. I didn’t know how to talk to people, I didn’t know what to say. Depression does that. It makes you feel like you need and want, to hide away. That’s what it did for me anyway.

But the thing is, despite being terrified, as soon as I started coming out of my room, talking to others, just sitting with other people, I felt a little bit better. I realised being on my own, with just my thoughts, it was lonely. Exhausting. I needed people around me to say “keep going, you’re doing great” I needed that reassurance. And sometimes you need to just walk away from a situation that is distressing you. But you can’t do that if you don’t have anyone around you to watch your baby for you, or to try feeding them or burping them.

Anxiety made me doubt myself and I asked a lot of questions when I first became a Mum. Google is great but there’s nothing like somebody standing beside you saying, “yeah, this what I did, have a go. You’re doing a wonderful job”. No man or woman is an island (About a boy reference there – great film!), we need people sometimes, and that’s okay. It was terrifying talking to my family, my friends but as soon as I did, I felt a little better.

Some people do still find it uncomfortable to talk about Mental Health. Some might talk a bit more quietly or they might avoid eye contact. But that doesn’t mean we should stop. We shouldn’t. If anything it means we should talk about it more. To get past that. To get to a place where it’s considered “normal”. To walk past someone and say – “oh I heard you’ve not been very well, how are you now?” As simple as that! It shouldn’t be something we are afraid of.

I remember my community nurse said something to me that has really stuck with me. She said about how you don’t have to tell people you were ever unwell. It’s true, if you’re ever unwell, you don’t have to tell everyone. It’s not something you need to talk about with everyone if you don’t want too. I chose to write about my experiences to help raise awareness and because it’s helped me so much. But you can still raise awareness and talk about these things without making it personal. Without sharing your own story. It’s a part of your life but it’s not a part of you. It’s not who you are. People can’t just tell by looking at you that you’ve had a very hard period in life and you don’t have to share it with those who you don’t want too.

The good thing is, I think we’re getting to the stage now where everything is easier to talk about. And know this – needing people, it doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you are not brave. Mental illness is not about being brave, you cannot just wish yourself better. You can’t say to yourself – “right I’m going to stop feeling like this and start being brave”. I, personally do not think it works like that.

So there we are. Stay tuned for another one guys. Sorry it’s been a little while. There’s some more stuff coming soon.

Love, Kate. X

So when you become unwell and you don’t really recognise yourself…

So there I was. I didn’t really realise but when I was unwell I don’t think I looked very well physically. I didn’t want to eat or drink. I was very emotional, crying a lot of the time. I didn’t want to shower (nice haha) and if I did it was for about a minute.

I lost myself physically too. What I looked like, my smiley self. But you can’t always tell always tell when someone is mentally unwell by looking at them. Remember you don’t know what battles somebody else is fighting. Some illnesses are invisible.

Now I feel back to my smiley self (most of the time). It feels really good. Even when you feel low, deep down your still happy, the smile is real. You can still find it. If you feel a little bit lost, like you don’t recognise yourself, you will find your way again. Keep going. I thought I’d show my journey in pictures a little bit…

There were many ups and downs. But we made it through. The last photos is a few days before I was discharged from the mother and baby unit. I knew it was coming and I was terrified but for the first time in a long time, I had hope and excitement for the future. I could feel happiness finding it’s way back to me.

Stay tuned for another one guys.

Love, Kate x

So, it’s okay to feel low.

So here I am. Feeling a bit low these last couple of days. Combination of things; teething baby, missing my family, feeling like I’m a bit alone. But I know it’s okay to have down days because life isn’t always sunshine and happy, happy. I don’t really trust those kind of people that smile at everything and always seem so happy all the time, it’s kind of a bit annoying right? (You know the kind of people I’m talking about!)

It’s not natural to be happy every single second of every day. I remember talking to my community psychiatric nurse (CPN) in the early days of recovery and explained sometimes I feel a little bit down and I remember her face and her saying “who doesn’t?!” Just like you expect some anxiety in life, you also expect to have days when you think – “wow, I’m really not feeling today”.

There is a big difference from feeling down and being depressed. They are a world away from each other. So I know I am happy. But you can still feel down every now and again even when your happy! That’s life. Just like you can still feel moments of happiness when you have depression. I remember clinging to those moments. Desperate to remember them in the darkest times, willing myself to feel more happiness than sadness. It feels like a very long time ago. That’s how I know I’ve come a long way.

Part of my recovery plan was creating a WRAP (Wellness recovery action plan). Of course this doesn’t work for everyone and I am not trying to be a mental health professional here and teach about this. But it really helps me, just like writing helps me. I sort of know it off by heart. It’s all about writing down a plan about your mental health recovery, how to notice when your feeling a bit unwell, things you can do to help yourself and where to go if you need help.

So today, I know I’m not feeling too great so, I’m probably going to call my family, eat some chocolate, maybe get a cheeky nap in and try and get outside. I’m learning that it’s okay to spend a little bit of time away from Arthur, I still feel guilty, I think I always will. But sometimes I think – “I really don’t know what you need?!” But then somebody else takes him and they sing a different song or they hold him a different way and suddenly all is okay again.

I think sometimes he gets a bit bored of me, entertaining babies is hard! Arthur is a tough crowd! Some days he’s laughing, cuddling, always smiling, self soothing little human. Other days he’s way too cool for cuddling, fed up of my singing and doesn’t like any of my funny faces. He has down days too. But we take the good with the bad.

All the highs and all the lows. 😉

I also remember my CPN saying to me that I might feel a little bit low again after moving to Bristol and being a new place. I didn’t think I would but at the same time, I was kind of prepared for it. So now, I know what to do. I hope if your reading this and your having a bad day too you know your not alone.

You don’t have to have a plan, you could have a person or a place. Somebody or something that reminds you a bad day doesn’t last, a bad day doesn’t mean your going to feel low forever, a bad doesn’t mean your losing your happiness. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

Stay tuned for the next one guys.

Love, Kate. X

So, breastfeeding, what a journey…

So here we are, Arthur is coming up to 6 months old and it seems now we may be coming to the end of our breastfeeding journey.

It certainly has been a journey. I remember when I was pregnant I said to myself, and everyone else; “I’m going to try breastfeeding but if I can’t do it then it doesn’t matter because I least tried”. Me and Jordan went to a breast feeding class when pregnant and it did feel very much “pro breast” I felt the pressure even before Arthur was here.

But when he came into the world I had this overwhelming instinct that I wanted to feed him with my body. I wanted to breastfeed and I felt incredibly proud to do it. But even from the word go we had problems. Arthur has a tongue tie. This affects feeding sometimes but most of the time they don’t like to cut the tongue tie if they don’t have too. You have to work through it. That’s what we did, we stayed in hospital for a few nights because we were trying to get feeding. We went to the breastfeeding workshop, we got the hang of it. Arthur was a feeder right from the word go. He would feed every 1-2 hours, max 3 and sometimes would be on the breast for 1 hour, 1 hour and half. It was exhausting, but I really enjoyed it.

By the time I became ill I was so sleep deprived. I didn’t really feel human anymore. In A&E, I breastfed but I asked Jord to get a bottle and some formula. I needed a break. Arthur took to it straight away. I was heartbroken but I knew I had to admit I needed help. After exclusively breastfeeding for 3 weeks we introduced two bottles in the nighttime. I started to express and usually he would have one expressed bottle and one formula.

Of course at the beginning I couldn’t sleep anyway but gradually I did start to sleep. I was still completely and utterly exhausted but it was a little bit better. Arthur gained weight like a trooper. But in the evenings we started to have issues, he would scream and scream when I put him to my breast. It started around 9 and gradually got earlier and earlier until it was around 6. We realised we had to give him a bottle. He was hungry but he didn’t want to breastfeed.

My goal was to go back to exclusively breastfeeding but as time went on it slipped further and further away from me. I saw professional after professional. All explaining what I needed to do, many with different ideas and advice, I felt bombarded a lot of the time. Of course they were all trying to help but it was very overwhelming. I tried everything that was asked of me and still, it wasn’t getting better. Arthur would feed wonderfully throughout the day but I felt like I couldn’t really enjoy it because I was already thinking; “right soon it will be around 8/7 and he won’t want to breastfeed, I need to express, massage, this, that”. It was always on my mind. It consumed me.

At this point I had also had mastitis very badly. I woke up one morning and was covered in sweat. This happened quite often and I was told it was quite normal when breastfeeding because when your sleeping at night your body is still working hard to produce milk. So I got up and I didn’t feel well at all. I started to shiver uncontrollably, they took my temperature, it was 38.4. My pulse was around 110, my blood pressure had dropped to the 90s and I felt very sick. I decided to have a quick shower in the hope it would help and it was then I noticed underneath my breast it was red, hot and swollen. I needed antibiotics, it was mastitis and it knocked me for six.

The thing with mastitis is it’s a blocked milk duct so to get through it you need to keep feeding. But I couldn’t face it. I felt so ill. I needed to rest. Devastated and feeling like it was all my fault, Arthur had to have my expressed milk and some formula in the day. It was a very low point for me. After resting, pain relief and antibiotics I managed to express and feed later on that day. Bloody hell did it hurt. Since then I have had mastitis twice more. I caught it earlier both these times because I had it so bad the first time. I knew what I was looking for.

As time went on and we had hurdle after hurdle, Arthur having rotavirus, me having rotavirus and both having norovirus, Arthur twice. The days turned into expressing after expressing, taking a bottle out with us, expressing in the middle of the night, my mind was in overdrive. I was constantly thinking about feeding, when would he feed next, would he breastfeed, when was I going to express??? I didn’t think about much else.

I saw a breastfeeding counsellor. She was wonderful. She made it clear her goal wasn’t to promote breastfeeding, it was to figure out if it was right for us. She asked me – “why do you want to breastfeed? What is it about breastfeeding?” I explained for me, it was that I felt me and Arthur had developed such a bond whilst breastfeeding, I was terrified of losing that. She gave me the idea of just putting him to the breast when he was sleepy, when he had almost finished his bottle, when it was the nighttime and he needed comfort. I didn’t have to stop, but it would mainly be for a different purpose. For comfort, for bonding.

It’s very hard to feel okay with bottle feeding when you feel like most professionals around you are telling you, you need to breastfeed even when your finding it so hard. They would say to me “keep going, keep doing it, it’s all about perseverance, it will get easier”. But it didn’t, it got harder. The hardest part of it all? Having people around me when my son was crying because he was hungry, trying to breastfeed when he clearly didn’t want to, telling me to keep going. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t even feed my son. My heart would break every time I would give him a bottle but he was happy. That’s what was important. He was being fed. He was happy. I lost sight of that.

I remember a lady telling me, she became so focused on breastfeeding and she became depressed and then had to be admitted to the mother and baby unit. Because of breastfeeding. It’s heartbreaking that it can do that. We’re told it’s this wonderful, natural, easy, beautiful thing but that’s not the case for everyone. I think we should be told more; it’s okay if you can’t do it, if you find it too much, it’s hard and it’s exhausting. You have not failed as a mother.

Me and Jord had many disagreements about breastfeeding, it was frustrating, particularly at the beginning because Arthur would just feed and feed. Jord couldn’t do much. I felt like I needed encouragement from him to keep going but he felt like I was becoming obsessed with it. He was right. As time has gone on and Arthur now is mainly bottle fed, a little bit expressed milk but mostly formula, with having a sleepy boob feed once every couple of days, I realise now I let it affect me too much. I lost myself in wanting to breastfeed so badly.

It wasn’t for us and that’s okay. Maybe next time I’ll be able to boob feed for longer. Maybe I’ll decide to introduce a bottle sooner. Who knows? The most important thing is that your baby is happy and healthy. Arthur weighs around 20 pounds, he’s 5 months and 1 week. He’s a trooper. He’s rolling, holding his head, starting to have few tasters of solid food. He’s doing brilliant. I feel immensely proud we made it this far with breastfeeding. I thought we were at the end of the road a lot earlier. But will I let it affect me so much next time? Gosh I hope not.

Somebody said to me once – “A well Mum is best”. You cannot look after your baby if you are not well enough yourself. Whatever you decide to do for whatever reason, it’s your choice, it’s your baby, I hope you can feel proud and at peace. One day I hope the fed argument doesn’t exist and we don’t even think about it. A world where we feed our babies, we’re happy and healthy and so are they. End of.

Breastfeeding – we’ve had our ups and downs and I will miss you. But you ain’t everything, your just something.

Stay tuned peeps.

Love, Kate. X

So I made a tshirt!

So here we are. I saw somebody had created their own tshirt raising awareness of mental health and I decided I would like to join in. I personally have suffered with post-natal depression and anxiety and come through the other side. I still felt moments of happiness but it always felt tainted, like I had a black cloud always hanging over me.

I created a range of sayings/slogans that I felt best described what you can go through during a mental health illness. I decided on All the highs and all the lows. We some help from my friends and family.

I then set to work, drawing, creating, but I am not an artist. I tried my best to draw my own design but it never came out how I imagined it.

Anyway I decided on a very simple design and thought I would go from there.

I don’t know if anyone will purchase the tshirts but if they do I would love to give back to some mental health charities.

You never know if you might develop a mental health illness in your life, but if you do, you are never alone.

Love, Kate. x

There’s lots of different styles so take a look! 🙂

https://www.mercht.com/c/outoftheshowersandintothesunshine