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 do you do these things too?

So here we are. So as a parent I seem to have shortened everything to make it sound more…fun? I don’t even know. Everything has a nickname or a different name?!

So here’s just a few…

-Bottle is now Bot- Bot or Yum Yums

-Bath is Spilsh Splash

-Horses are now Neigh Neighs

-Pooping is, have you gone doo-doo???

-Nappy is a Nap nap

-Napping or sleeping is a bit of everything, Night nights, Snoozie, if he’s tired he’s not tired, he’s Tie-tie

-Going in the car is going in the Broom-broom

What happened to the English language?! We seem to have created a whole new language. Does anyone else do this or are we just really weird parents? Also everything is usually in song, high pitched, full on random singing. We dance everywhere, and clap to everythingggg. Our life seems to have become a very weird musical.

I’ve made more animal noises in the last 5 months than i have in my entire life. Peakaboo has become a whole new level of fun. Your life just kind of goes a bit…different? But I wouldn’t have it any other way. My favourite thing in the world is to make Arthur smile. His laugh is infectious. He’s chatty and playful. He’s my best friend.

It’s weird because I guess one day we’ll do all these things for the last time and we won’t even realise it.

So this was a slightly different post. Hopefully it made someone smile. Stay tuned for the next one 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! 🙂

So, soon I’ll be back on my own.

So here we are. It’s been the three of us for about three weeks now because Jord had some time off before his new job starts on Tuesday. Which of course means it’s going to be just me and Arth again. I’m feeling all the emotions.

I’ve not been on my own for a full day whilst in Bristol yet. I still haven’t passed my driving test and we kinda live out in the sticks. So I’m sort of a bit stuck. There’s beautiful countryside and lots of places to walk but you can’t really get very far without a car.

My biggest fear is feeling isolated, feeling like I’m on my own without being able to go anywhere. Part of my recovery plan is getting outside. Seeing people, doing things, exercising, fresh air. Home is lovely but I think I’m someone who can get too comfortable. I sort of forget how much I love being outside.

But I’m also kind of excited. Arthur is developing such a little personality now, he’s interacting more and more. When Jord was at work before I really enjoyed (most of the time) being with Arthur on my own. It might sound a bit childish but I love it being me and him. He’s my partner in crime.

Of course, I love being with family, friends and of course I love it when Jord is around. But I just mean, I feel like me and Arthur have a wonderful bond and I think it’s because we spend so much time together. I never want to lose that. I’m scared if we don’t spend so much time together, we might.

It is hard work and some days I found myself not being able to put down a very clingy baby. But Arthur is definitely (touch wood) better at sleeping now in the day, most of the time, he self soothes. I will put him down for a nap when I can see he’s tired and he will fall asleep himself. It took us a long time to get there but we did. It’s so I can grab an hour to eat or have a quick shower.

Things like having a shower, having something to eat, at one point I could really achieve that on my own with Arthur. And it did affect my wellbeing. It sounds like something very small but when your tired and you haven’t managed to eat anything, and you still smell like you did last night, it kind of gets you down.

We have moved forward a lot. Now, I have energy because I can usually get a cheeky nap in when Arthur is napping. I get chance to make myself something to eat and I can make myself drinks throughout the day because Arthur will play on his playmate for a little while, he’ll sit in his chair whilst I eat. It makes all the difference.

Being able to not feel too tired is wonderful. To drink and eat and enjoy food, not try and wolf it down as quickly as possible. That means I have the energy to play, to sing and dance with Arthur. To make up stories and songs. To take a walk or even two.

We still have days when I’m unbelievably tired and Arthur seems to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed but, they are few and far between. Even though our little dude is teething, he’s still pretty happy, smiley, playful, he’s still awesome. And I can manage the bad days so much better now. It used to make me so anxious when Arthur would cry. Babies cry. It’s their way of communicating. But for me when Arthur would cry I used to thing there was something really wrong. It upset me, really got to me because I felt like we weren’t doing enough, we weren’t doing the right things.

I remember when Arthur was around 3 weeks old someone said to me; “don’t worry, you’ll get to know all his different cries”. I remember looking at her and nodding and smiling but thinking in my head; “what the heck, all the crying sounds the same?! How will I ever know???” But now I do. It took a while but I do know his different cries now. It makes life a lot easier.

So soon it will be back to just me and Arth in the daytime for most days. But I think we got this Arth. Plus there’s always chocolate to help me get through the tougher days haha.

Stay tuned for another one peeps.

Love, Kate. X

So, living with anxiety.

So here we are. My anxiety is so much better than of course it once was. I was anxious about a lot of things to do with Arthur. My biggest fear, now and then, is Sudden infant death (SIDS or Cot death) as it’s also known. It haunts me. When I first became ill I use to watch Arthur sleep. I would continuously check if he was still breathing, if he felt too hot or too cold.

I remember one time, we were doing skin to skin whilst feeding and he just kept moaning, coming on and off the boob and I didn’t know what was wrong, I was sure he was hungry. I didn’t realise he was too hot. I took him away from my body and realised he was all sweaty and clammy. The guilt I felt. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt. I become so scared of doing skin to skin after that, convinced he was too at risk of becoming too hot from my own body heat.

Another big fear of mine is Arthur being around smoke. However some of my closest family members smoke, when I’m around them, I am very anxious still, it’s constantly on my mind but I’ve learnt to control it, to live with it, to almost be at peace with it.

I remember when I was pregnant we were at a breastfeeding class and we were saying the pros and cons for breastfeeding (although it didn’t really matter because the midwives were all pro breastfeeding and it almost felt like there were convincing/ pressuring us, but that’s a whole another story). Anyway I said about how breastfeeding was a positive to help prevent SIDS, the midwife said, “Yes but something that we’ve learnt from research is the biggest risk is smoking. They need to be kept away from smoke.” I’ll never forget it. (Mum if your reading this I know why you do it, and I know you’ve tired to stop, I understand, this isn’t to make you feel guilty).

The point is, that’s what my anxiety is about. I remember little things that have been said to me and I become, almost obsessed with them. They go round and round my mind and I never forget them. SIDS is such an evil thing. I still stay up some nights and just keep checking Arthur is okay. It’s one of those things where we know how to minimise the risk, but we can never eliminate it completely. Sometimes it just happens. It makes me so angry that we live in world where this can just happen for no reason at all.

I don’t let Arthur stay in the car seat for longer than two hours. Sometimes he unfortunately has been in there a little bit longer, when it has been inevitable, if it’s very late at night for example and there’s nowhere really safe to stop. But I do become very anxious. I sit in the back with him and keep my eye on him. Because I know the guidelines say they shouldn’t stay in the car seat for longer than 2 hours. It’s bad for their back, more importantly it restricts their airway because of the position their in. I think about this all the time when in the car. But now, I know if it’s getting too much, I need to take a deep breath and look out the window. I can hold Arthur’s hand whilst he sleeps. I can listen to the radio and chat to Jord. I know how to distract myself.

I don’t think I will ever overcome my anxiety around SIDS. I have read the guidelines more than I can remember. I know them off by heart. Sometimes I feel like too much information can do more harm than good. But I know they have to provide us with this information. I used to be so scared about leaving Arthur even to go to the toilet. I would ask somebody to watch him whilst I peed…it would take around a minute for me to do this…a minute?! I just couldn’t let my guard down even for a second. I used to sit somewhere where I could constantly see him. He had to be in my view or I would panic.

Now I am certainly more comfortable and relaxed about Arthur sleeping (most of the time). Often I can hear him. I know when he’s too hot or too cold. He shows me, he tells me. I let him sleep next to me sometimes but I know myself and I trust myself that I wouldn’t fall asleep. Everything is a bit more calmer. A bit more, okay I know my son, I know he will tell me if something is wrong, and I know when something is wrong. Time to relax a little.

I’ve come a long way from where I was. Which shows anyone else can too. It’s still with me and I think it always will be. Even when Arthur isn’t an infant anymore I think I will find something else to feel anxious about. But there’s a big difference from then and now. I don’t stop it from letting me live. I don’t let it beat me. I don’t let anxiety overcome my happiness, my enjoyment of motherhood. I don’t let it win.

Stay tuned for the next one peeps.

Love, Kate. X