Continually Learning

I woke this morning with a blocked nose, sore sinuses, aching ears and a headache.

The great thing is that I’ve given myself a break as a result and spent the day doing quiet activities with Cameron while I read and eat good fresh foods.

Caught Cam’s ‘hard work’ in action.
Here he’s pushing crystals into scented playclay.

Easter took it’s toll in the chocolatey form and my body isn’t happy about it.

The breastfeeding weaning was short lived. The novelty & newness wore off for Cameron and he started feeding regularly overnight instead. He sobbed & pleaded and I realised that we both just aren’t ready.

Still, a major change has occurred which is that he is no longer demand fed. & he can feed as little as 1-2 feeds a day (usually 3 though).

So who knows when we will wean or be fertile for that matter. But I’m OK with that.

It will be how it is meant to be..

Weaning

Only a few months ago I couldn’t even contemplate not breastfeeding. And now… we are gently helping Cameron wean. I’m starting to refuse, distract and offer alternatives.

It’s still hard sometimes, for me, to lose that part of our relationship. But it’s what I believe I have to do if I want our family to grow. I’m still yet to have my first post-partum period and Cameron is almost 16 months old! I want my cycles back, I want to be fertile and my God I want a sibling for him!

The ache is back and it’s different and beautiful. I so desperately want to be pregnant again and to see our family expand. I want a baby brother or sister for Cameron (he now points to babies when we are out and about and says “bubby!” and is so gentle and sweet with new bubs!!!)

Cameron is now excited when he sees cows milk and asks for his sippy. He still asks for boobah several times a day but he’s content if I say “you want boobah? OK, later” or “would you like milk from the fridge in a sippy instead?” or “do you want a snack?” or even “not now”.

It’s easier than I thought it would be. & now Cameron will (sometimes) go to sleep without me (Mike putting him to sleep) and without boobah. Which is a big deal to us.

It’s such a relief and even though I loved our bedtime story, cuddles and boobah this newness is pretty lovely too. Cameron will say “nigh nigh” to me and gives me several kisses before blowing kisses and going with his Daddy.

I’ve always been somewhat of an attachment parent – without setting out to be if that makes sense. We just went along with what felt right for us and before I knew it we were co-sleeping, baby-wearing, breastfeeding. & while I adore it all, I also want Cameron to learn to feel secure enough to do things without me and to learn different methods of comfort.

It’s hard being the only thing that he associates with comfort, sleep & security. Of course, I’ll always be there for comfort him and make him feel secure and confident… but this is a great step forwards.

One day this week he only had one feed. However, he’s gone back to more frequent nursing yesterday and today. We are hoping to get him down to two feeds a day max and helping him to sleep without nursing. It’ll be a process.

I go back and forth on how I feel about it. I’ve been surprised at how it has made me upset. I go from feeling relieved at the progress to protective of our nursing relationship. It is mostly difficult because I wouldn’t be encouraging weaning if it weren’t for the fertility factor. I would happily nurse until he was 2 years old.

However, here is to more progress! Wish us luck!

Racheous <3

Survivor

The past week I have found myself stalked by the familiar fog of anxiety and depression. It was lingering around me. The niggling negativity. The numbness. The fear.

But it doesn’t realise how strong I am now.

Although I am medicated for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (including anxiety attacks and Post-partum Depression which followed), I no longer see a psychologist and I manage with lifestyle.. I see myself as a survivor and has someone who has recovered.

I know I will probably have more times like these that remind me of The Darker Times but I hope with my next babies I can enjoy the newborn stage and beyond.

A great easy to understand list of The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (In Plain Mama English) can be found HERE. I am so proud of how far I have come since a time where I pretty much experienced EVERYTHING on that list.

It is hard, I think, from an outsiders perspective, to comprehend mental illness in many circumstances. People can, without realising or saying anything, have a Glint of Judgment (click for great blog post that explains how it feels!). So many people have more hardships in life.

There are things about my experiences with peri-natal mood disorders that I haven’t shared… things I’m not sure how to express and things I have only remembered as time has gone on.

But, each time I see people finding my blog by searching things like “pnd and anxiety attacks”, ”will i lose my baby if i have anxiety” (and the fact that “postpartum insomnia” & “postpartum anxiety” are the #3 and #5 searched terms that lead people to my blog), I remember that it’s important to keep talking and to keep inspiring mamas and letting them know that this is treatable, temporary and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

THAT Post

So… this post has sat in my drafts for quite a while. Partly because it’s hard to write, partly because it is hard to share and partly because it has taken me until only recently to be 100% OK with ‘the past’.

*******************************************************************

Last year began with a newborn baby who changed my world. The first month or so of his life are a blur of elation and concentrated fear. It sounds dramatic… but that is what it was.

Sleep woman..

I was in such a dark place with postpartum anxiety attacks and depression that now my life is just so freaking perfect comparatively that I can almost not believe it!

It is only now that I look at a newborn and feel warm and fuzzy and… clucky. For a long while there, seeing a newborn made me flash back in my mind to the calls to ambulances, poison-filled-veins and thoughts of driving my car off the road. Even though I was no where near that mental-space anymore. It took me a long time to truly get past the shock of it all.

Starting from such a difficult place in motherhood meant that I obviously grew a lot and learnt even more. As much as I hate to remember the depths of the negative emotions I felt at first; I know that they play a huge part in how amazingly beautiful motherhood is now and has been for most of my journey as Cam’s Mummy.

I remember thinking that I could never be the Mum I want/ed to be and that there was some kind of ‘right’ way to raise my son (and that I wasn’t doing it!). I remember loathing myself. I mean truly hating who I was.

I remember the envy that I would feel when I saw seemingly ‘normal’ Mum’s who had newborns and were themselves. But I soon realised that it is OK and that there are other Mum’s out there (especially through places like Postpartum Progress and #PPDChat on Twitter) like me who truly ‘get it’.

I, only NOW, consider myself a postpartum depression survivor as my PPD relapses occurred in my recovery in the 8th month of Cammy’s life.

Recovery was HARD guys. With plenty of two-steps-forward-one-step-back moments where I’d wake up and not want to face the day… where I’d literally fight my thoughts which were saying “I am a shit Mum” or “I am making mistake/s” or, the worst “I don’t want to be here anymore” as well as the fear of returning to The Darkness.

I still have residual feelings of self-blame for the negativity that is scattered through all the joyful memories… and I still hold some hurt regarding those in my life who did not understand or made things harder. But that too is normal.

*******************************************************************

I now have a life without anxiety attacks that is not blackened by PND. EVERY Mumma deserves this and will get there too.

Now, when I see the hospital that I gave birth in (and returned to twice with anxiety attacks and insomnia) I get this beautiful pang of want and remember all the appointments, the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar labour, the first feed and smelling his newborn smell.

I still remember all the difficult things but I know that I’ve worked through a lot of the emotions and I know now what to expect, where to turn to for help and that I can handle anything.

*******************************************************************

I really believe that the general public need awareness of postpartum mood disorders (depression, anxiety, OCD, etc). Even as an intelligent young woman who had suffered from anxiety and depression in the past had stereotypical views.

There are too many stereotypes and stigmas attached to mental illnesses, treatments (i.e. ‘happy pills’) and all I wish for sufferers out there is for more support and empathy.

I read amazing, inspiring women who put it ALL out there – even when it is still happening and I am just in awe.

I really admire those women out there who help other PND sufferers because I could barely take care of myself mentally or physically back when I was struggling. All I could do was hate myself, feel guilty, shame myself, take care of my son and wish I felt differently! There was no way I was going to be of any help to anyone.

*******************************************************************

So, if you are out there reading this (and I know you are because I see the amount of Mummy’s finding my blog by searching things such as “want to off myself” or “postnatal depression story” and I just want to hug you and say “I get it, you will get through this“) then email me or follow the links in this post to resources such as Postpartum Progress and feel the relief as you realise that you are normal and this is TEMPORARY and TREATABLE.

If you are Australian, like myself, the Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA) helpline – 1300 726 306 – offers support and advice to Australians.  They have recently extended their hours and are open from 9am to 7pm (AEST).   Do not hesitate to reach out for help and call the line.  They are there to support you.

Running On Empty

I need a serious re-fuel. I’m running on empty. It sounds pretty dramatic but.. I’m spent. Today the little things just got on my nerves a little more than usual.

Cameron woke up at 5:30 insisting it was playtime. He then pooped while I was attempting to eat breakfast. Nice. The day was muggy, humid and I felt sticky and blah. Cam just whinged most of the day and every whinge wore on my patience that bit more. “That’s enough bubby” was said.. as was “Mummy needs a cup of tea and some quiet time”.

I fumbled throughout the day attempting to feel like my normal self. I tried to pretend I wasn’t over it while my minds eye wandered to a pre-baby self drinking cocktails in a pool in a bikini with no restrictions and responsibilities.

It is all okay though. There are days like this. Hell, there are moments like this in most days during motherhood. That’s life and I’ll re-fuel and be back to my usual self in no time.

But for now… I’m spent. & I’ll allow myself the mini pity party while I wait for Cameron to sleep and *fingers crossed* he stays down. Maybe I’ll do some yoga, have a long shower and paint my toe nails??… Or maybe I’ll just sleep too.

Update On Me

Being a Mum has taught me a lot about myself. This journey of motherhood that has really only just begun has amplified, adjusted and completely changed aspects of what makes me, me.

It’s pretty expected with such a monumental shift in priorities and life but it has surprised me just how much motherhood has highlighted my flaws and strengths to myself.

I never knew how teaching was so instinctive to me. I never realised how much I adored showing someone the world and all the magic and mayhem. From the routine ‘hum’ of our mornings and evenings to the busy ‘rustle’ of the in-between… I love how my life has transformed and this new role.

I have always been a worrier and have constantly fought this label but motherhood has taught me to embrace it. I frequently find myself saying “I worry, as I do, about…” as I now value how I think things through.

I now see my anxiety as part of what makes me different and important and how I function effectively – rather than the opposite! I think the biggest shift is my reaction to the worry… I now accept it as something that I will think about but can chose to react differently.

I’ve always been quick to judge myself and motherhood is no different. (particularly when I was in the thick of my anxiety attacks aftermath with postnatal depression) But post-PND I have come to realise that if I’m not happy with something that I’m doing/saying/thinking as a Mum; I change it. Or if I’m anxious about some choice, I can validate my worth and decisions.

In that sense, I’m so much stronger than I ever thought. & I look back at what I went through at my darkest points with anxiety attacks and depressive episodes and I now see strength and I’m proud.

Just recently I realised that I was not only a postnatal mental-illness survivor but that I’d gone that step further… I am now in a place I really didn’t feel I could get to… As I drove past the hospital I gave birth to Cameron in I felt that familiar warm pang of want… I’m not blind to all the less-than-great things about pregnancy/birth/motherhood and I still have fears… but I want to do it again.

& that… is pretty awesome. Up until now I’ve said that I want to have more children (we’ve always wanted 3 or 4) but the reality of it scared me more than I admitted. Now I’m in such a great place. Still, it’ll be a fair while (at least half a year or so) until we’ll even consider it – this pre-toddler stage is too great and we want a 2 year age gap… but hey, I’m here in this positive place and it is great.

Also, I’ve lost 5.5 kilos! Yep, Operation Fatty Boomsticks Sexy Mumma is coming along!

I hope you all don’t mind the Racheous update! I’ll update with

Anxiety

I can see what searches lead people to this blog. Nifty huh?

Well I’ve noted lately that a fair amount of the searches are anxiety related (particularly post-natal anxiety) and I just wanted to say this…

I have been there. You will get through this. No truly, you will. I remember thinking I would be stuck feeling that way… like I it was not POSSIBLE to not feel scared about everything surrounding my son. I felt like I was stuck behind a mirrored window… where I could witness the world but the world couldn’t see how I felt – or truly help me.

But you can get help. I know that feeling all too well… the one you are afraid of now. I know how it feels to seem like your world is out of control. How lost you can feel.

I have experienced the anxiety attacks.

I remember feeling alien… stupid… irrational… terrified… alone… insane.

Reach out. Do not fear admiting how scared you are. Do not fear admiting those deep-down-thoughts that break you down. You’re not a bad person for feeling this way… In fact the very fact that you do worry makes you a good mum.

I remember searching the exact terms you are… typing them into google through fear… desperately searching for answers. I remember typing in my symptoms (insomnia, tingling in limbs, heart palpatations, feeling constantly on edge, extreme fear and protectiveness of my son, imagining he was not breathing, difficulty breathing, etc). I remember writing down an exhaustive list and going to my doctor with it in my shaking hand. That was the best decision I made.

I don’t even remember how I got myself dressed… if I did. I remember showering because it was the only thing that made me feel human again. I remember shovelling down food and how it tasted weird and how my tongue felt wrong… everything was different and I was scared.

I still contend with anxiety – socially, with regards to driving and in general day-to-day activities including sleep at times. But I’m a world away from those first few weeks of my baby boys life… and you will be too.

Email me anytime by the way: racheous@live.com.au

Mind If I Just Go Off Myself?

That got your attention.

You know I’m not doing great if I’m not blogging… I say I’m busy but I’ll almost always make the time even if that is the case.

I haven’t wrote anything because I don’t know how to share how I’m feeling authentically and without feeling contradictory.

I’ve meant to write a post like this but it took a friend doing something similar for me to realise that it needed to be done.

So here I go.

Usually I would write about how awesome it was to watch Cameron enjoy solids for the first time today… how his little face lit up and he hoovered the whole lot. Usually I would write about my latest obsession with Montessori activities and how fun it has been researching them and thinking of when Cam is older and more independent. Or I would type up a cutesy blog about how Cam is getting more mobile and giggly and other such positive and very true things.

But instead I’m going to tell you about how I walked away from my Mum’s group this evening and cried in the car. I sobbed… big heavy fat tears and my shoulders heaved. How I wished that I wasn’t unfit and embarrassed so I could join them tomorrow morning at the HOT (healthy over time) mums bootcamp and how I wished I could be honest and say “No, I’m not OK… I feel like I’m forever going to be this self-critical and self-loathing person who is going to find things to define me and compensate for an apparent lack of whatever-I-feel-I’m-missing-at-the-time”

I’ll somewhat unwillingly tell you of how I hardly left the room over the weekend and got Mike to help me with Cameron because I really just didn’t want to face this reality where I feel I’m such a failure.

It’s hard because – when it comes to me (nothing or nobody else) – I have this whole issue with success and failure… as if life is black and white like that… as if I can neatly place myself in one or the either and there is no good-enough. Like I have my own personal rule book which I don’t even have my hands on. It’s ridiculous. It’s impossible.

I hate the idea that my children could learn this ideal off me.

It was easier writing about having postpartum anxiety and depression when Cameron was newborn. Now that it has been almost half a year I feel like I’m not allowed that badge anymore… like I’m a fraud…

See, the thing is, I have a beautiful life… honestly and truly… a great husband, lovely relationship, decent finances, a gorgeous happy baby boy obviously, sweet pets and a nice home (even if we don’t own it). From the depths of my heart I truly love those elements of my life.

What I struggle with… in all honesty… is me. I don’t like myself – physically or emotionally. I struggle to feel as though anyone would like my company. I hate how I look and feel physically. I compete with social anxiety and feel awkward.

I seem to always be unintentionally offending people. & the people I expect to understand don’t seem to. I get so self-absorbed… I don’t mean to.

I say all of this but it’s clearly only some of the time that I feel this. I’m still living and loving my life but there are these underlying… niggling feelings of self-hate and this battle of self-esteem that can get me down. I’m still caring for Cam, loving motherhood, spending time with my mums group, taking Cam swimming, going out walking, going shopping, spending great times with Mike and enjoying TV that I like… etc

But as this is all happening I am contending with feeling unworthy, fat, like a bad Mum, resentful, misunderstood, stupid, ugly and useless.

Almost every day I struggle with the idea that I’m not any of these things… and I have to fight that negativity and chose to not do what the depressive side of me wants.

It’s hard for me to write this blog because I feel as though it’s allowing depression/anxiety to define me… but it’s only a tiny part of what makes me, me. That’s not to say that it’s not hard or important… but just that I hate to think people would consider me as negative… or that I don’t appreciate all that I have. If it were a choice – I clearly wouldn’t chose to feel this way… But I do.

So there you go. Hopefully I’ll get back into blogging…

Not the best 100th post. Sorry.