Life As a Mama of Two

Life is settling back into a new norm. For a while there, I’ll admit, the days felt pretty much full with the basics (nappies/feeding/settling/etc).

I always thought Cameron was an easy baby (my sister used to laugh because he really wasn’t, I just didn’t know any better) but now I know what it’s really like to have an easy bub. Lucy is beautiful and very relaxed. I think it’s mostly temperament but also partly how my mothering has changed.

Cameron still woke for a feed at one year old, whereas Lucy (from 3 weeks, she is now 6.5 weeks) is already – usually – only waking for one feed between 11pm and 5:30-6:00am (when Cam gets up and Mike goes to work). I know, I’m so lucky!

She’s also a good sleeper in the day and is only fussy when it comes to wind and she does get whingy if you don’t feed her right.that.second. She doesn’t bring up air well and is a strong feeder who gulps air a fair bit. But that is literally the only thing she struggles with, she is a natural breastfeeder (attached herself right after birth!) and is gaining weight perfectly.

She also likes the car (Cam used to scream so loud and high pitched and made it so hard to go anywhere!) She will sleep through noise too and is happy to be passed around for cuddles. She is such a little sweetheart and I just can’t wait to get to know her.

Lulu is already growing so fast! She smiled for the first time a couple of days ago and she is starting to focus her eyes and attention so much more. She is vocalising more too. She is very strong and has amazing neck control (has since birth, just like Cameron) but Lucy is less keen on tummy time (Cam loved it, whereas Lucy is either indifferent or mildly annoyed by it! hah).

Cameron is 28 months old and he is really thriving as a big brother. Sure, we have our moments, but all-in-all he is doing great. He loves to help with Lucy and he is at that awesome age where he is gaining independence in all areas and is keen to learn about everything.

Prior to having Lucy I really feared how it could impact mine and Cameron’s bond and relationship. But really, nothing has changed. Lucy has fitted almost effortlessly into our lives and makes it even better, even more. I’m so thankful for my babies and the bond that I have with them both.

Cam is really growing within himself. I see his confidence and independence developing. He is eating better and has finished teething. He is very chatty and his pronounciation is slowly improving. He comes out with the funniest things and is very inquisitive. He amazes me with how great he is at so many things and how he really is just a little person with such a unique and formed personality.

He is still very keen on art, reading, all sorts of matching/sorting activities and practical life activities. We are still doing tot school activities. I need to start taking more pics of our tot school-esque adventures because I really enjoy it but haven’t been ‘recording’ it. I’m observing Cameron more just in the past few days and hoping to get back into the swing of things in ways that I know will benefit him.

One thing that I’m stumped with is toilet learning. Cameron has been ready to use the toilet in every way (other than emotionally, it seems) for a long time. But there has always been something delaying it (teething, sickness, me being heavily pregnant, a newborn, etc etc) but now I feel like I’ve missed it with timing and it’s going to be hard. Cam knows when he needs to go, will go to the toilet and sit on it but flat out refuses to actually go, despite many ‘tactics’. He loves to use toilet paper, flush and wash his hands but he tells me he would rather poo and wee in his nappy. He also doesn’t seem discouraged by wetting underwear or the floor, he just helps me clean it up and moves on. Any advice?

When I was struggling with mental health, I found it so hard to accept that children do what they do when and how they want to (with respect to eating, learning, social interaction, etc etc). It’s not that I didn’t realise that was the case, or wanted him to be perfect or anything.. but it was an inward battle where I didn’t want Cammy to find things hard. But now I see that you can provide all the opportunities; but it’s up to the child as to how they respond. & why would you want you child to find everything easy? What’s life without failures and mistakes?

Anyway, just a small update. I am hoping to type up my birth story (a video blog version can be found on my Youtube channel). Thank you for your lovely comments/emails/subscriptions. It means so much to me. Hopefully I will get more into blogging and vlogging now that things are settled and we are all doing well. Let me know if you have any questions! ‚̧

Mental Health

For the first time in my life I have the proper treatment for my mental health. It is utterly amazing what medication, and the right help from professionals can do. I have been medicated in the past and/or seen a psychologist and done tests, etc., but never have I felt [consistently] like this.

[side note: one of my pet peeves is when people ask me what happened to make me depressed or anxious… or tell me to be thankful for what I have… I know that sometimes, depression and/or anxiety are triggered by external events but in my case, it was/is primarily a chemical imbalance coupled with my reaction to situations, because of my nature. I know it is just ignorance but I wish that mental illness wasn’t so taboo so the general public could be more educated. SO MANY people deal with a mental illness of some kind in their lifetime. It would be so awesome if they didn’t feel wrong or alone while suffering]

Part of me can’t help but feel ripped off for the past however long of my life where I’ve struggled and struggled with depression and anxiety. It’s like a veil has been lifted from my face and I’m shocked into the realisation that this is how most other people feel all the time. Sure, I’ve had periods of my life without depressive episodes or major anxiety… but in the past month (since my psychiatric evaluation, mental health plan and consequent med dose increase) it as though I’m finally seeing in colour. Everything is clearer.

But you know what? Aside from happiness, contentment and feeling so damn greatful… the strongest emotion I’m feeling is PRIDE. Because now I can see that I coped so freaking well with that heavy veil of negativity clouding my thoughts. I am phenomenally strong. Depression, especially, is like walking through life in heavy layers of cold, soaking wet clothing with rain belting down on you – but everyone else sees a dry, warm version of you.

Depression robs you of basic motivation. Not in a ‘oh, I can’t be bothered right now’ kind of way… but in a deep-set, heavy, burdensome way that hits you out of no where. Often I would wake up with no will to do anything, I felt utterly hopeless – but I DID. Even though nothing seemed worth it. I kept going. I was a fucking brilliant mama considering the inner struggle I fought most days.

Anxiety weakens you. So alongside all of the above, I found myself doubting every action that I did make. At it’s worst I felt immobilised by fear. Anxiety attacks sure can be traumatic. Despite being mental illnesses, I went so much physically. The scariest part of anxiety attacks and suicidal ideation for me was that I partially dissociated anytime that things got too heavy.

My mind was so cruel to me. I was my own worst enemy. Every doubt and fear was fleshed out in my mind and I turned it in on myself. There was so much self-loathing.. so much pressure and expectations from myself. I think to those who had no idea, I came across as negative and self-centered. However, these thoughts are uncontrollable. Without help, it’s simply a downward spiral.

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday when I was talking about the future with Mike. I said to him “It’s so strange, since Lucy’s birth I have this overwhelming desire to make our dreams a reality.” I have always been determined, even when depressed, so it didn’t even occur to me that my drive was altered. But here I am with what feels like an injection of ambition and strength. & again, that makes me proud, to think that despite all the chemicals in my brain robbing me of my motivation and ability to positively look forward to the future; I sure fought through it.

It is funny adjusting to not dealing with the symptoms of severe depression or generalised anxiety disorder. Who knows what the future holds, but hopefully this will be my new normal. Depression and anxiety are so familiar to me. Particularly in the past 4 years. I’m still working through some of my internal dialogue and those automatic thoughts that have been my ‘go to’ when things get hard in my life. I feel like I have got to get to fully know this ‘new’ Rachel.

I don’t like what it took for me to truly actively seek help and help myself (I may talk about it in the future). But I’m so proud that I did. I’m so proud and thankful for the people in my life who have helped me through this (especially my husband and sister). Nothing I could do could repay them.

Anyway, I’m writing this quickly to share where I am at… and hopefully to inspire others to actively seek help if they are in that dark place. Things CAN be better. Believe me, I never thought so until proven otherwise. I always said that ‘it’ (depression and/or anxiety) was “just how I am”. & you are so much stronger than you think.

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OH, & I’m 24 today! Happy birthday to me ūüôā Waking up to little Lucy and Cammy cuddles was the best birthday pressie ever!

Why I won’t be blogging until further notice

Trigger warning: talk of depression, anxiety disorders & suicidal ideation/suicide.

I’m usually one for reaching out and talking about the difficult topics.

But in the past 6 or so months, I have been struggling (in varying degrees) with so much mentally.

But talking about this is so much harder now… Previously I had never been¬†in that place.. Where I couldn’t bring myself to care and I was terrified of myself & my thoughts.

Now, I am too vulnerable. Anything but support is potentially damaging.. And putting yourself out there on the Internet pretty much guarantees a variety of views/beliefs.

I know the stigma too well. Even in my real life I’m surrounded by people who don’t take mental illness seriously, let alone my mental health. I know that so many people do not understand or accept mental illness and/or generalise and have a warped view of it.. not to mention the hurtful comments about medication and therapy.

I’m glad though, because this means they haven’t felt like I have.

However, it hurts. It pains me to hear people talk about depression and/or anxiety like it isn’t a serious issue.. Or like it can be overcome with optimism.

I know how blessed I am, I don’t take anything for granted, I know that I have so much to look forward to. I know that there are great qualities about me. It’s just not that simple.

At the same time, I get it.. Because I distinctly remember not-too-long-ago thinking that I could use my intelligence and sheer¬†will to change the way I felt… to stop the seemingly never-ending stream of self-hate¬†or put an end to an anxiety attack. I’m only now coming to terms with my mental illness and what it means.

It is true that that there are tools to help cope with how you react to situations.. but there are so many other factors in play. Mental illness¬†is (often) chemical and it‚Äôs nobody‚Äôs fault, and it‚Äôs not a result of not being able to talk yourself out of slipping into thought patterns. Believe me, I’m determined, clever and strong.. if that were possible, I would have done so by now.

Basically, what I’m saying is that I won’t be blogging because I’m struggling to share my thoughts.. not just with strangers on the web but with people in my life.. especially those who don’t really know me.

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P.S. Also, I best let you know that I’ve increased¬†the help and support that I can¬†and am working hard with my psych as well as my healthcare team to do the best that I can to get through this, particularly when my hormones are so high. I will be ok, I know that.

2012!

It seems I took a bit of a break from blogging over the festive season! I can’t believe we are 11 days into 2012 already!

Christmas & Cameron’s 2nd birthday both were amazing and we were left with full bellies and a serious¬†toy overload. I have been trying to re-organise his playroom but it looks as though we will have to take up some space in our spare room for his massive Thomas the Tank Engine collection!

I can’t believe my son is 2! Well, I can, if I look at him and how much of a little boy he is and how far he has come since he was born.

I’m 28.5 weeks pregnant with our daughter and all is going well. I have my first psychologist appointment tomorrow, alongside another doctor appointment. My medication has been increased slightly after several depressive episodes. It feels strange to be battling depression more than anxiety. I have all that I want and yet my mind is my own worst enemy!

Part of Cam’s birthday present from Mike and I was meeting Thomas the Tank engine and friends – at our local railway museum!¬†There was a fun bumpy mini train (on wheels) ride, songs and stories from the Fat Controller, he¬†got to go inside Thomas (and Donald – a new fave) and see various other trains from the books/show. We have been again since and plan to a couple more times before the Thomas set up finishes at the end of the month.

The museum itself is full of awesome, interactive, educational fun with train simulations, science experiments, various themes throughout the year, a playground, a huge model train set up (big with my hubby who is working on his own model train set!), a cinema and tonnes of big trains and information. We got an annual pass – Mike is really looking forward to their annual model train expo later in the year!

We were lucky enough to have a photoshoot with a friend who is getting into photography and is really talented. It was such a lovely shoot and the images are amazing! I’ll¬†do a separate post with a slideshow of some of the images! My belly bump sure is growing!

We sent off our cultural exchange packages just after Christmas and we received our first package the other day! And from non-other than Rachael herself from Little Red Farm (who set up the cultural exchange and has a post about the contents of her parcels here)

I honestly wasn’t too sure about Cameron’s interest level on the packages at this age but I was pleasantly surprised! I should have known, Cam loves flags, money and little novelty items. He immediately loved the flag and we talked to him about it coming from somewhere far away from a little boy who is two like him (he’s very facinated about being ‘two’).

His favourite things were the soccer items and the chocolate money. Now he sees the real coins and asks for chocolate ūüėõ I loved the idea of making the postbox and we will soon. All of the information was so detailed and great to read! I’m so glad we participated in the exchange and hope that the recipients of our package enjoy their parcels!

Racheous

Check this out

Click HERE for a hilarious (& highly relatable) post about depression from one of my favourite bloggers!

My fave quote? –¬†“But trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. ¬†A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn’t going to work.”

Perinatal mood disorders

The statistics really suck. The risk of recurrence of antenatal and/or postnatal anxiety and depression is really high.

Hardly reassurring.

I had my first anxiety attack (since the early days with Cam) the other night. I had almost forgotten that unshakeable fear.

Everyone says “it’ll be different this time” and attempt to dismiss any fears that I have. Which pisses me off, quite frankly.

It may be different… but how different really? Having a newborn with a toddler will be freaking hard to begin with. All the fears (irrational or otherwise) that I had with Cameron have just as much of an effect on me now as they did then.

If people do speak of the possibility of me dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, depression and what not again… they always say “but you will know where to look for help”

I am well aware of that. So what?

When I’m mid-anxiety-attack, where I feel like I’m dying – literally, where it feels like there is poison pumping through my veins and I want to crawl out of my skin… where I think of doing the unimaginable just to escape it and nothing that I do or tell myself can change that urgent, terrifying feeling that takes over me… then what?

I should not have listened to my GP (who told me to wean abruptly off my Zoloft) & dismissed my history. I really need to go & get specialist help. Sigh.

Day of Hope – August 19th

Tomorrow is a Day of HOPE ‚̧ August 19th is about honouring & remembering the lives of babies that could not stay with us.

Speaking out about the death of babies (whether it is through pregnancy, infant or even child loss) is uncomfortable, sensitive & so individual – like grief itself. But in sharing can bring healing and awareness.

For people around those who have had a loss, they can be reminded to be gentle and to acknowledge our losses as something significant.

Stunning tribute to my Ollie
(with thanks to Carly – ‘To Write Their Names In The Sand’)

This new pregnancy has several similarities to my first pregnancy with Oliver. I’m due in the same month, so many dates collide in sometimes terrifying ways. Exactly three years ago his little heart was beating away and sharing my blood.

So tomorrow I remember. I remember the little soul who paved the way for me to grow into the mother that I am today. The little soul who taught me so much in so little time. Who I will never stop remembering.

I miss you.

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For more information, see Carly Marie’s amazing website ‘Project Heal’ which provides so much for so many.

Beyond Struggling

I wasn’t going to share this but I figured I share everything else so why not.

My doctor has told me to abruptly wean off my medication for my anxiety disorder. I won’t go into the why, but I have been taking 50 mg of Zoloft (sertraline) for 18 months and have weaned of SNRIs and SSRIs in the past… it’s never good.

I’m one of the unlucky people who gets several of the symptoms of SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome.

Browsing the internet, I found this list of the possible side-effects that you can get from withdrawal. I have put the symptoms that I am getting in bold.

Neurologic symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty walking

Somatic (bodily) complaints include:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia

Less common difficulties:

  • Shock-like sensations
  • Parasthesia (skin crawling, burning or prickling)
  • Visual disturbances (blurred)
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills

Non-specific mental symptoms:

  • Shock-like sensations
  • Agitation
  • Impaired concentration
  • Vivid dreams
  • Depersonalization – sense of unreality and loss of self
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts

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Lucky me, right?

I won’t lie, I’m struggling. I can’t drive because of the shocks, vertigo, fatigue¬†and lack of concentration. I can’t be the kind of mum I usually am.

I just can’t wait for it to be over.

Luckily, I am not anxious or panicky so I really feel like this is a good thing in the long run. & I know it won’t last too long, but at this point it feels like every minute longer is too much, you know?

I took my last tablet a week ago and I could be in for another week or more of this. It is phenomenal what one pill can do to your body. Sometimes I feel like an illicit-drug addict, jittery and on-edge.

I know it will be worth it in the end. But I want to break down and give up sometimes.¬†I know I’m doing what I have to, and that I am just being a good Mum, but sometimes I wish that things just were simple.

Don’t we all, I guess.

Flat

There are days where I just can’t keep up with my own expectations regarding motherhood. Days (like today) where I wake up and feel flat.

I don’t want to read the “ah-pool booh” (alphabet book with an apple on the cover) again. Or I don’t feel like putting up with the giggling-and-running-around when I’m attempting to¬†dress him.

Or I can’t be bothered making anything past a hastly thrown together sandwhich for lunch (organic peanut butter & jam on wholegrain bread if you were wondering… not that the ‘organic’ bit matters that much when he decided to smother the majority of it through his hair, on himself, over his high chair and throw the rest on the ground).

It is days like these where the whole sense of rhythm and harmony is thrown aside. Very little in the way of productivity or creativity has occurred.

This is when¬†I wish my husband didn’t play soccer, so that his Tuesday evenings were free to take over while I relax for no good reason other than I want to.

I don’t have several children, Cameron is just your¬†average young toddler, I’m not pregnant, I had a full nights sleep (poor Cam on the other hand was crying for quite some of the evening last night with teething pain and didn’t fully get to sleep until 8:30PM – his usual bedtime is 7) and how flat I’m feeling is a far cry from the difficulties I’ve fought through in the past.

Yet, here I am, amusing my toddler with an ice-cream and some toys so that I can type up a blog about my shortfalls as a mother. Sigh.

I’m very blessed to be a stay at home mum and mostly I love it. It’s just that every once and a while I’d like to just do what I want.

I guess what I can take from days like today is that they are few and far between, and that they are part of life. Cameron has to know that I’m not perfect and that sometimes I won’t be as engaging or mindful.

Please tell me someone can relate! Hopefully tomorrow (or even the rest of this afternoon!?) I can shake that flat feeling.

Smile

I’m not doing well mentally lately. I won’t go into it more than that. I’m dealing with it.

But there has been plenty around me to make me smile.

Mother’s Day was beautiful with a buffet breakfast with my Mum, hubby, bubby,¬†sister, brother-in-law, nephew & niece by the lakes. Mike Cammy spoilt me with a butterfly (my favourite) crystal necklace, a butterfly¬†crystal for my car & an owl (my other favourite) candle &¬†tea cup. Cameron did a mighty fine drawing for me too.

After the buffet breaky we had a play at what is now known “The Awesome Park” (named by Jayka) in a neighbouring suburb where we bumped into some lovely friends and we all had a great time.

This sign made me giggle today.

The generous Kylie from How We Montessori¬†did a giveaway for some of her Montessori and Waldorf books and I snagged a couple of Montessori ones (In a Montessori Home¬†by Sarah Moudry & Montessori Play and Learn¬†by Lesley Britton). Both books are great! I’ve already finished In a Montessori Home and I’m part way through the other. Thank you so much Kylie!

I’ve also been doing some retail therapy over the past few weeks.

Waldorf Doll by Fuzzy Amigo. Hats by Smallish Studio. Wooden Cave Toys by Sunflower Radiant Love. & Pinecone Gnome by Rumpelfeltskin.

So much loveliness!