Being a Daddy’s girl, raising a Daddy’s girl.

I’ve always wanted to write about my Dad but I just didn’t know how.

It isn’t necessarily a topic that applies to the masses or is of interest to many, but it is incredibly important to me.

By not writing about my relationship with my Dad, especially now I am a parent myself, I felt like something was missing, like I had something I need to write down and get out, but I just didn’t know where to start.

I lost my Dad when I was 22 years old.

I have older parents; it comes when you’re the youngest of four siblings with fairly-large age gaps. My Dad had never been in perfect health but what I had feared for most of my teenage years, to lose my Dad, unfortunately came to pass just when I didn’t expect it.

I won’t go into the details of what happened, especially as it isn’t just my story and I have to protect the privacy of my family but I wanted to talk about what life is like as a Daddy’s girl without a Dad and the emotions I feel watching my daughter develop those same lifelong bonds with Ryan.

I remember standing at the podium in front of everyone at my Dad’s funeral, reading 1/5th of the eulogy, wearing an outfit I’ll never be able to get rid of but knowing I’ll never be able to wear it again either…

I hardly even know what I said… it was a piece of writing I wish I’d kept but couldn’t.

I do remember saying, “now I’m a Daddy’s girl without a Dad”.

I didn’t even know what that would mean until I lived it but I honestly didn’t imagine that my overwhelming emotion would be anger.

Anger at the situation, anger at the world.

How could this have happened?

Why was my Dad taken from us?

We all grieve in different ways and I’m not exactly proud of my process (not that pride should even come into it) but because I became a person who regularly pushed people away.

After a few years consumed as I was, I believed that I was meant to be alone.

How could anyone become my partner, to have that lifelong relationship that my parents showed me was possible when that person would never meet my Dad?

How could I get married when my Dad would never walk me down the aisle?

How could I have children who would never meet their Grandad?

I felt this way for years.

Until I met Ryan.

When I met Ryan it was the first person in years who I felt was there to listen, to support me, someone who was wholly on my side, and I on his.

Once I met Ryan I felt like the anger lifted and I genuinely felt like grieving was a process rather than my own personal rain cloud (like Eeyore and just as cute).

I will always miss my Dad. I cannot talk or write about him and not cry.

Sometimes, some days it hits me like an unexpected wave and I sob uncontrollably… but I no longer do this alone.

This was the start of the next phase of my life, a life I never thought I’d have.

When I found out we were pregnant it was 9 months of coming to terms with the fact that my baby would have one Grandad but that she was lucky to have one.

When Isabelle arrived, sometimes I got a lump in my throat thinking she would only ever know one Grandad but knowing that I would tell her stories of my Dad forever gave me comfort.

I would cradle her in my arms, in the middle of the night, alone in the darkness, the silence penetrated only by my whispers as I rocked her back and forth, telling her how much her Grandad would love her and he was looking down on both of us, smiling.

Watching Ryan and Isabelle’s bond grow is bittersweet.

Knowing the strength of a daughter’s love for her Daddy, the connection they are building everyday; sometimes I just watch them and smile, sometimes I cry, because I can see how much Isabelle loves her Dad and I am overwhelmed with the thought that my daughter has that connection with her Daddy, the man I chose, and nothing can ever take that from her.

Sometimes I feel jealous.

As a Mum to a Daddy’s girl you spend a lot of time grateful for their connection and thankful for the time and effort Ryan spends being an amazing Dad.

You spend other times jealous that whilst you have an amazing relationship with your baby girl, you will never have that bond that they share.

Sometimes a knot of jealousy in my stomach that I can no longer have that relationship with my Dad.

Some may think that is totally ridiculous but it is honest.

9 months of pregnancy, labour, birth, breastfeeding, sleep deprived nights etc. and all the Mum guilt that comes with that and then your toddler calls out for “Daddy!” in the night.

Relieved that I can stay in bed… heart broken just a tiny bit.

But I understand, probably more definitely than anything else that I know, the power of that love between a daughter and her Father. No matter the tiny pangs of jealously that I sometimes feel, there is no better feeling than for me to know that my daughter is blessed with being a Daddy’s girl, just like I was.

Ready for a second baby?

Let me start by saying I AM NOT PREGNANT… nor will I be any time soon.

Now isn’t the the time for us but I am feeling confused as to whether I am even ready or not.

When will I be ready?

Before Isabelle turned 1 it wasn’t even something I considered but now she needs me less and less, or at least it feels that way, I keep thinking it would be nice to have another tiny baby.

She no longer needs me to feed her bottles, she plays independently and she can walk…

I know she’s wholeheartedly dependent on me and will be for many years to come but as she grows, it feels different.

Simply, she’s no longer a baby and I struggle with the word “toddler”.

Then I think back to the early days of Motherhood…

I’m not ready to repeat it, in fact I’m scared to, so why do I feel broody?

How confusing!

It feels like a matter of heart or head and I only have to thinking of the sleepless nights and my head wins, hands down… if my head had hands…

Then I see a pregnancy announcement or hear of a friend who has given birth and I get that pang in the pit of my stomach.

ARGH!

If I was pregnant again I would automatically feel anxious about nausea, pelvic girdle pain, labour and birth. Recovering from birth, sleepless nights and breastfeeding. I clearly need to come to terms with my experience of the fourth trimester before I do it again and with a toddler in tow.

When thinking back to the early days I remember constant anxiety, tears and not too much else.

Based on past experiences I genuinely feel like I let Isabelle and myself down the first time. I didn’t enjoy it and I will never get that experience ever again.

I am broody for a small, tiny, gorgeous baby… but I think I am more broody to do it again so I can do better.

I want to go back to the beginning and do it all again, knowing what I know now and being who I’ve become.

I want to go and do it all again with Isabelle, which is impossible and that breaks my heart.

She’s growing and it’s like I missed it the first time round, even though I had a front row seat. I wasn’t myself, I wasn’t the Mum that I eventually became.

So there is a thought in my subconscious to have another so I get to “try again”.

How awful does that sound?!

Doing it again will not be anything like the first time.

The pregnancy, birth and postpartum period could ALL be completely different so my fear and anxiety may be unfounded.

The next baby could also be completely different to Isabelle. I know her, I know all of her perculiarities (and there are a few!).

Give me another baby and I wouldn’t know what to do… so… will I feel as helpless as I did the last time?

I don’t know what the answer is… but I do know that I have things to come to terms with before we have another.

I need to deal with my postpartum anxiety, which as much I have it under control most of the time, I am terrified of it reoccurring the way it did before.

I need to say to myself:

I did not fail.

I did not miss anything.

I did my best.

To anyone else who is confused about whether they are ready and/or this is the time to have another baby, I have no words of wisdom, unfortunately.

Please just know that you are not alone.

Perhaps you have your own experiences to work through and feel that you’ll never be ready for a second.

Maybe it was a difficult or complicated pregnancy, a traumatic birth or Postnatal Depression; the list is endless. I’m sure that friends and family have said that it will be different the next time round but ultimately, whilst you know that might be the case, these are your experiences and we can’t just wish them away with positivity.

Maybe time is what we need or maybe you’ll never be ready and either way, that is okay.

How did you know that you were ready for number 2? Or know that one was enough?

Please follow me on Facebook and Instagram at @mumderstanding for even more content!

Everyday parenting with autoimmune conditions.

Autoimmune conditions and many other conditions, including those linked with our fertility, can be severely debilitating.

An autoimmune condition, simply put, occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. Conditions include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’ disease, Sjogrens, Sarcoidosis, Pernicious Anaemia, and many, many others. The list is long and varied and all can cause seriously problems to those afflicted from carrying out day-to-day activities.

Other diseases (not under the autoimmune category), such as endometriosis and fibromyalgia can also cause serious suffering and an inability to carry out daily tasks when symptoms strike.

What all of these conditions have in common (and I have only mentioned a tiny, tiny percentage of them); you cannot see them.

Those inflicted, usually on regular medication, can have lives riddles with severe pain, exhaustion, anxiety, inability to focus or concentrate… but you wouldn’t know this by looking at them.

These conditions have no cure and we have to manage our lifestyles. They are a part of our normal, everyday existence.

I would never have considered writing this as a blog post except I recently suffered from worse symptoms as I couldn’t get my usual medication from my GP.

Due to the recent situation with Covid-19, my injections were no longer deemed essential.

They are essential to me.

Although, I do greatly appreciate the situation so many people are in right now. Important appointments and treatments are being postponed, including cancer treatments and I cannot even imagine the stress and anxiety those people are going through.

It was during this time that I realised how those who suffer much worse than I have to try and parent everyday when all their body is telling them to do is stop and rest but they can’t.

They may be exhausted, stressed, in pain, their head filled with a fog which affects concentration and focus, lacking the energy to even start the day…

In April I struggled more than I usually would but eventually I was seen and treated by a private doctor and I am so fortunate to have been able to do so.

Ryan, on the other hand, is afflicted far greater than I. He suffers everyday from his condition with pain, exhaustion, fatigue and yet he soldiers on unwavering, never complaining.

Having a baby, where you sleep is greatly affected, worsened his condition and yet he carried on.

And the hardest part is, I cannot truly understand what he feels, like he cannot truly understand what I feel.

You cannot see these conditions and they can be very hard to explain.

It is almost the most frustrating part.

Obviously, like so much suffering, we don’t tend to talk about it.

We feel that by talking about our own medical conditions, firstly, it is private.

I haven’t given details of our conditions here for exactly that reason. Especially as it is not for me to break Ryan’s right to privacy.

Secondly, if we do talk about how we feel, we are concerned that we come across as “moaning” or “attention seeking”.

I am doing neither here.

I am simply drawing attention to the millions of Mums, Dads and carers who suffer in silence and carry on, with no one seeing their struggle.

We understand what you are going through and if you are anything like us, you probably spend a lot of your time worrying and hoping that your child won’t suffer the same.

We see you, you are not alone, you are absolute warriors.

This is for the masses of incredible parents where even though their condition, disease, syndrome is invisible, it does affect their every day lives.

We think you’re incredible and so do your kids.

Please remember to follow us on Instagram and Facebook @mumderstanding

Creating healthy space as a couple, in lockdown.

In normal circumstances we have created boundaries and systems which means as a couple, and as parents, we have established space and distance but how does this work when we are always at home?

Boundaries, space and distance… sounds super romantic!

But it was just a normal part of everyday life – we went to work, we had hobbies, we saw friends… now this very easy way of having our own time has been taken away from us and so we are having to actively create space, which has been harder than I thought.

It is also a slightly awkward topic to write/talk about… surely we want to spend every waking minute with the one you love?!

Erm… NO.

No one, even the most sociable of people, are suppose to be confined in a small space with the same people 24/7, even the family you have chosen.

So now we need to re-establish what is normal and how to still create that healthy space.

This is completely unprecedented (as we hear a lot) and it is okay to feel like you are struggling, which I’ve found hard to admit!

I have seen things online which say “divorce rates will definitely go up as a result of lockdown” and others which say “why is everyone moaning about staying home with your spouse? I actually like mine”…

Well, neither is helpful! Is it?!

Just because a couple is struggling to find a new happy medium doesn’t mean they are no longer compatible or happy.

Nor does it mean that just because you are in love you want to spend every waking minute with them, especially when there are added pressures.

Added pressures of trying to work from home every day with your children, which isn’t the ideal of how flexible working should be.

Added pressure of being furloughed which sounds great for a few weeks and then you begin to crave something to do.

You may have to contend with home schooling… motivating and encouraging your children to focus and concentrate when this isn’t the normal environment for it.

Sometimes you just need to breathe.

I know I do.

We really struggled with working from home, looking after our daughter, doing projects around the house but then trying to find some distance and breathing space when we’re not used to doing that.

Going to work, exercising, seeing our friends, that is our space, so how do you actively tell your spouse that you need space and I am going to spend some time alone without leaving the house?

It doesn’t sound so hard but if I’m not going for a walk, or going to have a bath.. I’ve found it quite difficult just to do it.

It is about communication and then it is about doing what is right for you.

For the first few weeks of lockdown I think we were enjoying the novelty of lots of time together as a family.

We both wanted to be with Isabelle because we will never get this time again!

But because of that lack of space, tensions began to run high, and we bickered like we’d never done before…

So we communicated, eventually… and have created new systems and routines which are now becoming ‘normal’ and it is healthy for us as a couple and as parents.

We have created a designated work space for me.

A place to go when I have deadlines or meetings, which means I am not attempting to work whilst being in the same room as my family, which adds to the stress.

I have work and my blog to focus on when I am not looking after my daughter. It gives me a focus and a purpose, something to do other than feel the weight of the fact that we are trying to parent within the same walls, every day.

Those who are furloughed, or who are unable to work right now, don’t have that same focus.

It may have been glorious for a few relaxing weeks off at home with the kids, but reality is setting back in now and if you are anything like my fiancé, you need a project, you need to be doing something.

I would be completely happy to binge watch TV and drink coffee all day long and that is where we are SO different!

So we’ve started a home improvement project and that means when we have the time; when I don’t have to work (weekends mainly), Ryan is upstairs, on his own, doing his own project and we are creating healthy space.

Presently, Isabelle is napping, I am writing this article in the living room with a cup of coffee and Ryan has been painting for well over 3 hours today and probably will be up there for a few hours more.

By the time dinner comes I probably won’t have seen him for most of the weekend and …

I HAVE MISSED HIM!

We are both getting stuff done… I am writing and spending quality time with Isabelle, which I still miss out on a bit during the week… and he has a focus.

It took us well over a month to work out what we needed to do as a family and as a couple to redefine what our roles would look like over the next few months.

I have to work but I try to be a flexible as possible to help Ryan with childcare and also give him and myself the opportunity to exercise… together or alone.

This isn’t an article about how to get away from each other.

This is about how to redefine your boundaries within your couple to suit the lockdown situation.

It is okay if how you were as a couple before lockdown doesn’t feel like it fits now. That does not mean that you no longer fit as a couple!

Communicate with each other about how you are feeling and take time out for yourself to create that healthy space as a couple because it will do wonders for your sanity, and your parenting!

It is also important to say that if you are not struggling, don’t assume that your relationship is any stronger than those who are.

You may just be individuals who are better suited to the change in lifestyle, because living with someone who isn’t as good at adapting, can also put a huge strain on a relationship.

So if you are loving lockdown, working full time, struggling and need a project or just need some breathing space; you do you.

You do what you need to do for your sanity. It is not selfish! It will inevitably benefit your family in the end.

Why I am grateful for the lockdown.

It was never my plan to write about Covid-19, isolation or our time in lockdown.

It is a subject that we CANNOT escape from right now, it is wherever you look.

On the news, when you go to the shop for essentials, when you go for your one walk a day, on social media… the amount of information is overwhelming and I didn’t want to add to the barrage, especially when I am in no way an expert and I will not tell people what to do or pretend to give advice.

You do you.

But it isn’t surprising that we see this information everywhere considering our lives have all changed dramatically in a very short space of time and of course people are talking and writing about it because we are living it.

It is becoming our new normal.

Because of this fact, because it is everyone’s daily existence, it felt odd to not talk about it from our perspective at all. It is something I can’t just ignore, even if I may want to.

Personally, I feel like I am still trying to process what is happening.

It feels like one big daily nightmare.

If anyone would have said to me a year ago, in 12 months time there will be a global pandemic which will reach the UK in a matter of months and will, temporarily, change life as we know it, I wouldn’t have believed them.

To think that the country has been on lockdown for nearly 3 weeks, we can only leave our house for essentials and we don’t know when ‘normal’ life will resume, is overwhelming.

I had a little cry this morning when watching the morning news (I only try and watch the news once a day). I was thinking about those lives lost, those families torn a part by this virus, the children who have succumbed to Covid-19 and those who are not able to attend the funerals of their loved ones. It genuinely breaks my heart.

We, as a family, are just trying to take it one day at a time.

2 months before the country went into lockdown my maternity leave ended and I went back to work.

My biggest concern during January to March was working on little sleep, Izzy always seeming to be ill, juggling a puzzle of childcare with Grandparents, working from home and nursery… but also trying to spend as much time as possible with Isabelle, attempting to keep Mum guilt at bay.

I was also finding my creative outlet in my blog which I had just started. There is something very cathartic about writing. It is my own personal therapy.

I felt like I was spinning a million different plates at once, frequently dropping a couple… not necessarily breaking them but having to gather them up, re-spin and carry on.

I needed to slow down and prioritise… how is that even possible in modern life!?

Well, life took it out of my control and forced me to do exactly what I needed to do for my sake and for the sake of my family and my relationship with my daughter.

Our isolation started a few weeks prior to lockdown due to symptoms of Covid-19 that I experienced.

I only suspect that I had the virus as I, like so many others, was never tested.

By the time I was well again my company was working from home as the country prepared to lockdown.

My fiancé wasn’t sure what was going to happen at work and we were faced, as all parents in this situation were, potentially months inside with our children…

It is very easy for people without children to say, “you are so lucky to have all of this time”.

“You are safe at home, not stuck”.

“As long as we have our health”.

Obviously these are the most important factors to focus on. They ground us, they give us perspective.

But at the beginning, before the reality dawned on us all, we faced long months inside trying to occupy, entertain, teach, inform and keep our children safe.

It was a scary, anxiety inducing prospect.

I had always had help with Isabelle, especially from her Grandparents.

I had also always struggled with the idea of keeping entertained at home.

It goes back to the struggles I first felt dealing with a newborn and I found leaving the house and having activities really helped.

I was so nervous that these options would not be available.

Over the last (nearly) 5 weeks I have had to face this front on, reassess my priorities, make time to play and enjoy the simplicity of having time.

Time with my family, time with my daughter.

By March I felt like I was losing the connection and relationship I had with my daughter because I wasn’t there.

This may or may not have been true but I felt like the bond we have developed during my maternity leave was waning and I felt pangs of jealousy knowing that other people were spending more time with Isabelle than I was.

I no longer feel that way.

Our bond is closer than ever.

I can enjoy the simple things.

And for that, and ONLY that, I am grateful for this lockdown.

The impact of sleep deprivation on mental health.

I love my sleep.

Who doesn’t?

Before becoming a Mum, I would sleep anywhere, anytime, for any amount of time.

I was known for my lie ins and always struggled to get up in the mornings. I am not a morning person…

When you’re pregnant, you are told to “enjoy your sleep whilst you can”, “rest up before the baby comes”.

Now, firstly, the idea that you can somehow stock-pile sleep is a load of crap. You could sleep for months on end whilst you’re pregnant (which you won’t because you’ll need to pee! A lot!), that doesn’t mean you suddenly won’t need sleep once the baby arrives. It doesn’t work like that, judgey Julie!

I knew having a baby meant broken sleep, sleepless nights… it is just a given but I didn’t realise quite how bad it would be. I didn’t realise that even when your baby does sleep I would never sleep as deeply or as restfully again and how true sleep deprivation would actually affect me.

It’s human nature to think that things just won’t affect us.

And whilst I may have ‘handled it’, it affected my mental health far more than I ever thought possible.

I have spoken previously, in my blog post about my breastfeeding journey, how after giving birth I felt I needed to do everything myself, especially night feeds.

As I saw it, Ryan would have to go back to work after just 2 short weeks and so I would need to be in the habit of getting up in the night with her. Except it wasn’t just getting up in the night but being awake ALL night for the first 6 weeks. (Isabelle had day and night the wrong way round…)

Because of this pressure that I put on myself, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to recover and recuperate from labour.

Isabelle was born at 2.13am and I went into established labour at 5.30am the previous day. I had been awake for the whole time.

After she was a few hours old I was moved into the recovery ward and I couldn’t sleep…

I felt like I shouldn’t. Like I should be awake for her… just in case.

It was also incredibly warm and I was not at all comfortable. I just wanted to go home. I did everything I could possibly do to go home.

We were discharged when she was 20 hours old.

I feel like a right moron now, looking back!

Why the hell didn’t I take every opportunity to sleep?

I didn’t sleep right from the day that I went into labour and only then grabbed a few hours here and there until she was 5 weeks old and it took its toll on me.

I remember one night when I had been up for hours, I finally settled her, laid her in her moses basket next to me and I laid my head on the pillow.

I could have been asleep for hours but it felt like minutes. I woke at her cry but I couldn’t get up. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I cannot even explain what it feels like but all Mums know.

I admitted at that point that I couldn’t do it. I needed Ryan to.

He got up, got her up, fed her and settled her back to sleep and put her back next to me.

Minutes or hours could have past again… I hadn’t even noticed that he’d taken her. I was past the point of exhaustion and finally succumbed to the fact that I needed to rest.

After that point I started to be kinder to myself.

Once a week my Mum would come over in the afternoon and she would sit with Isabelle whilst I slept until Ryan got home from work.

This was the best present I have ever received.

It isn’t just the newborn stage where sleep deprivation hits you, it is just the stage where you first experience it.

As time moves on, sleep (hopefully) can improve, especially as you get into a routine and night feeds reduce but you will still face sleep regressions, teething and illnesses.

After the newborn stage, the worst phase we have had in terms of sleep was when she was nearly 11 months old and I had gone back to work.

It felt like she was forever getting ill and she was teething.

I don’t think we sleep through the night in 6 weeks and I still had to get up in the morning for work.

I was weepy, emotional, extremely sensitive and began to believe I was a bad Mum (all over again). I would wonder why I had put so much effort into getting her into a routine with naps and mealtimes/snacks, if she was just going to wake up in the night? Maybe going back to work was a bad idea…

I have spoken previously about postnatal anxiety and for me, my anxiety was undoubtedly worse because I couldn’t sleep but also I couldn’t sleep well because of my anxiety… was she okay? Would she wake at any minute?

I go to bed anxious now because she could wake during the night and somehow I still need to function in the morning.

It is very easy for your mental wellbeing to be affected when you’ve had little or no sleep.

I think we need to alleviate the pressure on ourselves as Mums and to give ourselves a break!

We cannot function on no sleep.

Sometimes we just won’t sleep as parents, it is a fact, but when you are so exhausted that every little thing upsets you, get upset. Cry, moan etc. do not hold it in. You do not have to.

It is perfectly normal and okay to feel however it is you feel and to show it.

Piss off to any judgey Julies because the fact is, WE ARE NOT SUPERHUMAN.

Rest when you can, moan when you want to, say that you are exhausted, be emotional if that is how you feel.

Never been judged into silence just because “we chose to have children”.

Yes we did. But we didn’t choose to function the same as everybody else on ZERO sleep.

Happy sleeping Mamas and Dadas (if you can!).

First birthday

Reminiscing, celebrating, isolating and managing expectations.

I was originally going to write a blog post about the lead up to my daughter’s first birthday, my emotions and feelings about it and how we celebrated.

It was going to be a light-hearted piece about surviving a year, having high expectations of her party (which is so silly) but saying (hopefully) that it was a lovely day with family and friends.

That is not how it went…           

In the build up to her 1st birthday I did find myself getting emotional (nothing new there!) but it felt like a really big deal.

We had genuinely survived a year as parents but not just survived, we had found our footing, we had figured it out and we had enjoyed it!

Don’t get me wrong, we are by no means perfect parents, far from it… but we actually feel like “Mum” and “Dad” which is a reason to celebrate and look back.

It is a complete identity change.

We talk SO much about the change to our lives, the changes and developments your baby will go through in their first year but we almost forget to talk about the changes and developments to YOU as people which are vast!

You are not the same people by the end of that year and that is no bad thing but it is an anniversary for you too.

I was looking back through pictures of her as a newborn, reminiscing about the different stages and feeling nostalgic.

She will never be that little again…

When she was that little I prayed for the day that she could be a little bit more independent… now I’m praying to have those precious moments back.

Am I ever satisfied?! It is so annoying!

But that is the paradox and contradiction of parenthood.

We will always wish for the days when they need to rely on us a little bit less and we will mourn those past days when they  no longer need us.  

I became broody and thought, should we just have another now?

(No, I am not pregnant!).

Then I realised that to become pregnant again now (with a 1 year old) obviously would not be easy but also it wouldn’t be the same…

To have another baby wouldn’t just be me and Isabelle in our newborn bubble. I would have a gorgeous new bundle of sleeplessness and Isabelle. My time, efforts and energy would be split.

Then I realised I would NEVER have the same experience again that I did when she was first born.

NEVER.

And I did not appreciate it at the time.

In fact, I resented it.

I did not enjoy the newborn stage at all.

I needed to sleep, I needed to not be breastfeeding, I needed to recover, I needed to become Mum… I wasn’t there yet and it took time.

So… for me… looking back, hurt.

Then the never ending Mum guilt hit me… obviously.

When I look back I feel like I let her down but now I feel like I let myself down. I wish I had just tried to enjoy those moments. Those moments that I will never get back.

But rather than feeling low and emotional, I threw everything into planning her a ‘perfect’ birthday.

What a silly idea!

Not too many presents but surrounded with food, decorations and family and friends.

My expectations were sky high, I knew they were and I knew I would be so upset if it wasn’t everything I envisioned… I knew that before the day I would have to be more realistic and less ridiculous about a 1st birthday party.

4 days before her birthday I got very unwell and we had to self-isolate.

She didn’t have a party, she didn’t see anyone… except us.

I was devastated but I also knew that I was too ill to throw a party and much too ill to be upset about it.

Reality came crashing down around me and I know there are MUCH worse things in the world than not having a party…

Like I said, I did know I was being ridiculous.

We ended up playing with her new toys (which I had thankfully and coincidentally wrapped 5 days before her birthday), I have NEVER done anything like that before!?

We ate cake, had her favourite foods and just enjoyed the day Isabelle, Mummy and Daddy.

It was one of the best days we have ever spent at home, just the 3 of us and it made me feel that I would be so happy if every one of her birthdays (until she tells me otherwise) would be like that.

Us, as a family, happy and grateful for each other.

Nothing about the past year, including the way we celebrated, met my expectations…

I have learnt to manage my expectations because you just NEVER know what is going to happen but I also know that just because her birthday didn’t meet my previous expectations, doesn’t mean it didn’t surpass them.

An isolated birthday may not have been what we wanted but it is something I am genuinely grateful that we had to do.

Happy birthday to my Isabelle and happy anniversary as parents to us.

I lost myself after having a baby.

Who am I? What is my new purpose? When will I feel like myself again?

I have admitted many times that I underestimated how hard it would be to have a baby. I also underestimated how much it would change me as a person.

I wanted a baby, we had planned and prepared for her so how could it change me that much?

Well… in terms of tangible changes; I had stopped going to work (for now), it was harder to see my friends and I saw them in very different circumstances, we stopped going out for dates (for now), my body changed, I stopped doing my hobby.

Note how often I say “for now”.

I had replaced everything I was used to, especially going to work, doing my hobbies and seeing my friends, for staying at home, broken sleep and trying to work out how to look after a baby (whilst recovering from labour).

Of course I was going to feel different!

I no longer felt like Laura, I was trying to be a Mum now.

I began to feel like I lost myself after having a baby. I was no longer the person who had built my life, all of that seemed to have gone and I was now focusing solely on how to be a Mum. My entire energy, my purpose was to be a Mum and I really felt like I wasn’t very good at it, it wasn’t coming naturally like I thought it would.

I struggled to breastfeed and she was exclusively bottle fed within a matter of weeks, I finally understood what true sleep deprivation was, I experienced postnatal anxiety and I genuinely felt like she deserved better than me. Possibly that is an extreme version of what others feel at the beginning, or perhaps we all have an element of that in us. All I knew was, I had felt happier before and even uttered the words to Ryan, “have we ruined our lives?”.

Obviously, all of the challenges of having a newborn ease over time and you begin to adjust. After a few months your emotions aren’t so heightened, you may have had some sleep, you will have recovered from labour and when all of those things came together I didn’t feel like I had ruined my life or that I was unhappy. I just needed to adjust and that takes time. We can’t expect it to come instantly and we need to stop beating ourselves up when it doesn’t.

Being Mummy now feels like the most natural position in the world. As soppy as it sounds, I do believe I am exactly who I was made to be, for her. I even feel more confident in myself for having her and I never would have thought I’d feel like that during the newborn stage.

I have gone back to work, I am returning to my hobbies and making proper time for our relationship and for my friends but things will never be the same.

I have ‘lost’ who I was before and when my daughter was first born and Motherhood felt far from natural, ‘losing’ myself felt like the worst thing in the world.

Now I realise that I don’t need to ‘find’ that person again, I am still here but I am a better version of her. I am more confident, happier, I am a Mum and nothing makes me prouder than saying that.

We need to get better as Mums to talk about how we are feeling and what we are experiencing. Only then can we support each other as a community and normalise these emotions.

It is normal to feel like being a Mum is hard work, it is okay to say it isn’t (although I don’t really believe you 😉).

You don’t have to be Supermum all of the time and saying that you miss your previous life, just sometimes, is okay, it is normal. It does not make you a bad Mum!

If you are in the throes of the newborn stage and feel like you’ve ‘lost’ yourself, I promise you will ‘find’ her again and you may even prefer the version you ‘find’.

After a miscarriage.

A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before 23 weeks gestation.

According to the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) website, statistics in the UK show prior to 4 weeks gestation, the percentage chance of losing a pregnancy is 25% percent, that is 1 in 4 women. The rate could be much higher when considering very early miscarriage in women who do not know they are pregnant.

The rate reduces drastically after 4 weeks.

Up to 8 weeks the percentage probability is 5%, up to 12 weeks it is 1.7% and up to 16 weeks it is 0.5%.

As a Mum who has experienced miscarriage and knows many women who have also, multiple times, the numbers do not shock me.

Do they shock you?

Whilst I am aware that 25% of pregnancies can end in miscarriage very early on, it didn’t soften the blow when it happened to me. Nor was I aware of its prevalence before …

My fiancé and I hadn’t planned on getting pregnant, although it is arguably more likely to happen if you have unprotected sex when you know you are ovulating… so perhaps the forethought was there.

We hadn’t been together for very long but when I found out I was pregnant neither of us could hide our excitement or joy.

We found out quite early on, at about 2-3 weeks because I was always very aware of tracking my cycle, hence why we knew I was ovulating.

You try and not get your hopes up, you know that miscarriage is common but you just can’t help it.

About 2 weeks after we found out, I was approximately 5 weeks pregnant and we went for a romantic weekend away to Paris. It was bliss, except I was beginning to feel a bit nauseous.

I struggle now to look back on the photos from that weekend…

On the Monday morning I went back to work and I realised that the nausea had stopped completely. I had a horrible feeling but I tried to carry on with my day, putting it to the back of my mind.

During my lunch break, I was sitting talking to a friend and whilst I don’t remember feeling like I was bleeding, I felt serious cramps and rushed to the toilet.

I was bleeding and I just knew. I knew what it meant.

Holding back the tears, I went to my desk, collected my things and walked out of the office, not speaking to anyone.

I took out my phone and called Ryan. By this point I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.

“I’m having a miscarriage”, as tears ran down my face as I sped through a busy lunchtime in the City, straight for the train. I just wanted to go home. To Ryan.

He picked me up from the station and I was in a sense of shock. We went to the Doctors (fairly pointless) and then we went home where I curled up in bed and for 2 days I did nothing but drink tea, eat chocolate and watch TV under the duvet. I needed to not deal with it, just for a little while.

I couldn’t sleep, I felt a bit numb.

I remember Ryan making me tea at 5am as I sat there in the dark.

Once I’d begun to process the information, which did take time, I felt the only way I could move forward was to get pregnant again.

I wonder now whether I handled it well? Was that the sensible decision? Had I processed the loss properly?

I did what I felt we needed to do. We wanted a baby.

We had one cycle afterwards where we didn’t fall pregnant, and the cycle afterwards we did, and we now have our beautiful baby girl who is nearly a year old.

We are very, very lucky. We were told that it could take months, if not longer to re-conceive.

I don’t call her my rainbow baby, she is just our baby. Our perfect, gorgeous, sassy, strong-minded daughter.

No one (up until now…) knows this story in full, other than me and Ryan.

I have told many people that I have had a miscarriage as I feel it is SO important to share because I want other women, if and when they go through something similar, to not feel alone!

The reason I have never shared this story is because I’ve always felt it “didn’t count”. That my experience with miscarriage at 5-6 weeks is not the same, or as bad, as someone else’s experience.

Of course it isn’t, some people have to go through the most tragic losses, losses that I cannot even imagine.

But it does not mean that my pain isn’t important.

All women, all Mums, should be able to share their experiences and make it normal for us to talk about it.  By doing so, when the next woman, who does have a miscarriage feels alone, she will know where to turn. That amazing community of Mums who are so good at supporting one another.

Whether you miscarry at 4 weeks, 12 weeks, 20 weeks, you have suffered a loss, you are grieving, and you are allowed to talk about it.

Do not feel ashamed.

Let’s make this normal to talk about.

You’ve got this Mama.

Sex after childbirth

Stitches and sex after childbirth.

WARNING

If you are prudish, stop reading here… we are embarking on the number 1 taboo subject… sex (said in hushed tones).

Your pre-pregnancy, perinatal and postnatal sex lives will be undoubtedly completely different, and I found that our relationship needed to adapt to these changes within a short timeframe… just 9 months.

Pre-pregnancy, we had an active, enjoyable sex life… more fun than I’ve described, promise! We had no responsibilities, bundles of time and we were full of energy… we didn’t understand what true sleep deprivation was.

So, we had a lot of sex.

Then I fell pregnant…

Inevitable when you think about it.

And our sex lives changed.

I suffered severe morning sickness and later, pelvic girdle pain whilst pregnant which dramatically reduced my sex drive.

I also became huge… baby and chocolate to blame! Once you stop being able to fully participate and feel more like a beached whale, you don’t feel particularly sexy or desirable.

Towards the end of pregnancy, sex was a rarity except on my due date to attempt to induce labour… and 12 days later she arrived, so clearly it worked… sense the sarcasm.

After 22 hours of labour and a shit load (pardon the pun) of pushing, my vagina was so traumatised, I thought I would never want sex again.

You are advised to wait 8 weeks anyway, not really a lifetime!

Now it is certainly true that I did not think about having sex for a while. In fact, the pain below, plus my stitches made me scared of sex after birth and until it didn’t hurt to pee or poo anymore, I thought we’d never have sex again.

I want to linger on this point for a moment.

After a vaginal birth, of course you will be fearful of anyone or anything going down there!!!

I had 2nd degree tears and was stitched. It did feel weird (not so much painful) to pee and I was terrified of washing with shower gel and just pointed the shower head in that direction for fear of pulling my stitches out… I had heard some horror stories.

Also, my pelvic floor muscles were non-existent and so I figured I needed to sort myself out, and be a Mum, before we re-introduced sex.

It didn’t take as long as you think.

Within a month your vagina may have begun to feel like it’s healed and you may even have got your head around Motherhood (slightly).

You may even have had SOME sleep.

What surprised me the most… my sex drive was back, with a vengeance!

We waited until the recommended 8 weeks and even though I was scared of sex after birth, I was counting down the days. I was excited for sex and I didn’t think I’d feel like that again.

Ultimately, I’d missed sex… but even more than that, I’d missed being ‘us’. I missed the closeness, the time when you could be the only two people in the world… or more (no judgements on preferences here).

No more soppy stuff…

I was apprehensive to say the least, but the first time felt different. Not painful but just like there was more room…sex after birth feels loose… EW!

I definitely needed to do more pelvic floor exercises.

BUT

The most important factor, it did not hurt! Even after that many stitches!

I was so relieved that sex was something we would be able to enjoy again.

A year on, we have the best sex we’ve ever had.

Unfortunately, we don’t always have the time or energy to have sex as much as we used to but when we do make time for it, it is better because we are closer now. Becoming parents has made us closer.

It doesn’t happen this way for everyone and it is not to say that it comes without hard work, or that we will be in this place forever, but we do place importance on time for us and time for sex.

There is the added issue of my new ‘Mum bod’ and overall lack of body confidence and how that has affected our sex lives, but that is a whole other blog post to come!

Regardless of what the future holds for our sex lives and no doubt I’ll let you know, sex after childbirth for the first-time really is not as bad as you think.

Just remember, do your pelvic floor exercises…it makes all the difference!!!