Do you ever ‘check in’ with yourself?
Last week was the UK’s first Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and I’ve been reading some very raw and honest stories: first-hand accounts of post-natal depression (PND), medication and breast feeding, and the realities of motherhood when things aren’t falling into place.
My own experience seems insignificant in comparison, and I wasn’t sure I should even write this post. Because I didn’t suffer PND. I’ve had some pretty low ‘lows’ over the last two years, but I’ve always been able to pick myself up. I didn’t seek professional help. I always had somewhere to turn, and someone to listen.
But mental health is so important for every mum, and I think it’s vital that we all share our stories. No matter how insignificant we might think they are.
You’ve no doubt heard the term Resting Bitch Face, given to men and women who unintentionally look angry or annoyed when their face is at rest, or showing no expression.
But have you ever thought that maybe we parents have our own unique, resting face? Take a look at the mums and dads around you. Take a look in the mirror!
You’ll know the face. It’s the one you get when you’re on your 5th consecutive night of (very) broken sleep, your first weekend away in nearly two years without a baby is cancelled because your child is sick, you wake up feeling decidedly under the weather yourself, and when you get up at stupid-o’clock to deal with baby you walk through a big pile of cat sick.
Sometimes, after a long day at work, as I stand next to the highchair trying not to yell at my child, and the cat and dog are underfoot howling to be fed, I think back to my pre-kid days and wonder how I got here. When he’s tipped the meal I’ve lovingly cooked on the floor in a fit of rage because I wouldn’t give him a cup of grated cheese for dinner, or another tub of ‘yoghurt’ (I’m not sure the Thomas the Tank Engine 6 pack – cleverly placed at toddler height, among the other ‘yoghurts’ – even classifies as yoghurt), I just want to laugh.
Soft play centres can be pretty horrific. Never more so than a wet day in London during school holidays. So when I found myself at one on a rainy summer day with my mum-in-law and son, waiting to miscarry and hoping it wouldn’t happen there, I had to shake my head at the absurdity.
I’ve been in limbo before: waiting to find out whether I was BRCA positive, waiting for my UK Indefinite Leave to Remain application to be approved, waiting for mortgage approval and an offer to be accepted and for the agent to hand us the keys.
But the limbo between being told you’ve had a missed miscarriage, and the appointment to surgically manage everything, is a strange and upsetting period I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
When hubby and I went for our 12 week scan I told him I was feeling anxious and I didn’t know why.
‘What’s there to be anxious about?’ he said, giving my hand a squeeze. ‘We’ve done this before, it’s just a baby’.
Except that it wasn’t.
What a bullshit saying. As any parent will tell you, a lot of things are for babies (sometimes it feels like all the things), but sleeping bloody well isn’t.
Baby will not go to sleep. We went to the playground for a while. He had his dinner. Rough-housed with the dog in the garden, had a bath, finished a whole bottle, and . . . nothing.
I’m sat on the chair in the nursery listening to him toss and turn and kick the bars of his bed. We’ve been here together an hour and a half. If I try and go downstairs he throws everything from the cot, including his dummy, and sobs like a wild thing until I come back upstairs and put everything back. He keeps standing up, I keep laying him down. He talks and laughs and squeals and I ignore him.
I know I should be grateful. A guy came over a few nights ago to give us a water-softener demo, and he mentioned that his 16 month old battles him every single night. Puts up a right fight, with fists and kicks and screaming. Ted at least settles in the cot. But for the love of god and my sanity, just sitting here is driving me crazy! I’m getting so restless and frustrated. Like dude what are you doing, go to SLEEP. I want ME time! Given, it’s only to watch some trash telly I recorded, but still.
How are you? It’s a loaded question when you’re a new mum, and you think to yourself how much do they really want to know?
In my past life I was a successful white collar worker, moving project by project up the corporate ladder. My work had allowed me to visit some remote and beautiful countries, and I went from being an Aussie backpacker in London to a home-owning, loft-converting immigrant with indefinite leave to remain.
A preventative double mastectomy slowed me down in 2013, but following that I got married, we travelled the U.S. for 5 weeks, and I ran my first marathon.
Then I had a baby.
The baby is rocking like a crazy person and I think is it because I haven’t read to him today? It’s 6.20pm, and instead of sitting with him in the nursery I’m frantically ladling soup from the pot on the stove to the food processor.
‘Almost done baby’ I say, watching the clock.
The dog creeps by, out the pet flap and I think what’s she up to? I look outside and she’s got another bloody dummy.
‘Molly!’ I shout. ‘Molly no!’
The baby thinks this is hilarious, and toddles full speed towards the back door. I’ve got the fridge open, and as he barrels past me a tomato falls out and onto his head.
Oh shit a tomato just fell on my baby’s head I think, and wait for a wail. When it doesn’t happen I go back to the food processor because, well, what else?
I struggle not to spill soup on my new kitchen counter, and give up when I learn that yes you can put too much liquid in a food processor. Bloody shit I think. Fucking bollocks.
My dog ate another dummy. She likes to eat the nipple, and tends to leave the evidence in clear view of the back door.
I found this one when I went outside for a poop run. We live in London, so when I say ‘garden’ I may as well say ‘grassy verge’. I don’t know what made us think having our own lawn would be a good thing. I guess we had pictures of picnic rugs and sunshine, and the baby rolling around joyfully in the sun. Did I say we have a dog? And a very small area of lawn? Let’s just say the reality is far from the lush, green dream-lawn in my head.
It’s usually my hubby’s job to pick up poop, but he was away for the week so I found myself outside, barefoot, trying to pick my way through wet grass without stepping in shit. I honestly don’t know how our dog Molly isn’t dead. I count four poops overnight. Four. My brain cannot even.
I ran for the first time in 18 months today. Half an hour, not too bad. At one point I thought my uterus might fall out, but I’m good.
Things have changed since I last trained for a marathon though, that’s for sure.
I was messaging my mum and sisters the other day (we group chat A LOT), and my mum said something that made me feel really sad. We were talking about my sister’s upcoming wedding, and my mum was worried she looked fat in the dress she’d bought.
Now I’m not going to lie. I’d tried on my bridesmaid dress a few days before, and my eyes had expertly picked out every flaw. Arms too big and flabby, but if I got a fake tan and didn’t press them against my sides I might get away with it. That darned weak chin (ignore it), and dark bags under my eyes (concealer?). The back of the dress was lovely and low, but I saw shoulders not broad enough and too rounded. Mummy tummy? Tick. I scrutinised the bottom of the dress. I could just make out my saddle bags. Damn. I looked at every possible angle, and thought maybe if I tried harder I could lose a bit of weight. Spanx might help. If I wasn’t so weak and love cheese so much. Maybe if I didn’t eat for one day a week…