Team Honk Relay

This week Hannah from Mumsdays was very proactive in organising a NE parenting blogger (pblogger) meet, we overcame challenges of geography and parenting to get together, we lucky three, Hannah, Rita from Three Boys and a Cat and I to get the ball rolling and talk about a very important endeavour.

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The first ever Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games take place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March 2014. The public can join the fun and games by running, swimming or cycling their way to raising cash at over a thousand venues around the country, including the landmark events at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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As one of the biggest fundraising events, Sport Relief brings the entire nation together to get active raise cash and change lives. The money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief to help transform the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people both at home in the UK and across the world. An example close to my heart is that £500 could provide six months of support for a young person in the UK with mental health issues.

The Team Honk Blogger Relay starts in Lands End on the 12th January 2014 and finishes in John O Groats on the 23rd March 2014. We aim to raise over £20,000 for Sport Relief. #teamhonkrelay involves over 200 bloggers, their friends and families in a route that zig zags up the UK taking in 38 regional teams and a range of non-motorised transport, and Joss and I are part of the Durham team, getting the Team Honk relay baton from Durham to Alnwick, my girl and I will be taking the baton from Gateshead to Newcastle along the route.

Our plan says that on the 16th March Rita will collect the baton from the Darlington Team Honk team, on the 17th of March Rita will be braving a 20 mile walk in a onesie from Durham to Gateshead via Mammybear in Washington for cake (we like cake, we bloggers!) At the Angel of the North Rita will meet Joss and I for a photo opportunity and then we will carry the baton on foot with Joss in our toddler carrier from the Angel to the Sage in Gateshead and it is hoped that other slingy mams will join us on our walk!

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I will take the baton back home with me that evening and then 18th March we’ll be passing the baton on to Hannah who will cycle it from Blyth the 30 miles to Alnwick, phew! If you are a NE blogger who could take the baton from Newcastle to the coast at Tynemouth or further North then do speak up!

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How can you help? We have a local target of £500 to raise, and if you’d like to sponsor us you can do, here

You can also spread the word on social media:

Team Honk Twitter & Hashtags: @team_honk #teamhonkrelay

Sport Relief Twitter & Hashtags: @sportrelief #SR14

TeamHonk facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teamhonk

TeamHonk pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/LoveAllBlogs/teamhonk-2014-relay-teamhonkrelay/

Honk honk!

Spread a little happiness…

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed and a sleepless night today. I was feeling a bit ‘blah’ (OK worse than that, I was feeling grumpy and sorry for myself). Over a restorative cup of tea I read a few blogs and came across the Spread a Little Happiness blog hop; fate, no?!

So here’s what cheers me up and I hope it spreads a little happiness for you too:

Being daft with my mini me, getting out in the fresh air, drawing and being noisy are great for getting out of a fug:

This is also my What’s the Story photo for this week, Joss has discovered running and screeching at the same time which makes for some ace photos, I’m gonna photoshop a few when I get a sec as it looks like she’s running away from something, anyone want to suggest some ideas for me?!

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Learning to be grateful is great:

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Putting on an oldie but goodie and shaking it out or enjoying some trashy TV to escape the news and doom and gloom, this week it’s been Beastie Boys and Girls

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And finally, because I think these resources are brilliant and mental health enhancing, check out Action for Happiness’ 10 keys to happier living

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PROJECT 365 – JOY IN THE MUNDANE

In a nutshell Project 365 is committing to taking a photo a day for a year. I have given this a lot of thought, as I think a year long project is something that could potentially allow me to focus in on something new in 2014, and a theme that came to mind is the idea of capturing joy in the mundane each day.

In 2013 I learned a lot about my mental health, I realised a way out of years of oppressive and obsessive anxiety and with the help of my family and friends, some counselling and a hugely supportive husband started so see that even on the rough days there were moments of joy starting with my daughters energy and passion for life and filtering into those every day moments where I’d previously fill my time with list making planning and worries, like doing the dishes, making a meal and tidying the toys.

So today, day one, starts with doing the dishes, a bright mobile above the sink and the radio playing in the background, mundane? Definitely, but a moment to enjoy free from anxiety.

So what of days when I don’t blog, don’t feel like doing much or struggle to see the light? Well I suppose those days I’ll work harder to find it, and it will be interesting to track the nature of the photograph over the year, through finishing my Masters, late nights, early mornings, some big important birthdays, special days and new opportunities. Day one…

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Children’s Centre Funding Proposals

This week at work I was engaged in responding to Budget Proposals around Adult Social Care.  In doing some research and reading I came across a campaign urging me to respond to proposals around our local children’s centres.  I have blogged about their importance before here.

The local campaign page can be found here:

The Facts

  • The proposed budget cuts may result in a 56% reduction in Gateshead Sure Start centre funding.
  • If these cuts go ahead some of Gateshead Sure Start centres may be closed.
  • It is not known yet what the criteria will be for closing centres; it may be down to areas of higher disadvantage or it may be down to current centre usage.
  • Sure Start staff members may face disciplinary action if they help with this campaign.

You however, can help!

I was doing some further reading around policy and development this week for a secondment I applied for recently, more on that later, but I came across a great read arguing for longer term thinking about children’s services, you can read more here

This was my response on Facebook:

As their parents face cuts in other areas of their lives, job losses, reduced family budgets and increasing prices the idea of cutting their children’s opportunities to access play and learning facilities that support their development, whilst often supporting parents’ mental health and opportunities to engage with other parents is not a sustainable long term solution. Children’s Centres should be seen as a long term community asset, and other options for their future explored. As a new parent last year I was offered no antenatal classes, there were no support services for new parents, and I had three health visitors in six months. The Children’s Centre baby massage class was where I learned to parent, the sensory rooms provided free opportunities to talk to other new parents and the brilliant parent outreach workers provided a friendly welcome and sympathetic ear. I fear for new parents who couldn’t access these opportunities, there is very little available for under fives outside of them.

Please do respond to similar consultations in your own local authority areas and get involved in the debate about funding our children’s futures, its vital we speak up now before it’s too late.

*Sings* “Hello, hello, how are you?…” Mr Tumble, not now, please I’m having a crisis!

It’s 10pm, I’m reading about post-structuralist feminist theory and the theme tune from Mr Tumble’s Something Special randomly jumps into my head…”it’s good to see you, I say hello…”

ARGH! I think I might be going slowly mad!

Through a mix of determination, counselling and some hilarious failed attempts at mindfulness and meditation (what? you’re not supposed to just crash out asleep on the sofa listening to the CD, it doesn’t work like that, really!?) I had reached a point where most people I met might consider me to be relatively sane and in control of my OCD.  Just blogging about this I’m aware of the stigma, what if someone who doesn’t know this about me reads this?  A few years ago I’d have been mortified, last week I cheerfully told a lady at the swimming pool I had recovered from postnatal depression, didn’t die from embarrassment when Joss threw my knickers at another child and sang the loudest and tuneless of everyone in the group, it’s good for the soul, just putting yourself out there, I’m a while away from donning a ‘I have OCD’ badge but don’t mind so much being honest about my mental health, after all we all have mental health, whether sunny and delightful or occasionally we get a visit from The Black Dog.

So I was starting to feel a bit unhinged, a bit ‘uhoh it’s back’ and a bit anxious, which tends to make me feel hot and ill, nice!  I thought of Mr Chartwell, Rebecca Hunt’s brilliantly conceived of metaphor for Churchill’s depression, creeping Black Pat.  She captures the weightyness so well:

‘I understand that we share a wicked union, and I know the goblin bell which summons you comes from a tomb in my heart. And I will honour my principles, labouring against the shadows you herald. I don’t blench from my burden, but -‘ here he let out a deep breath, laying the glasses down gently – ‘it’s so demanding; it leaves me so very tired. It would be some small comfort to me if I could ask how long I must endure this visit. Please, when do you leave?’

“It’s hard to explain. With Churchill we know each other’s movements, so we have a routine, I guess. I like to be there when he wakes up in the morning. Sometimes I drape across his chest. That slows him down for a bit. And then I like to lie around in the corner of the room, crying out like I have terrible injuries. Sometimes I’ll burst out at him from behind some furniture and bark in his face. During meals I’ll squat near his plate and breathe over his food. I might lean on him too when he’s standing up, or hang off him in some way. I also make an effort to block out the sunlight whenever I can.”

I know why it’s back, trying to do too much and the old rusty brain thinking, hang on, can’t catch up, too many thoughts so it just grinds to a messy halt.  In short, I get a bit lazy, the fight to keep the lights on gets tiring.

A call to self-refer, the words relapse and  obsessive and I’m feeling like I have a safety net in place again.  Mammywoo blogged about the turning on of a light earlier this week, flickering through the dark, ironically I bought a S.A.D lamp later that afternoon fearing the return of winter, dark nights and the dark places we sometimes go to, my brain and I.

A few days on I feel a bit better again, Joss has enjoyed a bit of TV, the world didn’t come to an end because she watched a bit of ITNG whilst I took a few deep breaths, a bit of time with Daddy and the revelation that even if I feel really really shitty her grin stops me in my tracks is a relief, it’s really life enriching this new family life and having someone else depending on me is a huge relief, it’s easier to ask for help and easier to seek support when you have someone so dependent on you that you can’t go off the rails, however tempting.

So for today I feel OK, a good coffee, a spot of retail therapy and a grin from my man and girl are keeping me going.

 

PND, PTSD and Me: Our Birth Story

Posting this is very hard, I have made no secret of my struggle with PND and hinted a few times at how this started very soon after I gave birth, I have rewritten this many times, but found making light of it in the way I usually would didn’t really work, this is Joss’ birth story, it is our story  and there are parts I wish I could change but in honesty is the only way I could write it.

 

Dear darling girl,

This is your birth story it is something I don’t want to forget, so I’m going to write it all down to share with you one day.  There are some things I have included that I wasn’t sure about writing, but I have included them and maybe one day I’ll explain why.

I was one week overdue and it was the day before your Auntie’s wedding.  I was relaxing at Nana’s house when I had a show.  I was really excited as things were starting off but kept thinking about the wedding and hoped you could hold on a short while longer.  When I came back home later Daddy was home from work, as I was preparing dinner my waters broke on the kitchen floor!  We weren’t really sure what was happening as I had no pains and there wasn’t as much water as I was expecting. I do remember grabbing the nearest thing I could, a tea towel and waddling towards the bathroom thinking I’d just pee’d myself!  I called the hospital and they asked us to go in for a check up.  We had some dinner and called a taxi up to the maternity unit.  They did a few checks at the hospital and listened to your heart rate, you were doing great and they sent us home saying that things were starting but it could be a little while.  I asked the doctor whether it was going to be OK for me to go to your Auntie’s wedding, she wasn’t sure but eventually she said yes, but I had to check my temperature regularly and take it easy.

After a nervous night we got dressed and ready for the wedding and arrived at the Church, I was feeling tired, nervous and excited all at the same time.  Mainly I felt bad about the wedding as people were asking if I was excited about your arrival and actually I was starting to feel pains and couldn’t say anything, I didn’t want to spoil anything for your auntie.  After dinner we came home to get changed quickly, then went back to the hospital, they said things were still starting slowly, to go home and bounce on the labour ball and eat a good meal, we went home expecting to be induced the next day.

On the way home we stopped for fish and chips, as we walked home I started to feel a bit strange and the contractions and pains were getting a bit closer together.  I bounced on the ball for a few hours and read a bit about what to expect about induction, then went to bed.  Daddy slept through the night and I stayed in bed til about 6am but by then my contractions were strong and regular.  I had a shower and then had a few things to do but I had to keep stopping because the pains were so bad!  I could only get comfy on my hands and knees as the pain was all in my back.  I checked the hospital bag over and over, then at half eight it was time to go.  In the taxi I kept saying the pains in my back were lifting me out of the seat, when we got to the hospital I was still expecting to be induced but was in a lot of pain.  It took a long time for someone to check me over, they listened to your heart rate and said they’d be back.  In the half an hour they were gone I couldn’t get comfortable and squeezed your Daddy’s hand tight, I had to keep going to the bathroom and the only time I was comfortable was on the loo!  We found out soon after why that was!  I couldn’t concentrate on anything your Daddy was saying so I told him to shut up and I paced the room, uncomfortable and starting to feel a bit panicked!  Everyone kept saying I was the lady that had been to a wedding, it was then that I realised I’d gotten so caught up in worrying about not letting anyone down that I’d not realised I was actually in labour!

The two midwives came back and they asked how I was, I said the pain was really bad, they checked me over and started laughing, Catherine said “do you feel like YOU WANT TO PUSH?”  I said yes and she said well you don’t need an induction, you’re ten cms dilated!  Your Daddy was amazed as I kept saying if the pain is this bad now by the time I have the induction I’ll need some pain relief, somehow I’d had so much on my mind from the wedding and no sleep that I hadn’t realised this was the real thing!  It was too late to have anything other than gas and air, 2 codeine and a paracetamol.  I was put flat on the bed with my legs in the stirrups and started to push, it was such hard work, because I’d worn high heels to the wedding I had terrible leg cramps and was tired from labouring through the night at home.  I remember the hard work and the pain so well, but I also remember laughing lots with Daddy about me not wanting to let go of his hand, even for a second, about being fully dilated and not knowing and about the worst thing I said being “shut up Alex” and asking your Daddy if he was OK when I was the one pushing a baby out!

I remember the midwife saying she could see your head and you had hair, and saying “Joss is going to be here soon”.  I pushed for two hours, desperate to meet you, after one big push there was a lot of blood, the Midwife ran to get the doctor.  Daddy took care of me, getting me water to drink, and a cold flannel, he was amazingly supportive, and I didn’t shout or scream like I thought I would, it was quite calm until the doctor came in.  I had an episiotomy before the ventouse was placed on your head as you had turned and weren’t quite engaged right.  I really didn’t want that but more than anything wanted you to arrive safely so said the doctor had to do what he had to deliver my baby girl.  At 2:36 I pushed you into the world, you were placed on my chest and I cried, you were so beautiful, I told you I loved you, that I’d been waiting to meet you and Daddy and I stroked your little hands and cheek, I remember you were so warm and smelled sweet, you looked up with your gorgeous blue eyes and gave a little cry, you were so alert and taking it all in!  I thanked the doctor and midwifes for their help and apologised that it took longer than I’d wanted and they missed their lunch as they weren’t expecting me to give birth til later that day!

I checked you were definitely a girl, the placenta was delivered and the doctor cut the cord and we had a long cuddle and a short but amazing feed before I needed to be stitched.  Daddy took you for a cuddle and as it was getting cold in the room you had to be dressed.  He dressed you for the first time, I was so proud of you both!  Everyone left for a while and Daddy and I looked at you, and at each other and we both had a good cry, it was a long delivery but it had gone over in a daze as we were expecting it to take a whole day with the induction, and yet here you were just a few hours later.  We had to be checked over as I had an infection and so a paediatrician came to look at you.  She said you were doing fine and we both just had to keep having our temperatures checked.  We listened to some music, the Doors and Mumford and Sons, I love to hear that album now, it’s your album, but when I heard it in the weeks after it made me cry and feel very emotional.

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We stayed in the delivery room until that night, I was helped to have a shower and came back to see you wrapped in a blanket waiting to go up to the ward.  That first night was scary being on my own in the dark with my tiny bundle, you were a little sickly from the delivery so I held you all night long, walking around and eventually sleeping together on the bed.  Daddy came to visit the next day giving you and I some lovely cuddles, four days later we came home, a relief after seeing so many other mamas and babies taking their bundles home!  Your birth was much faster than I had ever expected, and I was in shock for a few days afterwards because the run up had been so busy.  This next bit is important, more than how you got here, because I’m not always good with words but I have to put this down so bear with me.

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Joss, I want you to know that I love you, that the first days were so so hard because I had wanted so desperately to be able to feed you myself and couldn’t, that I felt guilty about that and wished I’d tried harder, but I had a really bad time and found the adjustment to being a new mother very hard.  When you’re older I’ll tell you all about it but we just didn’t get the support to get through it and once it hit me that I couldn’t go back and try again I found that very tough.  From day one I felt you were so perfect I couldn’t do you justice as your mother, I remember telling your Daddy that I  had read all the books (such a researcher!) but didn’t know where to begin.  I want you to know if you ever have your own little ones that you don’t become the mother you want to be overnight, you get to know each other and it takes a little time, but that’s not a bad thing, it’s a journey that takes you through sleepless nights, difficult decisions and yet also takes you through first milestones, fun and laughter, follow your instincts, snuggle down and remember I’m always here for you.  Your Dad was here for us both in a way that made me want to burst with pride at you both, I learned from him to relax and learned from you to lie back and just be content.  You’ll always be our baby girl, all my love darling, Mammy x

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PND and Mother’s guilt? When does it get too much?

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” – Benjamin Spock

(This post is written purely from my own experience, it is about mental health, it makes no claims to advise, only to encourage parents who may be experiencing PND)

When I had Joss I quickly developed an early onset anxiety.  In the early days I worried I wasn’t going to be a good mama, when she was six months old it got too much to bear.  These six statements are intended to encourage and support mamas experiencing similar feelings and issues.  In my case this was probably more postnatal anxiety than postnatal depression, but I hope that talking about my experiences might help other mamas, without the labels as I’m no expert!

Number one:  You know more than you think you know
This has become a bit of a mantra when I meet new mums at baby groups and the likes.  I remember Joss being about five days old and I couldn’t rest, couldn’t sleep, I was frantic, reading books about breastfeeding, routines, anti-routines, turning night into day and day into night, child development, I felt overwhelmed!  Things came to a head when my husband hid a copy of Gina Ford under the bookcase and a copy of Your Baby, the First Year in the shoe cupboard.  How could I be the best for her?  Was I meeting her needs?  What more did she need? What about her development? Her weight?  Oh my, her weight, was she putting it on, was she swallowing milk, how could I keep her awake to feed, questions, questions, questions.  It was that classic anxiety, that old what if? that has followed me through most of my life.  It was back, last seen at uni, 2005, back in 2012 with a vengeance.  Looking back I knew more than I gave myself credit for, she is my daughter, she just sort of fits with me, I got to know her whims, wants and needs quickly and all seems to be well, so have faith mama, you know more than you think you know.
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Number two: You’re doing the best you can
Try to let bad days be just that, a bad day, don’t fret and let it turn into a bad week, a bad month, this too shall pass and you are doing the very best you can.

Number three: If you’re worried it’s a good thing, it shows you care
When I was really really anxious, I remember it well, it was about weaning and whether Joss was eating enough and whether I was feeding her a good enough balance, at that time I was really worried that I was worrying too much.  Someone said to me, what would happen if you didn’t worry about your little girl?  It taught me that worry is on a continuum, too much and we tip over, too little and we don’t do enough, so a little worry is healthy, don’t beat yourself up if you’re an anxious sort, we’re ok, there are a lot of us out there!

Lesson four:  You know they will do it in their own time
Someone asked me recently whether Joss is walking, she isn’t.  You know at baby groups, there’s always someone who wants to know what all the babies are doing, usually because their child is ahead?  That used to get to me, not anymore, I look at that smiling face and think to myself, if I can make you smile every day and you make me smile too then the rest will follow, and it will!

Number five: If mama aint happy aint nobody happy
We had this on a babygro, I liked it, when I read it and realised it meant I needed to slow down and have some time for me it sort of became a mantra.  Don’t burn yourself out, I sometimes (ok often) worry that I shouldn’t be away from Joss, mamas at baby group would gloat about never having been away from their little ones.  If you want to stay with your baby that’s cool, if you want and need a break then ask for one, and don’t feel guilty, a little time may just refresh you, this is especially important for me now Joss is teething – on those days when you can do no right you sometimes just need five minutes peace and quiet just to catch your breath and head back into the fray with a smile.

Number six: It might help to do some sense checking
This won’t work for everyone, I used to do my sense checking via Google, see something I didn’t like and spiral away into anxiety.  I learned through CBT to do it in my own head, so when I was anxious that Joss wasn’t eating well and skipping meals I looked to how energetic she was, windmilling away and rolling, I learned that babies can regulate their own appetites quite well thank you very much, and let her take the lead, it helped to work through my worries logically sometimes.

If you’re interested in CBT you could speak to your GP, many areas have self-referral into CBT now too.  There are also lots of mental health and post partum networks online, just search #ppd or #pnd on twitter and a lot comes up.