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I.Am.Here

This is the post excerpt.

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For any Beyoncé fans that got lost and ended up here, I’m sorry…but don’t rush off; there could still be something here for you if you A) have children and are also winging it. B) like reading long posts that probably pose more questions than they answer.

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(Me the day of my baby shower)

So I’m Kayleigh, Mum to Elwood, Fiancé to Phil and Friend to (hopefully) many.
I have created this space to share my haphazard journey through motherhood so far and the positive and negative effects it has had on my mental health.

Using this platform I hope to reach as many people as possible and do my bit to reduce the stigma that STILL exists around mental health.
I didn’t realise how important mental health was until I was in serious trouble and if I could help just one other person then this blog will have fulfilled its purpose.

I would like to start by telling you how I got here, not my actual conception because that would be weird and we have only just met, but let’s start with how I came upon starting this blog…

I gave birth a week overdue, via the sunroof, on the 11/09/2015 at 16:47pm to a baby boy weighing a whopping 9lb 6ozs. His name had already been picked, Elwood Gavin Kenneth Hawkshaw (bit of a mouthful, sorry bubs), both middle names were inherited from his Granddads and Phil loved the name Elwood ever since watching The Blues Brothers growing up.

He had the most beautiful round little face that was already so full of character.

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I blogged his first 6 months at http://www.elwoodhawkshaw.co.uk

So we went home and it was just crazy, we hadn’t slept in days and we’re just in this haze of bottles, attempted burping and making sure the baby was still breathing!

When the baby blues I’d read about came and didn’t leave I knew I needed help.

I know some new mums don’t reach out through fear of judgement but strangely for me I didn’t hold back because I knew that I wasn’t well, something had shifted and I was desperate to feel what I was promised, by every mother who had said the words “you wait, you will feel a love like no other” or “it will be the happiest day of your life”
Erm where was my sudden rush of love? Why was I on cloud 9?!

So it turns out I was suffering from a mixed bag of post natal mood disorders: depression, anxiety and OCD – yay for me!

It’s been nearly 2 years and I can honestly say it is only now that I feel like I am becoming a mum, my world no longer feels like it is falling apart and I better understand the part that self compassion, care and love need to play in my everyday life.

I promised myself that if I ever recovered that I would do this, I would write it all down and share it so that if there was another mum that needed to believe that there was something to hold on for that she could read my story.

Things that have helped my recovery:
Medication
Therapy
Self help books, including The Mind Workout by Mark Freeman
http://www.smartpatients.com

http://www.theocdstories.co.uk – is a fantastic podcast ran by Stuart Ralph. For anyone with OCD or anyone looking to learn more I’d recommend you check it out!

A village of people who helped me find myself again including my wonderfully supportive fiancé, Phil.
The worlds best Parents, Polly and Gavla, who let me move back home when I needed looking after.
My 2 amazing sisters who didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear but always what I needed, and a handful of darling friends who I will cherish always.

I feel very fortunate to now have the time to create this blog, writing is something I’ve always had a passion for and I hope you will let me know what you think.

We are going to do some ‘help mummy with the cleaning’ this afternoon because the weather is shocking and it’s never too early to get them house trained for their future wives!

Kay xx

 

 

 

Mum Stress

I wanted to talk a little bit about mum stress. I’m a self proffessed stress head. When shit hits the fan and the going gets tough I tend to lose my head a bit (a lot) but this has been amplified 10 fold since joining the hood of Mothers. 

I find myself really struggling when our routine is upset and more stress is added, I get caught up in those unhelpful thought patterns and it can really affect my mood. 

Last week Elwood needed to go to hospital and we were admitted overnight. I just want to say that we had a really good experience, all of the nurses and doctors were fabulous and Elwood wasn’t phased being in hospital one little bit – I know he had fun running around the ward and watching lots of episodes of that soul destroying bloddy pig! 


I think tiredness also played a part but I was really beating myself up. Analysing my every thought drained me and I was so happy to come home. I spoke to my sister whilst we were in hospital and told her I didn’t feel very anxious, I don’t mean that I wasn’t concerned, of course I was, but I wasn’t anxious and that worried me! I’m at a point where anxiety has played such a big part in my life that when it doesn’t rear its ugly head I begin thinking something is wrong. So my brain started searching, looking for something to obsess over. 

I didn’t have to wait long for the whisper of my thoughts to return ‘maybe I’m not anxious because I don’t care enough. Maybe I’m still not well. Maybe I shouldn’t be a mum. Why am I like this’. It goes on and on. 

I’m thankful that the woman opposite liked the sound of her own voice so much and clearly wanted to chat – mostly about herself. 

I felt stressed by the time we left hospital and it wasn’t anything to do with Elwood. It was because I felt trapped in there, stuck listen to my inner critic, that endless chatter that was given the freedom to speak louder than logic because I was tired and out of my comfort zone. 

We then came home armed with antibiotics that tasted just like what I can only assume is battery acid, expected to get Elwood to take it 4 times a day. To anyone who has successfully administered penicillin to a toddler without the need for wine at the end of the day, I applaud you and please teach me! 

It took two of us, one restraining a stronger than average pair of arms and legs. The other, poised, ready and waiting to get the syringe in his mouth at the first signs of it opening. 

There were tears and screaming from me and Elwood – it was really hard, thank god it’s over! 

In the run up to our visit to hospital I had been staying up too late, eating more crap than usual and not doing much exercise so it was kind of building and this past week has shown me that despite the great distance I’ve travelled towards recovery, like everything else you have to practice to be good at, if I stop practicing good mental health then it will deteriorate. 

So with that in mind, today we went for a really long walk. Just me and my boy. Kicking in the leaves and breathing in that fresh air. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. 

The Judge, The Jury and The Executioner.

We need a certain level of functioning anxiety in our lives to warn us of danger. The fight or flight system has served us well since the evolution of man, enabling us to run from the lion looming in the shadows or to fight the Neanderthal whore from the cave next door for stealing your man. Fast forward into the 21st century, the age of social media and selfies and anxiety has a very different place in society. 

So many of us, under the fear of being judged and the pressure of the need to be perfect, feel that we are coming up short and social media is fueling that fire. When we scroll down our news feeds, we are met with beautiful images of beautiful people, living beautiful lives and we fall into the trap of judging that they are all happier than us. Now I’m sure these wonderful moments of happiness aren’t staged, I’m merely suggesting that they are just that; brief moments of beauty in an otherwise pretty normal life. We all have them, when our make up went right that day, or the baby hasn’t messed up their hair as soon as we brushed it – it’s natural that we want to immortalise these moments and share them with the world but are we in danger of reinforcing that cycle of judgement if we only ever share the good stuff? 

I’ve always felt pretty inferior, I’ve had no real reason to but I have. Throughout school I worried about what I said, how I looked, how liked I was, very rarely was it about how well I was doing. It was more about the social pecking order for me, than learning which is a sad realisation. In work, I worried if I was good enough for that promotion, could I really do it. In parenting, holy Jesus Christ I haven’t got a clue what I am doing and I’m not really loving this but everyone on Facebook and Instagram looks like they are having a ball and are winning mum of the year awards daily with their homemade knitted booties and routinely 7pm bedtimes.

A lot of the problem I feel, comes from this need to share; advice, opinions, and recommendations on the ‘right way’ to do things. I’ll speak about parenting because this world of judgement surrounding parenting was not something I was mentally prepared for. 

 There is so much advice thrown at us from all angles when we are expecting a baby or are already a parent and with that comes judgement if you aren’t doing things a certain way, whether it’s about breastfeeding, bottle feeding, co sleeping, immunisations, baby led weaning, baby wearing, milestones, or bed time routines – the list is endless and I am amazed at how the millions of women who gave birth before the Information Age must have coped, because we seem to be a generation of conflicted (and sometimes unsolicited) advice. Advice which we never would have access to just 50 years ago. 

There is a clear need for advice about subjects like SIDS. The reduction in the loss of babies and infants since the recommended guidelines have been introduced is astonishing and long may the stats continue to improve. On the flip side of that, when I have had conversations with women I know or complete strangers who want to talk about breastfeeding, those who make flippant statements like “oh isn’t it such a shame you couldn’t do it” or “everyone can breastfeed” in an annoyingly condescending tone, it makes me feel inadequate and a bit shit. Shit that you feel like you know what’s best for me and my baby and inadequate as a mother, that I probably agree. 

I unsuccessfully tried to breastfeed Elwood for 4 days – it didn’t work for us, I feel sad that I didn’t get to experience breastfeeding but he is thriving despite being formula fed, in honesty I was relieved to remove the pressure of trying to breastfeed when we decided to switch to formula feeding. This is something that I surprised myself with as I had been quite adamant during my pregnancy to be able to feed him myself. 

My point being that it isn’t a competition, one of my best friends has breastfed all three of her babies and I am in complete awe of her, a few of my other friends had no interest in even trying to breastfeed and I salute them for the confidence they took in their decision. Then there’s the unsure ones, like me, who tried to soak up all of the advice available and be really liberal with it but felt crushed under the weight of expectation. 

This principal carrys over into so many decisions we make as mums and dads. I jar fed Elwood for a few months (gasps of horror can be heard all around the baby puréeing  community) it wasn’t through lack of trying, he hated lumps. I made a few different meals, stacked them up in freezer, feeling like a proper grown up housewife, all for him to spit it out in disgust. I was judged by a few friends for this, they didn’t say it directly to me of course, but I found it hard to hear nonetheless. Which is crap because those women were meant to be empowering me through my mental health challenges since becoming a mum, not picking holes in my choice to feed my baby food from a jar. 

I try and limit my usage of social media these days because it can make me very anxious. I look at the photos and read the posts and find myself getting very irritated, at nothing in particular and everything all at once. I begin comparing myself to others, I look at their houses and then I look around my own house and criticise what we have and plan to change it. I look at photos of new mums who have snapped back into their size 8 jeans, and feel a pang of sadness of  when I look down at my soft covered in stripes. I look at their cars, their holidays, their relationships and then I end up going to bed anxious, wound up and pissed off at life. 

Truth is, I have a lovely life, I feel blessed a lot of the time. We have the gift of a healthy child. I worked hard before having Elwood to earn enough money to save for us to buy our house, we have a nice car, we go on holiday to nice places. There are sadly lots of people that don’t have all the things we have, who live with adversity of all kinds but I still find myself diving into that pool of comparison, wanting to feel like I’m a winner but painfully always liking myself a little less.  

What I need to sometimes remind myself of, is that there might be people out there that look at my life like that, like I’ve got my shit together (not since I’ve started this blog though eh, now everyone knows I’m mad!) I’ve had people say to me that they can’t believe I struggle with anxiety, because my life looks sorted. It’s amazing how we form these preconceived ideas of what a persons life is like. I think it goes to show that we are much better at sharing the highs than sharing the low’s.

I was a judger and I hated it. It’s really limited me both personally and at work. At work I judged my own abilities whenever a good opportunity to grow was presented to me, I’d rather be the shrinking violet than the centre of attention in any room. I felt like a fraud, like I didn’t really belong there. Personally speaking, judging how other people viewed me has meant that I have shyed away from investing in potentially fantastic friendships because I felt I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, nice enough, or didn’t fit in, my judgement of what other people thought of me was an awful habit. My thinking was very black and white.

So I do my best not to judge anymore. It’s not flawless, I’m only human but I already feel a huge weight has been lifted. I am choosing to not compare, to not put myself in running contention of who’s life is better, who is a better mum, who is prettier, I am just going to let you do you and I’ll do me ❤️

Thank you, from the bottom of my slightly palpitating but very full heart. 


Me again.

I just wanted to do a quick (that is likely to end up long) post about the amazing feedback I have received in the past few days since sharing my experience with post natal mental health. 

I’m am overwhelmed at how many of my Facebook and Instagram friends and followers commented on my post or messaged me directly to share their own stories or congratulate me for being brave enough to share. You all make my heart smile, thank you. 

It’s times like these, when us mere mortals flock to the injured, to help repair and raise them up with words of encouragement and hope, that I absolutely believe there will be a day when the stigma surrounding mental health is stamped out. 

We can all play a part in this by just speaking about what’s going on for us, especially as a mother. 

Before giving birth I was the perfect parent, I knew exactly what I would do, how I would guide and mentor my child through his formative years to ensure he was a lovely law abiding citizen. 

And then I gave birth…

I found my biggest fear very early on was the not knowing everything, and the anxiety that was brewing away ready to blow it’s top.

Why doesn’t anyone speak about the constant worry? Or the fact it’s ok to not bond straight away with your baby, or that it’s perfectly normal for it to take weeks or even months to feel like you can cope with the most important job you will ever have; the answer for a lot of people – Fear! 

Without all of the depression/anxiety/OCD labels, there is still a huge period of adjustment that every Mum, whether she has given birth to her first, second or fifth baby, has to go through. It can be very taxing on the mind and body. Sleep deprivation is so hard, not feeling confident that you will be enough is hard but it would all be made so much better if we could feel comfortable in the knowledge that most new mums feel the same. 

Women don’t want to feel fragile to the outside world at a time when they feel like they are meant to be brave and strong, to be the protector of this new little life, to be the person that will travel to the ends of the earth for this baby’s happiness, and ultimate survival. They just don’t. It’s called the ‘Hush Hush Syndrome’ for a reason. So many of us have an placed an expectation on ourselves that isn’t attainable – to feel the exact way we want to feel about situations or events in life, rather than accept the way we actually feel and know that it is OK. That’s not specific to parenting, it’s universal. 

I understand that it can be easier to put on a “fake it ’till you make it” smile and do just that. I definitely did the same for a while, right after I passed through the “I’m in crisis and I can’t even hide it” stage. 

So here’s to you lovely lot, you who have eased the weight of my burden so much already. I hope we can do the same for anyone else that is feeling like I did. 

I am looking for ideas of ways I can raise awareness for PND/A/OCD and money for post natal mental health charities. If anyone has any ideas on how I should do it this or if they want to get involved too, please get in touch.

Until next time,                                             Kay xx

P.s it was a bit long, soz about that.