Hello, it’s me. — March 25, 2017

Hello, it’s me.

welcome-images-25

If you’re reading this, I’d just like to say thank you for visiting my rebooted web blog. I’m hoping the reason you’ve visited is because you enjoyed the articles and posts from my previous page, and wish to continue following my journey with anxiety and parenthood.

This rebooted site, will not only follow my anxiety and parenthood paths, but has now given me the opportunity to share my journey as an aspiring writer, as well as sharing the information I will be gaining from attending several courses this year.

Topics you can expect to read about will be makaton training and the benefits my family has gained from using it, my anxiety journey transitioning to unmedicated, my incredible baby boy’s entry to school, further information surrounding my daughters allergies, and my new ink including the meanings behind it all!

I’ll keep it short and sweet for now, thank you again for reading.

Gem.

A thank you to my boyfriend.. — April 10, 2017

A thank you to my boyfriend..

I have tried for so long to put this thank you letter together, but I just feel it could get too long winded, or just to soppy in general. Plus, let’s face it, I’m pretty sure your boss reads my blog, and I didn’t want to give any more banter ammunition.

Since the beginning, this hasn’t been your average “love story” and boy, do we know it. Whenever I’m asked if it was love at first sight, the looks I get when I say that it wasn’t are hilarious. I think it shocks people to hear that. Though to be honest with you, whenever I’m asked about how we became a couple, I never know what to say. I guess I’m worried about people’s reactions and opinions. I feel like it’ll change their perspective of me, make them think badly of me. I don’t know why I care so much about what other people think. Well I do, but I’m trying not to use my anxiety as an excuse for everything, as I’m sure some people try to.

 

To many people, I wasn’t the right person for you. People thought you were taking on so much more than you could chew, delving head first into a huge pool of drama. And let’s be realistic, they were right. I was a ticking time bomb, heading toward a mental breakdown, with an unpredictable ex, and a two year old son to look after.

 

None of that ever mattered to you. We were just two people who fell in love. And so what if the timing was a bit bad, when is timing ever good? Those first few months, I treated you so badly. You were an emotional punchbag, and you never deserved to put up with any of it. You persevered. You tolerated my emotional outbursts, my mood swings, my coping mechanisms, all of it. What on earth possessed you to do so, I’ll probably never understand, but I will forever be thankful that you did.

 

So here goes, what may seem a never ending list of thankyou’s.

 

Thank you for knowing how to handle me, or at least pretending you do. You do a bloody good job of it. I know I am definitely not one of the easiest women to deal with, but you always manage to calm me down, and you know how to make me smile again.

 

Thank you for holding my hand, literally and figuratively. I love holding your hand when we go for a walk, when we’re at your parents, even just sitting on the sofa. It helps to reassure me that you’re happy.

 

Thank you for continually supporting me, for praising me for my achievements, appreciating my struggles and just genuinely always being the person to cheer me on when the going gets tough. “Oh I think that I’ve found myself a cheer leader, he is always right there when I need him..”

 

Thank you for our beautiful daughter, who is an absolute gem. I cannot thankyou enough for her, for everything you’ve done for her and for me. Waiting on me hand and foot during pregnancy, being absolutely incredible during labour, the support when we were establishing breastfeeding, the nappy changes, just keeping me company during night feeds, helping me get over my fear of bathing her, everything.

 

Thank you for taking on my son. You are the best role model for my son and for that I will be entirely thankful. Nothing else needs saying on this.

 

Thank you for stealing the duvet. Every damn night. But it lets me know you’re still lying next to me and that you’ve not gone anywhere.

 

Thank you for not being fed up with giving me constant reassurance. I know it sounds so silly. I know the continuous questions must drive you insane. I just need to hear those words.

 

Thank you for being you. For being the person who I can share letters like this to, for giving me the life I never thought I’d have. You have changed my entire outlook on life in less than two years. I cannot wait to spend eternity with you by my side.

 

I love you, forever,

 

Your Gem

Does Mummy really know best? — April 6, 2017

Does Mummy really know best?

As a parent, you will hear millions upon millions of suggestions from other parents about the best way to raise your child. You will hear plenty of ‘Well I did it and mine turned out okay’. You’ll also probably get told ‘Mummy knows best’.

I won’t speak for anyone else, but when I decided I wanted to have children, I never aimed for okay. I have always had a target to give my children so much better than just okay.

Also, newsflash, pushing a baby out of your vagina, or even having them taken out via the sunroof, it does not and will not give you a PHD in parenting, or science, in fact, it gives you no form of formal qualifications whatsoever.

So if you want to go against billions of pounds of scientific research into children’s health and development, for the notion of Mummy knows best, then you go for it. But don’t pass on your uneducated and ill-informed decisions to a new first time Mum who isn’t sure what she’s doing. Do not play health roulette with someone else’s child. Note I say uneducated, those who have made an educated and informed choice not to follow these guidelines, I have no issue with.

Do your own research. The internet is a fantastic thing these days. I have learned so much by just looking at the NHS, World Health Organisation, KellyMom and several other qualified and respected websites. Because if I told you that smoking causes cancer, you’d believe me, because science says so, even though 50 years ago it was considered healthy. But if I tried to tell you anything related to parenting, I guarantee you wouldn’t listen, because ‘you’re okay’ or ‘your parents did it, and you’re fine’ or even ‘they change the guidelines every five minutes’. If you have researched your decision hard enough to go against the standard guidelines, then follow your heart and decisions, because the amount of research you have made into it can justify your choices, not that anyone should have to, but should it arise that you should.

Guidelines are there to help you do what’s best for your child, from a scientific and child development point of view. No they don’t fit every child exactly, but why, just why would you risk it? I risked it with Thomas. And now my poor baby suffers with asthma, a less commonly known risk factor of formula feeding your baby. Would he have asthma if he was breastfed for longer than he was? Who knows. But I took the risk, that was my decision and there is nothing I can do about it now.

But do you know what I did do? I researched. And I am now more educated on these terms. And because I know better than I did previously, I am not making these mistakes again with Ivy. That doesn’t make up for anything, I just know that although one of my children has an increased risk of developing health problems, I am doing my absolute best that the other does not.

I’m not even going to bother telling you what my decisions are to raise my children now. Because it doesn’t matter what I do. It matters what you do. So pick up a parenting book, join a support group, or get on the internet and research your little butt off. Because I guarantee Dr Amy Brown, a professor of Child Public Health at Swansea University, knows just a little bit more about how we can support new mothers better through pregnancy and during the early years, than Margaret down the road with her three middle aged sons who all turned out ‘okay’.

Our journey with CMPA. — April 3, 2017

Our journey with CMPA.

When I was pregnant with Ivy-Joan, I researched absolutely everything that I felt that I had failed with when I had TJ. I felt pretty confident about the whole thing if I’m honest, haha I was so wrong! I’d done it before and of course the sleepless nights were going to be exhausting, but it was totally manageable when I had TJ. It sounds silly to say this, because it’s so blatantly obvious, but every baby is different. However, I never truly realised exactly how different until Ivy-Joan arrived. Things I had learnt with TJ just didn’t apply to our little madam and I realise just how naive I had been about it all.

Ivy-Joan had been sicky since the day she was born. No matter how many times I said to family, friends, health visitors, GP’s about the amount she was sick, I was told it was normal. I knew something wasn’t right though. I gave up wearing perfume, or body spray, my new scent was “eau de baby sick”. Our wash baskets were never empty, they were full to the brim with Ivy-Joan’s clothes, muslin cloths, my clothes, and I swear down I washed Elliott’s dressing gown more times than I care to remember. I was told it wasn’t possible to overfeed a breastfed baby. That they would bring up what they didn’t want, and that she was obviously using me for comfort rather than for milk. I didn’t mind, I always loved the fact that breastfeeding didn’t seem like a chore this time round, no-one else could settle her, feed her, comfort her like I could. Ivy-Joan took to breastfeeding pretty well (unlike TJ). I will always be thankful to Nickelodeon and Paw Patrol for getting me through those first few weeks with two children.

Ivy-Joan has always been such a happy baby, settled easily, fed well. It was very rare for her to show signs of discomfort, other than when she was passing wind, it was so odd to see trumping causing pain. When she reached 6 weeks old, we were concerned that her milk spots still hadn’t settled, they were as red as the day she was born, her wind was causing more discomfort than ever, and although her nappy output was regular, it became green, mucousy, not like any poo I’d seen in a nappy before, and as a nursery nurse, I honestly thought I’d seen it all.

I continued to bring it up to my health visitor when she visited, would mention it to the community nursery nurses at baby clinic. They continually told me they had no concerns, the milk spots would settle eventually and because I had no evidence of the nappies (children never poo on cue do they, only when you want to leave the house, or when you’ve just put a clean nappy on them!), they didn’t see it as a problem, she was gaining weight well, she was meeting her milestones. On paper, to them, she was just a sicky baby.

I remember a feeling of utter helplessness. All different holds and patting, nothing would work. I would veer between what am I doing wrong for my baby to throw up so much, to selfishly thinking I cannot take anymore vomit today. Then, of course, I felt terrible guilt that I was neglecting my son, who up until a few weeks before had been an only child with his mum and step-dad’s full attention and now not only did he have a new sister, he had a poorly one who took up all of his mummy’s time. I am so grateful for friends and family over this time who helped us out.

It wasn’t the GP or even my Health Visitor that suggested what the problem might be. No, in the end it was good old Facebook. Some really helpful Mums on there suggested it might be CMPA. At this stage, she also had more of a rash all over face, which we initially thought was milk spots, but it turned out to be linked to her dairy allergy. At my 6 week check (at 10 weeks post partum) I mentioned the symptoms to the GP. And lo and behold, Ivy-Joan had pooed in front of a professional. The look on the GP’s face said it all, that was not normal. She suggested I remove all aspects of dairy from my diet and asked me to read up on Cows Milk Protein Allergy. I had never heard of this in my life. CMPA is the most common infant food allergy affecting 3-7% of infants worldwide. CMPA is an immune system response to one or both proteins, casein or whey.

I cut dairy from my diet immediately. It was terrifying, that anything I ate could affect my daughter. Did you know that dairy can be found in absolutely anything? Wine, crisps, ham, even the teething granules we bought for her contained lactose, which although she doesn’t have a lactose intolerance, there is a huge risk of contamination through them. The prospect seemed really daunting at first, we eat so much dairy in our foods and it’s hidden in everything. But, after 3 weeks the difference it made was incredible. Jojo became much more settled, her skin began to clear and she began putting on even more weight.

I lost the will to go to a supermarket, walk around and do the food shop. It would take me hours with all the label checking and I’d give myself anxiety attacks just thinking about the possibility of causing my daughter pain. Online shopping became my best friend, meal plans became routine just to ensure that I regularly had tea ready and dairy free, so that my shop rarely had to change. It’s become a lot easier to find foods I can eat, it doesn’t take me half as long to do the shopping anymore and I have been dairy free for Jojo now for 8 months. I could have easily put her onto a dairy free formula, but do you know what? I didn’t want to. And as her Mama, that’s my decision to make and stick to.

Breastfeeding is incredible.The bond I have with Ivy-Joan is amazing. I’ve been told so many times that ‘I’m lucky to breastfeed’. No I’m not. I’ve worked my ass off to provide the best nutrition for my baby. That’s not bashing, that’s science. I’ve battled sore, cracked and bleeding nipples, an oversupply in my left boob, thrush as well as facing the overwhelming anxiety that comes alongside feeding in public. That is not lucky, that is sheer determination, also known as stubbornness if you ask my darling other half.

I hope he’s proud of me. He knows how hard I’ve worked to achieve my silver boobs, 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding. Absolutely nothing else but booby milk until she turned 6 months old. And to continue to feed her now, at 10 months alongside solids. Yes I have made several sacrifices whilst breastfeeding, and some days I feel like all I am to our daughter is a pair of breasts, but I know that to her I am her comfort, her nourishment, her safe place, her mother.

Repost – an updated letter to my son. — April 1, 2017

Repost – an updated letter to my son.

Today, my beautiful son Thomas turns four years old. I know he’s not going to read this. I know even if I read it to him now, that he wouldn’t understand half of it. But the content of this letter isn’t for now. It’s for when he is old enough to understand, that his Mummy, regardless of all of her own issues, has always put him first, and no matter what that she will continue to do so.

Dear Thomas,

When you were born, you created a love in my heart that hadn’t been there before. When you said your first word, you took your first steps, no-one was as proud as I was, your biggest supporter. With every milestone you have achieved and those that you continue to reach, I have celebrated and will continue to do so alongside you every step of the way. Thomas, you taught me the meaning of true, unconditional love.

At the young age of just four years old, you have experienced situations that even some grown adults have not had to endure. When you were only 19 months old, your father and I ended our relationship. Our family didn’t break up, it fell apart. And you, my beautiful little boy, you were there right in the middle, caught in the crossfire of what was to become an emotional war zone.

I wonder if you know the amount of guilt I feel, for putting you through that, knowing that your confusion and lack of understanding, the upset it caused you, was partially my fault.

I know the separation was a very difficult time in our family. Trust me, I know. I know that everything felt different. You didn’t know what was going on, but you knew that there were a lot of changes and there was a lot of upheaval happening in your life. And I know that now you are getting older and becoming more aware, you are probably feeling everything from angry and upset, to wounded and betrayed by the two people you thought would never hurt you, that society is teaching you will never hurt you, your parents, but you know that yours did. Can I say to you that I’m sorry? I’m sorry for failing in the relationship that was supposed to be your model for your future. I am sorry that my weaknesses are what caused you this pain that you still don’t fully understand. I hope you’ll see one day that in my choices and decisions always, I’ve always had your best interest in mind. I truly did what I thought was right. And I will forever stand by my decision. But I know it hurts. A lot. When your friend asked you ‘Why doesn’t your daddy live with your mummy?’ it broke my heart to hear you say ‘My mummy loves me and my daddy loves me, but they don’t love each other.’ A four year old should not have to deal with those sort of explanations.

I want to say how sorry I am that you don’t get to see your Dad very often. I am not writing this to tear your dad down, I am writing this so you are aware of the truth. Your dad is welcome to see you as and when he pleases. You are currently going to your Grandma’s house on a Friday evening, sleeping at her house and then spending Saturday with your Dad, before coming home in the evening. I have previously offered for your Dad to have you for tea once a week, which he agreed to, but unfortunately this didn’t last long. You’re a clever little monkey and initially, you realised that Wednesday nights you’d have tea with him. But seeing that adorable little face fall, when yet again I had to explain to you that Daddy wasn’t going to be taking you, although you’d been ready and waiting for half an hour, it was something I was not willing to put you through on a regular basis. So I cancelled that. You may think, well why? It was for your emotional well being, I needed you to have stability and a regular routine to help you understand that you had done nothing wrong. He couldn’t commit to that, so for your benefit, I told him not to worry about collecting you for tea in the week.

There have been several occasions where the voluntary organisation that he is a part of has caused him to rearrange his time with you. You spent New Years Day with Mummy and Elliott this year, although you also spent Christmas with us too. Daddy had to volunteer at an event. No, that’s a lie, he didn’t have to. He chose to volunteer on New Years Day, when he was due to have you. I can’t make your Dad have you. I can’t make you go. All I can do is offer and try. And I’m sorry that I can’t do more than that, other than console you and support you when you are feeling let down and low.

I am not speaking on behalf of anyone else at this time. My priorities have always been and always bloody will be you and your sister. Being a parent is a full time responsibility and regardless of how anxious, upset, mentally unstable that I become, my heart and soul will go into ensuring that both of you, my children, are happy, healthy and secure.

I hope that through my relationship with Elliott, you can see that it is possible to be happy after a break up. That you will understand that things do get better, people move on. Within this household, you have two incredible parents. Whether people like this or not, Elliott is your parent. There’s no step about it. He provides for us, he supports us, he is not only confidant to me, but to you as well. There are times when you’d rather Elliott put you to bed, read you a story, play cars with you. I won’t let anyone begrudge him for that. Being in a relationship with me, it’s definitely not easy. At four years old you can see that mummy is difficult sometimes and that situations arise that cause mummy to become upset, for mummy to have panic attacks, to spontaneously burst into tears for reasons you don’t know about. I know I am meant to be the strong one, the adult, the parent. But you know, that those mental scars still remain. And even now at this early age, you know, you realise that Mummy sometimes doesn’t have enough strength to deal with herself, let alone you, and now your sister. Elliott knew he;d have to accept all of this when he and I first entered our relationship. Obviously he knew about you too, and he chose to embark on this crazy parenting journey with me. Did he have to? No. Did he choose to? Yes. That’s the incredible thing about step-parents. They choose to parent you. If Elliott didn’t want to, he’d have been gone. He’s more than aware of this. Thomas, you and I are a package deal bud, and Elliott understood that. He’s never tried to replace your Dad. He understands that he isn’t your Dad, no matter how much he wishes he was, but he is the most influential male role model you have in your life. If you grow up to be half the man that Elliott is, then even then I will be immensely proud, although I know that with such an incredible father figure like Elliott, you will grow up to be one of the good guys.

As you continue to grow and become an adult, you will live your own life. You will have times of happiness and times of disappointment. Live your own dreams. Figure out what makes you happy, take hold of it and pursue it. Follow a path of your own choosing – not mine, not your dad’s or anyone else’s. Your fulfilment is what I want, and it’ll come from following your dreams and living a life that has meaning and purpose for you. You’ll fall in love, and you’ll have your heart broken (although, a wise boy/girl definitely won’t break your heart after they’ve met me…). You will meet someone one day with whom you fall head over heels in love and want to spend the rest of your life. Their gender, race, religion, and culture, trust me when I say that none of that matters to me. As long as you are loved, respected, and treated well, I will always be happy with your choice. Life has its ups and downs and is not always fair, but I know your strength and resilience will see you through.

And, last but certainly not least, I need you to know that I will always love you and Elliott and I will always be there for you. No matter what, we’ve got you. You are my son and always will be. I adore you, Elliott loves you, your sister idolises you and there is nothing you could possibly do to change that. There may be times when we don’t always see eye to eye, but we still love you and always will. There may be times when I am still an anxious mess, but this anxious mess is your mama, and she’ll be damned if she’s selfish enough to not take you and your feelings into consideration regarding her life’s decisions.

Repost – Mama first, FdA second. — March 29, 2017

Repost – Mama first, FdA second.

So, I’ve been reminiscing over the last two years this week after successfully completing my foundation degree and attending my graduation ceremony.

Two years ago, was probably what I’d call rock bottom; I was trapped. Trapped in what felt like a never-ending cycle of a failing, almost toxic relationship, trying my damned hardest to make it work, stubbornly refusing to accept that I couldn’t make it work. I didn’t believe in myself, my confidence had hit an all-time low and I had no respect for myself. In my head, I thought that throwing myself into my work, taking extra hours and accepting more responsibilities within the workplace, whilst also taking on a foundation degree was the way to bring myself back up again. Boy, was I wrong. I honestly thought that trying to fix my relationship with his Dad, working every hour God gave and then throwing my spare time into being super mama until he was in bed, then staying up most of the night studying so it didn’t cut into our small amount of time together was what was best for TJ. I thought that a hard-working role model, in a (for lack of a better phrase) “non-broken” home was what he needed. Trying to be that person, stole away any last dregs of me. The gobby, fun-loving, sociable girl had gone and was replaced with this defeated shell of a woman, who honestly believed there was nothing better in this life for her. After the absolute car-crash way that the relationship ended, I thought I was going to be this shell forever. I couldn’t feel anything, let alone happiness.

Two years on, and for TJ and I, our lives could not be any more different if we tried. When I look back upon the past, I can’t help but feel disappointment and sadness for that woman. These past 18 months (after my initial 6 month breakdown), I can finally see the light and together Elliott and I are finding a way for me to get back to being that gobby, fun-loving sociable girl I once was. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got a long way to go and I continually struggle to find that balance between being Mummy and Gemma but I am trying my best.

Being a mama; there are no words to describe what it’s like, there are no words to describe how it genuinely does take over your life, but in all honesty, I think we’re all guilty of falling into and getting stuck in Mama mode. Taking on more and more, that in the end, the bucket does just overflow. You truly believe that what you’re doing is best, because everyone says Mama knows best, but let’s face it, why keep taking on more and more and providing a pretty rubbish container, when if you take on a little bit at a time, empty the container space regularly, you’ll have more space to take on bigger and better challenges. (I’m crap at metaphors, so if anyone missed it, the container is your mind and mental capacity). I personally hate the phrase “Happy Mum, Happy Baby”, because I believe that my children’s happiness should always come first. When my children are happy, I am at my strongest and my mind is more at peace (See, it’s not all due to the meds!). Not completely, but more than usual anyway.

These past two years, I’ve honestly thought that any time I’ve taken for me has been selfish. Having a kind and loving relationship, with 50/50 accountability for our actions, our children, our lives together, Elliott has helped me realise that time for me isn’t selfish at all, I need it. It helps us to get through major milestones and stages in our relationship without me imploding. (Not exploding, trust me, I don’t think he’d cope with another explosion of my temper). It’s also that time to refresh, to boost my self-esteem and to teach our children that their needs matter and they should always respect that.

Life is never going to be easy or straightforward, and I think that’s something every individual parent needs to accept. There is always going to be positives and negatives, and it’s our job as parents to ensure that creating more positive situations outweigh any negative implications. Overcoming any negative obstacles, gives you so much more respect and appreciation for your good experiences, and when you’ve come out of the other side from a terrible part of your life, shows you have the strength to create the most amazing memories to look back on. I need to overcome these anxious thoughts and to stop letting my anxiety rule my life, I oversee my emotions and feelings, and I know that my attitude and how I channel my emotions and feelings is down to me (Again, not just a few tablets!), however no matter what way I do this, it will have an impact on my children.

My me time is well deserved, and not only do I deserve it, my children do too, so I can encourage them to be strong independent adults, and to know that having emotion and feelings that aren’t so nice sometimes is normal, and that there is nothing wrong with exploring them as it’s a part of life that many struggle with. But I’m going to get there. I’m going to show them both, that they can do anything they put their mind to.

Taking them both to my graduation this weekend was the crucial first step in showing them that their Mama can do things that she puts her mind to. The photos just showed how proud of myself I was, but also how proud that my family were. I have overcome some horrendous things since beginning my degree, but I’ve fought through them with their love, their help and support, and I am so so happy that I’ve still come away with my Level 5 qualification in the Children and Young People’s Workforce, with aspirations of going into teaching further down the line. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to do something for me, alongside being a badass, although forever anxious, mama.

Motherhood and Anxiety. — March 27, 2017

Motherhood and Anxiety.

Becoming a mother seems to have caused many of my friends, as well as myself, to become more anxious, in general. I guess it’s inevitable; you’re suddenly in charge of another human being. Everything becomes your responsibility; what they eat, what they learn, how they act, and absolutely everything in between. You are that person’s whole world (for a while, at least) and that’s a lot of pressure and obligation. However, for those of us who suffered with anxiety prior to become parents, well, the new mama experience is even more intense.

There are struggles only mama’s with anxiety can understand; struggles that are pretty universal for all parents, but seem far more difficult when you’re also battling anxiety; struggles that make our self-doubt and fear all the more intrusive. Sadly, when those struggles present themselves (sometimes, on a daily basis) anxiety can go from being a small part of your parenting experience, to being one of the things that define it.

I guess I was always prone to worrying, but never categorised or identified myself as anxious until my daughter was born. After she came into the world, I began to have all sorts of fears pop into my head and to the point that they were impacting my ability to get through day-to-day life. Simple tasks that other mothers appeared to have no problem accomplishing, became huge challenges for me.

It’s important to note that anxiety looks and acts differently to different people, but when it comes to anxiety and being a mama, there seem to be certain experiences and moments that can trigger anxiety for those of us who are predisposed to it.