Generic Baby Sleep Manual: A Review

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The following is a review of a Generic Baby Sleep Manual! Usually an excellent gift for first time parents, or bought by more experienced parents whilst under the influence of sleep deprivation, in the hope that their lives may be salvaged through application of the comedy suggestions outlined by the book, to their real lives, thus achieving the ultimate goal-a baby who sleeps through the night.

Author: D. Lusional

Genre: Fiction; Comedy and Fantasy

Synopsis: A work of fiction, propelling the sleep deprived parent through a fantasy journey of hope, and lights at the end of the tunnel, before moving them to a path of frustration (the book has been known to induce yelling, and feelings of utter desperation and uselessness from readers, who pray that some overlap can be made from the fictional narrative, to real life,) before making the abrupt turnaround into moments of comedy gold, with hilarious suggestions as to how the reader can apply rituals to their lives in order to overcome the frustration and yelling, and achieve the stuff of myth and legend: A baby who sleep all night.

I was delighted to be given this book to review, as I love to test my Supermum status by trying to fit reading into days filled with softplay visits, playdates, visits to the park, and other activities I love doing, and to provide glorious distraction from the cycle of making up to 8 different dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and having my patience tested by all of them being either a) thrown at me, b) spat at me, c) thrown on the floor, or d) all three, whilst the darlings simultaneously scream into my face at the brutality of not being allowed chocolate for all of these meals, before invariably asking for the first meal they discarded, which they expect me to salvage from the bin. Also, having graduated from the University of Realistic Parenting, with 100% in modules in Sleep Deprivation, and Wines which help you Best Cope With Shit Sleepers, it was felt I was fully equipped for the job!

It is clear that the Generic Baby Sleep Manual is a work of fiction (new parents may be less inclined to notice so quickly, and may believe it to be real,) when the opening paragraph promises to solve ALL baby sleep problems, with no exception! Not only that, but it promises that the latter end of the book will turn an outrageously badly behaved toddler into a mild mannered angel, in a matter of days! Of course, not only does every parent know this to be impossible, the ways it suggests the taming be done, is nothing short of witchcraft! Furthermore, the author lists their credentials in dealing with unruly toddlers, and I did feel that this section of the book could have made more sense if written by a zoo keeper, as we all know that looking after toddlers is tantamount to caring for a group of wild animals, and if the author really was aiming for authenticity in this section, her credentials are invalid, and a zoo keeper would’ve provided the realism required.

The first real belly laugh came just after the opening pages. There was talk of honing psychic like abilities in order to look at your baby and be able to read their mind! Just like that! Fantastical claims were made that a parent can train their mind like a Jedi, in order to know when their baby is telling them they are tired, hungry, generally pissed off, just about to take a massive dump etc, so that they can intervene and prevent a car crash scenario where the baby chomps on your failing boobs in anger, whilst attempting to punch you in the face, before crapping all up its back in protest at your less than adequate Jedi status. There were also some very fancy acronyms used here, in order to help you do this. To the Realistic Parent, these were pant wettingly funny!

Then we moved onto the good stuff, the comedy gold! The author provides a notion that babies can be trained to sleep at the click of a parents fingers, to times outlined by the author. The outrageously funny comedy notion suggests that every single baby in the universe can be trained like Pavlov’s Dog, to fit to this universal template! Here I simply loved the idea that you are starting to become suspicious that the author really has a God complex, and I started to throw around sub plots and conspiracy theories in my head. It was intense. What if, in this particular book, the author IS actually God? And she has the ability to stealthily hypnotise, and/or inject the universes babies with sedatives, from her place in another realm, in order to achieve her mission? It would certainly make a change from the current Gold Standard Template of getting babies to sleep, from the Royal Institute of Crap Parenting, which we all know is as follows:

Bath the child. In the chaos, half the water will end up on the floor, and half of it will be drank by the child, but the child will be clean.

On the way out of the bathroom, if able, the child must pull the light cord a minimum of three times. If they don’t a tantrum will ensue, thus ruining any calm you have achieved.

Once in the child’s in their bedroom, you must dry them quickly and efficiently, bonus sleep points are given from the child to the parent if they can dry them whilst the child is attempting to roll away/ask to hold every toy it owns/make record decibel breaking requests for milk/chocolate.

Once the child has been battled into its night clothes, it will turn down requested milk, and ask for stories. The same story must be read a minimum of 10 times.

When the child finally accepts being placed in its cot, you must lay next to the cot, and hold his or her hand through the cot bars until they fall asleep. This will invariably end in the parent falling asleep first, and the child will celebrate victory by throwing its dummy at the parents head, to remind them that it calls the sleep shots.

Repeat this final step as many times as necessary for the child to fall asleep.

Oh how The Generic Baby Sleep Manual provided an enchanting, whimsical break from this reality! I found the shifts between comedy and fantasy to be smooth and flowing, and one of the great novelty points of this book.
Next, the rest of the book was made up of hundreds of pages (and I mean HUNDREDS) of rituals, which it encourages parents to try, in order to get a non sleeping baby to sleep immediately. Some of the rituals were comic, and some slightly odd and almost Satanic, a real interesting use of contrasts. I do feel a ‘don’t try this at home’ disclaimer should’ve been included here. Here, any newbie parent could easily be fooled into trying these rituals, and spend many a frustrating hour trying to implement them, when they simply won’t work. They are to be enjoyed for comedy value only!

A real negative point I found with this book is that it tries to brainwash the more unwitting reader into thinking that dummy addiction is a rare occurrence, and that callous use of dummies should be encouraged. As the fiction of the book tries so hard to parallel with reality, I feel it is my place as founder and CEO of Parents of Dummy Addicts Unite, to remind all new and would be parents that ONE SUCK IS ALL IT TAKES. Proceed with dummy use with caution.

So, dear readers, there is my review! To summarise, this well written book will elicit a huge range of emotions from you. If you are massively sleep deprived, you could possibly become anxious and weepy when you reach the end of the story, and realise that sleeping through the night is not a realistic or attainable target. Wine will help, and my module in Wines which help with Shit Sleepers, suggests that a good, crisp Sauvignon Blanc will help with these emotions. But as comedy fantasies go, not bad! I give it a well deserved 4 stars!

Thanks for reading!

Xoxo

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The Twinkle Diaries
Mummuddlingthrough

Best of Worst

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
A Bit Of Everything

dummy

There is a turf war going on in my house. Like most turf wars, it gets violent and aggressive, and is perpetrated by addicts. I am caught in the middle of a dummy turf war, headed by my tiny humans, who would also rather die than remove the plastic, quiet inducing, sometime lifesavers, from their mouths. You see, Deep thinker is firmly in the Avent gang. He prefers his stash to be of the colourless, see through variety, with an annoying handle flapping with excessive movement. Mini Assassin is firmly affiliated with gang MAM, thus preferring a vice consisting of the larger, boldly coloured, face obscuring variety. Each are fearlessly protective of their own haul, and there is severe punishment for any dummy found crossing into the wrong territory. Avent territory includes Deep Thinkers bedroom, our bedroom, and the lounge. MAM territory consists of everywhere else. Punishment for a dummy found to be stepping on the others turf, currently include a screaming fit, before it being placed firmly in the bin, a screaming fit, followed by it being stamped on, and a screaming fit, followed by torture of the offending dummy owner (kicking, biting, scratching,) followed by an attempt to permanently disfigure the dummy by any means possible. I fear that one day soon, there will be a gangland execution for any dummy and its owner, found to be in someone else’s stomping ground.

I have always been a ‘never say never’ person. I felt the same about how I was going to bring my children up, I read a lot about the do’s and don’ts of feeding, what they should wear to sleep in, exactly what their poo should look and smell like before you start freaking out and making panicked phonecalls, etc, but ultimately thought that I’d do what came naturally. But for some reason, I really, REALLY didn’t want my children to have dummies. I was one of those clueless knobheads who thought that dummies were for lazy parents who couldn’t be bothered to comfort their child if it cried, and shoved a dummy their way as a quick fix. Yes, one of those naïve, childless people who need a slap, because they actually have no idea what dummies are really for. I didn’t realise they are excellent for colicky babies. I didn’t realise that some babies had such a strong, relentless urge to suck, that the whole time they weren’t sucking, they’d be screaming. I didn’t realise it would take me all of 24 hours before the following conversation would take place in my house:

Me: Get to the shop, and get the fucking dummies.
Husband: Errrrr, it’s 3am.
Me: Right, ok, I thought it was later than that. Go.
Husband: But it’s 3am, where will I get them? And I thought you didn’t like the look of them.
Me: Get on google, find a 24 hour shop, and GO. And do you really think baby aesthetics is top of my list of priorities right now? Do you? Do you hate me and want me to suffer any more of this? Have my nipples disintegrated like lollipops yet from the relentless fucking sucking?? Have they?? HAVE THEY??????????? GOOOOOOOOOO.
Husband: (With the terrified look of both a new Father and someone with a hormone ravaged, exhausted wife) Right you are, see you in a bit…

And thus, our first dummy addict was born. With the introduction of that little bit of plastic, which at that point held more value to me than anything I owned, peace ensued, and my nipples were stripped of their role as human pacifier. Dummies were initially limited to night time only. Then night time plus daytime naps. But with every addiction, the more you have it, the more you want it, and the eldest got to the point that he would do anything to have his dummy in constantly. And like every conversation that happens in our house regarding what we are going to do with the children, all the things we tell ourselves we are going to do, never happen. We said we would take it away on his first birthday. Then his second, then his third… Now it looks like we’ll be packing him off to university with a dummy firmly attached to his mouth.

The second baby didn’t need a dummy at first, he was a much more settled baby. But once when he was crawling, he found a discarded dummy on the floor, and one hit was all it took… For us to now have 2 addicts on our hands. We are currently in the middle of cold turkey daytime dummy withdrawal. It’s not going well. During our first outing with two cold turkey toddlers, to playgroup, there was a code red emergency where a baby in the fenced off baby area dropped its dummy on the floor. Both my addicts immediately made a move, desperately trying to scale the fence, snarling and salivating at the prospect of reaching that dummy, that precious prize, the hit they were being denied. It was like a scene from The Walking Dead.

I am trying to keep the children away from places where I know there will be dummies. Chemists trips are a no go at the moment. You will find me weaving stealthily around the pregnancy tests (hopefully they will never be needed again) past the Tena Lady (should really get some of those) like the ninja that I am, to avoid The Dummy Section. There has to be constant vigilance, as soon as they see the shelves lined with brand spanking new, shiny dummies, there is pleading, bargaining, then eventually a huge tantrum when they realise what they see can’t be theirs. Like sniffer dogs, they are capable of sniffing out a dummy from at least a mile away. I have to check coat pockets, under beds, and any dark corner where dummies I missed may have been squirreled away, ready for a sucking hit when my back is turned. I have to ask friends to put any dummies of their own away when we are visiting. I can’t let the children be surrounded by other dummy users. If I put one dummy in a room, with both of them, I’ve no doubt they would fight to the death over it. The dummy battle is a constant one.

The cold turkey daytime strategy is still very hit and miss. Sometimes I curse myself for not being stronger, and just rounding up all the dummies and chucking them out, not even allowing them for night time. But I’m too weak for that at the moment. My husband attempted this, just last week. He suddenly announced ‘right, that’s it. They’ve got to go,’ and chucked them all. Not even a visit from the dummy fairy (which is something else we have debated trying.) After he did this, he promptly buggered off out the door to work, leaving me to deal with the consequences. Needless to say, within less than 2 hours, I was at the shop making a panic purchase. And by the law of sod, all they had was flipping pink, lurid ones… Not even the thought of gender neutrality could make them look any better on my two, very much boyish boys…

So, that is where we are at. The turf war continues, and addiction presides. Any useful tips regarding weaning from dummies will be gratefully received! (I’m not really expecting any practical advice, don’t worry! Just raise a glass to me and have a glass of Sauvignon on my behalf will be fine!) I will be reaching for the wine/vodka until this is over and I can restrategise!!

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

UPDATE: Three months after the publication of this post, the eldest entered dummy rehab, and has been successfully dummy free since. The second baby still has a crack style addiction to his-we are working on it…!

 

Ways I Have Lost My Dignity Since Becoming a Mum

1. Excess Hair

Ok, so when it gets to that part in The Gruffalo, where it reads ‘It’s The Gruffalo! Are you brave enough to kiss him goodnight?’ Instead of fighting over the book in an attempt to slobber all over The Gruffalo, my children are in grave danger of turning to kiss ME. I am actually starting to resemble The Gruffalo. My legs are lucky if they get a biannual shave, and even then I usually give up, because even the bravest of razors struggles to hack through the dense mass. If you flew a plane over my bikini line, you may just be able to spy one of those tribes, untouched by civilisation, shaking their spears at you, just wanting to be left alone in the forest they call home. Standards of grooming have slipped unbearably low…

2. My eating habits have become almost as disgusting as my children’s

One day I was jiggling a fractious Deep Thinker up and down on my knee, whilst simultaneously trying to eat a bowl of soup. I was STARVING. He suddenly took it upon himself to sneeze, straight into my bowl. Think actual greenies being propelled out of his nose and mouth, at incredible speeds, torpedoing straight into my barely eaten soup. I ate it. I was THAT hungry. I also think nothing of eating off the floor (shove the 5 second rule,) and have fished out chocolate from the children’s neck creases and eaten it before they have noticed what it is, and demanded it for themselves. With not having regular mealtimes, or time to eat by myself, I have to stoop to such lows in order to stay alive. It’s every man for himself.

3. My bladder is not what it was

Yes, we are all told in antenatal class that we need to be doing so many million sets of pelvic floor exercises per day, in order not be urine leaking cat ladies once our babies are out. A combination of really only being in antenatal class for the mummy friends, and working sometimes 14 hour days (the first time around anyway) where I barely got time to eat, let alone give my pelvic floor a fleeting thought, meant that I was going to be subjected to extreme loss of dignity in the future. Just after Deep Thinker was born, I came down with a chest infection, and coughed constantly. During my first massive coughing session, I wet the bed. As I was thinking that the peeing my pants was not going to happen for another 60 years, Tena Lady was not something I had readily to hand. So I put one of Deep Thinkers nappies in my knickers… Not just once, I did it routinely until I stopped coughing… Shameful!

4. My personal hygiene can be shady

There is absolutely no time in my life for shopping. Even if there was, Deep Thinker and Mini Assassin get fractious within seconds of entering a shop, and it doesn’t give me enough time to choose stuff. All they want to do at the shopping centre is try and throw themselves into the fountain there, so they are like wild animals trying to free themselves from the buggy to get to it. You get it, it’s hard. The issue is, I can’t fit into about 95% of my wardrobe. So not only will my brain not accept that I will probably never fit into my lovely clothes again (massive heaving sob,) coupled with the fact that I can never get to the shops, I am presented with very little to wear. So I often wear the same clothes for days, or fish clothes out from the washing basket, pick off the dried on snot and food, spray perfume on the armpits and crotch (just to be safe) and away I go. Oh how I mourn for the days where I left the house with my highlighted hair bouncing, my size 10 clothes clean, and everything plucked and waxed…

5. Things have come out of my mouth, which I’m really not proud of

Before children, I was quite shy, and outrageously British in being appropriate. After children, this no longer applies. At all. Once, I had been walking Deep Thinker for AGES in his pushchair (it was only place he would sleep during the day,) and he was overtired, screaming, and really struggling to nod off. I was tired, grumpy, and as I spent hours a day aimlessly walking him around, I was also in pain, as I’d injured my knee continuing with this debacle. He had just gone off to sleep, and I had just relaxed a bit, and slowed my pace. Just as I slowed down, a police car parked up on the side of the road suddenly turned on its lights and sirens, and started to pull away. But it didn’t even go quickly, it went at snails pace, with the deafening scream emanating from it, indicating that if it were a real emergency, it should’ve been going a lot bloody faster, and not hanging around making enough noise to wake the dead!!!! So, I saw red. I wanted to grab that policeman, wrap my hands around his neck, and squeeze the life out of him. And I ran down the road after the car, shouting ‘you f***ing c**t, you absolute complete and utter f***ing f**kface! Look what you’ve done!’ Wow, the irrationality of a tired mum knew no bounds… What a dreadful undignified chav mother I must’ve looked… I have also announced to the lady taking the money at soft play that ‘I would rather shoot myself in the head than carry on with this parenting malarkey,’ and told the lovely lady at the church playgroup door that free coffee just wasn’t going to cut it. I needed free vodka. These were only a few scarce moments of letting my guard down, in a tired, wine deprived haze, but my previous, extremely dignified self, would NOT have approved.

6. I am NEVER prepared

As with the afore mentioned non-existent Tena Lady issue, I also seemed to have forgotten what having a period is all about, and always feel shocked when I get one. I didn’t have one for 3 years, with the pregnancies close together, and with PCOS, so I seemed to just forget exactly what I need in order to deal with it. I’m ALWAYS making an emergency dash to the shop for tampons (usually whilst again wearing a nappy!!!) Our house always seems to be lacking in essentials. One time I had injured my back in a gym related attempt at getting back into my old wardrobe incident. Looking after the children was devastatingly difficult enough with the pain, without me having to make an emergency dash to the shops for nappies (this time for my actual children, there’s definitely a running theme here) because like the forgetful idiot I’ve become, I forgot to get any with that weeks food shop. I really needed pain relief to get me through the journey there, but didn’t have any. So, if walking hunched over the pushchair, moaning in agony wasn’t enough, I had to stop on the side of the road, in a pain induced panic about how I was realistically going to reach my destination. I suddenly had the massive brain wave that I had a bottle of calpol in the changing bag! A lifeline!! So, I sat there calculating that 100mg in 5mls meant that to get the adult dose of 1000mg, I would need 10 syringes of the stuff to feel the effect. So I sat there. On the side of the road. Syringing 10 actual syringes of calpol into my desperate mouth… Oh. My. Life.

7. Metformin does embarrassing things to your body

When I was pregnant with Mini Assassin, I became resistant to insulin. After numerous trips to the GP to try and work out what was wrong with me, this conclusion was reached, and I was prescribed metformin, a drug used to treat diabetics (I’m not diabetic, but the side effect of taking metformin is that it lowers insulin resistance.) Another side effect of metformin is that it causes unwanted wind, of gale force proportions. The GP explained that it might make my tummy a ‘little gripy.’ Try constantly gurgling, trying to let the foulest ever smell emanate from you, from the slightest ever movement. Thank GOD that when this happens in public, I can say in a loud theatrical voice ‘oh, I think someone needs a nappy change!’ (*secretly laughs a little*) But seriously? My husband has commented that it’s like an assassination attempt by German mustard gas… Enough said, I need to move on quickly.

8. Children do things they think are hilarious, which make you want to kill them

So, we are on holiday at the child infested, over populated destination that is Center Parcs. I’m grappling with both children in the pool changing room, as my husband has suddenly had to urgently dash off somewhere (he just needed to get away from the hell that was the changing rooms.) Mini Assassin is trying to escape through the big crack under the door, Deep Thinker is throwing our wet AND dry clothes everywhere, including next doors cubicle. Mini Assassin has made a particularly heroic Houdini bid for freedom, meaning that even though I had no clothes on, I had to open the door to try and grab him back in. Even though I thought I’d only need to open it just enough to fit an arm through, thus protecting my postnatal nudity (which NOBODY needs to see,) Deep Thinker suddenly thought it’d be hilarious to shove me from behind with all his might. I went crashing through the gap, landing in a heap on the floor, outside of the cublicle. For all to see. You couldn’t make this shit up.

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

How Much Do I Love You?

 

I have mentioned my husband, Mr W, in the blog, a few times now. Mr W is a massive part of the story when it comes to telling mine, in writing about how I feel about motherhood, how my life has changed, and everything that has come with that. So I think it’s time he got a bit more than a passing mention! Here’s how I feel about you, Mr W!

When I first met you, Mr W, I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t expecting to find ‘the one’ quite yet. Because when we met, I was broken. I was someone who used to be a whole person, who enjoyed life, who had allowed someone else to smash me into a million pieces. I thought nobody would ever be able to find the pieces to put me back together, I thought I would never smile again. But then there you were…

I didn’t make it easy for you. I practically had an impenetrable fortress around me, I was so determined to keep you at arms length. Even though you wore your heart on your sleeve from the very first day we met, and made it clear you were in this for the long haul, I still couldn’t quite let you in. Looking back, I don’t know how you stayed, anyone else would’ve been gone in a heartbeat. I remember when I arrived at your house for our second date, and you had dinner all prepared for me, and I couldn’t believe it because nobody (apart from my mum!) had ever cooked for me before. That evening when we chatted all night, you took on board that I loved musical theatre. On our next date you presented me with 2 tickets to a West End show. I was falling hard, but wouldn’t let myself go. I did everything I could to halt the fall.

Even after everything you did, still I made it hard for you. I found myself testing you. I acted badly, like an errant child (like our children do!) to see how you’d react, sure that it would expose you as being just the same as the others. I’d pegged all men as hurtful and untrustworthy. But you carried on proving me wrong, and showing me just how brilliant you were, building up my trust and my confidence, putting me back together piece by piece. You amazed me by waking up happy every single day. You found a positive in everything. You made me see the best in everyone, and every thing. You made me a better person. You took me out of a bubble, and showed me how magical life can be.

We discovered in the early days, just how much we had in common. We both liked the same food, the same TV series (ok, you don’t like Gossip Girl, or Pretty Little Liars, but I don’t expect you to! I’m way too old for that stuff really, but I love it in all its trashiness! And I watch it with wine when you are out!) Our list of countries and places we wanted to visit were identical. I had never known anyone that I had so much in common with.

The day you asked me to marry you was one of the best days of my life. I can still remember every detail of that day. We were travelling at the time, ticking off places on our bucket list of places to visit. I didn’t know I was physically capable of feeling happiness like that. You laughed at me, because I’m not very good at talking to people I don’t know, or haven’t gotten to know well yet, but you laughed at how confidently I showed everyone we met for the rest of the time we were away, my new ring. I still can’t believe that I will get to wear that ring for the rest of my life, and that you gave it to me because you chose me. ME!

The place where you proposed…

Even now when we go out, you will always have a protective arm around me, hold my hand, or put your arm on the back of my chair. I have often referred to you as my security blanket. You are always ready to dive into any conversation where you can see I’m getting uncomfortable, and you always have the right words to make me feel better. You are my constant protective force. You know what makes me nervous, and who makes me nervous. You know words that may come unsuspectingly from others, that could upset me. You know what I’ve been through, and you always look after me.

It took us a long time to adjust to how our lives changed with the arrival of Deep Thinker. We were so used to our solid little unit, just the two of us. I know you especially found the new responsibility we had, overwhelming. You lost a little confidence when Deep Thinker was born. You thought that only I knew what he needed. You still get very nervous about looking after both of the children on your own, you sometimes still think it’s only me who knows what they want. I am with them all day, every day, so of course I know what they want and need. But pretty much all the time, what all three of us need is you. They are so excited when they realise it’s the weekend, and you aren’t going to work. They ask for you constantly, and everything they make and do, immediately has to be kept under strict guard, so that you can be the first person to see it. And when we are all waiting in the window for you to come home, I’m just as excited as they are to see you. Even now my heart can skip a beat watching you walk down the path towards us. I can still be struck in that funny, flippy place in tummy, by how handsome you look.

We are getting there, working out how to love how different we are now. Physically I am different after two pregnancies, and mentally we both needed to adjust. Sometimes I miss you so much, even when we are together I miss you, because our minds are often elsewhere, or the children are taking up so much of our time. But when I look at them, and their little faces, so much of me in Deep Thinker, and Mini Assassin is well, just a mini you, I can’t wait for our family to grow together. And we are slowly finding more time to spend together.

You were so sad when I was so ill after Mini Assassin was born. Sad because this was the first time you had seen the depths of despair I could fall to, and sad because you didn’t know how to help. But you helped just by being there. Just by doing everything you possibly could.

Even now, you still wake up happy. After a month of continuous 5am wake up calls, you might have a momentary wobble, but it’s gone in a flash. You sometimes might not think you are, but you are the best daddy and role model the children could ask for. If they grow up to show the world the warmth, love and decency you have, the world will continue to be a better place.

So, I hope I have done you justice. I hope people can see the man behind the other half of the This Mum’s Life story. The man I am proud to call my husband, and best friend. The man who took a shattered, wounded soul, and poured every ounce of love he had into it to make it better. There is no measure to how much I love you, Mr W. To the moon and back isn’t enough. You are everything. That is what I think of you, Mr W.

Ps, as the feel of this post is a lot different to the others, I think that perhaps it should be read with a very cheesy song playing in the background? I feel Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ will do. I need to get the tongue back in the cheek just a little, in order to maintain my integrity!

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

help

I think it’s pretty safe to say I was an anxious child. The sort of anxious child who would worry on my way home from school that one, or both parents may have died while I had been trying to fathom how the heck knowing the answer to 2x+3y-z would help me in everyday future life. Agonising that my entire family may have been wiped out while I had been laughing at my beetroot red male teacher putting a condom on a cucumber, was a real worry.

I’d worry that something life changing was happening while I had been totally unaware, and that I’d be desperate and alone for the rest of my life. School trips worried the life out of me, and I harboured a pretty irrational fear of being shot in the back of the head while at the cinema. So, I’m pretty certain that we can say I was anxious, and not only that, I surely must be a psychologists wet dream.

At the time though, I didn’t recognise that I was anxious. I always thought of it as preparing for the worst. A few years down the line, and a few bad career decisions, and self confidence destroying relationships later, the cracks were beginning to show.

A life of being oblivious to my unusually high anxiety levels, and leaving them unrecognised, coupled with being nowhere near where I wanted to be in my life, meant that the panic demons finally took over. And I started having panic attacks all. the. time. But again, I didn’t recognise them as a problem, just a weakness, or a weird quirk.

I nervously laughed in the face of the panic demons, before shuffling away to wrap them up neatly and put them in a box where I didn’t have to think about them, and where I thought they couldn’t get to me anymore, and hurrah! I was cured!

Fast forward a few years, and I have met the love of my life. We are getting married, and shortly after we are married, we find out we are expecting baby number one. After the years of the career drifting, and the bad relationships, and the endless regrettable decisions, I was finally fulfilling my calling. To be a mum was going to make me the person I always wanted to be, this was finally going to be the thing I was good at. I was going to be the hot shit at doing professional mummying, because this was where my life had been heading for. This was it! I had finally arrived at my destination!

However… After a hideous labour, I felt I’d totally let myself down when they handed him to me, and I felt…numb. Where was the rush of love? He was here, this person who was going to want me and need me, why didn’t I love him straight away like I should have? His first night alive, I refused to sleep, because I was convinced someone was going to creep into the ward and steal him. I determinedly stayed up all night making sure that didn’t happen. So in my anxiety, I endured a 28 hour labour, then refused to sleep for a further night after that.

On top of that, my milk failed to come in. So in three days, in my head I had already accrued two major failures: I didn’t love him instantly, and I couldn’t breast feed him. My confidence plummeted. Taking him home, I was plagued by nightmares of my baby being trapped in a burning building, and not being able to get to him. I got angered by anyone who held him, because they didn’t hold him right, and I was convinced they were damaging him. And I became OBSESSED that someone was going to steal him.

I got anxious if I was out with the pushchair and there were no other people around, because if someone did try to steal him, there would be no one for me to scream at for help. I also got anxious if there WERE people around, and would cross the road to avoid the obvious child thief looking ones (because of course, they all have a certain look don’t they??!) If my husband was out in the evening, I was scared to have a shower, because I was sure I would go downstairs afterwards to find the front door swinging open, and the baby gone.

And yes, by this time I was starting to realise that somewhere between the first and second stage of labour, I had clearly developed a paranoid personality disorder. But as these feelings dissipated slightly, and my confidence grew, I did what I do best, and bundled my irrational thoughts and feelings under the rug, to join the anxiety demons, and I tried desperately to move on.

I had a constant need to be out of the house, walking, or exercising, but this seemed to stop the anxiety overwhelming me, even if it did mean I was permanently exhausted. In my mind, I’d moved on so well, that when the baby was 4 months old, we decided it would be a great idea to have another baby, to, you know, get it all out of the way, and by the time he was 5 months old, I was pregnant again.

I was pretty unhappy throughout my pregnancy. At every midwife appointment where they ask you if you’ve been feeling more down than normal, I always lied and said no, because I kept thinking that I was miserable because I hated being pregnant, miserable because I couldn’t sleep, and had a baby who hated daytime sleep and made me pound the streets, tired and lonely, to get him to sleep in his pushchair. I thought that when I was done with all that, I would be ‘normal’ again. What I really had was antenatal depression.

And what really happened next was years of ignoring and not dealing, finally catching up with me. When the second baby was born, the poo well and truly hit the fan. It hit it so hard that the fan went flying off into oblivion, and finally, others had to intervene, to try and clear up the mountain of poo that now needed clearing up…

Four months after he was born, I found myself in a permanent petrified state. A hyperactive petrified state. Being sat still, or in one place for too long was too much for me. I paced around with the children in the pushchair, for hours and hours at a time. Often confused and not knowing where I was, and often not even remembering to do basic tasks such as feed them and change their nappies. I couldn’t get passed the feeling of impending doom, the feeling that I was going to die at any second.

This thing, this feeling that making my heart beat too fast, all the time, was going to kill me. The feeling that if I was going to feel like this for the rest of my life, I needed to die anyway because a life feeling like that wasn’t a life, overwhelmed me. Either way, I was going to die, it seemed inevitable. And my children wouldn’t have a mum, and I was just one total, massive disgraceful failure as a person, human being, and mum. And I didn’t sleep. For weeks. I just laid wide awake scared and panicking. And so the hallucinations started… The awful, sleep deprivation induced hallucinations.

I became hypersensitive to noise as well, so the slightest noise wouldn’t be filtered by my brain, and I would hear it as loud as a bomb dropping, and often continuously, like Chinese water torture. I just felt…nothing. Like a something had sucked the life and the happiness out of me, and I’d never feel joy again.

Eventually the Doctor came, I was given diazepam, citalopram, and zopiclone. The health visitor came, and there was talk of support groups and getting better, of who was going to look after the children while I was getting better. And the diagnosis: Postnatal Depression. The label, the stigma, all the things I still didn’t understand, things I thought were ruining my chances of being the best professional mummy the world had ever seen…
I had time to reflect on why the bubble had burst now, why had it been motherhood to bring about this almighty take down? It could be that I was finally free from the constraints of a workplace, yet I was again chained to routine by the schedule a child and a baby brings. I was surrounded by people, at playgroups, softplays, and all other groups I integrated myself with, yet the loneliest I’d ever been because I was too busy with the children to actually have an adult conversation while I was there.

I was more aware of myself, and the physical endurance I could undertake, than ever before, yet I was lost because everything I thought I knew had been turned on its head by the arrival of two demanding children. I saw more of my husband than ever before, yet I missed him because that time was not our time. I was lost. I couldn’t remember the person I was.

I was just two little boys mum. Most of all, I couldn’t handle that this thing I had been building up to all my life, this thing that was (supposed to be) my calling, was so hard, and didn’t just come naturally to me like I had thought. I felt bad for some days thinking that being a stay at home parent was awful and I hated it, because hadn’t I been telling everyone this was going to be the best time of my life? And how ungrateful did that make me?

I felt awful because some days all I wanted was an hour to myself, to do the things I wanted to do, but that hour never came. I was resentful because of everything I had given up, and that I didn’t see I was getting much in return. I felt I had failed at the thing which mattered most, the thing that is meant to be natural to us all, and that we are supposed to cherish. It was a huge lesson to learn, but motherhood isn’t the romantic fantasy I thought it would be. The reality can the total antithesis of that, there are heartbreakingly beautiful moments, and my heart is always bursting with love, but the reality is like running a marathon, compared to the romantic picnic I thought I was in for.

Learning to live with that and accept it, has been a huge part of getting better for me. Yes, there were the other things, the things from my early life which had been buried, and had bubbled to the surface at the first sign of weakness from me. But there, I had in the palm of my hand, the real reason for my breakdown.

Nowadays I am rarely bothered by intense anxiety. Yes, if I’m a couple of hours late with the citalopram, it reminds me, by making me feel like I’ve got electric shocks pulsating through my head, and makes me foggy and irrational. It reminds me I need it. I am ridiculously oversensitive, and the slightest thing can have me upset and mulling for days.

The thought of regressing, and feeling that bad again, is enough to induce panic, but I have the techniques to fight it off now. Yes, I feel like my life is like walking on a frozen lake. I have to tread carefully, as the threat of the lake cracking, and being overwhelmed by the engulfing flow of panic, is very real. But I laugh, I live, and I’m the best mummy I can be. I’m the best anxiety fighting mummy. Instead of feeling like I’m walking through a Colombian jungle, about to get kidnapped and tortured by Guerillas at any time, and the resulting debilitating panic that would induce, I now feel like I’m on a ghost train. A ghost train where the threats come, but you can laugh at them afterwards, because they didn’t really get you, they weren’t really real. Anxiety is tough, and draining, but it can be helped and overcome…

fear

Thanks for reading.

xoxo