confessions

10 Confessions of an Anxious First-Time Mum

Parenthood did not get off to a good start.

I suffered a birth trauma at the hands of the hospital who delivered my baby, followed by a horrendous 2 night hospital stay, ending with me discharging myself early because I couldn’t take it anymore.

My first night home was almost as bad.

My Mum came to stay for a few days, so I put on a brave face and pretended everything was fine. I did so well at appearing like I had it all together that my Mum left earlier than she planned because “you’re handling everything so well, there’s not much for me to do. I’ll head home and give you some privacy”.

In my head I was begging her not to go.

My husband drove her to the train station and I had a panic attack. Exacerbated by the fact it took over an hour for him to get to the station when the whole round-trip should have taken 45mins.

And anyone who has anxiety knows that my head went to the worst-case scenario. That my husband and mother had gotten into a horrible car accident.

That I was going to have to raise this baby alone.

When he got home I hugged him so hard and he hugs so well that I thought maybe, just maybe, everything would be okay.

But it wasn’t.

Anxious thoughts led to depressive thoughts, and before I knew it I was so far gone even I didn’t notice.

So here is a list of confessions I wish I had confessed in those first few weeks of my son’s life.

1. I Have No Idea What I Am Doing

For a parent with anxiety it is particularly horrifying. Everyone says “we’re all like that to begin with but we all figure it out”. But it doesn’t help the rising panic, because anxiety whispers “but I won’t. I will never figure it out”.

People asked how much milk he was drinking per day and I had no idea.

How many wet & dirty nappies? I have no idea.

How many hours a day does he sleep? No idea.

Every other mother just knows this stuff. I obviously don’t pay enough attention to him.

So I created a spreadsheet that I obsessively updated. It detailed what time he ate and how much he ate, and how much was breastmilk and how much was formula. It detailed when I changed his nappy and if it was wet or poopy (or both). It detailed when he woke up and when he fell asleep so I knew exactly how frequently he slept and for how long.

I spent hours poring over the numbers. Googling how much a X week old should eat, sleep, poop.

Because this is what a mother should know.

But I absorbed myself in the numbers so completely that my baby practically ceased to be, replaced by numbers and tables and calculations. A textbook baby. Literally.

2. I Want Someone to Take My Baby Away

I literally do not want to do this. I made a huge mistake. I’m not cut out for this.

Nothing is going to plan. This is my #1 anxiety trigger. And nothing ever goes to plan with children. I knew this. Yet I had a baby anyway. And now I am stuck with a tiny human who is basically a constant trigger.

I don’t want him near me.

Sometimes I can’t even look at him. When I do look at him I worry that he can see that his Mummy doesn’t love him.

And that’s no life for a child.

Please, just take him away.

3. I Am Terrified They’re Going to Take My Baby Away

Contradictory to my previous confession, right? No one ever said anxiety was rational.

I ended up lying on the PPD screening questionnaire the health visitor got me fill out. Twice. The first a few weeks after his birth, the second at 4 months.

I lied because I was afraid if I told the truth they would take him away. Confirm my fears that I am the worst mother ever.

But the fact I had to lie already means that I am.

4. I Am Lonely

So. Fucking. Lonely. New parents usually are. Everyone tells you to get outside, go for a walk, go to the library (Bookbug is great! they say), join a parent & baby group.

Anxiety won’t let me leave the house because there are people out there.

Anxiety won’t let me near a parent & baby group – there are people there.

And they will all hate me.

5. I Want Everyone to Leave Me Alone

The midwife visits, the health visitor visits, the family visits.

Every single one makes me feel even worse.

I am peopled out after a day with my own family, a day with my best friends, a day out with my husband.

And now I have a baby attached to me 24/7, strangers coming into my house, and guests wanting to make conversation with me when I’ve barely slept 10 hours the last 2 weeks.

I am so. Fucking. Exhausted.

I wish everyone would just piss off and leave me alone.

6. I Hate Breastfeeding

Like, absolutely detest it. The latching, the suckling, the letdown, feeling the milk moving through the ducts, the engorged breasts, the leaking, the smell of the breast pads. Everything about it grossed me out.

I hated constantly pulling up my top and unclipping my bra. I just wanted to put my boobs away, sit back and relax. But my body was not mine.

I felt like a cow.

I resented him every second I was feeding him.

I experienced an insurmountable rage that made me want to wrench him from my breast and throw him across the room. This then turned into an unbelievable sadness that made me cry and cry until the feed was over.

Where was the rush of love? The bonding hormones? The goddess-like feeling of nourishing another human life with nothing but your own body? I had read about all these things yet all I was feeling was rage and sadness.

I’m obviously a cold, uncaring mother.

7. Mum Guilt Is Consuming Me

Despite the hatred of breastfeeding, I kept doing it. Breast is best, right? Formula is synthetic crap, right? Mums who don’t breastfeed don’t care about their baby’s health, right?

Wrong.

But the Mummy guilt. Oh the Mummy guilt.

I should love breastfeeding. I should love the newborn cuddles. Breathe in his scent. I should play with him more. Sing to him. Dance with him. Play classical music to stimulate his brain. There are a million things I should be doing that I am just not. I can’t be bothered.

I am too lazy to be a mother.

8. I Don’t Love My Son

At least, not any more than I love any other baby. I make sure he is fed and dry and well rested and has a stimulating (but not over-stimulating) environment. All the things the internet sanctimummies say you need to do in order to not be a monster of a mother.

But I’m not doing it out of love.

I’m just following a recipe. The “quick and easy” version, while everyone else is following the gourmet version. Seasoning with love and kisses, smiles and singing.

I’m just sticking a bunch of random ingredients over pasta and hoping for the best.

What kind of mother doesn’t love her child? I am a monster.

9. I Actually Kind of Hate Him

He wasn’t letting me sleep. He wasn’t letting me eat, shower, put him down. I longed to do something, anything, I actually enjoyed doing.

But it’s just feed, change, hold, feed change, hold, feed, change, hold…

I’m so touched out. I need a minute to myself. Time to breathe. Close my eyes.

Feed, change, hold, feed, change, hold, feed, change, hold…

I put him in his crib and collapse on the sofa, listening to him cry, crying myself, shouting at him to just shut up and leave me alone.

“Why are you ruining my life?!”

Okay, now I am being borderline abusive.

But I can’t stop.

The ranting and raving, hysterical crying, throwing things across the room.

None of it even helped.

10. I Want to Run Away

I’d thought about it. I had several plans.

I’d wait until I heard my husband get home, leave by the back door and run.

(Maybe towards the bridge over the motorway).

I’d get on the train, leave the baby with my Mum and run.

(Maybe towards the cliffs).

I’d go stay in a hotel room for a night’s peace but never come back.

(Maybe take a whole bunch of pills with me).

I was an absolute wreck and no one noticed, not even me.

While pregnant I was sure I would see the signs in myself that my mental health was slipping. After all, I have suffered from anxiety my whole life. I know my signs.

My husband was sure he’d notice. I was a state when we first met. He’s seen me at my worst. Or so we thought.

Even a lifetime of mental illness did not prepare me for the torture of post-partum mental illness.

It took the most precious thing in the world from me – a deep, loving bond with my own baby.

I will work hard every day to make it up to him.

anxiety, confessions, depression, General Parenting, Life Events, Mental Health, Milestones, ppd

How Anxiety Stole My Son’s Birth

It should have been the best day of my life.

But one of the things I was most terrified of, happened.

And that’s going to make for a pretty shit day for anyone. As a sufferer of anxiety, it was the highway to hell.

The day started with 20hrs of the worst pain I’ve ever felt – which had kept me awake the whole night, so I was shattered – and continued with a constant uncertainty about when to go into hospital.

Contractions intensifying and speeding up only to lessen and slow down again. The eventual fear we’d leave it “too late” and end up delivering our baby ourselves in the middle of the motorway.

To alleviate that worry we just went into the hospital. There I was subjected to umpteen barely consensual, excruciatingly painful vaginal exams.

It honestly felt like they were stabbing a knife into my cervix.

I said I would rather not have them because they were so freakin’ painful, but they did them anyway. Over and over and over.

I felt violated.

I hadn’t even got to 2cm dilated and had already had so many I’d lost count.

My spirit was broken. I wanted to go home.

But another midwife wanted to see how dilated I was, even though I’d just had one and could have told her. But she wanted to “make sure”. What she felt was a bum, not a head.

So she called in another midwife to “check” and she wanted “to see for herself”, and was perplexed at why I wanted the gas & air “just” for a VE. It barely even helped.

She confirmed it and it was declared.

I needed a c-section.

I had imagined a peaceful, relaxed, hippy natural birth in the water with nothing but gas & air. But I wasn’t unrealistic. I was prepared for needing diamorphine or even an epidural. I was prepared for the possible eventuality of requiring some form of intervention.

But a c section? Nope. Please no.

Surgery freaks me out.

So there I was, already crippled with anxiety, feeling thoroughly violated, about to be put through one of my worst fears.

Everything happened so quickly, I had no time to think about it, to process it, to mentally prepare myself. I was told to swallow the pre-surgery pill, given an ultrasound to confirm the breech (yes, in that order), and told my baby would likely die if I didn’t go for the c-section.

So I signed the papers and was wheeled off to the operating theatre.

I was so anxious by this point that I physically could not relax enough for them to get the anaesthetic in. They had to re-do the local anaesthetic because it wore off before they got the damn needle in. They gave up and called down another anaesthetist to give it a try.

I was crying.

I couldn’t see through the tears. I’m a snotty crier and I had nothing to wipe my nose on.

I was a mess.

I needed my husband, but he wasn’t allowed in the room.

I worried he was sat outside wondering what was taking so long, scared that something had gone horribly wrong (he was).

I worried they were never going to get the needle in and I was going to have to vaginally deliver a breech baby, which I had been told could kill him.

I worried the theatre staff were losing their patience with me because they were having to tell me to relax, lean further forward, over and over and over again.

I tried to apologise, tell them I suffer from anxiety, ask if my husband could come in to help calm me, but my voice was shaking so much it just came out as garbled noise.

I was a soggy, tense, snotty, shaking mess.

Finally, they got the needle in, laid me down, and confirmed my name, DOB etc. and the operation I was here to have – “elective c section”.

Elective?!

This was not elective!

I was told that my baby would die if I didn’t do this! Apparently, this was not the case at all and doing a c section due to breech alone is considered elective. I felt like I’d just went through all of that for nothing.

I was completely dismayed. And angry. So angry.

But it was too late now.

They finally allowed my husband in the room and I started to feel calmer. I can do this. It’ll be over soon. We’re about to meet our baby. He’ll need his mummy.

I started focussing so hard on my breathing to try and calm myself and prevent a full-blown panic attack.

I was just about coping when the cold crept in. Then the anaesthesia shivers. It was horrible. I felt like I was convulsing. I remembered every episode of ER I had ever watched.

I began to lose control.

One of my monitors beeped and they pressed a button to make it stop but didn’t tell me what it was and I was too terrified of the answer to ask.

I thought I was going to die.

I was trying so hard to compose myself, trying to be strong, because mothers are “supposed” to be strong for their babies.

But I was terrified.

I felt weak.

Unworthy of motherhood.

If I can’t even cope with his birth, how am I going to cope with parenthood? I felt like I would never be good enough for him.

I’d failed him already.

I should’ve done more research, I should’ve been more assertive. Instead I signed the dotted line and relinquished all control to total strangers.

Some mother I’m turning out to be.

They pulled him out of me and held him over the curtain so I could see him. But I couldn’t see him. They had taken my glasses of so all I saw was a blur. I didn’t even realise they were holding him there until my husband pointed it out.

I waited on them to cut the cord so they could bring him closer. Put him on my chest, skin-to-skin, like I was promised before I consented to this surgery.

But then they took him away into the corner behind me. I was told his weight and exact time of birth, but I didn’t want stats, I wanted my baby.

Why are they not giving me my baby? Is there something wrong with him?

Reinforcing this fear, I was informed they’d called down a paediatrician to check his lungs because he was bringing up loads of fluid. Another c section risk I was not told about, and another reason to feel like a terrible mother for putting him through this already, in the first minutes of his life.

Straight from the comfort of my womb to feeling like he’s drowning.

The paediatrician gave him the all-clear, so they swaddled him, put a hat on him and gave him to my husband. Not me. Not skin-to-skin.

My wishes were completely ignored.

My husband placed him on my chest close enough for me to see him without my glasses. I looked at him for the first time, eager for that rush of love everyone gushes about.

I felt nothing.

The angle was weird and he couldn’t move because he was so tightly swaddled.

He felt like a doll.

I tried to touch him but my arms felt so heavy and I was shivering so badly and I couldn’t even really control what direction my arm was moving in. My movements were jerky and uncoordinated.

I felt completely disconnected.

Disconnected from my own body as well as my baby. The miniscule human being staring at me with huge dark eyes could have been anyone’s baby.

I didn’t love him.

It was hard to even look at him. But I stared and stared, waiting for love.

It never came.

I don’t even remember the journey from the OR to the recovery room. My husband says I was holding our son while they wheeled me there but I don’t remember a single second of it, even immediately after, I didn’t remember getting there.

One midwife took my blood pressure and fussed with surgery socks while another changed my son’s first nappy, without asking. It doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but in the moment, I was devastated that I had missed his first First.

The feeling that he wasn’t really my baby intensified.

I finally got to hold him skin-to-skin. I held him close and stared at him. I was so desperate to love him. But I felt nothing.

Breastfeeding didn’t bond me with him either.

I actually kind of hated it.

Our breastfeeding journey was not getting off to a good start. He kept falling asleep after a few suckles. Then waking up hungry and trying to latch again. Then asleep again. I had no idea if this was normal.

The whole time in the recovery room was just latch, suckle, sleep, wake, repeat, while midwives came and went with all their tests, checks, small-talk and offers of tea and toast, which I felt too nauseous to eat.

After being wheeled down to the ward, it wasn’t long before my husband was told he had to leave, visiting times were over. We hadn’t yet been graced a moment alone, just the three of us. I’d barely even looked at my baby’s father since being taken to the OR, never mind spoke with him.

And I had never needed him more than I did then.

So there I was, a sleep-deprived, drug-hazed, hungry, anxiety-ridden woman, alone, thrust into a strange environment, surrounded by strangers, with a tiny newborn and no idea what to do with him.

He was struggling to feed. I was struggling to cope. But it was the nightshift and I was too anxious about disturbing the other mothers and their babies that I didn’t call for help.

I cried all night.

(Silently, so the other Mums on the ward couldn’t hear me.)

I wanted to run.

Had I physically been able to move, I would have left that hospital. I’d have walked the 11 miles home. I fantasised about it. Planned my route. Calculated how long it would take. I didn’t even consider the option of just calling my husband to come pick me up.

Anxiety is not rational.

Anxiety ruined what should have been the best day of my life.

It twisted it into something awful, something that, 14 months later, I still think about every day. I still have anxiety attacks about it. The slightest mention of anaesthesia or surgery or childbirth takes me straight back to that operating table, shivering and panicking and thinking I was going to die.

It’s getting to the point where I am tempted to avoid the motorway and take the long way because you can see the hospital from the motorway and it all comes flooding back. Every single time.

Anxiety has robbed me of many beautiful moments over the years but I’ll never forgive it for this one.

anxiety, Life Events, Mental Health

12 Ways I’m Fighting the January Blues

Sitting on the sofa munching on chocolate and watching TV is the absolute dream when I’m feeling rushed off my feet, but when it’s because I have nothing else to do, then, well…it sucks.

January is a lot like that for me.

After the go! go! go! of December, January just feels empty, lonely, dreary and cold. I don’t know what to do with myself. December is a runaway train of activity, then January is when the steam runs out and everything just stops.

We fill Christmas with love and warmth and giving and food and happiness. We visit our friends and family and laugh and cheer and have a good time. On New Year we clasp arms and sing Auld Lang Syne and look hopefully towards the future.

Then what?

We return to our homes, jobs, daily routines. Everything feels dull and monotonous. The year looms ahead like a black cloud, an endless downpour of ‘same shit, different day’, day in day out. I’ll yearn for change, but the festive come-down makes it feel impossible.

Every year my mental health hits rock bottom because of this. I focus too much on trying to find the thing that is going to revolutionise my life that I forget to simply live.

So here’s 12 things I am doing this January to help me fight the January Blues.

1. Learn From Last Year

What major life lesson did I learn last year? Well, it was my first full year of being a parent so I learned a whole bunch of things! This was the biggie though:

Mental illness is so cunning, manipulative and good at hiding that no one notices you’ve gone completely off the rails, even you.

This led me to identify my early warning signs that the cliff-edge is near and I am now working on ways to prevent myself from tumbling over the edge.

 

2. Do One Thing I’ve Been Meaning to Get Around To

I have a to-do-list the length of my dissertation so I’m going to tackle at least one thing on there to make myself feel productive. That always helps lift my mood, and sometimes even alleviate some anxiety.

Today I started by cleaning the windows since it hadn’t been done since 2015 and the frames were literally black. I think I’ll continue with something more fun, like reading the books I bought months (years) ago and still haven’t read.

What’s on your to-do-list?

 

3. Stop Doing One Thing I Don’t Enjoy

I’m endlessly thrifty and used to clean the outsides of my windows myself because I hate the thought of paying someone to do something I could do myself. It led me to the discovery that there is at least one thing I hate doing more than paying someone to do something I could do myself and that is cleaning the outsides of windows! So I hired a window cleaner and never looked back.

There will always be things we don’t like doing that we just have to do (ya know, like go to work, or fold the 12th load of laundry this week) but if there’s something we can get off our plates, then why not?

 

4. Write Down One Good Thing About Every Day

So far so good on this one. Some days are more impressive than others, sometimes it’s “published my first blog post!” (today, right now), sometimes it’s just “finally finished reading “The Whole Brain Child””.

This activity helps me focus on the positives in life, the little differences that make every day unique, instead of dwelling on the everyday monotony that eventually wears me down into a stub of a human being.

I intend to keep this one up all year then sit down on Hogmany and read about the awesome year I just had.

 

5. Festive Family Feuds

If fights with family/friends have got you down it’s time to decide – do we forgive and forget, or say “fuck it” and cut the toxic people out of our lives?

Was it the stress of the day combined with a few too many alcoholic beverages, or is this a more common occurrence, a constant resurgence of tensions that have become almost inevitable every time you visit? Would 2018 be less stressful if you distance yourself from them, or cut them out entirely?

It’s a big decision to make, but we have to take care of ourselves too.

 

6. Sugar Rush/Crash/Rush/Crash/Rush/Crash

Yeah let’s not do that this year. This time, eat the remaining chocolate slowly (she types after consuming an entire chocolate orange…) and avoid the constant sugar rush-crash cycle that completely exhausts my body.

Likewise, if your New Year’s Resolution is to eat healthily, don’t do it cold turkey (no Christmas pun intended). Your body needs to adjust. Don’t eat your bodyweight in chocolate and drink an ocean of wine on Dec 31st then nothing but kale and celery on Jan 1st. You’ll feel like shit.

 

7. Lost Sleep Over Christmas

Too many parties and not enough sleep makes us weary and lethargic. Not much we can do about it now right enough, but take it easy and don’t expect too much of yourself. And maybe keep it in mind this December.

(Aye right, pass me the prosecco and let’s party ‘til dawn!)

 

8. Go Outside, Even (Especially) When I Don’t Feel Like It

Cabin fever is my worst enemy. Stuffy, stale air. The same 4 walls everywhere I go. No one around but a grumpy, teething toddler. No thank you. I am done. Go outside Steph.

 

9. Take Up A New Hobby

I started learning Italian and Japanese last year via Duolingo and I absolutely love it. I hated languages with a burning passion when I was at school but learning is way more fun when you’re not being forced (and you have a game to help!).

This year I’m blogging! Hello!

 

10. Redecorate

Okay, I’m not going that far, but it’s the urge I got after taking down the Christmas decorations. The house felt bare and empty and devoid of colour. We all know the feeling right?

So why not try changing things up a bit? Put up a new picture, buy a plant, reorganise your ornaments (or furniture even), get a new rug, go the whole hog and tear off the wallpaper! It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just get something nice to look at!

 

11. Give Myself Something to Look Forward To

My January is pretty desolate, with nothing to celebrate, no birthdays, no holidays, nothing. I’m thinking of starting a new tradition, inventing a holiday. Something daft like Snuggle Up And Read Day, Pillow Fort Day, The Floor Is Lava Day. Or something serious like Act of Random Kindness Day, Write A Letter Day, Child-Free Day (hahaha I wish).

I saw someone post about how January is their favourite month of the year as it’s their wedding anniversary, so a January wedding might not have been a terrible idea after all!

 

12. Give Myself Something to Look Forward To 2

Also want to arrange something for later this year. Girl’s Night, book gig tickets, plan that road trip we’ve never got around to, actually go canoeing, maybe even a holiday away if the bank balance permits. We’ll see.

 

So there’s my January. It’s looking a lot more worth living that every other January of my life. How are you going to turn your soggy January into a cocktail of good days?