We are all at least a part of the 97% of women who suffered from harassment

With 97% of women experiencing sexual harassment during their lifetime, I never had any expectations of being the exception.

However what shocks me is the fact that the more I read about these stats, about these things that we’ve all experienced at one point or another – like having to take a long route home or holding on tightly to your keys – I never realised just how casually I thought about the whole situation myself.

Like it’s something absolutely normal for me to take a longer route home, not walk the dog after sundown, run as fast as I could after I turned a corner or walk home with the keys in my hand. I may have unconsciously trained my brain to think that I am just a paranoid person and one to overthink about possible dangers around any corner. And so I do all these things to make myself feel better and safer. But surely, no one else does this and if I actually mentioned it out loud, I would definitely be the strange exception and not the norm.

And reading all these stats, it’s reassuring to hear that I wasn’t being paranoid, that every woman feels the same. But at the same time, that’s the very sad truth. Every woman feels the same. Every woman is scared for their safety.

And I don’t know if it’s because I’m older now and view this situation from another perspective than my younger self, or the fact that I am raising a daughter now, but it made me think of times that I’ve been harassed myself. And the more I thought about it, the angrier I felt.

I should have not have felt validated as a young woman the first time a car beeped and I heard a wolf whistle when walking on the street by myself as a 14 year old. However, I did. I felt validated because all my friends had been through it and I felt uglier and fatter because no white van man wolf whistled at me. How stupid is that? I’d love to be able to speak to my 14 year old self and explain how stupid that thought was. I’d also like to explain to the stupid van driver how underage I was as well.

I’d like to be there for me on both the occasions I got followed home during my time as a student. I can’t remember how I got away but thank God that I did. Thinking about it, they may not even have been following me, but walking ever so closely behind me in the dark made my blood feel cold as ice and got my heart racing. I remember holding on to my laptop bag so tightly and I remember thinking that I would need to sacrifice my laptop in case I needed to defend myself. Wondering how that would pan out as I would most definitely not be able to afford a new laptop. Which meant studying in the library on the university computers and then having to walk home alone at night again. Again, looking back at it, very hard hitting thoughts for a 19 year old away in a strange country where she had no one but herself to count on.

However, the one recollection that makes my blood boil is this one. And my hands shake with so much anger as I write this.

During one of my first jobs in the UK I used to collect international students from the airport. We had a contract with a coach company and a coach would collect me from the university at stupid o’clock and off I went with a stranger driving off to the airport to bring in the new excited groups of students.

Don’t get me wrong, I met a whole bunch of fantastic drivers. One particular one treated me like his adopted daughter and invited me to spend Christmas with his family so that I wouldn’t be alone. Not that I did, but that’s to show that beautiful, compassionate souls are out there in this world and that we do randomly bump into them.

But then there’s the nasty souls too that unfortunately pop up along the way. This one particular airport pick up, I was along with this hedgehog-y looking driver. You know the type, spiky hair, thick gold chain sort of character.

He drove to the airport and instead of dropping me off at the terminal as he was supposed to, he took me to a random poorly lit coach park at the airport. When questioning him about this change of plans, he casually answered that he thought I may had given him a blow job. I don’t actually remember my answer to this, but what shocks me to remember is how casually I laughed it off. Thinking he’s just making a stupid joke. Now luckily nothing else happened, but he did make me make my own way to the terminal to collect the students. In the dark, all alone. Just because I refused him, I suppose.

What makes me ridiculously angry about this situation is that I genuinely thought it to be a joke. Not once had I thought how dangerous that was. I told another driver on a different trip about this story, I suppose explaining why I didn’t like the hedgehogy driver in the first place. And that’s when he said I needed to tell someone about this. I needed to inform my work as it was a serious matter. So I did. And this is what also makes me ridiculously angry. I explained the situation and do you know what the result was? Hedgehog man was not allowed to be the driver on a job that I needed to be on the coach with the students. He still did airport drop offs, which meant that I only needed to see the students on the coach but not accompany them and return all alone with this man. There wasn’t a complaint to my recollection, I don’t suppose he even got a slap on the wrist.

And looking back on it, through my 30 year old self perspective, my heart mourns for how I thought this was a normal occurrence and shook it off so casually. How I was so oblivious to the actual danger I was in. But then again, maybe my casual response and laughter was what saved me from that situation. It’s most certainly something that I would never want to see anyone else go through, and especially keep my daughter safe from.

And that’s why I wanted to voice my experience. I don’t want anyone named and shamed, I’m not writing this with a vendetta towards anyone. I’m simply putting this out there as examples of harassment from just one woman’s experiences. Now think how many other stories are out there, and how many of those stories have more sinister endings. How many of these stories are out there and how many buried deep down, blocked from thoughts due to embarrassment, or doubt of voicing them in case you get accused yourself of starting it. Of asking for it. The only thing I can say for certain, I certainly didn’t ask for it. Because no one ever does.

Continue reading “We are all at least a part of the 97% of women who suffered from harassment”

Open letter to my daughter

To my little inquisitive and fearless girl,

The dog’s loud bark never makes you flinch. The small world we were able to show you so far made you more inquisitive than we would have ever imagined. You want to see everything, you want to learn how to do things for yourself and nothing seems to phase you. Except for mummy’s insanely loud sneeze. But that one’s fair enough.

I promise to nurture your inquisitive mind and teach you every day everything I know about the world. That’s until the time comes when you have to teach me every day everything you know about the world.

I promise to hold you tight until you fall asleep at night, sometimes even longer, when I’ll need to soothe my soul. And I promise to let you fly away freely when you’ll need to soothe yours.

I’ll be your unbreakable support through any sorrow that may come and I’ll be your biggest cheerleader through all successes that are on your path.

I wish for you so much to stay inquisitive. To navigate this world all the way around and live through crazy adventures like you’ve never been in danger. To learn to let go and live in the moment like your heart’s never been broken. To choose to be kind, understanding and supportive of others like no one’s ever let you down.

Because what I wish for you the most, is that at the end of a day, you’ll get to lay down and be happy with yourself. With everything you’ve done and said that day. To be the best version of yourself and help others become a better version of themselves. Because that, my darling inquisitive and fearless girl, is the key to happiness. And that’s my biggest wish for you as you grow and get to explore this world – to choose to be happy every single day.

Two months postpartum

I still felt broken. But only some of the time.

I still can’t believe it’s been two months. Two months of being a mum. Two months of a little soul sleeping so close to me every night, I can hear her breathing in, and out. In, and out. A rhythmic sound that now comforts me to sleep, knowing she’s alright.

Saying that my whole month was only filled with comfort however, would be a blatant lie. It’s been a trying month, with some glimpses of perfect moments where time stood still and everything around me was picture perfect.

Thinking back at the month that’s passed, I already recall very little of the trying moments as my brain quickly hashed them out, making space to highlight those picture perfect moments instead.

Catching a glimpse of those daddy-daughter moments when Benn held Emma close to his chest at 4am after a feed, or kissed her forehead while rocking away in a chair – so cheesy, but picture perfect.

Axel’s tail wagging like crazy after dropping his tennis ball on Emma’s legs while she’s fast asleep in my lap; eagerly waiting for her to engage in his favourite playtime – bit premature, but picture perfect.

The sparkle in grandma’s eye, on a video call, while making plans for the first time she’ll finally meet Emma face to face. Whenever travel will be allowed again – so sorrowful, but picture perfect.

It’s moments like this that kept me going this month. And I suppose it’s what keeps any new mum going.

We’ve learnt a lot in the past month. We’ve sorted feeding and figured out how to put a nappy on so that it doesn’t leak. We created feeding shifts through the night, and witnessed Emma’s first smile. The first toy that she grabbed. The first time she laid eyes on Axel and how intrigued she was looking at her new best friend.

However, we’ve also argued over silly things; things that we would have not even noticed previously, in the days when we both got enough sleep.

And I’ve still been overwhelmed by the feeling of not doing enough as a mum, of not being enough myself. The guilt of admitting that I needed a break from her. Did it mean I was doing something wrong? That I didn’t love her enough? Do other mummies ever need a break away from their own babies? Took a while to convince myself that they must do. But I’m now convinced that it’s a normal feeling. It’s still a new role, and it’s exhausting.

Thinking about it, a new job comes with a six months adjustment period. So why would being a new mum feel totally normal after just two months? Why would we expect to be a natural know-it-all and totally in control when we still have so much to learn?

And it’s the learning that takes its toll on us. Just like that new job where we’re learning new things every day. It takes a while to feel in control and even longer to feel like we’re any good at it. So why would motherhood be any different?

In the past month, the most important thing I’ve learned is to allow myself to feel these feelings. To allow myself to ask these questions, to think these thoughts and to accept it all. To accept that nothing’s wrong with me, that I am still new at this and that it’s a hard job. A job that I will get better at, in time, as I learn more. A job that brings more satisfaction that I can understand for now. And a job that pays in more smiles and giggles than could be fitted on a payslip.

So, looking back at the past month, it’s been trying and we’ve made great progress. It’s been trying, and I loved it.

Weird things I’ve googled during baby’s first month

Newborn parents assemble. And have a look at your search history. This is a glimpse of my own search history (in no particular order) during Emma’s first 4 weeks of life.

1. It’s feeding time but baby just threw up

…I fed her anyway as the thought of skipping a meal stressed me out even more.

2. Ideal weight for one month old baby

…This one stressed me out and finished the month on a total of over 20 individual searches

3. Ideas of bookcase for children

…I have a small space available in the nursery and was scouting for original, creative ideas.

4. What vitamins are in Pregnacare pills

… I felt really well and energetic during the pregnancy and am pretty convinced it was because of the Pregnacare supplements. I wanted to find out whether I could continue taking them after Emma’s birth. Turns out you can.

5. How to change a baby’s nappy

6. One month old baby development

7. Bottle feeding routines and amounts needed

8. Childcare bubble tier 4

9. What is the fourth trimester

10. How to burp a baby

11. How to reduce fever for 2 week old baby

12. Baby gets distressed without dummy + signs of autism

13. Restless sleep in newborns

14. How long does it take to love your baby

15. 2 week old baby hasn’t pooped in 4 days

16. How to place asleep baby on side and turn on their back

17. What does a baby do at 2 weeks old

18. Velvet teddy swaddle blanket

19. Do you clean Vernix from baby’s bits

20. Postnatal depression signs / how long does it last

21. How much milk should I breast pump

22. Will I ever sleep again??

23. Breastmilk at fridge temperature

24. What is tongue tie

25. How much breastmilk required for 1week old baby/ 10 day old baby etc…

26. Bad breath in 1 week old baby

27. How to help nasally baby

28. How to apply nappy balm – what is nappy balm

29. How to massage baby with oil

30. Dry hands and feet in 1 week old baby

31. What time of day is breastmilk most nutritious

32. Do you apply bepanthen to prevent baby rashes too?

33. What blanket to use for Moses basket

34. Newborn jaundice

35. How many times a day should you change nappy

36. Can baby sleep with dummy

37. Baby standing up at 3 days

38. Baby holding head alone at 2 days

39. How to massage breast breastfeeding

40. How to heal severed nipple

41. How to heal 3rd degree tear. What to eat to help heal

42. How to wake up newborn for feeding

I know it’s all new territory with the first born, so no google search is silly. What did you stress about?

How to look after a new mum during a global pandemic

We’re in lockdown and it sucks. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and it’s terrifying. We’re in January and the blues are mercilessly kicking in. We’re new mothers and it’s petrifying.

What do we ask for? A little support. That ever so limited COVID-permitting shoulder to cry on. That extra body to lean on. An occasional extra pair of hands. A hot cup of coffee. We miss it. We want it. We need it. And here’s what you can do to help –

Check in, often.

Checking in on friends and family during a pandemic is very important, and checking in on hormonal, sleep-deprived new mothers who lack the general given support, is paramount.

Yes, there’s limited social opportunities available these days, but we’re all still glued to our phone screens as per normal. Even new mums. Between googling ‘is it normal for my newborn to…’ and tracking nappy changes or feeding times on an app round the clock, we are thankful someone is checking in to see how we are coping with everything.

So send us a text, give us a call, drop a bag of coffee at the door. Do something nice to show you care. And I don’t mean send the generic ‘I’m here if you want to talk…’ text that makes you feel like a better person for checking in. I’m talking about the real ‘I want to help out. What do you need me to do?’ nitty gritty that is there to support the other person. We need it more than we will ever admit it out loud.

Still give us space.

Check in, but don’t take it personally if we don’t reply straight away, or at all. Give us space to get adjusted to our new demanding routine, but don’t give up on reaching out frequently. If we are struggling and won’t pick up your call, send us a text to say you’re thinking of us and leave it there. Knowing that someone’s taken the time to check in and say hello, is precious for someone whose days now all roll into one. We’ll reply when we are ready. Unless we forget to. Baby brain is still very much a thing. That’s why it’s also important for you to check in often.

Some adult talk, please.

If you do speak to a new mum, don’t just ask about the baby. We’re already suffering from loss of our own identity, feeling like an automatic milk dispenser, on-call nappy changer and round the clock baby bouncer. We love being a new mum but so miss being an adult for 10 seconds.

Cook something tasty.

Food brings people together. Fact. At least it used to, before this dreadful virus. But being locked in doesn’t mean we can’t still share the love through food. It just has to contain a lot more hand sanitiser and a lot less cross contamination.

As a new mother there’s plenty to worry about and even more to get done, so hours go past without realising we’ve not had a hot meal. We occasionally grab a biscuit to dunk into a cold cup of tea for an instant sugar rush.

So if you’ve still got leftover stock of flour and yeast from Lockdown 1, cook something tasty and share it with us. We promise to return the favour and fill your hearts with love and cookies once little one learns to stop licking the cookie dough off the mixing spoon.

Go for a socially distanced walk.

Even the UK government acknowledges that human contact can’t be fully out-ruled for the sake of our mental health. We’re social creatures who need a bit of human interaction, as limited as it may be, to function properly.

Going for a 1-2-1 socially distanced walk with a new mum will force her get out of the house for that much needed vitamin D. Days sometimes pass without changing our jammies or brushing our hair, so having a fixed time in the diary to meet outdoors pushes us to have a shower, get changed into our adult clothes and feel more human again. Plus, the fresh air helps our bodies and the company soothes our minds.

Be a supportive support bubble.

Under the gov.uk’s guidance, anyone with a child ‘who is under the age of one or was under that age on 2 December 2020’ can form a much needed support bubble.

I think all new mums shed a tear (or cried uncontrollably!) when the news was announced. After months of attending scans by ourselves, worrying whether our partners will be able to stay with us during labour (I mean the whole nine years not just active labour), here we were, being acknowledged by the officials and allowed to have some much needed support.

And we started dreaming. Dreaming of actual hugs from a close one, endless cups of hot drinks in our hand and a few extra hours of uninterrupted sleep while knowing that baby is still getting cuddles and being lovingly looked after.

I mean, that’s my demand list. At least the start of it. But I can’t tell you exactly how to support another new mum within your support bubble, simply because everyone’s needs are different. My obsession with coffee may not be what another person needs nor appreciates.

But something tells me that sitting down over a cup of hot steamy beverage of your choice, and asking about what support is needed for both baby and new parents, is something that all involved parties will value from. So find out what they need you to do and see if you can do it.

Plus, let’s be honest. As a support bubble providing essential help, you’ll be paid in countless baby cuddles and that is absolutely priceless. Especially during these ‘unprecedented times’.

10 unexpected baby essentials

‘Baby essentials’ trumped ‘can dogs eat…’ on my google search history throughout my whole pregnancy. And I google dog food safety A LOT thanks to my hybrid dog-hoover, Axel, who takes every opportunity to snatch and swallow whole chunks of anything that is dropped from the kitchen table, mid-air, without ever touching the floor.

I’ve spent hours on end watching videos of best products to buy for newborns, gone over best baby product articles with a fine-tooth comb and read endless blogs on must have baby items. All this to make sure I find the best products that I would need for the journey ahead.

Every list recommends the basics, which is a fantastic starting point. However, what I wanted to share with you, is a list of items (with links) that haven’t necessarily made it on an essentials list before, but that I found to be surprisingly useful. Hopefully they will help you too.

1. Puppy pads

This one is potentially my favourite. Maybe because I love puppies, maybe because it’s a fantastic little hack that costs so very little. The trick is to place a puppy pad on top of the changing mat, so that every time I change Emma and she does a wee while the nappy is off, the puppy pad absorbs it. No need for excessive wiping of the surface at 2am, you just need to discard and replace the mat. It’s that easy. I’ve picked up this trick from friends who have babies themselves and found it extremely useful as it saves me so much time.

2. Cheap cotton wool pads

As you can’t use any baby wipes for the first month, I’ve gone through a significant number of cotton wool pads to make sure Emma was cleaned properly. I’ve always assumed that any given supermarket would accommodate for this within their baby range, but what I was surprised to find was that the baby cotton wool pads available were either expensive or not really bigger in size to the ones I use to remove my makeup. So guess what I’d suggest… buy the cosmetic cotton pads instead. They do exactly the same job and saved you some pennies.

As a cotton wool pads bonus point, save yourself the money and do not buy the cotton wool roll. It is the cheapest option on the market, but it is soul destroying making little cotton balls yourself every time, only to have cotton bits leftover on baby’s skin. It takes age to remove them and you will hate yourself for purchasing the roll in the first place, so really… save yourself the trouble.

3. Barrier cream

This could be a very obvious choice for some new parents and completely alien to others. I had no idea that babies needed a barrier cream applied to their skin to prevent rashes from happening in the first place. I bought buckets of Sudocream to treat rashes and nothing to prevent them. So cue a bit of panic buying on baby’s first day, researching what I should be using on a newborn’s skin and what the best product would be (price – quality ratio to determine the value for money of course). Do the research and buy it in advance to save yourself the extra stress once baby is born and you’ll be so thankful to yourself. I chose Neil Yard’s Organic Baby Balm as the price is fair for a good sized jar that lasts me a whole month. And it’s organic too.

4. Almond oil

I love the idea of baby massages and once again, all products that I’ve seen come with the caution of not being used on newborns’ skin. So another nifty trick I picked up from friends was to simply use almond oil instead. A quick trip to the supermarket and our living room had been transformed into a little baby spa, with relaxing music, a nice warm bath and a full body baby massage service which Emma loved even more than I did. Yet again, an all natural product of course, that left baby’s skin velvety soft and helped get rid of the dry skin flakes that occurred during baby’s first few days out in this world. Win-win.

5. Boba Wrap Baby Carrier

This one could be a hit or a miss sort of purchase – depending on what your baby prefers – but I wanted to add it as both Emma and I love it so much. As a cotton body wrap to help carry baby so close to your skin, this was the product that helped us massively during Emma’s first few days. The wrap is super soft so you don’t have to worry about it constantly touching baby’s skin and incredibly comfortable to wear for the adult too. Emma was safely asleep close to us, yet we still had the ability to move around the house to make a cup of tea. And I do say us, as both Benn and myself still love using the wrap.

6. Cheap breast pump

This is one of my recommendations as breastfeeding paraphernalia has now become one of my pet peeves. So many brands to choose from and most of them with pretty high price tags. My advice for new mums would be to buy a cheap one to start with, just to see how it works and how you get on with it. Once you know you’ll definitely be going ahead with breastfeeding and expressing, then you can look into other options without wasting money. The cheapest one I found, which incidentally I found to be the best one was Phillips’ Avent, which is currently £10 in Boots.

Also, something I didn’t realise when I initially purchased my pump, was that there are different nipple sizes. Make sure you get the right one for you as it’s hella painful otherwise.

7. Muslin Cloths

They are the Marmite of the baby product world – you either love them or hate them with a passion. I actually loved hearing all about the divided opinions on Muslin clothes. Some people love them and can’t live without them, while others say they are a waste of time. Turns out, just like Marmite, we joined the fan club and now have them all around the house. And jacket pockets. And changing bag. Pretty much everywhere. We’re at the point where we needed to categorise them based on their sizes and now we have a small, medium and large compartment hanging on the nursery door for easy access. Considering how cheap they are, I’d recommend buying at least a pack to decide which camp you belong to.

8. MAM anti colic bottles

What I didn’t realise before having a baby is that a bottle is not just a bottle to store the milk. I mean, if anti colic bottles exist in the first place, are you even going to take a risk and not use them? Price wise the MAM anti colic bottles are on the steep side, but truth be told, Emma has no colic. Are we lucky? Is it because of the bottles? We’ll never find our as we’re never going to chance it.

Bonus points for the MAM anti colic bottles – they are easily sterilised in the microwave too so great for travelling and are big enough to use as baby grows and the milk quality increases.

9. Various sizes and brands of nappies

Now nappies is a very obvious baby essential. However what I very much enjoyed during Emma’s first week was using all the samples we’ve received from all major brands so we could try them out and decide which ones worked best for our baby. We tried Pampers, Mamia (Aldi’s own) and Lupilu (Lidl’s own) to compare them and decided that the Mamia ones worked absolutely fine for us. However, having different sizes from the beginning helped too – we had one pack for newborns (size 0) and then size 1 and 2 for each of the three brands to see which ones would protect Emma best. When you have a baby that wakes up and cries when wet (to be fair, I would be grumpy in that scenario too), you’ll be so thankful that you’ve got all these options to try out and make sure baby enjoys a dry and comfortable sleep.

10. MAM steam steriliser

This one is fairly obvious and not really unexpected, but I just wanted to publicly profess my love for this product. I can’t express enough how much I love the MAM steriliser. For the first few weeks it felt like all we did all day was expressing and sterilising. Without this product we would have had so many issues I don’t even want to think about it. It’s fantastic in every way, it fits 7 of our bottles at any one time and when you’re feeding around the clock you don’t want to mess about with anything fiddly.

So there it is. The stuff that helped me through the first six weeks so far. Can you think of any other items that I haven’t tried? Any other tricks that will make life easier for us or more enjoyable for little one? Please do let me know as I’m always on the hunt for new baby hacks!

4 week postpartum

Waking up this morning back in lockdown feels a bit like Groundhog Day. Not that there are many changes to the ever present tier 4 rules that we’ve become accustomed to in our area, but labelling it as ‘a lockdown’ seems to have triggered a lot of people on my social media feed into a position of hopelessness. Which is a feeling that I’ve somewhat become accustomed to recently.

And this pushed me into finally clicking the publish button for my fourth postpartum update, as so far I’ve only been staring at it and couldn’t bring myself to do it.

The post was written last week at the end of my 4 week period, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to post it as it felt personal on a level I’ve not shared publicly before.

I did not mention to a lot of people details of my thoughts since Emma’s birth and the demons I’ve been fending from. However, the whole point of me starting this blog was to be as transparent and honest as possible in the hope that it will help other mums going through the same. So here goes –

This is probably what most of you will find to be a grim read. But it’s as real and raw as I can put it and it’s precisely why I wanted to start this page – real talk about genuine feelings, no romanticising of being a new mother.

This is what I’ve been dealing with for the past month and something I can now talk about openly as I feel like I’m over the hurdle.

I’m not a person who finds it easy to ask for help, nor accept help when offered. I often choose to stand on my own and live independently as if my life depended on it. It’s not something I do consciously, it’s just the way I’m hardwired I suppose.

However, what I am great at, is demanding help off my closest and dearest once I’ve gone past my breaking point. Not a proactive approach I know, and not even something I do consciously (see the hardwiring part again). Luckily for me, Benn, my husband, knows me well enough to identify whether I’m having an unreasonable hissy fit and should be left alone, or a genuine breakdown where he needs to step in. He seems to know what to say and what to do to push me past my issues. And in this instance, he knew what I needed to do before I even realised it myself.

To go back to the beginning, I know it’s obvious and I was aware that adjusting to life with a new baby was going to be difficult, but truth be told, I did not quite grasp the severity of the changes I was going to face.

Coming home from hospital was nothing short of perfection, a still moment in time where everything was euphoric. This new life, together with the adrenaline running in my system made me feel more energised than the bunny in those Duracell adverts.

And this new found energy and the excitement of having our little bundle of joy finally home, was enough to keep me going for the first week. We didn’t get much sleep, but staring at my beautiful baby girl sleeping instead, was irresistible. The meds I was on were still very present in my system and the adrenaline helped me push through without any issues. If this is what looking after a newborn was, I was going to easily ace this.

It was week 2 and 3 that I really struggled with. And week 3 found me at an all time low. I mentioned the pressure I was put under in regards to breastfeeding. As I explained in my previous posts, I gave it a good shot. I truly have. But the stress of it all took its toll on my mental health. Before I knew it, I stopped replying to messages from people checking in on me, I felt powerless when having to look after Emma, I was exhausted and hopeless and convinced myself that I was a terrible mother. Most frightening, thoughts started creeping in telling me how much better looked after Emma would be if I weren’t around.

My all time low hit after an evening of sterilising bottles in the kitchen, when I walked in on Benn and Emma having a lovely father-daughter moment hugging on the living room sofa. Instead of feeling joyous and joining in the wonderful family moment I was witnessing, I left the room and burst into endless tears, feeling jealous that Benn could share these happy moments with our daughter while all I experienced was stress and pressure.

This is when the red flags went off. I’ve never been one to struggle with my mental health, at least nothing more than having an anxiety episode every so often, but never without a reason, a root cause to the my anxiety. This time, there was nothing obvious bothering me. I should have been happy for delivering a healthy and happy baby girl and not crying uncontrollably without an apparent reason. I knew that feeling was so unlike me, that it made me realise that what I was going through must have been more than the baby blues.

I also realised how lucky I was to be aware that something wasn’t right having these feelings and that I could do something to help myself, so I started researching post natal depression. I ended up ticking off quite a few symptoms off the list (feeling low and crying uncontrollably, difficulty bonding with baby, withdrawing from contact with other people, not being able to focus much and the occurrence of dark thoughts). I knew right away that I was on a slippery slope and that I needed support – mentally and physically. Not to say that Benn wasn’t already doing plenty to help with baby, but somehow it wasn’t enough. To get me through this, I knew I had to ask him to take on even more. And that made me feel even more like a failure in my new role as a mum.

It was a tough conversation to have and it was the first time I acknowledged the dark thoughts out loud. Even though my brain was telling me not to say the words as that would make me even more of a failure, I did. I said it and broke down into even more tears. Instead of feeling worse, it felt like a weight had been lifted off me, by simply acknowledging what I was going through. That’s when I started talking to people again and consciously making an effort of labelling postnatal depression as to what it was. I voiced the dark thoughts and instead of making me feel like a failure, it made me feel empowered. Empowered to take control of my life, to accept help from Benn and close friends and to understand that it’s not something I’ve done wrong, but something that can happen to anyone after labour. Postnatal depression can happen to anyone, no matter your background or how strong you are mentally. And what I found to matter most, is the decision to talk about it. Talking and labelling it for what it was got me through it and since that breakdown when I first acknowledged it in front of Benn, everything took a turn for the better. I managed to recoup on the sleep I lost, I started bonding with Emma and started enjoying doing things together with her – be it as it may, even diaper changes can be turned into a fun experience when your mind is not struggling.

So that’s the main outcome of my experience that I would like to share is – and I can’t stress it enough – as a new mum, make sure you speak. Talk to anyone and everyone. Take off that self imposed smile that we all know all too well and speak your truth no matter how ugly it may be. You need to label postnatal depression to be able to deal with it and move on. And it may be the best thing to do for your sanity.

2020 was a bugger

2020 was a bugger. The year of loss, of change, of ‘unprecedented times’.

The year we locked ourselves in to keep safe, keep away from others and keep away from a ‘normal’ we once knew.

Keeping sane became a struggle, keeping in touch became virtual and keeping up appearances became forgotten.

People started talking, and listening.

Talking about feelings and struggles and mental health became the norm. We were all in this together and support became accessible.

Through a screen, barriers were broken.

Zooms, and quizzes, and random acts of kindness and ‘thinking of you’ trinkets started pouring through the post from people who mean the most.

However through it all, most importantly for me, 2020 is the year that helped me become a mother.

3-week postpartum

Okay, not the general postpartum story of the week as we all woke up in Tier 4 this morning and feeling deflated over the new Christmas restrictions. However, as always you can choose to read on for some of our weekly developments, or simply scroll past a photo of a now a 3 week old Baby Emma saying thanks to our NHS front liners working over Christmas next week. The choice, as always, is yours.

Three-week old baby Emma

So, first of all – Emma right here (and myself) want to say a big thank you to the NHS front liners who won’t be spending the holidays with any loved ones at all, but will be looking after the less fortunate in hospitals. We’re all feeling low about the new COVID restrictions and it sucks, I get it. But the ones that never complain and plough through anything are our NHS staff. They’re always here when we need them the most to keep us all safe. I wanted to say a big thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the work they continuously do for us day in and day out with no complaints.

Second of all – since my second week postpartum write up went up on my Facebook page, I have received so many messages of support through the week. I was overwhelmed by the amount of love you that was sent my way and although I couldn’t bring myself to reply to many of the messages due to how low I was feeling, it truly meant a lot reading them. As cheesy as it sounds, the words of encouragement truly made a difference and gave me strength. I always knew I’ve surrounded myself with wonderful people that care about me and who I care about in return but last week left me speechless and humbled.

Third of all – Emma’s been around for 3 weeks already. Can you believe it? It’s been such a whirlwind but let’s have a look at some of the positives from this week for a change (see? Nearly fully stopped breastfeeding/ expressing and my hormones are getting better already 😂):

✔️ tongue tie procedure is now completed and although breastfeeding is now a long forgotten memory which we both found very stressful, Emma is now eating without any troubles. And boy does she love her milk bottle. She’s put on weight and things are going the right way. I’m still expressing a bit for now until my milk factory fully shuts but let’s say that notices have been handed to the workers, p45s written and are now out for delivery. And once the factory gates fully shut, a big glass of wine is waiting for me.

✔️ we had a lot of ‘firsts’ – first walk outside in a papoose, first Christmas lights display, first sleep suit that we’ve outgrown and first feeling of actually bonding and realising there’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do for her little face.

Took a while to get used to the little Tasmanian devil who turned our lives upside down but here we are 3 weeks in, things looking up and improving daily as we all get used to each other. Now only about 18 years left to worry about her… 😂😂

2-week postpartum

I felt broken. Most of the time.

Since she’s joined our pack 3 years ago, our cat, Bella has not really broken anything in the house. She’s not the type of cat who intentionally shatters things just to see us squirm. This week however she shattered the mirror that lived above our bed (no need to worry about her 7 years’ worth of bad luck though, she’s already a black cat so I’m sure it doesn’t count).

The shattered mirror seemed like the perfect metaphor for my second week as Emma’s mummy. The realisation that my whole pre-baby life got shattered to smithereens together with that mirror. And then the broken pieces, just like a puzzle, got put back together to create something new, something to represent how much my life has changed in a matter of two weeks.

I’ve gone through feeling very low, having to constantly express breastmilk to make sure little one had enough milk for her bottle and I never expected to find feeding my baby to be this stressful. It feels like I’ve been promised idilc moments of mothers bonding with their milk-drunk babe and what I ended up with is a frustrated crying baby throwing her hands around whenever she’s close to my chest. Her frustration broke my heart which then led me to constantly expressing to make sure she has enough for her next feed. A process that I found extremely time consuming and quite detrimental to my mental health. Ugly crying ensued at random points throughout the day and feelings of being a useless mother in such a short space of time darkened my thoughts. When all you can think about is prepping the next meal, there is very little time available to enjoy being in the moment, to appreciate the little suckle coming from a bottle and to give yourself credit for the miracle of producing it in the first place.

Towards the end of the week I started to be more rational again and realised how counterproductive the whole process was, both to myself and to my new baby. Unhappy mummy equaled a lower milk supply, which in return equaled to putting even more pressure on myself to produce that next bottle and the cycle kept getting worse by the day.

That’s until I shook myself back to reality and we plugged in the prep machine. Not to fully give up breastfeeding for now, but to supplement a couple of feeds that were seriously getting me down in the dumps. This was the decisive moment we turned a corner and the shattered glass pieces got put back together to create something new.

By taking that pressure off myself, we have managed to thoroughly enjoy our time together over the last couple of days, spend some lovely moments as a family and create some memories I’m sure we shall treasure forever. Because happy mum equals happy baby. And also equals a happy daddy (who got sick and tired of mummy’s ugly crying 😂) without whom I would not be able to even write this post as I would still be in that very dark place.

So, as always, thank you so much to my husband, for always being there to calmly listen to and rationalise my thoughts even when I’m not able to, for being my rock through thick and thin and for constantly making sure I am also fed and looked after. Emma and I are the luckiest girls in the world.

Extra bits

  • Having two expressing machines (Medela’s Harmony & Amazon’s Elvie inspired electric) break down on you when you need them most is not helpful. Third time lucky as I now have what feels like a good and sturdy one (Phillips’ Avent) which incidentally seems to be the cheapest one on the market so that’s a win in my books.
  • The tongue tie procedure being cancelled because of COVID was an extra bit of unnecessary stress (so a big 🖕🏻 to you, you vile little virus) but very quickly rebooked for this week so 🤞🏻
  • I have promised myself to never put pressure on breastfeeding. I was adamant that whatever feeding choice we make, it will be the right one. The pressure starts as soon as baby is out whether you like it or not so don’t bother thinking it won’t affect you. Until you find your feet with new baby and decide on a route that works for you both, the pressure only gets worse as unfortunately the stigma is very real within the specialist support network currently available in the UK. So find your own trustworthy support network within close friends and family and make the right choices for you.
  • The mirror Bella broke – bought a new one. It was a Home Bargains special, cheap as chips but looks the part. 👌🏻 So I do realise it’s not quite the puzzle-like shattered pieces I was referring to, that was exclusively part of my creative flair. 😂