This Christmas and New Year, I am fortunate enough to be well. I am lucky that I can see the joy in Christmas and celebrate it with gusto. But for many, I know this may not be the case at all; just like it wasn’t for me last year when I was recovering from post natal depression. Christmas and New Year can be extremely difficult for people suffering with depression. It is not always a merry and happy time of year. It is often a very lonely and difficult period for everyone who is affected by the illness, and supporting someone through it can be – in its own way – as challenging as it is being the person who is ill.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting a moving post about just this…supporting others with PND. And in particular supporting others when you are suffering or have suffered yourself – for many of us who are recovering or have recovered are determined that no one should suffer like we have, because that thought is simply unbearable; you wouldn’t wish post natal depression on your worst enemy.
The post is from the lovely Pumping Mama who blogs, amongst other things, about her experiences of PND with raw honesty at thepumpingmama.wordpress.com. She’s recently blogged about Christmas, and describes it as a ‘two sided coin,’ one side where you are able to enjoy it, and another where you are suffocated by other’s Christmas cheer and possibly feel at your lowest point ever. The Pumping Mama is passionate about mothers not feeling alone, about us all supporting each other through talking, texting, and tweeting, giving hope and encouragement to each other. This post has verbalised many thoughts I’ve had when talking to others suffering from PND, for even though I’ve suffered my experiences may be very different to those of others. For me in particular, the last line says it all.
Supporting Others With PND
Do I make my reality theirs? The feelings they have, the things they’re suffering, may not be anything like my personal experience.
Do I tell them the gritty truth? Do I tell them that I don’t remember a lot of the first year of Moos life? Do I divulge to them that I still have bad days, even now, more than two years on?
Do I just listen? This isn’t about me now. Do I tell them that I can empathise, that I’ve been there, that it gets better?
No one tells you how to support others in life. Is this why we live in such a fractured society, often lacking in compassion for mental health issues? How do we learn how to love other human beings, to hold each other up, to comfort and nurture one another?
I don’t know the answers. I just know my experience, my reality, my journey, and what works for me. All I can do is hold a hand, make a cup of tea, and listen. I’m no expert on mental health, no degree backs up my support. But in the midst of a vastly lonely head space, someone simply walking alongside you is enough.
You can follow The Pumping Mama on Twitter @ThePumpingMama, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ThePumpingMama and her blog is http://www.thepumpingmama.wordpress.com
Ancestor: An ancestor or forebear is a parent or (recursively) the parent of an ancestor (i.e., a grandparent, great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent, and so forth). Ancestor is “any person from whom one is descended.
This is another wonderful guest post for whilst I am away en France! This time it is from the lovely @raspberryswirls. She used to blog and this post makes me wish she still did…because it’s brilliant!
One of the wonderful things about the summer holidays is that I get to be at home with my 13 month old son, R. I miss this time so much when he’s at nursery and I’m at school. I spent the other morning sat with a cup of tea, just watching R play and explore. He was trying very hard to make his bricks balance on top of each other and it wasn’t going so well, possibly due to the fact that he was trying to do this on a cushion – not the most stable of bases. His little face was set in such a pose of stubbornness and concentration and for one brief moment, he looked so much like my grandma that it took my breath away.
My grandma was, for the most part, a cheerful, gentle Scotswoman. However, the genial exterior hid an inner determination and focus that she could use to move mountains, if needed. You always knew when Gran had decided ‘something was going to be done’ as her eyes slightly narrowed and her lips slightly pursed…it’s very hard to describe her exact expression, but trust me, once her face showed it, you knew STUFF WAS GOING TO GET DONE. Whether that was getting donations from companies to support her charity fundraising, or simply getting me to do the washing up, it worked. I know from talking to my mum that when Gran received the news that she had breast cancer, she fixed that steely look of immovable determination onto the consultant, took a deep breath and simply asked, “So. What are we going to do about it?”
It was quite a surprise to see that distinctive expression on my young son, but I didn’t think anything of it till the other night. I was pondering what to write for my guest blog while ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ was on in the background. Nigel Havers was exploring his family tree and discovered that one of his ancestors was a bit of a cad, a role he has played many times during his acting career and he said something about how these genes get handed down and affect the next generations without us knowing.
These ideas of ancestry and inherited characteristics have always fascinated me. Through choice, I have never had any contact with my real father or his family; therefore there has always been a large part of my personal ancestry missing. This has never really bothered me, as I am so much like my mum that we could be twins, so I’ve never had any curiosity as to what made me ‘me’ – I’m essentially a carbon copy of her. Mum’s always answered any questions I had about my father openly and honestly, so I know that he was very tall, hence me being slightly taller than the rest of my family, and he was a musician, which explains why I’ve ended up as a teacher specialising in music, despite there being no previous history of musicians on my mum’s side.
Despite never having met my real father, blood will out, as the saying goes, and these traits have shown up in me. I do believe that there are certain things that are inherent in our genetic make-up that get passed down through the generations, traits that go beyond chromosomes and DNA. It made me think about R, his family history and the little personality he is becoming. What will he inherit from us? What will be unique to him? How much of his ancestral past will shape his future?
Physically, R resembles his paternal side. He is the absolute image of my father in law, but seems to have inherited his height from my side. His personality so far seems to be a mix of both me and my partner; he has his dad’s laid back and calm demeanour and my confident, gregarious nature. He adores music, and according to his nursery, shows a natural sense of rhythm. This isn’t a great surprise, both his grandfathers and his dad are accomplished musicians and I’m a music specialist teacher. Is this early love of music nurture, nature or a combination of the two? He’s certainly been exposed to lots of music and singing, so it’s part of his day to day environment but I like to think that music is hardwired into him, part of the genetic code that is in every cell of his little being.
Genetics are not the only thing that gets passed down. Family traditions and histories follow and shape us as we grow into adults. We chose R’s middle name to honour his Great Uncle, a man he’ll never meet, but whose name he will carry for the rest of his life. If R had been a girl, his middle name would have been Anne, like me, my mum and my grandma and every girl born into my family have been named for as far back as we can trace using the family Bible. I don’t know who the original Anne was or why the name holds so much importance to our family, but I continue to honour her memory, and so will any future daughters of ours. I’d one day love to find out who this woman was, and why her memory has echoed 150 years down our ancestral line.
We are responsible for forming our children, physically, emotionally and mentally. They develop according to how we nurture them, what influences we expose them to and those threads of our family histories and ancestors. Whether we mean to or not, our parenting choices are influenced by our own parents, who in turn were influenced by our grandparents, and so the pattern goes through the generations. I think it’s awe inspiring that when that microscopic sperm and egg meet, it’s not just physical characteristics like eye colour that are passed on, but hundreds and thousands of years of our ancestry and family history combine to create these walking hopes and futures that are our children.
Holiday: A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law in which normal activities, especially business or work, are to be suspended or reduced. Generally holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate something of cultural or religious significance. Holidays may be designated by governments, religious institutions, or other groups or organizations.
So lovely readers, as many of you who follow me may know, I am currently on holiday in France for two glorious weeks! During that time I have asked some lovely bloggers to guest post on my blog as I will obviously be eating too much cheese and drinking too much wine to blog myself! The first one is from the lovely @APluckyHeroine who I had the pleasure of meeting this year at Britmums live. If you don’t already follow her on Twitter do it, especially on a Sunday morning when she does her Sunday Shuffle and re-introduces me to wonderful songs I had forgotten about! You can find her brilliant blog here. Here is her fab first guest post!
I was on a seminar at work recently and as an icebreaker we had to tell other delegates who we would like to be stuck in a lift with and why.
I love things like this. I like the “who would you invite to a dinner party and why” question too.
The answers people give to questions like these are quite revealing, especially if you don’t give them much time to think about it and their answers are more instinctive.
One girl instantly said she would like to be stuck with a lift engineer so she could get out as soon as possible. (Practical. This idea never even crossed my mind)
Another girl said she’d like to be stuck with Gary Barlow, but then admitted it would only be so she could look at him, she wasn’t that bothered about talking to him! (stalker…)
So, because I’m in charge and it’s my game, you get to be stuck in a lift with THREE people, alive or dead (er, but not dead in the lift, obviously). It’s a big lift ok? So no claustrophobia. And there would be chocolate and wine for the duration, naturally (my rules remember).
My first person would be Queen Elizabeth I. The Virgin Queen. I remember being fascinated by the Ladybird book about her when I was a child. When we were allowed to pick a ‘free reading’ book to read at junior school I would invariable end up with that. I would look for ages at the iconic reproduction of that full length portrait of her and the Ladybird imagining of Rayleigh laying down his cloak for her to walk over a puddle.
From the age of just 25 she led a great nation, governed wisely and was respected worldwide. I would want to know how she felt about her life. Were her personal sacrifices worth it for the country she loved (arguably) more than any man, even Robert Dudley? How did she feel about her father, Henry VIII and mother, Anne Boleyn? Possibly the two most famous parents in history, one responsible for the death (murder) of the other…
My second person would be Chris Evans. He’s a bit “marmite” isn’t he? I know lots of you will be completely anti-him. I went off him a bit for a while too, but then when he started working on Radio 2’s Drivetime programme I grew to love him again. I’ve read both his autobiographies and they are fascinating. He holds his hands up to all the mistakes he’s made in his life with good humour, self deprecation and a very humble attitude. The section of the book where he writes about his split with Billie Piper had me in tears, and I hardly ever cry when reading books. (Notable exceptions include Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” and the more contemporary novel ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes at which I sobbed)
I would love to chat to him about how he turned his life around. And how he realised he even needed to. His enthusiasm and lust for life is contagious. He seems to have the greatest capacity for love and is generous to a fault (he discusses this in his books too). Did you know he has recently paid half towards the expenses of Paul Gascoigne’s rehabilitation in Arizona?
My third person would be Nelson Mandela. History is littered with these amazing people, the lone (at the start) men and women who have quietly started/caused and won revolutions. Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Nelson Mandela did just that. I would like to know how he survived those long years in prison, how he kept his faith – in his cause and his God. How do people like him keep on going even in their darkest times? I would ask him how he felt on being released and how it felt to discover he was the author of such great change.
Other people on my (secret reserve) list would include Tom Hanks and David Tennant (both such great contemporary actors). Emeline Pankhurst (no need for explanation I hope). My paternal grandmother (she died when I was very young and my memories of her involve nursing homes and dementia only). Marilyn Monroe (I’m positive she had a lot more about her than people give her credit for). Jane Austen (I’d like to talk to her about how much women’s lives have changed since she wrote her books). Oscar Wilde (simply to listen to his stories). Georgiana Cavendish (Duchess of Devonshire who surrendered one of her children and stayed in a loveless, cuckolded marriage for the sake of her others). And George Clooney (well, just to look at really, you know?)
I canvassed a few friends whilst writing this too. Michael Palin, Margaret Thatcher, Ian Fleming, Florence Nightingale, Jessica Ennis, Audrey Hepburn, Ghandi and Sir Edmund Hilary all came up.
Which 3 people would you like to get stuck in a lift with ? Let me know, here or on twitter @APluckyHeroine x
Guest: Guest or The Guest may refer to: A person who is given hospitality.
Today on my blog I have the pleasure of hosting the first ever guest post!! It is written by the lovely Stephanie, who is a brilliantly talented writer and storyteller! You can follow her on Twitter @Storybramble and her fantastic blog can be found at
Stephanie is a trained actor, qualified drama teacher and mother of two. She is passionate about reading, writing and telling stories and created Storybramble as a resource for other parents who feel the same way. Over at Storybramble Stephanie posts a new audio story or poem for children to listen to each week with ideas for creative activities to go with it. She also blogs about all things story related including stories she is reading with her own children and ideas for how to make storytelling a part of your family’s life.
So, without further ado here is her brilliant guest post…please visit her blog and show her some love!
Ten Stories I wish I had been told about being a new mum
I am a big fan of stories. I believe they can transform, teach and even heal us. Stories are powerful creatures that are everywhere. When pregnant you become a magnet for stories. Birth stories, sleepless night stories, breast feeding stories are passed on aplenty. I vividly recall being wide eye with terror at some of the tales I heard when I was pregnant with my first child as a wave of horror birth stories came crawling out of the wood work. Episiotomy? Why did no one tell me before I had a baby inside me that needed to come out?!
Then that baby does come out. And I found, as you so often do, that the stories you heard about motherhood don’t always match up to the reality. So, as I am a big believer in all things magical, I decided to imagine what I would say if I had the power to go back and talk to my new mum self. What stories would I want the younger me to hear? And this is what I came up with:
1. It is ok to have pain relief when giving birth
I was lucky enough to attend NCT classes when I was pregnant with my first baby. They were a great source of information on pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding and a great way to meet other new mums to be. Natural was held up as the ideal when it came to giving birth and I had a lovely natural birth story all worked out in my head. Which was great, until I actually went into labour.
It was a story of complications, my son was back to back and not keen on coming out. It was a story of other worldly pain which I fought for longer than I should have before relenting and asking for an injection of pethidine. Within half an hour the labour stopped being a struggle and my son was born. The pethidine had affected him however making him too sleepy to feed properly and I was hit with my first does of motherhood guilt. I found I couldn’t enjoy the first precious days with my son because I was consumed with a sense of having already failed him as a mother. It wasn’t until I had my second baby naturally that I realised how different each birth is. The story I wish I had heard is this:
Birth is an individual experience, it’s great to aim for a natural birth but sometimes that’s just not possible. If you find you need pain relief that is ok, the goal of labour is not to create the perfect birth story, the goal is to give birth to a healthy baby so do what you need to do and don’t worry.
2. Breastfeeding is natural but does not always come naturally
I knew I wanted to breastfeed and felt confident of my ability to do it. My health visitor and the NCT made it sound easy enough. The reality was very different. Within a few days I was a mess, cracked, sore and bleeding. I went on to develop an infection which added to the pain I was experiencing and each feed was agony. I was lucky, I was well supported by my heath visitor and also called out a breastfeeding councilor but they couldn’t help me. The only thing that was going to help was time, so that I could heal the cracks. I recovered eventually by expressing some milk and alternating bottle feeds with time on my breast. It was three months before I really had breastfeeding sorted and I went on to feed my son until he was two. I am glad I stuck it out but I could easily see why someone would chose not to go through that pain, if I had had another child for example I wouldn’t have been able to do it. What I wish I had been told was:
Breastfeeding is great but sometimes it is not straightforward. Be prepared by knowing who to ask for support and help. Have supplies of nipple cream on stand by and have and know how to use a breast pump incase you want to express at some point (3am in the morning is not when you want to be struggling with an instruction manual!). Don’t give up to soon, it is worth fighting for but equally don’t beat yourself up if it is not what you want or if it becomes impossible. You have a life time of mother guilt ahead of you, you might as well drop this one and do what is right for you.
3. It is ok to go back on things that you said you were going to do/not do
There was a time when I knew everything there was to know about parenting my children. I knew exactly what I would and would not do in each and ever situation. Then I had a baby and everything changed!
Before I had children I was sure I would use cloth nappies and I would never give my baby a bottle or a dummy. I was really quite annoying about it and it came to bite me in the bum big time. The cloth nappies were too much work for me in the early days and I gave up on them quickly and my breastfeeding issues saw me go back on my ideas about bottles and dummies. I found those moments difficult, it felt like I was going against my own moral code. I wish I had been told:
It’s great to make decisions about parenting when expecting but remember that when you have an actual baby in your arms things might be very different. You might need to change your mind about things and that is OK. Your baby wasn’t there when you made your plans and might not like them, go with the flow and let yourself off the hook.
4. Sleep, forget the housework!
Admittedly I did hear the ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ mantra but for some reason it didn’t make sense to me. If I slept then when would actually do anything else? The answer is this?
Drop your standards! You have a new baby, you are learning how to do the hardest job in the world with no training on next to no sleep. Rest, rest and rest again. Sleep deprivation is not a form of torture for no reason so do what you are told and sleep when that baby sleeps!
5. It is ok to not be ok
After both my babies I didn’t feel so great. Baby blues hit most mothers at some point but for me they hung around a bit longer than they should have. I felt terrible for not feeling happy. Surely this was meant to be the best time of my life? I had imagined floating around the house glowing and baking cookies. Instead I was dragging myself around in my jammies looking like I had been pulled through a bush backwards. I would tell myself:
Motherhood is amazing but it doesn’t always feel that way and that is ok. Don’t add to your stress by feeling bad about feeling bad. And if you are feeling bad then the next point is required reading.
6. Ask for help
Because I felt ashamed for not being full of the joys of motherhood I lied to the health visitor, my family and friends about how I really felt. I pretended all was well when in reality I felt pretty awful much of the time. I wish I had known:
Becoming a mother is a massive change in your life and while it can be wonderful it is also normal to feel overwhelmed, sad or a sense of loss over your old life. Normal but not OK. Normal because many parents feel that way, not OK because you shouldn’t have to struggle alone. Don’t wait, ask for help – you deserve support.
7. Don’t compare
Everyone has heard of the competitiveness of mothers but until you experience it first hand you can’t know how fierce it actually is. I was amazed at the number of little digs I got about my son’s awful sleeping or my struggle with breastfeeding. I wish someone had told me to:
Ignore, ignore, ignore! So their darling is sleeping through the night already, well good for them. Babies are all individuals who do things at their own pace. You are not doing anything wrong as a mother just because your child isn’t doing whatever their child is doing, your parenting is just fine.
8. Throw the books in the bin
I read them all. Gina, baby whisperer, books on attachment parenting. They were all very interesting. They were all totally contradictory. They all belonged in one place only. The bin.
Don’t read a ton of parenting books. If you do want advice you are better of either chatting to other mums that you know and trust or simply listening to your own gut, as they saying goes – mum knows best!
It is true what they say about parenting, the time really does fly. I missed out on a lot of the early days with my son because I was too busy worrying about what I was and wasn’t doing.
Relax and enjoy, you won’t get this time back. Forget about what you feel you ought to be doing and do what feels right. And lie on the sofa eating chocolate and smelling your baby as often as you can.
10. Take space
When I became a mother I felt completely consumed by the work of parenting. My days felt like a bad record on repeat that went: Nappy, boob, washing, food, clean. Nappy, boob, washing, food, clean. I loved my son but I was bored a lot of the time and I felt like there was no space in my life for me anymore. I kept these thoughts to myself, somehow it felt wrong to want time for me. Now I see having time to do my own thing as an essential part of being a good mother. A radiator has to be warm to heat others and as a mother you need to nourish your creativity as much as you need to nourish your body with good food. It’s part of the reason I created my site Storybramble, it gave me a space where I could be creative and connect with other mothers. Storybramble was a place to share my passion for children’s stories and I am thankful to the internet which allows so many women the opportunity to have their voices heard.
Make sure you make time for you and your passions. Taking care of you is all part of being a good parent. Mothers have a unique perspective on the world so get out there and tell your own story, the world is waiting to hear from you.
What about you? What stories did you hear about being a mother and what would you go back and tell yourself if you could?
Thank you Stephanie, for guest posting on my blog x