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obsessive.compulsive.mother.

I am a new mum. I have OCD. I want to live well. Follow me as I try.

London Marathon Training: Week 1

I’ve officially started my training for the London Marathon – it’s all just got a bit more real!  Before last week, I’d just been going out when I could, loosely following a programme for doing run/walk intervals over a half-marathon distance.  I had been full of good intentions to get in two swimming cross-training sessions a week, and to gradually increase my mileage.  Whilst I definitely improved my fitness levels (not hard), and FINALLY partook in my local Park Run event (which I LOVE!), I didn’t do any cross-training or really increase my mileage, so I’ve got a long way to go…

I’m going to follow a run/walk programme for the whole marathon.  There are a couple of reasons for this:-

  1. I know there’s a lot of training involved in a marathon, and I have a baby. To have any chance in hell of fitting it all in, I needed a way to combine being a mum and training for a long-distance event – enter The Running Buggy!  So, I’ve found a way to train and take The Munchkin along for the ride, but there was no way I was going to manage a programme that would require me running and pushing a heavy baby at the same time.  I simply don’t have that level of fitness yet, so a run/walk programme seemed like the ideal option.
  2. I think it will provide a bit of help psychologically, knowing from the start that I don’t need to – and, indeed, have no intention to – run the whole thing. Suddenly it seems more manageable.  And at this juncture, I’ll take anything which makes the 26.2 miles seem within my reach.  One thing I want to be careful of is not burning out, psychically or mentally.  I know myself, and I know I would give myself a hard time if I was unable to measure up to the running only programmes out there, so a more manageable approach from the start seems sensible and a way to keep my spirits up.  That way my head can adjust to the training along with my body.

I’ve read a great book by John ‘The Penguin’ Bingham and Jenny Hadfield, ‘Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person’s Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Half-Marathon or Marathon’.  It is full of common sense tips and encouragement, and I am following their 20 week Run/Walk Marathon Programme.  John Bingham always does run/walk intervals when doing a marathon distance and it has never affected his finish times, so I’m hopeful that means I will complete the London Marathon before Christmas next year.
So, how did Week 1 of training go?  Well, very well, if I do say so myself.  I’m loving it.  I’m trying not to get too excited with 19 weeks still to go though.  The programme sees me out run/walking four times a week, including one longer run, and fitting in a 30-minute cross-training session (bike or swimming) once a week.  And two days of rest, thank goodness.  Week 1 saw me miss a run/walk session and the cross-training session – funnily enough, I still fitted in the two days of rest…But I did up my mileage, and managed my longest distance in several years.  Of 5 miles.  So, a long way to go, but you have to start somewhere and I’m counting it as a good start.  Especially since what I did miss, I missed because of fundraising activities – and on that very handy note, may I just insert our Virgin Money Giving page link here, if you are feeling festively generous!

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Week 1 Stats

Total mileage    11.9

Longest distance covered            5.24 miles

Best pace            12.02 minute/mile

Powered by        Apple Music Pop Workout playlist; Audible recording of ‘Running Like a Girl’ by Alexandra Heminsley

So, please stay tuned for the round-up of Week 2.  Will I ever complete a full week’s training schedule?  Will I manage the increase in distance?  It’s anyone’s guess!  Let me know if you are training for any particular events – what tips do you have?  Can anyone recommend some inspirational podcasts or audio books about running?  And can anyone fathom fuelling for marathon training and breastfeeding??  Comment below, or catch me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram 😊

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Someday Never Comes

I’m really sorry for the radio silence recently.  There’s been a few hard days and a lot of hard nights here of late.  I’ve been having a mixed time of it, and we’ve had various things going on.  The Munchkin is teething, and it’s BAD.  We are having multiple (sometimes hourly) night wakings and he won’t be put down during the day.  It is tough going.  The Husband has had the flu and a couple of other minor illnesses, but because he has a chronic illness they have much more of an impact – and not just on him, but on me too, as I’ve discovered how much I rely on him on a day-to-day basis.

I feel like I should be able to cope better with all of this but the truth is I manage to look after The Munchkin well and that is pretty much where the buck stops.  I’ve been running on empty, and that’s never good for me – physically or mentally.  I know I’m not capable of doing much more than taking good care of my wee boy and seeing myself through of a day.  Which doesn’t make me the ideal wife, as I can’t look after The Husband as he sometimes needs and very much deserves, given how much he carries me.  Throw home improvements, housework and cooking in to this mix, not to mention trying to provide variety and entertainment for a baby, and I start to feel inadequate and like I’m not really getting anything done, which has impacted on my mood – I want to be getting more done, as I feel it would clear my head a bit, but I just seem to be walking through treacle trying to get even the smallest tasks completed.  So, I’ve been beating myself up on a loop about all of this for several weeks, but something happened recently which made me cut myself some slack and I’ve decided to go back to basics…

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Last week I was involved in a minor incident in the car.  I was driving to the shops with The Munchkin, when our car was hit and the driver failed to stop.  There were no injuries, thankfully, but the car was damaged and I got a scare.  Something like this, for anyone, would have the potential to set them back, but for me, with my OCD and intrusive thoughts background, well, it could have set me back miles.  If I let it.  But I’ve decided not to.

For some reason, I’m finding it easier to take control of the intrusive thought cycle on this occasion, and I’m going to run with it (pardon the pun).  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had thoughts bother me since it happened:-

What if it had been more serious?

What if The Munchkin had internal damage we weren’t aware of?

What if it happens again?

But the difference this time is, I am not letting them take over.  I’m able to confidently say these are just thoughts, and it’s only natural to worry after an event like this but I don’t have to fixate.  I could have become obsessed with if I could have done anything differently or if I could have, in any way, been to blame.  My previous OCD thought history included scenarios such as ‘Could I have knocked someone over on my way home without realising’, so an incident like this could have really caused me to go to town with my anxiety.  But I haven’t – maybe because I know I wasn’t to blame, and the sense of injustice is greater than the intrusive thoughts.  Either way, I’ll take it!  It sure is a relief not to have something else to obsess over, even if it did knock me for six a bit.  And as a little Brucie Bonus, I now know for sure that if I ever hit someone or something, I will most definitely know about it and remember it happening!

Having this revelation – that I can, in fact, cope with situations like this and successfully not let my OCD take over – has made me think I could possibly be capable of adult-ing.  And maybe I need to take my foot off the gas, release the pressure gauge, and cut myself some slack.  Because I have a lot going on but I’m OK.  More importantly, The Munchkin is OK, and The Husband is OK.  Everything else we can deal with if I take my time and realise everything does not need to be done all at once.  I don’t need to have everything together.  That day may never come.

So, I’m going to not beat myself up about failing to find the perfect blog post, I’m going to just write instead and see what happens.  I’m not going to worry about trying to do EVERYTHING all at once in my various life roles of mother/wife/daughter/sister/friend/runner, and instead just try to enjoy things a bit more – including writing this blog, as I don’t want it to become something I see as a chore.  And I promise not to leave it so long before posting again!

It would be great to hear from all of you about how you manage to keep all the balls in the air, so to speak.  Do you have any tips for me?  And if there’s anything particular you’d like me to cover in a post, let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

When the Going Gets Tough (the Tough Get Hygge)

It’s likely if you’ve seen me recently, I’ve told you I’m fine. I say that a lot, and a lot of the time it’s true. But sometimes it’s not. I think because it is a relatively new thing for me to talk in public about my OCD and anxiety, it’s sometimes difficult for me to admit if I’m not a-OK. And this week has been difficult. Not impossible, not terrible, just difficult. I’ve been getting a little bit worse on the ol’ OCD spectrum this week:- washing my hands more, questioning a lot more, snapping a lot more…

The Husband told me straight, he thinks I’m getting worse and how are we going to deal with that. Usually it’s me who calls it when I’m starting to feel a bit worse, so it stung a bit more to have him say it out loud first. Because I know I’ve been struggling a bit more recently, but I thought I was on top of it. Turns out I’m not.

I do feel quite sensitive about it, because in a lot of ways I’m doing really well. I feel like I’m a good mum, and I’m doing my best by The Munchkin. The Husband agrees, and was very clear in saying on that score I am winning. He reassured me I am doing awesome in that respect, which helps me not to feel like I’m failing badly. But in other areas, it’s not so good.

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I’m taking exercise and trying to eat a bit better – tick, tick. I’m still questioning behaviours and trying to rationalise things – tick, tick. But I’ve been really struggling with tiredness, and I know from experience that this impacts on my anxiety and OCD. And because of tiredness and having a lot on my plate in general, I’ve been lax at remembering to take my medication regularly recently. Major fail. And it has started to show in my thought patterns and behaviours I use to control them. For instance, if you look at my hands at the moment, you’ll see sore patches forming because I’m washing them too much. This is because I’m still really struggling with food prep and the thought of killing my family by feeding them. And if you check me trying to leave the house, you’ll see my stress levels rocket as I try to stay in control of obsessional thoughts about the tumble dryer, cooker, plugs and windows. Not to mention locking the front door – my neighbours, and any local dog walkers, undoubtedly think I’m bonkers. I am, again, struggling with all the ways I could hurt the people I love, for instance by leaving the hair dryer plugged in.

So it’s time to take stock and get in top of things again. The good thing is I am feeling happy and positive in myself most of the time, so there are no issues where my mood is concerned. And I’m happy that I’m doing well in the mum stakes just now so that takes some of the pressure off, particularly as my obsessional thoughts often try to convince me this isn’t the case. I am trying to remind myself of the truth of the matter, and not make myself feel bad about my abilities as a mum.

I’ve already made a concerted effort to remember my medication over the last week, but this will take a few weeks to balance out. I’ll continue to persevere here, because I know that the medication helps me and I’d rather take it and feel better than struggle on without. It’s funny, because medication for me is a bit of an invisible helping hand. If I take it, I don’t feel like it’s doing much, but if I don’t then I notice that things seem that bit harder. When I was having CBT sessions with a community mental health nurse, we discussed the use of medication, and they mentioned that for some people they simply have a lower stress and anxiety threshold that is dictated by biological factors, which the medication really helps. I agree, as for me this definitely seems to be the case, and is something which is made worse by external elements such as tiredness.

And tiredness is going to be the more difficult aspect to tackle. The Munchkin is currently teething, and teething bad. For the last month or more (I lose track), we have been waking constantly throughout the night for comfort and to feed. Some nights are better than others, but the cumulative effect is one of increasing tiredness. The Munchkin is still in our room at nine months, and we are still doing the co-sleeping thing. I’m not ready to stop that, and I don’t think he is either. The Husband could probably live without it, but is supportive of me continuing with it at the moment. I’m aware it’s likely The Munchkin will sleep better in his own room, but with him waking frequently for comfort and feeds, it just seems sensible all round to keep going as we are. So I will just need to see how this one plays out. I guess one way I can tackle it is to go to bed earlier, something which I always find so difficult as the evening is a bit of ‘me time’. But I will try. Perhaps re-evaluating ‘me time’ is the key. Pre-baby, I saw running as infringing on time for myself, whereas I now look at it as a time for me to gather my thoughts and take some time for myself. Maybe I could try this way of thinking on early bedtimes. It’s worth a try.

I’ve been enjoying my running training, and I’m glad I’ve got it to focus on. The London Marathon goal is encouraging me to get out there when I would otherwise probably not bother, so that can only be a good thing. I’ve started going to Park Run on a Saturday morning, and surprisingly I love it! I say surprisingly not because Park Run isn’t excellent, because it is, but rather because I would have thought myself the last person on the planet who would regularly do a 5k for fun. Oh the times, they are a-changing. I’m shortly planning to try to combine my training with motherhood by venturing out with a running buggy – more on this to follow when I eventually manage it (no laughing at the back!).

Another thing I’ve been enjoying is reading again (sometimes about running), and am trying to do this before bed each night. So maybe that’s something to do a bit more of to unwind. I was worried I was going to find it difficult to ever read again after having a baby, so it has been comforting to come back to this and actually finish a book or two – you would understand how much of an achievement this is if you knew how slow a reader I am.

I’ve also been getting excited about the coming of Autumn and all the associated cosiness. I love this time of year, and I’m embracing all the things which signal good times are coming – the start of regular good TV, the colours of the leaves, cosy blankets, hot chocolate, crisp walks on fresh days, seasonal aisles in shops, a reignited interest in baking and cooking, the anticipation of the festive season…the list goes on. I found out last year that the Danish actually have a word for the warm and cosy feeling these things instil in me – hygge. Just another reason to love the Danish if you ask me. I plan to investigate more about this in the coming months and will let you know how I get on.

I guess the important conclusion I’ve come to, is it’s time to instigate a bit of self-care. It’s time to do the little things which make the days easier for me, make time for the things I enjoy, and keep going with the things I know help. Do any of you have things which you rely on when the going gets a bit tough? Am I the only person who feels that spark of hygge at the thought of all things autumnal and wintry? Let me know what gets you through when you need that extra bit of help.

EDIT:- I wrote the above on Saturday night when my other half was on a night out. I felt quite positive when I went to bed. I woke up at around 5am and The Husband was not in bed. When he came upstairs he was not looking good. He was worried he might have eaten something dodgy. CUE THE KLAXON in my head. I was immediately on edge, worried about using the bathroom, worried about him touching The Munchkin, who, incidentally, had kept me up a lot of the night with teething woes. I was exhausted and had been relying on The Husband taking The Munchkin for a couple of hours in the morning so I could get some sleep. Now this wasn’t going to happen I was starting to panic.

Clearly I am not doing nearly as well as I thought. If I was, I wouldn’t be considering quarantining The Husband by moving out whilst he’s unwell. I also wouldn’t be cracking up at the thought of no lie in. As it is, in the cold light of day, we are in a slightly better position than I imagined. The Husband has only had the one episode and, whilst he isn’t feeling awesome, he will be able to get up and help out – by cleaning the bathroom. I’m obviously the most awful wife in the world, but in my current state I can’t face it. Also, having given The Munchkin some Anbesol and Calpol, he is more chilled and happily playing whilst I type. And I have a cup of non-decaf tea (a highly irregular occurrence) and some Chocolate Orange Minis, so I feel I can cope a bit better than expected.

I felt I should update last night’s post because I was surprised and anxious about my reaction to the night’s events, even though I’d just written at length about how I am having a more tricky time at the moment. I’m not doing as well as I could be. But I want to be coping better so I guess that’s a good starting point. I think sometimes the trick is to take a moment to breathe and do whatever it is you need to do to feel OK. So tea and chocolate it is. The rest will come.

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EDIT:-  I’ve only gone and linked up with the fabulous Honest Mum again for another Brilliant Blog Posts!  Go and check it out 🙂

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Praise You

The Husband doesn’t know I’m writing this. And it wasn’t what I planned for my next blog post. But I had an overwhelming urge to write something about him and how he supports me. He has to put up with a lot living with me. It’s not easy living with someone who has OCD, someone who questions every little thing – and questions you about every little thing. This was brought home to me recently…

But in order to understand how he supports me, you really need to know what goes on in my head and how that manifests itself in my behaviour. Scary stuff. If you dare, I will take you on a journey into my mind…I’m not sure I dare.

My most recent issue has been raw chicken. I can’t stand the stuff. I won’t touch it. I struggle touching the packaged raw chicken in the supermarket, never mind cooking with the stuff at home. Don’t get me wrong – I love chicken. I love roast chicken (my favourite Sunday dinner, with my Mum’s stuffing). I love chicken and crisps, a fantastic kid (and adult!) friendly meal my mother-in-law makes. I love chicken curry. I love chicken stir fry…you get the idea. I just really struggle with chicken in its raw, salmonella-y, campylobacter-y state. Because I one had really bad food poisoning I put down to a dodgy chicken and cashew nut dish from a takeaway. And I never want to have food poisoning again. So I avoid chicken where I can.

So far, so logical – believe me, this is as logical as I get, and I know it’s not very logical. Because – get this – I understand I am being completely irrational. I understand that simply touching raw chicken and then washing my hands thoroughly will negate the whole issue. But the thought of the bacteria on the chicken spreading worms its way in to my brain and I can’t let it go. I imagine the bacteria spreading from the packet, all over the fridge – so we have a separate raw meat drawer in the fridge. I imagine it spreading from the open packet and chopping board, to the counters and anything else lying on them. In my head, the washing of hands after touching raw chicken only serves to contaminate the tap and soap dispenser with bacteria. And don’t get me started on using dish clothes or tea towels after this process – they go straight in a 60 degree wash if used, but my preference is for kitchen roll. Which means I go through tonnes of the stuff, a fact which makes me and Planet Earth sad. Any utensils or cooking equipment which has come anywhere near the raw chicken has to go straight in the dishwasher. And the counters and taps, and anything in their vicinity, need thoroughly cleaned as soon as possible.

Why do I insist on all of this? Because I’m scared of getting ill. I was horribly ill with food poisoning for over a week, and it took a lot longer to feel like myself again once the initial unpleasantness had subsided. I wasn’t in a very good place at the time, living far from home, and for the most part having to look after myself. It was scary and lonely. And I don’t want to ever have to go through it again. Couple this with the fact my Dad had terrible food poisoning that saw him lose a lot of weight over several weeks, whilst having to undergo hospital tests in case of something more sinister, and my irrational fears are bolstered. It is even more irrational when you consider my Dad got food poisoning after being careless cooking raw chicken at a barbecue – he tasted the marinade on the raw chicken. True story.

I’m still scared of getting ill though. I’m terrified of being ill and not being able to look after The Munchkin. Of not being able to comfort him and be there for him as his mum should. I can’t even bear the thought of passing it on to him. The thought of him having to go through the nastiness of a bout of food poisoning makes me upset. I start to catastrophise, imagining he will be taken in to hospital and that he will become dehydrated and lose lots of weight. I think if that happens, they won’t let me feed him, and he’ll have to stay in hospital to be tube fed. Then I get scared there could be complications. Maybe I won’t be allowed to visit, as I’ll be ill too. And what then if The Husband also has it? My wee boy would be alone. And ill and upset. And I wouldn’t be there. Of course, I know he wouldn’t be properly alone, and we have loving family around us who would make sure of that, but the thought of not being able to be there makes me physically hurt.

Of course, I regularly take the catastrophic thinking to its natural conclusion. That being, what if I killed my son or husband through some unfortunate chain of events linked to the food poisoning, some unforeseen complications. Even writing this, I know how ridiculous it is. But that is my ultimate fear. I am terrified I, in some way, will cause the deaths of my nearest and dearest by not ensuring I do my best to keep them safe. And my best sometimes happens to be going overboard on the handling of raw chicken. I kid you not. But it also manifests itself in my other obsessive thoughts and compulsions. It is, essentially, the thing which scares me most and underpins my all my control and anxiety issues.

The most mind-blowing bit about all this, is I’m not even the one who is doing the cooking. It’s my husband who handles this whole process, and it is him who ensures all my steps outlined above are followed. But can I trust that he has done it all without questioning him on the various aspects numerous times? I think you know the answer.

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So back to the recent event which caused me to take stock of my husband and how much he puts up with. He was making a chicken stir fry for tea. I went out for a run and he made a start to it whilst looking after The Munchkin too. He makes it entertaining for him by taking him in to the kitchen in his high chair and explaining what he is doing. I’m hoping this gives The Munchkin a positive relationship with food and cooking. He plays music and makes him laugh. He’s already many steps ahead of me in this regard – I find it hard to be practical and look after The Munchkin at the same time, simply because my OCD makes me take ten times as long to do household tasks. I can entertain him OR I can cook (and even then, I don’t often do that, and hardly ever cook chicken). I don’t successfully do both. My husband does, and on a regular basis.

When I got home, The Husband was shirtless. I didn’t even notice – I don’t know what this says about me/us – but he tried to explain, “I managed to get chicken on my t-shirt!”. Raw chicken. One of my trigger points. So when he nonchalantly tries to explain why he’s half naked in the kitchen, and it happens to be because he accidentally touched his t shirt with raw chicken on his hands, I freak. “Why would you tell me that?!?!”, I shout. I am not calm, and all I can think is the chicken has got everywhere and could be on The Munchkin. I take The Munchkin out of the kitchen and try to chill out – it doesn’t happen. My husband is at a loss, as he had been trying to placate me by stripping off the offending article, and had already cleaned everywhere else. But he’d left the chicken t-shirt on the floor so I can’t go in the kitchen until it’s in the washing machine (which was mid-cycle).

And this left me thinking – he shouldn’t have to live with this. No-one should. And yet he calmly deals with it all. I know he’s not always happy about it, and definitely doesn’t understand it, but he puts up with it. He puts up with me, and my crazy, irrational thoughts and behaviours. He doesn’t just put up with things though. He loves me because of them. My husband regularly tells me my empathetic nature is part of the reason he loves me. And it is this, often vastly magnified, state of empathy which drives a lot of my obsessive thoughts. But he says this is what makes him love me even more, because I care so much. It takes one hell of a man to put it like that.

And so my husband deserves praise. All the praise. Because he helps me everyday to be a better mum to The Munchkin. He helps me challenge myself and he reminds me that I’m not my OCD, that I’m more than that diagnosis. He encourages me and he makes me laugh. And when I look at him bossing fatherhood, it makes me want to step up even more and crack this thing called motherhood. I know I have a long way to go with my OCD, and it will always need managed, but because of him I believe I can do it. Because of him, I want to make a roast chicken dinner. The roast chicken that The Munchkin requests as it’s his favourite Sunday dinner, because his mum makes it the best (stuffing, gravy and all – though I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to beat his Granny in that regard). Because of The Husband, I may even tackle raw chicken. Praise, indeed.

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You’ve Got A Friend

Dear Student Midwife,

I am writing to thank you for the care you gave myself and my son whilst he was on the neonatal unit. I know you are unlikely to think you did anything other than your job, but to me you did so much more. We were fortunate to have many caring staff look after us whilst we were on the unit, and I’m sure you learnt well from them. I think some people may be tempted to say you were able to give us more support specifically because you were a student, and therefore not officially recognised in the staff numbers. But I witnessed the amount of effort you put in to everything you did on the unit, and you were always busy, taking on whatever opportunities were presented – you certainly did not have any more time than anyone else. Yet I felt you were there specifically to help us. I know you cared for other families whilst we were there, but you did so whilst seamlessly ensuring we were taken care of. I didn’t have to look for you, because you were already looking out for me – and that made all the difference to me at that point in time.

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I’m afraid when we met I was not my usual self. It was the third day after The Munchkin had been born, and I had slept less than eight hours in that time. I was at my lowest point since the birth, and had all but crawled along to the unit from the postnatal ward after a challenging start to the morning. You were already at The Munchkin’s crib when I entered the nursery. I probably looked panic-stricken at you being there, but you smiled warmly and introduced yourself. You congratulated me on the birth of my beautiful, strong boy. And you asked me if I needed help as I struggled to rearrange the chair for nursing. I was trying to look as though I knew what I was doing, that I was a confident, knowledgeable mother who had arrived to provide for her child. But you knew I was shattered.

Instead of leaving me to it, you helped me position myself comfortably and asked what positions worked best for me. I admitted I had only really tried one way of breastfeeding, and you took your time and helped me try different techniques. The Munchkin had been struggling to latch without a nipple shield, and you helped me feel comfortable using it – I started to think of myself as less of a failure. I’d been so sure, and reassured, that breastfeeding would be the most natural thing in the world. But it can take work. And you worked with me. You looked after me, and made me feel like we were the only people you needed to be with at that time – it meant the world to me.

You asked me if I wanted some water, and explained the importance of hydration when nursing. You brought me some, and told me more about how important it is to look after myself so I can look after my baby. You asked how I was. And I cried. Because I was not OK. I was really struggling. I was severely sleep deprived, my baby was in the neonatal unit and I was unable to mother him as I had felt I should. The Husband had phoned that morning to say he felt he may be getting a cold and couldn’t risk coming into the neonatal unit. I felt very alone and isolated. I only felt right when I was with my baby, but because of the exposed environment of the unit, I felt judged on every parenting step I took. I know this was never the intention of the staff, it was purely in my head, but it didn’t make it any easier. That morning I had to admit to the midwives in the postnatal unit I wasn’t coping. The lack of sleep and waves of hormones had ramped my anxiety levels right up, and all I felt I could successfully do was cry. They agreed I needed to be near my baby and were making steps to move me to the transitional care ward on the neonatal unit, so I could be closer to The Munchkin.

You listened carefully as all of this poured out. The guilt from not being beside my baby 24/7. The guilt from phoning my mum and mother-in-law in floods of tears because I couldn’t cope without my husband. The overwhelming feeling of loneliness I had, and the pure fear I felt at contemplating a long day stretching out in front of me without support from my husband. I felt like a child, unable to do anything for myself – but I was supposed to be looking after my child. You did not judge. You didn’t try to solve everything for me. At first you just listened and let me get it all out. And you gave me a hug. You told me I was doing great and that this was one of the hardest things I would have to go through, but that I was doing it and I was doing it well. You said if I needed proof of this, I just had to look down in front of me. I did – and I saw The Munchkin.

When I had calmed down you said you were going to leave me to nurse in peace for a while. You explained how my breathing affected my nursing, and encouraged me to take long deep breaths. You told me I had this. And I felt like it might just be true. I allowed myself to relax in to nursing at that point, and I felt an overwhelming feeling of calm come over me. It is true about the connection and unbelievable sense of peace that can be felt when nursing your baby – and you helped me achieve this.

Later you checked I was OK. I had heard from my husband – he was OK and would be coming in that afternoon. I had given The Munchkin the longest feed yet and I was beginning to feel like I could cope with it all. I thanked you and tried to explain how you had helped me, saying you were an absolute star. But you wouldn’t have it, you said you were just doing your job, what you love.

Over the next few days, you looked after us with the same care and attention. You told me about your journey so far as a student midwife, and what you hoped to do with the qualification in the future. You gave me invaluable advice about the body and mind after giving birth, and you told me to always follow my instincts – something which still rings true for me. I remember you coming to show me how I could breastfeed lying down if that was easier for us, and telling me to take it easy and just do whatever we needed to do, whatever felt natural for us. We were the most important ones, you said. And I believed you.

The day before we left hospital we said goodbye to you. You spent ages chatting with myself and my husband, talking about your family and your future plans. We told you about how we were going to spend Christmas, and what our favourite films were. And I told you how thankful I was for everything you had done for our family. What I should also have told you was how you saved me from myself, and made me believe in myself when I was really struggling.

I think you will have qualified as a midwife now, and I feel honoured to have met you on that journey. I know you will be the most amazing support to women at a time when they need it most – you have a natural ability to really see people and instinctively know how to help them. You also listen and put their views first. You really care. I said at the time, if we have another baby (!), I would want you to be my midwife, and I really meant it. Your positivity and empathy brought me a sense of calm, and I’m so glad I met you that day.

The Munchkin is eight months old now, and getting bigger all the time! You would be amazed at the size of him now. We are still mixed feeding, and even managed to reduce the bottles from three to two recently. I’ve always felt it is such a shame that despite all the help you gave me, we’ve not been able to exclusively breastfeed. But I’m doing as much as I can and I know that’s the main thing. I hope to continue to feed him for as long as possible, because it makes us both happy. I am a much more happy and calm person than when you last saw me. I still have struggles with my anxiety, but I am getting more sleep (as much as The Munchkin will allow), taking my medication and getting some exercise now, all of which helps. I try to follow my instincts, you were definitely right about that, even though sometimes it is hard and I’m filled with self-doubt. It seems to be working so far, because The Munchkin is happy and healthy.

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If I could tell you one thing it would be, please know that you make a difference. When you are having a hard day, are exhausted, or getting wound up in the politics of the job, just know that you made a difference to me and my family, as I am sure you have, and will, for countless others. Thank you so much.

Sincerely,

Obsessive Compulsive Mother

 

I’ve linked up with the fabulous Honest Mum for this blog post – go check out her great site for other blog inspiration 🙂

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Labour of Love

My due date was 19th January 2016. But Baby had other ideas. By the beginning of December I was in hospital with possible pre-term labour. We had made a mad dash in the early hours to maternity triage and were seen by a variety of midwives and consultants. They were concerned about my blood pressure, which was sky high, and they couldn’t rule out that labour hadn’t already started. I was experiencing a lot of lower back pain and discomfort around my pelvis. I was given steroid injections (FYI, these hurt A LOT), which would help Baby’s lungs mature so they could hopefully breathe unaided if born early. I was also given medication for my blood pressure and strapped to heart rate monitors for Baby and myself. I have to admit I wasn’t particularly concerned at this point. Although it was early, I never seriously considered I could be about to have a baby. I mean, obviously I realised I was having a baby sometime in the near future, but not in a matter of hours or days. It just wasn’t real to me. Instead, I was kind of caught up in a feeling of excitement at the prospect of finally meeting Baby, and not really considering the reality of the situation. The reality being, born at 33 weeks, there was the likelihood that Baby would require some degree of medical intervention.

By the time it was decided I would be admitted, it was about 7am. I was nervous as I had never stayed in hospital before. I was also clueless. I didn’t know what would happen with meals, belongings, visiting hours. I don’t like not knowing what to expect, it does not work well with anxiety. But by this point I was so tired it didn’t really matter. The midwives on the postnatal ward were lovely, bringing me some breakfast and explaining that the doctor would speak to me at the ward round. They also told me about visiting hours and that I was welcome to leave the ward after the doctor had been round. I felt a bit more relaxed and less like a caged animal. I managed a snooze and was just coming round when the doctor approached.

I had had an ultrasound scan on my way to the postnatal ward, and it had all looked fine, no cause for concern. They had also taken a special test called a fetal fibronectin test. The doctor explained to me the results of the test were positive and this meant it was highly likely I would deliver within 2 weeks. It couldn’t determine if labour had started but, coupled with my raised blood pressure, it meant they wanted to keep an eye on me. I was kept in overnight to monitor our heart rates, and as everything calmed down and I had no more pain, I was happily discharged the following day.

I was so pleased to get home. It’s really, really difficult to sleep in hospital. People are coming and going at all hours, women are going in to labour, midwives were taking my observations every 4 hours. I was exhausted. I also hadn’t found it easy to move around on the ward, being hooked up to monitors a lot of the time, so I was thrilled to be getting home to my own environment. I can always manage my anxiety easier at home, because I am in charge and in control of my surroundings. Control is a big factor affecting my anxiety levels, and something I was well aware I needed to work on with the imminent arrival of a tiny human. Apparently they wouldn’t have much respect for my need to control everything.

What this ‘false start’ highlighted was that, for a control freak, I had absolutely no control and was in no way prepared. We were not at all ready. We hadn’t even packed a hospital bag. I was determined to be a bit more organised in case we had to make another hospital dash. So, obviously, I spent the following day doing my Christmas shopping online. And doing important prep such as putting a couple of my favourite films (My Cousin Vinny and Elf, if you’re interested) and a series of the American Office on my iPad. Priorities, yeah? I kicked up my hypnobirthing cd listening a notch. I still didn’t pack my hospital bag…

…and the next day I was in need of it. The Husband had left for work and I had a chilled morning of breakfast and catching up on I’m A Celebrity… whilst bouncing about on my birthing ball. At about 11am the doorbell rang, and I took delivery of my Christmas shopping – well done me. At almost the precise moment I signed for the delivery and shut the door, my waters broke. And it wasn’t like on TV or in films – it broke, and it kept breaking. I knew this was it, and was a bit giddy when I called The Husband to say he’d have to come home. The hospital told me to come in right away. So I started to pack my bag, which is no easy feat when you’re still living out of boxes. My mother-in-law ran some errands for me and I phoned my mum to tell her the good news – it was happening! The reality had still not hit. And my waters were still breaking.

By the time The Husband had arrived home and finished my half-arsed bag packing for me, I was on all fours on the living room floor trying to breathe through what were obviously contractions but what I kept telling myself were just niggles. The twenty-five minute trip to the hospital saw them turn from niggles to more noticeable pains and saw me tell The Husband where he could shove my hypnobirthing cd. I was so disappointed, I had wanted the start of the whole thing to at least be a little bit Zen.

As soon as we got to the hospital and were eventually taken in to triage – hello, I’m contracting in your reception area – we hooked up the Tens machine and I started to get in to a proper rhythm with my breathing. I was examined, and they confirmed (finally) that I was definitely in labour. Not only that, but I was 3-4cm dilated. I was pretty psyched! Then everything settled down again. I was admitted to the labour ward overnight, but the midwives were confident I would be sent home the next day. I was too. After all, I’d already had one false start. But the consultants had other ideas. At the ward round the next morning, they advised the risk of infection for both myself and Baby was now too high. If things didn’t pick up again during the morning, I would be induced. I was going to have my baby that day. Shit just got real. And I was terrified.

All the natural birthing preparations we had planned went out the window. I wasn’t allowed to move around much as I had to be hooked up to monitors for myself and Baby. I wasn’t allowed to use a birthing pool for the same reason. All the hypnobirthing I’d hoped to use fell by the wayside, as I’d already broke the cardinal rule of letting adrenaline take over. I was scared. I wasn’t supposed to be having a baby for at least another 6 weeks. I was scared of the pain of labour. And I was terrified of what would happen to my baby when they were born. It had already been explained that a paediatrician would be present at the birth and they would take the baby to Intensive Care in the Neonatal Unit as soon as they were born. It was possible they would have to stay in the Neonatal Unit for the next 6 weeks. This was not the chilled, mellow experience I’d been hoping for. In fact, for the first time in my pregnancy, I felt properly frightened about labour and beyond – I actually think I hadn’t given it all that much thought before. I’d had too much to worry about in order to get to that point, and although I thought I’d prepared to the nth degree, I might as well have just been playing.

I was in labour for 36 hours (The Husband kept track, I didn’t). Despite my initial fears, the first part played out quite well. Some of it was even quite fun – we had great banter with the excellent midwife and midwifery student, and I like to think I coped admirably well through a mixture of breathing techniques, Tens machine and Entonox (gas & air). The Husband tends to agree, and still says he’s surprised how well I did, considering the fuss I make over a stubbed toe (I have an EXTREMELY low pain threshold). Of course, morphine helps – that’s a saying right? I’d made the decision to go as far as possible with each level of pain relief, but to ask for the next thing before I got too upset. So sometime in the late afternoon I decided I needed to kick the pain relief up a gear, and requested a half dose of Diamorphine. Well, what can I say? I’m a fan. I’d definitely do it again with the Entonox and Diamorphine combo – and I believe I informed The Husband of this at the time. In fact, as he delights in telling me, I was “flying” and “absolutely hilarious”. What a trooper, eh? I like to laugh. So much so I requested the other half dose early evening. And funnily enough don’t remember the rest of the night quite so clearly.

The midwives changed over at around 8pm. I clearly remember coming out of a haze to find the banter-loving midwife of earlier in the day gone, and a stern, quiet, matron-like midwife in her place. This wasn’t fair. The other midwife had promised me I would have my baby before she finished her shift. But I was still here and not allowed to push. To be fair to the new midwife, despite the lack of banter, she was a total pro, giving exactly the influence and direction I needed at that point in my labour. The time for joking around was over.

At some point I had a total melt down in the bathroom, as I had to leave my gas & air behind. I believe they call this stage ‘the transition’. Oh, I transitioned alright. I went from being hilarious to completely retreating inside myself. I would be very quiet and only make noise or movement during contractions. I was desperate to push but they wouldn’t let me. It felt like an age before I was allowed to push, and as soon as I was, I wished I didn’t have to. It’s really hard. And not nearly as intuitive as people say it’s going to be. Of course, it didn’t help that they only realised Baby was back-to-back after I’d been pushing for a bit. Apparently, this isn’t good. Well, it certainly made the whole second stage a lot more tiring. And long. Very long. Towards the end I was becoming exhausted, and I was starting to think I couldn’t do it. I felt very helpless and scared. They kept telling me to push and I was really trying, but it was never enough. I felt like crying, I didn’t think there was a way out – it was such a struggle to push and I was sure they were going to whisk me away for a C-section. By this time, there were at least four midwives and a paediatrician in the room. It was feeling a bit crowded.

And then The Munchkin was born. It seemed to happen just like that. (It didn’t, I needed an episiotomy – don’t Google if you’re of a sensitive disposition). I was so relieved and so, so tired. The immediate post-birth time is a bit of a blur. The Husband told me we had a baby boy, and he cut the cord. I don’t even remember the delivery of the placenta (The Husband does). We only had a very short time for skin-to-skin and then The Munchkin was taken to the neonatal unit. They assured me he was doing well and that we could see him as soon as I was ready. We were given tea and toast, and I was stitched up. The Husband still finds it surreal that I had gas & air in one hand and a cup of tea in the other as I was stitched up. It was the best tea and toast I’ve ever had. I’d thought it was an urban legend about getting tea and toast following the birth – I’m here to tell you it’s not. And it’s so so good. I was then able to have a shower and it was the most delicate but most lovely shower ever. It was, quite simply, the most surreal time of my life. I had just given birth but my baby wasn’t there. I was exhausted and high as a kite. I was desperate to hold my baby again, but I also wanted to sleep. I didn’t feel like a mum. How could I when my baby wasn’t with me? It was strange and unnerving, and not at all like I’d imagined. Best laid plans and all that.

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The next few days were extremely difficult. Whilst The Munchkin was ostensibly doing very well, managing to breathe unaided and moving on quickly from feeding through a nasogastric tube, I was not doing so good. The sheer high of the adrenaline from the birth wore off fairly quickly and I felt at first as though I was in a daze. It was strange to be on a different ward from my son, and I was making the short walk between the postnatal and neonatal wards many, many times throughout the day and night. When I was on the postnatal ward, I was desperate to be back beside my tiny baby. It was such a wrench whenever I had to leave him. I was so jealous of the other mums on the postnatal unit, who had their babies bedside. People tried to help by encouraging me to make the most of having the neonatal unit nurses on hand, saying I should take full advantage of the help and opportunity to rest, that I would appreciate this if I had more children. This advice, though well-meaning, wasn’t helpful. Because what they didn’t realise was I didn’t feel like a proper mum. I felt like a fake. And a shell of who I had been. I didn’t know who I was or how to be now. And I was so, so tired – you just don’t sleep properly in hospital. Especially when you are on speed dial for night feeds in another ward.

I find it difficult to describe how lost I felt at that point in time. The only thing I wanted was to get my baby home and retreat into a cosy little nest just the three of us. I felt on the verge of a proper breakdown, and when The Husband was potentially unable to visit the hospital on the third day post-birth I had the mother of all meltdowns. I couldn’t do this by myself, and I felt so alone. A few things got me through this:-

  • The Husband being able to make it in after all. He is my absolute rock, and I was never more aware of this than in the days immediately after The Munchkin was born.
  • The love and support of my fabulous family and friends, who brought themselves along to the hospital to cheer me up and sent messages of support when they couldn’t be there.
  • The understanding and care from a fantastic team of medical staff, who acknowledged and understood my worries and never dismissed me.
  • The Munchkin. He immediately became the centre of my world. And as long as I was with him, I felt OK. I felt I could do it. And I felt like I was his mum. He saved me.

So this was my labour of love. And what a love it is. But this was just the beginning, and I’ve learned so much in such a short space of time. And I’ve SO much more to learn. It’s quite the curve, I can tell you. In my next posts, I want to take time to thank someone who had a profound effect on me during my time in hospital, and then talk a bit about my experiences at home in the initial postnatal period and how my mental health was impacted. But for now, it would be great to hear your experiences of birth and how you felt after, or if you have any questions for me about my experience, please feel free to comment below!

I’ve added this post to a link up hosted by the fabulous Honest Mum – check out her site by clicking below!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Lidl Running Wear Review

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I think I should establish two points before we go much further with this review. I am not currently running long distances, so my running gear has only had to stand up to runs of a few miles maximum. And secondly, I don’t really own any expensive kit (with the exception of my trainers). I usually wear cheap supermarket exercise wear or t-shirts from race goodie bags. They seem to do the job so it has never really bothered me too much, and I’m always in the market for a bargain!

I have dabbled in running for several years now, so already own a couple of pairs of trousers, shorts and running tops. The longest distance they have had to endure previously was 10 miles, and I have never really been a regular runner so they have stood the test of time. However, having had a baby eight months ago, my body shape has changed and I’m bigger all over. To cut a long story short, I was uncomfortable wearing ill-fitting exercise clothes at a time when I am trying to run to better my health & wellbeing. It was doing absolutely nothing for my confidence or my comfort levels whilst running in public. Just as I was making the decision to invest in some new running threads, The Husband noticed an advert on TV for Lidl’s running gear on special offer, so it was meant to be. I hot-footed it to my local Lidl and am now writing about the spoils for your purchasing pleasure. If you’re looking for info on budget running gear then you’ve come to the right place.

There are several items in the range, all coming under the Crivit brand name. As I already have good running trainers, and tend to be of the opinion that it’s worth going to get properly fitted for these if you are going to be pounding the pavements a lot, I gave the trainers in the range a miss. You can pick up a pair for £14.99 if you’re interested though. I also didn’t bother with the sports socks as I have plenty, however I would be willing to try these in the future. They would set you back £1.99.

I was however in the market for some trousers and tops, so I bought one pair of full length leggings, a pair of capri leggings, two vests, and (on a gamble) a sports bra. Let me start with the positives. The leggings have been brilliant. They fit very well, although I would recommend you go for a size larger than you think (or hope). The claims of moisture wicking technology in both the leggings and the tops hold out, and I felt comfortable even at the end of a particularly sweat-inducing workout. I also loved the bright colours on offer, though I know they won’t be to everyone’s taste. I wear black with brown or navy though, so what do I know? At £4.99 a pair for the leggings and capris, they are a stone cold bargain and I heartily recommend them.

The vest tops were a mixed bag on the other hand. The yellow top with thicker straps was more comfortable and a better fit out of the two. Again, I would recommend going a size larger than expected for comfort. I loved the grey top initially but found that when I was wearing a properly fitting sports bra (more on that in a minute), it felt flimsy and looked as though it wasn’t sitting properly – I felt a bit exposed. At £2.99 each they represent really good value, but being honest I would only buy the thicker strap style again as I don’t think I’ll get much wear out of the grey vest. There were also t-shirts available at £3.99 each which is great value, and I’ll definitely be picking some up on my next visit.

As I mentioned earlier, I took a chance on trying one of their running bras for £4.99. They only come in general sizes (S/M/L) so I really should have known better, but I was feeling really uncomfortable in my pre-pregnancy sports bras so decided to take a gamble. It did not pay off. I felt as though it offered no support whatsoever and was very self-conscious for the whole run. I’ve previously used running bras from Sainsbury’s, which have done a satisfactory job but, having been through pregnancy and still breastfeeding, I am now definitely of the opinion that being properly fitted for a sports bra is essential. Not only did I feel self-conscious wearing the cheaper bras, but I also felt uncomfortable and sore after a run, and as a breastfeeding mum that is not something I want to happen again. So whilst I guess you could see the £4.99 as a waste, in a way it has been a blessing in disguise because it prompted me to go get properly fitted and I feel soooo much better for it.

All the items I tried washed very well, which is a big plus where cheaper clothes are concerned. There are definitely things I would buy again (the leggings are ace) and things which I would recommend you add to your workout wardrobe without compromising on style or comfort. However, don’t go to Lidl and expect to get totally kitted out for your next ultra-marathon – spend the extra and invest in a well fitted, high quality sports bra and pair of trainers so you don’t do yourself any damage.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on post-baby running wear so let me know if you have any gems to share! Does anyone else rate Lidl’s running gear? What brands do you wear and recommend? Are there any I should avoid at all costs? Let me know in the comments below!

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It’s All Coming Back To Me Now

I was going to use this post to talk about the effect of birth and the postnatal period on my mental health. But The Husband quite rightly pointed out that people may be interested in how I fared during pregnancy too. So instead of glancing over the pregnancy in a couple of paragraphs, I thought it would be better to split up the posts and dedicate one to the antenatal period, then focus on the birth and postnatal goings on. Interestingly, my memories of pregnancy are a bit hazy and it took a conversation with The Husband to remind me of how I really was during that time. I had in my head that, despite a couple of little niggles, I was basically Mother Earth. Apparently, this wasn’t quite the case…

Having OCD and general anxiety issues, as well as episodes of depression, I was always pretty nervous at the thought of having a baby. Would I get postnatal depression? Would I pass on my neuroses to my children? Would I have to stop my medication whilst pregnant and breastfeeding, and how would that take its toll? Would I develop postpartum psychosis, experiencing scary delusions focusing on the baby? It was a pretty exhausting list of questions, with just about every possible scenario under the sun given consideration. I’m surprised I ever decided to give it a go when I read that back.

When we first considered having a baby in July 2014, I was slowly reducing my antidepressant medication, and felt it was going well. I had also been having regular CBT sessions with a community psychiatric nurse, and these had given me range of tools to help manage my anxieties in their various manifestations. I felt stronger than I had in a long time, and it was a case of it’s now or never. Of course I had a lot of worries, but on the flip side I felt I also had a lot to offer a child if we were lucky enough to have a baby.

Unfortunately, I had a relapse of depression in late December 2014, and ended up off work & back on my medication. It was at that point I decided I would be better to take medication for the foreseeable, as I knew it kept me on an even keel and would allow me to investigate other options for managing my mood. I’m convinced that taking the time off and confronting my mood head on helped me bounce back much quicker than I thought possible. And by May 2015 I had the biggest boost imaginable – a positive pregnancy test.

I couldn’t believe it. I was part-thrilled, part-terrified, but mostly made up! I was strangely positive about the whole thing. Of course I had huge nerves, and did the standard thing of Googling every physical symptom to check for underlying problems (doctor who?), but throughout most of my pregnancy I enjoyed better than expected mental health. I’d made the decision to continue my medication throughout pregnancy, and with the support of my midwifery team and GP, this really helped. In fact, I’m convinced it’s how I got through without any major relapses.

That’s not to say it was plain sailing though. I had major issues with food throughout my pregnancy. When I became pregnant I was eating a vegan diet, and I planned to continue this when I found out I was expecting. I did a lot of research and planned my meals so I was getting all the nutrients required (and then some). Then the nausea hit. And I didn’t want to eat anything. Well that’s not strictly true – I didn’t want to eat anything vegan. All I could think about was macaroni cheese, mince and tatties, steak pie…essentially all of the stodge, and all of the meat. So I made the difficult decision to stop the vegan diet and eat what I was craving. So far, so good.

Then my OCD ideas surrounding food started to take over. I was particularly anxious about food preparation and what I was ‘allowed’ to eat. As anyone who’s been pregnant knows, there’s a lot of talk about what is deemed safe to eat/take/do, and being the massive rule follower that I am, I paid close attention to the official advice. Being OCD, I sometimes took it to the next level. For example, I’d often avoid eating meat which hadn’t been cooked by someone I knew & trusted (and sometimes even then I’d have to ask The Husband to double-check it was cooked through). I didn’t feel comfortable being in the kitchen, and would avoid cooking where possible – nothing new there, as The Husband would rightly tell you, but I was particularly anxious about it during a lot of my pregnancy.

My hand washing also ramped up a few notches, especially at work and whenever I felt I was in the food danger zone. This caused the skin on my hands to break down and crack in some places. If you want an easy way to check how stressed I am at any given time, check my hands. They have the tell-tale signs of excessive hand washing and are a dead giveaway that I’m treading the fine line between ok and not-so-ok. I know I am getting particularly wound up if I can’t stop washing my hands despite knowing I don’t have a rational reason for washing them. Despite trying to confront these aspects of my OCD, it was something of a constant battle to quell the fear that I may do something wrong that would impact on my baby. I know everyone to some extent probably feels this sense of responsibility, so I don’t know how far astray I was led by my OCD and how much was a natural desire to protect my baby. And maybe this is part of the problem.

I think I could have been a lot worse though, and The Husband agrees that I coped much better throughout pregnancy than he had thought I would. I needed a lot of reassurance that things were OK, but it wasn’t often I was so wound up about things I got upset. This was a good thing! I was almost chilled on occasion, amongst all the usual nausea, tiredness and snoring. And I loved my bump, feeling immediately calmer whenever I took the time to rub my bump and talk quietly to my baby. I began to play music and get The Husband to read to my bump, and getting kicks in reaction was the best feeling ever. It made me feel I could do it. I wanted my baby to be used to our voices, and listen to music we liked. My Gran passed away early last year, and I played songs I knew she loved, because I wanted my baby to have that connection to her even though they wouldn’t get the chance to meet. Although all these things made me emotional, I felt closer to my baby and connected in a way I hadn’t realised would be possible. It was probably the closest to Mother Earth that I got, and it was amazing.

So despite some hurdles I did make a concerted effort to have a positive pregnancy. I tried to find out as much information about pregnancy and child-birth as possible. I think The Husband and I attended every antenatal class in Edinburgh. We did two different active birthing classes, our local NHS class, and an NCT class. By the third set of classes, The Husband was official class geek and I was considering a home birth…like I said I was trying to be VERY positive. However, this wasn’t to last…

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The final few weeks of my pregnancy I grew increasingly in size and tiredness. I was huge. So big people were asking if I was sure it wasn’t twins or if there was some medical reason for me being so large (cheers). I was REALLY uncomfortable, and was getting less and less sleep. We hadn’t long moved house and I was becoming anxious we wouldn’t be unpacked in time for baby’s arrival – I wanted to nest but didn’t have the time or energy. I decided to finish work and go on maternity leave early. We were getting new windows put in at the house, and it would let me unpack and be around for that. I was looking forward to a December of Christmas lunches and festive fun. But I couldn’t get rid of the niggling thought that something was slightly different. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I felt like the baby might come early. Everyone reassured me this was normal and no doubt wishful thinking, but by the end of the first week in December I was convinced something had changed.

Looking back it’s easy to see how things developed over the last few weeks, and quite obvious my body was limbering up for labour. I had a spell of heightened, fraught emotions, where I was snappy and weepy. And I was only 33 weeks when I felt the baby had moved lower down into my pelvis and I started walking like John Wayne. Still, people reassured me this was normal and that I was several weeks away from meeting my baby. I tried to relax and settle in for what should have been the last month & a half of my pregnancy, when I should have been watching box sets and back-to-back Christmas films. But I couldn’t sleep, and one particularly stressful night, I was up and down to the toilet at least once an hour, with increasing pain in my lower back. During one of these trips, and not to go into too much detail, I knew something was wrong. I woke The Husband, phoned the hospital and we were making our way to maternity triage at 2am. I didn’t realise at the time but this was the start of pre-term labour and the longest week & a half of my life. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best preparation for what was to come…

Parenting lesson learnt No. 1: Trust your instincts.

Where Is My Mind?

Well I’ve finally done it. Set up a blogging site and started to write my first post. I was beginning to think I’d never see the day – I am a terrible procrastinator. It’s difficult to figure out where to start and what to put in a post like this. So I thought a potted history of me and a blueprint for where I’m going would be good. Here goes…

I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at the age of 27, having already spent many years living with the anxiety disorder and managing it (for the most part) most of that time. I’ve had the hallmarks of the condition for as long as I can remember; obsessive thoughts which cause me great anxiety, followed by the compulsive behaviours I carry out to bring some temporary relief. For much of my teenage years it had been there, but I didn’t know it was an actual known disorder; that I was pretty much textbook. I think the first I heard of the condition was by watching the American TV show ‘Monk’ about a private detective with OCD. It was a joke amongst friends that I was on Monk’s wavelength, sharing some of his quirks. In my university accommodation, I was known for unplugging the kettle when it wasn’t in use, much to the amusement/rage of flat mates (dependent on how caffeine deprived they were at any given moment). Friends would watch in fascination as I attempted to chop raw chicken wearing kitchen gloves, whilst wielding tongs and a knife. These things were seen as a bit OTT, but more like personality quirks rather than a full-blown mental health condition requiring therapy and/or medication. I brushed it off as something of a joke, until one day I had to leave work almost the very moment I’d arrived, in order to make the 20 minute bus journey back home to check I’d locked the front door. I knew then that it wasn’t funny and I couldn’t play it off as a joke.

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Around the same time, I experienced my first bout of depression. I attended counselling and the doctor offered me medication, which I refused as I was fearful it would turn me in to some kind of zombie. I was determined to pull myself out of what I thought was just a rut of feeling sorry for myself (in denial of a possible chemical imbalance in my brain, playing havoc with my serotonin levels). I tried to forget the feelings of helplessness and despair. That has never really worked. Throughout my twenties I lived with the same thought and behaviour patterns, but still never really believed I had what my favourite TV detective had. Because I wasn’t on the same scale. I could manage through day-to-day. And I could not solve multiple crimes with my photographic memory. It’s a blessing and a curse.

But then suddenly I couldn’t manage day-to-day. Ironically, I found this out as I trained to be a mental health nurse. Turns out it wasn’t the ideal job for me – the stress and worry of being responsible for the wellbeing of so many was too much for me. I dropped out of my course and went to the doctor with my symptoms. At the time, I was so bad I couldn’t go shopping for fear of having put items in my bag without realising it, and I couldn’t drive for fear of having knocked someone over without noticing. I’d have to repeat my journey so I’d know I hadn’t hit anyone and left them for dead. I was exhausted, tearful, and terrified most of the time. Luckily I had an excellent GP who diagnosed me for the very first time as having OCD. She said it very gently. The relief of having a doctor confirm my diagnosis was overwhelming. I cried because I finally felt someone understood that I wasn’t playing, this wasn’t a game or a joke. I wasn’t ‘a bit OCD’ in hilarious hipster fashion, I was proper OCD and in need of medical help for it. I signed up for medication and cognitive behavioural therapy. I was blessed to have the love and support of the family and friends I felt ready to tell. I was on the road to recovery.

So the last few years have been a trial & error experiment in how to live well with it. I’ve had set backs and relapses. I am constantly battling to dominate that part of my brain which thinks it’s ok to count to 5 checking the door (5 times), then turn around halfway down the drive (or across town) and check it a further 5 times for good measure. But the funny thing is, most people have no idea I draw these battle lines daily. For many of my friends and family, the first they’ll know of it is this blog. OCD can be a very secretive illness, and I admit I have tended to keep it to myself. But no more. I am OCD and unashamed. I am no longer going to feel embarrassed of it, because if I can’t say I have OCD out loud, then how on earth do I expect to feel normal about it? And more importantly, how am I going to WIN it?! And this is where my little blog comes in. I’m going to use it to talk about how I’m doing OCD-wise, depression-wise, anxiety-wise, and what I’m doing about those slippery little suckers. I hope other people will tell me how they are getting on and what tricks they use to keep the clouds at bay. Ok, I’ll start (but feel free to join in at the comments section below). Just now I’m taking medication daily and trying to use some small exposure therapy techniques to help some of my OCD thought patterns. I’m planning on taking some light exercise, in the form of training for next year’s London marathon. I am looking at how I can eat better to improve my physical and mental wellbeing. And I’m giving myself a good talking to about getting more early nights (she says, typing this at 10.10pm on a school night). I’m doing all these things because I want to be a strong mum for The Munchkin, so he will look up to me and be proud of me. And I want him to know that these battles can, and will, be overcome. In the next post, I’ll talk about how my mental health was affected postnatally and how this has eventually resulted in this here blog. So until the next time…

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