Uncategorized

If you’re experiencing mum/parent guilt you are not alone…

This year I returned to work after taking 10 months of maternity leave with Finn, I’ve really enjoyed getting a bit of my old self back. I’m sure my time away from Finn has only strengthened and increased his independence. Although it’s been mostly positive emotions I can’t shake the Mum Guilt I feel especially as things change. I’ve been asking myself why do we experience mum/parent guilt and why does it have to be so strong?

It’s obvious my return to work would bring this to the front of my mind yet I’ve thought about the other times I’ve had the same feeling and have started reflecting on the circumstances when it is most intense.

I think the first time was the day I found out I was pregnant. I remember thinking about how much I’d had to drink the night before (the answer is too much) and what damage that may have done. Although there was no way I could have known I was already pregnant it didn’t stop that guilt from rearing it’s ugly head. Thankfully my GP was very supportive and comforting when I expressed my concerns.

The following episodes were also during pregnancy, I really wanted to eat healthy and eliminate coffee from my diet the moment I knew I was growing my child. Instead my morning sickness and fatigue had me craving mostly heavy carbohydrates like pizza, chips and pasta. I found the fatigue made it necessary to keep coffee in my diet, although I would never have more than two in a day.

Skip ahead and I’m reminded of the day Finn was born. I had no intention of giving birth without an epidural but I had hoped to be able to give birth naturally. Having a c-section is not a failure by any means but I won’t lie that there was a little part of me that felt guilty I wasn’t able to birth him naturally.

Following the surgery I needed additional help from my husband, both for myself and to take care of Finn. This resulted in feelings of guilt for not being able to attend to my newborn baby without assistance from someone. As a new mum faced with the challenges of breastfeeding, I was also navigating the obstacles of settling my little one with very limited movement. On occasion I would long to just cuddle or rock my baby to sleep, then he would smell my milk and all hopes of cuddles without feeding would fade. I remember this being an extremely difficult time, post baby hormones were raging and the wave of failure was overwhelming. The thoughts in my head would repeat ‘Why cant you settle your own baby?’.

I received a gift voucher from a beautiful friend to have a massage post baby. It was an incredible idea, she even offered to take care of Finn while I went for my 1 hour appointment. I couldn’t stop thinking about him the whole time I was there. “I hope he’s not crying too much” that little voice would say as I felt myself beginning to relax. In retrospect, it was incredibly enjoyable and those thoughts were not too persistent, it was a most welcome and thoughtful gift.

I could go on all day about the things I’ve felt guilty over. To save time, here is a list of other things I have felt guilty over:

• Not getting the house cleaned

• Getting the house cleaned when I should be with my baby

• Cuddling him too much

• Not cuddling him enough

• Not doing enough to help his development

• Overstimulating him

• Trying to let him cry a little more (during the separation anxiety phase)

• Having a shower

• Washing my hair

• Taking the time to blow dry and straighten my hair (this was the driver for the mum lob)

• Taking too many photos

• Not taking enough photos

• Wanting some time to myself

• Having some time to myself

• Every time he gets hurt

• Every time he gets sick

• Picking him up too often

• Not picking him up when he’s throwing a tantrum

• Trying to get his nutrition perfect and failing

• Sending him to day care

• Increasing from part time to full time work

I’ll leave the list there, otherwise this post may never end. It’s ridiculous at some of the thoughts that cross our minds. Writing some of these down highlights to me that feeling guilty is both unavoidable and inescapable. It’s ludicrous that feelings of guilt can be caused by two conflicting ideas yet very possible.

It’s important to note that when experiencing parent guilt, it’s not about being able to stop these thoughts but how you manage them. My approach is to take a moment to acknowledge the thought then focus on any reasons to challenge it. Once you’ve been successful the first time it becomes easier to repeat this behaviour each subsequent time.

The reality is my son is a healthy, happy and very loved little boy and we are doing a great job raising him. Parents need to stop being so harsh on themselves. I know that every person reading this is doing the best they can, I want you to know that it’s more than enough. With parents supporting one another we can overcome the worst of the guilt. Reach out if you need help.

Uncategorized

Delivery by Caesarean

Following on from my previous post about my pregnancy I wanted to share my experience with childbirth or in my case an emergency Caesarean. At 38 weeks my Obstetrician decided it was time to be induced following concerns that I had a condition called Gestational Thrombocytopenia. I had a very low platelet count which impacts my bloods ability to clot and poses a risk when delivering a baby.

On a Wednesday night my husband Nick and I checked into the Mater Mothers Hospital in Brisbane to be induced. My only plan for Childbirth was to try for a natural delivery but I was open to anything (or so I thought) and Nick was on board with whatever I wanted. Neither of us had ever had much to do with pregnancy, childbirth or babies so we were putting all of our trust in the hands of our experienced OB and midwifes who were all amazing.

Sleeping in a hospital is always challenging, after a restless night we were taken to the birthing suite where my waters were broken at around 8:30 in the morning. It was at that moment on the 1st of June that it finally hit us that we were about to have a baby. Up until this point we had been pretty casual about what we were going to do when the time came. Once the moment arrived we both became mildly panicked and began contacting our families to inform them to be on standby.

The day was expected to be a long one, once my waters had been broken I had an IV inserted to administer Oxytocin which is the hormone that triggers contractions. I was hooked up to sensors to monitor both my contractions, my babies’ heartbeat, assist with the management of the IV and track the progression of my labour. My obstetrician advised he would be back in 4 hours to check on my progress and left us with our midwife.

IMG_1466

Nick did his best to keep me comfortable and relaxed by putting on either music or cartoons to assist us in feeling more at home. My midwife kept checking in on me with my pain management as the contractions started and I attempted to keep my mind busy by messaging my friends and family on my phone. I did my best to rest as much as possible remembering the advice in our antennal classes to try and sleep in the early stages of labour. My contractions began to increase in intensity, I was breathing through them but finding it more and more difficult to do so.

Just after 4 hours had passed my OB came back to check on how my labour was progressing. The bad news was I was still only 1 cm dilated, the good news was I was offered the epidural which I made no hesitation in accepting. I’m grateful I did, the hormones through my IV were increased and so did the pain and strength of my contractions. I didn’t have to wait long for the anaesthesiologist to arrive, he administered my epidural in between contractions and I felt the relieving effects within minutes. With the epidural in place the plan was to get through the next 4 hours and see what was happening with my labour then.

During this time my parents arrived at the hospital, they checked in with us, then my dad went into the waiting room while my mum stuck around for a while. There was a lot of nervous excitement in the air and although everyone was doing well to remain calm on the outside for me I knew they were all eager to meet our little man. The epidural was working extremely well, I even had to be tilted on an angle as one side had become more numb than the other. Although I couldn’t feel the pain from the contractions I was starting to feel exhausted, my body was clearly working hard and getting tired.

When my OB came back to check my progress for the second time he let us know that unfortunately there had been no change. We agreed at this point that we would allow another 2 hours, check my progress and if there was still no change we’d proceed with a Caesarean delivery. After we agreed on this plan this Nick’s parents arrived at the hospital and came to see us in the birthing suite. We gave them an update and then they joined both of my parents in the waiting room so we could attempt to get some sleep.

The excitement had now worn off and the nerves were becoming more prominent. We started to mentally prepare for the high probability that we would be delivering our baby by Caesarean. The epidural was still working well so I did not feel the pain of contractions but we were both increasingly fatiguing from a very long day.

After 10 hours of labour my OB performed his final check and confirmed that I was still only dilated to 1cm, we were offered to continue with labour as all of our vitals were good but made the decision to proceed with an emergency Caesarean. This was not a choice we made lightly, our main reason was that we were all still doing well at this point and did not want there to be a concerning health-related reason to require a C-section.

The atmosphere in the room went from a somewhat relaxed environment to a flurry of activity. We were given a run down on what the next steps were and Nick quickly went to let our parents know what was happening in person. When he returned he was presented with scrubs and told to get dressed. My bed was wheeled into the hallway and down the corridor towards the operating room. Whilst the room was being prepared I was handed a clipboard with a consent form to sign prior to the commencement of the procedure. The next part of my story happened extremely quickly at the time but I can recall a lot of the details of my experience.

My bed was wheeled into the OR, a stark white, bright spacious room with various pieces of medical equipment strategically placed about. The team introduced themselves to me one at a time telling me their name and what their role was. I was transferred from the bed I was on to the operating table and Nick was sat down next to me. Whilst my Obstetrician and his assistants prepared my lower half for surgery the anaesthetist and Nick kept me company. The anaesthetist’s assistant offered to take photos on my phone, in a daze I said yes, I’m so glad I did as we now have some beautiful images of those first moments for us to look back on.

Both of my arms were laid out beside me, another cannula was inserted in my second arm and the curtain was pulled up so we couldn’t see what was happening. My epidural was topped up so I couldn’t feel below my chest. I was told would feel some pushing, pulling and tugging but no pain. I was so incredibly nervous, I locked eyes with Nick and concentrated hard on the sensations I was feeling in my body. Within minutes I started to feel nauseous and was presented with a sick bag, I kept breathing steadily as I didn’t want to be sick while they were operating on me. The nausea passed quite quickly but was replaced by an incredibly strong pounding of my heart, in my fear and fatigue I could barely find my voice but managed to whisper this to Nick who repeated it to the anaesthetist.

As my heart palpitations faded out our attention was bought to just above the curtain where we were introduced to our son for the first time. Both of us started to cry with tears of overwhelming relief and happiness as we took a look at him and heard his first cries. Nick was directed over to the station they had set up for our baby where the Paediatrician and Midwife were taking care of our baby and recording his birth weight etc. The anaesthetist kept talking to me until Nick came back and then Finn was bought over to me for my first cuddle. I held him unsteadily and tried to take in as much as possible. After a short while I was told that the surgery was almost complete and Nick and Finn would head to the recovery room where I would join them shortly.

IMG_1610

Once my Obstetrician had finished his work I was moved to a new bed and rugged up tightly. I was then wheeled to the recovery room where I was to remain for an hour. I was more exhausted than I have ever felt in my entire life. My body was wracked with shivers and I was so thirsty but not permitted to drink just yet. As visiting hours in the maternity ward had finished we were allowed to have our family come and see us briefly. Both sets of new grandparents walked in and were followed by my sisters who had a huge bunch of balloons in hand. They were all so excited to meet our newest family member but their attention was focused on making sure both Nick and I were ok first. This is a beautiful memory I now hold and I am forever grateful for the care they all showed. After a brief stay we said our goodbyes as they left for home and we were wheeled up to our room on the maternity ward. We were all in need of a good night’s sleep as I started my recovery from the surgery and we started practicing our new role as parents.

Revisiting this experience has been a challenge for me, it’s difficult to put into words the moment your life changes forever. Although it was traumatic, I have learnt so much about myself and my relationship with my husband and know that we are stronger than ever as a result. Whilst this memory holds some of my biggest challenges it also holds some of the happiest and most overwhelmingly positive experiences of my life. I’m grateful for the support I have both then and now and truly believe that it was all worth it for the wonderful little boy I am now mother to.

IMG_1616 (1)

Uncategorized

My Pregnancy Journey

IMG_9161

It was October 2016, I’d had a pretty big night out & woke up the following morning feeling unwell. I went into the bathroom while my husband Nick was still sleeping & decided to take a pregnancy test. We’d made the decision 5 months prior to stop taking the pill to see if we could fall pregnant naturally. We both had a sneaking suspicion that we may not be able to fall pregnant without assistance so we decided it would be best to know the answer to that question sooner rather than later. If we did need help then we would have plenty of time to try fertility treatments as we are both still quite young. We were surprised by the positive test result & just to be sure I took another 3 that confirmed we were indeed pregnant.

A visit to our GP & subsequent scans revealed that we were about 5 weeks pregnant. It was incredibly exciting and almost unbelievable even though I could feel changes to my body right away. When the morning sickness made itself at home it invited fatigue & baby brain to join. I was beyond happy to be expecting a baby but was not enjoying the way I was feeling.

I knew the guidelines about waiting until 12 weeks had passed before sharing the news however, we made the decision to let our family & friends know at around the 8 week mark. We decided if something were to go wrong we would want the support of our friends & family right away; also we were pretty damn excited. I decided to tell my boss as well, then I wouldn’t have to come up with excuses to attend doctor’s appointments or explain why I was away from my desk (taking additional restroom breaks) throughout the day. On top of that I was already feeling so sick & exhausted & decided it would be easier having someone at work in on the secret to help keep the cat in the bag.

Until I was around 8 weeks pregnant I was hitting the gym lifting weights up to 5 times a week & loving it. I was feeling extremely fit & happy with my body & was hopeful that I could continue a modified exercise regime throughout my entire pregnancy. From the moment the test came up positive I decreased the weight I was lifting & made sure to consult my GP before attempting anything in the gym. He was happy with me to continue my training doing anything I felt comfortable with.

My visions of a fit pregnancy quickly faded away as I found myself struggling to find the energy to continue training. It turns out it takes a heck of a lot of energy to work full-time & grow a small person & that doesn’t leave much left over for exercise or anything else. My 5 weekly gym sessions reduced to 3 times a week for a little while. Soon I was happy if I could complete two sessions a week & eventually doing something active once a week was cause for a huge celebration. Fitness has always been incredibly important to me, I love it for both the physical & mental benefits that it provides. It was tough not having the energy to exercise anymore & a huge adjustment to my lifestyle but it also taught me a valuable lesson in being flexible with my expectations for both pregnancy & parenting. At this stage in my pregnancy I needed to conserve my energy & focus all my efforts on working Monday to Friday.

My full-time job while pregnant was at an office in the city, for me to get there it’s a short 5 min walk followed by a 30 min bus trip. I liked my job & the people I worked with but as my pregnancy progressed I found it difficult to get up & go in each day. What used to be a leisurely trip to get to work became a harrowing ordeal that left me feeling exhausted by the time I sat down at my desk. It is in my nature to work hard, so this was difficult for me as I felt like I didn’t have a lot left in the tank to do my job as well as I could. The positive side of things was that I had an extremely supportive work place that accommodated me however possible & I felt genuine care from my colleagues & managers. It was a relief to be able to share the news at work after the 12 weeks had passed, no more secrets and a chance to celebrate with everyone.

During the second trimester I had a slight improvement with my morning sickness & fatigue but it was short lived. It arrived around 20 weeks & I was happy to take any improvement I could get. The downside to moving further into the second trimester was I started to grow more uncomfortable as my body began to grow & change further. I hated the thought of buying pregnancy specific clothing so kept squeezing into my current wardrobe as long as I could. Too soon I found myself shopping for new clothing, I bought new underwear first & then casual items that could accommodate my growing bosom & bump. I found wearing bras uncomfortable & resorted to wearing seam free sports bras that I picked up from Kmart. I actually managed to get through my pregnancy without having to expand my wardrobe as much as my belly. A couple of ASOS dresses got me through the rest of my time at work & old trackies paired with band t-shirts were my attire the rest of the time.

The various side effects & symptoms of pregnancy can be found in many books & now also through apps on your phone. Even after doing my research I wasn’t prepared for the extra pimples, hair growth & sweating that accompanied my fatigue, swelling, heartburn & insomnia. I experienced all of these things at different stages and to different levels of severity throughout my pregnancy. In my case the fatigue & morning sickness were the two biggest challenges, I felt them from the moment I discovered I was pregnant until my son was born. It’s incredible what the human body is capable of & I wanted to make sure I documented the changes happening as I grew my son.

I purchased an organiser to record my thoughts & feelings during my pregnancy & since having Finn I have kept recording events & milestones in it as well. It helped to keep me organised as I struggled with the effects of baby brain & I plan to keep recording this way for his first year at least. I’ve already enjoyed going over my notes & I hope to one-day share this with him. In addition to this I took photos of my growing belly each week & posted them to social media, this was a lot of fun but occasionally felt like a big effort. I’ve found the key is keeping things simple, it needs to be something that is easy to maintain so you can keep up with it. I’m really glad that I have recorded so much, I struggled with being pregnant but now that it’s over I like being able to revisit what I went through to get my baby here.

IMG_0513

In the third trimester whilst my body was preparing to bring my son into the world, I started to mentally prepare to meet him. We completed our Antenatal classes over one weekend which was almost an information overload but it helped us answer a lot of questions. I started nesting & getting the house ready for my bubs arrival by completing the checklist I’d made to ensure I was as prepared as possible. I was excited to start maternity leave and enjoy some time relaxing before life became hectic. I made the decision to start my maternity leave early as I really wasn’t up to working anymore, although the weather was no longer hot I was still feeling drained. I used my time off to complete the tasks that are difficult whilst working, things like getting the car seat installed & washing all the clothes & blankets. These finishing touches around the house were getting me extremely excited to meet my baby.

At 36 weeks I visited my obstetrician & had a routine blood test. The results came back abnormal & following a call from my OB we were advised to meet him at the hospital for further testing & observations. Our OB was concerned I was developing pre-eclampsia based on the results & took every precaution possible to ensure both my baby & myself were not in any danger. I was given steroid injections to assist my baby’s lung development if it was decided they would need to deliver early. After a 5 day stay in hospital they ruled out both pre-eclampsia & HELLP syndrome as my blood pressure was never high & diagnosed me with Gestational Thrombocytopenia. I was permitted to go home as long as I completed daily blood tests to monitor my platelet count (this affects blood clotting). With this diagnosis it was decided that I would be induced at 38 weeks, bringing my baby to term but not prolonging the chance of my condition deteriorating. With the added drama in the final weeks of pregnancy it finally hit home that our little man was about to arrive, this was just a taste of things to come. The battle to get Finn here safely was far from over…