Secret shame

I keep reading that postnatal depression is the illness or condition that affects a lot of mothers but that no one talks about. As a mum and as a depressive, I have found that it is discussed widely. I don’t think it is stigmatized anymore. In fact, it feels more like a sloppy assumption, a writer’s shortcut, to still refer to it as rarely-discussed or hidden; that keeps it secret and shameful.

The problem I find with post-natal depression (or depression generally) is that it isn’t easy to spot. There is no rash, for example; no straightforward set of symptoms that every sufferer will have, so diagnosing depression is very hard. Self-diagnosing is even harder. And as the old saying goes ‘acknowledging you have a problem is the first step’ so what happens if you or someone close to you knows that something is off but not necessarily that it’s a treatable illness? Maybe more information is needed as to how to spot the many and varied symptoms.

I don’t know if I was just very lucky that my midwife and health visitors were particularly ‘on it’ and so I wasn’t at any real risk of being lost to post natal depression alone. I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety disorder since my teens and was slapped with a bout of antenatal depression so it was generally assumed I would suffer after Arthur came along. But still, I was closely monitored and frogmarched to the doctor as soon as it looked like I was plummeting. But there are horror stories in the press all the time about those poor women who go overlooked and undiagnosed. These stories rarely have happy endings.

I would like there to be a much greater medical/psychological focus on mums in the perinatal stage and in those first few hours and days after birth. If Bounty and other companies have a place on the post-labour ward then surely there could be a more pronounced mental health team?

It isn’t shameful or secret to have postnatal depression but our awareness and acceptance of it needs to be supported and bolstered by knowledge so that no one feels they are suffering alone.

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When’s the next one?

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I haven’t written anything for a while because I’ve been busy with birthdays (mine and his are both, helpfully, a week before Christmas), Christmas, travelling and the boy being ill and refusing to use his inhaler – except on his big toe which is nearly as effective, right? Anyway, now I have a quiet moment and I’ve picked up all the presents and cleaned up all the fluids and sat down for a minute or two I have started thinking about the past year and the future. Not in a ‘wonders of tomorrow’s world’ way but with an eye to what I will be doing differently in this next year.

A new niece or nephew is the first great expectation. That should be any day now. Then a wedding of two lovely, lovely friends and then somewhere in the middle of the year another wedding for two wicked people. None of which I did in 2015, so already that’s different.

I also have to start looking for a preschool or nursery for Arthur. He cant actually start until this time next year, but apparently I have to have decided by the summer. So that’s half a year already roughly planned around other people. People I love but still, I do feel a little like I’m not contributing anything to my life. And it’s felt like that for a little while. I love looking after Arthur but that probably shouldnt be *all* i do with my life! Maybe that should be my new year resolution; be more involved in my own life, be more present and contribute more than just domestic duties and baby wipes.

These days, everything is ‘postnatal’ so whenever I’m asked about upcoming events or plans it is always related to kids and usually  within the framework of ‘when will you be having more?’ Nobody asks me what I’d like to study next or where I’d like to travel. The world and his wife seem interested in mine and my husband’s procreative plans! The truth of it is, I don’t have any plans because I don’t feel I’m doing a good enough job now and I would like to feel content that I’m doing ok with one child before I give him a sibling to fight with.

Life goal – be more mindful and give Arty a better, happier mummy. Then think about having more children. But probably still not discuss this with relative strangers who constantly ask when I’m going to get knocked up next!  Happy 2016 everyone!

 

 

 

No choice for you at Morrisons

I’ve been mulling over my experiences of everyday sexism. I had thought that I was basically immune to sexism because I’m quite a strong, seemingly confident woman. With hindsight I find I’m experiencing it fairly regularly. It creeps into the most mundane tasks and situations. On the bus, online and worst – at the shops. From little things such as being told to “smile, love” or being harassed into eyebrow threading or makeovers to huge incidents like being groped in the supermarket by a guy ‘accidentally’ walking into me.

On my last three trips to morrisons I’ve had issues with my card. On one occasion the cashier took my card away whilst they went to ask for help which I didn’t like and explained I’d had my card cloned in the past so really like to have it in hand/view at all times. The cashier looked at me like a madwoman. All bad enough when you have a bored toddler desperately trying to eat all the Kinder eggs on display. But the other two occasions were far worse.

Having tried my card with no joy the ‘assistants’, two different staff members mind, took my card out of MY HAND and paid contactlessly. I appreciate contactless payment, it’s a marvel, and extremely helpful when you’ve no actual money on your card because – and here’s my issue with contactless – it doesn’t come out of your account immediately as it would with traditional card payments. It makes it a nightmare to keep track of available funds. That is why I CHOOSE not to use it. On both occasions I complained straight away to the offending staff member and to a manager and was told they were trying to speed up my shop because I had the boy with me, and I’ve received a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine for my troubles. Which is lovely but superfluous. What I would really like is for it not to happen again. On both occasions the assistants looked at me as if I were a silly woman who hadn’t realised I could pay contactlessly. Like I was unaware and they were doing me a supreme service but removing my card from my hand and choosing my method of payment.

What bothers me most though is this – if I were a man it wouldn’t happen. A shop assistant when facing a male shopper, even an harrassed looking dad with toddler in tow, would never take a card out of his hand and do it for them. They would ask, suggest, help. Assist. But because I’m a woman, I need to be shown and hurried up.

I’ve decided not to go back to Morrison’s on my own. If I do have to go there I’ll take the husband so that it doesn’t happen again. A sad indictment of modern culture and feeding into this image of helpless woman that needs a man to show her the way. I hate that it’s come to that when it’s just a bloody supermarket shopping trip but that’s the problem with the nefariousness of everyday sexism – It creeps into every mundane situation and undermines even the strongest, most seemingly confident woman.

 

 

Cartoon In-jokes

When you have CBeebies, Peppa Pig or Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom playing in your house a lot – and I do mean a lot, sorry Modern Brighton Mums but my t.v. is the tertiary caregiver in this household – you can start to feel your grip on sanity loosen. You sing the songs and theme tunes whilst walking to the shops, and often watch episodes on your own at nap time. Other t.v. parents recognise the life lessons you are teaching your kid because they too have relied on Justin’s or Mr Bloom’s words of wisdom. You start to buy things that are branded with the little pink piggy or Mr Tumble’s spots even though the same product is a tenth of the price without the little stamp on it.

The madness is only abated by in-jokes. What makes it palatable to watch that 12th episode of Hey Duggee today are the little nods to the harassed and exhausted parents, those jokes that fly way above the kids’ heads but offer you a little chuckle. I don’t mean the times when these programmes are acidentally funny, like Mr Maker’s recent pen minute-make:

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When the grown-up viewers see the innuendo that was probably not intentional. I mean the deliberate jokes for the parents. They keep you from smashing the tv screen with the (now empty) bottle of wine you opened at 3.15…

In honour of these awesome times, the little glimmers of humour in the otherwise screeching monotony, I have compiled a list of my favourites from all the shows the boy adores. Enjoy. In no particular order…

  • Vampire Madame Gazelle (Peppa’s Pumpkin Party) When approached by Suzy Sheep dressed as a vampire, Madame says “that reminds me of the old country” before the narrator notes she has no reflection in the mirror.
  • Big, Bad Wolf (The New House) Daddy Pig builds a house for his new neighbours the Wolves. Whilst visiting for the first time, Mr Wolf comments on how sturdy it is and asks what the Pig’s own house is built from; “Bricks, so don’t even think about it”.
  • State of the Nation (International Day) All the children at playgroup are dressed as different countries and playing outside. Various ‘countries’ are in the sandpit, some are on the roundabout and “the United Kingdom is on the slide”.
  • Hubby particularly likes the Dylan-esque stoned rabbits on Hey Duggee that say things like “awwwww, maaaaaan. You ate our cake, maaaaaan… “
  • I like the gag about Farmer’s Markets also on Hey Duggee; two grumpy old stoats turn up at the Squirrels’ free acorn stand and grumble about prices. “Just because it’s covered in mud, doesn’t mean it’s organic”.
  • And my personal favourite; on Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, Granny Thistle brings the incredibly dangerous twin toddlers new wands that previously belonged to their ancestors; Vlad the Powerful and Sharon the Totally Insane.

No words… not great for a blog

I have another post written but I re-read it and it’s silly and self-involved (occupational hazard of a personal blog post), and I don’t want to be either at the moment.

After Friday night’s events in Paris and Beirut and recent horrendous events in Syria, Nigeria and elsewhere, I don’t feel like being flippant or self-centred. I feel like crying, travelling round the world, hugging people, fostering refugee kids, becoming a politician and somehow fixing things. What I certainly don’t feel like doing is hating people because they follow a particular religion or look a particular way. I don’t want to generalise. These few murderous terrorists are not representative of the Muslim religion or Middle Easterners or certainly not immigrants. Any anger or condemnation must be aimed at them alone and their fucked up belief that massacring hundreds can somehow be justified.

But how can it be justified? And how can this be overcome? The best friend of British victim Nick Alexander wrote a post on Facebook condemning the attacks but NOT the attackers. It’s an incredible piece about carrying on regardless and holding no one in judgement. He says “Life has to go on or else the bastards win… instead (we must) try to teach every human being on the planet that problems can be solved without violence.”

So how do we teach this? I want to instil in Arthur that violence and hatred only beget violence and hatred. So how do I explain this kind of atrocity to him when it inevitably happens again and he is old enough to ask why? Why do these few people seemingly hate others whom they have never met and who are uninvolved in their foreign battles? I think all I can do is try and show him that we are all connected and must be supportive of others and respectful of their beliefs but that ultimately there are bastards out there and to be scared of them is to give in. My son will be mindful of others and respectful. I hope he will be unafraid to live the life he chooses without guilt or shame. He will not be a hate-filled bastard, selfish and ignorant of the lives of others, deranged by self-assuredness. And that is really all I can hope for him. That he turns out decent, I guess.

Stupid, Pointless Anxiety

I’m in the hairdressers. It’s a posh one I could never normaly afford but I’m letting a hairdresser practice on me, so its free. Whoop.

I have tried every excuse to get out of it. Husband couldn’t get out of work to take the boy? Nope, selfish bastard finishes early today. Oooh Arthur has a bit of a sniffle and it’s raining, I should stay in. Nope, glorious autumn day. Bastards. Where’s my pathetic fallacy when I need it?! I don’t feel glorious, I feel sick with nerves. I want The Tempest, Wuthering Heights, not bloody Winnie the Pooh and the sunny fucking day.  I’m not being pampered, I’m being tortured.

Because the truth is I have OCD. I’m lucky it is only mild but in some situations I can feel it’s nasty little stranglehold. I’m not a cartoon caricature, I’m not Monk, I am fortunate that I can do everyday things without my compulsions taking over but that takes CBT and usually medication. It’s not “I like things to be tidy, it’s my OCD” (no, waitress, it’s your job) but also it isn’t crippling. Generally I force myself to act through my compulsions and try to neutralise the obbsessive thoughts with other, less repulsive obsessive thoughts.

What it means on an everyday level is that being touched bothers me, especially with something that’s touched (countless) other people – chairs, towels, brushes, you see where I’m going – because I imagine I can see the germs invading from these foreign objects. Leaving the house is a bit of a battle daily but worse still when it goes against my specific comfort times such as 9am or 1pm. And above all the distinct and repetitive thought “I am worthless” puts a bit of a crimp in the concept of a luxury pampering sesh.

In light of recent world events, I appreciate this is a First-world problem. OCD feels like a pathetic, selfish non-illness. I know that a free haircut is not to be sneered at but, honestly, I’d rather hide at home and look like shit.

Motivational mothers

Recently I spent the day with a friend who also happens to be another mum. I dislike the term but it’s fair to say that she’s probably my closest “mummy friend”,  although I have very few. Her daughter is the same age as Arthur and we go to groups together and met in a toddler park. All of which cements the friendship and legitimises our time spent eating pretend cakes and playing in sandpits, but honestly, we’d be mates without the two tiny, toddling dictators. She’s been through a hell of a lot in her life and she keeps going. She’s hilarious and generous and her daughter is adorable and strong-willed like her mum.

This particular day, after Messy play, Peppa Pig, bus journeys, appointments and countless raisins and rice crackers, both kids fell asleep so we took the opportunity to stop at a cafe and eat real cake and drink hot coffee. And there we met her; Wondermum (TM).

Wondermum owns the cafe, looks incredible and has, she super-casually mentioned, six children. Six. In the inimitable words of Shaz from Bridget Jones, “fuck me”. My sister, who is VERY similar to my mummy friend and has also faced a lot in her life, had four kids and that’s incredible enough but six is unbelievable.  Well, yes, actually, as it turned out Wondermum has three kids and three stepchildren. Her mother runs the cafe for her, her rich husband funds her life whilst he works away during the week and she’s only 29, hence looking great. Woooh! Parent goals starting to be slightly more attainable.

What offended both my friend and me though, was that instead of taking compliments from us and laughingly maintaining the camaraderie of exhausted parents (bear in mind we’re in a cafe, we’re looking for lightweight chatter with like-minded people), Wondermum started proselytising about how to parent. There were rules to her serenity and we needed to follow them if we too wanted to achieve true motherhood, any diversion from her way was wrong. Music instead of telly, no swearing, smoking or drinking in front of the child, and my personal niggle – your house should only be super clean if you’re a miserable person with no time for true parenting.

We left the cafe before either of us could stab her with a cake fork or, more likely, before the boy did something unruly or unseemly and the motivational speaking turned to all-out lecturing.

What I keep coming back to, though, is this; yes, she has an incredible life and obviously her way works for her but I would take an afternoon spent covered in felt tip and glitter with my friend or my sister, knowing what I know about them and their lives and how great their kids are turning out, eating the cake bought from Wondermum’s cafe, over a single minute of listening to her soulless, hollow, parent-shaming crap. Truly motivational, inspirational people don’t lecture, they guide, they support. They certainly don’t compare or judge. They make me want to be a better mum to Arthur, whilst reassuring me that I’m already doing well. And that’s what you want to hear. Especially if there’s cake too.

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