Postnatal

Yesterday, I received a brand new badge.

Even as a child, my emotions seemed to be out of sync. One minute, I couldn’t stop talking, the next, I couldn’t speak at all.

My parents were often called into my school by teachers, concerned by my lack of communication skills. I was always “the quiet child”. And then, as if a switch had been flicked inside of me, I would be making friends again and seemed “normal”.

I wasn’t depressed, I didn’t cry a lot and I didn’t appear to be an unhappy child. But something wasn’t quite right.

As a teenager, my “mood swings” spiralled. In fact, they became a running joke in my family – everyone put them down to hormones – but they never knew how I would behave from one day to the next.

For several weeks, I would excel at school. Participating in lessons, laughing with my friends, I even became disruptive in class a few times and had to leave the room! But then the next week, I would be a nervous wreck. I felt sick and begged my Mum not to send me to school and when I got there, I would withdraw completely, paying no attention to the subject I was being taught, I would just be gazing out of the window with a million thoughts racing around in my head.

I turned to self-harm at the age of 14, feeling a sense of control and ‘release’ when I was having a ‘down-day’. This is the one thing I am least proud of in my life, but at the time, it felt like I was wearing blinkers… I just couldn’t see anything else happening outside of my own mind.

My sexual relationships lasted for short bursts at a time, as I became detached to people I felt I once “loved” and sought the next one, in the hope that I would feel better again, I guess I blamed the relationships for my feelings of depression.

When loved ones passed away, I disassociated myself from the situation. For an outsider, it may have looked as though I was “being strong” and “carrying on”. I wasn’t, I was simply ignoring the situation, refusing to think about it and instead, focussing on the next big life event that I could tackle.

As my son entered the world, I turned the switch onto “auto pilot” and didn’t stop to think until he turned 4 months old. That’s when my mood completely crashed and I ended up at A&E,  with my medication increased. When he turned 15 months, I crashed again, back to A&E and this time, treated with medication used for Major Depressive Disorder. I now know that I had experienced a “Psychotic Episode”.  I asked to see a Psychiatrist and finally, we are where we are today.

Now, at the age of 25, I look back on my life and realise how much this makes sense. After 11 long, tiring years, anti-anxiety medication and 3 types of anti-depressive drugs, I have been officially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

I don’t feel happy, or glad that I have received this shiny, new badge of mental health disorder, but what I do feel, is relief. I feel that I can look for ways to help myself, as well as the treatment I am due to receive from my GP. I feel like I am going to get better, at last.

 

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Postnatal

The Sleep Deprived Mother

From the moment Renley came home from the hospital, I just knew that me and my comfy, warm bed were on a break.

For the first 6 months I was breastfeeding, so being up every 1.5 – 2hrs night and day became normal. After all, I had made the choice to feed on demand and knew that this would keep my supply going. Looking back, I remember being sat up in bed, wriggling my toes in the attempt to stay awake whilst Renley was feeding, but this all seemed natural to me. For the first 4 months (pre-postpartum depression), I actually enjoyed having this time with my boy, just me and him, it felt special.

During the days I tried to sleep when he slept, just like everyone kept telling me. But every time I finally settled my mind and began drifting off to sleep, another feed was due.

Being sleep-deprived definitely has an effect on your mental health. You become teary, image_390x355.jpgirritable and impatient and unfortunately, this was just one of the factors that led to my postpartum depression.

At 9 months, Renley was solely drinking formula and was now on a full diet of solid food. He went to bed at around 7.30pm every night, woke at 11pm and 1am and 4am and then 7am… without fail, every single night. Nap times became a chore and he would usually end up in bed with me, just so that I could get some sleep. Looking back, we really didn’t have much of a routine and this probably contributed to his sleeping patterns.

At 14 months, Renley FINALLY slept through the entire night! I had even referred for sleep counselling by my Health Visitor, but by the time my appointment arrived, he’d already managed one full nights sleep (typical!). I finally began getting back into a routine and getting some rest. At 16 months, my medication was changed to Mirtazapine, which also acts as a sedative, so I was actually knocked out every night from 9pm to 8am, which meant Daddy having to get up instead. Luckily for him, Renley now slept 12hrs through, waking only when he was teething or the weather was too hot.

I see a lot of parents struggling with sleep deprivation and from the bottom of my heart, I know how hard it is. How it feels like it’s never going to end. How you feel totally alone.

 

So, here’s my advice!

It might not work for you – I really do feel that in order to get your baby to sleep well, you need to look at your individual situation.

quoteFor me, it wasn’t until I had reached breaking point just before Renley turned 14 months, that one night when I put him to bed, I left him to cry. He cried for 15 minutes and I thought he’d never go to sleep. I went and cuddled him, I cried because I felt so bad for letting him cry and then I put him back down. I left him for 20 minutes, before going back up and soothing him again (this time, without picking him up – I just rubbed his back). This went on for a good 2 hours before he finally got himself to sleep.

I stuck at it and 3 days later of using this method at both bed times and nap times, he went down in his cot and didn’t cry. He went to sleep. He slept all night. I wished I had done this sooner.

To note: We had tried various methods suggested by our health visitor and many parenting websites by this point, including the “pick up, put down” method to try to allow him to self soothe, putting a muslin/cuddly toy that smelt of Mummy in the cot, putting Mummy’s clothing on the end of the cot, we co-slept for the first 9 months, cradling him to sleep each night, we had the bedtime routine from day 1… nothing else seemed to work for us!

Routine!

Iuntitled‘ve always tried to stick to a bedtime routine. But Renley never had set nap times because we were always doing something different from one day to the next.

Here’s our current daily routine which now works perfectly for us:

* Up at 8am, bottle and TV time, followed by breakfast, getting dressed and play time.

* 10am is nap time. By this time, he’s already getting irritable and rubbing his eyes, so I give him his dummy, tell him it’s time for bed and he toddles off to find his bedroom.

* 12.30-1pm, he wakes. We have lunch and then play time or go out, depending on what we’re up to on the day. He’ll usually have another nap at 2.30pm until 4.30pm.

* 4.30pm is dinner time, followed by play and then bath time/getting ready for bed starts at 5.30pm. By 6pm, he’ll be settled on the sofa drinking his milk and watching CBeebies+

* 6.30pm is bed time. I take him upstairs to brush his teeth and put him straight into his cot, rubbing his back for a few seconds before saying “night night” and walking out. He now goes straight to sleep.

+ Many sources say not to allow TV close to bed time, because it keeps children awake for longer and they struggle to settle. Again, I feel this is down to the individual. We never had the TV on before bed until Renley actually became interested in watching the Twirlywoos on CBeebies at 16 months old. Now I allow him to watch half an hour whilst he’s drinking his milk at 6pm, as he actually sits still and it allows him to wind down! He’s such an active little boy that if I don’t do this, then he just runs about the house getting more and more wound up before bed time.

 

Summary

What I wanted to gage from this blog post, is that you are not alone. I am not telling you how you should/shouldn’t parent, I am simply sharing what worked for us. I 100% believe that different methods work for different families and there is no right/wrong answer when it comes to babies and sleep!

But what I want you to remember, is that this won’t last forever and you’re doing a fantastic job right now.

 

 

Postnatal

Fundraising for PANDAS Foundation UK

Today, me and my son, Renley, completed our 1 mile “toddle” to raise money for PANDAS Foundation (Pre & Postnatal Support Services).

We travelled over to a national country park in Leicestershire and headed to the tea room, one mile away from where we had started.

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Renley did amazingly well, despite having a few tantrums when his independence was threatened – he did not want to hold our hands and he made that known! So he settled with keeping hold of his pushchair, just in case Mummy couldn’t be trusted!

 

 

By the time we ventured back to the car, he decided to relax in his stroller, before falling soundly asleep for his afternoon nap.

I am super proud of him for walking so well and I’m extremely proud of myself, for getting out there and raising money for a service that I truly believe helps hundreds of families that are going through mental health illness each day.

We have so far raised £175 and would love to reach our target of £200! Please, please help us to reach our goal, by clicking the following link to read our story and donate… JustGiving Page

Thank you so much!

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Raising Money for PND Awareness Week 2017

Hi all!

Myself and Renley will be carrying out a sponsored walk on Sunday 3rd September in Leicestershire, to raise funds for the PANDAS Foundation, in aid of PND Awareness Week (4-10 Sept 2017).

He’s only 15 months old, so the walk will only be 1 mile, but all donations will be paid directly to PANDAS, who provide support to families affected by pre and postnatal mental illnesses, including support groups and a telephone helpline.

Please click the link below to read our story – any donations would be hugely appreciated!

Click here to read more or to donate

Read more about PANDAS

Thank you so much,

Jade x