Friday, 18 December 2009

Doing too much

The last few weeks I have been doing some part time work from home. It has been really difficult. I found myself resenting Ella's interuptions to my flow of work and the pressure of deadlines with the unpredictable reality of a young baby was so stressful. But now that it is over I realise I learnt a lot. I can work very fast when I need too. That when Ella is awake she is a joy and I never want to wish her away. That when a baby sleeps it is bliss, for her and me! That life is not able to be planned and structured the way a work place is. I want to be interuptible. Amazing blessings and fun can be had when it wasn't planned and I want to be open to that. One of the best times is when I am tired and lie down on the floor with Ella while she plays. It really does simplify my perspective. I can't see the stuff that needs to be done and it is all about the next funny face, silly noise or cuddle. Or in Ella's case - spew!

Also when I took this work on I thought I had to do it on my own and felt a failure when I had to ask family and friends for help to look after Ella so I could work. But it is true that it takes a village. It is impossible to do it on my own and Ella has had wonderful times with the special people in her life. I am sure many mothers are struggling on in their homes, scared to ask for help for fear of looking like they can't hope. But we are not supposed to be alone, that is just what our cities and towns and homes do to us. I am so grateful for the amazing support I have and am really recognising that I am only a part of group of people who are helping Ella grow up.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Making a mother

The last few weeks have been pretty rough. Ella is waking between 4 and 6 times each night and it is taking its toll. I have struggled to work out how far I am prepared to go to get her to sleep for longer at night. And last night we had a dash to A and E cause she wouldn't feed. These experiences and my chats with other Mums have led to some pretty real reflection on being a mother and all it involves. I was talking with my coffee group and we all agreed that if we had really know what motherhood was like most of us wouldn't have wanted to get pregnant. But the tricky thing is that once you are there is no going back so no-one tells you how it really is and even if they did I wouldn't have listened as my desire for a child was so strong.

And that is the big difference. Now my desire is not for a 'child' or a 'baby'. Now being a mother is about a relationship, it is about loving and caring for Ella. No longer is she a faceless and nameless baby who invokes much cluckiness. Now she is my daugher, my unique and precious gift who I love watching for ours and want to do all I can to comfort and encourage and get to know.

My husband and I have a had a rough start to parenthood but we would never want to give Ella up. But we are both once bitten, twice shy of pregnancy, birth and parenthood. It is the hardest thing we have both ever done, the biggest change, the most challenging situation for our marriage and the most consuming part of our lives.

So I was not immediately a mother just because Ella was born. I am becoming a mother as I realise what caring for Ella really means and I am being stretched and grown in ways I never thought I would. As I paced the lounge last night and sat up to sleep as that was the only way I could settle Ella I thought "Why am I not going completely mad?" The answer being I am Ella's Mum. There is no-one else, this is my job and no-one else can do this. But I have to admit if I have to do that tonight I might be tempted to put an ad in the paper for a replacement...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Wear what fits

I haven't been getting much sleep. I think this must be a universal truth spoken by all parents. My husband and I have been trying to find ways to get a bit more. And it is a tricky business. There is so much advice when it comes to sleep and so many promises but few actual guarantees. What I have found is that it isn't just the technique which matters but whether that technique feels right and fits my way of being a Mum to Ella. I already knew I wasn't happy to leave her to cry but even that isn't as simple as it sounds. What is crying? Is it a grizzle or a hysterical sobbing? At the weekend we hit the sleep deprivation wall and needed to do something. So I read a book and we tried a few things. By the end of the weekend I was sleeping on the couch because I was so on edge waiting for her to wake the soothing and settling to begin again. I am sure my husband and I were in no fit state to be driving let alone looking after a small child. Oh the irony.

I spent some time reflecting blearily about why I was so on edge and concluded that following someone elses operating instructions for my own child just wasn't sitting well with me. Many of the recommendations in the book were helpful but the process seemed to disconnect me from my wee girl and generalised her. So on Sunday night I decided to just do what felt right to me and what preserved the most sleep for us. Ella still woke 5 times but she was back to sleep in a few minutes and I didn't sleep on the couch. In the morning I woke refreshed and feeling like a good Mum again.

At the moment dark circles under my eyes may just be normal but I don't want to feel a stranger to my child. That is so much worse that any lack of sleep. It steals the joy that keeps me going despite my fatigue.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The simple life

Over the last few weeks I have been slowly getting used to being on my own with Ella. I am so pleased to not need someone with me anymore and to feel so well now. However, it often seems as mothering and parenting in general is such a complicated business. I have been forced to keep it simple because of my mental health. I haven't managed to do anything except the basics and when people have suggested things such as expressing a bottle, it seemed like too much a of a challenge to me. Now I am feeling more and more grateful for the simplicity I have been forced into.

When I was still very unwell and was trying to have a day alone I ended up at a friend's house for the day as I just needed some company. She has a new baby too and continued pottering about her home as I stayed on the couch with Ella. For that day my world was that couch. I fed Ella, changed her on the floor in front of me and then she slept on me. It was an amazing relief and joy to discover that Ella was totally content and that all she needed was right there on the couch. I found it so peaceful and relaxing because no longer was I thinking about putting her to bed, doing housework, or anything else. IT was the best therapy I had while I was struggling with deep depression. It showed me how simple mothering could be and that I was able to be a wonderful mother.

If I had any advice for new mothers is to spend a couple of days just being with their baby so that they can discover how little their baby needs to be happy and thrive.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Mrs Independence

Friday was my last day with the respite nurse coming to help me. She has been coming for the last 2 months and my support worker has gradually weaned me off having her. I feel so good about it and feel like I am about to start really being a Mum now. It is amazing how far I have come in such a short time. It was only recently that I hadn't even left the house with Ella because it was all so frightening. Now I am managing well at home and am out and about lots. Finally the dream I had is now becoming my reality.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A new life

The past 12 weeks have been quite the journey and I certainly haven't reached the destination. The first couple of months being a Mum were pure survival. Recovering from surgery, sleep deprivation and PND are a lethal combination which I would not wish on anyone. At first I felt like Ella was a mystery to me. I knew what the books said and I thought I knew how I wanted to parent but a newborn is liking having a foreign guest in your house who speaks no English. So much is lost in translation. The worst part of that is that I felt constantly torn between my desperate desire for sleep and the knowledge that she is totally dependent on me and my care.

Very slowly we started to get to know her and her cries, expressions and quirks. Like the fact that she cannot feed while going number 2s. And that even though it may seem that the entire contents of her stomach has been returned to sender, she still grows and is not that upset by it at all. Or that if we tried to put her down to sleep and she screamed it was because she was hungry. I could go on...

Now that we are approaching 3 months together I would say we have developed a rhythm and a dance. We know each other well enough that we can get through the day without a major misunderstanding and can actually enjoy it. I am excited to introduce her to people and watch her learn and develop. All the joys of motherhood are starting to be a daily blessing rather than something for the future.

But it is surprising how hard it is to adjust to this new life, for it to feel normal and fit with me. I have wrestled with lots of advice and am slowly finding a pattern for my day which works for me and Ella. I have been confronted again with the fact that I need to feel competent and I need things to be ordered. I enjoy routine and accomplishing tasks, even tiny ones. Managing myself and my mental health as well as a new baby is a real challenge but I am beginning to love it. There is real pride in such tiny things, like working out how to do a supermarket shop or how to get her out of the car without having to go back to the driver's side door to lock the car. Such simple and possibly blonde things to conquer but each of them help me feel that this new life can become normal and that I can do it.

Now that my time revolves around Ella I am realising how much my identity is built around what I do and how I live. There is so little time for thought or reflection and it seems often irrelevant to the pressing and practical needs in my life. Why spend time in contemplation when a nap could be had or washing folded. I hope that soon I can find more balance but at present, to be honest, I am enjoying not thinking too much about everything and just folding the washing, making a cuppa and learning how to make my wee girl giggle.

Monday, 14 September 2009


I am slowly returning to the world after a rather shocking start to motherhood. Ella's birth definitely did not go as planned and ended in a C-section. Anyone who thinks that is the easy option is misinformed. Being on strong pain relief and not being able to move around is such a hard way to start out. By about 3 weeks after Ella's arrival it was pretty clear I was not my usual self and was diagnosed with post-natal depression. I ahve struggled with depression and anxiety in the past but this was like being hijacked. It was so physical and my usual coping techniques did nothing. The local mental health crisis team got involved and with the wonderful support of family, friends, professionals and drugs I am doing so much better and feeling myself again. A month ago I would not have believed I could ever get better but each week I have made so much progress and now am absolutely loving motherhood.

Accepting what has happened is tough though but in hindsight I was such a prime candidate for PND. Learning to see myself in this new identity as a Mum but also as someone with a mental illness is quite a journey. It reminds me of how much I want to feel like I have it all together and how easily things can fall apart. I am so much more appreciative of the simple things and so much less interested in always striving for more in my life. At present I would be satisfied with quality time with my bubs, hubby and family and friends, enjoying nature and the simple things in life.

As spring arrives I feel for the first time in years that I am contented with my life and instead of wanting to fast forward I want to put my life on pause and savour every precious moment with my little girl and our little family.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Our precious arrival

On the 24th of June Ella Rose was welcomed into the word. She is truly a delight and bundle of joy!

Becoming a Mum is quite the mind bending experience but she is making the transition smoother. I am so excited about learning who she is and having adventures tugether.

Monday, 6 April 2009

A tribute to Tabby

Sadly on Friday our beloved Tabitha pussy cat was hit by a car. So in memory of a member of a family here is a tribute to her.

She was such an affectionate cat who loved cuddles and sleeping in our bed. She also was a talker and when she came into the house she would call out to you until you replied. She loved playing hide and seek and thought that changing the sheets on the bed was the best fun that could be had. She had been known to jump up and give you a no-claws slap on both cheeks when you bent down to hang out washing on the line. She was out constant companion and friend. Any other cat we have will have a lot to live up to.

Thanks Tabitha for spending some time with us and loving us so well.
We will miss you.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Trusting God with precious cargo

Being pregnant again has really tested my ability to trust God with our baby. After experiencing losing a baby once and the randomness of it and the lack of control I had in the whole process it is hard to trust that God will protect the baby growing inside of me. It makes me ask a lot of hard questions like why he didn't protect our first child and what makes this pregnancy different?

I think the things which comforted me in my loss are not so helpful right now. When we lost our first baby I came to some peace with it through understanding that creation is fallen and our loss really was symptomatic of that. It wasn't personal, it just shows the tension of being in the now but not yet time we are in as we wait for Jesus to return and fully restore our world.

But now that I am pregnant again it feels terribly risky and I have withdrawn from God in fear of it happening again. But recently I have realised I really need to deal with this as I do want to trust God again and trust Him with my life and in particular, our children and family. And what I have come back to is His character. I know God's heart broke with us when we lost our first child and I know that he knows this baby already and has plans and hopes for her. I know that God does not wish us to suffer loss and tragedy. So since that is who He is then I have no choice but to let go and rest in Him. If I am honest there is nothing I can do to control the outcome of this pregnancy except take care of myself. The rest is faith anyway. And who better to trust than the creator who guides the miracle of new life which is happening inside me.

I still have no easy answers for the tension and fear I feel about this but I am grateful to God for the way I have been freed from paralytic anxiety and that this pregnancy is going so well and that the baby is doing all she should. So I place myself in God's hands, knowing that he knows my heart and trusting that whatever happens in the future, I will never be alone.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Ending the involuntary vow of silence

It has certainly been awhile. This seems to the pattern with my blog. After my last post things changed in bigger ways than I had really expected. I had decided to leave teaching and spend a year doing some theological study and thinking about what next for my life. I have spent the last 3 years wanting to start a family and it hadn't happened so I decided that living my life on pause was not working and that I needed to really surrender my hopes and plans to God and get on with living what I believe is truly important.

So I thought about it all really carefully and prayed and did what has been one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life, walk away from the security of my job into the unknown. Well it seems that God took me seriously when I committed to surrender my plans to him because the afternoon of the day I resigned from my job I discovered I was pregnant! I was so over the moon but also spinning as this meant no job, and also no study as my due date is before the end of the first semester. So what did that mean? What was I supposed to do with myself?

So in the midst of some pretty debilatating all day morning sickness I wresteled a bit with this. I know that may seem weird since I had been blessed with what I truly wanted, but as I am sure you will know, the mind is a crazy thing. For so long I have been programmed to do things because they seem like I should do them, they are worthy or have some massive purpose or reason. But here I am with no big responsibilities and with the most chilled out life I have ever had. How does that work with my protestant work ethic? Through this I started to get really honest with myself. Throughout my teaching career I always felt unprepared and stretched, like I was faking it till I made it and trying to solve everyone's problems but I always feeling I didn't have the skills to really do a good job. That constant tension is exhausting and gradually I have lost a lot of my confidence in my abilities. I also feel like I never really made a decision to be a teacher, rather that it just seemed to be the logical next step.

For years I have wanted to be at home, or at least make a change and reduce the pressure I had been feeling in my work. And here I am. God has blessed me with everything I truly wanted but was too afraid to admit. It is such a lesson in not trying to be who you think you should be but instead being honest with God and trusting him to work through those struggles.

So come June I will be home with a baby and in the mean time I will do some relief and whatever else pops up.

The weirdest thing about all this is when people ask me "What are you going to do?". Honestly I have no idea how to respond to this question. I am going to be a Mum. I know that seems very 1950s but at present that is the next chapter and I will see where God leads me as far as future work or career goes but at present it seems like the wrong question to be asking. I know I am privileged to be free of the dreaded mortgage, which certainly gives me more choice in what I do. But I also think it is sad that there is so much pressure on women to not only raise a child but also continue to be career focussed. Gender equality can provide so many opportunities but also so many obligations rather than choices.

So I am now 17 weeks pregnant, no longer strapped to the couch and eating porrige morning, noon and night and really enjoying this new season in my life. Who knows what the future holds but it is amazing how things work out.