Monday, 27 December 2010

The catch 22 of antidepressants

Over the last few months I have been thinking a bit more about the path to recovery from depression and the catch 22 of taking antidepressants. For post natal depression and recurrent depression the research shows that a combination of medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, excercise and good nutrition can help people to recover and maintain good mental health. But the problem with research is that despite it being very convincing, resources are limited and medication remains the cheapest and seemingly easiest option.

I have had a lot of counseling over the years, including CBT, but I still had a severe depressive episode. At the time I was too ill to do any of the self help techniques I had learned and forget diet and excercise when you are recovering from a cesarean and breast feeding round the clock. So for me medication was the miracle I needed to keep me in the land of the living. Over the months the sense if joy and hope I experienced was something that had been missing from my life for the past decade, as I struggled with what I now recognise was chronic low level depression. It was like I was seeing what life was like for other people for the first time and I finally saw what all the fuss is about. It is decidedly scary that I lived for so long being so unhappy and thought that was an acceptable way to live and that it was my fault. So medication has really been a miracle for me.

But there is a down side to having such a positive experience with medication. It means you are easy to treat and it has given me the false idea if I just pop my pills each day, I don't need to think about my mental health or take any greater responsibility for my recovery. Also at the time of deciding to accept medication it really wasn't the time to discuss side effects, long term issues or how to wean myself off them. So 18 months on I am realising that "mother's little helpers" are not a quick fix and that I am still unwell. Well people don't need medication every day to function. And I do.

I recently changed medication. The drug I was on is Paroxetine. It is the best SSRI to use while breastfeeding as it is not transferred into breastmilk in any large amount. However it is also the most difficult of the SSRIs to discontinue and has awful side effects when you withdraw. I tried cutting down my dose and within three days definitely was struggling. That really scared me. Suddenly I felt trapped rather than freed by this medication and I also felt a bit angry that I hadn't know more about it. It wouldn't have changed my decision to use it but I may not have been so naive and "pollyanna" about it. Thankfully it is possible to make a direct switch from Paroxetine onto Citalopram. Citalopram is not as safe for breastfeeding but Paroxetine has a risk of causing birth defects. There are no plans afoot for number two but I wanted to change so that if and when we decide to have another we didn't have to have doctors involved and there would be no pressure on me to change medication in order to conceive.

Thankfully in New Zealand these drugs are subsidised by the government drug agency Pharmac and so the cost has been nearly zero for me. However, in changing medication and struggling a little with anxiety and accepting I still have depression, I have been comtemplating what I can do to help myself. The next step for me is to see a psychotherapist who specialises in PND. However, there is no funding or services for me because my daughter is over one year. While she was under one I could have gone to a support group and had more counselling. But I thought I was doing so well, and I was. So I was discharged. I have only praise for the Maternal Mental Health team who cared for me. They are operating with limited resources and have to prioritise. But I am a statistic waiting to happen. I know that if I don't do something either I will never have any more children for fear of PND, or I will just end up back in the same position. Or possibly take drugs for the rest of my life when they was a possibility I didn't need to.

Now therapy is expensive. $100-200 an hour usually and most people can't afford that. So for those who suit antidepressants it is hard to afford to do the best for yourself so that you can eventually manage life and depression better. It seems a strange logic to give people drugs but not help them make the long term changes to their lives to promote long term health.

It shows that though there is more recognition that health does not just mean the body but includes the mind and that holistic treatment is the most effective, the money just isn't there to turn knowledge into practice.

Mothering Tank

Christmas has come and gone and the dust is settling. Just before Christmas Ella and I were struck down by a nasty bug and I was busy with finishing off at school. We also had some family worries on our minds. So by the time we packed up for the road trip to my sister's for Christmas I was feeling pretty stretched and like I might topple over in a stiff breeze.

Through all of this my mothering tank had got a little empty. For me it is the sense of having enough to give to my child and the patience and thoughtfulness that a busy toddler needs. Ella has been feeding like a newborn since she had the tummy bug and with the heat I have been feeling a little sucked dry. And the family road trip, though heaps of fun, doesn't leave much room for Mummy time. Throw in time with family who are watching your child and commenting on their development - supportively! but still commenting, it is a recipe for a Mummy breakdown.

What I needed was some deposits in my mothering tank. And they have come just as I really needed them. Watching Ella enjoy family and new experiences while we were away has made me marvel again at how much of a miracle the growth and learning of children is. As she soaks up life and explores it is such a joy and a reward for the hard work I put in each day. Hubby and I also had a great talk as we drove home about how much we love Ella, her quirks, her confidence and even the things that other people may see as not so convenient or acceptable. I also got home to find the first issue of The Natural Parent magazine in my letterbox. Reading about the things which I think about as a mother, provides nourishment and inspiration. And the La Leche League magazine Aroha is full of the personal experiences and struggles of Mums just like me.

I think the holiday season can be full of excitement and lovely time as a family. But it can also be exhausting and a time when the tank runs low. So I hope you find ways to fill your tank as a parent this holiday season and remember that your children want you. Just you. And you need nourishment yourself for that to be possible.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Christmas Stocktake

My lack of posts recently is really reflective of a general feeling that my life is too full. And adding blogging to my life which seems to already be bursting at the seams, seemed impossible. But as I have been lying awake at night in the awful Auckland humidity I have been wondering how things ended up like this and conducting a little stocktake of my life.

I am not one for New Year's resolutions. They are always made in a fit of idealism and never seem to be achieveable in my actual life. It is also a little depressing when they are the same every year. Maybe 10 years on this year will be different? Somehow I don't think so. They also seem to feed into my tendency for perfectionism and unrealistic expectations for myself. I went through a phase where I just felt allergic to goal setting at all. Now I seem to have reached some sort of happy medium where I want to reflect on how my life is going and what I enjoy and what I would like to change. But no crazy goals which just lead to disappointment and seem to be based on some other version of me who needs and cape and to wear her undies on the outside.

The pre Christmas madness is the perfect time for a stocktake of my life. It highlights my priorities and the imbalances. It also is the time I feel the most strung out it limits what I think I can manage so stops me from being unrealistic. And I tend to be focussed on what is truly important and my values.

So the short version is that I need to take better care of myself and do less. I need to stop thinking of new things I 'should' do and enjoy doing less. If I see a problem around me it doesn't mean it is mine to solve. And that I am an adult and try to deal with my own issues so the other adults around me should do the same and I don't have to try to keep everyone happy.

The practical side of this is:
  •   one day a week as an at home day.
  • work on my fitness and sort out my back pain. 
  • I love to write so make blogging a priority and something I do for me.
  • Remember that I work so I can't act like I am at home everyday and do all the things that Mums who are at home can commit to.
  • Spend more time with my hubby
  • Focus on enjoying now rather than planning the next thing.
  • No more commitments! I have enough in my life to be doing right now.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Sharing my story

 WARNING - this is a pretty happy clappy Christian post. I feel uncomfortable writing it. I have not suddenly joined a cult or had one of those "moments". I am just being honest and it is how a truly feel. I apologise in advance if it reads as cheesy. Sometimes even in these sophisticated and cynical times cheesy is where it is at.

I was recently asked to share my story at a Mum's group which meets at my church. I am relatively new there so it was a bit weird to think about sharing my life with people who I am only just getting to know. But, I really felt that the time was right and that it was an important step for me to take. In the last few years I have felt like my life is such a wreck and I couldn't see any point in sharing it with others because I couldn't make sense of it myself, let alone give any encouragement to others.

Sitting down to write some notes was really challenging. It is not often that we look over our lives and try to make sense of the story. As I prayed and wrote it was amazing the thread and the meaning I began to see. Things that a few years ago were some important and I was sure were central to my journey just didn't feature and things which seemed incidental or tiny grew into major turning points in my life.

Over the days beforehand I was very scared. I tend to share very openly about my life but sometimes that leaves me with regrets and feeling very vulnerable. Sometimes I have been burnt by sharing with people who just were not safe and who I couldn't trust to treat me gently with the knowledge I had given them. I was also aware of the fact that I didn't want it to be about my ego, even though inevitably it was to a certain degree. And I wanted to provide some encouragement and hope even though I knew some of my story seems sad and full of grief. It was challenging for me to think through those painful times and be honest with myself about whether I had ackowledged them and felt the hurt of them before sharing them with others.

 I talked with a close friend about all of my concerns which helped with all my analysing and worries. I also asked a close friend who has know me a long time to be there so there was at least one face who I knew well and who had walked with me through much of my life. I was so nervous beforehand, which is unusual for me. I am pretty confident speaking to a group but the nerves actually reminded me how important this was to me and also how much I was relying on the Holy Spirit to guide my words.

Once I got started it was like riding a bike when you are first learning and you are afraid to stop because it might tip over. I wish I had referred to my notes a bit more but overall it went well. There were a few tears, not just mine, but I was able to keep going. And I hope I shared not just the pain but also the hope I have now as God continues to work in my life. I really do feel that my life is wonderful now, that so much healing is taking place and that the future looks brighter, fuller and more exciting than it ever has before.

When women share their story in the group it is normal for that women to be prayed for. Being surrounded by these wonderful Mums with all their wisdom, strength and love was very healing for me. Their prayers and the encouragement they gave me was so powerful and felt like God directly speaking to me at this time. For someone like me, who has struggled with doubt and disbelief, it is wonderful to feel open to God again and to truly know he is active in my life right now.

When I was a little girl I read a book about a girl who went to live with relatives in the country in Wales. The family she lived with was huge and loud and messy and as an only child and quite spoilt, it was rather a shock to they system. She struggles with feeling like she doesn't belong and with the reality of the hard things which happen in life. As she learns how good life can be a verse which she comes across in "In My presence is fullness of joy". As I have grown up that verse has stayed with me and as we prayed one of the women said it.

I can say that now I don't just wish for that and wonder what it means. I really do know "fullness of joy" and that even though my journey has really only just begun I can trust that it will be true as I walk, stumble, kneel and dance along with Jesus.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Name change

Just thought I should acknowledge the name change for my blog. For years the Real Life name hasn't matched the website address. Blame it on blogging naievity when I first set it up. I liked the Real Life name but wanted to make it all make a bit more sense and be easier to find. So welcome to NZgirl. Feeling less of a girl now but still definitely in NZ.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Thanks for your thoughts

Thank you for all your comments yesterday. I am letting the dust settle and thinking about why it hit a nerve so much for me. Hopefully with time I will know what to do about the doctor issue. But I think I need to let the sting settle before I make my next move.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Advice for the vulnerable

I am incensed, and not in a zen and smokey kind of way. I haven't posted for ages as we have been suffering through the winter of viruses. Finally I thought we were through it but Ella and I are sick again and so off to the doctor I went, suspecting we both needed antibiotics. Now I love my doctor, I have been to her since I was a child and I like her straightforward approach and how honest I can be with her. This has been so important to me as I have struggled with so much over the last few years. But today's visit has left me wondering whether I need to make a change.

After writing our prescriptions and getting us all sorted I made a passing comment as I breastfed Ella that she was desperately trying to get to sleep and that the plunket nurse the week before had commented that we were parenting in a way not usually seen by her in her middle class and predominantly pakeha practice. And before I could blink I was told in very serious tones that I had to stop feeding Ella to sleep and that it should be my goal before she got to 18 months and that research showed she had to learn to go to sleep alone and go back to sleep alone. At this point the appointment was basically over and we were heading for the door. I felt there was no chance to explain that I was not just taking the 'easy way' because I had been sick and that it was a conscious choice for us to deal with sleep this way. I also picked up the slight hint that because of my depression I was being indulgent or didn't have the strength to deal with the issue. This is something I notice more and more as Ella gets older and people are less scared that they might upset me by what they say.

So as I walked out the door of the clinic I felt totally gobsmacked. How could a health professional I thought I had known well get me and my choices so wrong? And also what does my parenting have to do with her that she would think she could tell me what to do? It is not a medical issue. She must have picked up how I was feeling because she admitted that other cultures have raised babies well doing things differently. But she also stated that she didn't think parenting could be defined along those lines. Well neither do I. But there are patterns about modern western parenting and especially to do with sleep that I don't feel comfortable with. And as Ella's parents we can choose to do what we believe is best without needing her permission. Doctors are not trained in parenting and I suspect much of the advice given is from their personal experience rather than research and evidence.

So as my rage and hurt subsides I feel I need to address the issue. My first instinct is to change GP. But that is mainly because I don't want to be put in the position of justifying myself and explaining that I think she is wrong. I also pay a lot at my doctor's because of the area she is in. And then if I do leave where do I go? How do I find a GP who will respect me and my husband as well informed parents who are happy with the choices we are making.

Above all I wish that those people who are the 'experts' and deal with parents and especially Mums, would realise that advice is not very helpful if it undermines a parent's confidence in themselves as a parent and their knowledge of their child. There is not one way to do things and just because it is different doesn't mean there is a problem. If my doctor has paused before hitting me with her advice and asked a few questions then maybe she could have been more sensitive in addressing the 'issue' which is not an issue for me. Maybe she would have realised that even though I am tired and breastfeeding a lot while Ella is sick that that is not a problem to be solved for me, it is just how it is and what Ella needs.

So I want to try to give less advice to other parents and instead affirm their role and that they are the ones who know what is best for their child and their family.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Finding a new faith for a new season

Ever since Ella was born I have been trying to work out how to do faith and my walk with God as a Mum. I haven't blogged about spirituality for a long time. I guess I have felt self-conscious about it and also like it was all just too hard. I have often found faith tough before but since becoming a Mum it has felt almost impossible. I guess in my mind I have a picture of what a healthy relationship with God looks like - quiet time reading the Bible regularly, praying, attending church, talking about faith, serving others. But I seem to have no time to read my Bible. Okay, I also don't find time cause I would rather read other things. How's that for honesty?

I do pray, quite a lot, but not in a focussed way. Recent struggles have led me to have a lot more faith in prayer though so I am relieved that I actually want to pray again and that I truly believe God acts, maybe not in the ways I want, but He is involved. I see that in his faithfulness towards me through everything I have been through and the way He works in the lives of those around me. I still have no answers about why people suffer despite prayer, but I do know this world is not perfect and God is still active in it. I guess I am waiting to ask about that in person.

Church has been difficult. I often go by myself cause hubby is studying. It is hard to feel like I want to go when I end up out in the creche looking after Ella and not actually hearing the sermon. I could be doing that home! I am doing something about that though. I have found a church with a wonderful kids programme and I have been really rejuvenated by the teaching the meeting some other Mums and sharing our journey. I think some people probably think I am a terrible church hopper, but to be honest it is really just a survival decision. If my faith was going to survive I needed to get some spiritual input. And I think it gets pretty pragmatic when it comes to faith and having a family.

One thing which has been so amazing since becoming a Mum is how many inspiring and wonderful women I have met from all walks of life. They have been my biggest spiritual and practical support other than my family and very close friends. It is always miraculous to me how a conversation can resonate so deeply and give me new hope and a new perspective on something I am struggling with or thinking about.

So I guess at the moment I feel like God is meeting me in the every day moments and meetings of my life rather than in orchestrated events of spiritual disciplines. I do need to find time for His word. But I also know that it will happen and it is not something I am going to wrestle with so hard I get blisters. Instead I am focussing more on the joy I have found in my life and being grateful to God that after so many years of seeing the world in grey, the colour is back. Now that is a God to believe in, who can do that in my life!

Famine or feast

I have been so AWOL with blogging recently. My life feels so full with the absolute basics plus work that I never seem able to fit in the next layer of things I would like to do. I am constantly thinking of ideas for writing, or making, or doing but I am either asleep before I can do them or just cannot find a moment to do them.

Apparently Mum blogs are huge and there was even a big conference in the U.S recently for Mums who blog. But honestly, I don't know how they find the time.

My priorities for my day are pretty simple and pared back at present. Having a shower and getting dressed, looking after Ella and having food in the fridge is basically a successful day. Add laundry done and dinner cooked as a pretty impressive day. And if I manage any other housework or to get on the computer it is pretty much a miracle. So as you can see life is simple, well the simple things are complicated enough without adding anything else.

Work is manageable, just, because I do it all there. I have so much respect for Mum's who manage to work from home. I just don't know how it is possible.

A few months ago I was really wrestling with how much a wanted to achieve in a day or week and felt constantly frustrated by it. But I seem to be reaching a more peaceful place. As long as there are no essentials hanging over my head - like the tax return I hadn't done! - I seem to cope. A big help is when hubby and I do the power clean at the weekend. Vacumn, tidy, clean bathroom and life seems manageable again.

Today when I was with a group of Mums and they were sharing their moments of joy I noticed that most of them were simple things like going for a walk, or something cute or funny a child had done, or doing something they enjoy. No-one said they had renovated, saved the world, cooked a four course meal. In fact, the theme was really the joys in our every day lives. It helped to hear that other mother's lives are stretched and full and reminded me that most of the time the problem is my expectations and all it takes is lowering them to bring a bit more joy and peace into my life.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Making tea from our little patch

I am just making or organising tea. And I am very excited cause lots of the ingredients are from our patch. It is kedgeree. So the fish is the left over kahawai which hubby baked on Friday. The rice is obviously exotic in origin. But the eggs, parsley, leek and spring onion were all sourced from about 2-10 metres from my stove top. It is the first meal in ages which is so home grown but I have to celebrate the little successes in the midst of this wet winter! So hopefully it will taste yummy as it is the first time I have made it.

Friday, 6 August 2010

My many selves

This week I have been thinking a lot about the different selves I seem to have or inhabit in a week. There is the Mum self who looks after Ella and the teacher self who can almost forget she is a mother, and the woman full of all the these ideas and dreams but no time or space to do them in.

The way motherhood is presented or at least described is often very black and white about identity. You are either a homemaker or a career superwoman juggling work and family. There only ever seems to be the extremes of the continuum. But my experience is more like I completely switch from one to the other. When I am at home I act like I never have to go to work. I make plans and almost commit to things without thinking that I have to work two days a week. I am often really disappointed that I have to go to work and will miss out an activity that Ella and I could go to because of it. But when I am at work I almost forget about Ella - shocking isn't it! And I just want to keep working and when professional development and extra curricular opportunities come up I even agree to them before I remember that I can't do them and that Ella needs me.

I am stunned at how my mind is able to just focus on what I am doing right now and everything else seems to disappear. But it is also wonderful. In the past I have found it so hard to be present in the moment in what I am doing and have often felt torn and stretched. I wonder whether sleep deprivation and breastfeeding hormones have something to do with it. I can only really cope with what is happening right now rather than having the energy or brain space to think about anything else. There is a real joy in that.

However, I wish I could be home more, and I wish I could work more. I love both. It is a marvelous dilemma to have. And it shows me that being a Mum is not about black and white decisions such as "I will stay home with my kids' or choosing or having to work. Instead it is a mash up of the life I had before Ella arrived and the new life which is unravelling and developing as she and I grow and our family circumstances change. It would be awful to feel as if I have made some sort of decision or rules about how things had to be such as "Good mothers stay home" which could limit what life can be even when new opportunities present themselves. If feminism has done anything for women it should mean that we can change our minds and live our lives as they evolve rather than by rules or expectations society or we set for ourselves.

I know that is a bit of a ramble. I am tired. Ella has been sick and I am exhausted. And I had to work today. Ahhh living the dream...

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Little families in little boxes

Yesterday I had the privilege of someone sharing their dream with me about living in community with another family and caring for each other. It was wonderful to hear someone else thinking along the same lines as I do but actually doing it! It was also great to be able to affirm her dream when so many people had reacted negatively to it because it doesn't fit the model of security and success which our society promotes. I couldn't help thinking how sad it is that when someone suggests sharing with others that as adults we see it as such a risky business. Do we all believe the world is such a dangerous and awful place that we better just look after our own? Or do we fear losing all the comforts and possessions we have been persuaded we need? Are we so frightened of living in places where people are not exactly like us and leave us to our own little world?

Since becoming a Mum I have realised how healthy dependence on others is. I need community like I need air. I have only coped and enjoyed motherhood and parenting because of the love and support of my friends and family. Being alone in our little box trying to do life just feels all wrong. My husband and I often talk about how difficult it is to cook for two and how there really is always enough for more and we often feel that we should invite others round to share it because it feels unnatural to be sitting at the table just us.

Part of the reason I feel that way is because I look to other people for security and that certainly isn't too healthy. But also I wonder whether the idea that myself and my husband should be building a little kingdom of our own is also not healthy either. How must stress is caused to people each weekend as they list the jobs around the house which need doing and the big but ordinary tasks if life that we all have to do but end up doing alone, such as cleaning out the garage (this has been on our list for about 6 months). It makes so much more sense to share resources and share the labour that daily life requires.

One of my daily challenges is getting the washing hung out. Ella ends up covered in mud and chicken poo if she comes outside with me and until she was walking it had to be nap time for me to get the load on the line, by which time there often wasn't enough time for it to dry. And I couldn't take a nap. Now this may sound a minor issue but as any Mum will attest, laundry backlog is a nightmare and little dilemmas like this cause stress. But if there were other Mums around we could share the load, watch the kids while another Mum hung out the washing or vice versa. Seems so simple but so impossible with the way we live right now.

You may have seen the t.v programme Big Love, about a Mormon family practising polygamy. Now I am certainly not in favour of sharing my hubby with any other woman, but having more women around to share the workload and for support would be wonderful. In all our striving for independence and the white picket fence to keep others out have we lost something that is actually essential to be able to live well as people? Are we all just chasing after nothing and in the process losing what life is supposed to be about.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Thanks Henrietta!

We bought 3 chickens in December last year. There was great excitement as hubby and father in law built the coop and the chickens arrived. There were a few days of fear as the local cats got used to the fact that chickens fight back and a few months of getting rid of ratty and his relatives. Thankfully the neighbours must have intuitively known about our plight and cut down the bamboo which was the home of the plague of rats. So come February, as had been promised, we waited for the beautiful eggs to appear. But nothing. We realised that they still looked a bit young and needed some more time so patiently waited. They started growing lovely red combs and those wibbly wobbly bits under their chins. Do hens have chins? Anyway, still nothing.

So come June we were thinking that the joke of the chickens which never lay was wearing a bit thin. Especially when they poop all over the deck, need feeding rain, hail or shine and cleaning out the coop is less than pleasant, though good for the garden. Hubby was even heard yelling at them and threatening to turn them into stock.

But low and behold a couple of mornings ago I lifted the lid of the nesting box and there they were, two beautiful, beige ovals of goodness. I came squealing into the house and my Mum was sure one of the chickens had died! Instead the next morning we enjoyed the eggs with some bacon.

So thanks Henrietta and keep up the good work. Hopefully Willamina and Gwendoline will get the idea soon and I might have enough eggs for a hen shaped cake to celebrate!

Tough challenge

So it has been a few days since I committed myself to the year long challenge of shopping consciously and the warm glow of self righteousness is fading into the reality of few choices and priciness.

So did the supermarket shop and stuck to the usual routine. Bought only NZ produce, didn't check the back of the cans and went with price so I hate to think where the tinned tomatoes are from and got completely stuck when trying to buy a face wash. Firstly there are none made in NZ and secondly if I did buy a NZ made one from the health food shop it would cost over $40. So in a moment of madness I bought a Neutrogena one. But once I got home I realised I could have just used the baby soap which I use on Ella. When I am due to buy a new moisturiser I will have a challenge cause I really need one with SPF and don't want to spend the earth.

I have actually been thinking about the challenge a lot and wondering whether it is a bit legalistic to have rules rather than just doing my best. Or maybe that is just the part of me that is realising that Glassons and Max are no longer options and I have no idea where I will find lingerie or shoes. I may look very different in a year's time!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Be brave, be idealistic

I am a very idealistic person. I know how I think life and the world should be and I get disappointed quite frequently that it is not that way. You would think I would learn, but instead I have decided to go with it. I think if a marketer described me they would say I am a "reformer". I want to change things and make them better. Well, most of the time, except for when I am tired, can't be bothered and just want life to be easy and comfy and tidy and simple. But it isn't, even when I try.

So late last night when I was awake and thinking I decided to go with my idealism. To not let cynicism and age creep in and kill the dream. I had been thinking during the day about doing some sewing and getting a hair cut and not buying lots of new stuff. And usually I let those late night flights of fancy disappear in the morning. But not today.

So my hope for the next year - July 2010 to July 2011 is to shop consciously.

So I am going to try to avoid buying things new and aim to buy as much second hand as possible.
If I have to buy new then purchases should be:
  • New Zealand made
  • of if not ethical/fairtrade/sustainable
  • upcycled/recycled
I am already trying to buy local or unprocessed when it comes to food but I want to keep working on that.

I guess I figure that if I can't live up to my own ideals then I can't be disappointed that I don't see those ideals around me.

Current purchasing projects on the go:
  • dinner set made up of retro eclectic crockery
  • wool pants and some bigger clothes for Ella
Current make it myself progress:
  • spare room being set up with crafty stuff at my finger tips.
  • got a book on sewing baby stuff out of the library and hope to do some holiday projects.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

We are one!

Last week Ella turned one. What a huge milestone and what a celebration. Ella is growing so fast and is such a delight. I love seeing her personality develop and as she learns I feel like I am getting to know who she really is bit by bit. It is funny cause when she was born I loved her, but I didn't know who she was. A year on I can see bits of me and bits of her Dad but there are parts of her which are pure Ella. It is like slowly unwrapping a gift and glimpsing more and more but still having the joy of anticipation.

I have to admit though as her birthday came and went I kept thinking about this time a year ago and how little I knew about what the last year would hold for us as a family and particularly me. This year has officially been the most difficult, painful, shocking, amazing, joyous and miraculous of my entire life. I imagine many people must feel like that after having their first child.

As her birthday dawned I thought about being in labour and her birth, holding her for the first time, but then the terrible slide into darkness and unreality that was depression for me. And I am so sad about that. And it really was horrific. But then I think about how quickly life improved and that now I am managing being a Mum, holding down a job and feeling pretty fantastic. Actually probably better than I have felt for years. So on the other side now I can see how even though it was absolutely awful, I would never want to give back all the strength I have found, the change in me and my family through sharing such a challenging time and the new hope I have now. And most of all the compassion I feel for new mothers and the challenges we all face as parents.

I have always been so terrified of the hard things in life, the tragedy and trauma that we all have to face. But I can say that I have walked through the fire and I am okay, complete with my scars which are still healing. When I think back to who I was I much prefer the new me that is being created and the deep joy I know in my life now.

Thank you Ella for sharing your first year with me.

What makes my soul sing?

Recently I have been hit by one bug after another. I got so run down and just couldn't recover. I decided since my GP could only say "take a paracetamol" that I would see a naturopath. Six weeks later and I am feeling so much better. Apart from pills and potions she had a good look at my week and saw how busy I was. So I have scaled back my life and tried to make sleep a priority. She also challenged me about not doing enough to make my soul sing, the things that make me feel alive.

Coming away from the appointment and still feeling awful I felt like I could take all the supplements and do less but the most challenging part was to do things which I love to do. It is so easy with a small child and work and life in general to feel there just isn't space for me and to feel powerless to do anything about it. I was having a pity party to a friend, saying I just can't do the things I love, like going to the movies and read, while being a Mum. And she called me on it. And she is right. That is a lie that leads nowhere but dissatisfaction and resentment.

So I have started trying to prioritise the things I love but also trying to think creatively about how they can work with the way my life is now.

Here is my list:
  • Cooking - bought two foodie mags and am cooking my way through the recipes.
  • DVDs - if I can't get to the movies then I can try to watch some DVDs on a Friday night cuddled up with hubby and something scrummy.
  • Reading - I am being patient about this but I am trying to make some time for reading on a Saturday morning while Ella is at swimming with the other half.
  • Gardening - doing the vege garden at work is pretty fantastic!
I am still working on a few other things like going for a massage, a horseride and possibly to a film fest film. But I am committed to keeping on being me and not waiting for some distant time when life is less busy. Cause I don't think that time will ever come.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The falacy of freedom

Why do we believe so strongly in individual freedom? If you think about it, no-one is really "free". We all have responsibilities and people whose feelings and needs we consider before doing whatever we like. So why when I became a Mum were so many people and books so keen for me to have my "freedom" back? I have noticed the same things with weddings. A couple of ceremonies I have been guest at had vows which emphasised our fear of having to sacrifice our wants for someone else. The vows went something like this - "I love you, but... you must not stand in the way of anything I want to do and you must support me in anything I choose to pursue". Seems that it might not be worth getting married if it seems such a risk and there is so much to lose. And maybe the same is true for having children.

Because children need us to put them first. And in reality it is for such a short time. Last night I went out without Ella for the first time since she was born. I went to a friend's place for dinner and left Ella asleep at home with her Daddy. It was really nice spending time with friends and just hanging out. But after a couple of hours my cell rang. Ella was awake and I could hear her sobs in the background. When I got home she was do upset she was gagging and once she finally went to sleep she sobbed as she slept for another hour. I lay in bed and wondered whether my night out had really been worth it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Ella was permanently traumatised by the experience but in her short life and in her world me not being there when she woke was a disaster and felt horrific. She doesn't know I am just out with the girls. As far as she is concerned it is dark, she woke up and Mum is gone. If I were her I would freak out too. And to be perfectly honest, it was a nice night but sleeping next to a sobbing baby is no fun.

Even before Ella was born people would give me advice about how to leave her, how to get her used to a bottle so I could be free to go out and have some time out. Some people even said it was unhealthy not to. Can you imagine any other mammal planning to leave their baby before they are even born?

She will be young for such a short time and before I know it I will feel like I don't see her enough and will be willing her to spend time with her doddery parents. And it certainly saves money to not be out painting the town red. Maybe instead of seeing our children as impinging on our freedom we could see there dependence on us as a privilege and a season to be embraced as we learn how generous it is possible to be with our time and our bodies as we do such an important job in helping our children to grow.

Saturday, 12 June 2010


I have been MIA for the last wee while as I have been struck down with virus after virus for the last couple of months. Ella seems to pick up something just as I get a bit better and then down I go again. So last week I decided something had to change and went to a naturopath. I think they are great for when you aren't sick enough for the doctor to help but you aren't well. As a result I am on a mineral supplement and probiotics to boost my immunity as well as echinacia to ward off those bugs and a good multi vitamin. But the biggest benefit was when she drew up a timetable of my week and blocked out when I was busy. A bit shocking really. Almost all of every day was blocked out. I needed someone objective to tell me I was doing too much and that I needed to take better care of myself. I certainly hadn't listened to my Mum!

But that is the challenge for me. When I am tired and run down being around other people energises me. To a point. But it had turned into avoidance of my life and the reality that I have been burning out. And depression lurks around that ugly corner of not listening to myself and my body. So I have begun the task of dropping things and pulling back. And it is hard to admit that I can't do everything, but what I find scariest is when I am not busy I have to be with myself more. I have to sit with where I am really at and can't hide behind doing things. I am realising how unhealthy it is to feel afraid of myself and of facing my feelings. Especially those feelings which are negative, like sadness and disappointment and worst of all, fear.

When I first started to recover from PND it was so liberating to be able to leave the house and go and do things. But my new liberation needs to begin. To be able to say no and stay home and be still, well as still as you can be with a toddler.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


Today I feel inspired. I always feel this way after going to La Leche League. Meeting with stunning women who are living their lives and sharing their struggles and triumphs is such good food for my soul. I love listening to the stories and sharing my thoughts. I also feel encouraged to be more than just one dimensional. I think some people think of motherhood as being 'on demand' for their child or children 24/7 and waiting for them to grow up before doing anything for themselves. But today the discussion has prompted me to do things for me too. I want to make the most of the flexibility that being at home offers me and I don't want to fall into the trap of thinking I can't do anything else except work, do the housework and look after Ella.

While I was working I never had any hobbies really, just socialising. But I can see now how much I need outlets for myself and that if I don't, once Ella doesn't need me as much I may wake up to find I have wasted so many opportunities and have let myself hide behind Ella. I want her to grow into her own person as I continue to grow too.

So I am off to Spotlight to get some fabric for a couple of presents I want to make and to get some stuff to finish Ella's dedication photo book and start some other scrapbooks. And I have an idea for some cards I would like to make. So this time it is not just going to be an idea, I am going to follow through. You better hold me to that!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Rewriting history and creating regret

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about Ella's birth. I think it is part of the natural process of healing and coming to terms with all I have been through in the last year. I find myself remembering a lot more about the details of the birth and questioning whether I made the right decisions. For me, having a C section made the beginning of being a Mum very tough and certainly didn't help me with developing postnatal depression. So I have been thinking about whether it could have been avoided. Did I go to the hospital too soon? Should I have fought more to avoid all the interventions?
In hindsight Ella was perfectly fine and did not seem to be in any distress once she was born, however, during the labour there were some indications that she was stressed. And at the time that was all we had to go by in making our decisions.

I have also been thinking about the last few weeks of the pregnancy and how the information I had caused me a lot of worry and fear. To be honest, I was scared during the whole pregnancy. I never really believed that we would hold our precious girl and get to take her home. I actually would lie awake at night preparing myself for losing her and having to have a funeral. I know that may seem strange but that is the only end to pregnancy which I had experienced and it seemed almost impossible to experience anything else, despite the ever present kicks and movements and healthy growth which promised she was fine. When I added higher blood pressure and posterior position to that mix of fear and grief it isn't really suprising that all I wanted was a healthy baby and I wanted to avoid any risk.

But now, on the other side it is easy for me to rewrite history and blame myself for the outcome of the labour. I do wish things had gone differently but I have to remember that Ella was fine and at the time that was the most important thing. I didn't know how hard my time in hospital and afterwards was going to be and you can only make decisions with the knowledge you have at the time.

What I have really learned or am learning, is that you cannot ignore your true emotions, not matter how uncomfortable and inconvenient they are. If I had acknowledged my fears to myself and others maybe I would have been in a better place during labour. Things may not have gone differently but there is nothing more awful than feeling disconnected from yourself at such a momentous time. I struggle to be truly honest about how I feel, especially when the feelings are negative but I need to be otherwise they do come out whether you like it or not and often in the worst of ways.

So no regrets about the birth, but hopefully some wisdom gained. And I want to thank all the mamas I know who inspire me to trust that my body, which God created and used to create and nourish Ella, is capable of doing what it is designed to do.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Pyjama Days

Some days are just pyjama days. Like today. I have had two nights looking after a sick Ella and I am stuffed. So today we are staying in our pyjamas. We are doing the bare minimum. Just having a day where in my head we are resting. The dishes are piling up, the house is a mess, but we are resting.

Unfortunately no-one told the lawnmowing guy or another visitor who had her dates mixed up. But I answered the door without blushing. We are resting today.

It is also lovely to have some space in life to have a think and to muck around with Ella.

Maybe every week needs a pyjama day...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


I work as an English teacher with teen mums and we have 3 mums with young babies who have just started with us. It is the first time since Ella was wee that I have been around tiny new babies for more than a visit for a cup of tea. It has shocked me how much it has brought back about those first few months with Ella. I had forgotten how tiny she was and how much I was just guessing about what to do. I rocked one of the little boys to sleep yesterday and it was almost too much for me to remember my desperation when I rocked Ella, that she would sleep, that I would sleep. That I wouldn't feel so terrified and exhausted and desperate.

It is easy to believe now that I am coping well and just have to remember to take two white pills, to believe I am well. That that terrible time in my life is gone and I can pretend it didn't happen. But the awful sick feeling I had as I looked at these new mamas and their bubs reminds me that I am not okay. That I carry scars and that healing must happen.

Recently many of the Mums I know have been talking about having another child. Honestly, I feel nothing but shock at even contemplating such a crazy thing. For me it feels like a path that would lead to despair and doom. Now those are not the thoughts of a well and healed woman! So even though it is so tempting to pretend that everything is fine. It is not. I love my life now and I am content but there is unfinished business and I hope that I can have the courage and honesty to face it and not just brush it away with another two white pills.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Through a child's eyes

I recently spent a long weekend at the beach I stayed at when I was little. It was so wonderful to revisit a place which has such strong, happy memories for me. But it reminded me of how untrustworthy memory is. I remembered the long walk to the shop. It is actually only 2 baches down the road. I remembered the walk over the hill to the next bay as being a huge tramp and Mum encouraging us to keep going so we could have a piece of chocolate at the end. It is actually only a 10 minute walk. But on little legs it would have been formidable. In my mind the surf was huge and the beach enormous. Don't get me started on how far I thought it was from home!

Now seeing it from a greater height and with the perspective or an adult stride suddenly it looks quite different. I am no longer fascinated by the corner store or the distance over the hill. But now I can see just how precious a bach holiday at the beach is and how beautiful and peaceful it is. I can see how the baches are becoming beach houses and life is changing so quickly. I now know how privileged I was to have those holidays and that my daughter's generation may not even know what I am talking about when I tell stories about my childhood when I am old, wrinkly and smell funny.

Bursting Bubbles

Today and really and the last couple of weeks have felt like a constant process of bubbles bursting. You know, those lovely but maybe naive beliefs about life and how it works that we grow up believing are true and how life should work and slowly as we grow up (or for some, suddenly and all at once) they burst.

At the moment it seems that all the bubbles have burst. All around me and in my own life people are dealing with the fact that life doesn't work out the way you want it to and often the things you hope and pray for either don't happen or when they do, don't turn out as planned. And I have to say that it makes me sad and it makes me mad. And I wish it was not this way and I wish I had something more positive and profound to say about it. But I don't.

And I hope in hindsight there will be more to it than this and more goodness rather than the sadness and disappointment I feel right now.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

My secret life

Since I became a Mum I have been slowly working through the fundamental struggles which most Mums have. Sleep and food. Both for me and for Ella. They are such controversial areas among parents and apparent 'experts'. I have asked so many people for advice and wrestled with what works for Ella, for me, for our family and strangely often the opinions I have given the most attention are other people. Why when these people probably don't care and certainly don't look after Ella, would I care what other people think? But I am painfully aware of the way some parenting practices are viewed and never wanted to be prejudged from a distance as 'kooky' or strange.

So as a result I feel like my life is divided into "acceptable in public" and "needs to be secret". So this brings me back to food and sleep. Ella has been breastfed since birth and though I was so ill at the beginning I am proud that she has never had formula. I truly believe that breastfeeding is normal and all a baby needs till at least 6 months. I believe that formula is inferior and is associated with babies becoming ill and interfering with supply. I am really aware that everyone has to make their own choices and do what they feel is right but there are certain facts about the negatives of supplementing that cannot be argued away. I enjoy breastfeeding and though there are hard times I believe it has helped me to recover from post natal depression and continues to be wonderful for Ella and me. At this point I think I will breastfeed until Ella no longer wants it. I demand feed and do not watch a clock, follow a routine or count feeds. Ella can have a feed whenever she likes and it is not about just food.

(Okay so I feel totally exposed and vulnerable. In every sentence I just typed I can hear the arguments, hurrumphs as people are offended and I fear hurting my friends by being so adament about my views. My secret life is being revealed.)

Food then leads me onto sleep. Many people believe that after the newborn weeks babies should not be fed to sleep and should be put down to sleep awake. Ella did that for about a month, maybe two and I thought I had the perfect textbook baby. But once she started rolling it was all over. And I had to face the fact that Ella needed more than being put down in a quiet room and the door closed to be able to sleep. So I fed her to sleep. This sometimes works but when she was little it also resulted in lots of big spills. As she has got older she sometimes naps in a wrap, sometimes in the buggy, sometimes in the car and sometimes in bed with me. And this is where it gets awkward.

There is such strong feeling in New Zealand against sharing a bed with your baby due to the fear of SIDs. I think there is also a feeling that mums need space away from their baby and that the evening is for the parents. I used to feel this way but in all the reading I have done nothing actually supports those views. We brought Ella into our bed at night at first as a way to cope with how often she wakes. But now it is our preferred way of sleeping at night. Ella feeds many times in the night but I can stay asleep or only wake for a moment. I am so much more rested and Ella goes to sleep peacefully. Many books say that it is normal for babies to cry. I really don't think it is. There is always a reason and crying to sleep is not normal. It is something that developed countries think is normal because our lives have become so controlled and individualistic that we are disconnected from the natural and instinctive ways babies behave.

But sleep has been my biggest secret because it is so different from the way most other people I know parent. When people come to our house and see that we have sold our cot and that our bed is on the floor it becomes very obvious that something different is going on. And it is hard to be different and not come across as extreme or judgmental towards other people's choices.

So I guess I struggle with having two lives. The one that is easily digestable, middle class and predictable. And my 'real life' which is feeling more and more like a story on a current affairs show about wierd parenting practices. I have never lived my life in secret before or been so careful about what to say and do around people. And I think it is sad that as parents we struggle alone in our homes instead of sharing our experiences to help each other along. Hopefully telling the truth about my life will help others to see me as I am and feel they can be honest about their's, no matter how they choose to live it.

Coming Out

I have been posting very infrequently because I have been wrestling with why I am blogging at all and who this is for. I often have ideas of things I would like to write about but auto censor what I think because I don't want people to know my real opinions or I don't want people to be offended. Also most of the things I want to post about are to do with my life as a Mum. And I am self conscious about appearing as if all I think about is being a Mum.

So after much thought and some courage I have decided to come out of the closet, in a way. My blog is not read by many people if anyone and I am sick of editing myself. So I am going to be honest and say how my life really is. Being a new parent makes me particularly sensitive about saying "this is how it should be done" and to causing tension in my friendships. But I also think I have to be true to myself.

I am not ashamed of what I think and the decisions I make. So I need to stop acting like I am. It is sad that we live in a society which seems to have one right way of being as parents and anything else is wierd or downright dangerous.

So hopefully in the next wee while I will gain the confidence to be honest but not be insensitive toward others. I still write in the hope that someone, somewhere gets something out of it.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

I am a joiner

I while ago I heard someone comment about how some people are 'joiners'. They will join anything which moves and love to be on committees. The way it was described it seemed to be something to be embarrassed about and a sign of some personal insecurity. At the time I thought maybe that was true and I know there are people who seem addicted to committees. But I think I am proud to be a bit of a joiner.

I mentioned this in conversation today and a number of mums said that being part of things is how you form community. I have always wanted to be involved in things but often found work meant I was too busy or too tired to do it. Now that I am home and more flexible most of the week I have more time. And being a Mum puts you in touch with so many groups which only exist because of volunteers who believe in their cause. I love that finally I am able to contribute to the community in a tangible way and there is so much which can be done!

Living in Auckland can feel very lonely. So many people but no connections. Joining creates connections and community which is no small thing. One Mum I talked to today said it was wierd now that her oldest has started school cause she doesn't know all the parents of the kids. Suddenly people are strangers again after the preschool years where she knew all her kids friends and their parents.

I guess joining also gives life purpose. Each day can be very repetitive with a wee one and being part of a group gives me adult connection and motivation. It keeps my mind ticking over and keeps me reflecting on my parenting. At present I am helping out with my local La Leche League group. The women I have meant are inspiring, strong and intelligent. They are such a blessing and an invaluable support.

So I am a proud joiner. And I think with so much pressure on our time and the economic pressures facing everyone, what we all need is a few more joiners who can make life a little easier for others.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Eclectic Effervescence: Offense.

Eclectic Effervescence: Offense.

Eclectic Effervescence: Offense.

Eclectic Effervescence: Offense.

Check this out. Facebook must be very male dominated where its management is concerned!

Surrendering to a decision I had already made

Anyone who knows me will know that Ella's sleep has been a common topic of conversation. She still wakes at night and recently stopped napping in her cot during the day. Every few weeks I hit a wall of exhaustion and we re-evaluate how we are dealing with things and try to improve the situation. We got to the point at the weekend where I just felt desperate and exhausted and just couldn't go on with nothing changing. But here is the rub. I just can't and won't leave Ella to cry. Many people have sung the praises of leaving your bub to cry for three nights and how it worked wonders with their child's sleep. Now I believe these stories but I just couldn't get my head around leaving Ella to cry. So each time I got to the end of my rope I would ask for advice and be told that this was the only option.

But this week a miracle happened. I realised I had already decided what I wanted to do and the only step left was to surrender to it. I had a lovely chat to a mother who has chosen to raise her children in a gentle way. She has her babies sleep in her bed until they are gently ready to leave. She finally put into words what I have been struggling with. I know how I feel in my heart but I just kept getting stuck thinking that going with Ella's needs would lead my life into chaos and it scared me. All these fears stopped me surrendering to what I knew in my heart. And also it is hard to choose a different way of doing things without people to talk to about it and see how it is done.

So that night we decided to welcome Ella into our bed, not as a desperate way to cope with her waking, but as a normal way to parent your child when they do normal baby things, like waking in the night. We have also decided to change our practical bed arrangements to make it work. And for day naps if she needs to feed to sleep with me that is fine, or if she needs to be in the wrap or buggy that is fine too. I am going with her and not thinking about 'routines' and what other people are doing. We are going to do our own thing and go with our own pattern.

As soon as my husband and I made that decision I felt such a huge burden lifted and such peace and freedom. I am no longer reaching for some illusive perfection or the 'right way' to do things. Instead I can feel confident in my instincts, my research and my relationship with Ella.

As I look around our home I see that I had already made this decision. All the books I have read are gentle in approach. I am committed to breastfeeding for as long as it is a positive experience for us both, and I always gravitate towards parents who do things in a gentle way. So my conversation really just gave me permission and a practical way forward.

So I feel like a new woman. I am not going to work as much as I had, so I have more energy. I am going to bed with Ella so I get early nights and napping during the day even if their are other things to do. I am slowing myself down to move more at Ella's pace, rather than what I was trying to do before.

I have hope and joy back in my relationship with Ella. Life is good!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Dreams fulfilled

This week I got my dream job. For years I have wanted to work in a teen parent unit and the opportunity has come up to work part time teaching English. As I was interviewed and then started preparing for the term to start I have been amazed that so much of my teaching experience which I thought was a big mess of restlessness and bad decisions turns out to have prepared me so well for this role. I feel like my career path is being redeemed. And I have my passion back. I am full of ideas and excitement about working with these young women. And I am so grateful to God for his goodness. Ella will be just across the road so I can continue to feed her and see her when I need to and I am able to work the days which suit. I really couldn't ask for more.

I truly gave my work situation over to God and have so little energy and not much confidence in myself that I have really had to leave it all in His hands. And this means I have a real sense of peace about the job. He has opened all the doors and put everything in place so I can trust Him with how it will work out. And all my past experiences are helping me to have realistic expectations of people and what it will be like but also inspiring me to risk more in my commitment and vision for what I could do.

For the first time I think I have my dream job!

A beautiful moment

Sleep - the eternal debate. I have been struggling with helping Ella to sleep. She is a really alert baby and struggles to relax enough to sleep. But this morning as I fed her after trying to settle her for a while she peacefully closed her eyes, turned her head away and stretched towards her cot. I put her down and she drifted off. What a beautiful moment where I was able to help her to relax and then she was able to tell me she wanted to go to bed now. Many people have told me not to feed to sleep but Ella has told exactly what to do and I love that we can communicate so well now. It is times like these that all my confusion and questioning turns to clarity and love for my sweet girl and how smart she is.

Pride comes before a fall

Sometimes I have magical weeks where it seems like everything is going smoothly. Ella and I seem to have this whole thing sorted. I am doing lots and getting lots done. The house is clean, the laundry done and I have managed to cook each night. I feel I am awesome at this motherhood thing. But I also call these weeks manic weeks. Because it is not reality, it cannot last. I am doing too much and eventually the wheels fall off. Ella stops sleeping during the day, or I have a crisis of confidence or I get sick or any number of normal things happen and I realise again that perfection is not a target or a goal.

I am a very task orientated person and I love routine and achieving things each day. But being Ella's Mum is not about that. It is a relationship and you can't be in relationship with someone by setting up systems and structures. Instead you love and care for another person by being available, by listening, by risking and responding. And slowly I am letting myself truly relate and respond to Ella. Every day is different for me so why wouldn't it be for her?

I often fall into the trap of thinking predictability and structure will make life more manageable. But it doesn't. It often results in me doing too much and feeling like I have to perform each day at a certain level. Instead by going with my energy each day and where Ella is at I find that I am more joyful in each day. I am more in touch with my own voice and hers and feel so much more satisfaction. And I tend to avoid the huge crashes which come at the end of a 'manic week'.

So life muddles on. I has taken the best part of the week to recover from our camping trip and have the house in some semblance of tidiness. But in that time I have rested and enjoyed Ella. So I keep learning that when I feel so proud about how wonderfully I am managing everything maybe it is time to slow down and muddle a bit more.