Friday, 20 July 2018

This Life

I feel like my last couple of blogs and Instagram posts have been justifications of sorts, for how I choose to live and raise my little boy - the most precious job.


I absolutely realise that there is no need to justify myself, as it is my life after all, and I am beyond blessed to live it in whatever way I see fit.  I do like to clarify and explain some of mine and Reid's choices however, as sharing our life in a somewhat public way through blogging and a public Instagram profile (to help with raising awareness around mental health and share my journey) can raise some questions.  I also I find it reassuring to know that if anyone in our life wants to understand things but not talk to us about it (insert eye roll here), they can feel free to read things here if they like (insert thumbs up here).


I have everything I have ever wanted.  Not many people can say that.  It hasn't been easy; Reid and I have worked really hard to get where we are, to have gotten married, to have built our own home, to nurture and provide for Isaac to the best of our ability, to be comfortable, to have money (we aren't rich by any stretch of the imagination but we are comfortable and able to save, and that's a dream for a lot of people), to do little trips here and there, go out for breakfast or dinner, basically live a lifestyle that we love.  Reid has his dream job, I have a flexible, local job that I do like, although long-term I would like to look into some different options, but for now it is perfect to suit our needs, both financial and logistical with Isaac.


I have never been bitten by the travel bug.  Travel, particularly international travel, makes me incredibly anxious. Weird? To most people, yes.  I completely understand the incredible benefits of travel and immersing yourself in other cultures, all the wonderful experiences it offers - it's just not for me right now, and that's OK. It's not that I don't want to see places or experience new things, it's that I know myself well enough to realise it will (based on experience) be more stressful than enjoyable. Maybe when Isaac is bigger I will change my mind, but I would absolutely need to go along with someone who is a seasoned traveller... my sister and brother-in-law perhaps? Just a hint guys, let's go on a trip or two in 5-10 years? :)


I don't know why it's often seen as "settling" to want to live the way I do. A quiet, routine-filled, peaceful life with Reid and Isaac, with most of my family close by and some beautiful friends.  A lot of my friends definitely DO have the travel bug and that is great.  We still talk and catch up when they are here and I am so happy for them to be living the way they want.


Also...


We will probably only have one child.


Big statement, I know. I will probably go more in-depth about this topic in another post, but let me just say that it is actually OK to only have/want one child.  To truly weigh up the pros and cons of something so personal, yet something that everyone wants to weigh in on, is a really big deal. 


I feel at peace with the way we are living.  I feel like our little family is grounded and loved and we have finally struck a great balance between work, learning and play.  Lots of play.  How it should be.


Isaac forces us to be present.  We live minute to minute.  Watching him grow and discover his world with confidence is the greatest gift.  I feel like there is so much to learn from him at this age - from any two year old really.  They do what they want (with appropriate parent-set boundaries of course), they don't hide their emotions, they run and jump and slide and don't worry about what their body looks like, they don't care what people think of them, they just want to have fun, learn new things and cuddle the people they love when they feel like it (best).


At 28 years old, there is still nothing I enjoy more than a day at home, (this would be a scenario without Isaac) watching movies/a great series, reading books, drinking copious amounts of coffee and tea, cooking (or ordering) some kind of delicious meal, having a bath, lighting candles and applying a good quality face mask.  With Isaac, which is our most common, beautiful reality - we love to go out for breakfast, play somewhere outside if the weather allows, watch Isaac play in his own little world for as long as he will allow it, have "family cuddles" where he wraps his little arms around both of our necks, play with numerous trucks and trains, occasional catch ups with family and friends, more coffee, always coffee and always lots of adorable toddler chat.  Current favourites "Mummy, what are you cooking in there?" (if he sees the oven on), "No TV now Mummy, it's quiet time!" (I lost my mind laughing when he said this after a long day at childcare and he knows he doesn't usually get to have any screen time after about 4pm to encourage him to wind down for bed) and the best thing is his current favourite game - pretending to fall over before exclaiming "help! I need an ambulance!" I then have to make a siren sound, pretend to "fix" him, then he takes a few more steps and repeats the process. Fun... :)


This life of mine is pretty great. I love it, and that's what matters. I'm not settling, I'm living.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Heavy

My heart feels heavy.
I feel things intensely and deeply. Sometimes I see this as a good personality trait and at other times it seems too hard. 
Things change a lot when you become a parent, that's a universal fact. Your close circle changes and time becomes an even more limited commodity than it already is. 
Your child transforms before your eyes in what seems like a mix of incredibly long days, short weeks and even shorter months and years.  Sometimes the people you wanted to be around for that aren't, and that hurts. 
Catching up with people is also hard when you have spent the majority of your child's life riddled with anxiety and depression and having people around has intensified that to the point that it's just not possible most of the time.
I have come to realise that my health has inadvertently alienated some people from our life, and therefore Isaac's life, through no fault of his own.  I promise I have tried my best. I have said and done things that I have simply had to for my own sanity and peace of mind.  I have never meant to hurt anyone or exclude anyone and our circle is actually much smaller than I originally thought it would be.  That's OK, but it is hard not to blame myself for the possibility that Isaac is the one who is ultimately missing out.  We have had to shelter ourselves in a bubble for the most part as we have navigated the last two years.  Every child and family unit is so different, and unfortunately it doesn't feel like that fact is respected by many people.  If they can do it, why can't we? We only have one child, he has to learn, blah blah - I get that, but it's our life, and therefore our choice.  We are the ones who have to deal with the fallout of an over tired toddler, Reid is the one who has to comfort his sobbing wife because she can't handle the thought of going out or as she falls apart as soon as they get home.  That's not pleasant, and we avoid the situation altogether for now if we can.  We also value our time together, just the three of us.  I crave time alone with just Reid and Isaac if we have been too busy for too long.  That's just how it is.  And it's our prerogative at the end of the day. We are each other's priority.  That doesn't mean that we don't love our other family and friends, but for now, we need space and we need it often.
I want to take the time to thank the people who have been patient with Reid and I during this time and those who remain patient. The people who have understood that it's not that we don't want to go out and socialise or have people over a lot - but we just can't.  Isaac's routine is important to us; a year of sleep deprivation and dealing with my intense panic and emotional outbursts have taught us the hard way that we have to limit late nights and over stimulation for our little boy and for me.  I totally get that it's hard to understand if you aren't in our shoes.  Unfortunately, we have to do what we have to do and I will always prioritise what's going to be best for all of us at any given time.  I can literally feel the judgment coming our way from a lot of people that I thought would always support us and understand, and that hurts, but I get it.  It must be confusing if you haven't felt how I feel.  I hate that I'm at a point where I am writing this explanatory post that is probably coming across selfishly, I just want to try to explain.


Thank you again to those who have stood by us, and to those who have given up -


I'm sorry.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Happenings ~ 4th July 2018

DOING: Sitting on the couch, typing this while Isaac plays.  He is slowly getting a bit better at playing independently which is nice.

HEARING: Isaac's chatter.  I adore his little voice.  The way he says words and our conversations are some of my favourite things ever.

DRINKING: My answer to this tends to always be coffee... today is no different haha.  Coffee, green tea and water are my current favourites.  I have been adding some drops of organic grapefruit essential oil (doTerra brand) to my water which makes it even easier to get in lots through the day.

EATING AND COOKING: I am still very into bulk cooking. I made a delicious pork curry that lasted us a few days last week.  A lemon and chilli stir fry this week.  Bolognese usually once a fortnight or so.  Isaac has gone off frittatas a bit which is a shame because they were the perfect grab-and-go dinner on nights after day care.  He usually eats earlier than us on these nights because he is so tired.  Sometimes an egg on toast is his preference, other nights some pasta with carrots, corn and beans, he loves most veggies actually - I am really lucky to have a pretty good eater on my hands for now. I hope it continues!

WANTING: To freeze the precious moments we are having with Isaac as a curious, loving toddler (among the attitude and tantrums).



DECIDING: What to do this weekend.  Isaac hasn't been 100% but getting out of the house has become a bit of a lifesaver these days (how things have changed!), so hopefully we can get to a cafĂ© or a park for a play - pretty sure it's meant to be freezing though...

ENJOYING: Reid's new working hours and location.  It's been a few months now since Reid started his new job and I still can't believe what a huge difference it has made to us as a family.  He is home so much more and it's the best.  No more 11 hour days, no more insane stress.  It's the best.
I am also loving taking lunch breaks at work.  I changed gyms because my work is right next door to a Zap, and as much as I loved the feel of the smaller, family-run gym that was a bit further away, it just wasn't working for me logistically because of the limited opening hours.  I have been going to the gym as a lunch break and am loving it.  Reid and I have both been really focussing on our health this year and we are making good progress.

WATCHING: I've just started watching the new season of Jane the Virgin on Netflix.  I love that show!  Reid and I have been watching Luke Cage at night for the past week or so.  We have a bit of a soft spot for the Marvel shows, even though they are all very similar...
I also watched Nanette - a stand-up show by Hannah Gadbsy on Netflix.  That was beyond incredible.  I think everyone needs to see it.  So raw and funny and sad and honest - all that and more.  Watch it!

READING: I've been reading Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.  I finished Little Fires Everywhere by her not long ago.  I like her writing although I wouldn't say I've loved these books.  I am fussier than ever with books these days. I think because I have such limited time to actually read, I really want to be reading something great.  I am open to any suggestions!

BUYING: I have not been in saving mode lately... I need to get back there, but online shopping makes me happy haha.  I have been buying winter clothes for Isaac, I also bought him a beautiful natural, scented play dough kit from Happy Hands, Happy Heart which I highly recommend.  I love supporting small Australian businesses when I can.  I also recently subscribed to get a Goodness Me Box each month - I can't wait to get my first one.  I will start saving more next month... I swear!  Most of our money honestly seems to go on groceries - SO expensive!

PLANNING: I have just booked us a couple of nights away in March (I know that's ages away!).  Reid and I are going to have the first two weeks of March off to spend time with Isaac on his birthday and enjoy some family time.  We are going to go to Orford for a couple of nights and hopefully just spend some time unwinding and relaxing as much as we can with a three year old (yep, Isaac will be three... what??).  I think Isaac will love a little trip, right on the beach and the accommodation I've booked has a big outdoor hot tub and lots of space for Isaac to play and run around.  We can't wait.



CRAVING: Um... I'm not really sure that I'm craving anything!  Chocolate never goes astray, I haven't had chocolate for ages actually! Who am I??

LOVING: So many things.  Time with Isaac (for the most part), my incredible husband who supports me and loves me no matter what, the little routine we are all in at the moment - things feel good.

PLAYING: Lots of indoor-friendly things because it has been so cold!  Isaac's current favourite thing is a big bowl filled with warm water and some of bath-wash to make bubbles, then he uses a scrubbing brush to "wash" his cars and trucks and animals that can get wet.  It keeps him occupied for quite a long time which is a big win.  We have also been playing with play dough, Lego and magnetic tiles.  And trucks.  Always trucks.  Isaac is certifiably obsessed.

FEELING: Tired but content.  Things have been really busy at work and we have had a few family things on as well so there hasn't been a lot of down-time lately, but I feel pretty good compared to how I would have coped with stressful, busy things a year ago.  There is always progress, even if sometimes I take a step or two back.  I am now only on one medication which feels like a miracle.  I have been a bit quiet on the blog lately because I have struggled a LOT with withdrawal over the past few months and was largely focussed on just getting through each day.  The symptoms finally seem to be easing a bit which is great, I am feeling more human again and more able to see how far I have come and how wonderful my life really is.  I am feeling lucky and grateful and calm. It's rare and wonderful and I'm cherishing every second.



Thursday, 17 May 2018

Motherhood: The Modern Day Crisis

Motherhood is in crisis.
Childhood is in crisis.
Our health system is often failing new mothers. The number of parents being diagnosed with perinatal depression and/or anxiety is at an all-time high.
Mothers often aren't even given the change to tell their birth story. Speaking from experience, this is a really important thing to do.
Mothers are more often than not, sent home from hospital exhausted, physically and mentally; beyond depleted in every way. 
Where are we going wrong?

Nicole Kingston, the family therapist/sleep consultant/all-around-wonder-woman I have been heavily relying on for all things parenting for well over a year now, aims to find out, and bring these issues and their solutions, to the attention of as many parents as she can.

It's no secret how much anxiety can rule my life at times. It sneaks in everywhere and I know it was affecting the way I parent, even when I knew I had to somehow reel it in.  Enter Nicole.   She introduced me to Nancy, and now, I will introduce her to you (you can thank me later).  Short answer - she's a huge bitch. She's that little voice in your head who tells you all kinds of untrue things that feel true. Sometimes, she completely takes over and it seems impossible to decipher what is Nancy and what is actually you.  I was in this predicament for a long time.  It doesn't take long for me to slide back there, but thanks to Nicole, I have the strategies and know-how to kick her to the curb most of the time. Are you feeling like you are constantly berating yourself?  Is there a voice that often starts by saying: "You should..." "You are..." "You can't..."?  I think most of us do. THAT bitch, is Nancy.  She's negative and loud and causes so many issues.  One of Reid's favourite things to say to me is "what would Nicole do/say?"  She has become the voice of reason in our parenting, and even our marriage at times!  The two are so intertwined after children, it seems to mesh into one big pile of emotion quite frequently. 


Why is it so hard? How did previous generations do it? What's different about this time to be a mother; to bring children into a world full of screens, technology, constant information and overwhelming loneliness amongst constant technology-related connectedness?  There's no doubt that being a mother, no matter what the time/era, is hard work.  It is also hard to be a father, I am not trying to take away from that at all, but as I sat amongst a room full of mothers at one of Nicole's workshops a few weeks ago, we all agreed that mentally/emotionally, mothers usually struggle more, for a number of reasons.  (We did grow and birth our babies [naturally or by C-section is completely irrelevant], causing so many physical and hormonal changes - maybe that has something to do with it!?) We are trying to be everything, for everyone, all of the time.  The mental load on us as women, as mothers, as wives/partners, as people, is simply too much. Click here to further understand the idea of the mental load.  (Side note: I am a proud feminist, truly believing there is a lot of work to be done in the name of equality. I am not, however, a "man-hater/basher", I am merely expressing my own opinion that has been sharpened by talking about others' experiences and also my own research).


We work, we clean, we wash, we cook, we are expected to look a certain way, feel a certain way, act a certain way. A lot of this pressure we feel from others, although most of it, I think, we put on ourselves.  Social media provides "company", but also endless dangerous and unrealistic comparisons. Watching people's highlights can make us feel inadequate, unworthy and helpless.  We very rarely pick up the phone to actually call people.  This leads me to a very important point and something Nicole discusses in depth:


We don't have a village anymore.


I totally understand that not everyone was lucky enough to have a village in past generations, but a lot did.  Mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters - they were to help, to nurture, to teach.  Now, they are usually at work, while we begin maternity leave with a baby we often have no idea what to do with, regardless of how much experience with babies/kids we might have.  It's no secret that I have heavily relied on my Mum, but she also works full-time.  Not only that, but there seems to be a widespread feeling of shame in asking for help with mothering/parenting today.  We somehow expect ourselves to be able to provide   EVERYTHING for our children, no matter what the circumstance. I just don't see how that is possible.  They need more than us.  They need to develop relationships with people other than their parents.  They need safe places to go when they can't stand us.  They need space.  We all need space.  Nicole has helped teach me that it is unrealistic to expect to be everything for your child, 100% of the time.  Nancy will try to tell us that we are failing if we need help.  That we should just be able to do everything and cope.  Often we think that's what "everyone else" is doing. Once again, we have social media (mostly) to thank for that. The bottom line, however, is that we DO need help, and we shouldn't be ashamed to ask for it.


We live in a demanding world.  We are over-scheduling, glorifying being busy, aiming for perfection (that doesn't exist), finding conflicting information at our fingertips, being bombarded by articles, blog posts, perfect Instagram photos and Facebook updates - no wonder we are confused, lost and tired!  I know I might not speak for everyone, but most of the Mums I know are depleted and overwhelmed and struggle to really know what their intuition is telling them.  How do we parent intuitively if we can't even hear what it is saying? Nicole puts it so simply. What do you want? Do you want your baby to sleep? Do you want your baby to play independently? Are you willing to make changes to get what you want; what you know, your intuition is telling you.  What deep down you know is best for you and your child, regardless of what’s simply easier. That is your intuition. It takes me a LOT of effort to actually listen to mine.  For a long time, I simply didn’t think it existed.  That’s because Nancy was absolutely running the show.  I think we could all stand to try to tune into our intuition more.  Trust me, it’s there


Here's some truths from me:
I struggle a lot. I need lots of help. I need a break a lot. I probably shouldn’t have another child because I struggle with just the one, but my heart aches for one. I love Isaac so much, but I find the whole motherhood thing incredibly overwhelming and exhausting. I am so tired, all the time. I feel like I can never quite get my focus in the right place. I can never fit everything in. I am scrambling around, trying to keep everything afloat, my mental load is heavy and I drop things frequently. 
I am also a fighter.  I keep going.  I reach out to people who know me well and whose opinions I trust to give me advice and offer a hand with Isaac.  Raising a human is a really big deal.  It’s not just about keeping them warm and fed and safe after a certain point.  What kind of person do you want them to see as they grow up?  I certainly don’t want Isaac’s main memories to include a constantly frazzled, rushed, grumpy Mum.  Obviously that’s who I will be at times, but I don’t want that to be who he sees for the majority of the time.  I want to be able to enjoy him, to enjoy being his Mum, to have fun, to laugh and play and also not feel guilty when I need a break.  We put such high expectations on ourselves, it’s just so damaging.  It doesn’t have to be this way.


You might not have a village right now, but you can have Nicole as part of your support system.  What I’ve discussed is just the tiniest snippet of the knowledge she has and offers to parents who work with her.  Head to her website and have a look, you won’t regret it.


You don’t have to have it together all the time.  Ask for help.  Take a breath.  You deserve some calm among the chaos.  You’ve got this Mama. x

Sunday, 1 April 2018

The Skeleton Tree

I spent a lot of my childhood with my Dad in the bush.  His favourite place to be.  Mine... not so much.  I am a beach girl.  Give me sand and waves and salty air any day.  My parents own a 500 acre bush block that I have honestly avoided going to as much as possible.  It has no phone reception, is in the middle-of-nowhere and is just not a place I love to be with the bugs and snakes and no flushing toilet.  The last two times I have been, however, the pure joy that Isaac has experienced, has helped me to see it in a different light.  No reception is actually really freeing.  It forces me away from my phone (other than to take photos here and there) and seeing my little boy running and laughing and leading his Poppy around in his very bossy two-year-old manner has made me realise that it's actually a pretty relaxing place to be.  It definitely helps that there is a shack-like building there now with chairs and beds and running water.  I'm planning on going there more often to really stop and enjoy the fresh air, the fact that I can't access Facebook or Instagram, the fact that my Dad and Isaac (particularly) are SO happy there.  Reid loves it too and even my Mum is forced to slow down (marginally) and just... be.

I have somehow rambled on about something that's not overly relevant to this post, although I guess somehow it all ties together in the end.  These thoughts comes from a pretty raw, emotional place with an analogy that my brain can't let go of lately.  Here it goes...  

I have always been fascinated with skeleton trees.  They are kind of scary.  They have always represented something strong and dark to me.  As we were driving home from the bush block yesterday, I was thinking about the corners of the mind, and how sinister some parts are.  Skeleton trees can be surrounded by green grass, fresh growth, trees with endless leaves and peeling, brown bark - yet there they stand; grey, gnarled branches reaching to the sky, encroaching on what could be seen as a perfect landscape.  To me, anxiety and depression is a lot like a skeleton tree.  New growth and positive things can grow and blossom and be at the forefront, but the reality is, the skeleton tree remains.  Sometimes it lurks in the background but its branches can easily puncture a positive memory, moment or even weeks of time.

When I was first diagnosed with postnatal depression, the entire landscape of my mind was like a desert.  I spent all day, every day, fighting inwardly with myself.  I tried desperately to grow new trees, or even some new grass, but all I could see was an endless expanse of those white tree trunks, their spindly branches seeming to grow more and more as grief took over.  I find that grief is a really appropriate way to describe my experience with PND.  It's the whole reason I still talk about it, because I continue to grieve so many things I lost.  The loss of breastfeeding, the loss of certainty around having more children, the loss of being there for Isaac overnight for over 6 weeks of his new life, the loss of positive associations to do with pregnancy, birth and beyond.  It hits me with such force sometimes that I honestly can't breathe (cue panic attack).  It's not something I will get over.  It is something I am still learning to live with.  I have pushed and fought and persevered against those dead branches that threatened to completely take over at some points.  I planted new trees with every ounce of energy I had.  Some days I literally sat in a chair all day; staring at my baby, sobbing my heart out, holding him close and begging myself to feel something positive.  It is not something I will move on from.  Those memories will always be there.  The branches will always encroach when I think about expanding our family, when I look back at photos of Isaac as a newborn, when I remember that I didn't want to exist.  That I wanted it to end.  Being that low and afraid is something that haunts me.  I write about it and talk about it because I won't "move on" from it.  It is my journey and to be able to see how far I have come, I need to be able to look back even though it hurts.  It's not something I can control.  I also know that I am not alone in this fight and that talking isn't only healing for me, it opens up so many conversations about the importance of maternal mental health.  Mums need to be emotionally cared for better post-birth.  My concerns were brushed aside during and after labour.  I knew I didn't feel right, that what I was experiencing wasn't "normal", but nobody took me seriously which made me feel ashamed and even more depressed.  I should never have left hospital feeling the way I did.  Talking about it is the only way we will ever create change.  So, I will always keep talking.

I am so glad that a lot of new trees have grown in my mind since then.  I am able to marvel at the recovery I have made, although clearly I haven't made peace with everything that has happened.  The skeleton trees are there, they always will be, but maybe I can come to appreciate them one day and realise that I didn't let them win.  They are part of the landscape but they aren't the defining part.  Their branches might reach out at times and they can win momentarily; but there is much more green than desert.  The new trees are tall and strong, and the wind they blow bends the skeleton trees away from being my constant focus.  The focus is my beautiful boy.  My resilient, sweet, amazing little boy.  He runs through the trees and doesn't even see the skeletons, he's much more interested in the green grass and the trees that thrive and grow because of him.  Every new memory we make is a new tree to plant.  The skeleton trees will remain, but the new trees are beautiful, solid and still growing.  They grow alongside you, Isaac.  You are the reason I fight.  You have taught me that skeleton trees can be beautiful too.  You have taught me that new trees will always grow with you holding my hand and leading the way.  You have changed my life so indescribably.  You are everything to me and more little one; I only hope that you will always see our journey as constantly having new growth, despite the skeleton trees that remain.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Good Things

It's not a secret that I tend to be pretty negative sometimes (a lot).  I thought I might try to write a post about all the positive things that are happening in my life right now.  There is always heaps going on, both good and bad - but I'm trying to consciously switch my focus more and be present in the moment.  Having a little boy who is evolving before my very eyes is really making me feel like I need to slow things down and enjoy every minute with him and Reid as every day things are changing.  Things are good.  There is always so much good.

The Gym: Yep, you read that right - I am loving the gym! I haven't exercised properly in years, and to back in the swing of regular exercise feels great.  I had a PT session and a program was made for me that is a moderate, full body workout that I do 2-3 times per week, gradually going up in weights as my strength improves.  This will be reviewed in 12 weeks and my program will be changed.  It's such a good way for me to workout as I have NO idea what I should be doing otherwise.  I have a long way to go but I feel stronger and fitter already, and having that bit of time to focus on my health is really good for me mentally as well.

Reid's new job: About two months ago, Reid was approached by a building company he had been working closely with in his previous job.  They told him he was the best salesman they had ever come across (coming from people who have been in the industry for over 30 years!) and they wanted him to be in charge of their sales/marketing department.  This was a scary decision for us, as a new job always is - but after a lot of thought, Reid took the job.  It is less hours, more money, closer to home and is basically his dream job.  I am SO proud of him.  He has come such a long way and is really passionate and dedicated to making this opportunity work.  Not to mention he now has so much more time at home with Isaac and I - it is already making such a big difference to our family dynamic and having the load shared more evenly is doing wonders for all of us.



Having a two year old: Isaac is blowing our minds right now.  The talking, the playing, the determined independent behaviour, the eagerness to learn and explore and just his general outlook are incredible to be a part of.  I am finding this age is my favourite to-date.  Yes, there are a few more tantrums but I honestly don't see that as misbehaving for the most part.  I try to be empathetic - it would be so hard being a two year old.  Wanting so badly to do things for yourself and have some control over your life but just not quite being big enough yet.  His favourite phrase at the minute is "my turn! I'll do it!" which covers everything from trying to peel a banana, to putting his shoes on and picking a plate to eat from.  His little voice and mannerisms and personality just melt me.  Last night as we were putting him to bed, he wrapped one arm around my neck and one around Reid's and pulled us in for a family cuddle <3 "love you Mummy and Daddy" - he literally makes my heart burst!




Lessening of social anxiety: The first eighteen months of Isaac's life were spent in the Mother Baby Unit and then our house. That's pretty much it.  Sometimes I was able to go places with Reid or Mum and have Isaac with us but this was rare.  Gradually, over the last six months or so, I feel like I can go places with him.  We have been getting out most weekends and I even took him to the doctor by myself for the first time a few weeks ago.  This is a huge deal for me because going anywhere with Isaac used to cause me to have major panic attacks.  Things are changing and it feels great.

Medication changes: I still have a long way to go with this one but two years ago I was taking one clonazepam tablet three times a day, now I only take half a tablet, once a day.  The weaning process from this has been really tough (and it continues to be) but I am getting there, and I know it will be worth it in the end.

Fundraising Ideas: Being a community champion for PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) has opened my eyes to so many ways to help struggling parents.  Their annual fundraising week is in November, which I know seems far away but will be here before I know it.  I have been brainstorming ideas and liaising with the coordinator of the program and I think I am coming up with a few good options (more on that later).  It feels so good to be actively doing something that I am passionate about.  Sharing my story, helping an organisation that exists purely to help people like me and hopefully being able to raise money for them is a really exciting thought.

Writing about good things that are happening has me feeling uplifted and grateful.  I should probably try it more often!  I know I am beyond blessed to be living this life of mine.  I am surrounded by so many good people, good things, good moments. Trying to focus on these is something I am working on.  It may sound silly to have to force yourself to be positive and remind yourself of all the things in life that are going well - but for someone with an anxiety disorder it can be really difficult.  I am feeling very lucky and content at the moment.  Good things are always there, even when I might be struggling to see them.  I have come a long way, and there is a long way to go, but all of this is a step in the right direction.


Sunday, 11 February 2018

Away

Right now, I'm sitting on a beautiful outdoor couch, looking over a gorgeous beach and have just finished my second glass of wine for the day.  I am feeling refreshed, the knots that have been in my stomach for weeks are slowly untangling and my head feels clearer. 

It has been a really hectic start to the year.  I just want to begin this post by saying I find this topic incredibly difficult to be objective about.  There are so many factors that go into needing a "break" and what that entails for every parent; and not just parent, every person.  Some people desperately need a break but don't have the luxury of being able to have one.  Some people don't have a village, and that thought makes me incredibly sad.  Some people feel they can't leave their children, and I totally get that as well.  Before I had kids (those famous four words...), I was never going to leave them. "I didn't have kids so other people could raise them".  Is a sentence I strongly believed in... and then we had Isaac.  And then I was struck down with severe PND/anxiety.  And then we couldn't get Isaac to sleep.  And then I went back to work.  And then Reid got sick.  The list goes on.

To sum it up; a lot has been going on.  Just over two weeks ago, Reid was really unwell.  I think the biggest reason for this was stress. Migraines, head spins, extreme fatigue.  It really worried me and it took him a while to be OK again.  During that time, I spoke with my Mum and asked if she would mind having Isaac for two nights so we could just "get away".  I am incredibly lucky that my Mum already has Isaac once a week while I work on Fridays, and she usually has him that night as well and I pick him up early on Saturday morning.  That break alone is more than a lot of parents get, I totally understand that and am beyond grateful.  Friday nights, Reid and I usually crash onto the couch and then go to bed by 9pm for a full night of sleep (side note: Isaac is MUCH better than he used to be with sleeping, but some nights are still a struggle, as they are for all parents).  I booked a holiday house for us in the beautiful little town of Orford, only a bit over a 30 minute drive from where we live and proceeded to get very excited at the thought of two whole days of relaxing with Reid.  Then it appeared - the GUILT.  This whole post is inspired by it, really.



How can I bear to be away from Isaac for two nights? Why don't other parents feel this overwhelmed? Why do I always feel like I'm drowning?  Why do I need so much help from my Mum? She's already so busy and does so much, am I asking too much of her? I'm already away from Isaac 4 days a week while I work, why do I feel like I need this time away?

My mind then goes to every single parent I know.  Do they ever feel like this? Do they think I'm a monster for wanting to go away? Are people just constantly judging me?

It's exhausting.

I have to argue with myself and weigh up every possible option and formulate an argument about why we are going away, just in case someone asks.  Just in case they don't understand why we need this.  Just in case they think I'm a bad mother who doesn't want to be around my child.

It's just not true. I love Isaac more than anything.  I do find him exhausting, but aren't all nearly-two-olds?  Our situation is ours, and ours alone.  I am a better Mum when I realise I need a little bit of time to breathe, and I am lucky enough to have a great support system so that can become a reality.  And the more I think about this little break Reid and I have had, the more I realise that it hasn't just been for us, it has been for Isaac too.  Not only does he get to build beautiful relationships with people other than just us, but when we get back home, we will be more patient, more tolerant and rested enough to tackle the tantrums without melting down ourselves. 



Every parent is different.  Every child is different.  I am a Mum who gets depleted really quickly while I try to juggle all the different things we have going on at the minute (more on that in another post).  I am a Mum who needs to fill up my cup so I'm not a horrible person to be around.  I am a Mum who believes in fostering independence in my son and him building relationships with other people.  I am a Mum who works really hard inside and outside of the home.  I am a Mum who needs time to connect with my husband and talk with him about topics that don't involve work or washing or whose turn it is to change Isaac's nappy. 

I love my son, but in order to love him the best way I can, I needed a break.  Reid needed a break.  We were running on empty and that just wasn't good for any of us.

The last day and a half we have lazed around in lovely holiday home.  We've walked on the beach, gone to restaurants and cafes, read books, watched movies, drank wine/cider, relaxed in a lovely spa bath and talked. 

We needed this.  We don't need it every weekend, but we need it occasionally.

I didn't go into parenthood thinking I would ever want to be away from my child.  Now that I am away from him for longer than usual, I miss him like crazy, and know I will appreciate him all the more when I see him tomorrow. 



I still feel guilty for doing this, but the more I talk about it, the more I am confident in my decision and realise how necessary it was for us.  I still worry about being judged and people thinking I am a bad Mum, but I have to come to terms with the fact that I know what I need to do to love and cherish Isaac the best way I can.  The term "it takes a village" doesn't exist for no reason.  Parenting has changed SO much in recent years, the support of extended family just doesn't often exist like it used to.  One or two people can't possibly be everything for one child.  Our incredible family therapist, Nicole Kingston, so aptly put it like this in a Facebook post just as I was feeling at the lowest point about our decision to get away:

They learn different things from so many different people.
We can't teach them everything, we can't be perfect, we can't be their village.
They need so much more than us.
But isn't that a lovely thought. A freeing thought. We don't have to be everything.
We can relax.
We can take a breath. We can make mistakes. Knowing that they will get what they need from all those loving people around them. 
The pressure is off.
Yes, we are very important to them, but we are not the only important ones.

I am so grateful that Isaac is loved by so many different people.  Reid and I will always be his number one supporters, but we have our own supporters who we would be lost without.  I have to be confident in my choices and beliefs, and right now, I believe Reid and I needed this time together.  Most of the time we have just talked about Isaac and missed him and discussed where we will take him on a family trip we plan on taking soon, but we have had that chance to actually talk to each other, rather than just sitting, exhausted on the couch in front of the TV. 

We love our son, but our cups were empty.  Returning to him happy and relaxed and looking forward to being with him makes me feel like a good Mum.  As I said before; everyone is different.  Our reality is beautiful and messy and chaotic (and we only have one toddler!), and I know this little escape from that reality will make me all the more grateful to return to it.