What being a mum of 5 has taught me about having babies

I know I say it a lot, but I have given birth to five babies. That’s quite a few! I often wonder how on earth my body grew and birthed these little humans! Knowing all too well how hard it is to get pregnant and the worries for nine months until the baby is safely in my arms, having five children is really something I celebrate every day, even though being a mum is exhausting and has made my tummy very wobbly!

I hear lots of new parents worrying about some of the main aspects of pregnancy and parenting – that is the birth, feeding and sleep. So, I considered what I did with each of my children and how it has affected them as they have grown up.
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Stop breastfeeding easily with these 5 essential products 

There’s lots of advice out there for starting breastfeeding but not much about what happens when you want or need to stop.

Last week, under doctor’s orders, I stopped breastfeeding my baby. As it happens, it was the day she turned 6 months old. Having had two children close together and my fourth child feeding until he was 16 months old, as much as I treasure breastfeeding, I was feeling worn out with it.

Despite being on antidepressants and battling anxiety, I was determined to feed my baby until she was 6 months if I could. Each week that went past was a personal achievement. I can honestly say that while she was an absolute dream to feed, and thrived, I didn’t. I felt awful. Perhaps my body is finally saying enough is enough!

So, having given her a few bottles in the day, which thankfully she took well, I was encouraged to keep going. I knew that once I had started the new feeding routine I would want to do the full transition. I also knew what I was in store for… engorgement, discomfort, emotional imbalance (aka moody!). But, being a pro at this by now, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so any readers can get ahead and avoid the inevitable gripes that go with this.

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A picture of health

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This is a picture of Abi and me on holiday in about 2011. I love the health and happiness radiating from BOTH of us in this picture. Of course, there was never any sign that Abi would have a brain haemorrhage two years later but what struck me when I saw this was not Abi particularly, but me. This is how I remember Abi, but it’s not what I think of when I see me.

While I was never overweight, I had worked hard to get myself fit after having three children. I was caring about myself for the first time and it shows. I felt confident, happy in my own skin, mentally calm…

Since Abi died, I feel like a bleak shadow of that former me. My skin appears greyer, my eyes tired, my fingernails are chewed and sore, my body unfit and neglected…

I stopped exercising as it brought on palpations when my anxiety took over. I didn’t see the point in loving myself anymore. I failed my daughter, why should I care about myself?

I am now tied into a pattern of compulsive eating, because food is my only comfort. I’ve gained weight (obviously being pregnant twice in 3 years has something to do with that!). I’m not one to worry about my weight but I know my pattern of behaviour is not healthy, physically or mentally. It’s almost self-destructive. It’s a common trait of the bereaved.

I posted on my faith blog, By His Light, yesterday about how I mourn so much harder when life is tough. When there is illness, overwork, stress and anxiety. When parenting challenges me to my core and being fair or consistent goes out of the window. I feel more tearful as the pressures mount and miss Abi terribly.

I withdraw at times like this… because I need the solace. I want to build a wall around myself where I can just hide under a duvet and wallow… for a while, until it passes. I don’t want others to see this vulnerable me, I want them to see only the me I know… and like.

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Of course, I can’t do that. I have three children to look after, a home and business to run. A husband who needs his wife to keep it together. A baby growing inside me who needs to be nurtured.

So I turn to food as my pick-me-up, several times a day. It helps for the briefest moment so I’m back again in an hour or so. I feel excited by food. Yet I’m starting to feel the discomfort of the weight (not least the baby pressing on my lungs)… I suppose it represents, physically, the emotional weight of grief.

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A (grieving) mother’s little helper – will antidepressants numb the pain?

I’ve been sitting here staring at the packet for half an hour.

Antidepressants.

These little pills, I know, are offering me the chance to numb my mind for a while from the anxiety and depression that’s taken hold of me. I’ve resisted them for so long that it feels strange to finally be here. As I said in this post, I can’t help feel like I’m failing.

I wonder if I’m really depressed enough to take them. After all, I’m generally okay. I’m not walking the streets in my pyjamas. I don’t feel a black cloud above me all the time. I’m still functioning as I always do, albeit with my mood swinging on a pendulum. I can be switched on one day, enough to write posts like this, but the next I can only stare at the screen blankly, my mind a fog.

But is this enough to start these tablets? I’ve spent over two years avoiding using them. I know this is a last resort for me.

I’ve been here before you see.

Do I really want to go here, again?

The answer is no. I don’t want to go here again, but I feel I must. Continue reading “A (grieving) mother’s little helper – will antidepressants numb the pain?”

Coping with pelvic pain in pregnancy

Huffpost Parents shared a link to this blog post today about the reality of pelvic pain in pregnancy. I wrote my own post when I was heavily pregnant with Grubbalo at the end of 2013 but never got round to posting it. I know many readers have suffered with this common ailment so it might be useful to read my story.

I’m so grateful that I’ve got this far in my pregnancy; that the baby seems to be okay, squirming around in there. But I can’t deny that it’s physically and emotionally demanding. I see lots of women whose bumps seems to be attached to them and other than that they look pretty much the same, can get around the same and it doesn’t seem to slow them down. It’s hard not to envy that when you have pregnancies like mine.

I wouldn’t say I have difficult pregnancies, far from it. I’m very lucky to not have months of sickness or problems which leave me on bed rest or in hospital. I know getting pelvic pain is simply ‘how I am’ when I’m pregnant.

I had this with each of my four pregnancies, getting worse with each one. And despite being physically fitter before this pregnancy than I was with my others, I’m six years older so perhaps that’s a factor?

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Nesting – beyond the firstborn!

I saw a link to this thread on Mumsnet‘s Facebook page about how ‘precious’ we can be around our first child. A comment that had me giggling for ages after was that one mum actually squirted Johnson & Johnson’s No Tears Shampoo into her own eyes to test it really was ‘no tears! Oh dear!

It reminded me that when I was pregnant with my fourth baby last year, I wrote this post about how my attitude to so-called ‘nesting’ had changed since I had my first child over 10 years before. I seem to have gone from feathering my first nest to, perhaps, just tidying that nest a little bit with my second and third, to simply trying to keep all the twigs together by my fourth nest! So, without further ado, here is my list of ways nesting was different for me:

Nesting, then and now
Having spent most of the afternoon cleaning the house, I realised I’ve not actually achieved much more than the basics… and now it’s a tip again! I thought it might be the nesting instinct (pregnant woman with duster = feathering her nest), but in fact I’m just doing the bloody cleaning!

I thought it might be fun to compare some of the things I did first time around in 2000, when expecting my first child, with now (and my other children). Ah… the days of organised living… *goes off into daydream of tidier times*

nesting-instinct
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Postpartum oppression (or, how not to freak out a pregnant woman!)

Why is it that some people seem to enjoy scaring or putting down a pregnant woman?

At eight months pregnant I was entering the ‘anxious, this isn’t funny anymore stage’ – one minute looking at the pram with excitement, the next feeling terrified of how my son was going to arrive into this world. I was thinking of the birth and soaking up things to fret about, I didn’t want to but I couldn’t help it, and this was my fourth time! It should be like shelling peas!

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Guest post: The ways my heart is broken

I met (on Twitter) a remarkable woman who tragically lost her darling son Hugo in March this year. He was born at just 24 weeks and lived 35 days. I gave birth to my son on 24th February, just four days after Leigh had Hugo, and her story really struck me and again reminded me how fragile life is. Leigh is a woman after my own heart, she wants to break the taboo surrounding baby loss and ‘start a conversation’ about it. Our babies, no matter what age, are all very special and deserve to be remembered.

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It’s my grief and I’ll cry if I want to…

I have a thing about crying. I find it hard to do. Always have.

Before Abi died, I wasn’t really one for crying at sad films or soppy love stories, although having children certainly made me more likely to have a little cry if it was about them (school plays, dance shows etc). But in general, I usually only cry when my anxiety has built to a point where I can no longer contain my emotions, particularly surrounding my grief. I have waves, huge tsunami-type waves, of grief emotion inside yet I can’t let it surface.

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New life, new grief

And so, our new baby son was safely born six weeks ago. It’s taken this long for me to have the will to write again, although I’ve jotted thoughts down as they arose and have again found many things surprising.

It was the perfect home birth. Four hours in labour and out he popped, small and perfect. Then a few cups of tea and a doze on the sofa before our other children came down to meet him. I know all too well the importance of a positive birth experience in the emotional recovery of the mother. I’ve experienced the bad side of this myself, but this time it was even more important that I had a good experience. Not just for my well-being but for my husband’s and children’s. We’d all seen enough trauma already.

So we were naturally delighted to meet the little boy whose purpose, it seems, is to give our family new hope. Friends and family have shared our joy and relief that things went well.

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