Boob Journey

It is hard to believe that I have a toddler now and a whole year of motherhood has flown by already. I always cringed when I saw mum posting photos of their kids with the caption “where did my baby go?” but now I find myself refraining from doing the same. It all really does go by so quickly and life becomes so fast paced (I thought life was too much before kids- LOL) that you don’t often get a chance to reflect on everything that you have done or achieved in such a short space of time. I remember climbing into bed for a nap when I was around 17 weeks pregnant and I felt this tiny little flutter in my lower belly that felt like a pulse and I could have sworn I was having a abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), but I soon realised it was my teeny tiny baby kicking for the first time and I burst into a fit of tears. It was the first time I felt truly connected to my baby and the first time it really sank in that this was all really happening. I cut to now and that little baby has made some of her first steps (she is a very reluctant walker) and it is so crazy to think back at the little journey we have gone on together. One thing that scared me about giving birth, was that, although I wanted so badly to meet my daughter, I knew there were lots of other people waiting to meet her too and I was terrified that this little connection would wither once she no longer was connected to me physically. I had such a horrible pregnancy and then a traumatic birth and my first week of motherhood had me at one of the lowest lows I had ever experienced, but I was so determined to breast feed. Throughout my life I have always been a bit of a quitter, I cannot really handle a lot of pressure before I either burst into tears or throw in the towel. I had given up during pregnancy and decided I wanted to be induced to get it over with and I gave up during birth opting to have an epidural, despite not wanting one, but I was absolutely not going to give up breastfeeding because it made me uncomfortable. I had tried to research breast-feeding beforehand so I had an idea about how to latch properly or deal with issues as they arouse, but all the reading in the world could not prepare me for what breast-feeding actually entailed. Charlie did the boob crawl thing where she naturally found the nipple herself and latched perfectly the first go and I told myself “oh my god, this is so much easier than I expected “ and it immediately went down hill from there. 12 hours after giving birth and my nipples were already on fire and everything I had tried to learn went out the window. Every single midwife gave me different advice about how to get a good latch. They all took turns at playing with my bleeding nipples to angle them into Charlie’s mouth and grabbing Charlie’s long bruised head and forcing it onto said bleeding nipple. It was agonising. I ended up being given a nipple shield by an ICU nurse that took pity on me crying through a feed, which was a saving grace; only to be told by my midwife upstairs that nipple shields should not be used until you have a proper supply, which I did not have for another 2 weeks. I digress. Every 3 hours I would try and breathe through the pain of the first 5 minutes of a feed and discuss with my fellow mama pal Naomi at 3 in the morning about our new fear of towels and accidentally brushing your nipples with one when drying ourselves. After 5 weeks of this, my nipples had adjusted and then everything became much easier. I was now a professional breast feeder and loved every second of it. I never became engorged (except over night when Charlie would sleep longer than 3 hours) and I never leaked, so I was kind of blessed in that regard. I had just enough milk and never really had an excess of milk, it was just the perfect amount for us. I loved the connection breastfeeding allowed me to have with Charlie. It kept us physically connected just that little bit longer and not to mention all the other good stuff and happy hormones that came with it. I have never really been one to be overly possessive, however I get really put out and a bit queasy every time someone other than my husband and I call my daughter “my Charlie” or “my baby” and breast feeding was my passive aggressive way of saying “in your dreams”. When she was sick, breastfeeding helped me feel like I was helping her to get better. Apparently kissing your babies skin sends information to your milkmen who add what your baby needs to your milk! Science is crazy! Thanks milk men! When Charlie woke at night, I would bring her into bed with me, feed her laying down and then put her back to bed, keeping us both still semi sleepy.

I had initially told myself that I would breastfeed for 6 months, but pretty soon 6 months had gone by and I was still so comfortable breastfeeding and found it so convenient for feeding in public, soothing her and just because. I never ran into conflict breastfeeding in public, but was always prepared and ready to throw down if someone had a problem with it and was willing to make a comment. Some of my favourite moments of motherhood involved Charlie had I just staring into each other’s eyes while feeding and just knowing that it was her and me in that moment and nothing else mattered.

 When Charlie was 7 months old I went back to work 2 days a week and she went to day care. The adjustment at first was a lot. I felt like I did not get enough time off with her, and felt resentment to everything and everyone. Initially I was so down about going to work that I would hold back tears for 8 hours a day, but after the first month, Charlie warmed up to her educators and peers so it was easier knowing she was enjoying herself. I had realised how much I missed this part of my identity and that was connecting with others and seeing my pals at work who are the only ones on the planet who know what it is like. I formed friendships with colleagues I hadn’t before because we had common ground and understood what it was like to balance work and family life. I stopped taking work home with me and as soon as I left the doors to come home, I was completely done for the day and that is a sense I never thought I would have in my job. It made me appreciate my family and the bond I have with my daughter and made look forward to breastfeeding and reconnecting with my daughter. I would pump on my lunch breaks and when I got home to make sure she had milk for her days at day care. Eventually I did not need to pump for those days, because Charlie loved her food so much she didn’t need a bottle anymore. My supply started to dry up and it started sinking in that maybe my breastfeeding journey was starting to come to an end. My skin, which was always quite clear before having a baby, had turned into a hormonal mess and became dry, itchy and flaky. I had gone to a dermatologist who prescribed me creams that I couldn’t use while breastfeeding so I just had to manage the symptoms as best I could, but any form of stress or change in weather or skin products had it flaring up again and I was so self conscious. I had officially made it to 12 months of breastfeeding, which I never though I could do and still to this day haven’t properly let it sink in at what an achievement that is. Once Charlie hit 12 months old, I doubled my hours at work, but was cramming those hours into 3 days with two 12-hour shifts and one 8-hour shift. With this increase in work hours came night shift and an increase of grief of what I thought I was missing out on; I cried on my way to every shift that first week.

I found that I could literally feel my energy being sucked out of me with every feed; my energy levels started depleting and my iron levels dropped so low that no amount of coffee could get me through the day. Charlie’s sleep, which had never been perfect, was getting worse and she was waking up to 5 times during the night for a feed and was becoming so aggressive during the day and crying and screaming just to have a feed. My skin was the worst it had ever been because I was so stressed and so tired and I realised something had to give. Breastfeeding was no longer enjoyable and was becoming a hindrance to my life and I needed to start weaning for the sake of my health. I first switched Charlie to toddler formula during the day and when she would cry and pull up my shirt, I would have to distract her and engage with her in a different way. After about 2 weeks I cut the nighttime feeds and eventually the first feed in the morning. I took weeks to wean. We have now officially stopped breast-feeding for a month.

Since weaning, Charlie cries much less and is less aggressive. She sleeps through the night most nights and I feel like I finally have energy again.

I found once we hit the 12 month mark of feeding, more people starting asking when I planned to stop breastfeeding and I could feel the judgment as they asked, this made me want to keep going with breastfeeding, despite knowing I did not have anything left to give. I felt this immense sense of guilt like I wasn’t doing enough and could have gone on longer, but I just need to remind myself that I did more than I had ever expected myself to do. Charlie currently has croup, an ear infection and is waking more at night and I cant help but feel a loss at the thought that maybe she would be feeling better if I was still feeding. I have been asked if I miss breastfeeding and to be honest I haven’t properly thought about it. I was always scared that with stopping breastfeeding I would be losing that connection with her, but I have found that we have entered this new stage together where our bond is so beautiful and unbreakable. I make sure we have skin to skin in the shower at least once a week and our new bedtime routine brings us closer everyday.

Dear Sleep

My dearest sleep, I hope you are well. I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I miss you like crazy and wish you would just come home so I could hold you in my arms and never let you go! Love Heather.

Ahhh sleep, I remember it well! ‘Twas a time when I could sleep for 12 hours straight without moving a muscle in my body, have a solid nap in the afternoon followed by another 12 stint of sleep and no, this wasn’t when I was an infant, because this would be physically impossible as babies and children are designed to hate sleep.

After the age of 25 people love to ask when you’re planning on having children and if you retort that you plan on having some in the near future, that same person will tell you not to rush because you lose your sleep (among other reasons).

Going into parenthood, you know you’re not going to sleep. It is literally the one negative thing you can guarantee aside from the manner in which the baby has to exit your body, but we do it anyway because it doesn’t seem like being constantly tired would be too hard to bear. I myself, a shift worker, who was doing 12-hour night shifts and then swapping to day shifts a few days later thought I knew the meaning of tired. I once did 4 night shifts in a row and decided that rather than sleep, I would go to boxing and then go shopping and come home and invite a friend over. When my friend came over I was so hysterical because of exhaustion that she ran me a bath and stayed with me for emotional support until my husband came home. I thought that was my most tired day. I had this parent gig in the bag (She did not have this in the bag).

As the first few weeks of sleepless nights ensued once Charlie was earth side, I had just got on with it and accepted that this was all part of the parenting journey and newborns were meant to wake every few hours. Eventually the sleeping periods got longer and longer and by 3 months, Charlie was sleeping through the night until 6am, only waking once around 3am for a feed. I had survived the no sleep and it was surprisingly easier than I had anticipated.

Then came the 4-month sleep regression. It started with her naps. Trying to get her to sleep took longer than the actual amount of time she was asleep. Hour long naps turned into 15 minutes, 5 times a day and I felt like I was spending my entire day trying to get her to sleep. Then night sleeps started to suffer. Some nights she would wake every two hours and other nights she would want to start her day at 3am. I was doing anything just to make her go back to sleep and make my life easier, which entailed bringing her into our bed for a feed and then back to her cot. As time went on I realised she wasn’t in a regression anymore, but this was now a habit; If she woke, the only thing to settle her back to sleep was milk. I, like so many other parents out there, was in survival mode. I didn’t have the time or patience at 3 in the morning for healthy sleeping habits. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is the biggest joke because by the time it’s time for your babies first 15 minute nap, you’ve already had 3 coffees to get through to that point and there’s no way you’re sleeping; you’ve also just chucked your baby in the pram as a last resort to get them to sleep and you don’t see too many mothers out there sleep walking with a pram do you?

I was in limbo for months between not being desperate enough to sleep train and not wanting to feed her to sleep. When she was around 6 months, we transitioned her into her own room and you could literally see her cot from my bed, so it was just a few more steps to get her at night, but I thought it might help having more space between her and my husband snoring and me moving every 5 minutes trying to get comfortable with my constant aching still hanging around from pregnancy and birth. It had somewhat worked. We were back to one wake up a night, however our days started around 5am

I went back to work when Charlie was 7 months old. Her sleep wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad enough to make me a danger to my patients. I was already up half an hour before my phone alarm due to my human alarm waking us so early. Around 8 months old, Charlie went through another regression, this one went for 2 months. Getting her to bed at night would sometimes take 2 hours, despite the most perfect bedtime routine (if I do say so myself). A normal night would consist of 3 wakes a night and at this point I was the only one who could settle her overnight. I had decided that if I was going to be up 3 times a night feeding her and go to work the next day, that my husband would be my baby uber driver and go get her and deliver her to me for feeds and then I would take her back to her cot. There were nights where she just would not sleep no matter what I tried. 6 hours it took me one night. I had tried everything except driving. Warm bath, signing, reading, lavender, solid food, massage, white noise, dark room, light room, feeding, rocking, shhing, swaying, co sleeping, sitting next to the cot, letting her cry for just 5 minutes so I could catch my breath, skin to skin! Nothing worked! It was 3am and I was officially just as worked up as she was and I just screamed so loud the next suburb heard “WILL YOU JUST FUCKING GO TO SLEEP!” she then had to be pried out of my arms by my mother in law, who was staying with us at the time and was told to just go to bed because there was no way she would sleep if I was that wound up. True.

I still feel intense mum guilt for that moment, but I know I am not alone. A few of my friends, who are mothers have expressed their anger to me many times; anger towards their babies and anger towards themselves for reacting in the heat of the moment.  

I have had moments similar where I feel like my jaw is going to turn to dust from clenching so hard or I just want to cry and scream and tell her how tired mummy is and in order for her to be the best, she just needs a few hours of sleep. I have tried begging her and praying to a god I don’t believe in for help. Just when I think I am ready to go down the path of sleep training, I am lead down a beautiful path that leads to a meadow of sunflowers and she sleeps through the night and punches out 2 hour and a half naps and my faith is restored. I sing her praises; my eye duffle bags turn into eye satchels and every word I utter comes out in song format. “What a time to be alive” I think to myself and then merely as I start to get used to her sleeping like a normal human, she starts worshiping the devil at ungodly hours of the night.

I think the inconsistency is what makes the whole situation worse. If she was just consistently an awful sleeper, I could manage; it’s the false sense of security that bites me in the ass every time- just like your flakey ex partner. I could deal with a solid 5 hours of sleep at night, what I can’t deal with is 8 hours of broken sleep and a body clock that can no longer deal because it is so used to being awake so frequently in the night.

As a gift from Charlie to me for her first birthday, she gave me 4 nights in a row of sleeping through the night. 7pm until 7am. It was like Christmas! Then she had a sleepover with her grandparents, started a leap, her molars started coming down and she got a cold and it was all down hill from there. We were back to 2 hourly wake ups. Have you heard of the 12-month sleep regression? Me either. Apparently there’s a new regression each month. What a hoot!

Last Monday we had an incident with Charlie accidentally, potentially taking a couple of nausea tablet I had put out for my husband who had gastro. There was no way to find out whether she had them or not in the time it would have taken to effect her, so we called an ambulance and subsequently had to stay over night for observation. What could be the worst thing for a bad sleeping baby? Not letting a bad sleeping baby sleep at all. Every night last week Charlie would wake up at 2am and not go back down until 5am. It resorted in her lying in bed with my husband and I, me being on the very edge of the bed with a small finger constantly going in and out of my nose. After nights of no sleep, I went into work and was immediately sent home. My face eczema had flared up badly and my eye bags were so big they could have been mistaken for my boobs and my colleague took one look at me and shook her head. I just cried. I was defeated.

I have since implemented an excellent plan as a bedtime routine and each night has gotten better since. I will not jinx myself, but I am appreciating the small win.

I also asked some mothers on my instagram for tips to share and here is what I have learned. Wine is an essential, be patient with yourself, just feed to sleep, take it in turns with your partner, persistence, vent and cry, know that it ends, don’t stress about house work and consistency. We are all in this together mummas!

I have flicked Charlie onto toddler formula to transition from breast-feeding as I am finding it a bit too much for me to cope with right now. I still feed in the mornings and if she wakes over night and I cant settle her any other way, but my new routine is as followed: warm bath half an our before bed time, we go straight to her room where the lights are dim and white noise is playing, she gets a massage and we get into her PJ’s, she brushes her teeth and I brush her hair and she lays down next to her cot in her sleep suit and has her bottle, while I read her a story (very quietly), I then put her in her in her bed, sing twinkle twinkle and sit there until she rolls over to go to sleep. This is the only tip I have for now, but just know it passes and you are not alone!

Just you wait!

Here is a fun fact for you. Did you know that as soon as sperm hits the egg, an invitation gets sent to every human on the planet personally inviting them to give you unsolicited advice, make comments about your weight, unasked for birth and horror stories and make comments and judgments straight to your face? Science eh?

I was very quick to tell people around me that I had fallen pregnant. I am very bad at keeping good news inside and due to working in a field that subjects you to all kinds of nasty bugs and heavy lifting, I told my manager at around 5 weeks to prevent me from working with this kind of stuff, which was basically the day after I had peed on the stick. I was feeling pretty good about it all until around 7 weeks and my body decided the world made me feel violently ill and I couldn’t even stomach the smell of fresh air. At the time I was working 12-hour shifts, both day and nights and the inconsistencies with any kind of routine or basic human eating structure, made it even harder to manage the nausea. I remember one night I was with a patient on a ventilator (breathing machine), which means I have to work one on one by myself in the room. It was around 5 in the morning and all the other nurses were occupied taking their morning bloods and washing their patients for the morning staff, when I the nausea got too much and I needed to be sick RIGHT NOW, so I had to just stand over the patients bin and projectile vomit until someone came to watch my patient while I sorted myself out. It was rough. Everyone I worked with knew I was sick, but I also am quite dramatic and all I did was complain (I’m so sorry to everyone I work with reading this). I felt like I was the first pregnant woman to ever exist, because how on earth did people deal with this and still keep living their life? That is when it began. “When I was pregnant I would eat ginger” “back in my day you just got on with it” “have you tried gingerale?” “You should use those nausea bracelets” “what medications are you using?” “It’s not that bad that you need to go to the hospital” “suck it up” “this woman I know was sick the whole way through” “its probably HG” “it will only last until 12 weeks”. Although it was nice to have some ideas for possible remedies, because at that point I would have tried anything to not arrive home from work and throw up in the driveway as soon as I opened the car door or to lie on the shower floor every night spewing, so that the clean up was easier. Out of every nugget of good unsolicited advice, was a huge pile of bad unsolicited advice and judgment.

I was more tired than I had ever been in my life because my body was busy flooding with stupid hormones and making its very own build a bear and taking naps was an essential part of my day. “If you’re tired now, just you wait until your third trimester”. I was only weeks in and was now dreading the third trimester, which seemed like light-years away when everyday felt like it went for a week. Feeling like things were only going to get worse, I dreaded the progression of my pregnancy and it really took me out of enjoying what I did love about the whole experience, which was only a very short list, but it was keeping me in high spirits.

I was constantly told in the first 18 weeks that I did not look pregnant, which to a pregnant person, is probably something you do not want to hear. I was around 18 weeks when I first started to pop. I was at work one day and went on my lunch break and someone who I had never met asked me if I was having twins, which again is not something a pregnant person wants to hear. If I said I felt big, I was met with the “just you wait”. If I needed to pee right now! I was met with “just you wait”. If I was tired “just you wait”. If I had the slightest bit of pain “just you wait until birth”. If my boobs hurt “just you wait”. All this waiting for things to get worse was really weighing on me. This whole pregnancy thing was completely new to me (obviously) and I was wishing it all away because I was scared of what was around the corner. I had people I had never met before telling me to “just get an epidural” and then another stranger tell me I could do it all naturally and for someone like me, who is the biggest push over in the world, you would think I felt obliged to take on every damn piece of advice I was given, at least my options would be endless. In reality I would nod my head and smile and then go home and seethe and everyone who had the audacity to think they could tell me what to do. If I am not asking for advice, there really is no need to give it and I cannot stress that enough. It is so easy for people to give their opinion, but so hard for them to be met with a “no thank you”. Boundaries are a good start and if I knew how to set them, I would try and give some unsolicited advice right now, but I am useless at letting people know they have invaded my personal space, so instead you can read about my feelings.

Sharing birth stories is amazing and I love learning about how strong and powerful women are who birth, no matter what the outcome was. It’s a beautiful way to connect to motherhood before your little journey begins and feel a sense of hope that you too can be a boss bitch and have the most perfect birth. With all the beautiful birth stories, comes the horrific birth stories, which when you’re pregnant is probably the last thing you want to hear, but some people will tell you about how absolutely horrific the whole ordeal was, the pain, the blood, the guts and the stiches without even asking you if it is okay to share that with you. Ill spare the triggering details, but I am sure you get the idea. Post the birth of Charlie, hearing those stories would be incredible, birth trauma effects 1 in 3 women and sharing your stories with women in the same boat is uplifting and makes you feel less isolated. I myself am open to share my traumatic birth story, but with those who are not pregnant or want to listen, I won’t force my birth trauma on a poor woman who is about to go through birth. Every birth is different and you can’t prepare someone for what their birth will be, so just shhh please.

At 21 weeks, my nausea finally stopped. This was around the time I found out my daughter had a lesion on her lung and I wasn’t given a lot of information on the type of lesion and what this would entail for me/us. I had family members telling me forcefully to demand action and demand to be seen as soon as possible by the specialists, when all I wanted to do was cry and avoid hearing about what was going on. I had hundreds of questions from friends, family and work colleagues and I found myself trying to explain to people what was going on, without fully understanding myself. I still get asked what is happening with her lung and I do not have the answer, but I would rather be the one to share, than feel like I owe people anything. I get it, most people are coming from a good place when something foreign comes up and they are curious, but I cannot explain the feeling I had when I was told something was wrong with my baby and it still makes me really emotional. As the person carrying the baby, the guilt I felt in that moment was indescribable and the “what if’s” flooded in like you wouldn’t believe. I would be lying if I still didn’t wonder or worry about what might happen, I guess that makes me human. Being pregnant at the time, made me feel so vulnerable and it was like I was under a microscope, like my power was taken away and suddenly I felt like I owed my family and friends an explanation of what was/is going on. If something ever happens, I’ll be the first to tell people what is going on, but being part of space invaders, is not fun.

As my body started to fill with fluid, I shared photos of my ever growing feet onto my Instagram and would end up with my inbox flooded with worried people telling me I had preeclampsia and/or a DVT. I was in hospital every second day in the end because I was so frightened that I was going to die, purely because I thought my feet looked funny.

When Charlie was born, I was just like every mother out there who thinks it is really tiring, but surprisingly the newborn, teeny, tiny baby slept really well. “ She is such a good sleeper”, I would say only 3 days after her birth “we are really lucky”.  I would be met with “just you wait, babies wake up”. “Just you wait until after she is 3 months old”  “ha-ha just you wait”. She did of course learn that sleep is for the weak and probably hasn’t slept ever since, but why rain on my parade?

“Just you wait until she is crawling” “ just you wait until she is walking” “babies are easy, just you wait for toddlers” “toddlers are easy, just you wait for kids” “kids are easy, just you wait until they are teenagers”. Can I just not wait actually? Can I maybe just enjoy what I have and stop wishing my child’s life away just because you told me it gets worse? Are people not allowed to say, “today was hard” without being met with “it gets worse”? “You drink wine now, just you wait”. I find myself now when I see new mums on instagram bragging about how their week old baby is a great sleeper, trying to refrain from saying “just you wait” myself, like it is a right of passage passed on when you become a mum. A brown paper bag, filled with all of the unsolicited advice. Sometimes I catch myself, but other times it just rolls off the tongue and I can’t stop it “ have you tried?” “When Charlie had wind I would do this…”.

I do really try to be cautious though, when my friends are venting to me, I try to just hold space for them and say “I am really sorry that is happening to you”, however sometimes I do find myself sharing some relevant story about myself to sound relatable. I think we are all guilty of giving some unwanted advice from time to time, I just think it isn’t healthy to force your opinion on someone just because you think the way you do it is the correct way. I have friends tell me to sleep train and then others tell me that sleep training will ruin my child forever. I have people tell me to make sure all my food is pureed and others tell me to just go ahead and feed her a roast dinner. I am more than happy to hear about how well you went at sleep training, just as I am more than happy to hear about how good it is to co sleep with your baby. I don’t do either, but I’m not going to force my opinion on you and tell you to do it my way, because your baby is completely different to mine and no two days are the same. That’s the fun part about parenting- it keeps you on your toes. Sleep through the night one night and then awake every 2 hours the next. You do you boo boo, and I will do me and lets just call it a day hey?

Bec and Ollie

Bec

So Bec, can you tell us your name, age, your stage of motherhood and your marital status?

So I am Bec, I am 29 and my son is 15 months, so a toddler AGHH!, and I am married.

Sexy. So what is it like in the day in the life of having a 15 month old? What does the day entail?

Well the day normally starts at 5:30, so it’s pitch black ha-ha and we do breakfast, a bit of a play, go for a walk, he has a nap and then we try and fill up the time with food and activities where he can just run around because he just doesn’t sit down

They eat so much too!

Yeah, he eats so much; he would eat all day if he could. So we do activities like go to a park or even the shops and just let him run around for a bit and then we try to have another nap in the car, so we time it so he can have around a half an hour nap in the car and then another snack, bit more of a play, then we usually catch up with some friends or family and then dinner and then bottle and the bed and he goes to bed at 5:30 at night, so it is like full on for 12 hours, but he sleeps through for 12 hours, so that is good! Oh and a shower, throw one of them in somewhere

Do you shower him everyday?

I shower him everyday now, it’s just so much easier, I throw him in the shower and just wash him, or he is outside with the hose EVERYDAY. He likes to get naked so we just kind of hose him down outside ha-ha. I went for a walk the other day actually and I saw a woman and I asked her what breed of dog she had and she was like “ohhhh this is the water baby we always see when walk past watering the garden”

That sounds like you have you hands full!

So how was the first 6 months? What was the most challenging part? I believe Oliver had a sleep regression that lasted a few months, how did you manage that?

Indeed, you are correct my friend. The first 6 months were super challenging, a massive, massive adjustment. So the first 6 months trying to establish breastfeeding, was quite difficult, he had trouble latching, then I was pumping so muchI got an over supply and then I got mastitis, so it took a good couple of months to figure out. Probably by the third month, we didn’t need nipple shields. Then because of covid we didn’t go anywhere, so I didn’t need my husband to feed him, because it was easier for me to just feed on demand, but by three months we had it sorted, but that was just a long time of not sleeping much and trying to get my boobs sorted and being stuck inside and then the 4 month sleep regression hit us at about 3 and a half months and it was him napping 5 times a day for about 30 minutes and then waking every hour and a half to two hours over night, so it just felt like there was no break, no time to recoup or relax. You know by a couple of weeks you’re just to tired that you just feed back to sleep every time. So you’re just in a state of “what?!”

Its like you go through that first 3 months and get used to this “newborn shit” and then it’s like “SURPRISE!”

Yeah! I was trying to think of the positives like “okay, at least he is waking me up, because SIDs is always at the back of your mind and I was glad he was waking me up, so I know he’s okay” but then by the time he got to 6 months he was still waking a lot at night and I was just at that point where something needed to change, because I never wanted to let him cry, because I felt like I was doing something wrong if I was letting him cry, but then after doing so much reading and getting to my breaking point, I needed to do something different and then I found the gentle sleep specialist through a friend that had used her and I did her online program, so I just implemented that at home. There was crying, but obviously it is in a controlled way, so I was still letting him know I was there, but essentially he needed to learn how to settle himself if he woke overnight. We stopped the dummy and starting using comforters and he picked up pretty quickly at night and eventually all his over night sleeps and naps got better, so it was the best thing we ever did. Now since he turned one, he has been sleeping through. His naps are still hit and miss, but now if I say its time for bed he runs to his bedroom door, we walk to the change table and I get him ready for bed and then he gives me a kiss and I sing him and song and we are sweet!

That is amazing, oh my god that makes me so happy for you! It is just one of those things, that I know I feel as well, that no one wants to let their kid cry, but you get to that point where something has to give.

Exactly and you know, if you read up on it and you’re certain in yourself that you’re letting them cry because it is something different and they aren’t used to it and they don’t like it and want you to keep coming back, which is what they’re used to because that is hat you have been doing. Of course if it was a really emotional cry, of course I would go in, it’s not like this hard and fast rule, but he needed to learn and now it isn’t even issue, so if he misses a nap or is over tired, he can just put himself back to sleep

That it is so good! Now I’m going to jump from sleep regression to pregnancy, but how was your pregnancy?

So we decided to try for a baby and we got pregnant pretty much straight away,which was great. I found out about 5 weeks in and then one night we were out to dinner and I just felt a gush, so I panicked and raced to the public bathroom, which was gross and I checked and I had passed this big clot, so I thought that I had just had a miscarriage and was just devastated. So I went back to the dinner table and excused my husband and myself and went home and balled my eyes out. The next day we went to the doctor and she said “yeah. It sounds like you have had a miscarriage, so we will book you for an ultrasound to make sure you have passed everything” and then we went to the ultrasound and there was a heart beat. They could see on the scan that I had had a subchorionic haemorrhage and so usually your body absorbs it, but my body got rid of it, so that was the clot. so I had scans every week for the next few weeks to check until 12 weeks, the baby was progressing really well and the bleeding had finally stopped after that. It was really scary. I spotted throughout my entire first trimester, so it was really scary. So then after that, it was great! I had all the happy hormones in the second trimester and I started to show a bit and I started to feel movements around 16 weeks, which I thought was just gas, but it was not. It was great; I really loved being pregnant for the rest of the second trimester and everything was great until around around 37 weeks I was doing all these exercises to try and move him into position and I did, but he was kicking inside towards my spine, when for the rest of my pregnancy, he was kicking out, so I couldn’t feel him as much, so I started freaking out because I stopped feeling him move. I went in twice for checks, the first time we went in was because there was a day where I couldn’t feel him moving for 3 hours or so I went in and everything was fine and they did a scan and found that his abdomen was measuring big for a baby his age, so then they did another scan and we found out he was on the bigger side, so when we came in the second time, they said because he was measuring big and I had come in twice, they decided to induce me. So we went in the next day and got induced!

What kind of induction method did they use?

They used the cervadil, which is like a flat tampon that they insert at the back of the cervix to ripen the cervix, but what had happened was, they put it in and it started to hyper stimulate my uterus, so instead of slowly doing its thing, it was really painful and over 12 hours, it became unbearable and it was constant, so they had to pull it out and see how I went over night. I got in the shower and my husband had the showerhead and was alternating between putting the water on my back and my tummy, but because all of the hormones were preparing my body for the baby I got the sudden urge to shit! So my husband was sitting next to the shower in his jocks and I was just sitting on the toilet having diarrhea! Over 24 hours I had only dilated only 1 cm and so they gave me the prosten gel behind my cervix, which again hyper stimulated my uterus so I was having contractions and no break in between. So I just had no time to do my breathing or get in the right headspace. I ended up having a morphine injection and then they took me to the birthing suite and they were about to do the epidural, so they had me bent over and went to check my cervix and saw Oliver’s head and then they said “it’s too late for and epidural” and then my waters broke all over my husband! So then it was about an hour or so of active labour and then he came out

How big was little baby?

3.4kg at 38 weeks, so I don’t know how big he would have been in 2 or so weeks

BIG BOY!

What was that first week of motherhood like for you?

I was so focused on the birth that I didn’t really think of anything after. I had such a good pregnancy and had done everything by the book, so it never would have occurred to me that something could have gone wrong. He was born so quickly form me going from 1cm to him being born in just 5 hours, so he was born with fluid on his lungs and he was struggling to breathe, so having a nursing background made me panic and wonder how long had he gone without oxygen and what was going to happen and the side effects but he never actually went without oxygen. He ended up getting taken to the NICU and put on CPAP for 3 days and they did all these scans and they showed that everything was fine, there was just this excess fluid that he was having trouble getting rid of. He was then weaned off onto nasal prong oxygen for a few days, and then weaned off the oxygen and we have had no issues since.

So what was life like before babies? So the last decade, how did you spend your time and at what point in your life did you start to think that you wanted to settle?

I started dating my husband when we were 18, so that was 12 years ago now and we partied all the time! [if you’re from Perth in the 2010’s you would know] it was Leederville Wednesday, clubber Thursday, amps on Friday, metros Saturday and then a Sunday sesh at the OBH or cottesloe, it was disgusting! We saved no money. I took a year off Uni and then went back into studying, but it was ridiculous and I have no idea how I survived! Probably when we were 21, we started to settle down. We had done some pretty hardcore partying and I had swapped my degree to nursing and became committed to that I guess. So we started saving some money and stopped clubbing and then at 24 I started working fulltime as a nurse and my husband and I were living together at my parents place and then we bought our first house at 25 and then got engaged and then got married at 26 and then got pregnant at 28.

You lived your best life and then you went on to be a career-focused woman and then to this wife and mother, how did you go with that?

That was a huge adjustment, because I was really focused on my career and then my priorities changed obviously being a mother, so I am finding it hard currently trying to progress my career when I also want to be home as much as possible, so that is quite a challenge as well.

And what part of nursing are you in?

I am in child and adolescent mental health

I think that would be a very full on job to go back to from being a stay at home parent

Indeed.

Indeed

Indeed

In terms of growing up, mental health and body image, how was your body image growing up and then again through pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood and now?

Before motherhood I experienced an eating disorder from the age of 12 to 17 where I was in and out of hospital. Then I still had unhealthy body image and those sorts of thoughts and a very unhealthy relationship with food for a long time after that, but then I got into the gym and started to look after myself more. Probably from about 21 years old, after we finished partying and clubbing, I started being healthy, but not to an extreme level. Being pregnant was probably the best thing, I think I started being more aware of what I was putting into my body and what I was giving my tiny human, so it was like this other level of not just doing it for me, but I am doing this for my baby. I just felt that this was what my body was made for and I think that before I did not like my body, but then I was just in awe of the fact that it could grow this human. I felt really comfortable and then once I started getting my bump, I just loved it. It was so good! Then after I had Ollie, initially I was like “woah okay”. I had put on about 12 kilograms when I was pregnant and then I dropped a lot of that with all the fluid gone and the baby out, so I lost about 5 kilograms straight away. Then I got stuck at home because COVID hit and Ollie was so young and had just spend the first week of his life in the NICU! I was just comfort eating and not doing much because Ollie was sleeping on me and I was breast feeding, so I don’t think I gained weight, but I didn’t lose any weight, so I just felt stuck. Then it was Easter and I just remember there being so much chocolate at the shops so we would buy it and comfort eat. Then around my birthday in July, so Ollie was about 6 months old and I just remember feeling that I wasn’t looking after myself and he was going to start crawling soon and I just felt really self conscious. So once COVID restrictions had eased and gyms were opening again, I saw a personal trainer and did a meal plan and followed it pretty strictly for about 3 months and then I got back to my pre baby weight and I started feeling really good and then gym was also my stress relief, so getting back into it made me feel better. Since then I have maintained it, Ollie is running around now, so I stay pretty active and I try and make healthy food choices, I feed Ollie healthy food, so there is always healthier food choices in the house which makes it easier and we want to lead by example in making good choices, but then we also have our treats; we will get takeaway Italian food once a week, which is our thing. I am also not strict anymore, because I don’t want Ollie to develop those associations with food as well, so again I am trying to lead by example. I am trying to teach that there are no good foods or bad foods, just foods that you eats lots of and foods that you only eat sometimes, which has really helped me too; having a baby has just been the best thing in getting me out of my own head and I have different priorities now.

Wow thank you so much for sharing that, you did not have to share that, but I am so thankful that you did. You have come so far and wow, just wow. I think as well it is so good to be taking the attention away from foods and not labeling them as good or bad or getting worked up over gaining a few kilograms in front of your kids and just really trying to be mindful, it is so hard, but you are doing so well and I think you and your husband are doing really amazing at that and you generally are quite healthy people.

Oh we definitely have our days, we ate chocolate every night last week. It was one of those weeks where we were both like “meh” I had my period and he had his “meriod”, but at the end of the week we just felt sluggish and uncomfortable so we just ate better this week.

What do you do for self-care?

For self-care, I usually go to the gym. I go once a week, but aim for twice a week. I see my friends and I think that is a good way of venting and it helps me get some perspective, which I find is a form of self-care. I’m really close with my mum too, so seeing my family. Also, this may sound shallow, but just getting my hair done makes me feel better and if I am having a really shit day, I will put some makeup on just so I feel like I am a bit more prepared for the day.

Well I just want to say thank you very much for talking with me! I really appreciate you sharing this with me and for those reading.

I came off my meds

Hello! I took a break recently to focus on myself. I have found recently that I have become so lethargic and unable to do things that I should want to do. My short window while the baby slept turned into me trying to cram as many TV shows as I could into one hour, rather than catching up on housework or doing something productive- which is fine to do, but not everyday and not when you’re not being fulfilled by watching that next bloody episode of Bridgeton. My days that did not revolve around seeing people or working consisted of Charlie and I spending the days inside playing with the same toys in the same place. I had become the mother I never wanted to be- lazy. I decided I would get off my anti anxiety medication to see if that was the reason I was feeling so lethargic as my anxiety was actually at bay and I had healthier means of managing it.

I’m not going to lie, the first two weeks really sucked (I did this with the guidance of my GP and weaned down over a few weeks. I also started taking iron tablets too because apparently my levels were low and that could also be why I’m was lethargic, but with iron pills, comes taking laxatives, because if you’ve had iron tablets before, you’ll know that trying to have a bowel movement becomes a chore and something to fear) I had periods of really severe anxiety and scattered thoughts, which is common for me, but not to this degree.

With coming off my medication, I have found that trying to accept myself has become harder. Old thoughts have crept their way back into my head and this want to lose my baby weight has been almost like a craving. I think I have been so engrossed in trying to build up myself, other women and mother’s to see that it isn’t all about appearance and losing weight, that I kind of just let myself go more as a way to stick it to diet culture and my previous eating disorders. I had the mentality of “if I can accept myself looking like this, then I can accept myself at any stage”. Which is fine and almost seems like a healthy mindset, but it still puts focus on my weight and appearance. I am just trying to back pedal and go back to the point of this blog, which is to just be neutral. It is okay if I want to wear makeup and wear a dress and eat salad one day and it is also okay if I want to spend the next day eating cheese in my underwear, with hairy armpits and a greasy ponytail. It is okay to spend one day with your child doing water activities in the morning, play dough in the afternoon and trip to the park and then the next day sit in the house and watch sesame street, have 7 tea parties and wave at each other for four hours. I had a very confronting moment at work about a month ago, where a work colleague did not recognise me and once they realised who I was asked where I had been. I said maternity leave and then they replied, “I was going to say maternity leave, but did not want to offend you”. I then said to a friend of mine “how awkward, this person did not recognise me and basically insinuated that it’s because I have gained weight” to which they replied “maybe because you’re just bigger from the back, you’re not THAT fat, but maybe do some self care and get your hair done”. A few days later my therapist said “you’re in your mid 30’s so…” (I am 28) so obviously the next week I spent thinking I was fat, old and needed a haircut.

It’s very confronting hearing people express to you what you fear in yourself. No one wants to be called fat, old or ugly and it is very confronting to have someone comment on your appearance when you haven’t asked for an opinion. Old me probably would have acted very dangerously and played with some toxic behaviours. I also wondered if these comments would have affected me as much if I were still on my medication? Probably not, but I feel better knowing I am authentically dealing with my shit.

Last week I had a day where everything was just too much. I spent the entire day trying to get Charlie to sleep. She woke for the day at 4am after waking three times through the night, so I thought I would put her down soon after to get her closer to a normal waking time, which happened to be 8am by the time she woke up. The plan was to start the day again, but this pushed her naps forward and she was already overtired by the time it would have been her normal nap, so I spent about 2 hours back and forth from her bedroom trying to feed her to sleep, rock her, sing to her, feed her food, give her water, lay next to the cot; I was about to throw her in the car, but when I had loaded the car up with the pram, she was asleep (of course she fucking was). It was 12pm by this point, so I had already spent 8 hours of my day revolved around putting her to bed and carrying the mental load of timing her naps and wondering what the rest of the day had in store for me and whether or not because I messed around with her sleep today, she would mess with my sleep again that night. I messaged my husband and just said “I hate her.” And then I just sobbed.

I have had many days like this. The earlier days after the fourth trimester, where they are waking up and the 4-month sleep regression hits and naps are non-existent. It’s almost as if you push past these moments and get through and feel triumphant and move on and forget and when you have a day that is similar, it is like PTSD and you feel like you have failed because your baby has gone back to thinking sleep is for the weak. I wonder if this day would have made me so upset if I had just stayed on my medication. I would like to note that I do NOT hate my daughter. In fact, I LOVE my daughter more than I have ever loved anything or anyone and as soon as I sent that message to my husband, I felt this immense amount of guilt for even sending that message and feeling so much rage towards her. In reality I was never mad at her, I was mad at the fact that she would not sleep, which is not her fault at all. I think she is getting her first set of molars, she is learning so many new skills and it was right after that damn “super full moon”. I would never have shared this, but i just feel it is so normal to feel this way and get angry, because we are only human and being a parent is fucking hard. The very next day my friend messaged me and called her baby a see you next Tuesday for the very same thing. I ended up calling my mum later that day and asked her if she would please cook me dinner and dote on me and Charlie so I had one less chore to worry about later, because my husband was coming home late that evening. I spent time with my brother, she completely missed her second nap, but my parents watched her, fed us both and we went home. When we got home she was refusing to sleep, so I ended up in the cot with her, which didn’t bother me in the end, because I had that support in the afternoon. It is amazing what happens to your frame of mind when you feel supported. I am so very grateful for the support I have.

SO, Have I become less lethargic since coming of my medication? Look, not really, but I feel much better knowing I am no longer on them and I have started to get behind some healthy habits like yoga, seeing a therapist, meditating, journaling and have found that I really like reading. My relationship with my daughter has gotten much better and I have found that I can actually cry again, which is bloody awesome, because the medication just made me a brick wall, which is the opposite of what I wanted to do or what I usually would do when faced with an issue, which was to punch a brick wall, while crying. Feeling things is actually awesome and so healthy. I feel that masking my feelings was just making me a shell of who I am usually, which is an emotional mess. Obviously some people need to be on medications, I did need to be on medication at the time I was prescribed them and I have no idea how I would have handled the first few months of motherhood without it, but now that I am more in the swing of things and can mentally manage my life, I no longer have the need for them. Some days I need that little bit of anxiety to get me going, you know? I don’t know where I would be some days without my endless brain lists of things to do and meticulous planning. I get mum guilt so much more now too, which is totally normal as I have found out and I could write an entire post about all the things I feel guilty about (might take myself up on this).My house may be a little messier and my brain clutter is less organised, but I seem to be functioning pretty efficiently… so far