8 articles Articles posted in Mental Health

Maternity Matters Week 4 #maternitymatters

I can’t quite believe this is the fourth Maternity Matters linky already! We really hope you’re enjoying the process of sharing and reading so many great posts as much as we are. Seeing how pregnancy and birth experiences vary so much from person to person is as beautiful as it is informative and that uniqueness is exactly what’s at the core of Maternity Matters.

As usual, we’d love it if you displayed our badge, either on your individual posts or in your sidebar, and we’d also be grateful for anyone who isn’t already to follow the Maternity Matters Facebook and Twitter accounts.



MaternityMatters~ Mum's the Word

Maternity Matters Linky Week 3 – #MaternityMatters

One thing that Susanne and I set out to do when we started Maternity Matters was give parents a voice, regardless of how difficult the subject they’re talking about might seem, which is why in the past few years, Maternity Matters has covered topics such as birth trauma, SIDS, Post Natal Depression and PND. Pregnancy and labour can be incredibly beautiful experiences, but they can also be difficult and potentially traumatic, and we felt strongly that by collecting stories from a variety of experiences we might be able to help people who needed information, or those who simply needed to feel that they weren’t alone.

If we’ve managed to help or educate even ONE person since we started, then I think I speak for us both when I say that we feel we’ve accomplished something worthwhile. Writing about our experiences has been hugely cathartic for both myself and Susanne and encouraging others in the same way is a huge part of the Maternity Matters ethos.

So, in that vein, here’s the form for the third #MaternityMatters linky – we’d love you to link up any posts, old or new, positive or difficult, anything pregnancy, maternity, baby or health related that you’d like to share. As ever, we’d love you to comment on as many of the shared posts as possible and don’t forget to grab our badge!



MaternityMatters~ Mum's the Word

On Days Like Today…

stressOn days like today, I struggle to cope.

On days like today, when the baby is crying, the house is a mess, my head is banging, I’m feeling guilty for not being able to give Sausage as much attention as I should, the dog is whinging, every noise from our neighbours makes me feel as though my head will explode and I struggle to cope.

On days like today, when the baby is inconsolable, it doesn’t matter if I pick her up or put her down or cuddle her or give her a time-out, I struggle to cope.

On days like today when there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, where I have to choose between writing or housework or getting the exercise I so desperately need, I struggle to cope.

On days like today, all I want to do is hide my head under a duvet but I can’t because bedtime isn’t for another two hours and I struggle to cope.

On days like today, I end up hating myself because I question whether having another baby was the right thing to do, and I’m struggling to cope.

On days like today, I’m counting down the minutes until the evening routine – bath, pyjamas, inhaler for Sausage, bottle for Burrito Baby, lights down, all quiet, because until that time, I struggle to cope.

But cope, I do.

Even though I feel like I won’t, like my brain is going to melt and my heart is going to stop beating, I make it to bedtime. Even though I feel like I won’t.

And I look at my girls with their sleepy eyes and my Husband who’s got the same haunted expression as me, mentally patting himself on the back for getting through another day whilst simultaneously trying to forget that we have to do it all again tomorrow, and I know that on days like today when I struggle to cope, things will be alright in the end and for every day like today, there’s a dozen good days that I struggle to remember through the stress and sleeplessness.

On days like today, I may struggle to cope, but I still consider myself the luckiest person in the world.

The Return of Maternity Matters

When I started blogging in the Autumn of 2010, a large part of my need to get my thoughts out of my head was because of the birth trauma I’d suffered whilst having Sausage in August 2008. Skip forward two years and I’d joined forces with Susanne from Ghostwriter Mummy, someone I’d only ever communicated with online, but who understood me better than some people I’d known my whole life because she’d been through a traumatic birth of her own.

You don’t want to believe that trauma, depression and PTSD will be something that defines you for the rest of your life but, in my experience, it’s something that does stay with you forever – you just learn how to carry it more comfortably, over time, like a heavy bag with a rubbish handle.  And it’s out of this shared experience that Susanne and I started Maternity Matters, a place for us and anyone else to tell their stories, find some support and to join together in improving knowledge and care for families who’ve suffered a trauma.

Over the past three years we’ve shared some incredible accounts of women of all ages and all walks of life, as well as collating news regarding maternity care in the UK, although life and babies (two more for Susanne and one more for me, bringing our collective total to six!) meant that the site has gone unloved for a while…until NOW! We’re hoping to bring Maternity Matters back to life and get it back on track. Susanne and I have a lot of new experiences to write about and we’re hoping that we’ll have lots of contributions from fellow bloggers and parents who want to share their stories.

In the meantime, Susanne and I will be launching the #MaternityMatters linky, starting tomorrow, for you to link up any article, blog post or story relating to:

fertility

conception

pregnancy and pregnancy related conditions/ complications

childbirth – of all kinds

breast/bottle feeding

postnatal experiences

parenting a baby

pregnancy/baby loss

The linky will go live every other Friday and we’d love to get as many of you as possible linking up with ANYTHING maternity-related. Also, if you’d like to contribute to Maternity Matters, please email jayne@maternitymatters.net with your ideas.

MaternityMatters

Sometimes, Breast Is NOT Always Best

Bottle FeedingI promised myself I wasn’t going to chime in on this debate, it’s one of those subjects on which people will never agree and I completely respect the right of any woman to make the decision she wants to make in regards her own body and that of her baby. However, this latest piece of news about breastfeeding is leaving me feeling really upset. In case you haven’t heard, the Government has put forward a proposal to offer mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies a £200 shop voucher as a reward.

According to the BBC: “The pilot scheme is being targeted at deprived areas of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire and funded through a collaboration between government and the medical research sector. A third area is expected soon with the plan to trial it on 130 women who have babies from now until March. If it proves successful, a nationwide pilot could be rolled out next year.”

While I don’t debate that helping women who want to breastfeed is a positive thing, this scheme couldn’t be any less helpful to women who are not in a position to be able to breastfeed. Further to this, there needs to be a more general acknowledgement that being ‘physically unable’ to breastfeed isn’t the only valid reason for women to choose not to do it. What about those women for whom there’s a psychological issue? Is it fair to further add to the stigma for them?

The main reason I wasn’t going to comment on this issue was because of my own relationship with breastfeeding. As soon as I fell pregnant with Sausage, I knew that I would be unable to do it. The thought of breastfeeding is literally repellent to me; the thought of a child latched on to my nipple makes me feel physically nauseous (for reasons which are real and genuine, but I’m not going to go into here) and while some women may consider it selfish of me to not try and overcome these issues and feed my child, for me it was easier to reduce that pressure and give my child adequate nutrition by other means, enabling me to concentrate on being the best mother that I could be.

Am I jealous of earth-mother types who have no problem breastfeeding? Well, yes, I suppose I am, but only because they’re viewed as better mothers than me. As it turns out, because Sausage was in the NICU and I didn’t get to hold her until she was a week old, I never produced any milk at all, not even a slight leakage, so when people ask about feeding, this is the part I tell them, so worried I am about the stigma of bottle feeding by choice. But, consider this:

I’ve never smacked my child.

She’s never stayed with anyone other than Husband and I overnight and we rarely go out as a couple and leave her with anyone else.

She’s developmentally advanced for her age.

She’s kind, polite, well spoken and deeply considerate of others.

Do I deserve vouchers for this? Is none of this on-par in terms of importance with how I chose to nourish her as a baby? Does the person that we’ve raised not have more of an impact on society than whether she was fed from a bottle?

Whilst talking about this on Twitter yesterday, the Tots100 Twitter team asked:

totstweet

In short, my answer to this is no, you can’t please everyone all the time, but I’m not sure if this scheme does represent the many OR the few in either case. I receive a whole load of press releases each day and this morning alone, I’ve received emails with the following titles:

“Newly-Qualified Student Midwives Cannot Find Jobs”

“Pay Freeze Forces Nurses To Take On Extra Shifts”

“Maternal Mental Health Alliance Launches Innovative Guidance About Specialist Mental Health Midwives”

I’ve blogged before about the fact that I’m a huge fan of the NHS, but surely these three short sentences illustrate perfectly that there are SO many more valuable areas in which money could be spent? I understand that it’s NHS policy to encourage breast above bottle, but surely improving care and empowering women by helping them to have happy births is a far more sensible distribution of resources? As a mother who dealt with more than her share of pregnancy and post-natal issues, I can wholeheartedly say that a very close second, in terms of importance, to the health of the child is the mental health and happiness of the mother and pressurising women with financial incentives is just cruel.

In typical Tory fashion, the areas which have been chosen to pilot this scheme are ‘deprived’, which means that the Government is basically making new mothers jump through hoops for a small financial gain. Does that not seem rather distasteful to you? What of those women who have genuine issues with breastfeeding, but feel unable to turn down the financial incentive because of their circumstances? One of the biggest factors in causing post-natal depression is the feeling of loss of control at some point during the pregnancy or birthing process, so by forcing women to make decisions which make them uncomfortable, because they simply cannot say no to the cash, makes me genuinely concerned about the potential for a huge rise in cases on PND in the UK.

And more to the point, what right do these people have to try and regulate our breasts? There are FAR bigger issues to deal with than this and encroaching on women’s freedom like this is disgusting. But I’m not at all surprised – it’s Conservative mandate to systematically dismantle and divide, starting with the poor.

I guess we should have all seen this coming, really.

The Lonely Toothbrush

If you read this blog with any kind of regularity, you’ve probably noticed by now that I’m a little bit…unusual? Between my magpie obsession, my lack of direction and wanting to wipe my brain like a hard drive,  it’s fair to say that I err on the side of the slightly eccentric. However, I realised something about myself today that we can add to the ever-growing list of unusual pathological behaviors;  I have an unusual aversion to loneliness.

Now, I appreciate than an aversion to loneliness in and of itself isn’t that unusual. As humans, we’re programmed to believe in safety in numbers and there’s been absolutely masses of research into the psychology and anthropology behind loneliness – according to Wikipedia “Loneliness has also been described as social pain — a psychological mechanism meant to alert an individual of isolation and motivate him/her to seek social connections”. Loneliness and our feeling about it are central to The Human Condition. But see, this is the thing – for me, it’s not just about humans…

Don’t get me wrong, I have a special pain in my heart and stomach that kicks in when I think about how many old people there are in the world who’ve been left on their own and feel a deep sense of loneliness, that’s all there. But this morning, whilst in the shower, I became deeply disturbed by the living arrangement of our toothbrushes. We have two glasses, mounted above the bathroom sink in which our dental care accouterments live. Today, mine and Husband’s brushes were in one glass with the toothpastes and Sausage’s was by itself in the other.

By itself.

All alone.

So I moved it.

I rearranged everything so that all three of our toothbrushes were in one glass, together, so that no one toothbrush got lonely. It moved me to significant enough sadness that I had to take action.

And now I sit and think about it, I do it with other things too. If I’m making beans or spaghetti on toast, I dutifully bang the bottom of the tin until every last bean or hoop falls from the tin. Not because I’m tight or greedy, simply because if that bean or hoop goes into the bin in a can by itself, it might get lonely. I genuinely have anxiety about lonely legumes.

I realise I’m probably really asking you to plumb the depths of your tolerance to sympathise with me here; the majority of you nice, sane people are probably wondering where the nearest loony bin is that I can be flung into, but I do wonder where this feeling comes from. As much as I’d never crave loneliness, I’m perfectly happy in my own company. I quite enjoy my drive to work, along the seafront, listening to BBC Radio 2, singing if I feel like it. At lunchtime, I try to get away from my desk if I can and have 5 minutes to myself. It’s not like I can’t stand to be alone.

Why do I rate the beans and hoops and toothbrushes more highly than myself, when it comes to company?

Answers on a postcard, dear readers…

Suicide is Painless…?

…or so Mike Altman would have us believe. I’m not sure if I do…

I’ve had conversations with people about suicide before and in general people get very animated about it. I’ve heard a lot of negativity about people who choose suicide, words bandied about like ‘selfish’ and ‘cowardly’ and if I’m honest, I dislike it.

In terms of selfishness, I have two thoughts. Firstly, I don’t believe that you can apply rational emotions to someone who is so close to the end of their tether that they’d consider taking their own lives. Secondly, if you have got to that point and you can see no way out, you’re too tired to go on, surely its selfish of others to expect you to live a life against your wishes for the sake of them?

That’s a very base way of looking at it and I know people who are left behind have to deal with pain and suffering, I’m not trying to denigrate that in any way, I’m just making the point that people take it personally when it’s not about them.

In terms of cowardice, I don’t know about you but I think it probably takes a lot of courage to be able to take the steps to end your own life. I’ve been at a very low ebb on a few occasions in my life and although the thought of suicide has crossed my mind, I’d never have the guts to do it.

Is it guts? I don’t know, I guess I’m just lucky enough to have more reasons to live than die.

We were there.

Husband and I were discussing suicide today after we found out that an acquaintance of ours had taken his life and he put a perspective on it that I hadn’t thought of. I told him how sad I felt that the guy had been so low that he’d ended it all and he said that if suicide is a conscious decision (i.e. not drink or drug related) then it needn’t always be sad. Maybe some people just decide that enough is enough and that they don’t want to go on any further. I guess I can understand what he means, but I’m socially programmed to view suicide as an act of sadness and desperation.

All I know is, I’ve seen literally hundreds of Facebook statuses and conversations today that suggest that PB will be sorely missed and the fact that he made a mark on the world is something to be proud of.

I hope so many people miss me when my time comes.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Today I learned through Jo Middleton’s blog Slummy Single Mummy that today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. We’re all aware that ‘mental health’ or mental health issues exist, so what does this really mean? Raising awareness for something that we all already know about?

But, how much do you really know, and how much of it is an assumption?

If I said to you that someone was a paranoid schizophrenic, you may assume that said person was dangerous to be around. Did you know that, actually, people with paranoid schizophrenia are actually extremely unlikely to be violent to either themselves or others?

If I told you that I knew a person with severe post-natal depression or even post-natal post traumatic stress disorder, you’d probably assume, through no fault of your own, that I was talking about a woman. Did you know that it’s estimated that up to 25% of new dads experience some form of PND or PTSD?

Did you know that, despite certain terms being bandied about and used as common language, true cases of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder actually only account for between 2-7% of the population, whilst people with bipolar are around 0.9% and 2.1% of the adult population?

For me, Mental Health Week is not about making us aware that metal health problems exist, it’s about educating ourselves, smashing the stigma and the stereotypes and trying harder to be compassionate to others. It’s so easy to label people, put them into a box and write them off as ‘mental’ or ‘mad’, but have you ever stopped to think what it’s like to live with these afflictions? NO-ONE would choose to live with these illnesses, people who seriously self-harm don’t do it for attention. I guarantee you, the people who self-harm because they are mentally compelled to are the ones you’d never know about, not the silly school girls comparing chicken scratches on their arms.

Take the time to educate yourselves and perhaps suicide rates, which are higher in the UK than anywhere else in the EU, would drop.

Or don’t. It’s up to you. Just know that no-one is immune to mental illness and knowing how to help someone you love could make all the difference.