Facing mortality

People seem to think that everything goes back to normal for you after you nearly die. They act like it’s done now, it’s in the past, you’re here and alive and so everything is good, life goes on. ‘I’m so glad you’re ok now!’ they say. Those words echo in my mind – am I ok? Of course life does go on, but everything within it is different, or more so am different. 

‘I’m so glad you’re ok now’. Those words sting right down to my core. I’m here, yes. But am I alright? Am I ok? I’m not so sure I am. 

In March it will be 1 year since I nearly died. I had an ulcer explode in my intestines, causing a huge internal bleed, my organs to nearly shut down, and me to need very sudden, lifesaving, major surgery. 

Outwardly you wouldn’t really know. Apart from a fairly large scar down my stomach hidden beneath my clothes, I suppose I am ok. But everything changed for me that night. My mortality hit me, shattered an innate feeling of comfort and safety, and a trust for my own body that I didn’t even know was within me until it broke. My body failed me, and it was completely out of my power. Or was it? I don’t think I did anything to facilitate it, although maybe I did? 

Did my my mental health cause this? My anxiety, overall heightened stress levels from a young age, is that what caused the ulcers? Should I be trying to never feel anxious?

Was it to do with misusing alcohol and drugs when I was younger? Did I not look after myself well enough? Did I eat the wrong thing, do the wrong thing somewhere down the line? 

Or was it simply that my body just failed me. 

I feel weak. I feel fragile. I feel powerless. I feel so, so tiny. I feel fucking terrified. 

I have to work hard to constantly try to push away all of those questions, my brain wants to fixate so badly on what might have caused it, or what I could do to prevent it, that instead I switch off. I dissociate from those thoughts, because it’s too much. I find myself struggling to take care of myself by doing things like eating healthily etc because somewhere inside I think I subconsciously think fuck it, maybe it is all out of my control. 

Every time I feel a twinge of pain in my stomach a fear floods my body, a fear so different to anything I’ve ever felt. I don’t just deal with questions around how it happened. I deal with the fear of it happening again, and a thousand questions around that. Some of the most difficult questions I face on a daily basis are the ones around my daughter. Horrible, awful thoughts. 

What if it happens again and I can’t move again and can’t get to her?

What if I die and she’s in the house crying with no one to go to her? 

I feel a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach even writing that. 

What happened to me was one of those one in a million things. It shouldn’t have happened to me, the odds were so in my favour. People my age aren’t supposed to have ulcers that perforate. Statistically I’m a bit of an anomaly. Usually it happens to people who are at least 50. I was 27.

I ask doctors what the odds of it happening to me again are – and they tell me the same thing, it’s one in a million. I find myself wanting to ask healthcare professionals over and over again, searching for someone to tell me somehow that it won’t happen to me again, that there is a zero in a million chance. Because what good is it being told it’s one in a million when you’ve already been that one? 

On top of this, I have to make lifestyle changes to minimise my risk of it reccurring. One of these is not drinking alcohol. I hate to admit it but being told I can’t drink at all actually devastates me. Not being able to just have a couple of glasses of wine and get a bit giddy and giggly with a friend. Never being able to go for a night out again, let my hair down and just have fun. And to sacrifice this because if I do drink I could die? What a shit position to be put in. I feel like I’m mourning for that part of me, for the part of me that was allowed to drink or have a night out, or for the me that at least had that choice. 

My life is different. It doesn’t feel safe, it doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. It feels scary. Living feels scary when you’ve experienced how quickly it can all be taken away.

So yes, I got through it, I survived, but I am not alright. I’m trying to adapt to my new normal, one that I didn’t choose or ever see coming. I’m trying to process the trauma, and manage the fears and questions surrounding it all. Who knows how long it’ll take? I just hope that in time the fear lessens, and I feel a sense of safety again. 

It takes a village

‘It takes a village to raise a child’. I feel the truth, and sometimes pain of this a lot. 

I’m definitely feeling the loss of my village. I think really I’m feeling the loss of having a partner with me, a person that I’m supposed to be sharing this wildly unknown, emotional, difficult new journey with. 

I appreciate those who support me more than words can say, I really do. It’s still different though. It isn’t without guilt when I ask them for help, or without reminding me that I am a single mum. 

I’m a single parent. I’m living through a pandemic. Those two phrases bear so much weight, they are two big and scary journeys on their own. Saying to myself ‘I’m a single parent, during a pandemic’ I feel a little burst of nervous laughter internally trying to escape. How on earth did this even happen?

I am though. This is my life, and fuck am I feeling it. 

I haven’t had enough sleep for so many months now that I’m feeling it awfully on a physical level too, not just mentally. My back ache has crossed the line from an ache to real, intense pain. My back crunches when I move sometimes, and sometimes I shudder involuntarily from the pain when I’m putting my daughter in her cot at night. I almost feel like I’m forcing my back past where it wants to go – but what can I do? There is no one there to ask to help me, so I bite my tongue and cope with the pain.

My entire body aches, the glands in my throat are swollen, my throat sore. Couple this with the fatigue of being a new parent, during a pandemic? I started to think I had Covid, duh. I got myself tested last week and, of course, it was negative. These are ‘just’ the feelings of physical exhaustion.

The worst thing? I was actually gutted that I didn’t have Covid. At least Covid would have passed soon. 

I get headaches, and I’m suffering from regular vertigo. Vertigo, for those who don’t know, is when the room spins around you. You know when you’re really drunk, and you can’t lie down without the room spinning, and it makes you feel sick and disoriented? That’s vertigo. I’m popping pain killers like sweeties some days. 

I do have amazing support in person from my mum, and a friend of mine. I know damn well I would be far more burnt out without this, but I still feel the loss of someone who is actually supposed to be in this with me.

I feel the loss at some of the toughest times, or doing some of the regular things that need to be done, both with my little one and every day things.

I feel the loss at night, and I don’t even mean someone to take a night shift so I can rest. I mean someone to hold my hand when I’m crying at 1am, 3am, 5am on a nightly basis because she has woken. Someone to remind me that when she cries for an hour or more straight because she’s teething, and I can’t soothe her or get her to sleep, it is not my fault, I don’t need to feel guilty, I’m not a failure. 

I regularly wake in the morning feeling still so alone, so desperate for adult conversation, that I check my mum and friends statuses on facebook messenger routinely waiting for someone to be awake to talk to. 

It’s someone to take over on bathing her in the evening, so I don’t have to lean over the side and feel like my back is breaking. Or to put her in her cot so I don’t have to bite my tongue with the pain. 

It’s being able to actually have a bath to ease the pain, because there is someone to go to her if she wakes whilst I’m in it, and I won’t have to risk jumping out making the pain worse. 

Or even someone to take over on the bills or budgeting. I have a list of bill related phone calls to make that I could count on both hands, but it is so hard to make them with a baby around. Or someone to help plan the weekly meals, cook dinner on occasion, or just go to the shop for me. The tasks I have to do are constantly weighing me down, the mental exhaustion from that too is shit. 

The idea of a lie in actually makes me feel emotional. The thought of waking up at the regular time, between 5 and 6am, and even once hearing someone say ‘you rest, I’ll get her’ literally brings tears to my eyes sometimes.

It’s wanting to sometimes feel like I’m human too, and I matter, at the times where I’m feeling the most fragile and exhausted.

Being a single parent is fucking lonely. It’s crazy how bringing another life into the world can make you feel so alone. 

On top of the this – parents everywhere are feeling the impact of the pandemic. 

Not being able to see friends or family, or visit other parents who can relate to the troubles. I’m thankful that as a single parent I get to bubble with my friend and her little family. I feel like I would be completely barking mad without being able to visit them. Still I know that I, and many (all?) parents are feeling the loss of not seeing friends and family. 

Baby groups, support groups, parent meet-ups? Largely cancelled, and those that are running are virtual. Meeting a group of new people over zoom is definitely not the same as meeting them in person. It feels much harder to juggle a baby over a zoom video call, and it’s so hard to make a connection with anyone when you can’t make direct contact, or see each others body language, or even tell who is looking at who.

I expected to be at so many baby classes, groups, meet-ups with my little one right now. I expected my maternity leave days to be full of meeting other parents, sharing the joys and hardships of new parenthood together. 

Then there’s the loss of activities and places we might go. Places like the aquarium or zoos. Any Christmas or Halloween events now require tickets to stick to the strict Covid guidelines, and I’ve not been lucky or fast enough to get them. These things would stimulate our babies minds enough that we parents get to be a little mindless. It is so hard to constantly stimulate a baby and keep them entertained.

I’m not naïve enough to think being in a relationship doesn’t come with it’s own issues, and by no means am I belittling couples who are going through this new journey either. Both are different and pose their own set of difficulties, and right now I’m just heavily submerged in the throes of my own journey as a single parent. 

It takes a village to raise a baby. And this single mum, raising her little one during a pandemic, is really feeling the loss of my village right now.

Teething, and the sleepless nights that come with it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about babies it’s that everything can change in a moment. There is no long term routine. Every time you get used to how things are, they change again. 

No matter how well you know this, it will still catch you out as a parent. You may know things can change in an instant, but there will be a time where you let yourself get a little too comfortable when a good thing’s going, and then bam, everything shifts. 

The ever changing ‘routines’ of babies is difficult for anyone to cope with. 

Pickle began teething properly around 2 weeks ago. Coincidentally only two days before we were about to go on holiday (sounds about right!). Whilst we were away she slept really well, she had powders and Calpol when needed but mainly we were so busy that she was too shattered to wake in the night. 

Since we got back it’s gone downhill. Her teething has gotten worse. There are many symptoms of teething – chewing everything; dribbling tonnes; flushed red cheeks (which is quite adorable); they rub their faces, tug their ears; get grizzly and upset; they often get super cuddly (also adorable); and of course they can start to wake loads in the night, resulting in disturbed sleep for baby and parents alike. 

I know I shouldn’t have let myself get attached to any routine, but I accidentally did. I got used to getting more sleep. Now that Pickle is teething, and my sleep is impacted once again, things are feeling tough. It’s a shock to the system when your baby finally starts sleeping through the night, only to suddenly go backwards and start waking frequently again. 

The night before last Pickle woke a few times, tonight she’s woken loads. I’m writing this at 1am and already she’s woken 6 times since I put her down at 8. All she wants to do is cuddle up to me, which is adorable and lovely and I kind of love it but also it means that I don’t get any sleep. If she’s cuddled up to me I am 100% awake. 

Every time she wakes upset I pick her up, rock her, stand swaying for anything from 5 to 15 minutes, until she’s asleep and I can put her back down (a routine I’m sure any fellow parents are very familiar with!). Sometimes I have to repeat this process 2 or 3 times. 

It’s exhausting, both physically and mentally. It’s one thing to be woken regularly, but a whole other thing to go from resting or trying to sleep to jumping out of bed and having to move around, over and over and over again. And of course if she’s waking that frequently, it leaves me with bugger all chance to really sleep by the time I’ve settled her back down.

I find myself terrified to try to sleep because that horrible feeling of being woken as I drift off feels so much harder than just staying awake. Obviously that’s counterproductive in the long run.

It’s unnatural to have your routine shifted so suddenly, and it’s intense to have a 24 hour job where you get pretty much no rest time at all. 

There’s also the part where as parents we want to do things ‘right’. I’ve worked so hard on our routines and I know that the ‘right’ thing to do for them is to not bring her in to my bed. But when she’s crying her eyes out and I’m absolutely shattered, and cold, from getting out of bed repeatedly, that’s all I want to do.

In a perfect world I’d manage by never bringing her in to my bed. I’d keep getting up and settling her. But it’s not a perfect world and I’m only human. 

If I keep getting up all night I won’t get any sleep. I’ll be a sleep deprived mess by morning, which will impact my mental health, and all that will do is impact us both worse.

Sometimes you have to let go of doing the ‘right’ thing as a parent. Oh, how I wish it was as easy as it was typing that sentence.

So I’m writing this from my bed in the middle of the night. Pulling my hair out, trying not to cry, telling myself that it is OK that she is currently in my bed asleep next to me. 

I’m trying to swallow my pride about getting absolutely everything ‘right’, stop giving myself a hard time, and remind myself that I’m only human. I’m trying to bite the bullet and attempt sleep, remind myself that the temporary fuzzy feeling of being woken up as I drift off, is better than being permanently exhausted tomorrow. 

Being a single parent alone with all of this is so fucking difficult, and lonely as hell. I’m alone in the dead of night, tired, and desperate for a bit of sleep. My mental state is being tested so bad. I’m overthinking everything. It’s heartbreaking trying to console a baby who’s in pain and doesn’t understand why. I’m holding on somehow but my god can someone please come give me a hug and tell me I’m doing a good job?

I’m doing my best to ride this out. The teething phase can disappear just as quickly as it appeared, and I’m hoping so bad that happens soon. 

To all you sleep deprived mums and dads out there – Y’all are fucking superheroes. Hang on in there, and I’ll see you on the other side. 

A little family time

I’ve been quiet again for the last week but this time it’s for a much better reason, I’ve been on a little family holiday! Pickles’ first ever holiday. Now, of course I planned to do loads of writing whilst I was there, but I was too busy enjoying being there, spending time with my Mum and Pickle – definitely a good reason to not have written this time!

There was unfortunately a fair bit of stress thrown our way, and we had to come home a day early, but overall it was pretty great. 

We rented a beautiful barn conversion in Dartmoor. We were right by the moors with sheep, cows and wild ponies all around. Winding roads and beautiful nature. We spent our time outdoors, enjoying being together as a family… and having way too many cream teas. (Goodbye healthy weight loss)

I feel unbelievably proud of my little one. I had plenty of worries about taking her away at not even 7 months. What if she isn’t good in the car for that long? What if she gets really upskittled staying somewhere new? What if she won‘t sleep in her travel cot?! What if I forget something really important?!? And to top it all off she really started teething a few days before we were due to go. The two nights before we went I ended up with her sleeping in my bed because she just wouldn’t settle anywhere else, and I barely got any sleep. I was so worried I was going to come back from the holiday even more exhausted, and that we’d have gone backwards. 

I learnt that she is one heck of a resilient and adaptable little one. She did really well, she was good on the drive down (a little bit of upset but she calmed when we stopped), she settled in the travel cot, she didn’t get upskittled about being there. As long as I was there, and her Nana was there, she was happy and enjoying herself. I feel like such a proud mum that she did so well with it all. 

I also learnt that Dartmoor is really not the ideal place for a holiday with a 7 month old. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Dartmoor is a pretty middle of no where type place. The moors are rocky, hilly, sometimes boggy and always tricky to walk over. There are a lot of ditches, holes and obstacles like fallen trees, and walls to step over. (I had a spectacular fall whilst there, but with all these trIp hazards… I fell over nothing, don’t even try to tell me that’s not a skill!)

I learnt that I am way more relaxed about planning and organising a holiday than I used to be. Probably too relaxed. I definitely didn’t have some things that I could’ve done with (like a decent carrier for Pickle to be on my back, or waterproof footwear… oops). I learnt that carrying a heavy baby on your front hanging outwards is pretty hard work and killer for your back and hips. 

I’ve realised (with pride) that Pickle gets her adaptability from me. I feel like I really got to know myself again post-pregnancy, now that the tricky hormones are settling and I’m well out of a toxic relationship. It’s reminded me that I am really adaptable, easygoing, and grounded. During pregnancy (and a relationship that was really not good for me) I was none of these things. I became highly stressed, I would react to things I never would have pre-pregnancy, I was manic and over emotional, pretty much the total opposite to how I actually am. It feels like a weight has been lifted realising that’s not who I am, that it was hormones and being in a shitty situation that made me like that. 

I learnt that although my family is tiny, we’re a great little family. My Mum and I work so well together, and Pickle adores being with us both. We are all great at making the most of whatever’s thrown at us, and turning it into something fun, with tonnes of laughing fits along the way. I’m so lucky and grateful to have the bond I have with both of them. 

It wasn’t quite the holiday we were expecting. We had some big stressors that were totally out of our control, and it’s real shame these happened and had to slightly taint what could’ve been an incredible family holiday. I’m really glad we went though. I feel lucky to have had the time I did with my Mum and daughter, and I’m now super excited for other family holidays to come. I’m happy to be back from it, feeling content and ready to take on whatever life throws my way.

The final thing I learnt… I am absolutely besotted with the misty moors. Seriously, they’re incredible. I could spend hours, days even, wandering them and photographing them. I will be back with my camera as soon as I get the opportunity!

The thoughts of a single mum

I try not to focus on the fact that I’m a single Mum too much. It doesn’t do me much good most of the time, often it just flags up things that feel difficult, although admittedly there are occasions where it feels alright to be a single parent. 

Today I couldn’t help but notice that sometimes there just are times where I’m hyper aware of being a single mum. I started a new group today, one for mums who are battling with postnatal depression, or depression postnatally in general. Being that we live in a pandemic, groups are all run via zoom at the moment. For me, with my anxiety, this is both a blessing and a curse. 

I kind of love doing the meetings via zoom because I’m at home, I’m cosy, and I can be in my pyjamas from the waist down and usually no one has a clue (apart from a few times where something’s happened with the baby, and I’ve have to stand up in my paw print pyjama bottoms in full view for all, oops). All I have to do is grab my tablet, it’s pretty simple. 

On the other hand, meeting via zoom can be anxiety provoking. It’s an unnatural setting. For all that we’re used to technology these days, we’re not used to it in this way. You can’t tell who’s looking at you, and when you’re asked to speak aloud you’re suddenly aware you’re sitting in your own home, with a bunch of strangers staring at you… in your pyjamas. It’s fairly surreal. 

The thing that makes me really aware of being a single mum is that obviously, in a group for parents, facilitators mention the participants partners a lot. Or the even more awkward thing is when they almost use the word ‘partner’ but then awkwardly change to something like ‘family’ half way through… like, it’s ok. I know that the norm is for someone to have a partner, I’m not offended when you say the word. Saying ‘Your par…family’ definitely draws more attention than just saying partner. 

I mention the fact that I’m a single parent a lot but it’s not something I talk about in depth very often, only the odd bit here and there to friends. In fact, I find I’m really embarrassed to talk about it much, even to my friends. I definitely don’t bring it up as often as I would sometimes like to. I’m happy to refer to myself as a single mum in passing, but I find myself feeling quite uncomfortable talking about it in detail with people. I think there’s a lot of stigma around being a single Mum. So being me, I’m going to do my best to open up about some of my thoughts and experiences, because we all know my stance on stigma (it’s bollocks!)

So… being a single mum. For starters, I feel really self-conscious of it in groups, mostly near the beginning when other participants don’t know. It can feel awkward when people talk about or mention partners, but way more awkward when people skirt around saying it. I feel like people are going to judge me, although I think mostly I judge myself. I feel it’s important to say that I have actually never had a bad experience so far, I’ve never had judgement from anyone else, I think I just feel the tension of the stigma. 

Of course it’s really tough to be on your own with a baby. It’s shit to go through the difficult nights feeling alone. It sucks not having someone else to support you, or maybe tell you you’re doing a good job, or take over the odd night so you can catch up on some sleep. Even to just have another adult physically there with you (even if they’re sleeping) so you don’t feel like you’re the only fucking person in the world whilst suffering sleep deprivation in the dead of night, trying to console an upset baby. Yeah, the nights have definitely been some of the loneliest times of my life. Even the idea of someone to crawl into bed next to and give me a supportive hug is one I find myself longing for often.

Sometimes, I get to the point of feeling unbelievably overwhelmed, unable to cope, and there is so much pressure on me alone. The feeling that everything is down to me is pretty overpowering at times. 

There are the fears around burning out or becoming ill. The panic over the fact that you really can’t afford to do either of those things that are entirely out of your power. As if these weren’t enough before, we have Covid to worry about there now too.

There’s the part where you have to talk to your ex, the ex you don’t really want to speak to but who’s going to be in your life for the next, well, ever. Who you have to make small talk with, smile and pretend all is good when actually it was one of the most subtly (and sometimes less so) toxic relationships you’ve had, and you have to keep careful boundaries to avoid things becoming so again. It’s also knowing that he’s paying you absolutely pennies towards raising your child whilst you spend a small fortune.

Which leads on to the fact that there’s the money side of being on your own. Of course there’s going to be a money side of things, there’s a money side of things for every parent, babies are bloody expensive and incomes are rarely enough these days.

I find myself envying friends who have partners sometimes, as well as envying them for being the ‘norm’ and not standing out. My friends are incredible, super supportive, and I’m lucky to have them, but I still find myself wishing I knew just one other single Mum to talk with. I often don’t want to discuss my ‘single mum problems’ with my friends, I’m not even sure why. 

At my absolute worst – I’m talking the times where Pickle is inconsolable, I’m sleep deprived, hungry, exhausted and pulling my hair out whilst battling my mental health – I have admittedly thought ‘what do they know?’ type thoughts. And whilst they’re only fleeting thoughts, and few and far between, I feel so, so guilty for having them.

I want to make it clear that I don’t think things are harder for me than other mum’s who have a partner around. Whether someone’s a single parent or parenting in a couple, each of these things raise their own set of difficulties and stressors. They’re just two rather different settings for raising a baby. 

It really is a ‘grass is greener’ thing. We’re human, we want and envy things we don’t have. We create images in our minds for how other people’s lives are, out of our own fantasies and ideals. Single mums envy mums who have a partner around, and sometimes mums who have their partner around envy single mums, and that’s all ok.

Even if I do sometimes envy my friends for having a partner around, I still recognise that I have no idea what things are like for them behind closed doors. Just because in my head their partners are these wonderful people who do loads (or even just a couple) of helpful things, I know that doesn’t mean that’s how it is. Having a partner poses a whole load of other stressors I’m sure, ones that I have no idea about. 

A good friend of mine went out the other day, to do something for herself that she had been looking forward to. She left her little one with her partner. They basically wrought havoc, created a tonne of mess and then fell asleep leaving her to clear up after them when she got home. When she told me about that I found myself thinking ‘phew, at least I don’t have another adult to clear up after.’ Another friend told me that she’s jealous of my independence, something I would never have thought up myself if she hadn’t said it. It just goes to show that things are different for every mum, and for every parent. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, life as a single parent is hard. Life as a parent in a couple is hard. Life as a parent, is fucking hard. It’s ok to feel envious of your friends sometimes, it’s ok to admire them, or to feel like they don’t get things for you sometimes, and honestly they probably don’t sometimes which is also ok. We’re all only human, after all. I think it’s important to keep reminding ourselves that they’re also dealing with a shit load of troubles that we may know nothing about. 

The people who really have my empathy right now are the mums who have no one. I’m lucky that I have my mum, she’s supported me so much through being a new parent on my own, she’s been my absolute rock and I couldn’t imagine the place I’d be in without her. My friends are also lovely and have listened to many a rant when I’ve needed them.

If you are on your own with a baby, I really encourage you to reach out to people. Speak to Children’s Centres, join groups, join facebook communities, I promise you there are people out there who are there for you. There are some incredible communities of mums/parents on facebook, and forums. There are loads of great groups you can join, even though they’re running via zoom. 

And to all the mums I know, you’re doing a fantastic job of one of the craziest and hardest things there is to do. Take a moment right now to recognise that, and to feel proud as heck for it, I know I’m proud of you.

Self-pride and words of wisdom for new parents (hopefully!)

My mental health means I’ve learnt to do things in quite particular ways. I’m naturally pretty full on when it comes to things like my routines, and keeping my house tidy. 

Sometimes I do think I might have a low level of OCD, but overall it’s not a problem for me, and in fact I’m pretty glad I am like this, although there are definitely times where it’s more of a hindrance. I’m not over the top with keeping things clean by any means, but I have a particular standard of tidiness that I stick to. Admittedly when things aren’t kept to this standard it can cause me stress, the mess feels ‘wrong’ and sometimes it can be a huge struggle for me to leave the house if it’s not the right tidiness. 

I think that needing to tidy is a symptom of my mental health. But also, if I’m not tidying and my house gets messy it’s one of the biggest warning signs that I am not doing ok. It’s an interesting cycle.

The thing is, I learnt during my mental health recovery that certain things were really helpful for my mental health. Things like eating and sleeping at regular times, getting enough sleep, keeping the house tidy, they’re all things that keep me well and my mental health in a good place. 

So before having a baby I would tidy daily, and because I did that it would only take about 20-30 minutes a day to keep the house nice and tidy. Honestly it’s never bothered me doing it, in fact I actually really enjoy tidying the house. I’d also stick to routines pretty strictly. The result of it all was that my mental health was great, routine and regular tidying did me wonders and contributed to me being in a really good place for a few years before having Pickle.

However, naturally I was pretty worried about how I was going to manage this once I had my baby. I was concerned that having her would impact how tidy I could keep the house, and there was no way it wouldn’t impact my routines. I was anxious that both being impacted too much could affect my mental health, and that was a hard pill for me to swallow. 6 months in, we’ve had a good run of it so far and I can say with pride that it’s worked surprisingly well. 

I’ve learnt a lot about myself. I’m more flexible and resilient than I realised. Yes, having a baby has affected my routines, that was inevitable, but I’ve coped with it unbelievably well. My brain adjusted well to the fact that there is more mess. I still tidy daily, but I’ve let the standard of how tidy the house needs to be drop just enough that it’s still neat, but homely and manageable with a baby. I’ve learnt that I actually kind of like seeing the odd few toys scattered over the front room rug. I don’t see mess, the way I would with anything else on the floor, I just feel love for my daughter. 

I’ve also learnt that I am unbelievably glad that I had such good routine, and that tidying was so ingrained in me, especially as a single Mum. Because I ‘had’ to tidy, I got used to tidying with Pickle around, and from a fairly young age she got used to me doing it too. We’re now at the point where she enjoys watching me fold washing or dust. She knows that when I pop her on the floor or in her high chair to do certain tasks each morning I won’t be very long, and so she entertains herself till I’m done (sometimes I have to do awful Mum dancing to classic rock to entertain her, but I can live with that).

The fact that I had my own routine made it really easy to slot hers in alongside. I started her bedtime routine when she was only a few weeks old. You can’t really implement a bed time routine with a tiny baby, they’re obviously too young, but you can lay the foundations for a good bed time routine. I would come into the bedroom at the same time each night, turn the lights down low, have all electronics off and make sure it was quiet. I’d read her a book with a bottle, and then be really quiet through the night. When she was a little older I slotted a regular night time bath into the routine too, and most recently a little baby massage with a sleepy moisturiser (which is so cute and we both love it).

She’s always slept well. If I had removed the dummy from the equation a long time ago, she would’ve probably been sleeping through the night at a few months old. Now that she has no dummy, so far she does sleep through the night, albeit with the odd night where she wakes or things are tricky but she’s still a 6 ½ month old. 

I know that chatting to my friends with babies, one of the biggest things they struggle with is routine, which is totally normal. And I’m not naïve enough to think that the entire reason Pickle sleeps through the night is my routine, but I know it plays a big part.

So, this post is partly about me taking a moment to feel proud of myself. To recognise that I’ve made some pretty big changes to things that keep me well, that I’ve managed to be flexible with things that I was pretty scared to change. 

It’s also about me sharing my journey so far with other parents, and offering what is hopefully a word of wisdom for any new parents, from a single Mum who understands the troubles of sleep deprivation, and that is – if it feels manageable (and it’s totally ok if it doesn’t!) try to lay the foundation for that night time routine as early as you can. It’s helped me so much to be getting enough sleep that I’ve moved her into her own room (and taken that pain in the ass dummy away!). I know as well as any parent how precious sleep is, and how hard everything is when sleep deprived. My mental health has most definitely improved now that I’m getting more at last. If you can focus on one routine, let it be the sleep (and hopefully the rest will follow).

Also to any new parents out there, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t figure out any routine. You’re doing one of the toughest things any person can do. No matter how much research and preparation you might’ve done, nothing could truly prepare you for how hard it is raising a tiny human. It’s one of the most difficult things anyone could do both physically and mentally. You’re doing an amazing thing, and it’s totally ok if things feel crazy difficult. You’re not alone, and things will get easier. 

A little catch up

It feels like it’s been ages since I wrote a post. I guess when you take into account how little time I’ve been blogging, it kind of has been ages. I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster in my life lately, so many ups and downs. I’m not even going to try to sugarcoat it, there has been some real shit times. (What a shock, single motherhood, hard?! Who’d have thought it?)

I’ve had a lot to deal with in regards to my mental health, my depression has been very difficult to manage at times, and I’ve felt incredibly overwhelmed frequently. The thought of writing has felt like a chore, rather than something I wanted to do. Until tonight it felt like one more thing I had to do, and I couldn’t cope with the things I had to do already. 

The last few days things are finally seeming to settle, I’m feeling balanced and grounded, and tonight I feel like writing. I thought a quick catch up post seemed fitting. 

So much has happened. Pickle is rolling over on her own, from front to back (I can’t stop her either, the second she’s on her back she’s rolling. It brings a whole new challenge to dressing and changing nappies!), we’ve started the weaning process which is honestly so much fun. She’s started teething, but no teeth have appeared yet. She babbles her little head off to me, which is so cute and funny. Last week she moved into her ‘own’ bedroom (which is only my front room until I move to somewhere bigger). 

I’m faced with a whole load of new things to think about, changes I need to make to the flat now she’s nearly mobile, and of course I need to move to a place with more than one bedroom in the near future (which is unfortunately not as easy as it sounds as a single Mum in an expensive city).

My hormones are still massively out of whack, and I possibly have something called ‘Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder’. Something I can talk about in detail at a different time. Putting it really simply I feel extra shit when I’m due on, the hormones trigger intense depression. 

Regardless of it all I’ve kept plodding on because it’s what I do best. I’ve worked really hard on getting back into things that I know help me, like mindfulness practises, yoga, and healthy eating. The biggest thing that needed to change though? Our sleep. 

My little one had a dummy in the night. I heard all sorts of great things about how much dummies help babies. I think they can be wonderfully helpful for parents when they work. 

Unfortunately for a small minority, dummies really don’t work. Initially dummies did help, they’d settle her and help her sleep. Fairly quickly this shifted, they started to fall out of her mouth, and she would wake up distressed because she wanted it back. 

For almost 2 months my nights have been awful. I’ve been woken every 20-30 minutes to pick a dummy back up, and put it into Pickle’s mouth… and it turns out that made me feel fucking awful both physically and mentally. 

You may be thinking ‘why not just take it away then…?’. The thing is she had gotten so attached to it, that she would get super distressed without it, and that would end in a fully sleepless and difficult night. My already immensely sleep deprived, fragile, mental state could not cope with a whole night of upset baby and no sleep.

It took my mental health getting pretty seriously impacted by the lack of sleep, and me becoming crazy overwhelmed, to find the strength to finally do it. This past week we’ve gone dummyless(!) and it has been so worth it. I couldn’t have done it without my wonderful Mum being there for me to phone in the middle of the night for the first two nights, when I felt like I absolutely couldn’t do it. She totally stepped up and filled the role of a missing partner I would’ve fallen apart to at those points.

The first night (once we got past the upsets, and with upsets sandwiched in between) she slept for 3 hours and then 2. The next she slept for 3 and 3. We had a couple of nights with no sleep, then a couple more with little chunks, and now the past two nights she has slept for 9 hours. 9 hours with only a couple of little fidgety wake ups, where she didn’t need me to settle her back down. 

Typically I’ve still struggled to sleep for fear of her waking up, and it takes me a while to settle after she’s down, but I can’t believe we’ve finally done it. Things are definitely seeming brighter now that I’ve had a little bit more sleep. I’m incredibly proud of Pickle for adjusting so quickly, she’s such a resilient little thing. 

We are both doing so much better for getting some decent sleep. She’s way more calm and content, and I’m feeling able to manage life again. I feel like my insane rollercoaster ride may be slowly easing back towards the flat. 

Fingers (and toes) crossed that things stay on track for us, and here’s to getting back into blogging. It feels so good to be excited about writing again. 

To you, Harry.

Today marks 10 years since someone very close to me died. He had barely turned 20 just a couple of weeks before. 

I’ve lost a lot of people in my life, far more than someone my age should have, but this one hit me the hardest. 

I think it actually gets harder each year, I feel like the older I get the more I realise just how much he’s missed. It makes my heart ache realising how much he will miss. I wish so badly sometimes that I could go back and tell him to hold on, not to take the same steps he did that night. I wish I could tell him to get through his struggles, and that things could work out for both of us. I wish I could tell him how much there is still to see and do, and that we weren’t as grown up as we felt.

We were both so lost, so damaged. We thought we were adults, thought we knew it all. It wasn’t until I really made it into adulthood that I realised we weren’t, he wasn’t. 

Something I rarely speak about is how I was the last person to be with him. He was supposed to stay with me the night that he died, but he changed his mind last minute. Had I asked him to just stay, maybe he would still be here. It ate away at me so bad for a long time, I dealt with a lot of self blame for his death. 

I remember getting to a point, just over a year after he had died where it all got too much. I was at a friends house, we were all drinking and my head spiralled badly about how it was all my fault. I got up to leave instinctively, a friend realised how bad a place I was in and he stopped me. He had to physically stop me, restrain me. I lashed out at him initially and tried to force him out of the way until eventually I broke down in tears. That was the first time I told anyone it was ‘my fault’. I’m so grateful to that friend now in hindsight, I don’t know where I was going in that headspace.

Of course I know it isn’t my fault now, he was his own person who would’ve done whatever he wanted, and there was no reason for me to worry that I wouldn’t see him again. But I still find myself wondering what would have happened if I had just asked him to stay. Where would we be now, where would he be? 

I felt such a strong connection with him as soon as I met him. We clicked naturally on a deep level and I cared for him so much. He was thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, funny, and so caring – if anything I believe he cared too much for others. I’ve never met another soul quite like him. He helped me through some of the darkest times in my life, he gave me the confidence to leave an abusive relationship and to sort out some of my problems. He was one of the nicest and most genuine people I’ve ever met, to this day. 

He had more life experience than many even 10 years older than him in a lot of ways, he was so intelligent, but he also had a naivety about him. He was a romanticist. He romanticised everything, right down to the shitty situation we were both in. He was such a wonderful person. 

He struggled badly sometimes. His battle with depression was a tough one. I suppose in some ways it was that we bonded over, our shared difficulties led us to the same troubled place in life, doing the same crazy things, desperate to find where we fitted and to just feel ‘ok’. 

I only knew him for a couple of years, but he did more for me in those 2 years than he could ever know. We needed each other at that time, even if it was short lived. He made such a permanent mark on my life. I’m not even sure I would be alive today if it wasn’t for him, at best I’d be in a fucking awful situation.  He helped me to become who I am now. He believed in me so strongly, and so effortlessly that it gave me courage at a time where I was completely lost and broken. 

I remember our last day together. We spent the day together, we had such a lovely time as we always did. I was due to go into a detox unit the following morning. He sat down on the chair opposite my bed with a serious look on his face, and gave me such a speech about how he believed in me, how he knew I could do it. He gave me a massive hug and then left me with that same cheeky smile as always. I had no idea that would be the last time I saw him. 

On the 16th of this month he should have turned 30. There are so many things he should have done with his life. So many things he will never get to experience. It breaks my heart that he can’t do any of these things.

It’s strange, the role that social media plays after someone has died. I wrote on his wall today, and it’s such a weird experience. Many people still write on someone social media once they’re no longer here. It’s like in a weird way a part of them still is here, but at the same time I felt that desperation for him to reply to me, even though of course I know he never will.

He would be proud of me now, I know he would. He would laugh at me a little for being where I am, for conforming and having the job I have now, but he would be so fucking proud. 

He made a mark on so many peoples lives, not just my own. He was truly one of a kind and I know that it’s not just my heart that hurts for him. 

My thoughts are with his family today, as a parent myself now I can’t even imagine what they’ve been through and how hard it is for them.

To you Harry. I will never stop missing you.

Focussing on the positives… for once

I met up with an old friend recently. A friend who I first met when we were both living in supported accommodation as teenagers, we’d both had a shit hand dealt to us, and I moved into the flat below her. We quickly became best friends, and being teenagers, naturally we spent every waking minute together (even every sleeping minute for a while, we were attached at the hip!).

We lost touch when we were in our early 20’s, no falling out or anything like that, we just drifted in the way that people often do when young. We both had lots of troubles to work through, and she stopped using social media for a fair few years, until recently. 

She popped up in my suggested friends about 18 months ago, so I sent her a request. We picked up like old times, but it was obvious we’d both matured and balanced out a lot since we last spoke. The really sweet thing is not long after we got chatting we both discovered we were pregnant, it turned out she was about 3 weeks ahead of me. 

We’ve talked a lot since, and although Covid got in the way of us meeting since we had our babies, we finally got to meet up with them recently. It was such a wonderful experience to sit down with our little ones, and be mums together after all this time (as well as laugh at the fact we’re both still super awkward as people and as mums at times).

Even though I’m having a hard time lately I can’t help but smile when I think about it. Not only because it’s amazing to see her after all these years, but because of what it signifies for both of us when we meet up. We’re both in such good places in our lives, and it fills me with pride to be able to say that. 

The last times I saw her I was a mess. She had plenty of reason to distance herself from me, whether it was conscious or subconsciously. Possibly a bit of both, and that’s totally fine.

I was a wreck mentally. I struggled with my borderline personality disorder, as well as my anxiety and depression. It was literally crippling for me, and there’s no doubt in my mind it was incredibly difficult for anyone around me too. I was suicidal and would self harm pretty badly on a daily basis as a result of the headspace I was in. I had an iffy relationship with drugs and was falling off the wagon a little.

I have a couple of friends who stuck by me through these times, and they aren’t afraid to tell me that they were convinced I was a lost cause. I was so messed up by traumatic life events, and the coping mechanisms I’d developed were far from healthy. The odds were incredibly against me. 

Now today, although as most of you know I’ve been coping with some tricky depression recently, I am so unbelievably different from the girl that I was then. I’ve worked unbelievably hard to change my life, and myself.

I got myself away from the drug use. I battled the addiction to self-harm. I worked so hard through therapy, and with psychologists, to understand my mental health, and to change the unhealthy coping mechanisms, learn healthy coping mechanisms and ‘re-wire my brain’. 

I went from being incredibly out of control with my borderline personality disorder, to being told I had it so well managed I didn’t meet the criteria for it anymore. I will always have a ‘different’ brain, I’ll always have to work harder than most to manage certain things, but it doesn’t control me anymore.

I’m a grounded and balanced person (despite the odd manic episode!). I’ve got a good job, I went back and got myself the basic qualifications I missed out on, and now have aspirations to possibly even go to uni. Sure, I still have my battles with depression and anxiety, but I handle them well and I continue to progress, even with the odd setback. 

I think that as a society we are hardwired to notice the negative more than the positive. So whilst thinking about my own journey, I felt like it was important for me to take a moment to really recognise and appreciate it. To write about it and really allow myself to feel pride for how far both her and I have come. To let myself take a break from my difficulties, and be happy with where I’ve got to, even though things are still sometimes tough. 

I urge you if you’re reading this, regardless of where you are emotionally, to try to think of something positive about yourself for a moment. Whether it’s looking back at where you were a certain number of years ago, and what you’ve overcome or how you’ve grown since then. Maybe just take a moment to think about something good you’ve done today, or this week. 

It’s too easy to miss our own achievements, to gloss over the incredible things we’ve done and instead focus on the things we’ve not done. I’m going to enjoy this moment and these feelings of pride right now. I really hope that some of you reading this can do the same, even for a moment. 

Mental health and sleep deprivation

A friend of mine mentioned my writing a few days ago. She said how helpful it must be having writing as my outlet. She’s right, it’s an incredibly helpful outlet for me, which got me thinking about how I haven’t written for nearly a week.

The truth is I’ve been having a bit of a rough time mentally, and I’m not always very good at admitting it. I think I went into hibernation mode because it felt easier. In reality it hasn’t been easier. I’ve felt even more trapped and alone, as well as feeling guilty for being a ‘bad friend’ and not speaking to friends so much.

August is never a great month for me anyway, for reasons I won’t go into right now, but things really got on top of me this week.

I’ve had a lot to do. Lots of things needed sorting through to create enough space for the ever changing/growing list of baby things required. I’ve had an unbelievable amount of stuff to sort through, to either be passed on elsewhere, or photographed and listed online to sell. 

I’m trying to prep for weaning Pickle, so I’ve been researching weaning endlessly. My mum and I are trying to book a holiday (Pickle’s first), which should just be exciting but it turns out there are so many things to consider when taking a 6 month old on holiday. Plus Covid times make finding and booking things incredibly time pressured. 

I’ve felt the pressure of needing money for baby items this month, and needing money for an upcoming holiday next month. 

I’ve been trying to do so much. Whilst having a baby who needs my attention pretty much 24/7, and having a house to run on my own. I’ve been non stop. Oh, and Pickle has decided to nap even less than her two 15 minutes a day, obviously.

I finally got my period about a week ago. Only the second one since having a baby. I’ve always struggled with depression badly when due on but it’s been extra tough with the added pressure of life and single parenthood. My emotions have been a rollercoaster and it’s been hard to cope at times. Oftentimes this week I’ve felt like I’m the biggest failure there is. A failure as a person; as a Mum; a daughter; and a friend. I’ve felt completely in over my head, I’ve cried a fair bit and I’ve wanted to just give up with everything, but I haven’t. I’ve plodded along, and somehow managed to keep doing everything I needed to. 

I lost two beloved family pets this week. On Tuesday my Mum’s cat was put to sleep, the family cat we’d had since I was 7. It was heartbreaking. I spent two days with my distraught Mum distracting her and eventually taking them both to the vet. Two days after this my nan’s cat also had to be put to sleep. He had been living with a family friend since my Nan went into a dementia care home last year. I’m wonderfully grateful for the last year he had but devastated to hear of him passing too. 

To top it all off I’ve been barely sleeping. Pickle sleeps well through the night but has been stirring more and more often when her dummy falls out of her mouth. She sleeps well but only so long as I pop her dummy back in her mouth every time it falls out, which is roughly every 20 minutes. If I don’t pop it back in her mouth, she gets upset, wakes up, and it takes ages to settle her again. I think the only logical thing to do is for me to wean her back off the dummy. I’ve weaned her off it during the day now but I am dreading taking it off her at night. I have to remind myself that eventually it will lead to me sleeping. I suppose this has me really feeling alone too though, nothing like preparing yourself to face an indefinite amount of sleepless nights, comforting your very distressed baby completely on your own, to make you feel like a single parent. 

There have been good times this week too. I took Pickle to the aquarium for the first time and she loved it. She stayed awake the entire trip because she was so excited by all the little fishies, which was a wonderfully heartwarming experience for me. And I saw a friend and her baby today for the first time since we were both pregnant (thanks to Covid). 

I’m trying to pull myself together, and cut myself a break. I feel exceptionally overwhelmed right now, and depression is a bitch, but I’m plodding along. I’m reminding myself that hibernating and not seeing friends is not actually helpful at all (if any of my friends are reading this, I’m sorry, please bear with me). 

Any tips (or words of encouragement) for weaning off dummies at night are incredibly welcomed. 

Love to all you single parents feeling the weight of parenting alone right now. You are not alone in spirit.