Iso-gardening for my sanity

If you have followed my instagram at all you would know that my lifestyle changed drastically 18 months ago when my mother (and boss) was diagnosed with bladder cancer. I had an 11 month old and 5 year old just starting school at the time.

Fast forward to this year, the situation worsened and my work/life balance was thrown out. Amongst COVID isolation, being unable to see family, mum knocking at the pearly gates and scaring us all, job insecurity for hubby, Judd being hospitised and, home schooling. Oh the glorious home schooling 👎

There is only so much one naturally anxious person can take without waving the white flag.

This began my journey with depression medication, and later on, growing plants.

I killed 99% of my house plants before I purchased a Zanzibar – labelled “The plant you can’t kill”. It thrives on neglect. My kind of leafy friend. I do recall begging it not to die and promised I’d water it occasionally, they say talking to plants helps (or maybe I had too many of these 🍷).

After a shitful period of time I thought “fuck it”, if I have no control over where I can go, who I can see, no control over much at all at the present, maybe I can gain some control back and master growing something else, fostering little seeds and seedlings into becoming more than dismal disappointments that we’ve all experienced of late.

The metaphoric iso gardening train came and I sat right up front with the driver.

It so happens my work has garden supplies, fabulous, easy access to gardening gear in covid lockdown. It also so happens work opened a nursery recently. Even better!

But prior to that I grabbed whatever seeds I could, old corrugated iron sheets, some sticks of 90×45 pine, a handful of hope and my handy husband, and I knocked together my first raised planter.

I planted carrot seeds, heirloom tomatoes (rouge de marmande), onions, peas, marigolds, cornflower and echinacea. Beside a potted bamboo I planted a seed potato.

Weeks were spent in winter catching up on Gardening Australia. Never thought I’d see myself as a 32 year old watching that show, but it is actually pretty fucking awesome at teaching amatuers like myself.

After a short while of checking moisture levels, and again, speaking to what I thought were inanimate objects, seeds began sprouting.

Somehow, in all of the negativity, the cold wintry frosty weather, I grew my first vegie seedlings.

It may be largely due to there being literally no other entertainment options not previously exhausted, but I think it is rather the sprouting of hope. I physically made something thrive and that helped to gently coax me out of my funk.

Oh the excitement as flowers bloom, and leaf develops from a stick (those crepe myrtle trees are tricky little stickys!)

That’s a whole lot more excitement than I experienced beforehand.

Is gardening hard work? Heck yes. But you receive instant gratification from weeding and harvesting and for a depressive, anxiety ridden human that is worth a lot.

The silver lining of Covid is learning skills that generations past were raised to master at a young age. It somehow feels “right” to go back to our roots and connect with the soil we inhabit.

After joining gardening groups online, you see that age is not a defining factor in how people connect and the desire to give advice and share knowledge is abundant.

That type of community spirit can brighten anyone’s day. Once Cootieville, aka Melbourne, returns to some type of normal I hope to join the local community garden group to learn even more and create more positive pathways.

Gardening is not just for retirees. It has soothing qualities to it that trains your brain in mindfulness, while getting boosts of vitamin D and fresh air. As a parent of young ones it can be challenging juggling the garden and the kids needs, but that is why I teach them to water for me 😂

If I had not began my own gardening adventure I cannot imagine what sort of state I would be in now. No, not a progressed state of talking to indoor plants that can’t talk back, it would be further journeying down a pit of despair and self pity that is neither healthy nor helpful for anyone.

Honestly, give growing your own food or flowers a go! The worst thing that can happen is that they die and you replant with new knowledge not to make that mistake next time.

100% it has changed my brain chemistry for the better and helped me let go of things I cannot change.

Until next time

Sha x

You can grow potato in a decorative planter with a bamboo plant, right? Ugly barricades courtesy of my old dog who likes to bury her bones
Spinach and cornflower grown from seed
Cucumber seeds sprouting

The Vulnerability of Motherhood

The Vulnerability of Motherhood

I saw her. I could see her heart thumping without seeing her heart at all. Living off adrenaline. Survival mode. Her baby, not quite 6 months old, sitting quietly on her lap with oxygen tubes attached to his face.

A hospital sleep specialist walks by to make himself a coffee. Courageously he asks, “how are you, and how is he going?”.

You could pressume that he was assigned to the baby as his specialist by the way the woman responded, you’d be wrong.

“Exhausted. I’m utterly exhausted.”, the mother replied. “This is so tiring.”

The staff members eyes widen as if to suggest he received more than he’d bargain for, and regretted asking anything in the first place. He walks away – politely but awkwardly smiling.

The room is quiet. After reading a brochure, I look up. She sits there jiggling her leg to bounce her baby. Jittering, fidgeting. This mother has not slept properly for some time.

Her inner engine is at full revs trying to get through the day. A symptom of stress all too familiar.

I blurt out, “Is he in here for sleep testing?”. Fully aware it’s likely to be for something else.

“Oh, he’s on a CPAP. We’ve just had an overnight sleep study a week ago. It was the best sleep I’ve had in ages. Because I didn’t have to worry and fuss, I knew someone was going to be there to watch him too. It wouldn’t just be me. ”

The flood gates open.

I can’t help but empathise and ask, has she got any help at home. “No. Not if you count a husband who argues with me in the middle of the night about the baby.”

She was alone. She is alone. And vulnerable. Maybe craving for someone to hear her out. And to validate that her emotions are accepted by someone. Her own opinion is not enough.

I sigh for her and share in her disappointment in the lack of support. Then spend the next 5 minutes listening to her story. The story of her baby having a “floppy airway” otherwise known as laryngomalacia. It creates an obstruction which stops him from breathing. She can’t sleep knowing this. Who could? The respiratory team and ENT battle over how to manage it, constantly.

They decided to perform a bronchoscopy recently to get a visual of it. Her son needed to be resuscitated twice in recovery. Putting on hold any surgical solution for the condition. I am overwhelmed with emotion for her.

She counted, almost 50 times she woke up to adjust his machine the previous night. She said her son had always sounded congested from birth but for some time nobody wanted to listen to her concerns. His condition is serious.

We were interrupted by each of our specialist nurses and doctors and went our separate ways.

If she were ever to read this, I would want her to know that I was privileged to hear her story. A stranger she may be, but a fellow comrade she is.

People often steer away from those who are full to the brim with the challenges in their lives, what if we were all eager to engage with them and connect with them? To hear their story, acknowledge their vulnerability and validate their feelings. How different the world could be.

This mother was at the end of her tether. Maybe she needed just one nice thing to show her that all is not dark and grim. That there is more to this life than scary things out of her control that send you pleading on your knees for mercy. To be heard, to have openness and understanding is worth more than any physical gift you can give someone.

Sending out love to all of you in my tribe who did this very thing for me recently. Your kindness makes the day shine a little brighter.

Sha x

**Illustration by Jamina Bone of @mommingwithtruth

When Your Second Labour is Longer Than Your First

When Your Second Labour is Longer Than Your First

“Well Shaara, looks like Hubby will need to learn to deliver a baby because this labour will be much faster than the first”. Not true for everybody and I am GLAD that didn’t happen to me.

After the 2.5 hour labour with my first, my body went into shock for around 12 hours and I shook that whole time as if I was about to perform a public speech.

Doctors and experienced parents share the notion that if a mothers body has already done the stretching and adjusting once (or many) times before then it usually means the next time you birth a babe it will come out much faster. I’m sure for a vast majority of women this happens but for whatever reason my second labour resulted in 3 days of early labour and 8 hours active.

When you first discover you are pregnant with baby number one you begin to write a plan. An idealistic, dreamy birth plan that may include a fitness ball, yoga music, relaxing back massages, burning essential oils and overpriced candles while you lay in a warm birthing pool repeating mantras and affirmations in your mind as each contraction comes and goes like waves off a tropical island. Well, that is pretty much what my plan was with Zac and as you may already know, it certainly did not happen. {You can read about that here}.

Our second baby, Judd (JJ), decided to take his time.

At the beggining of last year, after our dreamy American honeymoon, we decided we had recovered from the rollercoaster of the first child and took the plunge to procreate once more. Since Zac was more independent it seemed like a good time to try for another as I was no longer helicopter mum-ing him all day, therefore thought I had enough energy. Lol. Oh the naivety of past me.

Eventually July comes along and the pee stick reveals we had another Horin on the way. I was so happy and emotional that I burst in on Shane showering, shoved the test in his face and waited for his reaction. He probably won’t want me sharing this but he had more tears than I did and struggled to get any words out. Being a Dad and growing our family meant so much to him and he was ecstatic that we managed to make another little jelly bean.

The early days were once again filled with nausea and exhaustion. But this time I knew why and I must admit that I took it much easier on myself pyschologically. This was after I thought it a wonderful idea to shovel stones and move wheelbarrows like I did when pregnant with Zac. My back was angry at me but my husband was angrier. After I’d learnt my lesson, gone was the pressure to behave like a superhuman and in came the more relaxed, self-caring version of myself. I looked forward to seeing that baby bump and feel the tiny flutters of first movements. It was a special time and apart from my back and hip issues (hello sciatica!) and initial first trimester sickness, I was astounded at how mentally stable and excited I felt. This was planned and I am a planner.

The months roll by and I was swept away on a suprise luxury getaway to Daylesford for our first wedding anniversary. It was like the babymoon we never had. I pondered whether my husband had really been working those overtime hours because the guy I married, while I love him dearly, is probably the least formally romantic guy I’ve ever met. Sorry babe, but you know you are. He books the most amazing couples massage and at this point I am a sloth like creature who struggles to stay awake for 2 minutes after dinner let alone reward the man for his efforts 😉.

Along rolls the end of January and I am waddling like an Emperor Penguin. I certainly did not expect this level of discomfort in a second pregnancy, in fact, I thought it would be easier. Again, who the hell is this naive and ignorant voice in my head feeding me lies? It was a tough pregnancy physically this time and in the height of summer. My boss let’s me finish work early as she feels sorry for me – thanks Mum (benefits of working with family). This gives me more energy and time to devote to Zac’s first days of kinder.

February comes along and a week before my due date I start to feel some light pains in the evening. Thinking nothing of it, I ignore and continue watching a marathon of The Amazing Race. After some time I realise the pains are coming at regular intervals. We time them at about 5-7 minutes apart and call the hospital. As we drive they get stronger and I get concerned we won’t make it on time. Pulling up to the door was like an antidote for labour. As I was being monitored, they plateaued and the nurse suggest I take a bath in their new birthing tub. This was an exciting moment for me. I’d wanted to labour in water but never had the chance earlier with everything accelerating quickly the first time.

Contractions continued to plummet and we left for home in the morning. The next day we decided to go for a walk to help things along. Night came and there I was bouncing on the fitness ball watching The Amazing Race again with regular pains. It did not escalate past the previous evenings levels so we stayed home and once the pains slowed I got some rest. Feeling frustrated, the next day we decided to live life as usual, seeing as baby was hesitating to exit the incubator. So we did. We dropped Zac off at kinder, cleaned the playroom and garage out and headed out to do a big grocery shop at Aldi. By the time we began packing our shopping, pains returned and were intensifying. Determined not to obsess over it, we pick Zac up from kinder. It is at this point I realise the baby would come that day. Taking deep breaths and pausing with the regular contractions, Zac’s kinder teacher explains his day to me and with empathetic eyes asks if I am having contractions at that moment. I nod, unable to speak, hoping some form of motherly telepathic powers kick in. They kind of do and the teacher empathetically glances at me and encourages me to head off.

Still determined, I agree to take Zac to the ice creamery as we had missed his company the last few days. There I was, helping Zac eat ice cream between moments of deep breathing and closed eyes, probably making me look narcoleptic. Not exactly what happens in the movies. I didnt let it bother me.

Again with that horrible guilty conscience of mine, I just wanted to spend time with my boy who I’d been unable to see those last few days. And I knew it would probably be the last moments we had together as a family of three.

We head for the car where, once driving, I instruct Shane to drop Zac off at his parents who happened to live around the corner from the ice creamery. My poor mother in law tries to talk to me but I’m at that level of being unable to speak again. It’s so bizarre when you go through labour again. You know what to expect and yet you do not. There is no way to fully comprehend and be prepared for the experience of birth at any time.

Zac was happy to have a sleepover at his grandparents, me on the other hand cried on the way to the hospital. My big baby had hardly seen Mummy lately and what was about to happen to him would change his little world forever. No longer would everybody notice just him, it would be him and his brother and I hoped he would become proud rather than jealous. An Aunty had bought him a book about becoming a big brother and I knew he was excited, but what if it went all wrong?

The midwife at the hospital was, if I am completely honest, kick ass and so boss at her job. She made lame jokes which relaxed both of us, but probably Shane moreso because he is in his Dad-joke prime right now. Lord help us when the kid are teenagers.

The contractions are stronger and the monitoring system at the hospital sends information to the obstetricians phone. He asks if I would like any intervention to speed things up but I refuse as I wanted the baby to come when he was ready. He stays at home and informs us he will return at 9pm.

They fill the gloriously large bath and I hop in. That warm water was bliss. The contractions were well and truly increasing. Because they are necessary and a sign of birth preparation, they didn’t bother me as much as the back and hip pain I’d felt all pregnancy becoming sharper with each wave of pains. The water relieves the weight of gravity and after over 3 hours I feel the need for the toilet. I did not want to be the one that pushes more than a baby out on the bed. So I request that the nurse begins emptying the bath so I can get out. With the frequency of the contractions I had no idea how I would get to the loo and do my business. I stop the midwife emptying the tub and ask her to put more water in, only to tell her minutes later I need to push. Clearly I had confused what movements were going on down there. Shane is sitting by the bath the whole time, letting me squeeze his arm like a stress ball and massaging me when asked to. That was just a precursor to what I was about to inflict on him. The midwife insists on me getting out of the bath and over to the bed for labour because the hospital is not accredited for water births. I stand up and feel the full weight of my belly and baby on my back and hips, and they begin to burn. The doctor arrives just on time, earlier than anticipated and luckily so. I walk over to the bed, having to stop and lean on the nurse as I concentrate breathing so I won’t scream like a banshee. I have to lie down on my back so that the staff can monitor our vitals. At this point I become very verbal.

“Please can I go on my knees to push. I don’t want to lie down. My back and hips!” That burning, tearing, and disjointing feeling is one I wont forget. The staff reassure me I will be able to roll over and kneel at the head of the bed. I’m fully dilated and feel that uncontrollable pushing return. Kind of like when you need to vomit and can’t stop yourself, not the most pleasant of comparisons, I know. The OB notifies me that waters had not ruptured in the bath as we had suspected and asks would I like him to break them. I’m sure I replied “Yep!” before he finished the question. He proceeds and it ups the ante. Like a tantruming toddler, I keep repeating that I do not want to give birth on my back.

It. Is. Time. With assistance, I roll over to kneel with my arms on the head of the inclined bed. Gas was offered, but after my strange out of body experience last time, I declined. That’s the planner/control freak part of me. Immediately I need to push. This time I had the OB and amazing midwife guiding my pushes. Shane again repeating their words like before but this time coaching me like pro, and I could feel the positive, encouraging vibes from him. With that, I knew I could do it. I just had to overcome the feeling that my lower back and hips were going to split halfways down the middle. This was not a quiet birth, people next door definitely heard my wails and I did not even care. I needed them. Pushing a baby out is bloody hard work. Two or three lung emptying pushes followed by a bunch of little pants and our second baby boy enters the world. I felt a rush of endorphins as I pull JJ through my legs up to my chest and roll onto my back. He is here and he is sure to let us know with his compacted and wrinkly, squelling face. I’d done it and he was perfect.

Looking down at him, tears formed. He had light coloured hair that covered him like a layer of shimmery glitter. I breathe in his smell like it’s the best drug in the world and secretly hope he will be a red head like me. I glanced over at Shane whose smile was ear to ear, eyes full of proud, happy tears. The entire room was alive yet so tranquil. Encouraging comments from the nurses, doctor and my husband were chimed back to me and it dawned on me that I’d managed to pull off a drug free labour as planned, that it was beautiful and I should be proud of myself regardless of the banshee impression. It was almost an indescribable moment, even while my placenta was being delivered. I felt love immediately, not world-upturning shock like my first birth.

I had researched all I could about breastfeeding, getting advice and watching videos. The first latch was painful and awkward and from there it became more difficult. Nurses commented on how red my nipples were and how unusual it seemed. My supply was also problematic and I could not get a comfortable latch (even with the so-called lactation consultants help, later we discover JJ has a lip tie) so after a few days I gave it a rest and pumped exclusively while mix feeding formula. The baby blues hit me and Judd was crying throughout the night. This time I bucked up and asked for help from the nurses. I didn’t want to or have to do it alone.

The nurses made my hospital stay a wonderful memory. Each supporting whatever decision I made. I hadn’t experienced that before and I left hospital with nipple shields, still expressing but knowing deep down that breastfeeding was not for me and my child. I continued to pump. Almost consumed by the idea of being able to eventually breastfeed. But the reality was that for so many reasons I was not capable. I stopped pumping after awakening to the fact that I was clutching at straws. I’d given my baby colostrum. He was mostly fed by formula. Time for me to overcome my pride and put my family first. It took weeks of grieving. Of hiding my tears and ugly crying in the shower. Hormones did not help but I felt like a failure again.

Another moment occurs when it is confirmed why I married my husband. He sits with me while I cry and tells me that I got the labour I wanted. I set out to use a fitness ball, have spaced contractions so I could process what was happening, use a birthing bath at least for pain relief, avoid medications, get back massages AND give birth any way but on my back. If I could have slapped myself I would have. Gratitude hit me and I snapped out of the grieving. I was fortunate to get something I asked the universe for. I should be grateful to have ANY type of food for my baby. I am grateful.

Physically, my recovery was swift. Mentally, that took time. It is a work in progress that I chip away at each and every day. Looking at my beautiful, healthy and loving boys I feel complete. Not in generic way but in a way where it is like your heart has grown and you don’t know how to tell other parents with one child so that they will understand how great it really is. My boys dote over each other. I had always wanted 2 boys. Ask and you shall receive.

Until next time.

Sha x

Just after giving birth

Judd (JJ)

Our boys first cuddles

Walking to help labour along

Resources

If you are a “planning/routine” Mum like me you made find The New Contented Little Baby book helpful. Take advice that is relative and leave the rest.

Your local Maternal Child Health Nurses. A lot changed in 4.5 years and our local MCHN (Cardinia Shire) are much more accepting and constructive than they were previously. I would recommend talking to them if you are not coping or need advice.

St John of God Raphael Services in Berwick are wonderful for PND or Anxiety support

When You Miss Half Your Pregnancy

When You Miss Half Your Pregnancy

You read it right. I’m somewhat famous amongst my friends and family. The girl who didn’t realise she was pregnant until she was 20 weeks. I was 25 at the time but I call myself a girl, not a woman, because mentally that is how I felt.

After over 6 months of organising the build on our house, I knew something felt different. I had been unwell and so incredibly nauseated the entire time. Physically I was pushing myself harder than ever before. Moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of bricks into skip bins. Landscaping, shoveling, cleaning and pushing my body to breaking point every day. I worked full time and did this after work, on the weekends, then going back home and adjusting to living with my now husband and his brother and brother’s wife. Amongst all of it, the paperwork, oh the paperwork relating to an owner/builder style of building is relentless. Sourcing trades, negotiating prices, losing your shit at the carpenter who is also supposed to be your mentor and assist with organising the build. It was a heck of a ride with many lessons learned but as you can tell, I didn’t have time to scratch my back let alone consider the fact my contraceptive pill had not done it’s job effectively around New Years Eve.

After weeks of bloating, random abdominal cramping, tiredness and epic mood swings, I consider getting it checked. Maybe it’s gas, I thought? Or appendicitis? Off I go to the GP to ensure it’s nothing sinister. After explaining the symptoms he pushes me out the door convincing me it is nothing, even when I mentioned pregnancy. Off I went.

3 months into pregnancy I had a Gyno appointment. Undertaking a common procedure, I mention symptoms to the doctor to get his opinion. Even after being in the vicinity of the baby making station he assures me it is nothing to be concerned about.

After these instances the most peculiar feeling begins. Tiny bubbles feel as if they are floating around and popping in my abdomen. Okay, this definitely is strange and it is at this point I decide to get a pregnancy test, you know, just in case.

The little line appeared and I felt as if I’d been winded by a kick in the guts. I cried. Actually I sobbed. Sitting there in the toilet while my partners family gathered in the kitchen. I didn’t really believe I could possibly have been pregnant until now. I was on a really expensive, new contraceptive pill that is known to stop periods so that warning sign was not relevant to me. After a while I dry my eyes, walk out and grab my partner by the hands and we walk outside. His face when I told him still amazes me. The look of complete shock where it drains the blood from your skin, then suddenly he realised I was in more shock than he. And the most amazing thing happened in the moment that I was on the brink of falling apart. He smiled the most heartfelt smile you could imagine. He hugged me tightly. And told me he was excited. We’d been together since I was 15, and he 16, and I can tell you right now that all of my instincts of him being a good Dad were coming to fruition that day. A good choice was made in staying with that guy. I stand by my decision every day.

The pregnancy feels short. Many moments occur where I fall into such mental despair that I can’t get out of bed. I wanted to be a Mum some day. But in the future after we’d settled into our house and travelled Europe for a while. Abortion never crossed my mind, yet I couldn’t comprehend how I could be strong enough to give birth and support another human being. Never disillusioned about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, I knew it would be a hard slog and I was shit scared of it.

This is when my best friend came to my house, unsure of why I was so completely upset (as I was supposed to be excited), she came to the doctors with me so I could get an understanding of how to book the hospital, what scans did I need, how do I figure this whole thing out? She remained one of my biggest supporters even when my boobs where hanging out and I needed someone to pick up a breast pump for me. The kind of friend who’d happily kill for you . It helped having someone to cry to about feeling alone and out of my depth.

I wanted to make up for all of the terrible things I’d done to my body whilst unknowingly pregnant. The guilt was unbearable and I still don’t think I’ve forgiven myself entirely. I began prenatal yoga and it was the best thing I could have done. My muscles thanked me and my brain did too. The baby didn’t mind it either.

At 36 weeks my mucus plug came out and some pretty intense cramps started. It was my now fiances birthday and we were having a small family barbecue. I stayed quiet about it for a while but then it became too much and we drove to hospital. The cramps had stopped and the baby was fine so back home we went.

At exactly 38 weeks, I awoke to my waters breaking and light cramps. After doing the usual call to the hospital, they assured me as it was my first baby it may take a while to go into full active labour. They recommended I walk around, have a shower then get some rest. I wake up my partner before my shower to let him know it was go time and he begins to pack the car on my request. Not fast enough for my liking as by the time he visits me in the shower I am having intense contractions at 2-3 minutes apart. We quickly get me dressed and into the car. Fiance asks me repeatedly if I am okay, should he park or drop me off at the hospital entrance? A pleading look in his eyes for me to reply and give him confirmation everything was alright. But speak, I could not. By the time we drove out of our street there was zero gap between contractions and by the time we hit the freeway I was desperately trying not to give into the pushing sensation. Adamant that giving birth on a roadside was not on my bucket list.

“Pull up to the door” I manage to say and as we walk down the corridor to the maternity unit. The midwife sees me half keeled over as I walk. My eyes must have darkened as I replied to her question of “Oh sweetheart, what’s the matter?!” by shooting daggers out of them. I’d just been on the phone to her, and obviously as a first timer I must have sounded as if I was exaggerating. They walk me into the birthing suite which has only just been cleaned. Mid September is apparently one of the hospitals busiest time of year. Ushered into the ensuite to give them a wee sample, my waters were still exiting at a rapid rate. I stand up to wash my hands, still hunch-backed like Quasimodo over the basin, and I freeze. The pressure was overwhelming and I needed to push. Right there and right then. I’m still sure I could have delivered in that bathroom standing up. Yet I was shuffled over to lie down and be examined and attached to the heart monitor to check baby, and offered the gas which I happily used as a distraction (it did nothing to relieve pain, only made me feel like I was another person watching over myself in labour). While the baby’s health is of utmost importance, that pushing feeling is one that is so unexplainable and fighting it is like trying to win a losing battle. The midwife does an internal examination as it is so busy no Obstetricians are available. She looks shocked and starts moving fast.

“How many centimetres am I?”. I’d watched that many episodes of One Born Every Minute, I thought I knew all the lingo and I thought I was prepared for what was to come. “You’re fully dilated. Whenever your body tells you it’s ready, you push!”. And that I did. The most ugly faced, gruntiest sounding, Deadpool Maximum Effort like pushing I’d ever done before. It was scary, daunting, yet I knew there was no turning back and I reminded myself that each contraction/push is one less I have to do. The fiance stands next to me, mimicking what the midwife says as he has mentally stalled and is just as shit scared as I am, still.

One extra large push, when you feel like no amount of pushing will get that baby out, and the sharp feeling of tearing jolts me like a lightning bolt. The upside, baby’s head is out and with light pushes to follow he enters the world in a room with utterly surprised people. The labour was 2.5 hours long. I was at the hospital for about 30-40 minutes and my midwives were somewhat unprepared for Zac to arrive so quickly, the heated crib was not even yet heated.

Relieved of intense pain, I sigh and stare at Zac’s screaming, squashed face. I was in awe of course. And struck with guilt immediately that I did not feel overwhelming love and rainbows and unicorns that every mother brags about. It had all gone so fast. 18 weeks of pregnancy (that I’d known of) where we’d moved into our house and become engaged. 2.5 hours of labour. On the inside I was just begging for something to take it’s time. Just allow me to process one portion of this gargantuan, life altering occassion before I fall into a heap. I hold our baby and feed him while the Obstetrician (who finally walks in) delivers my placenta and stitches me up. I hardly notice that pain after the ordeal that had just occurred. My biggest supporter, Shane, cries tears of joy having watched his wonderful little boy enter the world. He remarks constantly at how proud he is of me. I still love him so much more knowing that when I look like a sweaty, frizzy haired witch he still thought I was a rockstar. I felt proud that I’d given life to a wonderful little boy but the whole situation felt alien to me.

What happened next was precisely what I didn’t want to happen. 2 weeks of a crying baby that hardly slept, was not gaining weight and was beggining to look unwell and very jaundiced. Oh and reflux. Actual projectile, vomiting reflux. Add it onto the list of things I felt unqualified to handle.

It felt like an eternity and I felt so incredibly judged by the hospital lactation consultant and maternal health nurses as if I wasn’t trying hard enough to breastfeed. It’s bullshit of course because I was trying with every piece of energy I could muster. I’d feed, top up with expressed milk, pump, clean house, get a wink of sleep if I was lucky and do it all again. Poor Zac was still hungry and after crying most of the days and nights I did not believe I deserved him. He deserved a Mum that could function properly and dote over him. The most ultimate cloud of loneliness I had inflicted on myself. I could have been at an Ed Sheeran concert and still felt alone. Our friends would visit and dote over our boy. I would force a mask of “expected” gloating new mum behaviour onto my actually dishevelled and depressed face. Mastitis crept up and slapped me right in that face and with cracked and bleeding nipples, I hit rock bottom. At this time I threw in the towel. I had admitted defeat. My mother in law gave Zac a bottle of formula while I went to the 24 hour doctors to get antibiotics and, I’m ashamed to say, tablets to stop my milk production. Zac then slept. I got more than 30 minutes of sleep and those little sparks of human were beggining to return.

It was a tough decision and one that impacted me incredibly, but it needed to be done as I’m simply not a very good cow and I had to draw the line when I started thinking horrible thoughts. It was also the best decision I made. After weeks of nothing but confusion and guilt because I did not get that doting and adoring feeling you are told you should get when you have a newborn, I slowly began to look at my boy like he was the most wonderful, magnificent sight I’d ever have the pleasure of staring at. He became so healthy and happy over the next few months.

The transition into motherhood, for me, was like a bumpy old dirt road that the local council couldnt give a rats about. It just gets beaten down with more potholes that really shake up your suspension until one day, they get some machinery onto it and level that shit out. It wasn’t a glorious, starry eyed journey for me. Instead it was filled with self doubt, guilt (see previous post on this), anxiety and I neglected to say until recently, PND. As time went on I gained perspective and understood that it maybe wasn’t my ideal timing for having a child. Maybe I wasn’t really “ready”. But it was something I call the “deep end technique” where you get thrown into the middle of a foreign situation and you learn to swim or sink. I swam. And most of us parents eventually do. This journey taught me more than any class, lecture or seminar I have ever attended. It gave me a chance to turn so many factions of my life around and somewhat rewire my brain. I see how lucky I was to be surrounded by people who wanted to support me. Mum, Mum-in-law, Aunties, Dad’s, mates but most of all my husband who is the epitome of loyalty and steps in to be my backbone when it crumbles.

Zac was my first baby and together we conquered the challenges of newborn/new mum life. I have nothing but gratitude for him and although guilt plays a part in this story, regret does not. Things happened just the way they should have.

Childbirth, birth story, delivering baby, firstborn

Shortly after Zac entered the world

Final days of pregnancy with Zac

Feeling more relaxed at 6 weeks postpartum

Resources:

The Motherhood by Jamila Rizvi shares other real and somewhat brutal stories of women’s first weeks into motherhood. It also demonstrates that most first time Mums do feel lonely and would make a practical gift for someone who may be experiencing a tough time with their first baby

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) – a website I hesitated to look at but felt so much better when I did. They do have a hotline and I did use it when I felt extremely lonely

BeyondBlue – very experienced with depression and anxiety and also has a great website/phone like resource

St John of God Raphael Services Berwick – If you are based in the South East Burbs of Melbourne. This place has counsellors that are specifically trained in PND recovery techniques

Reach out on social media;

“Due in Groups” on Essential Baby can be very helpful for finding friends who are experiencing the same new mum probs at the same time that you are. Join the forum, find your “due in” group relating to your due date month and make some new friends. They’re generally up feeding all hours of the night as you are, and they’ll totally understand your hormonally,sleep deprived induced mental breakdowns.

Mum bloggers/influencers. It seems silly and fan girlish but for me it was all about connecting with like minded people who show you can come out okay on the other side of all of this. I like Olivia White (House of White), @mrsconstancehall, @emilyskyefit, @newmumstheword and @justusjunghens

Taking the leap

Here we go – finally the day I set out on a journey to expose what goes on inside this head of mine. Something my husband is forever wanting to know, and immediately regrets once he finds out.

I’m from an outer burbs town in Melbourne, Australia and like many other oversharers on the internets, I too am a Mum. How original right? My household is filled with boys. Husband, Zac (4yo) and baby Judd (3mo). What I aim to do is impart my knowledge of not just mum-ing but also life-ing and the strategies and methodologies I have used to get me to the ripe old age of 30. This is in the hopes that someone out there who was once as clueless as me in many topics will find a post that makes them feel as if they are not alone, something I too have sought through late night googling when life throws a spanner in the works.

I will also share what shenanigans I get up to on the daily. Probably best that you follow me on insta for that -@shaaralee

I warn you. My life would seem somewhat ordinary to most. I’m not a full blown #fitmum or a #breastfeedingmum or an #organicmum. But I am an #openmindedmum and I have respect for every person’s decisions and believe we all tread our own little path. I love my family and my children. I have battled PND and anxiety just like most people in this decade and I have only in recent years accepted and learnt how to combat it. I’m learning to retrain my brain and by sharing what has worked for me in this lifetime, heck it may work for someone else out there.

Cheers for reading and keep on eye out for my next install ✌

It is well to fly towards the light, even when there may be some fluttering and bruising of wings against the windowpanes, is it not?                                — Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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