Guest List: Things I Have Learned as The Mother of A Child With Autism

Guest List: Things I Have Learned as The Mother of A Child With Autism

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 9.31.27 AMPenny Wincer is single Mum of two; Arthur and Agnes. Her son Arthur is Autistic, her email to me explaining why she wanted to write a list was so articulate and heartfelt and frankly serves as a  better introduction than anything I could muster…

“I have been thinking about ways in which I could spread a little more  acceptance and understanding and I thought perhaps a list might do the trick!  I find sometimes that people have a very fixed idea in their heads about what autism is and is not.  I thought a list about Arthur, some of which is not what people expect, might help people to see autism a little differently.”


  • Special needs kids need special parents.  Except most of the time you’re just an ordinary one.  You have to learn to be ok with that.

  • Your head knows it’s not your fault he can’t do things others find so easy.  Your heart will sometimes feel otherwise.  

  • You need to learn to be ok with not knowing.  I mean, really not knowing.  Will his speech ever be fluent, will he have enough skills to follow a passion, will he be independent?  Thats a lot of unknowns to be ok with.

  • People mean to be kind, but they do sometimes say stupid things.Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 9.22.50 AM

  • When you spend a lot of time in crisis mode, it effects your long term health.  You must not take this lightly.  You  have more need to be in good health, for longer then anyone else you know.

  • Your “enough” looks different to other parents enough.  Don’t be ashamed if you need more alone time, more exercise, more wine or more coffee then your fellow parents.

  • This is a marathon, not a sprint.  Also the mantra “it’s a phase” does not necessarily apply in this house.

  • When other parents moan about how advanced their child is and that they desperately wish they wouldn’t keep hitting these milestones because it makes them sooooo incredibly sad,  try not to punch them in the face.

  • Try not to punch people whose “child would never behave like that” in the face.

  • Just don’t punch anyone in the face (you’re going to want to)

  • Practising mindfulness is a proven stress buster for us folks (also helps with the point above)

  • Many of your firsts as a parent will actually occur with your second child.  Sometimes that really hurts.  

  • Your typically developing child will seem like utter magic to you.  You will never take even the smallest achievement for granted.

  • You will never be prouder of your typical child when the first thing her teachers tell you is how inclusive she is of the younger and less able kids in her class.  A special needs sibling is  as much a gift as a special needs child is.

  • You need to learn to be ok with not being able to meet both your children’s needs at once. Their differences make that really hard.

  • You learn to accept that you probably will never take that family gap year, round the world trip. Instead you’ll make the most of the adventures you can have.Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 2.26.01 PM

  • Kids who can hardly speak can also have a surprisingly good sense of humour.

  • You may not be able to have conversations about his day, or what he wants for christmas or what he wants to be when he grows up, but you’ll smile every time he says water-lemon instead of watermelon and you’ll know exactly why he’s reciting that particular scene from Peppa Pig

  • He’ll laugh more then any child you ever meet

  • He’ll forget all his other gifts the moment he opens the slinky.  He doesn’t really care for “stuff” and that is a wonderful thing

  • He’s like living with an Opera, all highs and all lows. Rarely anything in the middle. Exhausting, emotionally draining and joy filled.

  • Having a child who belongs to a marginalised minority group is a wake up call for your privileged white ass.  

  • Sometimes it all feels too hard and you’ll be wishing it away but often it feels like a gift.  Not many people get to experience this fast track ticket to self growth.

  • Happiness does not depend on milestones.  Not just late milestones but never arriving ones too.  Who knew!Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 9.23.43 AM

** For more from Penny check our her beautiful blog http://www.applesandoptimists.com **

Advertisements
Guest List: Adult Acne Uncovered.

Guest List: Adult Acne Uncovered.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 11.13.16 AM

Jemma Thomas AKA @mummas_health_hub is best known for offering fitness tips that can fit around being a parent.

But for me the most notable and brave thing she has done on social media is share these pictures of her face during a outbreak of acne. The photos (taken by @sarahakwisombe) speak for themselves; Jemma looks as stunning as ever, but not covering-up the lumps means she helping normalise a relatively common condition that is almost entirely un-talked about and often dismissed.

Here she uncovers, in more detail, what life is like with Adult Acne:


  • I have to start the list by saying, acne is not just spots. At it’s worst; it has the power to affected every facet of your life.

  • Mine started out in my teens, I assumed it was normal, hormonal, I tried every crappy, drying, cheap ‘spot’ remedy and cream that superdrug sold, to no avail.

  • Then my 20’s came and the skin of people around me started to calm down and become beautifully clear, but most of the time my skin had something on it that bothered me, a lump here or a cluster of something there..  I don’t have any recollection of it being completely clear.  Something wasn’t right.

  • By my mid 20’s it had started to affect me more and more psychologically, I worked in advertising and had to face so many people each day, loads of different departments, clients and a person who was to become my husband.

  • I called in sick on day I couldn’t face people.

  • Once I’d started going out with my now husband, I’d set my alarm for 30 mins before I knew he’d get up, go to the bathroom and put as much ‘natural’ looking make up on then crawl back into bed and pretend I ‘ just woke up like this’

  • At it’s worst I felt ugly and insecure enough to question my relationship ‘why the hell is he with me, he could be with her, she’s much prettier??’

  • I can’t tell you how much make-up I went through. I once even bought the MAC make-up that was especially for stage and screen it was that thick, just to cover up. I think my entire face was continually covered in makeup during my 20’s.

  • I started having tests, something definitely it wasn’t right.

  • I was tested for PCOS – I had it, cysts on my ovaries, quite a lot. The technical definition is this. ‘In women with PCOS, androgen levels are often elevated and testosterone rises then acne occurs when the oil and skin cells get trapped in the skin’s pores.’

  • So, I had too much testosterone, therefore quite severe acne.

  • You’ll go though stages where it’s not so bad and people will say – ‘Oh your skins great, it’s not bad at all.’ This is annoying because you have no idea how long this ‘good’ spell will last.

  • It’s kind of similar to having a new born, people will give you unsolicited advice, ‘oh have you tried xxxx’  I appreciate everyone’s suggestions, but also there is generally nothing that someone has told me I haven’t already goggled / tried – if something claimed to help with skin.. I’ve tried it:

  • Those Proactiv ad’s with the celeb who’s skin is crystal clear now.. (yup -didn’t work)

  • Cutting out diary (yep – didn’t work)

  • Changing the pill (yep – didn’t work)

  • Wearing no make-up (yeah right !!!! was my reaction back then)

  • Changing diet (yep – didn’t work )

  • Cutting out booze (yup – didn’t work)

  • Using antibiotics (worked very briefly)

  • Using a drying bleaching cream (yup, dried out my skin, work a tiny bit)

  • I once spent £250 in SpaceNK  as I was sold a miracle peel face mask and cream..(none of them worked)

  • Special creams ordered directly from America as they’re allowed to put tons more of the good stuff in their creams over there (didn’t work)

  • Every facial available (made my skin soft and smooth, didn’t cure the acne)

  • Natural creams and potions (yup – didn’t work).Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 11.14.02 AM

  • When I was 27 the doctors give me a last resort Roacutane…it’s side affects included severe dryness…. every pore in my body drying up to the point that I had to put Vaseline around my nostrils and ears. BUT it seemed to be doing the trick. My skin was drying up and the lumps and spots were going, and staying gone. I think I had about a year of clear skin after taking it. But it’s a very strong drug and has other side affects too, which can in some cases affect mental health, so I decided not to do another course.

  • Plus there’s no way you can get pregnant or even try whilst on it as is can severely affect an unborn feotus. So it was also out of the question for that reason as I knew after we married when I was 28 we’d try for kids.

  • Before I got married I spent months and months worrying that I would have one of my bad breakouts, and that the pictures would forever show the lumps (which you can’t cover up!) I was so lucky that on the day it was lump free.

  • At 35 I still get regular bouts of acne, at sporadic intervals.

  • I look longingly at peoples skin, wishing to have the same smooth texture, I sometimes get a bit obsessed.

  • I hardly see anyone in the public eye with blemishes so I assumed acne was a very uncommon thing. I have since realised it’s so much more common that I thought, we just all cover it up pretty well!

  • I know this is going to sound unkind.. but when someone say’s ‘oh I’m so spotty and they have 1 hormonal period spot I want to slap them (sorry!)

  • The work I do now involves being face to face with people a lot so I have simply HAD to let some of the insecurity go, or I would not be able to carry on working, but on bad bad days I have cancelled things.

  • Sometimes I take pain killers because it hurts so much that I can’t sleep.

  • Recently, during a bad bout, en route to a BBQ with friends I’ve know for over 25 years, I couldn’t apply make up as they were so sore, but I still felt the need to text the whole group before I arrived and say ‘ Ignore how ugly and red and I look, having a breakout’ of course none of them noticed, but I felt the need to pre-warn them of my face!

  • It has ruled me more than I left myself believe – BUT recently I decided enough is enough. I wanted some pictures of me looking happy and confident right in the middle of one of my bad breakouts. I wanted to say sod you acne.. you don’t own, me. I texted someone I know is hugely creative, Sarah Akwisombe, who I knew would ‘get’ what I wanted to do and she just perfectly captured what was in my head, so I thank her for that!

  • I went out everyday following these pictures with no make-up on with huge spots and lumps and tried my very very best not to care – and it kind of worked.

  • And following posting these pictures on my own page and reading everyones amazing comments – knowing I’m not alone has also helped me, and I hope it helps you too.Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 11.13.45 AM

Guest List: Gay Dads and Their Adoption Story

Guest List: Gay Dads and Their Adoption Story

unnamed-6This list makes me cry every time. Its not even sad. In fact the story of Tom AKA @unlikelydad  and his husband’s journey to adopting their son is an upliftitng one.

It’s the goosebumpy feeling of hearing a story of people who were destined to be together, that gets me.  With these parents and their boy it certainly feels as if that was the case (see, I’m choking up again).

Here Tom talks through the step by step process of adoption as two gay men:


  • My husband and I met when I was just 17. He was 23. #cradlesnatcher

  • I came out to my family on our first date. He said I should just do it and I thought “Even if I don’t stay with this guy, this is who I am and I need to do it”. I so text my brother to tell my mum!

  • We had nine beautiful years including college, flat moves, house moves and career changes before getting married in 2011.

  • Three years later we realised we wanted our own family. Before then, kids seemed to be completely off the cards really. We loved city breaks and brunches far too much. But it got to the point I think where we thought “Is this it?”

  • We toyed with surrogacy but knew adoption was right for us. We started the adoption process in July 2014. I was a marketing manager for an adoption charity at the time, so the insight and knowledge I gained was beyond helpful.

  • Children come into care for a million different reasons. It’s not always pretty. But the end result (hopefully) would be.

  • We had an amazing social worker assigned to us. She was cool, from the city, had gay friends. She just got us (not that we felt any different to straight adopters!)

  • We went through assessment meetings, checks, medicals… it’s like therapy to a degree and if you love talking about your life, then you’ll love this. I hear so many adopters coming against struggles. But for us, it felt good. It felt, dare I say it, easy. We had no skeletons. It was just seamless and I fully believe it was down to our positive outlook on it.

  • After all the prep work and training came panel. Panel is made up of a team of people from the agency you’re adopting through, adopters, doctors etc. The first panel you have is to approve you as an adopter. Your social worker created a document on you. It’s massive. The panel read this front to back before they meet you. We were ready for this.

  • We received a unanimous ‘Yes’ at panel. We were officially ‘approved to adopt’ in November 2014. It was remarkably quick.

  • Then started the process of finding our boy. It sounds crazy, but it’s almost like looking for a house or a dating website (obviously way more serious). You receive profiles. These contain a photo (two or three if you’re lucky!) and a brief description about the child. We were relatively open at this point. At 30 I felt young and fit enough for the demands of a baby. But all we were told was you wouldn’t find a child under three.

  • I remember the day like it was yesterday. December 10th 2014. Having dinner with our best friend, Rosie. I received an email from our family finder containing a profile of a little boy. Ten months old. I opened the attachment and knew I was looking at my son. He looked just like my husband. I always doubted adopters I spoke to when they said “Oh you’ll just know when you see the face of your child”. I thought “that’s silly, of course you can’t tell!” But I did know. I was looking at my baby boy.

  • We registered our interest. No one else was going to be that boy’s parents but us. I felt it in my heart. In my soul. It was completely written out like this for us all to be together.

  • There are so many factors into being ‘matched’ with a child. The child has a social worker, like you do, and they ultimately decide if they’d take you through to the next stages.

  • It was so close to Christmas and we were hearing nothing. Nada. Zilch. Plus social workers have quite possibly the worst reputation for delays. It’s not their fault, budget cuts left right and centre means they deal with so many cases it’s unreal. It was quite possibly the most tense time of our lives. Just waiting. We had family asking “Have you seen any profiles recently?” all the time. It was painful but we didn’t want to say a word. This boy’s social worker could quite easily see a family she thought were perfect for this little boy and never even meet us.

  • Refreshing my emails every ten minutes, making calls every day… I must’ve been pissing these people off something chronic.

  • Christmas came and went. Not a sausage. But the Christmas-new year limbo fired me up. I wasn’t one to sit around and do nothing. So onto Ikea.com I went and started getting furniture for the nursery. If this boy was to be mine, I had to start making room for him.unnamed-4

  • Mid-January, his social worker came to our house us for an official visit.

  • I had never cleaned like that before. I had baked my famous brownies. I had fresh coffee on tap. This was our moment. This woman needed to see that this boy belonged with us, in this house, in his room.

  • Not to skim over it in a blasé fashion, but lots of information about him, birth parents, his situation were all shared. It made us want him more.

  • The social worker wrapped up the meeting. She told us another family was interested in our little baby boy. She also said she won’t be visiting them. That she feels we are the right match for him. In that moment… we had won.

  • She left. We looked at one another in utter disbelief and then sat down with our social worker. Did this really just happen?

  • It would be another three months before he came home. We had medical meetings, we met the birth parents, we met the foster carer, saw where he lived, his room, his toys (he wasn’t present) and had a final panel. This was Matching Panel. Same set up as before but to be approved to adopt this darling, little boy.

  • We entered that meeting ready. We had claimed him as our son in December last year. This was our time. We received a unanimous ‘Yes’ again. That was it. He’d be coming home in a week.

  • Up next was a week of ‘introductions’. We’d sent photos and videos of us playing peekaboo to the foster carer to show him. Introductions is when we’d finally meet our son. In the comforts of his home with his foster carer (where he’d been since birth, which was amazing for him!). Nothing will ever prepare you for that week. The emotions are higher than high and you’re learning. You’re wanting this child to love you instantly. But it takes time.

  • That day he came crawling round the corner as we sat on the foster carers floor waiting for him to approach us, will stay with me forever. He crawled onto my husband’s lap. In that moment, my heart quadrupled in size and my life changed forever. I was a dad. And I was looking at my son.

  • Two and half years in… I forget we adopted. I feel as though he came from me. The bond is incredible. We attached so well and early on. He made this all so easy for us. I have to remind myself we went through this process. We have a job to do. The older he gets we need to be open and explain to him his journey. But for now, I’m just going to keep sniffing his head for as long as he lets me.unnamed-5

Guest List: PND Got Me Too.

Guest List: PND Got Me Too.

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.53.25 PMAnna Mathur aka @mamas_scapbook  is something else. She is a hilarious insta-story-er. Super stylish Mama and to top it all off she is a trained psychotherapist.

On the surface things look rosie. But Anna is case in point that none of us are immune from mental health issues. Anna shares her experience of suffering from PND:

 


  • Oh the image of the new mother, sitting in crisp bed sheets with a quiet baby beside her. Convalescing. Resting, Oh the luxury and value of time to process what the body has just been through, and how life has just irreversibly shifted.

  • But no.

  • We all know that is an archaic image these days. The ‘good mother’ is up and about immediately. Makeup on. Food shopping. Coffee. Play-dates. Playgroups. Cooking. Juggling. Coping. Coping.

  • Part of me wonders if this is where it all began. My struggle. Always a ‘cope-r’, always a ‘do-er’. I was fueled with an adrenaline that kept my strides into town long and quick, despite sleep deprivation and navigating a heavy double buggy.

  • A knowing eye might have been suspicious, perhaps noticed a fine slither of mania, glistening on the edge of my aura of ‘I’ve got this’. A knowing voice might have told me to slow down. To take it easy. Maybe they did. I wouldn’t have taken heed. No matter how firm the voice, it wouldn’t have slowed my steps or emptied my diary.

  • My professional mind was mistrustful. I urged myself to stop, to breathe, to be gentle on myself, but I wouldn’t listen. I battled with my own drive to do, to be, to prove. I feared a crash. A car cannot speed on a motorway forever I told myself. A car cannot run on empty.

  • Instead, I was fuelled by caffeine, fuelled by the promise of wine on the sofa in the evening, and fuelled by the well-meaning compliments of “you don’t look like you’ve just had a baby!”

  • Week three. Husband returned to work just as my own Mum arrived. We devoured takeaway on the Sunday night, excitedly planning our week ahead over poppadum’s and chocolate puddings eaten out of ramekins.Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.40.02 PM

  • Week four, Mum had gone. I was alone.

  • Day one of being alone with the kids, we filled our day. I fought with my own desire to have the baby in a schedule immediately, and tried to find my way with one pair of hands and two kids. I made it through to bath time, almost triumphant until an overtired, crying baby and an adjusting, whining toddler took their toll. I changed nappies through tears. This is hard. They said it would be.

  • Day two. I bundled the kids into the buggy, harassed at their differing and constant needs, desperate to get out of our dark cottage into the warmth of the sunshine and the company of friends. Toddler whining. Baby screaming. Overwhelmed by tiredness and my helplessness to calm and quiet my children, I roared a deep, guttural howl and threw a plastic digger repeatedly against floor until it shattered in resignation. I was shocked. We all cried our way to town. It’s okay. It will get easier was my mantra. These first days are the tough days.

  • Feelings of ‘I can’t cope’ would wash over me, taking the breath from my lungs. It must be hormonal I told myself. Breathe. Buy vitamins. Have some coffee.

  • Breastfeeding got tough. Challenging my deep, stubbornness and feeding my sense of failure. My concerns of tongue-tie were disputed. It must be a bad latch then. It must be wind. Perhaps its just colic. Plastic pots of sticky, sickly sweet medicine in every room and tucked inside every bag. Orange and aniseed, Infacol and Dentinox. Gaviscon mixed in tiny pots, and gripe water in tacky syringes. This tough, but you’re doing a great job, the therapist in my mind told myself. One day at a time. But I didn’t listen.

  • It’s me. He must hate me I concluded. My rational, professional voice was losing volume and credibility as the days passed.

  • Regular trips to Boots kids aisle ensued. Maybe they’ve discovered a new medicine since last week. I need different brand of same thing; perhaps it might contain a magic ingredient. Feeding worsened. Advised to try a bottle, I refused, my stubborn, obstinate streak at large (that’s from you Dad – both a blessing and a curse). It’s me against the world. I cried and continued. Keep calm and carry on. It will get better.

  • 8 weeks old. I made a sleep deprived, blurry-eyed drive to kind lactation consultant. Head-torch in place and white glove on. Tender, knowing fingers exploring a tiny, angry mouth. The tie was snipped the next day by a kind practitioner on my living room floor. A bloody little v-shaped cut in his prized-open mouth. I cried with relief as he calmly fed.

  • Feeding improved but the constant crying worsened. Cornering a Health Visitor at the weekly weigh-in clinic, I told her of the persistent wailing that was chipping away at my resolve and robbing me of desperately needed sleep. “This is normal. You must have had an easy first baby” she replied. Maybe it is normal, Maybe my first was easier. I had experienced an overwhelming, almost carnal desire to kiss him, to touch him, to smell him that only a mother can understand. I didn’t feel that this time, only a perfunctory, protective, dutiful love. Maybe it was just one of those things. It will come, I told myself.

  • Kind Health Visitor returned days later. She bound me weeping body-shaking weeps on the sofa. Baby wailing nearby. Toddler watching Fireman Sam. “I can’t stop crying” I uttered, through hyperventilating sobs. I was assigned for close watch and regular Health Visitor check-ins.

  • Someone please fix him.

  • Someone please fix me.

  • How can I expect someone to fix me when I can’t even fix myself?Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.42.47 PM

  • This is what desperation feels like I thought. I know the psychology; I have sat through hours of lectures and have all the books upon my shelves. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I’m a good therapist, I know my stuff. I felt de-skilled and confused, throwing my knowledge and experience into question. Feeling like immunity to reaching such depths of despair and darkness should be an automatic, assumed perk of the job. How can I feel how I do when I know what I know?

  • I asked my husband to sleep upstairs as nobody was getting sleep in our tiny cottage. I felt ashamed at my lack of ability to calm my baby, and my ever present need to cry. I didn’t want him to see me this way. His lack of sleep was my fault as much as the wails of my distressed baby were my responsibility. I failed to calm the cries of my baby; therefore his sleeplessness was my fault.

  • People offered to help. To cook, to take the baby, to entertain the toddler. I felt insulted by each offer, as it meant that my resolve was cracking. That my ‘I’ve got this’ persona was fading and becoming less believable. Sensing that people were seeing through this façade, meant that it was harder to believe it for myself. It takes a village to raise a child I told myself, as I had told many clients. No, I argued. This is my job, to accept help is to fall short.

  • “I hate him” I roared down the phone to my husband as he sat in a meeting. And I wept at the fact that the feeling felt half mutual. “What kind of mother am I?” I questioned, as the guilt from thinking these things made my heart ache.

  • Most smiles became fake.

  • All smiles became fake.

  • I couldn’t fake smiles anymore. My largest sunglasses couldn’t hide the tears escaping down my cheeks. I’d push the buggy into town, struggling to see through lenses smeared with damp mascara.

  • Mentally, I recalled the PHQ-9, a diagnostic tool used to determine depression. I had photocopied many whilst working within clinical GP surgery rooms, seeing clients whilst sat at sagging swivel chairs. I mentally ticked each box. I was post-natally depressed. I am living through the very thing I work to release people from the depths of. I must be a failure at my own job. I must find new career.

  • We went on holiday with my in-laws and drove towards the coast. Car groaning with the paraphernalia now required for two children under two. I overheard hushed, worried conversations and often caught sight of pitying glances. I must work harder to pretend. I could not stand the pity and concern.

  • Feeding was deteriorating again, adding fuel to the fire of my belief that I could neither sustain nor comfort my own child. I desperately called lactation consultant, a kind, retired Welsh midwife who sweetly refused payment. “Here, try this position” she said, ushering my arms into different angles. Nothing worked. I juggled with breast pumps and nipple shields. Scouring pages of Google responses to frantic questions.

  • Family were loving, but I wanted to hide. We walked along well-trodden coastal paths and I’d purposefully slow my step in the hopes that I could lag behind in the quiet. Socialising felt like a sport that I had no energy to play and each conversation a mountain to climb. I layered extra makeup, hoping to cover the bags under my exhausted eyes, but nothing could hide the tell-tale blood-shot glaze. On our final day of holiday I cried in public, heaving sobs into my second large glass of wine.

  • We returned home, unpacking into our separate rooms. Husband upstairs to grab whatever sleep he could, where the cries of our baby would be muffled by the floorboards.

  • I became lonely and desperate at night. Overtired and scared. It struck me one sleepless night that I could identify why people would shake a screaming baby. I was horrified and angry at myself. Who have I become? I called for my husband to come and lie beside me. I was scared of myself. I noticed his visible relief – finally, I was reaching out for support.

  • My 31st Birthday came. I cried in Costa with friends who gave me flowers and hugs. I then hurried off to my GP who handed me a green script for antidepressants with my birthdate printed at the top. Happy birthday to me.

  • Now six months old. This is when everyone said it would get easier. They lied. Christmas was spent at our house – twinkling tree lights and bounteous food failed to provide the usual, excited lift in my soul. My own parents witnessed me scream profanities in despair at 4am. They’d never heard me swear. However, my tone whipped up, unashamed through the creaky floorboards to their room. I welcomed Christmas morning whilst scrolling through reams of articles; blurry eyes desperate to find a reason for my child’s discomfort. Maybe then, and only then might I believe that I’m not to blame?

  • My tired fingers, scrolled through an in-depth article on ‘silent reflux’. Reading faster and decoding medical jargon, I experienced a rush of hope as I matched each symptom with my distressed, sleepless babe. I willed for the festivities of Christmas to pass so that I could return to the GP room.

  • I booked an emergency GP appointment. Please see what I see, I prayed. Prescribe him all the drugs. Prescribe me some motherly love for my baby. Fortunately my little one put on his best show as if he himself had scoured the page, arching his back and screaming. The GP proclaimed “Silent reflux” and I stifled my overwhelming desire to embrace her. We left with a prescription for medication and a new hope.

  • Weaning began. It helped, a little. And with the reducing crying, my despair ebbed slowly from the shore of my mind. Hopelessness inched away, leaving a glimmer of optimism that change was on the horizon. Sleep extended, and life gradually started shifting into some sort of familiar focus.

  • Time helped.

  • Wine helped.

  • The achingly slow ticking of the clock, the turning of hours into days, and weeks into months. One foot in front of the other. Sticky syringes of prescription medication helped but time healed. It healed his physiology; it healed my broken mother heart. It healed the aching gulf of guilt where love should have been.

  • Breathing deeper.

  • Bad days and better days.

  • House move.Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.42.04 PM

  • 9 months old. In the world as long as he was in the belly. The sun broke through. Streaming in to dark corners. Day by day I stepped back into myself as I knew her. Each day became less about survival, and more about living.

  • I fell in love. I fell in love with my little boy. Hopelessly in love. Kisses. Relief. So much relief and so many kisses. That rich, newborn rush of love, nine months later than that sweaty, naïve summer morning in the birthing pool. I wanted to breathe him in and devour him. His smiles said that he didn’t hold a grudge and his giggles that he enjoyed me too. You’re my heaven” I say to him. You’re my promise that the sun ALWAYS breaks through.

  • The contrast of my feelings between then and now, as the words have tumbled onto the page have got me thinking. I have thought over my own experience in the light of my professional knowledge. I have spent many moments pondering about how love and loss and joy and sadness ebb and flow into each other in endless waves that we cannot control. And how love is dangerous, and thrilling, and terrifying and enriching. How when we attempt to protect ourselves from pain and loss by drawing back on the giving or receiving of love, we miss the point of love itself. It’s risky but we save ourselves from nothing that would hurt whether we loved safely, or abundantly. Part of me wanted not to love my baby, so that his screams and rejections would tear my heart a little less, and so that the tears wouldn’t rack my body quite so violently. But it didn’t. I have learnt that love and pain can sit side by side, both shockingly contrasting and co-existing. We made it. It won’t be the end, for life continues to ebb and flow, and many a curveball will be thrown our way. But that’s life, and if it’s as rich as it is risky, I’m game.

  • I’m seeing clients again and it’s so good.

  • I now have a specific empathy and compassion for those with Post Natal Depression to the extent that I’m honing down my client base to focus on working with women in these circumstances.

  • Amidst the pain, I feared that my experience would hamper my practice, but now I believe that to be so untrue. For now I know the stark and humbling truth in my heart, that knowledge doesn’t protect us from the storms of life. And it will be more than knowledge that will help us pass through them.

  • These are lessons I’ve learnt in other areas of my life in the past, but sometimes we need to learn these lessons anew regardless. Allowing myself to be vulnerable with others has been a lifesaving and life changing process. I am finding further peace in the fact that I haven’t always ‘got this’, and truly believing that that’s actually okay. And yes, it takes a village to raise a child. So, find your village. And remember, the sun ALWAYS breaks through the clouds.Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 7.42.28 PM

 

Guest List: Life on The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Guest List: Life on The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

TY

There is nothing worse than having a poorly kid. So stressful and heartbreaking and often frustrating because all you want to do is help them and often thats not an option. These are my feelings when one of mine has picked a bug up from playgroup or school.  I can’t fathom how intensely distressing it must be when your brand new baby is poorly….

Here Vicki Cockerill aka @vicki_nicu_mum tells us about those early days keeping vigil beside an incubator in NICU


  • I think it dawned on me when I was moved off the main ward into a side room on my own. The incubator was taken out, after all It wasn’t needed.

  • My baby who was born 12 hours previously wasn’t next to me like he should have been, he was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit fighting for his life.

  • Where I should have been waking up and caring for my baby I was being wheeled down the corridor to see him bursting out of his incubator (he was 8.12lbs and 4 times the size of the preemie babies in there) laying covered in wires, with alarms going off and having someone pump oxygen into him.

  • This was all too much, I fainted and had to be taken back to my room.

  • We were then visited by the consultant to explain that my son had a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. This meant there were 4 structural abnormalities wrong. He would need surgery before 1 year of age or he would die.

  • Every day for 7 days I walked past the mothers with their perfectly healthy babies and felt sick to my stomach. Why was this happening to us? I had to quickly learn about the day to day running of the NICU and spent 90% of my time there.

  • I walked through the ward with my head hung low with an empty car seat. I was going home without my baby.

  • The double doors, the constant hand sanitising, knowing what times the Doctors did their rounds all became second nature to me.

  • We were not allowed to feed Elijah until around day 4, we begun to take over some of his cares; nappy changes, cleaning his face etc. things that we should have been doing automatically and that you take for granted were now massive milestones.

  • Resentment that others who we knew were having their babies and coming out of hospital on the same day took over and I sunk into a pit of depression. I was angry and the guilt that this was my fault was consuming. Our days went by meeting with Doctors, more tests and making polite small talk with the other NICU parents.

  • You spend your whole day physically craving the Doctors to come over and tell you those magic words, ‘You can go home’. Each day that passes when you do not hear them sets you back further and further.

  • When you do go home, you suddenly panic, you becoming borderline obsessive checking on the baby. You can still hear the machines beeping, and most will think now you are home it is the end of the story. It isn’t.

  • There are the flashbacks you have at night, the Doctor’s visits and consultant appointments. It is being visited at home by the outreach team. NICU does not just end when you are home, it is with you for the rest of your life.

  • You become aware that the smallest thing such as a cold could land you with another hospital admission.

  • You fear the day they start nursery for the germs they could pick up.20170907_174306

  • Every winter season is a battle with everyone in the family getting flu jabs.  

  • You worry if they will be okay when they start school, you remain fiercely protective of them.

  • If you have more children you become convinced it will happen again.

  • That they will take your baby and you will be a NICU mum once more.

  • We have just celebrated Elijah’s third birthday with his brand-new baby brother Harlow but it is bittersweet.

  • Every birthday you are transported straight back to the best and worst day of your life.

  • Once you become a NICU mum, you are one for life, as much as we want to say we have a normal life we don’t.  

  • We carry the worry on our shoulders every day.

  • It took me a long time to come to terms with being a NICU mum, it takes one smell, one noise and you are instantly back there again. However, it takes one smile, one laugh one new milestone from your child and it disappears again. And somewhere down the line you will feel like you can hope again, not live in constant fear and enjoy them.

  • You can move on from NICU life but you cannot forget it.

  • You are now part of a lifelong club with millions of other parents, but it was one you didn’t ask to be part of. That is the reality of being a NICU mum.altAuSn-DFWQ9o3QWrH3Va6JDDqSDVFUStEnbElLy5n5Kp4 (1)

Guest List: Things I Learned from Quitting My Job at Google

Guest List: Things I Learned from Quitting My Job at Google

DSC_0010

As a Freelance employee at Facebook I was really intrigued to read this list from Alexandra Rickerby aka @flapsandbaps. After a year in tech I can confirm that they are pretty incredible places to work… but then again being a Mother will always be my most important job.

Here’s Alex’s account od making the transition from career to be with her son Freddie:


 

  • Regardless of any headlines Googles culture is even more impressive than people think. HR, my boss, my bosses bosses boss all congratulated me on my tough but wonderful decision to leave to spend all my time with Freddie. My favourite quote was Thanks for all you’ve done at Google – life is long and, who knows, you may be back or doing something related, in future. I hope you’ll take a piece of Google with you on the journey, thanks for making us all better for working with you” Every company should respond this way.

  • Telling people I left my wonderful job to be a mum means they don’t ask me any more questions and tilt their head sympathetically “aww she WAS so clever/interesting/useful before”.

  • It also means I am no longer asked ANY questions at dinner or drinks nights about anything other than my child. Seriously, I am now apparently devoid of all intellect or opinion that could remotely be relevant.

  • Telling the same people I’ve retired and BOOM I’m suddenly a goddess of monumental achievement and the centre of all lines of enquiry.  BOTH MEAN I AM AT HOME but the most impressive one is surely when I work unpaid for two decades?!

  • I was so confident before I spent 2 years getting NO feedback at all from my boss/employee/colleague/companion/buddy and centre of my universe. Now I just long for a peer review or annual report.

  • I desperately miss wearing lovely clothes and not having to change two pairs of jeans in a day due to excessive weeing by said child.

  • I have still got ‘it’ only now I’m even faster and put up with less bulls****IMG-20170829-WA0031

  • Men say my decision to leave my career was BRAVE. Whereas women nod knowingly and smile in solidarity. I say sod the bravery…bravery is something that soldiers/nurses/firemen have. It is not BRAVE to want to raise my child full time 24/7 365 days a year. It is a privilege and a gift.

  • Patience was something I thought I had before having a child. I was WRONG. Now I have patience and an unhealthy reliance on custard creams and Nutella on fresh white bread as rewards for getting through the day without totally losing my sh*t.

  • My mums are amazing. I NEVER knew just how amazing..literally legends..both of them.

  • We should pay parents what we pay the highest paid CEOs. Sod the odd extra maternity/paternity week or extra pay here or there. Pay us what we deserve which frankly is as SHIT LOAD.

  • If we want to ensure the world gets more amazing why wouldn’t we invest in the people who are literally RAISING THE HUMAN RACE? As my dear friend put it recently “Motherhood is considered a worthless job that we do because we are biologically able to do so. Rather than admired and worshipped because we desperately want to raise healthy, thoughtful, kind, caring, confident and compassionate people.”

  • Any subject that involves parenting is a hornet’s nest of polar opposite views, indignation, judgement and black humour (thank goodness).

  • I love how we can all be so different, all think we are right, all get it wrong and all end up with vomit on our faces at one point or another.

  • Turns out it is possible to get both yourself and your child dry using only a very slow and lukewarm hairdryer after swimming (Note – must always remember a towel).1502296645406

  • Children never sleep how you want them to – too long, too little, too early, too late and sleep help books do nothing other than add to the general parental anxiety about it.

  • Literally hours of fun can be created with a packet of pre made chocolate cake some butter, water and a wooden spoon. I now know which people buy these things – people like me!

  • The best gift to get new parents is not the latest gadget or toy. It is some sort of sugary treat or a slab of lasagna they can microwave when fuel is needed.

  • Your birthday becomes utterly irrelevant – this year I was woken at 530am, fell asleep in front of Button Moon by 830am and had my favourite cereal eaten by my son. Happy Birthday to me happy birthday to me….

  • A hug from your little human makes the world stop – EVERY SINGLE TIME.

  • Julia Donaldson is literally a goddess – her books save us from endless upset and long journeys

  • I barely remember any age other than the age our son is now. Already I have to look at photos to remember how little he was and to remind myself how he felt in my arms. Literally every day is a gift with him.

  • The body literally never returns to how it was. I did a 10k recently…wet myself all the way down to my socks. THANK YOU, 10lb baby.

  • No one tells the truth about parenting and even if they did we would all think “it will be different for us” hahahahaha the brain is a wonderful thing.

  • I’ve heard the argument that women who leave work to raise children are part of the reason why more women aren’t CEOs and women are underpaid. UTTER SHITE. If I took a 5-year career break to learn so many new skills I would be snapped up.

  • My friends who are Mums and who work are INCREDIBLE at their jobs. THIS IS WHAT MUMS DO. Hire them, understand them, promote them and they will be the best employees you ever have and they will do it all within 8-4 or 9-5. They are finely tuned emotionally intelligent leaders who can multi-task better than anyone you have ever met.

  • The names we call mothers are all in some way annoying and pointless…single mum…full time mum…working mum….stay at home mum. We are all full time mummas, mum, mummy, mother, ma, mama, mams. 365 days a year 24/7. Anything else is labelling for no reason other than judgement.

  • I am exceptionally fortunate to be able to be with my son as much as I am. Most of all my mum friends are now the bread winners and work in full-time employment and have no choice in the matter. I feel very lucky.

  • All mums are amazing – good days, great days, dreadful days, oops I’ll do that differently next time days and watch as much TV as you want days.IMG-20170829-WA0018.jpg

Guest List: I Was Abused as A Child

Guest List: I Was Abused as A Child

unnamed-1Even typing the title of this list made me feel sick and sad and angry. How anyone can hurt a child is beyond me. Then the fact that that child has to live with the experience for the rest of their lives breaks my heart.

This writer wishes to remain anonymous, but I am blown away by her bravery for sharing this:


  • I was abused when I was 8 and a half. Writing these words (at 30) still send my body into unavoidable panic – palms sweating, my heart beating out my chest, tears running down my face. I’m back there in an instant, unable to escape.

  • He was a family friend, I use the term loosely, but my parents (who are sensible people) trusted him and his wife to look after me one evening whilst they went out on a rare date night.

  • I woke up to find him in my bed, he raped me. It felt like I was going to die as he held my mouth shut. I’ll spare you the details, they are not important. I couldn’t have screamed anyway, I was paralysed, overcome with pure terror like nothing I had ever felt or (thankfully) have felt since.

  • He told me it was my fault and that my parents would be ‘livid’ with me if they found out.

  • I believed him.

  • Yes, I can hardly comprehend that now, but I wholeheartedly believed him and I kept quiet. To this day only a handful of people in my life know that this happened to me.

  • This is stuff that happens to ‘other’ people right? That live in dysfunctional families, who have dysfunctional lives.

  • NOT true – it happened to me. I’m from a middle class family, with two loving parents, an only child, their only focus, who went to private school, who they worked every evening and weekend to give me everything they possibly could. I was an intelligent child, the child that would have spoken out if this had happened to her…

  • I realised, by the time I was 11 or 12, the gravity of what had happened to me – that is was wrong, illegal, awful, but in my head it was too late – who would believe me now after 3 and a half years? Everyone would think I was making it up, attention seeking? Maybe it didn’t happen like I remembered it? Maybe I did do something to provoke him? I still didn’t tell anyone.

  • I shut it out, I locked it up, it was the only way I could be normal – I kept myself busy. So busy, I could never ever not be doing something – I played all the sports, I revised incessantly for my exams, I got a part time job. I became obsessive about filling my time – every spot in my diary would need an entry, otherwise the panic would set in.

  • The alone time was the time I couldn’t cope, when I went to bits, when I felt like I couldn’t carry on when I experienced panic attacks so real I felt like I wanted to jump out the window to get away. I suffered from dreadful insomnia all through my teens and night terrors when I would wake the whole house up screaming. I still didn’t tell anyone.

  • I started worrying about other children and my responsibility towards them, it would be my fault if he had done this to someone other than me. I could have stopped him, I could still stop him if I just spoke up. I still didn’t speak up.

  • I avoided boyfriends, I was too busy studying or working or training to have a boyfriend. I turned down date after date – all the boys thought I was a dick, I always remember being at a party and one guy saying ‘you’re so up yourself, you think you’re too good for everyone.’ I wondered if I would ever be able to have a normal relationship.

  • I went to Uni, it felt like a new start, away from my home where it happened.

  • The same year I heard the man in question had died. I was so angry at myself he’d got away with it, he would never have to face up to what he did, never be exposed for what he was. But I also felt an enormous sense of relief that a part of this was now gone forever.

  • I met my husband, we dated on and off for a few months and one night I woke him with one of my night terrors, screaming the place down. I told him, everything. I was 21.

  • I didn’t stop crying for 4 days afterwards, it was a huge burden that I had been carrying around all those years that suddenly seemed so much lighter but it also brought every feeling that I had buried flooding back. 

  • I booked in for counselling, I saw her for 5 years (I still see her occasionally now), it helped, a lot.

  • I still haven’t told my parents, they would be heartbroken and they would never forgive themselves. There’s no good for any of us that would come of it, it wasn’t their fault and it wasn’t mine. unnamed

  • So how am I now?

  • On the surface I’m great – I have an lovely husband, a wonderful child, a great job. I’m that person who you think has landed on her feet (and don’t get me wrong, I have, in lots of ways).

  • Underneath it all – overall, I’m still pretty good, I have some dreadful days but I learn each time how to cope better with the downs and sometimes just accept that feeling and know that it will pass. I still suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, I think I always will, but I know my triggers and I try to avoid them. 

  • Finally…why did I feel like I should write this list?

  • I haven’t written this list to scare anyone, the likelihood of this happening to your child is very low. However I wanted this to remind everyone not to get into a ‘this wouldn’t happen to us’ mindset, because I’m proof that it can.

  • Please talk to your children, you don’t need to be specific, but just for them to know what is right and wrong and that you will always be on their side no matter what. I know there are some really good guidelines on how to have helpful (not frightening) conversations with children.

  • To remind us all (me included) to be kind to people. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle you’re not aware of. Even the people that seem to have their shit together all the time, really don’t.

  • For people who have experienced something similar to know that 1. it really wasn’t your fault 2. talk to someone, it really helps 3. Know that you will feel better, even if you feel like that is impossible right now.o-MOTHER-DAUGHTER-HOLDING-HANDS-facebook