Parenthood and Mental Health: Becoming the best version of you, for them

The following contains discussion about mental health, if the topic may lead you to feeling upset or ‘triggered’ please refrain from reading. Remember that there is always support around you, never be afraid to reach out

mum & yawn

Something about my personal life I’ve never really delved into is mental health. Mostly because of the stigma around it all, and also because for some people, it’s a difficult topic to stomach. But here I am opening up, because if you know anything about me, I think outdated stigmas stink.

I have dealt with different difficulties to do with mental health for a long time. I’m not worse off than anyone else, I don’t glorify it, but I certainly believe that everyone, to some extent, deals with some kind of mental barrier, large or small. For me, for a long time it has been anxiety. It has affected my schoolwork, my performance as a young elite squash player, my relationships, my career choices and the paths I have to take to reach my goals. It’s not sad, I’m not asking for sympathy, it’s just an aspect of my life that I have learnt to live with and even at times, embrace. I certainly feel like it is something that needs to be talked about more though, especially when it comes to parenthood.

Becoming a parent is a mammoth journey of emotion, personal growth and empowerment, it’s a given that you will be tested to your brink, beyond and back again. Here you are, two (or maybe even just one) individual people, suddenly given an entire new life that is now fully your responsibility, a tiny little person who relies solely on you and you only to survive. If thats not enough to scare the pants off you then clearly you should be having 20. It’s a huge task, and incredibly daunting and it is 100% okay to feel completely and utterly petrified.

I’m not a professional and I can’t give any professional advice but I can share my own experience in hopes to provide some kind of reassurance that no one is truly alone. For me talking about my emotions has been an incredible influence on my mental health. Finding someone I trusted in the early stages of pregnancy to express my concerns about my choices and the impact that those choices would have on my life was so important. And having or finding a support network to support your choices positively is worth every single person involved’s weight in gold.

“finding a support network to support your choices positively is worth every single person involved’s weight in gold”

After pregnancy into the first few weeks can be full of extremely complex emotions, for both mum and dad. And baby blues, as well as full on postnatal depression is something that I truly believe can happen to both women and men.

I can’t begin to stress how important it is to realise, for everyone to realise, that struggling mentally is something that deserves your attention, much the same way a broken wrist or leg would. And tending to your mental health isn’t something anyone should be ashamed of, when you have a little person relying on you it’s something you should prioritise. If your baby had a serious cold or needed medical attention you wouldn’t put it off, and much the same as your physical health impacts them, your mental health does too. If something doesn’t feel right, seek help, you and your baby deserve to know the best version of you ever to exist.

There are various places to reach out to including;

beyondblue.org.au 

mindsuatralia.org.au

cope.org.au

wayahead.org.au

as well as various mental health hotlines that you can call no matter the time of day

BeyondBlue – 1300 22 4636

LifeLine – 13 11 14

PANDA  (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) – 1300 726 306

And my email, facebook inbox, and blog are always open to anyone who feels as though they can find someone to open up to in me. Even if you aren’t a parent, everyone deserves to be the best version of themselves, you aren’t hindering anyone by expressing your feelings, and there will always be someone who cares.

 

Breastfeeding Without a Cover (gasp)

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I honestly find it hard to believe that now, in 2017, breastfeeding is still taboo. Society as a whole has grown so much in so many ways, yet here we are still chucking little tanties about babies suckling from nipples in public.

As natural as it is, it still makes people uncomfortable… The same way women talking about childbirth makes people cringe. It must be something to do with the fact that they produce milk, making them large, because last time I checked males have nipples too and even the ones who aren’t dads run around with theirs hanging out.

I’m not really talking about the instances of covered feeding, because thats pretty widely accepted. Because the little muslin wrap somehow makes everyone forget that theres a nipple underneath with a baby attached. I’m talking about uncovered, in the open feeding; no fiddling to get yourself covered, no baby pulling it off half the time. Just baby and nipple, out in the sunshine.

I breastfeed. Exclusively. Not because I am against pumping or formula but because it’s just damn easier. As difficult as childbirth was made for women, the gift of being able to breastfeed truly makes up for it a little. There is no cost, no need for heating (or keeping it cool in storing), no washing up and the best part, it’s always readily available. I currently take the ‘all-guns-ablazing’ approach. If I’m going to feed in public I’m going to do it my way, comfortably without a cover. And for some reason (well beyond my knowledge) a lot of people think that this gift, of feeding my child whenever and wherever they become hungry is, wait for the grown-up word… gross.

Because nourishing a newly growing human being from the organs made to do exactly that is somehow right up there with the gross things of the world like picking your nose and godforbid eating it in public.

So gross that you’ll be judged with an updown glare from a 14 year old in a crop top smaller than your maternity bra while her mother suggests you “cover up because there are children around who don’t need to see it”. Children. Lady, you do realise children are fed this way right?

Freedom of speech is all good and well but freedom to feed comfortably also relevant. Just as relevant as every other pressing issue of the 21st century from misogyny to racism. Insecurity around feeding only leads to added stress and greater difficulty in completing the task in the first place, and insecurity comes from unnecessary glares and comments. We’ve got a right to have our boob out, just as you have a right to look away. Don’t make something natural and beautiful difficult and uncomfortable when it doesn’t need to be.

 

Dear Violet: Letter 1 – The greatest 10 weeks of my life (so far)

IMG_0186The beginning of a series of letters to my daughter Violet Rae, who today turns 10 weeks old.

Dear Violet,

Today you are 10 weeks old. I’m sitting here staring at that sentence and finding myself unable to truly believe it. Ten weeks ago today you entered the world, beautifully and loudly. I remember the instant you took your first breath and filled my ears with your cry, and your lungs with air for the very first time.

Already, in ten weeks you have taught me so much. To trust my instincts; motherhood comes naturally. To be patient; everything will happen when it is meant to, even your naps (no matter how badly I wish you’d close your eyes so I can sleep for 5 more minutes). To enjoy the early hours of the morning; There’s no point in wishing to be back in bed when your smile lights up the world, even while the sun still sleeps at 4am. To treasure every moment; you grow at the speed of light and I’ll be darned if I miss a single second of it. And that there is always more room for love; Before you I didn’t think it was possible to love anyone as much as I love your daddy, now as my love grows for you both every single day I truly see just how infinite and unconditional it can be.

You’re smiling more than ever now and showing us the things you love (and love to dislike). Booping your nose and talking to you, tickling you and bouncing you makes you so happy, as well as bath time just before bed and your play mat in the early hours of the morning when sleep seems to be the furthest thing from your mind. Nappy changes and sitting in traffic seem to be your least favorite things in the world, as well as that nasty runny nose you had two weeks ago that kept you up all night for so many nights in a row.You keep us on our toes thats for sure. You seem to know the exact instant that I sit down to eat dinner, because the second I do you decide that lying on your play mat or in your rocker is not at all where you want to be and you’ll just die unless I pick you up for cuddles again.

I’ve got to tell you a secret though Vi, even though you’ve only been around ten weeks I’m pretty sure your daddy has fallen head over heels for you. You should see how much he does for you, how hard he works. Up working late, and still waking up for cuddles with you in the early hours of the morning, even if it is only briefly. You’re his world and your smile makes his whole day, every day. So never stop giving him those, okay?

For ten weeks you’ve been the centre of my entire world, my every waking moment and every dream. But really you’ve been that for so much longer, and will be for the rest of my life. I can’t wait for every single moment.

 

All of the love in my heart is for you my darling, I love you now and always will.

Love, Mummy xx

Violet Rae Cook: 2 Month Update

I’m pretty certain that the moment your newborn baby looks you dead in the eye and smiles has to be the most beautiful, exciting, eye watering moment of your life. And right now we’re getting more smiles than ever.
Week 7 was a bit of a rough week for little Vi, the side effects of her immunisations kicked in and for 4 or 5 days of the week she was unsettled, grumpy, croaky and tired. She simply wasn’t herself. On Tuesday night we rang 13 health just to check her symptoms and to see if we should take more serious action. Her symptoms weren’t bad but after hearing her somewhat weak and coughy cry through the phone the registered nurse recommended taking her to the Emergency Department. Just to be sure. You never know with little babies as things can get serious very quickly.
It was super busy in the ED when we got there, literally patients from the ambulance waiting in a line on their beds which was pretty crazy to see… who would have thought on a Tuesday night at 8pm right? So we waited at the counter for about 10 minutes, which seemed like a lifetime when you’ve got a sick baby in your arms wailing and the thought in the back of your mind that something could be seriously wrong. Once we were seen though and asked for Violets age we were taken straight through to see a doctor and 3 nurses. A doctor and THREE nurses. At this point I was freaking out a little bit, we were in a Resuss room with lots of big scary looking machines in it. They’d put a few different monitors on her and took her blood pressure which made her scream even more.
Then I tried feeding her, which as always, always calmed her. And it didn’t. She wouldn’t latch and wouldn’t stop screaming. The nurses looked concerned, and I figured she was uncomfortable having her blood pressure taken (and making her arm purple) so I asked them to take it off. After which she latched and started feeding. They let us sit there until she had fed and then moved us into another room to keep an eye on her. They initially thought it may have been whooping cough (holy shit right?) but they tested for it and it wasn’t that. Then they thought she might have something stuck in her throat or chest so we had an X-ray, and nothing showed up on that. By this time it was around 10pm and Vi was sound asleep on my chest. They’d ruled out all the bad possibilities and pinned it down to being a little unwell from her vaccinations, which would eventually pass without seriously harming her. Now we just had to wait for the Pead to come and give her a final once over before we could go home… 3 hours later after an emergency with a newborn up in the maternity ward we were finally seen and sent home at 1:30am.

 

Even though there was lots of waiting and nothing really wrong I’m still glad we took her. As you Just never really know with babies under a certain age, and their condition can deteriorate super quickly. So I’m incredibly thankful with how prompt the hospital was with getting her seen and ensuring her safety, despite a room full, and hallway full of people waiting to be seen.
The rest of the week we had more sleepless night, and a snotty nose developed. I kissed goodbye any thought of decent sleep for myself for the week and focused purely on making little Vi feel safe and loved while she was experiencing illness for the first time. And I’m sure people are wondering, do you feel bad for vaccinating if it’s made her sick? Absolutely not, because if a little illness means she won’t end up with a life threatening sickness then I’d do it 1000 times over to make sure Vi is protected and healthy.
Now she’s getting better we’re seeing more smiles than ever. Her Nanny Bec and uncles have come down to visit and are giving lots and lots of snuggles to help her get over her little cold. More and more personality is shining through as she is seeing and experiencing more and more of the world every day. She’s loving morning play time on her play mat. Is enjoying her bath time more than ever. And is genuinely a super super happy, loveable little girl.
I still can’t believe it’s been two months already! Some of the toughest, yet most rewarding months of my life. Happy Two Months Little Vi!!