Pregnant or had a baby and wondering what ON EARTH is happening to your mind and body ? Take a look here – https://www.instagram.com/reel/ChLBYVvjkp7/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=
What do you wish people had told you about what can happen to your mind and body while you are pregnant or after giving birth to your crotch goblin?
I sit here combing my newly acquired beard, inflating and deflating boobs, with a nappy on to catch the remnants of the leaky tap my bladder has become, I think, why did no one tell me these things could happen?
And I am now sprouting baby hairs. My stomach hits my thighs when I sit down due to the overhang and why is there still a whiff of eau d’ BO even though I have showered 98 times?
And my mind? Well. Those marbles dropped ALLLLL over the floor. NO ONE told me about motherhood and mental health. Postpartum Psychosis struck me and instead of bringing my baby home and starting my new life, we went and lived in a psychiatric ward for a while.
My mission has always been since then, to ensure women don’t feel alone. Motherhood is life changing. It is beautiful and magical and the best thing I have ever done. But it wasn’t easy. Leaky boobs, the fear of the first poo after birth, the fact that body odour seems stronger, the feeling that your organs could fall out at any moment and the realisation that you are responsible for a tiny version of yourself and that is completely terrifying.
And I think I microwaved my brain.
Can we also stop blaming women for wetting themselves? Wagging a finger about how this wouldn’t have happened if they had done their pelvic floor exercises a la kegels, doesn’t help.
I thought kegels were a bread roll.
As you were. Feel free to share.
Follow me on Instagram.com/eviecanavan
My kid homeschooled due to the 947668 degree heat yesterday morning for 8 whole minutes, before declaring he had writers block so he couldn’t do anything.
He then went into the garden and smashed up the remaining bits of the old guitar that got a hammering during Lockdown The First, shouting his legacy “commas are for bellends”.
Do I face a disciplinary committee for having a Strawberry Daiquiri for lunch?
Follow me on Instagram.com/eviecanavan
Follow me on Instagram where I jimble jamble about maternal mental health, profess undying love for these hips of butter I own, babble on about boobs and take pictures of cereals like look like vaginas.
And where I support women who support other women.
I also like talking about the day I woke up in odd shoes holding a wooden boating oar.
In March this year, the day I completed my mental health first aid training, heard I was getting a good mark on my annual report in my day job, designing the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week and spent an hour sticking nail gems onto my ridiculous nails, I was putting shoes on and I had a panic attack. A week passed and I had another. A few hours past and I was on a zoom with a psychiatrist. 15 minutes after that I called the Samaritans. 5 minutes later I was glued to my bed unable to move, frightened of being alive.
All happened quite quickly, didn’t it? Surprise for you ? Imagine how it took the 5 foot legs of me.
To the people looking in, my life is all fake eyelashes, pink shoes and flings with gin slings. But inside, I had become scared of my own brain in the space of a week, completely out of the blue.
I spent that first week after my random panic attack in a bit of a daze. I was working, and chairing meetings and making packed lunches and bidding on eBay and then had a catch up who my boss where I mentioned I had been feeling a bit weird but all was okay. About an hour later, after losing the hearing in my ears and my eyes blurring, I wrote out an email saying I need to log off. I need to go. I need to not be working. I could hold a conversation, I could do the online shop, but I couldn’t go on. I felt like my brain was trapped in itself with no way out and I was scared. I was really really scared- cos you have your brain forever don’t you? I was scared of being me.
We have NO idea what is going on inside a brain. When I was trying to explain I felt trapped in my own thoughts, people said I don’t understand Eve . You are scared of being you? But I saw you collect an award 3 days ago for MH work and you had a big smile and hoop earrings on and talked loud and clear. And yes, that is what you saw. It wasn’t even a mask – that is a part of me. But inside my mind, I was scared of myself.
It started with a panic attack that hit as I was changing my shoes by the front door. I suddenly felt like I was trapped in my own brain and could never get out. For the next 5 days I felt like a cloud was falling over which soon turned into a sheet that felt glued to me face that I couldn’t tear off. On day 5, I had a chat with my boss and said I felt okish. An hour later, I felt like I was scared of being alive. Life was going on around me, my son needed collecting from school, I had a team to manage in work, we only had half a pint of milk left yet I was too scared to leave my bed. I was too scared to breathe. I felt frightened of being trapped in my brain.
My decision to step back while all looked well on the outside was a hard one but one I found I had no control over and I could not function in my usual way. Do you know how you lead by example? By saying no. By saying enough. By saying I matter and I can’t do it anymore for others. When no one knows what is going on inside your mind, how the dickens can they say dust yourself off and push through? At that point, you are not like a chest of old drawers that can be cleaned up in a five minute flourish – you are a person with layers of emotions which make no sense, that are intertwined and tangled and frightening and what you most of all DON’T WANT . And mental health presents differently in different people. Simone Biles steps back but is able to support her team mates on the side? Yes, that is possible. You don’t have to be rocking back and forth grinding soil into your shoes like some people seem to think.
5 weeks off work, a med change so I went from taking antidepressants once a day to taking them and antipsychotics three times a day, numerous therapies and a £3000 psychiatrist bill later, I was ready to go back to work, to go back to mental health work, but with some boundaries in place. I had felt like everywhere I turned, I was being asked questions, and my brain was whizzing. I needed to step off, clear everything, think of just me, myself and I to come back stronger for me and my little family. No one else.
And there is nothing wrong about not being able to handle pressure. Please give me the prize for a bursing brain when it becomes too much as holding it altogether will only make the explosion more devastating when it eventually happens. Its like when you make popcorn and it starts popping slowly and then the lid flies off and bits fly at your face and all over the kitchen and for the next 2 weeks you find bits on the floor , burying their way into your foot.
We are in a terrible era where we are questioning who is iller than someone else. We are telling people what they should be able to handle and publicly saying if they are as badly affected as we think. We are telling people to pull themselves together. To step back means you are a quitter.
But this is not true.
I see my own brave. I see that’s what it is now, not failure. Stepping back from things when your brain on the blink does not mean you are a quitter. It means you are understanding you matter.
I am often asked why I shared my story of mental illness. While I now have a lovely Awards shelf which John’s football trophy from when was player of the year in 1989 is stuck at the end off, it wasnt for fame, fortune or applause.
It was for two reasons- to give others hope that recovery can and does happen and the other ? Well the other was to control my own narrative. I was inspired to write this after seeing a post from my dear Walker Ladd ( https://www.walkerladd.com/) the other day titled “dont use another woman’s story without her permission ” and it really really struck a chord with me.
Those who follow my mental health work know that I very often get cross at newspaper headlines that take a vulnerable woman’s postpartum illness and attach a salacious headline to it which transforms the whole meaning in the article and that is v v wrong.
We should be ensuring women are only sharing their story when they want to publicly or with friends and family , when they are supported ,so they can own their narrative.
Sharing my own story means I tell people information I am comfortable with them hearing. Though it looks like I am like an open book, many of its pages are actually glued down and will never be spoken out loud. Why? Well because while there is no shame, it was a deeply traumatic time in my life and I do not wish for all the details of my illness to be known across the land. I continue to hold this thought.
I was told a few years back, when referring to others ,you should never talk about them, without them. Over the last few weeks, we have seen many people sharing others stories for their own gain and it isnt right .
Seek their permission, and use the knowledge they have granted you responsibly.
Alas, we have come to the end of a year we though we would never see. A year after first hearing the words Coronavirus and Covid-19 and we now have a whole new dictionary of delights to deal with – bubbles (that are not in a glass or part of a happy hour deal), social distancing, self-isolating, zooming, HOMESCHOOLING. It hasn’t been easy. I had COVID-19 in March as did the child and husband and we were in isolation for 6 weeks altogether. We were climbing the walls, had shopping dropped everyday by lovely friends and I haven’t seen my own family for an entire year. It has tested us all and we headed into 2021 facing some of the things which were thrown at us this year which we hoped had ended – spiralling rates, living in lockdown, and becoming totally non-qualified teachers again. As a parent, it’s been bloody hard. Working, parenting, letting the iPad parent, googling what is an improper fraction and wondering if anyone has ever used one in their adult life and did interrogative pronouns exist in 1987 when I went to school as I am convinced my 10-year-old is lying and they are not actually a thing.
Balls. They are a thing. I still don’t know what. Google does though so all is well.
All of these became things for parents in 2020 and now going into 2021, to tip us over the edge.
The less said about this, the better. Husband was in the bedroom working, I was in the hallway working, kid was in the living room on the iPad shouting “Dojo is broken/ where is my work/ its 9.05am, has school finished/ when is it lunch time? on a loop for four months. One week into home schooling in 2021 and we are here again. I was merrily yanked off a team call this morning as I heard an enormous crash and a yell of MUMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY HELPPPPPP. I opened the door to find my child under a pile of puffed wheat (which resembles 95757395 vulvas floating in a bowl of milk when served up for breakfast) shouting I want rice krispies and was attacked by these instead.
We had work sent on dojo, or was it tapestry? And there was a code for google classroom at some point, but I didn’t realise that was important so think it went into the recycling. Then Oak was launched but my kid likes the videos on the BBC classroom site and says he has already learnt about World War 2 so doesn’t need to do any of the work that has been set for the next month.
Does him bashing up cardboard boxes in the garden with an old guitar count as PE if I video it and upload to the school app? Approx. 2 weeks in, we genuinely gave up. Didn’t happen. I was drowning in work and realised that teachers need medals. All of the medals. I have never been so grateful to see a teacher like I was in September when school re-opened.
And now they are closed again. Today, a slide needed to be made about how blood goes around the body. A sentence had been written which consisted of “ummmmmmm I think it needs to do it” and he asked me for a snack. I said what did the teacher say to do. Did you listen to him? I don’t know mummy, should I have? How is Nancy Pelosi?” At that point I wanted to pour bucks fizz into my morning smoothie.
Child has become obsessed with Sky News as well. Turned it on last Sunday and shouted “where is Sophie Ridge? I like how she interviews people”.
The class WhatsApp group
Good lord. Anyone else woken up to 298 messages about what’s a google classroom, can the kids eat their lunch on a video lesson and why is Mr Smith doing a daily yoga lesson on Twitter? AND WHEN THERE IS COVID POSITIVE CASE IN THE CLASS I SUGGEST YOU MUTE YOUR PHONE AS YOU WILL RECEIVE APPROXIMATELY 78474947503739 MESSAGES which are essentially a virtual game of Guess Who with parent A saying well I asked little Jonny if anyone near him had been coughing and he said yes, no , I don’t know and rather unhelpfully , I think I was me mummy and Parent B saying well little Gemma looked peaky on Monday and I messaged parent c,d,e,and f to say I think she is the culprit . This of course then leads onto the talk and 67 messages from school about bubbles, self-isolation and temporary home schooling and then pouring over guidelines to see who has to isolate, who can still go to Tesco and do we all need tests. Which leads us to ….
“Mummy, you are poking my brain”
In 2020 into 2021, when your child cannot smell their own farts, it has become something of a national concern. The age old, mummy I feel a bit hot, no longer had parents leaping for the emergency 7 litres of Calpol and the trusty hand on forehead for a temperature check, but instead saw a sea of google searches for 24-hour chemists, an international shortage of thermometers and thousands of threads on Facebook about how on earth to book a COVID-19 test. Do you just turn up? Do you need a code? Her next door has a code for somewhere in Scotland but manged to get a test somewhere else.
Once you determine that you should get them tested, it may be that you have an at home test and ask your child to sit on your knee for 10 seconds saying ahhhhhhhh while you swab their throat. This may go perfectly well, or they might threaten to puke on you, or actually do this. If the latter happens, then the nose swab awaits you where you “push back until you hit resistance” which in real term means when your womb fruit shouts, “you are poking my brain mummy, when you pull it out my brain will be on the end and then I will have no brain forever and I won’t be able to play Roblox ever again.”
“Mummy, can I have some robux please”.
One thing which I have well and truly come to absolutely hate with a living passion and has led me to only be 0.5 seconds from hurling the iPad and laptop out of the window, is Roblox. Apparently, it is a platform where people come together and share the amazing experience of games made up by other users and play them together or something. In real terms, it is an annoying brain fry of colours and noises and some game called pig something where I am fleeced for an online currency every Friday called robux to buy more colourful annoying loud things. If I hear the words “I am laggy / they are a hacker / join my server” one. more. time, I am going to personally shut the entire gaming world down by throwing Lego at it.
“Mummy, can I have a snack? “
Has this last year turned your child into a living bottomless pot noodle? Whilst we may not have been able to go out, I have spent 3 times more on the food bill to allow for my kid’s expanding appetite. We haven’t made banana bread or fermented sourdough, though the sliced white from Tesco got covered in squash so I put it in clingfilm to squeeze it (does that count as homemade?).
My child says they are dying of starvation even though after the Chicken Balti they had for breakfast, they had 4 slices of toast, a bag of crisps, 3 bowls of porridge, eggy bread, a banana, and a packet of chicken pakoras. This last year has seen these constant requests for food take place while I am on a work video call and my team see my son beating the window with his fists saying he can’t remember when he last ate, and he NEEDS a snack before they wither away. He says this while holding a cheese string and eating a crumpet. I tried the ‘snack plate’ explain once it’s all gone, it’s gone but it doesn’t work. It wouldn’t for me either. I am sat here wondering what to eat whilst stuffing 2 croissants down me.
At one point, he said he was hungry while eating his dinner. Did you know you can cook waffles in the toaster? Waffles for President. I think potato flakes count as a vegetable somewhere so nutrition wise, winning.
“Mummy, can you leave the room at 11am as I have a call”
My ten-year-old marched into the bedroom one day clad in a face mask brandishing the zoflora declaring “can I get the zoom? I need to set up a conference call with my friends”. One mumble of a yes meant I suddenly became my son’s diary manager and spent the next week whatsapping parents I had never spoken to asking if they would mind me setting up a zoom call so our kids can talk about Lego and what a ball ache homework is and generally shout for 40 minutes at a pitch that would send dogs wild. This meant a further week of having the iPad launched at me while I delivering a presentation to 40 people on Ms teams saying “mummy, blah blah says he doesn’t have the zoom link, his mum thinks she got her email address wrong, can you call her please? “ . Right then. I will just do that then, never mind that mummy is actually at work, the thing which enables us to buy an iPad to have a bloody zoom……. My kid announced to me at one point that he had cancelled his 4pm with Alex and could we go for our daily walk at 6pm as he also had a 7.15pm with Andrew which he had shifted from the day before…….
“Get off the 12-foot ladder. If you hurt yourself, we can’t go to Accident and Emergency”.
As a parent, I have seen the inside of Casualty more times than I wish to say. I once took my son as a baby as I accidentally knocked his head on a door frame while giving him a cuddle and he didn’t wake up for hours. Seems he was just tired. 5 hours in the hospital to be told he was having an extended nap. Can’t find the pea that was on their plate? It’s up their nose. Where is the head of the logo man? In their poo in 24-48 hours. Where is sense of danger in a child? Non-existent.
Excuse me mummy while I just climb on top of the cooker and dangle from the lampshade as my WWE figure wants to perform a jump from that high. NOT DURING COVID IT BLOODY DOESN’T. Get.down.now as if you fall and break every bone in that non listening body of yours, we cannot go to the hospital. I am fairly certain my child could give seminars on why we must not do stuff that will land us in hospital during what is a hugely difficult time for out wonderful NHS staff.
Greeting the amazon delivery man whilst looking as though you have been shagged over a bin backwards. In a bush.
Home-schooling announcement equalled me pulling my nails off to launch my fingers at amazon and buying key stage book going and a cocktail mixing set. As well as a mooch at the indoor sparklers you can put on prosecco bottles, a 4am purchase of a teasmaid last seen in 1958, and a little flurry on a certain special quiet toy for mummy that is half price. Living in sweatpants and unwashed hair ensured I answered the door to the delivery man dressed like this. My wardrobe isn’t unfortunately made up of wizard capes and magic carpets – playing superheroes with my kid who then asked for angel delight resulted in this. Expect to see it on the A/W 2020 catwalks. Must have curry down sleeve of cardigan and a belly button piercing covered in stretch marks from a ten-year-old pregnancy to make it on point. I could have put the whisk down, but no no. Let’s hold onto it for safe keeping. Ten minutes previous my ankles were handcuffed together. That would have been interesting.
Talk show roots
COVID-19 took much from me. Including a decent hairstyle. I think the remote control was in my barnet for a while and during lockdown mark one, I think for the first time in 20 years, the hair on my head was half the same colour as the other hair on my body. I did not find this fun. Still, when the hairdressers did open, it was like a spa break AS YOU HAD TO GO ON YOUR OWN. NO KIDS JUMPING UP AND DOWN ON BLADDER. I brought a can of gin and tonic and fell asleep while I had my hair washed. True Story.
Shame I am now back to having hair which would allow me to be a guest on an early 1990’s talk show.
Date nights in the living room
When you can’t go loco and go on a date with the other half or on your hols, make an all-inclusive in your living room. You need some rum, some plants, a nice waiter who also moonlights as your partner and daily irritant provider and some more rum. And sandwiches. And the number to the kebab shop.
It’s a quick route back to your room, you don’t have to call a cab (I mean, you could while clinging to the loo but I don’t think they will drive you 5 feet ) , there won’t be wild sex as your kid wakes you at 3am with a head torch on to ask you if people can eat their own faces and you can’t sleep in as Lego figures are launched at your face at 5am alongside yells of “I’m humbrie. Want cereal. Can I have an Easter egg for breakfast?” BUT the drinks are free. Kind off.
I even have tan lines. Lord knows how. I haven’t left the windowless hallway which is now my office since February. Maybe they aren’t tan lines and I need to shower more.
The socially distanced playdate
When you actually leave where you live and visit someone in a government permitted socially distant garden meet up. Remember that? It was as if we had been granted day release from the fridge and sofa. Child asked if he had to wear pants and shoes and after many clothes flinging, agreed to leave the house in two different socks and his dressing gown. And his face mask. Husband cleaned his not worn for four months glasses with my brain the driving seat (how did that get there….) and I remembered that car mirrors show up every single hair on your face and chin in all their bearded glory.
I was on the M1 googling if the forestry commission could come and lawnmower my moustache while yelling that 4-month-old crisps on the car floor do not count as one of your five a day and that for three hours can we all please act as if we are fully functioning members of society and not people who have spent the last few months eating angel delight for breakfast and thinking two showers a week is more than enough to pass the sniff test.
Losing the lockdown pounds
I didn’t join in with Joe Wicks. Couldn’t be bothered. I put my workout leggings on and stood around wondering what on earth I do now. The quarantine 15 is currently living on my hips and I had just finished a crumpet and had butter dripping down my chin. It was all far too confusing for me to deal with, so I sat on the floor, plucked my leg hairs with my tweezers as well and watched blackhead videos on you tube. Then ate my waffles in my workout pants and made a frying pan of brownies as well.
I felt much better.
The Zoom night out
Mummy needs a break 55 minutes after the working week has started. So then when the working week is done, and I haven’t fallen asleep at 7pm, surrounded by cans of coke zero and empty bowls of angel delight, it is party zoom time. Yup – girl gang chatter central. I give a week’s notice to the household that mummy will be on a call at 7.30pm on sat night for 40 mins as zoom runs out then AND I AM NOT TO BE DISTURBED. I have a shower, put on makeup, nails and false eyelashes while wearing bed socks and march towards the booze cupboard at 7.25pm brandishing hair straighteners and a dabber so we can play online bingo. I haul out a bottle of prosecco, aperol and the 7up as lemonade is harder to buy than paracetamol these days and open a tinny of gin and tonic for the 5 second journey from the kitchen to the bedroom. I sit and await to be admitted to the call and when I see the 8 faces of my girlfriends pop up, I scream like I just won Miss World.
We all change our names to things like Fire Crotch and talk over each other constantly and no one has a bloody clue what the hell is going on. We realise after half an hour and 12 WhatsApp’s that Mandy is still in the virtual waiting room and when we let her in spend 15 minutes saying “no you talk. No sorry. what did you say? you go.yep we can hear you” while Sarah is undoing her jeans as she has drunk so much wine, they are digging into her. We are all treated to a lovely crotch shot as she stands up.
Halfway through, someone’s baby toddles in in an attempt to drink a white wine spritzer while another one’s 3-year-old wanders in with their pants around their ankles declaring they just pood on the floor. We then all ask if anyone has a twatting clue what a split digraph is, and Karen says it is the reason she had kid number 3 and we all laugh hysterically before I reveal I am using my kids exercise book to balance my pint glass on and deleted the school app due to my phone buzzing 87 times a day with notifications telling me my child needs to draw an oblong this week as an urgency.
As zoom is so lovely, it extends the 40-minute call for free so 3 hours pass and at 10.30pm someone declares their kid has woken up and puked over the curtains, so they need to go. We all kiss the screen and declare we must do this again tomorrow while telling each other we love each other and spend another 15 minutes saying bye bye bye bye bye bye bye.
I get up, grab the empty bottles and fling open the living room door, falling over my own boobs in the process and attempt to say hello but instead a slur of something that resembles what were probably words come out. I am absolutely incoherently off my face. I have sat in one spot for 3 hours drinking aperol spritz from a pint glass and descended into the pit of drunkville and am now staring at my family with my eyelashes residing on my nose and mouth declaring that I want a kebab and 6 stuffed jalapeno peppers. The next half hour is spent seeing double on the just eat app and misordering due to the false nails playing havoc and 8 boxes of chicken wings arriving instead resulting in me crying as I wanted a lamb shish and all my dreams are broken, and life is horrible. My kid sits prodding me while asking “Mummy, while I was sat outside the bedroom door when you were on your call listening in, why were you saying that you pee your pants all the time? I am not allowed to pee my pants” and “Who is Jamie Dornan and why would you divorce daddy for him?”.
Working from home
Virtual meeting fatigue. As @rionaoconnor_ says, we are in the midst of a global pandemic lads so after number eleventy 96 thousandth zoom meeting of the day, I feel like the word hello sounds like it is from an alien life force and question number 598 from from my kid about whether anyone has pood out of their mouth ever sends me to consider living at the tip. I have the obligatory brushed hair and top half fully clothed whereas where the camera doesn’t see, there is a duvet, a a hot water bottle and an Oreo covered crotch. And I spend a fair amount of brain time considering the merits of wearing a bra while on a google hangout. And dont start me on the consideration given to whether pants are a classed as a key worker.
I don’t know about you, but I think I am really nailing this working from home chic. I put a red dress on over my pyjama bottoms for a zoom meeting. From my bed. With my electric blanket on. I even wore a crop top one day. A crop top I tell you. And I have fashioned quite the variety of top knots.
I also put perfume on one day. For a zoom call.
My kid asked “Mummy, have we had the month of May yet? Then I lost the sausages.
Lockdown. The next chapter.
Vote for me as Mum Of The Year at https://www.glomamaawards.com/
Follow me on Instagram at Instagram.com/eviecanavan
Follow me on Twitter at @eviecanavan
I am blind to reality and for that I am proud. Child was off school for 4 days sick while I both quickly and slowly started to feel like I wanted to throw saucepans into the garden. Every zoom meeting was interrupted by yells of “I am hungry. Can I have a lamb bhuna delivered ” which resulted in startled looks when I said the curry house didnt deliver at 9.10am and he would need to wait 8 more hours.
I booked Friday off work when he returned to school to have a wash and locate some clean cereal bowls and approached the school run of doom with the vigour of an Olympic 100m runner.
At 7.45am I was yelling “why is me asking you to put your shoes on greeted with a befuddled look like this is the first time you have ever heard me say it ?” And at 8.25 we arrived at school with me pulling up my pants that were falling down shouting “please no late pass” while ushering my kid past hoards of what seemed to be very very small children and a real lack of anyone over the of 5. Except me who is 40. I felt like I was nailing life.
Until the playground monitor muttered those wonderful words “school is closed today except for nursery and reception”. You what love?
Yep. The one day I had got us out of the house with pants on, on time, after much hysteria, school is closed. Thank God its only an 8000 step roundtrip eh.
I am pleased to say that my child did some independent learning and fashioned his name out of toothpaste on the bathroom mirror while I had a 2 hour danger nap, made bacon and whiskey brownies and ordered 40 quids worth of fish and chips. I also lost the whisk.
Follow me on Instagram at Instagram.com/eviecanavan
Mommy’s little helpers.
They come in an abundance of names and have changed many a life. What what you say? I say antidepressants.
I am a big personal advocate for medication. In the midst of a Postpartum Psychosis , when I was terrified of everything and everyone, when I thought I was floating to the sky and the walls were suffocating me, when I spent 100 quid on bags of potatoes and filled the garden with juice extractors after a spree on the shopping channel at 2am, they cleared the fog so I could focus on recovery. I did all this while also having a 24 hour all you can eat milk canteen pumping on my chest.
As you may know from my other blogs, breastfeeding became important to me almost overnight. I had assumed I would mix feed my son so before he was even born, along with the 87 cans of caffeine free diet coke and value strawberry angel delights I became obsessed with, I would order those readymade cartons of formula. I just assumed I would use them. And then I gave birth, became terrified of being near my little boy, refused to look at him or be in the same room as him but felt a desperate pang to feed him myself. I do not know what it was. I found the very idea of being near him beyond comprehension. I remember the day that I ran out into the middle of the road screaming ‘I’m trapped, take me away from this world, he has trapped me’. My partner brought me back into the house, I slumped myself on the floor, crying my eyes out. My mum was there and said ‘Evelyn, what is it love, tell me how you feel, please’. I looked at her, angry and I can remember clear as day saying ‘I hate these feelings, I can’t bear it, I can’t. even.bear.to.look.at.him’. My mum started weeping and said ‘but he is so precious Evelyn. Look at him love, please, cuddle him, please love’, and I just stared at the carpet. And then he started crying. And I did what I was later to realise I always did when he did this – I picked him up , my partner held him to me and I nursed him. I found it hard to look at him but my boobs would tingle when he cried as if they ached to comfort him.
The feelings I experienced were so confusing and terrified me. I was , what was later described in therapy, grieving deeply for my old life. I felt dead, void of positive feelings towards the future and scared of the life waiting for me ahead. But I found myself needing and wanting it nurse the child I didn’t think I wanted.
The day I was hospitalised in a psychiatric mother and baby unit was when I had a sense of realisation that I wanted to not only be my sons mother and carer but I also wanted to feed him. After John had found me wandering around in a daze, I had run into his parents’ room and began crawling round the bed on all fours. I was screaming for someone to help me. John was talking on the phone to a psychiatrist and I was walking up and down the stairs over and over, talking to myself. I suddenly heard another voice. A family member was on the phone to the doctor’s surgery and was asking for the GP to prescribe some tablets for me to dry my milk up so they could bottle feed Joe. And this was when my brain bolted. I knew I was ill. I knew I was terrified of my role as a mum and the terror of this being a job I would have forever like it or not, filled me with a fear that I had never ever experienced. I was confused, scared, and lost in my own thoughts but I knew something. I knew I wanted to feed my son. I knew I could do that. It was the one thing that I could do for him that no one else could.
I was admitted to the mother and baby unit later that day and prescribed antidepressants that were compatible with nursing and it was amazing. I was able to begin recovering while doing the one thing that was important to me
Yet so many women are still told it is not possible. It is in lots of cases. Of course, for some, it is not possible, but it is not a blanket rule.
Ten years on, I coordinate the UK Mental Health Awareness Week with a small group of people affected by perinatal mental illness. Up to one in five women experience mental illness during pregnancy and the first year after birth – that is what perinatal means. However, apparently only around 50% of these are diagnosed. I want to arm women and families with knowledge so they can get the care they need and deserve and one of the things we at PMHP look at during the Awareness Week is breastfeeding and antidepressants. We get so many emails from women saying they think they may have to stop feeding to take any medication and are desperately sad and upset about it.
I need help. I do not want to feel this way – how do I get help ?
I have been there. Given birth and thinking at some point soon the hills will be alive with the sound of sweet gurgling baby noises but instead, ferocious waves are crashing around in your head. You are overwhelmed. You are crying. You are having thoughts enter your head which are scaring you. You may be questioning whether you love your baby. You want someone and something to help it get better.
You deserve help and support. Please open to a health care professional and tell them about your feelings so they can work out what the best treatment is for you. Even if the thoughts you are having you are scared off . I did an Instagram Live last month about Intrusive Thoughts in the Perinatal Period with Catherine Benfield where we discussed thoughts that are about harm or are sexual in nature. Trigger warning if you do watch and if you have have been having these kinds of thoughts, you are not an awful person at all. Not in anyway. Please let the Instagram Live session reassure you – https://www.instagram.com/tv/CCWoFeHF4Me/?igshid=11en4xnqxzltq
If you aren’t sure how to open up, you could fill in the GP Appointment Checklist – a simple but innovative perinatal mental illness appointment checklist was developed by my friends Smile Group for mums who find it challenging to articulate how they feel when speaking to GPs, HVs or midwives http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/ . If the midwife or HV is visiting your house , you could pass it to them or if you are seeing a GP over an e consultation because of Covid, you could email a version for their attention ahead of your appointment.
At the start of lockdown , I pulled together this directory of perinatal mental illness support during Covid-19 and beyond.
The aim of it is to provide a supportive platform which can reassure families and signpost them to vital resources and support which is what people need most at this time. While we are a few months later and some service provision will have changed , the article provides an overview of services for mums experiencing perinatal mental illness during this unusual time.
The article covers :
1 – Overview of online perinatal mental health support
2 – Online Perinatal Mental Health Peer Support groups / forums
3 – Perinatal mental health charities offering their support in new ways during the isolation period
4 – Maternal Mental Health Online Courses
5 – Useful details of national mental health charities and groups
6 – Regional perinatal mental health support in their usual form
7- Support for BAME mums
8 – Other groups/apps/organisations that provide support to mums
9 – Breastfeeding Support
10 – Covid Support
11- Support Resources
12 – Suicidal thoughts / Help in a crisis
13 – Perinatal Mental Illnesses and their symptoms
I am not a doctor. I did once receive a letter addressed to Dr Steve Caravan which was meant for me, Miss Eve Canavan but alas, it was not the career choice for me. Therefore , this blog will not be me telling you what meds to take as this is not appropriate for me to do – we need to look at the guidance from health care professionals and so I have placed it all in here in place so it is easy to navigate.
This blog is not about feeding choices or how women choose to feed their babies. It is about plonking all the breastfeeding and antidepressant information in once place , at a time when everything can feel too much and overwhelming.
Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit
Your GP has resources to help you if you are experiencing perinatal mental illness. These include the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit which gives doctors access to things which will help them support unwell mums.
It is below, and anyone can look at it, not just GPs. As someone with lived experience of perinatal mental illness, I, alongside several other women, supported the creation of the Toolkit, giving advice from the lived experience viewpoint.
It contains clinical which offers information on presentation, diagnosis, and treatment both with medication as well as psychological treatment. There is significant geographical variation in the provision of specialist perinatal mental health services across the UK and it is important GPs know where to access further information.
It is absolutely BRILLO-PADS. Thanks for it Dr Carrie Ladd.
Guidelines In Practice
There is also this great article written by my mate Dr Stephanie de Giorgio for GPs about identifying and counselling women with postnatal, perinatal, and current or previous mental health problems, non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatment options and when to refer to secondary care.
Medication in pregnancy and breastfeeding
It also has a whole section on this advising that the decision to use medication to treat a mental health problem during the perinatal period is a complex one and individual to each woman. Clinicians should be able to help women make an informed decision and the following resources may be assist them to do so.
- The UK Teratology Information Service provides information for healthcare professionals on the safely of drugs in pregnancy.
- Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy provides patient information leaflets on the safety of drugs in pregnancy.
- UK Drugs in Lactation Service (UKDILAS) The UKDILAS service provides evidence-based information on the use of drugs during the breastfeeding period. This website contains links to articles on the safety profile of individual drugs or groups of drugs.
- LactMed the Drugs and Lactation Database of the US National Library of Medicine.
- MHRA Toolkit on the Risks of Valproate Medications in Female Patients (patient card, patient booklet, healthcare professional booklet and acknowledgement of risk form). There is now strong evidence that the risks of using sodium valproate in pregnancy are too high to be considered acceptable and clinicians should urgently review their prescribing of this drug to women of childbearing age. MHRA film on the risks of taking Valpraote medications during pregnancy.
- A systematic review of evidence base of psychotropic medications: Management of psychotropic drugs during pregnancy Chisholm M & Payne J (2016)
The Breastfeeding Network
What a brilliant organisation these are.
At the Breastfeeding Network, they are in contact with, and support thousands of new mums every year and around 15% of the calls to their old Drugs in Breastmilk information service related to mental health issues.
They also advise on their website that research also shows that more than 3 in 5 women stopped breastfeeding earlier than they wanted to. This shows the importance of providing good quality breastfeeding support and evidence-based information on the safety of anti-depressant medication for mums who do want to breastfeed.
They have detailed, evidence based, information sheets on anxiety and breastfeeding, feeling depressed and breastfeeding, feeling anxious and breastfeeding, OCD and breastfeeding, Bipolar disorder and breastfeeding and postnatal depression treatments and breastfeeding. These are written by their qualified and highly experienced pharmacist and can be downloaded or printed out to discuss with your midwife, health visitor or GP.
Drugs in Breastmilk Antidepressant Factsheets – https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/antidepressants/
You can call the National Breastfeeding Helpline which is open from 9.30am-9.30pm 365 days a year on 0300 100 0212 to talk to a trained volunteer, who is also a mum who has breastfed. The helpline also welcomes calls from partners, family members and friends.
GP Infant Feeding Network
The GP Infant Feeding Network (UK), also known as GPIFN, has developed this website as a clinical resource for General Practitioners (GPs) working in the UK. The website was developed as an independent, voluntary project by UK GPs with assistance and input from colleagues working in infant feeding, maternity and early years.
They advise that the website can be used as a basic reference for learning more about infant feeding issues that may present to the GP. It also signposts to further information from trusted independent sources.
The intention is to help GPs in the UK easily find evidence based information on infant feeding which assists their practice and enables them to complement the work of those supporting healthy infant feeding.
Dr Wendy Jones MBE – Facebook Lives
During each UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, Queen of Pharmacists Dr Wendy Jones MBE delivers a Facebook live for us about Breastfeeding and antidepressants. Wendy is a bit of a hero to nursing mamas and is truly an incredible, kind, and supportive resource. Take a look at a previous Facebook live she has done about this very subject here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=826557897700531&id=587696788088228.
Wendy’s website is here – https://breastfeeding-and-medication.co.uk/
There are so many wild rumours about breastfeeding that they can really overwhelm people and make your boobs feel oiled bursting out of their bra for relief. These myths only serve to not support women who wish to feed so I was very honoured to recently have queen of boobs Shel Banks join me on Instagram Live for a Supporting Mums session on this very subject.
Things such as when and how much poo should a week-old baby be producing if breastfed? What does green poo mean – has my baby been fathered by an alien? Do oats up milk supply as I have eaten 4 packets of hobnobs? Can I have some wine when I am breastfeeding, or will it make my baby drunk and climb on a table singing The Wheels on The Bus while pooping into its nappy?
Take a look as Shel is so reassuring and kind – https://www.instagram.com/tv/CDi6GFMFkEp/?igshid=1ggkuzq59xkgw
You will get better. I promise .
For me, medication saved my life and I will be forever grateful – it really was the only thing that helped me when I was unwell. Medication freed me from the hysteria of hallucinations and I will forever praise them for giving me the gift of my life back.
Diamonds may be a nice present but for me , the best I ever had was becoming Eve again and learning not to be scared of my baby. Who cares if I had to shake, rattle, and roll along the medication yellow brick road to get here?
I wrote this about antidepressants if you fancy another read – https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/tear-up-those-anti-depressant-prescriptions-all-you-need-to-do-is-climb-into-a-magicians-hatnudge-the-rabbit-out-of-the-way-and-abracadabra-youre-cured-in-a-puff-of-pull-yourself-together-smo/
Follow me on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/eviecanavan
Twitter – https://twitter.com/eviecanavan
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Smalltimemum1/
Follow the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership – https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/
Ahh. Zoom, MS Teams, Hangouts, Skype, House party, Facetime, Moon time, Anytime. That’s what we are now, available anytime as we now all talk to people through our screens. Covid. The gift that keeps on giving. I have had Covid – it is the worst gift ever.
In March, we had to endure hour long tutorials with relatives about how to talk through the computer screen– 4 year olds across the land who could probably be CEO of snapchat by the time they are 5 spent large chunks of their day shouting “ No nanna, I can still just see your foot. Lift the iPad up” or “Turn the camera around. Can you see the button on the screen with the camera logo, press it? No, that is the mute button, no now I can see grandad’s nostril. And you are on mute, I cannot hear anything you are saying “ to which parents across the land shouted from the kitchen wrapped in a vat of spag bol , whilst in their pants and also on a work call on mute , “ just hang up. Tell them you will call later. I am attempting to do a performance review with a team member whilst browning 500g of mince and working out what a bloody frontal adverbial is “.
The ‘new normal’ we are living sounded like heaven initially– working from home while your child received their school work via an app and all would be wrapped up at 3.30 and you could cook dinner at 6pm and I for one was delighted that I would not have to wax my beard each day. There would be no getting on the tube at 7.15am to spend an hour with your foundation being rubbed into someone’s armpit. No being late for your 10am meeting because after dropping your kid at the school gates with 0.5 seconds to spare they declare “I am not wearing any pants, my willy hurts”. No changing out of your 4 inch stilettos in trainers to run the mile to school to collect said child in a time that would blow Roger Bannister out of the water and no cooking entire meals in the toaster as you are too batshit tired to do anything else – note waffles take five minutes on setting number 3. I stick 4 Quorn nuggets in there as well but don’t recommend pouring baked beans in…. something about things exploding apparently. You can cook a whole curry in a kettle though – who knew? Prisoners, that’s who. I learnt it from a channel 4 documentary.
So I thought that my new life would be marvellous and I would be entering lockdown stressed, bit fat, stressed, bit more fat and emerge a few months later relaxed and a bit less fat and that NO ONE WOULD BE SEEING ME .
This is not the case. People see me. All day. All the time. THEY SEE ME BECAUSE MY FACE IS BROADCAST ON VIDEO CALLS ELEVENTY 98 MILLION TIMES A DAY MEANING I HAVE TO SHAVE MY BEARD EVERYDAY. They are also witnessing all my new chins appearing ……
Said new life began by getting Covid. Which was a right old ballache let me tell you. A couple of weeks in bed where my legs stopped working, I was so hot and sweaty you could wring me out and cough, cough, I coughed loads. As I emerged from the illness, I realised I had not seen my mates for yonks so whatsapped everyone saying let’s get on the zoom train and pop prosecco together. As I went back to work, I saw we were all working hard about how to work together virtually while being apart physically. Masterclasses were being run on social media about how to log on to these video conferencing networks and the first month was spent with your team saying “Morning all. Oh David, you are on mute, can you repeat the point you have just been making for 20 minutes as no one heard you.” Sally in accounts thought her camera was off when her doorbell went and everyone saw her emerge from her sofa in her husbands football socks and wrapped in a sleeping bag and my team witnessed my kid handing me 50 quids worth of Playmobil dropped off by amazon at 9am and I delivered my morning hello chat whilst disinfecting a 3 inch swat policeman with the anti bac spray.
My phone home screen starting filling up with the numerous different apps as everyone uses different ones and started having arguments about the right one to use, with people calling you on one to tell you they are dialling you on another one……. And that is just the adults.
My ten-year-old marched into the bedroom one day clad in a face mask brandishing the zoflora declaring “can I get the zoom? I need to set up a conference call with my friends”. One mumble of a yes meant I suddenly became my son’s diary manager and spent the next week whatsapping parents I had never spoken to asking if they would mind me setting up a zoom call so our kids can talk about Lego and what a ballache homework is and generally shout for 40 minutes at a pitch that would send dogs wild. This meant a further week of having the iPad launched at me while I delivering a presentation to 40 people on Ms teams saying “ mummy, xxx says he doesn’t have the zoom link, his mum thinks she got her email address wrong , can you call her please ? “ . Right then. I will just do that then, never mind that mummy is actually at work, the thing which enables us to buy an iPad to have a bloody zoom……. My kid announced to me last week that he had cancelled his 4pm with Alex and could we go for our daily walk at 6pm as he also had a 7.15pm with Andrew which he had shifted from the day before…….
I find myself clicking the camera on and off 800 times so no one sees a babybell being waved in front of it to be opened and the microphone going off mid-sentence so no hears “ mummy, the delivery man is here from Boohoo. Is daddy going to go mad at you as this is parcel number 6 this week?” has become something of the norm.
I am starting to think that the virtual calls are actually all joining together to become a video diary of my expanding body mass and by the end of the day, the word hello starts to sound like it is from an alien life force and question number 598 from my child about whether or not people can physically eat their own faces sends me to such despair , that I consider living at the tip for some peace and quiet. As I park myself at my laptop for the day and stick my earphones in (anyone else wait until 10 seconds before their meeting to then scream like a banshee “where the feck are my headphones? we have 14 mobile phones in this house all which came with headphones and I cannot find any?”), my husband goes around closing the windows so the neighbours can’t hear my meltdown and everyone grunts at me.
I have the obligatory brushed hair and top half fully clothed whereas where the camera doesn’t see, there is a duvet, a hit water bottle, and an Oreo covered crotch. And I spend a fair amount of brain time considering the merits of wearing a bra while on a google hangout. And do not start me on the consideration given to whether my pants are classed as a key worker.
I find myself moving from room to room as the three of us in the house battle for Wi-Fi coverage. Husband has set up his office in the bedroom, I am in the hallway with no windows and child is sprawled out on the sofa surrounded by cushions and snacks.
I spend 15 mins each morning explaining mummy’s virtual meeting schedule while opening up the school app 6 times saying, do you understand fractions? You need to do these this morning while mummy has three meetings. Look up ten high frequency words and make ten sentences with them, can you do that while not interrupting mummy? The work zoom call starts bleeping while child says they don’t own any pens or paper and can’t remember how to read or write and can we bake a cake and have curry for breakfast. Several fucks later and apologies to the team that my child is behind me dressed as a swat police officer while standing on the kitchen counter eating a tin of Chicken Balti and the next meeting is due to start. Child is now in garden attempting to build a tree house out of a pencil and a stone and says they are dying of starvation even though after the Chicken Balti they had 4 slices of toast, a bag of crisps, 3 bowls of porridge, eggy bread, a banana and a packet of chicken pakoras. Team see child beating window with fists saying they can’t remember when they last ate, and they NEED a snack before they wither away. Child says this while holding a cheese string and eating a crumpet.
It is 9.55am.
Mummy needs a break 55 minutes after the working week has started. So then when the working week is done, and I haven’t fallen asleep at 7pm, surrounded by cans of coke zero and empty bowls of angel delight, it is party zoom time. Yup – girl gang chatter central. I give a week’s notice to the household that mummy will be on a call at 7.30pm on sat night for 40 mins as zoom runs out then AND I AM NOT TO BE DISTURBED. I have a shower, put on makeup, nails and false eyelashes while wearing bed socks and march towards the booze cupboard at 7.25pm brandishing hair straighteners and a dabber so we can play online bingo. I haul out a bottle of prosecco, aperol and the 7up as lemonade is harder to buy than paracetamol these days and open a tinny of gin and tonic for the 5 second journey from the kitchen to the bedroom. I sit and await to be admitted to the call and when I see the 8 faces of my girlfriends pop up, I scream like I just won Miss World. We all change our names to things like Fire Crotch and talk over each other constantly and no one has a bloody clue what the hell is going on. We realise after half an hour and 12 wharsapps that Mandy is still in the virtual waiting room and when we let her in spend 15 minutes saying “no you talk. No sorry.. what did you say ? you go..yep we can hear you” while Sarah is undoing her jeans as she has drank so much wine, they are digging into her. We are all treated to a lovely crotch shot as she stands up.
Halfway through, someone’s baby toddles in in an attempt to drink a white wine spritzer while another one’s 3-year-old wanders in with their pants around their ankles declaring they just pood on the floor. We then all ask if anyone has a twatting clue what a split digraph is and Karen says it is the reason she had kid number 3 and we all laugh hysterically before I reveal I am using my kids exercise book to balance my pint glass on and deleted the school app due to my phone buzzing 87 times a day with notifications telling me my child needs to draw an oblong this week as an urgency.
As zoom is so lovely, it extends the 40-minute call for free so 3 hours pass and at 10.30pm someone declares their kid has woken up and puked over the curtains, so they need to go. We all kiss the screen and declare we must do this again tomorrow while telling each other we love each other and spend another 15 minutes saying bye bye bye bye bye bye bye.
I get up, grab the empty bottles and fling open the living room door, falling over my own boobs in the process and attempt to say hello but instead a slur of something that resembles what were probably words come out. I am absolutely incoherently off my face. I have sat in one spot for 3 hours drinking aperol spritz from a pint glass and descended into the pit of drunkville and am now staring at my family with my eyelashes residing on my nose and mouth declaring that I want a kebab and 6 stuffed jalapeno peppers . The next half hour is spent seeing double on the just eat app and misordering due to the false nails playing havoc and 8 boxes of chicken wings arriving instead resulting in me crying as I wanted a lamb shish and all my dreams are broken and life is horrible. My kid sits prodding me while asking “Mummy, while I was sat outside the bedroom door when you were on your call listening in, why were you saying that you pee your pants all the time?I am not allowed to pee my pants” and “Who is Jamie Dornan and why would you divorce daddy for him?”.
By 10am this morning my kid had declared “commas are for bellends” and a refusal to do any work at all. Super. He then ate a chicken madras with a gardening shovel for breakfast dressed as an astronaut complete with visor.
I got my period and feel like a truck has run me over. My husband ate my baguette THAT I BOUGHT FROM THE SHOP ESPECIALLY FOR ME AS I WOKE UP AT 6AM CRAVING IT as he thought I had made it for him for lunch. I was so hormonal I wanted to divorce him as I really wanted to dip it into my Heinz tomato soup with 3 inches of salted butter. I spent a good hour feeling cross about my crusty knob shaped sandwich of dreams being stolen from me and contemplated hiding all the other slices of bread as payback and making him eat grated cheese out of his cupped hands.
And I cant find any of my knickers. None of them. But I did find half a sausage inside one of my shoes.
I somehow managed to do 7 hours work today as well. With no pants on.
Is it Christmas yet?
Follow me on Instagram- Instagram.com/eviecanavan