Tag Archives: baby

The chronicles of 19865788 Lego blocks while not wearing socks.

In three days, it’s my sons 7th birthday. My baby is no longer that and last night , as I looked at him in bed , with his superman pants sticking out of the bed covers, football socks pulled up to his knees, and handmade reward signs for “bad man wanted , dead or aliv” stuck all over the house, I cried. John came over to me and said he is lovely isnt he ? I said he is, and he wiped a tear from my face. Well , it was more than a tear- a monsoon was gushing out of my tear ducts and I was a blubbering mess. As I felt the salty drops , I said to John “ where has the time gone ?”. So much has happened baby , I never thought we would be here . I never ever thought I could feel such a burst of love for him” and my long suffering pretend hubby said , but here you are Eve , you and your boy , the dream team.

And here we are indeed. Joe’s birthday doesn’t just signify his birth. It signifies me becoming a mummy, John becoming a daddy and also makes me remember that seven years ago, after giving birth , my mind descended into a whirling deep pit of the hell that is Postpartum Psychosis . Seven years on, it reminds me that I am here , I recovered , I survived , I am alive and I am happy. Happy to be Joe’s mummy .

I wanted to write this blog to show my boy I always loved him , even during a time when I could barely remember my own name , I couldn’t remember how to wash myself and when I was lost in a rambling head of confused thoughts. I want him to be able to read it when he is older and know how much he means to me and our family but also to show other mums who may be unwell now , that they will get better and their relationship with their child will be okay . More than okay – it will flourish.

Joe watched when I received a Speaking Out Award from the charity Mind in November . I , alongside my dear friend Kathryn , had worked with the BBC and Mind on a storyline about Postpartum Psychosis on the soap Eastenders and were essentially the experts by experience. Mind and the BBC did a marvellous job of accurately portraying the illness and raising awareness and one of the overriding themes of the storyline was of how much the mum affected , Stacey, loved her baby. It was so important to show this and the charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis stress that as serious as the symptoms of the illness are , they in no way mean the sufferer is evil or doesn’t love her child. In no way at all.

Kathryn and I were very lucky to be presented the award , which was a thank for us speaking out about our experiences which informed the storyline . I had told Joe that mummy and daddy were going to an award show ,that mummy would be getting an award and explained to the in laws how to use the modern invention that is the IPad so Joe could watch the live feed. When we got home at 1am, me shoeless but most definitely not wineless , eating a lamb shish with extra garlic chilli sauce and a naan bread hanging out of my mouth, my mother in-law emerged from the lounge and said that they didn’t know I was getting an award but said that Joe sat there for 2 and a half hours staring at the iPad waiting for mummy. As it got to the end , she had said to Joe that she didn’t think he would be seeing mummy and Joe shouted ‘I will. My mummy said she is getting an award and my mummy doesn’t lie to me” and he plonked himself on the floor again and stared at the screen once more. I then did indeed get it , and my mother in law says she looked at Joe, my beautiful little pocket rocket, who has mastered the art of swearing in a non – offensive way ” Mummy – Donald trump is a right ‘ucker isn’t he” and he had tears running down his face. When he woke up in the morning he said ‘Mummy, I so proud of you – you said my name in your speech!’.

He then asked where his award was , when is he going to look around the EastEnders set and why he can’t drink children’s wine to celebrate . Six hours later , after a trip to the trophy shop, I presented him with his own award and he did a thank you speech for us in the living room while dressed up as his self-invented super-hero pants man ( think 18 pairs of pants tucked into another pair of pants , socks on hands , pair of pants on head) .

He then said he needed to talk to me. He kissed my head , asked if I would play shops with him and then said , mummy, when you collected your award last night , why did you say when you gave birth to me , that you were scared of me ? He looked at me and said , I’m not scary mama and my heart stopped a beat. Joe has always known what happened to me and what happened to us when he was born. He knows mummy had a poorly head that made her think things that weren’t really happening , he knows that mummy was a bit muddled up when she thought about things and she needed the doctors to help make her better and he knows that me and him lived in a psychiatric mother and baby unit so I could recover in a safe warm place . We visit the mother and baby unit and go to the bedroom we lived in while we was there. Joe jumps up and down in the cot he was in and helps himself to the biscuits the nurses hand out he knows the mums who are there have poorly heads but that they are there to get better. But what he didn’t know is that I was scared of him.

I have never been one to shy away from telling Joe stuff. I am the parent who explained where babies came from when he was three – ‘What , daddy put his willy into your vangina ???? and the sperm fish raced to the wombs and broke through ? do I have sperm fish? “

We are the family that explained what body parts are which brought about the following encounter one hazy night at 11pm while I was on the sofa in johns tracksuit bottoms , drinking Buck’s Fizz from the bottle. I think it was a Tuesday- totally rock and roll…

‘Mummy , I can’t sleep.

Cue me throwing the bag of chocolate behind the sofa and sympathetically asking why darling ?

“ it’s just that I need to tell you the right word for the vangina . it’s not a vangina or a front bumper. It’s a vulva. Can you say vulva mummy ? you have it so you should be able to.

Vulva darling. I can say it. Thank you for telling me .

No worries mummy, I thought you should know. It’s not a front bumper. We don’t say that”

And off he toddled.

And then there was the epic time we explained how people can love who they want :

“Mummy, why is daddy’s friend kissing that other man on the lips in a movie star kiss like you and daddy ?

Because they love each other like mummy and daddy do. Anyone can love anyone. Boys can love girls, girls can love girls. Girls can love boys , boys can love boys. Anyone can love anyone. And if anyone says they can’t they are idiots okay ?

Are they dicks mummy , the people who think it’s wrong ? Shall we call them the dicks ?

Yes my love, they are the dicks” .

And after allowing him to self-parent and decorate the toilet seat in toothpaste while I spent half an hour attempting to prise my acrylic nails off, he came up to me and said , mummy see that man Bruce on the TV screen ? See him ? He is not Bruce anymore- he is Caitlin. He wanted to be a lady and is now one , so we don’t call her Bruce. She is a her.  She is happy now and isn’t that good mummy?

I was so proud of my boy , so open , so kind to others, so accepting in a world where a man with orange foundation and three mismatched hairpieces has become the leader of the free world. A man who can’t even run his own twitter account is running the most powerful country on earth. But I digress…..

I have always been open with Joe. I want him to know about everything so he grows up being accepting and being aware of himself, his body and be respectful to others who love their differently to us. We have told him what happened to us when he was born so he understands why mummy had to zoom up and down to Nottingham on a train for therapy , so he understands why mummy took 87 pills before bed, so he understands why mummy needs some space sometimes. But I hadn’t prepared myself for him hearing I was scared of him.

I was never scared of you Joe. You with the little sweaty feet, the lovely squishy arms, the cute punky hair. You were and are the most beaut child I had ever seen. I was scared of the thoughts in my head. No one knows quite why but when I gave birth, something happened to my head. It was like someone pulled out bits of my brain , put them in back in with a load of lego blocks and mixed them around like a bowl on Bake Off. I lost the instruction manual to my brain and couldn’t rebuild myself. My head got confused and starting thinking things it didn’t want to – it was like when we were building the Lego millennium falcon- we were putting the pieces together and it got so confusing – so many bags of stuff and we didn’t know where all the bits went and it took 12 hours to build it properly. My brain was a melting pot of mismatched Lego bricks that I kept standing on without socks and hurting myself. I struggled to build my brain back again but I eventually did – and with your help. Hopefull, it won’t break again .Sometimes , some blocks come off and mummy thinks oh ‘ucking hell, why can’t I glue this together forever, but I manage to get the pieces back to where they belong super quick because I know where they should be. Sometimes the doctor, daddy and you help me to put the blocks back in place as well.

So it’s wasn’t you I was scared of– I was scared of my thoughts. I felt like I wouldn’t be a good mummy and when I realised I was to be a mummy forever, this scared me . You know when mummy says she thinks she wants a new job as the one she is in is doing her head in ? Its like that – but I realised my job as a mummy was forever and I was so confused that I couldn’t change this job if I didn’t like it. But I knew I wanted to like to – I had wanted you for so long . I then realized it wasn’t a job, it was my purpose. I am here to be your mummy.

As you get older , you will see and read things about how unwell I was and you may thing , erm , mother , why did you climb out of the window adorned in blue eye shadow while muttering that the clouds were trapping you and why the dickens did you run past Mr Patel’s house with no clothes on and bite daddy’s ankles so he wouldn’t leave the house ? I am aware that your teenage self in a few years will be embarrassed by me and will ignore everything i say even more than you do now but I promise I will try to not run past Mr Patel without my pants again. I would have preferred to not have done this the first time but I can’t change the past. That’s why the woman across the road has her net curtain permanently hitched up day and night – I think she doesn’t want to miss it , should I ever do a repeat performance.

As mummy’s friend Beth says , motherhood has truly been the making of me , but in a way I never expected. I never thought I would give birth and start crawling around the floor convinced I was being buried alive . I never thought I would be asleep in a bed , filled to my gills with anti psychotics In a mother and baby unit . I never thought I would shake when I saw you .But I did , those things happened , but so did my recovery.

I wanted to recover for you. And we must always remember daddy says – even when I was unwell , so unwell, I loved you. I cared for you, I fed you, I begged for help so I could enjoy you , so I could cuddle you. At times I may not have known who or what I was , but I yearned for you. I remember on my discharge from the unit, holding you in my arms , I knew I was getting better. When we entered the unit , I couldn’t close the door and be in a room on my own with you but just a week later , I did just that. It was the biggest turning point in my illness and gave us the first glimmer of hope I then understood.

A few months later , I would travel to Nottingham twice a week with you in a sling on a train – me and you , together. I would go the therapy and I remember calling granddad builder and crying saying daddy, I am getting there , I am getting better and he said , you are hen , you are and its beautiful , me and your man love you . And we don’t just love you , we adore you.

A year later , I went back to work. I had two days off a week with you and spent those days taking you to clappy sing song baby groups. I never knew I would grow to love singing the wheels on the bus 87 times a week but I did . I would count down until my days off with you so we could hang out . Blobs of play dough with raw spaghetti made by your little hands were spaceships and they still and always will take pride of place on the shelves in the lounge.

Seven years on , I could literally inhale you. You have grown from a beautiful baby to the most wonderful independent , caring child. You won your class school council election with a manifesto saying ‘ I think I should be a school councillor because I am a very nice person’ and my love, you are .You give your sandwiches to the homeless man on the street , you waved a placard around at a breastfeeding in public rally and told a newspaper photographer he was rude , you throw lego at the TV when supernanny is on saying that woman is a bell end mummy , take her away and you stood in front of the TV after brexit and said , mummy, what the uck is going on ? .

I could not be prouder to be your mummy. You may be my first child and my last child but you are most definitely my everything . Being unwell after you were born has shown me how much I love you and how much I always have. I was never scared of you mate , I was scared of what the illness did to me.

Always remember this. On your birthday , when I find you in knee deep in squirty cream and a bowl of jelly on your head , I will remember your birthday as the best day of my life because of the family it has made us. Being your mum is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I quite like your father as well.

I was never scared of you mate – how could I be scared of someone who ,when mummies nail glue explodes in her handbag and solidifies over her house keys , doubling them in size meaning they can’t stick in the key hole and she attempts to chisel them out with and toothbrush and a sanitary towel, decides to do their much needed poo in the front garden and wipes their arse with a receipt. You’re just like your mother mate – resourceful, have no embarrassment levels and a quick thinker.

You will go far my friend and mummy will be with you. Remember what I said at the Mind awards? I said you are truly the best thing to ever happen to me. Even when you decorate the house in four unwound toilet rolls.

If I am ever not with you, I will watch this video. With daddy on the drums and you doing your best Rancid impression and I will think , I make a nice chocolate cake , but Joe is definitely the best homemade thing ever.

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Eeny meeny miny mo , where in this postcode lottery shall I go ? Sprig of lavender anyone ?

Around one in four people in the uk will experience a mental health illness each year. Whether mild or severe ,short or long term, these can be scary, upsetting and soul destroying . Especially if you can’t access help to recover from or manage it.

Five yrs ago , I was admitted to a psychiatric mother and baby unit to begin my recovery from a postnatal mental illness. I had such catastrophic anxiety that I couldn’t be near my child, dress myself without help and became partial to running into the street a la a wild animal screaming ‘I am trapped in the world I am trapped by the clouds take me away please’ . One of the worst memories of my illness however was the need to travel 200 miles across the uk to access treatment as no one in my area knew how to treat me and there were no treatment options available.

Thank god we did travel and get me into a specialist psychiatric mother and baby unit because if we hadn’t I would be dead. My son would have no mother. And this is not good enough. Getting treatment shouldn’t be a cruel game of lotto , depending on where you buy your ticket but it unfortunately is in the uk. It’s as though you need to ensure you aren’t hit with a mental illness that can’t be treated where you live . Maybe the government could make treatment scratch cards ? Three matching hospital icons and you’re a winner! The papers could come and take your picture with you dressed up in a hospital gown with your antidepressants in your hand . Ooh lifechanging !

Prior to me getting ill, the 89 year old local legend that was scooter lady, complete with gold lame jumpsuit , blue permed hair and a 50 yr old toy boy balancing on the back of said scooter was the local talking point as she zoomed around and then the lady who lived to the left of us who used to hang out of window between 11-1 everyday throwing frozen fish fingers into her garden for fun was a close second. But they were knocked off their platforms of fame by me , Eve , the girl who had a baby,who regretted it, took all her clothes off,tried to climb out of a window and then eventually was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.

And I’m all singing and dancing recovered now. Which is a good thing as experiencing a mental illness is the single most terrifying thing I have ever and I guarantee will ever face in my little life. And this life is one I hold so precious as it’s one I seriously considered ending. The day I went into the unit is the day I announced to my partner john that I wanted to die and I meant it.i could not face the endless feelings of terror,not wanting to sleep at night because I feared the fear I would feel when I would wake up in the morning and I simply couldn’t cope with the prospect of battling these feelings forever.i couldn’t live for another 60 yrs feeling like this as I couldn’t even get through one day at that point.

I was very very ill.I wasn’t only scared of my son, terrified at the sudden realisation that he was here forever and there was no running away from that except through either adopting him or me ending my life but I was also confused. I thought I was floating , I woke up thinking I was in a coffin, I was convinced at one point that cling film was over my mouth stopping me from breathing. All while my newborn son was lying there needing me . This was the most important time in my life, his life and our families life and I was experiencing the worst possible time, so bad, you couldn’t make it up.

I needed help. Urgent help and so I went to the doctor a couple of days after my son was born to say I was feeling odd.i had flashes in front of my eyes and felt very scared of something. The doctor said, let’s wait and see how you are in a week. I went back this time with john who said I was acting odd, pacing up and down the living constantly and wouldn’t look at the baby. ThIs doctor said I must be tired as motherhood can be draining “sleep when the baby sleeps” was uttered to me and I was told to jog on in a more clinical , fake smile way which I think actually meant , you have just had a baby , deal with it , I have 57 more patients waiting to see me me bye bye.

For the next six weeks, I went to see a gp approx three times a week,joke I do not. I was honest about my feelings and john was continually saying ‘she is saying she has made a terrible mistake in having a child,she tried to climb out of the window to get away for the walls in the house,I had to carry her in the house after she ran into the road with no clothes on and she thinks she is trapped in the world’. Little game of mental health roulette here … Do you think the docs said a) what the dickens, get this woman to the hospital and some specialist mental health help straight away or 67) make a cake and put some mascara on and shown the door? Bingo bango, if you chose a – I appreciate that but it’s a shame as it was wrong. Doctors told me I was fine and to go home .

We hit the realisation that no one could treat me for my illness as it appears if you live where I do, there is no specialist perinatal support. That’s good isn’t it . So we got on the train and travelled the 161 miles to Nottingham, where we had found out there was a unit and where johns family live , complete with our five week old baby, me wandering around muttering ‘I can’t look at the baby,can’t look at the baby,can’t look at the baby’ and the pet hamsters, little elvis and turnip. As we walked into my in laws house I moved their armchair into the middle of the room. As much as I would love to say that I secretly yearn to be interior designer and I moved the seat to get the ultimate feng shui in the room , this is wrong. I wasn’t trying to ying and yang the energy to harmonise the room. I have no clue why I did it but I did and then sat in it and demanded an ambulance be called to take me away from the terror.

A week later, I woke up in the night and john found me sitting up in the dark,staring into space.I started scratching myself on the face and said I felt like I was in a coffin.i said I wanted to die and didn’t know what else to do. John phoned nhs direct who advised we went to an out of hours clinic to be seen. It was probably about 3am , john couldn’t drive then and the baby was crying. John woke his dad up, joe was bundled into his car seat and I sat slumped in the car in the front seat as I didn’t want to be near the baby.in my pyjamas and a pair of flip flops.

We waited ages and eventually were seen by a lady doctor. She didn’t look at me once during the consultation, spoke to john almost the entire time and just stared at her screen , tapping away on her keyboard. John blurted out everything I had been saying and doing and I was rocking back and forth. Face at the screen she asked if I had planned my own suicide as yet and I said no. Wrong answer, I didn’t win the mystery prize which I had hoped would be admission to hospital. No no no. The million dollar drop question had been answered incorrectly and she delivered her response. “As you haven’t planned your own suicide , you are low risk. Go home get some sleep,things will be better in the morning .” She opened the door and waved us out. Is this the time to take an ,ahem, mental note? Note to self, next time I am too scared to breathe because I’m frightened of living , I will sit down how I plan on ending things. Should I start researching ? What about if I show the doctor the plan and they critique it? What if they say, nice try but not good enough, there is no way doing that will end your life.come back with a better plan and proof you have tried to action it and now were talking! Back to the drawing board for me on that one then.

The next day is when I totally flipped my little lid and john had had enough of it. Not of me , though he probably had at that point , who could blame him, but with the total lack of anyone knowing how to treat me. He took me to psychiatric outpatients and refused to leave until I was seen. Within the hour I was admitted to a mother and baby unit and my recovery began.We stayed in Nottingham for a few more months while I got to the stage where I could be on my own with joe and then made a move back to London. I worked very hard to get better, I did everything that was asked of me . It wasn’t easy it was actually terrifying. I was scared to be near my own child and that’s the biggest thing in the world. But I worked hard- I had to spend thirty seconds a day on my own with him at first,then walk around the garden, then walk down the street with him. I had a few public meltdowns at the postbox ten steps from my in laws house as fear struck me . But, I did it and was so pleased to be going home. And I was proud of me. And rightfully so.

So, when the unit agreed I could go back to London, they wrote lots of very good explanatory letters to my local mental health team, saying they recommended therapy for me. Coming back however was problematic – as soon as the mother and baby unit discharged me from their outpatients and my care was taken over by the local mental health team in London, things turned sour.

I still to this day, over five years after my son was born, haven’t been seen as an outpatient at my local London mental health team.I was seen once after john called them to try and set up outpatient care but it was never set up.I don’t need it now, I’m better, but give me strength. This is ridiculous. This was my life in their hands. The mother and baby unit sent numerous letters asking for me to have outpatient care – but this never happened. I was very lucky that the mother and baby unit agreed to keep me on as an outpatient for a year due to the fact that the team in London basically filed all the letters about me in the bin but this meant I had to travel up there once a week to see the doctors there. This was a massive expense to us as a family , around £200 a week, but one that was essential to ensure I was fully supported while my recovery was on-going.

Before this happened though, on our return to London , I went to the doctors clutching my notes from the mother and baby unit. They had all the info on the doctors needed. “We recovered Evelyn is referred for CBT as soon as possible to build on the good progress she has been making while in the unit and on her discharge”. I saw a GP. I’ll call him Dr Baldy Head. I crept in with Joe and started talking. “I , erm, I haven’t been well. And erm, I felt really low when I gave birth and then started to have all these weird thoughts and feelings and basically cracked up. And I saw lots go doctors here and no one knew how to treat me because it turns out I had postpartum psychosis . So we moved to Nottingham and I registered temporarily with a GP there and went into a mother and baby unit. We were there for four months and we are back now and the psychiatrists there have written this letter to show you the medication that I’m on and to refer me for counselling”. Baldy Head took the letter off me, scanned it flicked it with his finger and scoffed. Actually scoffed and said “and you expect me to do what with this?”. I started crying. I didn’t want it but I felt so embarrassed. I’d just told him something that was really difficult to say and he just made me feel like a child on that god awful Super Nanny programme. I felt like I was sat on the loathesome naughty chair as he said ” who am I supposed to refer you to ? It says you are on tablets so wait for them to kick in”. I said but they have kicked in and how I am now is because of the meds. Four months ago I couldn’t look at Joe without feeling cold all over and cemented to the ground with fear. Now, I’m nervous and scared but I’m getting through the day.I just need to learn some coping techniques. That when he said ” women become mothers, that’s what happens young lady. Perhaps you should have thought of this before you got yourself pregnant”. He handed the letter back to me , laughed and said “refer you for counselling ,is that what I’m here for” and said we are done here. Thanks doc. Next time, I’ll cross my legs and chew on some smarties to ensure i never get myself in this situation again.

I talk about perinatal mental health as it’s what I suffered from but issues around treatment aren’t just in this field – it appears people with illnesses that fall into the mental health bracket struggle to get help more than if they were to have a physical illness.

There are currently 17 specialist psychiatric mother and baby units in the uk equalling 125 beds. If you think ,over 1400 women a yr in the uk get postpartum psychosis and this is deemed as a medical emergency and mothers can be treated in the units. Combine that with the amounts that get other perinatal mental illness that requires in depth treatment and you’ll see this isn’t a lot of beds at all. I got an e for gcse maths but even I can work out without the use of a calculator that we are a few beds down. There is no unit in Northern Ireland and over the last few yrs some units have closed. But there are still lots of ill women. Tis does not make sense.

There was a recent report from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance that revealed that “more 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby. If untreated, these perinatal mental illnesses can have a devastating impact on the women affected and their families and that In the UK, mental illness in pregnant and postnatal women often goes unrecognised, undiagnosed and untreated.”

They created a map which showed how ridiculously patchy the current provision of services is. The precise words about this are ‘This means a postcode lottery determines whether women receive the care they need or not’. Have a look. It’s not coloured in red because it’s a fabulous colour. It’s almost all red to show where there are no services – http://everyonesbusiness.org.uk/?page_id=349

This is beyond ridiculous. I have now joined up with charities and others with lived experience of perinatal mental illness to form the perinatal mental health partnership and we are creating an awareness campaign. As a result if my work in this, I now get to go to lots of conferences and see lots of medical bods saying how wonderful things are . Yes, having been to approx 47 mental health conferences this yr where I have met countless nhs chiefs and leads in suits nodding with a fixed smile , I am aware our government are cash strapped. I have a few in tact brain cells that refused to budge with the illness. I’m stubborn like that.i know we have no money as it’s all gone on duck houses and moats and pay rises to people who don’t really deserve it . However , have we really reached that ludicrous point where people actually have to plan their own suicide or fail at the deed working before we can offer them any help??? This isn’t masterchef , it’s not a gameshow,its not winner takes all but it feels like it. And I’m shit at quizzes, I always lose. Surely, in the midst of pathways and processes there could be a fairly simple overall, hello doctors, please don’t chuck a patients mental health symptoms in the dustbin and leave them to rot which will eventually mean they disintegrate into nothing. If someone says I am feeling so low I can’t see anyway out, do something.

If I went to the doctor and said erm, my vagina smells bad and I’m worried about it , I doubt the gp would say, ooh, why don’t you hang a sprig of lavender off it, let it breeze slightly in the wind,spritz it with a bit of air freshener and then say and we can’t help you anymore until you have reached the point where you have ripped said vagina off and flushed it down the toilet. Thankfully, this particular scenario hasn’t afflicted me and I’m not sure how to attach lavender to my lady garden , and how on earth would you do your jeans up but you know what I mean.

I was prodding my boobs one sunny day two years ago. They are massive anyway and have dribs and drabs of milk in them and seem like one big mammory as it is but I felt a lump previous prodding investigations hadn’t found. Hmm, this means I should book a doctors appointment I said to myself. I phoned the docs and was given an appointment that afternoon – “can’t take risks with these things can we darlin’ ” the receptionist told me. On seeing the doctor and her have a prod, she said , ya there seems to be a lump but I’m no expert on these things so we must send you to the breast cancer clinic urgently to get you seen. She wrote out a fax in front of me ( a fax , in 2013) and helpfully put the words “suspected cancer” in big bold black capitals at the top “so no one misses it”.

I was called into an appointment the next day and had all sorts of tests and spoke to lots of experts. I was given the all clear in a fairly short space of time and I left the experience feeling very thankful for our wonderful health service , which it is and the doctors dealing with a possibly awful situation so quickly. Even more startling though as this was six months after I had gone to hospital after having a relapse of really bad anxiety when I found out I was pregnant again. I was treated in such a slap dash appalling way that I had lost all faith and bang my head on the table of all the nhs chiefs who, after people kill themselves because of a mental health problem say “lessons will be learned from this”. Lovely words chief but I’ve heard them oodles of times. When will these lessons be learned? Maybe they should be learnt in school for the chiefs of the futures so it’s embedded in them.

I found out I was cheggars again one boring office afternoon when thought I had a wee infection and the gp wanted me to do a pregnancy test before I was put on antibiotics.i announced to my friend Julie who sits opposite me , I’m going to get a brownie from pret and then I’ve got to piss on a stick to make sure I’m not with child. Oh how we laughed! Pregnant , imagine , lol!!!

But oh how I wept when, brownie in mouth , pants round ankles, stick wet with wee , I saw two blue lines appear. My three years of recovery from anxiety from that very second kicked in again. Another baby , another baby,no no no. I can’t do this. I’m well, I’ve got used to having joe.

Within a week, I had developed such a terrible fear of being pregnant, John found me slumped next to the radiator talking to myself having called the Samaritans. Who were fantastic. I was back in the fresh hell I was in after Joe.I was in such a state ,I had been signed off work and was finding being near joe too much to deal with. In the midst of all this , we were then told the pregnancy wasn’t forming properly anyway and actually had to be removed . It took three attempts to remove it as it was growing in such an odd place and the three operations took six weeks altogether . By the end of this awful time of finding out I was pregnant,not wanting it, to finding out I couldn’t have it but knowing it was in me , growing to think actually I think I do want to have it ,to then having to have three termination attempts , I had completely lost the plot. And ended up in accident and emergency again.

What a fun day that was . We arrived at midday and I left at 4am the next day- having received no help. Casualty had no idea how to help me , after spending four hours there and sent me to the local inpatient local psychiatric unit. We saw lots of people with clipboards saying in whispers ” what are we supposed to with her” and the fixed smile brigade came out again. “Let’s go home and get some rest shall we Evelyn,will all seem a bit better in the morning , promise”. No no no no no no no no,I wasn’t leaving until someone helped me.

John had to leave at 5pm to get our son. He was in tears leaving me , I was in tears him going but was assured the duty psychiatrist would see me ‘soon’. I then sat on a chair of the foyer of the unit for twelve hours. Twelve hours.i am prone to exaggerate but there is no need to now as it was that bad. I was spoken to three times by staff , where they informed me they were sure I would be seen at some point and also to say “do you think you could stop crying , you are upsetting the staff”. I.do.not.joke. I had a lovely conversation with a young girl who had tried to take her life a week earlier – a beautiful clever girl who simply said ‘I don’t know why I tried to do it , I just don’t want to be here in this life’ and a man who told me he was Jesus. I wish he had been – he could have saved me.

The duty psychiatrist turned up 11 hours after I got there and spent less then five minutes with me. Was told they didn’t have the facilities to help me and they didn’t know who could but they would pay for my cab home. And that was it. I arrived home at 4.45 am and four hours later we were on our way to Nottingham again and went straight to casualty. Within two hours I saw a psychologist who arranged for me to have emdr therapy, I was put back on meds and my journey to full recovery started. Again , I had to travel to Nottingham every week for my emdr and thank god I did.it saved my life and it made me truly recover. Thank The Lord . The Lord who runs Nottinghams mental health services.

I was in the audience for the brilliant Victoria Derbyshire programme a couple of weeks ago about mental health. Check it out on I player if you haven’t seen it – almost two hours of brave people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, varying professions, discussing their mental health. While they were all doing this, I was adjusting my boobs as the photo above shows. I also delivered a gold medal hand up in the air performance. A common theme was the struggle for treatment that doesn’t seem to happen to people with a physical illness. And it genuinely seems to be because people think having a mental illness is literally all in your head . Broke an arm? It gets set in plaster to fix it. Small willy ? You can get it made longer! But problems in your head , oh , well getting help for that depends on the pathway of care your area offer and blah blah blah postcode lottery blah blah.or we could just all pull ourselves together couldn’t we ?

Thee was one amazing girl called Jo who made me and everyone else cry with her brave story . I am in awe of her determination and her openness. She had been diagnosed with anorexia and was around four stone. But wait for the bombshell . She got community care with her local mental health service pretty quickly, but it was not until her BMI had dropped below a certain low point that she was admitted for the care she needed. Might as well dear, sorry , I can see you are a bit on the thin side but not quite thin enough to get help. Can you starve yourself a bit more please? This is ridiculous! Jo says. “Why should I need to get as ill as that to need inpatient treatment?” And she is right.

I know there are all these lines around how mental health services are organised in each local area and how this may differ across places. As the NHS say on their webpage ‘This means some may not cover all mental health conditions, or only deal with people of a certain age’. This .must.change. I know resources are a problem, money is a problem but people have problems that need help. Surely treating things before people get to considering suicide is better than them getting to that point. Because if you have planned it , you might bloody well do it which is devastating . And once someone is gone , they can’t come back.

Simon Stevens , chief executive of the NHS says in the Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020 report that “Mental health problems are the largest single cause of disability, representing a quarter of the national burden of ill-health, and are the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK.This makes it all the more indefensible that there is such a large “treatment gap” with most people with mental health problems receiving no treatment and with severe funding restrictions compared with physical health….That is why, achieving “parity of esteem” between mental and physical health services is so important for the NHS, and for the nation.

This document therefore sets out some of the concrete next steps we are committed to helping lead over the next five years. NHS England looks forward to working with our partners to deliver this critical agenda” and I hope this indeed plays out as planned.

Getting help shouldn’t be a flip of a coin decision. This isn’t like a supermarket saying sorry we have run out of flapjacks but our branch down the road has some , this is people’s lives and they deserve better.

I have made a vlog of my experience http://youtu.be/Kn6pgSUP5YI

‘You can’t be depressed dear, the forestry commission don’t have to be called to trim your bush’

You can’t be depressed dear, you’re wearing mascara ! Said the wizard to the fairy one summer morning when the sun was shining, the birds were singing , the grandparents were gazing at their new glorious grandchild and the new mother was crying in the corner albeit with a slick of heather shimmer across her lips and a slide of liquid liner across the peepers . Little did people know the made up face hadn’t been done because mummy as she was now forever known was having such a delightful restful time that she had three hours to put her face on .no, the perfectly applied make up was applied as a mask, a mask to cover up how she was really feeling. Give her face a stroke and the layers of foundation will crack and will reveal what’s really underneath – a desperate woman who isn’t revelling in motherhood, but who in fact is so sad she cries until her mascara runs down her face .

Over the last year since writing my blog and talking to women who have been through perinatal mental health illnesses , it has become really apparent to me that there appears to be some bizarre notion that some people dismiss mothers experiencing these illnesses as they ‘ don’t look depressed’.

” But you don’t look depressed”. Hmm, what does someone depressed or with a mental illness look like? Are they walking around with weights in their sleeves dragging them across the ground? Are they wandering around the park with a parrot on their shoulder talking to the trees? Are they a sad jabbering wreck? Have they not shaved their bikini line lately ? Well you, know , maybe. But they also may look like you do when you look in the mirror, leave the house and go to work. Shock horror, they may shower,wear clean pants , shave their tash and wear the entirety of a make up counter on their faces . I know I do. I have a vast knicker collection ( my friend Sophie and I used to buy each other the wildest pants we could find at Christmas. Even though I am ow three sizes bigger and all the ribbons and mini poms poms – I have a pair of Mrs Christmas pants that fall off when you undo the strings at the side that hold a rather beautiful metaphorical unwrapping a present theory behind them- catch in my spanx these days, I refuse to chuck them out) , I wax my tash ( I recommend reading the label clearly if you do this as I have it on good authority , ahem, that if you do this in haste, you may accidentally pick up the bikini line wax. This is somewhat painful on the face and though you may indeed remove all the hairs, you will also remove 7 layers of skin, look as though you have dipped your face in ketchup and come out in welts and ingrown hairs ) and I adorn my face in beige elastic lip gloss and lather myself in fake bake. I also had postpartum psychosis , postnatal anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder . Being able to look the dolled up part therefore doesn’t mean you are exempt from feeling sad.

I often talk about the day I was told that I couldn’t have a perinatal mental health illness because I had mascara on. It’s almost as though make up has some kind of medical attachment to it and people think if you wear it , it means you can’t be feeling low. To be wearing it means you must feel like the hills are alive with the sound of music and though obviously for some this is the case but for so so many others, this isn’t true. Make up has the great power of being able to conceal a pile load of flaws, and not just physical. Concealer might cover up spots , but it also covers up eye bags that are embedded into your face from the pained crying you have been doing. Sometimes mascara helps open up those eyes so people don’t notice they have been worn out with tears.

I know that the day I was caught putting mascara on while in the midst of my psychotic breakdown , I think I was actually trying to find the old me. Before having my child, I loved looking my best. Now, in the fresh hell that I was finding motherhood, I wanted to try and gain back that normality . I had a fear of the future to such an extent that I had started to consider that death was the only way out. I had a realisation that this child was now here forever and I was hit with the hammer of a feeling that I had made a terrible terrible mistake in having him. I would wander round chanting ‘I just want it to go back to me and john,I want things back to how they used to be’ but of course this wasn’t going to happen. A baby isn’t something you put into the recycling when you have finished with it , it’s here forever and my mind found that very concept beyond terrifying. I was too scared to be in the same room as him so when he wasn’t attached to my boob with john sitting next to me to ensure I didn’t drop the baby because of my shaking, I tended to just sit on my own on the end of the bed staring at the floor trembling. I did this a lot. I did this almost all of the time.my teeth would chatter with nerves at his presence and I just wanted the baby to go away and get my old life back.and I think painting my face not only took up time to ensure I could avoid my child, but it also gave me a glimpse of what I would do in my former child free life.

And this mask then can fool people into thinking you are fine. That you are embracing motherhood with gusto, that the baby has come along and you wouldn’t even know it as you are doing all the things you used to do . I found this. I have mentioned this in a few blog posts but I and john most certainly won’t forget get the day that I woke up , manic , and basically in the midst of a pretty bad psychotic episode. John had gone to work as I had insisted I was ok ( this was fairly early on) and on his return , he found me in the kitchen holding a packet of frozen stewing steak mumbling ‘must cook stew’ on repeat. Bar the fact that stew takes quite a long time to make and unless we were planning to eat at 10pm the next day, I don’t think the frozen lump of meat was going to be doing anything useful , I looked very bizarre. I have very muddled memories of that day and john has thankfully filled in the what I can only say I must now say are amusing blank spaces. If I don’t laugh at them , I may cry. Again. I was apparently in an apron ( because obviously I always wore one of them and didn’t just fry the bacon in my pants) , with a bun on the top of my head so solid with hairspray I may have been flammable , and more worryingly, with blue eyeshadow and coral orange lipstick adorning my face. John says I smelt of bleach and then attempted to climb out of the window. As you do when you are completely well obviously. He called the health visitor and said ‘ she is acting , erm , weird. She looks like , erm, Mary poppins’.

The health visitor arrived . And informed john that I was nesting and clearly just wanted the house to be stick and span for my new precious bundle of joy and wasn’t he lucky that I was making him a nice meal , Mmm, yummy stew a la psychosis with a sprinkling of blusher. At this point I will repeat – I had blue eyeshadow on and coral orange lipstick. I looked like a 1980s glamour shot .This was 2010,blue eyeshadow was not en vogue and my mother who is nearly forty years older than me last wore coral lipstick in 1989. This wild makeover should have been evidence enough that I was losing the plot but no, it just showed I liked scrubbing according to the professionals.

And it’s not just make up that covers your feel emotions up. That’s just the imagery I’m using. It’s the fake smiles, the well timed laughter, the omelette over your face to make people laugh when you’re actually feeling awful.

Mental illness can be like the invisible illness. Often , you can’t see it but because you can’t , it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because someone appears to be going on with their life at what looks like to you , in the way they normally would, it doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering. And for me, I obviously relate this to mental illness after having a baby. I don’t care what people say, there is a massive stigma attached to this kind of mental illness. Having a baby is supposed to be the most joyous thing in life you can ever endure. It’s supposed to be all rose petals and gurgles, with deep joy at being able to stare at your baby for hours on end thinking , it’s all worth it. And when you say , look , I don’t think I like it,what the fuck have I done , people recoil in horror. Because having a baby is the biggest thing nature does. Women have babies, women make milk to nurse babies, women have the ability to survive on one hours sleep a fortnight , and some women have 13 children and are back cooking a pork shoulder for the other 12 two hours after giving birth .

But for a fairly large amount of women , the experience is not initially this magical fairy tale. I have heard postnatal depression described as the ‘fluffy mental illness’ and one that people think women make up . There are the ‘in my day we were too busy to be depressed’ brigade who shame women into not wanting to reveal they don’t feel like their antenatal class told them they would do. And if you are faced with this stigma , what do you do ? You cover it up in any way you can in the hope that if you paint over the cracks whether it’s with make up , fake smiles, forced laughter, forced love towards the baby you aren’t sure you want, that it will go away. In some cases , these feelings do go quickly, your thoughts sort themselves out and the sad feelings while away on their own. Hurrah. But for some women, this isn’t the case. I hear stories of women who have babies over six months old saying they have been wandering around in a glazed daze of anxiety and depression but have been keeping up appearances as they are too ashamed to tell anyone how they feel . Everyone thinks they are fine as they are going through the motions but they aren’t . It’s like a scab that looks like it is healing but with one tiny pick, all the blood comes pouring out and this needs to change.

Mental illness is not a look. It’s not something you see in the pages of a magazine because if it was visual, it wouldn’t look very nice. So if you see someone who has just had a baby, offer to help,ask how things are, be gentle with them. Please refrain from the ‘HOW ARE YOU’ in slow loud tones like your friend has suddenly regressed to pre-school age though – I don’t believe there is any research to show that people experiencing mental illness need to be spoken.to.like.they.are.stupid. Just make it aware that if they want to talk , you will listen. If they need someone to go to the doctor with them to explain that even though they are smiling and laughing , inside they feel crushed. Upon asking they may of course find they are genuinely loving motherhood and that is wonderful but they may not be . They may be desperate for someone to say, I know you have painted toenails but I just wondered how things are ?

I’ll throw in at this point that there is a wonderful charity in the UK called The Smile Group. They have this fabulous tool on their website which is a GP checklist which can help you if you are don’t know how to tell the doctor how you are feeling. I have spoken to two women recently who have been holding an invisible mask over their emotions and felt like they couldn’t reach out for help from their doctor as they didn’t know what to say. I showed them this checklist which is here http://www.thesmilegroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/GP-Checklist.pdf . You can fill it in and ask the receptionist to get the doctor to read it and call you or make an appointment and hand it to them. They will then see that even though you look ok, that looks can be deceiving . You have been putting on an oscar worthy performance of utter joy but you can’t stay in that role forever.

It’s had to tell people how you feel when you feel betrayed by your mind. That awful feeling that your mind has shifted form you controlling it to it controlling you and not in a good way is terrifying but let me tell you , it does get better. One day, you won’t look in the mirror and think , Christ alive, another day of gritted teeth with a fake smile in public , I promise. One day soon you will look in the mirror and think , I feel a bit better I feel like I can face the world without that metaphorical mask and I feel ok.

Let’s go Greek and take these masks off and smash them on the ground like plates , crash ,bang , wallop. And kick them out of your way as nothing will stand in your way of happiness now. If you actually do this in a restaurant you may have to pay for the damage though so maybe refrain from launching your carbonara at the wall and just be content in the knowledge that you are going to be ok. More than ok, you are going to be happy xx

I know that Gin is essential to motherhood. Is there anything else I need to know?

Hello hello. This is a different blog to normal but one I wanted to write having endured about 67,000 differing opinions on how I raise my child. Yes, I am mother to a five year old who breastfeeds. Yes he sleeps in the same bed as me and the hubby sometimes and when he told his teacher that the Tories won the general election and that this is a “fucking ballache” we didn’t send him to the corner to face the wall to consider his behaviour. We have raised him how we want to , with the piles of conflicting advice that is thrown at you when you have a child , being clipped away by me, desperate to avoid the friendly ‘this is how it should be done’ wallops.

When you are up the duff, have a bun in the oven, growing the life inside of you, you become best friends with google, spend £500 on learning how to huff and puff through labour and buy every single essential baby book going .Your friends tell you things ranging from “Oh my god, you must follow Gina. Gina will make your child a law abiding robots,it’s great” to ‘ you must carry your placenta around for thirty days after birth to signify the tree of life you have created’.

I am confident in how I wanted to raise joe but tis mightily confusing for a first time mum knowing what to do when you have miles of conflicting advice thrown at you from health visitors, midwives, your antenatal class, your mum, your mother in law (both who become mortally offended if you don’t do things exactly as they ‘suggest’) . When I announced that i will be feeding joe until he is married and then either his husband or wife can take over , many people scoffed at me. And that’s ok. Joe is fine , we are fine. I don’t care and neither does he. But I am thankful I’m not a first time mum to a newborn again as the advice thrown at you can send you to utter despair. After reading posts on parenting threads , it’s apparent that the advice that is wheeled out at times doesn’t make sense, contradicts what someone else has told you (confusingly, it’s normally advice from medical professionals, such as the midwife telling you something totally different to the health visitor) and then results in you feeling like shit as you don’t have a clue what to do. Here , I present the differing advice that presents itself to the new parent.

Labour. The art of bringing your precious child into the world.

Not the political party which is a shame , but that event where you meet your child after a long nine months and then 36 hours of an irritating husband telling you to stay calm while you bring your child into the brave new world. You hear things like, when you give birth, make sure you don’t have any pain relief. You want to yell like a lioness bringing her cub into the wilderness and tell your friends that even the half a paracetamol your husband waved in front of you didn’t appeal, especially when the head was crowing out of your stretched nether regions. But then again , what kind of idiot doesn’t have pain relief. We aren’t living in Victorian times now love,if you can get an injection to ensure an 8lb lump of chub can be slipped out of your fandango with no more feeling than a gust of wind gently breezing past you, why the dickens wouldn’t you inhale it in one go ?

I had a planned c section. People said , oh the easy way and raised their eyebrows. I wasn’t too posh to push- joe came out of the sunroof as I’m blessed with two wombs and two vaginal entrances. The septum in the middle means a child can’t slip down the birth cancel and I had a planned c section otherwise he would have been in their forever. I didn’t fancy that as I wanted to see my feet again. Though, I actually never have. The skin that hangs down has ensured that will never happen again.  And for the six weeks after birth, I not only had a psychotic meltdown ending up in a psychiatric mother and baby unit, but I walked around bent over, the pain of c section recovery having never been explained to me.

Routine Routine.

You must do everything to the tick tock of the clock. What’s that ‘ it’s 7.10am and I haven’t plumped the cushions yet and the baby appears to want to still be asleep. Right, this is a logistic catastrophe that the book warns me must not happen. Right, I must get the timer out and time how long the baby feeds. Then , baby must go down for nap at 9am. Then baby must be in cot at midday not its buggy, not on the carpet or in the dog kennel. Baby must sleep in cot otherwise the routine is thrown out in the rubbish with the disposables and your baby if not always in their cot for a nap will become so confused that he will wake up thinking he is a drunk in jail’.  But then if you don’t have them on a routine, you will lead your baby through a washy washy day of stops and starts. You  will be trapped under your small child for the majority of the day staring at the remote control on the floor half way across the room. No amount of staring at it will turn you into Sabrina the teenage witch and it won’t pick itself up and fly over to you . If you had a routine, you would be up and out of the house , wandering around Waitrose with your spinach smoothie having already gone to baby mandarin at 10am followed by the babies guide to using chopsticks session at 11am.

Me ? No routine. I would strap joe to me and leave the house with a nappy flung in my handbag and wander down to the children’s centre to see what class would happen to be on at that time. If there wasn’t one, I’d walk to the shopping centre and eat some cake. Joe doesn’t appear to be too fucked up from this lack of structure.worked for us but might not work for you.and that’s ok X

Poo, it’s whereabouts when it’s not in a nappy . And how to get it out.

Your 5 week old baby is constipated. She hasn’t done a poo since last night and she is farting so badly it sounds as though your husbands arsehole has been transplanted onto her. The health visitor this morning said to give her brown sugar and water which meant you were clambering onto the kitchen worktop in an attempt to reach the cooking cupboard. Moving the vanilla essence that went out of date in1999 out of the way, you stumble across the cooking sherry which you look at in wonder and ask yourself, I wonder if I can drink this now . Your vaginal stitches are being firmly tested as you use your 4 year olds toilet stool to balance on the hob, using the bbq tongs to pull the sugar from the back of the cupboard. It looks as though its matted together but no one said that was a problem so you duly hunt for a bottle and put some water in it with the sugar and shake away. The next day you wander into the children’s centre for baby weigh in and say oh yeah, she hadn’t done a shit for a day so gave her some sugar water. HV said if that didn’t work, to give her pure orange juice . You see a face of thunder come across the hv weighing your child – ” You gave a new born baby orange juice ? What ?”. Cue a long ramble about  the acidic nature of orange juice which would make your poor child’s bum hole red raw and produce orange poo which would be mistaken for a jet stream of wee, it’s become so loose and concentrated. Guilt much ? Google says one thing, the health visitor says another, the midwife says something else and your antenatal class friends mum says to do whatever they did 67 years ago as their child is still alive and it didn’t do them any harm.

We actually took our son to casualty when , after giving sugar water and orange juice to him on the advice of a midwife and a health visitor , he still hadn’t pood. We had been used to him going about 27 times a day and were using cloth and disposable nappies. Everything when washed and dried had a lovely orange tinge which would have been fashionable in 2002 but when this tinge has been created by your child’s shit, it doesn’t look as illustrious or newborn on a catwalk. When we saw the paediatric consultant, he looked at our red book, asked a few questions and nodded here and there. He asked how long it had been since our offspring had emptied his bowels. We said five days and his tummy is so hard and he is ,ahem, gassy to say the least. We had done bicycle legs on him, put him in a warm bath blah blah blah , and then we had tried the orange juice on the advice of the health visitor. He said ‘What? Your baby is breastfed yes? And under six months yes? Who in gods name told you to give him orange juice.’ Bear I mind. I hadn’t been out of the mother and baby unit long having suffered postpartum psychosis. I was questioning my ability to look after my child and the idea that I had done him some damage after listening to the advice of someone started to send me into a bit of a spin. The consultant flicked through my red book and put big crosses through several lines of advice that he read. He then found the HV details and said, I’m going to give this woman a call. And did. He tore into her and asked her if she was aware of what medically, for babies, constipation is defined as. Apparently it’s not not being able to do a shit. It’s actually if they do pulletesque little hard type things like rabbit poo. And as breastfed babies use up all the goodness in breastmilk, they can go for up to two weeks not pooing. And to give them orange juice, prune juice, peat juice,water or stick a thermometer up their bum to move it along is all dangerous and wrong. The advice here from the medical man in the know is to let the poo find it’s way to the hole off its own accord. I still wonder about the thermometer up the bum comment. Is this a thing ? I do not think this is a thing I want to ever do.

Feeding your baby. Giving them life. Boob or bottle. Let the hysteria begin.

Aw yes. The questioning of your ability to breastfeed. I grew up thinking if you had fried eggs instead of bangers , your milk flow would resemble that of a broken leaky tap. Three drips an hour which will eventually drive you into insanity and make you think, right , this tap can’t be fixed by a plumber, I’m off to to tesco to get me some formula. I had a fully developed rack by the time I was 10 and so assumed that if I was to breastfeed, my milk would make the cup runeth over. I heard a family member say the health visitor had told her that her milk looked thin which meant it clearly wasn’t nutritious and to get the powdered milk into a bottle . She spent two weeks with cabbage leaves down her bra to dry her apparent lacklustre supply up , armed with paracetamol and crying at the devastation she had felt as she had so desperately wanted to breastfeed. One more pregnancy later, she heeded the advice of another health visitor who said to keep the babies mouth firmly over nipple until the milk felt empty.

Jiggle the boobies round to swill the fore and hind milk up because depending on who you talk to , this is why your baby might have poo that suggests a marshan may have given birth to them. Green shit. Lots of it. You just get used to that lovely mustard seed smear in the nappy and then you see a veritable rainbow of activity coming out of your small child’s bum. Cue frantic google searching. Right, this means your child isn’t getting enough hind milk- must keep child on boob until cream fluid comes out. But wait, the other website says they aren’t getting enough fore milk so the green is saying they are dehydrated. Christ alive. Right.

Five different health visitors told me to give Joe extra water in the hot weather even though he was exclusively breastfed.the doctor says this is dangerous and that breastfed babies must not ever have extra water under six months. so whilst you attempt to wrestle the bottle of water your mother is creeping behind you with , you give your child short sharp boosts of your milk but no longer than ten minutes worth because that’s when it goes on the turn to the disallowed full fat. And then their is how often your baby should be feeding. Of course , one of the midwives in the hospital tell you your precious dot needs milk every three hours but then the apparent average is 8-12 feeds in a 24 hour period. And you’ll have your mother in law telling you that back in the golden olden days , hospital feeding times were at 10,2,6 and 10 and that by the time the baby is six weeks old, the 2am needs to be cut out. And then don’t forget that at six months babies apparently don’t need to feed anymore in the night. So stop it. And con them by giving them bottles of water instead. Which will obviously work because water and milk taste exactly the same. Erm, my five year old still gets thirsty in the night and occasionally sits up and demands a banana at 2am. Yes, it’s a ballache getting him one but I’m not going to leave the poor child hungry am I ? Hunger is a normal human function.

And if you are shock horror, breastfeeding beyond six months, to get them off le tit at night time, smear your nips in mustard . Works a treat apparently- a relative who has never had a child told me. ‘Darling , mummy has grated some fresh horseradish on her mammories in order to show you that you aren’t allowed near them between the hours of 7pm and 7am’. Might also put your husband off as well. Be careful, in the blur of the dark midnight hour while stumbling to the fridge to get said mustard as your child has woken up tugging at your bra, not to grab the Nutella by accident. A few smears of that over your boobs will result in them being more popular than ever.

Remember , you must not breastfeed your child longer than six months. A day longer and they will become so dependent on you you might as well Velcro them to your bra and your marriage will break up as your poor husband has lost his ownership to your fun bags. Poor husband. You better start saving up for the divorce lawyer now. Their teeth will become so decayed the dentist will think you have taken a drill to them and you will find yourself having to do a daily commute to college when they are 18 to slip them a boob before their chemistry lecture. My son is at school and nurses but I’m yet to have to run into his lesson to give him a squirt like all the protestors tell me is exactly what will happen if you feed beyond babyhood.

But also remember to start expressing at 3 weeks . But don’t introduce a bottle for the first four weeks as this will traumatise your baby and give them nipple confusion. But the website says to introduce a bottle by two weeks so baby gets used to it. But mummy, don’t you dare attempt to feed the baby with a bottle if you are expressing . Your mum, your husband, your wife or the tescos lady will need to take on this task. You must sprinkle a pile of your milk over an old bra or t shirt for said ‘other person’ to cover themselves with to con the baby that it’s you. But come to think of it , dont let your husband hold the baby either as his hairy nipples will send baby into a right old meltdown and will lead to them shouting at daddy “I don’t want you. I want the one with the boobs”.

And then if you are formula feeding , there is that small question of how you prepare formula. Joe didn’t have bottles or formula so this isn’t something I know about so can’t give my experience but it’s one that I see lights up passionate parenting group debates on facewash. Well ,apparently,you follow the instructions on the back of the tin surely don’t you? Yep, that handy guidance that says incorrect formula preparation can be harmful to your babies health and your babies health depends on carefully following these directions. You must wash your hands in soapy water. You must also wash the bottle in soapy water and then boil it but then the other tin says that boiling bottles isn’t needed for normal healthy infants. Erm. Before any of this, let the cold water run from the tap for two minutes to remove impurities and don’t whatever you do, make your child’s formula up with hot tapwater. You may as well shit in the bottle for all the germs there are in it. And remember you must boil the water to kill the bacteria in the powder. And you should boil all water for the first three months of your child’s life. Or is it six months? And can’t you make up 18 formula bottles in advance and put them in the fridge hot so you can use them whenever ? Seems not. And never heat up in the microwave.

And if you are using bottles, you must buy a fancy £300 machine which will always ensure babies milk is prepped to the right temperature. This is essential and to not own one you might as well not bother ever having a baby. But if you used your boobs, this monstrosity would become extinct. These babies are always warmed up and ready for action. And if you are bottlefeeding, you must always sterilise within the first year as bacteria in the bottles or is it the formula? can kill your baby but you can stop sterilising and just wash with warm soapy water when they are six months old. Or is it a year ? Or 11 months? but who cares about that, why not just give up on the safety evidence and guidelines and stop washing everything when the day comes where your child flings their dummy on the floor when they are 3 months old. One suck from grandma and back in the mouth of babe and never again will a germ affect them.I mean how confusing !

Weaning . The art of food chucking .

And then it’s weaning time. The idea for this whole post came from a conversation I was having with a mum with pnd at a children’s centre. She was so so anxious a about doing everything ‘right’ and she was waiting until her baby was six months before she introduced solids. I waited until six months and do not lie when I say I was laughed at by more than one health visitor because of my stance. I was asked why I wasn’t weaning at four months ,could we not afford food (erm?),that if we didn’t start at four months or earlier that we would have a nightmare to get him ever to eat etc etc. This girl was enduring the same. So , in my work in the perinatal mental field, I have met some amazing health visitors who I trust implicitly. I thought I would ask them what the latest official guidance was. One tiny simple little tweet. ….. Which resulted in , I kid you not, over 140 notifications. I has started quite the row with differing views. 140 tweets about when you should start a baby on solids. Is it any wonder mums are confused? Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts. The tweets by all these health professionals became very passionate and they all disagreed with other. So how on earth is a mum supposed to know what the right info is ?

And then when you do wean them, what the dickens do you give them? Mashed potato? Birthday cake ? Whiskey in the bottle to introduce them to new tastes? No. You apparently give them baby rice, the international first food. No one is really sure what it is but it has quite the selection in Boots to baffle you and all the leaflets you saw in the gps office says it’s the ideal first food. Baby rice is of such a consistency and some people think it’s full of so much filler that once the baby has had its fill , the rest can be used to hang the wallpaper in Auntie Vera’s spare bedroom. Some say its full of arsenic, destroys your babies gut and research shows your 9lb child will be 57 stone by the time they are 7 should they be partial to the mashed up mess . But the much stops here. Baby rice can fuck off. Welcome to the world Baby Led Weaning.

Yes, get your child to develop a palate with finesse from six months as they gorge on avocado and butternut squash for their first meal sans milk. Will their own hands! Their own hands !!!Purées are so 1989 don’t you know. Throw out those sieves, bin those jars and give your baby a chicken leg to gnaw on. This will mean they will never be fussy with their food and will turn their nose up at chicken nuggets and demand orzo and pomegranate seeds with dried paw paw for their 5th birthday party meal. But then baby led weaning causes babies to choke don’t you know. Dare to give anything bigger than a pea to your child and off to casualty you will go. Blitz up lasagne and Do.not.let.the.baby.attempt.to.feed.self. When they are four and finally decide to eat something with more than two lumps, like a possessed zombie they will spot a happy meal 100 miles away and be magnetically drawn to it.

Sleep. What the hell is that.

Babies and sleep. It’s the thing they don’t do, the thing we really want them to do and the thing that the lack of makes lots of childless , blond haired magic fairies with painted on smiles , otherwise known as ‘baby experts’ very rich. there is Gina, Tizzy, Supernanny,Nanny 911,The Baby Whisper, the baby slipperier, the baby nipper. Even though your baby has been encased in your tummy for nine months , hearing your voice, smelling your smell, the moment they are pulled out, put them in their own room, door shut. Sales of black out blinds have sky rocketed due to one particular baby trainer making out they are key to your baby sleeping through the night as gin is to a new mother (very).

These wonderful wizards think that, even though your bundle of joy has no clue who ,what where or why it is here, it should be forcibly taught how to sleep. Of course this technique which promises you the precious gift of sleep in three nights comes packaged in quite the pretty little present of cutesy names. There seems to be a move away from the harshly termed cry it out and controlled crying. You now have spaced soothing , controlled times crying, the comfort them from afar method, , gradual retreat, the bang on the door so they know you are there method. Whatever they are called , they all involve leaving your child to cry. From what age and how long all depends on the baby guro you follow. Some say it must never be done before the age of six months as it’s cruel to do it before then, others say this theory belongs in the bin and that it can be done from six weeks, the health visitor at baby weigh in has told you that your 9 week old needs to find out who is boss (clue, it ain’t him according to her) and birth boards are filled with mums saying you should def only do from six months, but maybe from three months but never from nine weeks. Another says oh I went I put the milk bottles out and my three week old was yelling. I had a chat with the neighbour about coronation street and came in twenty mins later and he was asleep. So , yeah, do it from 3 weeks. Another says ‘when our kid was two weeks old, we put her in her room and shut the door and let her get in with it. Sounds harsh but she got the idea and we got a takeaway. Win all round’.

Once you have determined that , calculating from the 967 different expert opinions on when best to do it, you set up camp outside the room. And take need of the advice you have been reading. The most important thing you have read is that if your baby happens to cry so much they decorate their new expensive sheets and the wall with vomit, you must remember that apparently yo this is not because they have cried themselves into a terrified state so much that they are wrenching. Of course it isn’t , it’s because they are manipulating you. Yes, your little baby, who can just about move their eyes around and grasp your finger is manipulating you and vomiting on purpose. Shifty little so and so. See quote from a baby trainers book below:

“I often come across a baby who has learnt to vomit at bedtime during failed attempts at controlled crying. If you have one of these babies you will need to teach your child that vomiting will not get your attention or buy any extra time. This is hard, but it has to be done to stop the vomiting. The way you achieve this is to make the bed vomit-proof. Layer the towels in the bed and on the floor so it is easy for you to remove the vomit. When your baby vomits take the top towels away, leaving a second layer in case of a second vomit. If the vomit has gone on her clothing, undress her and put clean clothes on without taking her out of the cot by moving her to the other end. Do not make eye contact or talk to her while you do all this and be calm and confident through out, so you can fool your baby into thinking you don’t care about vomit.”

The little manipulator. Being sick all over mummies precious sheets. Bad baby needs to be taught a lesson. In no way dare look at them. Eyes are bad. Wear sunglasses. Put a sheet over your head. Enter the room hiding under a tent. Sellotape Apple slices over your eyes and put a slick of chocolate where your moustache was before you had it layered off as this will help with the vomit smell. Manipulative vomit must smell terrible. Ensure you punish the offender by leaving them in the cot while you perform the stealth like sheet change over. Thank goodness for the sleep trainer. How on earth did they cope with these manipulators in Victorian times? I’m surprised the human race survived before they came along. I can’t bear the idea of ever leaving joe to cry and was leaned on immensely by medical professionals to do it. But it’s not for me .

The cardinal sin of shock horror, feeding your child to sleep or letting them sleep in your bed. Even though it’s been done since before Ikea was invented and the bed was created, letting your child sleep in with you is the work of the devil and you will eventually have a 12 yr old star fishing over your pillow on one side ,with their football socks offending your nose on the other side. That is if you haven’t rolled on to them in the night in their early years. Me personally? We co-slept from when Joe turned one .He has always slept in the same room as us and now five still does in his own little bed , but he knows he is welcome in the family bed whenever and every night around 4am I wake up to mummmmmmyy, I want come family bed and in he gets, burrows his head into johns aromatic armpit, squidgy arm over me and the little snores begin. Ahhhh. But this works for us . It may not for you. You may not have been comfortable with your child being in the same bed as you and that’s ok. It doesn’t make anyone bigger or better to do things a certain way. It’s all gravy.Joes little mates have their own rooms and love them and I know one day he will have his own and will love it .

We started co-sleeping because of night feeds .Yes, we heard all the shenanigans from numerous different people about how a child shouldn’t be having feeds in the night but the advice ranged from , oh they should be sleeping through from three months, they should be sleeping through from six months, only offer them water in the night blah blah . I had a revolutionary idea one night when I woke up to swig a pint of lemon barley at 2am and trotted back to bed to hear the little man say bbooobbboooiee and I realised, oh yes, my child is a person with a mouth , a tongue and also the feelings of hunger and thirst. Maybe , like me , he is hungry or thirsty in the night . I’d be pretty pissed off if I wasn’t able to walk to the kitchen due to my bones not being developed enough to get there , thirsty and John saying to me “the manual says , that now you are 34, you shouldn’t need a digestive in the night and a glass of water so I’m going to roll over and ignore you while your mouth dries out”.

I often talk about the night john woke me up at 4am with the words of dread when you are encased in the worlds warmest cosiest duvet “I’m hungry”. Why is he telling me I thought ? Because he is a lazy sod and wanted me to get up to get him something. I told him to fuck off and to get his lazy arse out of bed himself if he wanted something. I heard so many pans being crashed about in the kitchen with the end result being the smoke alarm ringing at 4.30 that I took my self out of bed, guided a naked bleary eyed boyfriend back to his bed and proceeded to make him beans on toast for his sanity and mine. I frequently wake up now to find the bed full of crumbs . I have a very attractive husband – I most definitely wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating biscuits – he could eat the whole box of family circle for all I care but the crumbs do drive me to despair. The point I am making is that my child isn’t a statistic. The advice you get from some people about when your child should stop feeding in the night is as useful as a chocolate condom. They all tell you totally different things and only result in making you feel like you have royally mucked up the role that nature has given you . My kid fed in the night until he was nearly three I think. Him being in our bed at times meant I flipped my boobie out and he could use me as a snack shop. Some might think I’m a crackpot but I don’t care. My child, my boob,my head, my bed.

And naps . Give me strength. Don’t you know that when babies are born they should have two 45 mins plus one three hour nap a day ? And the first nap must be no later than 9am . And they must always wake up at the universal baby trainer wake up time of 7am. Well sorry but for me at 7am, I’m asleep. And so is my kid. And it’s staying that way. The cockerel the family at the end of the road own has a mucked up body clock and goes off at 11pm at night and 9am. If he can defy the laws of nature then I can defy you. My kid is asleep? He is staying there until his beautiful little eyes open when his body decides it wants to. You’re welcome. Naps were a most bizarre concept for us. Joe only ever slept once a day and dropped this at one. And never slept at night. I’d read naps in the day equal sleep at night. Erm, well our kid doesn’t sleep in the day or night . Help. I read all kinda of stuff like wake him up the hour before he normally wakes up at night and he will stop waking up when he usually does. Are you following ? And in the day, he must not fall asleep. Oh god. I give up.

I hold joes hand while he goes to sleep. Yes , he is five and doesn’t say at 6pm, goodnight mother and father,I’m off to read the fishing annual and then a chapter of the dictionary and will turn my light of at 7.30 on the dot. At about 9pm,sometimes 9.30 ,sometimes 11pm ,we enter the careful negotiations of bedtime. These involve in a random order-  a bowl of bran flakes,two mister men books, about 8 seconds of boobie, the nightly talk about yes you have to clean your teeth otherwise the dentist will think mummy is a bad mummy who let’s you eat cake for breakfast , a round of kerplunk,a refusal to go to the loo, a ten minute decision about whether he is going to sleep in mummy and daddy bed or his own bed, us remembering we haven’t done his homework, me then having a ten minute moan about the ludicrous school system giving five yr olds homework and that we should go and live in Sweden or pay 8k a year to send him to a Steiner school where he can learn through play or maybe we should just let him draw on the walls. Once he is in bed, he has a sudden poo alert and the whole shebang starts all over again. Once he is in bed again the words we both fear emerge ” can I have two stories from your head”. I’ve got to such a point where I am all storied out that my latest is a bout a boy called Phillip the poo who has accidental gender reassignment surgery after laying down in the wrong hospital bed and being wheeled into surgery to remove his willy. Joe loves it. He says it’s the best night time story ever . I do wonder if the day will ever come when he sleeps.some babies Sleep through from six weeks.this sounds amazing.oh god, that sounds better than an orgasm on the end of a lollipop.

There is a picture of my child at the top of this post. He looks pretty cool doesn’t he. For me, I like the latest guidelines on things, I like research.but that’s me and what I do isn’t what is right for you. My friend Kathryn has a wondrous quote “you just have to love the hell out of them” and she is right.we are the experts on this and we can roll with that . This post isn’t saying what’s right or wrong .just because Joe sleeps in our bed sometimes it doesn’t mean I think everyone should do this.just because he only baths about once a month , doesn’t mean every kid does. It’s saying bloody hell, the advice given to new parents is so confusing and it’s all so different that it’s enough to drive you wild. I’m off to stick my face in a bowl of melted chocolate and inhale some gin. And I suggest you do too. And that I know is good advice. Voila.