Mum Again

Help, I'm having a(nother) baby!

Hi, it’s me

So I decided late last night that I was going to start a new blog. I even wrote the first post, but as I went to save it (I write all my posts in Word prior to publishing), Microsoft decided to crash and refuse to recover the document. So here I am, 12 hours later, trying to write a second introductory post to a blog that I never really saw myself writing.

I am using the title “Mum Again”, because I am about to become a mum… again, quite straight forward right? I am already a mum, but as far as I can remember, being the mum of a baby differs very much to that of parenting someone who is closer to ten than they are to just having been born.

Continue reading “Hi, it’s me”

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An Everlasting Maze of Exhaustion and Guilt – Parenting a child with anxiety

I am exhausted.

I have wanted to write this blog for probably a couple of months now, and I have started approximately twenty times, but I never got any further than the start, and the start never felt right. It’s really difficult to express how you’re feeling when you’re feeling so many things at once; guilty, confused, helpless, angry and hopelessness amongst other things.

I am exhausted. It is the perfect beginning, because it is the most honest one.

I mentioned my daughter’s anxiety in my last post (Bullying, the Aftermath and an Anxious 8 Year Old), when talking about bullying and the effect it had on her. Since the birth of her baby brother a little over a year ago her anxiety has gone from manageable, although bad, to considerably worse. My daughter lost both a sister and her biological father at a very young age and the birth of her brother has brought emotions to the surface that are worse than we imagined they would be. The effect that this has had on her anxiety is quite extreme, and it is only in the last 6 months or so that the connection has been made between the two, as getting through to her, and getting her to talk about what is on her mind, has not been, nor is it still, the easiest.

The truth is, I’m nowhere near a perfect parent, I don’t think anyone who is truly honest with themselves believes they are. I cook homemade food because I want my family to eat well, I care about my children’s mental and physical wellbeing, I think education is extremely important and I encourage learning, but I also think creativity is an incredibly important lesson to learn if possible. I also occasionally reach my voice, I get frustrated and I voice those frustrations when I should keep them to myself, I let my daughter play too many videogames and watch too many YouTube video, I have let her witness arguments between my husband and myself even though I know that us arguing upsets her.

The truth is, when you have spent over three years going against the tide, trying to get help for a child that no one else seems to think sincerely need it, your level of patience is worn to the point of being essentially non-existent. My typical weekday over the last year and a half has consisted of spending three hours in the morning trying to calm my daughter down to the point where she can physically and mentally manage to go to school, and if possible convince her to eat something. At the moment she’s attending school at reduced hours, and when she goes to school she generally manages to stay there until it’s time to go home, however I still spend my days dreading any form of communication from the school telling me that she’s in pain and very upset and needs to come home. I dread it because I feel like I have failed because she cannot manage her school day, I dread it because I feel like the school might judge me because my daughter is ill, I dread it because of the unbearable guilt I get for sending her to school to begin with. Once I pick her up, we then go home, she will hopefully eat some lunch and then be able to do whichever work I have made up for her to do, which was either prepared late last night, or whilst she was at school that morning, because despite the fact that she attends reduced hours she still needs to see that the hours between 9am and 3.20pm are for school work. Then she’ll go and play in her room for a bit, unless I’ve promised her I will play Minecraft with her, by this point it’s generally almost 4pm and I have to start to make dinner, once dinner is made and eaten I have to get Aimee to bed, and that is the most exhausting part of the day. There’s a (generally very) strict no screens after 6pm rule, so she reads, or draws, generally in between having several conversations about things that worries or upsets her, she will also usually have something to eat and then try and get some sleep around 8pm. If I am lucky she’s asleep by 11,but if it is a normal night it can be anything up until 2am in the morning before she manages to switch off and go to sleep. That’s a bedtime routine that spans up to 8 hours, it shatters her, and it shatters me. Then if I am lucky I’ll manage to fall asleep within an hour of her being asleep, but more often than not it takes several hours, and a good night consists of getting more than two hours of sleep.

During such a day I also have to look after my 15 month old almost toddler, who hasn’t been still for a split second since he was about 6 months old, who needs feeding, stories, playtime with me and rescuing from the various situations an absolutely crazy and fearless little boy gets himself into. I must fit in cleaning, cooking, laundry as well as my poor dog who doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of attention he deserves. And throughout the day all I feel is exhaustion and guilt. I feel bad that I am not giving my son all the attention he needs to develop to his full potential, I feel guilty that my kitchen counter still has yesterday’s dishes on it, because I haven’t had the time or energy to clean them, and I feel guilty as hell that I cannot wave a magic wand and make my daughter feel better.

Three years of hell, and it’s only since switching my daughter’s doctor for the umpteenth time that someone actually took her illness seriously and referred her to a paediatrician, the same doctor has also made a referral to the Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), which has been supported by the second paediatrician she saw in the hope that her referral will become more of a priority, and we’ll continue to ask for more referrals to be sent in the hopes that it will help, but unfortunately we have no idea how soon my daughter will be seen, never mind receive the help she needs.

In the meanwhile, I am stuck feeling like I am completely alone and like I continue to go against a tide, because every time things start to become better, something else happens that sets us back once again. At her last paediatrics appointment they made a request that she starts taking melatonin in the hopes that it will help her get to sleep easier, but as with most things, it makes some things better, other things worse. Starting on the suggested lowest dose my daughter went to sleep earlier, but she woke up screaming from horrible nightmares and couldn’t get back to sleep, and mentally this left her in an even worse state than before. So, I gave her a lower dose still and the nightmares became less, but it’s not as effective and It could be weeks, or worse months, of trial and error just to get her into a good pattern of sleep, without the terrifying nightmares.

After doing really well with her school attendance, Aimee had another dip in the last few weeks as she became worse, and unfortunately it feels like the school does not see things from a mother’s perspective, or even the perspective of what’s best for Aimee a lot of the time, it feels like to a lot of people the only thing that matters is to be able to tick her attendance off in a way that positively adds to their statics. So then I worry about what the school will do to make her attend, possibly hurting her and our family in the process. I worry because even though the school has done so much better this school year than in prior ones, it is so incredibly difficult to trust an institution that have been letting you down for years, especially when you feel like they could never understand the severity of the situation.

I find it really difficult to express to anyone just how hard it has been, and how soul destroying it has been to watch my daughter become as ill as she has, because anxiety is indeed an illness, and it affects every aspect of your health. At times I find it difficult to explain to anyone, including the school and the doctors just how bad it is, because I break down in tears, and I am not someone who cries easily. In fact I spent a considerable majority of my life not crying at hardly anything, and I have experienced some pretty shitty things. However the complete and utter level of hopelessness that comes from three years of watching your child being mentally torn to shreds hurts you on a level that is inexplainable unless you have had it happen to you. Begging for help for said child and being told things like “She’s too young to benefit from therapy”, “She’s probably autistic, it won’t be anxiety” or my absolute favourite of “If giving her this high of a dosage of these pills don’t work, there’s nothing else we can do” has left me trusting doctor’s even less than I did before and with an amount of guilt so great that I don’t think it can ever go away.

The truth is, as much as I am exhausted from dealing with everything, and despite how angry I have been with her school, doctors, bullies and the entire world that we live in, all of that combined cannot come close to the anger directed towards myself. I will never stop blaming myself, because I will never stop feeling like I couldn’t have done more. I’m physically sick from the exhaustion, I am mentally drained from the strain my daughter’s illness has put on us, and every night I lay in bed making my way through an extensive psychological maze filled with guilt and exhaustion, desperately searching for something that might actually make a difference, something that we haven’t already thought of and tried. Then I finally allow myself to wonder what tomorrow will be like and then I want to go to sleep even less than before, because that means I will soon wake up and find out.

Bullying, the Aftermath and an Anxious 8 Year Old

I hate Mondays. I never used to, in fact I always quite liked them, saw them as more of a fresh start than the start of another long week. A reason to be positive. It has been a few years since I felt that way. Less than two weeks ago my daughter went back to school after her school holiday. There has been exactly 8 days of school since then, of which she has missed 2 and ½.

Aimee thrives at school academically speaking. She has just started her 4th year of primary school and she has yet to meet an academic hurdle that she couldn’t (easily) conquer. Socially speaking things are quite different.

When Aimee turned 5 she couldn’t wait to start school, in fact she was quite desperate for school to start. There was a little bit of nerves, but who doesn’t experience a bit of nerves when they first start something new? By the time the Christmas holidays came around, my daughter’s personality had completely changed. It started with one of the children in her class. My daughter is a very literal person, and she is also and always has been very concerned with doing what’s right and not getting into trouble, sometimes a bit too much so. This child would continually tell my daughter that if she didn’t do what the child wanted her to they would tell the teachers something to get Aimee into trouble. Essentially one five-year-old found a way to blackmail another five-year-old and decided to take advantage of it, severely damaging my child in the process.

Continue reading “Bullying, the Aftermath and an Anxious 8 Year Old”

Gender Equality, the POV of a Mum

holding hands

It might be a cliché, but becoming a mum is the single most important thing that has happened to me. Nothing has changed me or shaped me as much as the responsibility, love and just absolute fear that comes with being a parent. Because it is scary, and do not let anyone else ever tell you differently. It is an absolutely terrifying feeling to live in the knowledge that you are in a position whereby it is your responsibility to not just get your children through the day somewhat clean, fed and alive, but actually raise them into being decent human beings.

When I had my daughter, once I got past the initial utter terror that is, what was initially reinforced in my mind was just how important it would be for my daughter that I raised her to know that she could do anything. You are treated differently in life dependent on whether or not you have a vagina and I very much doubt that I have any female friends or acquaintances that has not at one point or another been treated differently because they are female. It might have been something just dumb and ignorant like being accused of being on your period because you were upset or angry about something or it might have been something life altering like not getting the promotion you wanted because you have ovaries and might at some point reproduce. The sad part is that we as parents will often start the trend of treating our children differently based on gender.

Continue reading “Gender Equality, the POV of a Mum”

I Couldn’t Breastfeed… and That’s OK

It felt like throughout my pregnancy, whenever I walked through any room in a hospital or at the GP Surgery the only thing I noticed was the constant bombardment of “Breast is Best” posters plastered over every wall. It didn’t stop there, it was mentioned in every e-mail, every newsletter, anything I had signed up to in regards to my pregnancy seemed to be screaming at me that my baby should be breastfed, and I really better had just accept it.

I wanted to breastfeed. In fact, I started out with the very best intentions to do so. I had even purchased a breast pump, because in my previous pregnancy my daughter refused to latch on, and so I spent months expressing my breast milk so that she could have the “best possible start”. If my son was to be as difficult as she had been, I wanted to be prepared for the eventuality that I would have to express in order to feed my baby yet again. What I couldn’t prepare for was the fact that my milk just didn’t come in, and I had to make the extremely difficult decision to give up and give my baby formula.

Continue reading “I Couldn’t Breastfeed… and That’s OK”

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