This Mummy Can be Supportive

Thank you for all the messages of support after Kate’s post. We’ve been sent lots of really great ideas to help her and eventually when Kate feels up to it she’ll put them in a blog post so anyone can make use of them too. 

It’s been a hard few days for all of us. Kate had a doctor’s appointment on Friday which thankfully was really helpful and they’ve adjusted her meds, offered her CBT and took her seriously. He also gave her the number of a Crisis team just in case. Kate was supposed to go on a shoot this weekend but he strongly advised that she cancelled and after a lot of persuasion from me, she did. Being in a tiny little room over night on her own at the Travelodge isn’t good for anyone let alone when your mental health is bad!

I wanted to write something about what it’s like being the partner of someone who is going through a period of bad mental health… it’s really not easy – it’s so hard seeing her like this and there not being anything I can physically do. Kate has a lot of pain with her disability and usually I can help by doing practical things like fetching her painkillers, running her a bath, help her get dressed etc. But there’s nothing I really do at the moment and looking on helplessly isn’t an option either. However, when I asked Kate if I was helping, she said I was. So I asked her what I did that was helpful…

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I guess it’s going to be different for everyone – I’m sure some people just like to be left alone for instance, but that’s what is working for Kate at the moment. She’s gone into work today which is really great and hopefully she’ll be able to manage the whole day there. It helps that she is the boss and knows that she has the option of leaving if she really needs to! A couple of other things that have been helpful I think are that I’ve been trying to give Kate all the rest and extra sleep she may need – however, without letting her sleep in too late as then that would result in her not sleeping at night and as everything seems so much worse at night – for anyone. 

I’ve also tried to be decisive about things as I think Kate feels quite lost sometimes with making decisions even about what to eat, what to do in the day etc so as long as she is feeling well enough to go out and about I’ve tried to come up with gentle plans for the day which include eating clean and well – no caffeine, things that give her a bad tummy (she is allergic to a LOT of food, nightmare!), no alcohol and lots of fruit and veg.

At the moment we are just taking each day at a time and knowing that we are not alone in this is so helpful and reassuring.  

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This Mummy Can… Deal with her Mental Health

By Kate

I have struggled with my mental health for a long time. Something bad happened to me when I was young (sorry, no details this time!) and I have been dealing with the fall out from it for a long time now. I started going to therapy about seven years ago and despite my best efforts I still need to go twice a week to keep my head straight and to keep me from doing damaging things. I also take a low dose of anti-anxiety medication every day to keep me on a level too. For a while now I’ve been managing well, but the last week things have suddenly got a lot worse.

I don’t know what’s happened but my anxiety has really peaked. I started to feel a bit wobbly from the middle of last week and each day things have got slightly worse. I can’t really describe how I’m feeling… it’s quite on and off, but the worst is when it feels as if my heart is beating out of my chest. Sometimes it feels so bad that I wonder if I’m having a heart attack and just calling it anxiety! Then I’m also having a really hard time concentrating on anything and my focus is way off. When I’m around Holly and Scout it feels a little easier but still pretty bad, but when I’m not around them it is way worse. 

I’ve looked at lots of articles about how other people manage their anxiety and one of the biggest things soooo many people talk about doing is exercise. They go for a run, they go to the gym, they lift weights, they box, they do yoga… the list goes on. So what do you do when you have a disability and can’t do these things? Well this is what I’m struggling with at the moment. I mean, physically I could go to the gym, or I could go for an evening dancing with my friends. But then the next two or three days would be wiped out with serious pain and me having to stay in bed to recover – and this just isn’t an option anymore with a very active ten month old around!

Last year my anxiety was bad before Scout was born (I convinced myself that both she and Holly would die during childbirth – spoiler alert, they didn’t) and at that point I decided to give up caffeine which has really helped but now that I’m already off that, giving it up isn’t an option and clearly it isn’t a trigger this time. I wonder if the fact that I’m about to be really busy at work is contributing to my anxiety? I do feel a bit like this week is my last week being ‘relaxed’ about work before I dive into a six week edit – but I have a week in the middle there where I’m on holiday with my beautiful family, so I wonder can that really be what’s bothering me? And does there need to be a trigger or is it just ‘one of those things’? Perhaps it’s just my Complex PTSD rearing it’s ugly head and this time it’s happened, being a mum has meant that it has made itself even more known to me than it has before.

So when you’re a disabled person who sometimes struggles to get out to enjoy the fresh air even, what do you do to help yourself? Well, some friends have been helpful and suggested things that I am going to try – the first is the Headspace App. I really find it hard to switch off my thoughts and be in silence (bad thoughts always come creeping in so I’m too scared to) so I’m hoping that this will be an easier way to get into that whole mindfulness thing. Another friend has suggested that I try and focus on small, manageable tasks like tidying a room or sorting out a drawer, so that is going to be one of my jobs this evening. Someone else has suggested a ‘breathing app’ which may  sound weird because, you know, we all know how to breathe. But as I’ve said, I’m willing to try anything at this stage.

If anything is helpful I will be sure to let you know. And if you have any other top tips for managing anxiety I’d love to hear from you – feel free to comment below or hit me on twitter (@katiekatetweets) or insta (@katemonaghan).

This Mummy Can get out to baby classes!

In the very early days when we brought home a tiny bundle of Scout we were determined to try and get out every day. Mainly because this would give us a purpose each day (apart from keeping said baby alive) so living in Stoke Newington in Hackney we found ourselves surrounded by so many activities and classes that it was pretty easy to be busy.

Kate went back to work after around 6 weeks (I know, I was incredibly lucky to have her around for so long) so in order to keep myself from going mad at home I organised a back to back timetable of activities…which seems pretty insane looking back but I had no idea what to do with a very small baby and desperate to meet other mums this seemed like the best thing to do.

Here’s a few of the things that have kept me sane over the past 9 months:

  • Frog Prince – an hour long class of all the classic nursery rhymes with the occasional Beatles or Disney hit thrown in. The class has a really chilled out vibe with a help-yourself tea caddy on the side and lots of instruments scattered around the place for the babies to play with. £5 – locations vary depending on day, but I hear the Wednesday session at Hackney City Farm is not to be missed in the summer as it’s outside.
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  • Sensory – I realised today as Scout towered above the other babies and made more noises and mess than any of them put together that at nearly 10 months old she is getting a bit old for sensory. Noooo!! Rose from the Hackney branch is lovely and the classes are always different meaning Scout (and more importantly, me!) never get bored. It’s also the most friendly baby class – it’s a great way to get to know new Mums. I *think* it’s around £7 a session but best to book a block as it’s cheaper. Think bubbles, lights, maraccas, parachutes…that kind of thing.
  • Gymboree – Scout is obsessed with Gymbo the clown to an unhealthy level. She will often sit in her buggy cackling away at how hilarious her gymbo doll is must to the amusement of strangers. She spends the whole class jumping up and down and giggling in pure excitement and joy. I’m not going to lie – I find the classes a bit tedious and repetitive but the kids absolutely love them and it’s often where I see Scout improve her crawling/cruising etc most of all as the soft mats everywhere means she takes more risks so we’ll be Gymbo fans for at least a few months longer. (Prices depend on the bundle that you choose but if you are an NCT member there is a hefty discount)

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  • Baby Massage – we were fortunate that we were offered this class free by our health visitor due to have a ‘traumatic birth.’ The birth was actually fairly untraumatic – it was the aftercare that was awful, but more on that another time! Anyway, Kate took Scout along to this one alone (nice bit of bonding time) and she really enjoyed it. I don’t think we’ve actually ever done any baby massage since mind, but it was still a  lovely and calm class and do ask your health visitor for a free referral as that’s definitely worth doing.
  • Morris Minors – this was one of the first classes we took Scout to as it is run by our lovely and talented friend Michelle. Expect a variety of the lesser known nursery rhymes which are incredibly easy to pick up (Michelle will teach you!) lots of actions, playing with instruments and a bit of movement too. In the warmer months it’s in the pub garden under a covered area which was just gorgeous. Thursdays at 11am and at a bargainous price of £3 – plus the pub does good pizza – what more can you want?!
  • Water Babies – Kate and I had made a pact pre-baby that we’d take our future child to regular swimming lessons from an early age. Mainly because we’d seen a friend’s 2 year old being able to get himself safely to the side of the pool if he ever fell in and got in to trouble. Plus even from inside the womb Scout was a water baby so we knew she’d love it. The only trouble is it’s bloody expensive so we ended up asking for a bunch of lessons as a Christmas present from one set of her Grandparents which worked brilliantly.

Would love to know what you found an essential part of your baby’s life in the early days, let me know!

This Mummy Will Sleep!

Scout has always been a pretty good sleeper. We were the envy of our NCT friends as they did yet another lap of Clissold Park to try and get their newborn to sleep whilst Scout would quite happily go down in her Moses basket.

Due to Kate’s painful joints we had a pact that we wouldn’t ever get in to the habit of rocking her to sleep. We never did and this (up until recently) had proved to work a treat. She never expected any sort of sleep aid and we were quietly smug.

Fast forward to a few months later, 9 to be exact, and Kate and I are zombies. Sleepless zombies. As soon as my eyes open in the morning I pep talk myself to get up with promises of an early night and day dream constantly about my soft pillow and cosy duvet. Scout has decided she doesn’t like sleeping and would rather cry like it’s the end of the world unless one of it is sitting next to her cot at every waking second. As I type Kate is spending yet another evening in Scout’s room hushing her.

We tried ‘crying it out’ and with the help of a friend coaching us through it by text and it was pretty successful and I spent a total of 3 weeks feeling smug that my baby was sleeping through from 7pm – 7am. Not to mention feeling like a brand new person with all that glorious sleep. But Scout seems to have forgotten all about that and instead wants to be up with the grown ups who are trying desperately to catch up with Grey’s Anatomy and eat chocolate.

Tonight we are going to be tough and try more sleep training. I just don’t think I can put up with much more wailing. It’s horrendous. Wish us luck!