This Mummy Can: Wants another Baby

We never imagined Scout to be an only child and so when she was only 4 months old we stocked up on some of her donor’s sperm from the London Sperm Bank so we could one day realise this. Since then, it’s been tucked away in a little freezer somewhere in the darkest depths of London waiting to be called on to do it’s job.

A couple of months ago we got in touch with a fertility clinic in Sheffield and arranged a meeting to put together a plan of action. I’d somehow blocked out most of the (highly stressful) treatment we had to have Scout. For one thing I’d forgotten that the clinic would want to know every little detail about our lives to the point where it feels as though you are having the toughest job interview of your life – to be a parent. Completely irrelevant questions were asked – the consultant focused on Kate’s disability for at least half an hour when this felt redundant to us really… It wouldn’t be Kate carrying the baby so we couldn’t really understand it and were left biting our tongues . Were they questioning her ability to parent? Or was it pure nosiness?

Anyway, you’d think having had a child already (who is by all accounts is happy and thriving) we’d be spared the in-depth questioning but we were even asked to go to a counselling appointment so we would understand what we were getting ourselves in for. (Having brought a hyperactive toddler along to the meeting who was happily playing with the uterus model on the table I think I know what I’m getting myself in for thank-you-very-much.)

From our point of view it looks so easy for hetro-sexual couples to have babies when I totally know that’s absolutely not the case for everyone. For a same sex couple it’s hard when you feel like you need to jump through so many hoops in order to even be allowed to try and get pregnant. Next step is a HIV test at some point in the next couple of weeks. Another box to tick and another waiting game. I’m just going to have to try really hard to be patient and let all of the leg work wash over me and concentrate on giving myself the best chance possible to get pregnant… acupuncture, lots of dairy and exercise here I come!

I’ve no idea if these things will even help but they may have done when I became pregnant with Scout so it won’t hurt to give them a try. Plus maybe they will keep my mind occupied during the whole process.

This Mummy Can Talk about Periods

By Kate

Should I leave my tampons out when my dad comes to stay?

My mum and dad have been coming over to help us out with Scout more regularly since my mum retired in April which has been just brilliant and a total life-saver at times. But we live in a tiny flat in London and our bathroom has very little storage space in it, so when either Holly or I are on our periods then sanitary towels and tampons are left out on top of the toilet. As a two (well, three but only two menstruating) female household this means the sanitary products are in use more than normal and they are therefore out for all to see more regularly.

Generally when people come over we have a good tidy up and everything gets put away nicely before they arrive. And this used to be the case with my parents. However, now they’re coming over more regularly to help with Scout-care, do I need to be tidying them away?

When I was younger I used to be super embarrassed about my periods. I didn’t tell anyone when it started because I was so embarrassed – yet I forget to put my (clearly stained) knickers away so they were found by my mum (or maybe Dad although the thought of that when it was happening as so awful that I pushed it away and decided it must have been mum that found them) and she gently and kindly said she knew I’d started and why didn’t we go and talk about how to deal with it all. Mum was great of course but she also had an attitude of ‘we don’t talk about these things’ that I assume was passed down from her mum. In fact I remember vividly once when I was on my period and I left the sanitary towel packet out, we had a plumber come over and he (shock horror) saw the packet when my mum was in the bathroom with him. Mum (who was no doubt stressed from work) got very cross and told me and my older sister how embarrassing that was for her and would we PLEASE learn to tidy up after ourselves. It was this kind of attitude that made me hide my period-related-products away. No man wants to see that! Perhaps no woman either! It’s private! It’s gross!

Which leads me onto my Dad. He was always a bit of an enigma about things. He’d never talk about periods and ladies things. But he also didn’t necessarily avoid them. It just was something that would never come up in his presence. However when I was about 26 I was very suddenly and dramatically diagnosed with endometriosis (a problem where the lining of the womb gets really thick and goes to different places where it shouldn’t be and causes very heavy and bad periods). This led to my parents being suddenly thrown into a world of periods and blood and looking after me and my vagina. It also led to me suddenly having to get used to every Tom, Dick and Harry having a little peek up inside me whenever they fancied it (ok, maybe not quite like that but it felt like it at the time). All of a sudden the embarrassment and shame surrounding it all vanished – almost in an instant. And I began to have a bit of fun with it…

While I was recovering from various operations my Dad would come home at lunchtime to look after me and ask how I was doing and I took a slight delight in telling him exactly how I was feeling. When I was bleeding I’d get my horrified Mum in to have a look to see if she thought what was happening was normal. Part of me enjoyed seeing my mum and dad so uncomfortable at my new-found lack of shame, but part of me also enjoyed this new freedom. I suddenly didn’t care what people thought, I didn’t worry about people knowing if I was on my period or not and it felt like a weight had been lifted off me.

But as I’ve got older and had a girl of my own I’ve been thinking about how I want her to approach her periods. Of course I’m not going to throw her (much as I may want to) a ‘you’ve got your period’ party when that day happens. But I want her to see the sanitary products around the house and understand that it’s a normal part of growing up. Something not to be scared of or avoided or ashamed of. But then I’d also want her to be respectful of us as her parents, and if my sanitary products make my Dad feel uncomfortable then perhaps I should in fact be respectful of that and put them away. What would you do?!

This Mummy Can Feel Better

By Kate

Thanks to everyone who reached out to me (and Holly) after my last blog about my anxiety. Even though I was not in a place where I could reply to people (sorry about that!) I read every text, email and Facebook message and in one way or another they all really helped me. Even the ones that were just saying they were sorry I was going through this helped.

Things were feeling bleak for a while when I was at my lowest, and I feel like it was made worse by the fact that I would look at Scout’s beautiful little face and wonder what I had to make me feel like this when I have the most incredible and amazing daughter in the world. I also felt guilty that I wasn’t being the best version of myself for her and that she needed a mum who was well, not one who has a disability and a problem with their mental health.

But then I put things into place to start to help myself  -and below I’ve listed some of what I did that helped me. These are all very much what helped ME and they may or may not be the same experience that other people have had.

Things that helped me:

  • My mum and dad came to see me and to help me. This was amazing – I finally told them how I was feeling and they came up the next day. They managed to help me unravel a bit about why I was feeling the way I was, but more importantly they made me feel supported and that I had options ahead of me. They also looked after Scout and gave Holly and I a bit of space together which was really good
  • I saw my doctor and my doctor took me seriously and he also gave me a plan for how I could move forward. He increased my medication and he gave me some other meds (like tablets to relax me and sleeping tablets) for the short term. He also put a plan in place for what help could be available to me longer-term if I needed it.
  • I cancelled my work plans. This one was a lot harder because in my job you can’t just cancel plans, phone in sick or ask someone to cover your work. As a business owner and the one earning the money at the moment with Holly on Maternity Leave, this was a huge amount of pressure. But on the other side of that coin is what happens if I am completely unable to work if this escalates? Well this was the question I was posed by my doctor and I guess it made me think. So, I did the difficult thing and asked for help from my colleagues and they stepped up and made sure that the weekend shoot I was supposed to be doing would go ahead without me. This meant I had a whole weekend that I didn’t have to worry about work which was a massive weight off my mind.
  • I got back into a routine. A friend texted me after reading the blog to suggest this and I thought I couldn’t do it because the way my work is means that I don’t really have much of a routine throughout the week – some days will be off filming, some days will be editing, some will be working from home and some will be working from our shared work space. And a few weeks ago I was all over the place with this and that did make things harder. So as much as I wasn’t looking forward to getting into a long edit (think long days, lots of stress, no sunshine etc etc) in fact the routine of it was actually quite good for me. And so was seeing people regularly every day.
  • I slept. This one is a biggie because this is a vicious circle. For me, anxiety makes it much harder to sleep and then bad sleep leads to feeling more anxious. So in order to break the cycle I took some sleeping tablets. Only for a couple of nights, but it was enough to make me feel a bit more human again and able to cope with the world.
  • I ate better food. Again, this was quite a big one for me because I am intolerant to two quite big food groups (lactose and gluten) and yet I still often eat them and make myself feel bad. Or I skip meals and eat junk instead. So Holly and I made a real effort to eat good food that wouldn’t make me ill and that seemed to help my health generally as well as my mental health.

So, doing all of these things I have started, gradually, to feel a bit better. I know my anxiety isn’t going to disappear overnight. And, most likely, it’s never going to disappear. But it’s getting back to where it was before this last dip. I mean, I’m taking each day as it comes and some days are better than others, but in general things are gradually getting better. 

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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).