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 Feel Good About her Body

By Holly

In the little world of Instagram there’s been lots of posts from Mums about body positivity. Following Clemmie (@mother_of_daughters) who first posted a swimsuit photo of herself after having four children and stated that she was proud of her body – stretch marks and all – many other women have followed suit sharing their photos and stated that MOD’s post made themselves realise they are not alone with c-section scars, stretch marks, loose skin and the dreaded c-section pouch and that they too should be proud of their body. After all, it’s grown and pushed out a tiny human in to the world.

Body positivity is something I too have always struggled with. Growing up I didn’t have any major issues – but when I was diagnosed with end stage renal failure a few days after my nineteenth birthday I was horrified when I had to first have a neckline inserted by my collar bone to attach me to a dialysis machine and then shortly after a tube put in my stomach to attach me to a home dialysis machine which pumped my stomach full of fluid making me look 6 months pregnant at all times. Just bloody great at 19! I managed to hide the tubes skilfully inside my bra and tucked under vests most of the time but that didn’t stop me being really self conscious about them. Never mind the dialysis, the fear of lifting my arms up too much and the tube popping out lived inside me constantly. Bikinis were a big no-no as were tight tops and skimpy dresses too, all things I was wanting to wear when I was in my early twenties.

Fast forward 8 years after my kidney transplant which I had when I was 24 and I now sport an excellent collection of scars and of course added a c-section scar to that last year.kidney transplant scar Clemmie and other women’s posts reminded me that Kate and I (Kate has also been through a lot of operations and has the marks to show for them) should be proud of our scars and bodies. They represent battles which we have won – illnesses and operations that we have got through and of course babies we’ve made! Thank you to all the ladies that have shared their photos – it’s great not to feel alone with a post baby body and I’m proud to say that I feel great in my swimsuit on the beach this year, yeah I’m still working on slimming down and getting rid of the excess baby weight but I’m not going to let that get me down and I’ll stand proud instead. 

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This Mummy Can Loves London

What a day – such horrible and worrying news to wake up to. Being out of the country at the moment and reading the news bleary eyed on my phone this morning it felt like a bad dream.

It feels strange not to be in our city rallying together, knowing that the incident happened in one of my favourite spots – a couple of miles from our home. But we don’t let these people win… All of our instincts are to hold our loved ones tighter, but we decided not to change our plans and to leave Scout with her Grandparents today whilst Kate and I popped over to Barcelona on the train for some much-needed couple time. I didn’t feel quite right without her, but we knew she was safe and loved and fear is not going to hold us back. 

Pic: Scout in one of favourite London spots – Dalston Curve Garden.

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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).

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!

 

 

This Mummy Can… Work

Before Scout was born, Holly and I had an idea that we’d be able to share childcare and work between us. We thought we’d both be keen to get back to work and how life was before Scout came along. We also (naively!) thought that we’d be able to take Scout along to meetings and things, cos she’d just sleep quietly in her buggy right? Ha, how wrong we were!

So what are we going to do about work?! We both want to be proper mums, we both want time to hang out with Scout, but money doesn’t grow on trees… sadly.

Introducing…This Mummy Can

Scout is now 24 weeks old and we are (sort of) finding our feet with this whole parenting malarky.

During our conceiving and pregnancy journey I used this blog as a private space for me to offload to. I never gave any family or friends the link and never shared it. It was just my little space to record what I was going through.

I think now is the time to share it – for any families that are in the same position as we are. Kate and I focused so much on having a healthy baby that we conveniently forgot about how we’d manage as Mums. Turns out Kate’s disability and my illness have both come with big barriers that we’ve had to (and still are) adjust to.

We’ve made a series of vlogs recording these moments and as new issues arise we’ll continue to blog/photograph/film. If no one reads or watches them at least we will have a place for Scout to look back on when she is older and see how special she is and how she has lit up our lives in so many wonderful ways.