As you know last year my year of challenges was for an organisation called Raindrops to Rainbows, which supports mothers to be and mothers suffering from Post Natal Depression. Not everyone is confident to seek the help they need and not everyone has help and support at home. Many mothers suffer alone in silence. Raindrops to Rainbows offers a variety of closed support groups for mums to be and mums, offering a safe haven to talk openly with other mums, without fear of being judged. It also offers groups for partners and close family members of those suffering with Post Natal Depression. Raindrops to Rainbows is opening eyes and ears to the problems faced by mothers and their families. My 2016 5k challenges are my efforts to support the work that they are doing.
My Raindrops to Rainbows story
Those of you following my blog will know about Heather and her story from Coffee, Cake and Cuddles. However I have my own story. A story I kept silent for many years. Had Raindrops to Rainbows been around when I was a first time mummy, my story may have been different.
Prior to having Top Monkey, I was desperate for babies. I was so broody it was ridiculous. I found myself following babies around the supermarket and barging colleagues out of the way whenever new babies were brought into work. When I found out I was pregnant on my honeymoon I was thrilled. It was like a dream come true.
At the time I was the proud owner of a huge, Elton John style, pair of rose tinted specs. I believed all the hype that I would be blooming, my baby would arrive without a hitch and I would walk in the park with my pram pushing a beautiful sleeping baby. I was going to be Earth Mother, Natural Birth Mother and Bake a Cake Mother. What in fact happened was nine months of difficult pregnancy, a long and traumatic labour resulting in a 10lb 7oz baby, unable to make the final stages of birth safely, being delivered by emergency C Section. Add on difficulties feeding, poor aftercare, a difficult baby and extreme sleep deprivation and I was nothing more than Broken Mother.
Nothing went as I had hoped or planned. My positive thoughts meant nothing in the face of my reality. I briefly met TM moments after he was delivered. As I held him while I was being put back together I began to fall asleep. I drifted in and out, snoring loudly apparently. There was a brief moment for photographs then on to the ward to recover. I fell asleep, aware of the little plastic crib by my bed. No way of seeing the new little human inside. It was about another eight hours before I met TM again. As I looked at him the bolt of lightening I expected didn’t happen. I was not overwhelmed by love for my new baby. I felt an overwhelming feeling of responsibility for this new human being but he felt like a stranger. The guilt and anxiety this caused was huge. A few days after I came home from hospital, I had Mr LMR drive me to the park, a mere 3 minutes walk from my front door. We walked to the first bench, 5 minutes from the car, and I sat and cried for what felt like forever. This theme continued for weeks and months and even leaked into years.
To make matters worse TM was unable to breast feed properly. A tongue tie was spotted by a paediatrician on the second day in the hospital but the issue wasn’t recorded. Unaware of what it meant, TM failed to regain his birth weight and we were referred back to hospital. We were offered formula feeding as an option as TM would not sleep or stop crying. My inability to meet my babies needs further impacted on my feelings of failure. In my despair over everything we had been through so far I was too frightened to give up. I believed that if I gave up, the final threads between us would be cut and I would never bond with my baby. Possibly never know how to love him. I fought it all the way and finally after six weeks his problem was resolved, but the damage was already done. We started from scratch but the pressure from health professionals to have his weight catch up was immense. My post c section body felt wrong, baby weight increased as I failed to look after myself. My health visitor failed to spot my problems simply saying “I’ll answer the questions for you as I can see that you have a nice house and therefore you won’t have any concerns”!!! This only made me think that I should have been ok. I was not. Far from it. I was embarrassed by my bravado before I became pregnant. Ashamed that I could not cope. I shut everyone out too proud to ask for help, offended when it was offered. I became angry and resentful of others who I felt were able to love TM in a way that I couldn’t. As time progressed it felt as though everything was against me, I would reach small milestones and drag myself over hurdles only to find bigger hurdles lying in wait. There were days that I physically and mentally wanted to give in. I have never cried more in my life.
A lot of this time is a blur to me. However, some moments stand out. These moments are like flashes of colour that break through the dark clouds that obscured my memories. The first day that TM rolled over at bedtime and whispered “I love you mammy”. That was the moment that I knew that I did love him and that all the fight and determination to make that bond had been worth it. The day that I found out we were expecting MM and the day he was born. I looked into his little face, the face of another little stranger, and the world made sense again. I knew that we would grow to know each other a find a love that would be overwhelming and complete. Other memories were the faces of a few people who saw through the front I had created, outlined my choices and asked what I wanted. The same people who sat with me for hours while I cried. The people who continued to offer help until I finally gave in and acepted it. This story isn’t one of sadness to me now, it is one of hope. I didn’t ask for or accept the help and support that was there because I was too proud and embarrassed. I’m telling you now, that should not be the case. If more people spoke out and normalised this, less women and their families would suffer alone.
As you know, I went on to have a third baby. The decision to do this was not taken lightly, in advance of becoming pregnant I gave myself 6 months to enjoy myself and mentally prepare for what I knew was coming. I made plans and accepted that certain things would happen and I would need to see them through for as long as it took. I spoke with my health visitor and family and friends about my concerns and I made the adjustments in advance. Going as far as ensuring I had clothes in a larger size so that I had something to wear that wouldn’t make me feel too fat after I gave birth. Since the birth of MM life hasn’t miraculously become plain sailing. I have had tough times and still do. There will continue to be rough days but the difference is that I am now prepared for them. I doubt myself every day. Now I don’t let that voice take over. I am a good mother and I deserve to have my “me time”. I owe it to myself and my monkeys to be the best that I can be. To achieve this, I have created a team of people, a list of go to places and a tool box of techniques (The Quiet Place in My Brain) that keep me going through the difficult days.
You don’t need to have severe mental health problems to qualify for help and support. Something that starts as baby blues, sleep deprivation or feelings of guilt and anxiety about being a parent can so easily escalate. Opening up and making it normal could reduce the time spent suffering. Look at the dark clouds, refocus your eyes and watch the rainbows begin to appear.