Category: helping others

‘Twas the weeks before Christmas and everyone was stressed…

I found this in my ‘drafts’ folder. I wrote this last December (2012) in the lead up to Christmas. I don’t know why I didn’t press ‘publish’. I think my main message still applies – let’s all make this year’s festive season as happy as it can be and remember what’s really important xx

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Christmas.

I sometimes feel like I’m the only person wandering about just moderately stressed (as opposed to extremely). Am I doing it wrong? I still have a crapload of shopping to do, and while I do worry about whether I’ll get it done in time, I’m fairly confident I can. Maybe it’s the last few years that have helped take the edge off. Five years ago, my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Thailand until the 20th December, so the pressure was off – we just scrambled about when we got home and nothing bad happened! Last year the Little Mister was not much more than a newborn so we ordered a bunch of brag books online for all the grandparents and great grandparents, and no-one expected us to give anything, so anything above and beyond their expectations made us feel like superhumans (we managed to do pretty well considering).

Yesterday, I hit the shops early. I was in a clothing store with the Little Mister strapped into his pram. He’s a sociable little man and he tried to ‘speak’ to a lady who had her back turned. It was just cute babble (so nothing shocking or screamy). The lady jumped a mile. She whizzed around and looked so relieved that it was just a little kid. She said he scared the living daylights out of her and held her hand over her heart, saying it was still beating really fast from her scare. The Little Mister sensed her fear and began to cry (after being so happy and friendly a moment earlier).

Later, I was manouvering my way into a car park. It was a very busy time of day, but there were spots opening up everywhere and I was blessed when a great one (in just the right position) became free. I pulled in, but because of other drivers consistently moving past in the opposite direction (off-putting), my angle was a little off. I decided to put my reverse lights on and adjust my angle ever so slightly so as to make sure there was ample space for both cars that were next to mine. I slowly but surely (and vigilantly) inched backwards (we really are talking inches – it was all I needed) and in the space of 30 seconds two drivers (who had been several metres away at the time) kept beeping their horns at me. They were so sure I was about to hit the lot of them. Their defences were well and truly up.

Everybody is so on edge that the smallest things are spooking them. I just wish I could hug everyone (well the ones who won’t bite) and say that it’s OK to feel the way you feel (who knows what each person’s life story is), but it’s also OK to just slow down. Chill out. Remember what Christmas is all about. Wish the exhausted shop assistant a Merry Christmas. Wish your tired customers a Merry Christmas. Have a laugh when you come face to face with a pram or a shopping trolley in a squeezy store (rather than giving a huffy puffy look of anger). Treat others how you would like to be treated. Tell your family you love them and accept them for who they are. Don’t make mountains out of molehills.The good tidings you receive back will make you feel so much better about the tough things you might be dealing with at the time. You might be having a tough day/month/year but be careful. The innocent person who you might be glaring at or abusing might be having it tough too (they may just have a better attitude about it). Be nice in car parks – I’m talking to you, That Guy Who Flips the Bird at People Who Aren’t Doing Anything Wrong.

Stop jumping at every little thing. Breathe! Take a break when it starts to feel suffocating. Fresh air is good. Step out for a bit! Plan your day out carefully (but take it easy when those plans don’t work out so well). When in doubt, give to others (whether it’s simply kindness or a special good deed). It will make everybody involved feel good.

Note to self: Read this when overwhelmed.

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I really think that being overwhelmed is one of those things that comes with adulthood. Actually, it starts much earlier than that for a lot of us…I guess we become much more aware of it with the responsibilities that trying to be a fully functioning adult can carry. I feel overwhelmed at least once a week fortnight month and each time I am trying to learn how to better deal with it. You may know the feeling – too many tasks to complete, not enough time. Too many people asking things of you, not enough of you to go around. Feeling like you’re super busy all the time getting nothing done. You know when you’re an anxiety ridden mess and you start feeling all snappy, emotionally eating, then bawling when a new task inevitably gets added to your to-do list, sending you over the edge? Just me? Surely not just me 😉

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to navigate through these feelings and I have narrowed it all down to five ways to beat that freaked out, overwhelmed feeling – before it impacts on your mental health and your relationships.

These are (hopefully) not those cheesy things you read all the time, but they come straight from my brain and my own experience. These actually work for me.

Stop being such a bitch…to yourself

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Seriously. Would you take that kind of talk from someone else?? I bloody hope not! When we feel like we can’t do everything on the timeline we hoped for, when we feel like we’re not being everything to everyone no matter how hard we try, when we feel like everyone can see that we’re so obviously not in control, we can resort to self defeating trash talk.

It’s horrible when you start telling yourself, “Everyone will know you’re failing. Look at you, you’re a mess of a person. You’re not capable of being a normal human being. You’re so pathetic. You can’t even get this much done. Everyone else can do it. What a wuss. This will never get done. It’s impossible. You should just give up now. This is too hard. There’s too much. You’re such a crap friend/family member/employee/house keeper/pet owner/parent/any other hat you wear in life.”

Would you let your best friend/child/family members be treated like that? Again, I bloody hope not! So why are you doing it to yourself?

It’s time to think positive. You may not feel positive and that’s OK (you’ll get there), but you need to remember to be kind to yourself. Be your own best motivational speaker. No-one feels inspired when they’re beaten down with harsh words all the time. It’s emotional abuse! Why is it any different when you’re speaking to yourself? Remind yourself that you’re only one person, you’re human and you can’t be responsible for the things you can’t control. It’s OK to only achieve things at a human standard/pace – no need to be a superhero. The people who count will understand that you’re doing all you can. Shock horror, they might even be proud of you just for giving things a go!

Remind yourself of the context of your situation. Maybe you’ve been through a rough/insanely busy time. Maybe you should cut yourself some slack. Maybe when you count out the (wo)man hours you actually had to get a million things done, you’ll realise it would be physically impossible to achieve the things you’ve expected of yourself. Maybe you’ll see that you’ve done the best you can and you should be proud of your efforts. Maybe the things you haven’t got done now are great goals for the near future, not just a list of failures.

Celebrate your achievements – no matter how seemingly small they might be. Don’t forget self care. You need to fuel yourself with positivity so you have the energy to keep going.

Don’t compare yourself to others

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This is something that has taken me almost all of my 29 years as a human to understand. It’s one thing to choose an inspiring person to keep your spirits lifted (“If this person can do it then I can learn from what they’re getting right and I can do it too!”), but it’s another to say, “BUT EVERYONE ELSE HAS A CLEANER HOUSE/BETTER FINANCES/BIGGER SOCIAL LIFE/BETTER ORGANISATIONAL SKILLS/15 CHILDREN AND THEY CAN ALL DO IT ALL BETTER THAN ME.”

You don’t know every person’s story. You don’t know what their lives are like behind closed doors. You don’t know what they’ve sacrificed in order to achieve what they appear to have achieved. They’re not perfect, just like you. I am sure there are the rare ‘almost perfect’ people who really have it all out there, but what are the odds that everyone but you is one of them??

Letting yourself feel inferior based on someone else’s (perceived) successes is only going to hurt one person. You. And like I said earlier, why are you being so mean to yourself???

Just remember that you are doing the best you can with the resources you have. Other people have differently distributed time, energy and resources. You’re just working with what you have. You know how we tell our kids, “As long as you are trying your very best, I am proud of you”?

Let’s take that advice for ourselves!

If you feel like you know you’ve slacked off in certain areas (speaking from experience of course), that’s something you can address – but stay positive! We’re all learning and improving all the time. It’s never too late to try a new approach! x

Focus on what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T do

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It’s always so tempting to focus on the things we’re not getting done. Oh my gosh, I still have THIS, THIS, AND THIS TO DO!!! AND WHAT ABOUT THIS?!!! It’s not possible!! I still have to do this, this this and this before I can do all of those other things I just mentioned!!

Something’s holding you up? Something out of your control is stopping you from achieving something else? Don’t sweat it! It’s not possible right now anyway! Break it all down and think about what you CAN do. Chip away at things. Finding one task really daunting and don’t feel ready to tackle it? Pick out the parts you do feel more confident about – do what you know and the rest will follow. I used to take this approach when I had university assignments coming out of the wazoo. Can’t write this essay from the beginning to end – stuck on the first argument? Get writing – blab on about the things you do know, the things you do want to say. Then research can back it up, a bit of editing…and hey presto, the rest doesn’t seem so horrifying after all. For me it was about not letting the fear of saying the wrong thing (or of failing) get so overwhelming that I couldn’t start.

I think a lot of it was about building confidence.

The same could be said for big jobs around your home (can’t paint that hideous rendering yet but you can go to the hardware store and look at colours), your parenting (not ready for that big change but you can take baby steps in preparation – excuse the pun) or your social commitments (can’t attend the 15 things people have planned then streamline down to the easiest or most important events to attend). Do what you CAN. Let go of what you can’t. Be realistic and confident in your decisions. Remember what I said about being kind to yourself when you can’t do it all at once.

It’s the same with anything. There’s always something you CAN do. Something to nibble away at bit by bit. Channel the energy you would use lamenting at what cannot be done right then and there into what you CAN do right then and there.

Just start SOMEWHERE. The rest will follow.

Communicate communicate communicate! 

Ever felt like you have to handle everything on your own because you think it will prove you to be a stronger person? Bottled up those scary overwhelming stressful feelings and then accidentally unleashed on someone close to you or had a meltdown that has everyone worried? Yeah…I’ve learnt the hard way throughout my life that this isn’t really so healthy.

If your partner (or anyone really) notices that you are tense and asks what’s up, don’t say, “Nothing. It’s fine. I can handle it. Just some stuff. I’ll get over it.” and then proceed to stew away in your own anxious juices.

Open up. Tell someone what’s worrying you. Maybe even ask for help. Admit to the crappy feelings you’re experiencing. Hear their encouraging words (if they are not using supportive language – find someone who will). Let them help you out – even if it’s just having someone listen to you. Maybe once you say it all out loud, you’ll realise it had just got massive in your own head (this happens to me all the time). Maybe it’s time to bring this mountain back down to a nice molehill size again. Maybe your go-to person knows exactly how you feel – maybe they feel the same. Share the burden and maybe this communication will help to bring you closer. It might certainly pre-empt a stupid frustration filled argument or unpredictable eruption of feelings later – that can only be a good thing.

Prioritise and organise! 

When I feel stressed out, I start writing notes in my daily planning diary like a mad person. All of those scary dates and times and invitations swimming in my head are just going to make me feel crazy and out of control if I don’t! I then take everything day by day, safe in the knowledge that what I need to know or do for that day is written down safely in my diary – there’s no need to read fifteen days ahead and scare myself. Just concentrate on one day at a time.

It’s amazing how things get less scary when you’ve organised them somewhere.

Sometimes when you’re stressed and overwhelmed, you need to prioritise. Put the most important things at the top of the list and don’t stress if the not so important things have to wait a while. If it ALL seems super important, then perhaps the chronological one day at a time organisation I mentioned above will help.

Sometimes you need to streamline. You can feel bad sometimes when you have to say no to stuff, but if you are struggling and you are in survival mode, maybe it will really help to let yourself off the hook a little bit. Just for a little while. The people who count for something in your life will understand. You can only do so much. Sometimes it truly is physically impossible to do everything. I’d rather do a few things well, than a hundred things half arsed. I think the people in my life would prefer me that way too.

And here’s one final thought…

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Seriously. Why do we all do this? Ask yourself. Are you busy for the sake of being busy? What would happen if we all just slowed down and said no every now and then? If the only reason we’re busy is so we can tell other people we’re so busy, then it’s time to reassess. Life could be so much calmer and we could be so much more content living in the moment. It’s really hard because we’ve been socialised to believe that ‘busy’ is best. It’s like a competition about who can seem the busiest or the most stressed out. I’m trying to take this off the table. Who knows how much time and energy I can save in my life? 🙂

R U OK?

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Have you ever been in Struggletown (like really really trying to hold onto sanity) and not had the words to tell someone about it? Have you ever felt like talking to those close to you might make them feel burdened with your problems, so you hold onto them tight? Have you ever been scared that you might be considered to be whingey and mopey if you tell people what you’re really going through? Scared you’ll bring everyone down? Annoy them? Or have you held secrets about your well being close to your chest and not known how to express them or feel safe doing so? Have you ever felt that crushing fear of being vulnerable? Putting your heart out on your sleeve?

I have. Many a time. Let’s face it. I’m Kez and I am sh*t at asking for help. I am sh*t at telling people the deep, dark stuff. Truly. You wouldn’t think it. I’m such a bloody chatterbox and I am generally quite in touch with my feelings. I can talk about feelings quite well (mostly in writing or in counselling) but there’s only so far I can go when I am truly having a rough time. It’s not that I don’t trust anyone, far from it. I get scared that I’m going to be that high maintenance friend. That drama llama. Oh, yes. That Kez. She’s got *whispers* issues. All the time. Or sometimes I’m scared that if I say it out loud, I’ll be judged or worse, hurt even more.

I’ve often been known to use my smile to cover my vulnerabilities. Lots of positive talk. A bounce in my step. I wonder if anyone would even think I don’t have an awesome life? I mean, I do. It’s just that when it’s less than awesome, I wonder if anyone can see past my facade. Ironically, sometimes I even cover up my own feelings/struggles by helping others with theirs and neglecting my own…yeah, I know. I promise that’s not what I’m doing while writing this post. PROMISE 🙂

Sometimes in life, you just hope that someone will reach out and ask, “Are you OK?”

Just check in with you and take the fear away.

Well, they asked me if I’m OK so they must want the answer. Maybe it’s OK to tell them the truth. Maybe they don’t see my feelings as a burden after all.

It can feel like such a relief – like you’re able to breathe out again. It can be the start of a rewarding journey back to yourself (or the rest of the world) or it can resolve the horrible feeling of a problem eating away at you. Perhaps when the burden is shared, it lessens.

September 12 (that’s tomorrow) is R U OK Day. It’s something I really believe in and I am so glad it exists. Here’s the little blurb directly from the website:

What is the R U OK? Foundation?

The R U OK? Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ to support those struggling with life.

R U OK?Day is our national day of action on the second Thursday of September (12 September 2013), and dedicated to reminding people to regularly check in with family and friends. We also have Resources for You to use throughout the year to help you ask ‘are you ok?’ regularly of family, friends and colleagues.

You can visit the website here – you can find advice on how to ask someone if they’re OK as well as inspirational stories about people who dared to ask the question – and those who had the courage to answer them.

You just don’t know if you might be saving a life, by asking such a simple, compassionate question.

While R U OK Day might only be one day, it can inspire you to think about how to ask those you care about how they are throughout the year. I know that this campaign has given me the courage to ask the question many a time where in the past I might have chickened out. What if it’s none of my business? What if I’m intruding? What if I’ve imagined this person’s struggle in my head and I’m going to make a fool of myself? What if asking the question makes the other person run away from me? What if…I get a truly honest, heartbreaking answer and I don’t know what to do about it?

The R U OK Foundation says we just need to listen without judgement – we don’t need to fix everything or have all the answers. Starting the conversation in the first place can be very valuable.

I promise that the times I’ve had to dig deep to take the step of asking someone if they were OK, I have never regretted it. Just listen to your gut – if it’s telling you to ask because you truly care – and don’t ignore it. That person might have needed you to ask that very day. So, you get knocked back? That person still knows you care, even if they’re in too much pain (or even denial) to realise right away.

I have not been asked to promote R U OK Day (although would be very open to it in the future) and have nothing to gain by posting about it. It truly is something that I believe will make the world of difference to someone who is struggling. I’m sure we can all relate on some level as either the ‘asker’ or the ‘answerer’. While I have quoted the R U OK Day Foundation on this post (as clearly as possible), the opinions in it are mine only and I speak from personal experience.

I want my readers (regular or first time visitors) to know that I really do care about your well being.

So I’ll ask the question, which I mean from the bottom of my heart and truly care for the answer.

Are you OK? What’s happening for you right now? How are you feeling?

You can privately message me on Facebook, email me, DM me on Twitter or leave a comment on this post (you may use an anonymous username if you prefer – your email address is never published). Anything you tell me privately will not be shared and will not be judged. I just want you to know that I’m listening.

I hope that you will ask the question tomorrow too. It could be the start of a very important conversation.

x

I support you – no matter how you feed your baby.

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I found this post in my ‘drafts’ folder. I wrote it about a year ago. I think that I was scared to publish it because a) I didn’t want to just be another person going on and on about an issue that shouldn’t even be a favourite ‘mummy wars’ topic, and b) because I was scared that some of my readers might be put off by my stance on the issue. Yeah, I’m a people pleasing chicken sometimes…

I’ve decided to publish it today. A year late. I felt inspired by Mama By the Bay’s “I Support You” movement (in which she works alongside Fearless Formula Feeder and I am not the babysitter). It’s about supporting mums, no matter how they feed their babies – as long as it’s done with love, who are we to judge? I still feel the same as I did a year ago and I’m cool with that. 

Written in August 2012…and published in August 2013. 

I am usually one to avoid controversial topics in my blogging. I want to entertain more than anything else. However, I am quite angry that the issue I’m going to talk about has to be controversial in the first damn place!

Of course. The age old argument: Breastfeeding vs. formula.

I just read a post on Mamamia by Bec Sparrow called, “Should baby formula be locked up in hospitals?”

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg is implementing a so called initiative that involves the locking up of baby formula (literally) and only prescribing it for new babies if there is a medical reason. If a woman states her choice to use formula or requests a bottle, she has to have a lecture (no joke) on why lactation is better.

I am glad to not be in New York but this riles me up nonetheless. I am neither pro exclusive breastfeeding or pro exclusive formula. I am pro choice. I choose for women to have the right to choose. I think that our babies should be nourished and cared for in the best way they can be at the time. Also, there is no frickin’ rule about the two options being mutually exclusive!!!!! FFS!

Here’s my story:

I had a difficult pregnancy. I had PUPPP rash when I was 20 weeks pregnant onwards. I had to treat it aggressively with a steroid based ointment. Most women don’t get the rash until late in their pregnancy (around 36 weeks onwards) and can simply live with it or be induced once it’s considered safer for the mother and the baby. Let’s face it, I am a freak. I was itching, uncomfortable, visually a mess and dangerously close to depression (somehow the love for my baby and my support network really came through for me and I was lucky to get through it). I cried almost every day (not just the usual pregnancy crying but real, sad tears). I felt like a bad mother already, because as I tried to soak my body in a lukewarm bath (in the middle of winter), trying every home remedy possible and feeling so itchy it hurt, I had terrible thoughts. I thought, if my pregnancy would just go away…

Which you can imagine I didn’t really mean. I wanted my beautiful Little Mister more than anything in the world, but my state of mind was getting unhealthy and I just wanted the discomfort to stop. This wasn’t how I had dreamed of it. Being adopted, I had maybe idealised what pregnancy might be like because I wanted all my life to feel the blessing of fertility and a biological relative of my own. This was a tough blow.

At 30 weeks, I found out I had gestational diabetes. It was borderline so it was easy enough to control. I just had to drastically change my diet. Which is already restricted as you would guess when you’re pregnant. My one guilty pleasure and comfort – food and baking was thrown out. I was keeping a meticulous food diary and pricking my finger every single day (4 times a day). I felt like there was stigma whenever I told anyone I had it. It was genetic and not my fault. I had not done any different to any of my other pregnant friends who didn’t have it.  This was tough news upon the rash experience.

Fast forward to the 30-something weeks of my pregnancy and while my state of mind had improved, my rash came back and no steroid treatment would fix it. I felt better knowing I was closer to the end but it was a mystery. Turns out it wasn’t PUPPP again. It was probably an early symptom of an infection (and a dangerous one at that). I was subjected to daily blood tests for the whole last week of my pregnancy and was being monitored at the hospital every second day for longer than that. No-one knew what was wrong. I cried at the doc’s (not on purpose but it did work) and he gave me a date to be induced.

The Little Mister didn’t want to wait. He wanted to burst into this world on his own terms! Four days before I was going to be induced, I came down with a fever. I felt like I was just fighting a cold or something, but I didn’t know it would be much worse. I woke from a nap (I felt so lousy my body kind of gave out to it – the first “sleep” in ages) with contractions. Long story short, I rushed into hospital as my fever reached 38 degrees (celcius). Three hours later the Little Mister was born via emergency C-section. He didn’t breathe for the first 4 minutes. I was mentally oblivious and in shock. He was taken to another hospital where I didn’t see him for three days.

I was hooked up to the bed with a catheter for two days (the usual procedure for a C-section patient is one day). I had no baby and I would go from feeling like he didn’t exist (being all jovial like nothing had happened – probably my mind’s way of protecting me) to feeling very sad. My parents were amazing and I truly believe that they saved my mental health because they printed out pictures of the Little Mister from his first night in the hospital nursery (I wasn’t able to visit him) and I could look at him and bond with the idea of him. It made him real. My husband was torn between visiting our little man and keeping me company. He was always on the go and did an amazing job also.

By the time my little man came back to me in the hospital, he had been fed formula for three days. There was no choice. I just felt like as long as he was fed and nursed back to health, that’s all that mattered (he had my infection too). He was still on antibiotics just like me, but he was doing better than I was!! I was encouraged to express whenever possible for the milk to come in. Nothing really happened (despite my colostrum coming in very early in my pregnancy). I was stressed. People kept intruding when I tried to pump my breasts. There was no privacy and I couldn’t do it without hearing yet another well-meaning midwives’ opinion on it. I was feeling immense pressure as every nurse who started a new shift (I was in hospital 6 days) kept giving me a new lecture and new breastfeeding instructions. The Little Mister’s first night with us was hellish. He cried and cried every hour of the entire night. He was effectively being starved. I felt hopeless and had been somewhat brainwashed, thinking there was no option but to endure it. The anti biotics, the trauma and stress, they did nothing for my supply.

In the morning a midwife who I will love forever, told me this was bad. We’d been through so much already. We needed to be strong parents and stay mentally healthy at such a trying time. She taught us how to measure out formula top ups. I would try to breastfeed and then if nothing happened on the milk front, formula could top the Little Mister up for the time being. This worked wonders. We got small snatches of sleep and the pressure to breastfeed (which can hinder it ironically enough) was lifted somewhat. I realised I could just do my best and everything would still be OK.

When I left the hospital my supply hadn’t come in. I’d been separated from my baby, was still on anti biotics and I was very stressed (hospital is not that fun after 6 days). I was prescribed something to help and I was relieved when I got home into my own environment to find my supply coming in the day after. It wasn’t a great supply but it was better than nothing in my mind. I wanted to try. We had to continue with top ups through the night but in the day I was able to feed on demand (it felt like we were permanently attached). I felt so much better, but I still felt shame when people would either a) assume immediately that I must be breastfeeding exclusively because every GOOD mother does, right? or b) ask me what choice I had made, with their judgey face all ready to go.

I found myself stumbling over my answers. Trying to justify myself at every turn. I felt ashamed when I gave up at 3 months. My hormones had gone nuts and now as well as rashes all over my body (it was now scarring), I was getting acne. I was struggling with my supply and my body had been hijacked in a difficult way for way too long. I found myself feeling down and I couldn’t take another scar to my battered body. I had carried my beautiful baby into this world and fed him as well as I could. I had tried and tried to breastfeed and I had enjoyed the bonding it did give us while it lasted (without all my illness I truly believe that the Little Mister and my body – as it naturally would have been otherwise – would have been a feeding match made in heaven).

In the ideal world I would have had my baby with me from day 1 and I would have breastfed for at least 6 months (as recommended), but this isn’t always the ideal world and beating myself up over it wasn’t going to help anyone.

To shame mothers into exclusively breastfeeding is a disgusting act. To make laws and rules about it is just big brother style bullying. We all deserve a choice. I honestly believe to be able to be a happy and stable mother, I needed to be able to make my own decision after everything I’d been through. It was thought out, educated and with the best of intentions. To be treated like a dumb, uneducated young mother would have been terribly insulting, disempowering and bad for my mental health. As sad (and embarrassing – there’s a lot of pressure) as it was for me at the time, formula feeding probably saved me from depression.  I also found that having to breastfeed and then warm bottles and feed the Little Mister a top up each time was a lot to deal with 3 times a night. To be able to cut down half the work in the wee hours was also a relief. This was not a decision to be lazy (!!!), it was a practical decision. Trust me. No hands on new mum is ‘lazy’.

I think that breastfeeding and lactation information is fantastic and every mother should be provided it in a supportive manner. Milk from the breast really is full of amazing properties that can only do our children a favour. I just also believe that women should not be pressured into it (rather than encouraged) and treated like imbeciles or sub-par parents when they bottle feed. I’m not even talking about the overtly aggressive anti formula people, but also about those passive aggressive looks, comments and “friendly advice” givers that pop up out of nowhere. Sometimes from strangers, medical professionals and even our own ‘friends’ and families – and that is bad enough!

I was adopted and I was formula fed for all of my babyhood. There was no choice. I grew up smart and healthy. I met all of my developmental milestones and I was rarely sick. Perhaps that skews my views on the issue, but I just believe that women need to have a choice, without fear of “mummy wars”. If formula feeding becomes the new social stigma, what does that mean for anyone who doesn’t have a choice? How will that affect the way they feel about themselves?

If I am blessed with a second child (not for a while yet – hold your horses), I will be doing both if required. I know my mind now and I believe I’m a good mother who will always do what is best for my child/ren in my circumstances at the time. To hell with what everyone else thinks.

 

We need to have a little chat.

PUPPP.

Nope. I didn’t just fall asleep on my keyboard. I’m talking about PUPPP. It stands for (wait for it…) pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. Yeah. Sounds complicated. I bet most of you have never heard of the damn thing (unless you know me very well via this blog or have actually googled it). Before experiencing this horrible rash first hand, I would have heard such a crazy bunch of words beginning with P and I would have shrugged it off. I don’t really know what that is and who cares, it’s just some rash that I’ll never get (it is believed to only be experienced by an extremely small percentage of pregnant women).

Because hardly anyone suffers from this condition, it was very isolating and difficult to deal with. Each case can differ in how your body responds to the awfully itchy rash, meaning treatments that work for one person might not help another. Odds are, you might not even know what it is when you first show symptoms, if you should be unlucky enough to be a part of the unfortunately exclusive PUPPP club.

I had no idea. I resorted to googling (something I do not normally recommend) when the symptoms got too crazy and I was slow to get answers (partly my fault and partly due to inexperience of some of the doctors I saw early in the piece when my baby doctor was on holiday – of course!). I felt like I knew it was PUPPP, but waiting for an actual professional opinion/diagnosis (and treatment) was like agony.

I was only 20 weeks pregnant when it got bad. Normally women get it at the very end of their pregnancies, meaning there is not long to go before they can give birth (and more often than not be relieved of the symptoms immediately), or can be induced at full term if it’s bad enough.

Yeah. Unlucky.

800px-PUPPP-abdomenPic: Side view of a sufferer’s abdomen.

I spent weeks feeling alone. I couldn’t wear clothes that might itch, sweat or cling to my skin. Difficult in winter. I felt socially isolated and while it’s hard enough to get dressed when you’re big, it was even harder to feel pretty or human with PUPPP. I itched so badly that I was afraid I’d have a panic attack about it in public, so I rarely ventured out before treatment could arrive. Even then, the steroid cream prescribed to me by a dermatologist (who thankfully knew what he was talking about) was greasy and while it helped my rash to settle down a LOT, it gave me pimples too eventually.

I was paranoid about humidity of any kind and it was a huge mental and emotional burden. I never stopped loving the Little Mister who was growing inside of me, but I’d be kidding myself (and you) if I said that I wasn’t close to depression. Bawling my eyes out in a lukewarm bathtub half the day was no life.

Why am I going on about this?

I want everyone to know about this condition. While it may never happen to you (especially if you’re a male reader haha), I want you to know what it is and how to spot it. Just in case.

I also want you to be able to seek help ASAP if you think you may have PUPPP. I didn’t. I put it down to a little heat rash and let myself get worse. If I had sought diagnosis and treatment when it first got a bit uncomfortable, by the time I got answers (it takes a while when no-one’s sure what the hell it is – odds are they may not have dealt with a case first hand very often) I might have saved myself weeks of agony. It is much better to have a false alarm and deal with a doctor who thinks you’re being a little dramatic, than to suffer on your own for too long.

Also, I am writing this post because I want anyone who is friends/family/known to someone who has this condition, to know what it’s like to go through it. I want you to understand that it’s more than a little rash. It can cover half of a woman’s body, is unsightly (therefore embarrassing) and very very uncomfortable and itchy. Think extreme chicken pox (it was like that for me anyhow). Each woman may deal with it differently, but I want you to know how bad it can be. It’s really hard to go through it alone and part of my isolation was worrying that my friends didn’t understand. I couldn’t be at social occasions very often – each day was different and I felt awful and flaky. I worried that they believed I was letting a ‘little thing’ slow me down and that I wasn’t living my life just because I was pregnant. Maybe they thought that, maybe they didn’t. They were amazing friends through it all, but that worry was just something I carried. If I’d known they were able to access great information on PUPPP, I might not have felt so insecure.

It’s hard enough to feel attractive or like you’re living your life fully and actively when you’re quite up the duff. Add complications to that pregnancy and it can be very scary and lonely. I knew that the Little Mister was doing fine inside me – I knew I was blessed even in the rough times. I could have had worse issues (well, besides my gestational diabetes which can be dangerous if untreated). However, try telling a pregnant sufferer of PUPPP that when she can’t sleep AT ALL, feels so itchy she could scratch ALL OF HER SKIN BLOOD RAW,  and lives in a lukewarm bath, waiting for an appointment with a specialist.

I put on a brave face a lot. I wish someone had said, “Lady – I know what that is and you’re fooling no-one. Let me hug you – very gently – while I listen to you whinge about it.”

Also, stop asking a PUPPP sufferer (with scars) if she’s tried bio-oil. No over the counter treatments worked for me (or were permitted during pregnancy depending on ingredients). My skin was sensitive to greasy or oily things (ie the ointment was bad enough). Most of the people who asked me if I’d used bio-oil had never even tried it. The power of advertising, I guess. It’s horrible knowing that almost nothing works. It’s worse when everyone (who’s never heard of the damn condition) suggests treatments for you, which you know will do jacksh*t or even make it worse. You probably mean very well, but you don’t have to be an expert or give advice. A kind, listening ear (and encouragement to seek professional treatment if someone hasn’t already) is probably best.

I was lucky. My symptoms disappeared IMMEDIATELY once the Little Mister had vacated my body. While I had a whole lot of other issues, that was thankfully not one of them. However, the scars and the mental effects stayed for a while. I didn’t want to see another greasy, oily ointment again. I had scars on my chest, which meant I couldn’t dress nicely over summer, without feeling like I was an acne ridden teen with chest pimples (no-one wants to see those). I was sensitive to heat, mentally and physically. It took a YEAR before I felt like I could bare my upper chest without a big ol’ necklace or high neckline to hide behind. Progress can be slow.

I am very fortunate to have a very healthy, hilarious and good natured 18 month old today, who has no idea of the hell he put me through during pregnancy! I intend to let him know during his teenage years, though 😉 In all seriousness, that (him being in my life happy and healthy) is what matters most and what got me through a tough time. PUPPP is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. It felt worse than the diabetes and worse than the infection that brought on my labour. It was worse than dealing with the healing from a C-section. Itching is seriously a form of torture. Some people handle it better than others and I will be the first to admit that I was not handling it, despite my best efforts.

There is help and support out there, but it’s important to start looking early. I’m not trying to scare anyone. I’m just trying to bring awareness to it.

I found a dermatologist who dealt with a lot of pregnancy cases. I highly recommend you seek out an experienced specialist and get the ball rolling with referrals etc fast. Also, know that it isn’t your fault. We are all quick to judge these days. It’s easy to believe that a woman having a tough pregnancy must just be a Negative Nancy or probably did something to cause her condition, because it makes us feel like we have control over our own circumstances, but during pregnancy all bets are off. You can do your best and still have some hurdles to deal with. Don’t let ignorant people bring you down.

Pregnancy is stressful enough.

So please, my hope is that if you have read this you will be a proactive sufferer, in order to make your time as a beautiful (you still are) pregnant woman a little easier. If you hear of a friend or relative having this condition, I hope that you will now know just how severe it can be and treat them with the extra love and care they deserve. A great support network can make the difference between a surviving some tough times, and depression.

Feel free to share this post and PLEASE do not be in denial. No-one wants to know about the crap things that can happen when you’re pregnant, but information is power and might save you a lot of suffering (I speak from experience).

Love and light,

Kez xo

If you have experienced this, please contact me or leave a comment – I would love for you to share your stories.

This post is a part of the Blog Every Day in May challenge.



It was just one of those days.

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Do you ever have “one of those” days? The ones where strange things keep happening and you start to take it all a little personally? As a parent, I have those days on and off all the time. The exact same events could play out on any given day and you can laugh it off and think, “Well, that was hilarious! Carry on, then!” and on another day those same events can feel like utter crap, making you doubt everything you believed about yourself as a parent.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed on my twitter and facebook feeds that other baby mamas like myself were struggling from day to day. They felt awful because someone (just the one nosy person) had told them their new awesome way of getting their baby to sleep (which was working and not harming the baby at all) was wrong and would scar them for life, or they simply had one of  THOSE days where they just felt like they weren’t doing their best. This made me feel really sad. Why do we do this to ourselves?!

I wrote this (a shortened version) on my Facebook page that same day:

YOU ARE AWESOME, YOU LOVE YOUR CHILD, YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST and that is GOOD ENOUGH. YOU ARE LEARNING AND GROWING JUST LIKE YOUR BUB. BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND TELL NOSEYPARKER KNOW IT ALLS TO GET BACK IN THEIR BOXES (even if only in your head to make you feel better hehe). I hope this reaches those who really needed to see it today xxx

It’s something I need to remind myself of all the time.

The other day my child tried to eat a dead fly. It was a big one too. I got to him just in time (before it ceased to be in one piece anymore). I had a vague recollection of spraying an annoying fly a few days earlier with my favourite brand of bug spray…and I felt awful. Have I poisoned my child? Do I find the number for poison control? Where did he find it? Could it have died of natural causes? WHY DID I SPRAY A FLY IN THIS HOUSE? THAT’S DANGEROUS NOW. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. Of course I just laughed about it on Facebook later, but I felt a bit crap first. Of course the Little Mister was fine in the end (thanks for asking) and I learnt a couple of things: 1. Be more conscious of the chemicals I use around the house, and 2. The Little Mister really doesn’t like it when I won’t let him eat flies.

The Little Mister has been practicing “walking” with me around the house as I hold his hand, and that same day was no different. Except…he stopped to take a rest against a wall, then obviously a bit tired from all the new skill learning he bopped his head on that wall and bruised his forehead. I felt bad, like I should have seen it coming. He only cried a bit and was very good about it, wanting a cuddle. I had doubts. Had I put him in a position where he could hurt himself? Was it my fault for not catching him quick enough? I tried to forgive myself and move on.

Later that day, I took the Little Mister out to a cafe to meet my mum for lunch. As he’s now such a big boy (just turned one), I thought it would be fun to order him his own little meal off the kids’ menu, instead of feeding him something I’d brought from home. We ordered scrambled eggs on toast for him and poached eggs on toast for myself. The order was botched and his pint sized order came poached, while mine was scrambled. We switched the eggs from one plate to the other and didn’t think anything more on the matter. I hadn’t realised the hot yolk from my poached egg was still on his plate and the Little Mister (being so excited to eat what the grown ups were having) reached out for some yummy scrambled egg a bit too quickly. The heat of the leftover poached yolk hurt his little hand and he started screaming bloody murder, looking so shocked and in pain (there seriously is nothing like the pain of hot egg yolk running down your arm). My mum realised what had happened before I did and we started to fix the problem, but I felt awful. I hadn’t thought about it in advance. I’d been so excited for him being a ‘big boy’ that I hadn’t concentrated on how hot the food was and froze when he cried instead of having my wits about me so I could identify the problem quickly. He got over it, with a tiny little burn on his mouth, next to his lip (which didn’t seem to bother him) and he LOVED his eggs and toast once they were properly cooled to the right temperature. My mum reassured me that these things happen and that he was OK in the end and that’s all that matters. Perhaps he might have even learnt the difference between hot and cold (albeit the hard way), and that we all let our guard down occasionally, even if we’re good parents.

Again, I had to choose to think of it as a story to remember and something to learn from. I won’t make that mistake again and the Little Mister has actually started to approach his meals a little more cautiously when he knows they’ve been warmed for him. I now check more carefully when I serve his food (even though before the incident I usually did anyway).

As the day went on, I needed to look for a couple of wardrobe basics (it’s a long story about a stay at home mum who only wears one outfit – ever) and having my mum there meant that I could take some time to try things on in the changerooms. The Little Mister loved the bad music playing in the clothing stores and was rocking out, dancing and nodding his head to the side in time with the music (stupidly cute). He loved being with his Nanna Unprepared and I managed to find a couple of dresses that made me feel a little less frumpy and boring. I realised that he had long forgiven and forgotten, that he was fine and that I should be kind to myself, perhaps even laughing about what a day he/we had had. We all have one of those days occasionally, right? Everything had turned out OK in the end. We had survived.

Could I have done better? Sure. It’s a full on job looking after a one year old. You have to be on the ball every minute of the day and it’s exhausting. There’s always something new to worry about. To childproof against. Sometimes you catch yourself staring into space for the teensiest of moments, before reality pulls you back as your child tries to climb inside the kitchen bin or the television (even though it’s not even turned on – much).

I think that it’s just a matter of remembering to be kind to yourself. At the end of the day, you’ve done your best and you’ve learnt some lessons along the way. It’s about trusting in yourself as a good, caring, loving and proactive parent – remembering that you’re not just turning into a Bad Parent just because you’re not perfect. The fact that you want to be a good parent and you’re taking those little not-so-perfect moments quite seriously (while being able to laugh or blog about it later) means you probably already are.

We also need to be kind to each other. Support our friends who’ve had a bad day. They already feel bad. They don’t need us telling them just how bad to feel or giving advice that is designed to show our judgement, rather than to actually lift that person up and make them feel better.

We’ve all made small(er) scale, completely accidental mistakes that turned out OK in the end. We’ve all thought, “Wow – close call. Thank goodness it went our way.”

Forgive yourself and don’t let other peoples’ throwaway comments wreck your whole day. I bet hours later while you’re feeling really awful about what they’ve said, they’ve forgotten they even said it. Do what works for you and always follow your instincts. Trust your own judgement.

We just have to not beat ourselves up over it all. Every week is a new week. Every day is a new day. Every hour is a new hour. Every minute is a new minute. It’s never too late to put our big girl pants back on and try again.

Now I just have to take my own advice 😉

Something close to my heart.

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I’ve always grown up watching the annual Perth Telethon. I spent weekends watching it with my friends during sleepovers, checking out all the Aussie celebrities doing silly things to raise money for Western Australian kids and calling up to make a pledge, in the hopes of speaking to a hot Home and Away hunk. I know…we were all young once, don’t judge!

I watched the stories of remarkable and inspiring young kids in the Princess Margaret Hospital who battled big illnesses that grown adults with life experience would struggle to get their heads around. I saw footage of the neo-natal ward with all the tiny, struggling babies who were fighting to get a chance at life – their tired, stressed but hopeful parents hardly leaving their sides. I always cared, but I didn’t really ever think that Princess Margaret would be a place my child would ever need to be.
That stuff doesn’t occur to you when you’re daydreaming about your future. Even in 2011 (the year of my pregnancy) I watched Telethon (the very week before the Little Mister was born), without really batting an eyelid. Those were other peoples’ kids. I was moved by it all, but that’s someone else. It won’t be me. It didn’t even enter my mind.

The staff at Princess Margaret’s neo-natal unit are complete strangers to me. I wouldn’t recognise a single one of them. I wouldn’t know who they were, what they look like or what all of their job titles or qualifications are. However, they were entrusted with the Little Mister’s life from day1 to day 3 (the earliest hours of 7 Nov to the afternoon of the 9th Nov 2011). They kept him alive, they checked on his health, they comforted him when he needed it and from a very long distance (OK so it was an hour’s drive away but it felt like a continent separated us) they, by proxy, supported me as his mother. All I could do was sign a form saying I gave consent for them to use a pacifier and to feed him formula, then he was gone. These people were my Little Mister’s primary carers for the first few days of his life. They kept him safe, they changed his nappies, they fed and dressed him, and they made sure he was comfortable (with drips and monitors hanging off his little body). They weren’t my relatives, they weren’t his parents and they weren’t people I had personally employed. Yet they had the most precious job in the world. Can you count on one hand the people you would trust to hand your first baby over to five minutes after he/she was born?

Pic: Only one day old – on drips and oxygen

My husband was lucky enough to witness their amazing work first hand as he spent his time ferrying between both my hospital and Princess Margaret. He saw the nurses in action, he carefully held the Little Mister as he wore kindly donated, tiny clothes (I would see photos each day and the Hello Kitty onesie amused me – how Asian haha). He saw the other parents keeping vigil over their tiny babies, who were struggling so much harder than the Little Mister ever would. They were in for a lot more challenges than we were and it was a sad sight for my husband to take in as they looked wistfully at him holding our 8 pound baby boy, who just needed some oxygen and a heavy course of antibiotics before he’d be right as rain.

It was really hard watching my newborn baby, only hours old, in a special neo-natal incubator thingy (I really wish I knew what it’s called) designed for transporting him in an ambulance to another hospital. Having to wave pathetically (all doped up on pethidine) and say goodbye to a little man I hadn’t even spent more than five minutes with, who already had all of my heart. Not being able to touch him during this exchange. I thought of him being all alone without his parents for a big roadtrip to another place and I think it was too much for me so I played it cool and tried to go to sleep.

This year Telethon means so much more to me. I have kept my personal vow and dropped gold coins in the tins at my local supermarket all year. If I had some change at the check out, it went in the tin. My Little Mister didn’t have anywhere near as difficult a challenge as a lot of babies and children who benefit from the funds raised by Telethon. His experience was only a tiny tip of an iceberg and in no way do we compare his experiences with the tough times that other families all over the state are facing. However, because this small experience was as powerful as it was, it made me realise the absolute depth of the strength those families must have and just how deep they have to dig inside themselves to keep positive. These families need every bit of help they can muster.
I will support Telethon much more religiously forever onwards. To help the families I just described, but to also express my gratitude to the Princess Margaret Hospital and the amazing work they do.

To find out more about Telethon and how to donate this weekend (or any time of year), please click here. Telethon will be broadcast on Channel 7 Perth and GWN all weekend from 10 – 11 November.

They can also be found on Facebook and for all those who cannot enjoy it locally, it also has a YouTube channel 🙂

Also, there’s Twitter. Have I covered all bases yet?!

If you really can’t muster up the enthusiasm for this cause (or live overseas and have no idea what I’m on about), then think about this:

Dan Ewing from Home and Away

Yeah. He’s going to be there.

You’re welcome, ladies (and gays).

xo