We all have bad days – days when we just want to be wrapped in a fluffy blanket, snuggled up feeling warm and safe. I often imagined my fluffy blanket to be like a cloud where I can float along skimming over everything.
This week I have been thinking a lot about depression and mental health generally and how many of those who haven’t experienced it themselves don’t understand how it feels. It doesn’t seem to matter what the person background is or even if they are a mental health professional – it seems they just don’t realise how it feels or can’t put their own beliefs aside to feel empathy or compassion fully.
I have been thinking about what people have said or done while I have had postnatal depression – unfortunately it is the negative stuff you tend to remember. I did have a really positive experience that sticks out – I was on a beach I had never been to with my three boys feeling a bit sad and overwhelmed. A lady approached me and the three boys conversation started – instead of the usual pitying or negative comments she told me about how she had always wanted a girl and shared her girls name – despite her children being grown up and having grandchildren herself she still understood a little of how I was feeling.
For me I really need to feel safe and respected – to know that I will be listened to and not critiqued (I do plenty of running myself down already) to know that it is ok for me not to be 100% and for people to still value, trust and respect me. It may mean they have to bite their tongue and hold back from telling me all the things I have done wrong, it may mean they have to put their own feelings aside, it might mean avoiding labelling “people with mental health issues” or it might mean realising that the person who isn’t feeling great is the most important right now. Above all it is about listening and caring.
Since I have been open about my struggle with post natal depression I have had lots of people say they understand, people saying it is hard for everyone being a mum/parent. I have been told by lots of mums that we all feel that way and just don’t talk about it. Well sorry to say it but they are wrong. Postnatal depression is different for everyone – I don’t claim to understand it, however I do claim to know how hard it is and that it is definitely not experienced by all mums ( yes we do have a terrible suicide rate but if we all had PND it would be a lot higher). I have huge admiration for anyone who could have another child after battling PND – I know I couldn’t.
Yes parenting is hard for everyone and yes we all struggle as parents – wondering what we are supposed to do, if this lasts forever and why on earth we wanted children. I guess there are a few lucky ones who take to parenting and really truely love every moment – that was my dream, my goal but definitely not reality. Luckily us humans seem pre programmed to reproduce as otherwise we would live in a largely childless society.
My baby turned one yesterday. I have to say he is the most adorable fun, snuggly happy little man. He is not the handful, live wire and many other negative labels put onto him by everyone – if you ask his elder brothers Finn is the bees knees.
The last year has been unbelievably hard and so many times I have thought everyone especially Finn and his brothers would be better off without me, yet I cannot give up on a cuddle from those sweet chubby arms and a dribble kiss. I am so lucky my boys and my husband have been so understanding, forgiving and supportive.
Happy Birthday Finn. Love you. XOXO Mama
Recently we have been taking some risks. I say we because my husband has been right their with me. I suspect I am the scared one though – definitely the stressed out one. We took a risk and had a long overdue holiday to our amazingly beautiful South Island. We booked a camper van and committed to living in a tiny space with our three boys for ten days. I am not going to pretend it was easy – there were melt downs and missed sleep from all the boys and me, but we had a really special and exciting trip away. I know it was good as I really wanted to move down there (or ideally spend half the time there) and once we were home Noah informed me he was feeling a bit sad because he missed the South Island. He followed this up by suggesting we just drive down, I said this would take more than and day and he replied not to worry we can have some stops. The boys all tolerated my demands for lots of random photos and really appreciated all the experiences we had from jet boating to breaking ice to feeding takahe. It was definitely good to be out in the wilderness lighting camp fires and cruising with dolphins – great reminders of how lucky we are, and of how taking a chance can be so rewarding.
We have followed up this great experience by taking a risk and fulfilling a dream of mine by buying a boat. The hope I that this will lead to many more great experiences for the boys. I have to say we needed a push to take this risk but we can’t wait to be on the water.
Now I have had a few good nights sleep I am feeling just that little bit more confident to be brave and to take a risk.
Fear. Such a big thing. So huge for me in the last year and a half. A giant part of the postnatal depression me – or just me. As a child I don’t remember fear – yes their were times I may have been scared but not the big long term fears like I have now. As an adult the fear began – would I always be single, would we ever have enough money for a house, would my husband be made redundant again – many of these fears had a plan b, an alternative that would mean things would be ok and that I would still have some control.
My fears like negativity tend to grow in me like a monster – sometimes the monster is tiny and silly, other days the monster is huge, immovable and impending. An impending sense of doom, an impending monster has definitely been around a bit too much.
The fear became something different once I became pregnant with Finn. It started with a scan where his measurements weren’t quite right – I was scared, scared he wouldn’t be ok, scared we hadn’t made the right choice to have a third child, scared everything would be too difficult with three, scared my family didn’t want him or me (I told my big boys they were going to be brothers again and they told the rest of my family), scared I wasn’t strong enough, scared I wouldn’t love him enough, scared he wouldn’t be cute, just scared it wouldn’t be ok. Most of these fears have gone, a few new ones have crept in.
A big fear for me recently has been the fear of having three teenage boys, not understanding them, not liking them, not knowing how to parent them. I always wanted babies, children I quite liked (in my former life I was a primary school teacher), teenagers were always a different story – maybe because I wasn’t a happy teenager. I am really lucky to have some amazing teenage girls in my life but for some reason teenage boys scare me. It always seems to be about the negative side of teenage boys. Today I encountered a few teenage boys – other peoples boys often bring out my fears. I also did my birthday shopping for my 7 year olds birthday in November today – this reminded me how soon it will be that I will have teenagers. The fear crept back in.
My postnatal depression has been like a magnifying glass to my fears – for my husbands job security, for my future, for the boys, for my family. Just plain old unspecified and irrational fear. I am lucky that things have been getting better and that my husband is very good at reassuring me, that the monster is normally under control. Today was just one of those days that the fear monster was a bit bigger than he should have been.
Yesterday we took some time to smell the roses. We took the time to enjoy the sun, look at the colours of nature (given I had a very sore eye I was particularly appreciative of my sight) and smell the scent of roses. All my boys proved to be very appreciative of flowers.
We took the boys to the rose gardens. I have fond memories of visiting the rose gardens with my Nana and Grandpa, sandwiches packed in a Tupperware and a thermos. Yesterday it was great to share stories of my Nana with them – despite her being gone a long time I still miss her and think of her.
Today on mothers day, we followed up our Nana thoughts with a visit to one of her favourite places. We ate sandwiches out of our Tupperware and drink milo from our thermos. We explored the wilds, the boys jumped off rocks, and Finn crawled in the sand. We remembered that our family have been coming here for at least 95 years. It is nice to think that my Nana’s legacy will live on in my boys whether it be mini golf outings, smelling the roses or exploring the wilds.
So to my Nana and to my Mum – Happy mothers day. Thank you for being such an amazing part of my life, thanks for making amazing memories – love you forever.
One week till mothers day. It is such an interesting day – a day to appreciate our mothers, a day to be stressed (often the dads) and a day to rush from one mother to another. Then there is always the question from the kids about when kids day is.
Last year we had a fantastic mothers day by having a long weekend in Wellington – every meal out and just a great weekend away. This year will be my first mothers day with Finn, the first mothers day as a mum of three and as a mum of just boys. In the back of my mind is the thought that one day my boys will be too busy looking after their wives/partners to be a part of my day.
We have celebrated mothers day with both my mum and my mother in law already yet this week I started to feel anxious about mothers day. I realised that the last year as a mother has been incredibly challenging for me and for my family. I have lived postnatal depression for the last year and as a mother I have been so far from my best. On the surface my children look happy and well cared for, the real story is that they have lived postnatal depression with me – the tears, the anger, the tiredness, the sadness and ‘sorry, mum can’t do this right now.” I have had to focus on myself far more than I have wanted to and have had to let so many dreams of what I should be doing with them go. I feel daily guilt for the things I know I should or could be doing that I am not doing.
Max may say I am the best mum in the world – it doesn’t mean I believe it. I have the days where I feel like the boys deserve a better mum, especially Finn. The days where I just feel exhausted – not that I don’t love my boys just that I am tired. The days when I see my role as a parent stretching endlessly ahead – where I am overwhelmed.
This year I just feel like I don’t want to acknowledge my role as a mother. I don’t want to celebrate the fact that I am a mother. I just don’t feel like I have done enough to deserve that focus and attention. Mothers day seems to remind me of everything I wanted to be and everything that I should be. Despite the fact that my mum is away I would rather focus on the amazing job she has done both as a mother and as a grandma. I want to show how grateful I am for all her constant support and love.
This Sunday I am going to acknowledge that my mums role as a parent has never ended, my mum is always there for me and for my children. And I am going to thank my boys (my husband and Dad included) for supporting me and being there for me everyday.
To all the mothers out there – thank you, I hope you all have a great mothers day. And hugs to all of those whose mothers day is tough.
Today I was reminded of the power of words. How we can say something that doesn’t have any meaning or significance to us but can mean so much to others. How our words can cause others so much hurt and pain, having the power to change the rest of their day, weekend, week. We always mean to think before we speak but it is so hard, and we simply are not aware of the possible impact of our words. Today I was reminded of how much hurt and pain I can cause.
I recently read (probably on Facebook and I can’t find it again) a ‘quote’ advising that we should say thank you instead of saying sorry. That if we start thanking others instead of apologising we are acknowledging them more and valuing ourselves more. In the last two weeks I have been trying this and it is hard. Sorry is one of the words I use quite a lot – especially to my husband. Changing the “sorry I am not good enough”, or the “sorry I am a burden” to a thank you requires discipline and strength that often I don’t have.
So today instead of saying sorry for the things I have done, the words that I have said and the negative feelings you had had because of me I am saying ‘THANK YOU’. Thank you for taking the time to be part of my life, thank you for being in my family, thank you for being my friend, thank you for listening to me, thank you for taking the time to do something for me, for my family and for my community. Thank you for accepting me flaws in all, thank you for sharing your life with me, thank you for your support.
To the person who reminded me of the power of a few words – thank you for still being my friend, for you support and for your kind words.
This week there has been a bit of joy in our house. It is amazing how some really simple things can bring so much joy, happiness and pride.
Noah is having a great week – despite my suspicion settling back into kindy after the holidays would be tough he proved me wrong. He had a great day, coming home with a rainbow plane he had made – zooming in through the paddock in the sun while we waited for Max ( yes you pick Max up from school in a sheep paddock). There was further joy at getting his own orange cushion (orange has been his only favourite colour ) and a new pair of jandals. Everyone he has seen has had to admire his jandals.
Max has had joy at running – doing his best at cross country, coming third (last year he came first – he handled coming third so well). There has been the joy at pretending our car is a space ship and the roads asteroid belts – I am astronaut SM or astronaut super mum.
Finn has had the joy of mastering crawling – getting into everything and really developing his personality. There was also wild excitement as he has learnt to say “woof” when we talk about seeing a dog (I will admit it sound more like ‘oof’. And there has been learning to dance – he is definitely bopping along, so far his favourite track is ‘I feel it coming’. There is always the joy and happiness that Finni Boo Bear brings to our family when he smiles, giggles, talks or kisses us (and that is despite night time antics as a result of sandfly bites – meaning his parents are a bit short on sleep).
There has been some family fun – going star gazing, rolling around on the grass, looking at stars and all the boys trying to lie on top of me instead of the cold grass. There has been my three boys and me dancing and singing to Adele at the top of our voices in the moonlight. We also had joy at the pool – Finn learning to fall into mum, all three boys riding and enjoying the wave pool and Finn’s excited splashing.
There has been joy for me – watching my three boys – loving them all so much. I have also taken some joy from doing some things for myself – a haircut (although I did take my 10month old and 3 year old with me), buying a dolls house and going for a walk in the sun. It has been feeling good or even great again, feeling that I can beat postnatal depression, feeling that I can do this parenting thing.
This week has been a good so far – I hope I can remember this joy when times are hard again, I hope you too can find some joy in your day.
Sometimes I just need time out. It is not that I am grumpy, angry or annoyed just that I need to have some space. When I take a personality test both my husband and I come out as highly introverted. We both need our quite time, our down time and our just us time (together or as an immediate family). It means I can be anxious and nervous about the simplest of social interactions or making a phone call. It means I may not answer the phone (one of the hard things about Postnatal depression has been people wanting deep feeling conversations on the phone at the drop of the hat with my boys often listening).
Time out for me is also a way of protecting myself – often I feel the need for some time out after a few knocks (to lick my wounds), when I am tired or stressed or when I am generally overwhelmed by the needs and pressures of others.
Timeout for me means less social occasions, less focusing on others and more at home time, more quiet family holidays. It means curling up with a good book, getting things done around home, lots of boy cuddles, long baths, yummy food and connecting with nature.
This withdrawal and my normal feelings to social situations can be really hard for extroverted and confident people to understand, like a minimalists home is hard for a hoarder. For me it is a reminder that we are all different, that we are all unique and tick to a different pattern. It is a reminder to respect each other no matter how different they are to us. It is time to let go of the overwhelming feelings and to relax, rest and simplify.
We are having a few nights away at one of our favorite baches about 10kms from home as the crow flies. Our home looks out over the surf and pounding waves. The Bach is inner harbor – calm a peaceful. We spent the afternoon damming a stream and floating tugboats (each boy has a big and small one).
Tonight my husband and I snuck out for a walk along the beach (an adult was with the boys). The afternoon cloud that had rolled in had disappeared and we were treated to a sky full of stars – Jupiter shinning brightly. As we walked along we discovered that the sea was lighting up like the stars with bioluminescence (we have always called this phosphorescence). Bioluminescence is the light produced by living organisms (yes I have learnt this from Google).
Put simply it was like swimming in the stars. Wherever we moved in the water it came alive like the Milky Way above us. Max got the benefit of being the eldest child (and having a later bed time) and joined us for a star swim. We splashed, we waded, we jumped we dived surrounded by the glow of tiny sea stars. Max was buzzing – we were star mermaids, glowing crocodiles, sea serpents and taniwha. He has gone to bed a pretty happy boy, with a memory that I hope he will have forever. I have my fingers crossed that tomorrow night we can share the magic with Noah and Finn before bedtime – that we can swim in the stars again.
A great weekend of nature, exploration and relaxing.
Note – we were unsuccessful in trying to photograph the bioluminescence, so a photo of Finn will have to do.