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Posts Tagged ‘health’

I’ve learned, after 10+ years of dealing with depression, that preventative measures can make a huge difference when it comes to mental health. This is generally called self-care, and I have certain self-care measures I start pulling out whenever I feel my mood is fragile, like now. Self-care can sometimes mean maintaining rather than declining, I’ve found. I want to go into detail on more of these in future posts, but here’s just one or two to start with.

Maintaining a routine. This one is so important for me, or I drift. I am more than capable of doing nothing for days on end while the chores pile up around me and I get nothing done. My mood can spiral because of the sheer nothingness of my days. With kids, maintaining a routine happens without a lot of effort from me – my days are defined by meals and naps anyway, so I put the effort in to keeping up regular activities like play dates, grocery shopping and outings. I try to keep active when the kids are sleeping and I’m not having a sleep myself.

Keep order in my environment. For me, this involves running the dishwasher once a day, trying to vacuum at least once a week, staying on top of the laundry. A cluttered environment clouds my mind, and it’s hard to stay positive and active when I’m feeling overwhelmed by mess. I’ve taken this a step further, and recently cleared the clutter out of our bedroom and set up a little dressing area for myself, with my jewellery and hair stuff organised next to the mirror. It’s a small space of calm that I focus on keeping tidy, so my bedroom feels like a positive space rather than just one more room that’s stressful for me to be in. No kids’ stuff allowed. 

My little corner of neatness.


Create small goals. Making small, attainable goals can be incredibly helpful for me. Rather than a big, looming five-year-plan type deal that seems both far away and unreachable, I like to create small tasks for myself, or break bigger projects down into smaller tasks. For example, I’ve been sewing a lined swaddling pouch for the baby – this is a project that doesn’t take forever, I enjoy and can work on in small bursts. Tidying all the clutter out of the bedroom was a goal I banged out in an evening, and part of our larger project of getting the house organised. I century organised all my sewing and craft gear, which I’ve been meaning to do forever. Small goals don’t overwhelm, and yet give a sense of pride and satisfaction when they’re completed, which is helpful to my mental health.

 

This isn’t prescriptive by any means, just some things I’ve found have worked to keep my mental health on an even keel. Sometimes depression happens no matter what, but sometimes I can hold it off by being careful, sticking to habits that I know keep me focused and calm. It’s when I start to drift into overwhelming stress and anxiety that my mood spirals very fast. Right now, because I’m aware that I’ve been feeling down and that can easily lead to depression, I’m pulling out all the self-care stops. 

What are your techniques for self-care?

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Morgan

Morgan

This is my second son, Morgan. He was lifted out of my numbed body through a hole in my abdomen in the early hours of a Friday, three weeks ago. I heard a gurgled cry, and then the surgeon held him up for me to see – a slippery, crying doll-like baby covered in white vernix.

I didn’t labour for days to have him, because I had a c-section. This is a choice I feel really good about. He’s my last baby, and I’m glad I have something other than the memories of fear and trauma from the birth of my first son. I did have a bit of labour, because Morgan decided to arrive early, thus the middle of the night intervention rather than my lovely planned hospital appointment for birth.

His face wasn’t bruised from the squeeze of a vaginal birth, his features weren’t distorted by swelling. I didn’t lose loads of blood or scream with pain and fear as he was born. Although I lay on my back on an operating table, numb from the breasts down with a sheet blocking his view, his birth was beautiful to me. I chose it, I felt in control, and although I trembled with shock a little as I was wheeled into Recovery, I felt positive after the birth.

I held him to my breast and his mouth latched onto my nipple and I loved him immediately, just as I loved my first child immediately.

Now we are four. Four in the home and four in the heart. I have a partner whom I love passionately and two beautiful children. There won’t be any more babies for me, so I’m enjoying this time. Our family is complete. I’m whole.

morganandme

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This week David Koch, who is a co-host of Channel 7’s Sunrise, made some horrible, horrible remarks about breastfeeding. His remarks might seem somewhat innocuous, but when you take them in the context that any discrimination against breastfeeding is illegal in Australia, and that women deal constantly with body and motherhood policing, they’re pretty offensive.

I wrote a reply over at The Peach:

Can you not see how ridiculous your comments are, how they attempt to police women, motherhood and women’s bodies? Because nothing will ever quite be ‘discreet’ enough, or ‘classy’ enough. I mean, all breastfeeding women everywhere could sit in out-of-the-way armchairs with blankets draped over their shoulder and child, and someone, somewhere, would walk past and know what was happening under that blanket.

The whole story: My body is not shameful and I will not be shamed.

My article is personal to me, for many reasons – I breastfed my first child for 12 months, and hopefully will do the same with the imminent arrival, if not longer. But more importantly, I am SO TIRED of privileged white men thinking their opinion counts when it comes to women’s bodies. Like they get a say, even if the law is already clear on the subject.

If you haven’t been following this issue, my article at The Peach handily comes with links to relevant news and blog posts so you can catch up.

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This week has been hard for me. I’m having horrible stabby back pain that kicks in every time I try to move/walk/everything. I saw my chiropractor yesterday and while it does seem to have eased a little, it hasn’t been a huge change. And because I’m tired and in pain I’m more likely to snap at Sebastian for little things, which oh god makes me feel horrible and guilty – along with not being able to get down and play with him properly. But my mobility is pretty constrained right now too. This makes everything so much more frustrating because there’s so much stuff I have to do and yet I’m feeling very limited.

It’s now less than six weeks until the baby is due. That really, truly and properly occurred to me for the first time a few days and I’m feeling a bit panicky. The nursery isn’t done! I have no idea what baby clothes we have! There’s so many dirty dishes in my sink! I haven’t sorted my clothes to figure out what I can wear post-baby but can breastfeed in!

The last few weeks of pregnancy are always super hard because the end is in sight, and it is both too close and not close enough. I have moments of truly profound anxiety where I wonder if I can cope with a toddler and a baby. Alex has four weeks parental leave arranged, but I’ll be recovering from a c-section, so it probably won’t be all special fun super family time. More like me with a giant hole in my abdomen trying to shield it from a toddler who likes climbing me like I’m a tree AND nursing a tiny human who is bound to be big. I console myself with the fact that standard recovery time for a c-section is six weeks, whereas I remained in pain and not completely healed after a natural birth for three damn months.

I am huge, too. Look at this picture from just after Christmas:

30 weeks pregnant

30 weeks pregnant

Now imagine me even bigger. And waddling. With my hand in the middle of my back like some sort of archetype for pregnancy. And making that noise when I get out of chairs, IF I can get out without help.

I worry that after I have this baby I will get consumed by the sleep-deprived brain-blankness of new motherhood again. I want to keep writing – I’m writing for The Peach now and finding that incredibly satisfying, and writing this blog has done a lot for making me feel like I have a voice again and my skills haven’t disappeared in the last few years. There’s a lot I want to do with this blog, and none of it will happen if I’m not writing and posting regularly. But then I remember the lack of sleep, the night nursing, the nappies, the overwhelming feelings that come with giving birth and part of me thinks, how will I manage anything else?

It’s supposed to be easier, isn’t it? Transitioning from one child to two? I mean, at least this time I have a fairly solid idea of what to expect. Having baby number one is like getting a reality bomb dropped on you – you think you’re prepared but there’s just no way you can be. At least with baby number two I’ve already lived through it once and confirmed I will actually survive.

The next few weeks will be busy, if this horrid back pain ever gets better – sorting through our baby things to figure out what we need and don’t need; preparing the nursery for bringing the bubba home; arranging our lives a little better in preparation for the big life change that’s about to happen.

Meanwhile I’ll just be the one in the corner armchair, making that noise when I try to get up.

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I am now in my 28th week of pregnancy, which puts me in the third trimester. I am in pain, and uncomfortable, and feeling stressed and depressed. These are familiar feelings from my last pregnancy.

I have pelvic instability, which is very painful and makes walking difficult. I’m having horrible acid reflux and the kind of intense Braxton-Hicks contractions that leave me stupefied and breathless for minutes at a time. I feel like I’m constantly overheating, and every little task feels hard, and I feel helpless, which I loathe.

I grew up with chronic illness, with the ongoing and constant sense that my body was betraying me and I had lost control. Pregnancy reawakens all of these feelings in me. That I am powerless and helpless and have no say in what is happening to me. I love my baby, but I hate pregnancy.

Alex and I when I was 20 weeks pregnant, pretty much the last time I felt comfortable.

Alex and I when I was 20 weeks pregnant, pretty much the last time I felt comfortable.

I try to stay focused on accomplishing small tasks, like cooking something yummy or completing one small aspect of a project at a time, like getting the curtains finished for one room. It helps to break things down like this – I am just doing this one small thing, not getting overwhelmed by Giant Energy Sucking Thing. But even this is hard because Sebastian is at a fidgeting, attention-intensive age so I have to wait for his naps or bedtime, but because I’m in pain I’m not sleeping well and often exhausted.

I remind myself that this is temporary, that there is not long to go, that even this is better than last time. But a lot of the time I feel depressed, and quite sad that I don’t enjoy pregnancy the way some women do.

This is my last baby, because I don’t want to go through this again.

Early next year I will have this baby, and I will have joy that he has arrived, but relief that it is over too.

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I knew it. Pregnancy is my baby invading one cell at a time.

Cells may migrate through the placenta between the mother and the fetus, taking up residence in many organs of the body […] It is remarkable that it is so common for cells from one individual to integrate into the tissues of another distinct person. We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as singular autonomous individuals, and these foreign cells seem to belie that notion, and suggest that most people carry remnants of other individuals.

From the Scientific American, via a tweet from Blue Milk.

 

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I thought that if I had another baby, it would be a planned pregnancy. There is so much shock and worry involved in an unplanned pregnancy that I didn’t want to go through it again. Life had other plans. I’m pregnant again, and while I’m very happy to have another baby, I can’t help but wish it was something that came about deliberately rather than accidentally.

Someone I know once told me that no matter how much you love kids, there’s a certain amount of depression that comes with an unplanned pregnancy. This is true. In fact, I felt so ambivalent about this pregnancy at first that I started to feel terribly guilty – until I remembered that you have to make distinctions between the baby and the pregnancy. That’s where my ambivalence was coming from – I wanted the baby, but dreaded going through pregnancy again. My first pregnancy was horrible. I was unprepared for the overwhelming physical changes, the fear, the panic surrounding my life and lifestyle, the huge financial and emotional changes, the impact on my fledgling relationship… I was about as unprepared as you could get.

This time, while many things are different, some things are the same. I had a list of goals to achieve before a second pregnancy. Be fitter and stronger and healthier (which I was working on, but wasn’t where I wanted to be). Have moved to a bigger house (which we were planning to do soon anyway, but moving while pregnant sucks). Have been employed long enough to get paid parental leave (I think I’ll just qualify, but I’m not sure). Have saved some money (um… no). Go on a holiday (we’re still planning a holiday, but it probably won’t be the tropical escape I was dreaming of).

On the brighter side, I feel like I know what is coming this time, so I can be a better advocate for myself. So much of my first pregnancy was filled with uncertainty and illness and physical disability and fear. I had crippling pelvic pain that made it very difficult to walk. Sebastian was an ENORMOUS baby (a condition called Macrosomia), eventually weighing 10lbs 2oz when he was born, and that was a week early – so the final few months of pregnancy I was a swollen blimp in constant pain from him bumping my cervix and putting pressure on my weak and painful pelvis. I had doctors telling me contradictory and frightening things – that there was too much amniotic fluid, which could cause neural tube defects, that surely I MUST have gestational diabetes (even though I tested negative over and over again), that macrosomic babies were invariably premature.

Throughout all of this, nobody would tell us what should be done. I kept having late term ultrasounds that made the ultrasound technicians very worried, because the baby was so big, and yet nothing would happen. Ironically, there’s a procedure in place if a baby is so large because of gestational diabetes – they induce before the baby gets too big. But because Sebastian was big for no reason, they just waited. Which I believe resulted in his potentially life-threatening shoulder dystocia when he was born.
I know all these things in advance now. I can already feel my pelvis starting to twinge, but I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for pelvic adjustments. If that doesn’t work, I’ll keep seeing other practitioners. I refuse to be crippled again. I know this baby will be big, but I also know I’m entitled to a scheduled C-section – which I’ll gladly have, thankyouverymuch, if it will save me and the baby from the shoulder dystocia (him) and tearing and losing  a litre of blood (me).

I’m going to take care of myself this time. When morning sickness kicked in, I went and got the medication straight away, rather than faffing around trying to grin and bear it like I did last time. I know how to manage the hunger and headaches and cravings better. I’m more relaxed, even though this week we had a potentially high-risk result from our ultrasound screening for genetic abnormalities. I mean, that was frightening, but I knew which questions to ask, I knew how to speak up for myself, to deal with the information. And everything is fine, further testing showed I’m actually very low risk, and I felt like Alex and I dealt with the situation pretty well, all things considered.

We’re having a little boy, a brother for Sebastian, and looking at the 3D images on the ultrasound I wanted to cry, because as much as I hate pregnancy, and I wish it were planned, we’re having another beautiful baby, and that’s pretty amazing. It’s a tiny person, who at the moment looks a lot like an alien, but will slowly grow and develop into someone we will hold and love and teach and play with. Isn’t it fantastic, that we can grow a person inside of us and take photos before he is born?

Cute or weird? 13 week ultrasound.

That’s the main thing that is different about this pregnancy, I suppose. Before Sebastian was born, I didn’t know how spectacular and joyful and terrifying and wonderful being a parent really is. This time, I already know how I’ll fall in love with my child and love him more and more each day. And I can’t wait.

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