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calibrateBUMPS: Mental Health Check-In

Hi again!

Before we dive into the heavier stuff, some news from the week:

  • Noah continues to sleep on my chest and lately for good reason, she caught a cold from Jack so sleeping flat on her back isn’t so comfortable for her.

  • She continues to spit up quite a bit but I do think she’s getting bigger and heavier so we aren’t too fussed. It just means we always need a bib on her and a burp cloth or two wherever we go. She’s also really good at burping when we burp her but then spitting up an hour later.

  • Noah’s ability to scream bloody murder at times continues to be pretty impressive. To her credit, she normally screams for very good reason though.

  • At the advice of 2 paediatricians, in addition to her daily probiotic dose, Noah is also now on a daily Vitamin D supplement as she’s a breastfed baby, not a formula fed one.

  • On Friday, after an incredibly helpful 12 days at my parents’ place, we moved back to our own flat. Friday night was the first night in 20 days I'd slept in my own bed, it felt wonderful. We felt like it was time to get her to her real home, and my poor sister has spent 12 days on sofas/an air mattress which is not a great way to spend your nights!

  • On Sunday we may have experienced our first run in with a growth spurt. She’s hungry every 60-90min and somewhat fussy in between feeds.

I’m probably forgetting a few key moments but for now that’s all I can remember!


Now we can dive into the meatier stuff. It's been a long time since I last wrote at length about a mental health so I'd like to start off by saying I am not a mental health professional, if you are experiencing any negative mental health episodes or if you know someone who is, I would recommend reaching out to Mind HK (no affiliation) as a starting point.


If you did experience post-partum depression you may or may not be triggered by some of the comments I have made below. If you feel like you might be triggered please don't feel as though you have to read on. By writing this post I mean only to share my own experience, I have not sought professional help and I am by no means an authority on anything mental health related.


Mental health check-in

Firstly, thanks to everyone who reached out and told me to take some time this week to check in with myself.


Finding time for me is seemingly impossible. There are things I know I need to be doing (like deep core rehab) but it’s tough to find the few minutes a day to do even that, let alone finding time during the day to do a full mental health check-in.

The only time I truly have to myself is the time spent in the bathroom and the longest time spent in the bathroom is shower time. So that’s when I did my mental health check-in. I don’t remember what day it was but it was at some point between Monday and Wednesday.

I cried.

I told myself to use this moment to write down everything I felt. Even if I knew I wouldn’t agree with it in a few minutes let alone in a few days. I wrote everything down because I knew it would be important to acknowledge how I felt at that moment. Rather than sit in the negativity though, I also told myself to revisit each item in a few days, at a moment of pure happiness, and attempt to shed new light on each point.

That’s the list I’m going to share with you today. Unedited. Unfiltered. Selfish. Valid.

  • There are moments I wish someone else could take over for the day. If only so I could do something for myself. Go for a longer walk, read a book, sit and be with just myself, or simply have a nap without interruption. In a few days Jack gets to go back to work and resume life as, seemingly, "normal" and that makes me kind of jealous. He’ll be able to get back into his routine while I'll still have to operate on Noah's very unpredictable nap and feeding schedule. We're still in such early days, I've said it before and I'll probably say it again in a few minutes but, it's a steep learning curve for all of us. It's a "learn on the job", "sink or swim" kind of experience. Luckily Jack and I adapt pretty well to changing and challenging circumstances and we do make a pretty great tag team. In a few weeks/months Noah will have figured out life a little more and Jack and I will have figured out her a little more. Leaving the house will get easier, she will be (a little) more predictable. This shall pass.

  • My body is not my own. It doesn't move the way it used to. It doesn't feel the way it used to. It's squishy in places. It's tight in others. I feel like I’ve wasted away. One or two days after giving birth (while I was still in hospital) I was asked when my body would "go back to normal". I still had stitches in, my uterus was still contracting back into its original position, I was still feeling the effects of 12 hours of an epidural, I was on painkillers, and still trying to figure out how I was going to manage getting to and from the hospital every 2 hours to feed Noah once I was discharged. The last thing on my mind was my old body shape. I’d literally just birthed a human. Since leaving hospital I get a lot of "you basically look back to normal", "you don't look like you've had a baby", or (what I think is worse) "you're a lot smaller than before". I know the comments weren't made to hurt, I know they were made out of love, and out of encouragement. I know there are many women who would love to receive comments about their physical appearance weeks after giving birth. But the comments are so far from how I feel. Can I maybe float the following...? Maybe we (myself included) should all keep comments about the post-natal physical appearance at bay unless the woman opens the door to the conversation. Every pregnancy and post-natal experience is very different and comes with it's own unique challenges. "Normal" went out the window the moment my body became dedicated to creating then sustaining life. I might never go back to my "old normal" and that's perfectly fine for me. For 9 months it changed and developed to house a mini human and now continues to change to feed her. I know I'm doing the best I can given the circumstances. There will come a time when I can get into a routine that allows me to look after myself as much as I have to look after Noah but for the time being, if what I'm doing is good enough for Noah to thrive in and as long as my core and pelvic floor rehab goes well, that’s good enough for. I have a set of goals and physical expectations of myself but as for a timeline, that’s not really up to me. There are new priorities in life for now.

  • For 9 months I gave up food and drink I love in order to help Noah thrive. I had to watch my caffeine intake. I wasn't allowed to eat soft cheeses, runny egg yolks, some raw foods, I had to watch caffeine intake, and I couldn’t have Scotch (yes this is a food group in the Wagner-Spencer household). Now that Noah is earth-side I had a naïve expectation that I'd be able to eat what I want to eat. However, we have a gassy baby and it hurts me to see her in so much discomfort. While she is on probiotics to hopefully help her out on that front there are also things I can do to help minimise her pain and discomfort. This means that after 9 months of watching what I eat, I'm now on an even more limiting diet as I now limit my intake of: dairy, beans/legumes, onion, garlic, caffeine, citrus, and broccoli/cauliflower/Brussels sprouts. As a vegetarian this is not exactly sustainable which means I've reintroduced seafood back into my diet. I don't really fancy eating my bodyweight in just soy and eggs to hit my protein requirements...Which means, after 9 months of a diet, I have another few months of a worse diet...I don’t have time for me, I can’t exercise the way I once used to, and now I can‘t eat what I want to eat. Again, this too shall pass. While it's a terrible new temporary normal, it is also just that - temporary. The gassiness should subside in a few months time and if I can be pregnant for 9 months and watch what I eat, I can certainly do it for another few months.

  • There are moments where I feel completely overwhelmed, despite all the help we have around us. I'll feed her, I'll let her nap, someone else will hold her for a bit, and then she'll start to scream and the only person that seems to be able settle her down is me. I feel like she's tethered to me 20 hours a day and I can never leave. I have to coordinate my shower schedule around her, if I want to go for a walk without her (just to get away a bit) it's on her terms, not on mine. If I want to have a nap, it's on her terms. If I want to stretch, it's on her terms. While it can feel suffocating at times now, I know that in a few months when you're going to be a bigger and a lot more squirmy, and I'll wish I held you more when you were this tiny. I'll wish I let you sleep on me longer, I'll wish I spent more one on one time with you. So I'll cherish these moments for now because I know I'll long for them in a few months.

  • There are times when she cries, roots for food, latches, but doesn't eat. She just suckles herself to sleep and then she can't be moved once she is asleep which means I'm tied to whatever chair and whatever position I first sat down in. Why can't she find comfort with others? Let's sit back and re-imagine life from her point of view. Her only constant from her previous comfortable life to her new scary one, is me. Sometimes she isn't hungry or tired and doesn't have a dirty diaper. Sometimes it's all just a little too overwhelming for her and all she needs to know is that she's safe and loved. As much as it would be wonderful for her to seek comfort with someone else she's also only known the "someone elses" for 3 weeks, if you were scared how safe would you feel with someone you hardly knew?

Takeaway

New parent life was never going to be easy. It was never going to come with an instruction manual (although plenty of people think they've written the definitive "How to parent" books). It was always going to be a case of being thrown into the deep end with weights strapped to your ankle and then being told to swim.

But, no matter how frustrating and difficult it is for us imagine how impossibly challenging it is for Noah. Every day she has to learn everything about everything. She has to experience everything for the first time. It's scary.


Imagine spending your day learning literally everything. What light and dark is. What quiet and loud is. You can’t see properly. You don’t know anyone. You’re feeling all emotions and sensations for the first time. Hunger, cold, hot, tiredness, fear. Now imagine you’re learning all of that but can’t talk or express yourself. The, all of a sudden you poop your pants and are sitting in it, miserable and uncomfortable. Then someone comes to pick you up and rock you and then attempts to feed you. You wouldn't be too happy either.


Sometimes she cries not because she's hungry or dirty or sleepy. Sometimes she's just crying because she's scared and she needs her people to give her some TLC. Now is the time for that TLC, now is the time to show her we love her, pick her up when she's down, and show her she's safe. No matter what.


I said last week that I could probably be doing a lot better, I could. But I could definitely also be doing a lot worse and if the worse does start to come out I promise I'll go speak to the people I need to speak to.


In the mean time, at the end of the day, when the going gets tough, the tough does get going. And, realistically, no matter how tough the day gets the reward is the best one in the world: a little bundle of super adorable joy and light. And in a year of darkness and of uncertainty, I'll take a few cries, screams, and moments of self-doubt in exchange for the best of cuddles from our little girl.


Until next week!

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