Monthly Archives: September 2014

Agoraphobic mother

Too scared to leave the house – and other such tales from an anxious mother.

My house is my safe place.

It’s messy and chaotic in its own right with the constant buzz of children but at least things are predictable. I can control things here; I do the washing in between my baby’s naps. I know exactly which toys to use to distract my toddler during her tantrums.

But outside my front door it’s a war zone. I don’t know what’s coming for me, or where to duck for cover if – heaven forbid – my children turn feral.

Yesterday I had to go to my obstetrician for a post c-section check up. I had put it off far too long because I was simply too scared to drive the 45mins to his office with my gassy, refluxy newborn in the backseat.

It came to the stage where I could not procrastinate any longer. I took a big, deep breath and crossed my fingers as I strapped my son into the carseat.

His crying started instantly. I gritted my teeth, clicked on my seatbelt and pulled away from the curb. As I took off, so too did my son. His crying reached epic proportions and I cringed at traffic lights thinking every pedestrian was disturbed by the noise being omitted from my Saab.

Every red light made my body temperature rise. I screamed internal expletives whilst externally I used my calm voice to placate my hysterical child. (To no effect, I’m afraid).

Anxiety makes me see the worse in everything. I was convinced my child would stop breathing. I willed the traffic off the road, the lights to turn green, my baby to stop crying…. But I had absolutely no control over any of these things. And when I am not in control, I panic.

By the time I arrived at the doctors, I was as distressed as my son. The receptionist and I had developed a lovely relationship during my pregnancy, and she took me in her arms and let me cry. You see, by that point I didn’t even have control over my tears. I couldn’t pretend I was ok… I had just waged an internal battle inside my brain and my body decided to collapse.

This trip reminded me of the panic I felt with my first born every time we left the house. She had ear problems that weren’t diagnosed for 18months. Consequently, she was irritable for 18months. Every journey was an epic effort for me.

My teeth were damaged from grinding them all the time.

My heart was damaged from pretending all the time.

Pretending I was ok.

Pretending I didn’t feel like the world’s worst mum.

I gave up driving. I rarely left the house unless it was somewhere I had been to previously or was planned well in advance. Embarrassingly, I would be so scared about driving anywhere new that I would plan out the exact spots where I would change lanes before I got on the road… Somehow, planning all these minute little details helped calm me and make the journey possible.

I am scared I’m going to go through all this again. That I might be developing an  irrational fear of leaving my home (agoraphobia, if we want to get all clinical about it).

It was this behaviour that led me to a psychologist for help with my last child. It took me a long time to admit defeat. It won’t take me so long this time.

My son is a beautiful baby boy who happens to have mild reflux and potentially  colic. (Note: I never believed colic was a “thing” until now… Don’t judge it until you’ve lived it, I say!) My bub seems to be getting better each day as his tummy matures, and I am SO grateful to all the gods in all the heavens that this isn’t a life threatening illness and will definitely pass with time.

My practical brain reminds me “this pain is just temporary”. That some babies cry more than others and it’s not a reflection of poor parenting.

But in my moments of apprehension and panic I forget all this. When his body is planking as he feeds, or his legs are pumping and face bright red from gas, or he is kicking-off in the pram/carseat/rocker/sling, I get lost in the NOW. It feels like forever.

Sometimes, you need the arms of a great receptionist around you to give you back your perspective and optimism. To remind you that you’re doing your damned best and that your child is lucky to have a mum who loves him so much that seeing him cry makes her do the same.

A MOMENT OF GRATITUDE

In a recent attempt to spend more time devoted to seeing the positive and to helping manage my own anxiety, I have decided to add a moment of gratitude to the end of all my posts. It helps me to focus my energies on the good. The happy. The non-stressful. The blissful.

Here is what I am happy for today… A boy who smiled at me and made me forget about the car, the laundry, our finances, putting on dinner. It was a moment of pure perfection – indescribable.

Sure – this might be a bit “cheesy” (mum cooing over her newborn) but it truly, really can be the highlight of a Mother’s day. It was the highlight of mine.

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Four things no new mum wants to hear from you.

Have a friend with a new child? Here are some simple rules to help you get out of visiting her alive.

Rule 1.

If her newborn baby is crying, do not tell the mother her baby “must be hungry”.

What, do you have some sort of supervision power that enables you to see the content level of his stomach? No, Clark Kent, you don’t.

Chances are that even without your brilliant observation, she has already considered the question of hunger and ruled it out because she knows exactly when his last feed was and that it was only half an hour ago. She know this, because she is the one in charge of the food distribution. Not you.

Rule 2.

When a new mum tells you her baby is crying ALL the time, don’t tell her “that’s what all babies do.”

Every mother I know has read a book or two about parenting before having her child. They have also watched some TV in their lifetime and gave birth in full knowledge that babies cry. Newborns, incessantly.

So when a mum tells you her baby just won’t stop screaming, LISTEN properly to her before you patronise her by saying that all babies cry, and patting her on the head like a village idiot as you impart your wisdom.

My firstborn cried a lot. I believed it was “just what babies do” because I had been spoonfed this rubbish by many well-meaning people. I ignored my inner voice that told me “something isn’t right here”. I never saw the doctor until she started getting repeatedly sick at 10months. Eventually, an ear operation saw her come good. Turns out she wasn’t just crying because she was programmed to – she was also in a lot of pain.

I was much more savvy with baby no2 realising his was a pain cry and not an “I’m alive in this world – holy shit!” cry. I went to the doctors sooner, got some medication and (whether it’s colic or reflux, who knows) I had support from someone who BELIEVED my baby’s cry wasn’t the usual kind.

And even if the crying is normal , it doesn’t mean mothers can’t vent about it. Don’t dismiss them, whatever you do. Excessive crying is an evil kind of torture for anyone to have to endure.

Please, I beg you, avoid blanket responses at all costs. Instead…. Try to sympathise. Chances are, your friend is despairing and needs to vent to restore some kind of sanity.

Rule 3.

Do not, ever, tell a new mum about a newborn baby you know who already sleeps through the night.

This is just cruel. This is Theon-Greyjoy-Torture sort of cruel (sorry non Game of Throne addicts if the reference is lost on you). Put another way, this is fingers down chalkboard kind of stuff.

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It is 100 times worse if the baby you speak of is your own. That’s just bragging. And smug. (Unless of course you are modest with it. In that case I truly bear you no ill-will. But  if you post about it on Facebook, I will do a Liam Neeson on your arse…. I will find you and I will kill you.)

Telling us news of these wonder kids, implies – however unintentionally – that our own baby isn’t a “good egg”.

It leaves us thinking that there must be some secret trick to it that we don’t know of… Yet. We simply need to discover this secret and it will be the key to a future of uninterrupted sleeping bliss. Off we go, naively embarking on a mission to find said key, which heralds hours and hours of useless experimentation in newborn sleep behaviour.

“Maybe if I rock him for 6 minutes, sing him half a song, turn him upside down for 3 seconds holding him by the ankles and then finish the other half of the song he will go to sleep”.  Sound familiar?? This experimentation is wasted. Redundant. Try what you will most babies won’t respond to anything until they are good and ready.

Mums hear of these miracle babies and are left feeling nothing but disappointment and failure when it doesn’t work out for them. As they pace the floor at midnight, 2am, 315am and 4.45am it’s YOUR miracle baby that is on their mind. Your miracle baby they are craving as they drown in their sleep-deprived sorrow.

If you know a newborn who sleeps well, keep you mouth zipped shut. No one needs to know about it. I prefer to believe that babies who sleep well are like rainbow coloured French-speaking unicorns. Non-existent.

Thinking that these types of babies are fictitious helps me believe MY baby is normal. And that makes me feel calmer and less panicked about my mothering skills.

Rule four.

You tell your friend you will be over at 3pm.

You show up at 4pm.

Dont bother. Truly. Go home. (NB- rule does not apply to guests who have small children themselves. You are excused).

When you commit to visiting a newborn, know this… The mother has tried her best to force a routine upon her baby that means the child will be awake and settled when you arrive. This is NOT easy. And when you show up late, you will be showing up at a terrible time. It will be feeding time or settling time and all because the mother tried planning her day around the timeframes you agreed.

It’s never more important to be punctual… Got that, buddy?

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Stick to these rules and you will get nothing but love from the new parents you meet. Myself included.

What rules would you enforce??

 

12-Steps-Arianna-Huffington

CEO suggests women should “sleep their way to the top” and why I agree.

I might as well come clean upfront and get this over and done with.

Yesterday I watched daytime TV. (Shudder). Hours of it (Shudder again.) Normally, I’d never admit to such a thing but I’m justifying this behaviour by admitting I actually learned something useful in amongst the endless barrage of infomercials*.

Did you know that the editor-in-chief of media superpower The Huffington Post is female? And did you know she has a remarkably sensible approach to the work/life balance? I didn’t until Larry Emdur told me so. Thanks Lazza.

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 Ariana Huffington appeared on Channel 7’s The Morning Show today, displaying an aura of great calm and intelligence. I had no idea who she was at first, until a video montage showing her with mingling with the A-list (like  bestie Oprah Winfrey, and Ellen – media monarchs in their own right), and being mentioned in speeches from the likes of Obama was shown.

Wow – it would seem this chick has some serious pulling power.

Given how influential she is, I would expect that she would have a tyrannical work ethic. She must be a slave driver, right? Wrong. According to Arianna, she only became powerful when she gave up working so damn hard. Once she literally passed out from exhaustion at her desk and broke bones her face in the process. Sheesh!

Displaying great guts, Huffington decided to give up on the churn-and-burn jobs she had been doing and start afresh. But how does one do that?

What was the key to her success? The secret was revealed straight from the horse’s mouth live on daytime TV.

Arianna Huffington started with nothing but a vision. And then slept her way to the top. And she recommends all women follow suit.

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Let me clarify. She means SLEEPING. Like, pull-up-the-blankets, snuggle-up-it’s-bedtime sleeping. Not get-your-gear-off and get sweaty sleeping.

Arianna gets at least 7-8hrs every night. Sleep is more than a drug for her. It is the essence of life itself. Sleep can help to alleviate anxiety, improve concentration and, importantly, helps you go to work each day with a sense of perspective. You are more likely to see obstacles as surmountable when you’ve got some shut eye. She believes sleep is the single most important factor in good health.

I dont make it a habit of agreeing with media moguls but in this case, I couldn’t agree more. When I was working in London advertising agencies, I was clocking up 17hr work days. And, at one stage, I was doing these kind of crazy hours whilst pregnant. Sometimes – like during a pitch for a new client – I wouldn’t sleep at all. I’d be at the office around the clock. That kind of commitment to my career wasn’t admirable (although I was certain my bosses would think so and give me a pay rise for my efforts!) it was stupid.

My body allowed me to work these kind of crazy hours but only for so long. As with most media-related jobs, my role was deadline driven and once my deadline had come and gone I would get tonsilitis. Each and every time. It was my body’s way of telling me “I’ve served you well, now LET ME REST.” It  took me ten years to realise there had to be a better way of working.

It took me ten years to realise the answer was never going to be found in the advertising industry.

And in the single most courageous moment of my life, I decided (at four months pregnant, in my office at 10.30pm) that I was going to quit the game and find a new career.

Without sleep, my anxiety climaxes. While most anxious people find it hard to sleep at night because they can’t switch off mentally, I am simply so exhausted from my daytime stress-capades that the moment my head hits a pillow, I am out.

I take nanna naps at every available opportunity. I get 8hrs a night. I pass out on cars. On trains. And occasionally, if I am desperate I will go for a “coffee break” at work and simply go hide in the toilets for a quick snooze.

Sleep is my superhero, my loyal commander, my best friend. It is my best armour against anxiety, so I crave it at every available opportunity.

And even though I can’t say that I’ve slept my way to the top (I’m not exactly “on top” of anything in my life to tell you the truth!) I do believe that getting adequate sleep is the only way to reach your full potential.

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Image source: Mind Valley Academy – http://mindvalleyacademy.com

Here’s to a woman who is doing things differently and preaching a message of real value to all of us. RESPECT your body, and you will be rewarded. Physically, mentally, and…. for most…professionally.

In her interview, Arianna came across as an intelligent, kind, loving, and strong women.  I now have a new role model in my life, and I can’t wait to read her book THRIVE (12 Steps to a Better Life).

*Anyone actually tried the Nutribullet? I’ve seen that many ads for them I’m almost sold!!