Mental health services: a matter of life and death

On 4th January 2014 me and my mum turned up at A&E in Manchester. I was afraid of my own mind. I was the most tired I’d ever been in my life but when I tried to sleep by body was tensed with anxiety and horrible thoughts piled on top of me like a lead weight. I had a 10 week old baby to care for, but I couldn’t enjoy this beautiful, bonny boy because I was ill. I was very very ill. 
Without the love and support of my endlessly sensitive and understanding family, and the wonderful mother and baby mental health unit that’s took us in, I genuinely don’t know where I’d be now. I’m sure my boy would be okay, but I do believe those mental health services saved my life.
Even as I write this I feel self-conscious; what will people who didn’t know about it think of me? Will they see me differently? But I’m not ashamed, I’m proud to be a survivor of a condition that is as cruel and unbidden and potentially fatal as any physical illness. And this separation between ‘mental’ health and ‘physical’ health is a false divide; an incredibly harmful one at that.

When I came out of the unit I was still not strong. It was 12 weeks of therapy, followed by an 8 weeks mindfulness for depression group that really changed everything. Now I have the resources to protect myself against further episodes. I am stronger than I have ever been. I am so grateful to live in a country where health care is free at the point of delivery.

But this care is under attack. The notion that a body set up to protect the sick and vulnerable should be ‘economically viable’ when subject to vicious spending cuts is inhumane. But even if we took compassion out of the equation (which it often seems the Tories have already done) it’s utter fiscal stupidity. Without occupational therapy and ongoing support people with chronic mental health issues move from low risk to high risk, when that happens they either need intensive community based care or a hospital bed.

Now, I’m no economist but I’m pretty sure a group gardening class costs less than having somebody sectioned.

So Dear, Dear Readers, please share this post and sign this petition. If you live in Manchester please lobby your councillors and MP.

For some people this will be a matter of life and death.

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How to lose your baby weight.

how to lose your baby weight‘Baby weight’: should it be an actual thing? Should it be something we talk about and focus on? Is ‘baby weight’ a helpful idea/turn of phrase in any way?

When you become a mother it is very likely that you’ll feel your body is not your own for while. I mean the whole being-in-labour thing is enough to make most of us feel a bit odd, what with the world and his wife regarding your nether-regions with clinical disinterest for 24 hours. Then there’s the fact that you have a tiny human attached to you boob/general person all the time. (Like, all the f*cking time). Anyhoo, the whole newborn scenario is not exactly going to make you feel like you’re bringing sexy back or anything, and that’s totes normal, so, like, don’t worry about it.

Added to all this body-consciousness is the concept that you have some ‘baby weight’ that you must lose sometime soon. Because that is what people do, right? By people, I mean Victoria Beckham and Jessica Alba and Kate ‘The Duchess of Cambridge’ Middleton. You know, the kind of people who can afford a nanny for each child, personal trainer and chef. And the kind of people who get followed around by cameras ever darn day of their lives… I mean, I can’t think how/why they do it…

At first this whole issue may not bother you, but give it time. I have written previously about the few months of grace after giving birth where I could look in the mirror and think “yeah, my body looks different and that’s okay”, but then the inevitable happened and I looked in s three way mirror and tried to buy jeans. Foolish woman. Suddenly it dawned on me that I really did need to shape up! And by ‘shape up’ I mean lose weight and look thinner, obvs. I need to shed my baby weight.

But did I? Do you? 

Now, I’m not saying that women don’t put on weight when they’re pregnant. I’m obviously not saying that, because that would be straight-up wrong and silly. I’m not saying that women don’t put on more weight than the 6-10lbs their baby weighs either (again, wrong and silly). What I’m saying is that the whole idea of ‘baby weight’ has a certain, well, weight to it. It has an expectancy that at some point you really need to get your act together and return to your ‘normal’ body type. Like your body has just gone wrong for a while and it needs a gym membership and 10-day juice cleanse to get it back on track.

But what if – and bear with me because this is a pretty out-there suggestion – what if growing a person in your womb, going through major hormonal changes and having the skin around your torso stretch, like, a lot, means that your ‘normal’ body type has changed? If that’s the case then isn’t the idea it’s all just ‘baby weight’ that needs to get gone a bit, well, unrealistic. What with having to look after an actual tiny helpless human and everything, I just don’t think this expectation is one we should be putting on ourselves.

And while we’re on the subject, what body shape are we trying to get ‘back’ to anyway? The way we looked before we had kids? You know, that pre-baby physique that you’d always been so happy with and never wanted to changed in any way? Hmm… Ain’t hindsight a bitch.

Actually, I think most of us want to have the body we wanted to have before we were pregnant, not the one we had. There’s still part of me that wants to get ‘back’ to my ‘ideal’ weight. This weight was not the weight I was just before Bubs was conceived, on no, it’s the weight I was when I was 24 and vegan and went running regularly and was yet to become quite so fond of Sauvignon Blanc. Incidentally this was also the weight I was when lots of people volunteered their unbidden opinion that I was too skinny. Sigh.

The fact that half of the women we see modelling clothes we’re supposed to wear are teenagers doesn’t help here. I mean, what if we’re not all supposed to have the figure of an adolescent girl whose boobs have just ‘come in’ for the rest of our lives?’

I’m just asking.

Having a baby, whether you give birth to it or not, is going to change your lifestyle. You will be exhausted a lot of the time and less able to just ‘pop to the gym’ (apparently that is a thing that people do) whenever. You will most likely eat more quick and easy food, which usually means more frozen pizza.

And so what? I mean, maybe that’s just okay. It’s obviously not okay to eat chocolate for breakfast every day and live a sedentary lifestyle, but any parent of a toddler will know that the option of a sedentary lifestyle is but an illusive dream.

(Just as an aside, I think all parents of toddlers should, by rights, have really toned arms. Who’s with me?)

Bodies change. That is an actual scientific fact. So what if we just let them? I don’t mean what if we all become morbidly obese, obvs, (wrong and silly), but what if we don’t try to ‘get our figures back’? What if we try to love the skin we’re in, generally eat some vegetables, make sure we move about a bit, and also drink some gin and eat some chocolate?

Sure Victoria Beckham is the skinniest four-child-bearing mini you’ll ever see, but as the paparazzi aren’t particularly bothered with my everyday movements, maybe it just doesn’t matter that much if my arms wobble a bit. Maybe that’s even.. Nice.

Dear Reader, I am so sick of this crap. I am so tired of being surrounded by women on expensive, extreme diets, or talking about how ‘bad’ we were on holiday (i.e. we ate lots and enjoyed it). I am SO sick of all this body image stuff getting into my head and making me crazy and unhappy and stopping me just enjoying my ridiculously blessed existence!

So, I am turning over a new leaf, I am going to try to live a healthy lifestyle because I don’t want to die of a con colony heart failure when I’m 55, and if doing that means I lose a stone then I will be ecstatic (not gonna lie) but if I don’t, I am really going to try to feel good about myself anyway. Because why shouldn’t I? And why shouldn’t you? 

If you need further inspiration, check Amy Schumer’s acceptance speech at the Glamour women of the Year Awards. Nothing to do with baby weight, but the line 47 seconds in is priceless!

  

Dear Children, Human Rights are negotiable. #ToryLessons

This Friday will my and Hubs’ fifth wedding anniversary. Huzzah (that is, like, well long nowadays, right?). The only slight tarnish on this otherwise joyous occasion will be the fact that we are yet to be married in a time when David Cameron isn’t Prime Minster. Bleurgh.

So, five years ago I was too busy making 200+ origami butterflies to fully engage with how angry I was at the Lib Dems for going into coalition with the Tories. This time around I have no such major event-management to compete with the constant recollections that said party now have a majority. A MAJORITY?? Boo hiss, etc. The one upside to the result last time around was that my (hilarious) father could work a ‘new politics’ rose garden parody into his wedding speech. But now I don’t think any level of satire will stop me wanting to spend the next five years doing this:

Yeah, take that Cameron!

But, seriously, Dear Reader, I am super wary of all the nonsense-speak that flows from the mouths of our cabinet ministers. I am afraid of some highly questionable ideas that are becoming the status-quo, ideas that Bubs will grow up around, however much I’d like to shelter him from them. What he believes this crap?? What then?

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The Five Stages of Toddler Discipline!

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You’ve probably heard of  the ‘five stages of grief’. It is an actual really useful and sensitive theory coined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. But for me they were made immortal by the inimitable Homer Simpson.*

As I observe Bubs’ transition into the ‘terrible twos’ (yes, he’s one and half, but the name is false advertising, trust me) it strikes me that my coping-mechanisms for all his wobblies fit eerily well with these ‘stages’. Sometimes I’m pretty Zen about it all, whilst in other moments a baby-shaped strop can bring on the mists of deep self-loathing (#dramaqueen).

When I say ‘stages’, I don’t mean that there’s a clear progression. No ‘from denial to acceptance in five easy steps’ here I’m afraid, and I know that you discerning readers wouldn’t buy that kind of crap any way. It’s more of a cycle, not a vicious one, more a sort of normal-and-slighty-annoying cycle. Let’s see if it rings true for you…

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Recovering from PND: A Kind of Resurrection

I like Easter. I like the whole flow of Holy Week and how it takes in so much of the human experience. I like that the women are always there with Jesus and that when I think about his mother Mary’s story (whether or not you think it’s ‘true’) it teaches me about motherhood; all of it’s pain and love. This blog is usually a place for railing against the things that pin us mothers down, or casting a sarcastic glance at the silliness of our over eager advice culture. I’d like to think, though, it’s also a bit about hope and reassurance.

Today I don’t have much to say, but the sunshine and the Easter story have made me feel grateful, and I notice how far I have come this year. From the stomach-churning fear of anything birth and newborn related to a real relishing of motherhood. From a feeling of love masked by constant self-doubt to a security in my own ability to be a parent. I just love my son so much. And I can feel that love. But more than this, I like him. I really like him.

This is a kind of resurrection.

I want to attempt not to stray into cheesy territory and also be careful not to strike those who are still struggling with any sense of inadequacy or failure. But the on the day that the most powerful story that I know is being celebrated across the world, I want to offer my little piece of hope for all those who are in the midst of postnatal depression. You fear that you will not love; will never enjoy; are not able to cope. But you will love and will enjoy and you are coping. Right now, you’re coping. I have felt all of those things, I have some of them today but not with the same heart-breaking power that they once had. I have had so much help to get here, and I hope you’ll have the same.

Healing comes. Hope springs.

Happy Easter.

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But the protein, what about the PROTEIN????? Parenting as a vegetarian.

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Apparently this week is ‘Meat-Free Week‘ (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either, cheers Mumsnet). The name is sort of self-explanatory but just in case; it’s a week where families/businesses/general people are challenged not to eat meat, like, none at all. As a veggie family this would not be a particularly radical move for us, obvs. And yes, our entire household is meat-free, my 17-month old son included. Dun dun deeeer!

Don’t worry, I’m not one of those vegetarians. I don’t get evangelical or self-righteous about people choosing to eat meat. I pretty much hate self-righteousness in all of its forms (hence the irreverent blog). Plus I eat fish occasionally, so I’m not even a real veggie. I am a sham; that inferior breed known as pescatarian. Or, as I like to call us pesky-tarians. *chortle*

This post isn’t going to about how everyone should go meat-free for ever, or even for a week, but I do think the idea of becoming aware of how much meat you eat and where it comes from is a good idea. Cos, come on people, it has got a bit ridiculouso. Right? Like, apparently Britons eat 1 billion chickens a year. ONE BILLION. I know Nandos is yummy but that just seems a bit much.

But you can read about all that do-gooder stuff elsewhere. All I want to talk about is my family and my life. Screw the planet and animals and crap.*

My husband and I have been vegetarian for a long time now so when Bubs started weaning it wasn’t really a question for us whether we’d give him meat; of course not. We have a generally healthy diet with lots of variety and we know people who have grown-up vegetarian (and vegan) are genuinely fully-functional adults (true story). Plus, we mainly choose not to eat meat for ethical reasons – which I have already promised not to bang on about – but it would seem very odd indeed not to pass those ethical principles, which are held especially dear by Hubs, onto our children. If later Bubs chooses to eat meat, fair dos, but for now we won’t be feeding him any.

So, yeah, he’s a vegetarian, no big deal, that’s just how it is.

Enter the grandparents.

Now, if one of Bubs’ grandparents is reading this, I’m not talking about you, obvs. You are great. I’m talking about the other lot, or the other other lot. (Bubs has 6 grandparents, naturally).

When I was pregnant and talking to, shall we call them The Undisclosed Grandparent?, I made some off-handed comment about how the baby wouldn’t be having sausages or chicken nuggets or something. Oh the horror! In reply I received a contorted expression and the question “Aren’t you going to give him meat??” Now, while I’m not 100% sure said grandparent wasn’t joking, I feel they were just saying what a lot of other people were thinking.

When we broached the subject with most of the family you could see that worried I’m-not-going-to-interfere-but-what-the-bloody-hell-are-you-playing-at look their eyes. I would quickly rush in with some comment about how, obviously if at any time the baby seemed not to be thriving we would consider…blah blah blah.

I can’t blame them for these reactions. Our choice is totally outside the cultural norm. For some the idea of bringing up your child as a vegetarian would be better described as depriving you child of meat. Okay, maybe in the olden days if you were a peasant and could only afford one loaf of bread to share between a family of 14, or if you’re living on a dollar a day in a slum somewhere, but not now, now here! You bloody hippy lunatics! How will they, like, grow and stuff???

Protein is usually the biggest concern in this scenario. ‘Can he get enough protein like that?’ ‘Are you worried about protein??’ or the classic ‘So, what does he eat?’ Protein, protein bloody protein! It’s all a bit over the top if you ask me. I blame Atkins. Not only for the whole ‘carbs-bad protein-good nonsense’ but for the idea that you get only protein from surf and turf. End of.

Well, folks, and I’m gonna blow your mind here, there is protein is lots of food. Even food that is not meat, even food that is not dairy or meat or eggs. Who knew right? (yes, we all did, so why is the whole veggie thing a problem?)

But there shouldn’t be a problem anyway because he’ll eat fish, right? Wrong! I eat fish if I’m out and fancy it occasionally but at home we don’t have it all. Hubs would prefer if Bubs laid off it for now and I have no problem with that. I don’t eat fish for health reasons. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when I started to eat fish again I sort of believed it was for health reasons, but really I just like seafood. To be quite honest when I end up eating fish more than once in a while I get a bored with it. Give me veggie lasagne any day of the week.  Mmmm… lasagne.

This whole no-fish policy (which isn’t even completely the case since Bub’s formula had fish oils in it) is more contentious than I first thought. I think some of my relatives (no not you, obviously, you are totally cool, the coolest of all) think that I will at some point rise up against the vegetarian tyranny and restore my child’s right to eat salmon. Well, I won’t. When he’s old enough to express a desire to taste fish? Sure, go for it. But til then I’m just not that bothered. Because I know he is absolutely fine.

Anyway, yeah, Bubs gets plenty of protein. He gets plenty of everything. Fruit, veg, bread, beans, dairy, eggs, the occasional rich tea biscuit. And, in my assessment, he’s doing alright on the whole growing-up front.

Poor thing, he's basically wasting away...

Poor thing, look at those hollow cheeks and dull eyes, he’s basically wasting away… Oh wait…

And if my unprofessional opinion isn’t enough then let it be known that even the NHS says it’s okay to bring your kids up on a vegetarian diet! And the NHS says loads of shit that I do/did is not okay (see every other post I’ve ever written for details). I mean, they don’t unreservedly celebrate vegetarianism; they say stuff like “If you’re bringing up your child on a diet without meat they’ll need a varied diet to make sure that they have enough nutrients to grow and develop”. But, frankly, that’s a pretty weak statement because I’m pretty sure it applies all children, in fact to all people. I doubt you’ll find a paediatrician or health visitor in the land who says “If you’re feeding your children meat then don’t worry about a balanced diet or nutrients or anything.”

Still, despite being very assured in the fact that my toddler is not having his growth stunted or missing out in anyway, I still feel a bit self-conscious when I tell people. I here myself saying “he’s vegetarian” and think “God, she sounds like a pretentious dick.” But ho hum, them’s the breaks. As long as I’m aware that people disapprove of some of my parenting choices, there’ll probably always be a little voice in my head that agrees with them. The trick is to that voice to sit down and shut-up, then go and make a veggie lasagne. Mmmm….

What’s your experience? Were you brought up vegetarian or doing so with your kids? Or perhaps you think a life without meat is not worth living? Either way get involved by commenting below. Or…

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*P.S. don’t screw the planet or animals or crap, that would be really bad.

All My Single Mummies!

(Dear Beyonce please don't sue me for using your image: I'm trying to be nice.)

(Dear Beyonce please don’t sue me for using your image, thank you please.)

It’s Mothers Day so by rights I should be reclining on a chaise longue, having a foot massage whilst eating peeled grapes. But I’ve got something to say! (no surprises there then)

Firstly I’d like to big- up all mums. Birth mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, god mothers, people-who-aren’t-called-mothers-but-maternally-care-for-many-others. You all rock.

But as I was lounging in bed this morning, being brought brekkie by my lovely Hubs (and Bubs who has no idea what day it is and just wants to eat my croissant) I realised that there were probably some Mothers Days when my mum didn’t get any of that. She was a single parent and when I was four-years-old I doubt I popped down the shops for a bouquet of a Sunday morning. Maybe other people did stuff for her. I imagine my Dad would have marked it in some way now and then (he’s lovely and they are together now so don’t go making assumptions #It’sComplicated). And she had some kickass friends who were totally my extended family growing up. (seriously guys, when my mum had tonsillitis and I was a baby they made a 24-hour rota and took care of use both, hurrah for friends!).

Still, we were lucky in ways that many single-parent families aren’t, so there must be a lot of women waking up this morning to no card, no flowers, no cup of tea. Just a hungry child and a pile of washing.

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Toddlers watching TV: It’s, like, totally fine, isn’t it??

Aaah, CBeebies. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! You have created a continual stream of benign, advert-free and (generally) educational children’s television. You lovely bloody geniuses!  I mean, where else can we find shows that explore emotional intelligence at a 3-year-old level, or encourage kids to use their imaginations to enjoy classical music, or even covertly teach counting through the cunning use of an eccentric beige character who has a love of stones?

That’s right, people, I love CBeebies. I’m not afraid to admit. And I let Bubs watch TV. Quite a lot.

*hyperventilates with the overwhelming fear of self-righteous parental judgement*

Joking aside, for some reason TV has recently been added to my “oh my God, am I ruining my child?” list of irrational fears. As I type this I can genuinely feel my anxiety heightening. We all have these moments. Panic sets in as a giant, bright red neon sign switches on in your mind. “DANGER: BAD MOTHER ALERT!” it warns, flashing violently.

But it’s weird I should feel that – even in a self-aware sort of a way – because almost everyone I know lets their kids watch TV. It’s a totally accepted, alright thing, isn’t it? Okay, some people choose not to let their kids watch any screens, which seems reasonable, but it doesn’t mean that they are kinder, more creative, better parents, does it?

IT DOESN’T, DOES IT???

No, it doesn’t. Breathe.

There is always something or other in the news linking behaviour to health issues. Not that it takes a genius to work out that if a child plays X-Box all weekend and doesn’t go outside at all then they are more likely to become obese (I’ll take that PhD now, please). But still there always seems to be some study saying kids who do/don’t do this are more likely to become underachievers/unhealthy adults/murderous rapscallions.

Like research on other parenting issues that can get a bit judgey (e.g. formula-feeding and the use of dummies) this stuff often gets simplified by the media. I mean “researchers have found possible negative outcomes to TV watching but these may also be due to socioeconomic factors” isn’t exactly clickbait is it?? No, we want a headline that goes something like “Children Who Watch TV Are Basically F*cked, Scientists Say.” That’s the one that will go viral.

The problem with this kind of sensationalist rubbish is that it draws a false divide. On the one hand there are children who are read to and sung to, who love books and spend a lot of times outdoors, who have oodles of face-to-face interaction with their parents; on the other there are kids who watch TV. Of course this also implies two kinds of parents; those who can be bothered and those who can’t. Bleurgh.

But what if your kids can be both kinds of kid? Or parents can be both kinds of parents? What if those of us who spend most of our time being very much bothered with entertaining and caring for our children sometimes just want to sit down for 20 minutes? What if that was okay?

My Bubs loves books. LOVES them. We were on a plane when he was about 10 months old and he was kicking off majorly, and what was the thing that finally calmed him down? Being read a book. (we did feel a flutter of parental triumph at that particular moment). Bubs likes drawing and playing outside and watching bubbles and singing and dancing and all that good stuff. But you know what? He also enjoys a spot of TV. He can actually sing the Pingu theme tune and points at the TV in delighted surprise every time the Ninky-Nonk/Pinky-Ponk bursts through the hedge in the Night Garden. It’s really very cute.

Bubs is on an advanced reading programme.

Bubs is on an advanced reading programme.

However, I recently discovered that TV isn’t ‘recommended’ for kids under two-years-old and have been a slightly torturous inward debate ever since. Before they are TWO? Oops. That ship has well and truly sailed. I reckon Bubs was first introduced to CBeebies at around the 3 month mark (oh the shame!).

So I had to have a look at why these recommendations were put in place: “A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” We are told by the American Academy of Peadiatrics. Well, duh! Like, that is totes obvs!

It’s so black and white, I mean why does that statement mean no screen time whatsoever? NO TV OR ALL IS LOST! It’s as if a few episodes of Tinga Tinga Tales is somehow a gateway-drug to a hardcore TV addiction in which children become unable to imagine and create. I’m not saying this can’t happen. In fact, I’m sure it does in homes where the TV is a third (first?) parent and no one talks about their day or reads or sings song. Sad face.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here. No one is advocating sitting your 4-year-old to binge watch an entire season of Breaking Bad. That would be properly awful.

Sometimes I let Bubs watch TV in really sensible way. I use iPlayer to select the programme and I limit him to one episode, just long enough for me to get something done (often a nappy change: TV is a Godsend for parents of pooey, wriggly toddlers).

But other times I just put it on because I can’t think what else to do. It’s only 10am and I’ve already read that book 5 times and sung my full repertoire of nursery rhymes. The day stretches out before me like a particularly shouty question mark and I just need 10 minutes to stare into space or check my email or something.

Then there are those times when, franky, I just want to watch some telly. I like telly. Other than the smorgasbord of delights offered on CBeebies the only TV show my son is aware of is Pointless, which I occasionally put on for us to watch ‘together’. What? It’s super educational man! I mean, who knew there was an element called Einsteinium? Huh?

I’m not pretending this is the ideal in parenting habits. But I’m not the ideal parent. I’m a human. Shock horror.

Based on the anecdotal evidence I have, I am pretty darn sure this regular TV watching will cause Bubs no long term harm. As a child I watched a fair bit of CBBC, and Neighbours, and then switched over to BBC2 for The Simpsons (those were the days!). Still, I have managed to grow up into a relatively emotionally intelligent person who holds a Masters Degree in Cultural History with Distinction. #justsaying. I also have a friend who, as the 3rd child, was pretty much plonked in front of the TV with a colouring book for much of her childhood. She is now, as well as just being lovely, a qualified doctor who’s taking a year out to do an art foundation course. Well-rounded much?

Don’t get me wrong, I think parents who don’t let their kids watch TV are awesome; I just wish my admiration wasn’t accompanied by a stomach-curdling dose of inferiority complex. It’s not their fault I feel this way, of course it’s not. It’s the fault of a society that has come to believe we must consult ‘experts’ at every turn. Every parenting decision must be scrutinised under the microscope of Research, conclusions reached and expounded. A one-size-fits all code of parenting.

What if we, I don’t know, made decisions based on common sense that were guided by our love for our children, as well as a healthy dose of realistic expectations of ourselves? I mean, isn’t that what most of us are doing?

Yeah, I thought so.

So, in conclusion. TV, it’s like, totally fine. Isn’t it?

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I know I’m adult. But am I a GROWN-UP?!?

Sometimes when I’m watching Bubs waddle around, playing and what not, it hits me: I have a child. An actual child. Ergo, I am an actual parent.

Can that be right? Am I really grown-up enough to be a parent? Why haven’t the authorities been alerted?!

When I was 10 or 15 or whenever, I would imagine the things adult-me would do, like, waaaaaaaaaaay in the future. You know, getting married, having kids, living in a family home. Well, guess what? Those things have happened. That is my life now. I am basically living in the future. When did this occur and where’s my bloody hover car???

Okay, I’m 30-years-old, I can accept that this means I’m firmly in the ‘adult’ category. And I’m really okay with that. What’s the alternative? You couldn’t pay enough money to be a teenager again and the twenty-something ship has sailed. But when Hubs and I talk, we often still refer to our parents as ‘the grown-ups’. Because they the real adults, aren’t they? Unlike me, 79% of the sentences that leave their mouths don’t have the word ‘like’ needlessly injected into them. I mean I know all of the words to Fix Up, Look Sharp by Dizzee Rascal, for crusts sake!*

ALERT THE AUTHORITIES

(This photo of me was taken two Saturdays ago. No joke of a lie. I seem to be making gangster-style hand gestures. Heaven help us.)

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Sex A.D. (After Delivery)

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Have you had a baby in the past few years? If so, how long after the birth did a midwife start talking to you about when you could/couldn’t have sex? I think I got about 24 hours before someone asked “Now, have you thought about contraception?” I think I answered, probably with something like “Erm, no, erm…*adjusts small person attempting to breast feed*”. A more genuine response would have been  “Have I thought about contraception? HAVE I THOUGHT ABOUT CONTRACEPTION? And frickin’ kidding me??”

Yes, I am aware that it is very responsible for hospitals to explain to women that they could potentially become pregnant straight away and that breast-feeding is not a guarantee against baby number two popping up on a scan in 12 week’s time (was that a collective shudder I just heard?). But, seriously, 24 hours after Bubs was born a more pertinent question would have been “do you think you’ll consider ever having sex again, ever in your entire life?” Because, let’s face it ladies, there’s nothing about pushing out a tiny human that makes you wanna welcome a fella into your lady garden any time soon, now is there?

Weirdly, though, I have heard stories from multiple midwives about couples being caught ‘at it’ on the post-natal ward. Yep, that’s right, on a ward, behind those flimsy blue curtains. And they say romance is dead! All I can think when I hear about this is “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?” I mean, forget the psychological element, my first day of motherhood saw me walking around with a bag of my own pee. It’s just not practical, now is it?

Next time I had ‘the talk’ it was when I was being discharged by the community midwives. Same question again: “Have you thought about contraception?” I think I laughed this time. She was well aware that I had infected stitches (over-sharing?) and a particularly screamy baby. We both knew that this was a box-ticking exercise. (no, I did not intend that to sound like a joke from a carry-on film).

Actually, due to the afore mentioned stitches, I was also advised to wait until they had healed before resuming bedroom antics. And, you know, I was pretty okay with that. A lot of my friends had assisted births or caesareans and so were in the same boat. I’m pretty sure none of us minded putting off the hanky panky. At all.

Now, my friends and I don’t actually talk about our sex-lives; come on people, this isn’t Sex in the City. Still, every now and again one of use would hint at their, shall we say, lack of enthusiasm and we’d all laugh knowingly, then move on to more talk of puke, dribble-bibs or other such highbrow subjects.

Depending on your experience of labour (I haven’t met anyone who loved it yet, tbh), I’d say there is a sliding scale of how weirded out you feel by your body A.D. (After Delivery) It goes from, well-that-was-super-intense to oh-my-freakin-days-whose-boobs-are-these to AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH. Many of us spend a good few months (longer?) feeling our bodies are not our own. So it’s no wonder we aren’t feeling that up for it.

And must give a shout-out to the partners here too. Watching your loved-one give birth may be awe-inspiring but I imagine it is also pretty darn gross! I saw Robbie Williams on the Graham Norton show a while ago and he said “it’s like watching your favourite pub burn down.” Now, obviously Robbie Williams is a dick who prefers to live tweet his wife’s labour than, you know, actually be there for her, but I think he’s probably illustrating a wider issue. I mean, once you’ve seen that you can’t un-see it. Ever.

But I haven’t even got to the best part yet. The most effective form of contraception that arrives after the birth of your first child: That’s right folks, it’s your first child!

bubs CRYING b&W

Screaming babies: nature’s contraceptive.

 

A little baby sleeping inches from you bed, or indeed in it, every night isn’t exactly an aphrodisiac. In fact, let me rephrase that. A little baby not sleeping inches from your bed every night; that’s the real kicker. When our little ones do eventually drop off at 1am after hours of coaxing and rocking, our priorities tend to be capitalising on a two-hour window for sleep, not having a quicky.

This is all perfectly reasonable, but after a while, if we’re not careful, the guilt starts to creep in. However feminist you think you are, there’s probably some 1940s-BBC-RP voice in the back of your mind shouting “Women of Britain: Do you duty!” It’s nonsense of course. Your duty is to look after yourself and your baby and, hopefully, stay sane in the process. Any partner who doesn’t understand that needs a punch up the bracket I say!

Looking at the NHS website, though, it would seem some women do feel rushed into sex before they’re ready. Why else would the page on episiotomies feature sentences like “If sex hurts, it won’t be pleasurable”, well, that isn’t something that should need saying! Even more worryingly it goes on “If penetration is painful, say so.” I mean, bloody right you should say so, but I would hope the bloke would notice too!!

So, just in case there is anyone reading this post who hasn’t read the NHS website or had other women to talk to, I just need to let you know a few things:

If you don’t feel like having sex after your baby is first born, then don’t worry THAT’S NORMAL. Still feel the same two months later? That is ALSO NORMAL! Still feel like it after a year? Well, to I’m sure that’s pretty normal too, but you might wanna talk to your partner (or someone else) about it, because if sex was fun B.C. (before children) then surely it can be fun A.D.  (It can be, don’t ask me how I know, my parents might read this).

But, basically, your body, which by the way has produced an actual human being, should be respected and given the time it needs to heal. So should your mind for that matter. It seems weird that this is a thing that even needs to be said in 2015, but it probably does, so I’m saying it.

 

What’s your experience? Has labour put you off sex for life? Or maybe you were the ones getting jiggy on the post-natal ward? Whatever you think do get involved by commenting below!

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