Friday, 26 August 2011

New Look

So they say a change is as good as a holiday, and a new hair-do can make you feel like a million bucks. Well I think a revamped blog is on the same level, if not better. Today I played around with blogger, something I had been putting it off as it's time consuming and can possibly make you go a little crazy with confusion and frustration. LL decided to pull a 2 hour nap - a rare feat in this house - so I made the most of it and voila my blog has a new look, I feel like a master techie, and I am super stoked with it and myself.

A school teacher of mine once said to my class, we should always follow the KISS approach to anything in life - keep it simple stupid. Sure this philosophy is a little kitch, a little ol' school. But hey I think she may have been on to something. The old look of my blog was too much - too many colours, too many pictures, just plain too much. So I'm keeping it simple. I got rid of some of the fluff, toned down the colours, and as a result I think it looks more like me. And that is what this blog is all about :)

All in a Tizzy

At around the 7 week mark I realised that something needed to change in my day to day life as a new Mum. LL was not sleeping much during the day and I didn't know what to do to change this. Because I had not been told or shown in hospital how to care for an infant on a daily basis, nor had I been able to attend any ante-natal classes (there just aren't any available in Bots) I found myself floundering and completely confused most days as to what I should be doing with the baby. Once all the grandparents had left I found myself searching for answers in order to get some sanity.

Reading the online chat group I was a part of I could see that most of the other babies were napping 3 to 4 times a day and often for long periods of time. What was I doing wrong? Why wouldn't LL nap unless he was being held? And even then only for short cat naps?

And then I realised .... I had absolutely no routine and it was doing my head in. I'm a huge routine person naturally so not knowing what I should be doing with the baby ie when to feed, when to put down for naps, when to put to bed for a night, how much to stimulate with play - all of this was impacting on my mental health daily.

And of course by late afternoon LL was overtired, overstimulated, cranky and typically inconsolable. Who could blame the poor little guy, his Mummy was feeling exactly the same way.

I emailed a good friend in Perth and she advised me to get a routine happening asap - feed, play, sleep was her motto! Routine, routine, routine, she said!! Ok so I got that I had to institute a routine, but how? And where to start?

And then I remembered my sister-in-law had given me a copy of Tizzy Hall's Save Our Sleep book. And many of the Mums in my online chat group were following this book. So I read that thing cover to cover. And you know what? It all started to make sense.

The thing is, you can be a fairly intelligent person, you can try and prepare yourself for having a child and what needs to be done, but when you are in the moment and not coping well with what is going on, it is often difficult to work out a solution for yourself. That was me. I knew I needed a routine. I just didn't know how to implement one, or what it should be. I had absolutely no idea how much sleep a newborn baby needed. Nor did I know how many times a day I should be feeding him (which might have something to do with why breastfeeding wasn't a huge success for me - more on this later).

The great thing about Tizzy's book is that it was all spelt out right there in front of me. Thank god!

Now I know Tizzy is very controversial and a lot of people don't agree with her routines or things that she says in her book. And I can understand where these people are coming from - severely structured routines aren't everyone's cup of tea nor do they work for all families. But I had no one to help me, no midwife or child health nurse or parenting expert, no grandparents (sadly they would've helped if they could've but they were 1000s of kms away, across an ocean), and no friends telling me what I needed to do other than that I needed a routine. This book was all I had to use as a guide, and thankfully it did work for me and for us.

Mr B got right on board with it all. He read most of the book too so we were on the same page as I think he was as desperate as I was for some normalcy and some structure back into our lives.

We introduced the routine slowly - first starting with just the daytime nap times and feeds and then bulding from there with the bedtime ritual and dreamfeeds. And slowly but surely it started to work. Slowly, slowly LL started to sleep during the day, and for longer periods at night. Once I started bottle feeding it became even easier.

Of course everyday wasn't perfect and just when you'd think things were starting to work the next day would be a bad one and you'd feel like you were starting from scratch all over again. But that seems to be babies and kids - always wanting to keep you on your toes. Each time things went pear-shaped I reminded myself that tomorrow was a new day and we'd start all over again then. As LL got older I checked back in with Tizzy's book and changed his routine accordingly. It would always take a few days to kick back in but then we'd be back on track for a bit.

Now this post is in no way an advertisement for Tizzy Halls' book. I would never try to push this onto people as the bible of sleep solutions. Everyone has to work out what works best for them. And at the time this did for us. But it mainly gave me the tools and knowledge I needed to take care of my baby. Since then I have found other books and methods of doing things that I also think make sense and can work for people. Several friends of mine strongly advocate the Sleep Sense series of books. Another has followed Gina Ford's methods and found that worked. I think the main thing is to find what works for you and stick with it.

A good friend said to me once "a happy Mum = a happy baby" and I think this is so true. The instituting of the routine was more for me than for LL. Sure he benefited because he was now getting more sleep, but he really benefited from the fact that I was a happier person. I finally felt like things were working and I was doing something right. I was slowly finding my feet and getting my groove back!

My little houdini

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Some info on PND - Because it's important to know these things

beyondblue: the national depression initiative
The following information is taken from beyondblue - please refer here for more information.

Postnatal depression (PND) is the name given to depression that a woman experiences in the months after the birth of her baby. Postnatal depression affects almost 16 per cent of women giving birth in Australia. (That is 1 in 6 women!)

What Puts a Person at Risk?
Like depression which occurs at any other time, PND doesn't have one definite cause - but it's likely to result from a combination of factors. A mixture of physical, biological and hormonal factors seem to put women at risk of experiencing depression following the birth of a baby including:

  • a past history of depression and/or anxiety
  • a stressful pregnancy
  • depression during the current pregnancy
  • a family history of mental disorders
  • experiencing severe 'baby blues'
  • a prolonged labour and/or delivery complications
  • problems with the baby's health
  • difficulty breastfeeding.
Sometimes the reality of motherhood doesn't match the 'warm and fuzzy' images often portrayed in the media. Unfortunately, for many women, the early weeks and months of motherhood is a constant, tiring and demanding job.

Some new mothers can find it hard dealing with the changes in lifestyle - like spending less time with colleagues in the paid workforce and having little time to go out with family and friends. These adjustments and other psychological and social risk factors can make some women more likely to develop depression.

Social and psychological risk factors may include:
  • a lack of practical, financial and/or emotional support
  • past history of abuse
  • difficulties in close relationships
  • being a single parent
  • having an unsettled baby (i.e. difficulties with feeding and sleeping)
  • having unrealistic expectations about motherhood including:
    • mothers bond with their babies straight away
    • mothers know instinctively what to do
    • motherhood is a time of joy
  • moving house
  • making work adjustments (e.g. stopping or re-starting work).
  • sleep deprivation
Helping Yourself
There are many ways that a woman with PND can help herself feel better.
Here are some suggestions:

  • Seek help and treatment from a doctor or other qualified health professional.
  • Seek friendships with other women. While reaching out during this time may be difficult, many women find that making the effort can result in good opportunities to enjoy adult company.
  • Organise childcare or ask friends or family to look after the child/ren occasionally to allow for time out.
  • Make sure you take time out to do the things you enjoy like reading a book, listening to music or having a bath.
  • Spend some time with your partner to help nurture the relationship.
  • Develop a support system of friends, family and/or health professionals and accept offers of help.
  • Restrict visitors when feeling unwell, overwhelmed or tired.
  • Meet with other mums who have postnatal depression.
  • Take things one step at a time. Sometimes the only way to cope is to take things one hour at a time.
  • Don't bottle up feelings. Discuss difficulties with a partner, family member or friend. Sit down and talk about the things that are difficult and try to reach a solution together.
  • Keep a diary of feelings and every now and then, take time to look through it and note any progress made.
  • Don't be afraid to call a postnatal depression support service or mental health crisis line if things are getting tough and other help is not available.
  • Eat a balanced diet. People who experience depression can find that their appetite changes. Even though a woman with PND may not feel like eating healthy food, it is important to eat at least small snacks regularly and make sure the staple foods such as fruit and vegetables, milk, wholegrain bread and lots of water are included.
  • Practise breathing and muscle relaxation techniques. Stress can affect how a person breathes and can cause muscle tension. Breathing quickly and having tense muscles can, in turn, make a person feel more stressed. This vicious cycle can be stopped by learning and practising new breathing and muscle relaxation techniques. Exercises that involve slowly relaxing muscles and deep breathing have been shown to be useful in the treatment of depression.
  • Do some research. Gather information on postnatal depression from various sources, such as the internet, audio/videotapes and books. This may help people to understand postnatal depression better and how to cope with it.
Try to establish good sleeping patterns

Having a good night's sleep is important for maintaining good health, but can be almost impossible with a new baby. The body needs the opportunity to recharge from the day's activities. Depression can make a person feel tired and can cause sleep disturbances, such as:
  • finding it difficult to get to sleep
  • not having a deep sleep
  • waking very early in the morning and being unable to get back to sleep.
This can make symptoms of postnatal depression worse e.g. irritability, feeling edgy, overwhelmed and tired. There are a number of things that can improve sleeping patterns.

Taking every available opportunity to nap can not only help you stay physically fit, but also mentally healthy. Do this when the baby is asleep or when partners, family members and friends are able to look after the baby. This may seem like a challenge when there is so much else to do, but it's important to make the effort to get enough rest.

Keep active

Exercise is important for maintaining good physical health as well as good mental health. 

Physical activity can help prevent and manage depression. Walking with friends can be a good way of catching up.

Some tips for keeping active include...

Plan - A woman with PND should make a plan so she participates in some enjoyable activities every day and finishes each day with a sense of achievement.

Be flexible - Sticking to plans can be a challenge. It's only a rough guide and should be flexible. If an activity runs overtime or cannot be completed, skip it and move onto the next one at the appointed time.

Start small and build up slowly - If a woman is going through a period of depression, she may have difficulty with even simple things, such as getting out of the house in the morning. She shouldn't try to do too much too early. That's why it's a good idea to start with easy tasks/activities and build on them slowly.

Include other people - Planning to do things with other people can help motivate the person to get moving, especially on days when it seems hard to do anything. Some suggestions are:

  • put the baby in a pram or pusher and go for a walk
  • arrange to meet other new mothers and their babies.
Reward yourself - When something goes right, it can be a good time to be rewarded. Some cheap and enjoyable rewards include reading, watching movies, gardening, going to the beach or park, taking part in sporting or creative activities, shopping, seeing friends or playing with pets. If you are not able to go out:
  • have a long bath while the baby is asleep
  • play some relaxing music.
Exercise physiologists are people who have an understanding of how exercising affects the body and mind. They can help people get motivated, develop an individual exercise plan and stay on track.

Helping Others
Having helpful family members and friends can make recovering from PND easier. While relatives and friends won't be able to make the woman's PND go away, offering support can be helpful. Here are some suggestions for ways to provide support.

  • Learn about postnatal depression.
  • Encourage the new mum to seek professional help.
  • Spend time listening, without feeling the need to offer solutions.
  • Offer to spend time looking after the baby or older children or discuss other childcare options so the mum can have time out.
  • Offer to help with housework like cooking and cleaning.
  • Let the woman know how well she is doing when she makes small gains.
  • Encourage the woman to use some self-help strategies
  • Recognise that anxiety may be present too. Like depression, anxiety is also treatable.
As a woman recovers from PND, the level of support she needs may change. It's important that family members and friends take their cues from her and try to adapt.

Advice for Partners

Partners of women with PND are sometimes forgotten. It's a very stressful time for partners and one in which they may also be at risk of becoming depressed. It is really important that partners look after themselves during this difficult period and maintain their own mental health.

  • Remember that PND is treatable.
  • Talking honestly about feelings to someone like a friend, family member or a psychologist can help.
  • Plan some time together as a couple and try to do something that both partners have always enjoyed.
  • Get involved in any support groups offered for partners and discuss feelings.
  • Accept offers of help or organise for someone to help with meals, housework and the children.
  • Encourage your partner to see a health professional.
  • Offer to arrange for your partner to see a health professional and go along to the session with her.
  • Offer to help your partner around the house.
  • Expect that a woman with PND can be moody, irritable, volatile, teary and withdrawn. Try not to take what she says as a personal attack.
  • Understand that your partner may not want to be close or intimate. It is common for a woman with PND to be withdrawn and less interested in sex because she may be overwhelmed, exhausted and not feeling good about herself.
  • Live life one day at a time!

The crazy thing is I have not until now googled postnatal depression or read any information on this issue. Reading through all this just now has been incredibly insightful and somewhat comforting. I wasn't stupid or crazy or an overly emotional wreck. There was a reason for all those feelings. Bing, bing, bing!!! I get it now. I totally get it. Wow!

And I can see things in this literature that I made a conscious decision to do, and that I believe helped me to help myself - talking with Mr B and friends, making an effort to meet other new mothers and form supportive friendships, eating more healthily and trying harder to look after myself and Mr B, and exercise.

The best thing about writing this post is that I now know. And knowledge in this situation can only be a good thing for the future.

Becoming Mum

Note to readers - some people may wonder why I've written this post so completely honestly - it may appear very negative to some and like I am focused too much on the difficulties I experienced rather than the fact that I was so very lucky to have this healthy adorable new baby. I have written this post in full honesty because I believe it is important to share our experiences, to talk about things, to know that while for some motherhood comes completely naturally, full of love and bonding and joy and happines, for others it is not all sunshine and roses all of the time.

Becoming a Mum was something I had looked forward to since I was a little girl. I always knew I wanted to have kids and be a mother. I have loved being around children all my life. So when Mr B and I decided to start a family I was excited beyond words. Finally I was going to become a Mum. I was sure it was something I was going to LOVE being, and something I would hopefully be good at.

Like many other women before me becoming a Mum has been one of the hardest, overwhelming, scary and emotional journeys I have ever been on. I don't think I have ever cried as much as I have since I had LL (and trust me I am a natural crier). At the same time it has been full of so many happy times, so many smiles, laughs, and moments of feeling pride and wonder at this little person I helped to create. To say its been a rollercoaster of emotions is an understatement.

It took me quite a few months to find my feet in this new role of mine. I struggled daily for months. I could not seem to shake this awful feeling of anxiety that was in the pit of my stomach. I felt sick, stressed and for long periods of time I felt on edge, and like I could not relax no matter what I did. I felt overwhelmed by the pressure that I was the one to now feed and care for this little person. And I would often get the shakes and simply need to cling on to Mr B for reassurance and comfort that everything was going to be ok.

Mr B was a complete rock during this difficult time for me. He was the calm and in control one, constantly reassuring me that I was doing a good job, LL was fine and happy, and we as a family were going to be ok.

Looking back on how I was and how I felt for the first few months of LL's life I realise now I was most likely suffering from post-natal depression. The disappointment I felt at my body's inability to give birth to my baby naturally, and then my difficulties with breastfeeding made me feel like a failure as a mother right from day one. I felt like I had failed in the first two things that I should have got right in this new role of mine, and as such how could I possibly be able to do a good job from herein. The one thing in my life that I had always wanted, the one thing I so wanted to be good at, was not working out at all the way I had imagined it would, and that made me feel incredibly sad.

I remember standing at the sink one day doing the dishes while LL was laying in his pram, singing "You are My Sunshine" to him while tears streamed down my face. LL, and his presence now in our lives, made me feel so happy but at the same time this overwhelming sadness kept overshadowing that, at what should have been such a happy and wonderful time for us as a new family.

I can't really remember when the gloom and sadness started to leave me. I slowly started to feel more comfortable in my role as mother and happier in myself. I made a conscious decision to stop beating myself up over my failures - things that had really been out of my control and were not in actual fact failures, rather just the way things turned out (in no way shape or form do I actually think having a caesarean is a failure). I tried to focus on the everyday needs of LL, and the new things he was doing and learning, which were constantly bringing a smile to my face and gave me something to gush about everyday when Mr B got home from work.

Establishing a routine with LL was also hugely key in me getting my head on straight. But this is a whole other post for me to write (stay tuned!).

Exercise also became my friend again. Taking LL for a walk in his pram everyday got me out of the house, enjoying the fresh air, and helped to release those happy feelings that exercise can bring. I walked by myself often out to Mr B's office and back, or with a friend around our part of town. Having a chat lifted my spirits as did the exercise. It also helped to shift some of the baby bulge which had been getting me down.
Several friends also helped me a lot  - made sure I got out of the house or came and visited me to check I was doing ok. They also told me often that I was doing a good job and reassured me that everything I had been through did not make me a bad mother. I had not failed. These women were instrumental I believe in helping lift the sadness. Solid, supportive, caring friends are so important to a new mother. These people, I now realise, I had actually been hiding from in those first few months as I struggled in silence, not wanting to admit my failures and have them see me as someone who was less than perfect. Stupid really, as I am far from perfect and most people already know that. And also a true friend, which these women are, don't care about that anyway. They just wanted to help, to make me see that everything was ok, that I was doing a good job, and that it would get better. Most had been there before me, so they knew, they got it. Others were going through new motherhood at the same time, and it helped a great deal to go over things with them, to talk about my feelings and experiences, and to see that I wasn't alone.

I also spoke to Mr B a lot about how I was feeling, how overwhelmed and clueless I felt. Luckily for me nine times out of ten he was feeling exactly the same way. This gave me comfort to know that we were in this together, and that we would work through it together.

Despite all these difficulties I am grateful for LL every single day. I am so happy that I get to hear his little voice say my name over and over and over again. Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A year of firsts

First bath at home (1 week old):

First Christmas (3 months):
First swim (3 months):

First taste (4 months):

First bounce in the jolly jumper (5 months):

First swing (5 months):

First time in the walker (5 months):

First time sitting unassisted (5 months):

First time on a plane (6 months) - sadly no pic :(

First time to Australia, first time meeting Uncle Craig, Aunty Jodie, cousin James, and Uncle Malcolm (6 months):

First wedding (6 months):

First teeth (7 months) - the 2 bottom ones came through at the same time:

First time crawling (10 months):

First time standing (10 months):

First taste of vegemite (11 months):

First bike (11 months):

First birthday!!!

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