I lay on my front in the bath, watching the languid dance of soap, swirling through water – a dance who’s climax was a grey, cloudy stillness. And as the steam rose and the water cooled, so too did my thoughts. Turned inwards, they travelled the road behind me, criticising the choices I’d made, ridiculing any dreams I still harboured and mocking the future, I’d tentatively stitched together.
All seemed bleak then, in that cold white room. The flaking paint on the door frames and watery streaks on the pallid tiles, a reminder that I could never live up to expectations, that a job once started, was hardly ever finished. I had failed in so many ways and would forever continue to disappoint.
And so I stared at the murky water, and imagined plunging my head beneath its surface, opening my mouth and breathing in deep lungfuls of the stuff. They say that drowning is a horrible way to die, but right then, it seemed a fitting end for someone, who drowned in her own inadequacy on a daily basis.
It was also entirely selfish.
I struggle yes. Some days seem hopeless – like being trapped in a dark well, with smooth sides and no escape. I shun the world because I fear the consequences of being part of it – the rejection, the awkwardness of chance encounters, the hate and the dislike.
Then there are days when the sun shines like a beacon, and my face, mind and skin is warmed. My heart becomes full, my burdens lightened and the beauty that I brought into the world, shown in its full majesty.
Three small, precious lives.
With stiff limbs and shivering breath, I pulled myself from the that still and lifeless tub, wrapping my thoughts, like my body, in the dry, towelling comfort, of lasting another day. And instead of inwards, I sent my thoughts outwards, to consider the possibility of what it might be like on the other side of recovery.
“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen,
But still I long to learn
tales, marvellous tales,
Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest,
How others fought to forge my world.
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What wild ecstasy?
How far the unknown transcends the what we know.
We are the music-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams,
To feel the blood run through the veins and tingle
Where busy thought and blind sensation mingle.
Come, my friends, ’tis not too late,
For we are the movers and shakers
Of the worlds, forever it seems;
To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”
Tonight it feels like I’ve hit a turning point, in understanding part of why I am in a constant cycle of feeling rubbish. Tuesday evening is when I attend my regular group therapy session, to help me combat my self-esteem issues. This evening, among the many other useful bits of information that I learned, I discovered the vicious circle that can be fed by constantly seeking reassurance from others.
The general idea behind it, goes something like this:
When we are in the habit of constantly seeking another’s reassurance, we do so for many reasons. These reasons can be some or a combination of many things. From personal experience, when I ask for someone’s reassurance on whether something I am doing is right, or okay, or a good idea and I get positive feedback from that, I feel good about myself. I get an instant lift to my confidence, I’ve made a good decision, I have someone’s approval, I’ve done the right thing. Moreover, since I get such a good feeling from someone else’s opinions and thoughts, I then go on to seek more approval, until it’s an unconscious habit – I don’t even realise that I’m doing it.
The flip side of this is when I seek approval or reassurance and the response that I get, is a negative one. “Actually no, the meal you made was rubbish”,” yes your bum does look big in that”, “that was a really bad decision”, “that really looks crap on you”. When this happens, that high-spirited mood that I was feeling, is sent crashing back down into the depths of oblivion. I now feel like a pile of worthless doggy doo doo.
It begs the question really of “Is this really a reliable way to boost my self-esteem?”
If one minute I’m on a high because of someone else’s opinion, then the next moment I’m incredibly low because of it, then surely seeking reassurance so much, is not as good for me as I previously thought. Perhaps the person that I should be getting reassurance from is myself.
This week we’ve been set a little behavioural experiment. We are to consciously reduce the amount of time we spend, seeking reassurance from other people and make an effort to record what we discover about ourselves (and those around us). It will be interesting to see what I personally find out about myself. I’m someone who unconsciously does this multiples times a day – too many times to count actually. Will I find that making more decisions for myself, without the input of others, will lead me to a more sustainable way of feeling good? How hard is it going to be for me to actually take the reins so-to-speak and to act on my own convictions, instead of somebody else’s?
We were given some words of advice for when we carry out this experiment. It may be that our partners/friends/family, find this change in us not to their liking. They may even wish for us to return to the old, comfortable ways that they were used to. Perhaps our reassurance seeking, gave them a boost to their own confidence and they fed off of it? In those situations, it is important for us to be consistent It is also important that those around us, give us a little room to grow, or to step back – whichever direction we’re going in. Perhaps they will need to change the way that they perceive us and accept that we are taking small steps, towards a greater goal and that greater goal is the hardest, most soul-searching, emotional things that we will ever have to do.
Onwards and upwards my friends.
What do you think about our habits of seeking reassurance from our nearest and dearest? Do you find it sometimes detrimental? Have you ever made the decision to reduce the amount of reassurance you seek? If so, what did you discover about yourself?
Four whole months. That is how long Big Bro spent the first precious months of his life, in hospital. Looking back now it hardly registers just how long those four months felt – something more akin to four years and that’s no exaggeration Those long hours of waiting by the side of his cot, talking to him constantly, telling him just how much I loved him and how brave he was – they were worth it. The travelling back and forth between hospitals and home, childless and envious of the new mothers I saw around me, were all worth it because finally, I would be able to take my baby home.
Big Bro recovered exceptionally well from his eight hours of surgery. After spending four days helpless by his bedside in the Intensive Care Unit, he was eventually taken off his ventilator to breathe on his own, before being transferred back up to the surgical ward. The colour had returned to my boys cheeks and no longer was he the puffed-up, swollen creature that I had been agonising over. The replogle tube that had been a prominent feature of his short life, constantly sucking the saliva from his oesophagus was gone – replaced by a small Nasogastric tube, that would be a temporary measure while he healed from the operation.
The plan was to slowly introduce small amounts of milk to him via a bottle, starting with a mere 10 ml. This may sound like such a minute amount, but bear in mind that Big Bro was born unable to swallow, therefore his natural reflex for suckling, never got the chance to fully establish itself. I was encouraged to use a dummy to aid in this – something which helped a lot, as I was able to dip it into some formula milk, to give him a taste for what it was like. But no, with the bottle, we had to start slowly. That first bottle – I can’t tell you how good it felt! I was finally doing the thing that all mothers do without thinking, yet for me I had to learn. Together me and my four-month old boy, had to teach each other the rudiments of bottle feeding and I think we both got off to a pretty good start.
Slowly but surely, the amount of milk he was taking, began to increase from 10 ml, to 20 ml, until finally he was taking 3o ml in one sitting. The rest of his feed, would go down his gastronomy tube – the one in which he had been fed through all this time. It would be a while before that would be removed but right now it the thing that was keeping him healthy and growing. Increasing Big Bro’s oral milk intake would be a lengthy process, with many ups and downs before we were to get it right, so the G tube would be just another part of his anatomy for now.
Two weeks after his operation, on a crisp Autumn morning which was slowly showing the early signs of winter, I was greeted on the regular ward round, by Big Bro’s surgeon. Everything was how it should be. His recovery had been better than expected and she could see no reason why he couldn’t go home that day.
What did she say? I had to do a double-take!
Nope, I didn’t hear it wrong. He would be able to be discharged that very same day! I couldn’t help but cry! I was so startled, grateful and overwhelmed all in one big teary-eyed package, that I felt like kissing her full on the lips! There were some minor details to go through, naturally. He would have to return in the new year so that they could look down his oesophagus, to make sure everything was working as it should be. We would also need to set a date to have his ano-rectal malformation (imperforate anus) operated on and corrected. Yes, yes, I thought, but I can actually take him home today? Of course! That was all I needed to know.
Like a frantic mother, who’s only just realised that she’s forgotten to feather the nest, I rang my ever helpful dad for a lift back from Bristol. “Don’t forget the car seat!”, I eagerly implored him. Luckily I had been given a place in the parent accommodation again for this stay in hospital, so I had many of the things with me that I would need, such as blankets, nappies and going home clothes. In no time at all, Big Bro had been bathed (with the much appreciated help of his amazing stoma nurse), dressed and snuggled up into his cot. His Nasogastric tube had been removed, all of his medication and prescriptions seen to and I had his discharge papers folded neatly in my hand.
A few shot hours, was all it took for my father – who had been so helpful over the past months, to arrive at the hospital. The glint in his eyes as he entered the ward – the car seat dangling from his arm – was one of the most beautiful things to witness. This big bear of a man, with his shaggy hair and tobacco stained moustache, was reduced to a blubbering mess at the sight of his first grandson. With everything that had gone on, it was hard sometimes to remember that Big Bro’s condition had a much wider effect on our family, not just the two of us. This man was someone, who had diligently been at my side when he could, had tried to do whatever he could to make our experience, that little bit more comfortable. I remember him driving up to see us and presenting me with a huge bouquet of wild-flowers, making pains to tell me that he’d chosen some that could be watered in the box they came in, so I didn’t have to worry about them dying too quickly. I was so touched to share that moment with him.
At last we were closing the surgical ward doors behind us. The smell of alcohol gel and that general clinical smell that you associate with hospitals, lingering behinds us, as a last reminder that we would be back there very soon. For now though, I was intent on putting one foot in front of the other, relishing this new feeling of walking outside, into the fresh afternoon air with my baby for the first time. I laughed in spite of myself and my dad just gave me that look that meant, “I know what you mean”. How long had it been since I had smiled or laughed? As I strapped Big Bro into the back of the car, and climbed in next to him, our future suddenly seemed a whole lot brighter. This was our first, real step into the life that we would share. It would not be easy by any stretch. Around the corner, there would be obstacles that would test my resolve, to the very core.
At that moment however, all that mattered, was that we were going home.
This is by no means the end. Please join me next week, when we enter the world of reflux, bemused doctors and my birthday spent in A & E! Also, please leave your comments below, whether you have been through something similar or not. Your comments mean a lot to me and I read every single one of them.
If you are interested in the rest of Big Bro’s story, you can read it all here:
It was liberating having Big Bro back in Exeter. After weeks of staying in an environment that was totally alien to me, I could finally recuperate in my own surroundings and make myself stronger for the coming months. Big Bro was thriving in his new surroundings. Although he now had a colostomy bag and the challenges that came with regularly changing and emptying it, he was able to get the nutrition that he needed, because now that he had a tube going directly into his stomach, he could finally have my breast milk.
Expressing my milk for him was proving harder than I thought. I was still struggling to produce enough, in order to keep up with his growing demands for it. He was growing bigger and stronger, yet no matter how much I pumped, I just could not keep up. When he was 8 weeks old, I made the traumatic decision to stop breast-feeding. It was hard. I felt guilty – as if I’d let him and everyone else down. While the nursing staff were incredibly supportive about my decision, I couldn’t help feel like a complete failure. I also had to deal with the realisation that, when he was better, I would never experience the closeness of properly breast-feeding him.
In the end though, I’m glad I did stop. I was now able to sleep and to rest and the time that I had been spending pumping, I could now spend at my son’s bedside. After three long months from the day of his birth, we were finally set to make the trip back to Bristol. Big Bro would be having major surgery to repair his oesophagus, with the aim being for him to be able to swallow properly for the first time.
Back into the transport incubator he went. It was so strange seeing such a big baby in a small incubator. You associate those things with premature babies, yet here was this four-month old baby, snuggled all cosy inside it! This time I followed with my dad in his car and by the time I got there, Big Bro was already settled into his cubicle on the surgical ward. Again I had the feeling of alienation. We weren’t supposed to be there – this was not how it was meant to be and reluctantly, I left him to the care of the nurses, while I checked in to a nearby hotel and had a fitful nights sleep.
The following morning, was the day of his big op. I was up bright and early, ready for the ward round and to sign all of the necessary paperwork. The operation would be a complicated one. He was having a “Pedicled Jejunal Interposition Graft”. In simple terms – he was having his jejunum – the middle section of his small intestine, grafted up behind his stomach – still attached to all of its blood vessels etc, and fixed into place between the end of his oesophagus (where it ended in a pouch) and the opening of his stomach. This would enable food and drink to travel all the way down into his stomach, therefore eliminating the need for his feeding tube. He would be a normal boy again! I signed eagerly, knowing the risks of such an operation but also desperate for him to get better. I was then asked to carry him down to theatre.
This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Bundled in my arms, all wrapped up in a hospital blanket, was my precious child. As I walked the corridors and down in the lift with him, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. He was beautiful and yet here I was, holding a mask over his face, watching him fight against the need to breathe rapidly before his eyes finally closed. He was asleep. It would be eight hours until I would see him again. Eight hours of worrying, crying, despairing. Eight hours of treading hospital corridors re-arranging his hospital bag, folding his blankets, drinking excesses of coffee. Eight long hours.
Then it was all over.
I was met by his surgeon in the family room. She looked tired but triumphant when she told me that everything had gone to plan. I could have kissed her! With eagerness I followed her to the intensive care ward, wanting to sweep my baby into my arms, yet on setting eyes on him, something inside of me broke. My baby looked like this:
and there was nothing that I could do. He would be kept sedated for four days, so that he didn’t pull his chest drain out and to keep him comfortable. For the second time in his short life, I was in the position where I couldn’t hold him, couldn’t protect him or make him feel better. All that I could do, was sit by his bedside and wait. Wait with patience, wait with love and wait with hope.
Join me next week, where finally we will have some good news and as always, please do share your thoughts, I love to hear from you.
If you would like to read the rest of Big Bro’s journey, you can find all of the posts here:
I was going to write about the science behind anxiety today. I had it a planned in rough notes, with little illustrations to make it easy-going on the reader. It is interesting stuff and something I really wanted to share with you all, after learning about it in my last group therapy session. However, I no longer have the energy to write it.
It’s around 6:30 am on a Saturday morning. My three-year old son is sat in the armchair opposite me, eyes glued to the cartoons after waking at five o clock and refusing to go back to sleep. He won’t eat his breakfast – despite the raging hunger I can hear in his stomach and his eyes are red from lack of sleep, yet nothing will make him go back upstairs to bed. I worry that he’s going to starve himself. He’s such a thin little thing and barely eats as it is but I can’t make him, in the same way that I can’t make him stay in bed to get the sleep that he needs.
The twins have just been put into their cots, after a night of constant waking. One will wake up the other and the night proceeds in a disjointed routine of bottle feeding, nappy checking, rocking and singing. I’ll get one off to sleep and then the other will wake up, screaming as if I’ve hurt him or her in some way. She doesn’t want a bottle, he doesn’t need his nappy changed, she doesn’t care that I rock her, as long as I am holding her, he just wants to lay on my bed, clapping his hands and screams blue murder if I lay him back down in his cot. They used to be such good sleepers – sleeping through from 9 weeks old. I guess it was too good to be true.
I sit now, catching myself nodding off as I write this. My stomach groans with the kind of hunger you get, when you’ve been awake all night. Can’t sleep now though. The three-year old is throwing a tantrum because he wants biscuits instead of breakfast. I try my best to remain firm – to concentrate on the rules me and The Beef have set in place. We’re both too tired to argue though, so we give in.
Over the course of the night, we snapped at each other with a sleep-deprived irritability. I criticised, he shouted, I cried, he sighed, I cried some more and admitted that I thought I would be better off dead. He looked at me with that lost look he has, when he doesn’t know what to say.
We’ve been doing this routine for the past fortnight, neither of us getting much more than a couple of hours sleep between us. We both know that we can’t go on much more like this, but there is no-one else to take the strain, no family to come and help out when we need them the most. They’re good at criticising and pointing out where we’re going wrong, but through their little window into our lives, they don’t see our dysfunctional world of sleep deprivation. They aren’t there to help when in the small hours, all that we want to do is crash and sleep.
I have a mug of steaming coffee sat next to me. It will take many more of these before I will feel awake enough to cope today, but like many other parents out there, who go through this nightly battle, we carry on. Why? Because we have no other option.
What are your experiences of sleep deprivation? Did you manage to crack the night-waking code? Are the members of your family supportive and give you a break once in a while, or do they expect you to carry on running on empty? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Big Bro spent four weeks after his birth, in between intensive care and the high dependency unit. Those four weeks were the hardest weeks I’ve ever had to endure. The not knowing was the difficult thing. From one day to the next, I only had a rough understanding of what was happening – nurses, doctors, surgeons – they were all so busy, rushing from one cot to the next, probably saving lives as they did so. I have no quarrels with Big Bro’s care. They were all excellent, professional and took care of him to the highest standards.
My care? Well that was a whole different kettle of fish.
My first two days in Bristol, were spent on the maternity ward, in a private room. After trying to do so much in the first 48 hours after giving birth, I was more exhausted than I thought and it showed, by almost passing out in intensive care, after seeing Big Bro for the first time since his operation.
My c-section wound was a mess. I had developed two large holes in the incision, which had been stitched on the inside and glued on the outside. Because the incision was higher up than it would normally have been, it lay precisely at the point where my post-baby belly hanged, forcing all of the fluid that had built up within, to gravitate towards that area and escape via the only place it could – my incision. So, while my body was trying it’s hardest to heal on the outside, within it was only just beginning the process, forcing holes in the scar tissue, in order to get rid of the slough – the nastiness that was trying to escape. I would have a dressing put on and within an hour, I would be soaked through and having to painfully rip the dressing off, so that it could be cleaned and re-dressed again.
After my two days on the ward, a place was found for me in a grotty little bedsit, just across the road from the hospital. My first night in there, I sobbed my heart out. Uncontrollable waves of anguish, grief and hopelessness. Why had life done this to me? Why had it robbed me and my son, from spending the first few hours of his life together? Why did I have to tireless pump milk out of my aching breasts, when I didn’t have the strength to even feed myself? Why did I have to be so far away from home?
The morning after, I woke soaked through to the skin. My milk had come through and my c-section incision, had leaked all over the bed. I couldn’t shower because I was told to keep the wound dry and I feared if I got the dressings wet, I’d have to endure the pain of being re-dressed yet again. I was smelly, dirty – I felt unclean and my mood lowered to the point where I was seriously considering just going home, leaving my son in the capable hands of the professionals. But I couldn’t. The importance of pumping my breast milk, for him to be tube fed through the stomach with, was drummed into me with urgency. My baby needed me.
A place was eventually found for me in more suitable parent accommodation. Ronald MacDonald House it was called and it was beautiful. I had my own bedroom with clean sheets, my own bathroom, a communal dining and cooking area, a place to wash all of my soiled clothing and Big Bros baby grows It did a lot to improve my state of mind and slowly my strength was gathering once more. One good thing though, always precedes a bad one, and that day, I was officially discharged from the maternity ward and told to register with a doctor, in order to be treated for my ongoing wound problem, by the district nurses.
I was distraught and totally confused. I thought that I would be looked after until I was better. I didn’t know the area and definitely couldn’t walk very far. But no, this is what I had to do apparently. I was sent away with a handful of dressings, to dress my wound myself, a small supply of blood pressure tablets and a feeling of complete hopelessness.
You carry on though don’t you? Against all odds, you just keep on going because you have no other choice and so that is what I did. That afternoon, I half walked, half dragged myself up to the doctors and temporarily registered there. I then went to the district nurses office, and explained my situation. They were totally perplexed, but took my details and assured me that I would see someone soon. In the evening, sat in my room with radio 1 playing the same song continuously in the background, I finally had a visist from the district nurse.
What an effect she had on me!
She was the most lovely woman I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She took one look at my c-section, which had made no attempt to heal further and tutted to herself. “You now what they’ve gone and done?” she asked, more to herself than me, “They’ve only packed the holes in your incision with the wrong dressing. They’ve put a wet dressing, inside a wet wound! How the heck do they think it’s supposed to heal like that?” Promptly, she cleaned the wound, packed it with a dry dressing, popped a couple of absorbent pads on top, then taped the whole thing down. I felt secure! Every other day she came to do this and I remember the immense feeling of pleasure, of being able to take the dressing off and shower before her arrival. I could actually feel clean and more human and things were starting to heal!
After that I started to gain more confidence and focus better on my son and my own health. I was eating better and had a good store of milk in the freezer. Big Bro was gaining a bit of weight and I’d finally mastered the art of changing a colostomy bag, and feeding him through a tube. It was decided on the fourth week, that Big Bro would be transferred back to the NICU in Exeter. There he would be kept in their high dependency unit, to grow and gain strength, ready for his big operation in three months time. He would need it – it would be the operation to repair his Oesophagus and give him the means to eat normally through his mouth and it wasn’t a risk free one either. I breathed a sigh of relief at this news. I would be able to sleep in my own bed and jump on the bus in the morning, and spend the day with him. I would have my own things around me, could wash his clothes in my own washing machine. I could start getting his cot ready and buy all of the bits that he would need when he was eventually allowed to come home. I could also heal – both physically and mentally.
When I would get him home would remain to be seen. It depended on the success of the operation he would have in a few months and how he would respond to it after. That however, is for a different post, a post that will be extremely hard to write.
I welcome all of your comments and if you have personally been in a similar situation, then I’d love to hear your story also. If you wish to read the previous posts in Big Brother’s story, then you may find them here:
Group Therapy, is one of those things that tends to have a big fat stigma, slapped on top of it. You can almost picture the scene – a group of people all sat in awkwardly in a circle, looking a bit shifty and trying to avoid each other’s gaze. A ball is thrown around the circle, and if it lands on you, it’s your turn to talk. That’s right, you have to stand up, open your mouth and pour out your inner-most fears, in-front of a load of strangers, who you couldn’t give a crap about.
Last night I attended my first self-esteem focused, group therapy session. As usual, I was late, so all eyes were on me, as I sheepishly sat myself down. Yes, we did sit in a circle (much to my amusement), however that’s where the similarities between that and my imaginary scenario ended.
This particular group therapy, is about raising your self-esteem and confidence, via the use ofCognitive Behavioural Therapy methods, in a group setting. Now, I’ve been using some CBT methods over the last few months, so I was somewhat familiar with what we would be doing, but I never realised how much more of an impact it could have, when you do it as a group, as opposed to on your own.
It wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be for one. Everyone there was in the same boat. They all have anxiety, self-esteem and issues with depression in one way or another. They’ve all been to that place called ‘rock bottom’ and don’t like what they see there and they all want to do something about it.
The two-hour session last night, was about introducing us to the way in which our thoughts, effect our feelings, which then effects our behaviour. For instance we were given the following scenario.
Imagine that you are walking down the road and in the distance, you see a close friend walking towards you. The same friend then walks straight past you, without any kind of acknowledgement and on down the road. What is the first thing you would think?
What have I done wrong? – This is your thought.
Now, what does that one thought, make you feel?
Maybe you feel upset because you were ignored. Worried because you don’t know what you’ve done wrong. You might start to get anxious, have sweaty palms, hot flushes, be agitated, distracted. You may be frozen to the spot, not knowing what your next move should be.
These are all your body’s reactions to that one single thought. It’s startling how many emotions and feelings can come out of that thought.
Now, what do those feelings make you want to do?
You might forget about where you were going. Maybe that nice thing you were going to do for yourself, gets forgotten in the wave of feelings going on in your body. Perhaps, you might cry because you are confused and upset about why you were being ignored. You may go home, retreat into your comfort zone.
All of these things, triggered from one little thought. One small incident and your whole day is ruined.
My rudimentary triangle of thoughts, feelings and behaviour. MS Paint is your friend.
Our group leader then approached it a different way. What if on seeing your friend walk past without saying anything to you, you stopped and thought differently about it. What if, instead of presuming you had done something wrong, you turned and shouted after your friend? Perhaps you could have told yourself, “Oh she mustn’t have had her glasses on, I’ll give her a call later.”, or even, “She must be having a bad day, I’ll ring her later, to see if she is OK. ” If you approached it that way, do you think you would have ended up with the mental and physical reactions that you had in the first scenario? No. You may have just been curious and concerned. Your day certainly wouldn’t have been ruined by it.
This in essence is what the CBT approach to self-esteem is all about. It’s about being curious and looking at why we think, feel and behave in the way that we do. It’s about being able to know when we’re feeling anxious, and to be able to sit with that anxiety, knowing it’s there, but also not letting it overcome you. It’s about accepting that we will never be the uber, amazing, confident, perfect person that we want to be – that’s unrealistic, but also understanding that we don’t want to be the creature with no sense of self-worth, or self-respect, who doesn’t take risks and always stays inside her comfort zone. It’s about working in the middle – in the grey area, one step at a time. Knowing our limitations, and then being curious enough to push them a bit. It’s about giving it a go because there is nothing to lose.
I got a lot out of that one session and I left it feeling empowered. Research has shown that the more a person puts in to these sessions, and CBT itself, then the better the results are. Doing it in a group setting helps, because we can encourage each other with the knowledge that we’re all trying to reach the same goal, even if it’s in a round about kind of way. So, for the next eleven weeks, I will be pushing myself and putting as much as I can in it. For me, the grey area is where I want to be.
Please let me know your thoughts on this, as I’m always interested in hearing other people’s experiences, whether you’ve done group therapy or not. Just pop a comment below, or if you’d rather email me, then you can find my email address on my about page.
Giving birth for the first time, was not what I expected it to be. It wasn’t beautiful, emotional or something I would ever have wanted to film. You see the movies, you know the kind, with the short labour, looked-after mother and the healthy baby, passed into her loving arms at the end. You imagine that same scenario for yourself, and this comforts you, as the weeks pass and the bump feels like it will take over your entire body.
It didn’t happen like that for me.
I was taken in at 37 weeks. The fluid around my baby had come back with a vengeance and it was just too dangerous to let me go any longer. My blood pressure had also sky-rocketed to something crazy! I remember my obstetrician, explaining it in a very graphic way,
“Put it this way, if you were in a moving car and your waters broke at the same time, the pressure that would be released, would send you right out of the back of that car. Oh and your blood-pressure suggests that you should be having a stroke right now.”
It’s a pretty sobering thought don’t you think? I’d been waddling around all this time, not knowing the danger that me and my unborn baby was in. I had no way of knowing! I didn’t feel any different from the exhausted, aching, barely able to walk state that I’d been dealing with all this time.
Needless to say, they frog-marched me right up to a delivery room! I very nearly had Big Bro that very night, alone, in hospital for the first time and scared out of my wits! Thankfully, my blood pressure behaved itself and I was transferred to the anti-natal ward to await further instructions.
The plan was this. I would be induced and monitored, then they would break my waters for me in a controlled environment, I’d go in to full-blown labour and then I’d have a baby. I said it was a plan. In reality it went like this.
They induced me at 11am, on Thursday the 10th of September. Nothing happened for the rest of the day. So far so good. The following morning they decided that they’d break my waters for me and let all hell break loose.
So there I was. Bending over a pillow at the edge of the bed while 3 different anaesthetists tried and failed to put an epidural into my spine. This was after they tried and failed to put in a drip. I’ll skim the needle details for the squeamish people who might read this, but by the end of it my arms were covered in bruises and dried up blood. It’s a good job I’m not scared of needles! Eventually they got the head honcho to do my epidural, which resulted in a lovely warm comfy sensation, washing down my spine. Bliss!
To business then. My legs were hoisted up into the stirrups and I fondly waved good-bye to my dignity, as a rather tiny little doctor walked in, snapping her rubber gloves into place. She was shortly followed by a midwife and a trainee nurse. Poor love! Midwife and nurse were instructed to place as much pressure as they could onto le bump, while tiny doctor lady popped my waters. This was so Big Bro didn’t bob back up out of the birth canal from the pressure of the fluid.
And oh boy was there fluid! All over the floor, the nurse, the midwife and the poor doctor! I remember thinking she should have worn a snorkel! It really was all so surreal. I was petrified at the time, of course, but the hilarity of the moment took over and I couldn’t help but laugh.
With that over, I was left to myself to see if labour would progress. By this time Big Bro had stopped moving and I was getting worried. I’d heard horror stories about what that might mean and within an hour, I was buzzing away on my little bell, with the fear that something awful had happened to my baby. On examining the read-out from the monitoring machine I was hooked up to, it was established that he indeed wasn’t moving and his heartbeat was starting to get a little irregular. I hadn’t dilated past 1cm and as much as I wanted a natural birth, it was just too risky.
In a mad rush, I was whizzed off to theatre for a caesarean section. I’m a big girl and from what I’d read, being a big girl and having a major piece of surgery like this, didn’t mix too well. On the table I went. Strapped down, trussed up and hooked up. Now for the ice-cube test. Ice cube on the cheek, I can feel that, good! Ice cube on the tummy, I can still feel that, not good! No really Mr Anaesthetist, don’t you dare cut me open yet. I can still feel everything! Look, I’ll just climb off and back on to the table to prove my point. I can still use my legs!
So if you hadn’t already gathered, my epidural wasn’t working. Sadly it was night night for me. I’d be going to sleep now. I wouldn’t be there to see my baby come into the world. I wouldn’t be able to hold him and care for him. He would be whisked off to the special care baby unit, before I could even give him a name or a kiss, or a touch.
The mask was put over my face and I had no choice but to breathe deeply. I felt the anaesthetic being injected into my already swollen hand and I remember crying out because it bloody well hurt. I remember the faces of the three men above me, telling me everything would be all right and that they’d see me soon. I remember ‘Golden Brown’ by the Stranglers, echoing around the shiny new theatre and I remember a tear rolling down the side of my face and blurring my eyes.
Not long ago, Catherine, a fellow blogger, declared that she will be doing her very ownHappiness Project. It’s an idea taken from a book of the same title by Gretchen Rubin, who every month, embarked on something new, that would aid in enriching her life and ultimately, make her a much happier person. Over at For Bell and Will, Catherine will be sharing her journey to happiness with her readers, and has invited other bloggers to link up and join in with their own posts, on how they will be trying to make their lives that little bit better.
This is something that really piqued my interest. Right now, my life could do with a whole lot more happiness. I wouldn’t say that I’m unhappy per see, but I have issues that, if overcome, would make things seem a lot brighter. For me, my goals are more like small steps towards a greater goal and achieving it, will enrich my whole families life, not just my own.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know I have anxiety problems – especially in a social setting. I’ll be using my happiness project, to help me overcome my anxiety and I’ve already started to put the wheels in motion this week.
For a long time I’ve put off getting Big Bro into a nursery school. I didn’t have a clue about how the whole process worked. Who would I contact? Did I simply have to go around different nurseries and ask? Did I have to apply to the local council? How much would it cost me? What about his medical problems? How would I get there? All of these things, filled me with a sense of dread but what I was most concerned about was the walking that would be involved and having to actually talk to people I didn’t know.
I don’t have a problem with walking itself, I love the exercise and especially when it’s cold, I could walk for miles. The problem I have is when I walk, I’m incredibly self-conscious. I’m a big girl and the effort to walk long distance, shows evidently on my brow. This leads me into a feeling of insecurity and the thought that everyone will be scrutinising every bead of sweat, every flush of my cheeks and every intake of heavy breath. It flusters me to the point, that when I arrive at my destination, my happy mood is flipped and I’m incapable of holding a sensible conversation. It’s debilitating. It destroys relationships, shatters bridges and alienates me. It also means that my children suffer as a consequence.
This week I decided that enough, really was enough. I rang around various places, talked to a few people and found out what I needed to do, in order to secure a place in nursery for my bright little star. I plunged head first in to the deep end and arranged a visit to one of the nicest nurseries in walking distance, took Big Bro, beaming, by the hand and we marched off. We walked! I walked!
We walked there and we walked back. I kept telling myself that I was doing this for him, that I was putting him first. I didn’t worry about being hot. I didn’t think twice about what people might think about me. I just did it! The result, is Big Bro now has a nursery place twice a week and I will keep on walking! I will walk him there and back, in all weathers and make sure he has that time with children his own age – something that he has needed for a very long time.
I know that sometimes it will be hard, unbearable even. I’ll stress the night before, right up to the minute we leave but I know that when we go, when we step outside and just walk, I’ll actually be Okay and I won’t yearn for the Earth to swallow me up.
This is my ongoing happiness project. These are my small little goals, that will eventually, enable me to breathe deeply and confidently. It will mean that I won’t be stuck within the same, gloomy four walls, wanting to get out but not knowing how, fearing the consequences.
Do you have a happiness project? What little things do you do, to keep that spring in your step and a smile on your face? Please do let me know. Also, if you’ve blogged about it, visit For Bell and Will and add your post to the linky!
Believe it or not, I don’t have many friends. Most of the people I know, either live at the other end of the country or solely exist to me on-line in some form or another. Looking back through my life, I’ve also never been a very social creature – seeking solitude more often than not and being comfortable in doing so.
After an appointment this morning with two charming ladies, where we were discussing Group Therapy for my social anxiety, the thought struck me.
Is it okay to be anti-social?
We live in a world, where it’s important for us to be seen to be connecting in some way, with our fellow human beings. We’re bombarded by ideas of “The Big Society“, and that “We’re All In This Together”. We’re encouraged to have some kind of community spirit, to get involved with things going on locally, to socialise with our neighbours and do all of the things that “normal” people do.
Why is it that if you’re not a huge fan of these things, you’re classed as “not normal”?
Why is it okay for those of us who are happy with our own company, who don’t want to spend our free time pissing our money up the wall, who enjoy the quieter and more personal pursuits of life, to be labelled as “loners”, “freaks” and many other worse things? Why is being uncomfortable and unhappy in a social situation a bad thing? Must we all live our lives at the centre of attention, in order to feel accepted?
I can understand to some extent if it intrudes on your ability to lead a happy life. I know how hard this can be, from personal experience. What I do object to though, is that wanting to keep yourself to yourself, is still seen as abnormal.
Am I naive in thinking that in this day and age, we should be respecting each individual, for the person that they are and not dictating what we think they should be?
What are your thoughts on this? As always, I love to hear from both sides of the argument.