New caffeine fix for sleep deprived parents in Acton

It has been so long since I have written, and I am not afraid to say that this has been due to being completely overwhelmed by the exhaustion and anxiety of caring for a two year old and 16 week old baby. I admit that if it weren’t for my calm and loving husband, I doubt that I would be able to cope. Of course, the help from my psychologist Rachel to whom I was referred by my GP has helped tremendously. Anyway, on with the blog….

I have been meaning to share news for so long of a pop-up cafe in Churchfield Road Road, Acton. Although I live in Acton, I don’t tend to go into the town centre much, preferring to go into Chiswick for it’s parks and coffee at Brew Cafe (more on that in another post!). However, Acton is undergoing somewhat of a change, reflected in the various new builds dotted around, new developments, and gentrification that can be seen if taking a walk down Churchfield Road. Just off the main high street, one can find various coffee shops and delis here, frequented by various people of different demographics; parents and babies, older folk, and locals amongst many others.

Jof came across Grid Cafe by accident when trying to get Mollie to sleep, then a newborn, by endlessly walking around town with her in a Mai-Tai sling, kindly given to us by a neighbour.

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Jof with new-born Mollie in Mai-Tai sling

He bought a much needed coffee and was surprised that he actually found a decent coffee in Acton (we had been searching for ages since moving cafe-laden Islington). We subsequently visited numerous times, most recently ordering sweet potato waffles which were absolutely delish.

 

 


There is a play area downstairs which is handy, if a little cramped and lacking in ventilation. Alfie loves playing here, even in the Jumperoo which is WAY too small for him.

 

 

 

As mentioned earlier, this place is indeed a pop-up so will not be here forever. When I last spoke to the owner, he said that they were looking around the rest of Acton and possibly Camden to create either another pop-up, or a permanent space. He plans to house a play area alongside the food and beverage offerings, as the cafe does presently.

 

 

The cafe regularly holds kids’ events, such as the mermaid who visits on occasional Sundays (scary but true), and ceramic painting. Details can be found on the company’s Facebook page.

 

 

I would thoroughly recommend visiting Grid to sample there medium-roast coffee, which is a rare find in West London what with all the burnt coffee beans of dark roast coffee chains in abundance. Also try the waffles which are healthy and filling. They also do a good Beetroot Matcha Latte.

 

Yoga for Post-partum Depression

After speaking to the Ealing Perinatal team who recommended I try mother and baby yoga. I had tried it once before with Alfie but had found it rather boring; the teacher demonstrated all the poses whilst I copied, and Alfie was left to his own devices, rolling around on the floor. I didn’t particularly warm to the teacher and I didn’t find it beneficial, so was sceptical of trying again. However, my friend had been going to Lulu Winfield’s yoga at Lumi in Hammersmith with her son and loved it, so I thought that I should at least try this particular class.

I was incredibly anxious during the week before the class, which is quite normal for me! Many times I made excuses to to go, whilst inside I was worrying that Mollie would cry non-stop during the class or that somehow I wouldn’t be able to cope. I was anxious about being anxious! Yet I got Mollie ready on the morning of the class and decided to go. It took us about an hour to leave the house, despite my husband taking Alfie out that morning. I’m not even sure why it took us so long!

 

 

At the start of the class, Lulu introduced herself and was incredibly warm and welcoming. I explained how I was feeling and she was very understanding. With Mollie in the sling at the start of the class, she was content. However, a few minutes into class, she woke up to feed. After feeding, that was it-a lot of crying with me trying to calm her outside the class. Luckily, Lulu came out and offered to hold Mollie whilst I at least did the last ten minutes of the class; she held someone’s baby most of the class if they needed to be held, which was so considerate! Immediately, Mollie stopped crying and I was free to do some stretches. Had Lulu not helped, I am certain that I would have left the class; I had felt so low and useless, even though there were other babies there who were restless and crying.

It was great to be able to get even a few minutes to relax. It has been months since I have meditated and am so proud of us for going to the class. I would recommend new parents to at least try such a class, and if you can get to one of Lulu’s classes, even better!

Coping with Postnatal Depression

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Depression seems to me to be such a taboo subject. I suffered from this (mostly without realising that I was ill) throughout my teens up until the present day. I remember trying to speak to my tutors at university about my unexplainable feelings of sadness, and then to a uni counsellor, both of whom told me, ‘don’t worry, you haven’t got much longer to go until you graduate’. Because of their response, I continued plodding along with this sense of despair until my late twenties when I moved to London. My anxiety had gotten so bad that I couldn’t leave the house. This is when my GP referred me to a counselling service called Mind. With CBT, I slowly felt more myself, but not without dredging up things from the past which may have contributed to my low mood.

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At the height of post-natal depression, yet all smiles!

A year later I fell pregnant with my first baby and was referred to the perinatal service, but didn’t click with the doctor, so discontinued treatment. Eventually, after non-stop crying with the birth of my son (both him and me!) my GP prescribed me with anti-depressants. Although I had the prescription, I was too scared to take them. What if I became numb? What if I couldn’t love my baby? What if, what if…..

I would try to talk to other new mum’s about how I was feeling, but they all said that, even though they were tired, they loved being a mum. What was wrong with me?

 

Then one day, when I was feeling particularly desperate and didn’t know where to turn, I took my first pill. It felt as though I was finally helping myself, and I felt relief. Weeks later, I actually started to feel like myself-it’s as if I had forgotten what ‘myself’ was. I was now able to focus more on positives, such as my son smiling, or the sun shining.

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Fast forward two years and I have just had my daughter who is now 5 weeks. And guess what? Post-natal depression rears it’s ugly head again. It became so bad that I couldn’t be in the same room as my daughter, through no fault of her own. Because of this, my mum looked after her for two nights. Some may say that this was cruel to separate myself from my daughter, but I believe that a mum or dad who is suffering from post-natal depression  must do whatever it takes to safeguard themselves and their babies.

It does get better…..

The past few weeks have been so hard, but having just spoken to a psychiatrist today, and after having some space, I am again starting to feel okay again. I realise that I need to lower my expectations of myself as a parent, and perhaps stop following celebrity mum’s who seem to have the perfect life!

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What is interesting is that there is a lack of support groups in London for people with depression, especially in West London where I live. London is a place where people can easily become disparate from family, unknown to neighbours, or too busy to see friends. Surely it is somewhere like London where more support is needed? Such groups are needed as, in my experience, trying to speak to friends about how I felt was often met with a lack of understanding of the illness, or the response of ‘what do you have to feel sad about, you have a great life!’.

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This post barely touches on my experience of depression, but I just wanted to let people know that it does exist and it is okay to talk about it.

More awareness is needed, more support, and more encouragement to be open about the illness. I am therefore looking into setting up a relaxed support group for those suffering with depression, with various themes each time. I hope to hold these ‘chats’ in a relaxed environment as opposed to a sterile room, maybe even at my local pub! If anyone has any ideas, please do contact me, or keep an eye on this blog for more developments.

 

 

Where to go for help

For those mums or dads suffering from persistent low mood since having a baby, I would recommend seeking help. Speak to your GP, health advisor, or midwife if you have one. As I live in Ealing, I was referred to Ealing IAPT which is free service that provides psychological therapies, however, the service is available throughout the UK. Details can be found on the NHS Choices website. It is also possible to self-refer, but this process can take a while, so I would recommend seeing your GP to be referred. Furthermore, if any pregnant women are feeling low, it is best to speak to their GP or midwife so that treatment (talking therapies, possibly medication if safe) can be started before birth. This would mean that support is already in place.

Teaching yoga as a new mum-spoiler alert!

Before I had lovely Alfie I was foot-loose and fancy free, able to practice yoga twice a day, attend classes and book onto workshops without a second thought.

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See-footloose and fancy free! And a bit drunk.

 

Life and yoga was so easy back then……

 

Fast forward a year and a bit and one yoga teaching qualification later (plus a baby Alfie!) and how things are different! There was me thinking that I’d continue my self-practice with Alfie calmly sitting nearby, or I’d casually drop him off to nursery whilst I went and taught my 5+ classes per day (yeah, right…). Not so much. The reality is this….

 

 

 

  • Looking after a baby is HARD. Sleep deprivation means that getting up an hour early and going to bed an hour later in order to practice yoga than usual is less than appealing .
  • Nursery in London costs around £75 a day-in order to break even, I would need to teach roughly 4-5 classes per day. In order to make money, I’d have to teach many more…talk about burn out!
  • It’s pretty difficult to find yourself teaching 5 classes per day, 5 days per week; I think that this applies to new or established yoga teacher. It’s necessary to have another job, at least at the same tim. But then, when would one spend time with their child/children?
  • Teaching yoga, like some other careers, means studying to keep knowledge up to date. However, without an employer to help pay for your studies, it is up to you to finance this. Hopefully you have family close by who are willing and able to look after your baby in order to save money on childcare.
  • If and when you do have a baby, you may need to take extra time off teaching to allow for your body to recover. Your self-practice may certainly go out the window for a while. This happened to me, meaning that, because I was in such a physical job as a teacher, I didn’t feel comfortable teaching to students whilst sitting in a chair. That would definitely have been doing them, and myself, a disservice!
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Forcing a smile whist sleep deprived. How did I manage to even get dressed that day?!

Unless you are lucky enough to have those supportive families or trusted friends to help out, or do not need to worry so much about money (oh, I can but dream), once you have a baby, teaching and practicing yoga really does become more about the money. Is it taboo to talk about yoga teaching and making money? Yes! But it needs to be addressed, especially if thinking about starting a family.

Have a plan in place, maybe think about getting a part-time job to supplement your yoga salary, and get lots of help from loved ones!

As for me, I am relying on savings and my loving parents to enable me to teach, and of course the support of my husband who works long hours in order to look after us all. Although only able to teach sporadically, as there is only so much one can call on family to help, at least I am still teaching. However, with another baby on the way, I am well aware that this is only a short-term option; savings run out, my parents need to rest, and so does my husband!

It would be great to hear some inspiring stories from other mums who have managed to balance teaching and having a baby. Please do post some or message!

The Reality of Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Teaching yoga. This has been a dream of mine for so long, and in April this year it finally came true after I qualified to teach. When people asked me what I did for a living, I could finally say, “I’m a yoga teacher!” Amaze!

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Looking after a baby and studying IS doable!

 

 

I hadn’t, however, given much thought on where and how I was going to teach once qualified. My mind had been so focused on passing the exams that the period after qualifying hadn’t been at the forefront of my mind. The time during which I was studying was made all the more time consuming due to looking after my son, who was around 8 months old at the time. Character building, though!

 

 

 

 

Luckily, a lovely girl with whom I trained recommended me to a yoga instructor friend of hers who needed cover. I started teaching corporate yoga classes in Central London a couple of weeks after qualifying. I was actually teaching! Another friend of mine, also an instructor, regularly needs cover, so I now teach beginners’ classes from time to time.

But this isn’t enough to pay the bills! Getting a permanent slot on a studio timetable is incredibly difficult-sometimes I feel that there are too many yoga teachers for the number of jobs available in Greater London. I look at studio timetables and think, “Hmmm, where would they even put me as a new teacher?!” Still, I put myself out there by assisting at studios and making myself known to teachers’ classes I go to. I have also recently qualified as a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher which will hopefully benefit from being quite niche-y.

I had hired a room at a studio to host a beginners’ yoga course but, due to my poor marketing skills, or perhaps a lack of demand for this in Chiswick where I live, there was not enough to make it a worthwhile venture.

I have a website, I have posted CVs to studios and health clubs; I was naive to think that this was enough to make jobs just fall into my lap! And with another baby on the way, sometimes I think that perhaps I should go back to doing a real job, as I have a family to support.

In hindsight, I would have stayed in my original job and just started teaching around my main job, at least so that I had a regular salary coming in. This is so obvious to me now, but at the time I was so desperate to leave my old job and follow my dream!

So, a few home truths about being a yoga teacher:

  1. This profession does not necessarily make you rich. I meant, I guess it could do if you are lucky enough to become a celebrity teacher, like Kino et al. Otherwise, don’t give up your day job if you already have one. Teach alongside your current job, otherwise the world becomes an incredibly scary and stressful place!
  2. Teaching is tiring. I’ve only ever taught a maximum of one class a day and even this exhausts me! An hour or so of pretty much constantly talking, modifying and assisting students, and creatively structuring a class can be mentally draining. However, teaching can also be exhilarating-just pace yourself and take time to relax!
  3. Teaching yoga can make your self-practice less of a priority-don’t let this happen to you. If I’m honest, I barely practice at home anymore. If I do manage to practice at home, I end up using the time instead to create new sequences for students, or cut it short to attend to my son. I go to external yoga classes in order to practice, which means I have lost my own meditative home practice, that which made me want to teach in the first place. Something I need to work on!
  4. Being a yoga teacher can be expensive. I know this sounds weird, but if you look at Yoga Teacher Trainings, both in the UK and abroad, they are rather pricey. For example, an 200 hour YTT in London costs up to £4500. Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training can cost around £600. A CPD in restorative teaching can cost up to £500. It is generally expected that yoga teachers keep their trainings up to date, but this can be costly.

Please don’t let my comments put  you off teaching, though! It is such a creative and rewarding profession, as is teaching anything that you enjoy doing yourself. It just pays to plan in advance, especially when it comes to finances. Don’t be disorganised with your head in the clouds like me.

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Despite not being the easiest career to get into, yoga teaching makes me feel like this!

 

Everything considered, I am going to keep promoting myself and continue to train with my favourite teachers, as I know that this is something that I love. And I am making a resolution right this minute to have at least a 15 minute self-practice every day. If I do end up deciding to go back to the ‘normal’ working world, I know that I would have given this my best shot!

Omg, I taught my first yoga class!

I finally did it-last Monday evening I taught my first yoga class in Central London. I was extra nervous about getting it right as a fellow teacher trainee had recommended me to her friend who needed cover. She told me that the class was a beginner class and that they didn’t usually do flow-however, as my own practice is flow based, I felt that I wanted to make it at least a little bit Vinyasa-ry and teach them something new.

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I arrived mega early (55 minutes in fact) and went through the sequence in my head. The time flew by and before I knew it, I was teaching! It was so strange having people who had actually paid to come to the class, listening to me and literally doing everything that I told them to-talk about pressure!

Nobody’s perfect.

Then my worse nightmare happened-my Bluetooth speaker stopped. I knew that this would be a possibility but never really thought that it would happen. It kind of threw me and I started rushing the teaching. I could barely get off my mat which annoyed me as I hate it when teachers do this.

Eventually I calmed down and started walking around and instructing the poses as opposed to constantly demonstrating them. Well, I was calm until I realised that I was at the end of the whole sequence but still had 20 minutes left to teach-wtf?? How had that happened? The students were already on the floor, so I simply taught them a few more poses such as twists and Bridge, and then made sure that the Savasana was a little longer then planned. At least this way I had time to go round and give Savasana adjustments, something that I personally love to receive.

I made sure that I asked for feedback at the end of the class. I didn’t tell them that it was my first class, as didn’t feel that the students needed to know. Everyone was polite and said that they were very relaxed, but it was hard to tell if they really enjoyed it as people are generally so polite! I will just have to assume that they enjoyed it as they didn’t tell me otherwise-they seemed happy!

Things I have learned from teaching my first class:

Don’t rely on a playlist.

I knew my playlist off by heart and had been using the tracks as a cue on when to start the next section of the sequence-BIG mistake. Imagine my panicked brain when the music simply stopped working!

If your music does work, play it loud enough!

Loud enough so that it doesn’t sound like background music, especially during Savasana and energetic sections. I left the music, when working, playing quietly and it just felt weird.

 Don’t feel that you have to adjust anybody.

I love when a teacher deepens me into a pose, and felt the need to do this to everyone, but I don’t think that they really needed it. I felt that they were just happy to be in the pose. Unless it is an alignment issue, it’s okay to simply instruct.

 Prepare a back up plan.

If you end up teaching too quickly, have a few poses at the ready just in case you need to teach a bit extra. Conversely, if you find that you are running out of time, have in your mind beforehand which poses can be omitted to get the students safely to Savasana.

Keep an eye on the time!

Don’t do a Mel.

Don’t feel like you have to fill the silences.

I’m a talker. I could even hear myself constantly talking, trying to say everything I knew about each pose, but my nerves wouldn’t let me stop. Try not to say it if it isn’t relevant. If everyone is pressing their fingers into the mat in Downward Dog, you don’t need to remind them to do that.

Nerves, be gone!

The main thing, however, that I have learned is that it is normal to have nerves, and in a way this simply shows that you care. Looking back on every new challenge in my life, I was nervous but with experience, these pesky nerves dissipated. In fact, next time I will try to turn that nervous energy into excitement-apparently both emotions cause the same physical symptoms. Who knew?

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I’ll be back to let you know how my next class goes. Please share your experiences of teaching your first yoga class, or any kind of class for that matter!

Yoga Teacher Training-Nearly There!

I’d meant to start documenting my experience with YMCA Fit’s Yoga Teacher Training from Day One but this kind of went by the wayside with a bout of the Flu and an excitable nine-month old at home. I really cannot believe I have managed to come this far with a new baby, having started studying the anatomy component when my son was only a few months old.

And trying to get a daily self-practice in like I did before: way harder when my son likes to roll underneath me when I’m attempting Sun Salutations.

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Just before deciding to ‘join in’ mummy’s yoga self-practice

But somehow, with the support of my gorgeous and selfless husband, plus the best parents ever, not to mention friends who have allowed me to practice on them, I did it! (Yes, I know I haven’t actually done my final exam yet, but I ‘m thinking positively).So with only a couple of weeks to go until my final practical exam, here is the lowdown on the teacher training so far…

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Friendly instructors

Both Jonathan and Annie were incredibly supportive. Jonathan made us laugh every single day, and was so engaging. He knows so much! Both were always to available to answer questions or emails. most importantly, they taught us so much and instilled in us a confidence that we could be the best teacher we could possibly be.

I even had the confidence to teach Headstand, something I had been too scared to do since falling over into our sofa at home. I’m always petrified that I’m going to break my fingers and then somehow die….hhmm.

 

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This London-based blended-learning course was held at OneKX near Kings Cross. The studio was clean with loads of equipment and a nice little vegetarian cafe downstairs. Also two minutes walk to one of my favourite coffee shops, Half Cup. Please go there if you can-the staff are so friendly (so rare in London) and I think that I love their coffee as much as Caravan. I know. Yogis shouldn’t drink coffee. I never said I was perfect…..

Now a bit about the rest…

The e-learning materials were fabulous, but I must say that the support via email or telephone was pretty much non-existent. I felt that once my payment had been accepted, then the YMCA were satisfied that they had done all they needed to. Many of my emails for help went unanswered; staff on the telephone were either rude or had a “couldn’t care less attitude”.

However, overall I would recommend this course. It fits in so well with my lifestyle right now, and I have actually looked forward to each session, which is unusual for me as it is usually rather hard for me to stay focused or engaged. I am pretty excited about our practical exam as I will finally be able to go out and teach for real!  YAY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfie and Mel-A Day In The Life

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Alfie on one of our many walks in the park

I’m always interested in how other mums or dads spend their day if they are alone with their baby, and if they find it as much as a struggle as me. From speaking to mums at the fitness class I attend at Frame Kings Cross, it seems that everyone else is having a pretty easy time of it compared to me. Perhaps this is true, or maybe some feel that they must appear in control? I’m definitely not one of those-I’ve stopped pretending that I am in control with a perfect life and have started telling others how hard I am finding it. It makes me feel a bit better to let it all out!

When my husband is away, I do find it tiring and suffer a lot of anxiety when looking after Alfie. Definitely something I need to work on!

A typical day would go like this (warning-this is a LONG post as it’s a long day):

0500 Alfie wakes up-I think because he is lonely. Manage to pat and shush him back to sleep. I go back to bed.

0600 Alfie wakes up again. Manage to get him back to sleep. I go back to bed.

0645 Alfie wakes up. I try to get him back to sleep so that he can get up closer to 7am, to no avail. I get him up and give him his bottle.

0745 I make a tea which goes cold as I have to get his breakfast of baby porridge ready.

0800 Feed Alfie porridge which he manages to get in my hair by flicking the spoon out his mouth. He is then sick in my hair whilst burping him.

0830  Quickly make smoothie for myself and gulp it down so that I can shower. Have to wash my sick hair which I rush as Alfie is crying at me from his chair in need of a nap.

0900 Manage to leave the flat with still-wet hair hoping that Alfie will nap in his buggy on way to my fitness class. He only manages ten minutes which makes him grumpy throughout the class. I’m freezing on the way there because of my wet hair! Get a takeaway coffee from Caravan in Granary Square. Would have loved to sit down but Alfie gets angry when we sit still.

1000 Start class at Frame. Put Alfie on the mat and he continuously (and impressively!) rolls across the floor. Repeatedly I put him back on the mat; repeatedly he rolls away, narrowly missing other mums. I only manage to do a few squats before I decide to put him in his buggy.

1030 Alfie starts crying. I sit down and feed him his next bottle. After burping him, he is sick down his and my trousers. I wipe it up, try to do some sit ups with him on my tummy, but I have just missed this section of the class.

1045 Do a few planks, but Alfie needs to be sat up in case he is sick again, so I leave and feed him his sweet potato in the reception area.

1140 After feeding, burping and changing Alfie, we rush outside but miss the bus. I walk/jog home with him in the buggy as he is getting whiny as needs his next nap. Get back home at 12pm and put him in cot. After a quick shower, I’m starving but also knackered, so quickly eat some toast and spinach out of the bag then go to bed.

1300 Alfie wakes up before I have fallen asleep. He won’t go back to sleep, so I get him up and do tummy time. He’s grumpy as he’s tired. I make another cup of tea but it goes cold again as I need to sit with Alfie to stop him from getting more irritable, and don’t want to scald him with it.

1400 I feed Alfie his bottle, burp, then we go for a walk. It’s raining, but I need some air and a change of scenery. After half an hour, he starts moaning so I take him home and put him in cot. He goes to sleep, so I try to study some Anatomy and Physiology for Yoga. Manage to have a cup of tea-yay!

1500 Alfie wakes up. He is in a playful mood so we do a bit of dancing to Amazing Radio. He then sits in his highchair at the table playing with his toys until he gets bored so I dance with him some more. I’m completely knackered at this point. He does a massive poo which goes up his top and on my arms. I change him, then have to have a quick shower to get rid of the poo whilst he sits in his chair. Third shower of the day.

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Calorie laden pancakes from Sunday-delish!

1600 I’m getting cabin fever again and running out of ways to entertain Alfie, so we go for another walk to look at the trees in the park. He is quite happy staring at them. We then get a coffee from Sunday, one of my favourite cafes if the friendly staff are working. Sometimes I’m unlucky and get the moody girl, but not today. I get some cake as am hungry, and eat as we walk back home.

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In the lift on the way for another walk….

1700 Alfie is moody but it is too close to bed time for his nap so I feed him his pureed mango and then wash and change him into his pjs. I practice saying ‘Mama’ with him, but he is more interested in blowing raspberries, which makes me laugh. He then keeps trying to grab and eat my feet, so I let him as he seems to be enjoying it! Tickles though.

1800 Feed Alfie his last bottle, read him a bedtime story. I feel something land on my foot and hope it is not what I think it is. It is. I look down to see a sloppy poo on my right foot. Luckily I have got my socks on, although I can feel it seeping through. I’m amazed that it’s missed my legs, seeing that Alfie is sitting on my lap. I wash and change him, then put him in his cot whilst I clean the carpet. I notice that there is indeed some poo on my arms which means another shower. I say goodnight to Alfie, turn out the lights and wait for him to fall asleep.

1920 Fourth shower today.

2000 Am really hungry but too tired to cook much so I have a random meal of oven chips, avocado and some pre-cooked chicken. I then have a look online to see how to get 6 month olds to nap more.

2130 Go to bed. Worry about why Alfie doesn’t like napping.

2300 Finally fall asleep.

Sleep is such a luxury…

I love Alfie so much and reading this through again, I do see that he is just a normal sociable baby! However, lack of sleep can make things feel ten times worse, which is something nobody could have prepared me for. Still, little Alfie is a legend.

‘Baby blues’?

I haven’t posted in absolutely ages as was busy giving birth to my now six month old son and have been completely preoccupied with looking after him! It was tough at first, but things have got easier due to us managing to get him into a bit of a routine. He is, however, exactly like myself when  was a baby (so I’m told), in that he is demanding, attention seeking, and generally hard work! That said, he is anything but boring, and is massively affectionate and intelligent.

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Heavily pregnant at baby shower and yet feeling alone.

I hated being pregnant. There, I said it.

It’s funny thinking about how much I am gushing about him, as I certainly did not feel like this at the start. In fact, controversially, I disliked being pregnant, hated the way my body looked, and felt it was completely out of my control. You wouldn’t have thought it, though, from looking at photos of me, or talking to me, as I was always trying to hide how I felt. If I did try and explain it to someone, they would think that I was crazy: “what?! How can you not be excited? How can you not like being pregnant?” Most of this came from those who had not had babies, but also to a lesser extent, those who had. This made me feel guilty as if something was wrong with me. I did go and see a Perinatal Counsellor, but this again made me feel worse. I felt that I would need a lot of help when the baby was born, but the counsellor suggested that he would not know who his mum was if I let other people look after him. So I stopped seeing her.

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Days before giving birth.

Post-childbirth is not always all hearts and flowers like in films.

Fast forward to the birth. It was not all smiles and celebration when he was born; it was a long 48 hour labour and I was absolutely knackered. It was more relief that I felt; relief that the pain was over and that perhaps I could rest. Little did I know that babies do not allow you to rest! Being a spirited baby, my son cried A LOT. I couldn’t get the hang of breastfeeding either.

Getting help

I ended up breaking down in my GP’s office whilst attending my son’s 6 week check. She offered to prescribe me antidepressants. I was so desperate, I agreed. I had been scared to take them before in case of addiction or scary side-effects, but I was at the point where I didn’t care. I couldn’t seem to bond with my baby, I was sleep deprived, I couldn’t breastfeed and I felt that nobody understood. Another doctor got me an appointment with a family psychiatrist whereby I was to go and speak to her with my baby. Leaving the house with him on my own freaked me out as I hated doing this. I was always anxious that he would start crying and that I wouldn’t be able to cope. I managed to go it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I felt proud that I had made it to the appointment. The sessions were helpful in that they helped me to empathise with my son and see why it was so frustrating not to be able to communicate with words.

alfcarrier
With Alfie in the midst of post-natal depression.

The only way he could tell me what he wanted was to cry. I made an effort to talk to him more and involve him in what I was doing. I started to feel less anxious around him and really started to miss him when I went out to run errands, ironically because I was spending more time with him as opposed to avoiding him. However, I did find that the counsellor kept advising against other people looking after him. My parents would look after him when things got too much, especially when my husband was away working. She said that this was not a good thing and should be avoided where possible. So I felt guilty for doing this and stopped, leaving me depressed again and completely shattered. I decided to take what advice I needed and to leave the rest, which really worked for me.

I still ask my parents to look after Alfie as I love having time alone with my loving, supportive husband and sometimes I just really need to catch up on my sleep! Alfie loves seeing his grandparents too, and I no longer feel guilty about this as it helps me feel so much better physically and emotionally.

These feelings were not just ‘baby blues’; I felt too anxious to be alone with Alfie, I cried most of the time, I couldn’t sleep and wouldn’t eat anything. I was scared to leave the house with him, and was scared that something bad would happen to him if I wasn’t constantly prepared for the worst. I have to say, I wish I’d started taking anti-depressants earlier, and speaking to someone professional sooner. Friends didn’t understand, and I didn’t want to bother my family with such worries. I just wish women didn’t feel such pressure to be the perfect mum!

If anyone has similar feelings postnatally or even during pregnancy, I would definitely recommend speaking to a professional and possibly opening up to another mum as she may be going through the same thing. Also, don’t compare your baby to others; they are all individual. I used to ask myself, “why can’t Alfie be quiet and calm like that baby?” but now I feel blessed to have such a lively, happy and expressive son.