Blog of the Week: Renewal

Blog_of_the_week_badgeOur Blog of the Week this week comes from Adventures of a Middle-aged Matron who talks not just about renewal but about taking a moment to look at the people around you and the stories they may be carrying around inside.

 

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It’s a radiant day. Londoners have shed their winter layering to celebrate the sun. A hand through the hatch of the ice cream van is tirelessly doling out  99s. New leaves are unfurling on the horse chestnuts and my children have torn themselves from their iPods to play Piggy in the Middle in the park. 

Image: Netmums

Image: Netmums

I drift into small talk with the woman who has spread her rug near ours. I’ve been struck by her high-spirited affection for her two small boys. We begin with the weather and graduate to jumble sales. Then she tells me how a stranger raped her in her native Zimbabwe. I notice there are knife scars on her cheek. The rape resulted in a baby. Her parents adopted it. They’d always wanted a large family. She was stricken with post-natal depression, but noone diagnosed her despair.

She fled to England to escape her past. Her parents came too, bringing the child. The child closely resembles the rapist and she found it traumatic to look at him. 

Now she works as a live-in nanny mothering someone else’s children. The family has just moved her from Birmingham to a Home Counties village where she knows noone and where hers is the only black skin.  ‘It was time,’ she says resignedly. ‘Time to start anew. Again!’ 

Image: Netmums

Image: Netmums



I want to ask her if she still sees her own child. If she dares hope for another baby or if her past has destroyed her faith in love. But her two blond charges have reclaimed her. She darts off for a game of chase. From a distance she is a carefree figure prancing over the grass in a pink designer dress she’d bought for 40p at the village fete.

The morning has shadowed a little with the trauma that she’s shared. So much pain borne so smilingly. And I look afresh at the throngs basking in the spring sun and wonder about the histories hurting inside them. Then suddenly I am inspired by the thought of the courage borne invisibly beneath the mundane. And I am consoled to be reminded that for all of us, like the unfurling trees, there is always time to start anew.

Posted in Blog of the Week, depression, motherhood | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Contented Cow? Or Psycho-Bitch-from-Hell?

Today’s guest blog is from Kate Evans, author of a new book ‘Bump: How to make, grow and birth a baby’ in which she writes about the changes women go through in pregnancy. We’re delighted to have 5 copies of ‘Bump’ to giveaway. Scroll down to find out how to enter.

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Contented Cow? Or Psycho-Bitch-from-Hell?

I had no idea, when I got pregnant, how different I would feel. I spent my time cocooned
in a Zen-like fug of warm fuzzy feelings, which would be punctured at random intervals by
spikes of rage or outbursts of weeping. Why did nobody warn me? More to the point, why
did no-one warn my partner? I’m sure there must have been times when he was seriously
alarmed that the woman he was starting a family with now bore very little resemblance to the one that he’d originally fallen in love with.

So, when I came to write a book for pregnant women, should I take the opportunity to
explain that pregnancy can make women feel slightly bonkers? I had a dilemma here. We
live in a sexist world. Women have traditionally been typecast as ‘over emotional’. Did I really want to write about something that justified that stereotype?

Then I thought about it some more. It’s worth pointing out that whatever hormones have
prompted women to do, we haven’t been the ones who have gone around starting wars and
building concentration camps. On the evidence, testosterone is far more toxic to humankind than oestrogen. And when I analysed the personality changes that some (not all!) pregnant women are prey to, I realised that there are are rational evolutionary reasons for each one.

image from Bump: how to make, grow and birth a baby

image from Bump: how to make, grow and birth a baby

1. Feeling incredibly chilled-out and mildly stoned. Pregnant women enjoy a lovely mix of prolactin and oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins. These hormones are also released after orgasm – that’s how good they feel. It’s a cunning stunt on the part of evolution to drug pregnant women up with feel-good hormones. And, given that birthing and raising a child involves a lot of effort, we deserve this. It’s our bonus!

2. Getting violently angry or upset when hungry. This makes sense. It is extremely
important for the unborn baby to be adequately nourished. Rage is a valuable resource to
make darn sure that the pregnant person, and consequently her baby, gets some dinner.

3. Getting incredibly upset or angry when tired. Since a woman’s energy is being diverted to the creation of another human being, she does tend to get more tired, more quickly than ever before. Becoming tearful at the point of exhaustion is a good warning strategy for mum here, and for the people around her. Ideally, rather than being embarrassed or discomfited by this, they would do something useful for her, to make her life easier. That would be in the best interests of the survival of the species.

4. A newfound interest in babies, or a willingness to tend plants or animals. So, pregnancy hormones might make a woman more nurturing. That’s a good design feature. Well done, God (or whatever deity you prefer).

5. An inability to watch horror films. Sensitivity to the stress hormone cortisol is very different in pregnancy, because it has a direct effect on the developing foetus. Switch over to a gardening programme, girl.

6. A heightened interest in hygiene. Presumably, there has been evolutionary selection in favour of the offspring of pregnant women who washed their hands properly.

7. A nesting instinct. (This tends to kick in in the later months of pregnancy.) Like every mammal, we are biologically driven to prepare a safe place to give birth. Because we are humans, this gets subsumed into deliberations over wallpaper samples.

We are gradually emerging from several hundred years of oppression when women were
only allowed to be mothers, nurses, nannies, cleaners and homemakers. We were regarded
as crazy, oversensitive delicate creatures, unsuited for battle. That’s sexist rubbish. Women are capable of everything men are, plus some, namely, the ability to bear children.

However, we have a way to go with sexual equality. Only women get pregnant. And all
pregnant people are deserving of extra physical and emotional support. They are having
babies for all of us. Think about it. If none of them does, we all die out.

My conclusion is: it’s OK to have mood swings when you’re pregnant. It’s society that’s
crazy, not you.

Bump

We have 5 copies of ‘Bump’ to giveaway. To enter simply leave a comment below and from all comments received by midnight on 30th April we will pick out 5 lucky winners.

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Kate Evans is the author of Bump: How to make, grow and birth a baby, published by Myriad Editions on 17th April and available now on AmazonHer website is cartoonkate.co.uk and she tweets @cartoonkate.

Kate Evans’ unique blend of illustrations and tell-it-like-it-is text guides the reader through the intricacies and complexities of pregnancy and birth. Topics covered include: conception; practical help for those trying to conceive; early pregnancy advice; miscarriage support; anti-natal care; how to prepare for different types of births – home births, hospital births, Caesarian sections; waiting past your due date. 

Posted in Birth, Books and reading, Pregnancy | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

Blog of the Week: I wish I didn’t believe in depression

Blog_of_the_week_badgeOur Blog of the Week this week is a powerful and brave post by Beating Myself Into a Dress about the Post-natal depression she suffered after the birth of her first baby. She tells with great honesty what it was like and how far she has come since then.

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Last week the Sunday Independent columnist and journalist John Waters said that he didn’t believe in depression.

During the course of an interview he said: “I don’t believe in depression. There’s no such thing. It’s an invention. It’s bullshit,” he said, “it’s a cop out.”

Do you know what? I wish I didn’t believe in depression. I wish it didn’t exist and I wish it was something I had made up so that I could simply stop suffering from it.

I had never experienced depression before the birth of my son, so when, a couple of weeks after his birth I was hit by that sudden, savage low it literally took my breath away.

depressed_headache_original

Image: Netmums

I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think.

I was afraid every minute of every hour of every day. Crippling, soul destroying fear. I was afraid of my baby. Afraid of hurting him. Afraid of being alone with him. Afraid of feeding him. Afraid of changing him.

Tears flowed, all the time. Every day. I was only happy when he wasn’t with me. When he was with his Dad or his grandparents, then I could relax.

I started to have awful thoughts, think terrible things. I wanted to leave my baby, and my husband, just walk away. Get on a train and go away somewhere, anywhere.

I wanted to give the baby up for adoption, give him to someone who could care for him when I couldn’t. I’ve never told anybody that. Not even my husband. But it’s how I felt.

I had to physically stop myself every day from simply walking out and leaving the baby in his Moses basket. I would wait until I saw my husband’s car coming into the estate and then go and get my coat. The baby would only be alone for 30 seconds and it’d give me time to get up the road, I reasoned. Every day I put my coat back before my husband opened the door – but yet the next day I’d again find myself in the hall, coat in hand thinking that this time I’d go.

This wasn’t normal, this wasn’t me and believe me it wasn’t made up.

I’m lucky. My husband is a saint in living form. He supported me physically through those

Image: Netmums

Image: Netmums

awful first couple of weeks. He sent me to the doctor who instantly recognised what a terrible place I was in and who helped me. The doctor listened, he told me that what I was feeling was normal, that it was a medical condition that happened to some women after birth. He told me that he was glad I had come to him as the feelings I was describing, combined with the loss of my Dad a few weeks previously, could potentially have culminated in a major depressive episode, one which would have required serious in-patient psychiatric care. But because I had sought help he was confident that wouldn’t happen, that he would be able to treat me, with support from home.

And he did. Again, I was lucky. The medication worked. Asking for help worked. Having some help with the baby worked. And mercifully quickly. Within a few more weeks I was well on the road to recovery. The fear lifted, the anxiety receded, I could sleep again. I could enjoy my beautiful baby boy.

One year on and I’m still taking the medication, I’m still being supported at home with help with the baby and I still have bad days. But I’m much nearer to a full recovery than I was. Again, I’m so lucky.

Depression is real. It does exist. It’s not bullshit. It’s not a cop out. It’s a scientifically proven, medical condition that can happen to anyone. It’s as real and as valid as having asthma or epilepsy or a broken leg. It’s real and let nobody tell you different.

Please, if you’re suffering as I was, ask for help. It’s not easy, I know but please don’t live in the darkness any longer. Please.

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If you are suffering from, or think you may be affected by Post Natal Depression please visit our dedicated pages on Netmums. 

Posted in Blog of the Week, depression, post natal depression | 5 Comments

How to do finger knitting – Plus win a copy of Boycraft

boycraftToday we are sharing a gorgeous craft from the new book ‘Boycraft’. Finger knitting is so easy to learn and is a brilliant craft for both boys and girls. You can make cool scarves, bracelets and headbands. All you need are your fingers and some wool. Although this craft idea is aimed at boys and girls we also love it too – why not try your hand at it as well?

We also have 3 copies of the book ‘Boycraft; to giveaway. Scroll down to find out how to enter.

finger knit photo final shot

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It night sound complicated but follow these steps carefully to start finger knitting. Once you’ve got the hang of it – it’s easy peasy.

1. Tie a piece of wool around your left hand thumb . Weave the wool loosely in front of your first finger, behind the next, in front of the next, round your little finger and back to the thumb. Now take the yarn across all your fingers so it lies just above the first layer of loops. Leave the thumb alone. It just acts as the anchor.

finger knit 1

 

2. Using your right hand, grab the first loop of wool on your first finger and take it over the wool that’s lying just above it and right over your finger. Do the same with the wool loops on the other three fingers.

finger knit 2

3. Take the yarn all the way round the back of your fingers and over the front again. Repeat steps 2 and 3 about ten times.

finger knit 3

4. Now take the wool off your thumb and pull gently down at the back. You can seer the knitted tube beginning to form. Just keep repeating steps two and three until it is as long as you want.

finger knitting 4

5. Cut off the yarn leaving a tail about 20cm (8in) long. Thread the tail through each stitch in turn, starting wit the little finger and slipping them off as you go.

finger knit 5By using more than one strand of wool at a time you can make a thick multi-coloured rope. You can also knit your strands together to make your scarf even chunkier.

 

finger knit photo 1

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boycraftWe have three copies of this brilliant new craft book ‘BoyCraft;’ to give away. Simply leave a comment below and from all comments received by midnight on 30th April we will pick out 3 lucky winners. Usual Netmums terms and conditions apply.

BOYCRAFT  is a book full of   projects for boys and for girls who want to do something  different … from Papier Mâché Landscapes, Water Bombs, to Egg Eyeballs, Bug Hotels, Jumper Monsters and much more.

BOYCRAFT is stuffed with hands-on  fun ideas to inspire all kids, even those who may not have made things before, to give making things a go!

 

Posted in Art for kids, Competition, Crafts for kids | Tagged , , , , | 86 Comments

50 ideas for family fun

With the Easter holidays in full swing for many and with over a week to go we have put together a list of 50 ideas for free family fun. Why not make a boredom buster jar and fill it with the family’s favourites from this list then whenever anyone dares to utters that phrase ‘I’m boooored’ you can pick out an activity?

boredom busters jar50 ideas for family fun

  1. Make Easter bunny masks in minutes and send the little ones out to hop in the garden.
  2. Give everyone a pound or two and go bargain hunting in the local charity shops.
  3. Head to your local library – there are often craft and storytelling activities in the holidays to enjoy too.
  4. Make a game of Hoopla for the garden from paper plates
  5. Head to the garden centre and buy some sunflower seeds to grow or some tomato or mini cucumber plants for the kids to grow.
  6. Make finger puppets out of washing up gloves and put on a showgloves big four
  7. Take a skipping rope, ball, scooter or kite to the park.
  8. Hop on a train and visit a nearby village or town.
  9. Make egg box ladybirds
  10. Visit the pet shop and see all the baby animals.
  11. Borrow a dog to take on a walk.
  12. Cook up a storm in the kitchen – here are some fab recipes for mini bakers to try.
  13. Make an indoor (or outdoor) obstacle course – snake under a table, jump through a hoop, throw beanbags into a bucket…as much fun to set up as to do!
  14. Make your own playdough
  15. Make your own instruments and then play along to some tunes.
  16. Grab some newspaper and masking tape and have a fashion contest - see who can make the best costumes.
  17. Cut out pictures from magazines or catalogues and make a scrapbook or poster
  18. Make boats from junk and have a sailing contest (in the sink or river at local park)

    Set sail

    Set sail

  19. Make little shoebox houses
  20. Have an indoor treasure hunt – mark wooden pegs with different coloured dots and hide them about the house. Give each child a basket and they have to hunt and collect the pegs – each coloured dot has a different number of points and the winner could get a small prize.
  21. Make a den - grab the clothes horse and a blanket or some sheets pegged to a table and make a cosy den.
  22. Get out the board games and have an afternoon of family challenges
  23. Have a disco in the living room
  24. Make salt paintings
  25. Have a teddy bear’s picnic
  26. Make a human marble run
  27. Head to a nearby farm or farm park
  28. Make marble rolling paintings
  29. Make a house/ship/rocket from an old box
  30. Wash the car (this one might require some bribery!)
  31. Make an indoor racing track with masking tape

    Indoor race track

    Indoor race track

  32. Make a magic potion – grab a huge pan and mix up any ingredients in the cupboards and bathroom!
  33. Go geo-caching
  34. Go to a museum
  35. Go to an art gallery
  36. Make papier mache bowls
  37. Head to the playpark
  38. Go to the beach and paddle in the sea (brrrr)
  39. Go on a bike ride
  40. Hold your own sport’s day (running races, three legged races, long jump…)
  41. Make pom poms and turn them into creatures
  42. Make Easter bonnets and have your own parade
  43. Make your own bracelets
  44. Make a target game with masking tape
  45. Go swimming
  46. Make paper plate frisbeeswinter walk
  47. Make sponge water bombs and have a splashy water fight
  48. Make some gloop
  49. Make a teddy bear zip wire
  50. Make a list of things to spot and head out on a nature walk
Posted in Art for kids, Crafts for kids, Free family fun, Holidays | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog of the Week: Enough

Blog_of_the_week_badgeOur Blog of the Week this week comes from Mini Malteser.

It is written straight from the heart, admitting that motherhood is hard sometimes, and although we may not be the perfect mother, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t enough.

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If you know me you will know that I have found parenting, well, a little overwhelming at times. I have had periods when I regretted even becoming a mother at all, not because of my son, but because of my ability to cope with him; my ability to give my all, my best, and I felt as though I were constantly failing him.

Of course I soon came to the realisation that, yes, I do constantly fail him but actually

Image:Netmums

Image:Netmums

that’s OK. It’s okay because I love him with a bottomless ocean of love and good intentions; an endless supply of burnt fish fingers and sloppy kisses. Children have a lot more grace than we realise and each new day brings new opportunities for better things, and more vigilance when cooking frozen food.

Lately I am learning to come to peace with a lot of disappointments I’ve had about becoming a mother. I have accepted the fact that I will never be perfect. The reality is, the real failures are the things we haven’t even considered; the things we don’t even acknowledge as such, and we sweep them under the carpet along with odd jigsaw pieces and broken crayons. I am learning that my son loves me just because I make him breakfast and I read him stories and I tell him no and yes and maybe at all the times I think appropriate, and although those things may not get me the mother of the year award, it actually is enough.

But being a mum seems to be more than just you and your child because it sometimes feels like you against the world. I have struggled with judgements from other people, the expectations, the pressure I’ve put on myself. I have struggled with body image, identity and juggling a career. All these things have been tough, but the thing I have found hardest is finding a way to come to peace with my disappointments. These are deep rooted in those early days; the missing out on a natural birth, the ‘skin to skin’, the way they took him from me before I could look him in the eyes, the way they placed him on me when I couldn’t even move to touch him. My idyllic hope of spending my first few days with my new family turned into nights on end in a hospital room with a screaming child, while the nurses told my husband visiting hours were over. I felt abandoned and alone.

Image: Netmums

Image: Netmums

That’s over three years ago now and you’re probably thinking that I should just forget about it, but what that would mean is sweeping it under the carpet along with those odd bits of jigsaw pieces and never really dealing with it at all. What that means is that life is all rosy on the outside, but every time someone mentions they had an ‘easy’ labour or they loved breastfeeding or felt ‘on a high’ after giving birth that I feel like punching them in the face – and that, my friend, is not dealing with anything at all. You will meet a lot of women who are carrying a lot of unnecessary disappointments and unless they are dealt with they will be left to rot.

I’ve realised that it’s time to accept these things for what they are and to start again like a child would; each new day brings new opportunities for better things. Because the reality is, that when Albie was placed on my numb body for the first time, he looked at me and he stared at me with his intent gaze, and he knew exactly who I was, even if I or the rest of the world didn’t. His eyes said ‘mum, is that you?’, and that, actually, was enough.

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Becoming a new mum

Postnatal depression

 

Posted in Babies, Blog of the Week, Body image, post natal depression | 6 Comments

Writing my way out of darkness

The AccidentToday’s guest blog comes from author CL Taylor who wrote her novel ‘The Accident’ in the weeks after having her baby when she was suffering from PND. We have been lucky enough to read an advance copy of ‘The Accident’ and devoured it in one sitting- it’s gripping and a brilliant read. The novel is published on the 10th April but we have five copies to giveaway. Simply leave a comment on this blog piece to enter.

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How writing ‘The Accident’ helped me overcome undiagnosed PND – CL Taylor

I knew I was suffering from PND but wouldn’t accept it. ‘I’m just sleep deprived’ I’d tell CL Taylormy partner. ‘If I could just get a decent night’s sleep I’ll be fine’. Only I didn’t. I didn’t get more than a two hour uninterrupted stretch of sleep for 7 long months. My beautiful, adorable son wanted to feed all through the night, every night. ‘There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a torture device’ the midwife told me when I went to her in desperation. Only I hadn’t broken the law – all I’d done was have a baby.

I’d expected the ‘baby blues’, to be tearful for a few days. But I didn’t expect to cry every day. Or hallucinate the pavement tipping and shifting as I pushed my wailing son through unfamiliar streets. Or to cross bridges and think, ‘If I jumped I’d get some sleep.’

People kept telling me things would get better at 6 weeks, 12 weeks; that ‘sooner or later’ he’d start sleeping through but it didn’t happen. I was breastfeeding and he refused to take a bottle so my partner couldn’t help ease the burden. I felt trapped.

I didn’t share my feelings with anyone. Not that there was anyone to tell. We moved into our house in Bristol when I was seven months pregnant and the other only person I knew had three children and a full time job and I didn’t want to burden her. I didn’t want to tell my partner either. I’m proud and stubborn and I wanted him to think I was doing a good job, that I was a good mum.

I joined an NCT group but none of their babies cried like mine or were so incessantly hungry. And I didn’t trust them enough to open up. They weren’t my friends. They were a bunch of strangers who happened to be pregnant at the same time as me.

Each time my health visitor mentioned her PND checklist I’d distract her so she’d forget. The AccidentEvery PND mother fears their baby being taken away. You know the dark thoughts you’re having aren’t right but you’re damned if you’re going to say them out loud. She told me I should nap when the baby did but it would take me half an hour to fall asleep and my son would wake 15 minutes later. A snatchof sleep is worse than no sleep at all so I’d stay awake instead. And that’s when I started writing ‘The Accident’.

I took every dark thought, every fear and every worry that was plaguing me and I poured them into my novel. I couldn’t pop out for a coffee with a friend so my characters kept me company instead. I listened to their stories and I wrote them down. And with each word I wrote, each chapter I finished, the feeling of hopelessness and darkness slowly began to dissipate. I wrote my way back to me.

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The AccidentThe Accident. A fabulously gripping psychological thriller that will have you hooked from the very first page, this is the perfect read for fans of Before I Go to Sleep and Gone Girl.

Published on 10th April by Harper Collins.

We have five copies of ‘The Accident’ to giveaway. Simply leave a comment below and from all comments received by midnight on 30th April we will pick out ten lucky winners. Usual Netmums terms and conditions apply.

Posted in Authors, Books and reading, Competition, post natal depression | Tagged , , , , , | 42 Comments