Maternal Depression – my lifelong battle with Selma & Patty

I’ve suffered from Depression & Anxiety disorders for as long as I can remember, except they were not given a name to me until I was in my twenties & went to my GP & saw a checklist of things that if you experience for more than two weeks is considered depression. I cried. They were tears of relief. They were tears for all those times I pulled out of social appearances, put up appearances or just wanted to disappear.

The biggest depressive episode occurred after the birth of my first baby 4.5 years ago & was actually termed Postnatal/Postpartum Depression. I was admitted to a Psych clinic with my daughter, was medicated, received intensive therapy & slowly recovered. To say that I have not suffered from Depressive episodes or anxiety since then would be a complete lie, but I have learnt how to cope, to deal & to move forward even though I want to stay in bed & sleep the days away. At these times, I am less visible on social media & it takes more energy than normal to look ok & to get on with the daily chores tasks of motherhood & parenthood. And two years ago, I went on to have another baby after my PPMD & although I wasn’t sucked back into the eye of the storm, I was certainly tested.

So, nearly five years on from my PPMD, I’m still battling the Demons that are Depression & Anxiety disorders. I’ve actually named my depression Patty & my anxiety Selma – giving them names helps identify who’s with me on any given day or impacting my decisions. And then I read a book as part of the Warrior Mom Book Club called, ‘ The Ghost in the House: Real Mothers Talk About Maternal Depression, Raising Children, and How They Cope‘ (by Tracy Thompson) & the same sense of relief I had in the doctors surgery many years ago was felt again. You see, I now consider my Depression as Maternal Depression. I have a new profound understanding on what I am battling against – it’s depression that affects mothers of older kids & no longer infants/toddlers (although I still have two preschool children). My Depression does not only impact me, but impacts my children too. And more so, I can’t sleep the days away as I have a family to look after & take care of.

Searching for information & resources for ‘maternal depression’ & the results that come up focus on Postpartum Depression/Postnatal Depression which ‘medically & scientifically’ speaking occur/commence within the first 12 months following the birth of a baby. However, what happens after that? Is it still considered PPD/PND years later when you’re still suffering the cyclic pattern of low moods, apathy, irritation etc? When researching Maternal Depression, you find articles discussing the long-term effects on children whose mother doesn’t read to them, sing to them, interact with them etc. They’re also referring to those mothers who are unable to work & contribute financially to the family also adding financial stress to the equation. I’m neither of the above. My postpartum period is well & truly reached its expiry date & I interact all the time with my kids BECAUSE I don’t want them to experience any lasting effects of MY ongoing mental illness. In fact, most of my exhaustion stems from showering my kids with my emotional availability that by the end of the day sometimes I am too exhausted to show my husband the same amount of consideration.

There are not many resources for us mums suffering maternal depression, other than being pigeon-hold with other women suffering depression or those suffering with PPD/PND which I think is wrong. I think we need special consideration as our depression doesn’t affect just us, but can also affect our kids – the very people that learn off us & who actually ‘see’ with us & see us without our masks on. They aren’t old enough to rationalise it like our partners/friends can – they feel responsible, learn how to not cope & handle situations etc. I’m not just a female that suffers depression, I’m a mother looking after preschool aged children. My depression is not as severe as above & I’m able to interact with my children, I just have those episodes that can last a few days or a few weeks. I am still capable of caring for them.

In my teens & twenties, I would retreat during my depressive episodes. I would throw myself into my work, being extra ambitious & working long hours. With maternal depression it’s impossible for me to retreat & hide away until I feel up going out. I can’t throw myself into work either because being a mum & taking care of my preschool aged children is my work. There is nowhere to hide except into my own head & with my ongoing internal dialogue.

I have often forced myself to playgroups, to walk to the shops for adult & social interaction & to ensure my kids exposed to other faces, places, sites & experiences. I make the effort to not let my moods impact them. I work really hard on this. We know that kids are smarter than we give them credit for. They’re able to spot a fraud a mile off & this sometimes scares the hell out of me on the days I’m wearing my mask or forcing a smile on my face.

I also feel guilty at times that my mood disorders are preventing my kids from having a fulfilling childhood – the times where I don’t have the energy to take them to the park or the times when planning a trip to the zoo becomes too overwhelming because of sleep schedules & my anxiety linked with this. I know that day naps will not be forever & the future will be filled with concerts, movies, zoos & aquariums etc, but not now & not yet. I want them to look back on their childhood & remember feeling loved, safe & secure more than I want them remembering giraffes & fish anyway!

So where does this all leave me? I am a work in progress. I’m not sure I’ll ever be cured or free of Patty or Selma accompanying me throughout my, or my children’s lives, but I am learning strategies on how to better manage these episodes & instances. I want my kids to know that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. I want them to be accepting of me & the experiences I bring to our mother & child relationship & to motherhood. I want them to one day know that I did my best to shield them from anything too scary or long term by having ongoing therapy & by being medicated. I want my children to be proud of me – by not letting my mental illness or mood disorders affect my decision to start a family & bring these two amazing little people into our life.

 

Source: The Ghost in the House: Real Mothers Talk About Maternal Depression, Raising Children, and How They Cope by Tracy Thompson

Having another baby after your PPMD/PNMD group – register your interest

Hi everyone,

As you know while I was pregnant with Flynn I was part of an amazing group of Survivor Mamas called the ‘baby after PPD‘ group. This group of Survivor Mamas were a much needed support during my pregnancy & in the first six months of Flynn’s life – the nine weeks in hospital & the months following as we constantly worried about his feeding & weight gain.

I’m about to help out some Mamas who are thinking of having a baby after their PPMD, to start a FaceBook support group & am shouting out to anyone who wishes to join up. The group will be completely private so that only those in the group will be able to view your comments or posts.

The group will be supporting each other on various topics including staying on/coming off medication while trying to conceive & during your pregnancy*, ways to prepare yourself for the postnatal/partum period, action plans for the postnatal/partum period, preparing your toddler for their new sibling, anxieties relating to your pregnancy & postnatal/partum period, setting up support systems for when the baby arrives etc. We will also be asking those that have managed to have a better postnatal/partum experience after their PPMD to share their wisdom & insights in order for the group members to get both real life examples as well as the proof that having a better experience is possible.

This is my way of paying it forward as the support I received was invaluable. Thanks Amber for starting up our group back then & the lifeline it provided me.

If you’re interested in joining the group, please fill in your details below or email me at yuz@notjustaboutwee.com & we’ll contact you when we’re up & running.

 

* We are not medical experts or medically trained in any way when it comes to discussing medications, dosages, weaning or staying medicated during your pregnancy. We will be offering support in whatever decision you make in consultation with your OB, midwife, GP or physician.

Things I’m afraid to tell you

There are a group of bloggers who are all banding together & participating in a series of posts called “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You”. The TIATTY movement was inspired by a post from Jess Constable of Make Under My Life & Ez of Creature Comforts. If you’d like more information on the TIATTY movement, you can read Jess’ interview with Laura Rossi from the Huffington Post. You can also visit Robin at Farewell Stranger to read other TIATTY posts as well. All these women are truly amazing & inspirational & I’m so very honoured to be part of this movement.

So here goes:

* Some people are able to move on from arguments or fights & go about their daily life. I’m not one of those people. I let my feelings impact me to the point that I want to hide away from the world. And I usually do.

* I might be good at confrontation, but will probably never know because I avoid it like the plague.

* I’m really not as confident as I appear. (Depends on the situation of course).

* Sometimes I feel like I’m not a real mother because Seon works from home & often helps out during the day. I feel ashamed of this because I ‘should’ be doing it all.

* I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in God.

* I avoid. Avoidance, as much as it haunts me, provides me with a sense of protection. I consider myself a weak person because of this.

* I’ve mastered how to wear a mask.

* I still have my good days & my bad days with it comes to my depression & anxiety, but no one other than my nuclear family & very close friends will ever know that.

* I find some female relationships hard work & require a lot of energy. I just don’t have a lot of energy.

* Sometimes I don’t feel worthy enough.

* The kids bath & bed time makes me anxious every single night.

* I’m intimidated by strong (& often opinionated) women.

* I’m jealous of babies Flynn’s age that can eat finger food & ‘proper’ foods without choking or vomiting.

* Sometimes I think that I’ve deserved the pain I’ve had in my life & that I’m being punished for something.

* I don’t like the way I look, specifically my weight & my fat rolls. I’ve never been this big/heavy & I lack any motivation to do anything about it.

* I care what other people think of me no matter what I say about the matter or however much I pretend not to.

If you would like to add something that you are afraid to tell, you’re most welcome to post it here or link your blog post to the linky below.

Things I’m afraid to tell you – my open letter to my daughter

There are a group of bloggers who are all banding together & participating in a series of posts called “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You”. The TIATTY movement was inspired by a post from Jess Constable of Make Under My Life & Ez of Creature Comforts. If you’d like more information on the TIATTY movement, you can read Jess’ interview with Laura Rossi from the Huffington Post. You can also visit Robin at Farewell Stranger to read other TIATTY posts as well. All these women are truly amazing & inspirational & I’m so very honoured to be part of this movement.

This is an open letter to my daughter, Orli, who will be four this September. (The name Orli means ‘my light’ in Hebrew).

Dear Orli monkey/muppet,

As you read this letter, please remember this: You are so very loved. You were wanted & you were planned. I love & adore you more than words could ever convey. You bring me joy each & every day & there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. You make me so completely proud & I’m so very lucky that you chose me to be your mum.

I ask you from the depths of my being to remember that what I’m about to tell you is not your fault. It’s no ones fault. It just happened, & I’m a better person for it. So please don’t get too caught up in the how & why because, well, because it just was.

When I was pregnant with you I wasn’t being very honest myself with how I was feeling. I know that every pregnant first time mum has certain trepidations & anxieties about having a baby – about having it be completely dependent on you for the first year & a half (at least), about the sleepless nights, about the changes in you & your partners life & your relationship, about staying home with a baby & not going to (paid) work every day, about giving up a career (or at least stalling it), about having less disposable income, about saving more, about making more decisions on a daily basis & also for the long-term decisions to be made i.e. schools etc. Well, I had all of those thoughts & feelings, but also a few more too.

We had a lot going on in our lives during your pregnancy – my job was extremely stressful & I was working really long hours with management that didn’t seem to care that I was throwing up in the bathroom several times a day, excusing myself from client meetings to get air & generally feeling crap. I was covering for someone while they were on long sick leave & they decided to fire my resource, so I was pretty much doing my job, covering for someone & taking back everything I had delegated my subordinate to do. I also had a miscarriage before falling pregnant with you so I was nervous about getting too excited about you too early in case I lost you as well. I couldn’t wait to get pregnant again as we wanted you so much.

During my pregnancy with you, your Zaida’s (your Daddy’s Daddy) wasn’t very well. He’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a little while before Daddy & I got married & was having a difficult time while I was pregnant. Having said that though, he made it to see your first birthday which was special beyond words, but I worried that he might not have ever met you which was so heartbreaking & I didn’t want that to be. But I think on top of the work issues & your Zaida being unwell, the major stress I had while I was pregnant with you was that my parents (your Saba & Omi) spilt up after being married for 39 years. It came as a massive shock for me. I could see that they were no longer happy, but I never thought they would actually end their marriage. I was first told about it the week of my miscarriage, but chose to push everything & anything I felt about it under the preverbal carpet & focus on getting pregnant again whilst grieving the loss of your sibling.

And all of this leads me to why I wasn’t being honest with myself during your pregnancy. My focus was on having a baby, on starting my own family & no longer being an extension of my parents. Work didn’t matter, because I was leaving (although I was miserable each day I went), I avoided anything & everything to do with my parents because I was having a baby & that was all that mattered. I figured it was their crap & I was old enough not to be affected by their separation. I was pretty down & extremely anxious but I just kept on thinking that once you arrived my life would be complete & joy would fill my days so that nothing else mattered.

You decided to come at 36weeks. You arrived just after midnight & were taken straight away to the special care nursery for observation because you were early & so very little & I first held you (properly) about twelve hours later. You weighed 2.025kgs & were a spitting image of your Daddy. I’d love to be able to tell you that the day of your birth was the most exciting, amazing & awe inspiring day of my life. But sadly it wasn’t.

So this is where I’m going to start sharing with you all those things that I’m afraid to tell you.

* I had an out of body experience during your birth & was looking down on myself. I started thinking (whist pushing you out) that I didn’t want to have a baby. My life was good & I didn’t want it to change.

* We were separated after the birth & I was glad of this because I was so scared & wasn’t ready to meet you.

* I felt so disconnected to you after the birth & when I first held you there wasn’t that overwhelming sense of love & attachment that people talk about or happen in the movies. I felt numb.

* Daddy went with you to the special care nursery after you were born & all I could think of was that he loved you more than me & I wasn’t important anymore & was replaced.

* You stayed in hospital after I was discharged & I was relieved as I wasn’t ready to take you home.

* I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding you – I preferred to express & bottle feed you even though it was much harder work. Much harder. (And expressed for the first eight weeks of life). And when I said I preferred to bottle feed you, well, I actually meant I didn’t enjoy feeding you at all, because all you did was scream at me. I actually preferred when Daddy fed you so I wouldn’t have to.

* When you got home all you did was cry. You were so unsettled & when you finally fell asleep, I dreaded you waking up.

* I had no confidence as your Mother.

* I was completely overwhelmed by all the information I was getting about what was best for you, what was right, what was wrong & the good & the bad way of doing things. Every midwife had a different way of latching you onto my boob, every person I spoke to had conflicting advice – it was just all too much & I found it so hard to trust my own instincts & do what I felt was best. My head was a jumble of too much information & not enough clarity.

* Life was so much easier without you.

* I resented you – for not sleeping, for not allowing me to sleep, for being completely dependent on me, for the constant crying day & night, for making me have you & for putting my career on hold, for coming early & robbing me of my last four weeks of maternity leave & for not having the balloons & flowers that other hospital rooms had (we told people not to visit as you were in the nursery & they weren’t allowed to go in). I was crying all the time, I was so angry & miserable & your Daddy & I fought all the time in which was so testing on our relationship.

* I wanted to run away from home. I thought you & Daddy would be better off without me.

* I wanted my life back.

* I resented the fact that my role in life had changed. Just because I was now a mother, I was also the homemaker now too.

* I couldn’t understand why people ruined their lives & had children. And I certainly wasn’t going to do it again.

* I pretended to love & adore you in public & socially, but I was lying to both them & myself.

* I hated coming home after being out for a while as I knew it was going to just be groundhog day & I hated every minute of it.

* I wanted to have you adopted out because I was sure there was another family that would be able to take better care of you. And what I mean by ‘family’, I mean Mother.

* I wasn’t able to eat, sleep or do any menial daily tasks as I could before I had you. It was as though you made me miserable even though these tasks had nothing to do with you.

* I wondered what would happen if you feel off the change table or if I let you fall into the corner of the coffee table. I thought it, although I knew I wouldn’t act upon it.

* I was so very very sad & never thought I would ever be happy again.

* I hated the mornings because it meant that my day was going to be the same as the day before & the day before that. Actually, the days weren’t separated at all – my life just felt like one long day.

* My intrusive thoughts were so overpowering & on loop. I blamed myself for you being unsettled (it turned out you had a diary intolerance & I was craving milk & was drinking it all the time), everything was my fault, if I went out for a bit without you I usually came home to you screaming so obviously it was because you were punishing me. It took me a long time to turn the volume of that self-talk down.

* Overall, I regretted having you.

Orli monkey, the reason why these are the things I’m afraid to tell you is because I feel ashamed about the way I felt about you, the way I behaved when you were a baby & the way I, in my mind, mistreated you. I’m embarrassed because I could handle such difficult tasks at work but when it came to a baby, to my baby, to my newborn that only needed feeding, bathing & changing, I was completely incapable of functioning normally & was anxious about every.little.thing. You were completely innocent of everything I felt or thought at the time yet were integral to why I was thinking & feeling all those things. I need to remind you, that none of this was your fault. It would make me so very sad if even for a millisecond you thought it was. And what’s more, please don’t ever judge me for this because it’s not something I chose or would have ever chosen to have gone through.

I know I had some of these thoughts because I was a first time mum & overwhelmed with an unsettled baby. I also knew I had these thoughts because I was just so very very tired. But mostly I had these thoughts as I was suffering with a mental illness, more specifically, a postpartum (postnatal) mood disorder. It was confirmed ‘officially’ when you were seven weeks old & at eights weeks of age we went to a mother baby unit at a psychiatric clinic. You’ve heard me talk about ‘the nuthouse’, but I really think we need to call it our lifeline, because that’s what it was for our family. I was put onto special medication to help my mind level itself out & had lots of groups with other mums that had my issues (or similar) & the fog slowly lifted & I was started to be able to be your Mummy & not just your Mother. It took another few months until I felt better, but it was really when you were about a year old that I started feeling like myself again.

People always comment to me that you’re such a happy little girl & that when you smile your eyes sparkle. I have to be honest with you, as much as this comment makes me proud, it also triggers a sadness in me which I fear will haunt me for the rest of my life. You see, I thought that my ambivalence, numbness & disinterest in you in the first few months of your life was going to ruin you forever. I have proof now that it’s not the case & that our relationship doesn’t bare the scars of that time, however, the overwhelming fear of its possibility will never be forgotten or minimised by me.

My little angel – you have taught me more than I ever imagined I could learn from a little person. I now get why people have babies & I also why they have more than one. And so we did. You have a little brother. And the way you love & care for him is beautiful it makes me think we’ve done ok.

I’ve spent a long time trying to be ok with people knowing about my postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) as well as trying to not care what they think of me having it, being admitted to the nuthouse or being medicated or whatever. But, what I haven’t worked on & is how I’ll feel one day when YOU know all about it. It’s one thing for me to share my story because it happened to me, but, this also happened to us. I hope you continue to grant me permission to talk openly about this as it’s the only way to diminish the stigma associated with PPMD’s. I’m also passionate about the need to increase it’s awareness to ensure no one suffers in silence or alone & so that all mothers with any PPMD know that help is out there & recovery is possible.

Monkey, those are the things I’m afraid to tell you. What I’m not afraid to tell you & never will be is that I love & adore you forever & ever & you will always be the light that brought me back from the dark.

Love always,

Mama xoxo





My gift with purchase

The term ‘gift with purchase’ is familiar to most. Those of you with experience in advertising, marketing, retail or just seasoned shopaholics are all well aware of what it means. It’s that free product you get after you purchase an item. It’s that lip gloss you get when you buy your perfume or that extended warranty when you buy your new car.

Three & a half years ago, I got a gift with purchase after I had Orli. My purchase was of course my baby girl. My gift with purchase was my Postnatal (postpartum) Mood Disorder (PMD).

Did I see it as a gift back then? Hell fricken no! Do I see it as a gift now? I most definitely do!

Here’s why.

I truly believe I am a better mother because of my PMD. It’s as though I’m more in touch with my kids emotions because my extensive therapy teaching me how to feel. I had spent my life pretty much only feeling things on the surface but not diving to explore the rest of the iceberg. I had made myself numb to most pain & wore a mask for as long as I can remember. Throughout my recovery, I worked on allowing myself to experience emotions and learnt how to process different emotions. How would my children learn to manage their emotions without being shown or taught this fundamental life skill? Thanks to my PMD, I’m hoping I won’t have to find out.

While I was pregnant & after I had Orli I experienced many flashbacks of my childhood which were hard to revisit. I always knew I wanted to do a better job with my children (my parents did the best they could, truly, I’m not blaming them) but I could only do this if I had the tools & emotional wherewithal to do so. Therapy is making me re-explore these memories & be at peace with them, accept them or simply to move on. I’m well aware that there will be things in the future when it comes to our kids & their happiness etc that will trigger my anxieties & memories however, I’ve now got the tools to both recognise & rectify how I feel & how I let the situation affect me… if at all. Had it not been for my PMD & therapy I’m almost sure this would not be possible.

My therapy made me question a lot of things. I had to re-learn things, had to see things differently & had to learn how to make myself emotionally available to Orli – admittedly, tantrums & fatigue certainly tested me, however I did & still do my best to refuel & regroup & try again. Or call on Seon – because asking for help was something I had/have to learn too! Children teach you things about yourself you never thought possible. They teach you patience, they teach you to live in the moment, they teach you that the littlest gesture can mean so much, they teach you the true meaning of advocacy, they teach you strength, they teach you resilience, they teach you to speak up (when they can’t yet & while they’re learning), they show you how to remove the clutter & focus on the little things like a flower or a bird chirping, therefore, they also teach you embrace things we have long ago taken for granted. They are amazing little creatures that bring with them innocence, life lessons you never saw coming & show you the true meaning of unconditional love. If I thought I knew myself before I had kids, I was wrong & dare I say completely delusional! But I’m ok with that. Now I can say that my PMD made me look deeper & guided me to embrace so many of these deeper aspects of motherhood that may well have passed me by.

I had many therapy sessions in the nuthouse, but one of them which I still think about most days was an activity called ‘wait, watch & wonder’. We had to sit & look at our babies & share what we thought our babies were wondering about us. This was a very painful session due to my ambivalence at the time, however, as difficult as this was, it had a huge impact on me. This was a truly empowering exercise as I learnt to connect with Orli on much deeper level. For example, when she was a baby I didn’t want her passed around at social or family occasions, because if it were me, I wouldn’t like to be passed around from person to person. I just felt that people needed to have respect for her personal space & to be conscious that she could not communicate this. (I’m well aware I could be wrong about all of this, but we’ll never know, so just work with me here). Sure she could cry to try & get her message across, but as we all know, that would have been because she was hungry, tired, wet or just being ‘difficult’ in others eyes. I am using this less with Orli as she can now communicate her wishes (oh boy, can she ever), but I am most definitely tuned into Flynn. Had I not been in the nuthouse & had these sessions, I’m certain that I would not have this connection to my kids.

I have said this before & will say many times in my posts & for as long as I live. I truly believe my PMD was one of these best things that ever happened to me. I learnt to explore my own emotions, be in touch with feelings I would not have otherwise done & believe I am more tuned in to how my kids are feeling. It truly was & still continues to be my gift with purchase.

 


‘Button pushers’ – my guide to you

I suppose this post needs some sort of introduction or disclaimer due to the nature of what you’re about to read & learn about me. See, I wouldn’t describe myself as an angry or hyper-vigilant person, however, I would say the terms passionate & highly defensive would be generally right up there but multiplied when my buttons are pushed. It’s not so much the extent of the button pushing, it’s more the number of buttons I have! I’m slowly disengaging some, re-setting some, removing some & trying to turn the lights off the real flashy ones, but in the meantime, they’re still there.

I’d like to share these buttons with you, so you can help me reorder &/or tone them down or perhaps even avoid them all together when you consider pushing one when next time we meet. I’m (probably) not directing my words to those that are reading this post. It’s more targeted to the know-it-all strangers, mean-wellers & pedestal sitters that I seem to cross paths with on a daily basis.

A word of warning should you decide to continue reading. I’m not going to apologise for anything you’re about to read as this is my domain (literally) & in order for me to be true to myself I need to be true to this space. So I apologise if you’re offended about anything I’ve written & I hope you’ll be back.

Ok, here goes (in no particular order):

The Smug/high-horse parents button: Some people become more humane, down to earth & grounded when they become parents. They quickly learn humility & not to judge others. Seeing a child tantrum, my pre-kid brain went to, ‘spoilt brat, discipline lessons for the parents, crap parenting blah blah’. Now, I instantly think, ‘shame, I wonder if the child has any behavioural issues or cognitive delays etc’. Sadly however, there’s another group of parents that think that being a parent gives them the right to judge others & they make no apology for it. They shit me. And to think their kids will grow up learning that behaviour trait, well, that shits me too.

The I’ve done it before know-it-all/well-meaner down at the shops button: Please don’t presume you know me or my kids. You don’t. You are seeing but a glimse of our life. Go about your business.

The sensitivity button: I know the term ‘failure to thrive (FTT)’ is a medical term used to describe infants not gaining weight, toddlers at the low end of off the chart scales or premmie/disabled kids that are just taking more time than others, but when Flynn was admitted to hospital due to FTT & I heard this term too many times a day for weeks on end I started to personalise & internalise it. I started becoming really defensive about this terminology as all I could hear was ‘your son is a failure’. I would tell people we were in hospital due to feeding difficulties because I didn’t want Flynny hearing me use the words that I had started to resent & wanted to protect him from hearing it. I knew not to take it personally, however I was still hormonally charged/compromised at the time & took it to heart. I can now use the term with ease & know that it doesn’t define Flynn, but describes his journey.

This button actually stems from me hearing lots of comments about Orli when she was a baby/toddler, that she was ‘being lazy’ as she was developmentally delayed & only started walking at 25 mths. Someone actually said to me once, ‘she’s not walking or crawling yet. What does she do? Just sit there like a blob?’.  Yeah, exactly the right thing to say to an mum recovering from a PMD & blaming myself for everything my baby wasn’t doing ‘on time’. But more to the point, how dare you talk about my child like that? Shame on you.

This button has taught me a great lesson in humility & sensitivity & through it a valuable lesson, as I need to learn how not to assign a meaning to everything that is said to me. I’m trying.

The stereotype button: I’m Jewish. This doesn’t mean I’m tight with money, doesn’t mean I’m rich, doesn’t mean I only have Jewish friends, doesn’t mean I only care about Jewish interests or only donate to Jewish causes & it doesn’t mean I am, or am married to a doctor or lawyer. However, it does mean that I would appreciate if you thought hard before you share a joke about the Holocaust or Hitler with me. Oh & using the term ‘Nazi’ instead of custodian or task-master – yeah, don’t do that. It’s really inappropriate & frankly an insulting comparison.

The  ‘I know everything cos I watch the news’ button: Now, I admit I’m not completely educated on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I have a fair idea of the history in the Region. I love Israel as a country – I speak Hebrew (not well I might add, ok, maybe I understand it), I have family & friends that live there that serve in the Army because it’s the law & they defend a country that would protect me if, as a Jew, my life were in danger due to anti-Jewish uprisings anywhere outside of Israel. So, I’d really appreciate you not giving me your opinion on the conflict, about the suicide bombings, the border protection issues, the whose land is it etc unless you are educated on the subject (which I would actually encourage & enjoy as I love listening & learning) because the media already does a great job at giving me a biased one sided story.

The Gavel Graber button: Really, you’re going to judge me. Where are your qualifications? Nuff said. Bye bye.

The interpreter button: I can speak english & I can understand most accents, so please don’t talk to my kids through me. Don’t lean in to my baby & say, ‘your mum’s mean because she won’t let you <insert anything here>’. Don’t ask my child if she wants to do an activity you know I would not agree to, or offer food you know I would not allow. I am their mother. That gives me the right to make decisions on their behalf while they’re unable to, as well as to teach, guide & educate them so they can make their own decisions one day. What you do when you use them as a go-between is belittle my role in front of my kids & send them the message that you don’t care or respect my position. And if the way you are using my child as a confessions booth has nothing to do with how you feel towards me, well then, don’t patronise or insult my kids. You’re only smarter than them because you’ve been on earth longer, so in terms of intelligence, they’re going to catch up.

The anxiety projector button: Please don’t project your anxieties onto me (I’ve got my own thanks). Don’t ask me if I think my baby is warm enough, full enough or slept enough. I know the answers to all of these questions cos you know, I know my kids. Please don’t come up to me in the store & remind me to watch my baby in case he suffocates to death (Flynn slept on his stomach & face-planted due to his laryngomalacia – I could also hear him breathing as he snored really loudly). This is insulting. Please don’t treat me as if I don’t care or know my child. You certainly don’t.

The ‘pack your bags we’re going on a guilt trip’ button: Please don’t share with me your tragic stories. I’m truly sorry you’ve had pain & sadness, but unless I ask you details, please don’t assume I can handle it, want to hear it, won’t be scarred about it & have it impact me negatively as soon as you walk off & go about your life. There were many social occasions I left the ‘my labour was worse than yours pack’ before I had Orli. I was at the chemist with Flynn after we got home from hospital & a lady left me in tears when she told me (when he was face-planted in the pram) to ‘watch my baby because she knows what it’s like to lose one’. Talk about the stabbing feeling in my stomach, leaving me breathless & in tears. She had no idea what I had already been through with Flynn & it left me angry for days. I actually resented her talking to me, but because I’m not heartless I also empathised with her on some level (when I wasn’t angry).

The someone else is worse off button: Don’t tell me a sad story about how hard someone else has it when I’m struggling. My struggles are my struggles. My pain is my pain & by you down-playing it is both unfair & wrong. I had just been diagnosed with depression when something tragic happened to a friend of mine. The first thing someone close to me said was, ‘makes what you’re going through pretty insignificant don’t you think’. Um no. Actually, I had been suffering for months before I was diagnosed & while the diagnosis was both met with welcomed relief & a care & recovery plan I still had a long road to go. Plus I had to get used to the fact that now I was one of those people with a mood disorder/mental illness. My stuff & my pain was still worthy of me going through the motions & not sweeping it under the carpet because someone was worse off. There is always going to be someone worse off, but that should not diminish or make my pain any less worthy of me dealing with it.

When I was in hospital with Flynn for nine weeks I used to have pastoral carers drop in to check up on the patient (that was usually asleep & couldn’t talk anyway). I decided one day, rather than exchanging smiles & pleasantries, I would tell the person how I was really feeling. I admitted that I was feeling robbed & sad & that I just could not see an end to our admission. I kept reiterating that I knew my baby’s life wasn’t in danger & that he ‘just’ had feeding issues, but my journey was becoming very testing & honestly endless. The pastoral carer listened intently & started off by saying, ‘you know I have also counselled parents that have lost their babies’….. It was as though she had ignored MY pain & wasn’t listening to me at all. I kindly told her that her comment was not helping me & actually invalidated everything I had been telling her. It was the first time I had opened up to one of these carers & sadly, the last time.

The ‘I’m going to tell you what I think you need to hear’ button:  If you’re a close friend of mine, I value your honest opinion. If I ask your advice, I appreciate it & take on board the words you’ve said. However, I always have an undercurrent of weariness when trying on clothes in a shop with their ‘oh, you look great in those’ attitude & the ‘I would have totally done what you did in that situation’ comment when you know that’s nothing like you would have handled the scenario. Don’t bullshit me. I’m not stupid & as I said I asked you because I wanted your honest opinion. No one likes a bullshitter.

The ‘just because I have more money than you means I’m better than you’ button: No. Quite simply it means you have more funds in the bank than me. Money, privilege &/or entitlement does not provide a person with class or manners. It might provide someone with a better education, but the school of life is much harder to learn than any text book I’ve seen. So if you have more money than me, that’s great, & your life is financially easier than mine, but please know that it doesn’t mean you’re better than me & I’m certainly not going to accept being treated as a lesser person.

I think I’m going to leave it at that for now. I think this post may be organic in nature & be updated as time goes on & as my life & learning evolves. Maybe I just need to learn how to operate from my ‘ok self’ so none of these buttons can or will ever be pushed again. I promise to work on it if you promise to mind your own business & be more sensitive to each other. Respectfully.