Baby Shower

I finished my last post telling you all how I had planned a nice relaxing weekend planned. Other than the essential jobs, I’d planned on doing very little. Well, my family and friends had other ideas. Over the last few months, they somehow managed to plan a surprise baby shower for me with such precision and secrecy that they could probably advise the government on covert operations.

I’d had a text from a friend in the week asking what I was doing Saturday, and as hubby was off on a jolly with the boys (not bad for some eh?), I thought she was planning on coffee/lunch or something. Still none the wiser, another text on Saturday morning asked me to be ready at 1400, wear something nice and put some make up on. Now, pre-pregnancy, this would have triggered a million suspicions but this time? Not a thing, nada. I swear my brain gets smaller as my bump gets bigger. Can someone please tell me that this will get better? Anyone?? So, 1400 comes and she pulls up outside the house in her car and we set off, a few minutes later stopping at a ‘charity bake sale’ before we went out for lunch. I walked into the room oblivious to everything, and there are a huge group of my friends and family. Not only had they managed to keep it a secret amongst my friends here, they’d also managed to get my immediate family, in-laws and friends from home. In shock, I turned around and hid at the door for a few seconds.

I think my first words were ‘You liars’… and then I was pretty much stunned into silence for the next hour. I’m never speechless, but hey there is a first time for everything. I was taking in everything around me, and it was about 10 minutes before I even spotted my dad. I was aware that there was someone filming my reaction but it didn’t click that it was my dad behind the phone. Probably because my dad and technology aren’t exactly the best of friends. Everything was planned meticulously, and I still can’t believe the effort they went to. There were pictures of me as a baby/child up on the walls (thankfully my parents were feeling kind and didn’t provide anything too embarrassing), they’d planned games, made sandwiches and cakes, brought presents… Literally everything.

I’ll admit, I’m not big on surprises. I like to surprise other people but when it comes to me, I like to know everything. But this was amazing, and I had the best afternoon (after I recovered from the shock). It was so touching knowing that so many people care about me and went out of their way to do something so special for me. Just for me. I just can’t believe how everyone managed to keep it secret. Turns out everyone was avoiding me in the week running up to the baby shower, but I was still working and had a few appointments, so I didn’t really notice. What a sneaky bunch!!

Maternity leave begins:

When I imagined maternity leave, I thought it would be all feet up and watching rubbish daytime TV. Totally not how it’s been so far, I’ve barely had a days rest since I finished work and I’m further behind in all the soaps than ever. I’ve had a lot going on and I’m struggling to concentrate long enough to put it all together. In the last week I’ve sat down to write 4 or 5 times, but my poor brain just doesn’t know where to begin so I’ll apologise now if I appear to be waffling.

Maternity leave kicked off with an afternoon in hospital for what was supposed to be my last scan and obstetrician appointment, but thanks to my stubborn child, I’ll be going back again next week. Baby is still breech so I’m having another scan at 37 weeks, and hopefully she will have turned herself around by then. Can’t believe my child isn’t even born yet and is already showing signs of being as stubborn as her parents. Go figure… Apparently by 37 weeks, only 8% of babies are still in the breech position, so I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that she will have moved around. I also saw an obstetrician, however it was a different doctor to the one I’ve been seeing throughout and I left the hospital feeling much more positive. She listened to my concerns, and agreed that because there have been no issues with me or the baby during my pregnancy, there is no need for me to be taken into the high dependency unit as a default setting.

I’m still going to the main hospital as opposed to the midwife led unit, but if everything goes to plan then I’ll be going into the low dependency unit where I can have the more natural experience I’d like. I’ll be able to move around, use my birthing ball, and potentially have a water birth if the facilities are available. Doctors will be on hand in the high dependency unit across the corridor should there be any complications.

Of course, this all hinges on little miss turning herself round, but I felt good leaving the hospital having been listened to. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know I was starting to feel disheartened about the experience, but I’d say its definitely worth persevering if you feel you aren’t being listened to. I’m not suggesting everything will go the way I want it, but its good to know my thoughts and feelings are being taken into consideration.

Second day of maternity leave was equally busy. Hubby and I went to collect the car seat and have it fitted. We’d been putting it off for long enough, saying we’d go tomorrow, we’d go next week etc…. well, there aren’t many weeks left so off we went on a sunny Thursday morning. Yeah that’s right, in the actual morning. I used to spend my days off sleeping the morning away, eating breakfast at lunchtime then I’d go to the gym in the afternoon. Now I get up and do more by lunchtime than I used to do most weeks. Apparently it’s my body preparing me for baby coming. Anyhow, we arrived at the store and I left hubby in the capable hands of the staff so he would know how to install and remove the car seat as I browsed around the store, making sure that I’ve got everything, checking things off the many, many lists I seem to have made for myself: things to do, things to buy, places to be. I’m starting to think I need to make a list of all the lists. I think I’m pretty much prepared now, well, I am according to the lists. But I absolutely was not prepared for how I’d feel seeing the seat all set up. Things all of a sudden, felt incredibly real. In just a few weeks there is going to be a baby in that seat. OUR baby!! It was quite emotional really, either that or it was the hormones. Who knows?

Emotions continued to run high as I set off for my leaving meal with my work colleagues. We went for curry in a local restaurant where they operate a bring your own bottle policy for alcohol. Obviously I wasn’t partaking in the wine drinking, so I took my own special bottle… of Gaviscon. Well, you have to be prepared don’t you? I really enjoyed the evening, what could be better than good food and good company? Everyone was so generous, and I went home with some lovely gifts and flowers.

After a busy week, I was all set for a relaxing weekend of doing absolutely nothing. I was ready to find out what maternity leave is all about. Hubby was off gallivanting in Warsaw with the boys, and I had nothing to do, and nowhere to be. Lets just say that didn’t go to plan, but I’ll tell you about that next time.

Don’t worry… be happy

Hi everyone, how are you all this week?

Everything is good here, other than feeling exhausted I’m doing really well. I’ve had a busy few days and I’ve really enjoyed it. Last week I talked about how I’ve been avoiding social situations, but I’ve had a little more energy this week and had fun seeing friends.

We had some beautiful Yorkshire weather on Thursday so I took advantage of that by heading out for a walk around the fields with my friend Kat and our dogs. If living in the UK has taught me anything, its that spring/summer only comes for a couple of days at a time, and I can confirm this is true as its raining again now… glad I got out when I did. A walk like that completely zaps my energy now though, so luckily I had a very relaxing afternoon planned. After the walk, we went to a lunchtime mindfulness session, which has recently started up on the base. I’ve tried mindfulness and meditation before, but I find it hard to do on my own so it was nice to be in a group where the meditation was guided. It was only a short 20-minute session, but I found it helpful just to switch off from the world for a short time. The relaxation continued with a massage from the fairy princess that is Carly (I’m not manic, don’t worry… anyone who knows her will understand what I mean). I go into her sanctuary and leave feeling calm and chilled out, like I’m floating on clouds. She fixes all my pregnancy aches and pains, as well as my mind. I don’t spend a lot of money on myself anymore, but this is my favourite monthly treat. The only problem is that time passes way too quickly when I’m there.

Saturday was another great day, and I got to catch up with more friends. I started off the day meeting a friend who I haven’t seen years and even then I didn’t know her that well, so I was quite nervous. It almost felt like going on a first date, but it was lovely to see her. We chatted over coffee and bagels, I’ll admit, I had to hit the real coffee instead of decaf as I needed some extra energy to carry me through the afternoon. We hugged as we left, and agreed to meet again soon. To some people this seems like a simple event, but for me it’s an achievement and reminds me how well I’m doing mentally. When I’m not feeling so well, I wouldn’t even consider putting myself in that situation so I’m kinda proud of myself. After this it was time to go home for a quick change of clothes, and off to Monika’s 30th birthday afternoon tea. Another situation I’d find it hard to be in when I’m not feeling my best. I really enjoyed seeing friends, and of course the sandwiches and cake.

I’ve also done my last shifts at work this week. Military life means a lot of moving around so I’m used to leaving people/jobs behind, and mostly, I’ve been happy to leave previous jobs but not this time. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m genuinely sad to be leaving. I haven’t been there long, but for the first time in a long time I enjoyed going to work and I made some great friends. It’s not like I’m not going to see them again, but still, I think I might even be in denial as I still have my leaving meal later in the week. I’ll probably get emotional, just need to make sure I don’t get too tearful. Don’t want to ruin my make up after all… (Just for the record, I’m joking).

Before I go, I want to remind everyone that it’s OK to be happy. We go through more than enough difficult times in life, and when we struggle with our mental health it doesn’t make things any easier. But sometimes, things just come together and we are happy. Try not to compare yourself to everyone else, because we are all going through different things. Take some time and notice what YOU are doing because what seems like a small, unimportant event to others might be a huge achievement for you. You got out of bed today? Be proud of yourself!!

And with that, BRING ON MATERNITY LEAVE.

In their professional opinion…

I know, I know… I’m writing late this week. To be honest, I’m late for most things so this isn’t unusual. I’m already assuming my baby will follow in my footsteps and show up way later than I’d like her to. Sort of like karma I guess.

My last couple of posts have talked about mental health and pregnancy as separate issues, so this week I wanted to write about how the two combine. At the start of my pregnancy, I knew I’d follow a different journey from a lot of mums. Bipolar disorder is complicated enough, and it turns out when you throw pregnancy into the mix, things get even more complicated. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, changes were made to my medication to minimise any potential risks to my baby. I didn’t stop taking them all though, as one of the few things all my doctors agree on is its vital that my health is maintained too. Stressed mummy = stressed baby. I thought, perhaps naively, that by making these changes, things would be a bit more normal.

Since the very beginning, I’ve had extra scans and appointments to monitor both me and the baby, which is great as I’ve been able to see my baby more than most people get to, and I get regular reassurance that everything is going well which, as a first time mum is really comforting. As well as regular doctor and midwife appointments, I’ve also had access to a specialist team of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and an obstetrician. I’m lucky to have had all this support, and I realise that not everyone in my position, or those who have any other illnesses will have the same experience. There is one problem with having such a large team involved in my care though, and that is I often get conflicting opinions between one professional and the next, and there is a major lack of communication. I’ve also just found out that even with the changes to my medication, I still shouldn’t be breastfeeding. I’ve always said that it is my intention to try and breastfeed, so now I’m facing another round of med changes. Why is this just being pointed out now?

All six of the scans I’ve had so far (I told you there were a lot, and I still have more to come) show that everything is going well. My baby is developing as she should be, and all tests have been normal which is great. This is where all the conflicting advice kicks in. The obstetrician wants me to give birth in the high-dependency unit in a consultant led hospital, however my midwife has said there is no reason why I need to be high-dependency. I’ve had a straightforward pregnancy, and even the psychiatrist thinks there are minimal risks. The obstetrician has recommended that I’m hooked up to monitors throughout labour, but the midwife thinks this is unnecessary. So who is right? Am I high dependency? Low-dependency? Who knows… sometimes I feel more like a case study with boxes to tick on a check list than someone about to give birth.

For me, I just want it to be as natural as possible. I’d love to have a water birth as I love being in water, it’s my happy place. The place I feel most chilled out and relaxed. Being strapped up to machines the whole time just sounds an awful lot more stressful than it needs to be. It takes me back to my previous point, stressed mummy = stressed baby.

The obstetrician is also going to recommend that I stay in hospital for at least 3 days afterwards. The idea is that in hospital I’ll have more support and there will be doctors around to spot any signs of my mood going downhill. Has she actually stayed in a hospital recently? Seriously, we all know how busy doctors and nurses are, the only reason I should be staying there is if something is genuinely wrong, not just in case. Especially when the alternative is that I’d be at home with my husband, my family, and have friends around me that know me and know when all is not well. To me, being at home seems like the obvious choice.

As I get closer to my due date, I find myself wondering how I would feel at this stage of pregnancy if I didn’t have other issues to contend with. I’m having one of those weeks where I just wish I was ‘normal’. In general I’m doing pretty well, but there are times when I feel really low. Tiredness is a big trigger for changes in my mood, and I’m definitely not getting much of that at the moment. There are things that will affect all pregnant women, like putting socks or tights on… it’s an effort that requires a few minutes of rest afterwards. Not forgetting the joyous backache and heartburn too. I’m also aware that I just have no energy in general at the moment though. Things I normally enjoy, I just can’t be bothered with. Quite honestly, there are days I’d rather just keep my pajamas on and stay in bed with the curtains closed than face the world.

7 weeks til eviction:

33 weeks down, 7 to go until Baby Stewart is served with her eviction notice to evacuate my womb. And just when I thought, its cool Nicola, you’ve got this… BOOM!! Out of nowhere, the hormones have kicked in. We’ve all heard of hormones, but if I’m being totally honest, I always thought it was a bit of an excuse for feeling miserable and grumpy. I WAS WRONG!!! I can admit it. Hormones are real, and they catch you out when you least expect it. In a matter of minutes, I can switch from being a perfectly normal human, to a howling banshee or as mad at the world as Peter Capaldi in, ‘The Thick of It’. Go to Youtube and search ‘Malcolm Tucker’s Best Rants’… unless you are easily offended by bad language, in which case, don’t.

Last week, I truly realised the effect of hormones. I’d had a long, busy day at work and I was going for a meal with friends afterwards. I made it home in good time and pretty happy that I was going to have about 20 minutes to get ready, as opposed to the 5-minute turnaround I had expected. I pulled up at the security gates (I live on a military base), produced my ID and car pass, and the usually nice chap on the gate decided my car pass was invalid as its for a different base. The fact that I’ve been using it for almost a year, and that he has allowed me through the gate before was apparently completely irrelevant. I tried to reason with him that I’d turn the car around and go to the office to get a temporary pass, or if he would let me through I’d stop in the car park right by the gate. No, he made me wait until the traffic behind me was out of the way, and reverse back to the car park (I hate reversing, mostly because I’m rubbish at it). So, when I finally got parked, I got out of the car, slammed the door so hard I’m surprised its still attached, and stormed to reception all while screaming a number of expletives down the phone to my husband (If you’ve looked at the suggested video above, you’ll have an idea of what this looked like). By the time I got into the office, I was crying so much that you would have been forgiven for thinking I’d just lost a loved one. I cried all the way home, mascara running down my cheeks in a pattern that made me look like a long lost member of Kiss and by this point I was running late for dinner. Thankfully others were running behind schedule, and after a hug and a few kind words from my husband, I managed to pull myself together. Five minutes later and I’m back to my happy, normal human self like nothing had happened.

Since then, I’ve used the ‘invalid pass’ on multiple occasions with no drama at all, so yeah, he was just being a moron. It’s turned into a bit of a game when I come home now.

Hormones, my dear friends, you have a lot to answer for. You’ve proved you’re point, you can turn me into a stark raving lunatic in seconds. I will never question your existence ever again.

The story so far:

I thought the best way to start this blog was to tell you all a little about my mental health history. If you are reading this and you know me, you’ll already know a bit of my background, but I’m taking this opportunity to be completely honest and open. If you don’t know me, and have mental health issues of your own, well, you can probably relate.

I was still a teenager the first time I started to feel ‘different’. Back then I had no idea what was wrong with me, but looking back, the way I was acting and things that I was doing weren’t normal. By the age of 12, I was a selfish, bratty pre-teenager, and I put my family through hell. By 16/17, I recognised that I was feeling low quite often, and I took myself to see my GP who prescribed me anti-depressants for the first time. From here, I was in a bit of a cycle of taking medication, feeling better, stopping medication, feeling worse, and round and round I went. I can’t remember when I finally admitted to everyone around me that I felt the way I did, but eventually, with the support of my family and a few more trips to the GP, I was referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder. By now I was 21, but with a diagnosis and some new medication I could move forward. I was taking Lithium and Citalopram, and for a while this worked well. But, I’m stubborn and I’d stop taking my meds because I felt well, and so the cycle started again. Over the years, I’ve seen several psychiatrists, been on meds and off meds more times than I can count, and since 2012 I’ve had two long-term periods of depression, when at points I didn’t want to be alive anymore. What was the point?

In between times, I’ve had mini periods of feeling high, and indestructible. I find myself full of wonderful plans that seem like a great idea at the time, and you know what? Some of them have been great ideas, others not so much. I decided to get a credit card when I was 18, then another, and another… not a wise idea, but hey, I bought the laptop that I’m using to write this. But, I also had to pay the money back, which wasn’t always easy. In my 3rd year at university, I signed up to coach soccer in the USA for a summer. I signed up on a complete whim, but I went through with it and had one of the best times of my life. Later, I signed up to train as a personal trainer. Again, a complete impulse decision. I thought this would be the start of a wonderful new career, however when it came down to it, my rational brain had no idea or motivation to actually set myself up in business. I did get my qualification though, and the course did help me find ways to help myself when I feel low. The downside, it cost a lot of money.

I’m 28 now and over the years I’ve made stupid decisions, acted irrationally, treated people like crap, hurt people, pushed people out of my life, and maybe if I was ‘normal’, life would have been different. When things aren’t right in my head, consequences don’t mean anything. I never set out to hurt anyone, but over the years I’ve hurt everyone close to me: my parents, my husband, my family and my friends. I’ll be eternally grateful to them for sticking by me, even when I’ve done my best to drive them away.

So… this is my life in mental health so far. Would I change it? Probably not. Because, in spite of everything I’ve not had a bad life. I’m happier now and more stable than ever,

and

I’m 32 weeks pregnant!!

Come with me on my journey from pregnancy to motherhood. I don’t know I’ll be affected mentally, but I’m excited for some big changes and I can’t wait to meet my beautiful baby. I’ll keep updated on all the ups and downs, and you can be sure I’ll tell it how it is.