The bigger picture

There is an abundance of information being shared across all forms of social media at the moment. It’s a blur of facts, figures, fact and fiction.

After nearly 5 weeks of lockdown, most South Africans are feeling various levels of emotions, ranging from frustration to fear.

The message from our government and the World Health Organization is that the steps taken have been necessary and are working. With this said though, there appears to be a shift in mindset as people begin to feel the fear of the financial implications of lockdown. Why are we staying in lockdown when the death rate is so low?

What is slowly being forgotten though is the main reason for lock-down. Reducing the amount of fatalities from Covid-19 is one reason yes. But the main reason is to reduce the spread of the virus, in order to allow our medical infrastructure to prepare, upgrade and handle the potential influx of patients arriving on its doorstep requiring medical attention.

Covid-19 is not going to magically be eradicated by the end of April. It’s here for the long haul and as we enter winter, we will be seeing a steep rise in the rate of infections throughout the country.

‘Flattening the curve’ is a term that’s been thrown around a lot. The meaning of this is purely to slow down the rate of infections, not to eradicate it. There is no cure, there is no vaccine. It’s not going anywhere, anytime soon.

If we fixate on the death rate/percentage alone, our figures look reasonable enough one could even say. Reasonable enough to allow a complete ending to lockdown and allow people to go back to their previous life as though nothing were ever wrong.

The reality though is that an abrupt ending to lock-down would result in a drastic rise in the infection rate and as a country we could well find ourselves facing a medical care system that is completely overwhelmed and faced with the very real situation of having to prioritize which patient is more deserving of treatment than another. Is that a situation you would like to find yourself in? 

Gripes about what we may and may not do through lock-down are also becoming an increasing discussion. Comparisons between South Africa and first world countries such as Norway. These comparisons are nonsensical at best, our poverty line is far higher than that of a first world country. Access to basics such as clean water and basic sanitation in South Africa is vastly different to any third world country. A large percentage of our population live in densely populated areas, where staying indoors 247 is simply inhumane and impossible.

I see it in local forums and online. People complaining that being unable to take their dog for a walk or go for a run is ridiculous. Forgetting that allowing these activities in one suburban area, whilst restricting it in others, is not a line we as a nation want to cross. Here in leafy suburbia this could potentially work, in densely populated suburbs, this practice would prove catastrophic for the spread of the virus.

At the end of the day we are all South Africans and like it or not, we are all in this together. Our levels of comfort and security have been tested and pushed to the very edge, to ensure our safety, and that of every other South African living in this beautiful country.

I don’t envy the president for one second. The decisions he has had to make in order to ensure that each South African is best protected has no doubt been an incredibly stressful process. I admire his resolve and determination to put forward systems aimed at keeping us all safe, sure there are loopholes, but he has done a far better job than most leaders of the ‘free world’ and first world nations.

None of what we are experiencing can be considered normal. For families like mine, social distancing, self-isolation and severe hygiene practices is normal, given our unique circumstances. We entered our journey relatively blindly, it felt incredibly isolating, being criticized for being over bearing and paranoid, whilst navigating and figuring out a new way of life that would keep our daughter and family safe. It is heartwarming and heart breaking at the same time to now see the world around us navigating a journey which we took a few short years ago. Heart breaking because of the handful of people who are so incredibly narrow minded that they cannot see the bigger picture. Heartwarming because every single day I see people reaching out to each other, offering support, care, food, clothes, love, guidance, understanding and love.

Life as we knew it has changed. Whether you like it or not. Embrace it, learn from it. South Africans are incredibly resilient, uplifting, resourceful and positive. While things may look different moving forward, I have no doubt that we will make it out the other side, stronger.

Keep safe, keep healthy, rock those beautiful masks, keep your distance of 2 metres in public spaces, wash your hands and remember to let the gas out of your pineapple beer 😉

It takes a village

The role of parent is not an easy one.  We are tasked with so much responsibility.  At the end of each evening I find myself questioning my abilities. I run the entire day through my head.  How I could have done things better.  That my daughter deserves someone far more capable than I.  How I’ll cope with the following days challenges.  Am I allowing her enough freedom, or not enough?  Am I giving her the right skill sets to become independent?  Am I too hard on her? Am I too lenient on her?

We are the caregivers for a future generation. It’s not a role to be taken lightly.  It rests in our hands to raise these little people the right way.  Ensuring that we have given them the right set of skills, in order for them to have the best possible outcome to start a life on their own one day.  We need to ensure that we raise healthy, compassionate, confident, happy and well-developed people.  But raising a child takes more than a parent or two or three doesn’t it?!  It takes a village really.  Family, friends, caregivers, mentors, teachers, tutors, neighbours and even strangers.  We all play a pivotal role in creating successful future generations of functional adults.  As a society in entirety, we are responsible for ensuring that future generations are looked after.

We have shared much of our daughters’ and our story to create awareness for others.  One such story occurred this past week. Charlotte grew very ill, very quickly.  One listen to her lungs by her paediatrician and we were immediately admitted to the isolation ward in paediatrics.  She had contracted pneumonia in both lungs.  Very bad for a former micro preemie with a history of chronic lung disease.  Further tests also confirmed that she had contract ‘RSV’, which was likely the outlying cause of her contracting pneumonia as a secondary infection.  With confirmation of her diagnosis I opted to re-share a prior post I had made in sharing awareness and preventative measures surrounding ‘RSV’.

So many wonderful and amazing members of our village offered love, support and encouragement. Many more shared the post to create further awareness, which in itself is amazing support and love.  And as I wondered through the comments made on various shared posts I noticed a handful of interesting comments.

One comment noted that the poster couldn’t see what the big deal was. It is after all just a common cold, one which all children will have at some point.  She’s not wrong with that statement, but it is a fairly naive and narrow-minded one if I’m honest. Another which struck me hard in the feels was one which stated that as Charlottes’ mother, it was my sole responsibility to ensure that she is protected from germs.  Yes, thank you for pointing out that I failed my daughter.  Let me add however, that while it is indeed my responsibility to protect Charlotte, it is equally your responsibility to prevent the spread of your and your little ones germs.

The comments got me thinking though.  Had the objective of my original post not been clear?  So I went back and read through it a few more times to see what I had missed.  What I noted at the end of the exercise was that I was encouraging nothing more than basic hygiene etiquette from general functional and rational members of society, whom I presume to be capable of logical thought.

A lot of the original post focused on prevention. How to best prevent the spread of this horrible virus. Simple, basic tasks such as:

  • Washing your hands regularly, especially after being in contact with known germs, viruses and bacteria.
  • To cough or sneeze into the small of your elbow or into a tissue to prevent airborne particles.
  • To wipe down surfaces you may touch in public spaces, that others will be in contact with.
  • To teach your children to cough with a hand in front of their mouth.
  • To keep sick children at home as far as possible. Yes, we all know it’s difficult and sometimes impossible. But again, revert back to basic hygiene 101, clean surfaces they come in contact with.
  • By wiping your hands before you pick up a dozen different bags of pasta to see which one floats your boat for dinner.
  • By confining your sick child to a baby wrap, sling or even a trolley instead of allowing them to run amock down all the aisles.
  • By wiping down your trolley when leaving the store.
  • By not taking your sick child to school, childrens parties, play areas and parks or to the local Spur play area on a Friday evening.

None of these are overly complicated and impossible to achieve, and all are  respectful and mindful of the basic hygienic rights of all members of our villages.

So yes, as you so wisely pointed out, as much as it is my responsibility to protect my daughter, it is equally my responsibility to ensure that if she or I are ill, that I prevent the spread of those germs to you. And we expect the same respect, courtesy and effort in return. It is also my responsibility to nurture my daughters development in its entirety, this includes so much more than just her health. It includes her social development with society, her friends, class mates, adults and strangers.  I have to find the right balance between her health and well being to ensure that all aspects of her development are nurtured.  In order for me and for any other parent to fulfil this task successfully we need to work together to ensure that we are offering all of our children, safe environments in which to develop.

So while my daughter remains highly contagious for the next few weeks you will likely see very little of me out and about. But, if you do happen to see a crazy lady with a pile of sanitizing wipes in the store, frantically wiping down her hands, trolley, milk bottles, blocks of cheese and bags of pasta, wave your own sanitizing wipe in my direction and say hi!

You are the people who I want in our village!

If you would like to read up more on RSV please do click on the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/RaisingCharlottePE/photos/a.1688358448096619.1073741827.1688213771444420/2010252569240537/?type=3&theater

Much love from the hand sanitizer queen to all of you!!!

 

 

She is not viable

She’s not viable….

When Charlotte is soundly and snuggly asleep in bed between Johan and I, we often marvel at the wonder that is our daughter. She is perfect. She is beautiful.  She is mesmerising in every aspect of her being.  I cannot imagine a world in which she does not exist. I cannot fathom a life that does not include her larger than life personality.

 

And yet, this was a cold, hard reality with which we were hit with when I was 23 weeks pregnant.

I remember every aspect of that moment.  The feel of the sheets against my skin as I lay in a bed not mine, in a room with two complete strangers whom I’d listened to all day, hidden behind their cubicle curtains, talking to loved ones, talking about their beautiful new babies.  The heat of of a room where the aircon wasn’t working, the warm sun baking through the curtains, the sound of construction work outside my window, the dull background noise of nursing staff tending to their new mommies and new little people in the nursery down the corridor.  The telephone ringing at the reception desk.  The excited chatter of family come to visit loved one and celebrate the miracle of new little lives born that day. The smell of sanitizer hanging in the air. Newborns crying in the nursery as they receive their first bath.

A week before we were swaddled in ignorant pregnancy bliss. A week before, my husband and I had seen Charlotte at our 22 week ultrasound. It’s the all critical ultrasound, organs are checked, limbs, fingers, toes, brain matter, heart function, blood flow, artery and vein formations and supply, weight is checked, head circumference, the results of our Down Syndrome risks. As I lay there and we watched our perfect little girl on the monitor we allowed ourselves to finally breathe, she was well, she was healthy. She was perfect.  Our doctor was thrilled with her progress and development.

24 hours later it all changed. I was admitted the day after our scan. After tests and a night of observation I was diagnosed with early onset pre-eclampsia.  I’d read briefly about in in my pregnancy book. I knew that the only method to stop it from progressing was delivery. But I never in a million years thought that we would be that one in a million pregnancy that would result in a delivery that would see a child born into this world at the very start of the third trimester.

A week of staying in hospital and feeling reasonably healthy went by, while my blood pressure refused to stabilise I still felt well enough to believe that this was all somehow a huge misunderstanding, that soon we’d we sent home to enjoy our last few months of pregnancy bliss. And so I lay in wait that fateful day, with baited breath.  For my doctor to arrive and tell me what our game plan was to prevent my illness from progressing. What we’d be doing to keep Charlotte inside, growing and healthy. To tell me that all would be OK, as it was just a week previously.

When I heard my doctors voice in the corridor, the light laughter shared with the nursing staff at reception, I allowed myself to believe that all as going to be OK. Nobody is capable of sharing light-hearted laughter mere moments before delivering bad news surely? My halo of hope shattered the moment that my doctor walked into my room and towards my bed. I could see it in the walk, the eyes and in the way I was greeted. It was over.

The world went quieter and quieter as our one sided conversation progressed and my diagnosis was being explained. I didn’t contribute much, I sat and listened, trying to comprehend what was happening, until those words brutal were uttered.

‘She is not viable’

I was given a breakdown of her viability from a legal and medical point of view. I was given statistics on survival rates. The probability that in the certain event that she were to be born soon that she would likely suffer from lifelong debilitating complications. In my doctors’ eyes, I no longer had a viable pregnancy, or a child worth saving.  Our baby that was doing so well a week ago was suddenly no longer worthy of this world or my doctors’ time. She wasn’t viable.

I was advised that the best course of action would be termination, in the best interest of my own health.  She wasn’t a cause for concern any longer.  With a final look down towards me of pity I was told that my doctor would be away for a while on a business trip for two weeks and that it was doubtful that I would still be pregnant on return, I was wished the best of luck on my decision and for the weeks ahead and I was left to digest what I was just told and to make an impossible decision with my husband, my childs father.

Behind a curtain on the opposite side of the room was a new mom who wept with me. We hadn’t even laid eyes on each other and yet I was receiving far more compassion from this woman than I’d received from my own doctor.  She made me promise not to give up. She made me swear that I would continue fighting and looking for help.  She selflessly gave me the hope that I needed, in spite of her own birthing trauma and firstborn lying in the NICU.

I remember feeling so very alone, in a room full of patients and nursing staff. I remember feeling the feint movements of my daughter inside my stomach, alive and fighting, nobody fighting for her any longer.  She wasn’t viable?  She wasn’t worthy?  She wasn’t a living being worthy of having time spent on her any longer?

I remember the fear.  A thousand variations of crippling fear.  What if I was being selfish to fight and she died in pain?  What if I fought and she was born with severe compilations and lifelong issues.  What if I fought and I died, leaving her without a mother, leaving my husband with a child who required constant care because of my own selfishness. What if I agreed to termination?  Would I be able to live with the guilt of ending my perfect daughters’ life to save my own?  ‘What if’, a thousand of them. That voice behind the curtain encouraged me not to give in, to hold out hope until my husband was able to get there and until we were able to get a second opinion.

‘She is not viable’  I’ll never forget those words for as long as I live and breath on this earth.

And yet here she is.  Strong, beautiful, breath-taking in her determination and presence.

We were given hope the following morning.  She was viable to someone. Someone believed in my determination. Someone believed that she was worthy of fighting for. Someone knew that she deserved to be given a chance to be a part of this beautiful world.  Someone believed that she would be ok, healthy and happy. For that belief I’ll never be able to repay or express my gratitude enough.

As I lay beside her, watching her take in those tiny gentle breaths while she dreams of conquering the world I remember that we are guaranteed nothing in this world.  Nobody is going to fight for us if we don’t fight for it ourselves as well.

I know that we did right, that we fought bravely and selflessly for her.  I know that while I came dangerously close to losing my own life, that it was worth the risk, to have her a part of this world. Every day she shines fresh, beautiful light into this world. Every day is a blessing and an honour to know that someone else believed in her, in us. That she was worthy.

She was viable.

She was worthy.

She is perfection.

She is our world. She is viable. She is worthy and she is pure perfection!

I love food!!!

I love food.

I love everything about it.  I love how it brings people together.  I love how it can soothe a broken heart. How it encourages a couple to snuggle up in bed while sharing a beautiful bowl of buttery popcorn and enjoying a good movie.  I love how the perfect fruity ice lolly can cool body, mind and soul on a scorching summer day.  I love exploring new ideas and recipes. Blending spices to create unique dishes to share with loved ones.  I find solace in creating and eating a good meal.

Food is my go-to when I’m excited, nervous, devastated, in love or even just when I’m bored and have nothing better to do with my free time.  It has been my crutch during trying times, my best friend who never judged me for the poor decisions which I’d made that day, or the pity party I may have been in the midst of, it has celebrated milestones and achievements with me.  It completed me.

But as with all things in life, with the good comes the bad.  It’s given me a great big fat ass and an ever expanding, embarrassingly large waist circumference.  My relationship with food has become an unhealthy one, the friend that you know is bad for you, the one who you should break things off with, but you keep them around, for reasons you wouldn’t really be able to justify if you had to sound them out loud.

There comes a time in life where we need to face reality, and so, with the arrival of our daughter and innocent comments by my husband about my weight and physique, came the realisation that I needed to change things up drastically.  It was time for an intervention for myself.

I thought I was ready for this a year ago.  I set myself up some new year resolutions (you know they NEVER work), bought a pair of running shoes and thought it would be enough to motivate myself.  But it wasn’t.  I’d set myself up for failure before I even had one foot out of the door.

This is the thing with weight gain and being overweight that those who haven’t travelled this jiggly road struggle to understand.  We haven’t chosen to be fat, this is not the life we envisioned for ourselves.  There is so much more to gaining weight, and losing it, that can be misunderstood.  The psychological contributing factors involved need to be addressed and processed if you truly want to conquer the demon that is muffin top and firelighter thighs.

My pregnancy with Charlotte was not an easy one.  Her arrival a full 14 weeks early added insurmountable emotions layered thick with guilt over circumstances which were beyond my control, but as a woman who had failed to perform the very basic function that her body was designed to do, I felt a complete failure.  Her first few days were lived hour by hour, not knowing if she would survive, if she would be OK, not knowing what her future held, for both her and for us.  We spent the first two months of her life watching her grow inside of an incubator, living off meals supplied by loved ones and the hospital coffee shop. Her first few months home were not the blissful exhaustion described by new mothers.  They were laden with days, nights, weeks and months of a traumatised child who was suffering, both from the stresses of her new environment, undetected medical issues, numerous hospital admissions and invasive medical procedures done in an attempt to diagnose her.

Through all of this I turned to food for comfort. We’d lie in bed for hours, her on my chest (the only place she wouldn’t scream), me with comfort food beside me.  Through it all the weight piled on, my insecurities grew and the hopelessness of my situation had me seeking more comfort food.  I stopped looking at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t bare to look down at my own body.  I gave up on even attempting to brush my hair, putting on makeup, wearing clean clothes, let alone the effort to shower or shave my legs.

While I’d decided a year ago to lose weight, I hadn’t really addressed any of my underlying insecurities, guilt or emotional issues.  I also had the threat of possible long term medical conditions which could affect my health, from the illness which caused Charlottes early birth.  So, a few weeks into my new fitness regime, when I felt a twinge of pain in a kidney, I marched off to the GP for tests.

The first remark made when I walked into the rooms after a two second visual analysis of a woman with knotted hair, wrinkly clothes and serious bags under her eyes, was that I was morbidly obese and I needed to make a plan.  The words deflated me, the little hope and motivation that I was clinging to was ripped from me and thrown into the rubbish bin.  I tried to talk about how I’d come to this point, but again I was simply told that I needed to stop eating junk food and lose weight. I could sense the feeling of disgust related to my appearance. There were no questions asked about the rest of my state, how I was coping, or even what had caused my weight gain, all that was supplied was remarks on my massive weight gain.  I went home devastated, feeling hopeless and gave up right then and there, but not before picking up some of my best non-judgemental friends along the way to soothe my broken heart.

And for the next few months the vicious cycle continued.  Until my daughter started walking.  I struggled to keep up with her, I was out of breath from 2 minutes of playing.  I was too embarrassed to put on a swimming costume to swim with her, too embarrassed to join friends on the beach for fear of having to wear something revealing.

Around the same time we also made some break throughs with her health and development, I saw a psychologist and I made a commitment to myself to get fit.  I wanted to enjoy my daughter, I wanted to feel confident when my husband showed me affection. I wanted to wear something other than my maternity pants.  It was time for change.

My mom was overweight when I was a child.  I didn’t understand it then, I couldn’t care less how big or small she was, I just wanted my mom to do stuff with me.  I understand know why she hid away. I realised that I was going down the same road with my daughter.  I knew it was now or never.  I understand her fears, her anxieties and I wish she was still here, that I could tell her it didn’t matter to me, that I loved her regardless of what she looked like.  But I also knew I didn’t want my daughter to experience the same emotions.

I evaluated what my strengths and weaknesses were.  And I looked for a program that I could relate to. One which would keep me motivated and on the path towards a healthier way of life.  I knew that while I was motivated and in the right head space this time, that I would need a support system of like minded women.  For me, joining a gym, hiring some freakishly super fit trainer who has no idea what is it to be overweight was not going to work.  I needed a massive support structure, from people who had walked this road before and were going through it now.

I had heard about Amanda and ‘Choose Your Hard’ at the beginning of 2017.  Her journey, her struggles, her story, was inspirational and exactly what I needed.  We made contact and I’ll be honest, I was gutted when I had to wait 6 weeks for the course to begin!  I just wanted to get cracking, immediately!!!

I’m in week three of ‘Choose your Hard’, part of an amazing team of women from all walks of life.  We all have the same goal in mind though, getting fit, confident and healthy,  the weight loss is just an added bonus from this journey.  My muscles ache, I’m awake at 4:30 every morning to get to class on time.  I do core exercises, walks and swims additionally to build up my fitness levels.  When I feel low I’m instantly picked up by one of these amazing ladies who keep me on my toes, laughing and feeling like nothing is impossible now!

Most importantly, I’ve re-evaluated the relationship with my BFF, food!  I acknowledged that we had a toxic relationship, and while we loved each other dearly, we needed to change how we worked with each other, rather than breaking things off completely, we all need to eat something after all.  So, my new challenge is to work with healthier choices, continue to enjoy cooking up delicious and creative meals, but with smarter choices and healthier alternatives.  Food and I will always be the best of friends, but how I choose to allow it to control my life and habits has changed, for the better.

I love food! Always have, always will.  But I’m no longer looking at it as a crutch to support my emotions exclusively. Along with the revelation that we can have a healthy, happy relationship, the support of my husband, the tiny motivator that is our daughter and a team leader like Amanda and the rest of the amazing ladies in our group, I know I can make it through this journey and be stronger when I walk out of the other side!!!

The War Vet

PTSD, a well-known and documented disorder associated with survivors of war. Except I’ve never been to war, or have I?  I suppose I have, but not in the conventional sense that one envisions when those four letters are uttered.

I was cleared of Post-Partum Depression a few weeks after Charlotte’s birth.  The possibility that it or other psychological conditions could appear at a far later stage didn’t even occur to me. It wasn’t something I was aware of. So when I started feeling different, when the high levels of frustration, anger and lack of self-worth started becoming overwhelming, I felt deeply embarrassed and ashamed.  I felt as though I was a failure, I didn’t want to disappoint my loved ones, all who so often commented about how strong I was, how well I had dealt with the cards we’d been dished out, how well put together I was under such trying situations.

At this point our daughter had begun exhibiting signs of Oral Aversion, I begged, I pleaded, I consulted, always to be told all was fine, all was well, she would grow out of it, I just had to push harder and get her volumes in. So when she didn’t, when it got to the point where both she and I felt hopeless, she gave up and I grew quietly desperate and in a twisted way, resentful.  I had levels of stress and pressure that I had never experienced before and was prescribed mild antipsychotic drug, sounds lovely doesn’t it.

Instead of really focusing on what was happening, I placed all my focus and energy on our daughter and her recovery, I put myself, my husband, our marriage, business, and friendships, everything on the back burner and focused on my daughters’ recovery.  I was so unbelievably proud of her progress, yet when we had bad days or bottles I would lose my mind completely.  I could smile outwards to the world, but inside I felt hollow.

I tried to hide and block the warning signs, both from myself and loved ones. But one can only hide something so dark for so long before it explodes. A few months ago, just after my daughter started drinking again, we had a bad few days, I went into overdrive and a beloved person in our lives stepped into the scene.  I was whisked off to a doctor who bluntly stated I was most definitely suffering from delayed Post-Partum Depression and PTSD, he prescribed medication and just before we were sent on our way he relayed a story of a mother he had dealt with years before who suffered from the same levels of stress and one day, lost the plot, smothered her child and buried her in the backyard, her psyche was so damaged that on her husband’s return home she had no recollection of even having a daughter.  I. Was. Terrified.  I cried all the way home, I was too terrified to be left alone with my daughter, I couldn’t sleep for days, too afraid that I would turn into that woman, that I would turn into a monster and never even remember what I had done. That story still haunts me.

There were days, sometimes even weeks where I wouldn’t have been able to tell you when last I had brushed my hair, taken a shower, or even brushed my teeth.  The knots in my hair were so bad that dreadlocks had formed and I was left with no choice but to chop my long locks off. I couldn’t be bothered with looking presentable, wearing makeup or putting on a clean set of clothing.   I had a very public blog about our daughters successes, all that we had conquered. Without even realising it, I had placed even more pressure on myself to be the perfect, strong successful mom to our miracle child, for all the eyes that were watching, supporting and following us.

We live in a generation of sharing, social media is such a powerful tool.  Daily we are exposed to what the ideology of parenting is, happy children, happy parents, outwardly smiling faces, shared precious memories and moments, even in times of trouble you will see a parent beaming about how blessed they are in spite of their circumstances.  To be surrounded by this unrealistic perception of what parenting is expected to be places immense pressure on those who are simply not coping. Nobody shares the darker moments, everyone is too ashamed to admit that sometimes, it is all just too much and we need to cut ourselves some slack.

My levels of stress bubbled in the confines of our home to the point where it could no longer be contained. It bubbled over when friends or family came to visit. It started bubbling over in public, I could no longer pretend all was well, and still, I was in denial of what was happening. Until one evening a short while ago.

I lay in bed looking at my husband and daughter asleep, side by side, sleeping in identical positions and the only thought that came to mind was that they would be better off without me.  I wondered how long it would take for her to forget me, I wondered how long it would be before he found a new partner, someone who could provide our daughter with the love and patience that she deserved, someone with whom he could share his life, his passions and his daughter with. I had no idea how I would end it, but at that moment, I believed it would be better for everyone if I just went silently into the night.  I switch off the lights and lay in the dark listening to them sleeping peacefully.  I had a thousand thoughts floating in my mind that night. In the morning though as I fed our daughter and looked into her beautiful eyes I realised that any act of removing myself from their lives would only alleviate my hurt and pain, it would serve no positive purpose in their lives whatsoever.

It was time to admit to myself that I was hurt, damaged in a sense and it was time to start healing, for my sake and that of my daughter and our marriage.  I’m not ashamed to admit to having started seeing a psychologist on a regular basis. I’d had brief consultations in the past but had never received the unbiased counselling which is required.  It was time to rebuild our lives, and in order to do that I needed to find myself and forgive myself.

There are moments spent with my family and friends that I regret, that I wish had never taken place, but I’m making peace with the fact that what has been done is done, it is how I handle those memories and how I react in the future that will count. What matters is to let go of the hurt, pain and fear.  What matters is to rediscover who I am, what my passions are, what drives me, what excites and inspires me. In spite of being a mother now I am still an individual, something that I think we can all too often forget along this path of motherhood.  Without self-worth how are we to expect ourselves to be of any worth to anyone else?

Will the healing happen overnight?  Most likely not, the road to recovery and self-discovery is a long one and there will be bumps along the way. But I am learning that it is not the bump itself that matters, but how I react to that bump that will make all the difference.

I had a chat with a friend a few days ago. I popped in for a cuppa and she took one look at me and knew immediately what was going on.  She sat me down and relayed her own story to me. I wanted to jump from that couch and hug her, I wanted to cry.  What she told me helped me realise that I was not alone, I wasn’t losing my mind, and I wasn’t the worlds’ most terrible mother.  I was simply human and experiencing the side effects of mass levels of stress that many parents of medically fragile children can relate to. We become so all consumed in our childs’ health and wellbeing that we forget about our own wellbeing, some see the warning signs earlier, some cope perfectly well with it, some like me realise before it’s too late and for others help doesn’t arrive in time.

Why do I write about this deeply personal aspect of my life?  Because I want other parents to know how easy it is to lose yourself, it starts slowly, it is so subtle that you aren’t even aware that it’s occurring, until one day in the middle of the night you decide your family is better off without you.  For me it started years before we even conceived our daughter but I never paid attention to the warning signs, there is always someone else to look after, to take care of.  And after all, it is expected of one to be selfless in giving time to others, but I’m realising that it is healthy to be a little selfish as well, to place yourself first now and again, for your own health, wellbeing and sanity.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, insist on it in fact.  If you aren’t coping, speak up, you are only human and can only tackle so much at any given time. Do not try to hide it, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed.  Do not try to be Wonder Woman, it is not possible to maintain that unrealistic level of output, you will burn out, you will break and besides, how many of us could really rock that figure hugging outfit that she dons at any rate?!

I have spent months trying to hide my issues out of shame and guilt, the belief that I would be seen as a failure and disappointment to my family, that I would be seen as a weak or an unfit mother.  The result is that I was turning into the exact person that I was attempting to not be seen as.  You are not alone, you are surrounded by so many people who love you and want to help, who have probably seen the warning signs themselves but are too polite or scared to intervene and offer assistance.  You are worth it, and you deserve to feel whole again.

xxx