Monday, 10 October 2016

World Mental Health Day: PND and Me

I debated whether or not to post this because despite my work for an NHS Trust that specialises in Mental Health and my usual openness about my experience after having the mini one, there is still such a stigma surrounding postnatal depression.

If you've ever read my birth story, you will know the mini one arrived on this planet through quite a traumatic way. The emergency caesarean was certainly not the way I had planned for things to go and as I shook on the operating theatre with adrenaline while the anaesthetist tried to get an epidural in hearing "failure" and "not working" linked to the way my body was performing got things off to a bad start.

I was beyond happy when I found out my little girl was healthy and love her with all my heart, thankfully that was something I never lost even in my darkest days... but I felt a failure from very early on. From a difficult pregnant to traumatic birth to the first couple of days I just couldn't do anything right. I struggled with getting her to latch on, she cried a lot, I cried a lot! I remember crying to the nurse who came to check on me in the middle of the night that I was rubbish... she told me to keep trying and left me sobbing in the dark.

When we got home things got worse. I'd expected to be this glowing new mother who - as I'd always been quite a strong person - somehow managed to make dinner, clean the house, look after baby and catch up on books while she fed. How wrong I was! I stayed in my pyjamas for a week and despite a couple of visitors had never felt so alone. Everyone told me how gorgeous she was and how happy I must be, so I smiled and said thanks and did the usual muttering about lack of sleep (I was on about 3 hours of broken sleep a day) and so on.

I ate a pack of Oreos and drank water everyday, but when the water next to the armchair I said on in our bedroom ran out I didn't move until the now ex-husband came home and help the mini one while I restocked then sat back down again. She cried when I put her down so I never put her down. I bought a sling but was so terrified it would hurt her never used it until she was about 6 months old. I was a total failure in my eyes. I'd made a huge mistake thinking I could do this and as gorgeous as I found her and as much as I loved her I didn't think I was enough.

It all came to a head when my mum came to visit when the mini one was about 3 weeks old. I cried on her that night and she told me to go to bed and sleep when the mini one was asleep... she couldn't understand why I couldn't. My head wouldn't let me. I wasn't just failing my daughter, I was failing myself too. Mum forced me to get dressed and for the first time since I'd left hospital I went outdoors. I wanted to be proud as I saw people look and remark at how beautiful my daughter was but I felt like a flabby, useless lump that just wanted to put her pyjamas back on and cry.

There was no postnatal check in Oman, no one asked if I was ok... it was all "how are the scars doing?" I knew I couldn't continue with what I was doing when a paediatrician told me I was starving my daughter because she had a low birth weight. Not only was I failing at meeting her emotional needs I now couldn't even feed her properly.

We decided I would come back to England with the mini one and within a week of being back I met an amazing health visitor who listened and suggested support. She sent me to my GP and booked me onto the next new mums group running locally so I could deal with the isolation/fear factor by meeting new mums. I got help and it is much better now. Still there are dark days when I just feel a failure again, but I remind myself what a strong unit my daughter and I. How we have been through so much and each time somehow come out the other end.

She has become my everything, my reason for waking up and jumping out of bed when I want to lie in, the reason I'm considering buying wellies so we can both jump in puddles and the most important thing of all. She made me a mummy.

My advice to anyone suffering postnatal depression or finding themselves struggling and putting on a different face when venturing outside? Talk to someone. Whether it is your GP, a friend, health visitor, neighbour, lady you always see in Costa and chat to! Just make yourself heard and know that with the right help it will all be ok. X

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Jumping around Gambados

Now as much as I love playing in the park with the mini one, throwing autumnal leaves around and going to feed the ducks... the good old British weather tries the most hardy of waterproofs and occasionally you just need to surrender and head indoors. The mini one has never been great at staying home for too long, despite lots of things to do so it became essential early on to have good back up plans.

The first we signed up for was a localish soft play centre in Eastleigh called Gambados, which opened in 2007. Unlike a lot of other play areas we've visited, the mini one never gets bored here as there's lots of age appropriate stuff for her to do.

There's two main play areas: the first caters for under 4's and features it's own slide, sensory area and ball pool, plus a small toddler area which is very padded so great for little ones learning to walk. The second is for the older kids but the mini one has been climbing up it's 3 floors since she was about 2.5 and squealing with joy down the big wavy slide! There's also a teacup ride (unlimited rides are included in your admission) and a climbing wall.

There's lots of seating for adults and a handy little cafe that does limited hot food (nachos are yum), sandwiches, cakes and kids meal boxes. It can be very busy and we have left early before when we've failed to find anywhere to sit or just felt it getting too cramped, but early Saturday morning and weekdays (term time) are all pretty safe bets. They do offer parties so you can sometimes notice the place get busy then suddenly quieter again as whole groups go. There's a dedicated seating area for parents involved in the parties.

It can get pretty pricey if you have a couple of kids, but as season pass holders now, I pay less than £10 a month for unlimited entry for the mini one plus two adults plus we get discount in the cafe and off parties.

It's also really secure. You check in and check out so the kids can't leave without you, however I have noticed this be a bit slack lately with staff just buzzing people out without checking cards/child/adult etc. People can't get in without being with a child which makes it feel safer.

Negatives - the noise. This is not a place for anyone with a sore head and feeling a tad fragile! But time it right when a friend is also their with their kids and you can sit back, eat cake and catch up while the kids are happy.

If you want to find out more about Gambados, please visit

Disclaimer: I received no payment or incentive for this post, we are annual pass holders but pay ourselves. This soft play is now known as Partyman World as of summer 2017.