Why I No Longer Google…

I gave up Google rather abruptly when my daughter was diagnosed with a very rare illness at 2. The illness is on a spectrum, and so by Googling I would have discovered what is at the bad end. Our consultant asked that we therefore Google it ourselves and let her provide the information, which was obviously more specific to our daughter’s case and was also far more reliable. At first I balked at the idea – it’s usually the first port of call when anyone is ill, but I knew the anxiety this kind of unguided ‘research’ by someone who knows nothing about modern medicine can cause. 

A new study by Private Midwives revealed that

1 in 4 (27%) pregnant women are turning to the internet for pregnancy-related advice or info as often as every few days – with 1 in 10 even consulting it daily

Over half (53%) will turn to the internet for non-emergency advice or info before consulting anyone or anything else.

AND YET, 41% of mums-to-be felt search engines were more likely than any other source to provide information which causes anxiety.

It’s been such a relief kicking my own Google habit. I call 111 if I’m unsure, or I’ll have a quick browse of the NHS website for verified, reliable advice. No longer so I get stuck in a vortex of cancer symptoms and graphic poo analysis only to realise the parents discussing it on the forum I’ve landed on are actually NOT doctors but self-proclaimed experts who are actually fellow hypochondriacs with children who shit a lot.

What’s really nice is how often I now speak to real people. I’ll ask my neighbour for her preferred chicken pox solution, or how she coaxed her daughters through sleep regression, and I’ll quickly realise I’m overthinking a lot of it all, and there’s nothing to worry about. I also send pictures of my child’s rashes to friends OBVIOUSLY – doesn’t everyone?!

p.s. she’s ok now, by the way x

Not the mum you planned to be…

We’ve just had One Of Those Days. Those days where I’m suspended somewhere between remembering what it’s like to be a kid when your mum’s too busy to play and forging forward as a mum who’s too busy to play. I read that book – Playful Parenting – and it is only one of three that resonated. It made perfect sense and when I put the teachings into practice it totally worked But…dinner’s burning, postman’s knocking, mess, washing machine’s dinging, I only have today to finish the three loads of washing so it’ll dry before Monday,

When did I become so DULL? When does the playfulness give way to schedules and routines and vitamin-related anxiety?

I have excellent plans the night before, usually because I’ve disappointed myself that day by shouting or not listening properly. ‘I shall be patient all day, we’ll laugh together and have those sweet, quiet moments which dominated our first two years together. Then I wake too early or find that glass of wine has left me feeling foggy. My temper is short, and I try to fight it, knowing I have the power to turn this day around – just me. I allow the TV to go on so we can cuddle in my bed. It doesn’t have the desired effect. As the TV lulls her into a private, muted moment, a rogue foot swings round and catches me in the face. I suggest we go get breakfast and she whines because the programme is in full flow. No matter, they only last 5 minutes these shows. Except that the show we’re really there for is still 3 shows away it turns out.

That allows just enough time to be mired in guilt, realising we could be reading, playing…. Even just talking.

And so I make several more errors and missteps. Either out of laziness or stupidity. They stack up, the mood drops. I snap. I reach around in my brain for words of wisdom from all those books I meant to read. I think colouring will fix it, and then we miss the signs that lunch is overdue so we are both hangry. We play Sylvanians and the dictatorial mum of the bears bosses the babies into their playroom, telling them off for dragging their heels and forgetting to wash their hands. It’s painful because they’re my words coming out of my gorgeous kid’s mouth. This bear in her flowery dress and flappy apron is me, big chin and all.

I’m grumpy. I know I have to rise above this mood, but it’s tricky for some reason. She just wants to play, but not alone. She’s probably seeking reassurance after every little disagreement that it’s all OK really. And of course it is. Our stars aren’t aligned today. But there’s always the bedtime story. And tomorrow is another day.

 

Yes, we’re lucky. But it IS hard.

One of the things I was keen to do with MUM FACE was to own up to finding it hard. It took some personal pep-talking though – the first thing you’re expected to be as a mum is grateful and joyous.

I am incredibly lucky to have got pregnant. Hell, I’m lucky to live in the house we live in, in a country I feel relatively safe in. I’m lucky I have a job I love. I’m lucky in so many ways. I’m lucky to have my health, my partner, my parents, and yes, definitely lucky to have my kid.

But this has become a caveat, almost a way to temper any negative feelings, make them feel shameful. “I had a really bad night last night and I feel a bit lost, BUT I SHOULDN’T SAY IT BECAUSE I’M SO LUCKY TO HAVE GOT PREGNANT.”

Because if you’re lucky enough to have a baby, you should ‘think yourself lucky’ and moaning should be kept to a minimum. I get it – if there’s nothing you want more than to have a baby and you can’t, the complaints of someone who got there easily are hard to swallow. BUT no matter how you came to be a mum, some of it will be bloody hard. And since we’re thankfully part of a generation that’s encouraged to talk about our struggles and seek help with them – even if that’s just a cup of tea and a chat – it seems only fair that we can bring our discomforts as mothers to that table, too. Finding some parts of motherhood hard does not negate your love. It does not mean you don’t thank your lucky stars everyday that your child is alive and well. It’s as though we’re not allowed to own our discomfort or pain, or the fact that sometimes being a mum is truly gut-wrenchingly awful. I don’t think women need this pre-emptive apology; I’m not sure it really helps. I know I’m lucky to have a kid and appreciate more than others perhaps that she’s healthy, but I still despair, I still think, well this has got fucking horrible, hasn’t it? I still want to complain about what happens to me, what happens to my relationships, that I have far fewer friends now, that I’m a bitch to my mum and don’t even know why most of the time.

It’s a fairly democratic difficulty – so far all the mums I’ve ever met have found one or more parts of the experience hard.

And when well-meaning people say things like, OH YOU’LL MISS THIS PHASE THOUGH, WHEN THEY’RE GROWN UP AND WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. Well, this isn’t helpful either. This garners a combination of dread for the future and shame/guilt at not embracing and enjoying every moment. But personally, there are things I won’t miss. I won’t miss the sleep deprivation because that was pretty hard. I will miss my baby lying in my arms, but not the bit where I was rocking til my back ached, desperate for a moment of sleep, desperate for her to sleep peacefully, desperate for the room to stop spinning. Take away the pressure to enjoy it all and FEEL LUCKY all the goddamn time, and you can move on. Yes, this bit is a bit shit actually, but it’ll pass and we’ll enjoy something else together when we’ve caught up on some sleep.

 

 

Parenting when you’re emetophobic

I think actually, emetophobic is a bit strong for my personal mental health issue. I’m not phobic of being sick myself, I am more anxious about sickness bugs – once I have one, I’m fairly calm, as long as I can stay away from anyone else who could then contract it. So it’s not necessarily a fear of actually throwing up, but just a lot of anxiety around contagions. But ultimately – major control issues, major dislike of vomit.

Anyway, when I was a kid it was easier because I could use the sighting of a pair of magpies to convince myself a bug was unlikely to hit. I could ward off bugs by 1. Not wearing jeans 2. Not wearing pink or purple 3. Not seeing my aunty on a Wednesday 4. Not watching ballet or anything relating to Romeo + Juliet (including West Side Story, by the way) 5. Not eating Tikka Masala. Because in the past those things had all been part of a day on which I vomited.

But now I’m an adult, and have had the OCD ripped from me like the seizing of a security blanket, by adulthood and well-meaning counsellors, I am now duly aware of how exposed I am to every bug going. Because even if your child is well versed in the finer points of hand washing, the kid she licks might not be. Faecal matter – relatively easy to avoid among adults – seems to be everywhere. It’s like the ultimate accessory when you’re under 6.

When you’re a new parent around other new parents, everyone’s talking about sick and poo constantly. Do they mean standard milk-puke, or is this baby ill? I’d often wonder. Then over time you quickly learn to identify those parents who put their own need to get the house above observing basic quarantine rules with a baby or toddler. I’d love to be cool with those people, no judgement etc. etc. but it is the one area of parenting I actually am super judgey if it happens near my face or body. Because it’s the beginning of a panic attack. And it feels selfish to put me and my kid in the danger zone. I know, it’s nuts. I wish I didn’t feel like this, of course. But I do.

It means I can be quite anti-social, cancelling things if I think there’s a chance I could be around sick people (mainly children), and ghosting people who repeatedly turn up ill or with ill kids. I regularly experience that winding shot to the chest when I hear something that makes me think we’re vulnerable to a bug – a kid’s been sick at school, a friend we just saw is ill, a bug is going round. I’ve even got that fight-or-flight injection of adrenalin when a bug is going round Instagram. Even if those people live in different counties and we’ve never met. It kicks me in the chest and I feel trapped. I feel sad and tired. I feel sick.

It was one thing when it was just me. I had coping mechanisms, and generally I could leave any place I felt wasn’t ‘safe’. But when I had my daughter I realised to just take her with me in those moments would be awful. Firstly because I shouldn’t deny her the social experiences, and err…SCHOOL just because I was nuts. And secondly because it would be so awful if I passed on my weird fear. So I locked it down. That was enough motivation. But it was also more challenging than before because I didn’t want her to get sick. Leaving her in harm’s way (as I saw it) was worse than risking it myself. I should protect her, right? That was my job. If I could quietly manipulate us out of a situation without her noticing, or anyone else noticing, I would. So when we turned up for her pre-school sports day and a boy was vomming into a bucket? I turned back to the car and took her to the beach. When a friend constantly turned up with a sick kid, I stopped seeing them.

Now she’s five and at school, I have no choice. She’s more aware of the subtlest changes in our behaviour, so I am doing a better job of keeping it from her. And that’s easier because it really IS getting less serious; I am doing far better these days. She’s had two sick bugs since starting, and that’s helped too. I know what happens, I know what to do. Which means I guess subconsciously I think I have some semblance of control. I was sick as well, and remembered: it’s not actually that bad. I still have my moments – flu season has left me feeling exposed, vulnerable, exhausted and so sad that I still feel the affects of anxiety so acutely sometimes, and that it can ruin otherwise awesome moments. But I’m definitely getting there.

Common thoughts in my head:

  1. That kid looks a bit pale, he’s not smiling today. Is he sick?
  2. That fart was a bit different to usual – is that kid ill?
  3. She’s been in the toilet longer than usual – is that kid ill?
  4. The swimming pool is being cleaned – was someone sick?
  5. That car has pulled over, is someone being sick?
  6. The kid’s gone a bit quiet – does she feel sick?
  7. There’s a strange stain on that wall – was someone sick on it?
  8. I won’t sit near the loo on the train because that’s what you’d do if you had a bug.
  9. Did someone just say ‘sick’?
  10. There’s a supply teacher – is our regular teacher sick?
  11. Her kid is sick. When did we last see them?

Things I Google every time someone is sick. In case the answer has changed since last time:

  1. What is the incubation period for a sick bug?
  2. How soon after catching a sick bug will symptoms begin?
  3. Do probiotics really prevent sick bugs?
  4. Does charcoal really stop vomiting?

Things not to say to someone like me, face to face:

  1. “I was sick last night.”
  2. “I saw someone be sick last night.”
  3. “My kid was sick earlier but I think it’s just a bug.”
  4. “I feel sick.”
  5. “My hair still smells like sick!”
  6. “You look pale.”

Sex without the sexy

5 MONTHS POST-PARTUM

In various Asian and South American countries, women are made to stay at home for at least a month after giving birth, avoiding housework, sex and visitors so their bodies can heal while they lie with their babies. But here, we try to do it all and often become slightly unhinged. If you have any physical affection left to give when you’ve been holding a baby for 18 hours, how does sex change and what does it feel like? How does the dynamic change and how does abstaining affect your relationship? How does it feel to shelve your sexual side, and how long does that feeling last? What does it do to your sexual swagger to have to bare a body that’s battered and scarred, fetid with milk sweats and baby sick?

Sex used to be fun, passionate, sexy. Now it’s painful and kind of a drag, and can only be achieved with the help of various plastic implements. All the classic erogenous zones have been modified, as if the DIY SOS team have done a botch-job on my insides and outsides. My vagina is a bloody mess, my tits are like udders, and my belly is numb and hangs low between my hips. The only bodily fluid I excrete is milk. I’m spending 24 hours a day being a mum and I don’t see where sex fits into this new identity. Well, it absolutely doesn’t fit actually, because I’ve been stitched up too neatly.