Baby vs Beard

Someone, anyone, pass me the coffee!

Wow, it has been 5 weeks! I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed. We’ve been completely consumed by our baby but definitely in a good way. I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so grab yourself a coffee and enjoy the read.

The Labour

It was the early hours of Wednesday morning on the 18th October and I woke to the sound of Sarah on the phone.  She was talking to someone explaining the pains were 5 minutes apart and her waters had broke.  I wasn’t sure if it was a dream or it was real.  I laid there, half asleep until she woke me properly.

It was 4:30 am, she seemed fine. Then a contraction started and she buckled over in pain. I called my in-laws and asked if they could take us to the hospital. It was strange because although it was happening, we were both calm, well except when a contraction came on.

I don’t remember much from the journey to the hospital, I just remember wanting to get there fast. We arrived and went straight into the delivery suite, a nurse immediately done an examination to see how far on Sarah was.  She was measuring 4cm dilated, which was enough to keep her in.  She was given gas and air which seemed to take the edge of slightly whenever the contractions came on, paracetamol too. It was a really unsettling feeling for me seeing her rive in pain, there was nothing ‘magical’ about it what-so-ever.

It was quite funny because we were talking to the midwife and she said before leaving her shift “well I hope you’re not here all day”. As soon as she left the room we both laughed in disbelief, we genuinely believed we’d be out by lunchtime. Oh, how wrong we both were! Around 8 pm that evening after a hideously long, stressful day, Sarah was eventually able to begin pushing. I’ve never seen anyone push as hard in my life, she was putting everything into it.  She was just so tired, though.

She pushed and pushed for 4 hours straight, to no avail. The baby was turned to the side which meant she wasn’t moving down properly.  The consultant tried moving the baby with his hands but couldn’t seem to manoeuvre her into the correct position. We were going to have to go into theatre.

I know that theatre is standard procedure for a lot of births but it doesn’t dawn on you how serious things can get until you’re filling out the disclaimers.  Sarah genuinely believed she was going to die.  I had to keep assuring her she was ok, she was in the best place and everything would be fine.  It had been 18 hours since her contractions had started and she was utterly exhausted.

An hour later we were taken into theatre and she was given a spinal block.  This completely numbed her from the chest down.  They explained that this was done in case all else failed and we required a cesarean section. The plan was to use forceps, if that didn’t work they’d use the ventouse and if all else failed she would have a cesarean. Unfortunately, the forceps didn’t work, they still couldn’t move her into the correct position but she was successfully delivered by ventouse at 22:25 pm.

The Magical experience

So earlier in this post, I talked about how there was nothing magical about this experience at all.  Well, I was lying. As soon as she was born and I laid eyes on her, I cried, and I cried, and I cried. The emotions were so overpowering.  I’m not usually an emotional person, in fact, I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve cried as an adult.  This was so different, it was mind-blowing. It was magical.  She was beautiful, she was mine.  I made this little thing. Life was complete, we’d tried so hard to make this little baby and now she was here.

They placed her on Sarah’s chest but she couldn’t see her because she couldn’t sit up so I immediately grabbed her so Sarah could see.  We were both so in love, it was like someone flipped a switch and it was love at first sight.  Such a bizarre but beautiful feeling. THIS was what people were talking about. I’d do anything for this little baby.  She has changed my outlook on life, I now work for something, I have someone to teach I have someone who relies on me.

The Coffee

After 2 days in the hospital, we were discharged and sent home.  It’s a strange experience leaving the house then coming home with a human who belongs to you.  So strange! We’ve settled in nicely and it continues to be a massive learning experience for us both.  The sleepless nights are worse for Sarah as she’s been exclusively breastfeeding but she is doing amazing. I’m still awake several times a night as I can hear her stirring etc. but I don’t mind. We are getting more confident as the days go on but my god does it take us some time to actually leave the house.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank whoever invented coffee, you are truly a lifesaver. This is a tiring experience, but also the most rewarding and I couldn’t have done it without you. (If you make coffee, and want to hook a brother up, contact me!)

I’m aware this blog is dragging on so I’ll leave it here for now. I hope to resume my normal schedule next week with at least 1 post per week.

Mental Health – It’s OK to not be OK!

Just as I was saying that things were going slow, the week is over and that concludes week 37 of pregnancy! I have something important to talk about this week, and that is mental health. Men’s mental health in particular!

Men’s Mental Health

Yesterday was world mental health day, a very important day for me personally and a great opportunity to talk about and raise awareness around mental health. I haven’t touched on my mental health problems on the blog yet, so now is as good a time as any. I’ll start by talking about the kind of person I am and how I ended up in a situation I think a lot of men can relate to.

My friends might say I’m a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, a mans man, a perpetual joker.  I live in the moment (more so these days!),  love my beer, music, football and games.  I have a decent job, I’m happily married, I have a lovely little dog and life was good.  You could say I have nothing and I mean n-o-t-h-i-n-g to be depressed about.

It’s ok not to be ok…

In late 2014 I found myself in denial.  Denial that anything was wrong. I knew deep down that something was wrong but I just didn’t want to face up to what that might be.  I found myself stuck in a loop, but that loop somehow gave me a tiny bit of purpose.  I’d wake up, go to work, work a lot of overtime, come home, drink 8 beers and go to sleep.

I was “myself” in work.  I’d crack a smile, I’d joke around, nobody would have known.  Not a single person.  I began to struggle at home though,  I was becoming distant to my loved ones. I knew my drinking was having an impact on my relationship with my wife but I didn’t care.  It would have been easier if we’d have split up.  I became explosive and argumentative. To be frank I was behaving like a monumental dickhead. I said things to my wife I’ll never repeat, horrible things.  Looking back on it, I’m so thankful she stuck around because I could have never got through this without her.

The Black Dog

My mind was racing 24-7, I began overthinking the tiniest thing. My thoughts turned incredibly morbid. I’d google things like, “Easiest ways to die”. I was watching documentaries on suicide. I was empty, my mind was hazy and I’d completely withdrawn myself. Nobody could help me, I’m useless, nobody cares, I’m just creating problems I don’t want people worrying about me. I’d drank myself into deep trouble.

I remember being at work and my mother called me.  She didn’t say hello, she just said I’ve booked you an appointment at the doctors, you need to see someone about your depression. I flew off the handle.  I’m ashamed of how I spoke to her. Depression can make you say some pretty out of line things.  It was along the lines of “leave me the fuck alone there’s nothing wrong with me and who do you think you are calling my doctors” etc. etc.

She hung up and I rang Sarah and gave her a mouth full, I was sure she’d been talking behind my back about my problems (she probably had). It was time to swallow my pride, I knew something was wrong so I agreed to go.

Accepting help

I remember sitting in the doctors waiting room. I was extremely anxious, I went over and over in my head of excuses I could use not to go in. Looking around at other people and just felt like I shouldn’t be there. This is pointless, nobody can help me, they don’t have a clue – a few of the things racing through my mind. Out of nowhere, the bell rings and my name is on the screen. Let me tell you that this was the single most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make.  I walked into that room, sat down, he asked “What can I do for you today” and that was it.  Tears. Tears like you’ve never seen tears before. I couldn’t get my words out.  He sat patiently and waited for me to collect myself and I remember just saying to him “I’m struggling”.

I can’t think of a time in the last 15 years that anything has made me cry.  I don’t know what it was, it just came over me. He asked me how long have I felt like this, how much I was drinking and working and immediately signed me off work for a month. In no uncertain terms, I was clinically depressed.

It got worse before it got better

The weeks following my diagnosis were difficult for me.  I’m a problem solver and my immediate response to being told I was depressed was to try and figure out why. In hindsight that wasn’t a good idea at all.  I’m still no further forward to this day. I spent days immersed in the internet trying to figure out how to ‘snap out of it’. Initially, my doctor had prescribed me something which was supposed to help, however, I couldn’t sleep on the stuff. I went back at the end of my month off work and he prescribed me Mirtazapine.  This stuff has worked wonders for me and helps me get to sleep.

At my second visit, I was signed off work for 6 months as I hadn’t shown an improvement.  I’d thought the medicine would ‘make me better’ which it didn’t.  I found myself feeling lower than ever and no work to keep me busy.  Eventually, I’d felt like I had exhausted all of my options and decided to try therapy.  Trust me when I say this that going to therapy was an extremely difficult choice for me.  I just felt like I had nowhere else to go.  I think there’s a sense of pride that blokes hold on to, we like to think we can fix our own problems and we don’t need anyone else to tell us how to do it. How wrong I was!

Just give it a go!

Initially, when I went for my first round of therapy, I was asked to do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The first few weeks were difficult because I was very much creating barriers and being evasive to the questions I was asked.  As time went on though, it ended up being a really good decision to go to CBT.  Hell, in the end, I used to look forward to talking to my counsellor. It wasn’t what I thought it would be.  I ended up joining the gym and losing 36lb as part of one of the recommendations made to me. I was feeling a lot better about myself but I knew I had a long way to go.

After 6 months of therapy, I was referred to another sort of therapy to discuss issues I was having and ended up doing 16 weeks of intense Interpersonal Therapy.  This was a lot more difficult for me emotionally but again I was glad I did it. I have taken a lot away from both therapies and definitely have better coping strategies when it comes to depression.

And here we are now

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that my life is perfect now.  Depression still has a big part to play in my life, but I am in a position where I can cope better.  My good days vastly outnumber my bad days.  When the bad days arrive, it’s difficult but I’m in a way better position to talk about my issues with loved ones.  Talking about my emotions has been very difficult and I’m sure a lot of men feel the same way. My advice to you if you are struggling is that it’s ok to not be ok.

People won’t judge you, the people around you love you, and no matter how bad it gets there is light at the end of the tunnel. There’s always someone who you can talk to. I know it’s easy for me to say this but trust me when I was at my lowest, I’d often think to myself “well you don’t have a fucking clue what I’m going through…nobody can help”.  I’m so glad I swallowed my pride and asked for help.

The biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK is suicide. It’s time we shake the stigma and get talking to each other.  I’m all ears if you want to talk. Write me and we can chat in more detail. It could be chatting to a stranger that changes your life.

I’ll be back to our pregnancy updates next week!

Week 36 – Nesting, New Arrival, Babysitting!

Today marks the end of week 36 of pregnancy and Sarah is in full-blown nesting mode. Everything just seems to be moving in slow motion, I’m totally ready to meet our daughter. The good news is, we only have 4 weeks left at the very most!

Maternity leave & Nesting

Sarah has officially begun her Maternity leave. Last Friday her work friends threw her a leaving party which involved doing an escape room activity and they went for food afterwards. When she arrived home she was a bit emotional as I don’t think she knows what to do with herself.  She has been relaxed though and has been ‘getting things done’ around the house.  This has mainly been furiously cleaning everything we own.  I think I’ve heard it mentioned as nesting.

Sarah reminds me of Monica from Friends with the way she cleans, but this is just next level.  We have wood flooring throughout our house and you could eat your dinner off them at the moment.  Our bedroom is absolutely spotless. We’re quite house proud people but all of the ‘crap’ usually ends up in our bedroom so she wanted it gutted before the baby arrives. As I’m typing this she’s currently scrubbing the bathroom making sure everything is perfect for our arrival. There’s me thinking her going on maternity leave would allow her to relax but it’s been quite the opposite.

New Arrival

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but Sarah is one of 5 of her friends who are having babies around the same time.  We had IVF and fell pregnant, then within weeks, 4 others fell pregnant.  I think it’s going to be really nice for Sarah to have her close friends around while on maternity leave when I’m working.  They can support each other and keep each other company. This week was quite special as one of Sarahs best friends actually came early. 5 weeks early. It was a massive shock to us all but I’m happy to be able to say baby and mother are fine and they’ll hopefully be home soon.

Her waters broke on Friday and she was given steroids to help the baby’s lungs develop as it was a little too soon. She ended up going into labour on Saturday morning and an hour and 12 minutes later little Joseph was born. I’ve been teasing Sarah saying because her friend had the ‘easy’ labour she’s going to be the one who’s in for 3 days.  I know I shouldn’t but I couldn’t help myself. That’s the other good thing about her being heavily pregnant.  I can chat any amounts of shit and she can’t do anything but waddle towards me.

Babysitting

Well, I say babysitting.  We’ve got my youngest sister stopping over this weekend.  She’s 17 and this weekend will be her first night out on the town with her friends.  Mother Goose is away so my sister is staying with us.  I was talking to mam the other day and she’s really stressing about my sister going out.  Rightly so, really. She’s only 17 and she thinks she’s going to get spiked/get abducted etc. etc.  I tried to tell her she’s going to be fine and we’ll pick her up but I guess it’s just her motherly instincts kicking in.

It had me thinking.  I wonder if I’m going to be super protective or will I be worried sick when our daughter reaches this age?  Probably. But I guess at this age you can’t really control kids anymore.  You have to let them have experiences and inevitably learn from their mistakes. I’m not really too worried about her though, she’s got her head screwed on for being a young kid and if it turns out they don’t get in anywhere, which they probably won’t Sarah and I can always arrange to pick them up.

I guess we’ll see how this all pans out in next weeks blog! Oh, completely unrelated, but if you haven’t tried the Aldi Beef Burrito...you absolutely must!  It’s a rolled up Yorkshire pudding packed with beef.  Delicious!

Week 35 – Photoshoot, Scan, Maternity Leave!

Maternity Leave

This week marks week 35 of our pregnancy journey and the premature beginning of Sarah’s maternity leave. I’ve been encouraging Sarah to start her maternity leave whenever she feels like she has to.  She wanted to work right through until 39 weeks, which in hindsight was probably never going to happen.  The midwife laughed at her last week when she was talking about moving it forward.  She said that so many women say they’ll power through until the end but end up hitting a wall around 35/36 weeks.

To be fair, looking at her, even the way she’s walking has changed.  She’s waddling around like a little duck.  Her bump seems to grow so much every day, I’m forever taking a second look at her thinking “Christ she’s bigger again”.  I take my hat off to her, she’s dealt with pregnancy like a trooper.  She’s still going to Yoga and swimming and hasn’t used pregnancy as an excuse for anything. I’d heard horror stories about women being really hormonal but she’s been more-or-less her usual self.  I’m so proud of her, I think she’s going to be an amazing mother.

Sarah is quite nervous about starting her maternity leave because she’s a really active person.  She loves her job and I think a year without that is going to be a challenge for her.  Though I suppose when baby arrives she will have her hands full!

Pregnancy Photoshoot

BabyvsBeard

This past weekend a friend of ours came over to take some pregnancy photos of Sarah.  This type of thing really isn’t my ‘thing’ but she loves it so it was an exciting night for her. Sarah loves taking photos, and by that I mean Sarah absolutely loves taking photos. Laura (the photographer) came over around 6 pm and didn’t leave until well after 10.  It was funny listening in from another room, she was trying to get Sarah to loosen up and just smile naturally but it didn’t take her long to find her feet.

The photos are absolutely brilliant, Sarah looks as beautiful as ever.  People like to throw the word ‘blooming’ around but she’s just so much more than blooming. Some of the photos took my breath away. It was nice to see how happy she was, she’s a very simple person, it’s the small things with Sarah. Initially, I’d said I wasn’t going to get in any photos as I hate stuff like this but I got in a few, just to keep her happy.

Growth Scan

We had what we thought would be our last growth scan this week but they actually gave us one more at 39 weeks.  I love going to the scans, they are not only reassuring to us both but a nice chance to see our little bundle of joy doing her thing.  Our appointment was with the consultant, we spoke about how the baby is growing and that Sarah would be booked in to be induced on her due date.  This is because we’ve had IVF and they like to deliver the baby at the best possible time. It was a bit daunting but we’ve known from the beginning they’d do it this way.

Sarah is hoping that the baby might come naturally as she’d really like to use the birthing pool.  The consultant explained to us that if she’s induced she wouldn’t be able to go in the pool as she’d be hooked up to machines so they can keep a close watch on the baby. He explained that although we have that date booked, the baby is engaged and there’s every chance she could come early.

My days are dragging so much recently.  It’s like waiting for Christmas, but then not actually knowing what day Christmas is. My phone is on loud constantly, my stress levels are through the roof but I have to keep reminding myself not to panic if anything happens.  I’m never more than 30 minutes away from home, so if she does go into labour I’ll be there quickly.

If you have any advice, questions or anything else, feel free to contact me!