Conception to One Year: My Journey Into Motherhood
M+E Pioneer Stories
Hello - it’s me again.
Over the last few months I have been so touched by the stories people share in their reviews of 360ME.
It started me thinking about the incredible power of telling our story. It’s therapeutic and connecting.
It can also truly help the listeners understand themselves. It can give them insight and ideas. It can help them feel normal - it’s reassuring when other people have feelings just like ours.
So I asked some of the M+E community if they would share a little more of their narrative and happily they said yes.
Here’s the first in a series of M+E Pioneer Stories from lovely Lauren. Be prepared - it’s an emotional one.
Last October my baby girl came into my life and filled a hole I didn’t even know existed. As I approach her 1st birthday I’ve found myself feeling an array of emotions as I look back over the last year.
I’ll start at the beginning. Shortly after my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby I began feeling very unwell. I lost 2 stone in a month, was up most of the night with crippling stomach pains and found myself feeling like a zombie throughout the day.
A few months and a hospital admission later I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, an incurable inflammatory bowel disease. I was placed on a prescribed liquid diet, tested countless medications, had three more hospital admissions and finally surgery to remove part of the infected bowel. My mental health took a beating - that’s another story in itself but I think it’s important to share some background.
All the while I had to put my dreams of trying for a baby on hold. It’s not recommended to fall pregnant during a Crohn’s flare as it can lead to complications. Eventually, two years later I was given the all clear.
But it wasn’t easy. I stressed about conceiving - using ovulation tests and menstruation tracker phone apps. It was all I could think about and it was so disappointing to be greeted by Mother Nature every month. After a while I’d convinced myself I was infertile. My body had massively let me down before after all and my friends were falling pregnant after only trying for a couple of months. I was so happy for them but each announcement hurt.
After a year my Doctor put us forward for fertility testing. I felt happier knowing I was being investigated and they’d be able to help me with my perceived infertility. I trawled Google researching for hours and prepared myself for a long road ahead.
At the same time I accepted a new job. After all, it was going to be several years (or possibly never) to fall pregnant. I ploughed everything into something I did have control over, my career and stopped the ovulation tests and monthly trackers waiting for the Doctor to tell me what to do.
I fell pregnant two weeks into my new job.
I sat on the toilet, happy crying, gazing at the positive test and cradling my tummy. I truly believe that when I managed to stop stressing about falling pregnant my body responded. I’ve since learnt about health anxiety and after some counselling understood why I felt so worried about my health.
During my pregnancy my anxiety didn’t subside. Within a week I had some spotting and had a blood test to check the baby was still growing - she was. Within the first 12 weeks I was terrified about miscarriage to the point where I paid privately to have an 8 week scan to check everything was ok - it was. At my 20 week scan I thought they’d find abnormalities - she was healthy. At my extra consultant check ups (because of my Crohn’s Disease) I thought they’d find something wrong with me - they didn’t!
On reflection the baby and I had a pretty smooth ride. However she did decide to cause a small amount of drama in the delivery room, resulting in an emergency c-section, but that went smoothly and we both recovered great.
Emotions are very odd when you’ve just had a baby. I noticed myself crying at things that might not have made me cry before. My husband popped out to get food one evening and left me alone with the baby. She decided it was a good time to have three explosive poos within minutes of each other, covering me, her and the bed. My husband walked into me cuddling the baby in tears because I felt so overwhelmed.
Then the sleepless nights really started to affect me. I was breastfeeding and my husband had to go back to work, so mostly night duty fell to me. I remember sitting on the bed giving my sleeping husband the evils but always bringing my gaze back to my beautiful girl. She was perfect in every way and I’d never felt this much love before.
As the days went on I started to feel more confident in my mothering abilities and we got into a good routine. I went to several baby groups and met up with my mum friends regularly. I really enjoyed my maternity leave and wanted to make the most of it.
Then Covid hit.
Our world was plunged into lockdown and the baby groups and family visits came to an abrupt stop. I began lockdown still full of enthusiasm, determined to embrace the changes. But the video calls, baby sensory home activities and baking soon stopped. I didn’t realise it at the time but I became quite depressed. The routine and activities were what kept me going and I was lost without them.
Things became the same every day - nap times, changing nappies, feeding and housework. My non-mum friends were keeping fit, reading and learning a new language.
But although I struggled, my baby girl was also the reason to keep going. During lockdown she learnt how to sit, crawl, surf the furniture, was weaned and moved into her own room - something I was a bit nervous about but it did give me more much needed sleep!
Now I make the most of every bit of time I have with her. She’s started nursery and is loving it, but on our days off we always get out and about. She went to the beach for the first time, went in a swing when the parks reopened and recently went to her first swimming session since lockdown. Her happiness is my happiness.
I started taking 360ME Energy ME to help with the early mornings and have found it’s given me the extra boost I needed. I’ve started kickboxing on a Thursday night when the baby is in bed. I’m really enjoying finding my own identity again as well as being a mum and it’s great to have the extra energy to do both.
Looking forward I feel slightly anxious about the prospect of another lockdown or more restrictions. But with my one year old by my side I know life is going to be full of fun no matter what happens.
If you are struggling, what are your 5 favourite mental wellbeing tools?
- A bath with epsom salts, a candle and a book.
- Making times for friends and family - with and without the baby.
- Bit more luxurious - a trip to the spa always leaves me feeling like a new person!
- Doing ‘firsts’ - taking the baby to the zoo for the first time, taking her to buy her first shoes or discovering a new walk.
- A nice cuppa on my sofa before I start work.
Thanks a Million - what are the things in life that you are most grateful for?
- Obviously my baby girl. I am grateful that she is here and well and I feel very lucky.
- Being able to work in a job I love. I didn’t have to go back to work and instead am able to choose my hours as a freelancer.
- My husband, family and friends. I need them more than they know.
How to fail - what are the 3 most important lessons you have learned when things have gone wrong?
- Don’t stay inside. The first day my husband went back to work after paternity leave I decided to stay inside with the baby to get used to doing things alone (my husband did so much in the first two weeks, especially as I was recovering from the c-section). I ended up overwhelmed, lonely and in tears. The next day I went into town with my in-laws and had a much better day.
- Remembering that even when you’ve been through a lot with your health that it doesn’t define you. You’ll have a tougher ride in life but you’ll be stronger for it.
- Listen and talk to someone.
Pass it on - what life wisdom would you tell your younger self?
Exercise and eat well for your mental and physical health. Things will happen when they’re ready to happen - don’t get hung up on them.
Thank you for sharing.
Oh Lauren - thank you so much for sharing your beautifully and emotional story of recovering your mental and physical wellbeing.
I love what you say about taking care of yourself and being patient. I’m a huge believer in putting things out there and then letting them go.
And a big Happy Birthday to your baby girl.