The Mystery of the Missing Pears

Two is a magical age at which many things that previously had to be asked for have become accessible. Nursing 1’s “help yourself” moments are sometimes messy, like the time flour got spread all over the kitchen floor (she did try to help me clean up!), sometimes problematic, when she finds dad’s tools lying around, and sometimes hilarious, like the time she got stuck in a slippery puddle of dog shampoo on the bathroom floor. But by far her favourite thing to help herself too is the fruit bowl. I have often found her helping herself while I’m busy in another room, and sometimes she even shares with Nursling 2.

After putting Nursling 2 down for a nap today, I once again found her sitting at the kitchen table, pear in one hand and pear core on the table. But it wasn’t until after her I put her down for her nap that I realised the fruit bowl wasn’t 2 pears down, but 5. Surely she couldn’t have eaten them all? No suspicious cores… no sticky marks… where could they be? I looked around but they weren’t forthcoming.

After naptime, Nursling 1 finally did lead me to them, where they were hiding in a loot bag leftover from her cousin’s birthday party.

Meanwhile, Nursling 2, who can now stand and walk too, is getting up to some shenanigans of her own and is carefully and methodically emptying the kitchen bin.

A day with toddlers is never dull, that is for sure!

Dear New Mum

Dear friend with a new baby,

Please forgive me for staring at you and your baby.

You see, you can’t possibly know, but your smile when you look at her reminds me of the precious happy weeks before my world turned upside down. Those times I had with my own newborn when she was just a thriving baby and I was just a mum doing well despite the demands of a toddler as well.

Dear friend with a new baby,

Please forgive me if I seem nervous around you, and I feel I struggle to know what to say and stand awkwardly. I can’t help but remember what happened to me, and fear for you as well. I am relieved when you say you are well, but for no good reason remain fearful, and keep looking for signs that things might be going awry.

And sometimes I struggle to relate to all the normal day to day experiences that you have with your baby because mine were so very different.

Dear friend with a new baby,

I’m sorry if I sometimes come across wrong, but above all I am so glad for you! I am glad this new precious bundle is in your life and that you are both well. And I will say a prayer that it stays that way.

Feeding Two

Feeding two girls means wondering how I can possibly fit a 2 year old and 10 month old fit on my lap with access to my breasts at the same time without them being on top of each other.

Feeding two means stacking them on top of each other anyway and hoping that no-one wriggles too much or kicks the other one.

Feeding two means sitting one on top of a pile of books that the toddler has just read to avoid them being stacked on top of each other when they’re already tired and cranky.

Feeding two means rationing the toddlers feeds when the baby is sick and has lost her appetite so the baby gets enough. Negotiating with a toddler defies logic.

Feeding two means feeling like a milk truck some days when they’re both sick and we’ve been feeding on after the other all day.

Feeding two means beautiful moments with both girls when our eyes connect during a feed. It means tickling one while the other finishes, or reading a book to the other when things are reversed.

Feeding two means having nipple thrush is twice as painful.

Feeding two means bites from the teething baby and tooth mark rings from the toddler when she gets lazy and rests her teeth there.

Feeding two isn’t always easy, or comfortable. But it hasn’t been worth it for us, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

In Public?

It’s always been my goal to breastfeed for 2 years and beyond, just as the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends. Nursing 1 has been quite agreeable with this, and, now at a month past 2 years of age is showing no signs of losing interest. In fact, she seems to be showing renewed interest!

Feeding at home, in private, has always been comfortable and easy. But I must admit that the further past 12 months Nursling 1 got the less comfortable I have felt feeding her in public. It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with it. There isn’t! Feed your kids for as long as you and they want to! But I have feared other people’s judgement and having to deal with their reactions, especially on days when I’m already struggling with my mental health, or otherwise just having a challenging day parenting 2 insanely gorgeous, but also cheeky and active girls.

One morning a week I rush the girls out the door to attend a free parenting course with a creche (which, just quietly is very nice). Because I struggle to get up any time before 8:30 due to the anti-psychotics, this usually means Nursling 1 misses out on her morning breastfeed because we’re pressed for time. So after a missed morning feed and 2 hours in creche I was hardly surprised when upon picking her up, she wanted a feed even more than Nursling 2 did.

So, a little apprehensively I picked both of them up, sat down on one of the couches they had at the creche and settled in to feed them both together. I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t even get one funny look, and the other parents even commented on how cute they were there together and how nice it was.

A shout out to the other parents, thanks for normalising toddler breastfeeding for me, and making me feel comfortable by doing so. You guys rock!

Breastfeeding through PP

Breastfeeding through Puerperal Psychosis was a very different experience to breastfeeding through Postnatal Depression. And to any mums out there who have had PP who are reading this, whatever your experiences and decisions were I respect them. I can only reflect on what mine were.

Unlike Nursling 1, Nursling 2 emerged hungry and fed very soon after birth, and has fed well ever since. For the first 6 weeks breastfeeding both girls was a great way of sharing my attention between the two, and began a bond between my 2 girls as well, as Nursling 1 would often be very affectionate towards Nursling 2 while they were sharing a feed together.

Then when Nursling 2 was about 7 weeks old PP hit. The emotional swings that came with PP very much impacted on my feeding. At times, breastfeeding became a magical experience and I felt like I had an amazing bond with my children, as if we were at one with each other. Then, although breastfeeding my girls had always been very important to me at times I was convinced my milk was harming them, and at other times I became very annoyed at having to feed the girls because I was forced to sit still and it kept me from doing very important other things (like cleaning the house and solving the worlds problems). Still, I had enough insight to remember how important breastfeeding really was to me and persisted.

Things became more complicated when I was admitted to Helen Mayo House. Firstly, because of how important sleep is to recovery from PP, it was decided that the nurses would care for and feed Nursling 2 overnight. I already had a pump and an abundant supply, so I would pump first thing in the morning about double what was actually needed and Nursling 2 had her breastmilk from a bottle overnight.

What really complicated things was medications. Some Psychiatric medicines are among the few things that are truly contraindicated (in lay mans terms a huge no-no) when breastfeeding. There are other psych drugs which are not recommended but breastfeeding can be possible under tightly controlled conditions. But the doctors were perinatal specialists, and kept me on medications that could be breastfed on for as long as possible, and alternatives were discussed, albeit they sounded more scary than stopping feeding, when it began to look like I might need the “not recommended ones”. We had in depth discussions with the doctors and pharmacist about a particular drug, lithium, and whether it would be possible to continue to breastfeed on it, but thankfully were spared having to make that decision when the antipsychotic I was on started doing the job.

Being separated from Nursling 1 was tough as well. Breastfeeding became an important point of connection between us when she visited, and helped in the transition to home as well.

As if psychosis wasn’t enough, PP is often followed by depression, and it can be pretty severe. For me, I experienced is much as a pendulum on an old clock swinging between mostly okay, perhaps even tending towards mania, and really down. Once again, breastfeeding became something I could always rely on to work, something that I was good at, and helped me to have a little self confidence, and importantly stay bonded with my girls during that time.

I’m still recovering, and I am so thankful that despite the challenges that we faced, that we managed to keep breastfeeding all the way through my experiences of mental illnesses.

Yoghurt

Recently, we discovered the joys of homemade yoghurt.

Nursling 1 was already a great yoghurt eater. When asked “are you hungry?”, her most frequent response is “Yoghurt?” followed by a dash to the kitchen to get out a bowl and tug on the fridge door. Seriously, she would eat yoghurt for breakfast, lunch and tea if she got the chance.

Daddy was also known to down a whole kilogram tub when we bought it crazy cheap marked down because it’s use by date was the next day.

Now our family yoghurt consumption has gone from approximate 1kg tub a week, with the occasional markdown yoghurt binge, to approximately a metric tonne (okay, I may be exaggerating here, but it isn’t unusual for me to make 4 or 5 kg batches per week). And there is a good reason why, not only does it work out cheaper than the yoghurt we were buying before (when you get the sachets on special that is, or my diy milk powder version which works out to $1.65 a batch), but it beats the regular store bought one for taste and overall experience hands down. Especially banana. Seriously, if you get into making your own yoghurt, which you definitely should, just make lots and lots of banana flavour.

Did I mention that it’s also ridiculously easy?

Now nursling 2 has started to get in on the action as well, happily downing a whole baby-size portion of yoghurt when its offered. Generally followed by, “mmmmm” noises, messy grins and lots of bouncing up and down in the high chair.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m off to eat more yoghurt.

Breastfeeding through PND

Breastfeeding is always one thing that has worked well for me. I should clarify that “worked” includes cringing through the early days (or with nursling 1 weeks) of totally normal nipple tenderness (tenderness is an understatement), enduring oversupply for weeks with nursling 2 and months with nursling 1 and, working our way through the “biting” phase, and more recently, battling nipple thrush (which is rather painful). Still for the most part, breastfeeding has been comfortable, easy and joyful. But mental illness throws a spanner in the works, and I cannot separate my breastfeeding journey from my mental health journey. I want to share with you breastfeeding through mental illness has been like for me.

I was always adamant that I would breastfeed my babies. The more we learn about human breast milk the more we discover that it is quite literally the perfect food for human babies. The WHO’s recommendation is to breastfeed for 2 years and beyond. I wasn’t sure that I’d quite make it that far, but I was going to try (and we’re almost there).

When nursling 1 was born I fell in love with her straight away. I know this doesn’t happen for everyone, and that is fine, but for us some combination of having a natural labour and birth with all the rushes of oxytocin and other hormones just as nature intended, and God’s blessing it did for us, for which I am very grateful. Breastfeeding didn’t happen for us straight away after birth, but it came together over the first few days and soon we were pros. For me, breastfeeding solidified the bond that had begun in the moments after birth, and it would become an important anchor through my PND journey.

I know that many mums who have mental health struggles also struggle with bonding and attachment. At times, during PND it was very hard to feel anything positive at all, even love for Nursling 1. But somehow, sometimes, breastfeeding seemed to have the power to break through that, particularly when she would then contentedly fall asleep on me, affection for her would rush back. I think it helped her form a secure attachment too.

At times not even breastfeeding could shift the dark cloud, and sometimes at those times I didn’t want to feed her at all. I didn’t want to touch her at all. I found a way to breastfeed her, side-lying so that only her mouth was touching me, nothing else.

Breastfeeding was an anchor to my baby. At times, when all I really wanted to do was run away, I told myself that she needed me to feed her, at least for the first 6 months, and after that point I told myself she wasn’t ready to give it up yet. And just knowing that in at least one way I was most definitely wanted and needed by her helped me to keep pushing on.

As the depression began to lift and I began to enjoy her more and more, breastfeeding still remained a way to keep us close, even when after falling pregnant and my supply dropped, it wasn’t providing much in the way of nutrition.

Then, when the depression came back later in pregnancy, it once again helped me feel affection for her again when I felt the worst. It also helped launch labour, and then softened the blow of having to share me with another little person once Nursling 2 came along.

 

Hungry, Hungry

Both of my nurslings love their solid food. Nursling 1 has even sailed into toddlerdom without becoming too fussy about food. Most of the time this results in the satisfaction of empty bowls and messy grins. Other days my diet it determined largely by what nursling 1 has refused to eat.

Last night nursling 2 signaled the end of her dinner with her daily “oh no, my tea is all gone and I am very sad about it” yell. Which I fixed with some milk while nursling 1 tucked into her curry. With both girls fed I fetched my own dinner, which was raided by nursling 1 as well.

How hungry can one toddler be?

Obviously very hungry, because after raiding my dinner she promptly as for more. So I fetched her a snack of nuts while grabbing a pear for myself. At which point both girls decided they wanted my pear for themselves.

How many mouths can one pear feed?

Three apparently. As I doled out chunks of pear to nursling 1 and chewed up portions to nursling 2, and tried to get a few mouthfuls in edgeways for myself. This left both girls happily satisfied, and not long after husband returned with frozen yoghurt sticks which left me happily satisfied.

This morning nursling 1 made up for her food pilfering by generously feeding me grapes as I pushed her and nursling 2 in the trolley back to the car (paid for before we started eating them!). Before once again sharing my lunch then demanding more grapes. Today is another hungry day. And so it continues.

Getting the Pencils Out

Today was the first time since I left Helen Mayo House that I got the pencils out and drew a picture. It has been a long time coming. I started drawing as a sort of documentation of my mental health journey when I was pregnant with nursling 2. Sometimes a drawing helps me to express what is going on for me mentally and emotionally in a way that I can’t do with words, particularly when I am mentally unwell. Then, I find, having gotten these things out of my head and onto paper I am better able to explain what the drawing is about that I was able to verbalise what was going on for me in the first place.

As well as helping me to express myself, drawing has also been a great method of self care, as it allows me some time to myself, is relaxing and enjoyable. It works for me much the same way as a walk by the beach, a hot shower (or cool at this time of year) or baking a batch of biscuits. Needless to say, I did a lot of drawing and colouring when I was in Helen Mayo House. As well as passing the time, it helped me to begin to recover.

Here are a few of the drawings that I have done over time (please be kind, I am very much an amateur):

long road to wellness.jpg

The Long Road to Wellness

anchored by God through the storm.jpg

Rocked by the Storms of Life, Anchored by God

drifting.jpg

Drifting Through Life

Drawing isn’t for everyone, but everyone goes through stress and tough times. Please be kind to yourself. Take time to care for yourself because it’s the only way you’ll find the energy to keep caring for others.

Scritch Scratch

Nursling 2 likes to hold her food now, whether it comes on a spoon, in rusk form, or from the breast. At the same time, her rate of fingernail growth seems to have doubled. No matter how much I cut the things they remain sharp and scratchy!

As she breastfeeds her little fingers grab fistfuls of skin and scratch!

They make nipple shields to protect that part but I need something to protect the rest. I wonder if such a thing exists.