20 parenting moments I don’t want to forget

20 parenting moments I don't want to forget

I’ve been talking a lot about some the harder parts of parenting, so I’m trying to add a few happy posts to balance it all out. To quasi-quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, I would like to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness.

Obi Wan Kenobi

Sure, I still have to wipe a lot of bottoms and noses and clean up the odd bit of sick. Yes, it’s true that they both wake up multiple times every night and I am always tired. But there are some wonderful things happening right now, and some things that happened not too long ago that I want to hold in my heart forever.

I wish I could bottle these things and save them for later when they’re long gone. There are hundreds of photos and videos, but some moments can’t be captured by a camera.

So here is my list of 20 early years parenting moments that I don’t want to forget:

  1. When one of them sits on my lap and I bury my face in his hair. The smell of the baby shampoo and the soft texture of the babyish hair (never mind the possibility of the odd nit).
  2. The half-a-minute each day when my boys show their brotherly love for each other – a shy little cuddle, sharing a bit of food, or playing nicely without it ending in a screamfest.
  3. The way my toddler dances with pure joy to any music at all. Even the ring of a mobile phone.
  4. All four of us snuggling in bed together in the early hours of the morning.
  5. The way my eldest never stops talking and loves to explain how things work (putting his own fanciful take on it, of course).
  6. Hugging both of them on the sofa and watching kid’s movies on lazy Sunday afternoons.
  7. The snorty mcsnuffles sound my youngest makes while contentedly sucking his dummy.
  8. The day each of them first gripped my finger with their tiny hands when they were newborns.
  9. The feeling of having them fall asleep in my arms.
  10. My toddler’s hilarious forays into talking (yelling ‘caaat’ at the cat and saying ‘beep’ while touching your nose), which he refuses to perform while the camera is recording.
  11. Watching CBeebies. My eldest is starting to move on to CBBC and I’m really going to miss Mister Maker and Iggle Piggle.
  12. The way my boys cuddle their soft toys. We grow up to think boys aren’t as sentimental as girls but that is not how it begins.
  13. Getting to choose what clothes they wear every day.
  14. Reading them stories. My eldest is starting to read the stories to me now, which is also nice, but I was loving the sound of my own voice. 😉
  15. Holding their little hands. Having them not be ashamed to hold my hand anytime in public.
  16. Having them jump into my arms when I pick them up from childcare/school.
  17. Answering endless “why” questions.
  18. The way they play so happily together when they’re in the bath. I often dread bathtime, but someday they’ll be too big for bathtime together with mummy presiding.
  19. The way my eldest says “I love you mummy”. And I say “I love you too”. Then he says, “That’s great.”
  20. Singing them to sleep.

What are your favourite moments with your children? If you could bottle one thing from their early years, what would it be?

Obi-Wan photo by Wacko Photographer [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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New mums and mental health

A guest post by Sally Hogg

I remember when my son was born, people kept asking ‘are you enjoying being a mum?’ The answer in the very early days, was probably ‘no’. It got better, but it wasn’t fun at first. Yes, he was absolutely amazing and wonderful. But I hurt. I kept crying for no reason. I was so very, very tired. I worried whether I was doing things right, and – to be honest – I missed my old life. This was a momentous time, but it wasn’t enjoyable at first.

But I never said ‘no’ to that question. It was loaded with expectation. Asked by grannies, aunts and older mums who look back at motherhood through rose-tinted glasses.

Are you enjoying being a mum? New mums & mental health

There are many reasons why it’s hard to admit that you’re not having a great time as a new mum. It seems as if everyone else is doing fine and having a magical time. It seems like everyone expects you to be on top of the world, and it feels like failing – and perhaps a betrayal of your baby – to say that you are struggling.

Yet most, if not all, mums will struggle at some time. And for a significant proportion, this struggle may not simply be the normal rollercoaster of new parenthood, but something more serious. Between 10 and 20% of new mums (and around 5-10% of new dads) experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or the first year after their baby is born. To put this in perspective, it means that in any typical antenatal class or baby group, there is likely to be at least one person in the room who has a mental health problem.

Whilst postnatal depression is well-known, mental health problems for new parents are not just postnatal. In fact, experts now suggest that depression is more common in pregnancy than postnatally. Problems go wider than depression too. They can include, for example, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, psychosis, and eating disorders. Some of these problems will occur for the first time when someone becomes a parent, others may be the recurrence of an existing problem – perhaps one that has been well-managed for many years. Some people with pre-existing conditions are particularly at risk: any woman who has ever experienced bipolar disorder, for example, has a 50% chance of mental illness in the weeks after birth, although this can be very effectively managed with specialist help in pregnancy. The severity of mental health problems varies too. Thankfully, most will be relatively mild, but this is not always the case: suicide is actually one of the leading causes of maternal death in the UK.

Mental health problems can be very effectively prevented or treated with the right help, which is why it is so important to speak out early if we think something is wrong in ourselves, our friends or partners. If you feel you or someone you know has a mental health problem, trust your instincts and talk about it. It may be that they are just having a few bad days, but they will still benefit from a supportive conversation and, if they are ill, the sooner they can receive help, the better.

There are a range of options available to prevent, reduce or treat mental health problems. These include support groups, counselling or other forms of psychological therapy, or medication. The best option will depend on the nature and severity of a mum’s illness and her own personality and preferences. Midwives, health visitors and GPs should ask all expectant and new mums regularly about their mental health, and should be able to signpost mums to different sources of support.

There are also things that we can do ourselves to improve our mental health. These may be enough to overcome mild mental health problems, but won’t be sufficient in themselves for women who are more seriously ill. Activities associated with reducing depression and anxiety include socialising, exercising, getting more sleep, and active relaxation (things like mindful mediation or having a massage). These can feel very hard to do when you have low mood and a new baby, which is why it’s good to talk to family and friends so that they can help you to take care of yourself.

Sadly, there are gaps in services in the UK, and some professionals don’t have the skills and knowledge they need to detect mental health problems and give women the support they need. You may need to be persistent and assertive in order to get help.

Things are improving though: the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (a coalition of over 80 charities and professional bodies) is doing a lot to raise awareness and improve services, and earlier this year, the Government announced over £350 million to fund new services.

Parenting is a rollercoaster, and it’s not one that we’ll always enjoy. For most new mums, the highs of this rollercoaster should far outnumber the lows, but a significant minority will be less fortunate. If you feel the balance isn’t right, don’t suffer in silence. You aren’t alone and things can get better.

Sally Hogg is chair of the Oxted & Caterham NCT branch. She also runs the Mums and Babies in Mind project for the Maternal Mental Health Alliance.  They offer some useful self-help guides about recognising and facing maternal mental health issues.

I would like to publish as many stories about maternal mental health as I can to spread awareness. If you would like to write a guest post with your own story or perspective, please email me: themumreviews (at) gmail.com.

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