To Work or Not to Work?

One out of three new mums face the agonising decision about changing their careers or not going back at all…it’s an emotional minefield and that’s without a global pandemic to contend with!

I have been lucky in that I have had 18 months to spend with Ray on maternity leave. Have I loved every minute of it? No – but do I want it to end?

Definitely not!

The thought of leaving Ray strikes fear into my heart and conjures up such a strong emotional reaction that sometimes it feels like a physical pain but at the same time I am a woman who has built a career, who loves learning and who misses ‘grown up’ company.

My maternity leave has been stressful and, like many new mums in 2020, has been full of anxiety and a sense of isolation in general. Although I’ve had 18 months on maternity leave, 9 months of that has been spent in lockdown. The intensity has created such an intimacy and connection between us that it is scary to think of anyone else looking after him.

New mums are facing an unprecedented tumult of emotions, anxieties and worries. All the support systems; the ways of sharing worries and niggles are gone and therefore it’s hard to gauge what’s a serious problem or a minor wobble.

It feels like there’s nowhere to go to have a moan or a rant, a cry or a giggle because everyone else is under such pressure.

That pressure is also being magnified because of finances – a lot of us are being forced to consider going back to work earlier than we would have liked.

With a very strange Christmas ahead of us and an uncertain New Year everyone is feeling the pressure to one minute put plans on hold and the next to be super adaptable to any further changes.

Uncertainty leads to anxiety and a constant state of anxiety may lead to illness.

The research also stressed that only 10% of parents take the time to consider their mental health.

That’s not to say that you have a mental health problem.

You may be stressed, you may be anxious, you may be worried and that IS all normal as a new mum.

You may have problems planning or even thinking about the future and leaving your child to go back to work after such an intense time with them.

Any feeling or decision that feels imposed or rushed increases anxiety and that’s why it’s important to someone who understands. Having a support system may be difficult at the moment but it shouldn’t stop you reaching out…

I know I have to return to work, I know being separated from Ray will feel horrendous – but I have a plan, I have some tools and I want to share them with you so we can get through it together.

Watch out for my next blog post and an announcement about an email coaching offer that works around you and your baby.

Most of all remember, please – reach out if you need some support or feel lonely, have a worry or just need to talk.

Cornelia x

Sleep Talk

When I started my blog I was very aware that although I have a huge amount of experience working with families and children, this is my first time as a mum.
Nothing really prepares you.
There is so much information out there about how to look after your baby; how to feed, how to bathe them, how to play… but hardly anything about how to look after yourself.
One of the things I have found the hardest about being a new mum is the lack of sleep.
People tell you it is going to be hard. They make jokes about it but not many people are brutally honest about how it affects your health, both physical and emotional.
So I started writing. I wanted to share my story so that it becomes less daunting to admit you are struggling and it becomes easier to ask for help.
You need to know that you not alone.
However, this story may not be for you if your baby is sleeping well or if you are looking for professional sleep advice.
I am not a sleep consultant I am just a parent who had it tough.

My Story

Sleep was a struggle from the beginning.
One of the first issues in my pregnancy was poor sleep and constantly waking up through the night.
Then, as a new born, Ray was the loudest in the hospital, keeping everyone awake.
Our first days at home were tough. I remember spending the 2nd night with both my hubby and my mum in the living room. We all took turns trying to settle the baby who screamed the house down.
Things didn’t really improve.

Other mums’ talked about things settling for them and their babies – but it wasn’t the case for us and I started to feel exhausted, properly physically exhausted, and worried.
During the first 7 months Ray was feeding to sleep and waking up every other hour.
Breast feeding was also a struggle. I had a low milk supply and I was expressing for what seemed like hours every night. I also remember that on Xmas Eve I was ringing the breastfeeding support line and spent most of the day trying to get through to someone.

Ray is now 15 months old and much more active in the day and the last 7 months have felt better, but still, we hardly sleep more than 3 hours in one go. Such a prolonged and sustained lack of sleep is debilitating and I was worrying it was affecting my ability to be a mum. Mum guilt is the worst. But anxiety and real health problems are very real consequences of sleep deprivation.

The Real Impact of Lack of Sleep

For new mums sleep deprivation can lead to pain and a delay in recovering from a C section and the pregnancy aftermaths (carpal tunnel, ribs aches, stomach muscle separation, muscle aches …I’m still having physio).
Most days I have headaches due to tiredness. I even had an eye test to check my vision.
Other physical effects include low energy, feeling constantly physically drained after a few hours of being awake and struggling with everyday chores. Again, this is where if you are not careful mum guilt can kick in. This isn’t laziness. It’s not excuses.
Often new mums who are tired struggle with weight, eating at odd hours, or having a poor diet. IBS and indigestion, even reflux carried over from pregnancy are common problems among new mums, it becomes a vicious cycle – you end the day moody and tearful and struggle to sleep.
Being overtired means you are often hyper vigilant. I get jumpy when my hubby moves in bed worried that I’ve fallen asleep holding the baby. I actually remember googling if you can fall asleep standing up!

What made it Harder

I know a lot was to do with hormones as a new mum and I know I have a very active child, some days I think I will need to test him for ADHD. COVID has made things ten times worse: it stopped playgroups, stopped childcare support and reduced access to friends and family and support.
One of the less talked about problems is around health professionals not having resources or being able to offer solutions. Some GP’s and Health Visitors although they mean well will often normalise sleep problems (my kid was like that, first time mum?)

What Helped

  • having a routine. Using tools like Sleep Eat Play* means that the baby knows what is coming next and feels secure, and, more importantly, when you are tired you have a strategy to support you.
  • using the time when baby does sleep to focus on one thing at a time – prioritise what makes you feel better, housework or study for example
  • catch up on sleep regularly by asking family and friends to help when they can
  • meeting friends and taking time to refocus on you
  • talking to other mums to share successes and tips
  • acknowledging some days are just hard…

The long-term effects of sleep deprivation and its impact on your health and quality of life are very real.
Having a life coach can help you develop a positive mindset and increase your ability to make choices. Having a regular check in with someone you can share the stresses with and learn strategies to help you manage the effects of a lack of sleep and the general worries of being a new mum can be invaluable.
Get in touch and find out how I can help.

Meet the family

I found out that I was pregnant on my 38th birthday! Despite planning and trying for a baby we were still in shock, speechless, and laughing hysterically. I needed to be certain before I let myself enjoy it so I ended up taking 4 pregnancy tests and booked an early scan that confirmed that my husband Bogdan and I would finally have a family!

My pregnancy went well – I wasn’t sick. I could eat anything I wanted. But by 7 months I looked as if I was 9 months pregnant! During the last month I had to wear flip flops to work and as a qualified Social Worker I didn’t feel comfortable at all.

I was induced 3 times and, finally, after 22 hours of painful labour and a scare due to the drop in my baby’s heart beat, I had a C section.

I was very weak and I had a crying baby when everyone else’s on the ward seemed so quiet and appeared to sleep so well. Not being able to respond immediately and having to ask someone to pick him up for me initially after the C section was not how I pictured my first few moments of motherhood would be.

Those expectations we have, the comparisons we inevitably make with other parents and the actual, real life unexpectedness of real life parenting are what pushed me to combine my experiences as a mum and a social worker and family coach to provide this service. I know what it’s like but I also know some strategies that may help.

Feeding has always been a worry and just like my journey through pregnancy – it started well….

I struggled with breast feeding and at 4 weeks we realised Ray was tongue tied. We introduced a bottle but the pressure on mums to breast feed is often huge. I found a balance with the support of my family and used both bottles and breast. I felt happier but then, at 3 months, he had teeth so bottles became the norm. Bottles bought new ‘joy’ because we realised Ray was lactose intolerant so then it became a challenge to find the right milk for him. Again, a constant worry, and a constant feeling of guilt.

Time for solids and, again it started well. I was drawn into a false sense of security but after a month of food he had loved a day before, they were thrown on the floor and refused! I kept going. He was keen to play with food and I was starting to see the foods he liked. I’ve learnt to keep his favourites in stock in the freezer so if he really won’t eat what I have given him I know I have a backup. Again, there it was; the guilt and the worry. But most of all I know with a sinking heart that on the days he doesn’t want to eat I know he won’t sleep…

Ironically one thing that was consistent for us as a family is that sleeping has always been inconsistent.

During lockdown it has been better but he only wants me.

One quarter of his life has been in lockdown, so although I know he is a smiley, happy, sociable child I worry he is too reliant on me. I have still been using online Sing and Sign that I started when playgroups were allowed but for Ray and a lot of new families our babies are growing up with social distancing.

And that brings me to Social distancing with Toddlers – how does that work? That is a whole new level of guilt and anxiety that a lot of mums have never had to face.

Recently we went to an outdoor birthday party. With one walker and two crawlers it was hard. Initially Ray cried and I really saw the effect of social distancing. To start with they all struggled and did their own thing. After a while, they wanted to play and chase and share toys and my worry then was – do we stop them? What’s more important; social development or Covid-19 safety?

Ray is a very cute and smiley baby and I often have the dilemma of people stopping to chat and say how sweet he is and most of the time it’s not at a two metre distance. Do I become the mum who shields their child?

Everything is open to interpretation – how you parent is linked to your anxieties, your own sense of responsibility and your beliefs. Your own parenting may also have had a massive impact on your fears and anxieties as a mum.

Inconsistency in your child’s development and the inconsistencies in the world around you can make you very anxious as parent. We naturally compare and we also want to protect. I thought I was a LOT more laid back than I am and Covid-19 has flagged up for me just how protective I feel of Ray.

At the same time, I want to share with you that it’s healthy to have these feelings.

It’s when the feelings get overwhelming, and they stop you living your life, that it’s time to reach out and ask for help.

That’s why I’m here.

As ever, my message to you is to reach out if you need to. As one mum to another mum I know just how important that can be.