Are you sure you are fit to be a mother?


Only last week I had my first experience with an internet ‘Troll,’ someone for the first time in my 18 months of blogging wrote a negative comment about my personal journey and I feel that I handled it a whole lot better than when I first started sharing our journey in March 2016.
I noticed that a relevant article to my journey to adult assessment for Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC,) was shared via a support group I belong to called ‘Mums on the Spectrum,’ which is a group of just over 1,800 mothers who are on the autistic spectrum. This was the article shared:
www.healthy-holistic-living.com
This post was shared from a Facebook page about ‘Vegetable gardening,’ which didn’t matter to me, but when read the comments a lot of the posters were complaining about why a post about recognising autism later on in life, in women was shared on a vegetable gardening page. So, I wrote a summary about my journey with misdiagnoses and how each one could be seen as traits from someone on the autistic spectrum and I also wrote how it didn’t matter where this post is shared as it is very good for awareness and understanding. A poster was complaining about individuals who “just seek a label,” and I realised that because I belong to so many supportive networks such as my SEND bloggers group, that I forget that there are still so many people out there that just don’t understand about autism, or even want to try to understand, even in today’s society and wonderful nationwide awareness campaigns from the National Autistic Society (NAS.)
The worst comment I had written back to me was:

“You have been diagnosed with all these mental health issues and still decided to have a child? Are you sure you are fit to be a mother?”



My immediate response was to justify myself and referred to the ‘Heads Together,’ campaign that is being promoted via the Royal Family members, I wanted to get across the message that in 2017, it’s ok to talk about our mental health, not like in the 90s or early 2000’s when I just felt too ashamed to talk to anyone or admit that I had such issues, even to a GP or any other professional. Therefore, I didn’t receive the appropriate help and support. I gave this individual a reason for every one of my misdiagnoses, or in the case of anxiety and depression – a co-morbid condition that had resulted from spending years and years of ‘masking’ my difficulties in desperation to appear ‘normal’ in public. I explained that:
• In 1996, at the age of 14, I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression – the reason I believe that I was aware more that I was ‘different’ to my peers, I felt different and I thought differently, also reminded through constantly bullying every day at school.
• In 1999, at the age of 17, I was diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive, Compulsive Disorder,) and an eating disorder which my mum has described to me that this was in fact Anorexia, although I wasn’t aware of this at the time. As a teenager there was a pressure to be thin, but my eating issues were more down to texture, which I believe was a sensory processing issue and I’ve learnt over time that this is why I prefer dry and crunchy foods, rather than soft, sticky or soft textures of food. My 2 girls are also the same. I can remember gagging on a home-made stew because I didn’t like the texture. The OCD was down to a desire to keep things in order to have control over some aspect of my life as I felt so out of control at school, in that I felt I was being watched and picked on at every opportunity through people that didn’t understand me and would highlight my differences as if I should be ashamed of myself. At 17 I liked straight lines and absolutely every single item in my bedroom would have a specific place and if these items got moved I would know and move them straight back into place. I have also been specific since the age of 17 where my personal items are, and I will check every so often if I have my keys, purse and phone in my handbag as I have a fear of losing them. When completing my online course on ‘Understanding Autism,’ I learnt that OCD can be a co-morbid condition alongside Autism, also that I love to keep things in a routine, and if that routine changes It causes a lot of anxiety. The National Autistic Society (NAS) states that: “Obsessions, repetitive behaviour and routines can be a source of enjoyment for autistic people and a way of coping with everyday life.” Source: www.autism.org.uk
• In 2008, at the age of 26, I suffered a Psychotic Episode, one of the scariest experiences of my whole life. Mind – states that: “Psychosis (also called a psychotic episode) is when you perceive or interpret reality in a very different way from people around you. You might be said to ‘lose touch with reality.” The one thing that was very noticeable from this episode was my very high level of paranoia. This happened just after I got married, a huge event to plan, where everyone’s focus for that 1 day was on me, I was working at a high level at work, full time and living away from my parents – a 4 hour drive away. On reflection planning a wedding, on the wedding day and my level of work at that time all required a great deal of ‘masking,’ appearing on the surface as ‘Neurotypical,’ and my brain just one day said, “I’ve had enough,” cue sleepless nights and my body not agreeing with Fluoxetine and the GPs in that area not knowing my background, and not enough awareness of how females on the autistic spectrum present, another missed opportunity to be properly diagnosed. This Psychotic episode lead to the eventual diagnosis of Bi Polar disorder, which the Psychiatrist I saw back in Worcestershire when I returned home, said that it was in fact a ‘severe episode of depression,’ and not in fact Bi Polar, but to this day I still have this ‘label,’ on my medical file. When I ‘mask’ as a female on the autistic spectrum, this is very taxing on my brain and I will suddenly break down and can no longer cope or see things rationally.
• In 2015, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression which a health visitor had failed to spot and this wasn’t picked up until 5 months after the birth of my second child when I took myself along to the GP as I knew something wasn’t right. And later, in 2016 at the age of 34, I still have a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, but more anxiety on my file. To date I honestly believe that this current diagnosis is a result of ‘masking’ my difficulties for so long and not being listened to or believed in terms of my own daughter’s autistic traits in the home environment, having 2 children with additional needs, fighting for support, attending all the appointments, etc all takes its toll on me.

With all of this swimming in my head, I hope that my upcoming adult assessment for Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC,) will show that a diagnosis of ASC would be the answer to the struggles I’ve had from childhood, and especially from the teenage years and realisation of being ‘different.’
I therefore wanted to justify my ‘choice’ for having children and I wanted to tell the original poster that asked if I “should really be a mother?” I thought about the 1,800+ group of mothers on the autistic spectrum group where I am a member, I thought about how all of these mothers would also feel offended by this negative comment. We cannot help the way our brains are wired, and I started to think that just because Autism is often seen as an ‘Invisible’ disability, would the poster also think that people who use a wheelchair for mobility shouldn’t be parents? Would they also be in the belief that parents who are blind or deaf shouldn’t be parents? I’ve also heard of instances where friends who have children with more severe additional needs have also been told that they “shouldn’t be parents.” Who is to tell us if we are or aren’t fit to be parents? The midwife during my ‘booking in’ appointment? The first person I saw regarding the pregnancy, I was honest about my previous ‘diagnoses’ and I was monitored throughout the pregnancy but not once was I told that I “shouldn’t have this baby.” I didn’t require a specialist appointment with a psychiatrist all throughout the pregnancy. Mother’s on the autistic spectrum are very good mother’s we have the same right as ‘Neurotypicals’ people to become a parent. Not once have I had a ‘meltdown’ in front of my children, I hold it in until they are asleep. I eat well, I do order certain items but becoming a parent has helped with the OCD more as I simply don’t have the time to keep things in the same order as they once were! I don’t stim in front of my children, (stimming or self-regulatory behaviours,) I rub my hands together once they are in bed if I need to. But even if I did stim or meltdown, it wouldn’t make me a bad parent, I shouldn’t feel ashamed by being the person I am. I have had 13 years of working with early years children and why shouldn’t I have my own children? In terms of my own social anxieties, I have always been aware that I want my children to interact with others, even if I struggle socially I have still taken my daughters to toddler/stay and play groups and it’s helped me to mix with other parents.

When I found out I was going to have a child, I had no idea at that point that I could even be on the autistic spectrum and therefore my partner and I didn’t have the discussion on any implications this may have, however, I have always maintained that my children have only improved the way I am and helped me with self-realisation and accepting myself. The main aspect that I’ve learnt is how to care for others before that of myself, I had practice in this area when working in childcare, but I was very much thinking about myself before I had the children. I have learnt that their needs come before mine, I still have to look after myself in order to care for them in the best way I can, but I will now think about their needs before my own, which is a huge step for me. 

Thanks for reading 🙂 

2nd Post for Maternal Mental Health Week ~ My Experiences of Anxiety 


This post was written last year, I’ve added some details for Maternal Mental Health Awareness. 

Anxiety has been with me since I can remember, I started biting my nails at 3 years old and can clearly remember points in my childhood where I feel most stressed about certain things, down to even my first days at starting a new school, even the smells and sounds I experienced and how nervous it made me feel. I have always tried to be everyone’s friend to keep everyone happy and to avoid disagreements and confrontations, but over the years this has become increasingly harder to do, since I’ve had children I’ve had to become braver to say what I think and really feel, especially if its related to their safety or best interests. 
The real me is very hard to get along with! I’ve had, for the first time in my life, had experiences in the past year where people have clearly expressed that they don’t like me, or what I believe in and this has been very difficult for me to accept, for the first time in my life I have been called “nasty.” My anxiety is made worse by the thought that people are talking about me behind my back and making disapproving comments. I wish I just simply didn’t care! I often find that people do not openly ask me about why I choose to do certain actions, often ending in them making the wrong assumptions and not receiving the clear picture. I’ve always described myself as a ‘pushover’ and if someone said “jump” I’d say “how high?!” I have always been easy to influence and manipulate. I’d go along with things and agree, even if deep down, I didn’t truly feel that it was necessarily a good thing to do. And these weren’t only small decisions, I’m talking about extremely important, life changing decisions. For the first time in my life I’ve had to make decisions without outside influences and therefore if these decisions turn out to be the wrong ones, I only have myself to blame! 

Since my second child was born in March 2015, my anxiety heightened, I was recovering from a caesarean section and living in a first floor flat at the time, I struggled to get down the stairs to the flat with a newborn in a car seat and a very lively 3-year-old who frequently ran off. Plus my eldest daughter felt deep jealously towards her new baby sister even before she was born. I was dealing with a lot of emotions after having a new baby and sleep-less nights again and at the same time battling for my daughter’s additional needs to be recognised. I was encouraged to go and seek advice from my GP in April 2015 and it took until August to actually find the time to go and see the GP on my own. I was then placed on medication to help with the anxiety.  

I’m always saying that I feel that I should be able to cope better with my daughter’s additional needs, especially the behaviour she displays, there are plenty of parents out there who are coping far better, but this is me, and unfortunately, I do have a lower coping threshold than some. I am often saying that “this is me, I simply cannot change who I am” unfortunately I can’t wave a magic wand and make myself cope with things better. 

I have been so grateful to recently talk to someone else, that for the first time in my life, that feels the same as I do. It was a massive relief to talk to someone who can understand what I’m going through. 
With my current anxiety demons to fight, I want to explain why anxiety isn’t my friend! 
Anxiety you’re not my friend… 

– You make me worry about absolutely everything, even the smallest things. 
– You make my chest tight and I feel so helpless and it’s difficult to make things better. 
– You make me paranoid, that people are dissing me behind my back. 
– You make me over-think and over-analyse everything and everything! 
– You make me focus on one thing and it’s difficult for me to think about anything else. 
– You make me worry about going into public places, especially if someone is there that doesn’t like me! 
– You make me on edge and my daughter plays on that as she’s so hypersensitive to my mood. 
– You make me sick of the sound of my own voice. 
– You make me question my every action. 

– You make me feel that I always get things wrong, 

– You even make me feel like I’m a bad mum. 

– Sometimes you make me feel claustrophobic in my own home, other times you make me feel like I can’t even go out and even the school runs a struggle.  

Anxiety, you’ve been there throughout most of my life… 

To this day you are still ‘hanging around’

… you’re definitely not my friend! 

But…

… there is a light at the end of the tunnel, 

If I talk about it and don’t bottle it up! 

N. Perrins. 


This time last year my GP referred me to the ‘Worcestershire Healthy Minds.’ 

Worcestershire Healthy Minds supports people, aged 16 and over, who are experiencing problems such as stress, anxiety, low mood and depression.”

http://www.hacw.nhs.uk/our-services/healthy-minds

Here I completed a questionnaire and then a follow-up phone call where I was matched with the appropriate service to help support the issues at that time. 

Recently I have used the online service for self-referral to this service, where it may be reading support guides, counselling or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT.) It helps to talk to someone who isn’t involved with the family or the situation. 

There was once a time where I didn’t discuss these type of things, I felt ashamed and alone and that I was at fault. I have come to realise, especially over the last year, that it’s necessary to talk about mental health and to #endthestigma 
Thanks for reading 🙂 

Spectrum Sunday

My birth trauma experience ~ written for Maternal Mental Health week ~ 1st – 7th May 2017. 

My birth trauma experience 


My eldest daughter was born in the spring of 2012, I had a fairly normal pregnancy and was still able to work full time with children, the job that I’d done for 8 years. We were excited as first time parents, and moved into a new family house complete with a nursery and a whole heap of equipment, toys and clothes ready for the babies’ arrival. I had prepared myself for a natural birth, being a naturally anxious person for the whole of my life, I found the technique of ‘Hypnobirthing’ very beneficial by reading the books and listening to the CDs. 

At 4am my water’s broke, I was calm and collected and I took everything in my stride. But then there was a problem, panic set in after building myself up to stay calm, I called my local hospital’s maternity triage department and I was told to “come straight here.” When arriving at the hospital there wasn’t too much of a panic and my labour was induced. This was a slow process and I was monitored very closely as the midwives were concerned about the baby’s heart rate, I was told that she had “Meconium in her waters.” After several pain killing methods I started to feel like this experience wasn’t happening to me, it was like I was on the celling, looking down on someone who was going through it all. I remember a yellow piece of paper and the words: “We need to deliver this baby right now,” then all I remember is the lights of the corridor as I was transported into surgery. My baby’s heart rate had reached a dangerously low level.  

I don’t remember a lot else at this point, except trying not to cry with the relief that she was here safely, and the relief that I felt once she let out that all important first cry! I struggled to contain my laughter when the surgeon urged me not to cry as he was completing the stiches after the C-Section, and as he said “Whoa Mamma” it made me chuckle and I moved more! I tried to contain a mixture of happy tears and laughter due to the situation. After the drama died down I was left looking very swollen from all of the painkillers and various drugs from the operation, I found the nights horrendous as I was in so much pain and the ward was very noisy at night, as I was used to sleeping in silence at home! I remember getting very upset and uncontrollably crying on the second night as I’d asked for assistance to help change my baby’s nappy and help didn’t surface for hours, once someone did arrive I got it in the neck and was ‘told off’ because the nappy had been left too long! All I could do was to protest was that I had been asking for help for a number of hours but nobody came, needless to say I was extremely relieved the next day when I was allowed to take her home to the comfort of our own house. I found that she would settle to sleep better if she was swaddled tightly in a blanket. 

Just 2 week’s under 3 years since the birth of my first child, my second daughter was born. I did have it always in my mind regarding the trauma of my first birth, I had a lot of motoring and scans the second time around as I had a anterior and low lying placenta. When I was given the option of trying for a natural birth with a low-lying placenta I thought back again to the trauma from the first time, I decided that I simply couldn’t go through another emergency caesarean if it got to that point and re-live the experience again and therefore I opted for a planned caesarean the 2nd time around. Which was a very straightforward and very well planned procedure and I found that my recovery time was better the second time around as I did know what to expect in terms of the length of recovery time and what I could and couldn’t do.  


Thanks for reading 🙂 

www.birthtraumatrust.org

The Birth Trauma Trust aims to raise awareness of birth trauma, its link to perinatal wellbeing and mental health and how women are cared for, they also have a Facebook page: 

https://www.facebook.com/birthtraumatrust/

Getting my motivation back! 


I’ve lost my motivation lately, with so much going on like the Easter holidays, going away and then coming back 3 days early due to Lou having Chicken Pox! And now wondering if and when Moo will get them! 

I’m struggling to find my next direction, Moo is going to take a bit longer than I first thought to settle into an early years setting and we’ve had a lot going on lately in terms of her being referred to the Paediatrician for her sensory issues and finding out that she too has Hypermobility and has been referred for Orthotic supports. I want to work for me, to get the old me back and give me a focus, but I have had to accept that my children, especially Moo, need me at home at the moment and then there’s the results of my initial Adult ASD assessment still to come and I’m confused as to whether I should return to the only career I’ve known for 13 years or try a new direction! In an ideal world I’d love to use the skills in researching, writing, blogging and social media that I’ve developed over the last year but finding it a struggle to find anything relevant. 

Today (23/04/17) I was inspired by a friend who ran the London Marathon to raise funds for Acorns Children’s Hospice, who have helped her family a great deal. I got emotional watching the coverage to think about what an amazing achievement it is to do something like this. I was also delighted to hear that this year’s charity of the year for the London Marathon was ‘Heads Together,’ a charity that was founded by the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. 

Read more here: www.headstogether.org.uk

Their aim is to end the stigma attached to mental health, which is something that I’m so pleased about. For many years I felt ashamed of having anxiety and depression, I didn’t openly talk about and try to hide how I was feeling, even from those closest to me. Even today I sometimes find that if I openly talk about mental health issues that people still tend to change the subject and I can tell (after years of teaching myself,) that this isn’t something that the person is comfortable talking about. 

This week I watched a BBC programme called ‘Mind over Marathon,’ and it reliterated to me that there are so many benefits of exercise for mental health issues, exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. 

“Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood.”

Source: www.helpguide.org


I’ve been struggling with my weight since 2009, when I had a severe bout of depression and ever since I took a certain sort of medication I’ve been struggling, after never going above a size 14 before the age of 27. 

Since July ’16 I have been struggling with back pain and I’ve recently had physio sessions as it was found that my pelvis had been out of line since having Moo in March 2015. I found it difficult to walk and therefore difficult to do any sort of exercise, I also struggle to find the time or money for gym sessions due to having 2 young children at home. I recently explained during my initial assessment for ASD that I often felt ‘silly’ doing exercise, this is probably due to being laughed at as a child, I was tall, un-coordinated and clumsy, I didn’t like looking silly or drawing attention to myself and therefore I’d avoid situations that didn’t make me feel comfortable. As an adult I haven’t stepped foot in a gym since my last experience where a gym member commented to the gym instructor: “you’ve got your work cut of there,” implying about myself which really hurt me and I never went back. 

I’m very much in the “I don’t care what people think” mode at the moment so I decided to download a walking app on my phone and I took a picture of how I currently look as a motivational tool, (as I hate having my photo taken!) 


We’re lucky to live in a village in the countryside where there are plenty of public right-of-way paths, so I set out after my girls were in bed and it was lucky that it was a lovely sunny evening. 

When you have sights such as these it’s a fantastic motivation: 


So I’m planning to try and get a walk in every evening now it’s lighter and keeping a track of my time so I can try and beat this the next day! 

I felt so motivated when I returned home after my walk and I’m hoping that it does eventually turn into a bit of a run! I don’t think I’ll be running the London Marathon any time soon, but I do hope to try and be involved with some sort of sponsored event next year. 

Thanks for reading 🙂