Miracle drug … called exercise

I talked last week about how I was feeling emotionally one year on from having Henrie.

I wanted to document my physical progress too, I have been really enjoying exercising again, and the physical results always spur you on to keep going. Feeling strong physically gives a great mental boost I find.

Ok, so here I was last March with my 4 week old Henrie bear, how tiny and squishy was he! Again when he was 8 weeks old at our nephews wedding.  And then me now, a year on and feeling stronger and fitter. Not worrying about how much I weigh or anything like that, for me the real “prize” is having my mental health back and feeling strong.

My Jazzercise teacher is so lovely, and she is so talented! I go to her class which is only a few minutes away from me, for an hour, twice a week. I always look forward to class as it is my “me” time, dancing away my blues and sweating out my frustrations is the best therapy! On a Monday I also go to a class which I helped set up with my friend Jenny (who is one of those humans who seems to spin so many plates at once and always smiles!) It is called Boogie Beenies, you bring your baby in a sling and then boogie away to a whole mixture of music for 45 minutes while following Jenny’s direction. I am always on hand for any sling safety or comfort info. It is SO much fun!

Baby boy has been an absolute diamond since he arrived. Looking at the photos from his birthday weekend I am just in awe of how much he has grown, that I am still breast feeding this little monkey and my body didn’t “fail”, it has worked hard and over come so much.
Mammas give yourselves a pat on the back today when you look at your little humans. Because you have done an incredible thing growing them, whether we are talking in your belly, after you fostered or adopted them, helping them become big little people.

I am going to sign off now because as usual I am getting emotional and I like to ramble when that happens!

See you next time, thank you so much for reading!

Hazel Ann Xx

One year on

A year ago today I was having a brilliant day with my yoga teacher and a photographer, on a beach in winter, taking photos of a pregnancy yoga sequence. Little Henrie hanging out inside my belly. IMG_4136That’s me, feeling like a real warrior with my bare feet in the sand and my big bump.

I chose this as the way I wanted to remember the end of my pregnancy. What followed in the next few days was not what I had imagined. Talking about it and being as honest as I can, I hope that other people can identify and maybe not feel so alone.

Tuesday last, I was at the nurse having a smear test (if yours is due – go book it NOW!). We couldn’t believe it had been nearly a year since I had spent all that time going back and fore to the health centre trying to get my c section wound to heal. She asked me if I was now fully recovered,  when I answered I really believed that “Yes! I am doing great”. In that moment I whole heartedly felt like I was “healed”. The negative thoughts that at times had threatened to swallow me at different points felt so far away. Physically I am feeling really well, enjoying exercising and my life is full of the things I enjoy.

Over the weekend some things happened which brought back the memories of those days, the black days, and I was sort of plunged back into the well. I had to go and lie down at one point because I could feel a panic attack starting to rise up.

So I guess the point here is that, no, I am not actually as “over it” as I thought. While I am excited about celebrating a whole year of Henrie, there is a shadow.  I feel like I am banging a drum and no one really cares a lot of the time. What happened to me is no where near what happens to some people. That kind of thoughts are not helpful either though, just because your experience isn’t “as bad” , doesn’t mean it can’t affect you. Doesn’t mean that you are not “allowed” to find it hard to deal with.

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My focus is that it is ok to not be ok about it. Even when I thought I was ok. Speaking to a friend the other week, we were saying how becoming a mother changes you, and that the experience you have in labour and delivery changes you. Talking about that, being open and honest is needed. Pretending it is always lovely and perfect doesn’t stop other people from having a difficult time, physically, mentally. Your health comprises of both of those things. Look after yourself, whoever you are. You are important.

Hazel Ann x

Meet the family

Welcome back!

I have been retrieving things I have written over the past years and starting to pen other things which have been floating around in my mind.

I thought it would probably be more sensible to introduce myself and our family.

So… I amHazel Ann, Christian, wife, mother to four. I have a lot of different interests, I often struggle to feel like I “fit in” with different groups. I run a sling library with my friend Louise , serve as chair person of a voluntary organisation promoting cloth nappies, enjoy jazzercise and getting outside. I love clothes and beauty and spend a lot (too much) time on Instagram.

My husband is an engineer, and crofter. The croft is something he was brought up with and he is so passionate about it. Self sufficiency is a long term goal of his.  He is a private person, has no social media outlets! He’s got a really good eye for photography. He is a very good egg. (Sorry for that vom fest of sop!)

Then there are our four children! Basically the reason I breathe. They are loud, loving, wild… free range. Living where we do, in the middle of no where, they have a lot of freedom to roam. They do also watch TV and beg me to go on YouTube. I won’t pretend to be some kind of amazing mother who can survive without a bit of TV babysitting while I get things done. Maybe those mothers exist somewhere but not in my house..

Add in all of our animals – a cat, a dog, some hens, a few cows and then the oooooodles of sheep.

I started this blog a long time ago and then neglected it. I find it very therapeutic to turn my brain soup into words and then save them away. Anyone reading this I hope some of my rambles make you smile, feel less alone and give you an insight into what our little life is like.

Down, up and down again

I have always been a “planner”. I like to know what is happening when, I like to be in control as much as possible. I can go with the flow so long as that is what I have planned. 

Throw in motherhood. Genuinely I had imagined being someone who was ruled by routine, however I turned out not to be quite what I foresaw and my version of routine was going to the same things every week rather than my actual baby being on a “schedule”.

I found something in motherhood that clicked and gave me confidence rather than take it away. Prior to being a Mam I guess I was not really confident in much, I am one of those people who doesn’t always naturally fit in anywhere. There was a moment while I was at university that I stopped caring about what people thought of me, didn’t overthink to as crazy a degree, I guess you could call it a turning point. I felt clearer and it was freeing not to constantly try to guess what other people were thinking of me all the time. Then a few years later, becoming a Mam I was happy just fitting in with my own family. My husband, baby and I were “us”, and belonging there was more important than belonging anywhere else.

When my first two children were baby and toddler, other mothers would make comments to me about how together I always seemed, which is really hilarious as I am not a “together” kind of person in my own eyes. I liked being out and about, meeting people, talking to other parents, getting involved in things. I would get nervous before I went somewhere new, but the draw of it was always enough to get me out of my house and then out of the car and into whatever it was. And that must have seemed “together”. It did not always feel like that, spending the whole drive talking myself in and out of it.

After our third child was born I was much more governed by nursery runs, and so my exploring of new things lessened. We were in a routine, with the same activities from week to week, this is what suits me and how I thrive best.

While pregnant with our fourth child I never really imagined life being hugely different. I was “experienced” now, wasn’t I? People would ask how many children I had and when I pointed at my belly and said this was number 4, I got lots of different reactions. In my head I knew what was coming. Turns out I was pretty wrong about a lot of it..

There is a debate that I have in my head often about what terms to use to describe how I have felt over the last 10 months. Have I had post natal depression? Have I just been dealing with harder circumstances?

I posted about Henrie’s birth before, about how we had an “elective c section” – that I didn’t want.  Looking back, it seems like it took me a long time to come to terms, in my mind, with what happened. My body basically refused to accept what had happened too and took months to heal. That was not a good start. For a person who loves to be out and about being confined to barracks was hard.

Being negative is not something I enjoy, so while I don’t want this to be really doom and gloom, the truth is that a lot of the last months have felt like that. It has felt like a big black storm cloud has just been following me around.

Last week I hosted our second fourth trimester group, we had a play therapist visiting and she was talking about mindfulness for parents. I really enjoyed her talk, so much of what she was saying resonated with me. I was able to talk about how I have felt since Henrie was born without becoming really emotional, seeing it as a period which I have moved out of rather than being stuck in.

I want to talk more about all of this because I feel like it is so helpful for processing. Birth trauma is something which I am learning more and more about all the time. I want to leave this link here for anyone who is feeling like they want to get help after having a baby and everything not feeling rosy.

A bumpy ride, that is how to describe how it’s been. At the moment things feel almost normal, but now I have learned that could change tomorrow. The good days well out number the bad ones which is great. Bad days are still a thing, and they are no fun for anyone. I love that I have friends who I can just say “I am having a rubbish day” and not worry that they are judging me or think they need to say something magic to make it better. It does get better, it might take a while, but there is always hope.

Hazel-Ann x

Nursing in style

img_4609Hello again,

This post is about breast feeding fashion, I have been either pregnant and/or breastfeeding for the last 8 years, I am 29 so that is almost a third of my life  :O

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Breastfeeding is something that I hoped to do when I was pregnant with my first baby. I mentally set myself up that I would give it my best shot, if it didn’t work out it didn’t matter.

It did work out, and it is something that I really treasure. I have gone on to be able to feed, and enjoy feeding all our 4 babies.

After Henrie was born I logged onto my facebook and had a few tags from friends in a post by Chico Jack’s. They were looking for brand reps so I entered…. and they picked me, along with a few other lovely ladies. I had heard of them before but had not made any purchases, I now have several pieces from them – the twinning sets won a LovedByParents award this year too.

(How cute does Henrie look here!)

My usual “go to” clothes style in winter is a wrap dress, tights and boots. I wear a vest top underneath for warmth and because I am not a fan of lots of cleavage on show. Shirts and jeans, or two tops to do the “one up, one down method” which is literally just pulling up your tshirt and down your vest for feeding access.

Often I hear people saying how “annoying” it must be to have to wear “feeding clothes”, that is not how I view it myself. There are some items of clothing that just don’t work (high neck dresses, non stretch dresses are the main things I don’t even look at) otherwise I feel like most things you can work around. I have lots of thin vests which I wear tucked into my trousers, this allows you to pull up your t-shirt without exposing flesh (side note – I don’t feel comfortable showing a lot of flesh, this is not me saying you shouldn’t) .

The Chico Jacks tops have a zip across the front which means that you can zip across when you are feeding, and then zip back up again after, without pulling your top up.

These skater dresses have sneaky little zippers. (My legs… they are in winter mode now – if you know… you know 🙈 – so someone maybe pass me some fake tan..

I wore this maxi dress for a wedding we went to in the summer. I had lots of compliments on it which is a confidence boost when you are at a wedding with your baby. I always feel really exposed and sometimes some people feel like they need to make an assessment of how you look!? I’m sure they don’t mean it like that.

Another fab thing I have found is the website Silk Fred who have a section for breastfeeding dresses and a few jumpsuits. I wish more websites did this filter.

Some of my favourite places to shop are Boden (best for wrap dresses and tops), H&M (great for button tops and dresses), Zara and Joules. Because of where I live, there are next to no “real” shops, I have to shop online. When I go away to the “big smoke” and can go into actual shops I do go to Primark and have a few things from there, my sister sends me odd things I see online that I want from there too (she lives in civilisation!)

If you are over on instagram there are some really great people you can follow @dresslikeamum @feedinstyle and then there is the hashtag whatmamaworemonday which @heyitsromeca and @stylemotherbeat host weekly.

Nursing clothes DO NOT have to be frumpy or ugly. They don’t even have to look like nursing clothes, I haven’t even mentioned places like JojoMamanBebe and Mamas and Papas who do nursing clothes because I don’t really shop there, and I find that a lot of their items are maternity/nursing clothes which can be super unflattering when you don’t want to look pregnant anymore..! If you are on facebook there is a great group “can I breastfeed in it uk” which people post finds and inspiration on all the time.

Thanks for reading, please leave comments with your tips and favourite shops for breastfeeding friendly clothes below.

Hazel-Ann x

What do you do all day?

I remember once telling someone that I was “just a Mam”, and their response being “so what do you do all day then?”

What do I do all day? As “just a Mam”…

I am intrigued by how society judges and treats people. How families have to defend their decisions.  Who earns the money, who does the “work”, is there an easy option, are some people making it harder for themselves??

I am a stay at home mother, I don’t have a “normal job” with a monthly wage, my work is not measured in an hourly rate. And that is fine. Another mother will be working full time,  maybe because she loves her job, maybe because she just wants to. Some mothers work part time, some work from home, some have their own businesses, squirrelling away during nap time and after bed time. I am talking here about mothers because I myself am a mother of young children. The exact same goes for anyone at any stage.

Your worth is not measured by this.

I believe that we are now so trained to think that our contribution to society is measured purely on how much tax we pay. I don’t see it that way. Whatever your “employment status”, it doesn’t change “how much” of a mother you are.

We all need money to survive. There is no arguing that point unfortunately.

I think of roles people take on as volunteers, how much that work adds to other peoples lives and to society as a whole. I have “side line” things I am involved in, some generate money, some don’t, none of them feel more or less worthy. I believe that my own “role” in this big world at the moment is to raise my little people. That is what I believe I am meant to be doing, it does not mean I think that everyone else needs to be the same as me. Really I am just tired of the competition and judgement that I feel is constantly pushed around. Everyone can feel the same sense of overwhelm whatever they are doing.

I have friends who fall all over the “working spectrum”, they all love and worry over their family the same.

Another time someone asked me when I was going back to work, I said that I was staying at home with my children, his reply “what a waste of a brain!”

A waste of a brain! I was so offended and wanted to shout or say something really clever.. instead I was too gob smacked to really say anything. I brooded over those words and then quote from Dr John Trainer came to mind “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” (This quote is often misattributed to C S Lewis.) I felt as though this man was saying that staying at home was somehow “beneath” some people. Maybe that there are some for whom its ok to stay home? Others need to go to work?

I bumped into this man again just a few days later while on my way to an appointment, child free, and had a moment to reply to him. He appeared to be a bit taken aback, assured me that it was “ok” to stay home for a while. There wasn’t time to expand on the point then, I still wonder what he really thinks.

It was a clear example of how I am sometimes made to feel, for staying home. And I can only imagine that mothers who work suffer even more judgement. When I have an appointment and need child care,  I am particular about who I leave my children with. Anyone who is leaving their children for longer periods while working, obviously puts a huge amount of thought, time and very careful consideration into where they choose.

But really, this post is just about the way culture has made us all feel as though we have to constantly justify our choices on this, casting this judgmental shadow over things.

I was at a seminar last year where the speaker talked about how our society has changed over the last one hundred years, the impact the war had on family set ups. It was the beginning of a lot of change and I am fascinated by that history.

Part of human nature is to judge, if I have ever come across as making someone else feel less for their choice I am so sorry, I really believe that everyone makes the choice that is the best fit for their own family and circumstances. I am starting to ramble now, so I am going to sign this off.

Hazel Ann x

 

When we met Henrie

If you follow me over on Instagram, you will have watched my pregnancy with Henrie (and if you’ve been there for a while – my pregnancies with Maxie, Drewie and Agnes too!)

With Henrie, I really did feel like I was “smashing it”, eating well, working out, taking time for myself, reading positive birth stories and affirmations. All the things that I tell other pregnant women to do. I was managing the anxiety that accompanies pregnancy for me. Taking my supplements, talking about things. As my due date approached I felt so full of excitement about the birth, ready for labour, to finally meet this little human we had been growing so carefully for the last 9 months.

Then that aspect of it changed for me, a scan a few days before my due date to check on the growth of baby revealed a large stumbling block to the plans we had been making. Our beautiful little baby was in fact breech. After three straightforward deliveries, labours with my second and third which I *enjoyed*, a breech baby at 39 weeks was not something I had been planning for. And I am a planner!

So we were flown away to a big maternity hospital, where we had been before for the birth of our first baby.  A valiant attempt, by a wonderful doctor, to turn my “upside down” child was unsuccessful. I was left with no options, no one who would entertain the idea that I wanted to try and deliver a breech baby in any way other than by C section. C SECTION! (If you know me, you’ll know that this was the very very thing I was not on for.) I don’t like being interfered with, I don’t like not being able to do things. I kept saying “I won’t be able to drive for 6 weeks”, but inside what I really thought was, and I do mean that this is what I felt, I am going to die. From when we were told this was what was going to happen, I was sure that I would die. I asked the doctors about it, they said “well the chances are very very small”. What I couldn’t get over was how normal this was for them. It didn’t really seem like a big deal at all! Oh it’s ok, we are just going to cut into you… hah.. no big deal, right?

The day before my “elective” C section I thought was my last day on earth. I was trying to have peace, give it all over to God. We went to the movies, bought a packet of super high waisted M&S briefs (these are the most comfortable underwear ever!), had a MacDonalds because if you are going to die anyway – why not!? I tried to have a good cry but I felt suffocated.

A sleepless night, an early start, taking my medication and drinking my lucozade. Walking down to the ward, speaking on the phone to my children, still thinking this was the last time I would hear their voices. I know I sound like a right drama queen. There really wasn’t a sense of excitement that I was going to meet my baby. One last scan to confirm that baby was still breech, yep. Surgery was very much happening. Got my gowns on, sat in the waiting area, people tired to talk to me but I couldn’t hear them.

In the theatre itself, the atmosphere was like a birthday party. The team were kind, supportive, understanding. They could see I was terrified but they didn’t laugh at me or play it down. They helped me help myself, practised the hypnobirth breathing I had been doing at home. Once I was lying down and the spinal kicked in, my body was numb and I relaxed and finally gave in to what was about to happen.

Then we met you Henrie. We found out you were in fact a boy! Realised you looked exactly like your siblings. The love was there full force.

And I was so grateful that I didn’t die.

Yoga photos on beach by Sophie Sunshine Photography

Thanks for reading,

Hazel Ann x