Single parent studying sucks.

Studying isn’t going well. I actually am experiencing quite a lot of regret about partaking in studies, and the only thing making me continue with my degree, is that in about 6 weeks, I’m done with the OU for the year. Yes, the year, I am not going to be doing my third of six years until 2020 because I simply cannot find the time or energy to get it done.

I’m very aware I am sat in a place of privilege and the opportunities I have, are not available to everyone, and so I feel very ungrateful when I say these things.

But all the same, I’ve only got me to pull me through every single week of independent study and every assignment. I’m trying to balance that with everything and truth be told, I can’t hack it. So to put it simply, I am waiting until Reuben is 2 and in nursery to continue with this degree.

I am considering going to an actual university. That would mean starting again, but doing a distance learning degree is way harder than I thought it would be. It was hard when I was working, and it’s certainly a lot harder now that I am a stay at home single parent. Finding the discipline within myself to get the work done is so hard. The motivation wavers away. I feel that this kind of studying is very lonely.

Currently, I should be writing up a paper but I’m finding it incredibly difficult to concentrate as I am overwhelmed and angered by the assignment itself. I just don’t want to do it. I have been trying so hard this year to achieve better grades and I haven’t been getting better. I’m truly disappointed in myself and thus, I am procrastinating. This is the second to last assignment of the year and there’s maths involved. It’s definitely not my strong point.

Anyway, I better just crack on with it. At this point, I just want it out of the way. I have two weeks to do it but next week is a break and I really do want a break from my studies (as if I haven’t been slacking with it for weeks on end). I recall, of course, why I want to do this degree. I want a better life for my son and I. I want to help others. I’ll get there.

Thank you for reading,

With love, Rebecca xo

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Festive feelings.

What a lonely Christmas this is going to be.

I keep trying to put on a brave face and remain positive, I am determined to make the best out of it and really enjoy my day with Reuben… but it’s still just going to be me and Reu.

And today, a wave of grief hit. I found some of my Nana’s socks that I must have borrowed and never gave back. They were in the back of my drawer, fluffy, and still smelt like her laundry detergent and her home – over four years after her passing. I put them on and I wept.

I haven’t cried about my Nana for a long time. I remember when she first passed I cried all day every day. And then it was every other day. And then it was once or twice a week. To say I was heartbroken was an understatement. It absolutely crushed me. But there was a shift a few months after she passed, and following the birth of my brother. I decided I wanted to make her proud. And I also decided that I was in no fit state to have a child of my own, I was extremely broody and dreamt of motherhood (have done since I was 15 in fact) but I realised that the depressed insomniac on antidepressants needed to make every area of her life more stable before she had a baby. But that’s, that’s quite a tangent I went on, isn’t it? Oh dear.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I cried. But these socks, they really brought it home.

And Christmas? Christmas is creating such an ache in my heart because it screams family and festivity. It screams of indulgence and religion too (but I’m not religious). But here I am, knowing full well it’s going to feel like just another day for the most part.

Well, actually… I’m going to try my best to enjoy it. I could really enjoy Christmas Day but there’s a possibility I will be crying wreck when the day comes. That’s what happens when you run out of family.

Not that they’re all dead mind. Some I cut off, some I don’t like and some just don’t want me around.

I envy people will close families.

Because as much as I adore my online community of friends that I genuinely do care about. There are days when you really notice how alone you are.

I know, I know, I’m not truly alone, I have Reuben. I know this. It’s just that we can’t exactly strike up a conversation and he’s very independent. If I try to play with him with his toys he looks up at me, eyebrow raised, until I move away. He is the sweetest little boy though, I do my best to laugh with him all day long.

Today in fact, I turned the TV off after breakfast, because I’m doing a little experiment. I’m trying to see how much more I do, and how much more Reuben plays, if the TV isn’t distracting us. I’ll probably turn it on around dinner time though.

That’s the thing though, it’s such a distraction from all my thoughts and feelings. When Reuben took his nap (and he’s 95 minutes into this nap), I got studying and got through all the online activities – well not all some I labelled ‘irrelevant and annoying’ and blatantly dismissed them – so I’m now up to date. Hey, I got 14/15 questions right on the survey I just did about the week’s studies and I’m impressed with myself.

But back on point, it’s Christmas and that makes my heart heavy. But I’m going to do my best to have a lovely Christmas with my Reubs.

We will play Christmas music and movies, have the fairy lights on all day long, eat lots of food and I’ll try to stay off my phone as much as possible (I like taking pictures but then I get distracted by notifications and then I end up scrolling – it’s a trap!). I’m going to love seeing Reuben open his presents and completely ignore the contents! Haha. No but seriously I think he’s going to love them… and probably the balloons I intend to buy, since the ones from his birthday are pretty much stress balls at this point.

On a very soppy note…
Reuben is my link between heaven and earth. I had a psychic reading done in December 2016 where my Nana told me she was sending me my baby back. I was told he’d make it. And so, when I look at my sweet boy. And people tell me he’s an old soul, that he’s been here before, I just know in my heart that he is. His eye colour is settling but sometimes they go the colour of my Nana’s eyes and that always makes me a bit emotional. And even if people think that I’m silly for believing this, I will still believe it. That little boy, saved my life, and keeps saving my life, and although I know he’s his own person… he’s still my link between heaven and earth. And I intend to give him a wonderful childhood.

I think he must have heard that; he has just woke up! Time to give him cuddles!

Thank you for reading!

With love, Rebecca ♡

Shadows.

I held my son to my chest, and I felt my heart swell with love. It’s almost overwhelming sometimes; the way I feel such a pang of deep sadness intertwined into that pure, unconditional love. It’s especially strong when I stand at my bedroom window, as the light of the day fades (or has faded) away and I look out at the city lights. There’s some strong feeling that takes my breath away that I have tried to articulate time and time again, but have failed each time.

This time of year has always been my favourite. It’s cold, it’s dark a lot and I find it comforting. It’s not necessarily nice being outside when you’re freezing, but I love warming back up, getting cosy. Christmas lights and hot chocolate make me infinitely happier. But this dark time of the year reminds me of dark times in my past, of haunting memories, and it seems as though the ghosts of that trauma seem to hang in the air.

And when I look out at the city lights, it’s like I can feel an older version of myself when I look out and I can feel her hurt and sadness. I suppose, psychologically speaking, the feel of the air and the night which is so different to any other time of year, is a reminder. A trigger, if you will.

But I remember that she is a younger version of myself, and she was absolutely heartbroken to find herself so destroyed, but she found the courage to fight. She had this dream of being a mother and it was all she wanted. She knew one day, if she kept going, if she worked on getting better and healing her heart and mind, she might one day have her baby in her arms.

Flashback to the 21st November 2017, when she was in labour. She looked out at the night sky, knowing that she’d fought very hard and finally, finally her dream was about to come true. And no, it hadn’t happened in the circumstances that she wanted it to. But she felt euphoria, she felt the world shift. She was a little afraid but she believed that her baby boy would make it. Why? A psychic reading done the year before had proven invaluable when her Nana told her she was sending her, her baby back, and that he would make it. There was a feeling in the air that night too. Like there were still shadows and it made her feel deep sadness too. Luckily, by the time her son was in her arms and her head had stopped spinning, the dawn had arrived and she watched the sunrise. The world was new. Her heart felt healed. She was so, so happy.

But she had not healed.

I have not healed yet.

I have healed to an extent, but trauma is still being carried deep in the pit of my gut. I still feel that haunting, of memories, that should be gone but they won’t be forgotten. How can they be forgotten when there are so many things that I associate with them? From things such as the fresh, cold night air to the way some stranger might walk, from a song she might hear whilst shopping to people in her life that serve as reminders. That’s how trauma works. You don’t have to be thinking about it, it comes to you.

So maybe I’ve figured out why I feel such joy and such sadness when I hold my child and look out of my bedroom window. It’s such a beautiful view, but it’s more than a ‘bittersweet’ feeling. That word doesn’t do it justice.

Never in my life have I claimed to be perfect, or innocent. But I know that there’s a fire about me. And I’m sure people still think I’m a pushover, and there’s people who think much worse of me, but…

Through all the grief, anger and trauma, there is still courage , compassion, and hope.

So, those shadows may stay but… So will the resilience. And the memories may never fade… But the determination to create a life I love won’t.

Tonight, I held Reuben to my chest and we were looking out of the window when the skies were deep purple, and the city lights flickered, and I told him…

“These days are special. These lonely days of just you and me, they have taught me I am strong”.

I gave him a kiss and told him “I love you” and I was crying a bit when I did.

I was told that because of my mental health, that I wouldn’t be a good mother. But that person was wrong. I have struggled with my mental health this year, especially when therapy was opening up badly stitches wounds, but I have never let it affect the way that I parent. I’ve even felt like I couldn’t cope being alive anymore, but I’ve held on and asked for help, because I just would not leave my baby behind. Mental pain can physically hurt, and I have suffered… But I’m starting to understand why things are the way that they are.

This may have been a little unconventional for a blog post, but I feel that it’s something I need to talk about.

I’ve figured out why I feel so much joy and so much pain when I look out at the city lights and night & now I can accept it.

Thank you for reading,

With love, Rebecca ♡

This Time Last Year

I remember the way I felt this time last year. The way the air felt, the white noise of something mechanical humming at night (I still can’t figure out what it is), the way the lights across the city seemed crisper… It all reminds me, like the most wonderfully enchanting memory. There is no doubt in my mind that I’m remembering with rose-tinted glasses. But I know for a fact, also, that I remember that the person I was before Reuben was born felt a kind of excitement, naivety and apprehension that I’m scared I will never feel again.

The selfie I took before heading to the hospital to be induced.

I remember feeling dreadfully uncomfortable, completely DONE with being pregnant and massive. And moreover, I was done being told how massive I was. As if I couldn’t tell!? I was sick of the sickness, the acid reflux, the endless peeing, the pain I was feeling around my ribs, the ridiculous amounts of discharge and the sweating. You know, I was still trying my best to cherish my pregnancy but I think I spent more time trying to film baby kicks than I did actually appreciating the moments (something I will remember if I’m lucky enough to have a second). I would rest my hands on my bump, take endless photos, but by 37 weeks I was done. So when I was offered an induction days before my due date, I leapt at the chance.

I’d seen a lot of inductions on One Born Every Minute and I’d read the leaflet but nothing could have prepared me for the days that followed. I felt like I’d been in hospital for a week before I was actually induced – in a different hospital – on my due date.

But my mind seems to have fixated on the little details of the hospital I was supposed to give birth in, when I was waiting to be taken to delivery suite to have my waters broken. In all honesty, it was quite lovely but I was so impatient and being in a hospital bay all day waiting around was driving me a bit nuts. I wasn’t very well prepared, I hadn’t brought much to entertain myself – which is probably why I remember the space around me in vivid detail. From the way the light hit the blue flooring during the day, to the way the overhead lamp created a calming ambience at night. I remember bouncing on that big purple gym ball for hours hoping labour would come on spontaneously but I now realise, it was doing very little for me, and it was probably making me all the more impatient.

I was offered a transfer to the other hospital where I had a bed on delivery suite waiting for me on my due date, a few hours after my mucus plug went, and I jumped at the chance. I now wonder if my experience might have been different if I’d have stayed at the hospital that I wanted to give birth in. But nevermind, what good are what ifs? No good at all.

So there I was, in the delivery suite of this other hospital, taking a quick video of the room for my Instagram. I was telling people I’d no longer be replying. Although I did later on, at some point, I can’t remember when. And I had no idea what was coming as far as the syntocin drip was concerned.

I love that before they broke my waters and put me on that drip, I was blissfully unaware saying “whatever happens I’ll deal with it, as long as baby is okay”. I mean, that wasn’t a bad mindset to have but… Yeah… the girl on the ball in her nightie who just had her waters broken, and the girl on the bed who just got given the epidural were a couple of hours apart, and I can assure you the girl on the bed felt like she’s been through a kind of hell that she knew had changed her forever. The rest of it was a breeze though, if that’s any consolation – it was to me!

I gave birth to Reuben just over 12 hours after they’d broken my waters, and it was incredible. I felt the love instantly – it was euphoric! I felt the rush of love which I’d heard people say is indescribable and I was so relieved. I was so, so happy. When I had been waiting to push, I remember thinking “this is it, my dream is about to come true, I’m gonna meet my baby!” and that was an unforgettable moment too.

So is it any wonder that I feel this way now that Reuben’s 1st birthday is a day away? It’s so bittersweet. I feel happy and sad at the same time. I feel my heart aching so badly when I think back to it. I know this is common in mothers but I never really hear or read anyone talking about it.

Maybe it’s because I feel cheated out of enjoying those newborn days, maybe it’s because I had a vision of how I wanted things to be during pregnancy and it wasn’t like that. It’s not like my expectations were high but when you’re poor and feeling unsupported through both pregnancy and your newly made mother days, it’s very hard to feel like I got anything right at all back then… I don’t know. I guess I am overly critical but when I think back, I have regrets and I find myself saying “here’s what I’d do differently”.

Anyway, it’s hard to believe Reuben’s been on this earth for a year now. He’s turned into my little best friend & he makes me smile all the time. Even though we have been poorly recently, there’s still been smiles. And I’m far from perfect but I know I’m a good Mama.

I’m feeling very nostalgic and wistful about this time last year but don’t worry, I’m also concentrating on making this year’s memories count! Reuben’s presents are ready for Thursday, the flat is looking nicer than it ever has done (apart from the kitchen right now) & I’ve even put the Christmas tree up!

I love motherhood, it puts a kind of joy and resilience in my soul that nothing else can. I mean, there’s obviously sadness and mum guilt in there too BUT! Let’s focus on the good!

Thank you for reading,

With love, Rebecca ♡

I Love Being A Mother But…

I love being a mother but I don’t love being alone.

I love blogging but I don’t love that it’s about readership no matter how much you convince yourself it’s not (it does sting a bit when you put effort in to writing and taking pictures and nobody reads it).

I love taking photographs but I don’t love that I know my semi-decent attempt at photography is rubbish compared to the next blogs’ who inevitably has a better camera, and better things than I do.

I love sharing things online but I don’t love that fight it or not, you waste time scrolling through things that harm your mental health so slowly you barely notice until the little things (like someone posting a viral text post about what friendship should be) makes you want to launch yourself into outer space.

I love being inspired by lifestyle photo posts but I don’t love that I somehow forget about what’s behind the camera and the editing that made that person’s life look so perfect – just because what? They’ve got a better bedroom than I have? (Seriously, why does my brain think “better bedroom/clothes/baby announcement = better life”??? Can it not?)

But mainly I love being a mother.

And I love that if I believed in myself, I could do amazing things and be happy (probably) but instead, I am afraid.

Life has made me question whether or not I’m a good person, and furthermore, it has made me question whether I deserve the good things in life; love, family, materialistic things that I crave. I hate to be all ‘woe is me’ but you know, I really have been through a lot and it’s left me with a bit of a complex if truth be told, and not only have I become incredibly insecure about myself but I have become very defensive about protecting who I’m trying to become in my healing process. I want to maintain the person I said I was when I was feeling better than I am.

Every mother is afraid, to some degree, of speaking out about her mental health. I’m sure it’s the same for fathers, and in fact, worse because of the heightened stigma with men and speaking up about how they’re feeling (thus the higher suicide rate in men compared with women – see here). I think I’m pretty good about speaking about how I feel but I’m definitely scared of telling a professional about how I’m feeling, for the fear that they will equate my mental health with my ability to parent. And when people mention Post Natal Depression, I’m just like “hey it’s not that, it’s the depression, ptsd and anxiety that didn’t disappear when Reu was born as much as I wish the joy could have cured me”. And there’s no shame in have PND/PPD either, I think it’s the fact I think people dismiss that struggle that has always been going on.

There’s a part of my brain which is constantly telling me I‘m not good enough, still ugly, still fat, that I get on everyone’s nerves, and that nobody cares (when I post stuff online), and although I know it’s a vicious bi-product of what I’ve been through and it’s wrong, it is so loud when I am struggling. Knowing it’s wrong and irrational doesn’t silence it, only the support of others does. And I can practice self care and battle through the tears as much as I want, but along with every coping mechanism I learnt in therapy, they are merely weapons in battle. Sometimes it barely feels like a battle at all, sometimes I feel like I’m fighting for my life; that’s mental health illness, and grief for you.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very long winded way, is that my mental health is not good lately:

I love being a mother but I don’t love being alone. Sometimes keeping yourself strong for so long, without feeling you have anyone to lean on, becomes mentally exhausting to the point you feel like you can’t anymore.

Reuben is saving my life over and over again.

I don’t feel like I can keep fighting sometimes. I am feeling so broken lately. So exhausted. I feel as though I’ve been screaming out for someone to notice how much I need someone to really be there for me and unsurprisingly, telepathy and hints hasn’t worked.

Today, I burst into tears and had a panic attack in front of my Dad and his partner. Struggling to catch my breath, pain strangling my chest, I told them I am struggling, that I am not coping, that I am suicidal. I was so scared of how they’d react as I did but I was there, feeling like I was dying already. I haven’t had a panic attack in years. I hope I made it clear, as I want to make it clear to you, I wouldn’t leave my son behind… but that doesn’t mean feeling this way isn’t incredibly painful and scary. I am hurting inexplicably. And I am terrified that if I tell the doctor they will want to take my son away from me.

But somehow, I have been managing to parent with love and patience DESPITE feeling this way the moment he is asleep or is at his Dad’s. And somehow, despite being teary eyed and losing my appetite, I’ve still managed to do everything I am supposed to do (and often that little bit more) to take care of my son.

But I’m still afraid I will have the ‘inadequate mother’ stamp upon my review as a parent, and that the implications will be too much for me. And despite people saying that no doctor and no social services worker will take my child away for that reason, that’s why I haven’t gone to the doctors yet.

But tomorrow, I am going to get an appointment and no matter how scared I am, I’m going to tell them how I’ve been feeling.

I’m doing my best but I don’t feel okay. And I could literally write for hours about what’s wrong but that’s where I draw the line – you don’t need to know and this post is already 84 years long. So if you made it this far, congratulations, you’re officially amazing!

Please take care of yourself & thank you for reading this post!

With love, Rebecca ♡

Survival Tips When You’re Sick

We have been quite unwell this week. First, Reuben was sick through the night and then when he started to recover the next day, we went out, but then by the time we came home, it was my turn! It’s not been fun. I’d like to add Reuben has had a mild case of the sniffles and is teething too which hasn’t helped matters, but it’s nothing that can’t be eased with mummy cuddles (and Anbesol).

Anyway, we both recovered within 24 hours so I am assuming it was a tummy bug – which is a the technical term, for having an upset stomach. There’s been a lot of sick you guys, it’s not been nice.

It isn’t surprising that getting through the day (and the night!!) when you’re unwell and your child is too, isn’t a bucket of laughs. But I thought I’d write a list of tips on making it as bearable as possible – and it might just be a good reference to me in the future, but it might help you too!

  • Everything can wait! Stop worrying about the dishes in the sink and Mount Laundry Basket. It can wait. Same goes for the laundry waiting to be put away or the vacuuming. The moment you feel better, you can tackle it. For now, bare minimum (such as rinsing cups and plates and leaving them in a stack, or putting the sicky clothes and bedding in the washing machine) is a good start. I know we can’t all stay home and do barely anything because we have other kids and commitments, but if you can, I recommend using the little energy you have on looking after you and your child.
  • If you can get any help at all, accept it! My sister was visiting when we got sick which was quite the coincidence but this meant there was someone their to lighten the load. Whilst Reu and I took a nap, she did the dishes and tidied up without being asked and then we woke up to a little snack plate and drinks. This was appreciated since I hadn’t eaten in what felt like forever after a night of throwing up. So yes, you may have to ask for someone to help you but you even if it’s just someone picking up some groceries or running you a bath and watching the kids, it’s worth it.
  • Drink plenty, stay warm, and take your medicine… You don’t get any medals for not taking your damn medicine/painkillers, so do it! Rest is important but you’re not going to rest at all if you’re aching everywhere. I timed taking some paracetamol in time for Reuben’s naps and we snuggled up in bed together. I really did ignore the fact I needed to do housework and studies because I wanted to rest and sleep as much as I possibly could. I think the more you rest, the quicker you get better. So take the painkillers to help make yourself more comfortable (my body ached so bad this time around I felt like Mr Potato! I don’t know, if anyone will understand how that made sense to me).

Also…

  • What you eat when you’re poorly is important. Reuben lost his appetite for a while and so did I but when we ate simple food, we started getting better quicker. Things like fruit and chicken soup, in small amounts frequently, really helped. I always think eating whatever form of protein is best for you really helps you to recover.
  • Humidifiers, saline drops, baby paracetamol… These all help you and your baby lots but please, if there’s one thing that’s made this whole thing easier, it’s that I was able to snuggle up with Reuben pretty much all the time. I let go of a lot of rules… I let him watch TV in the early hours in his travel cot so I could throw all the sicky blankets, bedding and clothes into the washing machine (we were very low on wipes so I ended up using a blanket or two to catch and clean up sick) and he actually fell asleep in there.

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s best to just snuggle up and ride it out together. Everything else can wait. And if you have to go out, bundle up warm and don’t stay out too long. The fresh air will help but at this time of year, try not to be out too long if you are poorly. Eat nutrious food (when you can), keep yourself hydrated and stay warm. Those are my survival tips beyond the medicine.

Thank you for reading!

With love, Rebecca ♡

I’m Unmotivated

From talking to people I know, to reading people’s social media posts, it’s evident that a lot of us are struggling to stay motivated – so I’m not the only one, which is comforting, but it is a problem.

Maybe it’s because of the weather. Or, the more probable explanation, in my case, is the fact I am overwhelmed with pressure. Pressure, that I put on my self to get this and that done, and do it perfectly, and juggle all the balls.

Well I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have to break it to myself that I need to chill the 🦆 out!

When I write a list of the things going on in my life, I realise there’s not that much there and the reason I’ve made such a mountain out of a molehill, is because I expect far too much from myself.

Have I forgotten that I’m a one-man-band? It’s simply just not possible to do it all, not in one day anyway!

If I want to do the shopping and take Reuben to the park – or just be out for the day in general – I can’t expect a spotless house that night. Getting out and about as a parent is tiring and you don’t get a rest when you return. Suddenly there’s 53 things to do and the house is an absolute pigsty, then your child is in bed and you have to drag your exhausted carcus around tidying and cleaning. Or you leave whatever you can until tomorrow. Either way, it still has to be done.

And I’ve realised if I want to study, I can’t clean. If I want to clean the flat, I can’t go out. Or I can, but it’ll have to be a quick, cleverly timed trip out. Because there’s meal times and nap times that play a role in how you can both be ready to get out at a convenient time.

For the longest time, I was so angry at myself for not being an up and out in the morning person. Everyone else seemed to be doing it just fine, especially parents on the school run. And then I realise; what does it matter if I’m not able to be ready early in the morning? Who cares!? And that sorted that one out for me.

But lately, I can’t be bothered studying, or cleaning, the laundry is constantly getting on top of me. I’m putting this off, and that off. I’ve become the Queen of Procrastination – Case in point; writing this instead of getting on with nightly cleaning chores.

*big inhale, big exhale*

So, I guess what really matters is how I respond to this lack of dopamine in my system?

Well, first, I’ve got to understand why without being angry with myself. And since I’m barely taking care of myself like I was earlier this year, I’m going to say that’s a reason. Secondly, I’m overwhelming myself with unrealistic demands for how much I should get done a day. Thirdly, it’s because I want to focus on Reuben more than I want to do anything else.

So what’s the solution? I need to take better care of myself to increase all the happy hormones, stop putting so much pressure on myself and also, I think some kind of weekly rota or clearer time management would seriously help!

So that’s what I’m going to do – starting tomorrow, of course. Tonight, I need to sleep! Tomorrow is another day…

Thank you for reading,

With love, Rebecca ♡