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 ♡

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…and then it ended.

Yesterday, or maybe not yesterday, depending on when I finish writing this, I finished therapy. But for all intents and purposes I’ll say that therapy finished on the 5th.

I walked away from the building for the last time, feeling so accomplished and a little sad too.

I feel fortunate that I could have therapy, all 17 sessions, at no expense to myself. And let’s not forget, this was my third round of therapy. I had CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) when I was in high school. I had ten sessions of psychotherapy in 2015 when I was 19. And now I’ve just had sixteen therapy sessions and one review session where I had psychotherapy and CAT (cognitive analytic therapy). It has all been immensely helpful.

The truth is, I didn’t think I’d need therapy again after my round of it in 2015 but a traumatic event in 2016 changed my mind completely. And I think I was far more honest with my therapist this time around. I was hell bent on recovery, however I did not get put on any waiting lists (not for lack of trying) until I told my midwife about my mental health issues in 2017.

I had my first therapy session, technically, when I was heavily pregnant. I think I was 38 weeks pregnant in fact. It was a review appointment with a male therapist and as much as I’d have loved to think I would have been able to tell him about my trauma, there was no way I would have managed. It’s not his fault, but I just can’t do that. So after I’d had Reuben and 2018 had begun, I called up and said that I’d like to begin therapy but I do need a female therapist (which is something he’d asked if I’d need and reassured me he wouldn’t be offended) and I think it was a few weeks later that I had my first appointment of the 17.

Looking at that picture, I’m pretty sure it shows in my eyes just how bad I was feeling at that point. And no, no, no, it was nothing to do with Reuben or motherhood. It was the dark horrible shit going on in my head that I couldn’t talk to anyone about. It was the anxiety and the disassociation. The flashbacks, anger, guilt and shame… It was all hurting so much.

At that time, I was telling myself I would get better for Reuben. I wanted to be a better mother. Well, that was true but the point is, I wasn’t doing it for me then. It took a long time for me to be going through therapy for me aswell.

Every appointment, I did my best. I really pushed myself to open up no matter what and I often had to dig deep just to get basic details out of my mouth. Each appointment was always full of tears and sometimes anger. But my therapist, whenever she spoke she said something incredible. She’d ask me a question that would challenge my thinking. It seemed to me that every question she ever asked planted a seed. Every seed, with thought, started to blossom.

The CAT was ridiculously useful too. I can see the map (or model) drawn out on that A4 piece of paper in my mind and I often refer back to it, whenever I need to. It’s taught me so much about not only having a healthy relationship with other people, but it also taught me how to have a healthy relationship with myself. To stop being so abusive, and critical, and to stop placing standards on myself that I just wouldn’t place on other people. It’s helped me realise the importance of taking care of myself when I’m hurting, instead of continuing the cycle by punishing myself for hurting. Unhealthy coping mechanisms are hard to unlearn but new ones are easy to learn. Maybe there’s not easy to follow through in the moment but deciding to take action is liberating.

Now, I am not ashamed of my story. I’m not proud of it, and often I feel the ugly face of resentment, but I’m not ashamed anymore. I also have given myself the power to stand back from a situation and basically remove myself from it if I see any red flags or if I feel I’m being mistreated. Instead of “maybe I’m being oversensitive… “, my reaction is; “I don’t deserve this shit! Goodbye!”.

For me, that’s groundbreaking. It’s a massive achievement and something I was completely uncapble of doing before. I’ve given myself a new sort of freedom by unlearning old survival mechanisms and learning how I should be dealing with things like that.

It goes without saying that being able to talk about and process my trauma was incredibly beneficial. It was hard because I’d talk about it, and that would be triggering and my mental health would suffer for a while but it was empowering to take the control back. I remember writing on Instagram that I felt as though I had the hold over the trauma, instead of it having a hold over me. In hindsight, that’s not exactly true. The PTSD doesn’t end like that but the point is that I know how to cope with my mental illnesses and that is empowerment! That is freedom!

I feel like a bolder, braver soul than I was when I started. I have healed more. I have come to terms with things. I have learnt how to deal with my bad days. I know I can keep myself safe when I feel suicidal (which is the word I rarely use because I don’t want people thinking I’ll act on it). I am not “normal” (whatever that means) and that’s okay. I have scars. I have walls. I have problems. But I am so much better than I used to be. And I will continue to use what I’ve learnt in therapy to improve.

I completely advocate therapy. It is invaluable and I would be nice if it were accessible to all who need it.

I really wanted to change, to improve, to heal when I started and that is half the battle with therapy. If you go in with a closed mind and you’re unwilling to open up, it won’t work for you. But if you want it to work, with a good therapist, it will. It really, really will.

Anyway, I think that’s all I’ve really got to say. I don’t really want to go into great detail because I don’t think that’s appropriate – but thank you so much for reading about my therapy journey! It means a lot!

With love, Rebecca xo