It may get hairy…

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Amusingly, my morning has been unintentionally filled with inspirational posts, videos and articles. It’s helped to remind me that life doesn’t fit into a 2 hour movie slot and that dreams are met through hard work, slog, failure and belief in yourself. 

This is soppy and positive for me, so just scroll on by while I remind myself what it takes to succeed in life – personally and professionally. 

I’ve expanded my goals to include learning, re-learning and touching up on skills that may one day be financially beneficial. Alongside writing a children’s book, I’ll be re-learning photography basics and photo editing and manipulation. I’ll also be learning how to design fonts. These are both mainly for my personal benefit and things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Although, they could end up making me a small amount of money, monetary  benefits aren’t the priority. God knows how I’ll manage learning these skills with the kids in tow, but I’ll have to make it happen. 

This week’s goal is to make the house organized enough for me to work from home. A huge task, but, with hubby helping, we’re making a dent in it. Next week, a desk will arrive and I’ll start. Here’s hoping my motivation lasts. 

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Huh? Zzz

There’s a deep, innate tiredness that comes with motherhood*. It’s much more complicated than simple exhaustion. Most days, you’re so used to the feeling that you barely notice. Some days, you wake up accutely aware that you can’t remember the last time that brushing your teeth didn’t take all the energy you have left. Or when you last walked without feeling like your feet were trapped in concrete.

I find I have to time my ‘work,’ or complicated tasks to the few hours of functioning brain time I have: generally 7-10pm. If I attempt anything complicated (even a simple phone call) at any other time, it’s doomed to fail.  Although, there are many days that these hours are just as blurred as the others. For clarity, this blog is being posted at 9.32am on a Saturday. I have little doubt that it makes absolutely no sense.

Motherhood is wading through mud, desperately trying to keep up, clean up, cheer up, all the while trying to keep your children alive and unaware of their mother’s sonambulism.
*A sexist term, but it’s meant to include main-carer fathers too. 

I’ve always considered myself a lazy feminist: I ignore protests, petitions and debates, unless they directly affect me, but I do believe in equality and I see red when treated like less because of my gender.

Stereotype me beacuse I’m a woman and I’m guaranteed to flip a lid. I am just as able to make a decision, manage finances, have a career and survive as the next man. I would never be treated like a little woman… until now.

Before I continue, I should point out that I drafted the first few paragraphs and title of this blog in November 2015, over two years ago, when I was starting to feel trapped in a gender-stereotypical role in the quagmire that is military life. I’ve moved on since and accepted my role as a stay-at-home-mum, which was originally by choice. I fought my way out of that, studied, grew, built up a childminding company and successfully kicked the fuck out of my ‘little woman’ image.

Yesterday, two years later, I had a hard lazy-feminist day. Yesterday marked the day where we realised that financially, I cannot work. Having two children, childcare isn’t affordable at all. Even with 30 hours funded by the government, we realised I couldn’t find something in the role that I wanted to do (or a role that would work towards my career) that could cover the extra costs. Just to break even.

There are ways forward and things I could do. For example, I could walk into an incredibly well-paid job tomorrow, thanks to my experience and qualifications, but I’m not willing to sell my soul (or allow my children to be parented by strangers at a nursery) for something as trivial as money. I have made such progress in my life and mindset that taking a gigantic leap backwards isn’t worth it. So, I had to face the fact that I will be a stay at home mum, quite possibly for the next 2-3 years. It’s hard to keep positive when faced with this. I allowed myself a whole minute of pathetic weeping, then picked myself up. I have to make the best of this.

There is no way that I will sink into domesticity, donning an apron and making my best apple pie. I can’t clean for shit, my house is always a tip, I’m late to everything and I’m just too much of an ass to allow myself to be downtrodden by others. So, I’ve decided to try and stay positive and use this time to focus on other goals and enjoy my children. Keep my mind awake, my intellect intrigued, do my best to be a good mum…to keep being proud of who I am.

Firstly, I’m focusing on reading and writing. These are things that make me very happy and I know they will never do me wrong (well, what I write often gets me into shit, but, as an overall activity, it does me well).

  • I’m working on a children’s book. Nothing major and I don’t expect to get published, but, in a saturated market, I believe I have a good idea and I like doing it. It’s also a goal I can work towards, achieve and kick ass at. Whether someone buys it or not is irrelevant. I’ll go the agent route, perhaps directly to publishers, but if those routes don’t work, the kids will thoroughly enjoy it. Hopefully!
  • I’m going to blog more often – keep my adult writing going and it’s a relatively cathartic process. I won’t be sharing to other platforms unless I feel it’ll benefit someone else.
  • I was given a one-line-a-day five year diary for Christmas and I’m keeping that going. It’s nice to summarise and helps with exercise goals (at the end of each line, I write “Did squats. Didn’t die.” It helps to remember I survived!). 
  • I’m keeping a book journal and trying to read as much as possible. It’s not easy with two young children, one of which is me incarnate. She’s a darling, but, god, does she have a temper. I’ve got myself a book stand to help me find my current book (a daily struggle with my 3 yr old being into everything) and have joined book clubs. Still looking for my first book, which I started one line of and then someone walked off with it.

Secondly, I’m going to try and do some work-from-home crap. Perhaps selling wedding stationery, which I seemed to have a knack for. I might do some editing, but it’s soul-destroying work and means I need complete quiet – an, as yet, unachieved status in this household. I dunno, I’ll find something. I have a nice new graphics tablet, so I’ll just spend some time reminding myself how utterly untalented at drawing I am.

I’m sounding upbeat and positive about this. It’s a necessity. If I let myself feel anything about this, I’ll drown. In reality, this is hard. This is really fucking hard.

 

I’ve been dreading writing this post, as it’s one of the few times I don’t want to do a PSA. Those that know me will know that I prefer to shout loudly from the rooftops anything in my life which may be controversial. However, this time, I don’t want the stress of airing my dirty laundry and would rather cower in the corner in anonymity. And yet, I feel a strong sense of obligation to those who need someone to speak out for them.

In September this year, I had a gastric sleeve. For those that don’t feel like clicking the link, short story, they cut away 70-80% of my stomach (Let me quickly interject that I am in no way advocating weight loss surgery). I decided to be open and honest about this, because I just can’t lie. I suck at it and hate it. I lied briefly to those around me, who would see me during my recovery period, and then had to blab out the truth because the lying killed me.  I was a lighter weight, but still had a BMI of over 35 and had three major weight-affected conditions: 1) I was told that within two years I will have type 2 diabetes, 2) I have hypermobility and the extra weight makes a massive difference to mobility, collapsing joints and a crap load of pain, 3) I have asthma which weight affects, albeit mildly.

I mention these because the point of this post is to open up dialogue about my operation and others, and to highlight things people say that they may not think is inappropriate. A surprising amount of people have asked me some form of inappropriate or really personal question. I am fully aware that no one intended it to be that way, so this is merely to help others in the future. If you have asked me any of the below or said anything like these, please don’t feel this is a dig. I assure you, I hold no ill-will and know it came from a good place 😉

  1. In 90% of the conversations I’ve had about my WLS, the first question has been: Was it NHS or Private?
    • Please don’t ask us this question – there is no right answer! The NHS means we’re wasting the tax-payers’ money and going privately means we’re rolling in the dough or heavily in debt. It’s an incredibly awkward question and the equivalent of asking if you own your house, is it mortgaged, on benefits or rented.
  2. How much did you weigh before?
    • Pretty sure I don’t need to tell you why that’s inappropriate.
  3. So, you’ve cheated. 

Now, luckily, I’ve never had anyone dare say the third one to me and mostly I’ve had supportive responses, which was not what I expected. However, many of my bariatric friends have had people accost them with their judgements on this ‘quick fix.’ So, I would like to highlight some aspects of WLS for you.

Weight loss surgery is NOT the easy way out. It is bloody hard. So much harder than the movies and TV shows will make you think. It is always the last resort. You are having major surgery (yes, it’s keyhole, but someone cutting away 80% of your stomach, putting a band around your stomach or rerouting it all, is major surgery, no matter how you look at it). The recovery period lasts anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks and often more. You run the risk of death. Not just from going under, but from leaks and sepsis, which is not as rare as you would like to think.

If you ignore the initial risks, you then need to take into account the following:

  • Almost all WLS requires a pre-op diet, which is designed to shrink your liver for easy access. In most cases this requires either a 1000 cal limit a day for anywhere from 2-8 weeks, or a milk only diet. This is where you are allowed 4 pints of milk, 1 oxo cube drink and 1 small pot of sugar free jelly a day. That’s it. For at least 14 days. So, consider this when chatting to a person who had WLS: There is a good chance this person chose not to eat at all for 14 days. Don’t dare tell them they couldn’t follow a diet or didn’t have the perseverance. I did this diet. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done and I had an incredible sense of achievement from it.
  • A lifetime of change.
    • Foods you loved before, you will now either not love or be completely unable to eat. For bypassers and some sleevers, chocolate and sweet foods could result in dumping syndrome: palpitations, extreme pain and fatigue, and a good day or two on the loo, with everything flying out both sides. Again, you may think this is an easy way out of dealing with cravings. It’s not. It means every party you go to, every event, will be stressful, filled with temptation that pulls at your heart and filled with people asking you why you aren’t eating.  You run this risk with every new food you try. For some people, it’s not just sweet things. For me, it was chilli. I can now no longer eat chilli and that’s not a lesson I’m willing to learn again!
    • How you eat changes completely. You now need to follow the 20-20-20 rule for the rest of your life. Leave 20 seconds between bites, chew each bite 20 times and finish after 20 minutes. You can also add ‘eat only bites the size of a 20p coin’ to the list. In addition, you’re not allowed to drink anything while eating and need very small portions.
    • WLS is not a quick fix – it lasts for 2 years and after that, you need to stick to these rules religiously, or run the likely risk of picking up all your weight again. This happens often. However, those that do stick to the rules, manage to keep it all off.
    • Pain. So much pain.
      • Some people have incredibly long recovery times after the op. I was lucky and was back up to ‘normal’ (albeit with pain) within a week or two. Friends have suffered in serious pain for over 6 weeks.
      • Eating is agony. I’m 12 weeks post op and still have to lie down each time I eat. As the food goes down, it’s as if it I’m swallowing a knife (regardless of the food, thick yogurt does this, too). Then, as it settles in your stomach, it’s tries to find a way to fit and you’re stuck with a good 20 minutes of pain, food rising back up (trust me, when it doesn’t fit, it lets you know!) and general discomfort. And, for the love of god, don’t try bend down after a meal. The food finds the easy way out!
      • A gastric sleeve often results in a lifetime of reflux and heartburn. Yay for us.
      • After you’re fully healed, you will still have the risk of getting food stuck. Cue agony, fatigue, and pretty much all the ‘dumping syndrome’ symptoms, apart from the evacuations, mentioned above.
  • Learning to talk about the weight loss. Whether you’re telling the truth or have a cover story, it is a huge thing in your life. Someone with a cover story has the stress of keeping that up and making sure they don’t contradict themselves forever (and please, please do not judge these people. Society has left them with little choice but to keep it secret). Those of us who choose to tell the world, have to then face criticism and also figure out when to tell people. I had a lovely lady tell me yesterday that I look great for a woman who has a 10 month old. I was quiet and then blurted out, rather loudly and suddenly “I had a gastric sleeve!” Obviously, the poor woman got a shock, as did I and probably everyone else in the room. I had been trying to figure out whether to just say thank you, or admit that it wasn’t ‘natural.’ And my anxiety overcame me…rather loudly. It’s a constant balancing act, which we often fail at.
  • It may not work. Nothing in WLS is concrete and there are people these surgeries don’t end up helping. It’s a hard truth, but one every WLS patient must face.

These are the things we deal with because we have to. Please do not for a second think that this was easy for any of us. Before you judge, ask yourself if you could put yourself through all of this?

Cutting back to my story, I was living my life under a heavy cloud. I was unimaginably miserably and knew I was taking my life, my partner and my children for granted. Two weeks before my op, I was bed-ridden for three days in tears because I caught a glimpse of myself in a video. My appearance made me physically ill. I wasn’t the person on the outside that I was on the inside. I didn’t go out, I didn’t have fun with my kids, I wasn’t giving them the life they deserved and I sure as hell wasn’t giving myself the life I wanted. This op has changed my life. Merely being booked in for this op, having the balls to go ahead with recommendations and doing something about my weight, took a huge weight off. I am so incredibly proud of myself. My mental health didn’t change with the weight loss, it changed with the decision to do something about it. I suddenly me again. I still struggle with depression and anxiety, but at perhaps 10% of what it was before. I run with, laugh with and cuddle my children daily.  I walk with my head up. I smile and mean it. I love myself. No amount of stigma, judgement, pain or discomfort can take that away. I’m proud of my decision and my move and you should be proud of me too.

So, if you’re looking for what to say to a WLS patient, here is my advice:

  • Ask questions. If they’re telling you about it, they’re open to questions. Just be kind and respectful of their privacy. They can tell you whether or not they don’t want to talk about specifics.
  • Instead of saying how thin they look, tell them how healthy they look. I’ve had a few people comment on my weight loss, but those who tell me I look healthy have made me feel wonderful.
  • Congratulate them on doing something for themselves and the hard work it takes.

We each have to live our lives to the best of our abilities and those who have undergone or who are thinking of undergoing WLS know that we aren’t or weren’t doing that. If you had the chance to love yourself again, wouldn’t you jump at it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are some aspects of my life that I would rather talk about, but, for personal reasons, have decided it’s better not to. It’s because of this that I rally against the stifling of ‘taboo’ talk and why I try to spread awareness of issues that people feel they have to keep quiet about.

Since giving birth to my son, I have become increasingly aware of the sheer volume of women who have suffered miscarriages and how difficult they find it to talk about. Perhaps I notice it more, or perhaps I’ve started to surround myself with mums or women trying to conceive – whatever the reason, I’ve been determined to spread awareness and make these mums feel more able to talk about their experiences and acknowledge their losses.

Never did I imagine that I would join these women in their grief and confusion. I have recently had two miscarriages and have been faced with medical professionals that not only won’t investigate what happened, but who don’t believe me. Below is my story – I apologise about the length, any details that may seem graphic and about the terrible writing.

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I’ve recently had a ‘Facebook purge.’ This is not something I’m particularly good at, for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t like upsetting people, despite having a temper and occasionally going on an offensive rampage; I really don’t like the idea that what I say or do, could hurt someone. Secondly, I like to keep in touch with people from my past and I love Facebook for that specific reason.

Most would think my purge was due to the Parisian crisis and the ‘anti-refugee’ nonsense that is spreading through most of our newsfeeds. In truth, I was hurt a few days prior by someone, whom I had considered a friend. She posted a rather nasty and hurtful article about parents ‘arrogantly’ posting photos of their children.*

Now, I’m no fool. I don’t expect everyone to enjoy the constant stream of baby photos, to like every one of them or even to give to give them a second glance. What I do expect, however, is for my ‘friends’ to show a modicum of respect and intelligence.

Who the fuck are you to insist that I stop posting photos of my son, on my Facebook profile, because you don’t want children? Well, whoop for you. My posts in no way suggest that you should jump on the breeding bandwagon. In fact, by the sounds of it, you probably shouldn’t. I post stuff about my child, on my newsfeed, for my enjoyment, not yours.

Facebook has these fancy features, called ‘hiding,’ ‘unfollowing,’ ‘blocking’ and ‘unfriending.’ It may be hard for you to understand, but:

I am not responsible for your newsfeed and I do not expect you to be responsible for mine.

I have often been annoyed by people’s incessant posts of their children (21 photos showing a child holding a dead bird) or photos of their pets’ poop and so I have simply unfollowed them. Facebook has made it really simple for me to decide what appears on my newsfeed and so I choose to use these features – why is it so hard for you to do the same?

If you don’t like something that I post then hide it, unfollow me, block me or unfriend me. Frankly, I don’t care either way. It’s been a long time since those actions offended me. I understand that you’re not keen on your newsfeed being filled with photos of children, but understand that, whilst I have other aspects of life that interest me and I don’t define my personality by motherhood, nothing is more important to me than my son. My partner and my child are my everything and I love posting about them.

I post for other reasons – I have family and friends in South Africa that love to see photos of my son’s development and I love to have these memories pop up on my feed a year later – but mostly, I post because I want to.

*For my hypocrite and irony seekers out there (and there are many), I am aware that this too is a nasty and hurtful article.

Motherhood is a never-ending lesson and, yet, I think most of what I’ve learnt since giving birth is not child-related at all, but a crude insight into what people can really be like.

Prior to falling pregnant, people seemed to mind their manners a lot more, but the post-birth woman lives in a league of her own. Since having John, I have received messages from people I barely have a passing acquaintance with, telling me the jumperoo he sits in is bad for him, what I’m feeding him is poisoning him, how he shouldn’t sleep with this type of blanket, he needs a bumper around his cot, his cot should NEVER have a bumper (are you trying to kill your child?!), I need to co-sleep, I shouldn’t co-sleep, breastfeed, bottle feed… I could go on.

The UK has gone completely overboard with their rules and regulations (understandably trying to save themselves from the inevitable law suits), but I can’t understand why mothers insist on terrifying other mothers with these over-the-top rules and clearly inferring that we have inferior parenting skills.

What on earth did we do before Google? I’m sure my parents fed me whatever they were having for dinner, and yet, Google today, and you’ll find a reason to ban all solids from your child’s diet until they’re 21. We have recently started introducing them to my 5 month old and, this week, we introduced him to strawberries and kiwi. The former resulted in a tantrum that lasted over an hour and the second resulted in him licking is own bib clean. Trying out new foods with your child is fun and exciting.

Not two minutes after posting his likes and dislikes, I receive a message telling me that strawberries can be deadly to an infant. In a panic, I Google and find out all the various ways my child will now suffer because of my ignorance. It was only when I went onto a mum’s group and asked the level-headed women there, did I find that most of them fed their children strawberries with no reaction whatsoever. Like anything, there is a chance of an allergic reaction, but the morbid, over-the-top warning that I received was pathetic and cruel.

I find it hard to understand why women automatically assume that child-birth gives them the right to inundate unwilling mothers with lectures, threats and warnings. It is rude and unnecessary.

Please do not assume that propelling a child from my uterus makes me an eager participant in your attempt at a power-trip.

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