Socially Anxious Mums: What you don’t know

I never considered myself a very anxious person until I started being put into situations I wasn’t in complete control of. As a teen who chose the road less travelled, I spent the years leading up to motherhood flinging myself from friend group to friend group to boyfriend to home and as soon as a situation became uncomfortable or difficult, I would part ways. I was never around someone I didn’t want to be around for very long.

As my life switched from selfishness to selflessness and I became a mum to my eldest daughter, I became much more introverted. I was even more picky about who I would spend my time with and I assumed that was because my maternal instincts had settled in and I was protective of my new baby. Little did I know, there was another reason for my sudden withdrawal from social life – social anxiety.

In the past, I’d found myself 100% in control of the situations I’d be in and the people I’d spend my time with. That changed as my daughter grew older and began daycare, kinder and finally primary school. I found myself taking her to birthday parties and play dates with friends and it would take every ounce of will lower in my body to get myself up and out the door. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do these things because I wanted nothing more than to be the fun, sociable, school mum who helps out with excursions and has coffee 3 times a week with other parents. As much as I would try to convince myself I was being silly and I had nothing to worry about, my head would fill with things like “what are you going to talk about?”, “don’t mention your past!”, “be honest about your past, honesty is the best policy…”, “you have nothing to talk about, they’ll think your just a kid!”… and just like that, the butterflies in my tummy would become a swarm and I’d find myself avoiding play dates, shoving my face into my phone at birthday parties or as my current situation, have my mum do school drop off and pick up for me. I always push myself to attend the parties and school events but I do it because I want my daughter to know I tried my best.

I suffer from social anxiety. Social anxiety can be someone having a fear of crowds to a person having a fear of certain social settings or very commonly, all social settings to some extent. It can be a debilitating and isolating condition which is difficult to understand for those who have never been effected by it. Social anxiety is common with depression, general anxiety and other mental health conditions as well as many psychiatric conditions.

As a mum, I have found the excessive guilt that comes along with not aligning with societies stereotypes of “the perfect mother” has been the most difficult part of being socially anxious. I become extremely depressed in when I find myself stuck in the pattern of thinking about what I want our lives to look like and not being as good as the other school mums and losing time with my kids. All I want is to be happy and be the mum they deserve.

There is a stigma attached to mental health and mothers that needs to be addressed. All parents should feel supported enough to be able to ask for help and be open about what they are struggling with. There needs to be support available and accessible to parents to help them be the best parents they can be. Information and eliminating the stigma so mothers feel comfortable being open about their struggles would open doors and allow access to opportunities for children who’s mothers need that extra bit of support.

I have two very understanding little girls, who are very patient with me. I believe in honesty from a perspective on their level, I explain things in ways they can comprehend with examples that they can relate to. I want them to know that if they ever struggle with their mental health or anything else, that they can feel comfortable in being open and honest and asking for help. The harm is done when you hide things.

An Open Letter: to someone that I used to know

I remember the first time I spoke to you, or even heard your name. I was sitting in Macy’s* bedroom and you two were friends. It was Macy’s idea to go to your house and get drunk, even though we were only 16. I remember walking through your back gate and seeing a commission house for the first time in my life. Your brothers were drunk in the backyard, arguing and joking around, just being loud. I remember your mum answering the door and greeting us warmly while trying to hide the bruises on her face… I grew very close with your mum over time.

I remember your bedroom, the tidiest room in the house. You kept it immaculate because it was the only thing you had control of in your house. Your room and everything in it were yours and you took pride in every single possession you owned, from your clothes to your burnt CDs. You had a cage with three rats, a few cats and a dog who was like your daughter. You kept a brave face on, I’m not sure how long you’d been doing that before you met me but you were pretty good at it by that stage.

I remember forming a friendship with you that night. I never saw it coming but you became the most loyal and kind friend I have ever had… and it all began that night. Countless hours of walking the streets, at all hours, just enjoying the freedom of our teens. Cigarettes, wine and weed… we weren’t criminals, we were kids. I had spent years longing for a sister, someone to be there through my ups and downs, someone to play with and I found it in you.

I spent everyday at your house, if not with you then with your mum or your brothers or just sleeping in your bed until you came home. Your mum yelled at me like I was her own, your stepdad shook his head when he caught me smoking and I’d argue with your brothers like I’d known them my whole life. And I loved every second of it. You and your family welcomed me with open arms and I returned the love by being there for each and every one of you in both your good and dark times. I came from a quiet home with no siblings and you and your family gave me what I needed.

You were always so innocent and naïve but you taught me everything I knew nothing about, like what it’s like to have siblings and how to stand up for myself. You also showed me what it was like to wake up and have empty cupboards, to have to care for not only your younger siblings but your parents who struggled with addiction. You showed me what real strength looked like and I showed you what a real friend looked like. We would catch the train to my house and I’d fill up a bag with pasta and meat and sauce and we’d head back to your place to feed everyone. I wiped away your tears when things got too tough and you told me when I was being an idiot. We could go any period of time without seeing each other and it wouldn’t change a thing – we always greeted each other with open arms.

I was there when you met Sam*. He used to get mad because you’d let me sleep in the bed with you guys, I think I made him cry once. But he’s looked after you and I love him for that. You even made me godmother to your son. I was there for the birth. You trusted me with that role and I will be forever grateful.

Sam saved you, you know. He took you away, with your son, and now you are kicking so many goals. You aren’t trapped by poverty or addiction anymore… you have a family, you have a job, you have a home and you have a life far from the one you were bound to once upon a time. It’s been 8 years now, since you moved away… I was so mad at you. You left when I was in an abusive relationship, controlled by addiction. I gave birth without you by my side and then I became a single mother without your shoulder to lean on and slowly but surely, our phone calls became far and few in between. We lived seperate lives, now. Deep down, I hated you for leaving me behind. I know now It wasn’t hate… it was hurt.

I don’t hate you, I never could. I understand, though. I dream of the day I don’t have to watch your life through a screen… I hope our kids can grow up together. Above anything, I hope you know that I’m proud of you, from over here. You broke the cycle, babe.

It’s okay to feel ripped off by COVID

When this all began in 2020, I was 28 years old. I had a 4 year old daughter who was a handful but a happy handful. I had a partner who had been living with us for nearly 12 months and we were pretty happy. We’d booked a holiday for my daughters 5th birthday which was in March and we were really excited about it! Not only was it going to be my daughters first holiday but it was also my own first real holiday and I’d managed to scrape up the money all on my own without having to ask my family for a hand. Things were going well.

We never made it to Queensland, though. Our nationwide lockdown began on the 30th of a March, the same day as my daughters birthday and a day after we were supposed to fly out. We would have been stuck in another state for months… looking back now, that may not have been such a bad thing. That was the first of 6 hard lockdowns that Victorians faced throughout the following 18 months, with the days adding up to more than 260 as of December 2021. Restrictions in place meant that people were only allowed up to 2 hours outdoors a day and only essential services and supermarkets were open. Schools only ran remotely, meaning children have lost the best part of two years learning in a classroom and playgrounds were closed for a large portion of the lockdown period.

That was coming up to two years ago. Two years that feels like a very painful blink of an eye for most Melbournians, who are not only residents of the most locked down city in the country but the most locked down city in the world.

COVID has felt like a universally bad dream that we couldn’t wake up from. Our lives, relationships, jobs, homes… nothing was left untouched. The deaths, although extensive, were a small detail on the list of damages left behind by COVID restrictions, lockdowns and isolation periods. Hard workers lost their jobs, which meant some lost their homes, kids fell behind in school and people with once good mental health began experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Adult children couldn’t say goodbye to loved ones in retirement homes, funerals were cut down to 10 mourners and weddings were put on hold for an uncertain amount of time. Nobody was safe from the impacts of COVID-19.

My experience centred around my home, my family and our mental health. I fell pregnant in May 2020 and gave birth the following February. And as if it wasn’t bad enough that I had lost my 6 year old daughters final year of kindergarten to COVID and lockdown but I watched my daughter slowly becoming a different person… her spark was starting to dim and she was struggling with her own mental health. I was helpless in watching it happen… It was Melbourne’s 6th lockdown that was the icing on the cake. My daughter most likely had undiagnosed ADHD before COVID but the uncertainty of the last two years really intensified her behaviour to the point where we are currently seeking medical intervention after the informal diagnosis of ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). I am left sitting here wondering whether this was our path all along or whether COVID put us here…

It’s okay to feel ripped off by COVID. I do! I was supposed to be enjoying my children and showing them the world before they grow up. I wasn’t supposed to be a grumpy, tired, stressed, anxious mess of a mother. That’s what I have become, though… I feel like as each day goes on I am losing another day of freedom with my daughter, another day of enjoying her childhood, another day of my life. I am doubled vaxxed as is my family and when they can, my children will be too. But that doesn’t replace the time we’ve lost being stuck between these walls. It won’t give my daughter those two years of crucial early childhood development. It won’t make the world feel normal again… because like with everything, once you move forward… you very rarely go back.

Why I tell my daughter ‘God is a tree’

Sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it? But when it comes to children, isn’t it the most simple explanation?

Eleven years at a Catholic school taught me a lot. I learned about compassion, understanding, generosity, love and kindness. I also learned a bit about the bible… which I made a very educated decision not to follow once I left school. The term ‘non-practicing’ wouldn’t quite fit how I view Catholicism now, I would be more inclined to say I am an ‘ex-catholic’. There were many parts of the church, the bible, the context and the reality of the story of Jesus I didn’t resonate with and I couldn’t pretend to believe in something that I just couldn’t get my head around.

After finishing school, I found myself much more interested in the history of the Earth and human consciousness. I became one of those people who would watch endless videos about the universe, reincarnation, consciousness and anything that was remotely related. It became a bit of an obsession for a while actually, I think I began to enter an existential crisis…

Now, at age thirty and after countless hours of researching religion and consciousness, I do have a very open and new outlook on the world. I also have two little girls, one of whom has asked me about God and Jesus. As a girl who grew up in a Catholic household, I only knew one answer to the question ‘mummy, who’s god?” and I didn’t want to give her the standard man on a cloud crap that I was raised on. I didn’t want to lie to her and tell her something I didn’t believe. I told her everyone has a different version, their own version, of God as did I, and they were all different. “God is a tree…”. You should have seen the look she gave me, like I’d just lied straight to her face. My daughter is a very smart 6 year old, she wasn’t going to go for the tree thing… she never has. Apparently, God is a man… a man on a cloud, actually. And, I am very wrong. So, basically, she thought I lied to her regardless.

This opened the gates to a conversation that I was never going to win. 6 year olds don’t understand what perception is, so that was also a dead end. Was my daughter destined to grow up thinking a man who lives on a cloud is more believable than a tree being a semi-conscious? Yes, she was.

My personal view is that God is everything. God is the name of the process in which life happens: the flowers growing, being born, the birds singing… the process of everything. I believe God is an invisible force of energy running the world from behind the scenes. This isn’t a view I struggle to explain to my mum, so I’d probably confuse the shit out of a 6 year old.

This is why I use the ‘God is a tree’ line…… I’m not lying to her but I’m not confusing her, either. Saying this leaves the doors open for her to make her own mind up one day, as every religion would agree in some metaphorical way that, God is in fact, a tree. I’m definitely not brainwashing her, she thinks I’m crazy. If I’m totally honest with you, though, I’d rather tell her going to church is being in nature than see her eating a rice cracker that symbolises a persons body and drinking wine symbolising their blood.

An Open Letter To My First Bully

This is part of a collection of short stories depicting and detailing true events and personal experiences in my life, with a few tweaks for the privacy of all involved.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with bullying or depression or mental health in general, please seek the help of your GP or healthcare professional or a friend/family member.

I should begin by saying, for the most part, I didn’t have bullies who went out of their way to target me. That happened on a few occasions, usually very short lived though. My bullying took place in the corridors, on the school bus, out in the yard… the places where it was basically unavoidable in a school environment.

It began in primary school, and I remember feeling hurt. I remember the feeling of sadness and loneliness, I remember questioning myself with “why me” probably the first time in my life and worst of all, I remember trying to be friends with you. We couldn’t have been more than 8 and I was new to your school. The nerves were there, I didn’t know anybody and I was the chubby little girl of a young single mum. I already felt different but you cemented that for me right from the start. Our teacher assigned you and your friends to show me around, hang out with me and basically just be a friend to me. Instead, as I tried to play along with you and your friends, you said “don’t touch me” and looked at me with disgust. I remember that moment so clearly and it was 22 years ago. I remember the burning sensation as my face turned bright red, the tears welling up in my eyes as I tried not to blink and create a waterfall down my cheeks… That was the first time I felt sadness, real sadness.

In the years that followed, I have many memories of feeling left out and eating lunch alone, having nobody to partner up with for activities, cruel words being said to me on the playground… I was never mean to you, to any of you. I was quiet, I was harmless. You made me quiet, actually. Before I changed schools, I wasn’t this quiet and isolated. I wanted to be a Vet, I wanted to get married and have lots of kids. I could have been school captain one day or the lead in the school production. I had friends at my first school that I didn’t want to leave, it wasn’t my choice though. And after that nerve racking summer when I finally stepped foot into your school, you lived up to my expectations of what changing to a new school would be like. All of my 8 year old anxieties were verified when you would all stare at me and whisper, calling me fat just loud enough so I’d hear you but not so loud the teacher would notice. 8 year olds don’t treat people this way without reason, without learning the behaviour and actions from someone else…

It was after school in the courtyard when you and your friend ran up to me and stood in my way as I walked down to meet my mum at her car. “Is that your sister that picks you up?” You knew damn well who it was but politely, I reminded you that it was, in fact, my mum. You giggled and ran back your mum, to report your findings. I remember her looking at me… judging a child for the age of her mother. Catholic school parents… And that’s the first time I heard the word bastard.

You had to end up at the same high school as me, as if I hadn’t endured enough of your negativity. I never had much to do with the popular girls in high school but I’m sure you told them all about me. What you didn’t tell them is that I used to be bright, I was happy and I had potential. I wonder if you let them know about the time you bellowed at me in front of the whole grade 5 class for something I wore on free dress day… probably not.

I hate that I still think about you. I hate that you still occupy space in my head. I am sure you haven’t thought of me since the last time you saw me. I was nothing to you. I was just something you used to kick when you’d walk past, an object to flick stones at when you were bored… I didn’t take up an inch of space in your mind. And I still don’t. So why am I left with your shadow burned into my memory? It doesn’t seem fair that you earned a place in my head forever by destroying my self esteem. I was a nice girl who you teased and isolated until I basically gave up on myself.

I labelled this article “An Open Letter To My First Bully” because you were the one who started it all. You were the Regina George of primary school, if you were mean to me… so was everyone else. And then that followed me through high school, as well. I failed high school because I was too afraid to ask for help, too afraid to join in during class, too afraid to even remotely stand out. After I left school, with zero self esteem, I searched for somewhere to belong. I didn’t find a job but I found drugs. Due to drugs, I ended up in abusive relationships and now I am sitting up writing a blog about you because when I try to pin point how it all went wrong, I keep coming back to you.

I guess I just wanted you to know that…

I had potential before I met you.

5 Simple Ways to Introduce Your Kids to Environmentalism

It’s no secret that our planet is in trouble. The pollution, environmental carnage and global warming are not only a big deal but they are our big deal. The human race has spent hundreds of years evolving into a mindless species that forgot where we came from. Instead of tending to the earth, living with her harmoniously and putting her health first, we are essentially destroying our life source. Where do we go when the earth is no longer an option?

We can never go back but we can move forward in a positive direction. Our time here is limited but we can leave behind a legacy that deserves to be kept alive and we can do that by creating awareness, excitement and education tailored around informing our kids – the leaders of the future – that our number one priority should and has to be our planet.

1. Start them young

Our kids minds are at their most absorbent in the first years of life. That’s why with something as important as caring for the Earth and environmental awareness should be introduced as soon as possible. By beginning early, kids have more of a chance to adopt the behaviours you teach them as core information for later in life. We’ll have a bunch of little humanitarians running the world before you know it!

2. Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle

What could be more fun than arts and crafts? And it’s even better when you are up-cycling using old plastics, jars, bottles, lids….. This is definitely something little kids would go for! It’s a great chance to start a conversation, too. Discussing why you are using the rubbish to make art or why we want to have less rubbish in the bins is great banter for this kind of activity!

3. “Earth” by Lil Dicky

Hear me out! Yes, it’s not quite for young ears… and how I wish Lil Dicky had made a clean version of this song because it has so much potential to change how kids view the earth. If you don’t mind your kids listening to a few swear words here and there, I recommend throwing this jam on in the car on the way to school in the mornings. If this doesn’t get your kid thinking, I don’t know what will. (Plus, it’s super catchy!) We want the future leaders of this planet to be excited and motivated when it comes to taking action against climate change and global warming. In a world where we are becoming more and more reliant on instant satisfaction, great effort needs to be put in to amp kids up to make long term changes that they may not see the benefits of for a long time.

4. Don’t beat around the bush

Kids aren’t stupid, they seem to know a lot more than kids did thirty years ago. They understand more, too. That’s why when it comes to things like climate change and the environment, don’t lie to them – it will not do them any good. Tell them the truth, be brutally honest, be informative and see what happens. Children generally have an empathetic nature and we need to give them credit for that by being honest with them. Climate change is so important… and in this situation, what they don’t know can hurt them.

5. Teach your kids how to bond with the Earth

Outdoor meditation has grown in popularity over the last decade. For relaxation, spiritual awareness, health, clarity… meditating has so many beneficial qualities for your mind, body and spirit – imagine how great it could be for a child to access the elements of mediation before they actually need it.

If meditation isn’t right for your family, try taking a nature walk or having a picnic in the park. Kids resonate strongly with the outdoors so any time spent with Mother Nature is a great opportunity for bonding time.

Here is a list with a few starting points to get your family excited about making difference in your community:

Clean Up Australia Day is held on the first Sunday of March every year and encourages people to clean up their local areas. You can join in quietly or head to their website to join a group clean-up.

World Environment Day is celebrated annually on 5 June and is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment.

Earth Day, on April 22nd, is an international event celebrated around the world to pledge support for environmental protection. It has been noticed annually for 51 years. The theme for Earth Day this year was ‘Restore Our Earth’.

News Flash! I am not a perfect parent and neither are you!

Before I begin, I should explain what lead me to write this article. It was a post I saw on a Facebook Mothers’ Group but it wasn’t so much the post that bothered me… it was the comments. And it wasn’t the comments directed at the OP, it was the comments I received in regards to my response. The post was about a lady who had decided to introduce her 3.5 month old baby to solids. I responded by explaining that I started both my girls trying different flavours around 4-6 months old. (The recommended age, as stated on Australian Parenting Website, babies will start to show signs of being ready for solids around 6 months of age but every child is different. It is not recommended babies under 4 months are given solid food.)

I didn’t know how terrible I was until I was informed by a handful of parents who thought it was necessary to not only ridicule this woman but condemn me and my parenting because they didn’t agree with the age I started introducing solids. I was told to “know better, do better”, I was told my advice was “dangerous” and I was made to feel like I was, in fact, an imperfect mother.

So, this all got me thinking. Am I a bad mother? I have never claimed to be the perfect mum. I have always stood by that I am quite the opposite. I make mistakes, I learn from my mistakes and I try to be open-minded when it comes to all situations. But, in 2021 and after all we have been through during the past two years, have we not moved past the phase of tearing other women down based on speculation and judgement? Have we not learned that women are stronger when we stand together and support each other?

I am genuinely shocked at the amount of criticism thrown around between ladies, especially on a Mothers’ Support Page! Come on girls, we can do better than that, can’t we? Whether you agree or disagree on a point is irrelevant in the end because the key to creating a better future for our kids is practicing understanding, compassion and perspective. Your opinion is just that – yours.

I am not a bad mother, I am the perfect mum for my children. And so are you!

Sensory Activities for Energetic Kids

Christmas is so exciting and that’s double true if you have young children. The magic that is Santa Claus, Family and decorating the Christmas Tree will always be a memorable time of the year that your kids will remember for the rest of their lives. But how often have you spent hours racking your brain to come up with a unique present that won’t get pushed to the back of the cupboard by the time Easter comes? I know I have spent countless nights writing lists and scrolling pages trying to find a gift for my eldest daughter, who has little patience for slow toys. My daughter is almost 7 and she has a lot of energy. She also is a very sensory-driven kid so that means lots of mess, lots of mixing and mashing and lots of outdoor activities! I find it extremely hard to keep her entertained for longer than 5 minutes without taking her out to a playground or to a friends house.

During my hunt for the perfect Christmas gift, I came across a few ideas that are a little too late for Christmas gifts this year but nonetheless, I will share with you all for future reference!

1. Home Jungle Gym

This is what I decided on for my little energiser bunny! Practical, multifunctional and something I don’t think she would have dreamed of in a million years. The downside is you will need the space to safely set it up. But the upside is a jungle gym is something that will get used not just for one year – but they will get fun out of this right up until they hit high school.

Junior Jungle Monsoon
Indoor Wooden Play Gym

2. Sandpit

You can’t go wrong with a sandpit! It is a sensory wonderland: sand, water, mixing, making… and you can find some great sandpits with covers, storage space and water tubs for a great price if you look around. Not just hours but years of fun will be had with a sandpit!

Playfort Sandpit With Canopy
Lifespan Kids Strongbox Sandpit

3. Backyard Obstacle Course

A backyard obstacle course could be the answer to your prayers if you have a child with high energy and you are looking for something that will help them burn some of that energy up. You might struggle to find a full set up but it’s such an easy thing to put together yourself, made up of single activities that you can buy on their own from somewhere like Kmart or Decathlon.

Kmart Balance Beams
Bunnings Kids Tent & Tunnel

4. Boxes and Boxes and Boxes

Everyone loves a good ol’ box fort – especially kids! And who wouldn’t love to wake up on Christmas morning and see a mound of boxes waiting for them? I know my kids would! This is a cheap, out-of-the-box (no pun intended) way to keep your little ones preoccupied for a while. In my house, a box obsession lasts longer than a toy obsession!

Officeworks Boxes
How To Build A Box Fort

5. Teepees with Sticks

Depending on the age, capabilities and interests of your children, large/long sticks (or even small branches) are a great way to keep young ones entertained outdoors as well as keeping their mind active. Box forts? Why not stick forts or teepees? This is a great activity for kids who like to get outside and play in nature. *Adult supervision advised.*

How To Build A Stick Teepee

6. Mud Kitchen

Oh, how I wish I knew about these 5 years ago! Mini wooden kitchens with built in sinks for mud and water… it’s like the perfect sensory story. My daughter would have absolutely lived and breathed this when she was younger – she still would. (If only I could find one big enough for her!) The best part is, you can hook the mud kitchen up to your tap so the children get to work on their life skills by turning the taps on and off as well as getting messy!

Lifespan Mud Kitchen
Fruugo Outdoor Mud Kitchen

If you have any other sensory activity ideas to keep the kids entertained for more than a minute, let us know in the comments!

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Cruel Truth

Trigger Warning: Pregnancy Termination & Pregnancy Loss.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with pregnancy, loss or depression, please seek immediate help from your GP or healthcare professional. There is help out there, you aren’t alone. 🤎

Hyperemesis Gravidarum. You have probably never heard of it, unless you have been affected by it first or second hand. Most women go through their lives never hearing the term because, well, it’s not very talked about. But it is real.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is described as excessive vomiting during pregnancy but that is a very vague description in comparison to what some women go through. Hyperemesis (or HG) is a debilitating condition that prevents the pregnant woman from ingesting food, ingesting water. It effects around 1% of women and when suffering from HG, pregnancy is considered as “high risk”. The severity can range from mild to extreme, with extreme cases being admitted to hospital and in some cases, early induction is needed for the well-being of both mum and baby. The key factors that define HG are weight loss in excess of 5kgs during the first trimester, constant and debilitating nausea, extreme food aversion, extreme dehydration due to excessive vomiting… basically, it makes morning sickness look like a hangover.

I have been pregnant 6 times: I miscarried at 7 weeks when I was 18 , I had a termination when I was 21, I gave birth to my eldest daughter almost 7 years ago, I had another termination a few years later, I then gave birth to my youngest daughter 9 months ago and I recently found out I am pregnant, again. It’s hard to imagine that, at the age of 30, I could have had 6 children right now – ranging in ages from 12 to unborn…… I couldn’t possibly picture myself with so many kids.

Although, every one of these pregnancies was very different in circumstance, they all had one commonality – I was severely ill from the earliest stage possible. It seemed that once I had confirmed my pregnancy with a home test, the sickness would begin and overwhelm me completely. Pregnancy was never beautiful or enjoyable for me. I would look at pregnant women on Instagram and I would sit in bed and cry seeing their beautiful maternity shoots or the lavish baby showers decked out with cakes and treats. I struggled to get out of bed, I struggled to play with my kids, I struggled to go to birthdays and celebrate life because I was constantly nauseous. Pregnancy was, for me, a traumatic and unpleasant means to a beautiful ending.

So in saying that, I waited 6 years between having my daughters and for very good reason – I needed my biggest one to be at least partly self sufficient just to be able to cope with being so sick again. There was so much guilt and so many tears over the 9 months I was barely able to interact with my daughter. She was very understanding but how understanding can a 5 year old really be, right?

Those two pregnancies where I carried to full term almost killed me. They didn’t just physically drain me, my mental health and emotional health was put to the test in ways I never imagined. My two girls are my rewards for putting my body through that kind of trauma. And although, I would have loved a big family, my body just won’t allow it. I’m afraid if I go back again, I won’t make it out the other side and that’s a big risk when you have babies who rely on you. That doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen, though. Just because I said I was done, that doesn’t mean I won’t ever fall pregnant again. Because I can… and I did.

I was on the pill, we used condoms, we tried to be safe but we still fell pregnant. And I became bed-ridden, once again. With now a 9 month old baby and a near 7 year old with excess energy – another baby was a dream best left in my mind. I struggle at the best of times and even though I always saw myself with a big family, it wouldn’t have been a responsible choice given my babies who were already earth-side just wouldn’t be getting the attention they need from their mummy for potentially the next 7 months. I’d already spent the best of the last 3 weeks with my head in the toilet… it was already affecting my ability to parent.

So, I had only one option. My 6th pregnancy became my 3rd surgical termination and preferably my last of both. My mind was sitting uncomfortably somewhere between tubal sterilisation and grieving my ability to create a baby with my body. It’s a cruel condition, HG. Essentially, for me, being pregnant was an allergy; the only answer being taking my chances with it, avoiding it entirely or terminating for the sake of my health and my children. Thoughts like “the ability to carry a child and give birth does not define me as a mother” and “there is a place in the world for women like me” now dancing in my mind. I was now experiencing a whole new genre of trauma: attempting to accept I will never carry another baby, I will never give birth to another baby and our family will never become a family of 5 is going to be harder than I thought…

ODD: An Informal Diagnosis

This article is based on my personal experiences with my daughter, this is not a medical opinion. If you are concerned about yours or your children’s mental health, please speak to your GP or healthcare professional.

As I write this, I am sat in bed with tears welled up in my eyes. Today, my heart feels heavier than it did yesterday. Today, we finally had Anna’s appointment with a paediatrician to get a diagnosis regarding her behaviour.

After waiting months to see someone, trying to navigate and minimise and adapt to my 6 year old daughters internal crisis, the moment finally came. I had built this day up in my mind: this was going to be the first day of our journey, the first day towards healing my little girl, the first day of an easier life. I was sure that this appointment would be the starting point of therapy, medication, parent training… this was going to make both of our lives better.

I was almost speechless as I paid the $390 fee after our 45 minute consultation. The appointment had been productive to an extent: we talked about our concerns, the doctor asked both Anna and us a few questions, he did a quick physical on Anna and that’s about it. I left with a piece of paper that has some strategies for coping and managing Oppositional Defiant Disorder, a survey for Anna’s teacher to fill out and an appointment in 6 weeks time.

I spent $390 to have what I already knew confirmed and I left with no helpful advice and no idea what to do next. I knew this would be a long and difficult journey but I thought we’d get some more insight or support. All we got was a “see how you go and we’ll catch up in 6 weeks to take it from there”. It’s almost soul crushing, considering we’ve spent months trying to keep Anna’s mental health at bay waiting for this appointment.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is the holy grail of conditions in children. The words ‘oppositional’ and ‘defiant’ are key and when you are talking about a young child, these are very trying qualities for a parent to encounter and they occur everyday, multiple times a day.

Behaviours can vary depending on the child but the main traits involved are:

1. Arguing with adults and/or authority figures.

2. Deliberately disobeying and/or breaking rules.

3. Regular and unreasonable irritability and an anger.

4. Thinks what they are being asked to do is “unfair”.

5. Refusing to comply with tasks that have been asked of them.

6. Always blames others for their mistakes or actions.

7. Purposely annoys or harasses, sometimes for attention and other times without reason or cause.

These are very difficult qualities for a young child, in our case a 6 year old girl, to possess. Managing ODD behaviour involves a lot of minimising the risks and patience from a parental perspective. I have done a lot of research and reading only to come to the conclusion that ODD is a long road with no cure or answers… a little disheartening, I must say. In saying that, I will continue to wake up and greet my daughter with a fresh smile and a fresh set of eyes everyday. I’m just anxious about the road we have ahead of us…