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How my lack of sex drive was linked with Postnatal Depression

So your vagina is ruined and your bum is still throbbing and ten days after giving birth your partner asks, “can I have a blow job?” What is your first answer? How polite can you be? Do you say, “I’m not really in the mood sweetheart”, or do you say “when was the last time you squeezed a watermelon out of your bell end, you piece of sh*t?”

Now, I know that every woman is different and hormones affect us all in weird and not-so-wonderful ways, so I can only vouch for myself here, but my lack of sex drive was just the tip of the iceberg in what has been a very long journey to self recovery.  This is a long story, but please stay with me because my experiences may help you as a mama.

I’ll start from the beginning…

About 45 minutes after giving birth I decided to go and have a shower and rinse away the blood, sweat and tears. When I stood up from the bed I had spent the last 12 hours in, I realised the extent of what had just happened to my body. Ciaran and I looked at the pool of blood on the bed, then looked at each other and simultaneously said, “what the F*CK!”. It was at that precise moment that I thought, “I am NEVER having sex again!”

I bled for 4 weeks after Alfie was born and I took that time to allow my body heal and my uterus to contract back down. At no point during that period did I ever get any urges to pounce on Ciaran, but it was still early days and completely reasonable. By week six post-baby Ciaran’s patience was wearing thin – I hadn’t even looked at his penis since I was about 35 weeks pregnant and his balls were about to burst!

Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of women that got back on the saddle weeks after giving birth so if you’re of them I take my hat off to you. Please share this sorcery with me, because it took me eight months to even want to look at a penis again. EIGHT F*CKING MONTHS.

The First Time…

Anyway, 6 weeks after giving birth and 8 weeks since the last time we had sex, I decided to open the gates to my (still healing) lady garden. Welllllll. BIGGEST mistake of my life. The grazes on my flaps that I thought had healed felt like they were being scraped open with a hot steak knife! No word of a lie, I cried. It felt like the burning sensation of a human skull tearing through my vagina all over again.

It was safe to say it lasted all of thirty seconds and neither myself or Ciaran “finished” – if you catch my drift. In fact, we barely even started. The he asked the question, “can you just give me a BJ instead?” to which I replied “can you F*CK”.

I was so traumatised that we didn’t even try to have sex again for another six weeks! Six weeks of having an impatient, raging erection sticking in my back every night.

According to Ciaran, “It was like I was a 12 year old boy who’d just hit puberty, and all I could think about was sex. I looked at vegetables and thought about sex. I’d look at an old woman in the street and think about sex. It was bloody embarrassing, like why the hell am I thinking about sex you’re 50!” (I apologise to any women over 50 on his behalf, you’re not that old!) He’s not over exaggerating either, if the wind changed slightly he got an awkward boners!

Attempt number two…

Even though I still wasn’t up to it, I knew that six weeks was a longgggg time without any kind of sexual activity. So we tried again. To put it into perspective how long it had actually been, Alfie was born in September and we had only had sex once (for thirty seconds) between then and Christmas! So yeah, I felt duty bound as a girlfriend to at least give his penis the time of day.

Second attempt wasn’t as horrific as the second time. I wasn’t really in the mood at first but once things had hotted up a bit I felt comfortable and actually quite enjoyed it, but there still wasn’t something right.

Something wasn’t right

I couldn’t put my finger on why my sex drive had taken a total nose dive. Why didn’t I want to have sex? Was I blaming Ciaran for what happened to my vagina (yes, kind of)? Did I still find him attractive? Did I still find myself attractive? So many questions were running through my head and the more I asked myself ‘why?’, the more I drove myself insane.

Not only did my sex drive plummet, so did my self confidence. My body wasn’t the same anymore and I hated it. I might have escaped the typical tummy stretch marks during pregnancy, but I had made up for it on my legs. You see, when I gain weight it all goes to my legs and bum. So although my stomach ‘snapped back’, I had hideous stretch marks on my inner thighs – one of the most intimate parts of a woman’s body.

Was it this that subconsciously stopped me wanting to have sex, or was there more to it that that?

Relationship taking a turn for the worse…

On social media you only see what people want you to see – the happy and positive aspects of your life. So naturally everyone outside of my close social circle assumed that my life was all sunshine and rainbows, but behind closed doors I was losing the person I was, and felt like I had no identity anymore. My days consisted of tears, tantrums (me and Alfie) and constant bickering between me and Ciaran.

We kept arguments to text messages and bedtime when Alfie was asleep. Sometimes they’d be triggered by a sly did at each other over silly things like housework, and sometimes they would just take a downwards spiral and become personal.

“Don’t even look at me. Don’t kiss me, don’t touch me, just leave me alone” is how I would normally end the argument and then take myself to bed in a huff and cry. Now I know that everyone has their arguments, but surely these kind of rows shouldn’t be a nightly occurrence?

We were no longer intimate and I felt like I was living with my friend who I happened to share a child with… Nothing more, nothing less. But what I couldn’t get my head around is why four months after giving birth, I STILL wasn’t interested in sex.

I tried everything in my power to get my sex drive back on my own. I even watched porn to see if it would turn me on. NOTHING. Not even so much as a fanny flutter. Dry as a bone. What the f*ck is going on?!

A trip to the doctors

After four months I decided to chat to my closest friends and my mum about what was going on and how I was feeling. Everytime I spoke about it I cried. Enough was enough, I felt miserable almost every day. I didn’t want sex, I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t even want to kiss Ciaran.

I specifically asked for a female doctor when making the appointment. I didn’t want to tell another man about my issues, I was embarrassed and ashamed. As I sat in front of the doctor and started to tell her what was happening I broke down.

“What is wrong with me? Please do something. Give me something that is going to help!” I’m not sure what I was really expecting from her to be honest. “Give a horny pill! F*CK it give me Viagra, I’ll take whatever you’ve got.”

After asking a series of questions, she assured me that I was totally normal and I wasn’t some sort of dried up old psychopath. It became apparent that the issue wasn’t just the lack of libido, but that my mood in general was low and that it would have a knock on effect on my sex drive. Not wanting sex was just the tip of the iceberg. Then she told me something that I wasn’t prepared for.

“You have Postnatal Depression.” I told her I wasn’t depressed and that she had got it wrong. She said it was just mild depression and I had already taken the first step in helping myself already by coming to the doctors. 2015-kidspot-postnataldepression-1000-new-1-660x660-jpg-20160118143842.jpg-q75,dx720y-u0r1g0,c--.jpg

“No, no, no. I’m not depressed, I’m just grumpy and don’t want to have sex anymore.”

I was in denial. I refused to take the anti-depressants because I was ashamed to be associated with the stigma attached to them. I lied to my family about taking them because I just wanted to feel ‘normal’. I decided that I would do everything in my power to avoid having to take these tablets, because I was warned that once I’d started I wasn’t allowed to stop until I’d taken them for six months. Even with the tablets I ran the risk of getting worse to start with, and that terrified me.

When I got home I did my research, and realised that all of the signs were there but I had never spotted them. I was tired and wanted to sleep all the time, but I just put that down to being a new mum. I was anxious over silly things, like making phone calls. My self esteem had vanished, and so had my appetite. The only symptom I’d noticed was the loss of interest in sex because of the amount of strain it put on my relationship.

So what did I do?

Even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking anti-depressants, my depression was mild and I decided to use the “self-help” method instead. I took things one step at a time and invested a lot of time in myself. If I didn’t love myself first then how could anyone else? Or at least that’s what I thought.

Health and fitness

I threw myself into the gym and healthy eating. Exercise releases happy endorphins and chemicals into your brain, making you feel better about yourself. I thrived off that feeling after a workout and loved the burning sensation of sore muscles during the days after exercise. I walked a lot too, even if I didn’t need to go anywhere – I just had to get out of the house for a couple of hours a day. Walking gave me time to think and reflect. It meant that for those couple of hours out in the fresh air, I wasn’t thinking about the mountain of ironing hiding in the spare room, or the fact that I was so skint I couldn’t afford to put petrol in the car.

Taking pride in my appearance

I started to take more pride in my appearance instead of thinking “who would find a washed up whale of a mother attractive anyway?” I actually started shaving my legs again and felt like a woman on a mission… I know, tragic. I washed my hair more than twice a week, and invested in some new clothes (I was still wearing maternity leggings at 4 months post baby. I was skint okayyyyy? The struggle is real). I started wearing makeup everytime I left the house, even if I was just going on one of my walks.

Talking about it

I started speaking openly and honestly about what I was going through, and speaking to people in the same situation as me. Eventually it helped and I realised that I’m not alone!

My health visitor, Louise, who is just amazing, referred me to Talking Changes who were a great help. She also visited me every week and checked in with me to see how I was feeling. She’s been a huge help in my recovery.

Investing time in each other

It occurred to me that Ciaran and I didn’t have fun anymore. We felt like an old married couple stuck in a rut. Just because we had a baby didn’t mean we couldn’t still have fun! We invested more time into each other. We would kiss and cuddle on a night instead of turning our backs to each other and falling asleep without uttering a word. We asked each other about how our days had been, and went on ‘date night’ once a month. Date night didn’t have to be anything flash, after all we were on the bones of our arses skint – so sometimes we would just rent a movie or cook for one another.

Going back to work

I think part of my frustration was boredom. I was bored of being stuck in the house. I was bored of only being known as ‘Alfie’s Mum’. I was bored of no longer having my own identity. The only solution for curing my boredom was to go back to work.

I love Alfie to pieces, but there are only so many consecutive days you can watch Peppa Pig without going insane.

Saying “I love you”

Even though we both already knew we loved each other, we didn’t say it anymore. After almost four years together I’d forgotten to remind Ciaran of how much I appreciated everything he does for me and Alfie, and how hard he works. And I couldn’t remember the last time I told him I love him. So I made a promise to tell him every single day, and he promised too.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes he gets on my tits and I want to strangle him, but it doesn’t mean I love him any less. (Jeeeeeeez this blog is deeper than I intended it to be)

Getting my sex drive back… Finally

Eight months post childbirth and I was finally starting to get my mojo back. After working at our relationship every single day, working on building my self confidence back up and going back to work, I’m finally starting to feel like me again. Of course I’ve grown up and changed because I’m now a mummy – which by the way is the best but hardest f*cking job in the world – but I’m getting back to who I used to be.

And best of all? I’m like a rampant rabbit (too much info I know. I seriously hope you’re not reading this Dad). I’m starting to come to terms with my stretch marks, and no longer have to have sex under the covers with the light off. Sometimes Ciaran has to turn me down. I’m like “come one, why don’t you want me?” and then I realise that that is exactly how he felt for the past eight months… Ooops.

The point I’m trying to make – and I know I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here – is that it doesn’t matter how low you’re feeling after having a baby, there is help out there. Postnatal depression isn’t something to be ashamed of, and I have only realised that now after coming out the other side. I’m stronger and more open minded about mental health than I have ever been before. I realised “sh*t, people DO understand what I’m going through, and I’m not on my own!”

There are times when I feel myself slipping, but then I remember how far I’ve come. Writing this post and starting this blog is part of my “self-help” method, by sharing my experiences with other mamas that may be going through the same thing as me. I remind myself that everyone has their bad days, and feeling low doesn’t make me any less of a mother or mean I love my baby any less. I remind myself that it’s okay not to be okay and I’m doing great.

If you’ve read this story until the end then thank you and I salute you!

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My Itchy Pregnancy With ICP

At around 28 weeks pregnant – just into the third trimester – I noticed my entire body had become increasingly itchy. As I suffer with eczema, I just put the itch down to hormones playing havoc with my skin. I mentioned the itching to my midwife, and she asked “are your hands and feet particularly itchy?” to which I replied no, as it was just my body. She said it was probably just my skin stretching, and as I suspected, the hormones playing havoc with my eczema. She took my bloods like she said she would at my 28 week appointment, and after crying like a baby because I hate needles, I went back to work. 

Becca 32 weeks
Here I am at 32 weeks pregnant. Hiding the itch with a pout.

Over the next week I noticed the itch becoming more and more intense. I sat at my desk literally wanting the writhe the skin from my hands because they were so irritated. Then I remembered what my midwife had asked previously, “are your hands and feet particularly itchy?” WELL THEY BLOODY ARE NOW!!! I excused myself from the office and rang my midwife. She explained that I must have my bloods taken immediately, and made me an appointment with the Pregnancy Assessment Unit (PAU) within the hour. Little did I know that the PAU would be my second home for the rest of my pregnancy.

After four hours of observations, waiting for my blood results to come back from the lab, and excessive itching, I was diagnosed with Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP), commonly known as Obstetric Cholestasis (OC)… I know what you’re thinking, “what the bloody hell is that?!” In short, OC is a liver condition that occurs only in pregnancy, where the normal flow of bile out of the liver leaks into your blood, instead of your digestive system like its supposed to, and affects approximately 1 in 140 pregnancies in the UK.

So I asked the consultant how can I cure it and how will this affect my baby? Unfortunately I didn’t get the answer I wanted! “The only cure is to give birth”…. YES! GIVE BIRTH.

“You mean I have to put up with this horrendous itching for 10 MORE WEEKS?!” Nope, not quite. Some studies show that Obstetric Cholestasis can increase the risk of stillbirth after 38 weeks, and so I would have to be induced at around 37 weeks to reduce this risk. As you can imagine, this was seriously scary to hear, especially when emotions were already running high. I was booked in for an induction at 37 weeks and 6 days.  

Over the next 6-7 weeks I was under close observation, with weekly blood tests and CTGs to monitor the bile acid levels in my blood and baby’s heartbeat and movements. All was as it should be apart from the itch. THE BLOODY ITCH. There are no words to describe the absolute torture that came with the continuous itching. Cold baths, menthol cooling creams, stripping off to nothing but some really unsexy maternity knickers…. NOTHING helped ease it! Sometimes I would itch so hard that I drew blood and left bruises, especially on the tops of my thighs. To make matters even worse, it was the height of summer and we were in the middle of a heatwave. If it wasn’t hard enough to sleep with what felt like a rotating bowling ball attached to my front, I now had to try and sleep with a constant tingling feeling all over my body. I would cry out of sheer frustration most nights. At one point I was convinced I was allergic to my sofa… How insane does that sound?! I think it was probably the insomnia talking, as I was lucky to get five hours sleep a night.

I just kept counting down the weeks until I met my baby, finding comfort in the knowledge that he or she would be so worth every sleepless night.

I was given extra scans to ensure that baby was growing fine, but at 36 weeks I didn’t feel him move as much. I did the recommended laying on my side and having a cold drink, but movements were still few and far between. I went to the PAU and they told me everything was perfectly fine. The next day at 36 weeks and 3 days, I went for a scan. The sonographer checked baby’s measurements, and he was weighing in at a tiny 5lb 10oz. It was lovely because we were her last scan of the day, so she gave us a little extra time. However, she was concerned the amount of fluid around baby, and told us that my induction date may need to be brought forward!

Well I was sh*tting myself!! I had been psyching myself up for weeks, I had a date set and that was that. We waited in the reception of the Women’s Centre for what felt like hours! The consultant finally called us in and immediately agreed that rescheduling my induction for an earlier date would be the safest option for baby. He phoned the labour ward, and then said, “How about tomorrow?”… “TOMORROW?! What? Erm? Like, tomorrow tomorrow? As in the day after today?!” Me and Ciaran looked at each other in total shock. We thought we had at least another week as a twosome.

We agreed that tomorrow was fine with us, and left the hospital to tell our families the news. They had the same reaction as us, “What?! Tomorrow?!” It suddenly became very real.

We got in the car and I could barely drive home, my foot was trembling on the clutch and my sweaty palms kept sliding off the steering wheel. Ciaran asked, “what do you want for our last supper as a two then?” To which I replied, “Get me a double cheeseburger and large fries!” Well… I thought I might as well take full advantage of the ‘eating for two’ excuse.

That night we laid on the couch watching my tummy move. It was such a surreal feeling knowing that the little alien like person inside me would soon be in my arms! I was filled with anxiety and excitement, but was also absolutely terrified! All of a sudden, watching One Born Every Minute felt like the BIGGEST mistake of my life.

Two days later after two pessaries, an extremely long “latent phase” of labour, and 12 hours of active labour, our little boy was born weighing 6lb 5oz. He was perfect from head to toe, although a little sticky! The consultant was definitely right about something… The only way to get rid of the itch was to give birth, because just hours after giving birth the itch had almost disappeared, as if by magic! Other than the fact I had a gaping hole between my legs, I felt like a new woman.

So ladies, if you feel abnormally itchy during your pregnancy – particularly after 30 weeks – tell your midwife! DON’T IGNORE THE ITCH…. Fight the itch, save a life!

 

This month is ICP Awareness month. Please share, you may just save a baby!

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Where it all began…

I sat here for half an hour staring at a blank page, wondering what my first ever mummy blog should be about! After deliberating and getting absolutely no inspiration from my other half, I decided it would be best to start where it all began!

So in August 2013, I went on a family holiday to the gorgeous resort of Albufeira in Portugal. I dragged my best friend along for the ride too, we were only 17 and the thought of being let loose in a foreign country by ourselves was thrilling. Quality time with the fam and the chance to party with my friend, I thought “perfect, best of both worlds”.

About four days into the holiday me and my friend, were lounging around the pool on lilos – worshipping the sun with barely any protection on like typical Brits – and that’s when, unbeknown to me, my life was about to change. Sitting on the edge of the pool were two young lads. Now I fancied the arse off one of them, and really wanted an excuse to talk to him! I didn’t know his name so I referred to him as Abercrombie, because that’s what his shorts said. The other guy, who turned out to be his brother was referred to as ‘Green Shorts’.

Me and my friend, Abbie, devised a plan to grab their attention without looking like desperate whores. “Right, f*ck it, push my lilo over the other side of the pool…” I mean, it couldn’t have looked more obvious if we tried – it worked though! After three hours of effortless conversation, shameless flirting and giggling like an exciting 6 year old on Christmas morning, he FINALLY asked me on a date. When I say date, I mean he said “I know this bar that sells sambuca shots for 1 euro, you should bring your mate!” But that was good enough for me. We shared our cheeky first kiss in the pool as the sun went down. The holiday romance only lasted 4 days before Ciaran (Abercrombie) and his brother went home, but little did I know that he would be the father to my child!

Going the distance… Literally!

This is where it gets a little complicated… Ciaran lived all the way in Brighton and I lived in Darlington. To put into perspective just how far that is, it’s a four and a half our train journey or a six hour drive! Determined to make it work, we text and called each other every single day. We both worked, but I was on an apprenticeship wage, and Ciaran worked full time in a bar, so it took us three months to save up to see each other. We had our first proper (UK) date in London and the rest is history… Or so they say.

It’s true what they say you know, distance does make the heart grow fonder! We would try and see each other every month, alternating which parent’s house we stayed at. Sometimes there would only be two weeks between visits, but other times we would wait as long as seven weeks to see each other. The weeks were long but it only made the time we spent together more special!

Knock knock, baby O’clock

In February last year after two and a half years together, our worlds were turned upside down in a way that we could never have imagined. I found out I was pregnant! At the tender age of 19, I sat on the toilet and stared at those two little lines. PREGNANT, PREGNANT, PREGNANT. I thought “What the f*ck?! HowFirst ultrasound scan 12 weeks 6 days could this happen? I’m on the pill.” We were both so young and in a state of total shock.

We gave it a couple of days to register in our minds what was happening before telling our families, but I don’t think it really sank in until we saw our baby boy in mini-blob-form at our 12 week scan.

We still lived at opposite ends of the country, but we’d already planned for Ciaran to move to Darlington before I fell pregnant. I was four weeks pregnant when we found out and still lived with our parents, which meant it was all systems go. We had less than 8 months to buy a house, Ciaran to find a job and to mentally and physically prepare for a baby! “ARGHHH SH*T! How are we going to manage it in time?!”

Ciaran didn’t make his big move to Darlington until 7 weeks before Alfie was born, so I pretty much went through the whole pregnancy on my own, with the support of my mum and my friends. Of course Ciaran was always at the other end of the phone for emotional support, but it was tough without him being there physically.

The baby bubble

Due to complications and health issues towards the end of my pregnancy, I was induced at 36 +4, and Alfie John Carolan was born at 36+6 on 23rd September 2016. My perfect little bundle arrived into the world happy and healthy, weighing a dinky 6lb 5oz.

 

Almost four years on and here we are as a trio (we’re a little chubbier than we were but hey ho)! I think our little love story is pretty romantic, and I loFamily.jpgve telling people how we met. I hope that one day Alfie asks me, “Mummy, how did you and Daddy meet?!” And I’ll be able to tell him how romance isn’t dead, and you don’t have to chat up girls online to get a girlfriend.

I absolutely love reading other people’s love stories! Mamas, tweet me @beccabrayx with yours! xx