There’s nothing wrong with just existing.

Words by Amy Rose, Editor of The Fourth Trimester magazine

I’ve ummed and ahhed about whether to post this because I’m almost three years postpartum and therefore this isn’t PND, I should really have my shit together by now right? Wrong. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that anxiety and depression can mess with anyone at any time, and when it does, it is really fucking debilitating.

I’m still exploring why my mental health deteriorated but in CBT sessions we’ve worked out it could be related to:

• A young relative dying suddenly and unexpectedly

• Being on the Thames and experiencing the sheer panic of London during the terrorist attacks

• Overworking and under-sleeping

In the space of a couple of months I went from happy, ambitious and excited about future prospects, to losing interest in everything, almost constantly on the brink of a panic attack and wanting to stay in bed all day every day – difficult to do when you’ve got a toddler to keep alive.

I reached a point where I realised I couldn’t survive like this anymore. I spoke to a doctor, received a prescription for anti-depressants and went on my way. To cut a long story short, I had a very bad reaction to the drugs (The Verve, “the drugs don’t work, they just make it worse” became my soundtrack...), which concluded with me passing out and my toddler having to watch as an ambulance came for mummy.

I was checked over, taken off the meds and prescribed diazepam to stop the shaking and to use if any big ol’ anxiety attacks happen again. I was signed off from work (which would have been nice if I wasn’t self employed), and told to ‘just exist’ for a while. So that’s what I did. Existed, slept, existed, took diazepam, slept, existed.

Whether you’re a new parent trying to muddle through your hormonal changes, or a parent to teenagers trying to muddle through their hormonal changes, mental health issues can just pop out of nowhere. I do believe that as parents our anxieties and general worries become so much more heightened, which can make it hard to put up a fight. But fight we must. 

I sometimes wonder whether I’ll ever feel completely better, which can end in me having a panic attack about having panic attacks for the rest of my life… but that’s something I’m working on! What I have learnt is that if you want to get better you have to do something about it, you’re not just magically going to be happy again, you’ve got to try different things and find what works for you.

Today I’m feeling alright (alright enough to write a post about my mental health so I guess that’s good). What seems to be working for me is taking each day at a time; going to yoga every Monday, walking the dog three times a day, trying to use my meditation app at least every other day, and practising my breathing. And if I can’t help but give in to the panic, I keep diazepam in my bag ready to bring me back down to just existing (personal triumph – it’s been a whole month since I last took one!).

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The terrible twos

Frankie Leigh, blogger at www.themilkrose.com gives us an insight into life with a 'terrible two' year-old.

I am currently half way through the 'terrible twos'. Since Luna was born she hasn't always been the most laid back, easy going kid on the block so I was expecting the twos to follow suit. And they have.

So far this week Luna has had a tantrum because:

* I wouldn't let her run around a busy carpark.

* The biscuit she wanted was downstairs and not upstairs.

* She wasn't allowed to run into a stream fully clothed.

* Her dinner wasn't ready at the exact moment she decided she was hungry.

* I was cooking her dinner.

* I offered her a drink.

* She wasn't allowed to pull the cat's tail.

* It was windy at the top of a very large hill she had been carried up.

And that's not even mentioning the usual issues of not wanting to nap/go to bed/eat most of the food she is given...

I completely understand it, she is frustrated by her lack of understanding and comprehension about a lot of issues, health and safety being one of them. She is also fairly limited in her current vocab. She has the important words 'puddle', 'wow' and 'backpack' down though. All of these combined, plus more teeth, potential growing pains and generally discovering who she is and what she likes, makes for a fairly draining combination.

However I'm not so sure that the twos really are that terrible (I write this while Luna is still awake at 9pm and shouting "Mama" from her bedroom as she's decided she doesn't need sleep). While I miss the squishy baby snuggly stage, this age is amazing. Watching Luna learn and discover is the best. I get to take her to new places and everything seems like an adventure. Almost any outing, however boring, can be spiced up by pointing out the animals/vehicles/colours that you can see. Watching her face as she experiences something new and can understand it, is the best feeling ever. Her personality is coming through more and more each day. Without a doubt she is strong willed and knows her own mind already, which isn't always easy, but I love seeing that fire and determination in her character. Always wanting to lead the way and forever pulling my hand so we can follow the path she has in her mind. She somehow remains my shadow while also building her independence.

The majority of the twos is not easy and trying to reason with a child whose favourite answer is no is somewhat tricky. When they cannot communicate what they want you can see the frustration build and it's not surprising it spills over. On the days when I find myself in Sainsburys as she lays on the floor screaming because I said she couldn't eat the plastic on the outside of the cucumber, I try and remind myself why she is upset. She doesn't understand, it doesn't make sense in her mind. When it's just us, this reasoning helps; in public when others are tutting or rolling their eyes while jabbing a thumb in our direction it's a bit harder. I try to not let the public outbursts upset me, but I can feel the real, and I'm sure sometimes imagined, judgement from others around me. I feel the need to justify her crying and reassure strangers that I'm not a terrible parent, just trying to look after her as best I can.

Front cover finalists

We're thrilled to announce the four front cover finalists! Please vote for your favourite in the form below.

Bonnie Doman | @bon_ldn 

Bonnie Doman | @bon_ldn 


Vik Kastenbauer Stronge | @tweedhandsco

Vik Kastenbauer Stronge | @tweedhandsco


Erica Harrison | @supercrafti

Erica Harrison | @supercrafti


Hannah Raymond | @hvraymond

Hannah Raymond | @hvraymond


Checkbox *
Please choose one option

Why I don't want to be a 'bad mum'

Words by Sarah Turner, @theunmumsymum | Illustration by Camille Léa Pearson, @camille_fleur

Being a ‘bad mum’ is trendy these days, apparently. It says so in the papers. The ‘good mums’ have had their day and we’re now witnessing the dawn of a new era celebrating the less-than-perfect mums who are not afraid to rant and swear and post Instagram pictures of the large G&Ts they’re enjoying after wrestling the kids into bed. Being a bit rubbish at mummying just got cool, by all accounts, and I am all too familiar with the ‘rise of the slummy mummy’ type articles because I am widely credited as being part of this movement. I’m one of the slummy ones. Yay.

“How does it feel to be at the forefront of this shift where being crap at motherhood is now in vogue?” I was asked last week.

What kind of a question is that? Is that really what people think of me? That I’m a crap mum? That I aspire to be seen as a crap mum? Crikey, how depressing. Yet my biggest beef with these sweeping statements about parenting ‘types’ is not that I have been labelled a ‘slummy mummy’ or a ‘bad mum’ it’s that I have had to be labelled at all. Is this not just another way of putting women in boxes? Good mum or bad mum? Pick a side.

I’ll admit that at times I have foolishly allowed myself to see crafting, cupcake-baking, uber-organised PTA mums as the enemy but that’s only because I have felt like a failure in comparison. That’s not their doing. At no point has a mum wielding crochet hooks and handing out passionfruit meringue cupcakes ever gone out of her way to make me feel lousy. I have felt lousy because I am shit at crafts and baking and because I have the day-to-day organisational proficiency of Dory the fish (if Dory had two kids and a moderate hangover).

I make a living out of documenting my experience of motherhood - warts and all - and mocking my own incompetence is a big part of that. I have taken great comfort in the fact that sharing my own failings has helped other mums to feel brighter, that it has made them laugh and reassured them that ‘we’re all in it together.’ But when I hear that parenting ineptitude has become fashionable somehow, that it’s something to be celebrated, well then I can’t help but wonder if I have unintentionally assisted in flipping the coin so that mums who derive pleasure from doing the activities I am rubbish at feel like they are on the losing side. That it’s now in some way uncool to be a ‘good mum.’

The most ridiculous thing about the fictitious ‘good mums versus bad mums’ divide (after the obvious problem of deciding what makes a mum good or bad) is that it is simply preposterous to assume that anybody would fit neatly into either box. If I herded up all the mums I know and tried to put them into ‘good mum’ and ‘bad mum’ pens, like sheep, I would struggle. Is there a scorecard somewhere? Do we earn points for certain things and forfeit points for others? What if you enjoy a whole host of crafty activities but also enjoy getting a bit pissed on a Friday night? What if you’re Chair of the PTA but swear like a trooper at your kids’ football matches and feed the kids freezer tapas more than twice a week? Which pen do you go in then?

I stand by my assertion that it is good to share the trickier bits alongside the glossy bits and that it is healthier to be honest about our feelings of weakness than it is to put on a front and fall apart behind closed doors. By some people’s standards I probably am a bit slummy but it’s never been my objective to be viewed that way - I struggle to comprehend why anyone would actively strive to be regarded as a shoddy parent. I will probably never blog my ‘Top 10 Winter Soup Recipes’ or make nursery bunting or take a photo of everybody looking gleeful in a field of sunflowers. I’m much more likely to share my eagerness to crack open a bottle of wine after accidentally letting the swear guard down and witnessing the toddler say, ‘Fuck’s sake!’ clear as day for all to hear. I share these things in the hope that a snapshot of my real life puts another parent at ease and if a subsection of the Great British media chooses to interpret that as a celebration of mediocre parenting then perhaps I just have to roll with it. It doesn’t mean I’m ‘proud to be at the forefront of the shift’ and it certainly doesn’t mean I agree with putting mums in boxes. I think that’s total bollocks, if truth be told.

Motherhood is a common ground unlike any other. It’s a club, a society and though there may not be a secret handshake or a formal initiation ceremony, at some stage you will exchange a nod of empathy across the park with another mum whose toddler has self-activated tantrum mode (because the sun is too shiny) and you will know in that moment that you are part of something much bigger than those ‘good mum’ or ‘bad mum’ labels.

Parenting by its very nature just isn’t like that – you should never be expected to pledge allegiance to one camp over another. You need not pick a side.

I’m not always a good mum.

I’m not always a bad mum.

But I’m always a mum.

And if I’m forced to choose a box then that’ll do. 

 

 

 

The new team!

Today marks the second birthday of The Fourth Trimester and, as promised, it's time to announce the new team! 

We were completely overwhelmed with how many people wanted to join and support this project and once we've got to grips with our new plan we're hoping to grow the team even BIGGER! If you applied and haven't been chosen at this time, please do not fret, you will be contacted during our next growing stage. 

So, here they are...

Sub-editors

Emily Hogarth

Lindsay Garfitt-Brown

Katie Taylor

Georgia Mathieu

Shannon Lowe

Dannie Reeder

Edie Spinks

Kim Morrison

Emily Smith

Emma Smith

Mayr Herbert

Bloggers

Nicola Washington

Anya Hayes

Natalie Finnerty

Frankie Convine

Lizzie Hall

Jenny Hicken

Gemma Capocci

Claire Singh

Roseanne Freeman

Louisa Maidwell

Kystle Perez

Mikaila Hopley-Poole

Jen Riddall

Hannah Moultrie

Social media admins: Facebook 

Megan Crawford

Hannah Carpenter

Danni Reeder

Social media admins: Twitter

Nicola Washington

Natalie Finnerty

If you see your name up there expect an email within the next week with our plan of action!