If I was to write to myself 10-years ago, I honestly don’t know what I would say.
In terms of the facts of life that would unfold, it would go along the lines:
“You’re going to have a baby, hate being mum, feel a complete failure at it, develop postnatal depression that lasts for 3 years.
But it’s okay, you’re going to be grand...eventually.
Actually, it’s going to be hell, but it’s so worth it on the other side.
Because on the other side you’ll be happy. Happy in a way you never experienced before.”
This "happy" happened to me last week and it bowled me over.
I was invited to my oldest friends birthday party, a friend whom I have never known and she only never knew me by the 9 months that separates us.
I nearly chickened out a few times that day. I knew I had to go - I had been hassling her since February wondering what she was going to do to celebrate. I wanted a reason to go back to Ireland and to see teenage friends I hadn’t seen much since my early 20’s. I wanted a reason to reconnect, and connection being my Word of the Year for this year, this was going to be a perfect opportunity.
As I neared the venue that evening, I started to worry, to panic.
I wasn’t worried about my bestie, the birthday girl, she knows me, and so do her parents. I knew I would have some safe people to retreat to if it all went horribly quiet.
It was everyone else who worried me. The chatter in my head was getting louder.
Would I even be recognised? Would they remember me? Was I worthy of their friendship? Would they want to talk to me? What right did I have to assume I could stroll back into the lives of these people I once knew? Would I spend the entire evening sitting in the corner talking to the parents rather than my peers? Would I end up drinking too much, saying things I would later regret?
The self-conscious stories of my teenage years were haunting me. I questioned if I should be there at all and even why was I invited.
My greatest triumph was moving through the questions in my head and entering that bar.
The girl I was 20 years ago is a shadow of who I am today, but would I be brave enough to be me?
Those questions were from a different era, a different me. Putting back on any of the many masks I wore 20 years ago felt easy, it felt like the safe option.
I knew what outcome they would bring me. And I knew they were not full of pure joy. Fun? Yes. Laughter? For sure. Happiness and joy? Unlikely. So I chose to show up as Me.
I walked into the hotel I held my head high.
I stepped into Me, and as I stepped down the stairs into the bar I realised how much I had changed. My birthday girl didn’t recognise me. In the best way possible. Yes she knew me, and she didn’t look through me. In fact, she looked straight at me as I walked in. She noticed me. And then suddenly shouted my name and embraced me. The most loving embrace a friendship of a lifetime can give.
I arrived at that party as ME. All of me. Fabulous. Radiant. Unapologetic.
Her reaction to me was astounding. She pointed out (a lot) how amazing I looked, at pains to explain that I always looked great but tonight there was something more. I know what that more was. It was me. From the inside. It was maskless. And the power of authenticity shone through.
The reception I felt from these old friends was incredible. I was blown over by how easy I fitted in, how welcomed back into the group I was, how genuinely interested my friends were to chat to me and understand more about what I do, how impressed they were with my work, and how proud they were for my achievements, THEY felt proud for me.
I have never experienced acceptance or connection like it.
This was one thing I feared for a long time... revealing the changed, upgraded 'me' to those who knew the old me. And I must say it has deepened my TRUST in myself.
I felt radiant. I felt SO happy, I felt more than I have words to explain.
And all of this was only possible because my daughter had silent reflux, badly, and we had no support. The night my first daughter was born was the loneliest night of my life and that was just the start of it. Three years of sleep deprivation and a long journey with postnatal depression as my companion.
During my first three years of motherhood, I lost myself completely. I lost my identity. I was nothing more than a walking dummy, sleep aid and mum. I felt I had no purpose other than keeping my children alive. I had no dreams of my own expect that one day, perhaps, I would sleep for more than three hours (a genuine lifetime goal for me at the time that many of you may understand).
I cannot pinpoint the moment that everything changed for me, perhaps it was not one moment.
The day I decided to write a book about reflux was the day I vowed to myself that I would do everything in my power to help other mums with babies who had reflux.
There was no need for me to experience the years of suffering that I had.
There was no need for both of my children to have lived in pain for as long as they did. I felt the injustice deeply and I took it to heart.
I wasn’t brave enough at the time to just get on and write the book. I had the support of another amazing friend who was always able to see the true me, the potential inside. So I invested in myself and my dreams. I created my dream and my purpose and I had a reason bigger than me to drag myself out of PND.
My recovery and growth over the last three years has astounded me, and last weekend I felt more seen than I have ever felt in my life.
Yet none of this would have happened without the loss of my identity, without the despair of being defined by my baby’s pain.
Reflux and postnatal depression are not a journey I would choose again, even if I knew the butterfly-like transformation they would be the catalyst for.
Without reflux and postnatal depression I would probably be still turning up in the corporate world feeling like a slave to someone else's agenda, in a job that stressed me out and whose only positive contribution to my life was on the bank balance. But that is not enough. I've already had that life and I know I would be miserable in it. I'm not a good stressed out person, so it's unlikely I would have been a great stressed-out mum.
And so I am grateful (in hindsight), that I learned the lessons that came with my baby's suffering. I'm grateful for my stubbornness and refusal to listen to the doctors who believe they "know" best. In my baby's case, they didn't. It was the response I eventually chose, and the response I give you the option to choose for your baby, that changed our lives, that freed my children from their suffering and allowed them to flourish and be babies and toddlers.
I am here with a message, and I am here as a whole person, feeling beautiful in my own skin and loving being unapologetically true to my spirit.
I want you to know that you don’t have to suffer in silence.
That there is a way through, but it does depend on you wanting to have a different experience to the one you’re currently living.
And this is as much about changing your life as it is about changing your baby’s reflux. There is always something you can do about it. The first step is to want to change. Belief comes later.
My bigger purpose is bringing back the meaning to mums' lives when they have been wrought with reflux and discontent in babies. When something unexpected has knocked you sideways and you feel like you don't know you anymore.
Alongside supporting you to find the cause and completely resolve your baby's reflux, I provide emotional and personal support so that you feel more whole and complete.
If you are ready to change your life, let's start at the beginning and unpick the cause of your little ones reflux. Resolving this gives you time and space to start processing all the internal chatter that has been going on for you over the time your little one has suffered.
Sign up for the Cause & Cure of Reflux Workshop, get the answers and come join my private facebook support group of like-minded mums.