Gilded Butterflies

It’s been a full 12 weeks of being a mum to baby Noah. I have experienced the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, my body has been through the mill and has mended itself whilst sustaining another human. It’s magic. But it takes its toll.

I have been asked, what feels like several thousand times, how my mental health is. At first it was tedious, now I get it. The lows are inexplicable. If you know, you know. Pulling yourself back takes all the energy you can muster, there is only so much one person can take of this. I’m lucky, my lows have been few and far between and I’ve got Jack who is insanely supportive. But, now I get it, I get how women are driven mad, especially vulnerable women, undervalued and unsupported women.

This week Jack and I went to see an an Off West End production of “Guilded Butterflies” at The Hope Theatre in Islington. It was poignant and thought provoking, addressing post natal depression in the most extreme situation as a result of the most devastating outcome .

It’s about an extremely unwell and vulnerable woman on death row, living in solitude for 23 hours a day, awaiting her execution and how she finds hope in the darkest situation. Performed by a two woman company, both of whose acting blew me away.

It was transporting. This play is so well thought out, beautifully performed and thoroughly researched. It’s cleverly set in a stark, minimalistic environment that chills you to your core. It sets the imagination on fire. You feel like you’re in that prison cell with them.

Samantha Pain plays three different characters so well you forget she’s the same actress, transitioning seamlessly through her voice and body language. Francesca McCrohens vulnerability spills through in waves, she is intense and engaging. The whole production is subtle and cleverly directed by Kathryn Papworth-Smith, giving the audience enough credit to allow them to use their imaginations, which in my opinion is the most powerful tool an artist can unlock, the whole room is right there with them.

This was incredible. It needs a bigger platform, more recognition and heaps more publicity for the talent that put it together. Women bravely asking the difficult questions about the support and understanding we give women in trouble. How we see and understand these women, and the systems that are in place in 2018. Move over Guilead, when you look at what supposed modern democracies are doing, we’re living the nightmare.

It is asking questions of ourselves and how we see one another in the darkest of situations.

This play is supported by Amnesty International and Reprieve, another nod to its credibility.

I am not in a prison cell in America, but I get it. I get the madness and the lows. Even if it is fleeting. We still don’t talk about it and we still don’t support one another as we should. There is still not enough funding and the infrastructure to support mental illness is laughable, unfortunately all over the world. This kind of voice is so powerful and important in addressing these issues.

Get yourselves to this show and you will be blown away.

Follow me on Instagram @natalieruthwilson

https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/251270

Showing until 24th November.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Top Ten New Mum Hacks

1. Baby wearing, this is so great when the Noah wants cuddling all the time- there’s only so much sitting around I can do. It’s a bit of a fiddle and takes some practice but I found it to be worth the investment in time.

2. Use the pram. My sister gave me this tip. You invest, more often than not, the sum equivalent to a car in the pram. Use it. The carry cot is perfect for napping and you can wheel them round with you. Also keeps them off the floor/sofa and away from pets or other tiny humans if needed.

3. Online supermarket shopping. Because let’s be honest who wants to drag a newborn around a chilly supermarket. I’ve saved a fortune as well, you can’t temped by the pretty displays.

4. Share the load with your Partner if you can. Set up a schedule that suits both of you, for example Jack does the night feeds every Friday, so I know I’ll get that interrupted sleep every week.

5. Walk. It’s so nice to get out and have some fresh air, the baby sleeps so well outside and it’s a great opportunity for me to get through my podcast library. I’ve been enjoying, “Happy Mum, Happy Baby”, “Morality in the 21st Century” and “Getting Curious with Johnathan Van Ness”.

6. Slow cookers are life. Pop your dinner in the morning during the AM nap and it’s ready to go for dinner, plus it won’t burn or ruin if the bedtime routine doesn’t go to plan. Have a look at my Instagram highlights for some recipe ideas. (@natalieruthwilson)

7. Stick to your guns. Everyone has and will have an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t be doing, it often comes from a good place, but can make you doubt yourself. You know your baby, what’s best and how you want to do things so don’t be pushed around.

8. Book in something to look forward to that’s not about the baby. In those moments of shitty nappies, screaming and puke you can remember yourself and that it’s being a mum is only part of who you are. Your autonomy is important.

9. Reading. I have found getting into a good book has stopped the endless scrolling whilst feeding. I was becoming obsessed with Kim KW’s latest post and had made it to last years Love Island contestants Stories, when I took to the book to occupy myself whilst providing dinner from my boobs. I forgot how great reading is.

10. Write down what you want to achieve that day/week/month.

It’s much easier to accomplish your goals if they are there in black and white, even if it’s as simple as, “dust the living room and cut up an onion”. The physical action of putting pen to paper and ticking “To Dos” of the list give a sense of success. It makes me feel like a super mum and I enjoy that.

Motherhood, Level One.

The first weeks of Motherhood have been interesting, filled with coffee, tears, pride and elation. It has been incredible yet challenging, I’m lucky it hasn’t taken me long to get in the swing of it. This is what I learned and what works for me:

1. Remember that your completely desexualised boobs are still boobs and to pop them back in your bra when you answer the door to the postman. (I wasn’t feeding) It’s awkward if you don’t, for both parties.

2. Make plans. But not too many. I booked myself up back to back with visitors and it burnt me out, by the end of the second week I had something on everyday but still had time to relax and cuddle my baby.

3. Do what feels right. I came across the age old breastfeeding guilt hurdle. Noah wasn’t getting full and was on the boob every couple of hours despite a great milk supply. I wasn’t getting any sleep, then spent half a day crying because I felt like a terrible mother for considering formula top ups. Which is ridiculous as I am such an advocate for women to do what’s right for them and would never think any less of anyone formula feeding their baby. Turns out the formula top up is awesome. I now get (some) sleep.

4. Get showered, dressed and stick some make up on, even if it’s 4pm. It made me feel like I was putting myself back together and more like me again. It takes 20mins, the confidence it gives is worth the time investment.

5. Sometimes the baby cries. Sometimes the baby cries a lot. If the screaming is getting to me I reminded myself to breathe, literally. It really really helped. I found I was walking around with my shoulders round my neck holding my breath.

6. Reach out. I use my Instagram (@natalieruthwilson) to diary my days, it makes you feel like your not alone when the DMs come in solidarity. Get on the Whatsapp, FaceTime, whatever you choose. A friend literally came and made me a cup of tea because I said I fancied one on my Instagram Stories.

7. It’s not all on you. If you’re lucky enough to have a supportive Partner let them help. They want too. I put a lot of pressure on myself as Jack went back to work as looking after Noah is my “job”, I became so obsessed with this role Jack felt pushed out. Now we’re more of a team when he’s home. It gives me space to breathe and him time with his son.

8. Talk about stuff other than your baby. Life goes on. It’s interesting. (Full disclosure, it’s an effort but worthwhile).

9. Get outside, even if it’s just a walk around the block. Having the sun on your face feels incredible.

10. You’re still allowed to have fun. You’re still you, just with a baby. This realisation lifted the mist and pulled me out of the Stepford Wife pressure I had put on myself, right into a hot bath with a glass of wine whilst Jack had eyes on the baby.

Expectation Vs Reality

When I fell pregnant I read up on all the birthing options and was determined to have a home birth. I was going to squeeze him out in a couple of hours like the rest of my family and have a magical first two weeks with Jack and my baby.

My experience was as far away from this as I could ever express. Yes, it’s been wonderful, the most magical feelings of elation and love, but it’s been tough.

Expectation Vs Reality has been poles apart and I had no idea just how different my experience would be as to what I expected.

Firstly I was induced, I was classed as having a high risk pregnancy due to OC. It meant no home birth, no water birth and a number of trips to hospital per week. I found the experience frustrating, but my sister was in the same situation late in her pregnancy. Although she was induced she still had a fairly easy birth. I held onto that and it gave me a bit of comfort. The expectation remained high.

I was induced at 11am on the 15th August, the contractions started at 3.30pm and my waters went on their own at 6.00pm. I was winning, the labour was progressing quickly and I was managing the pain and laughing through the contractions. By 4am I was 10cm, still pain relief free I felt like a warrior, the midwife told me I was ready to push, half an hour and the baby would be out, I would be home by dinner time. It was then it all went downhill.

I spent the next two hours putting every ounce of all that I had into pushing, over and over again. The head came right down, then sprung back up like a bungee was attached to him. The heart rate started to drop as the cord was round his neck. I needed an assisted delivery.

The next 45 mins was hell, because I had been an idiot and not had any pain relief the contractions were 11/10 on the pain scale and were coming, what felt like every minute. Throughout the contractions I was being prepped for theatre, cannulas, injections, catheters. It was a blur of intense pain, needles and being pulled about. Next thing I knew I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. Thank fuck.

It was then I looked over at Jack, in some scrubs that were way to big for him and his bright pink broccoli pants out, he looked terrified. I will never forget the look on his face as he stood and held my hand, reassuring me as he had throughout the night. He was incredible.

I was asked to push three more times, and then Noah was born with forceps. He was put on my chest screaming. Then he stopped and he was taken away for 25 minuets, they repaired my fanny and pumped me with painkillers before I was finally reunited with my baby, who was pink and healthy.

It was then I floated onto a cloud of joy that I just won’t come down from.

The first two weeks haven’t been plain sailing either, with a stay in hospital, the special care baby unit, recovering from a third degree tear and a kidney infection my reality was so far away from what I had planned. No strolls in the park, tea with friends or long lunches and Netflix. It was mainly making it through the day on a roundabout of painkillers and antibiotics.

I am sharing this because I wasted so much energy and emotion on my birth plan, so I had to deal with disappointment at every stage. I knew that there would be some variables in my delivery but nothing could prepare me for the experience I had. If I was to do it again I wouldn’t invest any energy into what I want to happen during labour, as it’s unlikely to go that way.

I’m not disregarding the feeling of control that having a plan can give you when approaching labour, it’s just if I was to do it again I would redirect my energy into accepting that anything can happen.

If your labour is a beautiful zen experience or hell on earth the end result is the most important thing. It’s only in hindsight I understood how actually, it’s not about you at all. It’s about doing what is best for the baby you’ve spent 9 months growing. In the moment I would have done literally anything to get him out. If he comes out and you’re both healthy then you’ve had a lucky labour. By all means the trauma you may feel post giving birth is real and must be acknowledged, as would any feeling of elation and achievement if you had the perfect birth.

Next time I wouldn’t get hung up on water births and breathing techniques, as you just don’t know how you’re going to respond to the whole experience and it set me up for heartache. Instead I’d focus on the end result, no matter what. Because I’m still on my cloud of joy, and would be if I’d had Noah on the toilet. And after all of it, that’s what matters.

Boy Power

The push for equal rights is not just for girls, I know this because I’m surrounded by men who are feminists too. Men who roll their eyes at a stupid sexist comment, men who see beyond gender and men who treat me as an equal.

One or two generations has seen a massive transformation in the way in which our men see the world. I look at my husband and my friends and find it incredible how different their outlooks and views are from the generation before. Just the subtle differences, where there is absolutely no thought about gender or gender roles in the day to day. Whilst I think that our Mothers deserve a big chunk of acknowledgement for this, ultimately these men deserve the credit. They see us girls as equals, the difference is they were never corrected in thinking this, never told they were superior or entitled to anything more. They overcame washing powder advert stereotypes and are the most amazing modern men.

These men look at what we can do and what we should be doing, instead of why we can’t, or shouldn’t.

I believe that when my parents generation retire we will see a huge shift in equal rights, especially in the workplace.

This generations culture is becoming extinct and they are clinging on for dear life.

Our thirty something men are on the same path as us, they want to see flexible working for all, choice for families and women listened to and respected. And the ones that don’t are outnumbered.

I go to a party and see our guys hanging out with the kids basking in every moment they get with them as they may not have had the opportunity for as much time with them throughout the week, they lap up every opportunity to be with their offspring.

They are showing their Dads how it is done, there are Grandads everywhere who are learning from their sons and son in laws and getting stuck in with the kids. And they do it all together, probably with a beer. It is a wonderful sight to behold.

I don’t think our parents and parents parents didn’t want to do this- this attitude has changed, from what I remember growing up it wasn’t “manly” to be left with the kids at a social occasion and very often the already over tired mothers would be left, quite literally holding the baby.

This change is a positive shift towards gender equality, homes and families being built on team work and fair game, and it has happened quickly.

This progress is so fast, and as the importance and relevance of gender dissolves it could be entirely different in another fifteen years.

One of the key shifts is because we have had the self confidence and worth to wait for our life partners and refused to settle. Our Parents generation is riddled with broken homes and divorce, we saw that and it educated us. Many of my friends parents are either divorced or in unhappy marriages. There was a 13% decrease in divorce rates between 2003 and 2013. (According to Office For National Sastictics). It’s worth being picky.

I am proud and delighted to be part of the change, seeing the message of our predecessors taking flight, for the change in attitudes to be taking hold and to be married to one of the many, many men who are on our team.

Equal Rights? We Do It All.

As I write this I am hot, itchy and swollen laying spread eagled on my bed at 7 on a Sunday morning with a fan blowing on me. I awoke to a series of regularly deteriorating selfies from my husband who went out out with the lads- reason being, “wetting the babies head”. (His mates wife carried and gave birth to a little boy in January).

It got me thinking.

Firstly my impatience and intolerant side is wittering at me- “wetting the babies head”, is ridiculous. It’s an excuse to go out with the guys and get hammered for something that, quite frankly the physical input that men have in making babies is nothing but enjoyable. Well done, your sperm worked. So they get a party. Whilst I’m laying here overheating and blowing up like a character from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It’s not the first “wetting the babies head”, and it won’t be the last.

Lads, go out, have a wonderful time, drink beer and watch football. But in the name of celebrating your wife’s physical sacrifice for a year, where she’s not even involved or included? I think not.

I don’t begrudge the night out. Just the reason behind it. But I have to be a cool independent woman who’s totally fine with it all. Whilst hot, aching and fat.

As far as I’m concerned this pretty much sums up where we are with equal rights, feminism and all around gender fairness. As a woman you have to to do it all. By this I don’t mean all the housework, cooking and cleaning. I am not criticising my husband who, treats me with nothing but respect and support. No, this is a dig at society.

Nothing prepared me for the changes that my body would go through pregnant. I knew I’d get a bit fat, but the itching, swelling, hormones and painful hips, back, fingers? Yes fingers. Was not on my radar. I am lucky enough to be in a position where I was able to stop work at 31 Weeks due to to holidays- but I wasn’t doing my job. It was time to stop. The role is physically demanding and hands on, and I was sat on my arse for a fair amount of time leading up to leaving. I couldn’t do it. Had I not been in the lucky situation I am with my holiday entitlement I would have had not choice but to continue working for another 8 weeks. Yes I could stop anytime from 29 weeks, but I get paid for 14 weeks. (That’s considered “good” maternity leave). So really what choice do women have other than to keep going right up until the end? There’s hardly a choice. Just a rock and a hard place.

I’ll go on to give birth. I got a small insight to this yesterday as we had to pop over to Watford for a blood test. The delivery ward was busy, there was a lot of bloodcurdling screams echoing along the hot corridor, beds that looked like a murder had just taken place, waiting to be cleared and some very uncomfortable ladies making their way home.

When they get home it won’t stop there, healing from a physically and mentally difficult (different for every women, but I think safe to say challenging for all?) experience. Learning quickly how to keep a tiny human alive, often continuing to sacrifice their own bodies.

You get some maternity pay. Maybe six weeks, maybe more. But then you are left with a measly pay out for you to live off for nine months.

Now, I’ll get to my point. I’ve worked pretty much full time since I was 16. I earn a good wage and for much of our relationship have been the bread winner. I now contribute equally to the household. (Or I did). We own our house, a terraced ex council house in an ok, but not posh part of town. We’ve decided to have a baby.

As a woman I get 14 weeks to spend with my new child. Because, gender equality is still not supporting women. I am relied upon in my household not only for bringing up a baby, but to finically contribute in equal measure to my husband. We don’t live an extravagant life, we have a sensible mortgage and live to our means. Why should it be so hard to navigate this first year?

I say women in this first year because I feel we should be supported to stay at home (if we want too). Our bodies have gone through significant trauma and need time to heal, apart from anything else. As well as the time to mentally adjust to this life you grew being there all the time as well as ALL THE HORMONES. We aren’t allowed to say this anymore, because we can’t afford to show that it might be hard sometimes, at the risk of being perceived as weak.

Men don’t have to deal with it. Of course it’s tough for the guy, but come on. You can’t compare it really. So now we’re in a position where the woman is placed to do it all, I’m not sure what the answer is? Better flexible working would help, better maternity pay, bringing up a child or two being considered important in society and not an inconvenience to business? We don’t consider looking g after our offspring as a “job”, but it costs £75+ a day for someone else to do it for you.

Women should have more choice and options with regards to home set ups in that first year- and if they don’t want to stay home and want to go back to work, their Partners should get the same. There is a conversation to be had about after the first year, but for today I’m just talking about those precious initial 12 months.

Equal rights don’t support women, parents or families.

They support the money lead, greedy part of society where every family’s priority is earning enough to pay the mortgage, put food on the table and live a little. Often with huge sacrifice, mostly for the mother, the woman who carried and birthed a human being, with little acknowledgement, help or support from the big man. Frankly, because men are still running the show and equal rights have been morphed into somehow benefiting and taking the pressure of them. The balance needs re-addressing. Women and families need more help, more choice and more freedom.

Boy or Girl?

Quite a lot of people have asked me if Jack would care if our child was to be gay. The honest answer is no, he wouldn’t give a shit.

These conversations often evolve into a discussion about gender identity. It’s big news at the moment (Although most definitely not new news). Would Jack care if our child was to be transgender. (The interest is 100% on my husbands views, maybe men are perceived to be less tolerant?) Again, no he wouldn’t. I can say that hand on heart. He lives his life by the wise old mantra of, “some people are just dicks, why don’t people just see through race or sexuality and see who the dicks are and who’s alright”. Can’t argue with that really.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion around raising a child allowing them to dress and act in accordance to a certain gender, even if that’s not what their body represents. There has been discussion in the media about Angelia Jolie allowing her kid to dress as a boy, John Lewis removing gender from the children’s clothes section and celebrities not revealing the gender of their child.

Growing up I had pals who were “tom boys” running around in football kits and getting muddy, defying all gender stereotypes and not being “girly” in the slightest. But it wasn’t analysed or pulled apart, they had a great time and grew up being satisfied with their gender. On the flip side I have other friends who grew up playing the part of their gender stereotype to a T, and I’m not fully convinced that they are 100% happy with their body’s representation of their gender, even at the ripe old age of 30 something.

My point is, I don’t think that we are anywhere near getting it right for our transgender population. Why are we so obsessed with gender? We haven’t found out what we are having and it’s a massive conversation starter. But we could get a boy who loves ballet and a girl who ends up being an international footballer, they could be gay, they could be transgender. Why do we care so much? I really struggle to get my head around what makes people feel uncomfortable about people not adhering to the gender rules.

I work in the service industry so see thousands of people every week. Historically, nothing sparks a whisper like a transgender person walking into my place of work, and it makes me so angry. We need to stop.

Stop over analysing what genitals people have and whether how they dress or act match them.

Being transgender needs to be normalised and I don’t think creating a fanfair around, for example- letting your little boy wear a dress is the answer. Just let him wear a dress, with no comment or judgment, no big announcement, just allow him to enjoy wearing what he wants. Maybe he will wear a dress for a week, or the rest of his life. But if this is just normal, not questioned or judged, not pulled apart and discussed at length, surely that gives him the time and freedom to discover who he really is and the be it?

We have such a long way to go. June is a big pride month, London, LA and Sydney celebrating theirs, to name a tiny %. Still I’m not seeing enough transgender representation in the main stream.

We have come such a long way in the last 50 years, but think it’s dangerous to satisfy ourselves that we are “there”. For our child my wish is that we keep challenging social stereotypes, keep pushing forward, allowing people to be their true selves,keep opening minds and hearts until our children can live without fear of being who they want to be and grow up to be accepting of one another, and not whispering when someone who is different to them walks into the room.