Wrap me in Smiles

Mental
illness comes in all shapes and sizes for me it is complete isolation. I
would describe it as being detached from everything around you,
watching as life happens to you rather than living it. Some days are
better than others, I can be happy maybe even get joyful at times. Then
there are the bad days where opening my eyes in the morning is an uphill
struggle, the only thing I can focus on is how long it will be until I
am back in bed again.


When I found out I was pregnant I was at a
very low point. My relationship broke down, I was made redundant, I lost
my home and of course had morning sickness, nose bleeds and low blood
pressure that comes with pregnancy to deal with on top! To say it was
not the best period of my life is an understatement. My world was cold,
dark and extremely lonely. I was under the care of the mental health
team throughout my pregnancy having regular visits and therapy to help
as much as possible.


When I gave birth to my daughter I was amazed
by her, she was so untainted by the world, I just wanted to have her on
my skin and to feel her gentle breaths. Holding her, my little empty
world suddenly occupied two of us, it was so wonderful to feel a part of
her and her apart of me. I hated it when my mum insisted I dress her, I
felt like I was tainting her and felt I was almost losing the first
moments.


When I was moved up to the ward I had her in my night
shirt against my skin as it just felt like the right thing to do. Every
bit of me just wanted to have that close contact that feeling of being.
When she was in her little plastic crib in the hospital I missed her,
even though she was right there. All I wanted was more skin to skin
contact with my perfect child.


With the Buggy I felt I was not
able to offer her enough comfort, she looked so small and helpless like I
had abandoned her. I also found it next to impossible to get around any
shops (especially at Christmas with all the additional stands) I was
constantly apologising to people for knocking over things and when she
cried I ended up carrying her and trying to push the pram and carry my
baby. It really made me anxious if I had to go anywhere. I started to
avoid going out if I could.

On a get together with some friends
they were discussing ‘babywearing’. At first I thought it was very odd
but as the conversation progressed I realised this was everything that I
had been looking for! I could have that close contact with my baby all
the time! We watched a few clips we found on youtube and I fell in love
with the idea of wrapping. I found that these wrap thingies are harder
to buy than I thought, department stores didn’t sell them! In the end I
bought a stretchy hybrid as it looked similar to what I had seen with my
friends. I loved it, my daughter with was back as part of my world, she
gave me back my life and I was free from the restrictions of the buggy.
Getting out and about really helps to lift my mood, carrying made that
possible.


Together we learnt to breast feed in the carrier,
feeding her made me so proud and bought that wonderful feeling of
bonding with her. My isolated world was opening up as I carried her with
me, tucking her little body inside my jacket, feeling the warmth of her
against me. When my anxiety was building I found that I was able to
calm myself easier, so that I was able to avoid a full panic attack. My
daughter’s soft calm gentle breathing, helped to regulate my own. It is
very hard to hyperventilate when you have someone asleep against your
chest.


A few months into my Baby wearing journey, a friend asked
me if I would like to go to a ‘sling Library’, I was so excited to go
and try more options that may be open to me. To my delight they had a
wrap, It was a size 6 brown woven wrap and it was love at first pass, I
had to get my hands on one! It was at this point I was introduced to the
wonders (and dangers) of Selling groups on Face Book.

The first
wrap I bought was a size 5 woven wrap, it bought me so much confidence,
I loved interacting with my daughter as she grew, sharing our
adventures together. I even enjoyed talking to people more as I had
people ask about my wrap, 10 wraps later my passion and love for
carrying only grows stronger!


My Daughter has grown into a very
confident and independent toddler, we still enjoy cuddles and wraps
regularly and she had her favourite one that she hands to me when she
wants ‘up’. She even owns a woven wrap and a stretchy wrap of her own
and she loves nothing more than carrying the toy of the day about with
pride.

On days when I am struggling with my mental health and my
darling girl is pushing me to my limits, I find that I can back carry
her giving me space and time to calm myself while giving her the comfort
she needs. I do have bad days and unfortunately it is more than likely
to be something I will have to face for the years ahead but I can know
for sure I can provide the emotional support my child needs.

I
have now learnt that having your child close to you in arms or in a
carrier, triggers the release of a number of hormones, one of which is a
called Oxytocin that helps with bonding, milk production and in short
makes you feel great. It has been termed “the Love Hormone” and affects
both men and women. The calming cuddle of carrying will benefit you
both, sharing an extended cuddle.

“We
have shown that touch not only raises oxytocin, but it reduces
cardiovascular stress and can improve the immune system, too. Try
telling people that you hug rather than shake hands and see what happens
when you give others the gift of oxytocin. Studies show that the more
one releases oxytocin, the easier it becomes to do so. That has
certainly been my experience in practicing these oxytocin-releasing
activities” -
Paul J. Zak, The Moral Molecule


As
well as the release of oxytocin, knowing you have the ability to
comfort your child brings confidence and will intern release Dopamine, a
neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure
centres. The feeling of accomplishment and pride is a good feeling and
one we naturally hunt for as Humans (we also have a much higher amount
of it than any other species). It is believed that it is down to
Dopamine, that we as a species have been as successful, as it is our
inner drive as such. Low dopamine can lead to low mood, low motivation,
loss of voluntary movements, less sleep, poor memory and much more.


“Dopamine
is the chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain. It is released
during pleasurable situations and stimulates one to seek out the
pleasurable activity or occupation. “-
Dr Ananya Mandal, MD


Exercise
has been seen as a great treatment for depression as this also releases
a group of hormones called endorphins. Endorphins alone help with
weight loss but by carrying your child you are giving your body a gentle
and natural workout. Carrying your child is believed to not only aid
your muscles, to strengthen and return to their pre pregnancy position,
but this also helps baby to develop their own muscles too. Endorphins
help to give a boost to your mood and can reduce or even eliminate pain.
The word Endorphin means body made opiate due to its effects on mood
and pain reduction.


“Endorphins
are linked to your body’s reward circuits as well and are associated
with other feel-good activities like maternal behaviour, eating and
drinking or having sex.
“– Dr Mercola, Exercise and Endorphins Make You Happy


Oestrogen
is a group of steroid hormones, that can be released when we are
relaxed and calm, breathing with your baby is an amazing way to
encourage more Oestrogen. Oestrogen helps from serotonin which is a mood
boosting neurotransmitter. Most anti-depressants use SSRI this is an
uptake inhibitor slowing the body’s disposal of serotonin, women’s
oestrogen levels fluctuate through their menstrual cycle and post birth.
Some studies are looking into the similarities between PMS and Baby
Blues. Relaxing into a meditation like state will help with the
regulation of oestrogen for both men and women, having your child
against you will regulate your breathing as well as theirs.


“The
key happiness hormone, serotonin, has a huge impact on your mood, but
this brain chemical is also known to affect memory, appetite, sleep,
cravings, pain tolerance and digestion. Low serotonin levels have been
linked to development of various mental issues, primarily depression.” -
Know Your Happiness Hormones & How to Increase Them by Stephlina D’cunha


‘Baby
wearing’ has given us so much more than simply a way to get around, I
was at extremely high risk of developing post-natal depression and
having issues bonding with my baby, but fortunately I didn’t. I truly
believe that carrying her and having the increased skin to skin is the
only reason I have not had severe post-natal issues. Post-natal
depression is thought to affect around 15% of new mothers, I am one of
many people who are facing the feeling of depression and anxiety, no
matter what happens you are not alone.



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