Never in a million years...

March 23, 2023 Kathryn Smith Season 1 Episode 20
Never in a million years...
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Never in a million years...
Mar 23, 2023 Season 1 Episode 20
Kathryn Smith

Elsie MacDonald is a client, who got in touch to continue therapeutic work after being involved in a peri-natal clinical psychology service for support with depression when she was pregnant and then for the first year of her daughter’s life. On listening to Truthbook, Elsie said she’d like to come on to share her behind the scenes. 

Elise has a one year old daughter Orla, and lives in in Strathblane,  about 12 miles north of Glasgow, just beneath the Campsie Fells.  She has just returned to work as a teaching assistant  in a school for children with additional support needs after maternity leave. Outside of work she is a keen cook and  enjoys the outdoors

Elsie wanted to come on Truthbook because despite having a straightforward pregnancy in terms of physical health, she struggled with her mental health especially in the second half of the pregnancy.  She was referred to the NHS peri-natal mental health service and the help she received from them made it possible for her to get through the pregnancy and survive that first year as a mum.  When she was discharged from that service she was keen to continue with some kind of therapy to keep the conversation going, even though she was feeling very well.

Elsie hopes that somebody somewhere might listen to this and gain some hope that things can get better, however dark you might be feeling. And that there is support out there. 

Show Notes Transcript

Elsie MacDonald is a client, who got in touch to continue therapeutic work after being involved in a peri-natal clinical psychology service for support with depression when she was pregnant and then for the first year of her daughter’s life. On listening to Truthbook, Elsie said she’d like to come on to share her behind the scenes. 

Elise has a one year old daughter Orla, and lives in in Strathblane,  about 12 miles north of Glasgow, just beneath the Campsie Fells.  She has just returned to work as a teaching assistant  in a school for children with additional support needs after maternity leave. Outside of work she is a keen cook and  enjoys the outdoors

Elsie wanted to come on Truthbook because despite having a straightforward pregnancy in terms of physical health, she struggled with her mental health especially in the second half of the pregnancy.  She was referred to the NHS peri-natal mental health service and the help she received from them made it possible for her to get through the pregnancy and survive that first year as a mum.  When she was discharged from that service she was keen to continue with some kind of therapy to keep the conversation going, even though she was feeling very well.

Elsie hopes that somebody somewhere might listen to this and gain some hope that things can get better, however dark you might be feeling. And that there is support out there. 

And this is a really special episode. Elsie McDonald is a client. She got in touch to continue therapeutic work after she was involved in the perinatal clinical psychology service for support with depression when she was pregnant and for the first year of her daughter's life. On listening to truth book, Elsie said she'd like to come on and share her behind the scenes.

So over to Elsie.

 I'm Elsie and I live with my husband, grant.

And my one year old daughter Orla in Strathblaine, which is a village about 12 miles north of Glasgow, just beneath the Campsie Fells. And I've just returned to work after maternity leave. I work as a teaching assistant in a school for children with additional support needs and outside of work you'll either find me in the kitchen making delicious food or outside enjoying the outdoors.

And I guess in terms of why I'm here despite having a very, very straightforward pregnancy in terms of physical health of me and my baby I did really struggle with my mental health especially in the second half of my pregnancy. And that resulted in a referral to an NHS Parament perinatal mental health service.

And the health that I. That I received from them made it possible for me to get through my pregnancy and survive that first year as a mum. And when I was discharged from that service, I felt like it, I was really keen to continue with some kind of therapy to keep the conversation going, even though I was feeling very well.

And so that resulted in me finding you, Catherine and to start doing some sessions with you. And I think, yeah, I was just really attracted to the idea of, of coming onto Truth book because I feel like I'm in a position now where I can share that story. It's not quite as raw as it maybe once was.

And yeah, I hope that somebody somewhere might listen to this and. , it might give them some hope that things can get better, however dark you might be feeling. And that there is support out there. And cuz that's certainly for me, it was a very tricky thing to navigate whether there was anything out there or not and how, and well you had to be to get help.

But yeah, for me it was, it was life changing and yeah, I hope that I can help some other people out there. And also quite like talking about , hearing my own voice,  not but yeah, I think just chatting with you and your back. , it's actually quite a therapeutic thing in itself. 

 You're not long back from a trip to Norway, which was wonderful.

That was your first adventure with Orla, and you shared a photo with me of you in your, in your ski gear towing Orla along all cuddled up in her sledge. And it really did look like a wonderful positive moment for you. But I, as you said, you're passionate about sharing behind the scenes of what led up to that moment, which unbeknown to anyone else would look like.

Wow, supermom got it all sorted.  I dunno where you'd want to start, but what would you say, what were some of the, the obstacles that you have overcome to get to, to that moment? To be able to go off on that family holiday and enjoy adventure? . I guess there's the kind of immediate obstacles of getting out of the house with a, a small baby and a husband and me  all with the right gear for the, the conditions.

And yeah, I think that can be quite a heated time is, you know, who's in charge of who and who's remembering to bring all bits of equipment. And I think I tend to be the leader with that. But then that makes me grumpy  because I, yeah, I'm running around doing everything. So I think learning to delegate has been something that I've had to become really good at or better at, especially since having all her.

And I think we left the house with me wanting to kill my husband and probably him vice versa. So yeah, tho those, those sort of practical things. And I think just learning that you can, even though you might think you can do everything the best way yourself, it's really empowering to realize that actually other people can do it too.

So I guess there's that side of it. And then  the bigger picture of, yeah, I mean when I was pregnant and feeling  at my worst feeling like I, this is not what I wanted and that I would never in a million years be able to do something like that, to go, to get on an airplane and take this small baby that I have no idea what to do with especially to somewhere like Norway where, I mean, it's very well set up and, and, and very safe in lots of ways, but you know, you've got different weather conditions and yeah, I mean that just seemed like an absolutely impossible thing to do.

 And then yet there I was doing it. So I definitely had some  pinch me moments on holiday when I  thought, wow, we are doing this and not only are we on holiday, but we're doing something that we love in the outdoors that feels fairly adventurous and all is with us. And we didn't have to  leave her behind with somebody else or and that for me and for Grant was just a really special moment that we were doing what we love with, with all her in tow.

Literally in tow , what would you have said if you'd had a flash forward and seen that image when you were in the perinatal service, as you said, at, at your lowest? Would you have thought at that time that this would, this would happen or that you would come through? No, and I think any, any images or or experience that I had of, so I have an older sister with three girls.

and they do loads of outdoors adventures and holidays and, and I think, I just used to think how on earth do they do that? Like that just seems impossible. And and I'll have to send all with them if she's to do anything outdoors. Cause I just won't be able to, to get it together enough to, I think just feeling anxious about everything from whether they're warm enough to how you feed them outdoors and yeah.

Yeah. So it definitely felt like something that would just not happen for me. And yet you're the same person from when you were in that perinatal service. And something you said that had been really powerful was when you met with other moms and you joined a group.

What was that like?  What was it like meeting other moms who were in a similar position to you? Yeah, so I think I guess part of my, the main part of the support that I received from the service was with a clinical psychologist like yourself, but working within the nhs and that was one-to-one sessions.

And then she suggested to me quite, so once I'd had ala and ALA was probably three or four, three months old or something, and she'd said to me that there was this group of mums who were all using the service and would it be something that I would consider. And I think up until that point I was just, I just, the idea of a kind of group therapy scenario just wasn't something that I was up for trying, I don't know, I think feeling too vulnerable.

I think partly feeling. Do I want to be  lumped in with a group of people who are all experience? Yeah, I think that kind of avoidance, that actually I'm okay and I don't, and I'm, I'm not, I'm not there. But when she, when she talked about it, and I think I was feeling beginning to feel a little bit more comfortable with being a mum and perhaps a bit more comfortable about being able to be honest about how it had been for me.

So I said, well, I'll try it. I said, but I can't promise that it's gonna be something that I want to do regularly. And it took quite a while to  warm up.  It was virtual so it wasn't face to face, which in some ways I think made it perhaps easier to join in on something rather.

Again, that whole thing of  getting out of the house with a small baby in the car to something that starts at a certain time is all just added pressure in those, those first months. So I think that was quite a good thing that we could be doing it virtually. And you could switch off your microphone if your baby was screaming and you could dip in and out.

So that all felt quite nice and relaxed. And it was run by an occupational therapist and community psychiatric nurse was usually there as well. Yeah, and I would say it was a 12 week course and I would say for the first two or three weeks, kind of still feeling maybe a little bit awkward is this helping.

And getting to know a group of people who you've never met before and all from very different backgrounds and maybe thinking, these are not my people.  And I think still in myself feeling quite, yeah, I think I found it I think until quite recently I've found, describing myself as a mum, a really strange thing.

Yeah, getting used to that, that idea and, and not feeling quite comfortable with the fact that I wasn't comfortable with it. But yeah, then, and then, so after quite a few weeks of, of being in these calls and seeing each other on the videos and everybody sharing what they'd been through I actually found it incredibly useful to know that other people had experienced very similar feelings and thoughts and behaviors to those that I had.

And yeah, and that actually our different background didn't matter at all in that, in that scenario. And in some ways it was maybe better that we were all. Living in different places and in different housing situations and different family dynamics. And because it, it almost made those similarities come out even stronger.

And I think we know that, don't we? That that mental health doesn't know those boundaries of of difference that anybody can, can feel those things. Yeah, and I, and I think being able to share what had happened with, with me and actually I think we were all in the group, felt able to give people, give each other a little bit of advice that maybe we hadn't thought of.

You know, there might have been, it might seem like a really small thing but things like delegating to your partner and  ways to do that so you don't feel it's always on you. Yeah, just little life hacks I guess. But . So I was really, really pleasantly surprised that it was a really positive experience.

 And that honesty, you said it wasn't until you were honest with yourself about what was happening that  you were able to engage and move forward. Because I think it's, difficult sometimes  to acknowledge things are difficult. 

So what difference did it make when you did start accepting that this is what was happening? I need help. .  Yeah. And I think I've experienced  feelings of anxiety and low mood before in my life. So it's, it wasn't new to me when it, when this happened  halfway through my pregnancy. And in many ways I wasn't surprised it was happening.

I think that had been one of the main reasons that I'd put off having babies was a feeling of, I think that might push me over the edge in terms of kind of my vulnerable, the vulnerable side of me. And interestingly, I think people on the outside would just, would just say, Elsie, you'll be an amazing mum.

Like, there's no, there's no doubt in their mind that this was gonna be something that I would not only be very naturally good at, but that I would enjoy. And, but it's just really strange, isn't it, that I, I just genuinely didn't feel that . So I've lost my train of thought. Now that happened. . Yeah. Well, but that, that can be a  big pressure that people put their, their expectations on you, but you, you have a different view of yourself.

Yeah. It is so refreshing, you've being very honest, that that decision to have children wasn't just a no-brainer. It, it did take time. What was it like going through, through that process of, of making the decision,  yeah. Yeah. And I think before I met my husband I think I always thought, that's what I want.

I want a family, I want babies. And then when we got ma, well, we were together for about seven years before we got married and.  life was pretty good, as in we did lots of adventuring and holidays and had a lot of fun and moved out to Strat Blaine and were really enjoying living there. And then my older sister was just down the road having her family, and I felt, I just loved being an auntie.

I felt like my kind of biological need for small people was, was kind of met in lots of ways. And also I think you're seeing it with quite a real lens rather than, I think you can, if you don't have any firsthand experience or somebody close by with children, you can, you can think, well, there are lots of wonderful things about it, but you don't see the kind of reality the behind the scenes if you like.

And I think part of that as well, I. . I, I've spent quite a lot of time thinking I really love these children, and it's really nice to spend time with them, but it's also really nice to give them back and I'm not sure that that's what I want to have my own children. And people always say, well, it's very different with your own children.

And I couldn't agree more, but yeah. So I think for lots of  fairly logical reasons, I just grant and Grant were felt the same. We weren't on different pages about it. We were both pretty. I think in some ways we used to say, well, if it happens, it happens and it'll be fine. And if it doesn't happen, that would also be fine.

But I had to have quite a lot of therapy  through those times because I think especially for women, you're getting older and it feels like it is a decision. You have to decide either way. And yet at the same time, it's a very, it, it's not a decision, is it? Yeah. I don't know. I find it difficult to put into words, but it's like, , you know, you can write down the pros and you can write down the cons, but somehow still don't get to an answer.

That's very clear. So yeah, I found that I, I, you know, especially in my  later thirties, I've found that a very difficult thing to decide, is this something that I want to do? And I think the, the where I got to and Grant agreed was that we could, we could at least get to a point where we were up for trying to have a baby

But that was, you know, very specific. This is just trying, this is not that we want to do this, but this is us realizing that actually time is ticking on and it's not, we don't feel definite about not doing it. So let's try and I think both of us thinking it will take ages and it probably won't happen cuz you spend your whole  life trying not to get pregnant.

And that works very well.  . So, and then it happened very quickly, which we're incredibly lucky for. But I think, yeah, it was actually quite a shock when you suddenly like, oh, so this has happened much sooner than we thought. And everything is going well, you know, there were no complications. And you get swept along, I think by, by everybody's reactions around you.

So family and friends saying, this is wonderful. Congratulations, how exciting you're gonna be great parents. So I did feel excited to start with those first 12 weeks.  And I was even referred to a to an obstetrician at that time based on my mental health history.

And we had a very honest conversation, sort of 11, 12 weeks mark, and decided that actually I was feeling good and that I would get back in touch if  I started to feel like I needed some more support.

And I think actually at that time, I, I don't have many regrets, but I think it would've been really good if I just said, actually, I think even though I'm feeling okay just now, it would be good to be  in the system and meet you and because I think what happens, and I think it's probably a very natural human brain reaction, is that you begin to maybe feel some of.

Difficult feelings creeping in, but you push them aside and you think, no, I'm okay. I can carry on. And then those things begin to take over more and more. So there might be a couple of days a week in the week where you just can't stop crying or you just feel so panicked by what's happening that you kind of can't even see the wood, the wood for the trees.

And you think, no, no, that's okay. I'm pregnant and these things are bound to happen and let's try and normalize and not medic over medicalize what's happening. But actually I think at that stage is when you need to, well, for me personally, was when I needed to engage with somebody on some level in a professional sense because I think it's, it's all very well speaking to family and friends.

It doesn't always get you the advice or the, the sounding board that you need. In my experience. So at what point did you then actively go and seek out help? So at the point where I had to leave work because I couldn't stop crying, as in somebody would say hello to me in the corridor and I just burst into tears.

So I just had to tell the tea, the head teacher, I have to go home. Mm-hmm. . And that was probably just after my 20 week scan, so kind of November. Mm-hmm.  November time. And then I phoned the GP because that's what you do is a first port of call. Well that's what I felt was the right thing to do.

And I know my GP pretty well. I've seen her a lot over the years for kind of depression, anxiety things as well as the normal. Health, sorry, not, not that mental health isn't normal, but for physical things as well. So we know each other quite well and she just said, Elsie are you still taking your sertraline?

And I said, no, I've stopped taking it because I was pregnant and I wanted to not be on anything. And she said, yeah, I can understand, but I think what we need right now is, is to get you back on some medication. And and medication for me is, I think has become something that I've learned to accept and I don't think I will ever not be taking it.

And like that's been a bit of a journey for me to accept actually, if it was a physical condition that I needed medication for, I wouldn't think twice about taking it. Although I think even then there can be, people can feel quite yeah, it's not a nice thing to be putting something into your body necessarily that.

Yeah, I think we have a funny relationship with drugs, don't we? They, they can be incredibly effective, but I think we would, our aspiration is to be, is to not be using any medication. Yeah. And I think it's the way that our, our health system is working currently, which I think is a bit of a shame that the first port of call is medication.

I think that it definitely plays a role, but I think it should definitely also be joined with, with talking therapy, if that's what somebody wants, or just a bit more of a full package than I'll give you some medication to start on and I'll see you in two weeks. And, and, and I, I'm not blaming any, any healthcare professionals in the system because I think that's just, that's where we're at.

So yeah, it was a really dark winter of being pregnant and feeling really unwell and and quite scared quite a lot of the time. And that's, that's when I  spoke to my GP about the perinatal service.

 I'd actually referred myself in some ways cuz that felt like the, the easiest thing to do. But then as soon as my GP realized that things were, were going in a, in a downward spiral she also wrote a letter to them and, and referred me. Which did make things easier, but I wasn't even aware initially that there was a specialist service for, for women around pregnancy and mental health.

And I don't think there is in every nhs board, but I was very lucky that there was one within within my nhs area. And you were proactive in seeking that help out. Yeah.  I think because I, because I knew that I felt like this before mm-hmm.  Which in some ways is good cuz it gives you, you know, what the warning signs are and you kind of know a little bit about the system and how to navigate that and a little bit about what's worked for you in the past.

But I think it can also yeah, it, it, it kind of can get, get you really panicky and scared that this is where this is going. That this is. , this is lc getting really depressed and really anxious and into a vicious cycle. And I a friend of ours died, had died from suicide. The march before.

I fell pregnant with ala. So I think that was just really forefront in my mind. And rightly or wrongly, that's where my brain went was this is what's going to happen. I'm going to need to go to hospital. I'm going to feel like ending my life. And I think that's the really interesting debate, isn't it currently is how much to, to medicalize how we feel and, and how much to say, well actually this is really normal and lots of people are feeling that.

So yeah, tricky time.  it is, and it's very humanizing that in some ways it is normal in that that is where your mind can go to when things are so painful on the inside and very difficult to break that vicious cycle when you're in it. Mm-hmm. . And you had the hindsight, you recognized there was a bit of you that recognized what was going on enough to seek out help.

Yes. I think it did help me to seek out help, but I think, I wonder whether there is another aspect to it as well that made me dramatize it or, or mm-hmm.  Sort of worst case scenario catastrophize. Yeah. And, and maybe part of that is a mechanism in, you know, a natural mechanism to.

to get help is that, you know, this is actually really bad and I need to do something about it right now. And yeah. That would've been  very, very scary for you to have Yeah. Experienced to have those, have those thoughts. And as you triggered, triggered by that, that knowledge that you very sadly lost a friend.

Yes. So the, once you were in the perinatal service, what for you helped, what did you gain from, the therapy  and the group work? 

, I think a big sigh of relief that somebody professional was listening, taking it seriously, telling me you've done exactly the right thing. Yeah, I mean, I, I think I cried with relief when somebody said that to me the first time. Yeah, because I think you, you know, you can feel like, is this really, is this as bad as I feel it is?

And yeah. So just that reassurance that what you're feeling is real, that your feelings are real and that there is this service set up specifically for women that are feeling similar things and that we are here to help you. . And there's all sorts of things that we can offer in terms of whether it's one-to-one therapy or group therapy or visit home visits from a, a community nurse.

So I think suddenly feeling like I'd been picked up in a net or a cozy blanket  yeah, that that feeling of being cared for and that somebody's got your back was, was a really, a really important factor in, in helping me to feel better. Yeah, and then I think, I think medication certainly played its part as well.

So, and time, time and time for that to work and to get the dose right. And, and then  seeing somebody in a professional capacity on a regular basis who. Has heard all sorts of things, as in there's nothing that you can say that will shock them. And I think that always takes a bit of time to feel comfortable enough to say those things.

But yeah, clinical psychologists are trained to be able to get that  out of you, aren't they? So doesn't take very long and somebody who can , who you see one week and then you see the next week and you see and, and you, you're able to somehow quantify progress or, or be able to see that actually some things have changed.

I think that's the other really difficult thing is if you're just looking at all yourself, it's very difficult to pick out things that have improved or or, or things that have changed. So that was really helpful. And then the group thing was really good because it was sort of that sharing and, and maybe helping others and feeling empowered by that.

And then I also used an app while I was with the perinatal service. And it wasn't one that, it was just one that they re had recommended. I found writing things down and I always have found writing things down really difficult as in I get a piece of paper in a pen and I have no idea where to start.

I'm quite a  structured, logical person, so I want somebody to tell me what to write or at least give me some headings or some bullet points or something, or some tick boxes. And I, but I also really appreciate and understand, and it definitely works.  if you write some of your thoughts and feelings down or find, yeah.

And I was doing that a little bit on my phone in a  bullet pointy way, which I found much easier than on a piece of paper. But then this app was really good cuz it prompted you certain times of the day you can set it up to be all personalized to  check in. And it's really basic in terms of it gives you a range of emojis to say, to help you say how you're feeling and then think tick boxes and a place where you can write more down if you, if you want to.

So that really helped as a kind of way of I guess  journaling what was happening and engaging with what was happening. And I think I've always struggled with that as in it's, it's, it feels easier and safer and more comfortable to avoid what's going on. And to, to distract. . Yeah. So to get out for a walk and make sure that you meet people and watch TV and try and read books and, and I think a bit of that is really important as well.

But I also think for me to feel like I was engaging with it on a regular basis was also vital. And so you learned that actually by engaging with it and acknowledging it and looking at what was going on that was therapeutic because it enabled you to maybe take that step back and so you actually journaling has, has been helpful, but really hard to start.

Yeah, and I think journaling is often I guess there's lots of different ways to journal, but I, I thought that you had to  write reams and reams and reams of, of thoughts and and then put them on the fire or, and that all just, . I don't know. For me it just felt very overwhelming to even begin to do something like that.

Whereas if it could be quite  short, snappy on my phone. So I wasn't getting out a pad of paper, I dunno, something quite overwhelming about a blank piece of paper and where do I start? So yeah, I guess, I guess realizing that there were different ways of journaling or, or documenting your journey mm-hmm.

And that that can be very therapeutic to, to do that. But maybe it's about finding a way that works for you. Yes. And when you did come along to see me, it was interesting that you said, oh, this actually feels a bit indulgent cuz I'm doing really well just now. And I wondered if to talk a bit more about that because it seems something possibly in our system broken that we have to be really suffering before we reach out for help.

And how do we, or how do you main, how do you now maintain that? Positive mental health without feeling like I can indulge. It is okay to prioritize my self care. And also you're now doing it alongside having a one year-old . Yeah. Yeah. For me it was just an amazing experience to meet the therapist when I wasn't feeling in crisis.

Mm-hmm. . And I've never tried that before. And I think, I do believe that the majority of people, probably everyone could benefit from having a therapist or somebody to talk to who's impartial and not related and not a friend, and yeah, independent in some ways. But I think there's lots of barriers to that.

I, I guess partly that, yeah, we have this idea that you have to be very sick to, to have therapy.  And also cost mm-hmm.  because mm-hmm.  private therapy is expensive and the NHS therapy system doesn't currently do preventative work. Which I think a lot of people would agree would be great if it did.

So yeah, it did feel indulge. It does feel indulgent, but at the same time I think I've, if there's one thing I've learned through all of this is that you need to look after yourself. If you're going to be the best mom and wife and sister and daughter that you want to be it's like that old saying is, put your own face mask on before, before even your baby's face mask.

Which I think, yeah, as a mum, you feel like you've got to be looking after everybody, and I think that's true. You do need to look after people, but if you haven't looked after yourself, then. Looking after other people can be can be very difficult and maybe not as good as it could be as as if you were  well rested and feeling mentally strong and feeling like you've had time for a shower and

Cause it can be really small things and I think that's something that I really learned through the service as well. I had a really lovely community psychiatric nurse who used to come and visit me at home. And she just talked a lot about this is even when, when all was born, you know, it doesn't have to be a big gesture to look after yourself.

It doesn't have to be a holiday to The Bahamas or going to get a full manicure. Or it can be literally making yourself a cup of tea and drinking the tea before it goes cold. Yeah. Or it can be reading one page of a magazine. And I think especially when you've suddenly got another person to look after that feeling of.

I don't have time to do anything else. Like I didn't even think I had time to brush my teeth when ALA was first home with me. Yeah. And yeah, so, so I think little hacks like that, like it doesn't have to be a big thing, can be really small, but just remembering that actually you matter and you've got to, it's got to be a priority to look after yourself so that you can be there to look after other people.

Yes. There are some very helpful life hacks and it changes, I guess, is the age of your child as well. You know, you're at a stage where it's nice just to go to the toilet on your own . Yes. And, and it does changes as they, the needs. They, they get older and you're taxing around, but taking that time for yourself, and that's a really lovely saying.

It's true when you're on the plane, you're asked to put your mo oxygen mask on first, but taking that into meaning you need, you need to look after yourself. Yeah. And now oral is one, and you've just gone back to work. So, what have been, now that you are a mom and it's moving a bit more towards being able to hear that, what are some of the, the positive moments that you've had with Orlow where you've, you've been Yeah.

No, I'm, I'm, I'm doing this. I'm doing all right. I'm doing, I'm doing okay. Gosh. Yeah. I mean, there've been.  been lots of moments like that. Mm-hmm.  Which yeah, sounds strange to say from from where I was at. But yeah, def definitely the Norway holiday was there were many moments on holiday where you just  stop and think, this is actually incredible, as in I'm having a lovely time doing something that I love.

All is here. She's enjoying it. And, and she makes it better. Like she makes, yeah, just her, her presence makes life amazing. And yeah, just, just that she adds so much both to me and, and for Grant as well, and us as a, as a family. . think, you know, people used to say, oh, you'll, it's really difficult, but you wrote, but it, but it's the best thing in the world,  and I, and I used to think, yeah, right.

How can it be like both of those things? But it is you can't write down pros and cons, can you ? No, no, no, no. Exactly. And that  takes you back to that kind of trying to make a decision about it. Mm-hmm. . And it's a really difficult, it's a really difficult thing to navigate. But, and I, and I, I actually I can still think of lots of reasons why not having children is a good thing.

And I don't think it's for everybody. And, but I think also recognizing that you might think it's not for you and you just, you're just not gonna know until it's there and it's happening. And the likelihood is that you'll make it work. And that actually you'll feel very glad that you did. And. , if you had an image of yourself in those positive parenting moments, you do have the photo of you in the ski, but if there was an image that came to mind of you in those joyful parenting moments, what would that be?

Probably  Wonder Woman, maybe . Excellent. Kind of strong. Strong, strong on the inside. Strong on the outside, good role model.  Enjoying, enjoying life, being fun. And, and I think actually a really important part of that is also being able to take yourself off sometimes without, without your baby, without your husband and have fun.

So I was partying all night on Saturday night at a friend's 40th party . And that just felt really good. And I think there could be all sorts of feelings of, of guilt that. All still does feed a lot in the night and, and breastfeeding still. And but she was with Grant, and Grant was very happy about having a baby who potentially might be a bit grumpy when she woke up and I wasn't there.

But you know, they ate bananas and watched TV and I think they had quite a nice time too. So I think, yeah, and just feeling really pleased that I, that Grant and I have both invested time in making sure that all is very happy to be with her dad as well as to be with her mum, which I don't think is always easy when you've got very limited parental paternity leave and yeah, I think that can be a really tricky balance to get right.

And I'm sure we haven't got it right on all in all ways, but it felt very nice to be able to leave all in the evening and not worry about her at all while I was having a, a dance and a drink. Wonderful. And yes, yes, yes. That sounds quite the tonic. And I'm sure there's also your typical challenging moments with the, with the one year olds where things aren't always going quite to plan.

How, how, how have you found those moments? You know, when, when things cuz one year olds don't always do what you want,  No, and I think yeah, I, I would, you know, some people say those first days and weeks, but I would see that, say those first months. Mm. We, we actually went to France with all of, when she was four months and for a family wedding.

And that felt like a bit of a watershed in terms of, and I think that thing of stepping outside your comfort zone, realizing that you can even help, you can even keep, keep a baby alive,  in a different country. Which was really empowering. So I think that was a bit of a watershed. So I would say those first four months, I mean many, many, many low moments of just sitting in a chair, feeding your baby crying, you're exhausted you've no idea when you're gonna be able to sleep.

All is upset. She's crying. Every time she feeds, she vomits most of it up. Or just really struggling with  digestive issues, which I think are just so common with newborns, but nobody really tells you that. And then, and just like the, every, every single thing that you think about doing with your baby is, is a point at which you can get really anxious.

So I used to find it really difficult getting her ready to go outside. Even though I know how to dress myself for the outdoors, suddenly I was like, well, how do I keep this tiny human being. Cozy and alive in the outdoors. And, and yet the outdoors for me is an incredibly important part of my daily life.

And I've definitely got there. Now I feel very confident about what, what she should wear and make sure you take lots of different layers and, and be prepared. But yeah, I found, I found that really difficult and that, and just leaving the house and driving with her, I mean, I had a cesarean section so I wasn't allowed to drive initially anyway.

But that felt like a huge deal to drive, to be in the front while all is in the back and be in control of her vehicle with a tiny person in a car seat. So yeah. Cuz I think it can look like now if, if somebody was to look at me functioning with a one year old or, you know, she's totally nailed this and

But that is that there's, there's a lot of a backstory. And I think even now, so this morning all of was had, had her breakfast and she was definitely tired and ready to go to sleep, but she doesn't want to go to sleep. She's crying and crying and and I think when you and I was trying to clear up and get ready for this call, and my sister was coming to take all her away for a couple of hours so that I could have a quiet house.

And I was still in my pajamas and I hadn't brushed my teeth, hadn't had to cup of tea . And in that moment you can just get so  angry and partly towards all, like, why didn't, why on earth don't you just go to sleep? And then angry at yourself that you're getting angry with a, a tired small baby.

So eventually I just took her into my bed and, and she was asleep within minutes cuz we just snuggled up. But I think yeah, realizing that. , they're not, they don't know what the agenda is. They dunno what you are trying to do. And so actually sometimes it's better just to get, come right back to basics and get under the duvet together.

And then that'll probably be okay. But Yeah. But that, but that can be a difficult move cause you're like, well, that's not very productive. I won't be able to clean the kitchen floor where she's slung our . But those things can wait. But yeah. Yeah, I like that. Come back to basics and the basics.

Fundamental needs. what would be your image of yourself in those slightly more anxious, angry moments as a mom? Oh gosh. Probably like a, like a whirlwind. Mm. A hurricane.  Quite stormy.

Yeah. I dunno. Like stomping around trying to do, trying to still trying to do everything. Saying, oh, for goodness sake, Aller . Yeah, I, I love as the more episodes I do and I ask these images and there's a, there's a consistency coming and we've had this, a tornado image before. And I think that says a lot about how humanizing and whatever background you were saying earlier, whatever background, whatever mental health, our, our emotions don't take account of those.

And that's, that's, yeah, that's an image that I've, I've heard before and it's, and I can relate, I guess the, the kind  when Ola was very small, I guess there was also an image of me just  like sitting in Trico as in kind of unable to feeling quite paralyzed by the fear of not knowing what to do with this small person.

And not feeling remotely equipped enough to be doing the job that you're doing. Yeah. So there's some moments of kind of just being feeling utterly lost as to what you should do or, or how you're going to do it, or, yeah, like just getting, getting out of bed cuz you're exhausted and the baby wants to be fed again and your husband's gone back to work and you dunno how you're going to eat , you dunno how you're gonna sleep.

You dunno how you're gonna wash. Yeah. So, and, and all of that in some ways, I think on a good day that can make you  get up and go because you're like, well, there's lots to do. But I mean, on a, on a bad day, which there were a lot of, it was just like, well actually I'll just stay in bed because.  by far in away the, the kind of least scary option.

And nice to look back now and have the hindsight to know that at one minute I can feel like I'm stuck intrical and I'm in a tornado of this whirlwind of thoughts. And the next moment, you know, I can feel like Wonder Woman and Strong on the inside, strong on the outside. And it's nice to know that, that these moments come and go and, and you can look back on them.

Well, thank you for, for being so honest and as, as we bring our chat to an end, I've got my question for you about your, your truth book confession, which you like to end on. Yeah. But that, that moment where you think, I'm really glad no one was watching . What have you got for us? Yes, I've thought a lot about this  probably too much about it.

But I think, I think it has to be, cause it was like incredibly embarrassing and every time I think about it I  cringe. . So I do, well, I don't do very much running now, but I used to do a lot a lot more before all I came along, and I'm hoping to get back into it a little bit. And I was doing a race, a trail race and I, I really enjoy running and I'm okay at it, but never before have I  placed podium placed in a race, but I think it must have been a fairly small field  at the race that I was doing.

And somebody who was cheering on said, you're first, you're, you're the first woman. And I thought, I mean, that's impossible, but okay. And at that point I'd also been really thinking, I really need to stop and pee

And normally that wouldn't be a second thought, as in I would just stop. And, you know, it doesn't matter if you need to stop and pee and then get back in the race, doesn't really matter. But anyway, this, this information really ignited the, the competitive spirit in me. So I thought, well, there's no way I can stop and pee , so I've just got to keep running and I've got to keep running faster because somebody might be chasing me.

. Anyway, so this resulted in in me crossing the finish line before anybody had overtaken me, which was good, but. Having peed myself, . And then, and then I find out, actually I'm not first woman, I'm second. So . Oh, oh, still you, you've got a put in place. Which, which, which is still still amazing. But I just think yeah, maybe if you're gonna break a world record or be the first woman to have ever done something, maybe it's worth peeing your pants, but maybe not for  second place at a very small field trail.

When you went to get your prize, were you able to have a quick change? ? Well, I was able to  wrap a, a jacket around my race. Right? Yeah. Right. Yeah. Okay. . Oh, I'm sure a lot of people will relate to that actually. Well, that brings me on a yeah, I mean obviously post post babies then that's even more of a problem.

Yes, it will be. Yeah. I better not be doing anything competitive anytime soon or, or well, yeah, make sure you got that jacket wrapped around. Well, well done for getting second, but yes. Thank you. Yeah, quite embarrassing spirit pick kicks in. Well, thanks for sharing that. Well, thank you Elsie, for coming on and it it's been a real pleasure, to chat to you  and I think what I'm, one of the things I'm really hearing is that being proactive and, and, and not waiting until things are really, really bad, but being okay and, and like looking, seeking out, seeking out help. And, and I loved your expression of just once you got the help, it felt like you were being wrapped up in a blanket.

So I'm really glad that you did.  Yeah, I think, I think, I think it is, it's true, isn't it? That that in, in some ways the good times need the need the bad times. As in it's like that, it almost, yeah, in terms of a context of how you are, that, you know, the needs, there are ups and downs and that is life.

And it's okay. And, but I think there are a lot of things that we can do to help ourselves get through all of that. And I think maybe having somebody like yourself as a sounding board, even when you're feeling okay, is a, is a good thing. . And I think just generally opening up the conversation, isn't it for, for, for people to, to feel like these things are a, you know, you're not the only one.

There's loads of people who feel quite unusual as in not the norm when you're pregnant or, or when you're being a mum at first, is this  rosy picture that it's all love and, and cuddles and happy moments. And, and of course there is a lot of that, but there's, yeah, it can also be quite a dark time and very confusing time of first time mum and Yeah.

Yeah. Absolutely. Well, thank you very much for coming on and sharing that, and I look forward to, to sharing, to sharing this episode. Thank you very much Thank you, Catherine. It's been lovely to chat.

Thank you, Elsie. Hearing how you went from a very scary place in your mind during pregnancy and transitioned to being a mom, to now feeling mentally well and going on family adventures is so important so that others can know they're not on their own, and that when they see you tubed up in your ski gear, toying, orla, feeling like superwomen, they can celebrate your achievement and not assume that you've always felt like that. That there was a time when you felt quite the opposite and sought help. And I'll know, Elsie, if I ever see you on the podium after a running race with your jacket around your waist, that your competitive spirit is kicked in.

 If you know anyone who would relate to Elsie's story and find it helpful, please do. Or even better. Come on Truth. Book your story of how you have navigated family life will inspire and become part of someone else's family survival guide.