Yesterday I developed the sugar-consuming, headache-inducing, extreme fatigue murder rage also known as premenstrual tension or PMT. Among my achievements for the day were snapping at Squidge, eating my body weight in Jaffa cakes, crying, changing my pajamas for clean ones, begging the Northern One for a cuddle and finally managing to sit down and concentrate long enough to write this blog post. All in all it wasn’t exactly the most successful day I’ve ever had but by the end of it I’d worked out what was going on and I was feeling the tiniest bit more human.
In the same way that I’ve mostly forgotten how awful labour was, each month I forget how rotten PMT makes me feel and so each month it takes me by surprise. This is the reason I usually spend a few days in a state of snotty, emotional turmoil until my periods starts and I realise why I’ve screamed at the Northern One over nothing and that Squidge isn’t the worst behaved child since I started nursery and bashed another child over the head with a set of hand bells.
I’m really not coming across well, am I?
In the year or so prior to becoming pregnant with Squidge the mood swings, abdominal cramps and back pain that seem to be an inevitable part of menstruation became increasingly worse with each passing month. On several occasions the pain was so severe that it woke me up in the early hours of the morning, leaving me bent double and sobbing until the painkillers began to kick in. To put things in perspective, when I first found out that I was pregnant one of the few positive things that I took from the whole experience was that at least I wouldn’t have any periods for the next year.
My theory is that PMT is the body conspiring against you to try and convince you to become pregnant and have more children, buying into the misguided theory that by making periods completely awful we as women will do anything to prevent them. I will admit that on one particular morning, when I had to drag myself into work after being woken up at 0400 with lower back cramps, I was heard to mutter that being pregnant had to be less painful.
Oh how I ended up eating my words (along with a hideous amount of chocolate).
Prior to becoming pregnant I had a contraceptive implant which (as far as I was concerned) was one of the greatest inventions of modern science. For three years I didn’t have any periods and therefore PMT was a distant memory, which to be completely was absolute bliss. It wasn’t until I had the implant removed that I realised how profound an effect my menstrual cycle and fluctuating hormones had upon my mental health and general emotional well-being.
To give you an idea of the severity of my PMT induced mood changes, my counsellor is able to predict when my period was about to start before we’ve even started our weekly session. Apparently she walks out in the waiting room and I’m sat there with an expression on my face that suggests someone set fire to my pillow pet (his name is Humphrey) and left the scorched remains on my pillow.
To try and give the Northern One a bit of warning (so that he can invest in earplugs or possibly some body armour) we’ve both downloaded a period tracking app onto our phones. The Northern One now has a pretty pink icon on his home screen, we both know where we are in my cycle and he knows that anything unhinged that I say is probably as a result of hormones and not because my medication has stopped working.
I’ve also noticed that the week before my period starts is the time that I start thinking about having another baby. Again, this is most likely my hormones talking (or more accurately screaming) but I can also see this for the huge step forward that it is and realise that even a couple of months ago even thinking about a sibling for Squidge seemed like the most unlikely thing in the world.
The cramps, mood swings and junk food cravings may be fairly hellish and make me feel out of control and guilty and all sorts of other things for at least a few days every single month but I can see a future where Squidge isn’t an only child and I feel sufficiently in control of my mental health to have purposefully become pregnant again.
And that is worth all the emotions, all the tears and every single minute of pain and discomfort to know that one day, things might be different for me.
Louise is a full time mum and a part time neonatal nurse who has battled depression for many years but particularly during her pregnancy. She lives with her husband (the Northern One) their little boy (Squidge) and their three guinea pigs who live in the kitchen.
Louise blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss.
In 2015 she was shortlisted in the ‘Fresh Voice’ category for the BIB (Brilliance in Blogging) Awards and the ‘Bereavement Worker’ category for the Butterfly Awards. She was also one of the keynote speakers at BritMums Live reading’Twinkle Twinkle’ which was her account of caring for a premature baby on the day that he died.