A children's book, looking at PND through a child's eyes.

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Monster Day

I wrote this post a whole ago when I initially wanted to help spread the word about my book…and then got chatting to various people and charities on Twitter and discovered that so many wonderful charities and people who have had post natal depression would like to work together and create a PND Awareness week here in the UK. It’s definitely an illness that needs to be talked about more!

This is what I wrote back then when I began to think about it, I did link it to my book…but of course this doesn’t have to be set in stone. Collaboration and working together will be amazing, I just wanted to post this to show my commitment and to get the ball rolling so to speak…let me know what you think…

Last week in Australia it was PND Awareness week, with the key phrase #bePNDaware. Among many other things there is a huge social media campaign with people changing their twitter avatars and writing blog lists telling their stories. People are talking about PND, raising awareness of the illness, smashing the stigma.

Sadly Post-Natal Depression affects more than the 10% to 15% of those diagnosed. Far too many suffer in silence. Fearing they will be judged, that their children will be taken away, that they are failures as mums and believing the nasty voices in their heads that say they are worthless and the world would be a better place if they were no longer a part of it. Last week three mums took their lives because of the illness and I found myself grieving for mothers and children and families I didn’t know. Last week I decided I wanted to help even more.

Many charities and parenting websites and Internet forums run their own mental health awareness weeks and PND awareness weeks, but as far as I’m aware there is nothing national, nothing set in stone to raise PND awareness. I recently had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Daisy Griffiths at Blogfest who suggested a sort of Monster Day (it may end up being called something else!) to link in with my book. In the same way that Movember and growing a moustache raises awareness for prostrate cancer without being directly linked, Monster Day could do the same for PND. It would get people talking, and listening to real women and men talk about their experiences. There would be a wealth of information fed out through the day about where you can get help and what you can do if you are suffering or know someone who is. PND affects women and men, and takes hold of their families who are all help in its vice like grip. Husbands could get information about how to support their wives and partners, older siblings could be reassured it’s not their fault and it won’t be like this forever and meet others in the same situation,

Maybe on Monster Day you could stomp like a monster, or pull a face like one. You could do the best monster roar, or draw a new monster? Bake monster cakes, write blog stories about them. Blog about your experiences? As you can see this idea is VERY much in its infancy and I have a lot to work through yet in setting it all up. It wouldn’t necessarily be about raising money, but it would definitely be about raising awareness and facilitating conversations about the illness and helping people find ways of coping, getting through it and getting better.

I appreciate I am only one tiny little woman, and that getting this up and running and off the ground would take an awful lot of hard work and support, but I am prepared to work as hard as I can to help as many people as I can.

So are you with me?


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Ebook Reviews

‘From my perspective as a parent with mental health issues, this hits all the right notes.’

‘It is a great starting point to an open conversation between a mum and child who are in this situation.’

‘This reassuring book is a gentle yet moving look at depression, seen through the eyes of a bewildered child.’

‘It will be a great tool in helping to develop a child’s emotional intelligence.

Review of A Monster Ate My Mum

A delightful, endearing tale of how a young boy navigates the path of his Mum’s inner battle with postnatal depression. It speaks volumes of the loss and despair that occurs, not just from the perspective of the adult, but that of the child.

The joy and beauty of the tale is that of hope. Her smiles, laugh and spark will be returned to her and that she will get better. More importantly, that it wasn’t the child that had made her feel this way.

It would be such a gift to see this enriching tale made available to all women who experience the devastation of low mood, anxiety and depression within the perinatal period.

I for one recommend it wholeheartedly.

Claire Murphy
Group Leader – Butterflies PND Support Group

Paperback Reviews

‘I’d like to thank Jen for writing this hugely important book.’

‘This is something so truly special, something that someone has gifted I feel, to those parents who have had post natal depression.’

‘It’s a really clear and simple to understand book, which flows very easily thanks to the rhyming words Jen uses.’

‘I would love to see this book in all settings, children’s centres, schools, nurseries and in homes up and down the country.’

‘I would say this book tackles a personal and often devastating subject very well.’

‘This is a brilliant book for children who have a parent struggling with depression.’

‘It’s an amazingly therapeutic effect, drawing open a mother’s mind to see PND from the perspective of those around her – from personal experience this can be a huge motivational tool to encourage change as well as the active pursuit of help.’

‘I view A Monster Ate My Mum as a useful tool in tackling PND.’

”Little L loved the book, she continued to ask questions throughout which is always a good thing as it shows she’s listening and taking it in.

More reviews of the paperback version of the book are coming soon…they’ve been sent out to the reviewers!!

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Press Release!

Written by Jen Faulkner

A children’s book, written in rhyme, looking at Post Natal Depression from a child’s perspective.

First Edition, published on 18th October 2013

Print version: £7.49 (currently £5.99)
ebook: 99p

An important subject, and one that can be tricky to talk about, is Post Natal Depression, which affects between 10% and 15% of new mothers. To highlight this important issue and to facilitate its discussion comes the story ‘A Monster Ate my Mum’ by Jen Faulkner.

As a sufferer of Post-Natal depression herself, Jen knows how debilitating this illness can be and just how much it affects the whole family, especially siblings. Watching her older children see her suffer and finding it hard to find the right words to explain to them what was happening to their mum, Jen took to something she knows well, her love of writing.

She wrote a rhyming story talking about PND, as seen through the eyes of a child, to help her children understand what was happening to her. She hopes to help other families affected by the illness with the book. The central character, a young boy, goes on a hunt to look for the monsters that have taken different parts of his mum. He looks for her smile, her laugh, her spark.

“Excuse me but have you eaten my mum?

I want her back I want some fun.

I want to see her smile, my mum.

Is she in your big round tum?”

The boy learns that they didn’t mean to eat his mum and that in time, all of the things they have taken will be returned.

“No she’s not here I just ate her smile.

I’ll give it back after a while.

I’m sorry I was hungry you see.

I don’t know where your mum could be.”

Aimed at children across the age range from 2 right through to 12, the initial response from the first appearance of the story on her blog instinctivemum.com has been amazing, and included an invitation to read it aloud on BBC Radio Bristol during Dr Phil Hammond’s Saturday Surgery show. More information can be found on the blog: https://amonsteratemymum.wordpress.com
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Currently available through this link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/jen-faulkner/a-monster-ate-my-mum/paperback/product-21257893.html

Jen Faulkner is available to discuss her PND journey and the story it helped to create.

For further information please contact Jen Faulkner: instinctivemum@gmail.com or @MonsterAteMyMum


The Author

Jen Faulkner

Post-Natal depression affects many families; and it affected mine. I am a mum to three beautiful children (a feisty yet sensitive 12 year old daughter, a quiet and thoughtful four year old boy, and an unpredictable 18 month old son) and have suffered either pre or post-natal depression with each of them. It is a debilitating illness that affects the entire family and I was painfully aware of this after the birth of my third child when I was at my most ill. I witnessed my older children, then three and eleven, look at me with confusion when I was crying again and asked me why I was so sad. I saw them shy away from me when I was irritable and tip-toe around me when I was locked in my own anxiety ridden hell. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t anything yet they’d done, but it know they were affected by it. I know they were confused by what was happening to their mum who was such a confident and lively person.

Here is my story:

When I was 23 I became pregnant, and soon found out that I would be facing the journey alone. Naturally I had expectations. Of the pregnancy, of the birth, of what being a single parent would be like. And with my first, and every baby after, those expectations changed, and were either challenged, or exceeded.

That very first time I suffered with PND I, and many others, put it down to the fact that I was a single parent, sleep deprived and struggling alone. There was no counselling offered, no antidepressants, and it was never mentioned or talked about again. Until I got pregnant with my second baby. (this time planned!)

My daughter was 6, and I was living with my now husband. I was excited about having a baby. About having a baby with a man who wanted to have a baby with me. I didn’t expect all of the unresolved problems and emotions from my first pregnancy to come back with a vengeance. I became irritable, panicky, suffering so many palpitations that I eventually needed an ECG, which thankfully was normal. I became a paranoid and jealous woman. (yes I even checked my husband’s phone and emails) I would cry, a lot. I couldn’t seem to get a grip. My husband could do nothing right (don’t get me wrong, he’s not perfect by ANY stretch of the imagination, but he didn’t deserve the abuse he was getting) and my daughter didn’t understand where the mummy she knew had gone. So pre-natal depression was diagnosed. And this time I was offered counselling. There was a waiting list of course, but thankfully not too long. Counseling was hard. I regularly didn’t want to go. Didn’t want to talk about myself yet again. (which is MOST unlike me!) However, I had light-bulb moment during session four, where I realised that I was subconsciously expecting my husband to disappear like my daughter’s father had done. Thankfully counselling helped, and once my son was born I became better, and enjoyed being a mum.

Three years later I had my third (and definitely last baby!) You’d think having done it twice before I’d be well prepared. That my expectations of parenthood and being a mum would be pretty much spot on. That nothing new could throw me because I’d been there, done it all and got the t-shirt! I knew the depression might come back again, but I was confident I could survive it, and naively thought it was partly due to circumstances before, and that now all of the unresolved feelings and emotions had been dealt with I’d be ok. Oh how wrong I was. My third baby, my second son, challenged me in every way. For he didn’t sleep, at all. And I didn’t cope, at all. I couldn’t understand it at first, ‘but my babies sleep’ went round my head and out my mouth often and I felt like I was failing as a mother. He didn’t do what I’d expected, and I wasn’t coping how I’d expected, and it threw me. I spent my days unable to look at him because when I did I would have a huge panic attack. I firmly believed that I couldn’t look after him, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to stop him crying. I spent my nights desperately trying to get him to sleep, crying uncontrollably when five minutes after he’d settled he’d be crying for me again. I’d scream at my husband, whilst hitting myself, that I couldn’t do it, that he needed to take him away. The self-loathing was overwhelming. I constantly planned how I would run away, and where and when I’d go. (middle of the night, to a friend up north) I mentally wrote the note I would write and leave to tell my husband that I couldn’t be a mum to this baby, that the family was better off without me because all I did was panic and cry and shout. I’d cling to my baby son during the day and not let anyone hold him because if they did, he would wake up and the crying would start. People say I looked trapped. I certainly felt trapped. Every day was a battle, a mountain to climb. Everyone knew something was wrong. Even me deep down. But I just thought I was sleep deprived. That when I got more sleep I would feel better. Unsurprisingly I didn’t. Five weeks in and my son was only waking once in the night for a feed, yet I had developed insomnia, and would cry and have panic attacks all night, unable to sleep a wink. Thankfully my health visitor recognised that I was ill. Very ill. And one day, when I was sat in my car outside the supermarket, thinking how I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again because life was just too hard and that nothing other than permanent sleep would make it better, I recognised that I was ill too. And that I needed help. And lots of it.

I didn’t expect to get post-natal depression so badly the third time around. It was debilitating, affected the whole family and was an unbearably dark time in my life.

My children are why ‘A Monster Ate My Mum’ is so important to me, I want to be open with them about my illness. For who knows, maybe one day they may need to be open themselves. I desperately hope that the book will help many families of those who have suffered or are suffering. Please help to spread the word, and thank you for reading x

If you would like to read more of my blog posts about PND here are some links:

The original poem: http://instinctivemum.com/pnd/a-monster-ate-my-mum/
An A to Z of PND: http://instinctivemum.com/uncategorized/an-a-to-z-of-pnd/
Insomnia: http://instinctivemum.com/pnd/insomnia/
Feelings: http://instinctivemum.com/pnd/feelings/
The Last Tablet: http://instinctivemum.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/the-last-tablet/
Recovery: http://instinctivemum.com/pnd/recovery/
Irritability: http://instinctivemum.com/poetry/irritability/


The Poem

For those of you who have just discovered my book or my blog, here is the poem that inspired everything…

A Monster Ate My Mum

A young boy wandered far and wide.
No one walking by his side.
His mum seemed lost, not the mum he knew.
Would someone know just what to do?

She’d not been like herself at all.
Crying lots and feeling small.
Not wanting to go out, get dressed.
Feeling trapped and like a mess.

A monster must have gobbled her up.
Made her sad and feel unloved.
A monster must have eaten her joy.
“I’ll go and find it,” said the brave young boy.

He found a monster big and tall.
A grumpy monster with no friends at all.
A monster that ate smiles and joy.
‘Did he eat my mum?’ thought the brave young boy.

“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun.
I want to see her smile, my mum.
Is she in your big, round tum?”

“No she’s not here I just ate her smile.
I’ll give it back after a while.
I’m sorry, I was hungry you see.
I don’t know where your mum could be.”

So the little boy wandered on.
Knowing where his mum’s smile had gone.
He found another scary beast,
And wondered if he’d had a feast.

“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun.
I want to see her smile my mum.
Is she in your big, round tum?”

“No I just ate something that made her cry.
She won’t know how, she won’t know why.
I’m sorry, I was hungry you see.
I don’t know where your mum could be.”

He wondered on and soon he knew.
That it wasn’t his fault, nothing he could do.
The monsters had eaten what made her happy.
It wasn’t him who made her snappy.

He carried on walking along the path.
Wondering who had eaten her laugh.
He saw a monster asleep on his tum.
Was he the one who had eaten his mum?

“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun.
I want to see her smile, my mum.
Is she in your big round tum?”

“No I just ate something that took her spark.
She can have it back, not feel in the dark.
I’m sorry, I was hungry you see.
I don’t know where your mum could be.”

All of these monsters had had their fill.
They had each been what had made his mum ill.
He wanted a cure to make her well.
He wanted to help her out of this spell.

He found a wise monster among the trees.
“Could you help me and my mum please?
She’s not been happy, she sleeps all day.
Can you help in any way?”

The monster turned and said to the boy,
“Those monsters will return her joy.
The monsters will return your mum.
She will be back you will have fun.”

“Time is what you need my friend.
Love and kisses and cuddles send.
It won’t be bad like this forever.
She can and will one day get better.”

So the brave young boy walked home and knew.
He would be patient, see this through.
He’d rest his head upon her tum.
Hoped no more monsters would eat his mum.

Soon I hope to add a page all about me and my experiences with both pre and post natal depression, and a page all about my amazing illustrator.

Thank you for reading x


Self-Publishing Part 2 – I did it!

I am so excited to be writing this post to let you know that I did it…and that I am officially a self-published author (even though no-one has actually purchased the book yet lol!) My last post detailed how I was planning to spend all day Friday tackling the self-publishing technological minefield until the book was for sale. I was very nervous as I’m not at all IT trained, and have learnt most of my skills through blogging and being self hosted. I was however, determined not to be beaten.

The day started with a visit to my oldest friend who has just given birth to her first child, a beautiful baby boy, and so the publishing had to wait. It was so worth it though as he was absolutely gorgeous and cuddling newborns is always so wonderful. We chatted childbirth, breastfeeding and nappies before I left them to feed and nap.

Having spent most of the day before in email contact with Helen Braid, my illustrator, I felt confident that I had all of the correct files I needed, and in the correct format. I had the front and back covers as separate files, as well as the inside of the book, all in PDF format and in high resolution. If you ever need to send someone a file that is too big for an email then I can highly recommend using mailbigfile which is just amazing. You can email large files and the recipient can easily download them via the link. Brilliant! It was perfect for us on Thursday as the files did need to be adjusted and then resent. Helen was amazing! I think it was a learning curve for the both of us.

So, down at my desk I sat. I had already set up an account with Lulu and had chosen the size of the book (21.59X21.59), the binding (saddle stitch, only option for a small book), full colour, and for it to be printed on basic grade paper. This last option disappointed me a bit, but because I haven’t yet got an ISBN I had no choice. Lulu do offer free ISBNs but Lulu then become the publisher and I wasn’t prepared to hand that over! So I decided (with the awesome help of @wombat37 again!) that as this was my first project it was better to start small and work on it. Once my ISBN comes through I can then add it to the book and distribute widely through Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as the Lulu marketplace. I clicked on ‘choose file’ (at this point just the inside of the book) and then clicked ‘upload.’ I sat nervously staring at the screen whilst it uploaded. It began by saying it was going to take 15 hours which I thought was a bit excessive, but in the end it only took 20 minutes or so!

The next challenge was the cover and this is where I first stumbled. Lulu do let you upload and add your own covers, however they also make a cover for you which you have to change if you don’t like it. I went to ‘browse files’ and tried to upload the PDFs of the front and back covers. It wouldn’t let me. I clicked and clicked and nothing worked. On quickly reading the help files (would’ve been handy if these files had been available to read sooner!) I discovered that the front and back covers needed to be in JPEG form and not PDF. These I had, but on uploading them it became apparent that they were not in a high enough resolution. I knew it was Helen’s son’s birthday and really didn’t want to have to interrupt the celebrations, but I had no choice, we needed those JPEGs to be in a higher resolution or I couldn’t continue. Helen, as always, was just amazing and it didn’t take long for my phone to ping with an email containing the covers in high resolution JPEGs. One quick and easy upload later and the cover was complete. And then, with a couple more clicks this message appeared…

Now I’m not ashamed to say that at this point I did sit at my laptop and have a little cry. I couldn’t explain how I felt; I felt such a amazing sense of achievement mixed in with feelings of luck and joy that I was better and had been able to have the drive and commitment to see this book through. I’ve never really felt as proud of myself as I did in that moment. I’ve always been very determined, especially when I believe in something, and I believe in this book so very much.

The next thing I had to do was set a price, based on what it was going to cost Lulu to print the book. I found this very difficult as I always undersell myself, so I have taken a lot of advice on the price, and I think I’ve got it right! I ordered myself a copy and paid a stupid amount of money so it comes as quickly as possible, I will not believe it’s actually published until I hold a copy in my hands. (and see that the paper isn’t as bad as I think it might be) Today’s post hasn’t arrived yet, but I think I’m being optimistic in thinking it will be today; I’m hoping for it to be here by the end of the week. And when it does arrive, and I can see for myself how it looks and feels, I can spread the word and start marketing and publicising the book. I’ve already got several brilliant bloggers who have said they would love to review the book, and Netmums would like to feature it on their blog and website with a giveaway. It is PND awareness week in November and I hope that my press release (hopefully writing this today, do not know where to start as always!) will be available so that everything is good to go to coincide with that week. As I have said before, I’m not very good at ‘bigging myself up,’ but I hope A Monster Ate My Mum will help families who have been affected by Post-Natal Depression, and that in itself is motivation enough to shout about the book from the rooftops.

So many people have supported me in this process and I am so thankful, I couldn’t have done it on my own. Once I have my copy and have checked it’s perfect I’ll let you all know…and then, if you’d like to buy the book, you can here…


The next jobs I have now are to write that press release…and to upload the book onto Kindle Direct Publishing as an ebook, which hopefully I can do this week! If you’d like to keep up to date with everything please follow me on Twitter @MonsterAteMyMum 😉

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Self-Publishing A Monster Ate My Mum, Part 1

For those of you who have read my first blog (instinctivemum.com) from the very beginning, know me well or follow me on Twitter (@InstinctiveMum and @MonsterAteMyMum) you’ll know that I have suffered, more than once, from post-natal depression. It’s a debilitating illness that affects the entire family and I was painfully aware of this after the birth of my third child when I was at my most ill. I witnessed my older children, then three and eleven, look at me with confusion when I was crying again and asked me why I was so sad. I saw them shy away from me when I was irritable and tip-toe around me when I was locked in my own anxiety ridden hell. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t anything they’d done, yet I know they were affected by it. I know they were confused by what was happening to their mum who was once such a confident and lively person.

Reaching out to them, and anyone in fact, when I was ill was hard. I hate asking for help and for a while battled with the reality of the illness, refusing to believe it had taken me in it’s grasp. Yet I did want to reach out to them, I did want to explain what was happening to me and that it wouldn’t be like this forever. So I wrote the poem A Monster Ate My Mum which looks at post natal depression through the eyes of a child, and initially illustrated it as a PowerPoint presentation on my iPad. My children loved the story and it prompted some very honest and open discussions about the illness. It helped us so much and even my husband understood a little bit more about what I was going through after reading the poem. Here is a little bit from the poem;

“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun,
I want to see her smile, my mum,
Is she in your big, round tum?”

“No she’s not here I just ate her smile,
I’ll give it back after a while,
I’m sorry I was hungry you see,
I don’t know where your mum could be.”

When I first published the poem on my blog the response was overwhelming. It seemed there was nothing like this out there to help children and families and that’s when I first thought about contacting publishers and agents in the hope that the book would be real, would be in my hands and in those hands of many other sufferers. I met a literary agent this year at Britmums Live and she was wonderfully supportive. We’ve been in touch ever since and she has encouraged me to self-publish the book, as generally children’s publishers like books on slightly happier topics. (frustrating much?!) She believed the book to be a brilliant one and very well written and gave me the encouragement I needed to self-publish.

The next step was to find an illustrator; someone who believed in the book as much as I did; and someone who would be able to draw some monsters that weren’t too scary (it was for children after all!) I needed someone I could trust and when I saw Helen Braid from allatseascotland.blogspot.co.uk advertise her services as a graphic designer I knew she would be the lady to ask. She is so wonderfully talented and has exceeded all of my expectations for the illustrations. They are stunning and I’m so honoured that she agreed to work with me. The print-ready CD arrived in my hands this week and now it’s down to me.

I have extensively researched self-publishing, to the point where I thought my head would explode. It is an absolute minefield and for several days I felt totally overwhelmed. Should I employ the services of a company? Should it be published as an ebook or in print? And if I did decide to go down the DIY route what company should I use to do this? Thankfully, as if often the case, Twitter came to rescue along with some lovely people at the writing club I’ve recently joined. It would seem both ebooks and printed books are the way to go as then you get the best of both worlds. Kindle Direct Publishing was recommended to me by almost everyone I asked, however many have said that actually uploading the book onto the site is very challenging, even for the technically able. So this scares me a lot, I’m not the best technically, however since blogging and going self-hosted I have learnt so very much, but I’m far from being an expert.

With regards to print on demand books this was slightly more complicated. I downloaded ‘Choosing a Self-Publishing Service’ by The Alliance of Independent Authors, and so far it has proved very useful. It recommends several companies, but mainly CreateSpace and Lightening Source. The third it recommends is Lulu. These are all companies where you again upload the book yourself, order yourself a copy as a proof, and then when you’re happy scream about it from the rooftops! On chatting to the brilliantly helpful @wombat37 who has self published more than once, Lulu seemed like the best option as they print and distribute in the UK and many of the others do not, which could prove more costly.

So now I have decided which companies to go with the next step is to actually do it! Eeeeek! I have planned for this Friday to be completely child free all day and am intending to sit at my laptop and not move until the book has been uploaded on both Kindle Direct Publishing and Lulu. (or at least one of them!) If you would like to keep up to date with how I am getting on please follow me on Twitter as @MonsterAteMyMum and hopefully there will champagne corks popping and excited tweets on Friday at some point, celebrating that I’ve successfully self-published!