A Type of Mum Culture We Need to Say Goodbye to

motherhood, Uncategorized

On my mat leave, I was never the mum who went to baby clubs. I was terrified of them, in fact. Baby changing and feeding rooms were panic inducing for me and soft play completely off limits unless Rob or good friends were by my side. But, why?

The above statement seems dramatic, but it’s totally necessary. You see, there is a mum culture that I have had enough of and want no part in. It’s the school gate gossip, cliquey, judgemental groups. The people who cast their opinions upon you after just a glance. The ones who want to fit you into a pigeon hole, a niche, and want you to stay there.

My first year of motherhood was an unexpected one. It bought with it so much joy, but it was a massive learning curve for me when it came to other mothers and the attitudes of other people. Taken aback from my experiences, I am also so grateful at what it taught me.

I went to a baby group at my local library when Ted was a few months old. Previous to that, I’d never really socialised with mums I didn’t already know. It was daunting and I spent the night before awake and worrying about the finer details- when I’d need to leave the house, how long it’d take for me to get there, how early I’d need to be, whether I needed to set an alarm, what I should wear.

Waking up the next morning, I put on my absolute go-to outfit. A checked mini skirt and a roll neck. I sat and did my make-up on the sofa while Ted was feeding, drank my coffee, and felt excited at who I might meet or who I might connect with. I always remember my mum saying to me beforehand that even though baby classes weren’t my thing and didn’t appeal to me (I’m a massive introvert and find it hard to trust people) that there would be someone there that felt the exact same way as me. That was all the reassurance I needed.

I arrived. Mums gathered in familiar groups. I said hello to each group as I walked in. A few reluctantly said hello back. I smiled. A few smiled back half smiles, the others ignored me. I tried hard to mingle, complimenting other mums. For example, one mum was tandem feeding on a soft play bench and I told her how amazing she was doing. She smiled and I felt safe. I sat next to her and fed Ted too.

Five minutes later, another mum came over, followed by two more. They were friends with this lady, and she introduced me to them.

No hello. No ‘nice to meet you.’ Just, simply:

“You’re a little overdressed for a baby class.’

Silence. I said nothing. I felt weak. I carried on feeding Ted and looked to the floor.

Ten minutes later:

‘How did you have that much time to get ready?’

I replied explaining that I’d been awake very early and that I did my make up while feeding my son.

‘I don’t think this is really your sort of place is it?’

There was an expectation that now that I’m a mum, I should have a messy mum bun and be wearing a hoody, jeans and trainers with sick down the front, minimal make-up, if any at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally okay to be that mum too. I am that mum on some days. But today is made an effort because I was nervous and because that’s how I felt most comfortable meeting new people. The point is it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.

I distinctly remember at that moment, looking around the room at the variety of faces staring back at me, and not understanding why anyone would be someone who was ‘different’ or didn’t belong there. It was a room full of diverse, beautiful women, all feeding their babies in different ways, all dressed differently too, and I’d never felt so secluded and singled out.

Not long after I was sat at the park where I was told by another mother that I was disgusting for breastfeeding.

And again, not long after that I was sat in the feeding room in Mothercare and a woman told me that I needed to leave because breastfeeding was wrong. Yep. In an actual FEEDING room.

I was then unfortunately put in another situation with a group of women where I overheard them on numerous occasions talking about me. One of their children even said to them in front of me once ‘look who is here mum! It’s her! Shush!’ I apparently believed I was ‘better than them’ and one of them even made comments about Ted’s behaviour (he was just over 1 at the time) when in reality they’d never spoken to me properly, knew nothing about me and were judging me based on perception. Luckily I don’t have to see those people anymore, and I’m also really lucky to have had a good friend who was also involved with this group of women and her and her partner helped me massively with this situation. Never having to see that group again is an absolute blessing.

Firstly, let’s remember that we are all completely different people, with totally different priorities, interests, agendas, opinions, thoughts, the lot! Being different is what makes the world what it is.

Secondly, when was it okay to make other people feel like this anyway?

My perspective on the world changed for a while after all of this. I focused on doing the exact opposite of what others made me feel. No matter how bad someone made me feel, or makes me feel, I won’t stop treating them with kindness. More often than not, people are behaving in that way because they are feeling bad. More often than not, this is a defence mechanism and your kindness with shock them. Be the bigger person and pretend you’re not bothered, even if like me at the time, you really are. The world is much bigger than the pettiness we are forced into. Cry about what has happened. Complain to your friends. And then move on.

There’s a competitive nature to all of this that I am just not a fan of, and it’s something I’ll talk about in a future blog. When mums work together, wonderful things happen. Woman power is like a super power, and oh my god can we change the world when that force is combined rather than a rivalry. Please please please, when you see that awkward new mum forcing a smile and holding her newborn at your next baby class, clearly looking for friendship and a good chat, ask her how she is. Ask her if she wants to sit with you and find out all about her. Ask her if she wants to get coffee afterwards. Be kind and love each other, because being a mumma is tough enough as it is and tearing each other down is not okay on any level.

Dad Interviews: Rob

Dad Interviews, Mum

Written by Alice King

When thinking about this blog and all I wanted it to be, I was incredibly focused on everything ‘mum.’ What does it mean to be a mother? How does it feel being a mother? What do mothers need more support with? I started to think about these questions a bit more deeply, and it dawned on me… I wouldn’t be half the mum I am if it wasn’t for the support that I was given by my partner. His life has changed too. Very differently to mine, also. But he has to wake up throughout the night. He has to leave his family behind to go to work everyday.What does it mean to be a father? How does it feel being a father? What do fathers need more support with?

I felt this was a perfect opportunity to explore a ‘father’ in his new role, with his new title.

One evening we put Ted to bed and I sat down with Rob for a very unexpectedly emotional half an hour- him stretched out on the sofa, me cross-legged on the floor, tapping away at my keyboard, observing his every expression trying to guess his every answer. At times I felt like a therapist, rather than his other half. However, the whole process was insightful. There were things I’d never thought about asking him before that just spilled from my brain out my mouth in the candid flip from partner to writer. Thank you for your sincerity, honesty and warmth throughout.

How did you feel when you found out you were going to be a dad?

I think because it was so big I didn’t believe it was real, and I didn’t believe it was real until we saw him for the first time.

How did you feel when you did see him?

It was probably the best moment of my life at that point. And then immediately scared because it was so important.

And how did you deal with me being pregnant as a whole? Was it weird watching my body change knowing that was your son in there?

Again, it only really felt properly real when we had the scans or when I felt him kick. But then as those things got more and more regular it started to become more real. Dealing with you when you were pregnant was a challenge because everything changed so quickly and you went from being really independent to being more dependant on me. How you changed physically wasn’t an issue at all.

How did you feel when we had the gender scan… were you expecting a boy, a girl?

Relieved. 1, because I wanted the Olding surname to continue because it’s the best surname out there… and 2, whenever I’d imagined myself as a dad it was always with a two year old boy, like the picture I had was always me and a small me wearing Adidas tracksuits playing football, so it was nice that that image was going to be true. Everyone told me we were having a girl and I think I believed it was true, but deep down I always wanted to have a boy first.

Me too, I wanted a boy! What about when it came to naming him?

I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be given a say and that you had an idea and that would be it, as I originally wanted Sam and you didn’t want that so I didn’t have a choice. I thought it was going to be Teddy and that was final and after we said no to Bobby because people would shorten it to Bob that ruined it for me. It was nice to compromise with Ted because I always wanted a 3 letter name. It was nice giving him a name before he was born… As we are talking it’s weird thinking the kicks we were feeling are what I’m looking at on the monitor screen!

Okay let’s get to the important bit, the birth… was it what you expected?

I had no idea what to expect. I don’t know if I purposely didn’t think about it, but I didn’t- I kind of just went with the flow.

How did you feel at the birth? Tell me your mid labour emotion?

As amazing as it was horrific. I knew the end goal was worth it but seeing you go through that pain wasn’t great, and knowing that me or your mum couldn’t do anything to help you. I was quite surprised you hadn’t shouted at me yet. I was quite impressed with how you were dealing with it, like you weren’t being dramatic or anything you were just getting on with it, like I would definitely be screaming in pain and a mess but you just kept yourself focused on it, so I was impressed. We weren’t really making any progress so I was starting to worry but then everything just started happening and you were 9cm dilated. I remember going to get a drink and five people being in the room when I got back. Not getting any sleep wasn’t great but it helped prepare me for the upcoming months!

What about holding Ted for the first time? What was your thought?

My thought was to try and not let him bang his head because he was kicking his legs against the chair! Once he settled I remember staring at him and then you and back and forth and remember thinking he looked like a bird! Which he did right?

Yeah he had a little beak! What would be your tip to a first time parent for surviving those first few weeks?

Ask for help. Don’t try and change the first nappy without asking for help from the midwife. Sleep when you can. Try and remember every moment. And eat!

How do you think we have changed since he’s been born?

I think we are both more resilient. I’m definitely more considerate of other people. I’m not as lazy. I think you’ve proved to yourself that you are strong. I think together we’ve realised what doesn’t matter and we now know what is important.

What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make?

Well, I haven’t really had to sacrifice anything, as in giving anything up. I have missed playing football on a saturday but its not like i don’t get to play football. I’ve had to sacrifice having more time to relax, but I don’t miss it because what I’m doing now is better.

What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to see me make?

Your independence.

Wow, thats deep.

It’s true! Alcohol for you. And cheese when you were pregnant. That was hard for you wasn’t it?

Yeah, it was. I missed brie. Do you remember what meal I wanted to eat when we first got home from the hospital?

Macaroni cheese?

No, that was in the hospital.

Ohh, cheese and crackers!

Yes! And what about Ted now? What do you love most about him?

I wouldn’t be able to tell you specifically what it is, I just know because I miss him when I’m not with him that I do. Oh I’m crying! My favourite thing about him is when he is sat here on the couch and he is talking to himself and he’s entertaining himself and playing with his toys and I just look at him and it makes me happy. I like that we’ve done it and we’ve done it well. I spent the first three months of his life, I didn’t tell you this, I was always scared about squashing him or dropping him or not being gentle enough or just hurting him, but it’s great now that I can just throw him around and he loves it. But actually I think the best thing and everyone would agree is his smile. He smiles at everyone and everyone seems to remember him and everyone always asks me how he is. I think he’s the best bits from the both of us.

What are your hopes and dreams for Ted’s future? What do you want for him?

Growing up, I want him to have a stable family unit. I want him to have the opportunity to explore things that he likes and the support of his family to make the right choices for him. I’d like him to play sport. And I’d like him to make the most of his talent, if he has any, and not let any kind of insecurity be a barrier to him expressing himself and being the best that he can be. I want us, me and you, to let him know that he can do that.

Big question. Do you want more? Could you do it again?

At the moment, I can’t imagine having another child, but I know that I will do. I’m certain that I will do. That’s just because as much as this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done, it is very difficult. But as he grows up, I’m certain that I’ll be ready, but just not straight away. I know that I will want a girl in future because the Olding girls are cool.

And what if we have another boy?

Then I’ll put him in a dress!

You have to be honest – What is your least favourite thing about being a dad?

Lack of sleep. No. It’s not lack of sleep. It’s waking up when I’m not ready to wake up.

And finally- your favourite thing about being a dad?

I think just having a family. Being part of something more important than just myself.

Planning for Birth (In Hindsight)

birth, c section, Hypnobirthing, Mum, pregnancy

Written by Laura Grant

While I was pregnant I wrote a mammoth blog post over on life by Laura about why I think it’s important to have a birth plan. I was hoping for a natural, home, water birth in front of the twinkling lights of my Christmas tree. How picturesque! I imagined getting those early contractions and snuggling up to my husband on the sofa, all excited, watching Christmas films … and what did I get? The exact opposite, a stubborn breech baby and an elected c section.

So looking back, do I think researching birth and making a plan was a waste of time? Absolutely not!

I may not have got the birth I’d planned for but I was totally clued up on all styles, my options and was able to make informed decisions. I knew what questions to ask and could better assess the pros and cons of my situation. This was in a large part, down to the hypnobirthing course I did online via the positive birth company and from reading Milli Hills positive birth book (both of which I highly recommend).

My birth plan not only included my #goals scenario but also options for induction, assisted delivery and a c section should these be needed. Personally I think it’s much easier to have thought about this in advance, rather than trying to think about it in the moment when emotions are high and hormones are raging! I mean think about how difficult it is to make decisions when you’re hangry… then multiply that by a million.

A plan is also useful so that your birth partner can be completely informed and take over some of the communication for you, should you not feel up to it. And of course they need to be aware if you would like to be hand fed grapes and fanned with leaves like the absolute queen you are! (No request is too much, be bougie, it’s your last chance to make it all about you before the baby comes!)

We hear of too many women who end up having traumatic birth experiences and feeling out of control, I think this largely down to being uninformed and not knowing what on Earth is going on. Medical professionals asking you questions which you don’t understand, having decisions made for you. I think that if women took the time to do a little research, they would feel more empowered in their experience and have the best birth they can.

A lot of ladies decide to shut out the birth, choosing not to think about it and to just go with the flow and I totally get that! It’s a scary thought, it’s something we’ve never experienced before, whether we’re pushing a watermelon out a much smaller sized hole or having major abdominal surgery. But for me personally hypnobirthing made me feel so at ease and actually excited to have my baby. Knowing exactly what would happen to my body, what options were available to me and when I should ask questions made me feel less helpless. And not going to lie… having a plan laid out made the organisational freak in me extremely happy!

Your plan doesn’t have to be an extensive 5 page essay, in fact I discourage this ( no midwife will have time to read that ) but just a few things jotted down ( or you can use the icons Milli Hill suggests in her book which I absolutely loved! ).

Do you want pain relief? Do you want to be mobile? Would you like a birth pool? Are you happy to be induced? Would you like baby to have the vitamin k injection or oral drops? Would you like to birth the placenta naturally or have the injection to bring it on quicker? Do you want delayed cord clamping? Immediate skin to skin? These are all things to consider and again, it’s easier to do this with a clear fresh mind than a split second decision in the moment. Research what these things are and why they’re done so you will have an informed opinion and won’t feel silly when being asked your preference.

This is the biggest day of your life so far, reclaim some control, feel empowered and have the most amazing experience.

Good luck mumma’s!