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.

Emily’s Story: PTSD

birth, Labour Stories, Mental Health, Mum

No matter how many times women told me never to plan my birth, I still had visions of how I hoped it would pan out.

Being one of the first in my friendship group to have a baby, I lacked experience or knowledge with what labour was going to be like but it didn’t scare me in the slightest. I was doing everything the blogs told me not to do. Watching one born every minute, buying girls clothes even though she had her legs crossed in her 20 week scan and reading labour stories which sounded like fairy tales.

I almost felt excited when I had a first twinge of brackston hicks despite being uncomfortable, I knew I was coming close to the third trimester and very soon I’d get to hold my little one.

However, at 32 weeks, when I thought I was just going to hospital because I was being paranoid, motherly instinct proved right and I was in fact going into pre term labour. I barely had a moment to blink before I was rushed into theatre with medical professionals running around me throwing their medical jargon at each other whilst I’m just lying there, still unaware of what fate had for me and my daughter. The only way I can describe the experience is I thought the world was ending. I hadn’t even begun my maternity leave let alone had a moment to pack a hospital bag or sort out the nursery. None of that seemed to matter after I heard her first cry behind the white sheet that separated us. All I could think is that she was alive and breathing! Thank goodness!

My little girl was born on the 4th November weighing 5Ibs. My bond with her was instant but an overwhelming sense of mourning clouded over me.
Why me? What had I done to my body that caused this? Questions I might never know but looking back these feelings of self blame were just the beginning of what was to come.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and this cloud wasn’t going away. I didn’t feel depressed, I didn’t feel a lack of bond with my daughter but I still felt loss… fear…. and vivid dreams of those awful hospital machines beeping around my daughter. I lost all sense of trust with medical professionals who I thought were going to tell me my baby was dying or she needed to be taken into hospital again. My anxiety over the health of my daughter became so drilled into my life that I couldn’t leave her with anyone alone.. not even my partner. I was living in isolation and refused to let anyone in.

It wasn’t until my health visitor suggested 6 weeks of counselling that I had ever heard the diagnosis of PTSD in post-natal women. What? I thought that was only diagnosed for people in the military?”

It took a while for me to come to terms with such a term and initially I felt really angry I’d been thrown yet another title. “Another medical professional trying to pass me off with a “condition” and try and load me with more medication,” I thought.

However, it wasn’t the case at all. The more I off loaded in these sessions, the more I realised how lucky I was to have met my counsellor who finally gave me an answer and I accepted what it is. I had PTSD and was suffering from my traumatic birth experience.

I will never know how it feels to hold my daughter moments after she was born, never know how it feels to have her latch for the first time, never experience bringing her back to the ward, never have her lie in her bed next to me, never change her nappy for the first time or get her dressed into her first outfit. Yet, even though I missed these precious moments, one thing I will definitely know forever is how lucky I am to have a healthy and happy daughter who has one strong mummy.

I am now in my second year of nurse training and hope that my story can influence others to seek help with PTSD and to avoid making assumptions that these feelings signify post natal depression. PTSD can happen to any woman who has experienced trauma during their birth.

A year on and I still have triggers that make things a little difficult. However, I don’t dwell on the what ifs, instead I focus on the what is. I haven’t let ptsd shatter the prospect of having further children but for now I just watch in awe of my daughter who is our little shining star and I am forever blessed to have given birth to such a fighter. We love you darling!

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!