The Catch 22 Of The Panic Attack

My recent panic attacks seemed to come from nowhere. They appeared suddenly and without much warning.

I’d experienced panic attacks in my early to mid 20s. They were due to many things; a party lifestyle, me having not much idea where my life was heading and (the main offender in my opinion) a new contraceptive pill called “Dianette” that had an adverse effect on me.

My very first panic attack happened during a rather heavy party weekend on holiday in Barcelona with some friends. We’d been burning the candle at both ends and drinking far too much. One day during our stay we went up to the top of Gaudi’s Sagrada Família. If you’ve been you’ll know that this amazing building is rather high, with small little turrets you can stand on. I thought I was ok with heights, but on this day it had a horrible affect and brought on my first experience of a panic attack. Back then I had no idea what I was experiencing. I just knew I felt petrified and very very wrong. It was a really hard thing to explain to my friends. The experience left a horrible looming feeling that was tricky to shift. It got worse when I began panicking that I might experience it again….feeling panicked about a panic attack is one of those horribly ironic catch 22 situations. It would be funny if it didn’t feel so horrendous.

I tried to investigate how to make the feelings stop. I went to the GP who suggested counselling sessions and anti-depressants. I had hypnotherapy. Nothing was working. In fact I distinctly remember feeling like I was going to have a panic attack during a hypnotherapy session! I began to fear leaving the house. I was developing symptoms of agoraphobia. I hating being in certain environments like near big tall buildings (a weird kind of reverse vertigo) or vast open spaces. It was pretty bleak. After a few weeks struggling, it was my mum who helped me. She asked me if there was anything at all I’d done differently over the past few weeks. That’s when I told her about my change of contraceptive pill. It was the first time I’d thought it relevant. As an experiment I stopped taking it. About 2 days later I was feeling much better. I was angry that the GP hadn’t thought of this. I recovered, and hadn’t really thought too much about panic attacks (unless I was boarding a flight!) ever since..until recently.

I was out running. Usually I go in the mornings but I’d had a rubbish day that day and hadn’t been. I thought a run might help make me feel better so off I went, even though by then it was 6pm and dark. I remember feeling slightly vulnerable out running in the dark with my headphones in, but didn’t think too much of it. I finished my allotted 30 mins. It had felt like quite a tough run. I was really out of breath and my heart rate was up a lot. I happened to finish my run in an area of Brighton where there were high rise flats on either side of me. For some reason that was all it took to bring on this surge of panic. I suppose my already raised heart rate, the high-rise buildings either side of me and the dark all created the perfect storm. I didn’t know whether to run or hide. I had an urge to run but found this made the panic mount even more so I slowed to a walk. I then had an urge to get under cover, quickly…but obviously there was none, bar a rather flimsy bus shelter. I considered for a brief moment simply knocking on someone’s door and begging for help, but I realised how ridiculous that would seem. Part of me wanted to flag a cab, but there weren’t any and I felt unable to hold any kind of conversation with a stranger anyway. So on I walked feeling utterly terrified. It sounds ridiculous but it felt like the high-rise buildings were going to collapse on me at any minute. I can only liken it to feeling like an ant about to be squashed by a human foot. A really strange feeling. I feel quite panicky now just remembering it. In the end it was music that saved me. I managed to pull myself together enough to pop on a new band called DBFC. Bizarrely, their electronic harmonies managed to ground me and pull me back from the brink of a full-on panic attack. I’ve never been so grateful for music in all my life. Not sure how great that is in terms of a music review, but it worked for me! I was super grateful to get home that evening.

Since that episode about 3 weeks ago I’ve been caught up in the whole “fear of the panic attack” trap. I still haven’t had a full on one, but I’ve been getting the symptoms of the beginning of them, which are horrible. They especially occur when outside in open spaces…places like on the seafront with the sea one side and high rise buildings the other, for example, or if I'm doing something like driving on the motorway. It's really hard to fathom why.

I don’t have any contraceptive pills or a party lifestyle to blame on my panic attacks this time. Just the everyday stresses of modern life for a mum of 2 trying to run a business. It was certainly a wakeup call. I realise now that on the surface I can feel ok, but behind the scenes my sub conscious may not feel the same.

So what have I done since? I’ve tried to have a little reassess of my life. I realise that I’m not focussed enough. Social media and screen time has a lot to answer for. I spend my time being so reactive and not proactive. I vow to make 2019 a little more focussed and screen time free, especially in the evenings. I’ve also started meditating using the Headspace App, which has helped me more than I believed it would. I realise how full our brains are with thoughts constantly. Even when relaxing I have a habit of flooding my brain with STUFF STUFF STUFF on social media. It can’t be good. I now see the logic of trying to free up space in our minds, and Headspace is perfect for that. I suppose that is why music helped too. It helps to slow down the brain, relax it, and focus on one thing.

Things have calmed down a lot with the panic attacks recently, but that fear is always there. I’ll let you know how it pans out over the next few weeks. I have also found the brilliant Anna Mathur on Instagram (ironically!) who has a “coping with anxiety” style course coming up any day now which I plan to do. I shall report back! I’d love to hear about your experience of panic attacks and any lifestyle changes you’ve found that help alleviate them. Do let me know!

Sally Bunkham is the founder of Mum's Back, who provide luxury hamper gifts for new mums whilst raising awareness of perinatal mental health issues. £1 from every package sold goes to PANDAS Foundation

 

 

Explaining Death To A 4 Year Old

We had an unexpectedly traumatic day with our eldest daughter the other day. We were walking in town when we went past some railings by the road with some flowers attached to them. The conversation that followed went like this..

“Mummy, why are those flowers there?”

“They’re there to help remember someone….someone who died”

“They died? Oh…….Mummy…..does everybody die?”

ouch I thought, that’s quite a question! But I have to be honest..

“Yes darling they do…..in the end.”

“What even me? Will I die?”

at this point I wanted to cry

“Yes my love….in the end….but not for a very long time. You don’t have to worry about that. You are still very young. You haven’t even been to school yet. You have all your life to live yet. You're not even a big girl yet and then you will be a big girl for ages”

“But I don’t want to die mummy! What happens when you die?”

“We don’t really know my love. Some people believe it’s just like you go to sleep and stop working and don’t wake up. Other people believe you go to a lovely place called heaven”

“Mummy…..will Ruby (her little sister) die too?

Woah…this is getting intense

“Well….yes….in the very end…but not for very a long long time”

“Will Nana die?”

oh shit

“Well…..yes, but hopefully not for ages”

Daisy starts wailing

“I don’t want to die mummy! I don’t want to die!!”

She continues to scream this regularly all the way home. It was really horrible. I tried to calm her down, but really…how do you comfort them about this one true hard fact of life? I did my best….I eventually caved in my “I have to be honest” attitude due to the sheer upset this cold hard revelation had caused.

“The thing is Daisy…..maybe when you’re a big girl…..which is in many many years time…who knows what will have been invented by then. Things are being invented all the time. Who knows? Maybe they’ll invent something that will stop people dying. But really…..many people wouldn’t want that. Because then you’d just get older and older…..many people are happy with dying. Some people believe that you come back as something else”

oh lord, I’m going in deep here

Through her sobbing Daisy manages to ask “What do you mean as something else mummy??”

“I just mean you could come back as something else….I don’t know….perhaps as an animal….like…….an elephant” (it was the first animal I thought of, alright?!)

“An elephant mummy??” still wailing “But if I was an elephant….how would I…..fit in a car?!”

“You wouldn’t want to go in a car. You’d be an elephant”

now really crying

“I DON’T WANT TO BE AN ELEPHANT”

“OK, well I’m sure you won’t be….let’s just get home and watch C-beebies”

“I DON’T WANT TO DIE MUMMY!”

You see…..there were parts of this conversation that were funny. It made me laugh.  But honestly, it was also so traumatic. I’m really worried I handled it all totally wrong. But I’m not sure what else I could’ve said? I still stand by the fact you have to be honest. But death really is a hard topic. I mean, even as adults we don’t like to talk about it, do we? It’s a hard thing to think about. So I’m not surprised she was upset about it.

I think that probably the trick is to keep the conversation open. Let her talk about it. Let her express her fears and worries. I’ve heard that there’s books to read them which can help too. I’ve heard that Susan Varley’s “Badger’s Parting Gifts” is very good, so I’m going to try that.

Daisy seems to have calmed down about the subject since that day a couple of weeks ago. I suppose the news that we all die has had time to sink in. However, she asked me the most poignantly sad and beautiful question all at the same time the other evening. The kind of question that made me stop in my tracks and go cold and want to cry but also marvel at what a beautiful human being she was…

“Mummy…..when I die…..will you come with me?”

I just about managed to hold it together to get my answer across. “Yes darling…..of course I will”

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, who is the founder of Mum's Back; luxury gifts for mums focussing on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy, whilst raising money for PANDAS Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What To Buy New Mums – Our Gift Guide

what to buy new mums

I like to think that here at Mum’s Back, we are the queens of gifts for mums….but in this little blog I’ve done a little round up of my favourite delights from my other favourite independent brands too. I hope you find it useful when thinking about what to buy new mums…and not so new mums alike.

I’ll begin with the gorgeous Postcards Home, an online treasure chest selling ethically sourced unique homeware and gifts inspired by travel and design. The idea is that their products are like postcards, transporting you to your favourite places around the world. I absolutely LOVE this gorgeous Mini Sequin Gold Basket from Morocco. Postcards Home is a real business with heart – wherever possible founder Lucy works supporting social enterprises around the world meaning you really purchase with purpose when you buy from them.

Secondly, I want to include our very own Mum's Back range. Our range focusses on the yummy stuff we are denied in pregnancy. The concept came to life when I had two back to back pregnancies and realised how much I missed all the stuff I wasn't allowed. My husband bought me some red wine and cheese once my babies were born and it was my most favourite gift ever as it was purely for me and recognised the crazy journey of pregnancy and childbirth I'd gone on. The hampers include high end items such as Rioja, Prosecco, Gin, cheese, pate, chocolate, Boost Balls and many other delights.

 

Next on the list is this AMAZING book, written by the gorgeous Beccy Hands and Alexis Strickland. The Little Book Of Self Care For Mums really is an instant pick-me-up. It’s a survival guide to managing the emotional and physical rollercoaster of becoming a new mum. It is beautifully illustrated by Kay Barker and written with such a beautiful level of warmth and understanding. I’m no longer a new mum but the words of this book still deeply applied with me. There was one section on breastfeeding that resonated so much with me that it reduced me to tears of relief. It felt like someone finally understood. I strongly recommend this book when thinking about what to buy new mums…. it should be given to all new mums as part of their new mum kit!

 

Don’t Buy Her Flowers are absolute pros in boxes of self care. Their range features boxes for mums, dads and anyone in need of a bit of TLC. My favourite is The Date Night In  – truffles, lavender oil and tea lights, plus the tipple of your choice. What more could you want from a perfect night in?

I recently discovered the work of Catherine de Crevecoeur, a talented jewellery maker who works with leather and suede materials. Her work is so beautiful and gorgeously made. I loved her earrings because they are so light and easy to wear and yet can still look like such statement pieces. Each piece is named after an inspirational woman. I found it so hard to choose a favourite, but my top 2 are definitely these; the Miuccia and the Audrey

I also want to include a gift from the new Mum's Back range. The brand was born from a need to recognise that mums deserve gifts just for them after having a baby. As I go on my own personal parenting journey, I realise that we deserve treats and recognition throughout our lives, not just at the beginning! This range reflects that. This Relaxation Package includes a luxurious silk eye mask and two aromatherapy sticks. One to aid restful sleep and one to help sooth tension headaches away.

 

Next up is fellow Brighton based Zilla Kids. Zilla’s clothes and accessories are so unique and full of fun, I absolutely LOVE their style. They offer unisex clothes for kids and adults alike. This gorgeous “Power” jumper is firmly on my gift list (hint hint husband)

Apples & Pips is gorgeous brand that specialises in parents and babies. You can put together your own configuration of package for that special mum. Personally I love their incredibly thoughtful IVF package. A unique gift that acknowledges the rollercoaster couples going through IVF experience.

Finally, I want to feature a beautiful business called Tot Knots of Brighton, recently founded by my good friend Katie De Toney. Tot Knots was discovered during a hot summer holiday. Katie realised the babies and toddlers wouldn’t keep their sun hats on their hats, so she improvised! That improvisation proved to be the basis of a gorgeous design. She sells many beautiful turbons, knots and bows for babies, toddlers AND adults (many which you can twin in a “mummy and me” style). One of her sets was recently featured by Clemmie Telford in her Insta stories. She has just launched some new Turban Head Wraps that are specially designed to be worn as a headscarf by day and/or a night cap by night. As well as looking amazingly cool the pure silk satin lining helps to smooth, condition and control frizz-prone and prevent tangled hair. Absolute genius!

This gift guide for mums was put together by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's Back. who provide luxury gift hampers for mums, focussing on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every hamper sold goes to PANDAS Foundation.

Why Dropping My Phone Down The Loo Is A Feminist Issue

I just dropped my phone down the loo for the FOURTH time this year. Yes, that’s right folks! The same iphone has taken a trip to the bottom of the loo for the fourth time in 12 months and survived YET AGAIN. I have no idea how it does it. I am impressed. Drying with a towel and turning it off and leaving it for 48 hours straight in a bag of rice does seem to help. My phone case also needs to take some of the credit.

What does NOT need to take any credit, however is a) me and b) my jeans. Every time this happens it’s for the same reason; my phone being kept in my back jeans’ pocket. When nature calls and I suddenly need a wee…usually when I’m in a rush trying to get the kids out the door (or similar), I run to the loo, whip down my slacks and PLOP, I hear the fateful sound of my phone hitting the water.

Every time this has happened I vow to never keep my phone in my back jeans pocket again. I succeed….for a while….then I get complacent and the same thing happens yet again. “How come this never happens to my husband?” and “why is this happening to so many of my friends?!” I thought. The answer is simple. He keeps his wallet and phone in his SIDE jeans pocket. Much safer there. But none of my jeans have side pocket. But WHY?!

Designer Christian Dior once said “Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration.” *eyeroll*

Can this attitude REALLY still exist? I did a bit of research and apparently the reason why women’s clothes are so lacking in pockets goes back a few centuries. Women did used to have pockets of sorts in the 1660s. They were separate linen pockets that they’d tie to the underneath of their skirts. But during the 1880s they started to disappear (a bit like how they’ve all disappeared now we’re all wearing skinny jeans these days). Instead, the purse and handbag were born, and became much more popular for women than pockets. Booooooo! These small purses were called “reticules” (a word FAR too similar to “testicles” in my mind) and apparently the smaller it was, the higher in society you were considered. This was because large reticules suggested a woman needed to work; highly frowned upon back then!

The early 20th century saw a rebellion and a return to pockets – hurrah! The V&A Museum say that dress patterns started to include instructions for putting pockets in to help if they wanted more independence. Women started to wear trousers again, and women needed more practical wear what with the World Wars on their way, along with the need for everyone having to pitch in with practical work, whether male or female.

Once the wars were over fashion became obsessed with being thin. This brought with it a requirement to be as slender as possible. Pockets *shock horror” only add volume to the outline of one’s shape and were therefore ruled out. I know….what a load of tosh. The 70s through to 90s saw some progress on the pocket front. Many women’s clothes were privileged to be adorned by them. But where did it all go wrong again?! It seems we still haven’t won the right to pockets. No doubt it’s still a hangover to all the above reasons. The requirement for women to still be slender in society. The fact we apparently STILL don’t need to carry practical stuff with us like phones and keys, like men. Perhaps it’s simply that we haven’t made enough fuss about it? I must say that it’s taken me a long time to be aware of the problem. Jeans having proper side pockets wasn’t previously on my list of requirements. It is now. Viva the pockets (and viva my iphone)!

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's Back; luxury hamper gift for mums focussing on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. Need some insight into what to buy new mums a a gift? Check out our gift guide. 

Crying At The Kid’s Nativity

I went to watch my little girls sing in their nativity performance at their preschool today. It was so beautiful and far more emotional than I expected. They’d been practising for a few weeks now. Ruby had been singing “when Santa got stuck up the chimney” to herself while going to sleep for a while, which has been making my heart burst. This was the first year that they were old enough to actually stay sat on their little stage while they sang and really get into it. It was so sweet. I managed to hold it together quite nicely until “Away In A Manger” started. Then I felt the first little sob make its way up my throat. I think the fact I’d been to a Dolly Parton night the evening before and indulged in one margarita too many probably didn’t help. I’m always more emotional when hungover.

I was pleased when “Jingle Bells” started. Much more high energy and far less emotional. It gave me time to pull myself together before the grand finale of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”, where I may have again shed a little secret tear.

As they sat in their little Christmas outfits, their little Christmas hats bobbing as they did the actions to the songs, I realised just how precious their ages (3 and 4) are right now. Yes they’re exhausting and demanding. Yes they drive me bonkers. But my goodness they can be sweet…and so innocent. They are the perfect ages to embrace the magic of Christmas.

It reminded me too of my old Christmas nativities. I still vividly remember the year I got to play Mary. What an honour! Though I also remember the disappointment when the boy who was originally set to play Joseph (who I liked) was swapped for another boy. I can’t quite remember the reason why….but I can remember I wasn’t happy. My parents must have sat there watching proudly just as I did this morning with my girls.

Time goes by so quickly. Another reminder that they’re not this little for long. So surely a little sob at their nativity is allowed? I was too busy watching the faces of my kids to notice if any of the other parents were having a cheeky cry too. But I like to think I wasn’t the only one……

Sally Bunkham is the founder of Mum's Back, the home of beautiful hamper ideas for new mums. Mum's Back also have a beautiful Christmas range which is now live. £1 from every hamper sold goes to mental health charity PANDAS Foundation.

What To Buy New Mums This Christmas – Our Gift Guide 2018

what to buy new mums

I like to think that here at Mum’s Back, we are the queens of gifts for mums….but in this little blog I’ve done a little round up of my favourite delights from my other favourite independent brands too. I hope you find it useful when thinking about what to buy new mums…and not so new mums alike.

I’ll begin with the gorgeous Postcards Home, an online treasure chest selling ethically sourced unique homeware and gifts inspired by travel and design. The idea is that their products are like postcards, transporting you to your favourite places around the world. I absolutely LOVE this gorgeous Mini Sequin Gold Basket from Morocco. Postcards Home is a real business with heart – wherever possible founder Lucy works supporting social enterprises around the world meaning you really purchase with purpose when you buy from them.

Secondly, I want to include our very own Mum's Back Christmas range. We've added some festive sparkle to many of our hamper packages to create the perfect selection for mums. This range is particularly great for mums who've recently had a baby, as if focusses on a lot of the things they were denied in pregnancy (like many things in our range). This hampers include many yummy delights and we've  added some gorgeous Raspberry and Prosecco lipbalm that can double as a Christmas decoration.

Next on the list is this AMAZING book, written by the gorgeous Beccy Hands and Alexis Strickland. The Little Book Of Self Care For Mums really is an instant pick-me-up. It’s a survival guide to managing the emotional and physical rollercoaster of becoming a new mum. It is beautifully illustrated by Kay Barker and written with such a beautiful level of warmth and understanding. I’m no longer a new mum but the words of this book still deeply applied with me. There was one section on breastfeeding that resonated so much with me that it reduced me to tears of relief. It felt like someone finally understood. I strongly recommend this book when thinking about what to buy new mums…. it should be given to all new mums as part of their new mum kit!

 

Don’t Buy Her Flowers are absolute pros in boxes of self care. Their range features boxes for mums, dads and anyone in need of a bit of TLC. My favourite is The Date Night In  – truffles, lavender oil and tea lights, plus the tipple of your choice. What more could you want from a perfect night in?

I recently discovered the work of Catherine de Crevecoeur, a talented jewellery maker who works with leather and suede materials. Her work is so beautiful and gorgeously made. I loved her earrings because they are so light and easy to wear and yet can still look like such statement pieces. Each piece is named after an inspirational woman. I found it so hard to choose a favourite, but my top 2 are definitely these; the Miuccia and the Audrey

I also want to include a gift from the new Mum's Back range. The brand was born from a need to recognise that mums deserve gifts just for them after having a baby. As I go on my own personal parenting journey, I realise that we deserve treats and recognition throughout our lives, not just at the beginning! This range reflects that. This Relaxation Package includes a luxurious silk eye mask and two aromatherapy sticks. One to aid restful sleep and one to help sooth tension headaches away.

 

Next up is fellow Brighton based Zilla Kids. Zilla’s clothes and accessories are so unique and full of fun, I absolutely LOVE their style. They offer unisex clothes for kids and adults alike. This gorgeous “Power” jumper is firmly on my Christmas list (hint hint husband)

Apples & Pips is gorgeous brand that specialises in parents and babies. You can put together your own configuration of package for that special mum. Personally I love their incredibly thoughtful IVF package. A unique gift that acknowledges the rollercoaster couples going through IVF experience.

Finally, I want to feature a beautiful business called Tot Knots of Brighton, recently founded by my good friend Katie De Toney. Tot Knots was discovered during a hot summer holiday. Katie realised the babies and toddlers wouldn’t keep their sun hats on their hats, so she improvised! That improvisation proved to be the basis of a gorgeous design. She sells many beautiful turbons, knots and bows for babies, toddlers AND adults (many which you can twin in a “mummy and me” style). One of her sets was recently featured by Clemmie Telford in her Insta stories. She has just launched some new Turban Head Wraps that are specially designed to be worn as a headscarf by day and/or a night cap by night. As well as looking amazingly cool the pure silk satin lining helps to smooth, condition and control frizz-prone and prevent tangled hair. Absolute genius!

This gift guide for mums was put together by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's Back. who provide luxury gift hampers for mums, focussing on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every hamper sold goes to PANDAS Foundation.

Getting Through My Grief

In this guest post the lovely Kate Litt talks about how  having “something nice” can help her through the grief of losing her Dad…

“It’s been just over a year since my Dad died.

 My Dad died. It still feels so strange to say it, like I’m saying the lines from someone else’s life.

It all happened pretty quickly. Although he’d been a fairly sedentary man, he had always been relatively healthy too. I’d told him for years that he’d live in to his 80’s. I was wrong.

A few months before his 68th birthday, in November 2016, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then, never one to do things by half, another more serious diagnoses of advanced lymphoma in February 2017.

After doing his very best to stay positive, follow through with all his treatment and convince us all that he could beat it, we had the devastating news in late September 2017 that there was nothing else they could do. After he’d made sure everything at home was in order, in true form, he decided he’d had enough and let go of this life.

He died on 18th October 2017 with dignity, holding the hand of my mum, the love of his life. She says he was smiling.

Ever the Flirt

Here I must declare my absolute gratitude to the NHS and the wonderful doctors and nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

When they realised that he wasn’t going home, he was invited back to the ward where he had been treated for his cancer. They gave him a private room, with a bed for my mum, and he was treated beautifully by a team of nurses that had come to love him.

My Dad was a charming man and the team there had become very important to him; one nurse cried when he was admitted, he was so loved on that ward. Of course, she was young and pretty, so she had gotten extra attention from my Dad, ever the flirt! I hugged her tight and thanked her making his life, and death, so much easier.

I chose not to visit him after he died. I’d said everything I needed to say and, as pragmatic as he was, he’d have totally understood. “What’s the point, I’m already dead!”, he would have announced, with a wry smile.

We Are All Made of Stars

My Dad and I had a discussion weeks before he died, about the origin of life. Astronomer Carl Sagan famously said, “We are made of starstuff” and my Dad believed that we return to the universe, just as we had come from it.

To help them to deal with the news, I told my two children that their Grandad has become a star. Often, we say goodnight to him up there. He rewards us with easy to find parking spots, his favourite songs on the radio and motivation to do our best for him.

‘Something Nice’

The weeks following his death are still a sort of blur. Of course, I clearly remember the first few moments of shear pain, and then the frequent moments of despair. Waking up in a panic attack. Feeling like my world was ending. Crying so hard I could hardly breathe. My partner holding me when it was needed. My children snapping me out of it, with their ordinary requests for juice and their silly jokes.

What I allowed myself more than ever during that time (and still do, as I continue to grieve) was to be distracted by what I call ‘something nice’. For me, that’s playing my favourite songs, watching my favourite films and eating my favourite food. For you, that might be a bubble bath, a face mask or a glass of wine. Whatever your ‘something nice’, it’s all about self-care.

I knew that I had to allow my feelings to come, which I did, but there were times that I couldn’t face another night of tears, and times when crying just wasn’t convenient at that moment (it’s hard to get the right type of chicken nuggets when you’re trying to read the label through tears…).

At those times I was grateful for the small gifts that my partner and my kids brought me. Simple things, but just enough to take me away from that pain. Life had to go on. “Just get on with it, Kate!”, my Dad would have said. So, I did.

Moments of Distraction

Of course, I wasn’t the only one struggling. For Christmas that year, I created a hamper for my mum; a huge crate, full of deliciousness, for her to dip into whenever she needed ‘something nice’. She loved it, and I know it helped to give her something else to focus on, just for a moment.

 It’s easy to experience guilt for feeling pleasure during the grieving process, but as someone who is slowly coming through the worst period of it, I can tell you that those little moments of distraction were invaluable to me.

So, if you know someone who is grieving, please don’t think that getting them ‘something nice’ is meaningless in all their pain. I promise you, it will make things easier for them. Even if it’s just for a moment.

Kate Litt is a freelance WordPress and Digital Marketing Consultant and home educating mum of two. She specialises in in working with women who have experienced a major shift in their life, discovered their passion and are determined to turn that passion into a viable business. She writes about technology, marketing and managing to keep things afloat as a self-employed home educator at KateLitt.com/blog-posts.

A huge thank you to Kate for such a poignantly beautiful written piece for Mum's Back, the home of thoughtful gifts for mums.

Mum’s Back With Some New Gifts For Mums!

I am very excited because I have just launched some brand new products and packages to the Mum’s Back family. “But why?” I hear you cry.

Well…..I’ve been thinking about this for some time now. Mum’s Back was born from my very real and very personal experience of 2 back to back pregnancies. During my first pregnancy I really noticed how much stuff I wasn’t allowed anymore….the usual things…cheese, pate, wine, gin, prosecco (basically ALL the booze) and my pals and I chatted and joked (ok…half joked) that the first thing we’d do after having our babies would be to guzzle a glass of rouge with a nice lump of yummy unpasteurised cheese. When my little girl WAS born my lovely husband did in fact get me those things as a present….and the boy did good! I realised they were the best new mum gifts ever, and something like this should be common place!

This realisation really hit home when I got pregnant again just a few weeks later and was confined to another 9 months abstinence, and the concept for Mum’s Back was confirmed…to concentrate on gifts for new mums that focus on the yummy stuff they were denied in pregnancy. This is still very much at the heart of Mum’s Back, along with our passionate aim to raise awareness of perinatal mental health issues and money for PANDAS Foundation (£1 from every package sold goes to them).

However….as I go along this crazy journey of parenting, something occurs to me. It’s not just NEW mums that deserve and need support, treats and encouragement. It is in fact just MUMS. Whether they be new mums, not so new mums, experienced mums….just ALL MUMS! My kids are now 3 and 4. I love them so very much. But MY GOD we’ve been through some rollercoaster times together….and they haven’t even started school yet! The sleep deprivation doesn’t as soon as they’re not babies anymore (sorry to tell you if you have a baby). Sure…it improves, but it can still be rough. So can the colic, the potty training, the first day at nursery, all the illnesses they catch, the stopping of the breastfeeding, the weaning….and so much I haven't had the pleasure of (yet)….the friendship squabbles, the sleep overs, the teenage years. Not to mention the stuff some parents go through…those with kids with special needs or special requirements, for example. Those going through grief or loss. I could go on and on. What I’m trying to say is that there are zillions of times in a mum’s life when she needs a treat or deserves a little recognition, because I have no doubt that all mums are absolute super heroes.

This is what my new range aims to reflect. Yes, a lot of our gifts still focus on the new mums amongst us. But many are not just for new mums. They’re just for mums. The tired mums. The stressed mums. The mums who need a break. The mums who need a hug. The mums who should be celebrating how fricking awesome they are. So there you go! That’s my reasoning.

I’d LOVE you to check them out and tell me what you think! Just click here and pay special attention to the ones with the little yellow “new” label on them. Bye for now. Mwah x

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's Back, who provide luxury hamper gifts for mums.

Halloween Hacks

Most kids love Halloween – which gives them the chance to dress up and get given sweets AND chocolate! Halloween has almost become another national holiday – we spend £330million on it here in the UK. Here are some tips on how to throw a fiendish party at home without breaking the bank.

Vamp up the house

Decorate the house with spiders, skeletons, ghouls and broomsticks. Getting the kids busy with making decorations during half term is a great way to pass a few holiday mornings – cut black card into bat or witch shapes to stick as silhouettes on the windows, or make some ghosts out of white paper.

Collect kitchen and toilet rolls, cut eyes in the rolls, cover with coloured tissue paper and put a glow stick inside and tape the end up. Hide outside or stick in the front window. When it gets dark, the glowing eyes make a great spooky display.

You could also take a trip to your local pound shop, usually a haven of cheap decorations. Buy some cobwebs to drape everywhere and some other spooky decorations. Don’t forget a pumpkin lantern – usually in the supermarkets by early October, but don’t buy too soon if you want it to last. Simply scoop out the inside and then create your design, before cutting along the lines, most supermarkets sell a pumpkin carving kit, which is much safer than using a knife. Don’t use a naked flame to illuminate the pumpkin but a LED tea light instead.

A ghastly menu

With a little bit of creativity you can put on a feast of some surprisingly healthy novelty foods to counteract all the trick or treating sweets. Try your hand at making traditional toffee apples; use an unrefined sugar like coconut sugar (available from most health food shops or online), honey and butter with a dash of vanilla for the caramel. Make gruesome cocktails with fruit juices, such as a ‘Vampire Blood cocktail’, made from cranberry, grape and pomegranate juice and sparkling water. Create monster eyes by cutting boiled eggs in half, adding a raisin or olive for the pupil and using red food colouring for the veins; or try witches fingers made of chicken or fish goujons with an almond flake for the finger nail.

For some sweet treats, how about bat-shaped biscuits or Halloween cupcakes? Ice the cakes with white icing and get a variety of things to decorate them with. Like tubes of coloured icing; Oreo cookies make great tombstones and Licorice Allsorts great bodies and heads. Let the kids’ imaginations run wild, they will come up with great ghouls and monsters, almost too scary to eat!

Games to die for

Most kids will ditch the iPad for some good old-fashioned Halloween games. Try ‘Apples on a String’, where you hang apples on a string across the room and children try to bite the apple without touching it. If apples are too hard, try using ring donuts instead! Messy but Yummy! Another old school game is ‘Bobbing for Apples’, where children try to retrieve an apple from a variety of apples floating in a large tub of water without using their hands (you can also put money at the bottom, so the very brave have to dunk their head under to retrieve 50p or a £1).

A firm favourite is the Mummy game. Divide the kids in to pairs and give them a couple of toilet rolls. The aim of the game is to wrap one of the pair up as a mummy, the person that does it the quickest wins a ghoulish prize for them both.

 The boring bit…Halloween Etiquette

Do remember that not every celebrates Halloween; only knock on decorated houses when you are out trick or treating. Also remind your children to say please and thank you when collecting treats. Please don’t use real candles in pumpkins that are in doorsteps or in easy reach of children, as they are a fire hazard.

Have a spook-tacular time!

This guest post was written by the lovely Claire Winter, has been a content creator, journalist, and copywriter for twenty years. Claire is passionate about helping business owners get rid of their writing blocks with 1:1 training or online courses. She currently writes for all 38 Families magazines that cover the UK, which reach 4 million parents a year. Her latest writing course Selling with Stories – Creating Content that Converts launches in January 2019.

Mum's Back provide hamper gifts for mums focussing on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every package sold goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation.

Coming out of the Mummy Cocoon

Photo by Ursula Kelly

A change is a-coming. I’m on the cusp of liberation. I’ve been counting off the months, days, then hours until my littlest starts school, and that day has finally come.

I’ve been Mum for a solid eight years now and I’m ready for some me-time.

I was eased into parenthood with a well-behaved baby boy in 2010, but boys two and three (now aged four and six) were less compliant, and my brood now resembles what I can best refer to as a pack of wolves…only these wolves play and sleep indoors as well as out!

Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids to bits (annoying as they can be!), but I’ve been feeling a little stifled with the relentlessness of motherhood; rarely does a moment go by where I’m not being called upon to help out, supply food, wipe a bum or clear up a mess.

My daily pattern is a rushed one – it used to involve separate drop offs at school and nursery before hot-footing it to work and back, but it got a bit easier once number two started school and I made the decision to turn my side business (an online children’s bookstore if you were wondering!) into my main earner; this was somewhat accelerated by the lack of pre- and post-school childcare at my tiny village school and no nearby family to help out, but it’s a decision I definitely don’t regret.

So, more recently my days have been spent cramming hours of work into the small windows when my littlest is at Preschool (13 hours at best once you take the commute out of it), and when my kids finally get to bed, and turning my back on the pit my house has become!

For the last two years I’ve envied my friends who could go out running straight from the school drop-off, and who could meet each other during the day for an uninterrupted chat. Heck, I’ve even envied them the chance to go to the supermarket unaccompanied and unrushed, or the freedom to clean their homes, do the washing, or get dinner ready before the kids are back from school – what’s become of me?! And as proof of just how sad my life has become, I’ve been lusting over a Brabantia washing line SO much and for SO long that I even considered putting it on my birthday list this year!! WTF?!

It’s time for things to change.

A change is a-coming

I could sense that change earlier this year when my predominantly navy and khaki wardrobe took a much more colourful turn, and friends started to compliment me on my new attire. I decided to ditch the clothes that no longer brought me joy. I’ve even started to wear dresses – an item of clothing that until now I’ve deemed totally impractical to wear with kids around (I’m far too old to flash my knickers to innocent bystanders at the soft play!).

I’ve also embraced the joy of accessories. And I’ve taken to wearing teething jewellery A LOT, despite not having a little baby anymore – not only is it super colourful, but it’s totally practical for a mum like me with three boisterous boys hanging off her, pulling at her and climbing on her most of the day. It is literally unbreakable.

In May I had a haircut – swapping my long and easily put-up-able locks for a shorter style that would need some styling (i.e. time!). I’d never have dreamed of taking this step 12 months ago when I was still nestled deeply in the cocoon.

And I bought some lipstick too. If you’re not already a fan, you’ll be amazed what difference a slap of colour on the lips can make – a friend who’d watched one of my online lives even said I looked glamorous (which, in fairness, is taking it a little too far!).

What once seemed so far away, is about to become a reality. I’m genuinely excited.

I’ve been starting to look at the exercise classes I might try out, think what tasty meals I can cook up, and wonder if I might have a hidden talent I could unleash at a local sewing group!

I’ve also been working out strategies to ensure the extra hours I’m about to receive aren’t immediately taken up with my business (a habit that would be oh so easy to slip into).

My friends tell me the hours between 9am and 3pm easily get eaten up – I want to be ready for that!

So whilst in some ways I’m sad to be sending my littlest off to school this week – it is the end of an era after all, and we’re definitely not planning on adding to our brood – I’m also excited about the chance to be a bit more me again, to grow my business, and to be more present for the boys when they are at home, as I’ll have got all those boring jobs (and my work) out the way during the day.

At last, I’m emerging from the Mummy Cocoon – watch me fly!

Photo by Ursula Kelly

Amanda Overend is founder of Books & Pieces, an online children’s bookstore specialising in parent-approved books for 0-6 year olds. Join fellow book loving families in her free Early Years Book Group on Facebook.