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.

 

Keeping On Top Of Family Life

Guest post by the lovely Nerissa Buckell, founder of Crimson Tiger.

Don’t you just hate those mothers? You know the ones! Those that turn up on the school run or toddler group with full make up, matching accessories, immaculate children, always on time with everything needed in their bag. Ever wonder how they do it? Other than having a full complement of staff (if only!), it's from being organised.

I learnt my lessons the hard way. My husband was working abroad for weeks at a time and when he was home he was working late most nights. I had four boys between the ages of 1 and 7. Number 2 son was visiting various hospitals trying to reach a diagnosis of his condition and I was struggling with chest infection after chest infection before finally being diagnosed with bronchiectasis. I was sinking and I needed to get more organised. So here some tips that I implemented to get and keep on top of a busy family life.

START WITH THE BASICS

Whatever the day brings you, aim to get two things done. Always try and get one load of washing done and prepare dinner the first chance you get even if it is 9am. Peel the potatoes and have them sitting in cold water, peel and chop the carrots, anything you can do well in advance, do it. No matter what happens later in the day, if you can still get dinner on the table you are winning. This was a piece of advice I was given by my eldest sister when I had my first child and I still live by it now 18 years later.

DO IT THE NIGHT BEFORE

I know, you are exhausted, you just want to flunk into bed and hope Pixie Pickup will wave her wand and get the packed lunches sorted, lay out the clothes and makes sure the school bags and change bag are packed, but trust me, Pixie Pickup is knocking back the gin and despairing of her to-do list like the rest of us! It is far worse in the morning and for just a few minutes of work before bed your mornings are going to be much smoother. I also soon realised that if I allowed my children to go back upstairs in the morning to clean their teeth and get dressed they would soon get distracted and start playing and we would run late. I laid out their clothes on the sofa the night before, toothbrushes were kept downstairs and they could only ever go and play once they were fully ready.

FOOD PLAN & FREEZE

Okay, this sounds so boring and nothing like pre-baby days where you were winging everything including food, but wasted food is expensive when you are feeding a family and when you are tired having to decide what to feed everyone and finding you are missing key ingredients it is no fun. Look at what you have coming up for the week, work out when you are going to be too busy and plan round it. I used to love cooking until I had to do it for 6 people every day so I batch cook, why cook twice when I can do two or three meals worth in one and load the freezer up? Just remember to label the containers as a few times I have served pasta with chilli, hey, in my defence it looks the same when it’s frozen! It is also worth putting the food plan on the calendar, especially when you have a large family. Trust me, being asked ‘what’s for dinner?’ 5 times in 10 minutes will have you punching Pixie Pickup out cold so you can get to the gin first!

FAMILY CALENDAR

Buy a decent sized family calendar, my favourites are from Boxclever Press as there is plenty of room to write on them and they also sensibly have spaces for lists which are perforated, and a pocket at the back perfect for the party invitations. If you can, train the family to look at the calendar. I have to admit to failing here as the husband will stand right next to the calendar and still ask what is happening tomorrow. Thankfully my children are much better and have even reached the stage of writing their plans on the calendar. It is impossible when you are tired and juggling the social lives of others to remember who goes where when. A calendar will avoid the double booking but unfortunately it will also highlight that your 3-year-old has a far better social life than you.

LISTS/BULLET JOURNALS

Bullet journals are probably the most blogged about trend at the moment. Lots of pretty doodling’s of life goals take up most of Pinterest. Ignore the pretty pictures and look at the practical uses. A book, any book, with a pen loop kept beside you at all times to write in everything you need to do, think about, or shop for, is so much easier than scraps of paper at the bottom of the change bag. If you were to look at my bullet journal you would think the contents of your child’s nappy was more artistic but it has saved me so many times. Mentally, crossing off items from your list is also a great way to remind yourself what you really have achieved in a day.

PLANNING SESSION

Set aside half an hour a week for a planning session. If you have a partner then I suggest that you time it for after dinner on Sunday so the washing up and bathing kids’ sessions fall to them. Worked a treat for me! Cuppa, calendar, notebook, and computer. Work out what, when, where, then list it, shop it, note it. If said partner walks in, huff and puff a bit and mumble things like ‘how am I going to manage that’ so they quickly turn and leave you in peace for a few more minutes. You soon learn tricks that give you an extra 5 minutes peace and quiet in a busy household.

BLACK BOX IT

If something is time consuming or just not working for the family, analyse why and change it.   The airline industry has a great attitude that I try to implement in my and my children’s thinking. When something goes wrong, no matter how disastrous they collect information from staff and from the aeroplanes black box and analyse what went wrong and then make changes to stop it from happening again.   A minor example of this is when the children were not using their wash baskets in their rooms. I was fed up going from room to room gathering the washing so we got a communal wash basket on the landing. I soon realised that rather than going up to the basket to place their dirty pants they were throwing them from their doorways and because the opening folded in the washing never made it to the basket. We changed the basket for a large plastic box for them to aim easily at. Sorted.

BE KIND

To yourself – you are never going to get everything right, you are going to screw up, have bad days. There is nothing wrong in having a day where you slip up, where a hairbrush never meets your hair, where the kids run around in the pyjamas all day and you all eat cereal for dinner. It’s normal. It’s just not good when that is your daily life.

Reward yourself. It is hard to find time to clean your teeth on some days but try and find time for a treat. A bath in peace, a glass of wine, a face pack, paint your toes, anything that makes you happy. Look at the Mum’s Back Hampers, the contents are treats, wine, a book, cheese, chocolate, lip balms. We need rewards as much as the children do. Don’t feel guilty!

To others – You really don’t know what they are dealing with so if they make mistakes, be kind, forgive. If a friend who usually posts regularly on social media goes quiet for a while, check up on them, it might be that they are struggling. Be their Pixie Pickup. Go and visit with a bottle of wine or cake for a chat, perhaps quietly, without fuss do a few jobs for them while you are chatting. Drop in a dinner for their family that they just have to reheat.

Finally, have fun, ignore the mess and have fun with the kids as they do leave home sooner than you think and then you and Pixie Pickup will have more time to share a glug of gin or two.

This blog was written by Nerissa Buckell, mum to 4 boys and a dog that snorts like a pig. She is also founder of Crimson Tiger, creators of made to order personalised gifts.

Big thanks to Nerissa for all the fab hints, tips and life hacks! 

 

 

 

Microblading at I-Bar, Brighton

To be honest I was nervous when the lovely Sarah from the i-bar suggested mircroblading my brows. I’d been seeing her for years for threading treatments (moustache and brows!) and felt pretty happy with where we were.

Like many people, I’d plucked my eyebrows to within an inch of their lives in the 90s. I’d “Imacc’d” (I think it’s now called “Veet”?!) ….and on one occasion actually shaved *shudder* my upper lip to oblivion during the same period, (damn those 90s…thank god there was no social media back then to capture these horrifying errors) and it took a bit of work for Sarah to get my face looking presentable again. But she’d managed it and her threading had done me proud over the years.

My eyebrows were in pretty good shape and my tache’ was kept at bay. So the thought of another treatment….especially one that had “blade” in the title AND was described as ‘long lasting’ did fill me with a little worry. However, I trusted Sarah and had seen pictures of others who’d been through the treatment and was impressed with what I saw. So, pushing those memories of 90s horror to the back of my mind I agreed. Sarah dabbed on some of the colour dye behind my ear, which I had to leave on for 24 hours just to ensure I had no reactions. Off I trotted with my first appointment booked in.

My first and main worry was that I didn’t want to look like I’d had 2 slugs tattooed above my eyes. I’d seen some shocking eyebrow tattoo treatments in my time and I definitely didn’t want to look like that. Sarah reassured me and promised what I already knew – that she is ALL about natural beauty. Her aim was to enhance the shape of what I already had and fill in the gaps (no doubt created in the 90s!). It sounded good. Here’s a pic of my brows before any work….

 

Sarah explained the way she works. She suggested 3 sessions in total, with a (circa) month gap in between. This gives previous treatments a chance to settle, creating a much more natural result in the end. Sarah is absolutely meticulous and pays SO much attention to details it’s crazy. She told me that for her, it’s like therapy. I understand why now! For so long she’d been threading my eyebrows…working on their shape and definition, but never been able to fill those annoying gaps in the shape she’d so carefully created…..until now! It’s a bit like being able to decorate the cake she’d so lovingly baking all this time.

The first treatment was the most daunting. Sarah dabbed on some anaesthetic cream on the eyebrow area and I sat to let it work in for 30 minutes. This was actually great because I got to sit with my feet up and read a mag (a bit like a spa treatment with 2 under 4 at home). Then it was time to get cracking. Sarah looked like a surgeon in her scrubs and it made me wonder if I’d made a mistake!

My worries were soon allayed as she got to work. First we discussed the areas she planned to fill in. My brows ended quite abruptly, so the plan was to lengthen them slowly and gradually and fill in some other areas to create a better shaped arch. Sarah explained how microbladers are trained to follow a particular brow shape. This is good, but doesn’t account for people’s differing face shapes. Sarah opts for a tailored design for each person, matching his or her features. I realised at this point how lucky I was to have Sarah! She also explained how many blades there are for the treatment and how it’s important to use the right one. Too thick could look unnatural, and perhaps veer into the slug look I was worried about. Colour matching was also important, to stay in line with the natural look. Sarah had it all under control.

She started work and I got to experience what it felt like. Not a lot, actually, because my brows were numbed! It didn’t hurt at all. I could just hear/feel a slight scratchy noise. That was it. It was actually pretty relaxing. I was pleased because I’d heard from friends that it hurt. This is because many technicians don’t bother waiting for the anaesthetic, opting instead to make some incisions meaning the anaesthetic works its way in quicker, and the treatment is done quicker. Sarah, however, is all about client comfort, which is another reason why I love her!

We chatted throughout the treatment and the first session was soon complete. I was sent home with instructions not to get the eyebrow area wet for 48 hours and to keep clean. It was pretty easy. The look at first was quite heavy, but this wore off after a few days. I was actually quite sad when it did and was looking forward to my next session. I got a lot of compliments. I realised how much better my whole face looked with normal sized brows.

The next 2 sessions were more of the same. Sarah carefully built on the previous session, working on filling the gaps and ensuring the colour was right. I could see what a good idea it was to space out the sessions. It meant for a really natural look, which Sarah constantly strives for.

My last session is now complete and I’m so in love with my new brows!! Here they are in all their glory

 

Are you interested in a session with Sarah? She’s very kindly offering a discount of 10% for all of this blog for microblading treatment. Just give her a call or email and let her know you read all about it on the Mum's Back site.

Sarah’s lovely studio is based just off Western Rd, in Castle Mews, Brighton. Here I am with Sarah in her studio. Note my brows are much heavier there than the finished article as they still had lots of dye on them, but I wanted to get a nice one of Sarah when she's not in her surgical uniform so you can see how lovely she is!

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's BackHampers for new mums and mums at all stages, focussing on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every hamper sold goes to PANDAS Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What NOT to say to a pregnant lady

Pregnancy is a funny old time. Usually it's filled with a whole plethora of emotions; excitement, fear, nervousness, happiness, worry….it really is a crazy time. I remember going through ALL the stages and feeling really overwhelmed at points.

There were times people liked to chip in with “helpful” advice, anecdotes or comments. Usually it was lovely and supportive. Other times it really really wasn't. What I've come to realise is that many seem to go through this. There really should be a code of conduct when it comes to dealing with pregnant people. Of course we are all different, and what others find helpful and supportive, others won't. None the less, I've put together a little list of what NOT to say in order to support friends…..damn it, even STRANGERS through their pregnancy. This was put together with a little help from my friends, who chipped in with their worst experiences when they were expecting….

  1. The number 1 “no no” was the old classic….”are you sure it's not twins in there?”. These words seemed to be uttered to around 50% of ladies whilst pregnant. It's not really helpful or complimentary. After all, said lady is likely to know the configuration of baby/ies in her tummy, and all the comment does is make her feel as large as a bus. Not a great feeling. So just DON'T.
  2. OK next up….assuming the pregnant lady in question won't want to go out or have fun anymore. No, she can't drink but she CAN still have fun and hold a conversation. Helen Pritchard says “A friend said to me ‘Oh, I didn't invite you to my party because I thought you wouldn't want to be around people drinking!’ Lame – I said I can still make my own decisions even though I am pregnant.”
  3. Any comments at all about weight gain or shape tend not to be helpful. Whether it's “Wow you are enormous” or “Gosh you're THAT far ahead? You are SO SMALL”. All contributions like this do is make us worry. Worry that we are not normal and ARE in fact too small or too big etc etc. And (possibly) even worse….comments about the rest of the body too. Rebecca says someone said to her “you can really tell you're pregnant now, you're filling out in your face”, making her cry. Rose says her father in law made this HORRENDOUS comment to her – “I thought your tummy was supposed to get bigger not your bum as well!”. Just NO.
  4. The touching of the belly. Sometimes from friends, often by complete strangers! Pregnant tummies are not public property! Of course, some people may not mind their bump being handled and that is fine. But many are not fans of random hands on them. So for goodness sake at least ask first….or better still, just swerve the bump groping all together!
  5. I speak from personal bitter experience here. My second daughter was born only a year after my first. I was asked constantly and usually by total strangers “was that planned?”. This inevitably led to an uncomfortable discussion about my sex life. AWKS. Just don't go there. Please.
  6. Pregnancy can be hard work. It is tiring and emotional and makes you ache in places you didn't even know existed. So when she divulges information about the bad side of it, the worst thing you can say is “You chose to do this, you really can’t complain” (thanks to Mary for this gem). Erm, just because she has taken part in the basic natural instinct to reproduce, doesn't exclude her from the right to have a moan, OK?
  7. The “just you wait” style comments are never helpful, either. Many people are SO keen to tell you how much worse it gets, which doesn't fill you with happiness or comfort. Classics are “Wow you look tired…just wait until the sleepless nights start!” (thanks for that quote Lisa) or when you say you think you have everything you need for the baby and someone (un)helpfully chips in with “trust me…you are NEVER prepared” (thanks Jen for that one!).
  8. The labour horror stories. Why? Just WHY? If someone tells you they are about to have an operation on their heart, you probably wouldn't rack your brain to think of all the heart operation horror stories to impart on the poor person, would you? So why on earth do people do that to pregnant ladies when childbirth is both imminent and unavoidable. All it does is create anxiety and fear. Unless it's a nice labour story, just don't go there.
  9. In a similar vein, passing judgement or comment about a lady's chosen (or NOT chosen!) delivery method is not a good move. What came out top in this area was the trend in implying a lady is taking the “easy option” if she has a c-section. This is not a good move because a) it's bollocks and b) it's just tactless, rude, and makes her feel like crap.
  10. Last but not least. Before you say ANYTHING, just be ABSOLUTELY SURE she is, in fact, pregnant. Because I don't think there's anything worse than the old “when are you due?!” when the lady in question is not harbouring a baby at all. I've heard several of these stories and they never end well. So unless you have absolute confirmation and proof, just don't risk it. It's not worth it!

 

This article was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's Back who provide new mum hampers and gifts for mums in general, focussed on all the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy (wine, pate, cheese, gin, prosecco etc!). £1 from every hamper sold goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation.

 

 

The Brutal Honesty of Kids….

My kids are the golden ages of 2 and 3. My goodness they are really hard work. But also AMAZING. I just know it’s this time I will look back on in years to come as the “golden era”. The time they were just the cutest. They are also just so brilliantly entertaining. Some of the things they do and come out with right now are just hilarious! I thought I’d compile my favourites. A couple are from the mouths of my own kids and the others are corkers from my lovely community. I hope you enjoy them! Got any to add? I'd LOVE to hear!

  1. OK I will start…My 2 year old whilst jumping on me in the sofa whilst I am rather hungover and in my dressing gown – “Mummy! You are so bouncy! Just like bouncy castle!!” Yeah….thanks kid.
  2. “My friend's 4 year old daughter announced “I've got an itchy Minnie mummy” – in a full dental waiting room😂” – Rachel Buckingham
  3. “My son announced loudly, in a packed cafe, ‘Mummy, I know what the F word is!’ He was only 4 but I calmly (and quietly) asked what that was. He lowered his voice and replied in a strong stage whisper ‘FAGINA’.” – Ruthanne Garrett
  4. “As a small child I announced ‘Mummy your hair is so golden except for that fat brown stripe down the middle'” – Gav Qayin. Ouch, Gav, ouch!
  5. “I was babysitting for my friend and before she went out her kid said ‘Mummy, are you going to be sick and wee in a bucket like last time?’”- Claire Salter. OMG!
  6. “We took our boys to Thailand when they were 5 months and 22 months. Isaac my then 22 month old used to get words and letters muddled and would call doggies ‘goddies’ and many other muddles. We saw some elephants in Thailand and on our return he told many people we encountered that he had seen an elephant with a really big c*nt! (He meant trunk btw)” – Samantha Barfoot. MEGA LOL!
  7. “I was lying in bed trying to settle my 4 year old as he always gets in my bed in the night. I said to him, ‘will you still be getting in Mummy’s bed when you’re 45?’ He looked surprised and said ‘no Mummy, you’ll be dead.’ “- Alice McPalace. BAAAAHA HA HA
  8. “Years ago my then 7 yr old son (who is now nearly leaving school age) handed back an old school stylus for a gameboy that some family friends’ kids had left in the living room as they were leaving and said, “Hey, don't forget your clitoris…!” luckily the girls in question were French and didn't really understand – this was simply the best ever…he will of course never live this down – nor will i let him!” – Sarah Lovesart. Simply brilliant.
  9. “When my eldest was around 2-3 there was the time when he was trying to tell me something and he just couldn’t get to the point. I was sat on the floor and he was stood in front of me. ‘Come on Spike, spit it out’ I said. So he spat in my face.” – Esme Glazebrook. Quite ironic that this nearly made me spit out my coffee!
  10. “Many, many years ago I was doing an interview for radio as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival at a well known gay venue on St James Street. As a single mother I had taken my toddler along in her pushchair. Adorning the walls of this cafe were photos of scantily clad men in angel wings . At the very end of the interview my toddler shouted out in wonder and at the top of her voice ” LOOK MUMMY! THERE'S FAIRIES EVERYWHERE! ” It was a live show. 😁” – Ethel Sparrowhawk. Loving this SO much!
  11. “My 4 year old came out with ‘why has granddads face melted? Is it coz he's old'” – Sam Magic-Lee. Ooops!
  12. My friend's daughter was asked by her teacher what talents her mummy had. She replied “She's good at farting….and drinking wine” – Zoe Forbes. BRUTAL.
  13. “‘Mummy, can you wipe my bum? I'm holding a hamster.'” – Kate Ballard
  14. “‘Grandad, can I sit on your willy?’… said by my then 3yr old daughter to my Dad. Cue lots of coughing and rapid changing of the subject…” – Fiona Gambie. Oh goodness.
  15. And I'll leave you with this gem from my own 3 year old. We were in a very busy public loo and I'd taken her in the cubicle with me. It was my time of the month so I had a sanitary towel. She started laughing hysterically whilst shrieking “Mummy! You are wearing a nappy! You are a baby!”.

Sally Bunkham is the founder of Mum's Back, providers of new mum gift sets and hamper gifts for mums. £1 from every hamper sold goes to PANDAS Foundation.

 

What Kate Spade’s Tragic Death Has Made Me Realise….

I was sat on my bed moments before I heard the tragic news of Kate Spade’s death. I remember in the minute before the sun was shining on my face and it felt all warm and lovely, and I was looking out to the view of Brighton station in the distance…I could see the trains pulling in and out and I thought (as I often do) about the people who might be on that train. I thought lazily about where they might be going and what they might be thinking. We’d just put the kids to bed and I remember feeling perfectly content in that moment. I won’t go as far as saying I was “happy” because I feel like as soon as you think “oooh I’m happy” it kind of breaks the mood and ruins it. I much prefer “content”. You see, “content” feels SO good to me these days, after that bleak period of total sleep deprivation and PND when I had with 2 babies under 2. I think you can relish contentness (if that even is a word?!) much more after depression. You appreciate it more. So it felt like such a jolt when I glanced down at my phone to read the tragic news of Kate’s death. The terrible thing is that news of suicides seems so horribly common these days. So often relating to those people we assume “have it all”. In many ways Kate Spade’s life was a replica of my dream. A successful mother with her own business. She’d made her millions by the time her kids came along and was able to sell it and enjoy their upbringing. She was creative. She’d used her talents so wisely. On paper she had the dream. I spend so much time wishing for stuff like this.

 

My thoughts on a daily basic include…”I want Mum’s Back to be the number 1 market place for mum gifts. How can I get there?” “Oh god, so and so on social media is CLEARLY doing SO much better than me. She’s so popular. I’ll never be that popular. I bet her kid sleeps too…” “I’m getting old! 37! I’ll never make it as a businesswoman, I started too late. I should get a proper job” “I need to have the mind set. Maybe I’m not ‘go getter’ enough” “I’m not doing enough! I need to write more blogs! Get in more papers! Sell more hampers! I’m just not ambitious enough. I’ve got to do 1 hour more work every day and sacrifice Netflix time”, blah blah blah…I could go on.

 

I am ALWAYS berating myself. For not being successful enough. For not having enough followers. For not selling enough hampers. All these things are so easy to measure supposed “success” by. But let’s, for a moment, imagine I DID fulfil all these aspirations. Would I be any happier than I am now? I’m not so sure the answer is a definite yes. I’ve had some small tastes of success. Nothing major, but successes all the same…..articles published in The Guardian and other National Press. I’ve made appearances on live telly. I’ve spoken to large audiences. The kind of stuff that I probably dreamt of when starting my business just over a year ago. Did it feel good when I achieved those little milestones? Yes it did. But the next day life went back to normal and I went back to wanting more. Always more. MORE MORE MORE. I’m not sure this want for more ever really stops, does it? For me I think that’s true. I suppose that’s a symptom of the human condition. To always be striving for something. Always needing to make that next step. Not relishing those feelings of content in between.

 

I realise now the ultimate success (for me at least) is being happy with my lot. Of course, I realise I’m in quite a privileged position so it’s easy for me to say that. I have a husband, 2 kids, food on the table and a roof over our heads. The trick for me is to truly tune in to the gratitude I feel for that. Because I definitely feel it. I just need to focus more on it.

 

Kate Spade’s death is a reminder on how indiscriminate mental health issues are. We can be the most successful people on paper. We can apparently ‘have it all’. Mental Health conditions don’t give a shit about that. It could be any one of us and we could be at the peak of our apparent “success”.

 

What Kate’s tragic death has taught me is to try and enjoy the journey more. And those moments of contentment? To really tune into those. Those times I look at the view out my window with the sun on my face and think “that feels nice”…to drink that in and FEEL it. Savour it. Enjoy it. Because to be able to feel that level of contentment is an utter joy and a privilege, and not something to take for granted.

 

Sally Bunkham is the founder of Mum’s Back providers of new mum hampers, whilst raising money for PANDAS Foundation.

 

 

For my Husband on Father’s Day

When my husband and I got married, we chose this poem (by Hovis Presley) to be read during the ceremony. And my goodness, I don't think either of us quite realised quite how important the content of that poem would be during the coming years, as we became parents.

Without my husband by my side during our first three years of parenthood, I have no idea where I'd be. With Father's Day around the corner, it's time I said thank you. Thank you for so many things.

  • For understanding my body was going a little crazy in pregnancy. For always being on hand to nip out for Gaviscon. For not minding being asked to pop out of the office to buy constipation remedies. For sleeping in the spare room or on the sofa during the last few days/weeks because I couldn't get comfortable. For comforting me when I cried about silly things because my hormones were going mad. For asking the questions I hadn't thought of during appointments with the midwife. For listening to accounts of my crazy pregnancy dreams & not laughing (much). For understanding my immediate need for a Slush puppy.
  • You were a brilliant birthing partner. You always understood my fear of labour, and you did everything you could to alleviate that. You had just the right level of humour and care to get me through childbirth. Thank you for not fainting at the sight of blood (even when it splattered across the midwife's face). You were always as involved as you could be from the off. You whipped off your top and had skin to skin with our babies both times as quick as I did. You listened as intently as me when the lovely midwives explained how to change a nappy. You helped and adjusted the baby on my breast as we tried to get the right latch. You stayed in the hospital with me as long as you possibly could, till the midwifes eventually kicked you out. And when you left I cried and you cried.
  • Breastfeeding didn't work out for me. You knew how this broke my heart. You did everything you could to make it better. You researched. You did everything possible to try and make it better. But ultimately, you made me realise I could still be a brilliant mum and it was ok. You recognised my guilt and pain and you made me realise that in the grand scheme of things it wasn't important. I could see how cross you were that I'd gone through this and no one had prepared us for the possibility.
  • When we discovered we were going to have another baby when our first was just 3 months old you were as scared as me, but your first words were “it's going to be OK Sal, it will be fine”. I knew I had your 100% support and it made everything ok. We would cope and we would love those babies. And that's exactly what we've done.
  • Possibly the one thing I can't thank you for enough, dear husband, is your night time brilliance with those babies. You have jiggled, paced, cuddled, swung, held and comforted those babies at every hour of the night. For hours and hours and hours. Just imagine how many hours we've clocked up pacing the floor with babies, dear husband?! Oh my goodness. And yes, we complained. My god we complained to each other. But you NEVER suggested I should do more because I wasn't technically “working” or because I'm their mum. Not once. You are the most patient man alive. When I felt I was going INSANE pacing the carpet with those babies you were gentle and calm. I still have no idea how you did it. Our girls still call for us both in the night. For a long time you were the only one that could comfort our darling Ruby. That's because you were always there for her. Your ability to cope under severe sleep deprivation still astounds me. I will never be able to thank you enough! It always makes me think of this little poem that I saw in the paper

  • My husband the feminist. You make me believe I can be whatever I want to be, and you have exactly the same attitude with our girls. You are the one that pushed me when I said I wanted to start my own business. You are the one that encourages me to go for it. And do you know what? Our girls see that. They already see that. And they know you feel the same about them. You encourage them to do everything they show an interest in. You will happily get your nails painted by them, and buy them toy trucks and lorries too. You are determined that their gender will not define them. I am so proud of your attitude and I am so happy that they have such a beautiful and kind, but quietly fierce and ambitious soul as their role model.
  • My rock during PND. You knew I was falling apart at the seams even when I couldn't see if myself. You knew that, and had to cope with that, whilst having to deal with work and 2 non sleeping babies as well. You remained calm. You comforted me. When you saw me going to dangerous places, doing crazy things like screaming into pillows, you never once made me feel like I was mad. You gently persuaded me that we needed to seek help. Always “we”, never “you”. You comforted me and reassured me. You made me realise I was still a good mum. It scares me to think of what would have happened without you. I was close to becoming really poorly, and without you, I would have been. You helped cure me.
  • For loving the kids completely and entirely, and for loving me too. You have loved me through everything. Through spinal blocks and the first poo after labour, and the breast pumps and the crying, the sitting on doughnut cushions, the ringing of 111 at 4am, the breaking down at the doctors, the tears and stress of blood tests and the “I'm a crap mum, I cannot do this”. The hysterical laughter at 2am when they're both up AGAIN. The desperation of “let's drive her in the car and see if that makes her sleep”. The boiling hot summers of jiggling babies to sleep. The books on “how to get a baby to sleep”. The hand, foot and mouth. The slapped cheek. The chicken pox in pregnancy. The going to work on the train after literally 40 minutes sleep. The punching of the walls and the near loss of your wife's sanity. Through all of that (and so much more) you have loved me. And I'm so very very grateful. I didn't think it was possible to love you more than I did when I married you. I was wrong. Happy Father's Day Paul Edward Bunkham.

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's Back – new mum hamper gifts focussing on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every hamper goes to PANDAS Foundation.

Ode To the Rods I Made For My Back

 

You may have read my previous blog about the top 10 most annoying things you can say to a new parent. Number 5 on that list is “oooh, you’re making a rod for your own back there!”. I heard it SO MANY TIMES. And during those crazy, rollercoaster months as a new mum it REALLY worried me. “Oh my god! I am! She’s going to be needing me to jig her until she’s asleep when she’s 15, oh no!” I’d panic and google EVERYTHING. Honestly, the things I’ve typed into the google search bar…

“is it normal that baby’s won’t be put down…EVER”

“can you die from lack of sleep?”

“how long do baby’s teeth for?”

You get the idea. But I SO wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about those “rods”. Because you know what? Those supposed “rods” saved me….on SO many occasions.

I thought it was about time I gave them the love and praise they deserve, because I don’t regret a single one.

 

Rod 1 – Letting the babies sleep on my chest

This was possibly the first example of the “rod for my own back” I experienced. You learn it pretty quickly…well if you had babies like mine you do anyway. They do NOT like being put down. Ever. The best place to sleep is with as much contact with mummy or daddy as possible. As soon as you attempt to put them down their little eyes open. I soon realised that the best thing to do was to just let them blooming stay there. You then get enforced relaxation time in front of the telly (with tea and biscuits and the remote control to hand if you’ve been canny enough) and they get their kip. Win win. Yes it got tricky when I had 2 under 2, but that’s when that sling was VERY useful. Do I regret any of those sofa snuggles I had? No I do not. I loved them. In fact part of me longs for those forced sofa head sniffing sessions back! Now they’re pre-schoolers it’d be tricky to get them to sleep on my chest and I miss it.

 

Rod 2 – Letting my kids have a dummy

OK I’m going to come right out and say it….this is a “rod” that’s still very much propping up my back. My kids are now 2 and 3 and they still have dummies. I KNOW! It’s not ideal. But they only really have them when they’re tired and in bed. Well…the older one does. The younger one….she LOVES hers. Probably a bit too much. But if I could do it all again, would I still let them have dummies? Erm YES! Those dummies have saved mine and their life MANY times. Because they genuinely soothe them and make them feel better. I suppose that’s why they’re called “pacifiers” in the US. Research has shown they quite literally help to reduce symptoms of pain…and my god did I need help with that when my babies were young and colicky. Research also shows that dummies can reduce the chances of SIDS. And on a less serious note…my goodness they’ve been handy to quieten those very loud cries in the supermarket when they’re causing a scene. I know dummies aren’t for everyone (one older lady at a baby group described them as “plastic germ catchers!”, and that’s fine. But I am MORE than grateful for mine, thank you very much.

 

Rod 3 – Only sleeping in the buggy

My first baby was a terror for this. She graduated from the “only on your chest” phase straight into the “only in a moving buggy” phase. Many suggested I’d live to hate this so I desperately attempted to get her to sleep in her cot instead. Many stress filled days I’d attempt the transfer into the cot, only to have her wake up and SCREAM, meaning I’d miss the nap window all together. It was frustrating having to go out and about and walk with her in the buggy, sometimes in the rain and snow…but it WORKED. It also meant I got out the house and got some exercise, which was great for my mental health. And although it didn’t feel like it at the time, it didn’t last forever. I wish I’d just relaxed and gone with it a bit more.

 

Rod 4 – The getting to sleep jiggle

For quite a long time the only way I could get my girls to sleep was by rocking and jigging them to sleep and then transferring them to their cots. Was it tiring? Yes. Was it irritating? Yes it was at times. Especially when I was heavily pregnant with my second and my first was just under 1 and needed jiggling A LOT. It hurt my back and made my arms ache. But the alternative was having to hear my baby cry, and that did not sound or feel good. The rock and the jiggle was a technique that was mildly irritating and tiring and often sweaty…but it WORKED. And both of them grew out of it. I no longer have to jiggle them to sleep. It served its purpose for a while and I’m GRATEFUL for the technique!

 

Rod 5 – The night feeds

Oh the night feeds! This was an approach that was wheeled out regularly in an attempt to settle and make them happy. “What’s needed to get her back to sleep?” I’d think. Was it a nappy? Colic? Too cold? Too hot? Milk! I’ll try milk! And you know what….9 times out of 10 it blooming worked. I’d overhear conversations at baby groups “Oh no, I’ve stopped the night feeds. I had to wean her off with water”. “WATER?!” I’d think. Seriously? I remember trying this when my youngest was about 17 months in an attempt to put an end to the night feed “rod”. I had the bottle of water all prepared and sat by the cot. When the familiar cry at 2am came the water was deployed. I can still picture the look of utter disgust on her face. It was like I’d tried to feed her straight whisky. “WHAT IS THIS?? I did NOT wake you up for blinking WATER, love!” the cry of disgust was not letting up. “Darling! Get me some milk! PLEASE! QUICK!” I shouted to the other half. The night feeds carried on a while. Just long enough for me to get worried by the horror stories of teeth falling out by the time she’s 7 etc etc. Then she just stopped on her own and started SLEEPING. Again, this was a rod that served its purpose and I’m grateful for it.

 

Rod 6 – Ewan the Dream Sheep

Awww Ewan! Where would we be without you? In our house Ewan is affectionately known as “baa baa”. We bought Ewan in those early, desperate days when our first daughter was just a few days old. She is now nearly 4 and STILL goes to sleep to that familiar lullaby tune. She also shares a room with her 3 year old sister, who now also gets to enjoy the songs of baa baa, despite her opting out at a younger age. There have been times when the rod of Ewan has been a burden. Forgetting him when we go on holiday, for example, spells utter disaster. Or when his batteries run out at a critical time. But if I had to do it all again, would I still have purchased him. HELL YEAH! I have to admit to loving that lullaby tune a bit myself. Popping it on signals the end of another tiring day. It signifies rest and calm, and I’m grateful for that. As far as I’m concerned Ewan can continue as long as they want. I just pray he never breaks, because I’m not sure the latest Ewans still play the same tune!

 

So there you go, the 6 rods for my back I’m grateful for. What are yours?

 

Sally Bunkham is the founder of Mum’s Back, who provide new mum hampers focussing on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every hamper sold goes to PANDAS Foundation.

The Winner Of The May Mum Of The Month Is…..

Nat Ellis! Huge congrats Nat. Nat's lovely friend Kirsty nominated Nat….and I believe there were a few different entries from other folk for her too! I asked Kirsty to answer a few questions about her…..this is what she said, but first let's kick things off with a cheeky pic of Nat with her lovely family (& Dick and Dom!)…

How long have you known Nat?

I've been friends with Nat via facebook for a few years, as we both have children with metabolic conditions that mean they have quite complex health needs and disabilities. We only really meet up for family events that we try to get organised, as it's pretty hard for many families like ours to actually get together, our children are unpredictable in their health and planning time around them can be hard work. Nat is in Burgess Hill and I'm in Worthing, so not quite close enough to grab a 15 minute cuppa!

This You Tube link is from the day we took over part of the Bognor Skate Park with a group of wheelchair users- it was so much fun for all of us, especially the children, but we were all exhausted after about half an hour! But this is exactly the kind of thing we are really passionate about – letting our children have real, exciting play experiences – not sitting on the sidelines or being made to make yet more handprints…which is often a go-to activity for children with disabilities! When they spend a lot of time in hospital and being uncomfortable, it really matters what you do with the rest of their lives.

Why did she deserve to win our Mum of the Month competition? 

Nat is an amazing Mum, who manages to split her time between all of her children, even when Izzy is in hospital. As a single parent, I don't really know how she does it (as much as I sometimes say it would be easier doing it all myself, I would probably crack if I didn't have my husband walk in at the end of the day to take some strain, whether it's physical or emotional).

We all know we do just have to keep going, but she always has a smile; always has time to help other people and incredibly is still happy to help with some of the campaigns, such as the Changing Places toilet campaign, that has hit the headlines recently. It is really important that our families get to go out and enjoy day trips to all the places other families enjoy – especially when there are other children in the family who can miss out on so much and are usually very patient and understanding that their needs cannot be first that much. Making memories and living life to its full potential is something that should be an aim for all Mums – we never get this time back.

What would you like her to know?

I think she already knows, but it doesn't harm to remind her – that she is incredible and inspirational and that what she does with all of her children now is so important, they are amazing children, and they will look back one day knowing just how much she loved them and that they were her priority.

Huge congrats to Nat. Do you know someone that could do with a new parents gift hamper? Then get buying over at Mum's Back! If you join our mailing list you get 15% off your first order. We will also be launching our June Mum Of The Month Comp very soon.

“Here, Take These. Next!”

 

As it's Mental Health Awareness Week I've decided to share a blog from a fellow mum, Catherine. Catherine had spent 20 years as an admin manager, PA and senior secretary for international companies, government organisations and a national charity. After neurosurgery in 2012 and radiotherapy in 2014 Catherine was left with chronic health problems and Addisons disease, which came with various symptoms,
including fatigue. Working 9-5 in a stressful, busy office environment wasn’t great for her health or work/life balance. Catherine’s family was taking a back seat too and life felt like an uphill struggle.
Determined to continue doing what she loved, what she’d spent her whole career doing well, Catherine read and researched how to transition from Personal Assistant to Virtual Assistant, and the rest, as they say, is history. Catherine now runs Delegate VA. Here she is speaking about her journey….

I was a single parent until my daughter was 15 and would describe my life with ‘PND’ as bloody hard work for 14 years.

Hello, my name’s Catherine, I’m 41 and a Mum of one and was diagnosed as having PND in 1998.

I think my post-natal depression started ten years before I fell pregnant! I know, I’m obviously still in the midst of it or don’t quite get what ‘post’ natal means.

Or perhaps the diagnosis after my daughter was born in 1998 was wrong, but I’d just had a baby what else could it be?

I remember writing on a yellow post-it note around a year after my daughter was born ‘I’m the luckiest person alive’ and I left it in my little address book. I’d just driven home with her from a friends and she’d fallen asleep, she was so beautiful – still is – and at that moment I felt so blessed, so lucky and then that was the last time I felt what I now know is ‘right’.

I hadn’t spent hours lying awake self-diagnosing, it was the days before Google, so my diagnosis came from the one person we put a lot of trust in – our GPs. Hell, if they don’t know what’s wrong then we must be dying, so I was glad to have the diagnosis after popping in to tell them I felt a bit weird – you know, suicidal, low, tired, hungry, not hungry, angry, sad, etc, etc.

I omitted to tell the GP I’d always felt a bit like this just that it had been exacerbated post natal. And I guess, because I’d felt this way for so long it had become the norm? I was prescribed diazepam initially, which didn’t do anything. I kept popping back and was told ‘give it a little longer’ and eventually sent to see a councillor who had a terrible habit of looking at the clock behind me every time I started talking. That just made me angrier.

Over the next ten years I was given various anti-depressants to manage my post-natal depression including Venlaflaxine, Sertraline, and eventually Prozac before I’d just about had a bloody nough! Absolutely nothing made me feel any better, every morning I’d wake up and after those initial few seconds of coming round I’d then reflect and think ‘right brain what mood are we in today?’. I couldn’t cope with stress, change or anything slightly off plan, which as we know is not how being a Mum is.

I’d look at families and other Mums and think they must be faking it, I can’t be the only one who’s struggling who nothing works for? I didn’t actually think for a second that my diagnosis might be wrong.

I took myself off the anti-depressants when I was 31 (2008) after an awful experience with Prozac – did you know you’re supposed to be monitored carefully when on this drug? It’s even banned in some countries!

Then in 2011 I started to get some very strange symptoms. Excessive hair loss, every time I had a shower the plug hole was absolutely full. I wondered if this happened every year, but for the life of me couldn’t remember? I’d also started to get terribly irrational, a train journey to Cardiff was horrendous – I had no escape plan should the train fall over or get hit. At the time, I didn’t even think I was being irrational, I just thought everyone else must’ve already considered it and have their plan ready – or they just weren’t aware it could happen. I’d then noticed when watching telly and the ad breaks came on that I couldn’t remember what I was watching – in just a few seconds my short-term memory had failed.

My periods became stupidly heavy – a tampon and night time towel would last minutes and then, my periods stopped altogether.

Memory loss, loss of periods for over 12 months, hair loss, memory loss, brittle nails, fatigue and memory loss.

After a year of pointless full blood counts, a patronising female doctor who said ‘I think you’re a little bit stressed love’ and three doctors desperate to get me back on anti-depressants I asked for a referral to a private consultant. I was referred to a gynaecologist as my GP’s felt that the loss of my period was the main problem. He decided he’d do some sort of test which helps determine whether you’ve gone through the Menopause, but said it wasn’t 100% and that we’d look at other things too. I went away a little scared that I might have hit the menopause but relieved that someone was doing something different to investigate.

That night the gynae phoned me at home at 8pm. He’d been going through my notes and wanted to know if I’d ever had a prolactin test? I said my memory was bad, but that I don’t think I’d ever heard this word before so ‘no’. Okay he said, come in tomorrow and we’ll do one – it’s just a blood test.

This prolactin test came back with a reading of almost 10000 – I have since learnt that a normal prolactin is around 20.

This determined there was a problem with my Pituitary Gland – don’t worry, if you’re like me you may never have heard of that either. The Pituitary Gland, as I now know, is one of the major parts of our body, it’s a little pea sized gland at the base of our brain and is in control of almost all of our bodies hormones – the endocrine system.

The high level of prolactin and an MRI determined that I had a tumour in the Pituitary Gland and this blighter was what was causing all those symptoms.

One significant symptom associated with a Pituitary tumour, in men and women, is lactating. Now I didn’t have this symptom but I also didn’t lactate when I had my daughter! I never told anyone because I put her straight onto a bottle. I didn’t think anything of it.

Let’s fast forward, because this blog is aimed at Mum’s and we don’t have time to be reading life stories, do we…

I had the tumour removed in 2012 and radiotherapy in 2014 after the blighter re-grew and although it was a very stressful time I am so glad it happened, because now I wake up, go to bed and live every day ‘happy’. Who even knew that was possible? I didn’t.

I can now genuinely write that post-it note out again and again every day – ‘I am the luckiest person alive’, not only because I am a Mum, but because I am better.

So, if your PND isn’t getting better or you feel every day is a struggle – it doesn’t mean you have a Pituitary tumour – but it might not be PND. Keep asking, keep badgering, get a second, third, fourth opinion. This is your life, you deserve to enjoy it.

Catherine x

A MASSIVE thank you to Catherine for sharing such a personal and complex journey, and offering such an insight. I for one had NO idea, and it just goes to show how varied and under researched mental health issues are.