The Road To Recovery

I've written a lot about perinatal mental health in the past. For Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (which is this week) I wanted to write something really positive. I truly do feel totally better following that bleak period of my life with 2 under 2 and a bad bout of late onset PND. I might even consider myself a good mum now, which is an utter revelation! Because of this I wanted to reflect on what being “better” really means.

During those bad times with PND I was angry, sleep deprived, frustrated, not understood, was self-harming and felt like a failure. It was horrible. But following my diagnosis, I began to slowly get better. This was for a mixture of reasons. Firstly, I finally began to understand myself. I realised I was poorly (not just an awful person as I believed for ages) and could therefore get better.

The diagnosis freed me to be able to talk about my feelings without a fear of judgement or blame (because now I could blame it on the illness, not myself). My husband allowed me to sleep while he sorted the kids out at night time for about 2 months (absolute hero, I will never ever be able to thank him enough for this). I had a prescription for some medication. I had no qualms about taking the medication but for me, knowing it was there was enough to help. Lastly, my youngest baby began to get better (she’d been poorly with a condition that made her cry and be restless so much of the time) and therefore she slept more. As she slept more and became more comfortable, so did I.

The change to “better” happened slowly and gradually. I didn’t wake up one morning and think “Yes! I’m better!”. It happened much more slowly than that. But there were small, positive indicators I noticed over time that hinted at the fact I was getting there.

I wanted to share some of mine and others’ “indicators” of recovery, so that we can reflect on what “better”, “getting better” and the “road to recovery” may look like.

  • “I started to realise I had begun to wear mascara again. I hadn’t done this for months. This small act meant I was beginning to look after myself again. I cared about myself again. It felt good” – Sally Bunkham
  • “For me it was laughing and not feeling guilty. To genuinely feel joy again!” – Clara Wilcox
  • “It was being able to keep my anxiety and worry at a minimum. I was regularly working out and got dressed 80% of the time. I felt my confidence slowly rising as I was remembering how to look after me once more and I was happier in my body and mind” – Loulou Storey
  • “I moved house and realised I'd packed my anti-depressants in a box and hadn't seen (or taken them) for a week! I think the new start and the excitement of that gave me a positive feeling about the future – something I hadn't had 12 months before so I knew I was okay again” – Amy Downes
  • “For me it was appreciating the beauty of a blue sky in January. It (literally) felt like the clouds had finally parted after two years of deep depression following my divorce. I got a tattoo to remind myself that I never wanted to feel that way again” – Hannah Martin
  • “The point where I knew I was starting to feel more like myself was when I went for my first run in over a year. I used to love running but as I sank further into myself I completely stopped. Getting out in the fresh air and doing something that I used to love made me realise I was starting to feel better” – Anon
  • “I was encouraged by a health visitor to keep a simple diary with smiley or sad faces, depending on how the day had gone. For many months I felt a nothingness….neither happy or sad…just nothing. But I carried on keeping the diary and a few happy faces started appearing each week (instead of the ‘nothing’ faces). I knew I had started to heal. 7 years later and I am still healing. The goal isn't “happy every day” it's “FEEL IT ALL” – Mary Meadows
  • “For me it was when I found myself singing whilst hanging out the washing!” Leanne Howlett
  • “I started noticing the colours of trees and flowers. I also remember seeing the longest day (21st June) as a great day as it's summer and not that ‘the days just get shorter from now'” – Emily Tredget
  • “I still have ups and downs, but I always know I'm in an “up” when I sing stupid “doop-boop-a-doop” nonsense songs when doing really mundane things like going upstairs or emptying the kitchen bin” – Anon
  • “For me it was when I reached out and started to get help. Being assigned a mental health midwife went a long way to my recovery. That and I no longer wanted to hurt myself” – Emma
  • “I remember after only a few days on Sertraline, after 3.5 years of PND, my son got chicken pox. I actually felt like a good mum for the first time ever, and that day I knew I could fight this darkness. Still makes me cry to think of over a year later” – Hannah Clarke
  • “My ‘Birth Matters’ appointment was instrumental in my recovery – I was listened to, sympathised with, and most importantly offered full support and a plan for if I wanted more children following my third-degree tear and traumatic fast labour. I left feeling like a weight had been lifted” – Lucy Flower
  • “2.5 yrs later I had a second child & realised how different the experience was” – Anon

Thank you so much to all the ladies who shared these beautiful moments and experiences with me. If anyone reading this is struggling I really hope it helps to see that others who have been where you are now have got better, and you can too.

I’ve written this blog in honour of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. For more information about it, and to access support, please click here.

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of mumsback.com, who provide luxury hamper gifts for mums focussed on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every hamper sold goes to PANDAS Foundation

York Baby Expo – Public Speaking & Breaking The Taboo

This time last week I was in York at the Bump and Baby Expo. I was honoured to be asked do a talk to the guests there about my journey as a mum and in setting up my business, Mum’s Back.

Not only that, but I also had the honour of interviewing my friend and inspiration, Vicki Psarias aka Honest Mum; blogger, vlogger, film maker and now best-selling author! (do check out her book, Mumboss)

I haven’t done any talks since last year and I’d forgotten how much I love doing them. I am always nervous when talking about my journey of motherhood, mainly because it involves the still very much taboo subject of PND, anger and self-harm. The latter is always a particularly hard one to talk about. Not because I am ashamed, but because I am never sure what reaction I am going to get. I sometimes also feel weird talking about it because, like PND, I am never sure if I experienced the “legitimate” version of the illness, so in a way I feel a bit of a fraud. I know this is ridiculous, but it’s still there.

Thankfully for me, the self-harm element of my illness did not go very far. Actually, it was the thing that made me realise something was wrong. My PND manifested in anger, frustration, and a need to release all of that. It was a coping mechanism that became unhealthy. The sheer exhaustion of dealing with 2 kids under 2, one of which who had a medical condition that meant sleep was scarce (that’s an understatement) exacerbated it all.

Initially the screaming into pillows in the middle of the night felt ridiculous, but in a small way it helped. Punching walls felt the same, though I felt so ashamed afterwards. Who the hell was I turning into? Part of me was laughing at myself. “What the hell are you doing? You have really lost it now! You are acting like Phil Mitchell!”…oh the chats I’d have with myself. The shame I felt was actually part of the reason I started to hurt myself. It all got lumped in with feelings of complete inadequacy, failure, anger and exhaustion. I would drag my nails down my arms in frustration till they’d bleed. It was part self-punishment, part release of those feelings. Thankfully that was about as far as it got and the lowest I got.

Anyway….speaking about this in public is always nerve wracking, but I did it again last week. Once again, the audience were amazing. It was mainly mums, which no doubt helped, but the vibe was so supportive. I could tell as I spoke that many knew EXACTLY what I was talking about. The messages I received afterwards and the lovely chats I had confirmed this.

(Above left is Rachael Dennis from the charity NCT on the right the gorgeous Fay from How Felicity Finds)

It proved, yet again, how much more we need to speak up about these things. How much more awareness is needed. How much more education is needed on the possible symptoms of perinatal mental health issues. It’s not always just feeling sad. It’s not always just not bonding with your baby. It can be all manner of symptoms and all manner of combinations of them too. This is why Mum’s Back (aka ME!) does as much as possible to raise awareness and why £1 from every package I sell goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation.

I have shared this before, but I’m sharing it again because it’s the best summary I’ve seen on the possible symptoms of PND.

Credit to https://www.kidspot.com.au/ for the image

Thanks so much to the York Bump and Baby Expo for having me! To Vicki for once again being such a lovely and kind support (she truly is the most generous and kindest lady) and for being such an interesting person to interview, and to the amazing audience who made me feel so welcome and supported.

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum’s Back; luxury hamper gifts for new mums.

 

 

 

When Mother’s Day Doesn’t Go To Plan

 

Mother's Day isn't always easy, for a multitude of reasons. I know Hannah from my work running my hamper gifts for new mums company, Mum's Back, and was delighted when she agreed to write this post for me.

In this article, Hannah describes what life was like as a new mum living with the health condition ME, especially around Mother's Day. Hannah says “I've learnt that life with a chronic illness can make things hard to navigate, but also has a habit nudging your life on a different path, bringing some lovely things along the way.” Thank you so much Hannah for your insight, and for this gorgeous blog….

It’s March 2011 and my first child is 6 months old. She’s beautiful, smiley, and apart from the odd projectile poo, a very easy baby to care for.

It’s my first Mother’s Day.

Since I was 14 I had dreamt of becoming a Mum. I loved children and had a husband who was eager to be a Dad – it was the perfect set up for a first time parent.

Except, it wasn’t.

I had been living with a long term chronic illness (ME) for seven years before I had my daughter. We hoped that somehow it would all be ok, and the need to rest a huge amount would somehow disappear as the delight of being a mother washed over me.

Turns out, autoimmune conditions don’t quite work that way. My muscles, energy and hormones crashed and burnt 4 months post birth.

I was a mess.

Like most first time mothers the three hourly night feeds were crippling, but for me, the fatigue was more than a coffee and a refreshing shower would fix.

As my first Mother’s Day approached, in all honestly I didn’t have the energy to care too much. I loved my baby dearly, but the physical need to lie down and sleep often overtook my longing to take her out, to play with her, to interact with the very creation I had spent 9 months growing and 30 years dreaming of producing.

Thankfully, my daughter was (and still is really) a contented and happy soul. But my circumstances meant I felt let down and often anxious at how I would cope with the day ahead. She wasn’t the best sleeper either, so her 30 minute power naps peppered throughout the day didn’t really lend to ‘sleeping when baby sleeps’ – (such shit advice to give a tired mother!)

My husband, (oh how lovely he is) knew I wasn’t coping and wanted me to know how well I was doing, so he got in touch with a friend, and tried to buy me something I would really love. He bought me a cardigan which I wanted (we couldn’t afford, but he could see he had a wife on the edge and was trying to do anything within his power to stop me crying all day long) – there were flowers and a gift and a happy, healthy baby.

All the things women the world over would long for.

I had friends who couldn’t conceive, I knew not of their pain.

I had friends whose husbands were inconsiderate idiots – mine was amazing.

I had all the things they longed for, yet not being physically able to meet the needs of your child hit me like a ton of bricks.

I felt deep joy – while also feeling deep deep disappointment.

The one thing it’s very hard to do when you are physically and emotionally exhausted (I don’t just mean tired, that’s different) is enjoy things. I felt happy, yes, but enjoying something when your body is in pain and your mind has frozen over due to fatigue, is overwhelmingly hard. And the sadness this lack of enjoyment bought only make the whole situation worse.

I have always been someone who enjoys things. I've never really needed lots of money or resources to have fun and feel happy, but my ability to ‘make the best of it’ had worn thin.

Some people said to me ‘ahh it’s only Mothers Day….don’t put so much pressure on yourself’. But you see, the thing was, I didn’t. I wasn’t really too bothered about the one day – it was the fact I knew, that deep down, it wasn’t going to get any better any time soon, and my life as a mother of young children was going to be significantly different from my peers…..I had been a Nanny, I had been a childminder, I had worked in a nursery, I knew what the toddler years would bring. I knew this wasn’t a temporary situation I had to ‘ride out’.

My body let me down.

Here’s the thing…sometimes, you can’t make lemonade from the lemons life gives you, because you’re too exhausted.

I was lucky, I have a family of amazing people who helped, provided and cared enough to get me through the early years of being a Mum.

But for those of you who are reading this who don’t have that support, well, it’s just a bit shit really, isn’t it?

Sometimes you gotta call the bad stuff what it is.

I am all for positive thinking, but there are times when – it’s just shit.

(You can’t make lemonade out of shit, it’s still nasty.)

Eight years on and my daughter no longer wakes every 3 hours for a feed – thank the lord! She has a 6 year old brother, and I’m about to celebrate my eighth Mother's Day. ( I have requested a new plant for my garden, you know, cos I’m cool like that!)

My health is still an issue, but when I have the opportunity to care for my health as it requires, my day to day life is much better – and this, in turn, makes me able to enjoy life more fully once more.

I had thought (hoped) that I would look back to eight years ago and forget the sadness I felt at being so unwell, for not only my first Mother's Day, but my second, third, fourth and fifth…but I haven’t. Those times are precious, and some of them I missed.

I enjoyed many, many moments that proceeded and came after that first Mother’s Day – there have been wonderful times.

But the sadness still remains when I reflect back….and you know, I think that’s ok.

 

This guest post was written by mum of 2, Hannah Deane, owner of Little Shout – a social media marketing company.

To follow and for more information about what she does you can find her over on Instagram and Facebook

 

 

 

Being A Step Mum & Mother’s Day

 

 

In this run up to Mother's Day, it is my quest to celebrate motherhood in all its many forms and guises. In this guest blog, I am lucky to have Louisa Hussey write about her experiences of being a step-mum, especially around Mother's Day. I really hope some of my gift hampers for mums make their way to some stepmums this year! 

I have been a stepmum for 5 years. My now husband and I met when his little boy was nearly 3. He lives with us two nights during the week, and every other weekend.

Things I do:

  • Half the school runs, spellings, and sort out his swimming bag.
  • Buy his clothes
  • Talk to him about Man Utd.
  • Remember that he loves chorizo and hates red peppers.
  • Buy presents for the birthday parties that he goes to,
  • TRY to read the 45,000 emails from school and remember when school trips are.
  • Try to keep my temper when he’s having a rage about something.
  • Love him unconditionally
  • Miss him when he’s not with us.

Things I don’t:

  • Remember which football team is playing who this weekend.
  • Remember to get his new trainers from his mum.
  • Waver on bedtimes – I am VERY strict on these!
  • Always keep my temper.
  • Like hearing ‘BUT MUMMY SAID I COULD’
  • Enjoy having to organise our life around his mum’s – when we want to go on holiday, we have to check months in advance, or if we’re trying to make plans with friends, it can be complicated getting dates that work for everyone.

We are extremely lucky, we have a good relationship with his mum and we live close enough to be part of his life in every way. I probably speak to his mum more than I speak to some of my own friends. We are very different and have hugely different parenting styles, but we try to keep a similar routine at both houses and aim for some level of consistency between us. He knows that we speak a lot and we facetime a lot as well, so when he’s not with us we can still see him and catch up on his news.

We do our very best to make sure he has everything he needs, but the very nature of him having two houses can lead to complications. Mostly logistical stuff like where his football boots are, remembering to give his coat back at the end of the weekend and searching for lost reading books. These things are ridiculously trivial but it can be an absolute nightmare if he comes to ours one weekend without a coat – it drives me crackers. We do our best, and the boy has more trainers and shoes than I can possibly imagine he needs. Yet, every so often, we can’t find a single pair. *Sigh*

From the very beginning, I have been his stepmum.  He is part of my husband, which means he’s part of me. I absolutely 100% take the responsibility, and always will.

My first Mother’s Day as a stepmum was extremely lovely. He came home from nursery and the teachers had made sure that he’d made me a card too. I am not ashamed to say that I sobbed! I’ve always had a lovely card from him. Sometimes his dad remembers to get me something too! His mum has always made him ring me if he’s at theirs, which is really lovely.

I remember last year being a bit sad, though. I’m always the one that checks his school bag, so saw the card he’d made for his mum. I remember secretly searching for mine. I was a tiny bit upset that there wasn’t one in there for me, but I tried to shrug it off – it was her day after all. Then on the Sunday he bounced into our room with a card for me – I STILL don’t know how he’d got it into the house without me knowing! Maybe my husband is better at keeping secrets than I thought… It was a truly lovely card too.

However, being a stepmum isn’t all sunshine and roses. We’re going through a particularly challenging time with him at the moment, and his behaviour can be downright horrendous. It’s hard when he refuses to listen to me and he has started using the ‘I want my mum’ line more and more, usually when he’s not getting his own way. That can be really hard.

It’s a funny thing isn’t it, Mothers Day? I just feel incredibly grateful that my stepson is in my life. He has a wicked sense of humour and I’m so proud of him. He’s grown from the tiniest 3 year old to the lankiest 8 year old who still enjoys a good bum joke and will sing christmas songs at the top of his voice in July. It can’t be easy having two families, two houses, 4 sets of grandparents, 2 sisters and a brother in different houses, and I think his behaviour reflects this. It does, however, come into its own at birthdays and christmases – he has more presents and parties than anyone I know!

I always try to be the best stepmum that he could ask for. We often have conversations about stepmums and stepdads – last year he told me he loved his mum and dad 100% and me 90%. We agreed that was a pretty good rate, all things considered.

Thanks so much to Louisa for this lovely blog. Louisa is currently training as a student EFT Tapping practitioner, and is looking for clients to work with over the next few months. EFT is a non invasive technique based on acupressure points, literally using your fingertips to tap on various points on the face and body. Many people come to EFT after exhausting all other conventional options. For more information and to contact Louisa, head over to facebook.com/louisahusseyEFT

 

This blog was hosted by Sally Bunkham, founder of mumsback.comgifts for new mums focussed on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every package sold goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation

 

Hatched By Two Chicks – Celebrating 2 Mum Families

 

I want to celebrate ALL versions of mums and their families. This seems especially relevant in the run up to Mothers’ Day. I am so lucky that I get to meet and network with many awesome mums in my work with my company, Mum's Back. Our main business is selling luxury hamper gifts for new mums, but along the way we also get to discuss parenting and motherhood in its many different forms. In this guest post, the lovely author, Louise Tondeur, has put together an article about what life is like being in a 2 mum family and how they celebrate Mothers’ Day in their house. Louise has also got some input from her community who are also mums in a same sex couple family. Enjoy! 

“We love it! Two mums = double the presents, double fun on the day, but it’ll be expensive when our children get older!” (Simone)

 What’s it like being part of a two-mum family on Mothers’ Day? It’s the same as it is in any family: it's different depending on each family’s traditions. I didn’t want to rely on my own version, so I asked five mums to explain. Turns out that the biggest difference is that it’s up to the mums to organise it for themselves.

Only one person having a lie in

Ruth said her pet niggle was “only getting the option of one person having a lie in, or breakfast in bed. Our 6-year-old is too young to do it. So, one of us (often me) has to get up and help.”

That’s definitely true if your kids are young. I bought us a joint hamper gift this year, because I can’t resist anything that involves wine, cheese and crackers, and while I’ve told our son that he’s making us breakfast in bed. we’ve been getting up early for years so we’ll probably all roll out of bed like we usually do.

That said, I was so incredibly excited on our first Mothers’ Day, which was only a couple of weeks after our son came out of hospital (he was born early), I stayed in bed like it was Christmas morning, baby in arms, waiting for my card, and let my wife make me pancakes. But we’d already been together a long time before we became mums so (she won’t mind me saying) we’d got over the ‘being super nice to each other stage’ of our relationship. When our son was younger, relay sleeping appealed way more than breakfast in bed.

We focus on our own mums

Laura felt that trying to organise Mothers’ Day for each other was too pressurised, so they save the treats for their own mums:

“It’s just like every day for us. Neither one of us gets special treatment. Our own mums are our focus on this day – trying to make it about us makes it too pressurised and just hasn’t been that successful. Maybe it’ll get easier when the kids are older!” (Laura)

That made me wonder if there’s an exchange of presents or if it’s only one way. I didn’t know – and I still don’t – whether other people in your family are ‘supposed’ to acknowledge your ‘mumness’ on Mothers’ Day. I think my mum sent us a card in our first year, but my baby-memories are hazy, and I can’t remember what happened next.

Card and present making at school

Depending on the school or nursery, if you’re not in a family made up of a mum and a dad, you might have to let them know in advance how you want them to approach present and card making. Our son got to make a joint card and pretend daffodil for Mothers’ Day at his first nursery for instance.

Later in the year they asked us who he’d like to make his fathers’ day card for, and we went for his Grandpa and his Uncle. I really like how that expands the definition of mothers’ day and fathers’ day, so they encompass any mothers and fathers that are special to you, and kids without one or the other don’t feel left out.

That idea is especially true for us at the moment as my wife lost her mum last year, and I lost my dad fairly recently too. At this time of year I used to buy cards for my Nana, my Grannie, my mum, my wife and my mother-in-law – now there are only two of those people left to buy for.

It can be pretty overwhelming seeing the adverts for Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day when you’ve lost a parent and being able to connect the day to other mother and father figures in your life can help, as can having a big cry, and watching repeated episodes of Friends (in my case).

“Often places do ‘mums get in free’ on Mothers’ Day. Makes for a cheap day out!” (Kate)

If you go to a ‘mums get in free’ event in a two-mum family, then you’re quids in! Last year my mum, my wife and I went to the Weald and Downland Museum with our son and I was really worried beforehand about telling them that none of the adults would be paying, but they didn’t even bat an eyelid. I noticed this year that the Sealife Centre are doing a Mums Go Free promotion but only with a full paying adult. I like how they state that upfront – because I’d rather know than get embarrassed at the till – but I think it’s unfair on one parent families.

Maddy’s Day and Mom’s Day

I also discovered that some families have an innovative approach to Mothers’ Day:

“We have two different days as our son calls me Mum and my wife Maddy. Maddy’s day is the lesser known Saturday before Father’s Day. It means my wife gets her own day and I get a few reminders with the Father’s Day adverts! It works for us. Moonpig et al means we’ve always made bespoke Maddy’s day cards!” (Hannah)

I love the idea of Maddy’s day and am thinking of adapting the idea for use in June if I can find a way of adding ‘Louise’s Day’ to our calendar without anyone noticing. I also really loved this response:

“My partner is American, so we celebrate UK Mothers’ Day for me, British mum, and USA Mother’s Day (usually in May) for the kids’ American mom. that way we both get a nod and we acknowledge both countries take on Mothers’ Day.” (Jane)

Where does the apostrophe go?

And finally, the all-important question: where does the apostrophe go? I’m a Creative Writing tutor by day (and sometimes by night) and have a PhD in English so I’m officially allowed to be pedantic about punctuation. There are actually two answers to the question:

1) Nowhere. It’s not called Mothers’ Day. It’s called Mothering Sunday.

2) Wherever you want it to. It depends what you mean.

If you want it to mean that it’s all about your mum, it’s Mother’s Day – like saying ‘it’s my mum’s special day’. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that this is true even if more than one person in your family is focusing on their own mum.

If you mean that the day is about celebrating lots of mums all over the place, it’s Mothers’ Day – like saying ‘it’s the day of all mothers today’ or in the case of this article, or you’d use Mothers’ Day if you mean you’re personally celebrating more than one mum at the same time.

Louise Tondeur is a freelance writer and tutor, novelist and short story writer. You can check out her author website here. www.louisetondeur.co.uk/blog

She blogs about finding time to write here. www.smallstepsguide.co.uk

 

Thanks so much to Louise! This blog was written for Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's Back, hamper gifts for mums. £1 from every package sold goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation.

 

Growing Up Without A Mum & Mother’s Day

I write an awful lot about motherhood in my work with my company, mumsback.com – our gifts are for new mums and aim to allow the focus to be on them and their journey. Talk of motherhood goes super mad around Mother's Day. Chat about mums is everywhere. We can't get away from it. How does this feel for people who've lost their mum? I know it's really tricky. I'm so lucky to have my best friend, Natasha, in my life. Sadly, Tash lost her mum when she was 4 years old. Tash is also a mummy and a step mummy now. I wondered what her view of Mother's Day was and how it's changed over the years. Usually I'd ask her over a bottle of wine, but this time she agreed to an interview with me for this blog. She explains what family life was like for her when she was young, and what it's like now. I'm so grateful for her sharing this and love her (and her gorgeous family) very much. xxxx

What was it like growing up with your sis and your dad? What are your fondest memories?

My first thoughts of my childhood are all happy ones. My sister and I are so lucky to have such a loving dad who worked so hard to make sure we never went without and were happy. We had brilliant times just the 3 of us and dad was (and still is) one of the happiest and jolliest people I know. My sister, Shelly, is my best friend now, but we used to fight as only sisters can. I remember Shelly having to look after me in the summer holidays and I'd have to walk behind her and her friends if they decided to go into town. I was the nerdy little sister who had to tag along.

Natasha (right) with her lovely dad and sister

Growing up with my dad and my sister wasn't really something that I would think about too much as I didn't know any different. As I approached my teens I questioned things more. My dad gave me a letter that my mum had written to Shelly and I during her illness. This letter is so special to Shelly and I and something we'll cherish forever. This letter covers all sorts of advice and everything you would want to talk to your children about throughout their lives. It was mind-blowing reading the letter and still is.

My fondest memories are of the 3 of us driving down to the South of France on our annual holiday. We would have our caravan in tow and would always miss the ferry, which was mostly due to my dad thinking it would be funny to do a lap of honour of our street to wave another goodbye to the neighbours, who always came out to wave us off. A big time for us all was when I moved to Brighton for university and Shelly went travelling the same year. Up until this point I think we took each other for granted. Us both moving away brought us closer together. Shelly's my best friend and I love her so much.

Tell us about your lovely mum and what happened. How old were you when she sadly passed away and do you remember it?

My mum, Sue passed away on 16th May, 1985 at the age of 31. She was 30 years old when she was diagnosed with Leukaemia. After several sessions of chemotherapy she became ill with pneumonia, which was too much for her body to take.

I was 4 1/2 years old when my mum died. I remember a little about her being ill and the time after she was gone. I remember when we would live with our family's friends for short periods of time whilst my mum was in hospital. I vividly remember my mum walking into our friends’ living room after she'd been in hospital for treatment. She'd lost all of her hair by this point, but she came walking in with the biggest smile. We didn't realise she was going to be coming home, so it was a complete surprise to us all. I remember pelting it up the length of the living room to give her a massive hug.

I remember visiting my mum at Charing Cross hospital with my dad one time. She was in a private room with a glass window, which I sat at, whilst my dad went in wearing green gowns to help keep my mum and her environment free from germs. I think from memory I didn't want to wear a gown, so I looked through the window at my mum and dad.

I remember sitting on my mum and dad's bed when my dad told my sister and I that “mummy has gone to heaven”. I can't begin to imagine how hard that must have been for my dad. I remember my dad holding us both and I remember noticing that they were both in tears. I saw Shelly crying and started to cry myself. I was so young, I don't think I really understood what was happening. Recently, my Dad told me a story about how my goldfish had died two weeks before my mum did. He said that after he'd told us that Mum had gone, I said in quite a matter of a fact way that now mum could look after my goldfish.

We were always encouraged to talk about our mum and still do. We still have a good old blub together (we're an emotional bunch!). My dad is a great story teller and I'm still learning new things about my mum from him, even 34 years on. I love hearing about her and what sort of personality she had. I often wonder how much of her i have inherited.

Can you recollect past Mother's Days growing up? How did the day make you feel and how were they handled at home and in school etc?

I think being so young when my mum passed away meant that I didn't grieve until I was much older and now that I'm a mum myself.

When I was younger, our teacher asked the class to make a model of their mums out of toilet rolls and wool (nothing but the finest of craft materials!) for Mother's Day. I cracked on and made my dad. That was just how it was. My primary school were very supportive of my dad and allowed myself and my friend to start pre-school a few months earlier than we should have, to help support my dad during this heart breaking time.

My Nan Olive and Grandad Joe played a massive part in our lives too. We would regularly stay with them at the weekends, so my dad could either work or have a well deserved break.

Has the way you view Mother's Day changed a lot over the years? How does it feel now you are a mum yourself?

Mother's Day has become so much more emotional for me now that I'm a Mum to S (the complete mess up of hormones probably hasn't helped either!).

I think about my mum most days, but Mother's Day is probably the hardest. I try not to get down as I want to enjoy my time with S, my husband and my step-children. To cheer me up, last year I took S on his first ride on a miniature steam railway. Seeing him so excited and mesmerised by the train was the best thing, and a memory I'll never forget.

I think about my mum and if we'd have similar views on things, what she might look and sound like, and if we have similar features or characteristics.

What advice do you have for anyone who may have lost a mum and is faced with Mother's Day? Do you have any advice for their friends and family? Or maybe for schools, pre schools and nurseries?

My advice would be to talk about the person you've lost to friends and family. Having stories about them, what they were like and their little quirky ways makes them more real and not a complete mystery. I love hearing stories about my mum; about what she was like as a person and how I'm like her. Our dad and family friends have told us how our mum loved planning day trips out, organising charity gigs and street parties. It's obvious who my sister and I get our organisational skills from. Sorry dad!

How do you like to remember your mum now?  Do you have any special rituals, songs or traditions you take part in or listen to, to remember her?

Before bed, S and I say goodnight to all of our family, including Nanny Sue and Nanny Olive, who have prime place on S's wall, as big transfer sticker stars. S points to the stars and is now attempting to say my mum and nan's names. I know they would absolutely adore him.

Do you have anything more to add about the above? Any final thoughts? 

Just cherish your families and friends at every opportunity. Life is so precious.

I'm so grateful to Natasha for being so open in this interview, and for being the bestest pal to me for the last 2 decades! 

This blog and interview was written and put together by Sally Bunkham, founder of mumsback.com; hamper gifts for new mums focussed on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every package sold goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Practical Gifts Every Mum Wants On Mothers’ Day

 

In the run up to Mothers’ Day we are swamped with gift ideas. As the founder of a company that sells beautiful hamper gifts for mums I am part of this! BUT, as a mum myself, I know that there are plenty of things that can be done to delight me on Mother’s Day that don’t involve gifts at all.

Please don’t assume I mean “don’t get her a gift” here. That is a VERY bad idea. But there are some things you can do alongside a present for her to earn you some serious brownie points.

There's no question; every mum is different, and so are the way families work …maybe you already do all this stuff! But I’ve done some research, and here are my findings on the things that will REALLY give her a Mother’s Day treat to write home about…

  1. DIY jobs you’ve been putting off. Yes…I know they’re annoying, but imagine how HAPPY she’d be if she came home and found that patch of mould on the ceiling had gone, or that wardrobe door was mended! I use those examples because they’re the DIY jobs that need completing in my house right now, let’s hope my partner gets the memo!
  2. Sort out THAT cupboard or drawer. You know the one. It is full of random items like string, tools and Tupperware with no lids. Tidy it up, get rid of the rubbish and throw away all Tupperware that doesn’t match. And VOILA! She probably won’t believe her eyes.
  3. It’s an obvious one, but let her sleep! Especially if you have kids, get up with them and let her have a lie in. This is a given-on Mothers’ Day, of course, but should be extended to a more regular feature too, in my opinion!
  4. Many mums I spoke with said the mental load of food shopping and planning were BIG in their households, so why not plan and complete a food shop? Work out what meals will be needed, plus household basics and things like packed lunches etc and complete it. If it’s usually her job she’ll be so pleased to get a break from it for a while (cooking the meals too wouldn’t go amiss).
  5. Hoovering is always welcome, but if you do those hard to reach areas that rarely get done, you’ll be a hero. Under the beds, skirting boards, under the sofa and under sofa cushions are brilliant targeting spots!
  6. Change all the beds in the house with fresh sheets. Nothing quite beats the feeling of getting into bed with freshly laundered bed covers…especially if someone else has done it!
  7. Sort out the household paperwork. If your house is anything like mine, you’ll have bills and statements all over the shop. Create a folder with dividers to mark out what’s what. So boring, but having a bit of order can bring so much joy.
  8. Block out some time for her to do something just for her. A read of her book in the bath. A walk. Anything that allows her some head space. If you can’t go together to the cinema because of the kids, for example, encourage her to go with friends or on her own. I’m sure she’s free to do this kind of thing anyway with her own planning, but if you make the effort to arrange things to make this easier for her she’ll really appreciate it.
  9. Those little jobs that no one ever gets around to. It could be that a picture needs framing or hanging up, or perhaps some photos need printing out and arranging in an album. Completing those jobs is a really thoughtful thing to do and she’ll be really impressed that you’ve taken the time to do it.
  10. Clean the oven & grill!! I know this isn’t the most pleasant of tasks to carry out…that’s why it’s not been done, right? But honestly, completing it will make you a legend!

 

So there we have it. I was nervous about posting this blog. I really didn’t want to come across as patronising or condescending. But I’m afraid the evidence of my research speaks for itself…these really are the gifts us mums want, please! Obviously you should get her a lovely gift too, we have some beautiful gifts for mums over at our site, mumsback.com. Take a look!

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of mumsback.com – luxury hamper gifts for mums filled with delicious Prosecco, Wine, Cheese, Pate, Chocolate, Gin, Tonic….and much more. £1 from every package sold goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation

 

The Best Worst New Mum Gifts!

Here at Mum’s Back we are obsessed with beautiful gifts for new mums. It’s what we are ALL about. Our mission doesn’t come from the desire for material gifts, it comes from a wish for mums to be more valued and understood in our society. I’d love to see more companies valuing the mums in their teams, especially the rollercoaster journeys they go through in those crazy, hazy early new mum days. Obviously, it takes much more than just a nice maternity leave gift to do that, but a gift to show you care is a good start! I wanted to find out if “new mum gifts” were the norm in people’s lives and work places. Some of the evidence I found was rather shocking….and I must say in some cases pretty funny (in a “if you don’t laugh you’ll cry” kind of a way).

I asked some of my community if they got a gift when they had a baby or were about to go on maternity leave and here are some of my favourite worst new mum gifts!

  • A diet book (just NO. A million times no)
  • A satin spangly baby ballgown complete with teeny tiny buttons down the back (a new mum’s worst impractical nightmare. If you’ve ever experienced what’s known as a newborn “poonami”, or tried to change a tiny wriggling octopus like baby you will know)
  • A boot remover because the lady in question was “so fat she couldn’t get her shoes off anymore” (no explanation necessary really. It might win on practicality, but in the “making her feel good” stakes it definitely loses)
  • Flowers – bunches and bunches of them (when we are really struggling to keep a newborn baby alive, the last thing we want is the responsibility of more things to keep alive)
  • Instead of a gift, the boss turned up unannounced with the contents of employers’ desk drawer because “I didn’t think you’d be back given that you’re having twins” (oh my LORD. Not cool…not cool at all)
  • Anti-wrinkle cream (newsflash – we couldn’t give 2 monkeys about wrinkles in the early stages of motherhood, we have bigger fish to fry)
  • Exercise equipment (please see reason above)
  • NOTHING (sadly this was an all too common answer)
  • Out of date body cream
  • An electric waist trainer (do you see a pattern emerging here?!)
  • A cashmere ‘dry clean only’ baby cardigan (please see reason above for baby ballgown – anything “dry clean only” is a big no no at this point in our lives)
  • Chrysanthemums – they smell of wee

So there we have it. A painful and somewhat disappointing run down! Want some ideas of GOOD new mum gifts? Thankfully, we make it easy. Head over to the mumsback.com/shop. Over and out!

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's Back. New mum gift boxes, focussing on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every hamper purchased goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation

 

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