A Type of Mum Culture We Need to Say Goodbye to

motherhood, Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten minutes later:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily’s Story: PTSD

birth, Labour Stories, Mental Health, Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour Stories: Zoe & Skyla

Labour Stories, Mum, Uncategorized

I had a very normal pregnancy. I actually loved being pregnant! Crazy how much I miss my bump and it was nearly two years ago now. I was due on the 16th of July. I had my midwife appointment on the 17th and decided to have a sweep. I wasn’t sure at first as I heard lots of mixed views, but it was actually a very quick process and I didn’t find it too uncomfortable and then I was sent on my way!

The day after, the 18th of July, was when my princess Skyla decided to join us. The day started as a normal day. I remember my mum ringing me at midday as she wanted to know if I was having any twinges. I wasn’t having any at this point- not a thing! A little back ache, but I’d been having that for weeks at this point.

My brother and his girlfriend came for tea and I remember when it got to about 7 I was just super tired and asked them to leave. It got to half 7 and (sorry but TMI) I had to keep going the toilet. I thought it was just constipation. It just clicked that this was it, and the pains were getting more intense and there wasn’t any rest in between. I still thought it was mainly constipation at this point!

Skyla now… all grown up.

I rang my husband at 8 and told him he needed to come home as this was it. He rang the ward for me and we pretty much set off straight away as at this point I was feeling a strong urge to push! We picked my mum up on the way. We got the hospital at around 9, I think. I was examined and I was at 6 and a half cm. I told them that I wanted a water birth, and to my luck they had one available. As soon as I got into the pool, I was ready to start pushing. I only had gas and air and I felt that biting down on it helped. The water was just so relaxing for me and it really helped me to get in the zone and just push!

At 11.03 pm my beautiful girl came into the world in her waters! I remember just being so proud of myself and it really was just love at first sight.

A Mother’s Judgement

Mum

Written By Alice King

I don’t think any of us will ever deny that motherhood, although full of exciting firsts and pride, is also the most difficult of times. What mothers can do without, whether post-pregnancy in a stitched-up, heeling body, walking into your first baby class after it taking you weeks to pluck up the courage to even leave the house and go, or on that emotional first day of school, hugging your little person for that bit too long, is judgement. That awful ‘j’ word. Just thinking about prying eyes (and the thoughts that accompany them) of others feels me with dread and anxiety. Unfortunately, as human beings we expect judgement throughout life, but nothing hurts more than being told how you parent is ‘wrong.’

Where our loved ones are concerned, we easily get our backs up and want to fight for our beliefs. I’ve been judged for breastfeeding, feeding past 6 months, weaning too early, for having a baby that wakes throughout the night, for wanting to go back to work, for wanting more ‘me time,’ and even sly and passive aggressive Facebook statuses about how boring writing a mummy blog is…yawn…

However, I’m also not fully sold on the ‘mum knows best’ mantra either. My belief will always be that a mum has a choice, and as long as a mum is informed and educated in those decisions (that won’t cause harm to their child) that really that is what matters.

You see motherhood is really a lifetime of winging it. No one is an expert. You birth your little bundle and then that’s it. There is minimal support once you are shipped off to the postnatal ward where you are left to fend for yourself amongst the rest of the clueless first time mums. Even the second, third, even fourth time mums (maybe more) are in a daze, eyes cautiously wandering the room in the hope that a first time mum doesn’t ask them how it’s done.

In the midst of the confusion that tiredness brings, I’m unsure how anyone can not respect another mother. Okay, if they are neglecting their child or committing some hideous crimes then I get it, but that is a very, very small percentage of women. My passion is for the support we can offer each other, rather than the criticism. Sometimes I wonder how people have even got the time to put their energy into commenting on others parenting rather than focusing on their own. Without the support of other mums, I wouldn’t be half the mum I am now. Whether it be all the time that mine and my partner’s families put in to helping me in those first few weeks, or simply friends asking if I want to go for coffee, just so I can have a rant, there is something beautiful about women helping women rather than standing back and gossiping. Women are powerful creatures and we are even stronger when we stand together.

Labour Stories: Meg and Delilah Rose

Labour Stories, Mum, Uncategorized

Written by Meg Brooks

It was the day before my due date- 23th Feb. I spent this day jogging around my house and eating a super spicy curry for my tea. Little did I know these theories would actually work!! (or was it just a coincidence?)

At around 8pm, me and my partner got into bed all comfy, stuck a film on and tried to settle down for the night. I had been getting slight pains in my tummy for hours before this but I didn’t think anything of it as it was very very mild. However, when I was lying in bed they seemed to get worse and worse, so I began to time them. They started off being 20 minutes apart, to 10 minutes apart!

I rang my mum panicking asking for her opinion. She told me to stay calm and ring the midwives soon if they get worse. I was in deep pain now. I knew it was contractions! Suddenly, I felt a weird feeling down below, like if I moved my legs then I would wee myself. So I sat up hoping to go to the loo, and then it happened. My waters broke all over my bed! It felt like I just weed myself. I rushed to the toilet, got myself sorted, and I tried to remain pretty calm until I looked up and saw my partner running round like a mad man… he was worse than me! 

Anyway, we met my mum along her road and picked her up (she was that excited she forgot to bring the car seat which was at her house), and we got to the hospital. Every bump on the road was awful with contractions. Getting into the hospital was a bit of a blur really. I was that shook and in that much pain. The midwife examined me and told me I was 4cm already.

I remember being in my labour room with my mum and boyfriend, and I was bouncing on the medicine ball while my midwife was filling up the bath for a water birth! I hoped the pool would ease some pain, as I was starting to think I couldn’t do it anymore. I tried some gas and air, but I didn’t like it as it made me feel a bit sick. The word epidural popped into my head, but when I told my midwife she said I was already far too gone and she could tell it was going to be quite a quick labour so I couldn’t have one! Gutted.

Every contraction got worse, being 3 minutes apart each time. Apparently at one point I had my mum in a headlock- poor woman. The pool took hours to fill up. I couldn’t bare this being on no pain relief anymore! Isn’t it crazy when you’re scared and in pain, you suddenly turn into a little child again? I remember just wanting my mum, shouting ‘Mum! Mum!’ My poor partner probably felt I didn’t need him there. I was only 20 at the time, so I was only a little baby myself.

After a little while my birthing pool was ready. I was so relieved! I sat in it… and within a few seconds I felt a bit better. The pressure of the water really helps! I recommend it to any of you pregnant mummys.

Next I had an awful contraction, and suddenly felt like I was going to poo. I shouted ‘OH NO IM GOING TO POO IM GOING TO POO!’. Funny looking back, but at the time I was so scared I was going to take a dump in the pool. The midwife checked the babies heart after my contraction, and her face dropped. She said ‘you need to get out of the pool now. You need to stay calm but be really quick’. The babies heart rate had dropped suddenly. I was so scared. I turned really brave and toughened up and got out of the pool, walked over to the bed, almost slipped on the wet floor, and laid down. Gutted I was only in the pool for 2 minutes!

On my next contraction the midwife said I needed to push. It was the worst pain ever. The contractions were so bad now, at their peak. I was screaming “I can’t do it!!! I really can’t do it” but everyone was so supportive telling me I can do it and I’m nearly there.

After 20 minutes of pushing, out popped her head. The midwife told me she had loads of black hair, which made me smile and feel excited… my baby girl was almost out! I did one more big push and out popped her slippery little body. I was so relieved and shocked and amazed. She was put on my chest, slightly crying, but starting to settle. She was so beautiful, thick black hair, little intense eyes, a teeny button nose and long nails. From that moment on my life changed. I was a young mum with a new meaning in life, a new responsibility. She came and changed my world for the better and we all love her dearly. I would go through all that pain all over again for her!

Dad Interviews: Rob

Dad Interviews, Mum

Written by Alice King

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

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

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

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

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

How did you feel when you did see him?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your independence.

Wow, thats deep.

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

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

Macaroni cheese?

No, that was in the hospital.

Ohh, cheese and crackers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what if we have another boy?

Then I’ll put him in a dress!

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

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

And finally- your favourite thing about being a dad?

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

Welcome to Mum & Style

Mum

Mum & Style began from the desperation and a little bit of confusion at finding the new ‘me’ in my post-pregnancy, fresh into motherhood state. The first few months as a mother, although full of elation, can also be isolating. My way of dealing with this was sharing my experiences with other mothers- women I believed I could trust, who gave me whole-hearted reassurance. Sometimes I had full support. Sometimes I had criticism and judgement. Sometimes I felt like Wonder Woman- a multi-tasking queen who felt great in this new body with this new identity. Sometimes I felt like a failure- unable to sit down for five minutes to just enjoy a cup of tea, feeling like a blob with this wobbly body, and quite simply, completely lost.

The blog features posts on fashion, lifestyle, and all the complexities that motherhood brings for each unique and individual circumstance. The aim of Mum & Style is to bring together a collection of experiences and thoughts of mums and mums-to-be on an open platform. We wish to offer support in a light-hearted way to those who feel they are alone. By celebrating each other, we can create a safe place for mums to turn to for a boost or a sigh of ‘I’m not the only one!’ relief. We are much stronger together than we are against each other. Happy reading and happy parenting!