To say I am chuffed to have Bryony write a list for me is an understatement. She’s a bonafide journo for The Telegraph and author and now she is an athlete.
Last week she did something epic. She ran the London Marathon. All 26.5 miles of it for mental health charity Heads Together. Bloody amazing. Here she tells us how:
Six months ago, I could not run for a bus. I got out of breath going up escalators, and carrying my daughter. On Sunday, I ran 26.2 miles – like, the WHOLE thing! No walking! – and at the finish line picked up my 4 year old and swung her in the air. Easy. If I can do it, literally anybody can.
When I signed up for the marathon I was 16 stone four pounds, which is really quite fat. I signed up to do it for Heads Together, the campaign led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to change the conversation about mental health. The subject is very close to my heart – I’ve had about seven breakdowns in my 36 years – but also I thought I might get to have a pasta party with Prince Harry, which is mostly why I agreed to do it. (That’s a joke, obviously).
I started by downloading the couch to 5k app and as I got out of breath running 200 metres I kept thinking ‘how am I going to run FORTY TWO KILOMETRES?! HOW?!”
I soon discovered that you never ever want to go for a run, but that you never ever regret going for one.
And that when you have really big, saggy boobs like mine, you need a good sports bra. Bravvissimo is your friend.
Get some good trainers from somewhere like Runners Need or Run and Become, where they can check your gait and advise you on the best ones for your feet. Don’t worry about what they look like. The more neon, the better. Converse will not cut it. Remember that they need to be replaced about every 300 to 500 miles.
By Christmas, I had run my first 10K, around my local common at night. I felt like Paula Radcliffe. Then I realised that 10k is just six miles, and I had to add another 20 onto that for the marathon. I cried a bit.
But slowly, I upped my distances. And before I knew it, I had done eight miles. Then 10 miles. Then 11. Then… injury. At which point I realised that the hardest part of training for a marathon was actually the resting. Who knew?
What I did know was that there was no way I was going to get through the training programme if I gave up everything I loved. It wasn’t sustainable if I gave up my twice weekly beer and fag sessions. Or my Byron burgers. So I didn’t.
But amazingly, I started to lose weight. Like, lots of weight. Without even really trying. Because as smug as it sounds, when you are exercising hard, you don’t crave the same amount of junk. By the time I crossed the finish line, I was almost three stone down. You can even see my waist!
If I had a pound for every time someone said to me ‘oh I can’t run at all’, I would be able to afford to get the loft done. Anyone can run – it just involves putting one foot in front of the other. I was really self-conscious the first time I went out for a jog, but in reality, the only thing people think when they see a fat girl running is this: what a complete and utter legend. Because she’s trying. Because she’s moving. Because she’s doing something.
I’m not a fast runner. I probably walk quicker. I go at my pace. Slow and steady may not win the race, but it does mean you have a nicer time getting round it (when I saw the elites on Sunday, they all looked thoroughly miserable and on the verge of collapse. The rest of us were having fun. Well, sort of fun).
And speaking of elites, it’s people like me, who take 5 hours and 53 minutes to get around the marathon course, who are the real heroes, not the dudes running sub 3 hour races. We’re the ones with stamina. We’re the real winners.
People with mental health issues make really good marathon runners, because we’re used to wrestling demons. When I got to mile 21 and thought my legs were going to give way, I had a good word with myself. Because moving for 26.2 miles can be no harder than the days when I couldn’t move at all because of the weight of depression on me.
Running when you’re a mum is pure escapism. It’s you time. Stick at it, and soon you will find that it’s like breathing underwater. It’s like flying.
The thing people don’t tell you about running long distances is the chafing. Oh, the chafing. The rubbing of sports bras on tits, and leggings on inner thighs. Vaseline is your friend.
I have hated my body for so much of my life. Now I am proud of it.
The running community will embrace you like a long lost friend the moment you get into it, even if you’ve never run a metre in your life. Check out Run Dem Crew for some really brilliant, supportive people who will keep you going.
Running a marathon is like childbirth. Painful, amazing. But at least nobody hands you a newborn baby to look after for 18 years at the end of it. You get beer and pasta instead. Winning!
I didn’t get to have a pasta party with Prince Harry, but I did get a hug. And the chance to raise almost £44,000 for Heads Together. Which, when I think about it, makes me want to cry happy tears.
When you cross that finish line, you will be so proud of yourself. You will know that not all superheroes wear capes. And you never have to do it again.
If I can do this, anyone can.
Fancy having a go at the London Marathon? The Ballot for 2018 is not open via this link.
And highly recommend Bryony’s most recent book ‘Mad Girl‘ too.
I am really passionate about being a Working Mum. Not suprising really when it’s how I spend 40 hours a week. When ‘Digital Mums‘ , who provide training for Mums to become social media managers, asked me to write a piece for their blog I jumped at the chance.
So here it is ‘Why Having Kids is Great for Your Career’:
Having kids has accelerated my career.
Yup that’s right. Apart from being my greatest ever achievement, my boys have also done wonders for my work.
I am fortunate in that being an advertising creative is definitely the job for me.
When I landed my first permanent role with my creative partner aged 23 it felt like I’d won the lottery. Being paid to come up with ideas and write scripts and go to shoots. Fun people. A free bar once a week. It was a dream come true.
Cut to 6 years later. I’m pregnant and waddling out of the agency into my first maternity leave, absolutely convinced that I would pop a baby out and that my life, and consequently my career, would continue as before.
Of course, I was wrong for the most part. Bertie’s arrival turned our life upside down.
9 months later I was back in the office. Working a four day week and trying to convince myself things were going great.
They weren’t. I was surviving; doing an OK job at Motherhood and an Ok job as a creative. Doing OK isn’t good enough for me.
And neither was being judged as ‘another Mum’ who left at 5.
I wasn’t happy. But I had a plan. I’d have another baby. A fairly drastic approach and not one I’d advise.
Off I went on mat leave number 2. That’s when everything changed. I had an epic birth. I started the blog. I met some amazing women.
All this reframed how I saw Motherhood. When I went back to work the second time I wore it like a badge of honour.
Motherhood gave me perspective. It gave me epic organisations skills. It gave me confidence. Why? Because I’D PUSHED TWO HUMANS OUT OF FANNY.
I couldn’t leave the job I was in (we were in financial shit and I was contracted for a year to repay my maternity contract). So I may as well find a way to make it work.
Time to make my career fit with my life. Rather than just working to live. How? No one big action, but lots of powerful ones.
Walking out proudly at 5.15 rather than skulking out. Delete the sorry’s from emails, choosing to be a present parent rather than attend yet another late meeting is not a cop out.
Playing the trump card… suggest an 8.30 am meeting instead! I bloody love a breakfast meeting.
What have I learnt?
The cliche about babies damaging your earnings. I found it to be 100% true. I complained about. I got angry about it. I beat myself up about it. I cried. A lot. And then eventually I did what I should have done sooner.
I got a new job. And when I was interviewing I researched my market value so when it came to salary negotiations I waa informed. I used the simple but powerful words “I want to be paid what it’s worth.”
When you find an employer who will pay you properly and respect your work life balance. Well, then you have to grab it both hands.
But the responsibility isn’t just theirs. Women are notoriously bad at talking about financial stuff. To make a change we have to face the fear, we have to have those uncomfortable conversations.
What else? Flexible working.
Flexible working isn’t about trying to wheedle out of work, it doesn’t mean that you care less about you career. It’s about work that works for a certain point in your life.
Since the boys, I’ve had many work patterns: four-day week, five days with a day from home (I tried Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Friday definitely works best FYI).
I am full time again. Not because I had to. I wanted to. Because the timing was right for me because we need the money and because right now I want to give my career everything I’ve got.
Working feels good. It makes me feel more like me. It fulfils me in so many ways Which in turn makes me a better Mother.
Doesn’t mean it doesn’t break my heart every time my kids ask ‘how many sleeps till Mummy Day?’
The payoff is they have me 110% when I am with them.
But my one piece of advice would don’t quit work while on your first maternity leave. Try going back for a bit. Hormones and the baby bubble can do things to your confidence and headspace.
Better to give it a go, try and make it work then make an information decision about the other options than to never know whether there could have a been a solution.
4 years as a Working Mum and I have fire in my belly. People often talk about the Male urge to provide for their family. I feel that and then some.
I feel that desire to ‘bring home the metaphorical bacon’ when cuddling them in the dark before bed.
I also feel it when I am anxious before a big presentation, to settle my nerves I picture their gorgeous faces and think to myself: MAKE THOSE DUDES PROUD. BE THE PERSON THEY BELIEVE YOU ARE.
And you know what? Since having them, I do genuinely believe I can do anything at work and at home. It ain’t easy. Often it’s very hard. But just because it’s difficult and challenging, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.
Lorna aka @MrsHHayward is relatively new on the blogging scene, but she has come in with a bang and I for one have relished every minute of seeing her find her voice and do things her way. She is honest, really really funny, relatable, funny (did I mention that already?) and, in this post, taken from her blog The Mumblings, she is brave too as she writes about life with OCD and anxiety:
First things first – picture me writing this hiding behind a cushion. Large vino in hand. Perspiring.
Let me explain. This post isn’t something I’ve been looking forward to writing down for all to see. It feels more than a little awkward. I know that some people (who I really rather wouldn’t) will potentially read this and I am more than aware (less so prepared) for some silent judgement coming my way.
Equally, I could just keep this to myself. But it feels a bit ridiculous to have started a blog as a cathartic way of helping me process my thoughts and emotions, if I don’t do just that. And so, here they are:
A wise lady once said, “Anxiety. She’s a funny ol’ gal…” and she was right. Another told me “OCD is a bitch” and she was pretty much spot-on too.
Both anxiety and OCD have been present in my life for a very long, unwelcome time. In fact, it had got to a point where anxiety was such a familiar foe of mine, that who I was, and how I felt and acted on a daily basis, had become the norm.
The tricky thing is, when you believe that something is normal, and ‘just the way you are’, it’s hard to identify it. And if you can’t identify it, you cannot diagnose it – and so, you just tell yourself to crack the fuck on, pull your socks up and cope better.
And that’s dandy for a while. You can leave anxiety and OCD simmering softly in the background, but ultimately, at some point they’re likely to boil over. And boil over they did.
Three days after returning to work from my second maternity leave I had what you might like to call, a modest breakdown.
I refer to it as a modest breakdown because very few people knew about it.
My ‘modest breakdown’ was fairly discreet.
I wasn’t housebound, shouting and weeping for all to see. I was up after very little sleep, getting the girls ready, leaving for work with Elsie sobbing at the door, commuting, doing my job – but inside, everything felt more than a little bit broken.
My return to work, coinciding with settling my eldest into a new preschool & my youngest with a new childminder had all intensified symptoms of my existing OCD and anxiety.
I was on edge, paranoid, frightened, angry and exhausted.
I felt shitty. Properly shitty. I am still unsure as to where my white flag juncture arose from, but I decided I didn’t want to feel like that anymore, and so, I asked for help.
Due to the stigma that still surrounds mental health, asking for help (namely from my GP) still doesn’t sit comfortably with me. That might sound ridiculous, however for me, and for so many who I have spoken to since, I was not alone in thinking I was a bit of failure for seeking support.
Mental health is awkward to talk about.
But I’ve had to talk about it, process it and indulge myself in the cracks of it to assist me in my voyage to feeling better.
I’m a crier. I’m a moaner.
I’m not discreet in my emotions – happy to howl, cry and shout in public me – and I certainly don’t handle stress and anxiety with elegance and grace.
But I do cover up a lot.
You would think anxiety is quite difficult to conceal, it’s not – least not in my experience.
My anxiety does not manifest itself in nervousness, isolation or fear of leaving the house.
My OCD does an awesome job of shrouding itself behind the impression that I like to live in a perfect show home, so – to those around me I’m just the same old Lorn!
Historically I’ve found it’s easier to make light of my mental health worries; I’m all for a bit of banter so appending a little farce into how I was feeling somewhat took away the sting.
I mean who doesn’t like to laugh at mental health? It’s hilarious right?
No. It’s not really. It’s actually pretty bloody unfunny.
What is mildly amusing though is that after I sought help and made a plan (there always has to be a plan my friends, that’d be the OCD creeping in) I felt such a strange sense of empowerment.
Despite originally feeling pretty disappointed in myself for having to surrender to the shitters that are anxiety & OCD, I also felt a sense of relief – that I could say to my friends and family whom I had confided in ‘I haven’t got my shit together. I’m struggling’
“You keep it on the inside, because that’s the safest place to hide.”
The statistics don’t lie.
In the UK, anxiety effects 4.7 in 100 people and women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed in comparison to men; and yet, there is still so much notoriety surrounding mental health, and in turn taking medication. Why oh why my friends?
I’m a little reluctant to admit that years ago I might have envisioned an individual requiring medical support, to be sitting rocking back and forth, imprisoned in white washed walls. How wrong I was.
Opening up the forum of discussion around mental health, I have discovered a surprisingly large amount of people who see that accepting the help of a little pill is no bigger deal than popping a vitamin C every morning.
And why should you?
The proven chemical imbalance that comes hand-in-hand with anxiety and depression are just that – a chemical imbalance. Medication simply serves to correct that imbalance. So why all the shame?
For some, I know the process is so much harder – a lengthy road to recovery – but if you do decide that medication is right for you, why would you not snatch the prescription out of the GPs hand, leg it to the nearest pharmacy and cash that bad boy in?
I think it’s shame. Stigma and shame.
Anyone would think it was on a par with shooting up of a morning before sitting down to your latte.
I have lost count the amount of times I have heard “But if you had diabetes you would take tablets for that, it’s the same thing”.
And, in the midst of my epically low days, I would want to scream back “NO NO IT’S NOT – because diabetes is an actualillness and it can KILL you, so you HAVE to take medication”.
Yet, if I was talking to a close friend or relative of mine, I would be battling against every single word I think and mutter.
I would stand forthright and offer words of encouragement to them and say how proud I was of them for seeking help.
Why is it that a lot of the time we are incapable of doing this for ourselves?
I also know that for many, medication isn’t the answer and that’s ok too.
There are many avenues to finding inner contentment again; CBT, counselling, exercise, mindfulness to name but a few.
Whatever YOU choose on your journey to feeling brighter and happier and ultimately less like a massive bag of SHIT is up to you.
A crucial synopsis to this post (I’m still hiding, and sweating behind the cushion by the way) is that you’re not alone.
Although I was lucky enough to have wonderful support from a network of friends and family, I still felt isolated. I don’t anymore.
And finally (if you’re still with me), I believe it has to be your journey. Own that shit.
This has been and still is mine, and it’s certainly a process – but another wise lady once said (And I know a few) – “Forward is forward” and I’ll take that.
Alice & Phanella of The Step Up Club are huge champions of women. They believe that being a Mum can not only be brilliant for your career (something I totally concur with), it also makes you awesome.
I love this upbeat list from them. A Mothers we really give ourselves the credit we deserve. It’s good to be reminded how great we and be given a virtual pat on the back
So without further ado here it is: ‘Why being a Mum Makes You Awesome’.
Change a nappy whilst blow drying your hair whilst eating breakfast whilst packing a book bag whilst buttoning your work shirt. You are a queen of kingdom multi-task.
Theresa May’s got nothing on you. You are the ultimate negotiator. Brexit diplomacy is a breeze compared to a getting a tantruming three year old up off the supermarket floor without resorting to sweets (or at least not every time)
You thought you’d seen it all. But that big thwack of love you felt when your baby arrived is a new mine of empathy and compassion for those who cross your career path.
Mum jeans. Nuff said.
Mum bun. ditto.
You are now a networking ninja. From NCT via hospital ward via sing and sign via nursery induction day to school and beyond. Your awesome female network has just expanded a hundred fold.
8-year-old feet + school yard intel = one heck of a trainer wardrobe
Motherhood can give your confidence a knock. It calls your identity into question into a myriad of ways. But the process of putting those bricks back into order will result in a stronger, surer of yourself woman. The journey is painful – we’ve been there. But believe us when we say there is a rainbow on the other side.
Forget the insta husband. A five-year-old child is almost exactly the same height as a tripod.
You’re gonna fail so many times in your Mum role that you’ll be forced to kick fear of failure to the kerb. Hello New resilient you.
As Kirsty Young told us for our book, having kids forces you to be more strategic about your career choices. If you’re going to go out to work now, it had better be damn well worth it.
NO. The mainstay of your mum vocab. Also useful to employ in work situations in the face of overwhelm, unreasonable demands and unpleasant bosses.
Your public speaking debut in front of a class of fidgety six year olds on world book day will put you in good stead for all pitches, presentations, interviews or any other situation when you need to stand up in front of a critical audience.
You can do things you never thought you could. You’ve created another human being and kept it safe and sound. You are amazing.
Previously restricted to a work wardrobe of neutrals, constant baby sick unwittingly expands your sartorial options. Bet you never knew you suited prints.
That mum who leaned over in your first monkey music class to tell you how her one year old already knows his phonics taught you a valuable lesson. Never compare mainly because it’s all just hype.
Your 5 a day is sorted thanks to leftover blended brocolli, sweet potato chips, mashed banana, et al. And is it just us who loves a sneaky Ella’s kitchen?
We won’t deny that the process of achieving any type of work balance with a bevy of dependents in tow is complex even on the best of days. You’ll be forced to prioritise ruthlessly and it will be hard but you will work out what’s really important pretty quick. Clue: don’t discard the old you altogether. There’s always space in the diary for a Saturday night glass of wine with your girlfriends.
The brilliance that is baby wipes.
You can do so much more than you ever thought possible. Attach a car seat, collapse a buggy, whilst carrying two toddlers, a week’s load of shopping and managing your Mum on the phone asking about Christmas whilst mentally planning your (fledgling) business empire. You can do it. #YesYouCan.
** I also really recommend reading their book too, it’s packed with great advice.. ‘Step Up; Confidence, success and your stellar career in 10 minutes a day’ available from Amazon. **
I am actually a bit lost for words with this one. Other than to say I am proud and honoured to be sharing this list, which (fellow South East Londoner) Michelle recently wrote for her brilliant blog Dear Orla and Instagram account. A letter to herself, after losing her daughter Orla.
As I prepare to give birth again, I look back to just ten and a half months ago and wonder what advice I would give to myself now. The person who had just been told that her baby had died at 37 weeks gestation, without any warning. Her baby who was healthy and perfect in every way, who she had seen wriggling around at the 36 week scan just five days before. Whose heartbeat she had heard just two days earlier.
That woman, who lying on the triage room bed, had just seen her baby’s still heart on the ultrasound screen. Who was surrounded by doctors and midwives, being told that she had no choice but to labour and give birth, that she had to start the process that evening, that all she was allowed to do was to go home and pack a bag before returning for induction. The woman who wanted to be put to sleep and never wake up, who couldn’t fathom that she had to go through the process of birthing, something she had so lovingly prepared for, knowing that the outcome would be silence and leaving the hospital empty handed. Knowing that she had to break the news to her family and friends that she had let them down in the worst way possible. That she had failed to protect her much loved and longed for baby.
That woman who felt horrified that she would need to give birth. Who believed that the doctors were just being cruel and heartless; that they were putting her physical needs before her emotional ones. The woman who felt tormented by the cruel blow that life had just dealt her.
This is what I would like to have told that person…
Dear courageous mama,
You may not believe it now, but you are already a mother. Motherhood will not initially be as you planned it, but it is no less important. In fact, it is the bravest transition to motherhood that any woman could ever go through.
Giving birth will be hard – really hard. There will be times that you want it to stop and times that you will hold back and will it never to be over, through fear of what lies on the other side. But you will do it and you will be so very proud that you did. You will give your child the honour of being birthed into the world in the way that you had hoped. It may not be a natural, drug free water birth. But it will be no less special and no less precious.
Labour will make you feel stronger and weaker than you have ever felt before. You will cry but unbelievably you will also smile. You will feel scared of meeting your baby, but you have nothing to feel scared of. When she arrives, she will be perfect in every way and you will love her just as much as you would if she were born breathing. She will take your own breath away and you will want to drink in every piece of her.
Take all the drugs you need if you want them. Do not punish yourself. In doing so, you are not failing. This is not a normal birthing experience and you cannot expect yourself to respond as though it is. You will struggle to get into the hypnobirthing zone as you know that each surge is one step closer to having to say goodbye, rather than the start of a joyous journey into motherhood. Do whatever you can to make this easier on your heart and accept the help of others.
Please take care of yourself physically. Do not try to go out on a long walk the day after you give birth. If you had a baby in your arms, would you be doing this? If the answer is no, then don’t. You have run a marathon – even more so because your labour was long and you had to do all of the work yourself as your baby couldn’t help you out. You won’t have slept for days as your heart has been hurting too much. Your energy is being drained by the mental processing you contending with. Move slowly, stay still, lie down. Give yourself the rest and recuperation you need and deserve.
Spend as much time as you can with your baby. Take photos, dress her, touch her, look at her whole body. Talk and sing to her. Smell her. Cram a lifetimes worth of memories into those short precious hours.
Saying your first goodbye will break you. It will shatter your heart into a million pieces and you will feel as though you have fallen into the deepest darkest hole that you feel you have no way of clawing yourself out from. You will feel lost, scared and as though you do not want to go on. You will cry huge tears that come from the depths of your belly and you will wonder how it is possible for more tears to come.
Your heart will hurt. It will hurt more than you ever thought imaginable. You will wake up each morning and need to re-live what has happened and ground yourself in your new painful reality. Swinging your legs out of bed will take more energy than you ever thought possible. You will sit of the edge of the bed and rock as this will be the only way to soothe the emotional pain that you are feeling. But every day you will get up – and that is more than enough.
At times, you will feel as though you are about to fall off the edge of the universe. Your edges will feel blurred and you will wonder if you still exist as a person anymore. You will need to be held tightly in order to fall asleep. Much like a baby may need to be swaddled to know that they are safe, you too will need this – and that is okay.
You will wonder how the hell you will ever survive this pain. But you will. One day at a time. And the person that you will become will be even more whole than the person you knew before.
You will love as intensely as you hurt. It will be hard to believe that you could love someone so fiercely that you knew for such a short time. But you will.
Please remember that you have not failed and this is not your fault. You will struggle to believe this, I know. But when you can, at least consider this as a possibility.
Your whole sense of self and identity will be questioned. Suddenly you will be scared to leave the house, you will be terrified of being left alone, you will struggle to fulfil normal daily tasks. The strong, independent and vivacious person you once were will have evaporated in an instant and you will feel like a shell of the person you once were.
You will lose the sparkle behind your eyes. You will look in the mirror and not know who you see.
Seemingly small incidents will rock you to the core. A chance sighting of a new mum friend in the distance, pushing her newborn baby down the road will force you to flee home and not leave the house for days. You will cry more than you ever thought possible. You will feel weak, defeated and fragile. This is normal and completely understandable. Do not berate yourself for this.
Sometimes you will be overcome with intense emotions that you may not like. You will feel angry and jealous – sometimes of the people you love. You will question ‘why us?’ These thoughts and emotions are all valid and fair, but remember that they are transient and you will not be consumed by them.
Relationships will change. Some for better, some for worse. Some people will be able to cope with your pain and some people won’t. This is not your responsibility to fix.
You will be a different person, which will be hard. A secondary loss to navigate.
But the core of you will still be there. And you will grow into someone new, someone stronger, someone with more compassion and with a bigger heart. That heart will have a hole the shape of your daughter, but it is that hole that will give you back the sparkle in your eyes and the fire and determination in your belly.
Whatever you do, know that your baby will always be with you. She will give you the strength that you never knew you had and you will make it your sole aim in life to make her proud. Everything you do will be in her honour and you will live life in the way that you would have wanted your daughter to.
This is not the end. This is just the beginning.
Know that you are loved and one day you will start to learn to love the new person you have become. Very slowly. But you will.
Mother’s Day is behind us, but parenting is about doing something extraordinary day in day out. Ultimately it’s about putting another person before yourself, which my Mama has done in spades.
So given the time of year, I thought it was about time I write her a list. Don’t worry I’ve got her a pressie too, I’m not that tight.
Here’s ‘A List for my Mum’:
First of all WELL DONE. Raising 5 kids and staying (fairly) sane is a remarkable achievement.
30 years of school runs (THIRTY YEARS OF SCHOOL RUNS!!) is mind-boggling.
And the pack lunches. Even writing that makes me age.
The fact that you look better in a pair of Topshop jeans in your 60’s than most 30-somethings is also impressive.
Sorry for the sleepless nights. In the beginning and then later during my teens. 1996-1999 were not my proudest years.
Sorry for the times I didn’t return home after school because I’d ‘accidentally’ missed the bus back. And with no mobile phone to get hold of me on (reverse charge call anyone?!). I can’t imagine how stressful that was.
Sorry about the arguments. Especially that one Charlie recorded when I was a teen.
In time I may even admit you were right not to let me go to Ayia Napa the Summer after my GCSEs. Not quite though. For now I’m still cross.
Thank you for all the small things. Tiny gestures that I remember as special. Like filling up my water on your way to bed. Excellent tuna pasta, hot-toddies, and so many kind words.
I *may* occasionally have faked a high temperature by warming my forehead on my bedside lamp, just to wangle a day off school. Can you blame me when you were so good at taking care of us?
Your washing skills are magical too. Things seem to leave the wash basket and be back folded on the bottom of the bed in a matter of hours. It’s a dark art indeed. One trait I’ve categorically failed to inherit.
There are some things I wish I hadn’t inherited: the big rib cage and that ‘habit’ of having to go for a wee before leaving to go anywhere.
But I’m very pleased to have your bone structure. And the emotions! Though we may not always be the easiest to live with at least you know where you are at with us. There’s never a hidden agenda or a dull moment.
And our large feet. Big feet = large pelvic floor = easier for giving birth.
Attending The Tommy’s Awards last week was so moving because it dawned on me how tough your start to Motherhood was. Giving birth at 32 weeks. Terrifying.
Then those endless weeks keeping vigil beside my incubator. Unthinkably stressful and lonely. Especially 35 years ago with no phone to connect you with the outside world and the support groups and information we have today.
As you say: you knew in your heart I was going to be ok and I was!
You survived and so did I.
Not only that, you were brave enough to go on to have so many more babies.
Thanks to you I embarked on motherhood with an absolute belief that I could do it. Ofcourse it’s been a hard journey. But I’ve always had an unshakable faith in myself as a Mother. And that is learned from you.
In challenging moments I say to myself: if Mum could cope with 3 kids under 3.5 years old. I CAN DO THIS.
If I can bring my boys up to be as individual as you have allowed the five of us to be then I’ll be SO proud.
Thank you for supporting and believing in me relentlessly and giving us all such an incredible start.
And now it’s a new chapter. The last of your babies has finally left home. I hope you have surprised yourself with how well you’ve adapted.
Forget ’empty nest syndrome’ what a bleak expression! Now is the time to be free, after giving so much of yourself to us kids, it’s time to be you.
You will always be our rock, but now you have earned the right to have no responsibilities, no obligations, no school runs! So go do things that make your heart and soul feel good.
Do stuff on a whim and do some things that have been on that ‘maybe one day list’.
Go be selfish, be silly and be self-assured. You’ve bought up 5 humans you can do anything and most of all YOU DESERVE IT ALL.
This is something new. A list and a letter in one. Like it. Memory is so selective isn’t it? I look back on my pregnancies with misty-eyed affection. A time that my liver was rejuvenated, my hair didn’t fall out and for the only time in my life my stomach was rock hard.
This list from Annie (AKA the Editor of The Early Hour) is a great reminder of the reality:
You’re reading this because you’re pregnant again. For the third time. After your first pregnancy, you conveniently forgot everything about how you felt during and after the event. You forgot what labour and childbirth were like (perhaps necessarily so) and about the early days.
Every pregnancy is different, so take all this with a pinch of salt, but your first two pregnancies, births and fourth trimesters were fairly similar so the likelihood is that this one will be, too. This letter is designed to reassure you – but without lying/rose tinting…
You’ll probably experience morning sickness for most – if not all – of your pregnancy. There is no cure (you’ve already tried everything). It’s pretty damn tiring but it will pass… by 40 weeks, tops. You’ll survive. Keep cleaning your teeth 20 times a day and eating only carbs. Vegetables can wait.
In the early days of pregnancy, you may well feel a bit fat and bloated and not very pregnant. Try not to worry too much. Who cares if your neighbours think you’re letting yourself go? The pregnancy cat will soon be out of the bag and the gossiping will cease (well, until the postpartum period when you continue to look pregnant a month after giving birth).
Towards the end of pregnancy you’ll be DESPERATE to release the beast (as in: the baby. But you will also be extremely constipated by now). You’ll consider induction and elective c-section – avoid both unless medically advised. The baby will emerge at some stage.
That said, your last baby was induced just before your due date because he was tonks – this one probably will be too.
While waiting for labour/to be induced, you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time googling natural induction. To save you some time, this is what you’ll find: pineapple, sex, running (WTF?), walking (more likely), curry, acupuncture, reflexology, nipple stimulation. None of it will work.
You’ll also be searching high and low for ‘signs of early labour’. Don’t bother asking anyone/googling. You’ll know when you’re in labour. Your waters will break or contractions will come on strong – and you’ll definitely know the difference between Braxton hicks and contractions.
Everyone will advise you to sleep and rest up before labour. You won’t be able to because 1. You already have two children to look after and 2. Pregnancy and good sleep are not friends. It’s one or the other. But if you have an epidural during labour, this will be the best sleep you’ve had – and will have – for a long while.
Have an epidural if you’re induced. Have one even if you’re not. You needed it the last two times; you’ll almost certainly need it again this time. It’s nothing to be ashamed of – it’s the best drug in the world.
Don’t panic – your birth won’t come on so quickly that you give birth in the back of an Uber. The first was three days, the second was 10 hours. This one ain’t gonna be 30 minutes.
Hypnobirthing is great for positive thinking but it doesn’t stop the pain. And calling them surges rather than contractions won’t either. But it will make you feel better in the lead up and postnatal period, so listen to those recordings daily.
After the birth, you’ll be wheeled to a hot postnatal ward. But you’ll have the most beautiful baby in your arms so you won’t care. The food is disgusting but you’ll think it’s delicious. Walking will be hard, but you’ll manage it. So will weeing. But again, it will soon get better.
Breastfeeding will be fine at first but after a day or two, your nipples will really hurt. Use lanolin, Jelonet and soft breastpads (plus cold cabbage leaves for engorgement). This will cure you of cracked nipples and stave off mastitis.
Don’t try to do too much too quickly. Avoid visitors for as long as possible, hole up with your family eating cake and cooing over the new arrival (while trying to reassure older siblings that they haven’t been displaced and fretting about their suddenly massive bodies rolling into the tiny newborn).
You may not feel comfortable moving around for a week or two. Take the painkillers. Soon the pain and discomfort will ease and it will be the best feeling ever.
Take the laxatives and eat loads of fruit.
Remember that your vagina will return to normal amazingly quickly. Don’t even bother trying to look at it in a mirror this time, there’s no advantage (but let the midwife, in case it’s not healing properly or there’s an infection).
Remember that although you still look six months pregnant after giving birth, each day your belly will reduce slightly. After two/three weeks, there will be flabby, flappy skin and fat rolling down over your thighs. Tuck it into your knickers and forget about it.
Accept all the help you’re offered (this reduces with each baby, but your mum will almost certainly be up for putting on laundry/ making tea – say “yes please!”).
Enjoy your new baby. S/he won’t be cute and sleepy for long so don’t wish away the early days. Breastfeeding may hurt, your other children may be more tantrummy, you may watch Glastonbury on TV and really wish you were there. But actually, you’ve created new life. Nothing is better than that.
Remember: everything passes. It will be replaced by a new challenge but one day, the baby will start sleeping for longer than three hour stretches. And won’t need to breastfeed every three minutes. You’ll be able to go out with friends and DRINK WINE really soon and all the tough bits will blur into distant memories.