Pippa's blog

BritMums Live: On being brave and retreating

Last week I had no idea if a “Mamas’ Retreat” could work in 45 minutes, let alone in the middle of BritMums Live.  But I had a go...!

So here’s the story of our Mama Me-Time session at BritMums Live, along with some speedy suggestions for hosting a mini Mama Me-time retreat of your own. Because you absolutely deserve it.

BritMums Live Mama Me-Time Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum

I was pretty terrified in the lead up to my Mama Me-Time session.  In the hour before, I took myself off into a quiet corner of the conservatory (with a pudding for company, obviously…) and looked over my notes. Even though I’d hosted some amazing Mamas’ Retreats already this year, I’d never attempted to host one so short, and so I sat there questioning myself…

Does anyone but me really need this kind of support? Would it work amongst the buzz and bling tiaras of Brit Mums Live? Is making a Do Not Disturb Mummy sign with other mothers really anyone else’s idea of a fun way to spend their time? Would anyone really take a sign home and hang it on their door and be reminded to make some time for themselves…?

But I breathed through the questions, and reminded myself that if my session allowed even just one mother to take some time out for themselves, right then and even better, beyond, it would be more than worth facing my fears.

While being terrified didn’t stop me having a go, it made me feel sick as I stepped into the light and started to speak. That fear made me question myself as the mood in the room changed and calmed and quietened – a feeling so different to the other sessions at BritMums Live. But I breathed on and continued to hold the space, and I handed out my stickers and I smiled and I breathed some more. 

And I’m so pleased that I did.

Because I discovered that actually 45 minutes is plenty of time. You can have a mini retreat in just a few considered breaths.

In a matter of minutes you can create a space to focus on yourself, to rest and reconnect. With a few minutes more, you can connect to those around you and support each other to make more time for ourselves.

BritMums Live Mama Me-Time Retreat with Story of Mum

So thank you so much to all the mothers who took time out from the BritMums Live hubbub to come along and play, with absolutely no idea of what we’d be doing. Thank you for breathing together and free writing, and smiling and crying. Thank you for sharing your stories and your Do Not Disturb signs. (some fab pics below…). Thank you to Jen and Susanna for encouraging me to try something different.

And an extra special thank you to the lovely Rachael of Mothering Mushroom for sharing a beautiful poem that she had recited to me earlier in the day. Her words were another beautiful way to remind us that we all have something to offer, simply by being ourselves. And goodness me, she was brave too – from friendly chat to starring in a BritMums Live workshop in a matter of hours! She recited her words not once, but twice, and I am so grateful for all that it added to the session.

Because despite all the amazing things we do every day – despite blog and social media “success” or otherwise, families we love, challenges we face, campaigns that change the world, we all need reminders to believe in ourselves. We need reminders that we are deeply worthy of the nurturing love we show to others. 

And so I feel very lucky to have seen the impact of a few moments of breathing and some quiet free writing in a room of buzzing mum bloggers – the shift in energy, the quiet and the emotion that surfaced.

I loved seeing the conversations and connections that happened as we talked about what nurtures us, what stops us doing that and how we could do it more.

I loved seeing the laughter and smiles as we stuck monster stickers and glow in the dark stars and random Hawaiian ukuleles on to Do Not Disturb signs and shared what we love to do. The things we do not for anyone else, not for higher page stats or to make more money, not because we need to be any better or brighter or braver than we are right now, in this moment – but simply because it nurtures us.

And because we deserve to be nurtured. 

Mama Me-Time Mamas' Retreat at BritMums live

BritMums Live is a buzzy emotional and inspiring conference. There is so much to do, so many people to meet and hug, so many conversations to be had, so much to learn, so much more than it’s possible to fit into two short days.

I loved catching up with old friends, making new ones, meeting twitter friends and learning from incredibly useful sessions. I loved the thrill of waiting to see if we would win an award and delighting at others’ successes (especially Team Honk!).

I found I flitted more than delving deep, and despite a heartfelt weep in memory of my dear friend Loz, and some longer chats with friends, I felt I missed out on more connected conversations in favour of trying to do a little bit of everything.

All that excitement, learning and social activity can also be overwhelming, scary and exhausting. A bit like parenting.

Sometimes we need the quiet. Sometimes we are so focused on supporting everyone around us that we forget to support ourselves. To remember that it’s OK to stop. And rest. And nurture ourselves. It’s not just OK, it’s vital.

So... if you couldn't make our Mama Me-Time retreat and you need that time for you too, here are some speedy Mamas’ Retreats for you to try, based on our BritMums Live session. Enjoy!

  

Mamas' Retreats with Story of MumA 3 minute Mamas’ Retreat – calm, and connect to your body

Would you like to try right now?

Read this section then take a pause and place your feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Start to shift your attention to the breath coming in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Breath by breath, soften your shoulders, your jaw, your belly, anywhere else that you feel you are holding tension – just let the tension go with every out-breath.

Feel the breath filling your chest, and releasing. Feel it coming deep down into your stomach. Or rolling up and down your spine like a waterfall as you breathe in and out. Feel the breath in your body.

And remember that at the very centre of all that is going on around you is YOU.

Stay aware of that centre as you open your eyes and continue with your day.

 

Mamas' Retreats with Story of MumA 15 minute Mamas’ Retreat – your body and your mind

Put a pen and paper nearby. Breathe as above.

After five minutes of breathing, stop and start writing. Write anything, don’t judge it, don’t analyse it, just write it – whatever comes into your head. Even if it’s “I have no idea what to write” over and over again, just put the pen to the page and see what comes out.

Write for five minutes. Stop. You don’t need to read what you write ever again. Of course you can if you want to. But equally, you can just crumple it up and throw it in the bin – it’s just another way of connecting to you and that inner voice you often don't have time to hear.

After 5 minutes of free writing, take 5 minutes more to write your answer to these questions:

  1. What nurtures you? (Try to list at least 3 things)
  2. How often do you do these things?
  3. What stops you doing these things?
  4. What one step could you take today to bring more of these things into your life?

Breathe on, and take that step.

 

Mamas' Retreats with Story of MumA 30 minute Mamas’ Retreat – body, mind, making a me-time reminder 

After you’ve done the 15 minute Mamas’ Retreat above, take the next 15 minutes to make your very own Do Not Disturb sign to remind you to take that time out for you...

Making is another great way to reconnect to YOU. And to connect to the joy of simple creating for pleasure.

Plus, a Do Not Disturb sign is the perfect reminder for you and everyone around you that sometimes you need to take time out too.

You can find out how to make your very own sign over here (it's easy, no expert skills required!).

And share it in the gallery when you’re done to inspire other mamas to take time out too!

 

Mamas' Retreats with Story of MumA 45 minute Mamas’ Retreat – just add friends

Do all of the above with a mama friend! You can use your extra 15 minutes to share your answers to the questions above with each other.

As you talk and make together, help each other to think of a step you could take to make more mama me-time.  Support each other to follow through.

We’re much more likely to make a change when we tell someone else we’ll do it.

And if we write it down on a great big Do Not Disturb sign…

 

DIY Mamas' Retreats with Story of MumFree Goodies!!

At the session, I offered to give away three copies of our DIY Mamas’ Retreat Kits (everything you need to host your own slightly longer retreat for your mama friends at home!).

You get one entry for sharing your Do Not Disturb sign with #somum #britmumslive on twitter, and two more for managing to upload your picture to our gallery here.

I’ll be giving away the prizes this Saturday, so feel free to share and upload your own in the meantime!

BritMums Live, Mothers of Innovation: A Survival Plan

I’m off to London this week for a very special few days packed with inspirational mamas (and papas…). Will you be one of them?* I hope so!

BritMums Live, and Mothers of Innovation: My Survival Plan by Story of Mum

First up, some social entrepreneurial networking and learning from incredible mothers who are changing the world at the Mothers of Innovation conference, with a quick lunchtime break to pitch my own world-changing dream to a scary Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme panel back in Cornwall over skype...

After a quick nervous sleep, it’s time for all the fun of Brit Mums Live!... Inspiring workshops, meeting old and new friends, (so many  I feel I know already from our monthly #somum Make Dates), plus of course the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (we’re nominated, eek!) on Friday.

And a chance to host my first ever ‘mini Mamas’ Retreat’ for BritMums Live! mamas in just 45 minutes on Saturday, before jumping on the last train back to Cornwall to reclaim my kids…

After all that, I’m pretty sure I’ll be wishing that someone else would host a mini Mamas’ Retreat just for me.

It’s going to be exhilarating. And challenging.

So I’ve drawn up a quick survival plan that involves a little more thought than my standard coffee and chocolate… and I'm sharing it here in case it helps you to get through too!

1. Remember to pause and breathe (I have a daily alarm on my phone to remind me, genuinely…).

2. Take some quiet time on my own AND do a bit of yoga, hopefully with my mum.(Mum and yoga optional, quiet time essential...)

3. Have early nights (taking full advantage of the lack of little people around to wake me up…) unless of course we actually win an award, in which case I will need to source previously untapped reserves of zen-like restraint to avoid dousing myself in prosecco.

4. Go as hashtag crazy as I like in the day, but don’t let the sparkling lure of social media distract me when really I should be SLEEPING (*cough* like right now…)
 
5. Make the most of every minute. And that means be brave, step into the beam of fear, and smile. Go with whatever happens. Talk to people I don't know yet.  Listen. Be present.  Because what’s the worst that could happen, really? Even if I make a complete tit of myself, in a few weeks it’ll make a great story. And the blushing will have finally stopped.

6. In the moments when I feel like I’ve run out of energy for number 5, I'll have another coffee, eat chocolate, and hide in the loo until I’m ready to start again… And that's fine too.

* I should point out that there is absolutely no pressure to say anything wise and wonderful to me if you see me, because the truth is that you will be inspirational without even noticing - your choice of biscuit alone may be breath-taking

What’s YOUR survival plan...?


Bonus content: Wardrobe insights

I shall be wearing the following outfits for BritMums Live...

Subject to cake consumption and comfort, the little hands-on-hips horsey number above.

And my foxy dress as seen on the right. OK so you can't see much apart from a fox, but it's basically the same shape as the other one.

Those blurred things on my feet are the comfy shoes that I will be wearing every single day.

Note to viewer: both the dress and I look distinctly more attractive through an instagram filter (as demonstrated here). Please do not view me from the back in either dress as unfortunately the pleating makes me look like I am wearing a bustle. And believe me, I do not need one of those.

Really hope to meet you on our shared big adventure, and maybe even get to pause and breathe with you for a well-deserved little retreat on Saturday. I'd love to hear your survival tips.

 

PS You can still get tickets for BritMums Live! and Mothers of Innovation if you fancy joining me...?

Mamas make movie posters!

One of the funniest #somum Make Dates we've had in a while! With some transformational life journeys, conflict and a nice long running through an airport shot thrown in at the end for good measure...

Motherhood in the movies - mamas show what it's really like, with Story of Mum

This month, we made alternative movie posters that expressed our real-life stories.

We even inadvertantly created our very own mamahood genre of 'sleep-related films' (we foresee a huge market opening up for these amongst parents between the hours of midnight and 4am...)

We saw ourselves as superheroes, action heroes, romantic comedy heroines, musical stars and slapstick comedy victims.

With internal monologues to rival the most obtuse foreign film, a secret urge to break into song in supermarket aisles, and sadly no hair and make-up team to hand, we somehow get through the ups and downs of our lives as mothers, lovers, friends and more.

Sometimes it's a happy ending. Sometimes it isn't. But our everyday movies are all worthy of the big screen. You're a movie star, mama, unbrushed hair and all.

So make yourself some popcorn, dim the lights and enjoy a little storify of our mama movie night below...

Join our next #somum Make Date

Come find us on twitter on Wednesday 11 June from 8.30pm to 10pm UK time (find world times here) to talk movies and doodle some movie posters together...

Join our #somum Make Date on twitter - making and chatting with Story of Mum

Yes, it's that time of month again.

Time for your #somum movie mama close-up!

Lights. Camera. Action. Oh no, hang on.... Muu-uum!

Nappy to change. Child to rescue. Something burning. Something forgotten...  

There's always something to distract us from our magic movie moments. 

If only life was more like the movies. Or movies more like real life....  

Well this month, Mama's in the Movies!

We're making movie posters to celebrate our glorious (!!) red carpet lives. You can see some of mine here and in the gallery. 

No movie poster required (although if you want to use one, that's ace - whatever works best for you). 

You can doodle your own from scratch (like my one below...)

Together, let's make movies that reflect our own less than picture-perfect (and sometimes very occasionally perfect) experience of motherhood.

Then come on over and share your movie magic with us on twitter and in the gallery!

Join a #somum Make Date with Story of Mum

What is a #somum Make Date?

It's a chance for mums to get together on twitter and tweet while we attempt to do something creative - like doodlingtaking a photowriting poetrymaking stuff or even squidging plasticine.

We give ourselves some creative me-time and connect with other lovely mums. We do it every second Wednesday of the month and we would love you to join us. New friends are always very welcome.

You don't have to be a clever crafter, an artist or wordsmith. We're all about having a go regardless of talent or experience. Most of all, it's about getting together and having fun.

If you just want to chat, that's completely fine. If you just want to make something and lurk and never tell us you're there, that's fine too. We're just happy you're making time for you. 

What did I touch today?

Today I had a mama-son day with my 6 year old. While I quite often have a special day with my 3 year old daughter (while my son’s at school), it’s a long time since my son has had all my attention.

What did you touch today, mama?

Well, It was magical.

He loved choosing what we would do – and I was pretty much happy to do anything as long as I could have a cuppa and take pictures…

So what did I touch today?

Kettle, mug, teabag, pour…

Oven, croissants, teeth brushed, hair.

Two hands held through the park.

A big swing swung high.

Holding my daughter tight and kissing her goodbye.

Closing the door behind.

Supermarket juice, coffee, last minute bits. My debit card, the number pad. Filling up my bag.

What have your hands touched today, mama? My day with my boyMy boy’s hair shuffled out of his eyes. Bags slung, coats removed, sandals dangled.

Face stroked, rock-pools poked, feet rubbed. 

Coffee drunk.

His hand held tight to balance me barefoot across rough limpeted boulders.

His shoulders held for a rocket launch.

Hands warm and arms stretched taut across cold and slippery seaweed.

Sitting. Taking photos. Picking up stones, admiring them.

The sound of the sea recorded on my phone.

Stones thrown. Carrots crunched. Rubbish collected. Binned.

Hands held to cross the road. And just a little bit longer.

What have your hands touched, mama? My day with my boy

Kettle, mug, teabag, pour.

Salad washed and handed to my boy to chop, by himself.

Fingers secretly crossed.

Sandwiches made. Hands stretched round overfilled crunchy bread. Mouths wiped.

Crumbs dusted, garden table shuffled.

Kettle, mug, teabag, pour.

Dens built. Rebuilt. Built again.

Hands held through the park.

Door knocked, reaching out to collect his little sister…

I don't normally hold my son’s hand as much as I have today.

I don't normally have so much time to join in with all his games.

don't normally spend a whole afternoon as an astronaut-robber-evil gnome-adventurer...

What have you touched today mama? My day with my boy

But I need to make this kind of day my normal. 

Because I need these days as much as he does.

Thank you my beautiful adventurous son for the precious reminder to live in the moment.

And to pause there, instead of rushing off to the next ‘big’ thing that needs doing.

Thank you for the reminder to keep walking barefoot on the rocks.

To balance on seaweed when it feels a bit scary. Because what's the worst that can happen?

Thank you for the reminder to relish the simple pleasures. To listen. And to keep learning.

Most of all, thank you for the reminder to hold my children’s hands as much as I can, for as long as they will let me.

What did I touch today? A brighter way of being in the world. We can touch the sky, any time we want.

What did you touch today mama? My day with my boy

What did you touch today?

We'd love you to join in with our activity this month: I Have Touched. Have a look at the things that other mamas have touched in our gallery, and share your own.

What's in your hand, mama?

This month's creative #somum Make Date was one big high five for mamas everywhere.

It reminded us of the many amazing things we do every day, and most importantly, why they matter. Because they really really do.

I Have Touched: #somum Make Date with Story of Mum

We drew round our hands and filled them with some of the things we did as mothers - the funny, the heart-breaking, the boring and the brave.

Read the storify of the Make Date below to see some wonderful pictures of hands, and hear about all the things we do, and touch, and wish we could do better, and touch more every day...

Be reminded of how our hands need to make time for us too.

And make your own picture, we'd love to see it!

Visit all the hands in the I Have Touched gallery so far for some inspiration.

You have touched more than you know, mama. 

With love.

#somum Make Date on Weds!

Join us on twitter on Wednesday 14 May from 8.30 - 10pm UK time (find your time zone equivalent here) for our monthly Make Date (find out more about those here...). 

What do mamas touch every day? Join Story of Mum's #somum  Make Date on twitter

What's this month's theme?

How many things have you touched today?

Who have you soothed, dressed, chivvied, supported? What have you sorted, moved, prepared, transformed?

How many significant tiny things have you done without even noticing them?

You do amazing things every day. 

Small things that make a huge difference to the lives of those around you. 

And how often do you notice that...?

Well, this month we want you to hold those things in your hand and take a good look at them.

We want you to read your value in your palm. 

And know that you matter. That everything you do every day makes a difference.

It can be exhausting. And repetitive. And wonderful and thankless and challenging and heart-swelling. But every little touch has an impact.

What do mamas hold in our hands? Join our #somum Make Date on twitter on Weds 14 Feb.So we're going to be drawing round our hands together, and filling our hand-prints with what we touch.

Because, apart from being a valuable remidner of how amazing we are, its' fun to draw round your hand and fill it with stuff. And it looks cool. And it's something you can do with the kids if you don't have any child-free time.

We'll be sharing our pictures in the I Have Touched gallery right here.

If you're not into drawing or doodling, you can go for the quick option and share some of your words in Handle With Care instead...

And if you want to print or paint or knit or collage or anything else instead of doodling, that's brilliant! It's your time, and your hand, so fill it however you like.

We'd really love you to join us on Weds!

We have no idea how we will be able to draw round our hands and tweet at the same time, but we know we'll have fun trying!

As well as making and sharing pictures, we'll be talking about how we value what we do and the little things we do that make a difference.

You don't have to get creative if you don't want to, and feel free to lurk until you feel brave enough to say hello. We'd love you to join us. 

Essential reading for new mamas!

This month's #somum Make Date was a bundle of joy! Mamas of all ages reminiscing about our new mama experiences and sharing our very best tips for new mamas - it's inspirational stuff!

New Mama #somum Make Date with Story of Mum - essential reading for new mamas!

You can read some of the #somum Make Date highlights in the storify below.

The New Arrival - Sarah and Amy BeesonBig thanks to our lovely co-hosts Amy and Sarah Beeson (co-writers of fabulous memoir, The New Arrival) and Catherine Redfern (creator of the New Mama Welcome Pack).

And of course THANK YOU to all the amazing inspiring funny honest brave brilliant mamas who joined in. There are already some fantastic New Mama Mantra's in the gallery - have a peek!

AND you can still enter to win an amazing New Mama Welcome Pack worth £89 (see below) if you share your own New Mama Mantra in the gallery this month (find all the rules at the bottom of this post).

It really is a wonderful thing to make - for yourself, and for new mamas who need the inspiration, so take a few well-deserved minutes to yourself and have a go...!

If you haven't already, you'll need to join Story of Mum to load up your photo, but that's quick - and we're brilliant!

Not only will you get to do something brilliant, you'll also be joining a FREE community to let go of Bad Mummy guilt, boost your confidence, take a gloss-free look at motherhood, and carve out vital time for YOU. And you'll get some free gold star Mamas' Reward Charts ;)

Our next #somum Make Date will be Wednesday 14 May, same time, same place.

Enjoy the storify below and see you there!

New Mama Welcome Pack

The New Mama Welcome Pack

I'm thrilled to be a part of this brilliant project as it's exactly what I wish I had had in those difficult early days of motherhood - support and inspriation from over 60 amazing women (including me!) to face the realities of motherhood, delivered over those first 3 challenging wonderful months.

If you know a new mama, do think about getting this amazing pack for her as a gift (and if you use this link, we get a contribution to support Story of Mum too. Thank you!)

 

Time for a #somum Make Date!

Join our next #somum Make Date on Weds 9 April from 8.30 - 10pm GMT to make New Mama Mantras (find world times here). Let's come together and share our hard-earnt new mama wisdom (and photos if you dare!) on twitter. And we have some fantastic prizes for you!

Join Story of Mum's #somum Make Date on twitter & win a New Mama Welcome Pack!

The lovely Catherine Redfern is giving us TWO copies of her amazing New Mama Welcome Pack (that includes US, along with 60 other fabulous contributors). You can win one tonight (just add #somum to your tweets during the Make Date to enter) and/or another one by sharing your own New Mama Mantra in our online gallery right here.

Win a copy of The New Arrival at the next #somum Make Date with @storyofmumPlus, the marvellous Amy Beeson (remember her My Mum Story film?) is giving us THREE copies of the memoir she has co-written with her own mother, Sarah Beeson: The New Arrival.

Both of these inspiring women will also be joining us to co-host the chat, so be ready to ask them anything you'd like to know about their new mama stories too.

Find all the competition rules below...

What will we be making?

This months' New Mama Mantra activity is all about looking back at those early mama moments and remembering how it felt... And then thinking of the words you wished you had heard (and believed) about yourself in those early days - what would you tell yourself now that you didn't know then? 

Find a photo of you from those early mama days, and add those words (you can see one of my attempts below - I used picmonkey below, but I also doodled one by hand (see it at the bottom of the post) and I love them both, so feel free to make it however you like!

Trust in you, mama: a New Mama Mantra for Story of Mum

So let's create some honest, inspiring, exhausted and beautiful New Mama Mantras to share with other mums - mamas who might need those words, right now...

PS if you don't win and you buy a fabulous New Mama Welcome Pack using this link, we get a contribution to support Story of Mum too. Thank you! :) 

What's a #somum Make Date?

Pop over here to find out more about what our #somum Make Dates are all about.

Basically you just need to pop on over to twitter at the right time, search for #somum to find us - and add #somum to your tweets so we can find you too. You don't have to make anything if you don't want to, just say hello!

We look forward to meeting you.

Want even more new mama inspiration...?

If this gets you in the mood for even more support and inspiration, check out the New Mama Welcome Pack Blog Hop that ran on 7 April, I'm still working my way through all the amazing inspiring posts.

You can find my post here, complete with new mama pictures, and a link to all the other fabulous posts at the bottom of that. 

Join Story of Mum's #somum Make Date to make New Mama Mantras

Other twitter competition rules

  • Duplicate accounts, automated entries, bulk entries or third party entries will be disqualified
  • Winners will be chosen at random from all those tweeting using #somum between 20.30 GMT and 22.00 GMT on 9 April 2014. 
  • The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • The competition will run from 20.30 GMT and 22.00 GMT on 9 April 2014 in Great Britain.
  • story of mum is compliant with the data protection act. While we will share the twitter names of winners (and their tweets) with great excitement, we will not pass on any other details to any third party without your prior consent.

Other rules for uploading your New Mama Mantra picture

  • Duplicate accounts, automated entries, bulk entries or third party entries will be disqualified
  • Winners will be chosen at random from all those uploading a picture of their New Mama Mantra that fits the briefdescribed here to this webpage between 00.01am GMT on 1 April 2014 and midnight GMT on 30 April 2014. Please note that you need to join the story of mum community in order to upload a picture or story.
  • The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • The competition will run from 00.01am GMT on 1 April 2014 and midnight GMT on 30 April 2014 in Great Britain.
  • Story of mum is compliant with the data protection act. While we will share links to the winner's submission, we will not pass on your details to any third party without your prior consent.
  • If you don't want to enter the draw, that's absolutely fine. You can still take part in either activity and load up a photo, just contact us to let us know you don't want to be entered in the competition.

Life after labour...

In the days before becoming a mother, I couldn’t see past LABOUR. How to do it, where to do it, when to do it… (My post for the New Mama Welcome Pack blog hop)

Pre-natal workshops, yoga classes, conversations - were all about the birth, not life after labour.

Life after labour. Story of Mum join the New Mama Welcome Pack blog hop

My first child was overdue, so I had 11 extra days to think about the ins and outs (mostly, the ‘outs’...) of birth. Which was lucky, because other than thinking about labour, I was working, as much as possible. Thank goodness my son knew I needed that extra time and slowed me up a bit.

Looking back, it surprises me that I spent such little time thinking about what life would be like after labour. Neither the physical effects nor the huge emotional impact of becoming a mother. I think I just assumed that something magical inside me would click and I would know what to do, and life after labour would simply fall perfectly into place.

Well, it didn’t.

The physical effects were a shock. No one had warned me about the leftover folds of tummy, the incessant bleeding, the pain of breastfeeding (cracked nipples, and a contracting clenching uterus), the possibility that my body could ‘fail’ to provide enough milk, and oh my goodness, the pain of going to the loo. (Actually, one very good friend did tell me about that, so I had the necessary Lactulose on hand, thank goodness…).

I quickly bonded with fellow new mamas by sharing our best tips on weeing in the bath (get out quickly afterwards for starters…), the benefits of airing nipples slathered thickly in Lanisoh, and the virtues of lavender, witch hazel and other delicious smelling concoctions to soothe our bits.  

Life after labour: Story of Mum joins the New Mama Welcome Pack blog hop

And when you’ve discussed your private parts in detail, you’re pretty much friends for life. Although I didn’t realise it then, it was actually a period of intense friendship-cementing….

But I didn’t see that, because I was struggling to make sense of how I felt, and who I was. The sleeplessness and sense of constant failure (set against the demeaning misconception that all should be easy...), left me feeling very very lost.

That much-anticipated labour had been long and difficult. After ‘failing’ to dilate at the appropriate speed, everything suddenly sped up on the bumpy ambulance ride to the busy hospital. I had been sick, and unable to eat or drink, leaving me completely dehydrated (the one advantage of this was that I couldn’t actually have the drugs I was at this point demanding... an 'earth mother' silver lining) And soon after they'd got me attached to a drip, the labour went a bit haywire. 

Luckily for me, and my son, everything turned out fine. But I do wonder if perhaps that particular experience of labour affected the release of oxytocin – the incredible drug your body creates to bond you with your child. Because although I remember feeling relief and surprise and amazement, I don’t remember the rush of love that people talk about. 

Life after labour: story of mum joins the New Mama Welcome Pack blog hop

I remember ripping open my nightgown to hold my child skin to skin, the most delicious cup of tea and dry toast I’ve ever had in my life, being unceremoniously stitched up, having a very messy bath, and looking down at my huge stomach, feeling embarrassed that people might not know I’d actually had my baby.

And most of all, I remember looking over at my tiny new son in his gigantic car seat as we drove back from the hospital and wondering “whose baby is that?”

There were beautiful gifts, and visitors, and much love -  especially from my husband and my mum (both of whom had been there at the birth), but also from the rest of my family. The midwives were wonderful. My stitches healed well. I was as supported as anyone could be.

And yet I still found these first few weeks, the first few months in fact, really difficult. Breastfeeding was a struggle, and my son fell off the dreaded weight chart. At first, I didn’t want to go out of the house, and I didn’t want any visitors. I didn't want to see anyone because I couldn't see myself.

Life after Labour: Story of Mum joins the New Mama Welcome Pack Blog Hop

The first time I went out, I carried my baby in the sling - partly because I was still trying to do the perfect mother thing, but also partly because I wanted to go back to that feeling of carrying a baby within the old me.

I struggled with the shift from competent worker, defined by my exciting career – to ‘failing’ mother, with no clue how to do anything. And worse, an inability to do all the earth-mother things I’d unthinkingly assumed would just come naturally.

I was hard on myself, and my body was hard on me.

Slowly, I adjusted.

It took a little while for the sense of fear and overwhelming responsibility to become love. But it did.

And I even started to work out what I was doing. To trust in my instincts.

It was a very difficult transition. But maybe that’s how it has to be. Motherhood is such a huge unfathomable miracle, such a gigantic physical and emotional transition, that you can’t prepare for it. You just have to do it.

I just wish I could have been kinder to myself.

I wish I had let the house be a mess, cared much less what visitors thought (because they were too busy delighting in this incredible new baby than judging me), worried less about generic weight statistics in a little red book, and avoided setting myself ridiculous perfectionist tasks like making home-made thank you cards.

I wish I had believed that it was truly OK to snatch any spare moments for sleep instead.

Most of all, I wish I had known what I know now – that I’m not perfect, but I am the perfect mother for my child, flaws and all.

Life after labour: Story of Mum joins the new Mama Welcome Pack

New mama mantra

This month's creative activity on Story of Mum is inspired by those early days, and how I feel about them now: New Mama Mantra. We would love you to join in and share your photo with us here:

When you look back at yourself in those early days, what are the words you would have liked to have heard? What can you tell yourself now? Share a photo from that time, and decorate it with those words, whatever way you like.

You can see two of my New Mama Mantra attempts above and below...

Join our FREE community to share yours - as well as let go of Bad Mummy guilt, boost your confidence, take a gloss-free look at motherhood, and carve out vital time for YOU. 

New Mama Mantra - Story of Mum joins the New Mama Welcome Pack blog hop

The New Mama Welcome Pack - blog hop

This post is part of a blog hop jumping around the world today to celebrate the launch of the wonderful New Mama Welcome Pack - another inspiration for our New Mama Mantra activity. 

I'm thrilled to be a part of this brilliant project as it’s exactly what I wish I had had in those early days – support and inspiration from over 60 amazing women (including me!) to face the realities of motherhood, delivered over those first 3 challenging wonderful months.

If you know a new mama, please do think about getting this amazing pack for her for a gift (and if you buy a pack using this link, we get a contribution to support Story of Mum too. Thank you!).

The New Mama Welcome Pack - win a pack!

You can win one of two fabulous New Mama Welcome Packs with us this month! Just join our next #somum Make Date on twitter on Wednesday 9 April from 8.30 - 10pm GMT (find world times here) or by upload your New Mama Mantra to our gallery. Find out more here.

The New Mama Welcome Pack - visit the rest of the blog hop

              

Being a first-time mama is an amazing experience. The New Mama Welcome Pack blog hop is a celebration of this life changing event!

Follow the links to discover more unmissable advice, stories and essential tips. And if you’re a new mama who wants to rock motherhood without guilt, overwhelm or losing yourself, check out the New Mama Welcome Pack here.

New Mama Welcome Pack / Lotte Lane / Dreaming Aloud / Birthing in Conscious Choice / Natalie Garay / Knecht Ruprecht / Lise Meijer / Naomi Goodlet / A Lifestyle By Design / Story of Mum / Like a Bird / Holistic Mama / Birth Geek / Joyful Parenting / Stroller Packing / My Healthy Beginning / Mums and More / Kate Beddow - Growing Spirits / Ellen Nightingale / Stacie Whitney / Maternity Leavers / Photography for Busy Parents / Close Enough To Kiss / Atelier Susana Tavares / Offbeat Family / Katie m. Berggren ~ Painting Motherhood / Winship Wellness Blog / Liberate From Weight / Jessica Cary / Raising Playful Tots / Peaceful Mothering / Play Activities / Lauren Nenna / The Adventure Mama / Be Wise Be Healthy / Doula in Your Pocket / Making Mom Strong / Adrienn Csoknyay / Joyful Parents / Simple Solutions for Photos / Lynne Newman / Mumpreneur Mentor / A Walk in the Clouds / Parenting on the Fence / MiaMily

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