Hello my name is Kate, and I attended an Ann Summers party.

We’ve just moved house this summer to a new build estate. Because literally everyone  is new, there is a real sense of camaraderie and a building sense of community. We came to an afternoon street party the week before we moved in and the community facebook page is very active with everyone happy to help people moving into the estate. In general nearly everyone is very keen to make the effort to make friends. So when I was invited in passing by a woman who lives on the estate to her Ann Summers party I thought nothing of it. I’ve been to a couple before and honestly completely forgot about the invite altogether until my husband came back from Beg’s play date at our neighbour’s house and said “You off out tonight are you?”  My automatic response was I can’t really be arsed but I’d had a funny day where for various and sundry reasons I was feeling like I didn’t really fit in anywhere and ultimately I decided it might be a good excuse to get to know the neighbours a bit better. A lot better it turned out but then I guess an Ann Summers party is quite far removed from tea and scones with the vicar.

I made it an excuse to put some make up on and wash my hair. Husband is always very accomodating on these occasions (probably happens twice annually) and takes over ‘entertaining the baby’ without asking where anything is for half an hour. Beg gets very excited being the very girly type of little girl that she is and always has been -the mere mention of lip gloss gets her attention- so Rich will distract her for as long as possible but then she will make her way upstairs for a good nosy at what I’m wearing. Asking me hugely philosophical questions that she doesn’t even realise the weight of like “but why do you wear eyeliner mummy?” which makes me want to scrub my face, stop shaving my legs and live in a hessian sack.

Anyway, all going well so far then suddenly a strange and faraway thought began to form in my mind…’*Should* I even be going to an Ann Summers party now that I’m a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N?’ Dun dun duhhhh! First of all I knew this was a stupid question because 1. Should I be anything-anything now I’m a Christian is just a really religious and oppressive way to conduct myself that I don’t wholly agree with; change should come on a fundamental level for good reason not superficially because I feel I need to live up to a set of religious standards. 2. Ask me should I do anything and just know I am certainly going to do it. Especially if there is an insinuation that I shouldn’t.  It’s just the way I’m wired. My best friend could tell you about the time she watched me scale a bridge on the outside ledge aged 10, over a road because someone said I shouldn’t. Not big or clever but did she know I was gonna do it? Yeah she did.

So armed with my bottle of prosecco I went and called for my neighbour and another neighbour came and called for her straight after and we three merrily set off through the estate each carrying our bottle of plonk. The party was well underway when we got there and as is always the case with these things, the atmosphere got more and more relaxed as time went on. I really belly laughed a lot at some of the things that were said (what happens at an Ann Summers party stays at an Ann Summers party I’m afraid) and had a really nice time. It was a bunch of women letting loose at the end of the week, having a giggle, sharing snippets of our lives, and enjoying it. Also we all only bought nice underwear. Honest. 😉

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

My daughter and I are both up and dressed. Baby has been crying all night and I’ve hardly slept but I’ve arranged to meet two friends at a soft play and don’t want to cancel on them.

Last night was the first night since bringing baby home from NICU that hubby has had to stay away for the night with work. The baby has been fretful for a few days, probably about a week now, we’ve been giving him colief. Yesterday though, he was bad all day so I booked in with the GP. I’m now thanking God I did. After a 4am google session I’m pretty convinced he has silent reflux. Which means his immature gut is not coping with digesting the milk but instead of throwing it up it only makes it so far up the gullet causing acid heartburn. Now I’m pacing the kitchen with him on my shoulder and he is screaming. It’s really loud. Dear God, why does he have this pain after everything he’s just been through. Logic kicks in “pain is the body’s way of telling us something is wrong.” There is definitely something wrong. Screaming, writhing, arching. I can hear the acid bubbling up, can feel it through my hand on his back. Oh my baby is in pain and there’s nothing I can do. He’s really screaming, do I go A&E to get him something to help? No, take it easy, it’s probably acid, try and calm him, he needs to sleep. Shush shush shush, switch on the oven extractor fan for the white noise. Still pacing, still screaming.

Shit I’m now half an hour late and still haven’t dressed the baby. It’s alright, it will be OK once we get out of the house. What else can I do? We have to ride it out until the GP appointment at 4pm. Everything will be OK then.  Can I expect him to be in this much pain for another 4 hrs? Am I just going to let my baby be in this much pain? I’m shit. No, it might get better. Get him in the Moby wrap see if he will sleep. Still screaming. “Mum when are we going out?” my 6 yr old calls from the living room. I go in “we are still going don’t worry” I shout over the baby. I get him in the wrap and keep pacing the kitchen. He manages to drop off. “Thank you Lord. Take the pain away from him please Lord.” Right, quickly text the girls see if they’re staying much longer. We’re really late now. Don’t give up, keep trying. It will be OK. Shit I’ve had about twelve messages. Reply to first one. Sorry baby ill. Second one says: “You OK,I’m quite worried now”. I reply “sorry baby ill”. I give up. “not gonna make it”. Baby wakes up crying bless him. Oh my God it’s actually woken him up. I feel so bad for him. I’m proper knackered. Shit I’m still crying. “Are you crying Mummy?” Oh God what is that worth in therapy terms, a month, two? “Yes babe I’m just sad that baby has pain and we’re not going out today I’m sorry.” She nearly complains but looks at the tears streaking down my face and just returns to watching T.V. instead. My six year old is way older than her years in emotional terms. I feel bad about that. Keep pacing, put him on my shoulder that seemed to help the most.

Manage to get the baby back off in the wrap when my friend calls about half hr later. “You alright?” “No, not really to be honest.” “Right, I’m coming up. You want a Big Mac?” She knows me better than I thought. My default kicks in. “No it’s alright, I got docs in an hour.” Would be nice for Beg to be able to play with my friend’s girl but I can’t help wondering what million things she has to do that she’s casually waving off. “I’m pretty sure it’s acid reflux.” My friend has recently been through the same with her youngest. She tells me some of her experience. She asks me questions, asks if I’m OK. She talks me down.

We get to the doctors and the afternoon sun is blaring through the window but the heating is on too. That is not helping. Babba is crying. I try to feed him but I think it makes it worse. He starts to scream again. I stand up with him. We’re both sweating. Beg is immersed in some awful game on my phone. “Dear God please let this not be affecting her.” Everyone is staring at me and the screaming baby. I’m stood up shushing him, trying to keep him upright. My bra is still undone. We finally get called in. The doctor asks what’s wrong, I start crying again while trying to explain. “You have to help me” I say. Shit she thinks I’m mental. She asks me to lie the baby down so she can strip him off and have a look at him. I’m dreading it, lying on his back is a no-no. She coos at him. He smiles! The biggest smile I’ve ever seen him do! A rush of love washes over me. I notice the quiet. My girl is reading a Peppa pig book on the floor. She looks up. She’s as surprised as me. The doctor says “Is mummy fibbing about you?” I know she’s joking and I almost laugh. Thankful. It’s hard to describe the non-stop-ness of the past 2 days. She prescribes medicine. “Thank you God”. Baby starts to cry again as she is explaining the script to me. I can’t hear her, I’ll read it later. Come back in 2 weeks she says. Thank you.

Babba drops off to sleep in the Moby wrap on the walk over to the chemist. He’s exhausted. He wakes up crying while we’re still waiting for our prescription. People are staring so I sit down to feed him again although I don’t know if it will make it worse. I can hear the acid bubbling up. A lady who works there comes over “I’m not asking you to move but if you would like to use the side room you can.” “My 6yr old is enjoying looking at the lip gloss” I reply. Internal dialogue adds –it’s the only thing she’s had just for her all day. The lady goes over and helps show Beg the lip glosses. I am insanely grateful.

Finally we get back home and my husband is back. I realise he has no clue about anything as I haven’t had time to speak to him or text. He takes the baby. I feel relieved, then guilty about feeling relieved. Beg shows him her new lip gloss. She doesn’t seem too traumatised. I don’t really speak to him just go to prepare the medicine. It seems to work. Baby falls asleep. I update hubby. What a day.

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Time and time again this last week the word ‘community’ has popped up in my daily life.

For instance, the Vegan Supper Club I went to was held in a community building; an old building that would have been knocked down or left derelict had someone not decided to put the time in and make it a community cafe. The school we visited this week to have a look at for Beg is a community school which means it is open to various clubs like football and Tae Kwon Do after school hours – I didn’t even know there were such things as community schools. This word keeps cropping up and it got me thinking about the community of women I became a part of when I became a mum.

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Me trying to work out my mum.

My relationship with my own mum has always been ‘unique’. Have you ever seen goats on the side of a mountain? They scale sheer rock faces – with hooves not claws- and make it look easy. It seems if they stopped to think about it they would probably fall off. That is just the conditions they are used to and that is kind of the best way I can concisely explain my relationship with my mum. I try to honour her especially for Beg’s sake. Point being I don’t have the luxury of the close knit support that a lot of my friends seem to have with their mum’s. Now before you get the violins out, it’s really fine, remember the goats? This is my normal. BUT it came to be that I had to seek out my own forms of female peer support which is why this post is actually going to be very positive.

When my girl was born 6yrs ago I went to approximately 102 baby groups. Happy hands & twinkly toes, tots play, baby massage, ti-a-fi (that’s a welsh language baby group called you and me *I think*) my local breastfeeding support group (where I did the breastfeeding peer support course) and my local La Leche League group to name a few off the top of my head. Beg had a very busy social schedule. But I didn’t get it. I would go to these groups but not make an effort with any of the other mums. I told myself I was there for Beg’s development and socialisation and the rest of it didn’t matter. I met a few other mums through these groups that I am still friends with now (yay for mummy friends) but it was more through their effort than mine (thank you!).

When my baby boy came along, I knew things were going to be different. In hindsight I realised I got so much out of all those little groups, most of them entirely run by volunteers, that I was excited to join them again this time around. I didn’t sign up for ante-natal classes with Beb’s pregnancy so instead I got in touch with other friends who were pregnant too. That was great because we had a right old moan about our differing pregnancy ailments! Not only that, I hired a doula who was a great source of support for me throughout my pregnancy and during Beb’s traumatic birth. My doula invited me to the home-birth meet she facilitates where I met other mums who were planning a home-birth and through that I also met a lady who hires slings and I hired one which helped no end with Beb’s silent reflux. My doula also helped me tap into my ready and waiting support network-my friends- by organising a Blessingway. The work of a doula is often referred to as ‘mothering the mother’ which is exactly what I needed.

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Now Beb is here and at home I am still consciously seeking out woman to woman support. I realise the importance of hearing other mums’ experiences and being able to share mine if I want to. The La Leche League is my top favourite group for this. I am really fortunate that my local LLL group has been run by the same leaders for years so when I went back recently, they remembered me. The leaders happen to be very well regarded locally having each done lots of training, however, the emphasis is that the group is ‘mother to mother support’ and the leaders are there as mums to support other mums. I love that we’re all there to help each other brand new or 5 kids in; I love the whole ethos of mums helping other mums. There’s definitely a power in it when women support each other so open heartedly.

You may assume that actively seeking out support means I have been buzzing about meeting lots of people at different groups, but actually I have been a lot more selective this time round. I know which groups are likely to be most beneficial to me personally and so have prioritised getting to those ones over other things. For me this has included prayer meet at church (even though I’ve only made it once so far). Not just as some consumer type person who turns up gets what they need and leaves but also contributing my experiences and a listening ear to other mums there too. Some days I might be having a difficult day and don’t have much to say, some times I might not make it because I didn’t make it out of the house, but that’s OK too.

I have also accepted (and asked for) help a lot more this time from hubby’s family, which they are happy to give 🙂 When I had a tummy bug, my mother in law did 3 or 4 school runs that week. When I couldn’t face Beb’s first injections my sister in law came with me and took him in for me.

There is support out there but you have to be brave and go and actively seek it! Most groups have facebook pages now so you could introduce yourself on there first. I sent one message that said “I’m visiting your group on my own for the first time today please do say hello!” It feels funny to do but we’ve all been there and most of us know what it’s like to be a bit nervous going to a group for the first time.

I find these days I’m much more social and will chat to other mums wherever I am. I feel like we all have our different challenges and parenting styles but essentially we’re in the same kind of life stage. I might not know your story and you might not know mine but a smile to say we’re doing it, we’re here in Tesco, doing the stuff that needs doing, can make all the difference in a day.

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Wondering about hiring a Doula? Check out Doula UK

Breastfeeding? Any age…check out La Leche League to find your local group.

Admissions Of A Working Mother
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday