The Mummytime Pop-Up Event

Mummytime creche

A few weeks ago, I was very lucky to be invited along to the first ever Mummytime pop-up event that took place at the Carnegie Hall Library in Herne Hill, south London. The brainchild of first time parents, Lucy and Galina, Mummytime was created very much with new  mums in mind, giving them a couple of hours to focus on themselves- whether that be with a back massage or manicure in the pop-up spa, joining in with a discussion group, or, (my nectar) tea and cake- all whilst their little ones are cared for in the on-site creche.

IT SOUNDED RUDDY FANTASTIC.

So off Frank and I trotted one dismal Tuesday morning. Horrendous south-circular traffic aside, we arrived only 20 minutes late, and once I’d got rid of my sodden coat (drenched from the 30 second walk from car to venue), stuffed all my various parenting paraphernalia in to the Babyjogger, sorted Frank out, retrieved my camera and parked up in the buggy park, I was able to take a deep breath and let the me-time begin.

I’d been booked in for a pamper package at 12.30pm, so had a good hour and a half to wander round and see all that was on offer. First stop was the Bundle of Joy stand, which we’d been made aware of prior to the event. A local initiative to the Herne Hill community,  Bundle of Joy is designed to redistribute outgrown children’s clothing to support families in the local area, and although this didn’t apply to me, I was more than happy to help so had come armed with a small bag of good quality clothes that Frank had outgrown.

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Relieved of the extra weight (I had a camera on one shoulder and a 16lb heffalump on the other), Frank and I wandered from stall to stall, chatting to the local artisans who had been invited along by Lucy and Galina to show off their wares. From vintage homeware items and antique jewellery, to posh soaps, textiles sourced from Ethiopia, a garden designer and a cake maker who was raffling off a ‘cupcake bouquet’ later that day, I thought the stalls were unique, interesting and relevant to the local community… if a little out of my pathetic statutory maternity pay affordings. A thoroughly enjoyable half hour was spent none-the-less.

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After all that nattering (and posing of a grumpy Frank in the baby photobooth area), it was time for us both to eat. AYA Cafe had come along to provide an impressive array of sandwiches, cakes, fresh juices and hot drinks, and my chicken, cheese and chutney grilled sandwich on homemade sourdough bread was fantastic, if a little sloppy to eat with Frank on my lap. Step in a fellow mummy called Jo who was sat close by and offered to hold him whilst we compared parenting notes and I very inelegantly stuffed the delicious and dripping concoction down my throat. Thank you Jo. And apologies you had to watch me cover myself in hot chutney.

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Finally it was time for the main event, the part I had most definitely been waiting for… my Chilled Out Chica pamper package. For a £50 ticket there were a selection of pamper packages available (singular treatments were £30) and included entry to the event, use of the on-site creche, and access to the expert talks on nutrition and personal fitness that were taking place throughout the morning- although I didn’t get a chance to partake in these. The Chilled Out Chica consisted of a 25 minute back and shouder massage, and a 25 minute reflexology session- all whilst Frank was having fun (for the best part) courtesy of Harmony at Home who were running the pop-up creche in the room next door.

Now, with the whole event taking place in a library, I wasn’t expecting lush spa surroundings, but the team from Return to Glory had done a pretty good job sectioning off a large and unremarkable library room in to calm and private treatment areas. My therapist, Jacquie, was lovely, and the back massage in particular was brilliant. I got a little distracted through the reflexology session as the wails of my child from the next room gently (and then not so gently) drifted in. He was well overdue a nap, so I found myself thinking things like “I hope they’ve found his dummy in the bag I left with them”, and “I should have told them he likes to be rocked”, as opposed to, “Oh my goodness, what are you doing to my little toe? That feels DIVINE.” Anyway, 10 minutes before the end the wails stopped, and I emerged, bleary-eyed and dodgy-haired, to a quiet Frank conked out in the arms of an (exhausted) creche lady. A success, I’d say!

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It was a very lovely way to spend a morning, and although the location wasn’t brilliant for me personally being based in Kent (the south circular is one of my most hated things in the world), I absolutely love the whole idea behind Mummytime. It is an enormous and exhausting job being the full time parent, and though it seems awfully decadent to spend a morning being pampered, it is something all mums deserve once in a while. And whilst £50 is a lot of money on meagre maternity wages, I think that for two treatments and good quality childcare, it’s actually incredibly good value. Something I’d certainly ‘encourage’ Paul to treat me to anyway…

As the very first event, there are a couple of teeny tiny things I think could be improved to make this excellent venture even better. Perhaps the stalls could be a little more relevant to mothers and babies- a clothes and toys swap for instance? A local sling library? And although Carnegie Hall was beautiful and tranquil (and is unfortunately due to close this month, hence why Lucy and Galina wanted to support it by holding the event there), the toilets/baby changing facilities weren’t ideal with it being an older building.

A calm and relaxing morning with a community feel; I’m pretty sure the ladies of Herne Hill will be looking forward to the next event should it take place in that area again, and I hope that Mummytime is something that will start rolling out across London (and eventually the country!) soon. Having spoken to Lucy and Galina, I know that ticket prices may vary depending on venue/location, but you can sign up here to be the first to hear about the next pop-up event, and if you visit them on their Facebook page, they’re currently running a competition to give away a free ticket to the next event if you tell them where it should take place and share their page!

What do you think? Is this something you’d like to do as a new mum?

Til’ next time you lovely lot…

Sama xx

(On a side note, I know it has been AN AGE since I’ve checked in properly. I’m actually off to Canada tomorrow to introduce Frank to my Mum’s side of the family, but when I’m back I promise a big Frank/life update. Can you believe he’s SIX MONTHS this week?? I can’t. I actually can’t.)

 

 

 

 

 

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The Frank Diaries: Out of The Fog

I have logged on to finish this blog post so many times now, I’ve been that close to scrapping it altogether and writing about something totally different. I wasn’t exactly a regular blogger to begin with, but now I have a young baby who fights sleep all day long unless it’s on me, it’s become even more difficult to find the time to get online. Ok, let me rephrase that. I spend all day online. On my phone. One handed whilst breastfeeding/cuddling/housing a sleeping baby. But it’s become even more difficult to sit at a laptop and type. Is there a machine that will allow me to dictate future blog posts, I wonder? There should be.

What I originally set out to write about was the torrid time I had in those first few weeks. Reading this post back to myself, it now seems incredibly bleak, and, I’m pleased to say, out of date. Nearly 10 weeks in, we’re well out of the fog and I’m very much enjoying my beautiful, stubborn, funny baby and starting to enjoy the monotonous repetitive simple existence that is maternity leave postpartum. But I’m going to share it anyway. As is the way with this blog, my witterings serve not only as a permanent reminder for myself (and a good form of contraception when I start to think I could handle a second child), but hopefully as something for other shell-shocked, grieving, exhausted new mums to relate to.

So anyway. Here it is.

The First Two Weeks

I vividly remember what a close friend (and now mum to two beautiful babies) once told me when I asked how it was going after her first child was born. She said: “The only way I can describe it is devastating. Our life has been devastated.” I think there may even have been tears in her eyes as she said it. (Or I could hear it in her voice- I can’t actually remember if this was by phone call or face to face.)

Either way, the emotion behind and the conviction with which she said this simple statement really did take me by surprise. At this point I didn’t have many friends with babies, so my contact with new mums had gone little beyond a congratulatory card in the post, followed perhaps by a “Hey! Sprog is gorgeous. How’s it all going?” text several weeks later.

As I’m sure many of you can relate tomy Facebook feed these days is full of baby-related status’ (amongst the Buzzfeed articles and cat compilation videos). Proud arrival announcements, babies dressed as pumpkins/Christmas puddings/Easter bunnies depending on the time of year, selfies of mum and baby in bed together, all traces of exhaustion masked by a carefully selected Instagram filter (ahem, guilty). Prior to having my own baby I was led to believe that giving birth was horrendous and that sleep deprivation would be a killer, but that it would all be worth it because once he was here I would realise what true love really felt like, unicorns would sing, and life as I knew it would be complete.

I’ll be honest, the first two weeks with Frank were horrible. HORRIBLE. Whilst there were moments when I’d stare in wonder and bewilderment at this tiny person I’d created (usually when he was asleep), and tentatively whisper “I love you, Frank”, hoping that I meant it, the vast majority of the time I was experiencing one or several of the following emotions:

fear

Arriving home from the hospital I just remember feeling scared. Scared of the night ahead without professional support, scared of Frank, scared of the next time he’d want to feed (breastfeeding was excruciatingly painful before I discovered nipple shields, but that’s a whole other story), even scared of my much-loved home that now felt totally alien due to this strange creature we’d just brought in to it.

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Paul and I were shell-shocked. We were exhausted. Nothing was the same and everything was different. The life that we had spent ten years building together, the daily routines we’d established, the evenings we’d under-appreciated and the simple things that made us happy… gone. Those first few days were largely spent mourning our freedom and old life. And this made us both immensely sad. One evening I vividly remember gripping his hand tightly and whispering “I want to go back”. And meaning it. Which of course leads to…

guilt

How could I be mourning our old life? How could I even be contemplating a desire to go back and not get pregnant? It’s what I had so desperately wanted and struggled to get. It’s what thousands of women across the globe desperately want and struggle to have. Paul and I had created a life, a little miracle, yet in those early days I genuinely believed we’d made a ginormous mistake. And don’t even get me started on Lenny. Our ginger fur ball, our ‘first-borne son’ as Paul affectionately calls him, who was completely freaked out and all but disappeared in those first few days. Several times I would seek him out in a lonely corner of our house, bury my wet, snotty face in his fur and whisper “I’m sorry, Lenny, we still love you, don’t hate us”.

exhaustion

You don’t know what true exhaustion is unless you’ve made it to the final interrogation stages of SAS: Who Dares Wins, or you’ve just had a baby. In the 62 hours between going in to early labour and leaving hospital I think I got about 3 hours sleep. Once home, I was lucky to get 2-3 hours of broken Z’s a night for the first week. Physically, you can deal with it; the adrenaline somehow keeps you going. But it’s the mental exhaustion that’s the killer. That’s what had me in tears multiple times a day for a reason I couldn’t even begin to understand or articulate.

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Due to Paul’s job, he was only able to take a week off work, and before I knew it he was kissing me goodbye at 8am on a Monday morning and shutting the front door behind him, leaving me…and Frank. After the initial what the hell do I do now panic, we’d somehow make our way downstairs and set up camp on the sofa. And there we would remain for the majority of the day.

My favourite time of day, a moment of calm and respite, was late morning. Frank would either be feeding or asleep on me, tea and biscuits would have been consumed, Facebook/Instagram/Bloglovin’ scoured, Holly and Phil’s friendly, familiar faces on the tellybox. Despite the severe lack of sleep, this was cosy and comforting and quite nice.

I was also lucky enough to have someone pop in nearly every day- whether it was my Mum, Paul’s mum, a close friend or even the midwife. I wasn’t good company of course- more often than not I would just cry and talk about how bleak life had become and how much I wasn’t enjoying it- but the support was there, and for that I will always be so, so grateful.

But, by heck, those first couple of weeks were lonely.

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What you get when you combine all the above. The ‘Baby Blues’ as they like to call it. There’s no doubt about it, for the first two weeks I was seriously glum.

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Glum. (But definitely enjoying sofa snuggles.)

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8 days old and doing his best Mr Burns from The Simpsons impression.

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The calm after the ‘hysterics at 3am’ storm.

Things didn’t suddenly get better once we entered week three, but it was at this point that I realised I had to snap out of my misery and self pity, and began to see the woods for the trees. (I have no idea what that phrase means, but I think it’s contextually accurate.) Feeding had become infinitely better, I was getting more like 4 hours of broken sleep a night which was meagre but manageable, Frank and I had established some sort of daytime routine, and- wait for it- I was getting out and about, even if it was just to walk down to the corner shop to buy yet another pack of bourbon biscuits.

Much has happened between now and then. We’ve had the dreaded ‘colic’, on-going jaundice, dabbles with cranial osteopathy, a bout of mastitis, and a tongue tie division (and subsequent regrowth). I may well go back and expand on some of these events at some point, but given the time it’s taken me to share this particular passage of time, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

In the meantime, I want to say to any new mums what I was told again and again in those early weeks.

It does get better.

Infinitely better, in fact. He will still frequently and inexplicably scream the house down, his sleep is seriously questionable and I worry every day that I’m not doing this parenting lark very well. My breasts are unrecognisable, Paul and I get infuriated with each other far more often than we used to, and I still miss my independence immensely.

But I can now say that I am well and truly, head over heels in love with my little boy. I mean… look at him!

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Til next time…

Sama xx

The Frank Diaries: His Arrival

I have given birth.

The majority of you will know this already due to my social media updates, but if you’re an occasional blog reader, you may have been wondering why it’s all gone a bit quiet about these parts of late.

Life has changed.

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Meet Frank.

Four weeks old today, Master Frank William Hemsley is entirely responsible for my radio silence. I’ve been attempting to write this blog post since the week after his arrival but have just managed a paragraph here and there before he’s required my attention again, or I’ve chosen sleep instead, or more visitors have arrived, or I’ve just decided to stare at his face in total and utter shell shock.

I want to talk and talk. I want to go in to vivid detail about the first few days, about our feeding dramas, the baby blues, the devastation that is severe sleep deprivation, the endless googling, and, of course, the moments of stupendous awe and wonder that wash over me when he’s asleep on my chest, or clasping my finger, or gurgling away happily in his daddy’s arms. And I will… in time. Hence why I’ve started The Frank Diaries. Entries might be super short- just a little snippet of life with Frank I feel compelled to share in a spare moment. Or they might be a little longer, written over a few days or weeks as this post has.

Many of you may not be interested in baby stuff, but life with a newborn is all-consuming so I’m afraid I’m finding it rather hard to focus on anything else at the moment! I have wedding updates from Jennie and Paris to share, as well as Part 2 of my Utterly Wow 2015 Season post… but I’m hoping for now you will indulge me and my need to talk baby.

But first… his birth story.

A couple of days before...

A couple of days before…

At my 39 week midwife appointment I asked for a membrane sweep. I wasn’t desperate to have him then and there but I really didn’t want to be two weeks late and hoped the sweep would just move things along a little bit. After 2 minutes of painful prodding and poking up there, my nice midwife peeled off her gloves with a shake of her head. My cervix was high and to the side- which meant it didn’t look like labour was imminent. I thanked her anyway for inflicting such pain upon me unnecessarily (although I had noone to blame but myself), and gingerly went about my day.

At 1.30am that night I woke up in some discomfort. After going for a wee, I got back in to bed and the back ache began. Two hours of ouch ouch OUCH surges that felt almost on top of each other and had me lying awake wondering if this was the start of something. At 3.30am I downloaded a contractions app, crept downstairs to a dark living room and began timing. They were roughly every 8 or 9 minutes lasting about 40 seconds each. Painful, but bearable. At around 6.45am I took my oblivious husband a coffee and informed him that I believed I was in early labour. Ever the gallant knight, he leapt out of bed to get me some paracetamol, propped me up in bed with supportive pillows, and finished packing the hospital bag in preparation for our imminent departure.

Ah, who am I kidding? Bleary-eyed and just a little bit dubious, he questioned my claims, thanked me sarcastically for having an early sweep when he’d wanted me to wait it out, and asked if he could go in to work still as he had an important meeting. Of course, I knew from friends’ experiences and reading too many online birth stories that early labour can take hours and even days, so I allowed him to leave me on the condition that he’d come home immediately if things ramped up. As such he didn’t need to. The contractions continued steadily all day and he arrived home at 5pm to find me bent over the birthing ball with a TENS machine attached to my back like a total cliché. By this point the contractions were every 2-4 minutes lasting a minute each, so on my third pleading phone call to the hospital, they allowed us to make our way in to be assessed.

After a lengthy wait in triage due to a lady giving birth in the corridor toilet outside our room (!), a nice but somewhat distracted midwife told me I was 2-3cm dilated- not enough to stay at the hospital, much to my despair. Back home we went in a car journey from hell, with the instruction to have some dinner and a bath and they would see me back at the hospital later on that night, they were sure. Contractions had really ramped up by this point, and after managing a couple of mouthfuls of rice whilst bent over the birthing ball (I avoided the chilli as really didn’t want to see it make an unwelcome reappearance later on), I waddled to the loo only to discover I had begun bleeding quite heavily. We were back at the hospital within an hour and a half.

The bleeding was a concern so at 3-4cm dilated they allowed me to stay, this time hooked up to a machine so they could monitor baby’s heart rate and the contractions which, by now, were excruciating. It’s worth pointing out that Paul had truly stepped into his gallant knight shoes by this point and upon my very un lady-like commands was leaping up to furiously knead my lower back as each surge swept in. Birth partner brownie points to him.

About 9.30pm we were told a room was ready for me in Delivery Suite and I waddled round, clinging on to Paul for dear life. “And this is the room you’ll be having your baby”, declared a young, smiley midwife, as she showed us in to a vast, clinical and totally unremarkable hospital room. I thanked her anyway (I was half expecting her to reveal the ‘room rate’ next, Four In A Bed stylee), and veered straight for the nearest piece of furniture I could bend over.

My birthing midwife arrived and introduced herself at this point, and I found myself begging for pain relief, to which she completely flummoxed me by saying “Sure, what would you like? Epidural? Pethadine? Gas and air?”. For some reason I thought an epidural would only be offered when I was in the throes of active labour or when I’d exhausted every other possibility, but my ability to think rationally or decisively had, by this point, completely vanished. I looked bewilderedly at Paul who suggested I start with gas and air which the midwife proceeded to get ready for me.

Still standing (I think- it all becomes a bit of a blur at this point), with the next contraction came an extreme pressure down below. Having watched way too many episodes of One Born Every Minute, I knew this was something I should make the midwife aware of, who seemed intrigued by this announcement and told me to get on the bed so she could assess me. “Do you want the good news?” she asked, after a few seconds of poking and stretching, “you’re 10cm dilated.”

I genuinely don’t think I have ever been as shocked in my entire life, and my response (something along the lines of: “SHUT THE F**K UP”) I suspect conveyed this. To have gone from 4cm to 10cm in around 40 minutes went some way to explaining why I’d been bleeding so heavily, but having glanced at the clock when we came in the room and thinking I would most likely be labouring all night, I couldn’t believe that it was time to push and that it was very possible I’d be giving birth THAT DAY.

The next and final half an hour is a little more difficult to recollect, as by now I was sucking furiously on the gas and air and speaking mainly gobbledygook. What I do know is as follows:

  • The midwife briefly disappeared (presumably to get ready for the pushing stage) and whilst Paul tried to understand my attempts at gas and air fuelled communication, we became aware of an alarm sound that was coming from the heart rate machine and steadily getting louder.
  • Paul popped his head out in to the corridor to alert someone, and within minutes a swarm of doctors, nurses and whoever else was passing by (or so it felt like) were in the room, wheeling in various bits of machinery and talking at me urgently.
  • I heard “baby’s heart rate” and “forceps delivery”. I also heard my name lots. One woman raised the stirrups next to the bed and put my legs in them; another callously ripped the tube from my mouth that was feeding me the blissful high and told me to hold on to the bed handles instead.
  • I briefly caught glimpse of the ginormous forceps and instantly wished I hadn’t.
  • When it was time to push- “In to your bottom, Sama, like you’re doing a big poo“- I got way too het up about the technicalities. “Like I’m actually trying to push out a poo? What if I do poo? I don’t want to poo!”
  • My fear of unwittingly releasing my bowels in front of an entire medical team meant the first three pushes I did were pathetic. I knew they were pathetic at the time, and yet I did them anyway. I effectively just tensed my stomach and groaned for effect. The doctors weren’t impressed and at this point starting shouting at me.
  • Realising it was actually quite urgent, and with the numbing effects of the gas and air fading away, I pushed properly and I pushed long and hard. With shouts of encouragement from everyone around me, and a doctor pulling on the forceps as hard as she could (I swear she was pushing against the bed with her foot), his head crowned and a baby’s cry filled the air which was simultaneously surreal, terrifying and wonderful.
  • Cue a very surreal minute as we waited for the next and final contraction: me, so grateful and relieved the hard part was over, Paul, glancing down to look at his first borne’s head and seeing a view of his wife he would never be able to unsee.

And with a final push this little purple alien was pulled out of me and plonked on my chest, crying as loud and as hard as he possibly could. Due to the forceps and the speed in which he must have been forced down my birth canal, he looked completely bashed up. I’d like to say I felt instant love but it wasn’t like that. I felt a connection, no doubt about that, but the main feeling I had was that of shock and bewilderment. He was here. This was my son. This was Frank.

Holy shitballs.

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Minutes old.


16 hours old and fresh out of the boxing ring.

16 hours old and fresh out of the boxing ring.

LOVE

‘Til the next time I make it to the laptop…

Sama xxx