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Creating a community group

Since starting the community group 10 months ago, I have welcomed over 75 women through the door. My objective was to create a warm and welcoming environment that created a safe space for mums to come to and get some peer support. I also wanted to offer some pampering sessions/treatments that  could help melt tension away or just help mums feel a little more relaxed within their own bodies.

The group currently offers hand massages and reiki once a month, and these services are delivered by volunteers . I also have a local CBT therapist, who volunteers one a month, she offers advice within the group or 45 minute one on one sessions. I provide breakfast, hot drinks, fruit and snacks every session and we have created a really support space where mums support each other with their children and share experiences with no judgement. We have so many different people come and chat and support the group, it really is a great sense of community and a real safe haven for mums.

My initial thoughts were that the group would be for new mums, so mums with children aged 0-2 yrs. However, I really had no real plan in which direction it would go. I have just let it grow organically and followed the needs of the women who attend. The group is open to all women at any stage of motherhood. so it doesn’t matter how old your children are, YOU ARE WELCOME!

Children are welcome and we have a nice space for them too. I am extremely thankful for the time and effort the volunteers put in, because without them it would be difficult to run. I also run the sessions over the holidays (when I’m not away), and we called them ‘Family sessions’. We use the centre to meet up and do crafts, play games etc. It gives mums that port of call when the idea of the school holidays can feel isolating and expensive.

Here is what a couple of the mums have said about attending the group –

” I just want to thank you for this morning. I’ve come home feeling lighter! It was so refreshing to go to a group and not feel like you needed to play a certain role or worry about what people think of you. I think what you’re doing is fantastic.”

” I enjoy coming to the group as it is a relief to be around like-minded people. Whether you want to vent about your feelings or just sit and listen. Just having somewhere to go where there is no pressure or pretence is a great benefit to me.”

As well a the support group session I also have a closed Facebook group that encourages women to share their concerns or experiences but also offer each advice. Not every can get to the group session so this is another support resource for them to use.

Vik ❤

 

 

 

 

Surprise pregnancy, and letting go of the uncontrollable ❤️

I remember finding out I was pregnant with my first baby and literally squealing. My husband always says the best moment of his life is “you waving that test you had to pee on and shouting we’re having a baby” 😂

It was amazing and bar the usual bit of ‘baby blues’ or tears from not much sleep my postpartum experience was pretty standard and straight forward. Her birth was not the most straight forward but I was so proud of myself for showing such endurance, for getting through it, having never experienced anything like that before. I had a great network of friends and a lot of us had baby’s around the same time. It was great, and the days that weren’t so great, well we had each other to lean on and that really helped.

Fast forward two years and I had just finished my degree as a mature student, I got offered a job as a support worker; working with some of the most vulnerable mothers and families in the country and I was so happy. Everything in my life was balanced, and on ‘track’ with my 5 year plan, and I was just so content.

We had just been on holiday with friends, it was a celebration of finishing my degree, a break before starting my new job, a chance to have fun and make memories with people super close to us. It was my time of the month before we were going, so I got tablets from the docs to stop that and got on with my holiday, it was a great week.

However, there were times over the week I felt nauseous, weepy, and tired, but I put all this down to just finishing my degree and feeling overwhelmed about it. I did eat a hotdog on holiday and loved it. Now anyone that knows me, knows I would NEVER eat a hotdog like the ones on the holiday buffet, but I did and I savoured EVERY bloody bite 🤢 I should of known there and then really!!!! 🤦‍♀️

We got home after a lovely week away and After about 5 days, I thought, Hmmm I should of had my period by now! I stopped those tablets on the second to last day, my boobs felt a bit tender, but I just thought, ‘oh well I’ll ask the pharmacist, as i need to go chemist later’, and pushed any further thought away. The pharmacist advised (with a face like this 😳) you should take a pregnancy test. My face did this 😏 “We are careful”, I said in a smug voice; I told her, “theres no way”. I bought a test anyway and took it home. An hour or so later, I did it, AND guess what?? I’d not even pulled my trousers up and there they were… two little pink lines…. oops!!

I swore, I felt faint, I held on to the radiator for a minute or so. It was so obvious I was pregnant, but because I hadn’t planned it to happen that soon, I simply didn’t recognise the signs, or you could say I totally ignored them!! My head was spinning; how/when did this happen? (I didn’t need a lesson in biology), I just could not pin point when it could of happened, we were careful!!

I was happy, of course! We wanted a second baby, it was definitely going happen, but I was so shocked it had happened NOW. My new job, my 5year plan, I was only three years in and now this was totally going to change the route if it. Martin (my husband), what would he say??? (Well it was his fault anyway, obviously!!). I didn’t tell him till he got home that night and we had bathed and put Eva to bed. I then just handed him the test, and well, he was over the moon, beaming from ear to ear ❤️. I was over the moon and we both laughed and hugged, but I was worried too and just REALLY surprised.

My colleagues and boss were so supportive, I got on with my new role but I was exhausted; a toddler to look after, a new job and everything that goes with pregnancy. I had a great pregnancy, it was smooth and the baby was healthy and fine, but the tiredness was an absolute killer. I worked until 39 weeks, and also had to have regular consultant appointments because of my previous birth and a cervix issue. I was confident my second birth would be much more straightforward (the consultants were very confident), and when baby finally turned at 39 weeks to head down, well it was just a waiting game.

I was confident I would be early, my body was so heavy, I was starting to swell around my ankles and then the tears started. 40 weeks (due date) came and baby was still comfy. Over the next 10 days I had three sweeps to trigger labour, but I SOMEHOW managed to get to 41 weeks and 5 days when I was booked in for an induction.

I was having mild pains the day before and that morning but nothing to make me think, this is it! I arrived at hospital at 3pm and was introduced to my midwife, after the initial chats and checks, she examined me and I was 3cm 😁, she held off induction and just gave me a really good sweep.

It all sped up from that point. My first daughter was back to back and an extremely long labour that ended in a ventouse and forceps delivery, in theatre. She was stuck on my pubic bone, and She could not come down the birth canal. Her face was black, blue and purple when she was born due to hitting off my me for the hours I was pushing, we were a bit shocked when we saw her. It was so emotional but I was just relieved it was over and we were both ok. I was so confident this was not going to happen again.

This time round the labour felt much easier, the contractions were much more manageable, it was going so smoothly. My sister arrived at the hospital and the contractions were every 2 minutes.

They took me to the birthing pool at 9 pm and I was still chatting and joking in between contractions. Then BAM, all of sudden the pain went from “OWWW”to “what the fuck is happening to me”, having never felt Eva make her way down the birth canal, I just went with; trying to stay calm and focused, but it was like I was being ripped open with every contraction. It was the strangest feeling, it wasn’t even like pain, it was indescribable, it was the worse thing I ever felt and it made me cry out, and make some extremely strange noises. The baby’s head eventually became visible and thats when they noticed she was the ‘wrong way round’. I thought they meant breech, so did my husband and my sister who were my birthing partners. I remember thinking, FUCK I just need to get it out. I even shouted “just get it out”, She wasn’t breech, she was back to back (just like Eva), and face up so, the biggest part of her head was trying to come out first. The midwives were struggling to find the heart beat and thats when they tried to get me out the pool to give me an episiotomy. I just couldn’t get out, I tried, they all tried dragging me out on to a bed, another person brought a defibrillator in for her, but another contraction came and I just said “oh no”, I swatted down and like ‘a missile leaving a plane’ (my husband’s description), out she flew, right under my leg and across the bottom of the pool.

It felt like time stood still, but it was about 3 seconds, before we all realised and I grabbed her, to my husbands cry…” shit the baby is out”. It was pretty dramatic and and something I will never ever forget, we were all a bit stunned (midwives included), but she ok. I was ok, and, It was a GIRL 💗

I held her in the pool for a few seconds and she poo’d all over me, she was covered in the white stuff and to be frank, it was messy. The midwife took her off me to be checked, but it was minutes before she was back in the room. She was absolutely fine 😊. The pool water was disgusting, blood, poo (mine included 🤦‍♀️), white bits, it was horrid. Nothing like the serene water births I’d watched Online where women had their husband in the pool and the water was clear, even after birth. It was disgusting I wanted out!!

I delivered the placenta on the bed and that’s when the midwife said that I had torn. She wanted the consultant to see it as she thought it was 3rd degree. The next hour was really not nice, actually it was the next five hours. To get to the point, I had to go to theatre and be stitched up for two And half hours. Panic started to kick in, but the midwife held my hand the whole time and helped me stay calm. I was gutted that I laboured so well and quick to then experience that delivery and be separated from my baby. Martin and baby C-S waited outside.

The next 24hrs were very emotional, and I was in a state of shock. Martin just couldn’t speak, and we were both just like 😳 where was my calm hypno birth. Why couldn’t I just give birth normally?? Why was there drama and why again did I have to have a spinal and end up in theatre, I was very very hard on myself. But we also felt very lucky that the both of us were fine. It was such a mixture of emotions.

Straight away I knew Isla (we named her) was going to have struggles, I could tell by how stiff she was and by her cry. The first few months were very difficult. She was in so much pain from the silent reflux and colic, she didn’t sleep at night unless she was upright and on me and I felt like I was failing her massively as a mother.

I took her to see an osteopath, I cut dairy out my diet as I was breast feeding, I massaged her all the time, but every day I knew that come four/five O’clock she would be screaming. I would be trying to give Eva her tea, but this time of day would also be ‘witching hour’ for Eva. She was tired, hungry, grumpy and just wanted my attention, but I couldn’t just ignore the screaming baby. So I ended up letting Eva watch kids YouTube on my phone which in turn created it’s own nightmare in terms of her behaviour. How the hell do you juggle a screaming baby and a over emotional 2.5 year old?? I still have no idea 🤷‍♀️

Physically I was still recovering from birth, it took at good 5 months before I didn’t feel sore anymore. I now fully understand why midwives and doctors perform episiotomies if they think you need it. I had one with Eva and recovery/healing was much easier. I was emotionally and physically exhausted from very little sleep. I was extremely anxious. If Isla slept more than an hour at night I would think she had choked or stopped breathing because she just didn’t do it that often. I was on edge about everything and just blamed myself for not being good enough, thats why it was all happening, it was me!! If Eva was older, Like we planned, if my birth was more straightforward, If I knew how to help Isla more. All of this was out of my control, yet I blamed myself. I carried a lot of guilt about things that I simply could not change!!

The reason I have written this in-depth and very personal post is to highlight the fact that we walk in to birth and parenthood ‘blind’, regardless of how much we read, what classes we attend, pre birth, and how much we practice birthing techniques, we never truly know whats in store un til it happens. First time, second time, third… We set expectations from what we see on the TV, read in books and hear from professionals. I’m not saying we should terrify new mums or mums to be with scary stories and experiences, but there needs to be a greater emphasis on the emotional effects of a situation, especially when it’s the opposite to what we ‘expected’ or ‘planned’ it be. Every focus is on a plan… how do you plan to birth? How do you plan to feed? When do you plan to return to work? Are you planning another baby? 😫 nothing ever goes to plan, but we are rarely prepared or supported for this.

From finding out I was pregnant, to experiencing the birth I did and the postnatal and Postpartum experience, I showed great resilience and strength, yet I punished myself so much for it not being how I expected. I blamed myself for the ‘bumpy’ roads my journey took. The severe anxiety and low feelings were almost dismissed because I was (to the naked eye) functioning But inside I was crumbling.

How many more women go through these experiences and emotions (almost alone), afraid, ashamed and keeping it to themselves?

For me, why did I experience all the feelings I did second time round and not the first time? I was so protective over Isla because I felt so guilty about the way I was feeling since having her. But I knew it was NOT her, I loved her so much and I did everything I could for her.

Life takes us on paths that are unexpected and we learn strength we never knew existed but we also have to let go of what we can not change or what is out of our control. It’s not easy, but I hope through my experience I can help others mums too.

Please support coffee, chill and spill and in turn we can be there for each other.

Much love, Vik x

Breastfeeding advice and support from mums to mums❤❤❤

If you are reading this it’s because you have just started your breastfeeding journey or you are hoping to breastfeed your baby once born.

This is by no way a preaching post, it’s just a little information from mums who have breastfed to mums who are starting out or hoping to start when their baby arrives.

From the minute I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to try and breastfeed, it was my preferred choice and I was excited about. I researched a little, but it was essentially chatting with friends that gave me the knowledge and confidence that saw me through.

I breastfed both my girls but had pretty different experiences initially…. I’m going to talk about my first experience of breastfeeding…

Eva (my first) struggled to latch on to begin with, it actually took three weeks of trying daily and expressing, until we both finally got the hang of it, and then she was feeding off me regularly. I didn’t really feel mass pressure or like it was ‘too hard’, I had made a decision to breastfeed and I was sticking to it. This situation would have been way harder second time around as you just don’t have the same time frames to practice and experiment. My husband fully supported me and that helped massively. Thankfully he never said anything like “just use formula”, he knew how important it was to me and he was just really positive about it. I had already bought bottles, a steriliser and pre-made formula anyway, which gave me the reassurance that I had a back up if I needed it. I had an electric breast pump which was an absolute godsend in the first few weeks!! I was able to express really good amounts, so I knew that wasn’t the issue, It was purely the latch. After all, I had never done this before, l was learning a new skill and Eva had every natural instinct to feed off me, but she just couldn’t seem to get a proper latch and she was a real ‘head bobber’ bouncing off my boob with her face 😐

At times it was super painful, my boobs were so engorged with milk and I got mastitis on the right side. It was challenging at times but I was confident it would ease up. I didn’t set a time frame in which I would stop trying, I just took each day as it came. Some days she would feed off me 2/3 times and the next day just once. I was feeding on demand so if she was too hungry and couldn’t latch, she would just get too distressed and I would get all tense and it was a no go. I kept a supply of at least 5 feeds in the fridge so I was always prepared. She was taking about 60ml at this point. And I was pumping about 90ml to 120ml so I could split the feeds.

My midwife was amazing and really encouraged me, plus Eva’s weight never dropped, she always gained in those first few visits so I knew it was ok to keep doing what I was doing.

Exactly 3 weeks after she was born, we just had a breakthrough and she fed off me all day. I still expressed 2 feeds a day (just in case) and built up a supply for the freezer. I didn’t actually feed her in public till she was 3 months (off the breast), I just hadn’t managed to do it discreetly yet, and I just wasn’t confident. I practised at home though and watch videos on youtube to help me. It worked and eventually I felt confident. A top tip would be to wear a vest top under your other top so you don’t feel so exposed when you lift or move your outer top, it worked for me anyway.

Everyone’s experience is different, and whilst it’s important not to constantly compare yourself to others, its so good getting tips from mums who have been there…. I am lucky to have women around me that are happy to be open and honest about their experiences; to share the good and the bad, to help empower others, regardless of how you choose to feed your baby… below are some comments full of experience and advice…

“I never put pressure on myself about the way I was going to feed my baby, I wanted to try breastfeeding and thankfully she latched straight away. I really enjoyed it, I liked the comfort of being skin to skin, and it relaxed me. It was our time together.

Initially, my nipples really hurt, when she latched on the pain would make my toes curl but people tell you that the soreness passes and it really does!!

It’s strange as you can find breastfeeding so overwhelming, but when it came to bottles, formula, sterilising, etc that scared me too. No way is there an easy option – motherhood is a bloody tough job”

Siobhan, mummy to Georgie x

“My best experience of breastfeeding was the first time Dimitre latched on, moments after being born. Also the convenience of breastfeeding, especially through the night. The money we saved, was a big bonus and the bond between us was just lovely 😊. The hardest parts were the first 6 weeks, not really knowing much about breastfeeding, and him struggling to latch on at times. It also hurt at times and I often felt pressure to feed him formula, from others, who assumed he wasn’t feeding enough. Also breastfeeding felt a little lonely at times, especially being a social person, but I knew it wasn’t forever and I was just determined to feed my child that way.”

Ali, mummy to Dimitre x

“The best thing about breastfeeding was definitely knowing that it is the most natural and nutritious way to feed your baby and the bond that it allows you to make with your newborn. I also like the fact that I lost a lot of my baby weight quickly through breastfeeding. However, I did find that there was a lot of pressure on me as it’s something only the mother can do. I also found it difficult to judge how much milk was being consumed and the sleep deprivation was extremely hard. It’s also very difficult to juggle a social life as I wasn’t confident enough to breastfeed in public. If I was to have another baby, I would breastfeed again for the first few months but after that, I would be happy to switch to formula!”

Nikki, mummy to Miles x

“I always knew I wanted to breastfeed, so when my son was born at 35 weeks and fell into the premature bracket, I was encouraged by the hospital to express my milk so they could monitor the amounts he was getting. After 5 days in the hospital, I had established such a good routine expressing, I carried on.

Various professionals did question me throughout the weeks that followed. I was asked over and over, WHY? I was continuing to express over actually latching him on?! It got quite repetitive and boring! As a new mummy, it was as if my choice was wrong; I had a routine, a good milk supply and my husband could support me, why did it matter how he got the breastmilk?!!

Expressing wasn’t plain sailing though, I experienced cracked nipples and, WOW, I was emotional. It also meant I was up longer through the night to feed him, then express. But I did it and it was my choice.”

Vicky, mummy to Joseph and Eleanor x

“The best thing about breastfeeding for me is the sense of achievement being able to feed my baby myself, I feel it helped to form a lovely bond with May (although I’m sure I would have If I formula fed her). It’s just so practical, being able to feed her straight away when she was hungry.

I did feel awkward breastfeeding in public, I was very concerned about people’s opinions. I would try to cover up with a muslin cloth to start, but it was just too awkward! I’m more confident now and will feed wherever I am. My top tips for breastfeeding in public would be to buy a few good maternity tops and to remember that you’re just feeding your baby. If people have a problem with it, it’s their problem, not yours! It’s highly unlikely they would state they disagree with breastfeeding anyway!!”

Rachael, Mummy to May x

“The main reason I loved breastfeeding was I felt an overwhelming sense of pride knowing I was giving them the best start in life with milk that was tailored just for them. Knowing that they would grow up with immunities that I had given them. It was on tap..no sterilising needed and no waiting around.

The hardest part was the anxiety of feeding my baby when people came round, people that didn’t understand and felt awkward even though I didn’t. I felt a strange sense of not wanting to humiliate my friends/family by getting my boobs out in public. And the first two weeks when my nipples were so sore and cracked..wanting to give up but feeling really guilty for feeling like giving up because I didn’t want to! And dreading the first latch in those first two weeks.”

Lindsay, mummy to Shannon, Harry, Sonny & Teddy x

An array of different experiences there from wonderful everyday mummies, everyone states differences but a common trend is the initial discomfort mums feel when they first begin breastfeeding. I do remember being told “it should NOT hurt”, but it does bloody hurt, to begin with. Your boobs/nipples have never experienced so much stimulation, saliva and lactation. Of course, it’s going to be uncomfortable to start. You are practising something you have never done before, or even if you have BF before, It’s still far and few between, in comparison to the amount of time you don’t have a small human attached to your boob, every 2/3 hours for up to 1 hour, at the least!!! It going to take some practice and probably a few tears! Look at it like anything else… it’s a learning curve, you will get the hang off it and find ways that suit you and your little one.

Below I have added some useful links to the benefits of Breastfeeding and also just some interesting facts, just in case you wanted to look a little further

Vik, mummy to Eva and Isla x

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/benefits-breastfeeding/ 

https://blog.ulula.co.uk/2016/06/21/20-fascinating-facts-about-breast-milk-breastfeeding-and-babies/

The Parenting Journey Begins….

Postnatal Anxiety

After the birth of my second daughter (Isla), I found myself in a place that I never thought I would be. It sounds so naive as I type this, because only the year before I supported my sister through undiagnosed PND and My career is 15 years experience as an early years worker/family support worker, supporting families through many experiences and milestones, BUT there I was experiencing what I can only describe as pure physical and emotional exhaustion, uncontrollable overthinking and very random crying outbursts. I never experienced anything like that after my first daughter (Eva), so it was extremely difficult to explain, comprehend and control. I have always suffered from mild anxiety, big events would trigger it; exams, job interview or deadlines, who doesn’t in this day in age? BUT I never could of imagined the emotions and fear that came with postnatal Anxiety. I had difficult deliveries with my both my girls due to their positioning, but the second one was particularly tricky, and caused a bad tear. I had to go to theatre for 2.5 hours after delivery and I really feel thats where the severe anxiety began. Instead of feeling empowered for getting my ‘stuck’ baby out by myself, I felt like I’d failed again, failed at having a ‘normal birth’. I had an expectation, and it just didn’t happen. The Recovery was difficult and I was physically drained and in pain for weeks after, but at the same time, I was so grateful that it wasn’t worse; the main thing is that we were both ok, right?!?! I was battling my thoughts against my feelings and it was really hard work.

It quickly became apparent that Isla had some tummy issues and as a result of that, she would scream in pain anything from 2 to 4 hours every evening, she hated being flat and she just really struggled to settle in the evening, to the point I was up every hour with her. She had silent reflux and colic and it is awful seeing your tiny baby in that much discomfort. I was Breastfeeding and my husband and I began to research how we could help her. Our research continuously brought us back to dairy, so I just bit the bullet and cut all dairy out of my diet, the difference was huge!!! It didn’t stop it completely, but we definitely saw a big improvement. The terrible anxiety that surrounded this time, literally took over my wellbeing, and mixed with sleep deprivation I was literally a walking zombie. Yet, I was so set on trying to find solutions, trying to manage everything and just get up and get on every day. I was also trying to compensate for the immense guilt I felt for my eldest daughter, I just remember constantly saying “wait a minute Eva” or “Eva can you just stop”, she was 2.5 years old and had no understanding what was happening. Any opportunity I had to just just spend time with her, I did it. I should of slept, and got some rest, but to me, giving her that time was way more important. This little baby had come in to her world and just turned it all upside down, I know I should of tried to balance it better, but I just did what I thought was best at the time and that was making one on one time for Eva. I put my own needs to the bottom of the pile.

Family wise, everything did settle down, Isla went on solids at 6 months, started to sleep really well at 8 months (we actually moved her to a bed, but thats another story) and Eva started preschool – everything was ‘rosey’ and we were happy and most of all we were all SLEEPING!!! However, I still did not feel right; my anxiety was getting worse but I was trying to ignore it. I’d been to see my GP numerous times but because I was breastfeeding, there was no help in terms of medication, just self referral to CBT. I tried everything to try and control it but it was just spiralling. Because I looked ok, I think the assumption was that I was fine. I found it very difficult to reach out because there was little understanding from anyone close. I have always been the go to person, the strong one, so it was difficult to say otherwise, plus what was I actually trying to say?? How do you explain how you feel? It was so very difficult, you just end up trying to get on with it.

My experience has speared me to create a community project that enables mums (and dads) to reach out and get some support that focuses on their wellbeing. I feel it’s so important to talk, to feel like you can talk and to know you’re not alone, but most importantly to know PND and PNA has no reflection on the love you have for your child/ren. As parents, of course we put our children first, of course we sacrifice for them, but a friend of mine made a very good comment and that was… ‘you can’t keep giving from an empty cup, you have to refill in order to be the best you can be’ it’s so true! Our wellbeing is just as important as our families, we just have to try and remember that and figure out that balance which I’m sure we’d all admit, is the bloody hardest thing to do!!!

I love the above quote. Whats the saying… it takes a village to raise a child? So why are new mums not encouraged to talk about their feelings? Or when they do talk, no one actually listens.. or passes comment like.. ‘but you’ve got such a beautiful baby’. Why are we left to get on with it after those first couple of  weeks; when in my opinion thats the most vulnerable time. What is/should be the most amazing time of a women’s life, can also be the most traumatic, the loneliest  and the scariest.

Lets be sure to look after each other ❤️

Vik x