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 ❤

 

 

 

 

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