May 2013 archive

Ten Stories I Wish I’d Been Told About Being a New Mum

Guest: Guest or The Guest may refer to: A person who is given hospitality.

Today on my blog I have the pleasure of hosting the first ever guest post!! It is written by the lovely Stephanie, who is a brilliantly talented writer and storyteller! You can follow her on Twitter @Storybramble and her fantastic blog can be found at
Stephanie is a trained actor, qualified drama teacher and mother of two. She is passionate about reading, writing and telling stories and created Storybramble as a resource for other parents who feel the same way. Over at Storybramble Stephanie posts a new audio story or poem for children to listen to each week with ideas for creative activities to go with it. She also blogs about all things story related including stories she is reading with her own children and ideas for how to make storytelling a part of your family’s life.

So, without further ado here is her brilliant guest post…please visit her blog and show her some love!

Ten Stories I wish I had been told about being a new mum

I am a big fan of stories. I believe they can transform, teach and even heal us. Stories are powerful creatures that are everywhere. When pregnant you become a magnet for stories. Birth stories, sleepless night stories, breast feeding stories are passed on aplenty. I vividly recall being wide eye with terror at some of the tales I heard when I was pregnant with my first child as a wave of horror birth stories came crawling out of the wood work. Episiotomy? Why did no one tell me before I had a baby inside me that needed to come out?!

Then that baby does come out. And I found, as you so often do, that the stories you heard about motherhood don’t always match up to the reality. So, as I am a big believer in all things magical, I decided to imagine what I would say if I had the power to go back and talk to my new mum self. What stories would I want the younger me to hear? And this is what I came up with:

1. It is ok to have pain relief when giving birth

I was lucky enough to attend NCT classes when I was pregnant with my first baby. They were a great source of information on pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding and a great way to meet other new mums to be. Natural was held up as the ideal when it came to giving birth and I had a lovely natural birth story all worked out in my head. Which was great, until I actually went into labour.

It was a story of complications, my son was back to back and not keen on coming out. It was a story of other worldly pain which I fought for longer than I should have before relenting and asking for an injection of pethidine. Within half an hour the labour stopped being a struggle and my son was born. The pethidine had affected him however making him too sleepy to feed properly and I was hit with my first does of motherhood guilt. I found I couldn’t enjoy the first precious days with my son because I was consumed with a sense of having already failed him as a mother. It wasn’t until I had my second baby naturally that I realised how different each birth is. The story I wish I had heard is this:

Birth is an individual experience, it’s great to aim for a natural birth but sometimes that’s just not possible. If you find you need pain relief that is ok, the goal of labour is not to create the perfect birth story, the goal is to give birth to a healthy baby so do what you need to do and don’t worry.

2. Breastfeeding is natural but does not always come naturally

I knew I wanted to breastfeed and felt confident of my ability to do it. My health visitor and the NCT made it sound easy enough. The reality was very different. Within a few days I was a mess, cracked, sore and bleeding. I went on to develop an infection which added to the pain I was experiencing and each feed was agony. I was lucky, I was well supported by my heath visitor and also called out a breastfeeding councilor but they couldn’t help me. The only thing that was going to help was time, so that I could heal the cracks. I recovered eventually by expressing some milk and alternating bottle feeds with time on my breast. It was three months before I really had breastfeeding sorted and I went on to feed my son until he was two. I am glad I stuck it out but I could easily see why someone would chose not to go through that pain, if I had had another child for example I wouldn’t have been able to do it. What I wish I had been told was:

Breastfeeding is great but sometimes it is not straightforward. Be prepared by knowing who to ask for support and help. Have supplies of nipple cream on stand by and have and know how to use a breast pump incase you want to express at some point (3am in the morning is not when you want to be struggling with an instruction manual!). Don’t give up to soon, it is worth fighting for but equally don’t beat yourself up if it is not what you want or if it becomes impossible. You have a life time of mother guilt ahead of you, you might as well drop this one and do what is right for you.

3. It is ok to go back on things that you said you were going to do/not do

There was a time when I knew everything there was to know about parenting my children. I knew exactly what I would and would not do in each and ever situation. Then I had a baby and everything changed!

Before I had children I was sure I would use cloth nappies and I would never give my baby a bottle or a dummy. I was really quite annoying about it and it came to bite me in the bum big time. The cloth nappies were too much work for me in the early days and I gave up on them quickly and my breastfeeding issues saw me go back on my ideas about bottles and dummies. I found those moments difficult, it felt like I was going against my own moral code. I wish I had been told:

It’s great to make decisions about parenting when expecting but remember that when you have an actual baby in your arms things might be very different. You might need to change your mind about things and that is OK. Your baby wasn’t there when you made your plans and might not like them, go with the flow and let yourself off the hook.

4. Sleep, forget the housework!

Admittedly I did hear the ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ mantra but for some reason it didn’t make sense to me. If I slept then when would actually do anything else? The answer is this?

Drop your standards! You have a new baby, you are learning how to do the hardest job in the world with no training on next to no sleep. Rest, rest and rest again. Sleep deprivation is not a form of torture for no reason so do what you are told and sleep when that baby sleeps!

5. It is ok to not be ok

After both my babies I didn’t feel so great. Baby blues hit most mothers at some point but for me they hung around a bit longer than they should have. I felt terrible for not feeling happy. Surely this was meant to be the best time of my life? I had imagined floating around the house glowing and baking cookies. Instead I was dragging myself around in my jammies looking like I had been pulled through a bush backwards. I would tell myself:

Motherhood is amazing but it doesn’t always feel that way and that is ok. Don’t add to your stress by feeling bad about feeling bad. And if you are feeling bad then the next point is required reading.

6. Ask for help

Because I felt ashamed for not being full of the joys of motherhood I lied to the health visitor, my family and friends about how I really felt. I pretended all was well when in reality I felt pretty awful much of the time. I wish I had known:

Becoming a mother is a massive change in your life and while it can be wonderful it is also normal to feel overwhelmed, sad or a sense of loss over your old life. Normal but not OK. Normal because many parents feel that way, not OK because you shouldn’t have to struggle alone. Don’t wait, ask for help – you deserve support.

7. Don’t compare

Everyone has heard of the competitiveness of mothers but until you experience it first hand you can’t know how fierce it actually is. I was amazed at the number of little digs I got about my son’s awful sleeping or my struggle with breastfeeding. I wish someone had told me to:

Ignore, ignore, ignore! So their darling is sleeping through the night already, well good for them. Babies are all individuals who do things at their own pace. You are not doing anything wrong as a mother just because your child isn’t doing whatever their child is doing, your parenting is just fine.

8. Throw the books in the bin

I read them all. Gina, baby whisperer, books on attachment parenting. They were all very interesting. They were all totally contradictory. They all belonged in one place only. The bin.

Don’t read a ton of parenting books. If you do want advice you are better of either chatting to other mums that you know and trust or simply listening to your own gut, as they saying goes – mum knows best!

9. Stop

It is true what they say about parenting, the time really does fly. I missed out on a lot of the early days with my son because I was too busy worrying about what I was and wasn’t doing.

Relax and enjoy, you won’t get this time back. Forget about what you feel you ought to be doing and do what feels right. And lie on the sofa eating chocolate and smelling your baby as often as you can.

10. Take space

When I became a mother I felt completely consumed by the work of parenting. My days felt like a bad record on repeat that went: Nappy, boob, washing, food, clean. Nappy, boob, washing, food, clean. I loved my son but I was bored a lot of the time and I felt like there was no space in my life for me anymore. I kept these thoughts to myself, somehow it felt wrong to want time for me. Now I see having time to do my own thing as an essential part of being a good mother. A radiator has to be warm to heat others and as a mother you need to nourish your creativity as much as you need to nourish your body with good food. It’s part of the reason I created my site Storybramble, it gave me a space where I could be creative and connect with other mothers. Storybramble was a place to share my passion for children’s stories and I am thankful to the internet which allows so many women the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Make sure you make time for you and your passions. Taking care of you is all part of being a good parent. Mothers have a unique perspective on the world so get out there and tell your own story, the world is waiting to hear from you.

What about you? What stories did you hear about being a mother and what would you go back and tell yourself if you could?

Thank you Stephanie, for guest posting on my blog x

An Advert Rant.

Adverts: Advertising is a form of communication for marketing and used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience (viewers, readers or listeners; sometimes a specific group) to continue or take some new action. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behaviour with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common.

So, it is #rantyfriday and if you read my blog you know I often like a good rant, and sometimes that rant is about so called ‘parenting manuals!’ My dad once bought a manual to help him when I was a ‘difficult’ teenager. I don’t remember what it was called or exactly what was written in it but I do remember laughing out loud when I snuck into my parents bedroom to read it, thinking that the author clearly wasn’t a teenager as they didn’t get them at all! Maybe it was there that my dislike of parenting manuals began, who knows, but recently this irritation has spread to parenting adverts….

I was watching an advert for a popular squash brand this week and was infuriated by the tag line, ‘It’s great to be a dad, even better to be a friend.’ It is such a sweeping statement and I despair of parents who try and be their children’s friends; I’m of the firm opinion that you should be their parent! You, and they, probably have enough friends (I hope!) in your lives anyway. Parenting isn’t about being friends with your child, they are not supposed to like you, they are supposed to respect you and look up to you. Parenting is far more complex than friendship, and whilst I’m friendly with my children, I wouldn’t dream of actually being their friend. How would that help them? I’m supposed to discipline them, teach them the difference between right and wrong, nurture their talents and develop their personalities. I am not the one who should be having their first fag with them behind the bike sheds. Or be the first to hear about them losing their virginity. *shudders* I’m all for having a close,honest relationship with my children, but if they ask for my advice, the advice they will get is that from a mother, not a mate.

After watching that advert I then got a bit obsessed with analysing others. Nappies for example; ‘All your baby needs to wake up happy is your love and a dry bottom.’ What a load of sodding rubbish! I love my baby endlessly, and he always has a nice, clean and dry bottom, but does he always wake up happy, does he heck! I, for that matter, am loved and always have a nice, clean and dry bottom and I wake up in a foul mood almost daily.

And don’t even get me started on sanitary towels and, ‘Have a happy period.’ That was clearly written by a man. Why oh why would I or any other woman ever have a happy period? How could being bloated, tearful, irritated with everyone and everything, in pain, spotty and miserable as sin EVER be a happy experience. If a sanitary towel actually possessed magical powers and could make me have a happy period then I’d buy them in truck loads. Seriously, someone needs to invent that!

My point to this rant (albeit somewhat disguised!) is that parenting and life can be hard, and so many written words compound that. Books, magazine articles, adverts…if we read and believe them all we would go insane and never know what to do. Surely our instincts can tell us that if a child has a dirty nappy they will probably be unhappy. (and, for that matter, that we are never going to have the all elusive ‘happy period’)

My mum sent me this article in the newspaper this week (yes it was from the Daily Fail but still, I read it!)

In the article it says that 46% of Grandmothers listened to their own instincts. And the others shockingly took advice from Mothercare or Marks & Spencer. Can you imagine their advert, ‘This isn’t just any baby…this is a baby with the peachiest, smoothest skin. A baby whose cries sound like sweet music!’ Bleurch, you get the picture. Are these companies really that influential, do people actually listen to the words in their adverts? Are some men out there now changing their complete parenting style to be their son’s mates even though it could be going against every instinct they have?

The article ends with the sentence, ‘We think it’s important for mothers to be encouraged to discover their own inner instincts – something books can overlook!’

COULD NOT AGREE MORE. And now I think this not just about books, but hugely influential advertising as well. What do you think?

Monty takes over!

Hello, Monty the Monkey here. I’ve taken control of Instinctive Mum’s blog, just for this post. You see, a couple of days ago I was happily swinging in my tree, eating some bananas and Walkers Baked Hoops and Crosses crisps, when I was bundled, along with a packet of the roast beef flavoured crisps, into a box. I wasn’t in the box for long, thankfully, and when it was opened I was in a house, a house that contained three small people. They looked at me (well, to be fair it might’ve been the crisps) and grinned! There were ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ and I was passed around them all, still holding onto the crisps at this point! Then a big person put me up on a shelf and said the small people could eat the crisps next time we had a picnic.
Again, I didn’t have to wait for long as the weather yesterday was beautiful and a picnic was on the cards. Whilst I was sat waiting for the picnic on that shelf all I could hear were the small people taking it in turns to say, ‘Mum, I’m hungry, what can I eat? Please can I have chocolate or crisps?’ The big person would always say, ‘How about a yummy banana first.’ My kind of lady I thought! But I wanted to let her know that the Walkers Baked Hoops and Crosses crisps weren’t actually as bad as other crisps, I wanted her to know that they contained 56% wholegrain, which small people need, and that they were also low in fat and contain no artificial colours or preservatives…so I whispered it in her ear, and she liked these facts! She agreed that they’d make a great snack, which I also thought myself, and was tempted to open the packet, but…I resisted! (And at only 85 calories per pack I could see her struggling to resist too!)
A short while later we all climbed into the car and went to a nearby park for the picnic. Sausages and sandwiches were opened and then…the crisps!


I could hear the small people saying, ‘Yummy, these are delicious!’ and, ‘Can we please go to the shops to buy some more?’ It wasn’t long before they were all gobbled up. They only gave me a couple! Cheeky monkeys!

Oh, but they did have a quick game of hoops and crosses first.

The crisps and lunch seemed to give everyone some energy and we all went for a long walk, I even managed to do a bit of tree climbing along the way!

And then it was time to come home, but we stopped at the shops on the way back to pick up some more Hoops and Crosses (this time the prawn cocktail flavour ones!) as both the big and the small people thought they tasted great, and were a good way of eating more wholegrain, essential for a balanced diet. Maybe they will share some of these with me before they all get eaten in their packed lunch boxes?

Love Monty xx

This is a paid review post

Radio Shows and a Story

Radio Shows and a Story.

Radio: Radio is the wireless transmission of signals through free space by electromagnetic radiation of a frequency significantly below that of visible light, in the radio frequency range, from about 30 kHz to 300 GHz.[1] These waves are called radio waves. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space.

Where do I begin with my #magicmoments post this week?! Just too many wonderful things have been happening recently and I feel so incredibly lucky.

The last couple of weeks have been challenging in many ways, the antidepressants have clearly taken a while to completely leave my system and I’ve been like a toddler struggling to manage my emotions. I have effectively been learning to feel again and have gone from manic, uncontrollable laughter, to sobbing over something trivial. There have been panic attacks, sleepless nights and a lot of doubt over whether I could do it and live without the tablets. It was almost as if I felt like I had at the very beginning, the illness dealing one last cruel hand. One last challenge to be overcome. It’s horrible how your brain and body can play tricks on you. You can tense your body for a second because you’ve trodden on a piece of Lego and this can trigger your brain into entering full on fight or flight mode and spark off a gigantic panic attack. Thankfully I am learning to dismiss these attacks and carry on as if they’re not actually happening, thus hopefully convincing my brain that I am not in any serious danger and that there is no need to go quite so crazy with the release of adrenaline! It’s a work in progress!

One thing that has helped me immensely through this time, and has been an integral part of my recovery since January was having the opportunity to attend an art therapy group once a week, with other ladies also suffering from post natal depression. I was referred by my health visitor and as I have always enjoyed being creative, but recently haven’t been able to find the time or the motivation, I was looking forward to starting, and I hadn’t looked forward to anything in a very, very long while. It was called My Time My Space and was funded by a project called Creativity Works. ( ) It was to be held at the local Children’s centre for two hours every Friday morning, with a crèche provided. It really was going to be my time. The group ran for twelve weeks and finished just a coupe of weeks ago. The artist who attended had blogged about our sessions here:

Each week was magic. Time to be me. Time to be creative, to fill my brain with thoughts other than the dark ones that had plagued it for so long. We talked. We listened. We shared and empathised. (as well as drinking tea and eating A LOT of cake!) We made amazingly creative things, brooches, necklaces, paintings. It was during our last session that I was asked to go onto the radio by Philippa, who works for Creativity Works. It was to be an interview with Dr Phil Hammond on BBC Radio Bristol and I was to talk about my experience of PND and about My Time My Space. I jumped at the chance. Excitement obviously quickly turned into nervousness, but I knew that I desperately wanted to speak out, to be as honest as I could be about my experiences of PND and hopefully help others. I had also read my story ‘A Monster Ate My Mum’ to Philippa and she thought we should try and have it read out on the air too.

So, skip forward to this past Saturday. I’d prepared, and I knew exactly what I wanted to say. Philippa picked me up and we drove into Bristol talking animatedly about the project and how amazing it is. She is clearly very passionate and enthusiastic about what she does and about helping women who are suffering. We parked at BBC Radio Bristol and sat just outside the studio, watching Dr Phil deliver his Saturday Surgery show. I’ve never been inside a radio station before and imagined endless hustle and bustle, however as it was a Saturday it was surprisingly quiet; a few workmen, a couple of people on their computers, a radio presenter and his producer.

Sitting there watching the show, listening to the guests that were on before us didn’t really help my nerves. I was so frightened I was going to bumble my words, sound stupid, or swear! We were asked to go in and Dr Phil asked me how honest I wanted to be, and I replied, ‘As honest as possible, ask me anything.’ I hoped that by being honest I would help others. So many women suffer in silence or find it hard to admit they are ill. I wanted to show that there was no shame in it, that it can happen to anyone, and that with time you can get better. Very honest questions were asked, and answered as openly and honestly as I could. The nerves went and I wished the interview could continue for longer, as there was so much more I wanted to say. And then the true magic moment happened, I was asked to read my story. The book I would love to be published to help raise funds for My Time My Space and help children whose mums suffer. The traffic report was read out and then it was back to me. Is it wrong that I got lost in my own writing? I could hear my voice shaking, I could see my hands trembling, but I was doing it…me, who one year ago had all of my confidence zapped out of me by this cruel illness. I was reading something I had written on the radio, to thousands of people. And in that moment my confidence came back! With a massive great big bang. And it felt amazing. It’s a little bit addictive being on the radio and already I’d love to do it again! It took a couple of hours for the shaking to stop, but the texts messages and phone calls I received from friends and family made me swell with pride. (Sorry if I’m going over the top a bit here, it’s not often I big myself up lol!)

There is nothing quite like challenging yourself to do something that makes you step out of your comfort zone. And then there is nothing quite like achieving it…and enjoying it!

You can hear the interview through the link below until 11th May. Please have a listen, we are on about one hour and twenty minutes into the show.

And thank you, as always, for reading x

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The Monster Story

I have now self-published this poem as a beautifully illustrated children’s book. You can purchase a copy at

Thursdays are fast becoming one of my favourite days, not least because it means I get an opportunity to link up with VicWelton’s #Prose4T. I have always enjoyed writing poetry, but have not done so for many years. Recently I have found I can express so much in poetry, and often find it easier to write a poem than a blog post!

Today I am going to share something with you that I wrote a while ago and have tweaked many, many times! Finally I think it’s finished! It’s based on a poem I wrote when I first started blogging, and is a book aimed at children whose mums suffer from depression. I have often noticed in libraries and shops that there are a range of books written to help children cope with different situations; bereavement, the death of a pet, moving house, new babies and even potty training, but there was nothing which focused on depression or post natal depression. Ultimately I would love this poem to be published and money from it raised to help those with PND, but I know that could forever remain a dream, it is not easy to get published! I have read the book to my eldest two children and the reaction was instantaneous, my four year old now often asks for the monster story before bed, and my 11 year old understands a bit more about how I was feeling, it’s prompted some lovely, honest chats.

So, here is the story, please let me know what you think xx

A Monster Ate My Mum
By InstinctiveMum

A monster wandered far and wide,
No one walking by his side,
His mum seemed lost, not the mum he knew,
Would someone know just what to do?

She’d not been like herself at all,
Crying lots and feeling small,
Not wanting to go out, get dressed,
Feeling trapped and like a mess.

A monster must have gobbled her up,
Made her sad and feel unloved,
A monster must have eaten her joy,
“I’ll go and find it,” said the monster boy.

He found a monster big and tall,
A grumpy monster with no friends at all,
A monster that ate smiles and joy,
‘Did he eat my mum?’ thought this monster boy.

“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun,
I want to see her smile, my mum,
Is she in your big, round tum?”

“No she’s not here I just ate her smile,
I’ll give it back after a while,
I’m sorry I was hungry you see,
I don’t know where your mum could be.”

So the monster boy wandered on,
Knowing where his mum’s smile had gone,
He found another scary beast,
And wondered if he’d had a feast.

“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun,
I want to see her smile my mum,
Is she in your big, round tum?”

“No I just ate something that made her cry,
She won’t know how, she won’t know why,
I’m sorry I was hungry you see,
I don’t know where your mum could be.”

He wondered on and soon he knew,
That it wasn’t his fault, nothing he could do,
The monsters had eaten what made her happy,
It wasn’t him who made her snappy.

He carried on walking along the path,
Wondering who had eaten her laugh,
He saw a monster asleep on his tum,
Was he the one who had eaten his mum?

“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun,
I want to see her smile, my mum,
Is she in your big round tum?”

“No I just ate something that took her spark,
She can have it back, not feel in the dark,
I’m sorry I ate it, I was hungry you see,
I don’t know where your mum could be.”

All of these monsters had had their fill,
They had each been what had made his mum ill,
He wanted a cure to make her well,
He wanted to help her out of this spell.

He found a wise monster among the trees,
“Could you help me and my mum please?
She’s not been happy, she sleeps all day,
Can you help in any way?”

The monster turned and said to the boy,
“Those monsters will return her joy,
The monsters will return your mum,
She will be back you will have fun.”

“Time is what you need my friend,
Love and kisses and cuddles send.
It won’t be bad like this forever,
She can and will one day get better.”

So the monster boy walked home and knew,
He would be patient, see this through.
He’d rest his head upon her tum,
Hoped no more monsters would eat his mum.

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