What inspired you to create A Mother Place?
I created A Mother Place because I wanted to make sure that no mother felt as alone as I did in those first few weeks, months and years. When I first had my son, I was so confused and angry that there seemed to be so much stuff surrounding birth and the postnatal period that nobody had told me about. Everything seemed to be shrouded in secrecy until you were actually a proper part of this mystical mum gang..and then suddenly people are dying to talk to you about their piles and postnatal depression! That’s great, but I wanted to know about this kind of thing beforehand, so I could be prepared! I created online courses to help prepare women and their partners. My wish is that new mums coming behind us embark on their parenting journey with their eyes wide open and armed with all the information and advice they need to for the nerve-wracking times ahead!
What do you wish you had known before you had your first baby?
Oh wow..where do I start?? I wish I had known that not everybody loves being a parent every day and that it is ok to stand up and say “I am finding this really hard and I need some help.”
When I had my first son, I would look around me and see all these capable-looking mums and dads who seemed to be enjoying it all. I would hear comments like “enjoy every moment, it goes so fast” and I would want to scream because I was not enjoying it and I was wishing it would all speed up to an easier bit. I now know that all those mums around me were struggling as much as I was. They were finding the same things as difficult as me and I wish we had been able to connect more and chat honestly with other women over this!
What did you find harder in the early days than you expected?
The breastfeeding. This was the hardest thing I have ever done to date. I’ve done a four-year economics and politics degree, I have swum across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and I have lived with no electricity and running water for six months and none of these things comes close to how hard I found breastfeeding. I just could not get it right. I had great advice and I had lots of support, but I just could NOT do it and to this day, I still do not know why. I cried every day for 16 weeks as it hurt so much and I felt so sad and guilty to give my son formula. But the day that I decided to give up and give him formula was the best day of my parenting journey so far. I finally started to enjoy it all more. I bonded with my son, which I felt I had been unable to do until then, and things because much easier for us as a family. Strangely though, I do still carry a lot of guilt about not being able to do something that I thought would be so simple and natural. I wish someone had told me that it can be hard or even impossible for some women. It would have saved a lot of heartaches.
What is the biggest myth about becoming a parent?
The biggest myth I think is that some people are better at parenting than others. People worry that those who conceived naturally, gave birth with no pain relief, breastfed for a year, buy everything organic, do baby-led weaning, love playing on the floor with their kids, enjoy baking and never shout are better parents! But it is not true, no parent is better than another parent, any more than a baby can be better than another baby. We are all different and our babies are all so different too. How we chose to give birth, feed, and take care of our babies is a very personal thing and should not be up for scrutiny or judgment from others! It goes both ways, some people spend a lot of time worrying that they are not good parents and everyone else has it nailed, and there are also those who assume that their parenting choices and skill are far superior to everyone else's. But let's face it, you have no idea why a parent chooses to have a cesarean or to bottle feed and it’s not really any of your business either! So just concentrate on your own family and have confidence that you are the best parent for your baby.
What’s the best way to deal with unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and relatives?
Apart from a sign around your neck saying “no unsolicited advice please”, I would say that the best way to deal with this is to practice a fake smile and “thank you” and then move on with your life! However, try not to disregard the random bits of advice from strangers in the supermarket or nosy neighbours, every so often there will be some gems you will be thankful you heard!
What are your three must-have products for your hospital bag?
1/ Our Magic Postnatal Pants are essential for every new mum. One size fits all and they are the world's ugliest but most comfortable pants! They let everything breathe so you do not get a sweaty bum!
2/ A little bag of miniature toiletries like you might take away for a weekend, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, face cream, deodorant
3/ Earplugs - the postnatal wards are noisy and hectic and if your baby is sleeping then you might like to take the chance to nap too. Don’t worry you will still hear your own baby cry if they wake!
What was your best piece of baby kit?
My Bugaboo Bee buggy. I pounded the streets with my son that first year. He was a terrible sleeper - he would not nap at home, so I walked miles and miles with him come rain or shine. I would travel all over London and the buggy was so light I could carry it up and down any flight of stairs at the tube or train stations. I used it for my second son, and then my nieces and nephews used it, and then I got it cleaned up and I passed it onto Little Village who are a charity that operate a baby bank.
Do you think social media sets parents up with unrealistic expectations about parenthood?
I think there are two extremes on social media..there is the band of yummy mummies where everything looks picture perfect from the nursery to their hair and nails…and there are those like me who pride themselves in being honest and realistic. I think you have to be careful about who you follow and think about why you follow them. If you like looking at the yummy mummies with the perfect houses and it doesn’t make you feel bad or sad then that is great, but If you find yourself feeling inadequate or upset after a scroll then perhaps reassess who you are following!
Do you think most antenatal classes focus too much on birth rather than the first three months?
YES! It is infuriating! In the grand scheme of things, birth is often the easiest and quickest bit of this whole journey! It’s like the cab ride to Gatwick on a round-the-world trip!
Sure, birth can feel scary and that is a huge focus for many women, but Antenatal classes should prepare us for what comes after this bit.
Our Online Antenatal and Postnatal Classes have a real focus on this fourth trimester, what to expect and how to prepare for it. (You can get £10 off your class by using the code BABYSHOW10 )
What is the best piece of advice would you give to expectant parents?
Don’t do it! HAHA ..I am kidding!!!
It’s wonderful but it is also VERY hard work, but I think if you know about the tough stuff and you expect this, then often it will be better or easier than you thought. So be prepared, do your research. Understand how the human body is meant to work and how we are designed to give birth, but also understand that Mother Nature doesn’t always get it right, and if this happens to you then you do not need to be afraid. We have amazing doctors and nurses who can help deliver your baby safely. You need to appreciate that your body and mind will change, not for the worse, but things will be different. If things don't feel good for you after you have had a baby, then again, you do not need to worry as there is help and support out there for you whatever issues you are having. And above all, remember that however you are feeling, whatever you are going through, you are not alone.
Can you tell us about your book?
I am so excited about my book! I cannot wait for everyone to read it! It’s called "Nobody Tells You…” and it’s a collection of over 100 honest stories about pregnancy, birth and parenthood. It covers everything that Nobody Tells you from infertility and miscarriage right through to giving birth and eventually going back to work AND everything in between! We have some amazing, brave, funny, sad and wonderful stories from the likes of Megan Rose Lane, Clemmie Telford, Anna Mathur and Cat Simms and amazing expert advice from Obstetrician Roger Marwood, who happens to be my dad! It is inspired by my own frustration at the lack of honest information out there and I really hope it will become an invaluable guide to those who are thinking about becoming parents, already pregnant or have become parents recently. There is no scaremongering, no sugar coating, just reassuring and practical advice alongside personal stories that prove there is no “right way” to do it!
Nobody Tells You is out on 15th April. Pre-order here.
Follow Becca @amotherplace
What inspired you to create A Mother Place?