JENNY’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

It’s back!! Y’all be pleased to know the supposedly-weekly (but not at all weekly) ‘In the (mother) hood’ feature has returned! This is where we get the opportunity to virtually meet and get to know the Mamas we’ve been busy stalking a little better, learn what motivates them and be inspired etc.

This week all those boxes are being ticked because we have the wonderful Jenny from Top Five Baby on the blog sharing her story and experience of Motherhood thus far. Be warned it’s not all rose-tinted as Jenny and her husband sadly lost their beautiful little boy Elliott at just ten days old. Here Jenny talks about how those experiences have shaped her journey and how she’s managed to turn the loss of Elliott into something positive for Great Ormond Street Hospital in his memory…

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Name: Jenny Walker

Age: 32 (although my daughter tells everyone I’m STILL 21).

Location: North Derbyshire now, near Bakewell (was Stoke Newington until recently, all my babies were born in London)

Number of Kids: This is always a tricky question for me, if I give the most honest answer this confuses people and stuns many into silence, but I’m a mummy to three and always will be. My second baby, a little boy called Elliott, died at 10 days old and I have two girls now.

Names and ages of aforementioned: Nia age 4; Cora, 20 months (born a year and a day after her brother) and Elliott.

Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

Very much wanted and planned for all three.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Pure delight.

How did you tell your partner?

I can’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure I waved my wee stick in his face (probably every time!)

His reaction?

Very happy too (at least he seemed to be!) he was probably not too pleased about the wee stick in his face.

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

All three were nauseating for the first 14 weeks and then much better during the second trimester, followed by obstetric cholestasis (again all three pregnancies) at around 37/38 weeks. So not exactly dream pregnancies but as is always the case, I remember them being a lot easier than they were.

Tell me about your birth experience?

All three were hospital births at the Homerton in East London.

Nia: horrendous induction followed by epidural and forceps. Yikes.

Elliott: induction again but this time without pain relief (not on purpose) and a much calmer, happier experience. I gave birth standing up and he (sort of) fell onto a pillow. I did a lot more reading about being relaxed during birth (thank you Ina May Gaskin) and approached the whole process in a more accepting way (contractions = rushes/sensations etc).

Cora: another induction but I had my superstar midwife Cate (who had been my midwife with Elliott so knew my history) by my side. She knew what I wanted and was so gentle, kind and wonderful throughout the whole labour. I am grateful to her every day and am now very lucky to call her a friend. We pinched her name for Cora’s middle name. She’s Cora Cate.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Awesome, happy, hard and the best thing I’ve ever done.

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Can you share any highlights?

Seeing my girls interact with each other and love each other so much. My four year old gets into bed in the morning with our 20 month old and (sort of) reads her stories. I watch and listen on the monitor and giggle in bed as it’s hilarious. Cora shouts for her big sister in the morning sometimes instead of us. Win!

Can you share any low points?

When my 4 year old tells me to “stop texting Mummy!” leading to the guilt. Why do Mummies have to have the guilt? I really don’t like the guilt!

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

At night I sleep! During the day I try and squeeze in some time to work on topfivebaby.com see below!

Have you got a business? 

I have spent much of the past year setting up a review site bringing together the best baby kit. It is called topfivebaby.com

I know there are other review sites out there but topfivebaby.com aims to make the research process super simple by doing all the leg work and narrowing it all down to five items in each of the categories covered.

Do you have another job (besides being a Mama)? 

Currently, trying to make topfivebaby.com a success! After everything we went through with Elliott I vowed never to return to an office. I’d been made redundant whilst pregnant with Elliott, and looking back it was the best thing that could have happened to me as it gave me an excuse to live in a much happier way.

After Elliott’s death I focussed most of my efforts on fundraising for Great Ormond Street Hospital where he had been treated. We have raised a lot of money and managed to put in place a special end of life care room at GOSH in Elliott’s memory for families in similar situations to ours (nothing like this existed when Elliott died).

I squeeze all of this in around the little people so I never really feel like I’ve finished a job, but I’m learning that this is actually ok.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

The cuddles and the kisses. I never want them to stop.

What are the worst bits?

Currently breath-holding. My youngest Cora, is punishing us with this. She breath-holds whenever she really hurts herself and it is terrifying for all of us to see because she passes out and goes blue. Given everything we’ve been through with Elliott we all panic every time it happens.

And losing a child. It really is an unearthly pain which very few people fully understand. We are extremely lucky to have had incredible help from Great Ormond Street after Elliott’s death. For anyone reading this who might be struggling, please do ask for help, it helps make something incomprehensible, eventually bearable.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Trying to get on with “normal” life after Elliott died.

If someone agreed to mind your kids for a week what would you do?

Go to a beautiful spa hotel and relax. But I’d miss them if it was a whole week. A couple of nights would be enough (I think).

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

Go with your instincts, if you have just a tiny clue about what you’re doing then that should be enough. But if you’re still struggling, ask for help.

What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

Lots of knickers, nursing bras, maternity and breast pads. Oh and all the stuff for the baby to wear plus nappies. I can’t think of just one thing, sorry!

What’s been your best baby product? 

I have to give you five 😉

1. The Medela Swing breast pump. It is really, really good.

2. The Stokke Tripp Trapp, so incredibly well designed and ergonomic. It allows your baby to be up at the table with the rest of the family right from the start (if you buy the newborn set).

3. Aden and Anais swaddles, they’re quite pricey but wonderful. We still use ours as bedding in the summer as they’re so lovely against the skin.

4. BabyBjorn soft bouncer. It is unobtrusive, easy to store, looks great and is a perfect, simple design.

5. I love my Ergobaby. Both our girls (still) go in them which means we can get to places we otherwise wouldn’t go with tired little legs.

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What was really useful in the early days?

My husband (he’s still useful though).

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Yes, I bought our first buggy second hand thinking I was saving money. It was broken when I bought it (the brake didn’t work). I couldn’t do a thing about it as I had no receipt. I’ve spent more getting it fixed than if we’d bought new! So annoying!

What’s your ultimate mum product? 

Again another five!

1. Lovely smellies. I adore Neal’s Yard and recommend Seaweed and Arnica for post birth sore muscles. I also recommend their citrus hand wash and hand lotion. It is antibacterial and kind to hands that need washing every five minutes.

2. Concealer: I use Clinique’s All About Eyes. It’s really gentle, super easy to apply and seems to last forever.

3. Liz Earle hot wash cloth and cleanser. It makes cleaning my face super quick (including removing mascara!) with no need for anything else other than moisturiser and also lasts forever.

4. Bio Oil: not just for tums and thighs. I apply mine to my forehead and eye area at nighttime to discourage the wrinkles from getting any more obvious.

5. Eight hour cream. Massive “mum” cliche this one, but it seems to cure every little issue for all of us (Nia always seems to have an invisible scratch that needs attention) so I always have it on me.

Who inspires you?

My mum who managed four kids and a career and my sister who is doing the same.

Plus I’m constantly inspired all the time by friends just doing their best at this mothering malarkey, whether they go to work and do it, whether they’re running their own business and especially if they’re managing to get through full time without anything else but being a mummy superstar.

How many children do you dream of having?

Just one more.

If you could go back to your pre-child life,  for a short period of time, what would you do?

Cliche again, but I’d take a few more long haul flights!

What do you miss about life before kids?

Not having to book a babysitter whenever you want to go out and drink wine.

What do you love most about being a Mum?

The fact that I’m their mum and that I know no one else (apart from their dad) loves them like I do.

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

There is a constant pressure on us all at the moment to “be more present”. What does that even mean anyway? Putting pressure on yourself to enjoy all the moments can make those moments a lot more stressful.

 

A big thank you to Jenny for sharing her journey with us; she is one brave, strong and inspiring lady! If you’d like to make a donation and support the family’s fundraising efforts for GOSH, then just visit their page here.

Also do make sure you check out Top Five Baby before making any baby-related purchases! I for one think it’s a FAB idea. I’m sure I speak for most mums when I say we’re a time-poor collective so anything that makes the process of deciding which bit of baby paraphernalia to buy a little easier, is surely a winner. You’ll also be happy to know the site is very clean, simple and user-friendly. Check it out!

Finally, if you’d like to feature on the blog as part of the ‘In the (mother) hood’ series, just drop me an email: thedoublemama@gmail.com

 

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SOPHIE’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

She’s young, hot (mega legs), creative, talented and Mama to little Luna. She’s the owner, maker, admin doer and everything else in between, behind the creative homegrown brand Sophie & Co. This week we’re privileged to have the gorgeous Sophie Cummings in the (mother) hood, telling us what mama life is like for her…

Name: Sophie Cummings

Age: 26

Location: Highbury, London…for now. Soon to be Hemel Hempstead…

Number of Kids: 1

Names & ages of aforementioned: Luna Mary Jean, 15 months

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Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

Somewhere in the middle of a lovely and a not so lovely surprise.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Oh, shit. Then, f***.

How did you tell your partner?

We were walking back from a romantic trip to our local Sainsbury’s when he pointed to a banged up people carrier for sale and jestingly suggested ‘we’ll be buying one of those next…’. Naturally, I made it all super awkward and let him know it may be sooner than he thinks.

His reaction?

Radio silence.

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

I spent the first few months unaware I was pregnant and drinking all the alcohol and eating all the seafood, soft cheeses & rare meat I could get my hands on, some of which was spent in Australia & Tasmania, so my body didn’t seem to react too badly to growing another human! I bloody loved being pregnant, I was very lucky it felt pretty natural.

Tell me about your birth experience?

I didn’t plan much for birth, the pregnancy seem to fly by and I really didn’t want to read too much in to it. Whatever happened, I had to squeeze another human out of my vagina and I didn’t really care where or how that was going to happen as long as I didn’t die. My two (loose) wishes were to have a water birth in the birthing centre and to be the first person to touch her, I wanted to pull her out. And that all happened after a 39.5 hours of contractions and half an hour of pushing, can’t complain…My only wishes for next time are to do all of that at home!

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Oh god where do I start; exhausting, hilarious and unpredictable. They’ll do!

Can you share any highlights?

This probably counts as a parent fail but I laugh every time I think of it; Monday afternoon having a smear test (go, me!), Luna’s safely strapped into her pram while I decide a packet of raisins would be the best snack to keep her distracted…except she can never get the sodding things out the packet so I spent the entire duration hanging over the bed drip feeding raisins to a toddler who perfectly timed working out how to get the lid off her sippy cup perfectly with a nurse inserting a plastic tube up my vagina. Water, raisins, everywhere. Dignity = zero. Once upon a time that may have been mortifying, I’m expecting worse.

Can you share any low points?

Oh probably the time I forgot I’d undone Luna’s straps to her pushchair, she fell face first onto a cold concrete floor. Never felt so guilty in all my life.

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What do you do when baby sleeps?

Complete orders & drink lots of caffeine.

Have you got a business?

Yes! Sophie & Co; I started it when Luna was around 6 months old, the thought of leaving Luna and returning to an incredibly underpaid job with a total lack of creativity made my heart hurt so I put my skills to use and started making infant and toddler clothing. Lots of exciting things to come and I can’t wait for the year ahead!

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What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Aside from watching Luna learn new things, which seems to be daily at the moment, my absolute favourite part of being a Mother is watching her eat so well. Is that weird? I get so much joy out of her not being a picky eater. She wouldn’t survive in an Italian family if she was but I’m also very aware that she will have her moments so let’s not all burst my bubble just yet, OK?

What are the worst bits?

The game changing. Why oh why do they change the rules all the time? One minute she self soothes and has 2 regular naps in her cot, the next she refuses to nap anywhere but strapped to my chest. And…tantrums.

What was the biggest surprise that you wish you’d been warned about/known before becoming a Mama?

That bonding with your child can take a few weeks, sometimes it’s not instant and that’s ok. So many people want to warn you about Post Natal Depression but no one seemed to shed a light on those first few weeks…

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

Stand your ground, say no, and tell family members when they’re stepping over the line or downright rude. Looking back, I see now how important it is to have space and time to bond in those first few days…don’t let anyone jeopardise that. Also, go with the flow because it will all change next week.

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What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

People get SO into this don’t they? I had some clothes for Luna, a pair of leggings, fresh pair of knickers and my camera. Snacks went untouched, a nightie? For god’s sake why did I buy a nightie I was naked bar my bra which came off the moment she was born. Bare essentials ladies, bare essentials.

What’s been you best baby product?

Ergobaby 360 Sling, sleepy dust I tell you!

What was really useful in the early days?

My mum!

Who inspires you?

Again, my Mum. She’s a hardworker. If there’s anything I want to pass on to Luna it’s to not be idle, do something, anything! Be innovative!

How many children do you dream of having?

Always wanted 4, now I have 1 I think I’ll be happy with….1. No I joke, 3? 2? Ask me in a few years!

If you could go back to your pre-child life, where you weren’t so tired, for a short period of time, what you do?

EVERYTHING. It’s amazing how much you manage to squeeze in to nap time, just get shit done. Stop procrastinating and do it. I’d also be really spontaneous. Childless people don’t realise how lucky they are to just…go out. Even the thought of taking Luna to a coffee shop these days sends me into a cold sweat.

What do you miss about life before kids?
Friday nights and sleep. Nothing new there, hey?

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

Patience. I can be quite hot headed and struggle to keep calm when Luna’s being frustrating, I’m really crap at just ‘being’ with her and not constantly thinking of the other thousand things I need to do. I also don’t take her to enough groups and feel forever guilty about that. Basically, lots! Parenting is tough?!

TOO RIGHT IT IS!! Big thanks to Sophie for sharing her experiences of Motherhood, from taking time to bond with her new baby to going for a smear test with her toddler in tow! Hope you all enjoyed reading what she had to say as much as I did.

Make sure you check out her shop Sophie & Co where you will find some absolutely gorgeous pieces of clothing for babas and toddlers, all available in a variety of fabrics, and all handmade by the lovely lady herself.

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And if you’d like to take part in this ‘In the (mother) hood’ feature, please drop me an email – thedoublemama@gmail.com – I’d love to hear from you!

 

What I know about Motherhood

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Mummy Time

The lovely Nicki who writes the fantastic blog On The Changing Mat invited me to share what I know about motherhood as part of her weekly ‘Mummy Time’ feature.

So if you’re interested to read about my experience of being a double mama then head on over to onthechangingmat.co.uk and take a look.

You’ll find lots of different Mamas have take guest blogged about their experiences too!