Mental Health, Play Group & Me!

Since it’s Mental Health Week, I thought it was only fitting that I shared my story of the first time I went to ‘Mammy & Me’.

If you don’t already know me, I’m Chloe and I have a daughter Elsie-Rose who will be 2 in January. She has literally been the light of my life since she was born!

Before having Elsie I suffered awful with anxiety and panic attacks! I wasn’t able to be in big crowds, and I was getting depressed because of my own thoughts. It even got to the point where my hands would stiffen up and I couldn’t move them due to my anxiety, and there were times in work where I literally couldn’t even hear people’s food orders because the sounds just became muffled to me!
When Elsie was born she made me feel a lot better, I was having smaller panic attacks and my anxiety was getting better but was still clinically severe.

I never thought in my mind that I’d be able to go to a mother and baby group. To tell you the truth I used to lie and say I’d been to one to anyone who asked me, just so I didn’t look like a ‘selfish mother’ for putting my baby at a disadvantage by not allowing her to make friends because of MY anxiety.

It wasn’t until Elsie was around 5 months old that I plucked up the courage to go out and take her to a baby group. The only reason I did was because my friend Becky started ‘Mammy and Me’ and I wanted to support her by going.

At the time ‘Mammy and Me’ was in Porth, which wasn’t far from me, close enough to get to but far enough to have a mini panic attack and have about 1 million bad thoughts!

We set off to go and my heart raced from the moment I got in the car to the moment we got to the door of the Church. I had already had a mini panic attack in the car on the way and all I could think was “Who will I talk to?”, “What if they don’t like me?”, “What if I look stupid?”
I almost turned the car around at Porth bridge roundabout because I was that scared!
Looking back now I think I was being an idiot. Do mothers really judge if you haven’t got makeup on or if you have a ‘mam bun?’ HECK NO!
But at the time it was so daunting!!

I can remember going into the church breathless. Telling people that I was out of breath from walking, when really I just couldn’t catch my breath because that’s how scared I was!

I can remember sitting down with Elsie and the most kindest looking woman (one of the Aunties) came over and asked my name and Elsie’s and if I wanted a cup of tea! Which I said yes to without hesitating!! Cup of tea in hand I felt a bit less nervous and a lot less anxious. I calmed myself down and played with Elsie.

I have never been good at making conversations with people, I don’t know why, but literally I am the worst!!
But I pushed myself, I said hello to a group of girls I’d never met before who were there with their babies. And believe it or not, that same group of girls are now some of my closest friends!

I think as a mother ‘pushing yourself’ is something we have to do a lot!
Pushing yourself to get up at 2am for a night feed. Pushing yourself to take a bath when the dry shampoo just isn’t cutting it. Pushing yourself to go out and make new friends!

I found mother hood so lonely at first, but once I went to ‘Mammy & Me’ I realised I wasn’t alone!! All of these feelings I bottled up I was finally talking to other people who felt the exact same way!
It was so nice to have a bit of adult conversation other than raspberry blowing and ‘Peppa Pig’ and these girls made me feel so welcome that I kept going back! It was my new favourite day!

Me and Elsie got to get out of the house and go to ‘Mammy & Me’ where she could play, and I could talk. I could express how hard my week was, or how happy I was, and there were people who would just listen and do the same.
A year later the girls I met the first day are now girls I talk to daily. We tell each other what’s going on with us, how we are, ask advice, ask if they could help one another!
They have been the best support system through this rocky ride of motherhood and I think on times I would have been lost without them!
Which really makes me think of the people who still haven’t pushed themselves to go out with their baby yet, or try a baby group. (Preferably ‘Mammy & Me’ haha!!)
You should never feel guilty when you can’t quite pluck up the courage that week. But just keep pushing!! Because one week you will!! And the day you go is the day you’ll never look back! You’ll have adult conversation, 5 minutes from a nagging baby and some tea. Which is always a bonus.

I see people going to ‘Mammy & Me’ now with babies 5 months old and it brings so much lovely memories back of the hard times I went through to get to where I am now. The memories of the friends I have made for life and how happy it all made me.
I am so glad I did it! I think if I didn’t, I still could have been the same person I once was, the person who was scared to meet new people and had anxiety of big crowds, suffering in silence pretty much!
But I’m not that person anymore!! I have been free of panic attacks for about a year! Free of anxiety to the point it was interfering with my day to day life.
I’m surrounded with amazing, supportive women who I call friends all because I plucked up the courage to go to ‘Mammy & Me’ on that one rainy morning.

I’d just like to thank Becky, the Aunties and the Church, for the absolutely amazing effort they put into ‘Mammy & Me’. If it wasn’t for them I worry I wouldn’t have overcome my worst fears.

I’d also like to thank the girls who I met that day, and the days after for always being there when I need someone.
And most importantly. Elsie for making me a mammy to begin with, for pushing me to have the courage.

If anyone reads this and feels the same way I will always be happy to talk and help.
But please PUSH YOURSELF
It makes them rainy days brighter..

Chloe.

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The Adventures of Tommy & Mammy

If like me, you are always looking for something new and exciting to do with your baby/toddler to keep them entertained, then look no further than this blog post, because this week I have nailed down the Queen of outdoor and indoor adventures to give us a break down of some of the best places to go with infants in South Wales!

Hiya! Ammie here! So my little boy Tommy is nearly two and I like to keep him busy, and give him as many memory making experiences as possible. Lots of the places listed below I was either told about, or I found online. Many are local, and lots of them are totally inexpensive – so you can have a lovely day out with your little one without breaking the bank!!

Jazzy Jungle, Pontyclun – This is by far my favourite local soft play.  https://www.facebook.com/jazzyjungleplay/

Tonypandy Library, Tonypandy – Fab little children’s area.

Aberdare Park, Aberdare – Park, lovely walk and lake with ducks, also plenty of parking.

Barry Sidings, Trehafod – Café, park, water and ducks, again plenty of parking. https://www.facebook.com/barrysidingscafe/

Play Ville – Fab for different role play areas. Encourages play.  https://www.playvillekids.co.uk/

Hendrewennol – Something different. Tommy loves getting involved picking the fruit.  http://hendrewennol.com/

The Gruffalo Trail, Mountain View Ranch – Lots to do, from the giant inflatable pillow to the goats and rabbits. Not forgetting finding the Gruffalo! Great, cheap day out!  https://mountainviewranch.co.uk/gruffalo-trail

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Techniquest – Again something a bit different. Tommy loved the water activities! Check out their website because they do Toddler Days!  https://www.techniquest.org/plan-your-visit/toddler-days/

Ynysangharad Park – Great for toddlers as unlike most parks it has plenty of equipment suitable for toddlers.

Amelia Trust Farm – Lovely few hours out for toddlers to run wild whilst also contributing and donating to a charity. Win, win! https://www.ameliatrust.org.uk/

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Jump, Cardiff – By far my favourite indoor activity! Their toddler area is amazing and is completely secure for babies and has lots of variety. http://123jump.co.uk/our-cardiff-site

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Ponty Lido – Although the weather is changing, keep in mind the Lido and Merthyr Splash Park. Highly recommend for next summer!

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Mumbles Lido – A little bit further to travel but a brilliant summer day out. It’s free and you don’t have to book! They also have an onsite café!

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Trago Mills Play Centre – Fab place to play! https://www.facebook.com/playzonetrago/

St Fagans – Although entrance is free, be aware that there is a £5 parking charge. Lots of space for toddlers to run around. Small play area. Usually activities and crafts going on.  https://museum.wales/stfagans/

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Pughs Garden Centre Mud Kitchen – Another favourite of mine! Runs on a Tuesday and Wednesday check and book on their website to avoid disappointment. https://en-gb.facebook.com/PughsGardenVillageRadyr/

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Supajump Cardiff – Trampoline Park with an amazing toddler area.  https://supajump.co.uk/

Wiggleys Farm Bridgend – Suitable all year round. http://www.wiggleysfunfarm.co.uk/

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Cefn Mably Farm – My all time favourite local farm. We fell in love with this place. So many things to do. Indoor and outdoor play area. Animals, café area and the opportunity to hold and pet the animals! So cute! https://www.cefnmablyfarmpark.com/

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PARC Cardiff – Fab secure park under cover with outdoor play area. Sand, water and mud kitchen. All included in the price.

Folly Farm, Pembrokeshire – Again, slightly further afield but worth a day out. Lots to do and see, with the farm and zoo on sight. As well as indoor fair rides. https://www.folly-farm.co.uk/

Bristol Zoo – Lovely family day out but not as much variety. https://bristolzoo.org.uk/

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Peppa Pig World – If you have a Peppa Pig fan on your hands they will never want to leave this place. Tommy still asks to go! I highly recommend going here, particularly in the summer as there is a splash park too! https://peppapigworld.co.uk/

Noah’s Ark – This was my least favourite.

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Long Leat, Wiltshire – HIGHLY RECOMMEND!! From walking with penguins to petting sting rays! The boat and train ride were amazing! Literally my favourite memory.  https://www.longleat.co.uk/

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With Christmas just around the corner I thought it might be helpful to include some of our Christmas adventures!!

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Pugh’s – A fun experience if you’re looking for something to do but more suitable for age 3+

Caerphilly Garden Centre – Most amazing experience which brought back the magic of Christmas for me! It honestly made me feel like a kid again!! The Santa was incredible! His voice, his appearance – He was the real deal!! Unlike Pugh’s where there were activities – this was an ‘in and out’ job!

Brecon Railway – My all time favourite!! I was particularly lucky with this one because it was snowing so the train ride to see Santa was extra magical!! We will be doing this one again for sure!

I try my best to do as many things with Tommy as I can. I’m enjoying every precious moment with him while he’s little, as time is so precious, and going so fast! Seeing the enjoyment on his face, just makes my heart hurt (in a good way!…. kind of!)

I love making memories with him. You can’t ever get this time back

Ammie xxx

 

The Lonely Mum’s Club

Feeling lonely?

Welcome to the club!

We recently took a poll on our Facebook page, asking whether women found being a mum ‘lonely’ or whether they found it a ‘social dream’.

The results were mixed, although the majority said that they found motherhood lonely.

I can relate.

When I had my daughter, the first few weeks were great. My husband took paternity leave, as well as some annual leave he had accumulated, which meant he had just over a month off work. That was exactly what I needed. Whilst trying to adjust to this new role, I had him there to help. We also had plenty of visitors, people who wanted to see her, and hold her and cwtch her to sleep.

But then reality kicked in. Owen went back to work, and the visitors started to fade. It was just me and her. To start with I used to take her for long walks. She slept whilst I tried to lose some of the weight I had gained in pregnancy. It was a nice hour out…. when the weather was fine!

At the time, I didn’t know anyone else who had had a baby. I knew via Facebook that some people I knew of were pregnant or had just had babies, but they weren’t people that I knew particularly well. So I was alone.

I had visited a friend’s ‘mother and baby group’ which was absolutely lush but was at an earlier time in the morning and further up the valley than where I lived.

For me, the earlier time just didn’t work because getting myself and Hattie ready in the morning along with sleep, feeds and a bath was a looooooong process. I totally understand why some groups start earlier – especially if you have other children that you drop off to school first- it makes sense!

But I started to wonder if anyone else was in the same boat as me. On my own. Bored. Not really speaking to anyone for most of the day, until my husband came home from work, or my mother called around. Women that perhaps were also finding the morning routine a long process and weren’t able to get out of the house until later in the morning. Women that perhaps didn’t have a car to drive up the valley, or perhaps weren’t comfortable walking into a place where they didn’t necessarily know someone.

It was then that I decided to set up ‘Mammy & Me’. I wanted to create a solution. I wanted to have somewhere where women could go, chill out, spend some time with other women, have some ‘grown up’ conversation. Somewhere where they knew that their children would be in a safe environment, with volunteers that genuinely cared about them. Somewhere where they could talk openly, build relationships and take those relationships outside of the group to social activities, on other days, so that the week no longer dragged, but was broken up by play dates in the diary, lunch appointments and group outings.

At first, the name was something that I knew might be a barrier for those who perhaps might think it should be something that was more ‘inclusive’ but my reasoning for the name was that I wanted the group to focus on mammys. Though in our advertising we say that everyone associated with mammy is welcome – dad’s, gran, sisters, aunties, cousins, partners – everyone.

Though the focus is on MAMMYS.

Why?

Because motherhood is extreme!

There are extreme highs, and extreme lows.

You can be extremely happy, and extremely unhappy.

You can be extremely tired, or extremely……. nope just extremely tired!!

You can be extremely social, and you can be extremely lonely.

Like anything in life, there are good times, and there are bad.

And so our focus is on helping mammys feel less low. Less guilty. Less frustrated with themselves. Less shy. Less uncomfortable.

Less alone.

At our Coffee Club Tuesday, in conversation, one of the mums admitted that she had had a complete emotional meltdown before she came to group. Her baby was unhappy and seemingly crying for no reason, nothing that she did was pacifying him – so she cried!!

How refreshing to know that it wasn’t just me who did that!!

I shared with her about the time I put my daughter in her Jumparoo and locked myself in the bathroom and cried, after a morning full of her screaming and crying!

I just needed 5 minutes peace, and to get it all out before pulling myself together to carry on with the day. And that was just one occasion. One story. There have been many more!!

It’s tough. Being a mother is tough!

But we can be so afraid of looking like a bad parent, or being ‘the only one’ that we can often keep our struggles to ourselves.

If we don’t have an outlet to open up and tell people about those experiences, frustrations and feelings, then we can feel very lonely indeed.

My husband works away during the week, so I have a LOT of time to fill during the day. From the time that Hattie wakes up (around 6am) until the time she goes to bed (around 7:30pm) it’s just me and her. In all honesty, I find that hard. Please don’t misunderstand me, my daughter is amazing. She literally lights up my life, and I love spending time with her, but sometimes I just need a break!  Thankfully our families are a great help and I honestly don’t know how I’d cope without them, and I take my hat off to anyone who has to do this role on their own with little or no help from others. Seriously you are heroes!

This is why ‘Mammy & Me’ is so important to me. I know what it’s like. I’m going through it, just the same as everyone else who comes along.

If you don’t have somewhere to go, let me encourage you to find somewhere. If that means you have to overcome some barriers -lack of confidence, shyness, fear, insecurity – then be determined to do that.

Like I said earlier, I didn’t know anyone who had had a baby. I knew of people, but they were ‘facebook friends’ as opposed to people who I knew well, but I had to overcome that barrier to invite them to group. Then I had to overcome the barrier to start a conversation with them when they came. Now I would consider them friends, and now we open up to one another about our motherhood struggles. If one of our babies is ill, we send photos of rashes and ask one another’s advice.

None of us really have a clue, we are all just ‘winging it’ but at least we are ‘winging it’ together!

 

 

Keeping up with the Kardashians

So this week I posted a poll to our Facebook page, asking whether women feel motivated or pressurised seeing photos of the Kardashians and other celebrities post baby bodies. An overwhelming 85% said that they found these images pressurising.

Let me first say that I am all for women getting into shape, whether before, during or after pregnancy. Some women after having a baby just seem to ‘bounce’ back into shape, others have to work really hard to get their pre-baby physique back, and still others, like me, struggle to lose their pregnancy weight.

I could give a number of reasons as to why I’ve found it difficult; my husband works away so I don’t have a babysitter, my daughter is a toddler so won’t stay in her pram for a long walk, I’m tired, I’ve injured my ACL. etc. etc. etc.

But ultimately, if I’m being totally honest, it’s a lack of discipline that is stopping me from losing weight, and my reasons have become excuses.

If I really tried to lose weight, I’m sure I could, and would.

Being a mum for the first time has been life changing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved it on many levels, but one of the biggest challenges I have found has been on my identity.

I have always battled with insecurity, and negative thoughts about myself, but after having a baby those insecurities seemed to double. As a Christian, I believe my identity is found in God and in what His Word (The Bible) says about me. However, my mind since having my daughter has thrown lots of questions, doubts and stumbling blocks in the way of my thoughts and feelings about myself.

Am I a good mum? Am I still attractive? Will my body ever look like it did before? Who am I besides a mum?

These thoughts are hard enough to wade through and deal with. The last thing a woman needs on top of that is social media, tv and magazines throwing photo shopped photos at us claiming this and that celebrity managed to lose all of their baby weight in a record breaking 2 days! (maybe a slight exaggeration!!)

Give us a break!!

In my lowest moments, I cave, I look at these photos on Instagram and I beat myself up about the fact that my daughter is 20 months old and I still don’t look like Kylie Jenner!

But in my more, sensible moments, I realise that I am 33!! Though it’s possible for me to look good, and possibly better than I do now at 33, it’s very unlikely that I will look like a 20 year old. (not with my grey hairs!!) I also have to remember that many celebrities have had help to look the way that they do – money, surgery, personal trainers, dietitians, home gyms, cooks, stylists, make up artists, nannys (!!!) and good old photo shop!!

If we had that kind of help then maybe we would look like the photos on Instagram and the pictures in magazines! But alas, we don’t….. at least I don’t!! So anything that we do to make ourselves look and feel good without that kind of help should be praised!!

You managed to eat a healthy meal in a day? Good on you!!

You were able to get a full 8 hours undisturbed sleep? Well done!!

You took a walk and burned off some calories (and some steam!!) Brilliant!!

You had a shower and did your hair?! Round of applause for you!!

Let’s put things in perspective – unfortunately we can’t ‘Keep up with the Kardashians’ and it would be a waste of time and energy us trying.

The biggest revelation we can have as mothers, but as women in general, is that we don’t have to keep up with anyone!

We don’t have to compare our bodies, our babies, or our parenting with any celebrity, or any other person.

What is right for one person, might not be right for someone else. Paying for a personal trainer, might not suit your lifestyle or finances. Or going to the gym 5 times a week might not work for you, but for someone else it might be a priority.  That doesn’t make them right and you wrong, or them wrong and you right.

We are just different, and that’s ok!

Theodore Roosevelt said that, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’

If we spend our lives comparing ourselves and trying to ‘keep up’ with the Kardashians or anyone else, then we will spend our lives miserable.

If you want to live a ‘joyful’ life then take your eyes off everyone else. Ignore what ‘Sarah’ down the road is doing, or ‘Jessica’ in playgroup and every now and again take a break from Instagram!!