A letter to my body; I should have shown you love long ago.

We’ve known one another for 28 years and have been through such a lot together and yet we’ve never been friends. Acquaintances, yes. But friends? Never.

And yet you’ve done a lot for me. You allowed me to dance from the age of 6 through to 16. You carried me through 9 years in retail, where I stood on my feet for hours at a time. You even got me through puberty, a difficult time for any teenage girl. And the most momentous thing you’ve done for me is when you carried my little girl. You carried her for 9 whole months and you then went through a lengthy 22-hour labour before you were rushed in for an emergency c-section. You then had 7 layers of tissue sliced open and then stitched back up, and as you worked to heal yourself, you simultaneously produced milk and allowed me to feed my baby as best you could. And you did this all without me ever thanking you.

Since having Lulla, my mortality is something I think about often. I hope to live long enough to watch her grow up, which means we’ll (hopefully) have an even longer journey together than the 28 years that have led up to this point. And I want to reach out and apologise to you because I’ve not loved you very much. Sometimes, I’ve not even shown you kindness. I’ve insulted you and wished you were different. I’ve even avoided looking at you in the mirror. And it has been so easy for me to hate you. What has been much much harder for me to do is to love you for all that you are, and all that you’ve done.

How you feel about yourself makes me sad because at some stage you’ve started to associate your worth in pounds, measuring it by the size of your clothes. Your cheeks have burned with shame when you’ve caught sight of yourself in the mirror. And there have been a lot of missed opportunities, times you can never get back. You’ve told yourself you’re too fat to see friends, too fat to even go outside the house. You’ve even convinced yourself that you’re too fat to be worthy of love because who could love you as you are now when you don’t even love yourself?

And I remember the first time you found a stretch mark. It was on your belly and you felt like a failure because of that one mark. You hadn’t realised you were gaining weight. You were too consumed by the darkness of depression to really be aware. So, when you saw it, it caught you off guard. A week later more stretch marks joined that single mark, seemingly out of nowhere, and suddenly your belly was riddled with tiger stripes. They were red and angry, as was your rage. You punished yourself for weeks. You made yourself feel sick every time you looked at those marks, scarring your skin. And you wished for a rewind button. To be able to go back and prevent your body from ever changing this much.

And you lost your way for a period of time. You lost sight of who you were, too caught up with who you were not. And with this, your identity got a little lost, too. You’ve changed shape and size so much over the last five years that you no longer feel like you know who you are. And you may not spend as much time doing your hair. Some days, you may even abandon your makeup bag altogether. And you may not fit into the clothes that made you feel like you. But if there is one thing that you’re not, it is a failure. You are more than just a body. More than a size. And things like stretch marks do not define you as a person.

You have a daughter. She’s currently four months old, and before you know it, she’s going to be of an age where she’s impressionable. And if you can’t learn to love yourself for everything you are, how are you going to teach your daughter to love the body she was born into? If you could view the words you speak and think about yourself, if they were etched into your skin for you and the world to see, you would realise just how harsh and ugly they are. Take a moment to remember that the words you use to speak about yourself are going to speak volumes to that young girl as she gets older. How is she meant to love her body, in a world that is already trying to tear women down for breaking the mould, when her own mum can’t even look in the mirror and be happy?

And you’ve got to be kinder. You’ve been battling yourself for such a long time, do you even know what it feels like to look at yourself in the mirror and just love yourself? Your whole life has been made up of moments when you’ve been consumed by this ideology that you have to be some type of way to be accepted, to be loved. You’ve criticised yourself for years and it hasn’t made you any happier. Have you ever tried to just accept yourself and see what happens?

I’ve not helped, I’ll admit. And I’m sorry that I ever hated you for giving me breasts that weren’t perky enough. I’m sorry that I abused you further by shoving implants into your chest. Implants that are heavy and painful and that now make my breasts sag under their weight. And I’m beyond thankful to you that, even after doing this to you, you still produced milk so that I could feed my newborn baby. It’s my own fault that you couldn’t store the milk, but you still allowed me to feed her the second she was born, and for the first two weeks of her life. And breastfeeding Lulla is something I loved doing. She latched the second I held her, and words can’t describe the bond I felt looking down at my baby as I gave her everything she needed. That first night in the hospital with my baby are moments I’ll forever cherish, and you gave those to me.

I’m sorry for the length of time I spent hating you for gaining weight so easily during my fight with depression. I ate for comfort a lot during that period and I felt that you punished me further by turning those calories into fat and making you balloon in size. You disgusted me to the point where I didn’t want to leave the house. Yet you kept me alive during a time when I didn’t have much hope. You kept my heart beating when, sometimes, all I wanted was for it to stop. And though that was a dark time in my life for me, you not only carried me through it, but you got me to a place where I’m happier than I ever was before.

I’m sorry that I doubted your strength when it came to motherhood. I didn’t think that you were strong enough to carry a baby. Hell, I didn’t think you were healthy enough to even get pregnant. Doubts plagued my mind for the entire 9 months and I was convinced that you’d lose my baby. That you’d given me the hope of becoming a mother, something I’d wanted for a long time, and you would just as easily strip it from me. And yet you not only carried my baby 6 days over her due date, but you kept her happy and healthy the entire time.

And I’m sorry for all those times I’ve ever made you feel inadequate. For those times when I’ve wanted so desperately for you to be different, to look different. For focusing on everything you’re not as opposed to what you already are. For wanting you to be toned in places where you’re soft and squishy. For your skin to be unblemished where it’s instead scarred with stretch marks. For the times when I’ve clawed at you in fits of rage, screaming that I hated you. For the nasty words I’ve used in my head when I’ve looked at you. For the years where I’ve refused to take photos of you, ashamed of how you look. For deeming you ugly and worthless, and carrying these thoughts around with me, wearing them as a reminder to myself that I’m not worthy of being loved because I don’t love you.

I’m sorry because you never deserved any of that. You’re strong, and you’re resilient. You are powerful, even though you feel flawed. And because you have already done so much for me in this life.

But most of all, because you are a body that deserves to be loved.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.. or what’s left of it anyway.

Let me tell you now, no woman expects to come out of pregnancy with a six-pack and perky breasts. And if she does materialise with an enviable cleavage, I promise you – her tits are probably taped up behind her ears. But you can’t really blame us for wanting a miracle as we stand in front of a mirror about to take a look at our postpartum bodies for the first time. Because nothing can prepare you for how different your body is post-baby. Not even Google. And I Google everything.

I think the first time it hit me just how much my body had changed after having Lulla was when they wheeled me onto the maternity ward. Out of habit, I reached down to massage the baby bump I’d secretly grown to love, and for the first time in 9 months it wasn’t there. What was there felt saggy and unfamiliar. It wobbled when I laughed (not that there’s much laughter when recovering from a c-section) and it wobbled even when I spoke. Who am I kidding? It wobbled whenever I breathed! It was like carrying a hot water bottle around with me. And underneath the fatigue that kept my mind busy for weeks after having Lulla, I remember feeling nostalgic for the baby bump that had given me so much confidence when pregnant. Gone was my round bump and what was left was saggy skin that looked and felt like a deflated balloon.

I knew that I wouldn’t bounce back to shape as soon as Lulla was born. Hell, even Tammy Hembrow (the sculpted goddess that she is) has openly admitted that despite being toned to absolute perfection (my words, not hers) she still has loose skin after having her babies. But you can’t blame us for still feeling miserable post-baby when we look down at our bodies and see the aftermath of what 9 months carrying a baby can do to your body.

As much as I loved my bump, come week 40 of waddling, I was kind of ready for my baby to be born. During the last month of my pregnancy, my belly felt stretched to its full capacity. My skin hurt, it was bumpy and, well, it kinda resembled Dead Pool’s face. My boobs leaked all the time and my t-shirt was often crusty and glued to my sunny side up nipples. I thought that I’d feel so much better after my baby was born. I thought it would all slowly shrink back into place over time. And for some women this is the case, but for many of us, we just never look the same after a baby. I’m 4 months postpartum and only just accepting how different my body is now. And whilst no new mum ever questions whether or not it was worth it (being a mum is the BEST job ever) sometimes it just sucks, y’know!

1. You’ll still look pregnant

Some women actually believe that you birth your baby and your bump just disappears. Can I get a HA HA HA? While my belly felt deflated post-baby, it was still a big old pregnant belly, just with less shape to it. Your baby may be born, but your uterus is still swollen, your organs are all over the place (creepy, right?) and your skin isn’t going to just ping back in an hour or two. So, basically you may still look pregnant even after having your baby and your pre-baby jeans won’t fit you just yet. Sorry, mamas. And you’ll probably get the inevitable, ‘When are you due?’ question even whilst you push your newborn round in the pram.

2. You’ll have a kangaroo pouch

Ladies, you’re probably going to have an overhang. A cruder term is a gunt, but I much prefer to call it a kangaroo pouch. And whether you’re big, small, short or tall – we all get them. An overhang occurs after a c-section but I’ve also known women who’ve had vaginal births and been left with one. And they’re pretty grim.

3. You’ll trip over your boobs

My boobs weren’t the best before Lulla. I had a boob job at 18 and due to complications had them re-done again at 19 and was left with nipples that resembled fried eggs. Throw 10 years and a baby into the mix and those implants are hanging lower than where I paid £6k for them to be. And they ache. I take off my bra and they basically tickle my toes. Not only are they now saggy, but they’re also covered with stretch marks. And though I stopped breastfeeding Lulla when she was two weeks, I still pinch my nipple and watch as breast milk shoots out of it.

4. Even your belly button changes

Why did no one mention the fact even my belly button would change? I had my belly button pierced when I was 12 and always thought it looked cute decorated with my sparkly belly bar. Until I had a baby. When pregnant your navel piercing can stretch out and it doesn’t stretch back after your baby. My belly button is pretty much a hard lump due to scar tissue and no sparkly belly bar is gonna make it any prettier.

5. You’ll shed hair like a snake sheds its skin

So, when pregnant I was basically Rapunzel. I had my hair cut twice because it just kept growing. It felt super thick and was luxuriously soft. Lulla is 4 months old now and I’ve started noticing just how much I have a hairline similar to Jack Nicholson. I brush my hair and it snaps off. I wash my hair and clumps fall out. Lulla reaches out lovingly and comes away with baby-sized fistfuls of my hair. Now I’m pretty much a bald chicken, I feel bad for ever moaning how my hair was growing too much.

6. You’ll sweat yourself into dehydration

I thought I’d left pregnancy behind and gone straight into menopause. And it wasn’t even down to the fact I’d had Lulla in June and a week later we entered a heatwave. I was sweating even when I felt cool. I’d go to sleep and wake up in the morning with damp hair, my t-shirt stuck to my dodgy nips. It’s normal, don’t worry. Your hormones are just helping to shift excess fluids that helped to support both your body and baby during your pregnancy.

7. You’ll need a poo but won’t be able to go

I lied in the hospital when the midwife asked me if I’d ‘opened my bowels’ every time I went to there toilet simply because I was scared that if I said no they’d keep me in another night and would start coming to the toilet with me to help entice out a poo.

I didn’t poo for around two weeks, something I admitted to my Community midwife once home. I had an emergency c-section and every time I went to the toilet my stomach muscles felt too weak to push. In fact, it was excruciating, I could just about pee without having to hold my stomach/scar. I felt like I’d never push out another satisfying turd ever again. But two weeks later, all was well and I was ‘opening my bowels’ and gushing over the experience with my midwife.

8. You’ll turn into Big Foot

For someone with size 7 feet, I was mortified that I could no longer get in the majority of my shoes towards the end of pregnancy. At least not without my feet spilling over the tops of my Nike’s. My feet (and hands) were swollen and my ankles were non-existent. The swelling went down a week or so after having Lulla and it was nice to become reacquainted with my ankles.

15 things that no one tells you about becoming a mum

Before Lulla, I used to look for those earth mothers’ to follow on Instagram. The ones that made parenthood look like a breeze with their bohemian-chic style and mason jars of green smoothies. Their insta feeds are made up with photos of them breastfeeding their babies whilst smiling adoringly at the camera and it felt like looking into the future.

What do I look for now? Since having Lulla, I look for the mothers’ who post selfies of themselves balling their eyes out and who openly admit to locking themselves in the kitchen so that they can chug their coffee whilst it’s still warm. The hashtag #motherhoodunplugged is my go-to search.

And I feel like the sisterhood well and truly left me hanging. Much like a job application, they filtered the job role to highlight the perks. Sure, they told me how great being a mum was and how much I was going to love it. And they were right about both things. But they didn’t tell me about all the times I’d pull my hair out and want to go back to my old 9-5. They didn’t tell me that sometimes I’d have to go hours without using the toilet or that I’d be so tired I wouldn’t be able to function let alone care for a newborn baby. And not a single person mentioned the post-baby hormones that can have you crying at everrrrrrrrrything. Happy? You’re sobbing. Tired? You’re sobbing. Carrot a little wonky? Full on meltdown.

1. It’s hard.

When I came home with Lulla I felt like reaching for my phone, calling up all my friends that have kids and screaming down the line at them, ‘You never told me it would be this HARD!’ Because it is hard. Rewarding, life-changing and amazing, yes. But super bloody hard, too. The needs of a baby can change on the daily, and just when you think you’ve nailed motherhood, you’ll be thrown a curveball and be feeling like you’re back to the start. Your baby will cry with a pain and you’ll be at a complete loss on how to help make it better. Lulla held onto her wind and suffered with silent reflux from birth and because of this she would cry in pain during and after bottles. Seeing your baby in pain and not quite knowing how to make it better kills you, yet at the same time, the continual crying can feel torturous.

You’ll think you’ve nailed feeding and then your baby won’t take their bottle. You may establish a fabulous routine only for it to change the next day. Motherhood can at times be like the season finale of PLL; it literally makes no sense.

2. You’ll bleed LOTS.

After your baby is born dust off your period pants, pull out a maxi pad and prepare to have a 6-week long period. Yep, as if childbirth wasn’t gruelling enough you now have to endure a super fun period after having your baby. You’ll flood your knickers. You may discover blood clots. And you’ll have midwives at the hospital wanting to monitor just how much blood you lose which means saving each and every wee for them to come and inspect. You really do leave your dignity at the door when it comes to labour.

3. Hormones turn you into an actual monster.

The blissful state I found myself in after having Lulla didn’t last long. Before I knew it, hormones snuck up on me, kidnapped my sanity and strapped me onto the emotional roller-coaster that is motherhood. I could be staring at my baby adoringly one minute and then having a breakdown because my coffee was cold the next. I would laugh and it wouldn’t be long before it turned into hysteric sobs. I’d break down and convince myself that I was doing a terrible job until I’d look over at my baby, happy and content, and would realise how ridiculous I was being. I well and truly kept Kleenex in business those first few weeks of being a first-time mum.

4. There’s a reason they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture.

The one thing I wish I’d known about before motherhood is the sleep deprivation. Sure, you expect to be tired. But sleep deprivation is a whole other ball game. I went a solid 48 hours without sleep and by the time I got home with Lulla, I’d gone past the point of exhaustion yet it felt like cheating to sleep when I had a newborn baby to care for. I was waking up throughout the night to feed on demand, and then during the day I had lots of people visiting, wanting to meet Lulla, so I truly felt like I never got a moment to just relax that first week. My mum took Lulla for the night a few days in just to give us the chance to get a solid night sleep and it worked wonders to recharge my batteries. I wish I’d followed the ‘nap when your baby naps’ motto – it works! No one can do their best for a baby when they’re that tired. I remember I couldn’t even hold a conversation and often broke down crying any time someone spoke to me – #hormones.

5. Your conversations change.

You know those people that only talk about their children? Yep, we all morph into those people when we become a parent. Gone are the days when you cared for celebrity gossip. Suddenly you’re talking baby poo (the colour, the texture, the smell..), breastfeeding and all kinds of baby-related things with anyone and everyone. You’ll be whipping out your phone to show people videos and photos of your baby and your social media feeds will be full of things you’re convinced the world needs to see. And your tone of voice will inevitably change. You’ll adopt a really high pitch and your eyes will be wide, your smile big. Even though you promise yourself you won’t, you’ll adopt a baby vocabulary and phrases such as bot bot, bum bum and dum dum become the norm. And sometimes, you’ll forget you’re talking to an adult and not a baby, and use your baby voice with them, too. We all do it, it’s okay. And yes, it sounds totally cringe when you hear other people using their baby voice. And yes, you sound exactly the same when you do it, too. Do we care? Nope!

6. Cancel your Netflix subscription.

Save yourself £9.99 a month and cancel your Netflix account. If you have time for watching TV then I’m both envious and suspicious. Your life as you knew it before is now a distant memory and the reality of this will hit you at some point. Probably when you sit down to enjoy that box set you started whilst pregnant, and that’s the exact moment your baby will choose to need you. You don’t get much downtime when you’ve got a newborn baby, and even when they sleep and you get a few golden moments, TV will be the last thing on your mind. Your baby will scream for an hour and you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the most of your freedom pre-baby. Don’t feel bad if you feel nostalgic for the life you led before becoming a mum, we all feel it at some stage. But wait until your baby smiles at you for the first time; it’s worth more than any episode of Making a Murderer.

7. Sometimes you’ll need help.

I can’t stress this enough, but even the most patient of mums will need help at some stage. And asking for help and admitting you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re not a great parent, it just means you need a break. At first, I was scared that asking for help meant I wasn’t coping, and that to me felt like failure. I remember my auntie ringing once and asking if I needed any help and I said no, yet I’d been holding a wee for the last 8 hours, hadn’t drink or eaten all day and was actually feeling faint. There have been many times when I’ve rung someone to come and help me, especially during the times when Lulla has been crying relentlessly, and it was the best thing to do. Sometimes, you just need someone else who hasn’t had a baby screaming in their face for hours on end to come and hold your baby. You can have a breather and compose yourself. Remember, babies are so in tune with their mums, they pick up on exactly how we’re feeling. So if we’re stressed and agitated then we’re not going to be able to calm a crying baby very well. Accept help. Ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re failing – it just means you’re human!

8. You may get whiplash from checking on your baby.

If I had a pound for every time I asked someone “Can you just check she’s breathing” then I’d probably be spending more money than I already do on UberEats. But you may check that your baby is okay 1,000 times a day, and that’s okay. I carry Lulla with me whenever I leave the room. If I go outside I peek through the window at her every three seconds. She coughs and I’m ready to do the Heimlich manoeuvre on her. When I put her to sleep I get back out of bed about twenty times to check that she’s breathing. I felt like I would never be able to sleep again. But you will. It’ll get easier and before you know it you’ll only be checking on them 500 times a day.

9. Phantom kicks will convince you you’re pregnant again.

Apart from the lack of sex that it would require to have a baby (forget rational thinking post-baby) I was convinced I was still pregnant due to the fact I still felt baby kicks after having Lulla. I even Googled whether it was possible that the midwives had missed another baby and that all along I’d been pregnant with twins. It’s the weirdest feeling. I’d sit and feel the same kicks and movements that I felt when pregnant, but it’s just your uterus shrinking. And don’t get me started on phantom crying..

10. You’ll Google, like, everything.

Oh, Dr. Google, how I love you. I saved myself a few visits to my actual GP by using Google (other search engines are available) to search lots of things, such as can my baby die from not pooing (mamas, we all know what it’s like when our baby gets constipated for the first time) and can my baby combust from crying. The reason I started this blog was because I found solace on baby forums in the early days when Lulla was born. Other mums sharing their tips and experiences was such a comfort to me.

11. Baby brain is real.

I was convinced I had Alzheimer’s. I would ask people a question and literally not remember their response and then five minutes later I’d forget I even asked and repeat the cycle over again. I felt like people would talk to me and they sounded as though they were under water. I forgot what day it was and the weeks all merged into one. I had to write down everything on a notepad and forget remembering appointments. I was frazzled! 4 months in, it’s still just as bad.

12. You’ll feel guilty.

After two weeks, both my mum and Lulla’s dad went back to work and I was left to go it solo. Many times during that first week alone I called up my mum on her lunch break sobbing at how hard being a mum was. And some of the things I said to my mum during that time make my cheeks burn, even now. One thought I had was “I can’t do this. I’m just not ready to be a mum.” One time, after a particularly long day where Lulla cried pretty much ALL day, my mum came home and asked if I needed anything and I remember nudging Lulla’s bouncer towards her saying, “I just want her away from me.” Don’t feel bad if you say stuff you don’t mean, or even if you feel like you do mean it at the time. I’ve had some hateful thoughts pop into my head that I knew I didn’t mean, they were simply just a way of venting the frustrations I felt at being overwhelmed with motherhood. And those feelings will be temporary. You’re going to have bad days and adjusting to being a mum will take time. Don’t punish yourself; you’re doing the best job you can.

13. Mama Bear will rear her ugly head.

The protectiveness I felt once Lulla was born was frightening. I turned into a whole new person, and quite frankly she even scared me. I had a list of demands that people had to follow when visiting: if my baby cried, I wanted her back. If she needed feeding, only I could feed her. And no one else was changing her nappy. Even watching people holding my baby ignited anger inside of me. The whole time you’re pregnant, it’s just you and your baby. When they’re born, suddenly you’re sharing them with the world. It’s like trusting people with your most cherished possession. People would talk and make plans for Lulla, and as innocent as those comments were, it felt like I had no control over my own daughter. Don’t feel bad for feeling this way. Any women who have ever had a baby will understand how you feel and remember you ALWAYS have a say when it comes to your child because YOU’RE their mum. And if you ever feel that something is wrong, you have every right to voice your concerns. But bear in mind also that those feelings of protectiveness won’t always be so strong. After a while, you’ll be begging people to hold your child just so you can have a few minutes to yourself.

14. You may feel angry.

I’ve spoken before about postpartum anxiety, and how I experienced extreme anger after having Lulla. At first, I thought I was just overtired and irritable. But before long I was raging and I knew that it was due to more than fatigue. It would come out of nowhere and engulf me. This anger was never directed at Lulla, but everything surrounding her. Something so silly would be a trigger and before I knew it, I would be shaking with anger that I couldn’t contain. You can’t explain why you’re angry, just that you suddenly feel furious. And it was hard for me to understand why I was feeling so much rage when I was actually in a really good place – the two didn’t seem to go together, and I’d be plagued with guilt for feeling so mad but it’s not something you can help.

Any new mum will need a great support system around her after having a baby, but when you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, you really will appreciate having people who you can turn to. Try to remember that anger is a difficult emotion for some to talk about and the anger that comes with postpartum anxiety literally makes no sense. If you know someone suffering from anger after having a baby, just be there for them. If they snap at you, know that they don’t mean it. And if you’re the one experiencing the anger, don’t punish yourself. You may snap, yes. You may feel like everyone hates you because of this, yes. But you’ll get through this; it’s only temporary.

15. Breastfeeding is tough.

I had a breast lift and augmentation when I was 18 and wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to breastfeed Lulla. So when I started leaking colostrum at around six months, I was thrilled to learn that I would be able to. And as someone that always kind of secretly found the idea of breastfeeding a little gross (it’s natural, yes, but the thought of a baby sucking on my titty always made me feel weird – soz) I didn’t expect to love breastfeeding as much as I did. When Lulla first latched after being delivered, I can’t express that initial bond I felt. Being able to feed your baby is an amazing feeling, and so I was crushed when I started to struggle.

Due to my implants, I didn’t store enough milk and Lulla didn’t seem satisfied after feeds. Plus, one boob was producing pretty much all the milk whilst the other one was super lazy, so the one that gave the most milk became the only breast she would latch onto. Inevitably, my nipple became unbearably sore and even bled. One time, I remember having to squeeze Lulla’s dads hand as she fed because it was so sensitive and sore and I remember what my midwife had told me: when done correctly, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt at all.

I tried to express but would only get a tiny amount of milk, not nearly enough for a feed. I started to get frustrated feeding her and felt that I was somehow failing her. I’d overcome one hurdle by actually being able to breastfeed, I felt let down in my body that I couldn’t fulfil my role. I combined breast with bottle because I wasn’t ready to give up on breastfeeding fully, but after talking to my community midwife, I realised that the reason I was unwilling to let go of breastfeeding was because of that bond I’d felt. I was worried that bottle feeding my baby would take away that bonding experience. And this is where I feel like women need to step up and support one another. ‘Breast is best’ is drummed into us again and again, yet sometimes it’s not that easy for women to breastfeed their baby. Some struggle, some don’t enjoy it and others simply wish to choose bottle. And motherhood can be overwhelming without stressing over how your baby is being fed. Breast or bottle, so long as you’re feeding your baby and your baby feels loved and is happy, how you choose to do so is okay.

“I’m really looking forward to my smear test today!” said no woman ever.

So, I’m 28 and have only just been for my first smear test. I put it off simply because I was embarrassed – how lame is that? But since having Lulla I’m no longer putting important things off and once you’ve been fisted by 5 different nurses in labour, what’s one tiny cotton swab?

Girls, if you’ve been putting it off like I had, book it today and get it over with! Is it embarrassing? Well, yes. The nurse was literally nose to nose with my vagina, and to make it worse I was halfway through trimming my pubes before going (#motherhood) so I was half bald chicken, half Chewbacca down there. Is it a little uncomfortable? Kinda. Does it hurt? Not at all.

Go get your smear on!


Why there is no such thing as ‘too much’ love when it comes to your baby.

My daughter was 4 hours old when I was told I was holding her too much. But before we get to that point in the story, I feel I need to give you all some background information on Lulla’s entrance into the world.

Lulla wasn’t planned. Me and her daddy had only been together around a month before I fell pregnant. And though she wasn’t planned, in no way shape or form does this mean she wasn’t wanted. In fact, I have never wanted something so much as I did Lulla the second I discovered I was pregnant. After a five-year battle with mental health, Lulla felt to me like a beautiful reward at the end of a long, painful journey.

As a sufferer of anxiety, I tend to overthink and have OCD tendencies. Alone, these traits can be hard to deal with, but combine them together and they were like a red rag to a bull when I acknowledged just how much I wanted this baby, my baby. My whole pregnancy was plagued with conflicting emotions. Happiness and excitement were always outweighed by the fear that something would happen and I’d lose my baby. I was a nervous wreck before each and every antenatal visit, fearful that this would be the day that my midwife Anne would tell me she couldn’t find my baby’s heartbeat. At every scan I was nervous that the sonographer would deliver the news that my baby had died. Every day when I didn’t feel my baby move or kick I would tell myself that something was wrong. There wasn’t one day that went by where I didn’t convince myself that something had, or would happen to the baby growing inside of me. You can imagine that, by the end of my pregnancy, I was on edge. Feelings that were only increased when I went 8 days over my due date and it felt to me like a ticking time tomb.

I was in labour with Lulla for 22 hours. The whole time I was worried that the longer my labour went on, the more chance there was that something would happen to her, even though the midwives kept telling me how happy she was in my belly. ‘She’s so happy, she doesn’t want to come out!’ one midwife said, and she was right. 22 hours in, I still hadn’t dilated past 2cm and talks of a c-section begun echoing around the hospital room. By this point, I was ready for it to be over with. I wanted to hold my baby! When the Doctor did one final check and I still wasn’t dilating, I signed the forms for the section and within the hour I was holding my baby girl. Yet even as I was lying on the hospital table as a team of skilled people worked to bring my child into the world, I was still scared. Scared that they’d slice me open and then one of them would have to break it to me that my baby wasn’t alive. That the midwives had been wrong and that my baby girl hadn’t been as happy in my belly as they thought, and that I’d have to lose her before I even got to meet her.

I get that this may sound like irrational thinking to some, yet many women will identify with the same fears when they were pregnant. Either way, I give you this backstory so that you understand that the very second I heard Lulla’s husky cries echoing around the hospital theatre, I breathed a sigh of relief for the first time in 9 months. I didn’t have to monitor my every move wondering how it impacted my baby. She was in the world, in my arms and I couldn’t get enough of her.

Fast forward two hours and I was being wheeled onto the maternity ward. I was exhausted; by this point I’d been awake for almost 24 hours. I wasn’t wearing any knickers and was aware that I was bleeding. My boobs were hanging out as I breastfed Lulla. I’d never felt more exposed, and yet I couldn’t have been happier. I had Lulla in my arms and felt euphoric as they settled me in. And then one midwife came along, took out a gigantic pin and popped my bubble of happiness.

Even though I felt on a high, as a new mum, everything felt overwhelming. I was trying to decipher what each cry meant. Trying to successfully establish breastfeeding and knowing when my baby needed feeding and whether she was getting enough milk. All whilst trying to find a moment to take her all in. Which I did. She wouldn’t settle and so I scooped her up into my arms and she fell asleep against my chest. It was a moment of pure magic and I remember breathing in her newborn scent feeling overwhelmingly happy.

That’s when a midwife poked her head round the curtain and seeing me asked, ‘Do you want me to put her back for you?’ I shook my head, smiled and said, ‘No thank you. I’m just enjoying her.’ Expecting that we’d perhaps share a moment of bonding – she’d mentioned earlier that she had two children – I smiled at her knowingly but she just nodded and left. Half hour later she came back with another nurse to check my dressings and help me get washed and changed. (This is where your granny pants are needed, girls!)

‘Here, I’ll put her back for you.’ The same midwife reached out, took Lulla from me and placed her back into that plastic hospital cot. Lulla started to cry and the midwife turned to me and said, ‘That’s because you’ve held her too much. She’ll cry to be picked up every time now.’

The first emotion I remember feeling was guilt; I’d only been a mum for a few hours and yet I’d already done something wrong.

The second feeling I felt was shame, and it had nothing to do with the hideous granny pants they were helping me into; I felt like I didn’t know what was best for my baby.

And that’s when anger hit me. Call it motherly instinct but I felt furious. I DID know what was best for my baby, and I hadn’t done anything wrong. I’d felt on edge and anxious for the last 9 months. Now my baby was here I wasn’t going to miss these precious first moments by leaving her to lay for hours in the sterile hospital cot. One thing I told myself over and over was, ‘No baby has ever died from too much love.’

The rest of my hospital experience wasn’t the best. As a new mum, I still felt I didn’t have a voice and that these midwives knew best. Even when they all told me different things, and I didn’t always agree with their guidance, I still followed what they told me. Even when I was told to strip Lulla down and get her cold every time she needed feeding, something I hated doing. Just seeing her cry when I’d stir her from sleep to take off her onesie, the cold air hitting her tiny body and shocking her, was enough to have me balling

I couldn’t wait to get home, and once home I dreaded the community midwife visiting the next day. I expected more advice I didn’t agree with, and to be told everything I wanted to do and what felt natural to me as her mother, was wrong. So, when a lady called Teresa stepped through the door, meeting her left me with a similar feeling to what I imagine the Banks family felt when Mary Poppins arrived.

When asked how I was feeling, hot angry tears plopped down my cheeks as I relayed everything that had happened during my stay in hospital, anger making my voice shake. I expected Teresa to tell me that the midwives were right and the advice they’d given me was what had been best for Lulla. What I was not expecting was for Teresa to cry along with me and to apologise for the way I’d been made to feel.

When I explained to her how one midwife had told me I’d held my baby too much, my voice broke and I couldn’t stop the sob escaping. I don’t think I acknowledged at the time how much those words had cut me. For me, the anxiety I’d felt throughout my pregnancy had been suffocating. Waking up on edge every day for 9 whole months is draining and it didn’t just impact me; my mum saw how anxious I was. She also saw how much I already loved Lulla, and so she silently carried the burden of worrying that something would happen to her. After seeing me suffer with my mental health previously, she didn’t think I could survive losing my baby. So for Lulla to be alive and well, it was like we both could breathe again.

Teresa told me that she’d heard the same thing from a few women and that every time it broke her heart. She then echoed the very words I told myself in hospital: no baby has ever died from too much love.

Teresa was exactly the person I needed in that moment. She picked me back up and helped me to trust in my instincts as Lulla’s mother. And I held Lulla a lot during those first weeks. I still hold her a lot now. And do I have a needy baby who cries all the time to be held? No, I really don’t. Lulla is a content baby who is happy when left by herself for short intervals if I need to do something like pee or make a coffee (getting the time to finish it is another matter entirely). She never cries to be held. The only time she’s ever cried when put down is when she has been teething and is a little needy – and rightly so. She’s happy to sit in her bouncer and play with her toys and when she’s worn out she’ll drift off to sleep without needing me to soothe her to sleep. She’s happy and cheeky and above all else, she is so loved.

Sometimes in life we wish we had a rewind button, and whilst I wouldn’t really change a single thing that’s happened in my life (y’know, the butterfly effect and all that) I do wish that I could go back to that time after Lulla was born and have had the strength to tell that midwife this:

I’ve carried this baby inside of my belly for 9 whole months. For 9 months, all she’s known is me. Me talking, me singing, me laughing. She’s been cocooned safely inside of me and suddenly she’s left all that she’s known for the last 9 months and has suddenly been born into a world of bright lights and voices she doesn’t know and everything around her feels new and scary. And you’re telling me that I’m holding my baby too much? I’ll hold my baby as much as I damn well like. If she cries, I’ll hold her. If she doesn’t cry, I’ll still hold her. All she’s known for 9 months is the warmth of my womb, I’m not about to leave her lying on her own when I could be holding her in my arms, making her feel both protected and loved.

I understand that some believe you can create a needy baby by picking them up too much, I also get that being a parent is HARD without being able to snatch a spare 5 minutes to yourself, but my baby isn’t even a day old and you’ve made me feel like I can’t hold her. Every time you walk by, I mentally find myself making excuses as to why I’m holding her again. You’ve tainted my first moments as a mother with my daughter, and those aren’t moments I can’t get back.

I’ve spent the last 9 months secretly convinced that I wouldn’t get to meet my daughter. I’ve also spent 9 months planning to give birth one way only for it to all change last minute and have my baby be delivered in a way I had not been prepared for. By the time I got wheeled round to be left in your care, though I was happy, I also felt vulnerable, overwhelmed and exposed.

So, before you tell another mother that they’re holding their baby too much, take a moment to remember that pregnancy isn’t a breeze for most women. Complications arise, fears plague some, and by the time our babies are born, we’re so relieved and happy, ALL we want to do is hold them. And let’s not forget about the women who actually don’t get to hold their baby. The women who DO suffer miscarriages and stillbirths. Women should be encouraged more to trust their maternal instincts, and all mine were telling me was to pick my baby up and shower her in love. As much and as many times as I wanted.