Surviving the return to work

Surviving the return to work

And so we survived. My first week back at work after maternity has come to an end. And do you know what? It wasn’t bad at all. I’d even go so far as to say I enjoyed it. I’m sure I have more stressful weeks ahead of me and I won’t live in this work/life utopia forever. But for one of the biggest worries of the last few months, it’s proved much better than expected. Here’s why I think that’s the case.

My employer

I work for a company who (in my personal experience) have been generous, fair and compassionate with my maternity. I have a supportive and kind manager who provided flexibility for my maternity appointments, and demonstrated genuine interest in how I was doing and what I needed to be comfortable in doing my job and subsequently going on leave.

While on maternity leave she gave me choices throughout. The choice about how much I wanted to stay in touch (i.e. she asked if I’d like to receive the fortnightly staff e-newsletter to my personal email address, and texted me at one point to ask if it was OK to call and get my opinion on a couple of big changes in my team). I told her my availability for ‘keep in touch’ (KIT) days and she made her diary work so that we could have a catch up each time. And early on in my leave, we met up for coffee and cake and she had a cuddle with my little girl, and asked all about how I was finding being a new mum. All of this made me feel confident that my leave was time away from work and that she understood that being a mum was important, and that I had no obligation to get involved in anything unless I wanted to.

My wardrobe

Your entire body changes after giving birth no matter how you do it and how quickly (or not) you ‘spring back’. Prior to my first KIT day I was super nervous about what to wear. I’d lived in jeggings and leggings and baggy floaty tops for months. How on earth was I going to dress to feel a confidence I didn’t feel and feel like myself again?!

I asked for help. And it came in the form of a lovely online community called the Styled by Susie Community on Facebook. Susie Hasler is a stylist based in the South East of the UK and while I’ve not been fortunate to personally experience any of her services yet (they’re on the birthday and Christmas lists), the 3000+ strong group of women she’s curated is supportive, funny, understanding, non-judgemental and incredibly knowledgeable. I posted a shout-out about post-maternity workwear and got links, suggestions, and, in one case, clothes in the post, to get me all kitted out. As a result, this week I’ve felt comfortable, confident and like a bit of the pre-baby me resurfaced for the first time in months.

Our nursery

OK, so she’s only been at nursery for 4 days plus some settling in sessions but my gut tells me it’s the warmest, most nurturing and fun place she could be outside of a family environment. Not once has she cried at drop-off (the tiny traitor) and she’s eaten like a horse, settled in quickly and every single person I’ve spoken to, bumped into or passed in the hallway has been friendly, smiley and kind. I feel genuinely happy leaving her there and I’m so pleased with the choice we made.

My people

I received so many lovely ‘go get ’em’ messages prior to coming back. My incredible NCT ladies (love you girls) provided the support, love and humour that I’ve come to depend on. My best friends each sent personal, kind and encouraging messages. My mum and sister reassured me that Ada and I would both be fine and told me they loved me and my mother in law sent love and luck. My husband told me I was going to be great and everyone would be happy to see me. And my sister and brother in law and nephew sent flowers. I felt empowered and it was because, when my self-confidence had a dip and I got scared, these people provided a much needed boost.

You are not alone

The old cliche that it takes a village to raise a child is so true. It may not be in practical, childcare terms, but I am a better mum because of the people in my life; whether family, friends, colleagues, or ‘online (wonderful) people’ lifting me up, out of the kindness of their hearts. So if you’re due to go back to work, be brave. You’ve got this. And if you have a wobble, don’t be stubborn, just turn around. There is a queue of people behind you, ready to give you what you need to feel strong again.



It’s been quite the ride, kid

It’s been quite the ride, kid

Dear Ada,

And so here we are. The last day of my maternity leave and the end of our first big adventure together. People keep asking how I feel and I keep rambling on in a vague kind of way. Thanks to my ‘keeping in touch’ days I’m not dreading returning to work. My few days in the office have been productive, a reminder that my brain still works for more than bottle calculations and nursery rhymes; and a flattering encouragement that I’m valued for something other than being a mum (no offence). And while I’ll be sad leaving you with other people, I know you’ll have fun and you’ll grow and develop and be loved.

So what do I feel? I feel grief. Whether Daddy and I have any more children or not, I will never have this first baby experience again. I’ll never go through the exhilarating, terrifying, challenging, heart-bursting, sleep-stealing, life-changing, crazy, beautiful, tearful, hilarious experience of being a first time mum ever again. And so I feel bereft. Hugely grateful, but bereft that it’s all over. Already. Nine months of me and you and Daddy and cuddles and tears and laughter and learning. Finished already. And I know we have years and years of all kinds of fun ahead of us but it’s scary that this first huge milestone is already here.


And so I want to thank you. You made me a mother and for that I have no words. Thank you for your first giggle, for your first smile, for your beautiful babbling and your snuggles and your fluffy hair and your squidgy thighs.

I promise to repay you with more love than you can imagine. With support and hugs, a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. Daddy and me will be your biggest cheerleaders. We will embarrass the life out of you at every play and prize giving. We will do everything within our power to teach you to be strong and independent. We can’t wait to share the world with you. We will keep you safe and make sure you know love and laughter and hope and happiness.


I’m sure you’re bored by now, reading this on your holographic watch in 2028 or something. So thank you for the longest, most intense ‘getting to know you’ ice breaker session I’ve ever experienced. You are my night and day, my heart and soul, my highest of highs and my hardest of days…and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Here’s to the next big adventure.

All of my love,

Mummy xxx


No more ‘at leasts’

No more ‘at leasts’

Dear world, I have a frustration that I need to air.

As a new parent, and I speak particularly as a new mother but this also happens to dads, you get a lot of ‘at leasts’. There are a lot of people, (and sadly, they’re often other parents), who want to play top trumps with your experience as parents. If you had a sleepless night, theirs was more sleepless (yes, this is tautology, but you get my drift). If your baby has been an absolute nightmare all day, theirs was the Kim Jong-Un of the baby universe with fists of fury and the voice of a wailing cat.

Why are we doing this to each other? Pregnancy, parenthood and everything that comes along with this life changing experience, is hard enough as it is. Do we really need to make it a bizarre competition that no-one can win and stress ourselves out even more? Here are a few ‘at leasts’ I’ve personally experienced:

On my c-section: “At least your vagina is still intact”…Well yes Betty it is but they sliced through six layers of muscle and I couldn’t get myself off the sofa for about 3 weeks so there is that.

On my struggle to breastfeed (which ultimately brought me one step away from clinical madness): “At least you had some milk. Mine never came in and I still kept trying until my child was basically wasting away”.

On having a child who sleeps through: “At least you get to sleep. I can’t imagine what that’s like. My child is 30 (OK I may be exaggerating) and they still wake me up 5 times a night.”

On my daughter getting her top teeth before her bottom ones (I kid you not, people have opinions on this): *Adopts weird, patronising, pseudo-sympathetic face* “At least she’s got some teeth”

I could go on but my point is not simply to rant, it’s to make a plea.

Parents, we’re all in this together. Instead of one-upmanship, how about we exhibit some compassion and solidarity? Might I suggest the following amendments to the above situations:

On birth experiences: “You’re a legend. There’s no easy way to give birth and your body just did an incredible thing. Here’s a hug and a giant bar for chocolate for your efforts.”

On feeding: “Even when it works well, breastfeeding is hard work. As long as children are fed that’s all that matters. You do what’s right for your family.”

On sleeping: “It’s all relative. You’re doing a great job, this is a phase. It will get better.”

On teething: “I can’t imagine all of my teeth starting to puncture through my sore, swollen gums all at once. The poor little mite. How has he/she been feeling through it all?”

And the most important one of all: “You’re doing a great job. How can I help?”

All the festive feels

All the festive feels

So here’s the thing. I love Christmas. Always have. The overeating, the prosecco, the festive knitwear…all of it. And this year is no different, except it’s like someone multiplied my feelings by 100. I’m finding myself completely overwhelmed and welling up at Christmas songs I don’t even like. I just feel so incredibly happy and excited that I get all tearful and for a couple of weeks I haven’t been able to figure out why, and then it hit me.

This time last year, we were counting down until 23 December and our 12 week scan. I was terrified, as are all pregnant women. But for us, it wasn’t our first 12 week scan and sadly, the previous one hadn’t ended with a happy announcement and healthy pregnancy. So I was doubly terrified. To be honest, even once we had the healthy scan and saw our little baby wriggling away, it took months for me to accept that this was going to happen and I could start to enjoy it.

So last Christmas was hard. Every Christmas song, every party, every film had me start to get excited, only to have the sensible, protective voice in my head tell me to stop being happy, to brace myself for the horrible, emotional reality that only bad things were going to happen to us. I pasted on a smile for the entire months of November and December and struggled hugely with severe anxiety. Barely a day went by without tears – and when a tiny smear of pink appeared on Christmas Eve, our festive period was a write off (to clarify, our little baby was fine. But there was no support on hand except A&E over the bank holidays so we decided to sit it out in awful, tearful, terrified suspense and tell almost no-one).

Fast forward a year to me sitting in the Bluewater food court playing with our daughter, with tears in my eyes because Wizzard is playing, and it suddenly all makes sense. I can’t quite believe my luck. My baby-sick-covered, exhausted, stinky-pooey luck. She’s here. She’s healthy and a real person and a challenge and a love and just our absolute everything. All things I was 110% certain would not happen for us if you’d asked me this time last year.

So I apologise if you catch me with a tear in my eye during the Christmas songs on the radio, or as we pass a choir singing in the street, or if my voice breaks when the John Lewis advert comes on the TV. I’m just feeling all the festive feels you’re supposed to feel, magnified by 100. I am grateful, and feeling lucky, and I want to hug everyone I love.

And to those currently feeling like we felt last year; I can’t know for sure where your next year will go or what else you might have to struggle through. But I can tell you that whatever life has in store, you will survive. It’s a cliche, but it will make you stronger and  leave you with an incredible gratitude for the important things. You’re not alone – there are people everywhere who on their Christmas-jumper-wearing surface have not a care in the world; but who bear the scars of painful Christmases past. We’re here for you, we understand. Be kind to yourself and know that one day, with a mince pie in hand, you’ll find yourself once again enjoying the festive feels.

The things I want to remember

The things I want to remember

Dear daughter,

Already time is moving so fast. You are nearly 21 weeks old, that’s almost 5 months and not far off half a year. While I’m fortunate to be taking nine months off work, I’m over the halfway point. You change every day – some nights I’m certain you’ve grown in your sleep.

In the blink of an eye you’ll be slamming doors and screaming at me about your terribly unfair life. With that in mind (and, frankly, because mummy and daddy have been pretty rubbish at filling in any kind of memory/baby book), here are the things I want to remember…

  • The way your face lights up when I tell you ‘Good morning beautiful girl’ and get you from your crib
  • The way your little hand curls around my finger while I feed you your bottle
  • The way you stop crying almost instantly when you’re with a stranger and they pass you back to me
  • The look on your face when your daddy gets home
  • You and Daddy having a cuddle
  • The sound of you babbling to yourself in the middle of the night
  • Your huge smile when Daddy suggests it’s time for ‘splash, splash, splash’ (bath time)
  • The pride on your face when you found your feet for the first time
  • The pride your daddy and I felt the first time you held your head up properly during tummy time
  • The smell of you straight out of the bath
  • The heaviness of your head on my arm when you fall asleep during a snuggle
  • The sound of your first proper laugh
  • The way you screeched like a dinosaur and grinned madly during a choir’s rendition of ‘All I want for Christmas is You’
  • How much you enjoy us singing ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ and ‘If you’re happy and you know it’
  • Your tired eyes
  • Your chubby little legs
  • Your fluffy duckling hair as it grows.

Mainly, I want to remember how grateful I am for every last thing about you – every day isn’t shiny and wonderful and I’m certain we have numerous hard days together to come. But you are the star I wished upon, the dream I was scared wouldn’t come true, and the very best thing that has ever happened to us. Please, when I’ve driven you mad with my rules and you think you hate me; read this and remember how very loved you are, and have always been.

Love Mummy xxx

Muslins, guilt and mocha-lattes

Muslins, guilt and mocha-lattes

So, here’s the thing about parental leave…while absolutely necessary while you navigate the paths of parenthood, it’s also a huge adjustment. For those of us used to working full time, suddenly framing your entire day around a small human and desperately trying to secure at least a little adult interaction for yourself every day is both tiring and expensive. I should have shares in Costa, and they should rename the decaf, skinny mocha-latte; ‘the Hilary’.

And as you suggest coffee dates to your family and friends, book lunches and walks and shopping trips, it will creep in. The guilt.

You’re a terrible parent for filling your days with going out. You should be sitting on the floor with your 10 week old daughter, developing her language and development by lying under her jungle gym and making vowel sounds while encouraging tummy time, showing her a mirror and shoving various rattles and small toys in her hands to make her grip them.

And this guilt doesn’t stop at the way you spend your day.

You’ll beat yourself up for walking away from your sleeping little darling for even a moment. Even across an open plan room, while they’re safely ensconced in a travel cot, with a video and audio monitor pointed CCTV-style at their face.

You’ll look down at your little angel and realise that their face, neck, adorable double chins and often, hair, is covered in baby vomit and wonder how long it’s been there. The nearest white muslin is now a yellowy colour because (despite owning over a million of the cotton squares), you’ve been carrying this one around with you for a week. Regardless, you use the yellow, slightly crispy linen to wipe off the latest round of vomit.

You’ll have your first glass of wine or night with friends since pregnancy and immediately worry about ‘how it looks’. Before you can take a sip your poor, tired brain has transformed your innocent (and well-deserved) glass of Sauvignon Blanc into 20 shots and an arrest for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

You’ll catch your baby staring at the television as you take a moment to drink your (lukewarm) tea and panic that you’ve already, in 10 short weeks, become one of ‘those’ parents who leave their children with a TV as babysitter.

You’ll breastfeed, formula feed, combination feed; and no matter what you choose you’ll convince yourself it isn’t right. That you’re doing it wrong. That your baby won’t thrive as a result.

Here is a checklist of things you actually need to worry about:

  1. Is your baby content (most of the time – occasional meltdowns or decisions not to sleep do not count)?
  2. Is your baby healthy and gaining a steady amount of weight?
  3. Are you content (most of the time – a raging thirst for a glass of prosecco at 11am on a particularly tiring Tuesday is all part and parcel of motherhood)?
  4. Are you feeling supported (by your partner, your friends, your parents, your siblings – whoever your tribe is, are they taking good care of you)?

If the answer to these four simple questions is yes, you’re doing a great job. Put down the hair shirt and guilt-ridden beating stick and pour that glass of wine. You’ve earned it.


The things you didn’t see

The things you didn’t see

Dear husband,

First of all, high fives on surviving the last couple of months without killing each other! We have successfully kept a small human happy and healthy, and remained relatively sane and content ourselves. Good work, us.

I know it’s been hard, returning to work and leaving us cooing and giggling and warm in our bed. To come home and see the small, but important changes in our little lady. To start to think about first words, first steps and know that these things could happen while you’re in the office. But here’s what you didn’t see…

That first day you left for work? I cried. Not because I couldn’t cope. Not because our daughter was being anything but an angel. But because our newborn bubble had burst and our daughter was already taking those first tentative steps towards growing up. Life was slowly but surely returning to normal. I would miss you by my side for those minute by minute decisions (does she really need changing again? Does that sound like a hungry cry?) and I’d miss your easy, chilled out wit and your warm hugs to get me through the harder weekday moments. Weekends were going to become so much more precious.

You didn’t see me smiling in the middle of the night as our little one fell asleep in my arms and snored, matching the cadence of your snore exactly. I swear my heart actually swelled just watching and listening to you both, and realising that quietly but irrevocably, our little family puzzle had already expanded to fit her beautiful little piece.

You didn’t see me staring at her as she stretched and yawned (and normally, farted) waking from her nap, and welling up because she looked so much like you trying to wake yourself up in the morning.

You didn’t see me clock-watching as it approached 6.15pm and I knew you were on your way to the front door. Again, not because I wanted to hand her over like a ticking time bomb but because when you step in the door, our family feels whole again. Between 5pm and 6pm I’m genuinely excited – it’s the same feeling I used to get at 5pm on a Friday afternoon, knowing that ‘our time’ could begin.

Mainly, you didn’t see how much you mean to me and to our daughter. How our relationship has changed but for the better, since having her. How grateful I am to have such an awesome partner (not a sidekick, not a ‘helper’, but a partner) in this adventure. And finally, how excited I get thinking about all the things you’re going to show her and teach her, as you carry on being the greatest dad she could wish for.

We love you,

Me and Miss R xxx