In March 2020, I promised the BellyTots Mamas a party when 'this was all over'
I am so glad I had no idea how long it would be until that was possible. No idea that those Mums would have babies over a year old and be back at work - many having moved on from BellyTots Parent & Baby Classes by then. It would have been too much for all of us to cope with.
However, that time is finally here!
We are having our party on Saturday 28th August at 7.30pm in South Ruislip. And fundraising for the amazing PANDAS Foundation while we celebrate. PANDAS stands for Pre and Postnatal Depression and was founded by one fabulous Mama who survived postnatal depression. PANDAS has grown to now support 1000s of parents.
I have worked with Parents & Babies, particularly pregnant and postnatal women, for more than 15 years as an Antenatal Educator, Pre & Postnatal Pilates and Relaxation Teacher and Baby Yoga & Massage Instructor in Ruislip, West of London.
Like all of us, I could never have foreseen a time when I'd be supporting parents through the hardships that pandemic and lockdown brought. And yet, its been a strange mix of heart breaking, inspiring and general 'getting-on-with-it-ness'.
Heart breaking as I listened to stories of labouring women leaving birth partners at the hospital doors and entering alone for assessment; anxious birth partners waiting outside, wondering what was happening and when they'd be allowed in. Women alone on postnatal wards, not wanting to bother Midwives so struggling to reach their drinks, the nappy bag, their phone. All things their birth partner would normally have been right there with them to do.
Postnatally it was so hard not to be able to encourage women to attend the Health Visitor Clinics and Breastfeeding Drop Ins at the drop of a hat. These things needing to be booked in advance, timed and scheduled.
Having to tell second time Mums that they were right, there would be no postnatal home visit from their Midwife unless there was a pressing need for it. And hearing about the aching arms of Grandparents desperate for that first cuddle with their new Grandchild. Like all of us, I was reduced to tears on many an occasion.
I started a WhatsApp group for any Mama who felt she needed just a bit more emotional support as lockdown started. I was really shocked how many joined. Some confided that depression and anxiety were already pressing in on them. Those that suffered the most were the least likely to say so or to reach out. I knew that and felt helpless.
All I could do was to keep encouraging parents to reach out to their GP or Health Visitor; and to provide PANDAS Foundation details whenever I could, however I could. My heart hurt as I read reports of Postnatal Depression and Anxiety rates soaring. As a depression and anxiety warrior myself (I hesitate to say survivor as the darned things sometimes come back and try to take me down again!) I am so grateful for organisations like PANDAS.
This is why we are raising money for PANDAS Foundation through our party.
But it's been inspiring too. My little community of BellyTots Mamas leapt onto Zoom and embraced it - all of us grateful for some connection and a structure to our days.
I loved hearing about and sometimes seeing (on Zoom) the little sensory corners parents had made in lieu of going out to classes.
I loved getting to know the Mamas even better as our usual class intro rounds got really creative: show us your fave holiday pic; show us something in your room that you can see but we can't; dress you and the baby in your favourite colour for this class and tell us why it's your favourite colour. In some ways, that was really fun!
We had a 'Mums night out but in' on Zoom with games like the 'Baby Olympics' - maximum points awarded to the parent whose baby's poo had gone the furthest in a 'no nappy explosion'. Incidentally, a Mum won this as her baby poo'd while being lowered into one end of the big bath - the poo hit the wall at the other end of the bath! Incredible skill I'm sure you'll agree - lol.
And SO MUCH 'getting-on-with-it-ness'. I think this is possibly what has inspired me the most. Parents just doing what needs to be done in whatever way they could.
We discussed the importance of technology in the birth bag - battery packs, tablets, phones, chargers and so on - so women could stay in contact with Birth Partners. I heard about drive by Baby Showers; Video montages for Baby Showers that got more and more creative; meals handed through windows to new parents, while they passed over a bag of dirty laundry. Grandparents embracing technology to give and receive daily updates on their Grandchildren. Drive by baby introductions. Zoom parties for new arrivals. The list went on and on.
I think parents are amazing. However you may feel, I think parents who have grown human beings, birthed and/or cared for those little humans through a global pandemic are.....