So here we are. The Sisterhood (and all that) blog has a new home, and I have launched a business – Don’t Buy Her Flowers.
When Mabel was a tiny baby two years ago I had a business idea because, frankly, I found newborn babies tough. I loved their little old man faces off, but I felt exhausted, a bit lost, sore and a bit more exhausted. The idea was gifts for new mums that are better than flowers. Flowers seem to be a go-to present when someone has a baby; 96% of women receive flowers after giving birth. I had 8 bunches when I had Buster, less when I had Mabel (presents definitely dwindle a bit with the second child) but still more than I had enough vases for. I was grateful for all the things that people had kindly sent – I know they didn’t have to send anything. I just thought that if someone does want to buy something, there must be so many things that would be a bit more thoughtful or useful than cuddly toys, trinkets or items that a lot of new parents have already got.
Since I had Buster nearly four years ago, whenever a friend had a baby I got a few nice things for the mum and shoved them in the post in a Jiffy bag. If they lived nearby, I left food on their doorstep. Now, I’m no Mother Teresa. I spent a fair amount of the last four years on maternity leave after having two babies close together, so I had a bit more time to do these things. It made me feel useful. I received such lovely cards and messages of thanks for these hastily put together packages and meals, friends outpouring gratitude basically because someone had thought of them.
After I had Mabel I started to realise that this idea could become a business. I came up with things that might encourage Mum to stop and have a hot cup of tea, or to have a bit of time with her partner, or to eat a hot meal without having to think about the cooking. A lot of us don’t have our families and close friends on our doorstep – the people that you want around when you’re still leaking like an old bucket and wearing leggings or pyjamas at all times. Many women are having babies a bit later, so maybe the sudden change in pace and responsibility comes as more of a shock than it would have if we were younger. Maybe we feel we should be coping better because we’re ‘grown up’.
I had both my babies around the same time as my friend Mel and we were very honest with each other about how we felt, perhaps because we were going through it together. Of course I talk to my husband too, but there are some things he can’t go through. For almost four years Mel and I have known when the other is anxious, happy, sad or constipated. She realised I was pregnant with Mabel before we did; Doug went to get fish and chips, I said I didn’t want any, he didn’t get mushy peas, I threw some chips at him and rang Mel crying. She gently suggested perhaps I should take a pregnancy test and whaddya know, she was right. We had each other for support, to reassure each other we weren’t bonkers, and that our husbands weren’t pigs (or sometimes back us up if they were). I suppose the idea behind the blog comes from finding the kind of honesty we share hugely reassuring. Then when she was heavily pregnant and I’d had Mabel, Doug had to go away with work and she came and did some ironing, fed me, held my newborn while I bathed my toddler and then held me while I cried. I know not everyone has that or we’re not able to do that for others all the time. The idea behind Don’t Buy Her Flowers is to give a little something to someone that has had a baby that will make her feel cared for.
Since having my own kids, I want to cry when I see someone that’s just had a baby. It’s a little socially awkward; everyone else is cooing, congratulating and back-slapping Dad and I’m fighting back tears and an urge to squeeze the mother really tight (which I know would be inconsiderate on account of the rock-like porn-star boobs you have at the beginning). It’s just that I remember it so well. Feeling ecstatic and sad and proud and mental and scared. Worrying that I was making a total pig’s ear of it and that everyone that saw me also thought I was making a pig’s ear of it. The utter exhaustion – waking for the 6th time in the night to a crying baby and thinking ‘I just can’t do it. I can’t get up again’. But you can and you do. Even though we might not realise it until later, or maybe we never really do, as well as a beautiful new life we have gained a phenomenal new strength. That bird in her early 20s that cried over a boy that wasn’t even very nice to her? Pah. She’s got nothing on you. Well, except the perkier boobs.
Anyway I just wanted to explain why the blog looks a bit different, and I’d love you to have a look at the rest of the site. ‘Sisterhood (and all that)’ will carry on as before. A huge thank you to everyone that has read this blog, shared it, commented, disagreed with it (yes, even them). Without wishing to sound like a plum this was the start of a new chapter and, coupled with Doug’s fearless support, the response gave me the courage to quit my job and get on with it. The blog felt like a slightly smaller step toward coming out of my comfort zone before I was ready to take the next giant leap. It’s also been reassuring to know I’m not the only woman that has felt, at times, bonkers. I’m most definitely not alone in getting annoyed about who puts the bins out either.
I’m not going to harp on about it, but if I’ve learnt nothing else in the last five years, I know that life is unexpected. Just when you think everything is peachy, it can take a turn. I’m quietly terrified, but also not willing to spend the next thirty years wondering ‘what if…?’. It’s squeaky bum time.