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Happy Mother's Day to all the sick mums

When you have a child, you make this silent vow, a promise to yourself that you will protect, love and adore this baby and always be there for them.  And so when something makes that difficult, when an unplanned illness or injury makes you falter at the most important job you have ever had, it is tough.

My kids have grown up with me having Ulcerative Colitis, Charlie was 3 and Ellie was 11 months when I was diagnosed.  Thom was born a year later, my body having fought against his during the pregnancy where I had awful flare ups that made me anaemic, made me pass out, made me lose weight and eventually be hospitalised on bed rest and blood transfusions.

 

sam cleasby mum parent blogger

They have grown up with a mum who runs away from shopping trolleys in supermarkets to go to the loo, who always has wipes in her bag way past a time when they could be deemed necessary for children.  They have seen me so ill in bed that I didn’t have the energy to help them get ready for school, they have had to visit me in hospital more times than is ever right for a child, they have stroked my hair as I lay in bed with them and brought me heat pads and pain killers when I couldn’t manage myself.

They have learnt to make their own breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  They come running asking “mum, are you ok” when they hear my fast footsteps to the bathroom and the slam of the door.  They cried when they saw me in pain, wiped my tears away before their own and cuddled me, all piling into my bed to watch a film because they know that is the best I can give at that moment.

When they shied away from me after surgery, because they were afraid of hurting me and thought my stoma was weird, it was the toughest time.  And now knowing that my bambinos have had a harder childhood because of my illness, it breaks my heart.

child carers parents with disability or illness

Having a chronic illness or a disability that sometimes stops you doing all the things you want to do can feel like having one hand tied behind your back, it can feel like you are at a huge disadvantage and believe me, I know the feelings of anger, frustration, hurt and pain when as a mum, you can’t give your kids everything they need.

But I have to believe that my illness has also given my children positives, that the lessons they have had to learn will do them good in their lives.  I see it already in my loving, attentive and caring children.  I see it in the fact that despite the fact that I talk about poo for a living, they aren’t embarrassed!  They are so compassionate and empathetic and they have an insight into invisible disabilities as well as visible disabilities than many adults don’t.  They know that the richest you can be is when you are happy and surrounded by those you love, that your health is vital as this is the only body you get, they know that life sometimes gives you things you don’t want, need or ever even dreamed of but that you have to deal with it all through talking openly, sharing your feelings, occasionally weeping in a snotty mess, then pulling on your big girl (or boy!) pants and making the best out of the situation.

And so to the mums who today are celebrating mother’s day who have had to, on occasion, put their health before their child’s immediate needs, who have a heavy heart filled with guilt when they think about the things their children have seen and dealt with, to those who are cared for in part by their children, to those who have a disability or illness that affects the whole family…

kids visiting sick mums in hospital

To you mums, I salute you.   I raise a glass in solidarity to all who are just doing their best to get through each day.  I feel your pain but remind you gently, that it isn’t physical perfection that makes for a great momma, it is love, kindness and the ability to hug, kiss and raise amazing young people.

Our babies may not have the upbringing that we dreamt of, but they have us now.

Today hold them a little closer and pat yourself on the back for being enough.

 

Love Sam x

Loving your baby body

This is a post I did for Motherhood Journeys about self esteem and loving your baby body.

I started So Bad Ass last June and began blogging about my experiences, suddenly a lot of people were reading about my journey and the messages I started to receive weren’t just from people with the same problems as me, they were from teenage girls with anorexia, grandmothers who had cancer, mothers who felt they had lost themselves, people going through divorces… All had the same problem at the root and it came down to self-esteem.

And so more and more, I write about positivity, body confidence, happiness and image. And that leads me to my post today.

Before I had children I was a size 8, roll forward nine months and I was a size 16. It was a blow for me and I suddenly felt lost, I felt that the person I was had disappeared under layers of fat and milk filled breasts. I know I had grown and housed a human being for 40 weeks but I was shocked at how my body now looked.

new mother body image love your baby body

Another two children followed in the next four years and I never lost the weight I had gained. It made me feel guilty; I saw images of celebrity mothers who ‘snapped’ right back into shape and the fat shaming of those who didn’t. I was a happy mother, I loved being pregnant, I loved being a mother but I felt a tinge of sadness when I saw photographs of me before, almost a grief or bereavement of the person I once was.

 

My youngest is now 9. I still haven’t regained my pre baby body, and you know what? I couldn’t care less! You see when I had surgery last year, they cut me from just under my chest bone down to my pelvis, they removed my large bowel and made a hole for a small piece of my small intestine to poke out of, then the sewed and stapled me back together. I came out of the surgery feeling horrified at the state of my body. It felt mutilated and ruined.

During the last six months of cathartic writing on my blog I have learnt not only to accept my body, but to rejoice in it. My body is AMAZING. It keeps going despite illness and surgery. It looks after me and it is SO bad ass…

It got me thinking about my post baby body and how I wish I had thought more of my body then. I grew three human beings. My body made a home for them; my blood pumped through them and nourished them. My womb filled with fluids to keep them safe. My vagina pushed them into this world. My breasts fed them.  How dare I have hated my body??

As women, we give ourselves such a hard time; we rarely congratulate ourselves or make positive comments about our own appearance. Why is that? Are we so brain washed that we really believe that only size 0 women with rock hard abs and pert breasts are beautiful?

This is in no way against slim women, it is about celebrating and loving our bodies whatever our size or shape.

Last year I photographed Corinne with baby Arthur and was over the moon when she asked me to take a few images of her post natal body. She looked beautiful. I was able to look at her in a detached way, thinking from a photographer’s point of view. I saw her full breasts that became the perfect pillow for her baby’s head, the softness of her waist and gentle lines of the stretch marks were lit beautifully. The width of her hips made me think of the journey her newborn baby had taken from her womb.

new mother body image love your baby body

At first she was a little self conscious, but after relaxing, she stopped thinking about her body and the look of pure love in her eyes as she watched Arthur was stunning.

We need to stop using such negative language about our bodies and start rejoicing. How many times have you said to yourself “I’m so fat” “My belly is disgusting” “My stretch marks are GROSS!”

That is not ok.

You wouldn’t hear someone say that to your best friend, so why is it ok to say it to yourself?

We are all different shapes and sizes, not one of us is perfect, we are all deliciously imperfect.

new mother body image love your baby body

If you are a mum reading this who berates your body I want you to just remember the magic that your body performs. You made a human being. You are a goddess… you brought life into this world. That takes a lot of doing, so don’t be down on your poor tummy, that sag is because it made way for those awesome little beings you call children. Don’t be sad when your breasts sit a little lower, all that milk making can take its toll.

Be kind to your body, it’s the only one you get.

 

To the imperfect mothers…

I was 19 when I had my first child and I felt the weight of the eyes of society watching me and waiting for me to fail, the pressure of being a teenage mother statistic sat in my chest like a bowling ball.  I was throwing my life away, they said.  I was foolish, immature and had no idea what I was getting into, these were the whispers that surrounded my trimesters.  The sly glances from the ‘proper’ mums in Mothercare as my bulging stomach stretched out my Oasis tshirt and over the jeans I had borrowed from my boyfriend.  Maybe some of it was in my head, perhaps I imagined the looks, the judgement, the eye rolling.

teenage pregnant mum at festival

It made me want to be a perfect mum, I would make no mistakes, I would dedicate every waking hour to being the best mum in the world.  No one would be able to judge me because I would give them no reason to, I’d change the perception of young mothers and Id show them all.

Only all that pressure, on top of the sleepless nights, the crying, the breastfeeding, the nappies, the sheer tiredness, it got too much.  I was paying so much attention to being perfect that I was forgetting to enjoy it.  The stress of appearing to have all my shit together meant I became a swan.  Gliding serenely on the surface, but peddling like fuck under the water.

The doctor saw through it.  After he dutifully gave me a prescription for the reason for my trip to the GP, he said gently, almost sadly “and how are you doing?” I burst into tears and said that I wasn’t a good enough mum, that maybe my baby would be better off with someone who knew what they were doing, that I loved him more than anything but what if that wasn’t enough?

He told me his wife had just had twins.  He said she feels the same sometimes.  He said HE felt the same sometimes.  He told me that being a parent was so hard, but all you can do is get through every day, that what a baby needs is food, warmth and so much love.  That it was ok to feel overwhelmed, it was matter of course.  I wasn’t feeling this because I was a young mum.  I was feeling it because I was a mum.  Full Stop.

teen mum red hair struggle

That conversation sparked a change, I became more honest and spoke to those around me about how I felt.  I opened up to the mums at the baby groups and found the woman who terrified me the most, a doctor who had a little girl the same age as my son, who was so together and wore the right mum clothes, drove a nice car and had a husband and posh house was as terrified as me.  She held my hand and burst into tears and said “But it’s all so HARD!”

Becoming a mum is scary. At any age, it is such a huge change that you can’t be prepared for it.  You love your baby and though the physical aspects are tough, the feeding, lack of sleep, you don’t count on the emotional aspects being so hard.  The sudden realisation that you are entirely responsible for this tiny person, the pressure of trying to conform to societies notions of the ideal mother.  You are surrounded by other peoples opinions constantly.  This rehashed argument of working mums versus stay at home mums… There should be no argument, we are all just trying to do our best.

It’s this whole new world and it is filled with ‘experts’ who seem to know it all.  They all seem to have studied for this test and you are still flipping through the text book and needing a dictionary to just know what the words mean.  Its a world of those who know and those who don’t, your new mum friends know it all, your old childless friends don’t care!  You are stuck in the middle feeling overwhelmed.

I suppose the purpose of this post is that it is easy to lose your way in the quagmire of emotions and opinions, my assumption that I needed to be a perfect mother was so flawed, you see, no one is a perfect mother.  We all just try and get through the tough days and relish in the good days.  In my quest for perfection I forgot about enjoyment.  I worried so much about following the ‘rules’ that I misplaced the notion of enjoying my baby.

That baby is 13 now.  I tell you, those baby days pass so quickly, I look at my 5′ 9″ son now becoming a young man and smile as I remember his tiny soft hands and that new smell of his  newborn head.  When he winds his hair around his finger when he is tired I see how he has done that for all of his life.  I rejoice that I didn’t waste too much time worrying what others thought and revel in the knowledge that we were happy.

teen mum difficult imperfect so bad ass sam cleasby

My house was messy but we played.  Dinner wasn’t organic but it was fun.  He didn’t have matching socks but we didn’t care in the park.  My attire was 90s indie tshirts and things from charity shops but there is no dress code in my garden.

I love to think of all the fun we had, that dirty faced little boy and I.  I got tons of old wallpaper and we painted it with poster paint and our bodies. The hours spent with the wooden train track that he insisted I left for weeks and had to step over it to get in the kitchen.  Bath time together where there were more toys than water in the tub.  His giggles when he was on a swing.  His made up words (agosha meant I love you).  Building dens.  Quiet bed times as he lay in my arms and we fell asleep together.  Watching him learn new things.  His imagination.  Fun.

teen mum difficult imperfect so bad ass sam cleasby

Forget perfect.  Forget public perception.  Think fun.  Laughter.  Excitement.  Silliness.  Wonder.  Love.  Love. And more love.

Mums, you are enough.  You may not be perfect by the unobtainable standards of some, but you are perfect for your child.

Enjoy it because in the blink of an eye they grow up and that time is gone forever.

 

baby hendersons hendos sheffield

 

 

 

Love Sam xx