When my second baby was 2 weeks old and my husband had gone back to work, a very lovely friend left me a huge lasagne, a big loaf of sour dough bread, and some home made brownies on my door step with a note. It read ‘Dear Clemmie you’re probably feeling exhausted and the thought of cooking dinner tonight fills you with dread. Here’s some yummy grub to keep you going, no need to call and thank speak soon xx.’
It was such a kind and thoughtful present I burst into tears. This friend understood exactly what a new mum really needs, not another teddy for the baby, a hand wash only cashmere baby cardigan or even another bunch of flowers. New mums need things for them, survival packs, something that says well done for pushing a human out of your vagina now here are some treats for you!
Steph recently started Don’t Buy Her Flowers, selling thoughtful gift packages for new mums with the awesome addition of COOK food vouchers so new parents can stock up their freezer with proper meals they don’t have to prepare.
She says ‘I started it mostly because I think receiving an additional thing to care for when you’ve had a baby is, frankly, a bit bonkers and yet 96% of new mums receive flowers. I think women deserve to feel a bit cared for after having a baby because those first months are tough. New mothers, whether they realise it or not (and unfortunately I think we’re too busy punishing ourselves or feeling guilty about something to realise it) give a lot. We give over our bodies, our minds, our relationships and for a while for most of us, we lose a bit of ourselves. I don’t want to whinge about it – it’s not to say my children aren’t worth it, or I would do it differently if I had my time again and all those things women jump to say if they feel they’re caught having a moan about having babies. But I think it’s tough. Maybe because we don’t all have families around us, maybe because there is so much information available we can read something that tells us we are making a complete shitting mess of it. Maybe because unlike generations before us, we have expectations of ourselves to be out there and earning and creating and doing something brilliant. All while looking hot and in control and with a baby attached to us in some sort of sling.
I certainly didn’t feel hot or in control in the first months after having a baby. Actually that’s not entirely true – I constantly had a sweat on when breastfeeding, but you know what I mean. In those early stages, it’s all about someone else and I often got to 5pm before realising I hadn’t yet cleaned my teeth. For most of us, for the first time in our lives we’re completely at the beck and call of another person, doing something we’ve never done before, while handling the crackers hormones and for many the physical repercussions of birth.
When I had my first baby, I received eight bunches of flowers. I worked in advertising and the agencies sent these lovely bouquets that at any other time I would have felt hugely grateful for, but I didn’t have the energy to do anything with them and only had two small vases, so they left me feeling a bit weepy. Which in turn made me feel more weepy – what kind of woman was I if the kind act of sending me flowers left me feeling distressed?
After that, when a friend had a baby I sent them a little package of nice things for them and if they lived near, I cooked them something and left it on their doorstep. These friends sent the loveliest messages about how wonderful it was that someone had thought of them. I realised that it wasn’t only me that a) got a lot of flowers and b) found the new mum bit hard. At this point, I returned to work part-time after both babies and found the juggle tough. The commute felt like wasted time, the job felt ‘different’ (or I did) and then there’s the guilt when I got the inevitable calls that one of the kids was poorly. My career to this point had been managing multiple agency and internal teams to deliver national campaigns, and I’d loved it. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s multi-tasking. And, if I’m honest, being a bit bossy. Once the seed had been planted that maybe this new mum gift thing could be a business, I couldn’t get it out of my head and everything I’d learnt before now felt like it was going to help me actually do this.
My love of all things ‘Sisterhood’ started because one of the things that helped me when I had my babies was support from other women. The ones that reassured me it was ok to feel a bit bonkers, and that breastfeeding can be a bit hard, and that it was all going to get easier. My mum – a midwife and having had four babies herself – helped me when Buster was a few weeks old when I rang her crying, overcome with tiredness and feeling unsure I was getting anything right. She told me to just STOP. I didn’t have to do something every day in those first months. I didn’t have to meet up with people and trek around worrying that I was going to be late for a feed but not wanting to cut everyone else’s walk short. The baby didn’t need ‘stimulating’ at a few weeks old when he had my face to look at. Heck, some days I didn’t have to get dressed. It is such a short period of time in the grand scheme of things. On the days when everything is going to plan, get out there just try not to overdo it. When it’s not, pull the drawbridge up and do whatever you can to rest because the world will feel like a brighter place when you do. When you have a baby you have the best excuse in the world not to turn up to everything, it’s just unfortunate that most of us don’t realise that until later. None of it matters. Very little is more important than you being as rested as is possible for someone getting by on probably not a lot of sleep.
The packages I’ve put together are essentially to try and encourage that idea – for a mum to stop and take a few minutes to herself or with her partner. We launched with three packages; The Care Package, The Essentials and The Date Night In. COOK food vouchers can be added to any package, which also make it a great gift if you want to spend a bit more or buy a group present. I don’t know any new parents that wouldn’t appreciate food they don’t have to prepare. Whether it’s for someone having their first baby or their sixth, life is different to before and everyone will need a bit of time to adjust.
I can’t tell you how this will work out as it’s only been a couple of weeks. It’s started brilliantly and the feedback, from the quality of the products and the packaging to recipients weeping when they open their gift (in a good way!) has been so lovely to receive. There are partners, friends and grandparents that feel a bit useless at times and our website enables them to buy a gift that offers mums some TLC. Flowers say ‘I’m thinking of you’. A gift package from Don’t Buy Her Flowers says ‘I’m thinking of you, if you’re finding it hard it’s OK and I hope this makes you feel a bit better’.
Check out Don’t Buy Her Flowers website, where you’ll also find the Sisterhood (and all that) blog. You can follow Steph on Twitter @StephieDoug and on Facebook.
If that hasn’t got you nodding along and remembering how you really felt after having a baby I don’t know what planet you’re on. We have one lucky reader the chance to win a Date Night In with Champagne for someone that needs it, which could be a friend or yourself if you’re in need! All you have to do is tell me what was the most ridiculous present you got after having your baby. It can be something totally impractical, totally hideous or just totally bizarre. Leave your answer in the comments box. The winner will be revealed next Friday. Good luck!