I'm here to talk about the importance of getting out of the house and meeting other mothers. Don't get me wrong now, I'm all for enjoying your maternity leave and having lots of special times at home, cuddled up in bed with your squishy perfect newborn. But even if it's just once a week, the difference that meeting other mothers makes is absolutely astonishing. This post is a bit long, but I really feel passionately about the subject and I hope you enjoy it.
In those very early days I was surrounded by family and friends, and had a supportive partner by my side. So how on earth could I possibly have felt lonely? But I did. I couldn't have asked for more from my loved ones. They were a fountain of support and encouragement. But, you see, they had not just given birth to their first baby. I needed to connect with someone else who could relate to what I was going through in that moment. The good (it's all good, but the best parts), the bad (not bad per se, but those toughs nights while trying to establish breastfeeding, the exhaustion, the pain while I healed from the birth, the emotions which were completely erratic at times) and the ugly (my house... it was a fairly ugly scene. House work went by the wayside to say the least). I felt so lucky, so blessed beyond words, and completely overwhelmed and terrified at the same time. It was my own mother who recommended finding a "mammy and baby group". She said it would be the making of me, and she was completely right.
When I say "mammy and baby" group that could be a breastfeeding support group for example. I did attend those through Cuidiu and they were great too. But there aren't many other options for mothers and babies. There are toddler groups and coffee mornings for example, but very few services available to mothers with newborns, who's agenda is to make friends. Because that's what it's all about. When you become a mother some of your friends will slip off the radar. Suddenly you might not have as much in common any more. Suddenly you don't relate to each other in as meaningful a way as before. It can be sad but it happens. But the flip side of that is the new friendships. Suddenly you have friends that you can tell about the time your baby weed in your face, discuss dirty nappies, as well as all the normal things women chat about. It's a friendship of importance because you feel understood.
I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic group called Flying Start. It was ran by Barnardos in conjunction with my local health centre and Public Health Nurse in Crumlin. It was basically a twelve week programme where we learned about everything from crying, sleeping, weaning, dealing with temperatures, healthy eating and speech therapy. It was an A-Z guide to motherhood. I feel so lucky to have been afforded the opportunity to take part in this course. I hope it will continue to do great work for first time mothers in Ireland. I met some fantastic friends at the group and even though the course actually ended several months ago, some of us still meet up once or twice a week and spend the day in each other's houses. We drink coffee, eat lunch, have a "treat" (it's all about the little treat), and our babies always have somewhere to lye, bounce, or destroy. It's usually the highlight of my week. We laugh, we cry, and we just "get" each other.
Footprint painting at the Flying Start course.
Knowing what a profound affect that these new MFF (Mammy Friends Forever) have had on my life makes me want to spread the word and encourage other mothers to attend the kind of groups where these friendships blossom.
These groups can be difficult to find though. I spent a long time Googling but to no avail. Then Billy would need a feed or a nap and I would forget the idea for another day. When I was asked to attend the Flying Start group I remember the hardest part was the actual going. It was so difficult to actually motivate myself to just GO. I was nervous, worried about being on my own with the pram and the newborn. I was worried I would forget something. I felt nervous and insecure. But guess what? So did everyone else. Please do not let this type of feeling stop you from attending a similar group. The first time is always the hardest. Before I knew it I was living for Thursday mornings and when the course ended I was so disappointed.
This brings me to the main point of my post, and that is to talk about the wonderful Cheeky Squeaks. This is the perfect example of a group that would satisfy everything that I spoke about above, and more. When my paths crossed with the lovely Cara (owner and instructor of Cheeky Squeaks) I jumped at the chance to try out her baby massage classes. I had heard really good things about her courses and had noticed her flyers and business cards in the local Supervalu also. Word was starting to spread that this was the new go-to place for new mums, and I couldn't wait to give it a try.
I found myself feeling those familiar nerves again though. I always thought Baby Massage was just for newborns, or babies a lot smaller than an eight month old. I couldn't have been more wrong.
When we arrived at our first class, Cara welcomed us with open arms. We were ten minutes late because my bus (and the one after) failed to show up. Sort yourselves out Dublin Bus. She assured me that all was fine and she showed me to my little "area" on the massive gorgeous blanket that was laid out on the floor.
I have to say that my first impressions were absolutely fantastic. Firstly, the room itself was gorgeous. It was in Quaker House which is in Stocking Avenue in Dublin 16. The room was fantastically bright with lots of natural light due to the many windows. It was also at a lovely temperature. Perfectly warm for the babies and comfortable for the mums too. All the other class members greeted me with a genuine smile and I instantly felt so very welcome. There was lovely soothing music playing in the background and I could see a table in the distance containing different books about Baby Massage and Baby Yoga. I would be attending the Baby Massage classes. However since then I have decided to do the Baby Yoga also which I know Billy will absolutely adore.
There were some adorable personal touches such as a little piece of card shaped as a duck which was resting on the blanket in our "spot". It had mine and Billy's names on it, a lovely laminated book containing different massage strokes and techniques, and our own little container of massage oil. It was the cutest thing ever. I knew from that moment that I liked how Cara did things, and I just knew I was going to love the class.
The class couldn't have been any better. There were some very tiny babies and some older babies and Billy settled right in. There was another baby who was eight months old and we happened to be sitting right beside them which was lovely. The class started with everyone introducing themselves to the class. We said our name, our babies name, and how we were feeling. I thought this was a lovely way to start the class and it was a real ice-breaker. As Baby Massage is essentially holistic, it was a lovely touch and really set the tone for the rest of the class.
The class itself was extremely comfortable. Cara has a lovely soothing voice and it was easy to follow her instructions. We focused on different parts of the baby's body and did different massage strokes, often to songs. Isn't that lovely? For certain massage strokes we sang an accompanying nursery rhyme and Billy LOVED this. He spent most of the class staring at Cara as she lead the songs. He just loved it. The combination of the gentle massage strokes and the soothing songs made for a very happy and relaxed baby.
The class length, in my opinion, was spot on. It is about 90 minutes from start to finish. But we didn't spend the entire class learning the massage techniques. Cara allows ten minutes at the start of the class for people to arrive and get settled. I think this is a great idea. Firstly, you'll have people like myself who end up being a few minutes late. But then there is also the issue of all the faffing about involved with taking your baby out of the car seat or pram. It can be quite the task. The atmosphere when you walk in to the class is of a really relaxed nature. Some women are sitting down with there babies, shoes off and chatting away to the other mums. Some are taking their babies out of their coats and prams etc, and others are only arriving. The majority of the class is then spent learning the different massage strokes but it is not in an intense way, if that makes sense. The tone is friendly, you can ask questions, and there are plenty of moments of laughter. Before you know it the class is over and it's time for the.... tea and biscuits.
This deserves it's own paragraph. Cara ends her classes with an informal and relaxed cup of tea (or coffee if you are sleep deprived like my good self) and a treat. She takes your "order" and comes back with a hot cup of whatever you fancy, and passes around a tin of beautiful biscuits. This might sound bizarre to some of you, but to anyone who has attended a class like this before, you will relate to what I am about to say. It is the best part of the entire class. It really is. The reason for this is - when you become a mother there is NOTHING more satisfying than sitting down to a hot cup of tea or coffee. Now throw other mums and cute babies in to the mix and it's just perfect. I left the class feeling relaxed and rejuvenated and we couldn't wait for the next class.
Billy was unbelievably relaxed and happy. He was in the pram all of thirty seconds and this happened...
Cara, the owner of Cheeky Squeaks has kindly offered to run a competition in conjunction with my blog. She is giving away an entire Baby Massage or Baby Yoga course to one lucky reader. To enter this competition all you have to do is like the Love Of Living Blog Facebook page, like the Cheeky Squeaks Facebook page, and share the link to this blog post on your own Facebook page. Finally, when you've done all that leave a comment under this blog post or status telling us why you think you should win the prize. The winner will be announced on Monday 2nd March by 8pm. The winner will then be contacted and arrangements made for them to start their course on Friday 6th March 2015.
For more information about Cheeky Squeaks classes please visit their website here.
disclaimer - I was very kindly given the opportunity to attend a Cheeky Squeaks course free of charge for purpose of review. However, all thoughts and opinions are completely my own.
Labels: baby group, friendship, hobby, holistic, massage, relaxation, social