This is Sam’s story, she is a 3 times cancer survivor and as well as training as a Post Natal Doula she has also turned her experiences into a way to support other women that may be experiencing similar to her at a vulnerable time in their lives. Amazingly brave and inspiring, here’s her story…
“Twelve years ago, at the age of 27 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was hormonal so I was terrified my fertility would be affected. We did all we could to protect my ovaries and seven years later, after coming off tamoxifen three months after getting married, we fell pregnant.
We had a gorgeous baby girl and 18 months later, at a regular check up, my consultant found a lump on my clavicle. It was a secondary breast cancer. 18 months after that, I was diagnosed for a third time, this time in my right breast. I set up a survivor support group after dealing with PTSD and depression after treatment finished and focused all gatherings around wellbeing workshops.
The Samspace_safespaceaftercancer support group is now running quarterly and I post new blogs about ways we can empower our recovery, as often as I can. After desperately wanting another child but all my cancers being hormonal, I couldn’t cope with the side effects of one of my maintenance drugs anymore, so decided to have my ovaries removed and a hysterectomy last February.
It has been one hell of a journey but I am now being mentored as a post natal Doula and I absolutely love it! Ultimately I want to be able to help other mums who have been affected by cancer or chronic illness during, before or after pregnancy.
This area is specialised but so needed and after my experiences, I feel passionately about being able to access this kind of support and empathy at an already vulnerable and challenging time.
I now blog about lots of areas such as parenting through cancer, secondary infertility, hysterectomy as preventative surgery, what is a post natal Doula, self care and how to empower our recovery, not just after cancer treatment but during the fourth trimester too.
Sam x “
If you need any support please follow @Samspaces_safespaceaftercancer on instagram or @mummababy_space_
Full disclosure – This is my fantastic Sister in Law! She wrote this a while ago for me and as I’m only now publishing it she’s kindly updated some of the products so they’re up to date. Thanks chicka! Xx
“When I was 8 months pregnant, a client said to me, in response to me suggesting she should use a powder on her new HD Brows, “you won’t have time for any of that when you have a baby!”. “that” I’m assuming means taking time to make yourself look and feel slightly more human than you feel with a 4 month old baby in tow. In my head I was thinking “I will be doing “that” because “that” is what I do!”.
It still shocks me how some women think that as soon as you become a mum, you somehow should become less of a woman. That you should prove how good a mum you are, by showing how much of yourself you are willing to sacrifice. If I am honest, on that day when said client told me that I wouldn’t have time for any of “that”, it firstly made me feel sad that this was now what was expected of me because I was becoming a mum, that I was to leave all my “me bits” behind. And secondly, guilt, because it hadn’t even occurred to me, that this would be something I would have to give up. Part of me. Was I being selfish for not even considering not putting my brows on in the morning?
But why should it be like that? Is it too much to ask that we should spend a few precious moments every day making ourselves feel good? Why is that so wrong?
5 months on and I am proud to say that I have done “that” every single day since my son was born…because it makes me feel like me …and because I am stubborn. I don’t use make-up to please anyone else except myself. I rarely saw my mum without a scrap of make-up and even my nan always used to have her nails painted and her hair pinned up nicely. Apart from making me feel confident and happy, I love the process of putting “my face” on every day. 5 minutes in a day I can spend thinking about me. Ok, so since having my son, I have had to adapt my morning make-up routine. Precision lined eyes are SO overrated anyway!
My time-saving make-up tips for new mums that have worked for me:
1. Making sure your skin care routine is top notch has so many benefits. Not just for vanity, but also protecting against infections and environmental damage. Wipe over skin in the evening with a cotton pad soaked in Micellar Water. My favourite is Bioderma Sensibio H2O. Micellar Waters are super quick for removing all make-up and are non rinse. Only use a night cream or oil if you really need one. We’re trying to save time here. In the morning use a light facial wash and exfoliater on alternate days. Caudalie foaming facial wash is quick and easy or if you have a little bit more time DHC Deep cleansing oil is amazing and leaves your skin feeling really clean. For exfoliaters try Malin and Geotz Jojoba scrub whilst in the shower or The Ordinary Glycolic Acid or Pixi Glow tonic before skin care. Next, is your standard; Eye cream, Serum and Moisturiser. Standard I tell you. Standard. Every single day without fail. Find the best ones that suit your skin type. The Ordinary has some high tech products that really do the job, and are also very reasonably priced. If you’re baffled by the ingredients and their uses, use their Regime Guide to find what products suit you best.
2. Tinted moisturiser or CC (Complexion Corrector) cream. Something you can easily apply with your fingers and that doesn’t require much blending. There’s no time to start fiddling about with brushes and blending out. CC Creams are more skin care based.
3. Concealer. God save concealer!! Use it on blemishes and under eyes to cover dark circles. Avoid any products with shimmer or light reflecting particles (YSL Touché eclat). These products are just going to bounce the light off your eye bags. Absolutely counter productive.
4. Brows (touchy subject). Making sure your brows are shaped to perfection will save you time tweezing out strays or applying make-up to create a perfect shape. Make sure you stay on top of your brow shaping by booking regular appointments with your brow stylist. It only takes 30 minutes and is a good time to recharge your batteries and clear some headspace. Every salon is different, but I am more than happy for my clients to bring babies and toddlers to their appointments. I know how important it is for you to feel nice.
I like to fill in my brows slightly using a brow pencil or a soft brown eye shadow and angled brush. The HD Brow products are brilliant and stay put all day.
4. A quick wash of shadow or creme pot. Nothing crazy. Ivory colours will open the eye and give you more of a wide awake look. Mac paint pot in Painternly is so versatile. Apply with your fingers to the lid and either leave natural or use as a primer for a powder shadow.
5. Eyeliner (if you have time). A soft black or brow kohl pencil can be smudged along the top lashes with a cotton bud. This masks any mistakes made because you’re in a hurry. Keep eyeliner to the top lashes only. This will lift the eye giving the illusion you’ve had 10 hours sleep!
6. Lashes. Having your lashes tinted will save you a heap of time. You can skip mascara, and also panda eyes.
7. Blush. And light pinky blush on the apples of the cheeks will give a healthy glow. Cream products have more longevity, keeping you fresh all day.
8. Lip balm and go go go!!!
This should take all of about 5 minutes and in my opinion worth every single second.
Please keep me posted on how you get on and if you have children, how you’ve incorporated your “that” into your day. It could be reading books, painting, watching your favourite soap. I’d love to hear your time saving getting ready tips too! And if “that” isn’t your thing, that’s cool too.
I fell pregnant with Alex in July 2014. I was fortunate to have my step mum as my midwife which was great. I suffered with a lot of pelvic pain during my pregnancy with Alex – It started at just 10 weeks. My job didn’t help as I was district nursing. This meant getting in and out of my car all day and a lot of getting up and down off the floor doing leg dressings. I went on maternity leave 10 weeks before my due date as I couldn’t take anymore.
Alex was due on April 26th 2015 (our anniversary). I wanted to have a home birth as the thought of being at home in my own surroundings felt right. Of course she was late, by almost a week. My step mum carried out two stretch and sweeps to get things going. The second one worked and on May 2nd my waters went.
I called my step mum and let her know they had broken and that there seemed to some brown/black blobs coming out with the water. Once my step mum arrived she checked my pads and told me it was meconium – the baby had done a poo. I had also not really been contracting so it was off to the hospital to be assessed. I was checked over by a consultant who wanted me to have a Syntocin drip to get the contractions going. I was advised to have an epidural as the drip can bring on quite strong contractions sooner than natural ones. This meant I was now confined to the bed so no yoga ball or walking around. It was a long labour. Alex’s heart rate started to do weird and wonderful things so they attached a STAN machine to the top of her head which also gave them ECG readings. When it finally came to start pushing I pushed for an hour and 20 mins with no joy. My mum, step mum and husband were all there giving so much encouragement and support.
Alex’s heart rate went up so they made the decision to use forceps but in theatre in case she didn’t come out and they would need to do an emergency c-section. Everything happened so quickly. My husband came down to theatre with me. I was really nervous about the possibility of a c-section but at this point I just wanted her out safely. All the staff in theatre were incredible. Luckily Alex came out with one pull on the forceps. After 18 hours of labour she was here and was a healthy 8lb 11oz. I was stitched up and sent out into recovery where we did skin to skin and her first feed. The midwife took our observations and found that we both had a temperature.
A paediatrician came by and explained that because we both had a temperature we needed IV antibiotics just to be cautious. I was quite upset as Alex was taken away to be cannulated and it meant we had to stay in hospital for 3 more days!! One good thing was that Simon and my mum were able to stay with me for support over night. Although this was not the birth I had hoped for the staff on Southend maternity unit were amazing!!
After Alex’s birth I felt I had failed as a woman and a mother as I was not able to push her out myself. I think we just put too much pressure on ourselves to have the “perfect” birth. It bothered me for a long time.
Faye’s feelings at the end of her birth story highlights how a lot of women feel if they’ve had assistance or interventions. However sometimes in life we will all need help from time to time, this was one of those occasions. No mother has ever and will ever fail bringing their baby into the world. Without the mother and her role in being there, the birth would not happen. Clare xx
Boy or girl? What if you don’t get what you’d longed for?
This is something rarely spoken about, discovering the gender of your baby despite knowing they’re healthy sometimes is still a shock or disappointing, sometimes easily brushed off and sometimes not…. Having experienced this to some extent myself I think it’s important to be more open about why we may feel like this. We have our own reasons, mine was the need to heal my own experiences through raising a girl. I’m sure I’ll share that one day. However, this is ones mums story around this issue.
With love and respect for this mothers bravery and honesty…. xx
“We don’t talk about that do we. But it’s real. And it isn’t temporary. Well I don’t think it is anyway, but I am only two years into it, maybe I’m at the peak and it will soon fade. But maybe it won’t. Maybe it will be like a form of grief, where it doesn’t go but you grow around it instead. You have triggers. You have good days and bad. Some of them can be really bleak, painful, consuming misery. And I have decided to write this on one of those days so I don’t sugar coat i or gloss over the REAL issue. Because I’ve googled so many articles about this and if I’m honest, none of them are. Honest I mean. They touch upon the subject but cover the pages with excuses for why they feel that way and how they should be lucky they have a child, healthy, and of the opposite gender they wanted but they love them so much anyway… All the articles follow the same pattern. So I’m writing one that doesn’t so that someone like me can read something like this and for once just feel ok about it not being ok. About the simple injustice that they didn’t get what they wanted. And that’s actually ok. And not acting ungrateful or spoilt or worse – shameful.
I have two healthy boys. And yes, as we all say, I am lucky and therefore that should be the end of it. But I wanted a different family, in my mind I wanted the “perfect” family of a boy and then a girl. I am one of two, my brother being the eldest. Traditional. Ideal. Perfect. We see this image of this 2:4 family in brochures, films, cartoons, toy packaging. the list is endless. And why do i know this? Because I see it everywhere. To me it is a constant reminder that there’s the dream I almost got but didn’t. (Told you I was having a bad day didn’t i). For me, it’s got to the point that I now actively look at other families to see if they got my dream and do you know what, most people actually have. Trust me I’ve observed enough families, I know the statistics. And sadly for me, all of my friends got this too. Just me sitting in the corner with my two boys. Everyone else able to discuss dresses, shoes, dance classes, and worse, tell me how lucky I am not to have a daughter because girls are so much harder. My mum makes comments about how I would have only argued with a daughter anyway because that’s how we spent most of my teenage years. Friends tell me they couldn’t imagine me with a daughter now anyway. And those comments haunt me. They physically hurt. And they make me feel like I wasn’t worthy of this foolish dream I had, I am not good enough to be a mother of a daughter. I know that’s not their intention of course, but likewise I don’t think they realise just how deep my grief is for loosing something I never had. I don’t think I really do, but I think I’m at least found the root.
My dad left my mum and my brother (aged 14months) when she found out she was pregnant with me. The whole of my dads family essentially abandoned us too as it was too awkward apparently so I grew up without a father figure until I was 6. The rest of my mother’s family are all female as there was no grandad (died) and no uncle (also MIA). My poor brother. My mum absolutely struggled to show us any affection and as an adult now I can understand why, but as a child I knew no different and felt that this was of course the reason my dad and his family had left, we were just unlovable children. To my memory, I have never been told “I love you”, definitely never said it and we do not greet each other with hugs and kisses, just awkward acknowledgments. At weddings, births and funerals we still keep our storic stances, no emotions are shown. Though my brother and I now have a great relationship, we actually hated each other when growing up, my brother confessed under hypnosis when taken to therapy (different story!) that in his toddler brain my mum chose me over my dad as we were never a family of four. I heard this when I was around 16, and from then I was determined that if I were to get married and have a family it would be forever. That I would never let a child feel so unwanted. I tell my husband and children every day that I love them. I hug them, cuddle them, kiss them and spend time listening to them to try and let them know just how much I want them in my life. So even though they are not the set up of children that I wanted, as my two children and people in their own right, they are very much wanted. Needed in fact. And so very loved. But yes I still have a lump in my throat walking in the children’s department past the dresses and sparkly shoes. And looking at the ballet clubs. And seeing mother and daughters on days out. It really hurts.
So I guess I’m a typical daughter from a broken home and traumatic childhood and I felt that by having a family of the same set up it would help me to have another go at having a happy wholesome family, and erase a childhood of pain, neglect and feeling unloved. I really wanted my husband to have a little girl so I could experience what it would be like to be “daddy’s little princess” through her, see how a dad would react to his daughter having boyfriends and watch a daughter become a mothers best friend. Because I didn’t have it and I so desperately wanted it. I wanted to nurture the brother-sister sibling relationship too, the one thing I really do cherish from my experience. This all must sound messed up and actually incredibly selfish.
So let’s go back to the usual debate written about gender disappointment. I should be so happy and feel so lucky that I have not only one but two healthy children. Yes, I should. And I do. But why then am I still not allowed to also grieve for the life I thought I was going to have or, as I have now come to realise, grieve the life I have actually lived through and that the one chance I had to make it better and heal is not going to happen? I’m not saying that all gender disappointment comes from unloved childhoods or traumatic relationships, but it does come from a dream you didn’t get to make come true, and those regrets don’t go just because you filled the void with something else. There are several stages of grief and perhaps I’m still far away from the final stage, acceptance. I hope I get there soon, but more than that I really hope that if you are suffering gender disappointment please do not feel alone, ungrateful and ashamed. Be kind to yourself on your bad days and proud of yourself on your good.