I am sitting here at my computer feeling overwhelmed, and completely inspired. Being January, I think it’s normal to sit and reflect on the year previous and to look forward to the year ahead, not knowing what the year has in store. 2016 was a successful and challenging year for us, we launched our programme in February and it has gone from strength to strength. Growing from a team of two (me and my lovely hubby Pete), to now a team of 5, we have started our charity application since becoming a FINALIST for the Families Included Challenge Prize.
As a result of being involved in such an amazing initiative we have developed our programme and now have solid relationships with external services and networks helping us to provide our pivotal and staple service to our community and beyond. Our website went live with great feedback and success and has given us more credibility than we ever imagined with waiting lists forming to join our programme! We held a focus group just before Christmas and it was wonderful. We asked the mums to tell us what came to mind when we said to them “Mums & Families” or “Mums & Families programme” the reaction we received bowled me over – we are making a real difference to our community and are proud of what we have been able to achieve in such a short space of time and we are beyond proud of the families who join us and allow us to be a part of their recovery.
Whilst we continue to deliver and develop our programme, we will be presenting our business plan for the Families Included Challenge Prize to a panel of 10 judges on 31st January. We are nervous but extremely excited and thank you all for you continuous words of support and encouragement. We really believe we have a good chance of winning the prize, which would be transformational for us as an organisation and for the families we help. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
Although there are exciting things afoot for us, on reflection of the past year, one of the consistent themes we see in our work is of grief and feeling of loss.
Over the Christmas period, my Auntie Jan came to stay with us, and we were enjoying a programme about Judi Dench and at one point in the programme, Ms Dench was talking about the death of her husband and the grief she felt and how she dealt with it – she carried on working, without taking a single day off. This wasn’t something to be congratulated as she made it clear that everyone deals with grief in different ways, but for her, this was what she had to do to survive. She said something about grief which stopped me in my tracks, I had to pause the programme, rewind and write it down, what she said was this:
“Grieving of any kind generates a huge energy in you, you can use that energy like petrol, that energy can be used to tell another story.”
In that single sentence, I had goose bumps as it explained perfectly, the grief I felt from losing ‘me’ during my suffering from perinatal mental health problems and the energy it generated to recover and to then help other mums and their families.
This quote was ever present in my mind as we began the first session on Monday (9th Jan) of the first programme of 2017. All of us grieve at some point in our lives, whether it’s for the loss of a loved one, for the loss of ourselves – our identities, our esteem, and our lives before babies but as sad as it may be – it is a normal part of life, but once we acknowledge it, we can begin to heal.
I say it every time and to the amazing women who join us for our peer support programme, I am in awe of them and their strength. They don’t realise how strong they actually are, I feel honoured that they put their trust in us and allow us to be part of their journey to recovery.
In January last year, I was lying on my bed and began to write a poem, I was in two minds of whether to share it, but given the powerful stories I hear from women who contact me on a daily basis, I feel like my first blog post on behalf of Mums & Families UK is the perfect time.
Inside I’m Crying – Claire Hawtree (copyright 2017)
Some days I was so sad, too numb to notice streaming tears
My body soaked with every moment of every mental pain and fear
Inside I cried so loudly but no one could hear a sound
Or see the suffering inside my heart just yearning to be found
A reason, a resolution, that I was not alone
That someone out there saw me feeling useless and unknown
I felt unlike a mum or what a good person should be
I would look inside the mirror searching, question -who is she?
A broken shell left of a person who had slowly lost her smile
When even getting out of bed felt like she'd run for miles
Sunshine was blocked away by grey; the clouds fell round her head
She would see people speaking, but she heard not what they said
Her body and soul aching to feel anything but numb
Yearning to be a fighter and the strong woman she'd soon become
She clung on to surviving with every fibre of her being
To clear the clouds with sunshine to keep her heart still beating
The days were dark and long, I wanted it all to end,
I battle through I soldiered on, my heart began to mend
Although sometimes I'm shattered I won't let this ever break me
Dark days have gone and all that's left are good times with my baby
A love that's unconditional, a bond that won't be broken
My reason to love and be a stronger mum, I'm proud that I have spoken.
I will not hide in the shadows or submit to pain and shame
As after all I battled through and got my life back again.
Postnatal depression, anxiety, stress, OCD, PTSD, loneliness and/or social isolation; any and all of which can be endured and suffered by many. May 2017 be a kind year to all and for those who need a helping hand – we are here to help – all you need to do, is reach out and we’ll hold your hand the rest of the way!