The Smells That Help Me ‘MUM’

I was at home with a sick four year old last week, which consisted of cleaning up sick, role-playing with some surprisingly obnoxious Sylvanians and then more cleaning, the nostril-burning scent of Dettox always hanging in the air. The vomiting started on Tuesday night – my sweet girl apologising every time – and by Friday (observing the 48 hour quarantine rule) I was a shadow of my former self and sick to death of the smell of bleach. My gorgeous girl was better but I was like a wet [bleach-soaked] rag.

When you’re doing really full-on mothering with no breaks, self care is the last thing on your mind. I collapsed into bed every night at 8pm, sweaty, hands red raw from all the cleaning. But there was one thing that I kept up and made me feel a fraction better: scent. I can’t see my own face as I rush around, my hair matters not, but if you close your eyes every time you get a hint of a sensual smell, you could be anywhere. You could be dressed up to the nines, ready to embark upon a big adventure. You can feel all that with the added bonus of having your little one snuggled in your arms. And it sort of tempers the stench of vom.

Sometimes a smell is all you’ve got to remind yourself that you are an adult, that you are a woman, that you are a vital, sexy, strong, kickass kind of person. I have three perfumes on my dressing table that represent a side of me I can call on for back-up when times are tough.

Issey Miyake – my mum wore this in the 90s, and I was allowed a spritz from time to time. It reminds me of having a strong woman alongside me, kind and resilient, ready to tackle all my problems with me.

Francis Kurkdijan Apom Pour Femme – the closest thing I have to a signature scent, I interviewed Francis when I first when freelance and was full of optimism and fighting talk. I went to New York to meet editors with his Apom Extrait (basically perfume oil) in my handbag, so it was bound up in being brave and excited, out in the big city by myself, ready to forge my own new path.

Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka Cologne – This one is new, but I started wearing it before Christmas, so it has all that warmth and excitement of the build up to the big day. It’s also ridiculously sexy – nothing Noro Virus about this one.

Sleep Aids I Swear By…

OK, so I am not about to give you parenting advice anytime soon. BUT sleep is the holy grail, isn’t it? And it’s what helps your MUMFACE look and feel great, so this is like playing the long game to better skin, if you like. It’s a beauty sleep cheat sheet of sorts.

We have had so many ‘sleep regressions’ over the past four and a bit years of parenting, I’m inclined to say night wakings and dodgy bedtimes have actually been the norm, with a few weeks in between that have made us think we’ve finally got it nailed. But sure enough, back in December things took a downward turn again, and bedtime went from peaceful story time to GETINTOBEDOTHERWISESANTAWONTCOMEISWEARTOGODIFYOUGETOUTOFBEDONEMORETIME… None of our old tactics worked, and at four, our daughter had got the better of us. Star charts, marbles-in-a-jar and finally, bribery, all fell on deaf ears as she went crazy every night. A night light, Gro Clock, lullabies, gradual retreat, silently putting her back in bed, special toys, a new bed, different sheets, a new blanket, a ‘quieter’ mattress protector, more new special toys, another new night light… suffice it to say about £750 later we were still awake. And the less sleep we got, the worse the bedtimes became and it all began to get on top of all three of us.

Then a friend – she of The Mama Squad in fact, but she is actually a superhero – told me to try Alan Wick. His ‘CLOSE YOUR EYES SLEEPY CHILDREN’ hypnosis CD tells gentle stories and coaxes the child into a relaxed state so they can drift off to sleep on their own. I was sceptical because I thought any kind of sound at bedtime would be distracting and actually keep her awake (we’d tried countless lullaby CDs back in the day and realised they made things a whole bunch worse), but now she’s old enough to listen to the words, follow his instructions and fully relax every inch of her body. IT WORKED! She fell asleep within minutes of the first play, no shouting, running around or crying.

We also incorporated in some new products from our beloved Bloom & Blossom – their new pillow spray and massage oil are divine, and adding a very brief massage of our daughter’s back and shoulders signalled a change from the fun of bath time to the tranquility of bedtime. I say brief, because I now know that whenever you start a new routine, only introduce something you know you can sustain for potentially years to come. I squeeze her shoulders gently, hold my hand on her chest (heart chakra – got it from yoga, innit) and back, then sweeping down her back once or twice is all it took. Then she has a drop of oil to rub her own belly and arms. The pillow spray means she has a very clear sleep signal as she gets into bed. The light goes off, Alan begins his calming stories and we’re away.

In fact, lying on my bed next door I basically pass out, too – he’s that good. I’ve also sent it with her to my mum and dad’s for a sleepover – only her third time away from us ever – and it worked just as well there. She went to bed with no hitches.

Long may it last!

Move Your Frame, Mama!

Pip Black and Joan Murphy are the awesome women who set up Move Your Frame in 2009, a health and fitness hot spot that broke the mould. Five stand-alone studios later they’re launching a mum-focused programme of fitness classes – Mumhood – mindful of what’s safe and helpful during the three trimesters and in the months after giving birth. Within Mumhood there are four programmes for each stage, encompassing workout guides, nutrition guides, a monthly Q&A webinar and access to an online group.

  1. Pregnancy – videos are split into trimesters.
  2. Postnatal Phase 1 – aimed at new mums of those who haven’t done any rehab since they had their baby and may have had a C-section or issues such as abdominal separation, pelvic floor issues, prolapse etc.
  3. Postnatal Phase 2 – aimed at new mums with little or no abdominal separation, or who have exercised during pregnancy. Alternatively, great for those whose babies are a little older, but they haven’t done any rehab work yet.
  4. Fit Mums – for mums whose babies are 6 months and over. It’s a low impact but HIGH INTENSITY workout, which is quite tough and created to help mums get the most out of the short amounts of time she has to squeeze exercise in.Aside from this there are also specific Mumhood classes at each of the 5 studios in London. A variety of Mumhood events and workshops are also set to take place with guest speakers from the worlds of nutrition, hypno-birthing and baby sleep.I got to ask Pip a few questions before their official launch last week.

How does it differ from other programmes at FRAME?

The Mumhood programmes and classes are designed specifically for the pregnant or postnatal client, so the exercises are selected especially to ensure that a) they are safe, but b) they are working/stretching the areas of the body which need it most during these times. We also give modifications for SPD and other common pregnancy conditions. The postnatal classes are designed so that you can bring your baby with you, so no excuses about childcare. The environment means that mums are happy to breastfeed and hold their babies if they need it, without feeling like they need to leave the room.

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What kind of mum-related concerns does it help tackle?

How to assess your abdominal separation, pelvic floor issues. What proper pregnancy nutrition looks like, how to fuel your body for life as a new mum, what exercise is safe during pregnancy, how to keep calm and prevent anxiety as a new mum, Top ‘Mumhacks’ to make getting through pregnancy and life as a new mum as easy as possible!

What support are the mums offered?

We run monthly free webinars where you can ask us whatever questions you may have regarding exercise, nutrition, generally getting through life… We also have closed facebook groups attached to the programmes, so you can join a likeminded community of other mums and mums-to-be going through the exactly the same process.

Why was it important to you to add a programme for mums?

When Joan and I fell pregnant for the first time, it was quite a shock to find how limited the options for pregnant women to continue to exercise were. Advice was contradictory and definitely fell on the side of caution, but at the same time having done our own research into it, and being extremely active pre-pregnancy, we knew that staying active would keep us sane, and ultimately would be best for our bodies and create the best possible start to life for our babies.

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As a new mum, exercise, especially group exercise, will help get you out of the house and help to prevent postnatal depression. It will also help you to get on with your daily life without injuring yourself, and help to boost your energy levels.

When Joan fell pregnant the second time, the timing felt right for us to seriously think about launching Mumhood which we had been quietly working on for the past year or so. Through Frame we had started to see the number of pregnant ladies coming into the studios confused and wondering what they can/can’t do, but keen to keep exercising and we wanted to do something positive that would be of benefit both to our current customers, but also to those pregnant ladies and new mums around the country, who may not have access to somewhere like Frame.

How do we join?

Sign up here – www.mum-hood.com