BritMums Live: What A Difference a Year Makes

I went to BritMums Live with a few simple goals: to tell people about #HugosLegacy and #MatExp; to learn how to extend their reach; to get some tips on getting my book published; to spend time with my friends and to enjoy myself.

This year’s event was a world away from last year, when I arrived not knowing a soul and felt terribly overwhelmed because everyone but me seemed to have friends to hang out with.

What a difference a year makes! I had a very long list of people to see and to hug – I feel privileged to know so many lovely people. The event was so hectic I didn’t get to spend as much time with some people as I would have liked, which was a real shame.

On the Friday, I felt fabulous in the gorgeous dress kindly gifted by Kaliko while on Saturday I wore my lovely versatile White Stuff dress. Dresses

I find such events a little over-stimulating – so much going on, so much to look at, and listen to. I often worry I am being rude when talking to someone because my eyes keep flitting around the room, and I felt awful too when I didn’t straight away recognise a couple of bloggers I regularly chat to.

The lovely Carla from Random Thoughts of a Twenty Something kindly let me bunk up with her at the Travelodge, and we travelled down together from our hometown.

I chatted to so many people – some of the photos we took are in the collages below.

With Vicky (Single Mother Ahoy) and Carla; with Sara (Mum Turned Mom) and Heledd (Running in Lavender); Hannah (Budding Smiles); Kiran (Mummy Says); Susanne (Ghostwritermummy).

With Vicky (Single Mother Ahoy) and Carla; with Sara (Mum Turned Mom) and Heledd (Running in Lavender); Hannah (Budding Smiles); Kiran (Mummy Says); Susanne (Ghostwritermummy).

With Katie (Pouting in Heels; Vicki (Honest Mum); Amy (Mr and Mrs T Plus Three); Michelle (Bod For Tea).

With Katie (Pouting in Heels; Vicki (Honest Mum); Amy (Mr and Mrs T Plus Three); Michelle (Bod For Tea).

Waiting for the BiBs awards to start: Beth, Kathryn (Bumps and Grind), Louise (23 Week Socks), Oana (Mama's Haven), Vicky, Carla; with Hayley (Downs Side Up); with Carla; with Kat (Beau Twins)

Waiting for the BiBs awards to start: Beth, Kathryn (Bumps and Grind), Louise (23 Week Socks), Oana (Mama’s Haven), Vicky, Carla; with Hayley (Downs Side Up); with Carla; with Kat (Beau Twins)

Gorgeous ladies: with Katy (What Katy Said), Katie, Hannah, Aby (You Baby Me Mummy)

Gorgeous ladies: with Katy (What Katy Said), Katie, Hannah, Aby (You Baby Me Mummy)

I was so pleased to be able to give Oana from Mama’s Haven the huge hug I have been saving for her since we started chatting on Facebook last summer. Oana’s beautiful little boy Georgie sadly died from leukaemia last July, and we were able to sit and chat about our boys. We bereaved mothers have a sort of shorthand that others are very fortunate not to know. It’s the first anniversary of Georgie’s death shortly, please help Oana and her family celebrate this special little boy’s life by doing something for Georgie #LiveitforGeorgie.

Me and Oana

Me and Oana

BML was like the first anniversary for me and beautiful Beth. At last year’s event, Beth saw a tweet I had made about an insensitive thing someone had sent to me and from then on looked after me. I am proud to call this wonderful, generous, and kind woman a friend and I’m pleased we were able to spend time together.

Me and Beth

Me and Beth

There were people I wish I had more time to chat with – Susanne (Ghostwritermummy, and one of my #MatExp partners in crime). I was pleased to meet her beautiful daughter Elsie though. Elsie enjoyed grabbing my fingers and appeared to be entranced by my sparkly nail polish – clearly a girl after my own heart! Katie (Pouting in Heels) and I didn’t have nearly enough chatting time (and as our lunch in Leeds proved, we sure can talk. And talk….) Diaries at the ready for another meet-up, Katie! Renee (Mummy Tries) sadly couldn’t return on the Saturday, and I was really sorry to not have spent more time with her. And Tim (Slouching Towards Thatcham)! One of the few dad bloggers. We kept saying hello to each other but seemed to be unable to manage more than pleasantries. So pleased I gave you a big hug though, Tim.

I loved meeting and exchanging hugs with so many other lovely people, too.

To be honest, for me the social side of the event outshone the sessions. The event felt really friendly and easy going to me; I thought it was because I was comparing it to my experiences last year, but others echoed that. That’s as it should be, I think – it doesn’t matter how many followers you have or how many views your blog gets, we’re all human beings.

The icebreaker session turned out to be a world record attempt for the number of people dressed up as tissue paper mummies. We achieved it – by one! I felt bad for the mummies towards the back of the room who must have been sweltering in their toilet roll swaddling while they were waiting for the adjudicators to arrive. Despite our initial reluctance, the exercise was great fun – and we all got to say we’re record breakers. (Except I now have Roy Castle’s theme tune from the classic ’80s show in my head). Kudos to Michelle and Carla for volunteering to be our table’s mummies.

Mummies being mummies...

Mummies being mummies…

My favourite sessions were Women’s Voices; Digital Activism; and the support from blogging round table led by Hayley.

As talking about Hugo and about #MatExp were two of my goals at the event, I was pleased to be able to stick up my hand during the Women’s Voices and Digital Activism sessions to talk about Hugo and my work with his legacy, and with #MatExp. Women deluged Susanne and I after the #MatExp event wanting to get involved, which was fantastic. I’ve taken away some actions and ideas, which is brilliant. A lovely lady even told me her mum in South Africa would be so pleased to hear she’d met me, because her mum follows my blog – incredible.

I was also delighted to find out that I was Mumsnet’s Blog of the Day for my post about what I wanted the National Maternity Review to know.

Blog of the Day!

Blog of the Day!

Talks

I also loved Victoria Wright’s fantastically moving and brilliant speech.

The bloggers’ keynote rounded off the event. I had entered my own post – A Celebration of Life – and was disappointed to not be chosen. However, I was pleased to learn that Louise from 23 Week Socks had been selected to read Twinkle Twinkle. This is an incredibly emotional, moving post about the death of a baby that is so similar to Hugo’s last moments it is uncanny. There are so few such stories around it naturally had a particular resonance for me, but it is also so beautifully written. Louise’s beautiful post is a tribute to all babies who didn’t make it home, and the staff who care for them and their families.

I had read Twinkle, Twinkle so many times I thought I could cope with listening to Louise reading the post, but I was wrong. There were some emotional posts preceding Louise that had already started to choke me up, but Twinkle Twinkle was far too close to home and I started to sob. Wracking sobs, in fact. It made me realise how foolish I was thinking I could have read my post about Hugo’s funeral. No chance.

I was grateful for the love and support of wonderful friends at my table who held on to me and didn’t let me go as my heart broke all over again. I am so grateful too to the wonderful friends came up to me and squeezed me with love and hugs after the keynotes had finished. Thank you all.

At first, I thought it was a shame that an event I had enjoyed so much ended with me sobbing. The sobbing wasn’t good, of course, but it also served to remind me that so often the lows come after the highs. Grief is always lurking under the surface. Just as importantly, I left feeling so loved and cared for by genuine friends who I can laugh with and cry with.

Blogging really can be amazing.

There was wine, there was yummy cake, I talked about my Hugo and #MatExp, I am blessed to have wonderful friends.

My business cards were hugely popular, and I have only a couple left! I’m glad they were a hit.

Some of my fabulous business cards.

Some of my fabulous business cards.

I allowed myself to enjoyed myself, and enjoy myself I did. What a difference a year makes.

 

 

42 thoughts on “BritMums Live: What A Difference a Year Makes

  1. morganprincecom says:

    A brilliant post that brought tears to my eyes. And one of many that has convinced me I NEED to attend BritMums Live next year, if only to meet you and other wonderful bloggers! You’ve summed up the conference really well. I can’t wait to meet you Leigh, but for now virtual hugs will have to do. 🙂 xxx

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  2. Michelle Twin Mum says:

    It sounds like you had a great BML, well doen for getting out there and spreading the word about your passions. Mich x

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  3. blopmamma2014 says:

    I’m so pleased I got the chance to finally meet you and put a face to the name. It was wonderful to talk about Hugo with you and I’m so sorry that my keynote speech upset you so much.

    You may not have been given the opportunity to stand up there to talk about Hugo yourself but he was up there with me on the charm on my bracelet and in my heart when I spoke. Reading that post took more out of me than I expected and I had to rush off afterwards because I was exhausted after a very busy weekend and I just wanted to get home to my boys.

    Keep on telling the story of you and Hugo in your own brave, unique way. It’s an incredibly important story and one that I think everyone should hear.

    Much Love

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      It was absolutely wonderful to meet you at last. There is no need to apologise for your keynote – it’s not you that upset me as such, it’s the whole thing – so triggering.

      I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye to you, but understand that you had to rush off.

      I enjoyed talking to you, about Hugo and about other things too. Hope we can meet again xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. redrosemummy says:

    I’m so pleased you had a wonderful weekend Leigh. Your experience last year was something that added to my lack of enjoyment of the whole event and I was so surprised that someone in our community could have spoken so thoughtlessly. Sorry I didn’t get the chance to say hello to you.

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  5. Honest Mum says:

    So wonderful getting to spend time together Leigh and with the wonderful Oana too, I love this round up and am so, so happy this year was a much better experience for you. Can’t wait to see you again soon xx

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  6. mummyofboygirltwins says:

    Wonderful to have met you again and hugged you! What a few days hey? Gosh – I laughed and cried too. You’re inspiring and so brave and I commend you. What you have achieved through blogging is truly outstanding. Love you and see you again soon. Fab post xx

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  7. pottymouthedmummy says:

    I’m so glad you had such a fab experience lovely. I find these things a little overwhelming and I chickened out this year. Hopefully next year I feel a bit more confident and can meet so many of my favourite bloggers xx

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      You’re right, they can be very overwhelming lovely Sian. This year really did feel a lot different and I genuinely thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to seeing you at an event when you’re ready xxx

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  8. Kate Holmes says:

    So pleased you enjoyed yourself. It is totally Ok to have good times after bad times. Wish we had met as you inspire me a lot. Keep up the good work and let me know if I can help at all perhaps by an interview on my blog but let me know what suits you,

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  9. thefamilypatch2015 says:

    I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed yourself this year, got to meet some of the bloggers on your list (I think most of us would need a week to get to the bottom of our lists, don’t you?!) and managed to share Hugo’s story throughout the sessions. It sounds like it was a really powerful weekend for you. I’m sorry that the Bloggers’ Keynotes were so emotionally difficult, I was in tears myself without having a personal experience of loss, so I can only imagine how hard it must have been. I’m glad you had friends around you to hold a gentle and supportive space for you to grieve though!

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  10. beautwins says:

    Leigh, you are a kind, caring and beautiful woman. It was so amazing to see you again and actually spend time together. It was such a pleasure to be in your company. You looked stunning. Britmums was truly amazing. What an amazing atmosphere hey? Lots of love and hugs as always. xxxx

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  11. hannah mum's days says:

    You have captured the event brilliantly, Leigh! And summed up much of what I was feeling too – so overwhelmed by all that was going on and it was over in a flash and I didn’t see you nearly enough. I hope you know I plan on gatecrashing your meet up with Katie, don’t you??! I have lots more to say, but I think I’ll write an email 😉 see you soon xxxxx

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  12. StephsTwoGirls says:

    I know I met you last year and I’m sitting here really hoping I didn’t say anything insensitive 😦 I do tend to suffer from not being able to speak very well at all and from tripping over my own words. Sorry I didn’t see you this year – your dresses and necklaces look gorgeous, wish I was that good at accessorising! You have been doing a great job of raising awareness of #MatExp – a marathon not a sprint as Hayley would say 🙂 Love this post and your pictures x

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  13. Michelle Reeves (bodfortea) says:

    Leigh you captured the essence of the two days beautifully and I’m so glad that this year there was a positive difference in your experience of the event. It was such a huge pleasure to meet you finally and I wish we’d had more time to chat. Hugs xx

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  14. SingleMotherAhoy says:

    Leigh, I am so honoured to have met you. You’re even more awesome in person and bring with you this sort of calmness and inclusiveness wherever you go. I was looking out for your pink dress from the moment I got there, and was completely made up to get to spend some time with you xx

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  15. Ali says:

    Oh Leigh, what a wonderful read. I’m glad you had such a great time. You’re right, blogging really is amazing. I’m really hoping, actually… Definitely going next year. I’d love to meet you in person and give you a squeeze. Xx

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  16. poutinginheels says:

    wonderful, heartwarming post Leigh! What a difference a year makes indeed! Just imagine what next year might bring…So glad we got to spend time together even if it is never long enough! Get your diary at the ready. 😉 A lovely round up. X

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