Snapshot of the Maternity Experience Campaign – In Numbers and Graphics

For what began as a ‘small pilot’, the Maternity Experience campaign (#MatExp) has been going really well…! I originally published on the MatExp website; I am so proud of everything the campaign and the passionate community behind it has achieved I wanted to feature it on my own blog, too to further spread the word.

Here are some quick facts, figures, and graphics:

  • Since the website was launched in June, we have had more than 7,000 hits!
  • There are more than 700 members of the #MatExp Facebook group, generating very constructive discussion
  • We had 24 action selfies for #FlamingJune
  • 16 posts added to our action linky during #FlamingJune

We tried to capture everything from #FlamingJune in a picture – there’s so much but we gave it a go!

  • #MatExp has seen more interaction on social media than ones about similar issues (not that it’s a competition, but what is so brilliant about #MatExp is that there is no limit to the number or type of people who can get involved because it’s by everyone, for everyone).


This next stat is VERY exciting:

  • Since #MatExp started being used as a hashtag there have been – drumroll please…


Yes you read that right – more than 152 million!

(Impressions means that Tweets bearing the #MatExp hashtag would have been seen on that number of timelines)

Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital held a Whose Shoes workshop, and seems to have inspired everyone who went, with 100% of attendees saying it would impact on their practise!

Members of the #MatExp community have been busy putting into action improvements relevant to their own hospitals:

Being the language champion, I’ve been heartened to see so much chat about the issue with people from all sorts of professions and specialties taking on board the importance, value and impact of language.

I love this:

Other language – such as ‘allow’ and ‘fail’ can have a devastating, enduring effect on a woman.

Culture can take a while to transform, of course, but the fact that we are able to have such conversations, and so openly too is a very positive start indeed.

I was delighted to find this paragraph below on a site called lulubaby, which offers a range of courses to ‘prepare you for life with your baby’.

Words of common sense – “…you cannot sadly guarantee yourself a ‘natural birth’, even with the greatest willpower and determination…” fill my heart with joy. No mention of ‘low risk’ or ‘high risk’ either – let’s hope such common sense becomes much more common!


Never forget….

I am incredibly proud to have been named in the HSJ’s list of Patient Leaders, along with Ken Howard who designed our brilliant logo, and Alison Cameron, revolutionary extraordinaire.

Later this week week, I’m attending the listening event, the first of the National Maternity Review team’s activities. I’m going to be there as part of #HugosLegacy as well as #MatExp – I’ll be sharing my own experiences as well as thinking about how #MatExp can connect with the National Maternity Review team to make things happen. Flo and Gill are coming too – we spend so much time connecting on social media, it’s great to be able to catch up face-to-face sometimes too.

So! We’ve been rather busy. Which is why we have been seeking ways to create more hours in the day, such as getting a job lot of time-turners, like Harry Potter’s Hermione.

And we’re going to need them, because after the summer we have LOADS of exciting things going on, such as NHS Expo, and a #MatExp conference – watch this space! I’m looking forward to meeting even more of the #MatExp community at these events, many of whom have become friends.

All of the #MatExp community are busy doing something positive every day, of course. A huge THANK YOU to everyone.IMG_20150526_190834So many people are taking the time to get involved, sharing stories with the aim of making a difference to women, babies and their families. Forget-me-nots are very special flowers!

There is so much going on – Helen, Emma, and Susanne are also capturing as much as they can in their fab posts; it’s impossible to capture everything, but please know that every action and activity, whether big or small is greatly appreciated.

A couple of final thoughts…

You don’t need to ask for permission (besides the obvious!) – JFDI!CJAnPM5WUAEeFjI Some wonderful people who have offered their help have said they’re not sure how valuable their contribution can be because they don’t work in the NHS, or they don’t know much other than their own personal experience. EVERY CONTRIBUTION IS VALUABLE, AND CAN HELP OTHERS! So, always remember…


Brilliant BlogCamp Birmingham

There were interesting talks, there were lovely outfits, there were friends, there were hugs, there was lots of chatting – and cake.

I even learnt a new word – and it’s not a rude one. It all happened at last Saturday’s BlogCamp!

The day was so enjoyable I can’t believe this time last week I was about to cancel my ticket, because I didn’t feel up to it. I’m very grateful to lovely friends who encouraged me to go to this free event organised by Tots 100.

Me on the train.

Me on the train.

Saturday’s event was in Birmingham. I got up bright and early to get the train. On arriving at New Street station, I was pleasantly surprised to see Katy (What Katy Said) – it turned out we had been travelling in adjacent carriages. We met up with Aby (You Baby Me Mummy), Em (Snowing Indoors), and Hannah (Mums’ Days) and made the short walk to the venue.

My favourite thing about such events is meeting my friends. Blogging is a bit strange sometimes because we share so much of our lives, we feel we know each other so well, yet in most cases we have never met face-to-face.

It was lovely to see Kiran (Mummy Says), Vic (VeViVos), and Claire (Ninja Killer Cat) again. It was wonderful to meet Vicki (Honest Mum) for the first time, although it felt like we’d known each other forever – and I enjoyed chatting to her lovely mum. Susanne (Ghostwritermummy) – have got to know each other on social media through being MAMA Academy ambassadors and our #MatExp work, and it was wonderful to have a proper chat. Jocelyn (The Reading Residence) and Louise (Little Hearts Big Love) have got to know one another through Jocelyn’s fab word of the week linky, and it was fabulous to meet and have a proper chat with them. I also enjoyed meeting Em (Brummy Mummy of 2); Jess (Mummy of Boy Girl Twins); Mel (Le Coin de Mel) Alison (Complicated Gorgeousness) and so many others – I wish we had more time to chat.

I got photos with most of these lovelies for posterity:

Left to right: Aby, me, Vicki, Hannah.

Left to right: Aby, me, Vicki, Hannah.

Me and Susanne

Me and Susanne

Me and Jocelyn

Me and Jocelyn

Me and Louise

Me and Louise

Me with Em (l) Katy (r).

Me with Em (l) Katy (r).

Hannah and I looking angelic.

Hannah and I looking angelic.

A particularly special surprise was meeting Lucy from Mrs Bishop’s Bakes and Banter. Bizarrely, it turns out we live just two streets apart – small world, eh?

Oh yes – besides the social side of the day, there were some fantastic talks, too.

The first talk of the day was about pro blogging. I surprised myself by going to that talk, but I am glad I did because I was pleasantly surprised by the content. I thought pro blogging was all about being an ambassador for brands, but as the wonderful Penny and Becky explained, you can define it in whatever way you choose. The talk opened my eyes to the pro blogging possibilities and opportunities – things like copywriting for others, giving talks, writing guest posts for other platforms.

Pro-blogging is like normal blogging, in the sense that you work according your own goals and aspirations, doing your own thing in your own way. The difference is you make your living from it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the fashion talk, but again was pleasantly surprised: it was refreshingly down-to-earth thanks to the frankness and honesty of the speakers. They were very generous with their tips about styling fashion posts, which being a lover of pretty dresses I would like to do more of in the future.

The photography session led by Lindy was interactive and hands-on. While I understand lighting and composition, previously I had given little thought to backgrounds and styling. I love bright colour, and I’ve already been having a play at home, improvising with some things I had to hand.

My effort from the photography session.

My effort from the photography session.

One of the reasons I blog is because I love writing, and Fiona Steggles’ writing session did not disappoint. She gave some excellent tips about writing structure, drawing in your readers and compelling them to read more. It was during Fiona’s session that I learnt the new word – anaphora. It means the device of repeating a sequence of words to emphasise a point. That’s something I often use in my posts (such as in the first paragraph of this one!) but I had no idea it had such a fancy word.

The last session of the day was again about pro-blogging comprising a panel including my wonderful friend Vicki (Honest Mum), who continues to inspire me with her proactive, go-getting attitude. While we have different blogging goals, her attitude is something I try to emulate: if you want something, go for it, and don’t be afraid to shout about how awesome you are!

The food was delicious – celeriac tart with salad for lunch, and waffles with maple syrup for afternoon tea. I didn’t get any photos of it, but I did photograph some of the fab décor in The Studio:


Lego bursting out of a wall.

Lego bursting out of a wall.


A colouring-in wall!

A colouring-in wall!

A HUGE thank you to Sally and the team at Tots100 for organising such an amazing event.

The dress I wore is a size 14, and I was chuffed that it fitted like a dream because I have dropped a dress size. That did, however provide me with an important learning point that the talks could not provide: when dropping a dress size, you are wise to also wear tights that are a size smaller if you would like to avoid having to surreptitiously keep hitching up the blinking things all day.

Ultimately, droopy tights notwithstanding I went home tired but feeling positive. BlogCamp Birmingham truly was brilliant.

A Successful Week

This week, I am happy to report has felt successful for me personally, and for my blog:


For the past few months I have been making a concerted effort with my food intake and exercise. I’ve been doing particularly well with my running, doing regular 5km distances on the treadmill at the gym. I’m feeling the benefits physically: I’m feeling more toned, lighter, and generally better. The number on the scale isn’t going down as quickly as I would like, but slow and steady wins the race for sustainable lifestyle changes. And the main thing is the number is going down!

Sadly my gym is closing next week. It is part of a hotel, and the hotel has decided it is no longer profitable. It is a shame because it is a small, friendly gym with a good community atmosphere – and it is much cheaper than the regular chain gyms. As we are heading in to the better weather, I am going to be exercising outside for the time being. I invested in a Fitbit to keep track of my activity and help keep myself motivated. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a snazzier sort of pedometer that can also record your total active minutes, and your sleep. It can connect to your phone via Bluetooth, and it stores your records on the Fitbit app where you can also track your food and fluid intake. It arrived a couple of days ago, and so far so good – the app is really good; I like how the band vibrates and flashes when I’ve reached my activity goal – and it’s bright pink, so it’s pretty!

Bright pink Fitbit

Bright pink Fitbit

I am delighted that my garden is flourishing in the spring sunshine. I was especially pleased to see the forget-me-nots doing so well, after thinking the seeds had been annihilated last year. Many of the wildflowers are sprouting now, and I’m looking forward to even more vibrant colour in the garden.

The Blog

My blog has been an invaluable retreat. However, much as I enjoy writing for the sake of writing, I had to reflect my blogging schedule was becoming rather wearing. There were times that I found I was forcing myself to write through grief fog, even though it took me much longer than it should have, and I didn’t have to write it. As much as blogging is a wonderful therapy, that kind of behaviour isn’t healthy for me.

I came up with few ideas to help sort myself out.  I find I have so much to say about things, and my head is often bursting with inspiration. So, the first is Sunday Thought, which launched this week. It’s a simple concept, where I will write a few lines about what I think about a quote or a saying. Brevity and words from the top of my head is key here, rather than pushing myself too hard.

The second idea, Life After… came about after reflecting everything that I have survived in the past year. In the immediate aftermath of Hugo’s death, I didn’t want to believe people who said things would get not better necessarily, but different, and so they have. I wanted to offer that hope and reassurance to other people. I was pleased to have people getting in touch to take part, and the first guest post will be published next Tuesday. If you would like to feature, or know someone who might (anyone is welcome, you don’t have to be a blogger), please do get in touch. I hope the series helps make a difference to other people’s lives.

The third idea is a bit of fun, and a bit of much-needed regular light relief for me. It will be launched tomorrow…watch this space!

I was proud to achieve one of my ambitions earlier this year by becoming a Huffington Post blogger. Most of my posts for them have appeared on the front page of the relevant section (lifestyle, parenting), and this time I was a featured blogger – and on the front page of the whole site, too. The article was about how I deal with seeing the many pregnancy and baby photos on Facebook; it is not something that is openly talked about. The response I have had shows that it is helpful for other mums in a similar position to be open about these things. It is an excellent boost for the profile of Hugo’s Legacy, too.

Talking of the Huffington Post, it has been a successful week for fellow bloggers. Em from Brummy Mummy of 2 was also a featured blogger alongside me, and Katie, Katy, Aby and Amy have also recently become HuffPost bloggers too. It’s fabulous to see these lovely ladies going for it and enjoying success, too.

Featured Bloggers...I like the Emma Watson quote on the right, too.

Featured Bloggers…I like the Emma Watson quote on the right, too.

Earlier this week I was approached by BBC World Service to appear on a radio programme. I declined because the topic wasn’t right, but I hope they will ask me again with another issue. The producer found me through social media, so it’s fascinating to think who is observing. The request felt like a big success because it’s the kind of PR approaches I wanted – to talk to a wide audience on such a prestigious platform about Hugo’s Legacy would be incredible (thankfully I haven’t had any baby product offers for a while).

The Reading Residence

Forget-Me-Nots and Patience

This time last year, while we were still in the deep fog of early grief, Martin and I spruced up our back garden.

While we enjoy looking at flowers, we know little about gardening and we were glad to have the assistance of my green-fingered mum and brother. Our garden is a small courtyard, with a border that was at the time mostly strewn with weeds. Together, we spent a satisfying day digging them up, and planting fresh flowers, flowering bushes, and herbs.

As well as being a constructive way of spending the day, the activity was a tribute to Hugo. I wanted our garden to be alive with bright colour, and attract bees and butterflies because I like to believe Hugo’s spirit is everywhere, in nature particularly. I had especially chosen flowers that had tags promising that.

Our garden is a real sun-trap which encourages growth (of the weeds, mainly).

As well as established flowers, most of which are thankfully still flourishing, we planted wildflower and forget-me-not seeds. I was disappointed when nothing grew; perhaps we should have propagated them first, rather than putting them straight in to the border. The neighbourhood cats might have trampled the fledgling flowers when using our garden as their toilet, or birds might have picked the seeds.

I was especially disappointed that the forget-me-nots had not grown. Over the summer, we planted some established ones in Hugo’s garden, but I really wanted some at home too. The little blue star-shaped flowers are very symbolic.

Sometimes, it turns out, you need to exercise a little patience. It seems the forget-me-not just needed a bit of time and this spring it too is flourishing. The little star-shaped flowers in a beautiful shade of blue, with hints of yellow and purple are wonderful.

Even better, some of the wildflowers are now sprouting too.



This week has been about self-care. And about time, too.

Where I live, we have been fortunate to enjoy some beautiful spring sunshine, and it has been very warm indeed. Despite my reservations about spring, I have now been enjoying the array of flowers and blossom, and trying to see them as symbols from Hugo.

Beautiful blossom.

Beautiful blossom.

On Monday evening, I found myself thinking on that day twelve months earlier I had last held Hugo, last sung to him, last read to him. I had last looked at his beautiful face, last stroked his lovely soft hair. It was the last time I had seen my gorgeous baby.

I miss Hugo so very much.

Tuesday marked the first anniversary of Hugo’s funeral. The last of the first anniversaries. Tuesday’s glorious sunshine mirrored the weather of the same day last year. I visited Hugo’s garden, and found it hard to believe that my baby had already been there for a whole year. The windmills and solar-powered butterfly were spinning away in the strong breeze, and combined with the toys, stars and vibrant flowers made his garden seem full of life and activity. The new little stones in the hexagonal planter were sparkling in the sunshine, but the camera doesn’t really pick it up.

Hugo's garden - I captured the shadow of the solar-powered butterfly on the wall of the planter.

Hugo’s garden – I captured the shadow of the solar-powered butterfly on the wall of the planter.

Hugo's toys, and the sparkly stones.

Hugo’s toys, and the sparkly stones.

The day of Hugo’s funeral was a celebration of life, and love. Hugo’s first birthday was spent at the laptop getting #HugosLegacy trending (with the help of so many wonderful people); the first anniversary of his death was spent sprucing up his garden.

This anniversary was about love for me. Self-care. As well as visiting Hugo in his garden on Tuesday, I tried to keep myself busy with various things. I went to the gym and had my nails done with pretty new sunshine colours. I sat in the garden with my book, which to be honest I found difficult to get in to – and ended up falling asleep.

New nail colour.

New nail colour.

A sleep in the sunshine is restorative. A bit like being that solar-powered butterfly in Hugo’s garden.

Self-care doesn’t solve everything, nor does it make things better. But feeling revived and a bit more full of life, even if only for a while is good, so I’m aiming to do more of it.


The Reading Residence