When I decided to start Ivory Tower Childcare and train as a childminder many people thought it was an odd choice. I had just finished my Masters in Psychology and was on maternity leave. As with anything, there were so many factors to making the decision but for me the seeds of an idea started forming when I found myself a new mother living in a town far away from my family and old friends. The first four months are a bit of a blur in all honesty. I loved being a mother and found that I fell into our new way of life fairly easily. I was the lucky one; an ‘easy’ birth, an ‘easy’ baby, very little trouble breastfeeding and a supportive husband. I had no reason to complain.
I remember one day very vividly. My son wouldn’t stop crying. He’d had his first round of vaccinations and was cranky and upset. We’d had no sleep the night before. My husband had spent the day falling asleep at his desk and had come in exhausted. I’d spent the day on the sofa cluster feeding a tiny baby who just would not be put down. I’d cuddled and rocked and fed him and repeated all of the above again and again for the best part of twelve hours. My husband took him for half an hour and handed him back to be fed again when he wouldn’t settle. I remember looking down at him squirming and grizzling and I burst into tears. I have never been so tired before or since. I was drained from twelve hours of near constant breastfeeding, probably dehydrated and definitely hungry. I missed my family who were away at the time and I needed help desperately. I felt like a failure for feeling like I needed help. It was in that moment looking down at my son that I realised I was totally and completely alone in this. Yes my husband was there but he couldn’t give our son what he seemed to want and need on that day; to be constantly attached to a breast! After that day we pulled together as a team much more. We’d both reached a point where something had to give. We slept in shifts. My husband brought me food and drinks while I breastfed. I let him lie in and got up early in exchange for naps during the day. He would take the baby out of the house so I could sleep or just have some time alone. We did whatever we needed to in order to get through those early months and preserve our relationship.
It was after those early months that I really understood this idea that it takes a village to raise a child. I didn’t have one. What I did have is one friend who to this day is an absolute gem and doesn’t know how much she helped me. I’m not the type that is going to go to every baby group going. I find it forced and a bit cringe worthy if I’m honest. I went to a few but I just felt awkward, unwelcome and just out of place so I didn’t go back. Motherhood seemed to be a lonely place and I could feel the effects on my mental health creeping in. I’m first and foremost a fighter so I did what I knew best and threw myself heart and soul into creating a life for myself and baby L away from the baby groups and mummy meets. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I didn’t like but in the end I decided it was to do with identity. Where was Una in all of this? I felt invisible. When people visit, it was to see the baby. When people call, it was to ask about the baby. I love my son but before he came along I had hopes, dreams, goals. They hadn’t disappeared but I felt like I was supposed to shove everything aside, be a good girl and ‘indulge’ myself in this year of maternity leave which seemed to entail drinking endless cups of tea, eating a lot of cake, forking out a lot of money on groups that my child isn’t actually that interested in and pretend to be best friends with groups of women that I had absolutely nothing in common with. Now don’t get me wrong, I have made some new friends since baby L came along that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Ladies you know who you are!
So I guess, the reason I am starting Ivory Tower Childcare is to be the person that I would have loved was around when I was a new mother. I’m offering flexible, ad hoc care. Once I get going with a few regular children, I’m going to offer a service when new mums and babies can come to my home together. I’ll provide the childcare and a room for mum. It’s nothing fancy. It’s my guest room. It has a desk and a bed in it. You can treat me like a regular childcare facility where you can leave the little one and go but I also want my home to be a haven so the room is there for your use. Leave baby with me and go and sleep for a few hours in fresh, clean linen if that’s what you need. Breastfeeding? I’ll bring baby in if they get unsettled and leave you to your rest. Maybe you just want to put your feet up with a good book. Maybe you want to use the desk and get some work done. Maybe you just want to watch cat videos on the internet. I don’t care. No judgement here. I want to be that person who can hold your hand through those early days. I don’t care if you turn up with greasy hair, mismatched socks and yesterday’s outfit. I don’t care if you rock up on top of the world or in tears. Come as you are and leave refreshed, rejuvenated and a little bit happier. You are not alone. You’ve got this mama.