Heidi attended the very first Mothers Uncovered session in 2008 and became one of the first facilitators in 2014. Read about her amazing experiences of becoming a mother and joining our groups in an interview by our trustee Liz and communications volunteer Megan.
Interviewer: What drew you to the Mothers Uncovered workshops? How did you find out about them?
Heidi: I had just had my first child and I was struggling with it. There was just more and more information that I felt I needed to take on to be this amazing mother and I couldn’t do it, I felt like I was letting other people down… there’s so much pressure with being a new mum. And so, my mum actually suggested going to the [Mothers Uncovered] group, she worked at a children’s centre at the time where the group was being delivered… I wasn’t sure at first, but I just bit the bullet and went, I got in contact with Maggie and started it from there really.
Interviewer: What did you expect when you first attended the course? Did attending the course change these expectations?
Heidi: I turned up extremely nervous, not knowing what to expect because I’ve been to other parent-baby groups which weren’t for me because I was the eldest there and all these lovely beautiful mums with perfect makeup and perfect hair and organic snacks… I found this really bizarre because obviously I’ve never seen this before, being new to motherhood. I went to these groups and I really felt left out, as I wasn’t part of it, and so I was kind of expecting that again, but it was so different!
I walked in and the first thing I saw was the massive red hair Maggie had and this amazing, welcoming smile. There were people sitting down on beanbags and it was really cosy, and the parents were mothering and feeding their children, it was so relaxed and so different to any other group I’ve been to. It was really warming and inviting, and it was really lovely.
So, we sat down and did an introduction of ourselves and our babies, and we knew it was a safe space we could trust one another. All the mums were all bouncing off one another… having a bit of a giggle… and having a cry… I’d never cried until going to this group and it was just like the floodgates opened, and it was fine. I thought I was alone, but everyone was experiencing it and they were all going through the same things in a roundabout way, and it was okay, and it was normal.
For the first time, I believed that I was good at being a mum. I don’t have to listen to everybody’s advice and let them tell me what I’m doing wrong, because there’s a bunch of lovely mums here and they’re doing the same as me and that’s all good.
I thought that I would only ever have the one child… I was struggling with my own thoughts which was putting pressure on my relationship. But [Mothers Uncovered] changed my life. Three children and nearly 11 years of marriage and we got married after my first, and I owe that an awful lot to Maggie and Mothers Uncovered.
I still keep in contact actually with some of the mothers that did the group originally. Watching our own children grow and grow up together… they’ve taken their own path but we’ve still stayed friends.
Interviewer: How does the overall course work? What do you do in a typical session?
Heidi: We did some writing, talking, we did lots of little exercises… what we thought of motherhood, what we thought about our own mothers, motherhood difficulties, milestones. There’s so much to it.
We’ve got writing sessions, mindful sessions, art sessions… we’ve even got cooking ones which is part of SoulFood… and then we’ve got combination ones. I like the art ones, painting, sketching, the art is putting your feelings and emotions and experiences onto paper. It’s amazing seeing everyone’s piece of work, you can give them the same topic and because it’s their own emotion, their own experience and feeling, they’re all so different.
Discussions around childbirth and feeding are a huge part of the sessions. It’s this amazing thing that never gets talked about, why can’t mums shout it from the rooftops? We talk about their birthing experiences and how important it is, how it affects them… it’s a life changing moment. Other groups want to go over the medical side of everything, but no one ever says how’s birth? You don’t have to birth naturally to have the perfect experience and it’s really important to talk about that.
Interviewer: Did you learn anything from the workshops?
Heidi: I learnt that everything was alright, and I was good at being a mum. It’s okay to fail, and I can say no. But no matter how bad the situation is, you have to laugh and Mothers Uncovered help me to do that.
Interviewer: What’s changed for you as a result of doing the Mothers Uncovered workshop?
Heidi: I became more confident, and more self-aware of what I wanted in life.
Interviewer: What’s the role of the facilitator?
Heidi: To be supportive, understanding, trustworthy, open… to be able to communicate and understand that it’s okay to laugh and it’s okay to cry. And to have that personal understanding as well… All the facilitators have done the group, so it’s our experiences and what we’ve got from it and how we would like to let other mums go away with even just a snippet of what we experienced. We’ve all been there, so we can all support one another.
Interviewer: Do you share your own personal experiences as a facilitator?
Heidi: I really try not to give advice or what I would do, because it’s their time and they get the [peer] support from other participants as well… they like knowing the fact that I’ve got children, they know that I’m kind of in the same situation.
Interviewer: As a facilitator now, can you tell me how much the course has changed over the years from when you first did the course to how you deliver it?
Heidi: Every course is different; every course has changed. And we always take feedback as well, so we’re always growing.
We all met face to face but obviously now since lockdown, we’ve gone onto Zoom. It’s brilliant because we are actually reaching further afield, which is fantastic as we’re able to help so many other mothers. We can do the evening so the children might be asleep, so we’re able to fit around [schedules], you can be in your own home relaxing, not having to travel. It’s important that mothers connect with each other and it can be difficult to do that online, which I was worried about in the beginning, but because we’ve got so much in common they quite often set up WhatsApp groups of their own to carry on and bond together.
But face to face is really important, and I can’t wait for those as they give more of a personal touch. In person groups allow mums to have their time and their own space and talk freely and not worry that their child’s in the room.
Interviewer: Have you received any feedback from participants about the online groups?
Heidi: I received a message to tell us that were life savers. And it was such a deep and meaningful message. We’ve got to remember this is a year of lockdown you know and the mums have fallen pregnant, given birth and become a mum in a lockdown, and its important that Mothers Uncovered are here to support [them]. So when we get feedback like you’re a lifesaver, it really shows what they’re going through.
Interviewer: What do you want to say to mothers who may be struggling with motherhood?
Heidi: phone Mothers Uncovered. Join the group. If it wasn’t for Mothers Uncovered I wouldn’t have the family I’ve got, I wouldn’t have the children I’ve got. From when I first did the group and now as a facilitator, I’m still learning from the mums. Its so supportive and so wonderful and trustworthy, you can be part of Mothers Uncovered and you’ve got this lovely group of friends.
I went to a ton of other groups, and they didn’t work for me. They made me feel worse. But Mothers Uncovered saved me. There’s no other way of putting it.
Maggie is an amazing woman, and if it wasn’t for her Mothers Uncovered wouldn’t be here. She’s an inspirational woman and she’s worked really hard to make sure no one ever goes through what she did and to make sure we’re all there for each other.