So…here I am…starting my blog. It is, of course, 10 past 10 on Sunday night and I am wedged between a sleeping baby (on my right hand side, looking all innocent and not at all like the milk demanding dictator he will be upon waking) and a sleeping fiance (on my left hand side, looking completely shattered after 6 months of listening to be moan about the milk demanding dictator and all the other mum stuff he’s come to zone out).
I should, almost certainly, be asleep by now. Sleep when baby sleeps, that’s what they tell you. What they don’t tell you, or no one told me anyway, is that you become this weird kind of tired where you can’t actually function when baby is awake, then baby sleeps and you suddenly want to change the world. It’s like all the energy you wish you had when they are giggling and farting and smiling and shitting is suddenly there in a burst, only to vanish when your little darling starts to stir. Or that’s how my life seems to be playing out anyway. Not helped by the fact that my little darling is a cat napper. And a boob snacker. And a god-damned-adorable-little-shite.
Right, so I’ve started my blog by saying that I really shouldn’t be starting it tonight. Which brings me to the point of what has spurred me on to start it now, and not put it on for a further 6 months. Well, I have an IMPORTANT ISSUE I’d like to address. Now, mumming has rather changed what I feel is important. So, please, bear with me and understand that this may not be as important as terrorism, world famine or a pandemic. But, it is important to many parents here in Shetland, and it’s very important to me.
You see, NHS Shetland have cancelled the Baby Massage sessions run by the local Health Visitors. For those of you who are not aware, all mummies in Shetland (daddies are also welcome…I saw one there and everything) are invited to attend a 6 week block of classes with their newborn baby about baby massage and other important baby related information. These classes, for me, and for hundreds of other new mums, are an opportunity to meet other new mums. To ask questions. To learn about baby massage (great for colic, windy tums, relaxing baby, relaxing mum, bonding, etc). To learn how to get the screaming, wriggly, wrinkly thing you created dressed and out the house by 10am. To brave that first, slightly awkward, breastfeed in public. To overcome being peed on by an overhydrated 6 week old boob monster 3 times in one hour long session (just me?).
In short, these sessions are invaluable. However, due to a new method of measuring Health Visitor contacts, it has been decided that the sessions will stop. Management has had to opt to stop the sessions as they do not count as contacts with mums and babies. This will mean that the (already stretched) Health Visitors will have to find a way of seeing mums at home, instead of using these sessions. To put this into perspective, in my group I think there were about 15 mums. There were 6 sessions, with a follow up planned for when babies were around 6 months to further discuss weaning. So that would be 7 visits to 15 mums that were covered by the classes. That’s 105 visits condensed into about 7 hours. Yet, this is being cancelled, in favour of seeing mums at home.
So what will this actually mean for new mums? Surely it’s great that they’ll be visited at home instead? That they’ll get one to one attention and lessons in baby massage in their lovely homely nurseries? No. Of course not. No one has time for that shit. So in actual fact, Health Visitors will have to prioritise the mums “most in need”. Those who have already been flagged as having Social Work intervention, Child Protection concerns or GIRFECs in place. And while these mums (and their families) may well be in need of Health Visitor support, what about the mums nobody has noticed yet?
What about the mum who just can’t quite admit that she doesn’t love her 6 week old quite as much as she says she does? Who makes it to baby massage and breaks down to the Health Visitor after class who happens to ask her if she’s sure she’s ok.
What about the mum who couldn’t get through to the GP surgery that morning who happens to show her babies rash to the Health Visitor because she’s going to baby massage anyway?
What about the mum who desperately needs multivitamins, because she’s breastfeeding and she can’t afford them and nappies this week? What are the chances she’ll have time to make a special appointment to contact the GP?
And what about me? Who was so anxious about breastfeeding in public she gave her baby formula when she took him out for the first time? Who expressed milk for the first 3 months everytime she was going to have to go anywhere? Who finally, at the last session of Baby Massage, looked around at all the other feeding mums and thought “I’m safe here!”
What about support for all mums, no matter what “concerns” have been raised? Having a baby is the single most traumatic thing that has every happened to me, but if I hadn’t been around other mums, seeing that they were all traumatised too, it would have been so much worse.
I have heard that private baby massage classes are starting, and that is fantastic. I will certainly recommend that people go. Massaging my little man is one of the highlights of our day (ok, every 3rd day if we’re lucky) and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to learn it. However, the new private class will not make up for the Health Visitor support. It will not provide the same, non judgemental, open to everyone format that they could. And it will cost money…which is always tight when you have a new baby. So as great as that is, it’s a luxury many cannot afford. And it can’t fill the gap that the NHS class will leave behind.
So, I am asking for your help and support on this. Please sign the petition to get the Baby Massage class back! Because without it, I’d still be sitting on the couch in my pjays, wondering if I could make it to a toddler group one day…