All My Worldly Joy

By Laura Richmond

A memoir of motherhood and mental health.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

I trust you this much.

Dearest everybody,

Last week was quite a big one for AMWJ. We surpassed both 150 supporters and 25% funding, and, at the time of writing, we’re currently cruising a cool 28%… I was also interviewed by the NCT about the book, which was grand. Welcome on board to all the new supporters, and thank you – it means everything that you’re here. If you’d like to, you can catch up on the journey so far.

I’m currently writing chapter two, which is all about the pregnancy. This has meant revisiting my medical notes (although, in truth, I am holding these rather at arm’s length – they are indecipherable anyway) and my pregnancy journal. It’s odd how we misremember things: I had thought I’d had quite a happy, glowy sort of pregnancy, and yet the journal is endless repetition of “feeling very tired” “feeling rather low” “feeling very worried” “feeling so stressed" etc etc ad nauseam (I promise the chapter will be more interesting than that, by the way.) I found reading it emotionally tough in quite a vague way, a sort of sad and ‘yucky’ feeling that has been difficult to shake. I wouldn’t like to go back to who I was then.

I have cheered myself up by writing about my NCT antenatal classes. I hope this bit is funny. I’ve been cackling anyway, alone… It includes the grand entrance of my friend Hayley, who will be one of the heroes of this book. By the time you’ve read it, I hope you’ll love her almost as much as I do. She’s extraordinary. Meeting Hayley was my first experience of maternal peer support – a rather bland term for the specific kind of magic that happens when mothers champion mothers. Unequivocal, judgement-free, in it together. Everyone needs someone they can text when the baby just shat in the bath and they aren’t sure what to do next, you know? Hayley and I laughed together, until we couldn’t breathe, we sobbed together, we stared into the middle distance together in a sleep-deprived fashion, we figured it out together. I don’t know how I would have got through it all without her.

And later there would be other mothers, particularly through #PNDHour, who came alongside me when I was so exhausted and so broken and I felt that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I guess everybody needs peer support of some kind, just for the business of being human, but there is something about motherhood and something about mental health and something about the collision of those two things... Peer support becomes essential to survival. And a lot of the maternal mental health work I do now is around that, with the quality assurance principles, Parents in Mind, Hampshire Lanterns, etc.

October was supposed to be a quieter month after I spent September buzzing about like a blue-arsed fly, but that has not, alas, been the case. I've been giving talks, teaching maternity support workers and health visitors, recording a podcast (down with the kids), presenting to an awards panel, attending many many meetings, and doing history bits and bobs too... until I screeched to a halt (or croaked to a halt) with tonsilitis last week. (But not until I had surpassed myself by sending a particularly disastrous accidental Reply All.) I then spent the best part of a week doing not much and reminding myself that I am allowed to exist, even if I do not much.

A big highlight, though, of recent weeks has been seeing Hollie McNish in Winchester with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Lorna. Hollie's poems have been a big influence on AMWJ and I highly recommend her anthology Nobody Told Me, which covers pregnancy through to her daughter's third birthday. Here's me and Lorna fangirling. Hollie was so nice. Eeeeeeeeeeee.

Writing this book is taking longer than I expected, for a number of different, not entirely interesting, reasons. I keep fretting about it, just because I realise that I'm going to keep you all waiting for your copies and it feels like taking the piss. But I was worrying out loud to someone about this last week and he said, "It takes as long as it takes." And I thought: yes. You don't want a rushed and rubbish book, I'm sure, and really this is just another facet of what writing and crowdfunding this book is all about: trust. I have to trust you to be patient. I'm already trusting you with a lot of very personal information - I do feel horribly exposed, even before the book is finished and published - and I find myself leaning on everyone's kindness: the pledges, of course, but also all the tweets and Facebook comments. The Big Bank of Book Encouragement is alive and well. And crowdfunding is another exercise in trust. On the Unbound page, I refer to Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, in which she compares crowdfunding to crowdsurfing. (It’s all about not being ashamed to ask for help; definitely worth a listen.) She also talks about asking as being like saying, "I trust you this much. Should I? Show me." Putting up this page and asking you all to join me and support me on this funny book journey feels just like that. And I also have to trust you to wait.

I trust you. We can do the thing. Even if it takes ages.

Please help your girl out by sharing the hell out of this post and/or the book link. Talk to me in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter/email. And, of course, if you haven’t already, you can pledge for your very own copy of this marvellous book-that-will-be, and get an extra shiny copy with your name in the back.

Big love,

Laura x


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