All My Worldly Joy

By Laura Richmond

A memoir of motherhood and mental health.

Friday, 7 September 2018

School Daze

Dearest everybody,

So today we reached 15% and we are rapidly approaching 100 supporters. Tremendous. The Positive Birth Movement also very kindly featured me on their blog. Thank you and welcome on board to everyone who has pledged recently. If you fancy, you can catch up on the previous update here. And do let’s be pals on Twitter, if you are of a tweeting persuasion. I am @cooksferryqueen.

Yesterday I was at the Maternal Mental Health Alliance annual conference, which was a bit of a whirlwind of catching up with dear ones. I find just being around people who ‘get it’ and are working so hard and so passionately to improve things incredibly emotive. The theme this year was diversity and there were a range of talks by and about migrant mothers, mothers in prison, mothers facing multiple and complex disadvantages. I decided to practise self-care by sitting out many of these as I was already utterly overwhelmed (and had been awake since 4am), although I now feel a nagging sense of guilt that I should have taken the opportunity to learn as I am not looking enough beyond my privileged bubble. On the other hand, I’m not sure my sobbing in the loos would really have helped anyone, so...

We had a meeting for the Everyone’s Business campaign in the tea break and I was also presenting our poster and womanning the stall for the peer support quality assurance principles project. It was exhausting (see my glazed expression below!), but there were many beautiful moments of connection with people I talk to online but rarely get to hug, and I came away just feeling so thankful for the changes we are already seeing, for our incredible community, and for my place in it.

And my suddenly inexplicably tall and clever Arthur has started school. He has been so anxious about it over the summer, and I'm immensely proud of how he’s handled things. As I met him at the door after that first day, he said, “It turns out it’s actually very nice.” I don't know who was more relieved. He’s still so little and I worry for him so, but somehow he's simultaneously also so grown up and marvellous. He isn’t a baby anymore: I grieve that I missed out on enjoying him when he was tiny, and I can never get that time back. When I reflect on it all – the pregnancy, birth, mother and baby unit, the long hard grind afterward – I think, look how far we have come. And here we are. 

Chapter one is taking longer to write than I expected. Before I launched the crowdfunding campaign, I asked for advice from my friend, Anna, who has written and published a book. She replied, “I thought writing a book was about sharing my thoughts to help others. It turns out it is more about me sorting out my own thoughts and learning a lot about myself.” How right she was. I’m currently filling in some extra background about my pre-pregnancy life and mental health history. Retrospectively, it seems a bold move to get pregnant when I did – not just with a bipolar diagnosis, but having been so recently in such bad shape. I’m having a hard time forgiving five-years-ago me, to be honest, for being so naive and immature and annoying and just so – young. How much of what happened was my own fault? And I worry about not being a sympathetic character in my own story. I mean, I’m trying to counteract stigma, not compound it, for a start.

I do love writing, though, so much. From a really young age, writing has been my 'thing' in a way that nothing else has. It’s what I’ve always done and what I’ve always wanted to do. I can't help it because the words form in my head and annoy me until I write them down. "There's a voice within me that will not be still." But, PhD thesis aside, this is the first big writing project that I’ve really taken seriously. It feels so luxurious to be taking hours out to write what I want to write like this. It’s what I dreamed of growing up. It feels like coming home to myself.

And, when I’m not writing this book on paper, I’m writing it in my head, endlessly. It's cooking in there. My friend, Nikki, calls this ‘book-pregnant’ - which is rather fitting in this case. I’m also recruiting for people (probably people who already know me) to read drafts of chapters or bits of chapters – as long or as short as you have time for, really. So if you’d like a sneak preview, or if you just really love me, or if you’d like me to read and feed back on some of your own writing in return, hit me up.

And, once again, thank you. Your support is making this possible. I really believe this book is going to make a difference.

With love,

Laura x

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