An Open Letter to Sanitary Towel Companies

Dear Sanitary Companies

I have noticed a rather disturbing new trend over the past few years, a change has occurred to sanitary products and it’s one that I find rather unpleasant and very disturbing.

For those who are not yet fully aware, you may or may not have noticed your olfactory orifices triggered as you wonder past the sanitary product section of a shop. Without warning, it hits you, a heavy headache-inducing plume. “What is that overpowering smell?” you may have asked yourself. Perhaps you shrugged it off as a passing fellow customer or a mass spillage of all laundry detergents in the vicinity at the same time. No. You would be wrong. The truth is, for some curious reason, a large proportion of sanitary towels now smell like my Great Aunt Nancy, well known for her massive breasts and overuse of terrible perfume!

I take serious issue with this new approach to ‘sanitary scenting’, in the first instance to the implication that women on their period smell at all. I can tell you this much, I have never ever smelled a woman on her period. The overpowering strength of the perfume in sanitary towels though, seems to suggest not only that menstruating women smell bad, but that they smell so malodorous and fetid that it is necessary (perhaps even a kindness to others?!) that they be immersed in alternative pungent scents to keep their deep, dark and bloody secret hidden.

Perhaps for a very few it may be an issue, but following careful hygiene would be enough to solve this, not wearing heavily perfumed panties! This message that women smell when they are on their period is shaming, untrue and unnecessary. Perhaps the scent was added to clear up any questions on sanitary products being a ‘luxury’ item? I just don’t know. Perhaps you can enlighten me as to why a thick bouquet needs to protrude from my knickers for one week of every month? Maybe you hope that people will smell the perfume, recognise that my crotch now only smells like their Gran when I’m bloated and emotional and will rush out to purchase me chocolates and painkillers to support me through this tempestuous time?!

I wish I could believe that your intentions were good, that girls and women were at the heart of this decision, but I don’t. I think that as a business you wondered hard at how you could keep your products fresh, new and modern and that you concluded that the best way to take more money from the female sex was to make them feel ashamed and embarrassed. These products tell girls that they must hide their ‘period smell’ with heavy perfume, that people will notice if they don’t. What does it mean if people notice you are on your period anyway? Why must this be hidden? I cannot even fathom.

I urge you, I beg you, to give up this ridiculousness. Don’t sell me something I don’t need or want. After spending 15 minutes today searching the aisle for something unscented (unsuccessfully!) I have decided that my vulva and I will be taking our custom elsewhere until this nonsense changes!

Regards

Bethany Evans

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Who’s Your Daddy?

I always imagined that I would be a super chill parent, infallible to the unplanned, unshakeable by the unexpected, cool in a crisis. As seems to be the running trend I have since discovered that I am not. Not at all.

 

My darling child appears to be the most skilled person in my life at pressing all the right buttons to get my eyes twitching and temples pulsing. She is also highly skilled at defusing things at the final moment before I explode, perhaps by bending all the way forward and shouting “UPSIDE DOWN” or resting her curly head on my chest and saying “aww Mummy”. It’s amazing the hormones that are still triggered by this tiny human.  I still find myself at the end of most days looking through photos and videos of her, feeling my womb flicker and the warmth of love flowing through me. I think I might love my child the most when she is tucked up in bed asleep and I’m looking through the picture perfect moments of the day.

 

My little beasts newest talent is public humiliation. She is only in the early days of learning to tantrum so I’m sure this will only get worse in time.  To be fair to her a lot of the time when we are out and about she is utterly charming, a big smile is plastered on her face as she waves at the strangers we pass by. Often when in a queue she has befriended the people behind us and it takes me a while to catch on, normally when they start asking me questions about her or commenting on her curls.  In recent weeks though she has a new game saved for when it’s just the two of us together, she basically spends her time pointing at every and any man and says “Daddy?” in a slightly questioning tone. The act itself doesn’t embarress me hugely, however what becomes butt-clenchingly awkward is the reaction of some of the males as they turn red and profess to her that no, they aren’t her Daddy, followed by statements such as “oh no I don’t think I am your Daddy, I’m not ready for that yet”.  WHAT??  He doesn’t THINK he is your Dad?!  I tell you what I KNOW, I know he isn’t, why is he even questioning it?!  Surely not on the word of a 17 month old. It’s as if they think that we truly are on a search for the unknown father in our local ALDI store.

I guess her Dad does shop there sometimes…

 

What little things do your kids do that embarrass you in public?

Time for a Facial

As part of my return to ‘normality’ post-baby I thought it important to carve out some me time, particularly some time where I do something nice for myself. I think it’s so easy when you become a Mum to put everyone else and their needs before your own, and generally that’s OK, kind of just what Mum’s do, but when I realised that I hadn’t graced a hairdresser for over a year and since returning to work my shoulders were so tight with stress they sat up by my ears, I just knew that I needed a little tending to.

 

The perfect opportunity arose when Sasha from Balanced Beauty Bristol offered me an hour-long facial massage. Sasha provides her treatments from home and thankfully she can be quite flexible on time so I was able to visit in the evening once I had put my beast to bed. Now, often in situations like this I can find myself becoming increasingly uptight. I worry about what the ‘rules’ and correct etiquette might be and if I will get it wrong, I have reynaurds syndrome and get cold really easily which generally distracts from the enjoyment and my mind can spin off into an unhelpful slightly anxious downward spiral. I also really don’t like people touching my face so I was mildly anxious about the treatment itself.

 

imageI was instantly put at ease however, by Sasha just being Sasha. She is relaxed, warm and funny, a perfect combination for helping someone relax a little. I felt I could trust her to aid the de-stressing of a very tired parent, in part because she herself recognises what it is to be a tired parent! The treatment room is small and has a real homely feel to it, a single armchair, an array of interesting books on the shelf and a meaningful poster on the wall all instantly created a relaxed atmosphere. As Sasha left the room I de-robed and lay on the bed in the middle of the room, I was more than a little excited when I felt that the bed was generating warmth, and not just due to relief that I hadn’t somehow wet myself.  Finally, I could have a treatment where I am not concerned that my feet would fall off through cold!

 

Surprisingly the treatment started with hot flannels to my hands and feet. Again though, this really aided my comfort as I was wrapped up and warm which is so rarely the case when I get a massage.

 

Sasha used products from Faith and Betty, a Bristol based imageskincare brand, I don’t know much about them but they smelled divine! I think knowing that the products used were locally sourced actually enhanced the experience a little too.

 

The facial was near enough a spiritual experience! Oh my goodness, it was bliss. As I mentioned before, I have in the past felt quite uncomfortable with having my face touched but I can honestly say that after a short while I didn’t really notice, which sounds weird but I think I was just able to relax so much my body just accepted the enjoyment of it. Throughout the treatment I was extremely relaxed, I think I managed to stay awake, but I could feel my thoughts drifting easily into that tangential stream that appears as you slide toward sleep. At the same time I felt present in the moment, aware of the movements of Sasha’s hands on my skin and how pleasant that was, this was a refreshing change to the usual thoughts I experience when having a massage such as ‘why did I say that in work today?’, ‘will I ever get a full night sleep?’, ‘is it normal to not feel your feet, have they fallen off…?’ etc etc.

Once the facial was complete a face mask was applied, with little rollers like when painting a wall but on a much smaller scale. Sasha then sort of wrapped me up and tucked me in which took me back to the early days of parenting when I really couldn’t seem to grasp the art of swaddling, it did feel reassuring, I understand why babies like it now! Once wrapped Sasha then massaged my hands and feet. Yet another blissfully relaxing experience. I am fairly certain that Sasha has magic fingers, she seems to naturally know the perfect amount of pressure needed and she seemed to generate a warmth while massaging.

By the end of the treatment I felt nothing but relaxed, in fact I would have happily slept on that warmed treatment bed all night. I felt more than just relaxed though, I felt as though someone had given my soul a huge hug and that I was now somehow lighter of my stresses. It was, without a doubt he best facial I have ever experienced! The next morning my skin was still glowing from the treatment, and my skin felt sort of cleaner than usual.

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My make-up free ‘glow’ the next day!

What I learned from this was really how very important it is to look after myself. Sometimes I need to feel swaddled and hugged after being the person who gives and gives and gives to an endlessly demanding small person. I endeavour to save some money by so I can enjoy more treatments throughout the year. Balanced Beauty Bristol will be hearing from me again!

Top 5 Unexpected Joys of Parenthood

Most of my posts so far have talked about how hard having a baby has been. I mostly blame myself, my expectations were for some kind of Disney baby, despite witnessing friends and family having a baby. I was simply not mentally prepared for how it would change my life so permanently.

Today I am going to write about the top 5 unexpected joys that having a baby has brought.

* Watching her achieve – sitting, crawling, cruising, standing, walking, feeding herself. I really have been captivated and excited by my Boo’s achievements. There’s something so exhilarating in watching your beast try and succeed, especially when they then celebrate with you. I feel so exhilarated and joyful when I see her proud and excited face as she then practices her new skill over and over again. #proudparent

* Learning to communicate – when my Baby looks at her little farm animal finger puppets and says “kak kak kak” and “moooooo” my heart feels like it’s about to burst inside me. The day she learned to sign for ‘help’ instead of standing at my feet and screaming was joyous on so many levels (I do not miss the screaming, at all!). I take great joy in observing when she gets that ‘lightbulb moment’ of realisation that if she says a word or signs something with her hands that I will know (almost) exactly what she wants, and (almost) certainly will give it to her.

* Playtime – newborns can be exceptionally dull, but from the moment she could move we could play together in a new way as a family and I love it. Hide and seek, peekaboo and my all time favourite chase. There is NOTHING more fun as post bath naked chase (according to my child – I don’t tend to get naked and run around like a loon after my bath)

* The way she looks to me and at me for everything – confirmation, reassurance, sympathy, love. I am a mentor, a guide of how to respond, how she can know what is OK and what isn’t. It’s such a huge responsibility and yet as a parent it comes so naturally, to be that rock and safety net. There is something slightly affirming about being the person your child looks to.

image* That she thinks I am hilarious – never in my life have I felt so self-confident in my ability to amuse someone else. Sure it doesn’t take much, a raspberry noise here, a silly song there, but I have found great pleasure in being able to provide the in-house entertainment. Her joy brings me joy, which goes on to give her more joy and the cycle continues (until I do something awful like tell her she can’t eat the weird squidgy thing the cat bought in on its furry butt – that’s a whole different cycle!).

Parenthood comes with many untold struggles. Not a day passes without difficult moments, but overwhelmingly it brings with it such joy. It’s not euphoric, and it isn’t always tangible, but it brings an inner contentedness (which sometimes translates to smugness, sorry), a daily happiness and fulfilment that I didn’t realise I needed until it was here.

Getting My Body Back

There is nothing quite like pregnancy and childbirth to make you feel like your body doesn’t belong to you. It’s a strange idea, but a universally accepted one that the moment you are growing a baby inside you, you no longer make decisions based solely on what you want.

I happily embraced pregnancy and the way it changed my body. I must confess that in the final weeks of maternity leave, when my child decided to stay inside for an extended period, I took to baking cakes and then eating them, all, mostly by myself. Therefore by the time my Boo arrived my body was storing a few extra nutrients (and fat) in case of emergencies. Post birth however there were no emergencies!

 

I found that a certain amount of weight dropped off naturally and I refused to diet or worry about my weight initially, I had bigger problems to deal with, with screaming child, sleepless nights, baby groups etc. I had hoped that breastfeeding would assist the weight loss, but perhaps consuming 3 slices of cake a day was effecting that? I really just may never know the truth.

It was when my Boo quit breastfeeding (for the fourth or fifth time) for good that I felt like I was ready to reclaim my body. The First simple step toward this was to buy a good, well fitting underwire bra. Oh heaven! I had forgotten how supportive those wires could be as my bosom no longer hung down, nipples pointing to the ground and they were lifted up on high, exultant and brilliant once again*. In all serious though, it felt good to have the ladies back where they should be. The other joy of no longer breastfeeding was the luxury of not having to wear boob-accessible clothes, which for some reason are never as exciting as they sound!

A new problem came with this though, my old clothes were still too small and all pregnancy/maternity clothes were unflattering and, well, dowdy. I only had one option…I went shopping. Alone! It was a pretty exhilarating experience, until I realised my entire body shape had changed and I cried in TKMAXX. That was a difficult day. Thankfully I wondered into a Joules sale and everything in there seemed to flatter. So I basically just bought the shop (sale items only!).

Thus began the journey of re-self-discovery. A new bra and a new wardrobe. It sounds silly, but in fact it has been so significant in helping me feel like myself again. No longer restricted to clothes I can fit a bumpy tummy into, or a top I can flash a breast in. I have the freedom to choose designs, fit and colours that reflect me as a person rather than having to go with what is available to me shaped as a new-mum. Huzzah!!

 

*Description of breasts in bra may have been exaggerated for dramatic effect

Hello…it’s me

It has been a while since I have written a blog post. A large part of that is due to my little bean napping less, but also around the same time life stepped up a notch, I returned to work 3 days a week and with adjusting to having a family/work life balance and having a somewhat demanding toddler on my hands I just haven’t prioritised writing. Also, if I’m really honest, I started to really enjoy being a Mum. Apparently I’m more drawn to write when I’m annoyed/frustrated/distressed! As my little one got older, we have grown to understand each other better, I feel more confident in the decisions I make on her behalf because she is now very good at letting me know if I’m wrong!

I want to return to writing though, as my journey seems to be moving away from focussing on how I can make my baby happy and a little more toward how I can find myself again, the woman who existed before pregnancy, child birth, breastfeeding, endless nights of pacing and unconditional love.

I’m enjoying feeling like me again. I remember in the early months of Boo’s life a friend telling me about the ‘newborn fog’ and how she thought each month that she had left it when another month would go by and she would look back and think “nope, I was still in that fog”. I feel like I have been in the fog for the whole year after having Boo. By no means am I unhappy with this, she was my entire focus and my energy was spent on making her happy, and I was so lucky to have the luxury to do this. Towards the end of her first year though I felt ready to find myself again.

In the months to come I am going to reflect on ways in which I have managed to reclaim myself and to explore and trial new ways to carve out time for me, to be just me. I am sure I will still write about parenthood joys and woes, but the focus of the blog is going to change, maybe…