In Conversation with… Liv Thorne

Liv Thorne was perpetually single at 37, she wanted a baby so she bought sperm, went to a clinic but didn’t get pregnant x 3.  Eventually (after buying more sperm) she went back to a clinic and got pregnant.  Now 40, Liv has a one year old son, Herb and  is the co-owner of a digital branding agency in Oxford.


Can you tell us a bit about how you became a mum to Herb?

It is a pretty long story, not an overnight decision, but in short: My problem was the primal desire I felt to become a parent and the lack of sperm in my life!  So, in very basic terms, I bought some online from a clinic in Denmark, got it shipped to a clinic in London and on the fourth attempt got pregnant.  My treatment was IUI (Intrauterine insemination), rather than IVF.  So, essentially turkey basting.  Really romantic.  There was no reason why I couldn’t get pregnant as far as I knew, it was just that I didn’t have a partner.  So, as I didn’t want the extra expense and physical stress of fertility drugs if that was something I could avoid, I tried IUI first (against the ‘wants’ of the clinic.  I really don’t think I can call it advice.  They are a business after all).

I told myself that I would give IUI four tries before opting for IVF.  I got pregnant on my fourth try.  I was very, very lucky.  Especially as, statistically speaking, I was unlikely to get pregnant at all as I was ‘old’ (in fertility terms, being over 35 is genuinely called ‘geriatric’) and overweight (I eat my feelings!) However I think most fertility stats are bullshit, but that is a story for another time … don’t get me started!

What were your biggest considerations before making your decision to become a single mum?

I needed to know that I had the support of my family.  My parents died when I was a teenager, so my siblings mean everything to me.  If they were to tell me they thought I couldn’t /shouldn’t do it, then I would’ve had to really consider whether or not I should go ahead.  Needless to say, they have been truly amazing.

What have you learnt about yourself along the way?

That I didn’t need as much sleep as I thought! Seriously though that is a really tricky question.  I am sure that I have learnt a plethora of things, however I am not sure I will realise what they are until I am out of the thick of it.  So maybe ask me again in ten years!


“Whilst it is has been mind boggling, I wouldn’t change a thing.”


Would you do anything differently?

Nothing. I have been really lucky. Herb is a happy, healthy, funny boy.  I think the first year (and probably the subsequent thirty!) is an absolute minefield, it is all encompassing, it changes you, you dig deeper than you ever thought you could.  If I had changed anything, it might have had a Sliding Doors effect … would I still have had Herb?  So whilst it is has been mind boggling, I wouldn’t change a thing.

What keeps you up at night?

Money. Pathetic isn’t it?  I have a one year old child and for 10 months it hasn’t been him that wakes me up, but the worry of money.  I have always been bad with money, it isn’t Herb that has made this happen, let’s be clear!  However currently there is a perfect storm brewing from the last few years’ monetary situations that is about to implode!  For example, before I had Herb I worked out my childcare costs (I work full time, I have to) based on the old working tax credit system, not the new Universal Credit system.  With the new system I am not eligible for any help.  I earn a good living, but I earn a good living in the most expensive city in the UK (outside of London), with a big mortgage and on top of that the same again in childcare expenses.  Without any help, could you find an extra £1000 a month?  It’s hard but let’s face it, I am really, really fortunate that I own my own house, so things could be much worse.  It is just the one thing that is always on my mind.  So if I’m lucky enough to do an Instagram ad, don’t hate me …


“You do you”


What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

You do you.  If you want to breastfeed, great. If you don’t, great. If you want to co-sleep great.  If you don’t, great.  If you want to let your babe play in the mud, great.  If you don’t, also great.

Unless it affects anyone else, then it is your decision to work out how to best live for you and your baby.

P.S. No-one knows what they are doing, there are NO answers.


“Just work out if that fiver in Starbucks is worth it?  Instead chuck it in a savings account.  You will be SO grateful you did.”


What advice would you give to anyone else who is considering trying for a baby as a single mum?

Save. Every. Single. Penny.

Seriously.  Apart from the cost of getting pregnant (it cost me £14k in total), everything that comes after that; childcare, shoes, clothes, food, nappies, books, bedding, entertaining them day after day… nearly everything costs money. So just work out if that fiver in Starbucks is worth it?  Instead chuck it in a savings account.  You will be SO grateful you did.  Needless to say, I did not do this.

Other than that, I really cannot give advice it is too huge a decision.

Oh wait, one thing I would also advise is to get second, third, fourth opinions in terms of speaking to fertility clinics; they are a business, they want your money and some prey on your vulnerability, so make sure you are truly happy with what they are suggesting before going ahead with anything.

What are you most proud of?      

Herb.  I made him.  I did that.  He is bloody wonderful.

What is the biggest challenge that you face on a daily basis and how do you overcome this?

Loneliness and money problems.  Both are manageable.  Both are possibly fixable. However both are very, very real.  I don’t know how to overcome either, but I am working on it!


“My best friend who always anchored me, held me, encouraged me, supported me even though we didn’t live in each others pockets, died in a car accident when I was 7 months pregnant.  I have felt slightly at sea since and I am not sure if it is grief or motherhood.”


Do you have any tips or habits for happiness? You always seem so upbeat 🙂

That is so funny, as I have suffered from anxiety and depression to varying degrees for years and I suspect many of my friends wouldn’t say I am upbeat!  Tears of a clown and all that.  If I am it is because I have learnt to say no.  For example if there is a party and I don’t want to go because it will make me anxious, I don’t go. I used to go and drink my feelings and wake up angst ridden for days. Now I just say no like the good people of Grange Hill told me to!  I am aware it makes people eye roll, but it keeps my mental health on the straight and narrow, which is the most important thing.  I’m difficult.

I have also learnt not to be arrogant enough to assume a gathering will be a horrific disaster without my sparkling presence!  Turning up because you don’t want to disappoint people, is very rarely a decision based on their feelings, it is about yours.  97% of the time they will have a great time regardless.  I don’t drink as much as I used to as that used to spike the anxiety, so that has really helped. That is not to say I don’t drink, just I don’t drink at home as I think that could be my slippery slope.  Instead I am sliding, head first into the snack cupboard.

Don’t get me wrong I am happy loads of the time, I am very lucky and have a massive circle of friends, but I do have to work at it, it doesn’t come naturally to me.  I don’t have that one person that would call me if the world was going to end, be it a partner, a best friend or a parent and that is an odd feeling.  I would absolutely be on the list of people to call, but I am not at the top of anyone’s list.  My best friend who always anchored me, held me, encouraged me, supported me even though we didn’t live in each others pockets, died in a car accident when I was 7 months pregnant.  I have felt slightly at sea since and I am not sure if it is grief or motherhood.

It is well documented that many comics have had / do suffer from depression and I get that.  Social awkwardness is very real to me … I will always be the one ‘helping’ in the kitchen at parties!  Also, have you seen Herb?  Of course I look happy!!

 * * * * *

Right Now I’m….

Watching –  to be honest I think I completed Netflix months ago … I live alone with a toddler, I watch a lot of TV!

I absolutely love the real life crime dramas like The Staircase (which is ridiculous for a girl who still sleeps with the light on!) Also I have watched Home & Away every day since it started. I record it! It is the only soap I have ever watched and is my daily dose of vitamin D.  Yes, Alf is still in it.  No, I am not sorry.

Ultimately I will watch most things, from what might be considered high brow to the lowest (yep, I am a Love Islander.) My truly happy place is watching people interact, so programmes like 24 Hours in A&E & 7UpSeries absolutely break me … how people care for each other, hold each other. People are amazing.

Reading –  I am terrible at reading, I have some sort of reading narcolepsy, so for years I have listened to audio books. The last one I listened to and genuinely loved was The Wild Other by Clover Stroud. We have both suffered loss & trauma and we dealt with it in very different ways. She is now a friend. How cool is that?

I have also started reading, The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read..., by Phillippa Perry.  It is fascinating. Will I finish it?  Unlikely.  Soz Herb.

Of course there is also the endless rounds of Oi Frog! too.

Listening to – I did my degree in radio production. I am obsessed with radio & its intimate place in people’s lives. So now podcasts have changed my life. I wish they had been around twenty years ago when I did my degree, then maybe I would have stuck with it! I would LOVE to do one, but it needs to have a really great hook, the market is getting saturated.

The ones I religiously listen to are Adam Buxton (everything about it is a brilliant; a dog, batshit jingles, intelligent chat, laughs, tears, stupid adverts … it’s the best!); Desert Island Discs (because WHY wouldn’t you?); Table Manners (it is based around food & peoples life stories. I am a nosey glutton, so what is not to love?) and The High Low (Pandora & Dolly are often intimidatingly bright, but it’s like reading The Week, they find out all the interesting stuff for you and point you in the right direction!)

Music-wise … I listen to everything, it is really important in my life.  I first went to a festival when I was 14 when you used to go in your very worst clothes, it blows my mind that people now buy jazzy outfits specifically for festivals!  I bought my first house for its proximity to the local live music venue as I figured it was save me in taxis.  It did, eventually.  My favourite album is a tie, I cannot choose: Nevermind by Nirvana and Graceland by Paul Simon.  I am a white, middle class cliche.  Sorry Kurt.

 * * * * *

Pass it on:

Who would make brilliant guests on the Muse?  Please suggest up to 3 people with their Instagram and Twitter handles and we’ll invite them to join us.

  • @thehotcrossmum – Jess is as brilliant and as honest as they come. Regularly documents about her mental health which is so important.
  • @remi.sade – would happily listen to her talk about ANYTHING alllllll day. She has taught me so much already.
  • @alright.bab – she’s brilliant, and setting up Godiva to help people in situations like she was once in is, whilst looking after her son and just bossing life, she is bloody amazing
  • @ultimategirlgang – Liv is a hugely supportive friend and is pregnant with her fourth little girl! But mainly follow her because she is brutally honest & hilarious!
  • @themindfulbirthgroup – I met Emiliana at a hen do years ago, she now runs this hypnobirthing company but mainly she is becoming a surrogate for her best friend who could not carry her own child.  How amazing????

In Her Words… My Abortion

linksoflondon2Harriet Shearsmith is the creator behind Toby&Roo, an award-winning parenting and lifestyle blog aimed at sharing the wins and woes of parenthood. Living in the North Yorkshire countryside with her husband (@tobyandroodad) and three feral children (four if you count Yoda the dog who even has his own Instagram account) she is a self confessed coffee addict, nerf gun ninja and all out bad ass when it comes to hide and seek. You can find Harriet on her blog here and her Instagram here.

As an advocate for women’s rights and someone who claims to be stoically pro choice, I always wrote about abortion from the other side of the table, the lucky side, the side that hadn’t had first hand experience. That is, until I wasn’t writing about it as an outsider, but as one of the club, one of the women who had made the difficult decision to have a termination for all the reasons that made sense but didn’t necessarily help make it any easier.

I didn’t have an abortion recently either, this is a throwback to dark times three years ago and yet I still haven’t been able to talk about my experience first hand. For three years I’ve defended the right to have a termination – for whatever reason – but never actually felt like I could declare I had been through it myself. Friends who have confided in me, like they are admitting something shameful and harmful have been met with my kindness but never an admission, even though I could give one. I couldn’t find the words to say that I had been there. I couldn’t do it through a fear of being judged and because everything was so raw for so long. Termination is so shrouded in guilt and shame that even when we so firmly believe that it is a woman’s right not to have to continue with a pregnancy, not to become an incubator without thought or feeling, we struggle to make peace with it ourselves.  That is society’s fault, it is the fault of lawmakers and religious nuts who hide behind politics and religion to control. That is not on us.

This is my story of abortion.

The pill and the coil had had really negative impacts on my health in the past and I was still breastfeeding so I was incredibly limited as to what contraception I could take, so Adam and I decided to use family planning. It had worked for us in the past, only falling pregnant when we weren’t really trying to prevent and were happy to go with the flow. This time however, we had a pregnancy scare and I was mortified. We both were. Edith was 8 months old, we had 3 children 4 and under and there was no way, not a chance, that we were ready to welcome another life. Not for my mental or physical health with a tenuous section scar or Adam’s. No.

So onto the pill I went. Turns out that pregnancy scare? We will never know if it was a scare or just missed because I was so early, but 6 weeks later, a completely normal period and 6 weeks of taking the progesterone only pill, I was pregnant. Shit. We made the decision that I would visit the doctor and take what is affectionately termed the ‘abortion pill’.  Nice.  At the time I was showing as only 2-4 weeks pregnant so in theory we had caught this early enough, despite the failed pill and there would be no heartbeat and the tablets would be the simplest and most effective way to end a pregnancy without too much trauma.  A scan would determine whether or not I could have these tablets – which I would later find out have varying levels of effectiveness from 20% to 80% depending on which ones you wanted to take, which is a testament to how very shit our system is in supporting the women that need this: ‘it ain’t very effective, love, but it’s your fault you’re pregnant so you should suffer through this first’ is the undeniable subtext here and no one will ever convince me otherwise.
I wasn’t only 2-4 weeks, I was 6 weeks.  I sat, alone because Adam didn’t take time off work for the appointment – didn’t want to explain what was going on in order to ask for time off… after all, it wasn’t really his problem now was it? That is how it felt at the time – perhaps that wasn’t fair, distancing yourself is a good tool of self preservation, but at the time the toll it took on our relationship was huge. I took the tablets, first one and then after 6 hours another. I drove home alone, despite a warning on the tablets to have someone with you – there was no one, Adam went to football because he didn’t want to think about what I was doing, needed a bit of space. It’s one thing in our marriage that I don’t think I will ever forgive him for, but it’s a shining example of how men view abortion and why the laws in some countries are the way they are: it’s not my problem.  Even when they love you. It’s just not their problem. You are the one who is pregnant now, despite their involvement.

The tablets, which should have stopped the pregnancy and made me bleed so heavily that I felt sluggish and ill for days, failed. They failed. At 13 weeks and 2 days I went for a scan to ensure that the tablets had worked but they hadn’t, there was a foetus – a baby that had a heart beat and a 98% chance of having some kind of life limiting birth defect, that couldn’t possibly be discovered until 20 weeks, even with all the tests in the world. A combination of taking these tablets to end pregnancy and continuing with the progesterone only pill meant that the chances that this baby could survive and be born healthy were nill and if they did survive? The impact that would have on our family was not something that I was willing to place on my living children when the decision had been made weeks before, not something I intended to spend my life beating myself up over for choosing to end a pregnancy and it failing, so bringing a life I had damaged into the world.  No way.

I had to go through it all again, but this time an invasive operation that I had taken the tablets to avoid. The first time I thought I had grieved for what we both felt we couldn’t keep, but this time was different. Again, Adam didn’t get the time off work, he says he asked but I will be blunt, I never believed that he did and I don’t think that is unfair. It’s a self protective mechanism isn’t it? To distance yourself, to walk away. I try hard not to blame him for that, not to resent the fact that I felt so alone because, realistically, if he had been there I would have felt so alone anyway. You are alone in that decision. You don’t get that luxury of walking away from it or separating yourself when it’s in your body which is why the choice should always, unequivocally, be yours.

At this point the pregnancy was too far along to perform the D&C without a general aesthetic, so that is what happened, I remember such kindness and compassion from the staff – they didn’t judge, they were probably the only ones – as much as my mum said she didn’t, I always felt she did deep down and friends didn’t know.  I didn’t tell anyone until months after.  I remember waking up and I had been crying in my sleep, the nurse who handed me a glass was the same one who gave me the tablets in the previous clinic and she told me that they were ineffective but that they weren’t really allowed to tell women that. Great stuff.

I came home and Adam came back from work, he tried so so hard to be there, to make up for NOT being there when I really needed him but it was a bit little too late.  At 13 weeks, I didn’t really want to end that pregnancy at all.  That’s the truth. That’s what stings.  I did what was right at the time, I know that, it was right for my mental and physical health, right for my husband and right for my children, but it was not something I wanted to do.  It was something I thought I was preventing, something I took steps to prevent.
For weeks afterwards I would cry, sporadically. It damaged my relationship for a time and it damaged me in more ways than I care to admit.

Abortion is not the kind of thing that a woman (or most women) do flippantly.  The other 5 women in the room with me post D&C were all being collected by husbands or long term partners and every single one already had children but had made this decision for all the reasons that they felt were right. In fact, statistically, more than half of women who have abortions already have children and the majority of abortions carried out in the UK are on women in their thirties who have made a conscious and well-balanced decision.

Abortion clinics aren’t like you see on the TV, they are filled with women who are having this procedure for a number of reasons – they have no other options because the foetus isn’t viable, there is an issue with their health or mental health, they don’t have the house space for another child… so many reasons, but these were not teenagers who just couldn’t be arsed to get themselves on the pill – that is not the case.  For some, it’s just not the right time for a plethora of reasons and surely, surely that is better than birthing an unwanted child and placing it in a system that just doesn’t care.  I remember saying to a friend that I had been for a D&C and instantly her response was to assume that I’d had another miscarriage and it was something that I would be sad about, struggling with. It was, but for very different reasons, which only made me feel more alone and more ashamed.

I wanted to share my story, my personal experience for a few reasons – it’s cathartic to write about it is certainly one reason to write about it, but more than that, I wanted women who had been through the experience to know that they aren’t alone.

Statistically, one in three women will have a termination at some point in their lives but it is so rare that we talk about it.  They aren’t the only ones who have been there, who have found themselves in the position of not wanting to have a termination but feeling that there are no other options. Of choosing their living family, the ones that need them now over the potential life.  I wanted to share this because it’s an experience that so many women, far more than I ever would have expected, have been in these shoes but feel so very alone. The fear, the guilt and the self judgement are far worse than anything religious nuts or crazy pro-life activists can throw at you.

Talk about your experience and DON’T judge yourself.  You did what was right for your family, just like I did what was right for mine.
H x

body positivity

This article has been adapted from Harriet’s blog where she first posted it earlier this year.

Pass It on:
Please nominate up to three women that you’d like to see featured on The Muse

I love reading these three strong women’s posts on insta and beyond and the kindness that they truly practice and preach behind the scenes:

Hannah Flemming – @hibabyblog
Dommy Crick – @milk.mutha
Candice Braithwaite – @candicebraithwaite

A Letter To…. My son Oscar by Sarah Roberts

The Muse 2Sarah Roberts is a freelance writer and blogs at “Don’t Be Sorry” which she started to raise awareness about Down Syndrome after her eldest son was born with the condition.  As well as promoting positive awareness about DS, Sarah spends a great deal of her time talking to new parents online whose babies have recently been diagnosed too.  She gives talks to healthcare professionals about the impact that the language they use can have (because there really isn’t anything to be sorry about when delivering a diagnosis of Down Syndrome) and she’s also in the process of writing a book.  Sarah lives in Woking, Surrey with her husband Chris and their three children, Oscar, Alfie and Flo.

Dear Oscar

When I fell pregnant with you, I had all these hopes and aspirations about what it’d be like to be a Mummy. In my naivety, I thought it’d be a walk in the park if I’m honest.  I thought I’d know exactly what to do and I didn’t for a single second, ever expect to feel so completely out of my depth.

Five and a bit years ago you made your grand entrance into the world.  A distant fuzzy memory now but when I allow myself to think back to the “us” then, there’s flashbacks of alarms screeching, monitors beeping, a rushed Caesarean section under general anaesthetic, to waking up and meeting you for the first time.  There you were, completely unaware of the impact your arrival was about to have, cradled in your Daddy’s arms, peeping back at me through the bundles of towels you’d been wrapped in.

The Muse 4

Your Daddy told me everything was ok.  In fact he told me that everything was perfect. Except it wasn’t was it?  20 minutes after you were born we were told that you had Down Syndrome and right there and then, in the deathly silence of that hospital ward, it felt like my heart had been ripped out.

It took a while you see. For me to really love you. The real, all encompassing love I feel for you now. In those first few weeks and months I resented you. I hadn’t wanted different, I had wanted normal…. I’d always imagined I’d have the perfect baby.

The Muse 3

What would having you in our lives mean for your Daddy and I now?  Were we strong enough to be special needs parents?  Did we even want to be?  But here I am five and a bit years on and I wanted to write to say, I’m so, so sorry.  Sorry that I didn’t give you a chance back then.  I made an assumption about what our life would look like with you in it and how I saw you and my goodness I was so very, very wrong.

I didn’t see back then how with each milestone you achieved, albeit at a slightly slower pace to your peers, how much it would make my heart swell with pride each time.  I didn’t see back then how you would bring our family even closer together, for at the centre of that family, is you. I didn’t see back then, that for however many imperfections there are in your Daddy and I’s relationship, the one thing that we both stand united together on, is you.

The Muse 7

I also didn’t see back then the bond you’d have with your brother and sister.  That’s right, (for the benefit of others reading this), I went on to have your siblings Alfie and Flo.  They may be siblings by blood but they are your most adored and bestest of friends.  I didn’t see any of it.  The strong willed determined little boy you’d become; that you’d always make us laugh; the health related hurdles you’ve taken in your stride and overcome.  And that even though you’ve been a man of few words up until this point, you’ve always made yourself understood… there has been no stopping you.

The Muse 1

I had had an image in my mind of who Oscar would be… and the little man standing here today is more than I could have ever dreamed of.  You’ve taught me so much.  More than you’ll ever know.  And now that I’m a Mummy of two more children, of Alfie and Flo – the two “typically developing” children and the ones that are supposed to have been the perfect babies I’d always imagined having – I realise that all three of you have brought me different challenges as a Mum and I now know there is no such thing as perfect. You’re all so imperfectly perfect to me.

The Muse 5

And some days when I get you out of the bath Oscar and I wrap you in your towel, I look you in the eye and see the same baby I saw wrapped in his Daddy’s arms five and a bit years ago.  It always brings a lump to my throat, because I wish I could go back and reassure myself back then, that right now, here today, we’re doing just fine.

Love Mummy

Right Now I’m….
Watching – Call The Midwife
Reading – I never have the time to read but I have been meaning to read The Unmumsy Mum’s 1st book since it came out 3 years ago
Listening to – The Greatest Showman… Can’t get enough of the soundtrack

Pass it on:
Who would you most like to see featured on this blog?  Please suggest 3 people with their Instagram or Twitter handles.

My favourite Instagrammers:

Website –
Facebook –
Instagram – @dontbesorry2
Twitter – @dontbesorry2


A Letter To… my mum by Jo Olney


Mum (right), 1968
It’s been one year since The Muse launched and almost everyone I have mentioned the blog to has given the same reply… “You’ve got to feature your mum! Mother to seven women, SEVEN!”.

So, Mum, here goes…

A Letter to my mum

Dear Mum,

There’s nothing quite like treading your own path as a mother to make you reflect on your own dear mum. As you lay your head on your pillow only to hear the baby start up again, as you breastfeed whilst enjoying the spoils of norovirus, as you wipe another bum, another tear, another yoghurt splattered floor and think, my mum did all this – and she did it in days before dishwashers, iPhones, Ella’s Kitchen, disposable nappies and wipes (and yes, I know many people manage fine without these things, but I am not one). So first off, let me say thank you. When I think of all I do for my babes and think of what you did for us, THANK YOU! Lord knows it’s a largely thankless experience, but let it be known that I am SO thankful – for the birthing, the feeding, the clean clothes, the nursing, the teaching, the encouragement, the love.

In so many ways you set the bar high; you made our school dresses, you won every mothers’ race on sports day, you read to us every night even though you nodded off mid-story, you returned to work after raising us all and caring for your mum and you can turn out a mean roast for 20 people at the drop of a hat.

Mama G
Mum with six of us, that’s me at the bottom.
But do you know one of the things I am most thankful for? It’s that you let us see you lose it, that you got cross, and told us to shut up when we were bickering and later apologised for it. That you got stressed driving us around when we were scrapping furiously in the back! Every day there are moments when I regret the way I handled something with the kids and I am so glad you kept it real. I know that it is fine not to love every minute, to lose it, and to believe that when things get bad, it’ll get good again.

I can’t talk about my thanks to you without mentioning the birth of my sweet firstborn. What a long old night that was. That shock of your first. You gave me the confidence to believe I could have my baby at home and you were the one by my side as the seemingly endless night became day, telling me I could do it, and I did. And as we went off to the hospital to check on our poor meconium ingested babe, who stayed home to restore order? You, dear mum. Leaving a clean tidy home to return to and a note I will always treasure thanking us for letting you share in that experience. From that day your greatest gift to me has been to trust my instinct and make my own way.

Mama G and me
Me and my mum
But I feel it is selfish to keep all the wisdom of Mama G to myself, so I have a few things I’d love to ask if you’re game:

Going back to work – back at my desk after my third maternity leave, trying to find my feet and my voice again, I am even more in awe that you returned to work after a 15 year break. Was that hard? Did you struggle to find the confidence? If you did, I never knew.

I always had in my mind the idea that, at some point, I would like to return to teaching in some capacity. I remember walking as a new first time mum past a noisy school playground and thinking that I missed that environment. I didn’t think then that it would be seven children and so many years later before I took that step back to work!

To build my confidence I initially worked as a teaching assistant, gradually building my experience by working in three different schools, with pupils with a range of needs. So it was a gradual process back to teacher status and finally to coordinating the special needs provision in one of the schools.

Then it was the juggling act with which so many women are familiar, trying to run a home, meet the needs of family (including my elderly mother) and go to work!

2017 vs 1977 – I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on my generation of parents, so many books to read, so many labels to give yourself and rods to make for your own back depending on whether you choose to sleep train, baby led wean, bottle feed or cloth bum, work or not work. I love Instagram, but as a parent you have a much wider circle of women to compare yourself to and we are not always the kindest on ourselves. Are we all overthinking it? Did people just get on and raise their kids back in the 70s?

I think your last comment is quite accurate and there was really no option but to ‘just get on and raise your kids’ back in the 70s’. You are also right that there is a lot of pressure on parents now for the reasons you give. It was such a different world then. When we brought our eldest home from hospital in 1972 there were no car seats. I sat in the back of our tiny Austin A35 with her on my lap!  We had no phone or television in the house. There were no disposable nappies and most babies started off wearing terry towelling nappies and soft cotton nighties, as babygros were only just starting to appear.

Hugh Jolly Book of Child CareThere were a few child care books to which people referred. Probably the most well known was ‘The Book of Child Care’ by Hugh Jolly. (So very dated now!) There were clinics that babies were taken to where there were health visitors, but I didn’t find them very helpful. Unlike you, I was not bombarded with a confusing array of ‘methods’ on how to raise your baby and decided very quickly that no one knew my baby like I did and rightly or wrongly, followed my instincts. I didn’t have use of a car at home in the day time, so just got together with friends in a similar situation, or visited my parents who lived nearby in the early years. There were no baby classes to attend.

I’m sure that there are good things about the vast array of baby activities that are available now and indeed the choice of equipment. You are right, however, that there is the danger of feeling inadequate if you don’t join in all these things, or can’t afford to. Similarly the range of baby equipment is overwhelming. I certainly did not have the pressure to be seen with the ‘right’ pram of an acceptable make.

When does it get easier? – With a 5 year old, 4 year old and 1 year old, I’ve never felt more in the thick of it. This stage of motherhood is so physically demanding and exhausting, but is this the hardest bit? How do different stages of motherhood compare? My fear is that it is harder when they leave home and you’re just left worrying about them.

A dear friend said to me in my early days as a mother that ‘every age has it’s compensations’ and I have found that to be true.

There are many advantages of having a large family one of them being that you learn that challenging phases actually pass very quickly. The demands of a new born or the challenges of a toddler are gone in a flash and that recognition can change the way you approach things. You can even learn to appreciate and enjoy these aspects of a child’s development!

I certainly remember having four children aged five and under as being the most demanding time! Getting a five year old to the school bus stop at the right time every morning with three others in tow was very challenging!

In some respects with young children, it does get easier when they are old enough to play cooperatively. When subsequent children arrived there was more choice of playmates, which may be easier than having two who can’t stand each other! I felt that falling out with others within the security of a family was a good preparation for the harsher elements awaiting at school and beyond.

I never did find the teenage years to be the ‘terrible teens’ (although the ‘A’ level years had their challenges!). Perhaps there was safety in numbers and I watched with pride as you all became the wonderful women that you are today. Does it get easier? No it does not! Being in control of things when you were little was probably the easiest bit. Then you have to let your adult children go with love. Once you are a mother you are a mother for life and their pain is your pain whatever their age.

The sisterhood
The sistehood
Your village – One thing I observe in our generation is that there’s a well-trodden path for a lot of parents on leave – NCT to make friends, playgroups, baby sensory, baby swimming, baby signing, baby yoga. How did you meet other mums? I guess we are making our own urban village now, whereas maybe you had an actual real village of support!

In the absence of all the baby classes and groups, my ‘village’ consisted of family, friends and good neighbours. Sunday lunch was often a way we got together with our friends who had young families like us. After lunch we would all visit a local playground or park or walk in the woods.

No one really had a large network of mum friends and I was content to be in touch with our friends who were in a similar situation to us at that time. There were no mobile phones of course and not everyone had a phone in their house. It could be quite an effort to be in touch with people if you had to walk to the local phone box!

Raising women – Being a mother to seven women, did it feel like a big responsibility at the time to be our role model as a woman? Did you have a sense of how you wanted us to grow up?

I don’t think that I actually focussed on the fact that I was being your role model. Had I thought of it like that it would probably have been rather overwhelming! I was always aware of the times when I fell short of my own standards of parenting and I hope I always apologised at the end of a bad day for being a grumpy old cross patch!  Fortunately children are very forgiving and always seemed to forget about these things long before I did.

In answer to your question, yes I did have a sense of how I wanted you to grow up. I am sure you would all have a different take on how successful I was with this!

As you became adults I did try to dissuade you (not always successfully!) from making permanent changes that you may regret.( e.g. hair dying fine, but tattoos to be avoided!) Also, to be blunt, I really hated the idea of one of my daughters being someone’s one night stand. I decided that you have to have faith in the effort you have put in when raising your children and I would tell them that I trusted them to do the right thing. I was told years later that that approach had been more effective than threats!

I wanted you all to feel good about the amazing women that you are, although sadly there were inevitable wobbles along the way. Self worth is so important.  I knew that if you believed in yourselves you could achieve your ambitions, do a job that you wanted to do and you would also know that you deserved lovely friends and a kind respectful partner.

I am so proud that the sisterhood is strong and that you will always support each other.

I also wanted you to grow up secure in the knowledge that the love your dad and I feel for you all is totally unconditional. While we are able, we will always be there for you all and our beautiful grand children.

I will always consider my seven amazing daughters as my greatest achievement in life.  I love you all.

Mum and Dad with two of their nine grandchildren
Mum and Dad with two of their nine grandchildren.