I went to BritMums Live with a few simple goals: to tell people about #HugosLegacy and #MatExp; to learn how to extend their reach; to get some tips on getting my book published; to spend time with my friends and to enjoy myself.
This year’s event was a world away from last year, when I arrived not knowing a soul and felt terribly overwhelmed because everyone but me seemed to have friends to hang out with.
What a difference a year makes! I had a very long list of people to see and to hug – I feel privileged to know so many lovely people. The event was so hectic I didn’t get to spend as much time with some people as I would have liked, which was a real shame.
On the Friday, I felt fabulous in the gorgeous dress kindly gifted by Kaliko while on Saturday I wore my lovely versatile White Stuff dress.
I find such events a little over-stimulating – so much going on, so much to look at, and listen to. I often worry I am being rude when talking to someone because my eyes keep flitting around the room, and I felt awful too when I didn’t straight away recognise a couple of bloggers I regularly chat to.
The lovely Carla from Random Thoughts of a Twenty Something kindly let me bunk up with her at the Travelodge, and we travelled down together from our hometown.
I chatted to so many people – some of the photos we took are in the collages below.
I was so pleased to be able to give Oana from Mama’s Haven the huge hug I have been saving for her since we started chatting on Facebook last summer. Oana’s beautiful little boy Georgie sadly died from leukaemia last July, and we were able to sit and chat about our boys. We bereaved mothers have a sort of shorthand that others are very fortunate not to know. It’s the first anniversary of Georgie’s death shortly, please help Oana and her family celebrate this special little boy’s life by doing something for Georgie #LiveitforGeorgie.
BML was like the first anniversary for me and beautiful Beth. At last year’s event, Beth saw a tweet I had made about an insensitive thing someone had sent to me and from then on looked after me. I am proud to call this wonderful, generous, and kind woman a friend and I’m pleased we were able to spend time together.
There were people I wish I had more time to chat with – Susanne (Ghostwritermummy, and one of my #MatExp partners in crime). I was pleased to meet her beautiful daughter Elsie though. Elsie enjoyed grabbing my fingers and appeared to be entranced by my sparkly nail polish – clearly a girl after my own heart! Katie (Pouting in Heels) and I didn’t have nearly enough chatting time (and as our lunch in Leeds proved, we sure can talk. And talk….) Diaries at the ready for another meet-up, Katie! Renee (Mummy Tries) sadly couldn’t return on the Saturday, and I was really sorry to not have spent more time with her. And Tim (Slouching Towards Thatcham)! One of the few dad bloggers. We kept saying hello to each other but seemed to be unable to manage more than pleasantries. So pleased I gave you a big hug though, Tim.
I loved meeting and exchanging hugs with so many other lovely people, too.
To be honest, for me the social side of the event outshone the sessions. The event felt really friendly and easy going to me; I thought it was because I was comparing it to my experiences last year, but others echoed that. That’s as it should be, I think – it doesn’t matter how many followers you have or how many views your blog gets, we’re all human beings.
The icebreaker session turned out to be a world record attempt for the number of people dressed up as tissue paper mummies. We achieved it – by one! I felt bad for the mummies towards the back of the room who must have been sweltering in their toilet roll swaddling while they were waiting for the adjudicators to arrive. Despite our initial reluctance, the exercise was great fun – and we all got to say we’re record breakers. (Except I now have Roy Castle’s theme tune from the classic ’80s show in my head). Kudos to Michelle and Carla for volunteering to be our table’s mummies.
My favourite sessions were Women’s Voices; Digital Activism; and the support from blogging round table led by Hayley.
As talking about Hugo and about #MatExp were two of my goals at the event, I was pleased to be able to stick up my hand during the Women’s Voices and Digital Activism sessions to talk about Hugo and my work with his legacy, and with #MatExp. Women deluged Susanne and I after the #MatExp event wanting to get involved, which was fantastic. I’ve taken away some actions and ideas, which is brilliant. A lovely lady even told me her mum in South Africa would be so pleased to hear she’d met me, because her mum follows my blog – incredible.
I was also delighted to find out that I was Mumsnet’s Blog of the Day for my post about what I wanted the National Maternity Review to know.
I also loved Victoria Wright’s fantastically moving and brilliant speech.
The bloggers’ keynote rounded off the event. I had entered my own post – A Celebration of Life – and was disappointed to not be chosen. However, I was pleased to learn that Louise from 23 Week Socks had been selected to read Twinkle Twinkle. This is an incredibly emotional, moving post about the death of a baby that is so similar to Hugo’s last moments it is uncanny. There are so few such stories around it naturally had a particular resonance for me, but it is also so beautifully written. Louise’s beautiful post is a tribute to all babies who didn’t make it home, and the staff who care for them and their families.
I had read Twinkle, Twinkle so many times I thought I could cope with listening to Louise reading the post, but I was wrong. There were some emotional posts preceding Louise that had already started to choke me up, but Twinkle Twinkle was far too close to home and I started to sob. Wracking sobs, in fact. It made me realise how foolish I was thinking I could have read my post about Hugo’s funeral. No chance.
I was grateful for the love and support of wonderful friends at my table who held on to me and didn’t let me go as my heart broke all over again. I am so grateful too to the wonderful friends came up to me and squeezed me with love and hugs after the keynotes had finished. Thank you all.
At first, I thought it was a shame that an event I had enjoyed so much ended with me sobbing. The sobbing wasn’t good, of course, but it also served to remind me that so often the lows come after the highs. Grief is always lurking under the surface. Just as importantly, I left feeling so loved and cared for by genuine friends who I can laugh with and cry with.
Blogging really can be amazing.
There was wine, there was yummy cake, I talked about my Hugo and #MatExp, I am blessed to have wonderful friends.
My business cards were hugely popular, and I have only a couple left! I’m glad they were a hit.
I allowed myself to enjoyed myself, and enjoy myself I did. What a difference a year makes.