A mother-of-four has given an eye-opening account of parenting during lockdown – revealing how she juggled homeschooling and recovering from birth during the pandemic in a hilariously candid book that weary parents will relate to.
Journalist and author Natalie Brown, from Hove, East Sussex, welcomed her fourth child, Violet, now one, in April 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, in a two-bedroom flat with no garden and a husband dubbed ‘Misery Guts’.
Natalie, who is also mother to Bluebell, ten, Max, seven and Marigold, four, was on maternity leave during the first lockdown of 2020 and reveals the challenges she faced, homeschooling her children and navigating pandemic Britain – all while ‘leaking from every orifice.’
Confessions of Crummy Mummy, published by Filament Publishing, is a tell-all look at Natalie’s fourth-post-partum experience – from an excruciating painful vaginal ‘graze’, to the day where her kids shouted ‘Mum’ 173 times in the space of single hour.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Natalie said she wanted to lift the veil on motherhood, adding that influencers who parade perfect family lives online are ‘unhelpful’ to struggling mothers.
Author and journalist Natalie Brown with her husband, right, and their four children, Bluebell, ten, Max, seven, Marigold, four and Violet, who was born in April 2020 at the height of lockdown
In her book Confessions of a Crummy Mummy, which was born from a blog of the same name, Natalie opened up about the hurdles of homeschooling during lockdown, how pregnancy changed her body, the risks of sleep depravation, breastfeeding, pictured, and more
In the warts-and-all account, Natalie recounts how she started her maternity leave in March 2020, thinking she could finally rest, only to find out she would have to homeschool her three school-age children when schools closed because of lockdown.
‘One hundred and seventy three. That’s how many times the kids said, shouted, or screamed ‘muuum’ (or a variation of it) in just one hour during a particularly testing day in lockdown,’ she said.
She also gave a candid account of having to recover from a vaginal graze after her fourth delivery.
‘Having had stitches after baby number one, baby number two, and baby number three (lucky me) it was only after baby number four, when the midwife proudly proclaimed that I had suffered only a “slight graze”, that I discovered a graze is, in fact, far worse than a tear. And there’s no such thing as a “slight” graze, either,’ she said.
‘What my midwife failed to tell me is that a “graze” would sting like a b**** every time I went for a wee, and weeing in my own bath or shower would suddenly become not only perfectly acceptable but the preferred way of doing it.’
Natalie began her maternity leave for her fourth pregnancy right as the country entered a national lockdown in March 2020
The mother-of-four got candid about the realities of raising four children and recovering from a pregnancy during lockdown
She also revealed she had to use a hairdryer to dry her private parts after giving birth and described the scene.
‘Admittedly you look like a moron standing in the middle of the bedroom with your legs akimbo waving a hairdryer about your bits,’ she wrote.
‘But it’s far preferable than trying to pat things dry with a towel, plus you won’t ruin the towel. (Just don’t let the hairdryer linger downstairs too long if you’ve had stitches though, because it turns out they heat up too. And yes that is as ouchy as it sounds),’ she added.
And she revealed she suffered from a lot of different kinds of embarrassing situations post partum as breastfeeding while recovering from giving birth left her ‘leaking from every orifice.’
‘You hear the term leaky boob bandied about a lot, suggesting a sort of gentle dribble, a bit like a slowly dripping tap. But the truth is they don’t just leak and they don’t just dribble,’ Natalie wrote.
‘When they really get going they jettson milk in every possible direction. Their face, your face, and – if they happen to be sitting too closely – unsuspecting visitors’ faces too,’ she admitted.
Violet, left, was born during lockdown, and Natalie revealed how she was struggling to find sanitary pads and other items she needed for her hospital bag due to panic buying at the time
Natalie, left, pictured with her family this summer, said lockdown added to the stress of looking after her brood
The mother-of-four pictured with her youngest child Violet after she was born during the lockdown of 2020
Remembering how it started, she said: ‘I thought I was being clever by taking a my maternity leave a week early before the school Easter holidays, so that I had time on my own’.
‘And that was the 20th of March I went on maternity leave, and that’s when they announced that we were going into lockdown and that schools were closing and everything.
‘My entire maternity leave was highjacked by homeschooling and lockdown.
‘There such awful days that I thought “if you didn’t laugh about it, you’d cry”,’ she said.
‘Homeschooling was awful, and there were days where all of us cried for different reasons,’ she added.
‘I think it’s easy to look online an think “everyone is living their best lives and no one is having a bad time” but actually, I think we all were, behind closed doors.’
‘I think there is a lot about parenting that’s not being said and I wish people were a bit more honest,’ she added.
In the book, Natalie reveals how lockdown added extra challenges to the her life as a mother-of-four alongside her husband, whom she calls Misery Guts due to his type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
Natalie showing how her body recovered after giving birth. The mother-of-four said she did not care about her looks anymore
The author with Bluebell, Max, Marigold and Violet after her fourth baby was born. She had to juggle breastfeeding with homeschooling while everyone spent all day at home
She revealed the supply shortages and stockpiling that took place at the beginning of the pandemic made getting ready for hospital particularly testing for her.
‘Just like loo roll and linguini, in the first lockdown, the nation was panic buying panty pads too – and for some unknown reason, the super thick ones you need after giving birth were especially hard to get hold of.
‘As if the stress of giving birth in the middle of a global pandemic wasn’t bad enough, I had to traipse around three different supermarkets to get my hands on just one pack of sanitary towels, which wasn’t even going to last the first day.’
Natalie wrote in the book she still doesn’t understand what people did with the pads.
She added raising four children in lockdown – which included homeschooling the eldest and breastfeeding the youngest, was particularly trying.
‘The final straw came a few weeks into lockdown 1 when the stay-at-home mums with huge back gardens, trampolines, and treehouses started moaning about running out of ways to entertain the kids,’ she said.
‘Of course, it was bad for all of us and we were all in the same storm, but it’s true what they say: we weren’t all in the same boat.
‘Some of us were in yachts, some of us were in canoes, and some of us were drowning. I was drowning – and not just in a deluge of WhatsApp messages.
‘I was sinking like a stone in a two-bedroom flat with no garden, four kids, two cats, and the aforementioned husband on a short fuse. So, I did what I should have done years ago: I muted the class WhatsApp groups, and they’ve been muted ever since,’ she said.
The mother-of-four said she wanted to lift the veil on motherhood by sharing her very candid account
Violet, pictured, was born in April 2020. Natalie talks about how she recovered from her pregnancy during lockdown in her book
The mother-of-four with her husband, whom she calls Misery Guts in the book. She also reveals she developed a varicose vein that looked like a ‘superworm’ on her private parts
And she revealed a low point happened when her Deliveroo driver stopped asking for her ID when she ordered alcohol.
‘I knew things had got bad when I asked the Deliveroo driver delivering an emergency bottle of wine on a Tuesday afternoon whether he needed my date of birth as proof of ID, and he said no because he already knew it,’ she wrote.
‘Pre-Covid I would have been mortified, but somewhere between lockdown 1 and lockdown 3, I’d stopped caring,’ she said.
She also explained that the pandemic had made her feel extremely stressed and riddled by ‘mum guilt.’
‘Pandemic mum guilt, I quickly discovered, is just like normal mum guilt but with hurdles that weren’t there when you started the race,’ she said.
‘Like phonics, improper fractions, and fronted adverbials. Pandemic mum guilt spread as rapidly as Covid-19 and by the time we got to lockdown 3 I felt like a complete failure. Every. Single. Day. And I was – I failed at it spectacularly,’ she said.
She admitted she found homeschooling her children in her two-bedroom flat particularly taxing.
Natalie added she used to be particularly stressed about recording her children’s progress on the app used by their school.
‘It got to the point that I was so stressed out about the kids’ “level of engagement” that I’d upload anything, even going on the seesaw, just to make it look like we’d done something,’ she said.
Natalie on her wedding day with her husband, which she calls Misery Guts in the book due to his type 1 diabetes diagnosis
The mother-of-four with her daughter Violet. She admitted she suffered from a vaginal ‘graze’ after giving birth which was more painful than stitches
‘I felt like Big Brother was watching us and noting down all the things we hadn’t done and would never do because there simply weren’t enough hours in the day,’ she said.
‘And there’s only so many times you can hear the word ‘muuum’ (or a variation of it) until you either want to scream too or hide in a dark cupboard where there’s no hope of them finding you,’ she added.
‘Which is a bit difficult when you live in a two-bedroom flat with four kids. Lockdown aside though, Bad days don’t make bad mums,’ she added.
Confessions of a Crummy Mummy The Baby Years, by Natalie Brown, is published by Filament Publishing