It was one of those mornings when, on a 20-minute countdown before the nursery run, I suddenly noticed an un-mown patch of emails half way down my inbox. Like plunging into ice cold water, my natural reaction is always to hold my breath when launching attack on unread emails – scanning down, I stopped (and may have snorted) at the one entitled “&Breathe”.
Like a fairytale for tired mummies, the email talked of massages, postnatal fitness and pilates, a healthy snack cookery demo and nannies on tap.
Yes, yes, yes and yes. Please.
A few months later my youngest son, Angus, and I set off for 24-hours of heaven at The Four Seasons in Hampshire.
Pulling up the driveway past a herd of Highland Coos, I parked and braced myself for a mad dash to the door (it was raining) with baby and bags et al. Then a sign caught my attention: “valet parking”. Hmm, I thought, taking an inpatient Angus out of his chair and putting him on my knee to drive to the front door and enjoy the full show.
Greeted by two friendly faces in green country gear, we were ushered in under an umbrella and into The Library where smiley Clio, founder of &Breathe, was greeting parents and youngsters of varying sizes.
Angus, at one year old, was one of the older bambinos. From babies to toddlers, the crew assembled. Some just mummy and babies, some with partners / husbands in tow, others with friends for a short escape.
Sometimes staying at a big smart hotel can be stressful as a parent as you’re constantly trying to be as low profile as possible, trying desperately not to make too much of a mess or break anything.
It was clear from the start that the Four Seasons is different – there are little signs all over showing that children are welcome: from a stack of high chairs lining the bar to special kiddy menus and an epic new water-world children’s swimming pool, Not to mention the changing tables stocked with nappies and wipes in all the bathrooms: details that make you in-proportionately happy as a parent!
In fact, upon checking into our room I felt like the plus one. There was a “welcome Angus” note written in crayon on the mirror; another in icing on the petits fours, plus a little rubber duck for bath time, Little Prince products and a “Baby Sleeping” sign to hang on the door.
After sandwiches and salads for lunch (delicious burrata), we had a quick pause before Caroline, Head PT, put us to work. Most mummies tried to coincide afternoon nap with the session so they could get stuck in, but Angus wanted to join in. Starting with a focus on the pelvic floor (super important, for men too apparently), we then did Pilates, before building up a sweat with some cardio.
“Breath out at the hard bits,” chirped Caroline, (invaluable advice for me – I spend whole yoga classes wanting to ask whether we’re on an in or an out).
Clio helped out by playing with any babies preventing their mummies from getting stuck in, and at the end of the session she showed us how to make Cookie Dough Protein Balls – Angus was chief helper at this point; I’m still waiting for him to recreate them back home…
After the children’s supper, baths and stories, I tucked Angus into his cot and two minutes later came a knock on the door from the babysitter.
Slipping into the darkened room, I whispered instructions before heading downstairs to meet Clio and the group for cocktails before dinner.
“This will be the best meal of your life” said an enthusiastic waiter as he showed us to our table. Truth be told, for the parents of the newborns, an uninterrupted meal is exactly that.
Smoked salmon with warm bread, a big glass of wine, steak and the chocolatiest line up of puddings took us through to 10.30pm when it was time to relieve the babysitter from her duties and roll into bed.
The next day was spa day. A flurry of mummies devoured the Four Seasons breakfast buffet before making a b-line to the spa via the creche.
With Angus distracted by toy tractors, I skipped off for my massage. I have always loved massages, and in parenthood they become even better. Loosened up and straightened out, I headed to the creche.
We bade farewell to the group and set off for London – making a compulsory stop on the driveway to say goodbye to the baby Highland Cow.
24 Hours is perfect because it’s short enough to justify taking the time out. But it also flies by very quickly. So, my only comment is to make sure you maximise your time, arriving as early as possible and leaving as late as possible!
The next &Breathe 24 hour retreats at the Four Seasons Hampshire are in April, June, September and November 2019. Please sign up to the exclusive waiting list and be the first to know when bookings open: http://www.andbreathepostnatal.com/24hour-retreats/