About UMEUS : Our Story
UMEUS Foundation was founded by Sam McCarthy and Leo Taylor in 2015 when they collaborated in response to their experience of motherhood and what they felt they needed; a place to explore the changing nature of life after having children.
With a successful career editing women’s fashion magazines, Leo’s burgeoning family life had asked her to apply a different rhythm, away from the London commute and the intense demands of publishing deadlines, she’d listened and responded.
Sam’s transition from media production into the psycho-therapeutic world held a similar resonance; she began re-training in 2010 following a long held intention to work in compassionate arts and social science, a sideways departure from commercial arts and technology.
Already immersed in a yoga community having trained as a yoga teacher with Vajrasati School in 2006, Leo was running a supportive group called Mindful Mamas in Brighton, when she and Sam met to explore the possibility of developing a eudaimonic organisation that aligned both their offerings.
Connected through a mutual friend Charlotte Watts, now also an active affiliate of UMEUS, Sam was volunteering for the National Childbirth Trust and had contributed to the creation of a local community group for expectant and new mothers, she was also collaborating with Sure Start, developing a program to support post-natal women struggling with anxiety.
But it was an evening together at an event with one of the worlds most recognised proponents of mindful practice, Jon Kabat-Zinn, that propelled the creation of UMEUS.
In May 2015 Leo and Sam boarded a train to London. With daughters aged just 3 years old and both women balancing work, study and parenting, the evening glimmered with a sense of optimism and trepidation.
On one of the first evenings out either woman had had since the birth of their children, (Leo’s youngest of four, who at almost 3 was the same age as Sam’s only), they shared stories and bonded over both the commonality and individuality of motherhood.
They learned of the challenges each had faced and recognised that their perspectives of conscious awareness discovered though yoga and meditative practice had supported them through times of immense sadness, anxiety and confusion.
They knew they’d found support and relief through the process of expressing vulnerabilities, and that resourcefulness and resilience had been crucial to their meeting the emotional and physical demands of motherhood.
What troubled them was knowing that so many mothers were struggling, and didn’t have access to some of the resources they had.
They had seen the anxious faces of women trying to hide their pain through incongruent smiles, with the insistence that they were ‘fine’ and ‘ok’, and clearly they were not.
Sam and Leo were frustrated that whilst much in the world of parenting was geared toward the doing, or the actions pertaining to raising children, that little attention was paid to the wellbeing of women and indeed of parents in all configurations.
Society seemed favour the pregnant woman and was often very affirming of the expectant mother and family.
Pregnant women, for the most part, received attention and were generally cared for, sometimes even revered, in a way often found lacking almost immediately after birth.
It seemed to Leo and Sam like a cruel irony, this flagrant disregard of a woman’s needs when her life is irrevocably altered.
She now holds the responsibility to offer comfort, food, love, care and a nurturing disposition, to the being everyone now hails as the most important.
What she needs most is to heal, for that much-needed attention and care from others to be directed at her, so she can look after her child.
Leo had experienced time and again having birthed 4 children, Sam’s acute awareness of the support she’d received and resourced following a severe birth trauma which impacted her child, only served as a magnification of how little support was offered to women post-natally.
Could it really be that if baby was hurt then all the stops were pulled out, but that the magnitude of birth and the impact of motherhood on a woman’s identity and mental health were consigned to a few health visitor checks?
Meditating with around 400 other people that balmy May evening was very much a catalyst for Leo and Sam, and perhaps a testament to the power of collective consciousness.
Sharing an appreciation of how a practice of yoga was instrumental to their own meeting of motherhood, they resolved that with their combined efforts, they would offer women a space to share experiences, find community and raise conscious awareness of being a mother. And so it began.
Neither women were keen to start a business with a capitalist profiteering agenda, yet they were determined for the work of caring and supporting women not to be undervalued. They resolved to connect with community and look at being expansive without being expensive.
The ideas and vision to support parents in mindful, yogic and therapeutic ways emerged to form UMEmamas and UMEtalk which began the journey of UMEUS.
Umeus in 2015
Umeus in 2019