Mary and Eleanor


Name:
Mary 

Child: Eleanor, 11 months


Location: Stockport

Expectations of Motherhood: To spend the next twenty years or so to bringing up my children to be confident, upright, responsible, socially minded, happy, independent individuals who are not afraid to be themselves. I don’t expect to “get my life back” for a while, perhaps years, but I work better when I’m busy anyway. If the last year is anything to go by motherhood will always come first from now on but as long as there’s still space to be myself I don’t mind.

Taking your child/children home for the first time: I wanted a home birth but had to go to hospital at the last minute. it was a big part of my birth plan to spend the first night in my own bed at home, the three of us all together, so rather resented it when they forced me into staying overnight by taking hours and hours to bring me my discharge papers. Next morning Matt and my mum came to pick me up early and I sat in the kitchen when we got back feeling rather odd emotionally and physically. All four grandparents arrived for dinner and we had champagne which, coupled with everything else, made the evening quite surreal. I remember I needed to feed her but felt too self conscious to do it in front of everyone so absented myself (rather gratefully) from the celebrations to try and get her latched on, which proved difficult. Once my mum had got her on for me and positioned us with a million cushions and pillows we took a photo so as to try and remember what proper positioning looked like. Now I can’t believe looking at it how tiny and curled up she was in my arms.

Reality of Motherhood: I never realised how totally all-consuming it is. I don’t know where I thought she’d be when I continued about my normal life, but as she’s one of those children that wants to be held all the time and always wants to see and try out whatever you’re doing it’s rather limiting. For example I can’t do any sewing (I previously ran a business making wedding dresses) when she’s around as she wants to be involved and it’s too dangerous. On the other hand I’ve found out how much fun simple things can be – sitting playing, watching the birds and planes, doing some gardening – and how much you can achieve in the two hours of sleep she manages a day. There’s so much to teach her and I’m so proud of all the things she’s learning. I’ve also found it quite lonely at times. When you give up work you give up the everyday social life with it, and I’ve realised how out of practice I am at making new friends with those I’m not forced into daily contact with!

The best/worst advice: My granny kept phoning up when Eleanor was little telling me to put her on the bottle, which made me really angry as I was having some problems feeding her anyway and feeling inadequate because of that. In hindsight I know she’s from a generation with a totally different parenting style, so I should have known to take her advice with a pinch of salt, but at the time it was really hard not to doubt myself. 


The best advice was “trust your instincts”. It takes a bit of practice and confidence so I didn’t get the hang of that till she was three months old or so, but once you realise what your instinct is, it’s great. It’s hard with all the advice people give you – because everyone who’s had a child has a piece of advice they think is indispensable, and because they used it themselves you can’t reject it out of hand. Because motherhood and how you choose to do it is so intense and personal, a rejection of your advice can feel like a criticism of how you did it – which if you’re the doubting sort can make you feel like a failure and if you’re the angry sort can make you feel very offended. I still haven’t found the answer, now I just try and change the subject. I know I’m no better though, when I find myself trying to brainwash expectant mothers into following my ways!

The hardest parts of being a mother: Knowing that you’ve got responsibility for a future adult, not just a baby, and that making mistakes now can saddle them with long term issues. Not knowing the future, or what the results will be of your well-meaning tactics. It bothers me when I see her doing something she’s seen me doing but I haven’t actively taught her. It makes me wonder what bad habits I’m letting her think are ok. Also it can get quite boring. This morning I had to stand by while she inspected what must have been every berry on a 20m stretch of hedgerow. I wished I had a book with me, then realised I couldn’t just stand about reading while she explored – I’d go into cloud cuckoo land and wouldn’t notice her either eating the poisonous berries or wandering out into the traffic. So I’m going to just have to get used to it.

The best parts of being a mother: Revisiting the sheer fascination of every tiny thing around us that we’ve categorised as white noise. I’ve got a memory of when I was little, crouching by a flowerbed in the park and looking closely at the flowers. I’ve often wished I could get back into that zone – that feeling of wonder at everyday things – and now I can without looking like a weirdo! 


Hopes for your family: I hope she carries on developing into the amazing person I can see now, and isn’t knocked back by something I, or other people, thoughtlessly do or say. At the moment she’s so confident socially, and loves to go up to people and make friends. I really hope she carries on with that confidence and friendliness. I hope we have at least another couple of children. I’m one of four and we all get on really well. When we all get together it’s such fun and I’d love to carry that on in my family. I hope she grows up knowing how much we love her and just how incredible we think she is – I’d hate for her to doubt that.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Do trust your instincts, and be prepared for people to knock your methods. Whatever you’re doing, someone will disagree. My personal soapbox is about crying: a baby’s cry is a communication, not just an annoying noise. If you work to discover why they’re crying and meet their needs they won’t do it so much. If you leave them crying it recalibrates their evolved expectations that their needs will be met (and done over a period of time studies have shown it can lead to mental problems later in life). I feel really passionate about this issue and am the annoying woman trying to give out this piece of advice to poor unsuspecting new mums and mums-to-be!

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