Child: Yunalesca, aged 17 months
Expectations of Motherhood: Wow! My expectations of motherhood were vast and crazy, I simply couldn’t wait to have my baby. I was diagnosed with quite severe PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) when I was just 18. I’d had irregular periods for about 2 years, I’d also gained a lot of weight in a very short space of time with no changes to my diet or daily activities, and my skin was terrible; I had the worst acne. It took 2 long years of diagnosis, until I was finally told I had PCOS. I was basically told that my chances of ever becoming pregnant were slim, and advised of the miscarriage rate of women with PCOS (which is relatively high in comparison to “normal” women). So, from being 18 years old, I always believed that having a baby of my own wouldn’t be an option for me.
A funny question someone asked me a while ago, after Yuna was born, was “Were you upset when you were told you couldn’t have children?”
I found this question funny because it’s been in my heart and soul to be a mother, ever since I can remember. I had no plans of a teenage pregnancy or anything like that, but I always saw a future with a little person running about with me, laughing. Someone I could cuddle and teach, someone to put to bed at night and read stories to.
So, yes, for me, being told that I would never be a mother was a crucial point in my life, it devastated me and in combination with worsening PCOS symptoms, actually led to me becoming very depressed and secluded at one point in my life.
Anyway, one evening in mid-2009 (I was 27 years old), I was putting myself to bed as usual. Whilst I was brushing my teeth, I had the overriding urge to vomit, and let’s just say, from that evening onwards, it took three months before the vomiting stopped!
I didn’t think for a minute that I was pregnant, I mean, how could I be?! I actually thought there was something seriously wrong with me health-wise. I would chat with friends after they’d comment on my weight-loss, their first reaction was “…perhaps you’re pregnant?”
So, one pregnancy test and visit to the GP later, I realised that yes! I was going to have a baby! I was over-joyed, elated, I felt like the luckiest person in the world, and my partner and parents were just over the moon! We all knew that whatever this baby was going to be, it was going to be lucky! I counted down the days, minutes and seconds until my due date, I drove people insane repeating “I hope this baby comes soon!” I was excited to say the least.
Reality of Motherhood: “Being a mum is the hardest day’s work you’ll ever do” was my mother’s mantra whilst I was pregnant (along with many other, lovely things) and she wasn’t joking. Being a mother is hard work. It’s harder than any job or career I’ve completed or accomplished in my pre-parenting days. I always say to friends whom work, and don’t yet have kids, “If your boss was unimpressed with your actions, they’d tell you what the problem is. With a baby, they just scream indecipherably at you until you figure it out. That’s unlike any boss I’ve ever heard of!”
It’s a full-time occupation that I believe everyone, no matter how maternal, has to learn to do. You think you know exactly how your baby is going to act, you know, you just feed and change them, pop them in bed and they’ll smile softly at you and drift off to sleep. Not always the case! But as with anything in life, the more you learn, the easier the task at hand. Once you get over the initial confusions and misunderstandings, having a child of your own is a wonder and spectacle that can not be matched by anything else, ever. It’s a life-affirming and beautiful experience!
Taking your child home for the first time: I couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital! I just wanted to be home, in comfort with my little baby, plus my birth was a nightmare. All that, “I hope this baby arrives soon!” I spouted during the end of my pregnancy resulted in my being 2 weeks over-due before being induced. The induction didn’t go too well, it took 3 days after my waters broke and being admitted to hospital, before Yuna finally decided to arrive. I was as raring to go as a new-mum could be, I bugged the midwives every few hours to let me go home and eventually they were happy with Yuna’s progress so off we went. My partner Seth always likes to recount the story of when we were first putting Yuna in the car seat in the hospital car park:
I carried Yuna to the car and gave her to Seth to hold whilst I opened the door and sorted everything out. I apparently quickly backed-out of the backseat door and demanded he “remove that creature, now!” and when he looked in he couldn’t see anything. So I pointed out to him the disgusting assailant, which turned out to be a very small and innocent gnat, minding it’s own business. The thing is Yuna was so new, clean, soft (the softest skin! I’ve never felt anything like it!) so to me this little bug was infecting her space! Poor gnat.
I was so relived to finally get home, the first evening was lovely. I was incredibly tired and hungry, so we ordered-in some delicious, fresh feta salad with pitta bread, nachos and guacamole. Placed Yuna in her moses basket in the living room, and pretty much watched her every minute movement and breath, until we finally took her up to bed with us. We were filled with relief and happiness that we finally had our own little baby girl, Yunalesca.
The best/worst advice: Best advice has always come from my mum. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful mum, she’s been there for me and Yuna pretty much every single day for the past 17 months, popping around before or after work on weekdays. I can’t particularly pick one bit of advice as being the best, but my mum did try and tell me to stop buying neutral clothing whilst I was pregnant (we chose to not find out the sex of the baby) but I didn’t listen. I didn’t exactly buy a ton of stuff, but once Yuna arrived, I wasn’t interested in anything I’d bought for her during pregnancy except for some soft, white terry-toweling baby-grows which I had decorated with cat appliques. I just wanted to get her in something bright and pretty, rather than the dowdy beige items I’d picked before I knew my baby was going to be Yuna! As for worst advice, I think all the advice I was given was delivered with good intent, even if I did not agree once Yuna came along. We all learn to be a parent in different ways, we do things our own way… take from the advice other’s give you, what you feel comfortable with, ignore anything that doesn’t feel natural to your way of parenting.
The hardest parts of being a mother:
Lack of sleep. I think in the first few months, until you can fathom a way to get a routine in place, the sleep depravation could lead you to go crazy, unless you have some (read: a lot) of help from those around you. If you’re offered help, please! Take it! We all do eventually, when we learn that you can only be super-mum a certain amount of the time. You’ve also got to truly understand that the development of your child, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally is now your main quest in life. It’s not just about reading to them and teaching them to walk, it’s about making sure they develop to be a happy and stable person, which I think is easier said than done. You don’t realise how much your own personal hang-ups will effect anybody other than yourself until you have a child.
I’ve never been a particularly negative person, but since having Yuna I’ve realised that it would be unfair to her, to vocally complain to myself about my hair being thin when getting ready in the morning, or stressing that the dress I’ve chosen for an occasion looks wrong because I’m not the right weight. She shouldn’t have to hear anything negative about my personal appearance, or anyone else’s for that matter, because all it will do is spawn a very self-conscious and unhappy little girl, who will grow to be a young lady who analyses herself, unjustly, in a similar manner.I’m coming from quite a specific angle with this advice, but as someone whom suffers from a somewhat brutal case of PCOS, and having to raise a little girl, it’s become obvious to me that in this day and age I need to do all I can to raise a strong, self-assured daughter, who is happy in herself, no matter what. I will always tell her the advice passed on to me from my mother, and her mum before her: “Nobody is better than you in this life” and that “it’s what you experience in life that matters”. I will raise my daughter knowing that to learn and love life is far more important than your appearance, monetary gain and what other’s think about you.
The best parts of being a mother: It’s just the gift of raising your own little human, you get to learn about the basics of life all over again. It helps you realise that life itself is more important than just the existence. You can run, be free, chat and laugh at the silliest of things. Watching your child’s first reaction to something funny is amazing, you think to yourself “My god, they get it! That’s amazing! They’re laughing!” you probably seem like an utter idiot to anyone who has not got children themselves, but just watching your child develop, to me is astounding. Then comes the requited love from your baby, especially when they’re old enough to give hugs and kisses. You know all that effort you put in, all that love and time was worth it. They love you, too! They always will. When Yuna is sick, I fondly call her “velcro-baby” because in spite of her desires to perhaps get up and play with toys, or read her books, she is just stuck to me like glue. She’s only 17 months old, but I know that she believes that I, mummy, will make everything better with hugs and love, and I can’t give that sort of consolation to anyone else.
Hopes for your family: I am so looking forwards to Yuna being able to talk properly, it will be a world of wonder for both she and I. Other than the obligatory “mamamama” and “dadadada” her first word was most definitely cat, or “Aaahht!” as she says. She had an orange cat toy that one day, I guess I’d placed on a shelf whilst tidying. I was holding her in my arms, her facing the opposite way to me. I was picking some washing off the radiator and heard her say “Aaahht!”, it wasn’t a sound I’d heard her emit before! I turned around to see the orange cat on the shelf, and gave it to her, she looked at me and said “Aaahht!” again! AMAZING! She was about 10 months old, and the very next day she started saying “ooook!” for book. Things have progressed slowly since that point, but I know her speech will blossom when she’s ready, and I’m so excited. I want to talk to her about how she sees the world, from her very specific point of view. I am enthusiastic about showing her all the things her father and I love about life. Animals, wildlife, nature, art and music (although I’m not in favour of indoctrinating a child in to “cool” music, beyond their understanding).
I’m just hoping that we can weather-out the storm of life to be content and settled together, to provide Yuna with stability and happiness, and the strength to get her through any grievances that may possibly befall her in later life… from her first cut knee, heart-break and beyond.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: I’ve seen this comment before, but, for god’s sake, PUT DOWN THAT BOOK! Yes, flick through the pages, take in the fun bits, but just ignore all the horrible stuff. Most of it will never happen, some minor crappy bits may occur, but generally, your pregnancy and child-raising experiences are going to be unique to you, no book can map out your life for you. As for birthing plans, I may as well have mine framed and displayed on the wall with the legend, “Even the best laid plans…”
On our tour around the maternity unit, whilst pregnant, the midwives introduced me to the new, sparkling ‘birthing room’. WOW! It was glorious; a birthing pool, TV, radio. A TOASTER AND A KETTLE. “Giving birth will be awesome!” I thought to myself. Then the day (or night, should I say) came where my waters broke, sitting on the edge of the bed after going for a midnight wee. I thought I’d forgotten to finish on the loo! Anyway, as much as I’d planned a drug-free, normal delivery, Yuna had decided it was not to be. I did give birth “naturally”, but not without the help of a plethora of drugs, including a cream and drip-induction (which they hiked-up to epic proportions due to Yuna’s desire not to yield), Diamorphine and Epidural. It was due to my being induced that my birthing-room dreams were quashed.
I didn’t want any of these things in my birth plan, my mum gave birth to me entirely drug-free, not even gas and air, due to her being exhausted. I thought I would have enough “stuff” to tough-it-out the way she did, but after the induction I just scribbled wherever the midwife asked me to, and asked for anything to dull the pain.
My point here is that birthing plans are an exciting thing to discuss and make, but don’t be surprised if… things don’t go to plan! If you’re induced, just go with the flow. They’re inducing you for a reason (stubborn, willful, happy baby doesn’t want to leave!)… If the pain gets too much, as one of my close friends says “don’t be a hero” – just do whatever you feel is right and helps you have a happy and easier birth.
A big one for me is breast feeding. My mum didn’t breast feed myself or my brother, but we’re both pretty normal and relatively healthy. We’re certainly not crazy, stupid or limbless, or anything strange like that. I think there is so much pressure on women to breast feed these days it is uncomfortable. This is coming from a mother who DID breast feed. The one thing people didn’t explain to me is how gosh-darn painful it is. I seriously thought my boobs were going to fall-off, the pain was that intense. The first two weeks of breast-feeding were, to be honest, a living-hell. I almost recoiled in fear when Yuna needed her next feed, that’s how intense the pain was. The first few suckles I would burst in to tears, it was just too much! Then, with the help of Lansinoh cream and, time, it became completely fine. It was pretty much exactly 2 weeks after starting breast feeding. One day, there was excruciating pain, the next… gone! Just like that. However, I think if you’re having reservations about breast-feeding your child, do not be demonised. It doesn’t suit every woman. I do think it is worth a go though, if you can muster the strength to do it, because it might not be painful for you, and once baby is settled on your bosom, it’s a beautiful experience. You know that it is you feeding and helping your own child to thrive, and that is a very gratifying, and in some ways, selfish, feeling. It does help you feel close and comforting to your baby, but I don’t think you’d be any less detached from your baby if you chose to bottle-feed. Yuna was a particularly hungry baby, whom I had to also occasionally bottle-feed with organic baby milk. The only thing I ever felt about bottle-feeding her was generally, left out, because it was my partner Seth who chose to give her this milk. I think that is always a nice experience for a father though, because they can gain the same gratification you gain by feeding their own child. Without bottle-feeding (or expressing milk) they will never have that experience.
My other advice would be go easy on yourself. You’re only human. As long as you have love and understanding in your heart, you will be the best mum ever. You don’t have to dance around dusting, making home-made baby food, singing the alphabet with your baby in your arms to be a good mum, you just have to make sure that no real harm comes to them, and that you know at the end of the day you tried your best. Also don’t listen to other annoying mums who say, “Oh, my baby can walk a tight-rope whilst reciting the alphabet backwards” because they’re full of bull-poop. Even if little Johnny can do these things, he’s probably not been given time to just acclimatise to being a child, having rote-learned the alphabet, tight-rope and perhaps, piano instead. Your child is outside, digging-up worms from the garden, probably trying to eat them. Pouring juice on their head, underestimating the height of that table, getting their finger stuck in the door when trying to close it for themselves for the first time. It’s your child who will have the smarts to survive life.
Amrick has her own blog
– About Amrick’s PCOS/ being pregnant
– About motherhood, children and self-awareness
– About Amrick’s birthing CD