Expectations of Motherhood: I was not particularly maternal for most of my life, but things have a funny way of changing over time. I am one of those mid 30s late bloomers I guess! I initially approached motherhood as a task, probably because I’m an office manager by trade. There’s lots to do to get ready, and I threw myself into decorating the nursery, sorting out mountains of baby things and making sure I was stocked up with everything in advance. I also watched a whole series of One Born Every Minute to help prepare me psychologically for labour. It may sound silly, but as someone who had to turn over the channel when an ad for the show came on, being able to sit through footage of women in labour was quite an achievement.
I wasn’t really able to prepare for the reality of the birth and caring for a tiny baby though, beyond hoping for a healthy child and a “let’s see what happens” philosophy. I’m not sure it’s possible to do much more when it’s your first.
Taking your child home for the first time: I was pretty ill during and after my difficult labour, so I was kept in for two days for observation. I am a very private person by nature, so the noise of the ward really got to me. Although it was definitely special spending a lot of time alone with Evie, I was quite literally crawling the walls by the end. After I was discharged, we ended up having to wait a further 2 hours for some prescriptions. The midwife found me sitting impatiently on my bed with all my bags packed up!
I remember carrying Evie in her car seat across the foyer at St Mary’s, and being a bit freaked out by all the pregnant women waiting for their antenatal appointments. It was pouring rain outside but luckily a friend gave us a lift home. She stayed for a brew and after she left, the reality sank in and I thought: “What now?” I have a photo from that day of Rob typing one handed on his laptop, doing some work with our tiny Evie swaddled up in his arms. I was most likely conked out on the sofa in a daze!
Reality of Motherhood: Wonderful, but a bit like being hit by a truck a lot of the time. You often hear people say nothing could have prepared them for the reality of looking after a helpless, sweet but demanding newborn, and it’s true. The thing I struggled with the most initially was not being able to do simple things like wash up dishes or have a shower. I found it hugely frustrating, and craved some physical separation. But you do learn to adjust, and learn to do a lot of things one handed or with baby in a sling. In fact I am sat typing this with a wriggling, complaining Evie on my lap! But it is definitely important to try and get some childfree time for you each week, even an hour or two. It can make all the difference.
The best/worst advice: Not advice as such, but more of a mantra. When I would say I was struggling, friends kept telling me “It will get easier.” And it turned out to be true, although it didn’t help much at the time. One day (hopefully!) you will realise that your baby is taking longer between feeds in the day, or is sleeping a bit longer between nightfeeds. Or, in my case, she will eventually be content watching an episode of Waybuloo in her bouncer – which incidentally, is just long enough to whip up her baby porridge and, crucially, a strong cup of coffee for me. It’s a gradual process though; there are no quick fixes or overnight results.
I’ve had a few bits of unappreciated advice, but nothing I couldn’t ignore. My only really negative experiences were with some of the midwives I came across. Many of them were fabulous, but there were some who really shouldn’t be working in the field, in my opinion.
The hardest parts of being a mother: It’s been said a million times, but the sheer exhaustion is really hard work, especially the broken nights. As I’m the one on maternity leave, I took on a lot of the care to allow my partner to work. Sleep deprivation is like a deep fuzz that gradually clouds over your brain. You function, but you are not yourself. Adrenalin does keep you going for a while, but I read somewhere that the lack of sleep really gets to you after 4 months, and I have to agree. My mini workouts and healthy eating went back out the window and I had little motivation to get out for coffee meets or social events like I did when Evie was younger. The thing that brought it to a head was flying with Evie alone longhaul for my sister’s wedding – I was a broken woman. Babies and jet lag are not a good combination! Thankfully my partner and I are now able to share the nights and the difference it has made is HUGE! I’m starting to feel more myself, I’m much less irritable and I’m exercising again.
The best parts of being a mother: The surges of unconditional love. That first smile and giggle. Seeing her eyes light up when I come to get her in her cot at some ungodly hour. Feeling much more grown up and a real sense of purpose – it’s a big responsibility, but it has helped me to focus on what’s important. Getting compliments when we’re out walking as a family with Evie in the pram, and feeling oh-so proud.
Hopes for your family: We would love to move out of Manchester to a nice small town or village that would be a good place to raise a family. Ideally to a detached, spacious cottage on a lovely piece of land with no neighbours apart from some chickens. Need to win the lottery first though…
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Be really, really kind to yourself after the birth. It is a huge event, both emotionally and physically, and looking back now I can really see how the hormones made me feel pretty loopy – especially the postpartum surge that starts a few days after the birth.
Try and rest when your baby rests, although I know this is easier said than done.
Accept all offers of help that feel right to you (cooked meals, cleaning, an hour to let you take a bath) but equally stand strong on what feels right for you in terms of visits and needing space in those early weeks.
And finally, big yourself up every now and then. Sometimes I would stop and think: “Wow, we’ve looked after Evie for X number of weeks now – we must be doing something right!”