Child: Diolan, 22 months
Expectations of Motherhood: I thought I had realistic expectations of motherhood, I had hands on experience of looking after siblings and nieces. I knew it would be challenging and there would be sleepless nights, but I had always wanted to be a mum and couldn’t wait for my baby to be born.
Reality of Motherhood: I thought I knew the realities of motherhood but I didn’t have a clue, I really don’t think anyone could prepare you though. The second night in hospital was an eye opener; Diolan was born at 2am and that first night didn’t cry and mostly slept. The second night he fed on and off all though the night. I went over to the midwives and told them what was happening (half expecting them to say this was wrong and to sort the issue out) and the midwife, who had obviously heard ridiculous questions like this before with other first time mums, said, “Yes love, that’s what babies do.” There began my steep learning curve.
The first two weeks were great, my partner was off and we were exhausted but laughed a lot and spent loads of time in bed with Diolan (it was winter). The next 10 weeks were a mix of laughter, tiredness, some tears and gradual growing confidence in beginning to understand my son. My family don’t live near me so the Surestart was a complete lifesaver, I met other first time mums like me and we shared our experiences and became a support for each other. It was great to hear other mums were experiencing the same things as me.
Just after Diolan was 3 months he stopped gaining weight and developed a terrible skin condition, the next 7 weeks were the most challenging of my life, he was failing to thrive, feeding constantly and waking every hour through the night. At 6 months he was only 12lb, my confidence was totally shaken, I felt helpless. It was an interesting time though because I really felt the problem was allergy, my first experience of mothers instinct. I was breast feeding and went dairy free to see if it helped – it didn’t. All the medical professionals I saw said it wouldn’t be the breast feeding and to keep going. I finally got an appointment with a pediatrician and he gave us some hypo-allergenic formula to try. Diolan’s symptoms cleared up almost over night, it was an allergy. Since then I have had more confidence in my instincts. I think the reality is that you are ultimately responsible for this new life, when you are looking after siblings or nieces etc. you don’t carry this responsibility.
Taking your child home for the first time: I had to stay in over night so I was keen to get home, it took ages to get discharged. We didn’t really have a clue how to put the car seat in, but once we were off I thought it would be a good idea to nip into Mothercare on the way home to get tiny baby babygrows. I remember the shop assistant asked me when I was due, she looked a bit shocked when I said I had given birth the day before – I wasn’t looking my best. When we got home we just held Diolan for ages, we were both in awe of him.
The best/worst advice: Trust your instincts!!! The worst advice for me was let them cry – you can only do what you feel comfortable with. Because of Diolan’s allergies his sleep patterns were all over the place, he was waking up a lot in the night and many people said to let him cry it out. I couldn’t do it. It did take a lot longer to get him to sleep through but I’m glad we did it our way and stuck it out.
The hardest parts of being a mother: The lack of sleep; I ended up fainting for the first time in my life at a Gala dinner when Diolan was about 10 months. When I went back to work I continued to do all the night time shifts and all the other day to day care because my partner works long hours. I didn’t ask anyone for help and ended up exhausted. Going back to work was hard, not only the guilt at leaving my baby but also the lack of confidence I felt going back to work so exhausted. Finding time for your relationship too can be tricky and appreciating each others different journey as parents.
The best parts of being a mother: Even though we had some tough times, I have love being a mum, I love watching my son grow and develop his own character. I love his laughter and his dancing, I also love watching my son with his dad and our families – he is doted on by my four sisters, he is the only boy on our side of the family and is totally ruined.
Hopes for your family: To continue to laugh and have fun, I hope for Diolan to continue to be a happy confident boy with space to develop and grow.
Any advice you’d offer to new and expectant mums: I really don’t think that you can prepare people for the reality of motherhood, I think it is amazing and hard work in equal measures. Take all offers of supports – don’t try to do it on your own. Be open and honest about your experiences and you will often find that most other mums feel like you. Use the Surestarts, I have made some great new friends that I met at the Surestart. Try to enjoy every moment because it goes so fast, this helped me get through the tough times, I tried to enjoy every stage because they grow and change so quickly.