Expectations of motherhood: My husband and I had been determined that we wanted to live out a perfect fairytale. We’d been together for a long time and marriage had been important to us. The next natural step was to have children. As children who’d both been born as accidents and from unconventional families, it was important for us to do things ‘the right way’. Looking back, the fairytale couldn’t have turned out any more differently to our expectations. I’m a single parent now and I’m having to write a new story, and so in retrospect none of that actually mattered.
Never in a million years had I expected to become a single mum. We’d been obsessed with doing ‘the right thing’ as a couple and doing what made us look like the perfect family, but in the end it just didn’t work out like that. It sounds crazy now, to think I was so conservative in my attitude towards becoming a parent.
Reality of Motherhood:The bubble burst immediately at Harry’s birth in a traumatic 18hr labour. Harry was in the wrong position – back to back – and was eventually delivered by emergency C-section. It made me reconsider all of my original expectations of motherhood. After 3 days of trauma and looking after this new little thing, finally coming out of the haze, I fell in love with him. For days I’d felt disconnected because of everything that had happened in the birth. Then finally it was like a little door in my heart opened – I like to call it my ‘John Malkovich door’. As an adult you expect that you’ve experienced every emotion, but you really haven’t until you feel this unconditional love for your child. I imagine people have more children because it’s like a drug addict harking back to their first high. If you could buy that love as a drug, you’d be unbelievably rich.
Motherhood now, as a single mum, has meant a real change in my life, but I have realised that the fairytale can be rewritten and our relationship has developed into something really special.
Taking your child home for the first time:We were kept in hospital for 5 days. By the time we left they had diagnosed Harry with hole in his heart and we were told that eventually he would need an operation. Returning home was tinged with the worry of not knowing exactly what was wrong. We found ourselves dealing with the emotions of being new parents, sharing the same experiences as other new parents, but at the same time being scared stiff because of what was potentially going to happen to our poorly baby.
Harry had open heart surgery at 5 mths, and it was a totally weird experience. Up till then he’d lived as a relatively normal baby boy. I remember becoming obsessed with breast feeding – I’d originally felt like I didn’t want to be bullied into it, but when it transpired that he was ill I did become a bit evangelical about the whole thing. It was the best medicine he could have and as a fairly helpless parent it was the one thing I could do to help the situation.I knew that the bigger and stronger he could be for his operation, the better.
We were so lucky because Harry could be mended, and it was that moment when I went from, “why me?” to “we’re so lucky”. After his operation he recovered quickly and has managed to live life as a healthy little boy since.
Best and worst advice: There’s no one piece of advice that has stuck out to me, but it’s important to discuss problems with friends. Everyone has their own pearls of wisdom but not everyone finds the same thing works for them. Trust your instincts.
The hardest parts of being a mother: Nobody tells you that at some point you will really dislike (almost hate) your child. You’ll love them, but you really don’t like them, and that’s ok and normal. Our relationship has changed since I’ve become a single mum because I have to be ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’ now. He can go to his dad and experience purely good times, whereas I have to lay down the rules and discipline him.
my best friend for life and we have a lovely relationship. He’s also at an age where we can do fun things together like sneaking him into the cinema to see films he’s not really supposed to. He’s his own person and has an incredible personality and his own very valid opinion. I love that he’s great company – for kids and adults – and he is genuinely funny. I’m so proud that he has created independent relationships with adults who are my friends, and these are relationships that exist because they honestly like each other. At first when we did things, just Harry and I, it felt like someone was missing for both of us. Recently it feels like we are a complete family, just us two.
– Listen to your own voice, don’t be bullied by anyone.
– Don’t buy into false expectations and fairytales.
– It’s your book, you are the author, you have to write it.
– Whatever you choose to do, it’s the right way.
– You can feed them all the organic purees you want, and give them a great mixed pallet of tastes, but by the age of two all they’ll want to do is eat white food.
– Everything passes, everything is a phase.
– Enjoy it. Luxuriate into the first 6 mths, sleep when the baby sleeps and you’ll get enough.
– Give in to being a mum and meanwhile don’t feel bad about not being the best wife, lover, daughter, work colleague or project manager of your home renovations.
Take the time out the indulge in motherhood, this is the time to do it.
We get really hung up on what we should and shouldn’t do, but all that matters is having a happy child. There’s a tendency to buy into what people tell us to do in books,but people have been having babies for 1000s of years without them.