Natalie, Abe and Patti

Name: Natalie 

Children: Abe, 3 and Patti, 1 

Location: Manchester

Expectations of Motherhood: First time round I expected to be exhausted, in pain, a bit scared, uncertain and at the same time overjoyed, deeply in love, and with a knowledge that my life would never be the same again. 

Second time around I expected to be tired for the next year of my life but that I’d somehow feel complete. I knew it would be hard to look after a 2 year old and a new born at the same time, when one wants to sleep, the other wants to be stimulated – but I felt ready for the challenge. 

I couldn’t imagine how I could love a child as much as I loved my first child. In my working life I work with women who are homeless, single mums, and i knew it wouldn’t be as hard for me as it is for them because I have a lot of support and a loving family.

Reality of Motherhood:
Wow! Sometimes I think I’m still in some form of culture shock! When Abe was born we were instantly in love, he breastfed with ease, he would gaze at me and I at him and nothing mattered apart from my gorgeous boy. Then after a week, months, years of lack of sleep (Abe prefers to be awake) and as a mother constantly being needed physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, reality struck. I don’t think you can prepare for that. Its exhausting in so many ways, but its also the most magnificent experience, its cliched but that’s because its true. I have never felt so many contrasting emotions in my life. I can go from wanting to jump off a bridge one minute to wanting to do a rendition of ‘The Hills are Alive’ in the space of 5 minutes. This may be something to do with PND but maybe its just that children bring so much into your life and take so much from your ‘pre-children’ life that its a shock to the system. It certainly was and still is to me, adjusting to the new identity as ‘mother’ is huge in my experience and I think I’ll be adjusting for a long time to come. 

I am deeply in love with both my children and they never cease to amuse and entertain me and the way they love me back is out of this world. I am very lucky to have a partner who is extremely supportive and caring, and is an amazing dad, I don’t want to sound smug, but I am lucky to have him, he is exceptionally ace. I take my hat off to women who cope on their own, I just think being a parent is such a hard job and going it alone must feel impossible at times. I will definitely be better and more empathic with the women I support when I return to work.

Taking the children home for the fist time:
It was painful really, I had a forceps delivery with my first and walking was agonising, as was sitting in a car and going over bumps. I was worried; worried I hadn’t wrapped him up warm enough, worried about strapping in the car seat correctly, worried about what I was going to do with a baby when I got home – would he be eating enough, sleeping enough, warm enough, etc, basically worrying in general. I talk to my mum about this, she says the worry never stops. It is however, reduced slightly with a bit of pinot grigio. 

Taking Patti home was lovely, we got a nice cab driver who showed us pictures of his children, the sun was shining and my gorgeous boy was waiting for our arrival.

The best/worst advice: I have an amazing role model friend, Kate Random Love, and she had her first child before me and had bestowed on me all kinds of wisdom, I think the main thing I took from her was to trust my own maternal instincts, and to go easy on myself. I would call Kate and we could talk for hours about breast feeding, the highs, the lows, the roller coaster of emotions. 

I don’t tend to give advice outside of work. I can only say what I’ve experienced and babies are all so different. I enjoyed reading what Dr Sears had to say, they made it ok to co-sleep when other people seemed so uncomfortable when they heard that was what we were doing. I don’t remember being given any bad advice.

The hardest parts of being a mother: All of it, I find it really hard. I love it, but at times I feel so tired, frustrated, alone, guilty (anything from having the tele on too much, not giving my children enough vegetables, not reading enough to them, not letting them get enough fresh air – its ridiculous I know.) 

I think the responsibility is awesome and I’m doing my best, I have days where I think ‘yeah, I can do this, I’m a good mother’ and days when I could run away (I have these fantasies about booking myself into the Hilton, no one will know I’m there, I will have a swim *in a pool, not in ‘lake me’, order room service, watch a film and sleep, uninterrupted all night!). 

I know it will get easier, or at least the challenges will change, Patti is nearly 1 and Abe is nearly 3.

The best parts of being a mother: The look of love in their eyes when they look at me, and their dad. The love I feel and the love they give to me in return, the incredible journey we’re on together. 

The laughs they give me, watching them both eat spaghetti bolognese is pretty special. I love it when they cuddle each other, or when Abe tells Patti he loves her. 8pm is really good, when they’re both tucked up in bed and I have the candles on and a glass of wine and I sit with James and we talk about how ace our kids are.

Hopes for your family: I hope my children always feel loved and supported by me and their father. I hope they find love as they grow up and that they respect people for all their differences. I hope they have the confidence to follow their dreams and achieve their goals, I hope they live and love and enjoy life. I hope they’re healthy and happy. 

I REALLY hope they will sit on the couch with their mother and watch musicals when they’re a bit older.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: I’d say paddle your own canoe, trust your instincts, don’t presume everyone else is a natural or better at being a parent than you are because even the zen parents are probably having inner meltdowns. Its the hardest job in the world so forgive yourself for any negative thoughts you have and any guilt you feel because if you can love and care for your children, you’ve pretty much cracked it. Oh, and if you need help, ask for it. If you don’t have a supportive family there are lots of places to get support through your GP or SureStart centres.

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