Expectations of Motherhood:I really don’t know. I had never held a baby until about 6 weeks before Emma-Louise was born, when I held her cousin Sian on Christmas Day. I think I always knew that I would have children and hoped in my heart of hearts that I would be able to, but it was only at age 30 that I decided I definitely wanted children. Walking home one day from the bus stop, I questioned, “Why?” I just did not seem satisfied with “my lot”. It took a couple of months for Ian and I to talk about having children and for him to agree to try for baby 1. We caught straight away with Emma-Louise, even buying several pregnancy tests as we were not convinced it could happen so quick. We also caught immediately with Madison (with Casey being more of an unexpected but most welcome [for me!] surprise.
I spent so much of the first few months of pregnancy either feeling ill or anxious that I don’t think I ever really believed we would have a baby at the end of it. I remember counting the days and weeks and even working them out as fractions and percentages of how far I had progressed. After we had a scan at 12 weeks, we agreed that we should get married (as I always said I wanted us all to have the same surname if we had children). I guess we spent a lot of the next three months or so then planning the wedding. I loved my chocolate brown wedding dress and brown Puma trainers. I loved carrying the most very special guest in my tummy, who would be born only a couple of months later. Even after the wedding and then Christmas/New Year, I still didn’t have very much idea or expectations about motherhood. I think I was still in denial. I loved sitting at my desk at work with a hiccupping baby and that feeling of intimacy and love. I had to leave work a week earlier than planned as I couldn’t get up and down the stairs to the toilet with my SPD! We spent the next week or so fighting with Mamas & Papas about getting the nursery furniture delivered to us in one piece and in time. Eventually the cot, changing unit and wardrobe arrived, although not in 100% perfect condition. Everything was starting to take shape but still I had no expectations as it was all still about the birth and hoping and praying I would have a healthy baby at the end of it all.
Reality of Motherhood:Wow! Motherhood is so many things – good, bad, ugly, happy, sad, … The love I felt for the girls when they arrived was over-whelming. I remember with Madison wondering how on earth I could love another child so much. And with Casey, after such a difficult pregnancy, I was so happy to feel the strength of love with her. The story of my pregnancy is there in history but the feelings that go with it have been overwritten by the strength of love that I feel for Casey. I have my wonderful three girls. Motherhood is challenging on a constant daily basis but there is a love there that makes everything worthwhile.
Taking your children home for the first time: It had been a long slog getting home with Louie as she had to finish a course of antibiotics. I remember feeling so relieved and happy to finally be able to go through the bathing-the-baby lesson with the nurse and then get the baby warmed up and ready for departure. Although, nothing ever goes to plan – it was the beginning of February and we didn’t have extra blankets for Louie so had to “borrow” some from (old) St Mary’s. When we took Madison and Casey home, we brought the same blankets each time.
Coming home with a new baby was tough. It was a really cold and dark time of year and I hated being up in the middle of the night feeling completely out of my comfort zone. I used to fall asleep in the chair with Louie and got scared about dropping her. The midwife suggested I bring her into bed with me, and that was a saving grace for the nights. During the day, however, for the first three months, Louie seemed to just cry when not either on boob or asleep. I used to put her in her bouncy chair and resort to ironing with her screaming next to me. My Mum couldn’t stand the background noise during our calls! Louie I guess had colic/reflux and perhaps a headache from the forceps delivery. She was also so alert and interested – much to my mother-in-law’s surprise at 5 days old, which I still remember like it was yesterday. I used to think she was like a little Margaret Thatcher who famously only needed four hours sleep per night.
The best/worst advice:The best and worst advice I have found can often come at the same time from different people. The first days and nights spent in St Mary’s with Louie were tough as there were perhaps ten different staff members all with something different to say.
It is funny but the best advice could also be seen as the worst by some folk – co-sleeping. My friend was co-sleeping with her baby and so thought the midwife’s advice made perfect sense. However, I remember going for my six week post-natal check and the GP almost self-combusting with annoyance. Things seemed less confrontational when I co-slept with Madison, but the arguments raised their ugly head when I had Casey, with a health visitor and midwife both trying to tell me not to co-sleep with the baby (lecturing me in my own living room). I remained undeterred and have experienced much better sleep and general well-being as a result of co-sleeping. If you want to do it, do it safely but do it!
The hardest parts of being a mother:Not being able to switch off from being Mum. I don’t get a lot of “Michelle” time. I am mainly only away from the children for minutes at a time when carrying out work assignments, so not really switching off. I find it hard sometimes wanting to get something done, like a piece of work or heaven forbid clean the toilet, but the children are always there and I struggle to get it all done. Also, I am less “Michelle” and more Emma-Louise’s/Madison’s/Casey’s Mum and it is difficult sometimes to remember that I was my own person before the girls came along. I always think about them first and how a choice I make would affect them and it would be nice sometimes to just make a decision for me without having to think about the three girls. Also, another hard part is time going so quick. In the first months of being a Mum, sometimes the days would seem to drag and I would wait for 5.30 pm for Ian to get home, almost counting the minutes. However, looking back, it all seems to have gone so quick. Even Casey is a walking toddler now and not a baby any more. Thank heavens though for cameras (and memories).
The best parts of being a mother: The cuddles. The love. The joy of seeing how each child sees and does new things, such as Casey noticing aeroplanes in the sky and seeing her smile and looking in wonder. I like how we watch Emma-Louise see and discover new things and then it goes to Madison and Casey. The feeling of pride as a Mum is fantastic – when EL can read a sign or advert for the first time, when MG can write her name and when CJ throws herself forward down a slide.
Hopes for your family:I want my three girls to be happy and healthy. That is my biggest hope. I want to play a significant role in their lives forever and to see them grow and flourish as their own people. I feel excitement and almost butterflies when thinking about the future and what it might bring for them. They are bright, beautiful and interesting people so I am sure they can succeed in whatever they put their mind to (hopefully lawful!). I just hope I will have done enough for them as a Mum.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums:I hope I have written something of use above about breastfeeding and co-sleeping in particular. I think the biggest advice I would offer would be to expect the unexpected. For example, birth plans are great to help get you prepared for the whole birth experience; however, in reality, none of my births went to plan and I didn’t even bother with a birth plan for Casey! Also, I would say to trust your instinct and use your common sense – during pregnancy, labour and motherhood. Remember in day-to-day (non-Mum) life you ask questions when you are not sure about something – perhaps asking about a new mobile phone in a shop and what your contract entitles you to; well, when you see the midwife/GP/hospital staff, if you don’t understand what is going on, please ask – don’t just wait till baby #2 – I am advising this from what I have been through, which led to a far calmer and less stressful experience around my pregnancy with MG and giving birth to her.