Géraldine and Juliette

Name: Géraldine

Child: “Lilu” Juliette, 4

Location: Manchester

Expectations of Motherhood: I came into it quite late so I had contradicting impressions; on one side I thought I knew what the reality of it might be like as I had caught a glimpse of family members and friends becoming parents …but on the other side I stupidly thought that it was going to be amazing and romantic, this perfect picture shot in soft focus like a Timotei advert or a David Hamilton photograph! My twenties and early thirties were all about me, my boyfriend and my mates, all about hedonism and fun (with a bit of work thrown in there!) and I had a ball. Glyn and I had been together ages and we knew we wanted to be in it for the long haul so having a baby was the natural progression. And I (wrongly) assumed that I would instantly mature overnight… When Lilu arrived I was definitely ready for her though, and I haven’t looked back.

Reality of Motherhood: the trauma of miscarriages, the obvious lack of sleep, the hormone overload, this overwhelming feeling of isolation at first, the tears (mine and hers), the helplessness, not ever getting back into my old jeans, risk assessing everything, not being carefree any longer or spontaneous (as in being able to book a flight to Berlin on a whim, or jump the fence at Glastonbury)… but also so happy and grateful that she is healthy and that we are in this bond together for ever.

Taking your child home for the first time: it was all a blur… I was so crazy tired and ill that I thought there was another baby in there and I had to push it out: we put it down to a bad case of “Baby Blues” but it transpired that I shouldn’t have been signed off so soon and I ended up having to deliver some remnants of my placenta at home that day. After this initial trauma, making a little place for her at home and adapting to having a limpet attached to me 24/7 was an unsettling but amazing thing. Her first bath at home was a terrifying experience and I just remember shaking uncontrollably as I tried too hard not to drop her. We took her home in January and the weather was diabolically bad so the overall feeling was that I needed to keep her warm all the time…the best thing I did though was to venture outside a week later and brave the elements, I felt so invigorated by it and Lilu slept the whole time so I really relished our daily walks after that. 

My dad came over from France straight after the birth and stayed for a few days and I’d never known him to be so quiet, wide-eyed and bewildered, bless him. He’s usually quite vocal and I guess that it was so out of character that it made me a bit paranoid (am I being shit? Am I not doing this or that properly? Why is he not saying anything? etc) In fact, he was just so overwhelmed by the whole thing and Lilu being so tiny that he was just freaking out a bit. Then my mum came over and wanted to bring one of her 2 sisters with her, but I thought that was all a bit too Mafia-like for my poor Glyn… I had visions of him recoiling in a corner shaking while these crazy French ladies (me included) were all telling each other what to do and how to do it best! She came over on her own in the end and proved to be a great help by just being there, like your favourite comfort blanket…albeit a blanket that does all your housework!

The best/worst advice: A lady from La Leche League in Didsbury saved my life one Sunday morning about 5 weeks after Lilu’s birth when I thought we were both going to die…Juliette of starvation and me of heartbreak (thinking that I was a failure and that I was letting her down by not being able to do the most natural thing in the world). She took one look at us and just said this baby is tongue-tied that’s why she’s not feeding properly; go to this hospital in Oldham etc. We went there, Lilu had the procedure and within a couple of minutes she was gulping down the milk like she was always meant to…and instantly restored my confidence in my mothering abilities. After the “she’s not latching on properly” and the “you must be doing it wrong” attitude and comments I had received from the health visitors I just felt like a big black cloud had lifted.

The hardest parts of being a mother: The hardest part has to be when she’s ill. I would love to take it all away and make her feel better but I feel so helpless as I can’t…

There is the general new mum feeling that I wasn’t good enough in the first few months; thinking it was my fault that she was not feeding properly (I hated the bullying tactics from health visitors). I felt frustrated that I was not being to sleep when she was sleeping and therefore ended up having a massive sleep backlog and feeling guilty for it…

Also, I couldn’t help feeling isolated and like it was me and my baby against the rest of the world at times. Being away from my mum and dad and family in general probably didn’t help. (Although I have great friends who have become our extended family here, how many “aunties” can Lilu have!?)

Managing my feelings in general has been a struggle. I find it hard having to let go… …it’s been an intense adventure so far and it’s hard trying to balance individuality and closeness. She is sooo independent and also hugely affectionate; it’s a tough one for me this pulling-pushing thing!

Another toughie is setting boundaries, being consistent, and discipline generally. I am so glad the terrible 2-3’s are behind us; I just found those silly tantrums so pathetically funny that I am not sure I dealt with them the best way but eh, it’s done now. She is so impossibly bossy and strong-willed that we are bound to clash horns…and deep down I quite like her feistiness, it will come handy in later life!

 The best parts of being a mother: Ahhh, the most wonderful thing was the first time she said “mama” of course (and all the other times after that!). Then there’s the amazing love she gives me and the way she strokes my ear lobes to go to sleep. 

And I would feel lost without the constant flow of silly (or tricky!) questions…

The turning point for me was the moment I realised that I had fully adjusted to being a mum; I had been mourning the loss of my independence and the changes in my relationship with Glyn and then one day I became conscious of all the wonderful things I had received in exchange.

I know I mentioned it in the worst parts as well but having to let go is actually a positive thing… Being able to trust her to fix things for herself, knowing that I am giving her the best of whatever I am capable of and it will be amazing to see what she does with it!

Her smile, her cascading laughter, her cuddles…feeling this rush of love every time I look at her. Watching her evolve into this amazing little being who is making friends and is learning how to read and count. Seeing the world through her very sparkly eyes!

And from the start, one of the best feelings ever was being a family, the 3 of us, and the sensation of it all making sense. I’m not a hippie as such but it felt like it was the natural progression of our love, that it was where it just had to go… I remember life before her and it was great, but life with her is definitely better; she now makes everything stand out more and more vivid, like a little highlighter pen!! I love looking forward to waking her up in the morning and to picking her up from school, I get the biggest cuddles then!

Hopes for your family: That we live happily ever after! I would hope that she would grow up to be a kind, considerate, smart, balanced happy individual and that she would also keep her little quirks and silly ways… Since she has dual nationality, I hope she will be completely bilingual too and have a close relationship with my parents and family in France, albeit mainly via Skype!

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums:
Do not worry about what other people think.
Ask for help with household tasks and keep your unrealistic expectations in check. Oh and don’t wear your best clothes until they are at least 3.
In a nutshell, get ready for the whirlwind! Laugh and enjoy making memories together (every day goes really fast…)

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