Children: Milo (nearly 5) and Isobel, also known as Bibi, 18 months.
Location: Chorlton, Manchester
Expectations of Motherhood: With my eldest, Milo, I had none. I think because of that, I actually found becoming a mother the most incredible and empowering experience. Here was something I could do and it felt that I could do it “right”; I trusted my instincts. Second time round, I did have an expectation. I expected it to be hard, sure, but I thought I’d be able to do it all again, that having my daughter would just add to my love and my abilities as a mother.
Reality of Motherhood: Having Bibi has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I say that as a mother who is totally and utterly devoted to her daughter, who loves the bones of her, who can’t be away from her without experiencing a phyiscal pull. I miss my kids when they are not physically here with me. But oh, Bibi was a hard baby. She didn’t sleep, day or night, for the first ten months. She was so angry and cross; I’d regularly be in tears at 9am, thinking, how the hell am I going to manage the rest of the day on my own with her? I was so tired. I missed hanging out with just me and Milo. And the most shocking thing of all: I didn’t think it would be like this. I expected to fall in love with her in the same way I had with Milo; but that rush of immediate first love was a long time coming. Don’t get me wrong, I would have wrestled a tiger (and quite possibly won) for her, but she was hard to love.
The turning point came that day; I realised I couldn’t go on. My lovely husband stepped in and took over the nights and, eventually, after a further few months, Bibi started sleeping. That, coupled with her also being able to walk and to be able to communicate, was the turning point. I think Bibi just didn’t like being a baby. By 12 months she was a changed girl. She has become the most wonderful, good-natured, hilarious, feisty and slightly bonkers toddler. I am in awe of her, I am in love with her. And finally I have bonded with her.
So when she was born I lost all the confidence I had in being a good mother. I don’t think I was, for a long time. It’s something I actually feel very ashamed about. I “should” have been better. And part of the reason for doing this project is to out myself, to say, you know what, I failed, to begin with. But I found a way back. And to say sorry to my darling girl – because, you know what, for all she drove me half way to insanity, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I would do it all again, just to have her in my life. Only I’d hope I’d be able to be slightly less crap if I did it again.
So – Bibi, if you ever read this: I love you. You are wonderful. And if anyone ever makes you feel otherwise (including me), you have my full permission to have words with them. And not necessarily nice words, either.
Taking your children home for the first time: I don’t want to be a Chorlton cliche, but I had Bibi at home. It was less about being an ‘earth mother’ (I’m really not) but more about practicalities. Milo was asleep, I was 5 mins from hospital if anything went wrong (and quite possibly had better care than I would in hospital; I had 2 Grade 7 midwives with me throughout), and I just wanted to be left alone to get on with it. So afterwards, my midwife ran me a bath, made my bed, and I got in and snuggled up with my new girl. Five minutes later, Milo woke up and, still in his PJs, met his baby sister. That bit – giving him the best present ever – that made it all worth it. Milo and Bibi are very close; they adore each other, and I hope that their relationship started that morning when he climbed into bed: me, Simon, Milo and Bibi, all together.
The best/worst advice: I made a point early on not to listen to anything other than medical advice. Babies are people; people are unique. So why would you try and apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach to your own child?
The hardest part of being a mother: The lack of time.
Hopes for your family: That Milo and Bibi will be happy and healthy, meet people in their lives who make them feel good about themselves, and that they both grow up knowing, at the core of them, that they are OK just as they are. They don’t have to ‘be’ anything to be good enough; they just have to be.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Be kind to yourself. And take help when it is offered, and ask for it if it isn’t.