Name: Jane Weaver
Children (and ages): Scarlett, 8 and Herbie, 5
Location: South Manchester
Expectations of Motherhood: I always wanted to be a mum and imagined having this massive brood. I had this vivid daydream before and during pregnancy that I would be this calm earth-mother, walking around barefoot, long hair flowing, baking and singing to the children like one of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Canyon Ladies’. I would have cats and babies around my feet, strumming lullabies. I was quite looking forward to this new person I would be once I became a mother.
Instead of being a sometime-reckless, irresponsible, work-hard/party-hard musician to whom the perfect end to an evening was doing Karaoke with sailors, I thought I would actually grow up. I would be inspired, wise, confident and calm. I would be a really cool mum who would never raise her voice unnecessarily and whose kids would be guided – never punished. The children would glow from the creative backdrop of their parents. I spent hours imagining the crafts we’d make, seeds we’d plant, games we’d play, songs we’d write, clothes we’d wear and how we’d look. I was excited about entering this world.
Of course, when the children finally came along I realised that it wasn’t possible, and the wood nymph mother I’d imagined was mostly unavailable; her princess locks were bedraggled because she’d not even had a shower yet as she’d been busy washing clothes and ironing. Later on that day she would spend hours pureeing home-roasted, organic butternut squash, only to find it lazzed across the highchair in disgust by a crying baby.
I was eventually wheeled in and she was born to ‘Superstitious’ by Stevie Wonder (playing on the hospital radio). The nurses were having a dance and arguing about who sang the song. In my head I was shouting, ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, ITS STEVIE WONDER!’
Back on the ward I felt so dreadful after 4 days of zero sleep, but also felt really really sick. I thought, ‘How am I ever going to do this?’ I needed to recover quickly but couldn’t even feel my legs. My daughter seemed to cry incessantly with hunger; she’d fall asleep for an hour and then feed for an hour. It was non stop. The final straw came when the girl in the next bed to me started slurring loudly to her partner about how the morphine they’d given her felt, ‘Just like an ‘avin an E’.I was really offended by the real world and wanted to go home to my safe environment.
We’d hardly thought of any girl names, but Melodie (after Serge Gainsbourg’s album Melody Nelson) seemed apt. But I then decided that Melodie with a Mancunian accent didn’t sound as beautiful as with Jane Birkin’s broken French one, so we changed it to Scarlett.
Scarlett didn’t sleep through until she was 11 months old. She cried all the time and I remember the sleep deprivation wildly taking hold of me. I was so out of the habit of sleeping I couldn’t sleep; I felt like a walking ghost. I was so focused on being a good mum that Scarlett was never effected by all this, I idolised her and my husband and I catered to her every need and more.
Reality was tough. I still felt physically ill, I had a constant stomach ache and felt awful. My husband was away working a lot and I felt so nuts that throwing myself off the top of the house seemed inviting. I went to see my GP because I felt like I was losing the plot – I was so knackered and I resented everything. Her advice was probably the best anyone gave me. She said, ‘Put the baby to bed, go downstairs and pour you and your husband a large glass of wine, and let her cry. It will be very upsetting for a while, but sleeping is a social skill and they have to learn to get themselves to sleep. You are not allowing her to do this’. Harsh as it all sounded she was totally right, and it worked.
As we got more sleep, things were really good and our daughter fascinated us. We fell in love with her more each day. I remember recording her voice when she started to talk and thinking, ‘this child is surely a genius!’ (Cue visions of joining Mensa and shaking hands with Carol Voderman), but then you realise most parents think the same about their own kids and the bubble is burst.
Thankfully my 2nd pregnancy with my son was great and I felt really healthy. Herbies arrival was a less shocking experience than his sister’s, and even on the photos I’m tanned with nice hair and makeup – I probably could’ve managed champagne and chocolates like Posh Spice. I was physically well as my illness was under control so I felt strong, and luckily for us he slept through the night after only a few months.
Taking your children home for the first time:I remember leaving the hospital still feeling dreadfully poorly with Scarlett thinking, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’
The best/worst advice:With my first child my best friend gave birth a few weeks before, so we were on the phone quite often comparing notes (usually about feeding, as we’d both rebelled and gone onto formula milk by then). Eventually – like two detectives – we figured if our babies fed well, they’d sleep well. We both tried Gina Fords book, ‘The contented baby book’ as it had worked and was ‘amazingly easy‘ for someone my friend knew – we were so tired we grasped for any information that could work so we could sleep. The results were patchy.
My Mum has always been great with advice she said to me fairly early on (after one of my familiar bouts of ranting), ‘You need to learn the word “acceptance”. Things will never be the same again,’ and she was, and still always is right.
The hardest parts of being a mother:It’s relentless. Before I had kids I was much more laid back and such a free spirit, but I remember the first time I took my daughter for a walk, the world outside our window was a very dangerous place all of a sudden – cars driving too fast, sunshine shining into babies eyes, fighting dogs in the park. It was like a risk assessment and health and safety switch had been flicked on in my head and now it won’t go off: ‘Get down off that wall!’, ‘ stop putting that pencil in your sisters eyes!’, ‘dont put too many grapes into your mouth or you will choke.’…I could go on (and on) and on. The kids are fun but they don’t see danger at all.
As a mother you also are never ever allowed to be ill. Forget the old days of catching flu and lying in bed for a week and talking in tongues – you have to work through the hallucinations (after a box of Lemsip Max).
Working is still challenging. I’m a singer songwriter mainly, but I also work with others on my own record label (releasing mine and other artists’ music) and I also DJ from time to time. My creativity has not gone away since having kids, and it’s still really important for me to keep doing this – hopefully when they are older they’ll appreciate this more!
The best parts of being a mother:The love I feel for them is boundless, and I get told constantly, ‘I love you mummy’ – I also get cards and amazing drawings and cuddles.
My kids make me howl with laughter – usually when they are being naughty.
Hopes for your family:I want to hang out with them for as long as I possibly can. Family time and all being together and having fun is the best; its magical. I want them to continue to trust me more than anything as they grow. When they start school you realise they start changing so quickly – the one that was a good eater now dramatically weeps at every meal, and now there’s door slamming and storming off etc. You can’t control everything that goes on but you hope you can get them through the tough times.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Before you give birth go out socially with your partner, mates or whoever as much as you can manage. Go shopping, go out for meals, gigs, go on holiday – anything! Pamper yourself because once the baby arrives even getting in the shower is like a challenge from The Krypton Factor.
This is probably the most important thing though… be honest with your fellow sister. Post-partum I was really looking forward to meeting other new mums – hanging around drinking coffee, off-loading, and sharing experiences. The idea seemed nice. I imagined this commune-vibe, village co-operative from the 70’s – everyone on an equal footing because we were all mothers. But it’s not the case. Some groups can seem a bit like The Stepford Wives – perfect, cliquey and competitive because little Jimmy had already rolled over at 15 weeks, and Sue had lost all her baby weight from breast feeding alone. I sought out the odd poor cow who was rubbish at lying like me and found out that this was how you make good friends.
…..Oh and don’t bother decorating your whole house in posh victorian chalky matt emulsion paint, as soon as they can crawl you’ll have buttery crumpet handprints all over your living room, for the next few years you’ll be wishing you’d have gone to Wilkinsons and bought its own brand silk paint.
Jane’s music and record label can be found here http://janeweavermusic.com