Jane, Scarlett and Herbie

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. 

In a nutshell lets just say my expectations keep adjusting as my children’s personalities and preferences develop (….and my son puts his hands over his ears every time I sing, so…) 
Reality of Motherhood: My daughters (fashionably late) arrival was massively traumatic, and no book I’d read or birth plan I’d made had accounted for this. I was overdue by 10 days and had been in labour for an age, then finally the labour resulted in a very dramatic emergency c-section. 

The baby was distressed, but as they prepped me for theatre an alarm went off and another woman was rushed in before me – her baby was in a worse state. I remember lying there for about 40 minutes; I was exhausted and shivering uncontrollably, delirious with fear and feeling that my baby could die or I would die. I was praying-hard. I could feel the spinal anaesthetic wearing off and I was sick from all the medication. Any romantic notion I’d had about birth was well and truly quashed. 

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!’
My hippy brain was convinced all the time I’d been pregnant that it was a boy. God knows why, but I would nod smugly at friends whilst rubbing my belly and say, ‘I can feel its a boy’. I spent months talking to little “Sonny” Imagining his big brown eyes and mop of black hair (just like his father’s). So when the nurse handed me my baby and said, ‘It’s a girl!’ a single massive tear ran down my face because I was so overwhelmed with love. 

She was placed on me and I felt overjoyed and immediately protective of this little alien-imp. She didn’t look like a girl at all and I was so confused and drugged up. I kept thinking they’d got it wrong (and I was very annoyed because I’d bought all these blue stripey playsuits with me). 

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. 

*I’d also like to point out that we did have a baby monitor and didn’t get leathered*

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. 

Amidst all these new discoveries I still felt physically ill. I was in debilitating pain and had zero energy. Initially I’d put it down to being tired, but then I started to get a bit worried and my instinct was nagging me that something wasn’t right. I was back and forth to the doctors like a Woody Allen character, and after many tests over the next 2 years it was confirmed that I was actually suffering from a condition called coeliac disease. I’d probably had it all my life but it had been missed, but being pregnant had challenged my body so much that the symptoms became very aggressive. By the time I was diagnosed properly I was pregnant with my second child. 

With coeliac disease you can’t digest gluten found in oats, rye, barley and wheat, so it makes you ill. You also don’t absorb the vitamins and minerals you need, and when you are pregnant your body needs all the good stuff so it explains why I’d felt so rotten for years.

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.’ 

I felt guilty because she’d had a traumatic birth and blamed myself. I hadn’t slept for about a week (which in hindsight was nothing ), but still my maternal instinct was to just look after her. I couldn’t drive for weeks and I remember getting a lift to Asda, praying she wouldn’t cry so that I would have to go to the toilets and breastfeed her – obviously, that is what happened. 

The lovely side of it all was my husband and I did a lot of ‘staring at the baby’ for hours and coo’ing,. We were both amazed and bewildered that she was ours. 

Bringing Herbie home was easy, and the good thing about another baby is that they tend to slot into everything that’s already set up. At home I just wanted to be with my brood, after being on a shared ward in hospital I didn’t really want visitors, and constantly having to feed them became a joke – but one that I particularly didn’t want to share with everyone.

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. 

Sleep became like finding the magic egg, and it’s funny now, but at the time I couldn’t accept the fact that controlling a child it’s not as easy as it seems. It’s like a mule going up a ladder – you can follow anything to the letter, but at the end of the day they just do their own thing. 

I remember being horrified at my first pre-natal appointment when the mid-wife said, ‘Don’t buy a baby bath – you don’t need it. Go down to the pound shop and buy a bucket. Babies prefer it.’ …I didn’t, but now I understand you genuinely don’t need as much fancy stuff as you are led to believe by ‘Mothercare’ and ‘Mamas and Papas’, etc.  
You’ll spend 100s on a digital baby monitor and it will break just as easily as the 40 quid one. You get guilted into buying stuff and then you have a clear out and stumble on barely-worn, expensive minature shoes and 2 factory-sealed copies of ‘Babies first year diary’, all bound for Oxfam.

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. 

It’s terrible when they are poorly or actually hurt themselves; Scarlett had a bad fall recently, but she really surprised us though as to how grown up and brave she was in hospital (whilst we where shaking and turning green as she was stitched up). 

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 frustrating part is these days I can’t just drop everything anymore – burn the midnight oil or hop on a flight – because everything has to be planned out months in advance.

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. 

 The love I feel for my own mother, and knowing my kids feel like that about me, makes me feel special and complete; we are tight. Its also made me appreciate and respect my parents on a whole new different level too – I can’t believe they did this for me as its so hard, and they still are so supportive now.

My kids make me howl with laughter – usually when they are being naughty. 

My son once broke free, with me in hot pursuit whilst we were shopping in John Lewis and he decided to run all over the expensive Persian rugs in muddy wellies for what seemed like an eternity. Everyone looked at me in disgust.. but I kind of enjoyed it.

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

2 thoughts on “Jane, Scarlett and Herbie

  1. Gotta say this is one of the best and most life-affirming things I've read in a long time. Thank you for posting this. It's ace. I'm a mate of Jane's of years standing and I learned a ton of stuff I never knew about her. Keep up the wonderful work. I've linked mates to read this too. Wow. Cheers from Tony, a Widdy in America. x


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