The one thing I had decided was that in no way would I be a single mum. I’d experienced the trauma of my own parents’ separation and witnessed some of my close friends struggle with the lack of money, the stress and no support.
For me there was never a burning desire to have kids. Just before I met my husband I’d resigned myself to the likelihood that it wouldn’t happen, since I was already well into my thirties and I figured it would take at least three years to know if a relationship would be worthy of creating a family. I’d also witnessed work colleagues go through the IVF process and the thought of having to go to that extreme wasn’t for me. So I guess at that stage in my life I thought it would be ok if it happened, and okay if it didn’t, which probably helped because once the decision to get pregnant was made it happened almost straight away.
Reality of motherhood: After the excitement of being pregnant, planning for the nursery and the absolute joy of creating a miracle you soon land to earth with a bump. It wasn’t until I started writing this blog did I realised that I was probably depressed at that point and it’s been painful to realise it.
After delivering my first child Belle, I recall very soon afterwards being suddenly alone in the hospital side room with her. My husband had left after the birth and I was attempting to shower to the sound of her crying. It was really weird and I wasn’t sure how I felt. I knew this baby needed me but I didn’t have this overwhelming sudden bond with her that I’d expected. I was blown away with the fact that I’d produced a miracle from my body, but slightly detached from it all.
Looking back maybe I was just too tired from the long labour, and in shock, but luckily soon after I started to bond with her. I was very fortunate that I was able to breast feed both children and soon relished those special moments – moments that only I shared with my baby, that rush of love and the hormones cleverly devised by mother nature. When all the visitors got too much, we’d run off and hide for a feed. These are some of my most precious memories.
Very rapidly you are hit with the torture of sleep deprivation, the inability to eat a meal, leave the house, take a bath or even go the loo. I remember opening the door to some relatives when Belle was 2 weeks old and noting howshocked their faces were at how tired and awful I looked. I felt like a ghost in some surreal state of mind.
The day to day drudgery of constant cooking and washing always got me down. I felt like I was running a café at some points. I’d just finish clearing up from one meal then it was time to start preparing for the next, yep the first year is hard. Both times it took me about 8 months to actually feel physically and emotionally like the person I was before – only now I’m me with kids. I remember feeling very isolated after my first child.
Even though our first child was easy to conceive, once we decided to extend our family we had the tragic experience of two consecutive miscarriages. It was such an emotional rollercoaster. I remember vividly the sonographers face when she recognised there was no heartbeat. It was all like a dream, being taken into a quiet room and waiting for the inevitable news. I was just in disbelief. It happened again two months later. I will never forget those times and often feel heart wrenched when I think how old they would have been now, what they’d have looked like. I imagine two hybrids of Belle and Isaacs’ faces.
Eventually my son was born and the world seemed all good. We were the happy family I’d dreamt of. The sleepless nights were still hard but being a second time mum I knew the overwhelming love and bonding that developed was worth it and truly amazing. I was more confident knowing the hard times would settle down. I have always been a really passionate believer in breast feeding and I was adamant that I would succeed. I even expressed milk at work despite my manager and colleagues thinking I was mad, so yes I pushed the boundaries. Maybe I’m looking for an excuse, but just before my sons second birthday my husband left me and the children.
Suddenly I was a working single mum with 2 children under the age of 4. To quote my daughter. OMG!!!
So three years down the line I’m proud to say that I’m still that working mum but to a 5 and 7 year old who make my life fabulous. Don’t get me wrong, they can be bickering naughty little monkeys a lot of the time, but the rest is awesome. My life is very hard, stressful and challenging but the rewards are immeasurable.
Then there is the love, such tender expressions of love. To have the moments we share as ‘The Maleks’, all the heartbreak, stress, trauma and worries are worth just a tiny fraction of what I get back, the tight cuddles and gentle kisses.
When you witness that look of fear when they think they have lost you in the playground, to know you can comfort them or reassure them they are safe after a bad dream. We spend about 80 per cent of our time together and even though it is such hard work I miss them desperately when they aren’t with me. I ring them every day just to hear their voices and say ‘love you’ to each other.
Taking your child home for the first time: I was in hospital for 5 days after Belle so I was climbing the walls to get out, although I don’t know why because I came home to a kitchen full of dirty pots and I just cried. I suppose it was the baby blues.
It felt really strange leaving the safety of the hospital and suddenly having the mechanics of a baby seat to understand. I was outside the main entrance waiting for the car and I felt like everyone was looking at me and judging me as to whether I’d be able to cope. The ride home felt like the most dangerous car journey ever and I couldn’t wait to get out. I also recall being really worried about the blazing sun and having visions of it causing laser type burns to Belles skin if it came into contact for even one second. The word neurotic springs to mind. The second time home was a walk in the park in comparison; I just got on with it without a second thought.
The best advice: Enjoy your baby and sleep when they sleep. Forget making cups of tea for everyone and tidying up, just get back in bed. You have no idea about how hard the sleep deprivation is, it is torture and unimaginable.
Everyone tries to give you advice, but basically all mums and babies are different. Grab what information you think will be useful and just smile and ignore the rest.
Worst advice: I bought the Gina Ford book. Don’t even wedge a door open with it .Don’t take any advice that is prescriptive.
The other big issue I have is guilt. It’s hard to be the best all the time as its 24/7 job. I have the guilt of being the bad cop, the guilt of working, the guilt of being a single mum – it does get too much sometimes. You feel guilty for wanting a break, just to get away and if you are lucky enough to get one you are then suddenly thinking, ‘How will they cope? What if this and what if that…’ My children are usually oblivious to all of this however and how rational I am will depend on how tired I am.
It’s also very hard to carry that weight of responsibility, especially being a single mum. To picture those innocent faces that rely on you for their security. This thought can keep me awake at night quite often.
Finally the other worst part is lack of time. I feel like I do a rush job of everything and then the guilt comes back, it’s a vicious cycle. I certainly don’t have enough time for me.
The best parts of being a mother: LOVE, LOVE and LOVE. It is so complete and unconditional from them both. When I’m feeling down or stressed all I need is a ‘mummy cuddle’ from both of them. To nuzzle and smell them or even to smell their clothes, it just soothes all my troubles away.
I love to hear their laughter and the imaginative games they play. I will often stop what I’m doing and secretly spy on them as it is so rewarding to see and hear. I’m so proud of how they are developing and achieving. They are normal kids but they are my kids and to witness the joy in their faces as they have mastered some new skill is awesome.
Hopes for your family: My hopes are for the basics. That they are healthy, feel loved, secure and happy. I don’t own my children but I just want them to have a chance to be the best at what they want to do. To support them in any way I can and hopefully have a loving respectful relationship. Once they are grown up – I hope that I’m not a boring chore to them. I hope that even though our lives will change we can have a close, loving bond and long-lasting friendship.
What advice would you offer for new and expectant mums: Sleep sleep and sleep. Cut yourself loads of slack. Forget the idyllic life of clean, happy baby and yummy mummy attending coffee mornings and various baby groups. Sod the house and comparing baby milestones. Some mums thrive on that but if it’s not you then seek someone similar. I needed someone to laugh at my sad stories and not pull a face when I ordered a large glass of wine at 12pm on a lunch date whilst baby was throwing the table decoration on the floor!! You still need to be who you are and have a life (albeit in hourly snatches once a week).