Vickie and Lily-Mae

Name: Vickie 
Child: Lily-Mae, 3

Location: Levenshulme, Manchester

Expectations of Motherhood: I used to be a real party animal; there was a party at ours every Friday and Saturday. If I had money in my pocket I was going to spend it, because even though I really wanted a baby, I’d resigned myself to the fact I wasn’t going to have one.

We had tried for 3 and half years and in that time I’d had two miscarriages. Fertility testing was the next step, and during one of our first appointments at the hospital they said I had to take a pregnancy test before the procedure.

I was late, but that was nothing unusual. I did a test and amazingly it said that I was pregnant. Immediately I was sent for an early scan, which then confirmed that I was 2 to 3 weeks gone. I knew not to get my hopes up, but 2 weeks later we went for another scan, where 6 weeks and 5 days was confirmed.

I imagined family life as this little perfect bubble – with a baby we would be all luvy duvy, with cuddles on the sofa, a house full of harmony, and no stress. I didn’t realise that motherhood was going to be hard work. I only imagined the obvious things like changing nappies, playing, cuddles – those pictures you see in magazines don’t portray a realistic picture.

Reality of motherhood: When I went for the early scan they had thought I had an enlarged bladder so they kept me there for hours, constantly sending me back to the toilet to empty it. The Consultant was called and he discovered that I had a very large ovarian cyst. It was decided that they’d just leave it. It was large, but it was OK to leave.

Then when I was 6 months pregnant, I was rushed to hospital with chest pains. The cyst had grown and was taking up the precious space that baby needed. It was bigger than a brick. At that point I had to make a choice of either removing the cyst and then creating complications for the baby, or leaving it and jeopardising my own health, plus the baby wasn’t growing. The choice I made was to drain it. I was in hospital for 3 days, just in case I went into early labour and during that time a drain was put in my side. They removed two and a half litres of fluid (more than a coke bottle), but after that everything was fine.

Pregnancy had been hard work with really bad morning sickness – every second was horrific. I was massive; gigantic! I couldn’t move. I had swollen ankles and problems with my back, because after the cyst had been drained the baby went through a massive growth spurt. I was told that the baby would about 9lbs (despite the fact I’m quite small). At the end of the pregnancy, after being in labour for 4 days – having constant debates with the staff about whether my waters had gone – Lily-Mae was delivered by emergency c-section on the Sunday after her heart beat had dropped. She was 10b 5.

We were in hospital for 10 days over Christmas, including Christmas day too. 
From the day she was born, and for the duration of the 1st 6 months, motherhood was nothing like I’d expected. One of the main things I remember is really wanting skin to skin, but I didn’t get to hold her for 2 hrs. I found that really difficult. It was nothing like that beautiful mother-daughter first meeting that you imagine. 

We’d wanted this baby for so long, but I was so scared – even the simple things like changing her seemed so daunting. My husband was great though and he took over the care. I was quite poorly and both of us needed antibiotics intravenously, then I got another infection in my womb – a haematoma. In hospital Lily-Mae was amazing though. I thought I had a bit of an easy life because she never cried, she was so quiet in hospital and she slept lots.

In the hospital I felt quite pressured to breast feed, but it just wasn’t working. They tried to get me to express, but I wasn’t having any luck with that either and we weren’t prepared for bottle-feeding because I’d assumed breastfeeding would be second nature. You don’t get warned that there could be initial problems with breastfeeding and the added pressure from midwives doesn’t help when you don’t succeed. You feel upset that you can’t do best for the baby, because ‘the perfect mother breastfeeds’, but what can you do if you can’t breastfeed? It really got to me, and coping with the infections at the same time was really tough.

Taking your child home for the first time:
We had my husband’s step son at home with us for the first week because it was New Year. I couldn’t wait to get home and enjoy the time as just me, Sam and Lily-Mae.

I found that first week very very hard – Luke doesn’t usually live with us, so finding our routine with another guest was difficult. I tried to establish a routine for the 3 of us, but Sam was having to look after his 8 year old son. I felt that I needed my husband’s full attention. It probably is through selfishness, but I wanted him all to myself.

When we got home Lily-Mae started to wake through the night. I didn’t have the help of the midwives and I was very scared – you get used to being told what to do and how you should do things. Those first 6 months were extremely difficult and I’m really sad to look back because I don’t remember an awful lot of it.

Best advice:
Sleep when baby sleeps. 

My husband and I tried alternate nights so that we each got a full night sleep every other night – we were really lucky that his shifts allowed us to do this.

Get some fresh air everyday.

Mother And baby groups are great. I’ve made some amazing friends through having Lily-Mae. My friends don’t really have kids, so meeting other mums who could give me advice and I could chat with was great. We were all on maternity leave at the same time.

Worst advice: Feeding on demand. I found that when bottle feeding this technique ends in screaming fits. Lily-Mae was waking up starving and it was stressing us all out. We ended up feeding every 2/3 hrs and if she didn’t finish it she didn’t finish it.

Regarding breastfeeding – it isn’t best for everyone, so if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t make you a bad mother.

Hardest part of being a mother:
When Lily-Mae was 6 months old I was rushed back into hospital with stomach pains.
Doctors discovered that had an ovarian tumour which had grown in the pocket of the cyst. There were massive complications in surgery and the tumour ruptured, leading to me being in surgery for 7 hours. I’d had no idea I was ill, putting any pains down to the c-section and having a big baby.

I left hospital after the operation, seemingly well, only to be told by doctors that the biopsy they’d taken on the operating table had confirmed that that the tumour had spread. I had to have my whole ovary removed in the end. In this 2nd operation they carried out open surgery rather than keyhole and they found another tumour. After that I was given the all clear (although I am still under Oncology because I do have fibromas on my other ovary).

After all that has happened I think I’m very lucky to be here. I am thankful for being healthy and well. Now I’m over the surgery I’m OK, but I struggle with the fact that I’ve forgotten that first year (though I don’t want to feel sorry for myself). I didn’t want Lily-Mae to know I was poorly and had to keep upbeat all the time, so that’s probably why I found it such a chore. 

Another difficult thing to deal with as a mother is when they’re ill. It’s impossible to be rational – you don’t get told how scary it will be. You constantly checking they’re OK, listening out for their breathing in the night, but in reality they’re a lot tougher than they look. Weaning was hard work for me and potty training too, but it could have been made harder by the timing and the illness. 

Best parts of being a mother: Everything.

Unconditional love – she thinks her mummy can do no wrong. I’ve never felt that love before in my life, where you love that person no matter what they do.

I love the way you know what they’re thinking and you learn to read their moods. You find out what they need just from looking at them. You become their translator and understand everything that they’re trying to say.

I love having the responsibility and feeling like an adult. She’s made me grow up and act like an adult. I enjoy cooking for her and we have lots of fun together. You never know what the next day will bring. We do lots of colouring together, painting, reading, playing with playdoh, watching movies and having cuddles – just having lots of fun! I love that she’s suddenly become really girlie and her own character with her own favourite interests that we can share, like doing hair and nails.

We’re best friends. She’s so happy and I feel responsible for that. I must be doing something right because she’s so happy and healthy.

One of the best moments of my life was being told I’d had a little girl – I thought I was having a boy because a consultant had told me he thought it was a boy.

Has being a mother changed you?: It’s made me organised.

When you’re looking out for someone else you forget about yourself. The things that were important before are no longer important. It’s all about Lily-Mae now and how she’ll fit in to everything.

Hopes for your family: I want her to stay happy. That she’ll be who she wants to be, I hope that she’ll never be afraid to talk to me and she’ll tell me whatever is on her mind. I might not like what she has to say, but I’ll always be here.

Advice to new and expecting mums:
Let your child guide what you do in the day, so if they don’t want to stay in go to where they want to. We get out everyday – even if it’s just to walk down the road. It gives you a break from the same four walls.

Take help if you need it (and take as much help as you can get). It doesn’t make you any less of a mother to accept help. I wanted Lily-Mae to know who her mum was, I wanted to do everything perfectly – being super-mum – but it didn’t work. You need to realise what’s important and that is spending time with your child. There’s so much that I can’t remember from the first 6 months and it upsets me. I feel like I spent too much time trying to be perfect. Having a messy house doesn’t matter, having an occasional takeaway, having a day in your PJ’s and leaving the pots in the sink – none of it matters.

On coming homing it became more apparent that there was a real push from ‘society’ to do things the perfect way. Everyone seems to strive to be the ‘perfect’ mum. Over time though, I discovered that a happy mum makes a happy child. I wanted to be a perfect housewife with the perfect house – a wife and mother who looks amazing and cooks brilliant food – but it just isn’t possible. I don’t think you should listen to anyone else who tells you what to do, you know best even if you doubt yourself on occasions. 

For everything I’ve been through, Lily-Mae is so worth it – I see her as my angel. I believe things happen for a reason. If it wasn’t for the scans the doctors would never have seen the tumour and then who knows where I’d have been. She’s saved me in a sense and so I idolise her. I’m so grateful for what she’s done for me.  I wouldn’t change a thing about motherhood – my little lady is my world!

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