Child: Ben, 12 Connie, 10 Tim, 7 and Poppy, 5
Expectations of motherhood: I don’t know. I didn’t have any expectations because we kind of fell into having our kids. We’d moved to Morley in early 2000, and at the same time a friend of mine was struggling because her partner had walked out on her. She had a baby daughter and so I spent a lot of time with them, helping out. I loved looking after a baby and thought, ‘I could do this’. So we decided that we wouldn’t ‘try’ to have a baby, but we wouldn’t do anything to avoid it happening.
Reality of motherhood: I had four totally different pregnancies and on the whole enjoyed being pregnant. With each I had totally different experiences – the strangest being that after Ben my feet went up a size and a half! I also had gestational diabetes with Tim, but not with any of the others.
My first experience of labour was quite a funny one. Phil had just come in from a night shift and I’d started with contractions. The hospital insisted on sending an ambulance because our car was in the garage being fixed – it seemed so dramatic. The labour was going quite smoothly, but they wanted to get the contractions coming stronger so they decided to put me on a drip. My strict instructions were that I did NOT want an epidural – I hate needles – but eventually I was begging for one. By this time the contractions were coming thick and fast and so the anaesthetist couldn’t quite manage to get the needle in. I’ve got 7 little scars on my back where he failed to get it in. Eventually it worked, things progressed well and I could finally push. I remember little details like the fact that the Uefa cup was on the TV, but I was so woozy on Gas and Air. I’d alternate the demands of, ‘Water!‘ then ‘I’m going to be sick!‘. It really was a comedy labour. They had to steer Ben out in the end – I was desperate for him to be out! They used a Ventouse and I remember this tiny little midwife securing the cup, but then whilst pulling hard on Ben’s head, she lost suction and she ended up flying across the room. They used Forceps in the end and I had SO many stitches – it felt like it was going on forever.
Connie came two days late. We’d been at a BBQ at Phil’s parents house and I’d tripped over a hose pipe. After the fall everyone I’d insisted I went to the hospital, so I did, but I ended up staying in their till she’d been born. It was discovered that my blood pressure was through the roof, so I wasn’t allowed home because they were worried it was pre-eclampsia. They induced me after I requested it and I gave birth in the most beautiful labour room.
With Tim, because I had diabetes they wanted to induce me on the due day. He came really quick with just gas and air. I remember he had a really big head! In fact he’d never speak to me again if he knew what my first words to him were.
Strangely, Poppy took longer to come, but by the time she came I didn’t even need gas and air. Unfortunately I had a bad experience with a midwife when Poppy was born, and it has stuck with me. I’d been on blood pressure medication in the hospital and it’d ended up affecting Poppy’s blood sugar, but no-one had warned me that this was likely. Immediately Poppy was taken away to the Special Care ward and ended up being tube fed with my breastmilk for three days. I was so upset. I was surrounded with mums with their babies whilst I was on my own. No one had warned me that it might happen and it really affected my whole experience of having Poppy. If I’d have been warned then I think I’d have dealt with it ok.
When Poppy was 3 or 4 months old my eyes started going funny. I was referred to the eye hospital. It had become dangerous to drive. The day that things became worrying I was putting toys in the toy box and I realised I couldn’t see my hand. I rang my mum in tears. Instead of waiting for the referral which seemed to be taking forever, I went to the emergency eye hospital and was diagnosed with Uveitis. They gave me an injection in my eye and I was put on a very high dose of steroids, and in addition 3 different types of eyedrops. I had to stop breastfeeding immediately because of the steroids.
The Uveitis (inflammation of the Uvea) was caused by an immune system overreaction, but it’s not always diagnosed so easily. In hospital I had so many blood tests and scans, and in the end it was discovered that the Strep virus had caused the Uveitis. The treatment is like a low dose of chemotherapy and as a result of the illness I’m on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of my life. If I’d have left it a couple of days I would have gone totally blind.
Once the Uveitis cleared up I was fine, and I can drive now. I felt so reliant on other people when my eyes were bad and I hated it. Driving at night was impossible for a long long time, so in the Winter months I felt quite trapped.
Motherhood did come quite naturally to me, but I did find going from one child to two kids the hardest transition – having a baby and a toddler was really demanding. After having two children the 3rd and 4th just slotted in though – it felt very normal.
Unfortunately having four kids means mountains and mountains of ironing – it’s a nightmare! With regards to trips out we can’t do as as we’d like. We don’t have the money for holidays abroad, so things like that have to be quite low key. My parents have a trailer tent so we all go camping as a big family and it does work really well. With after school clubs like beavers and brownies, I’m constantly juggling and trying to work out a schedule. Logistics wise it’s not possible for all the kids to do all the things they’d like to.
As a foursome they generally get on – more than they fall out anyway. I try to teach them to be nice; people that others want to be around. The big two are really helpful – the little two not quite so much. In fact I’m surprised my door frame is still in one piece, it gets slammed so much.
Taking them home: It’s hard to remember.
A tiny little thing curled up in the car seat. A cot in the bedroom and the moses basket downstairs and pushchairs and car seats littering up everywhere. It took time to work out how to make life easier, we wised up eventually and put a travel cot downstairs which doubled up a a play pen so that I could get stuff done.
I remember watching BBC news 24 at 3 in the morning whilst feeding. When Ben was little and Phil hadn’t gone back to work yet and I was so tired that I was near having hallucinations I’d been feeding so much!
With the rest of them it’s been so nice to introduce the older children to the little ones in the hospital. We’ve been so lucky that they’re really good with new siblings and there’s no jealousy between them.
Best advice/worst advice:
Some of the worst advice that I’ve heard is, ‘Don’t feed them bottles and breast at the same time because they’ll get confused’.
I would breastfeed Connie for 3 hrs solidly and she’d still be hungry. Eventually my mum said, ‘Just go to Asda and get yourself some milk and a bottle’. There is nothing wrong with mixed feeding. There is nothing wrong with bottle feeding! And that night was the best night sleep I’d had in a long long time.
Also, it’s all very well listening to the advice: ‘Don’t worry about cleaning up’ and ‘Sleep when they sleep’ but it is a little trickier to do that when you’ve got a big family.
Hardest parts of being a mother:
When they’re all being horrible and constantly demanding – it’s the low level naughtiness that drives you mad. It grinds you down. You get so fed up of hearing your own voice and telling them off, but you don’t want to just leave them to it because then they think they can get away with it.
Meals out are still pretty hard with the younger two. Tim gets giddy and Poppy is very wilful. She’s got ‘character‘ – she knows what’s right, but doesn’t necessarily choose to do the ‘good‘ thing and so she is hard to deal with sometimes.
Also, if they’re being picked on at school, that’s hard. You just want to protect them, but you can’t fight their battles for them. You have to let them work it out for themselves.
I wish we could take Connie further with gymnastics – she’s amazing – but we don’t have the time or money to devote to it. It is really hard, but we have to be fair and spread activities between four kids.
Loss of identity is hard too. When you have kids you’re no longer called, ‘Jayne‘ – you’re known as ‘Ben’s mum’, ‘Tim’s mums,’ etc. You also have hardly anytime on your own.
I do make time for myself though; the evenings are mine and I’m not working full time yet, so Monday is my day off while all the kids are in school. It’s nice to have no nagging, and a day where there’s no telly. Just reading books, listening to music and doing puzzles. It’s absolute escapism. I love fantasy books, they allow you to get away from real life – there has to be a bit of magic in there somewhere.
At school I played french horn (really well), but it dropped off. Then I heard a couple of years ago about a community orchestra at a local school (for all ages). From there I heard of another orchestra – The West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra – and thought I’d love to do some more. They told me that if I could keep up I could stay. I was so terrified of doing stuff on my own. I’ve always been that way and it took a lot of courage to do it on my own. I wanted to do it so much though, and although I was not as good as I once was, I was alright and managed to keep up. Since then Ben’s had a go at Clarinet, Connie does flute too and Poppy’s also got a good ear for music, but I don’t want to force them into it just because I like it. They’ve got to find their own ways.
Best parts of being a mother:
The fun. The random things they come out with. Watching them grow up.
When you’re proud of something and they’re so happy with what they’ve achieved.
Tim’s good at flattery, often saying, ‘You look beautiful mummy’.
I love when they come and sit of my knee and give me a cuddle by surprise.
When they’re all getting on with each other it’s great. When it snowed they were in the garden messing around together and laughing and I thought, I’ve done something right here.
It’s great to get good feedback at school too.
I like it when I like their friends too. When they make nice friends it makes me feel secure that we’ve helped bring up nice people.
The kids are just so different, and it’s so interesting to see the bits of me and Phil in all of them. Ben’s bright but less motivated – just like me. He loves reading too. Connie’s like Phil – bright and motivated. She’ll work and work and work – she’ll be successful. Tim has a little bit of an obsessive nature – video games in particular! Poppy is a real tom boy – she doesn’t want to be a girl.
A teacher who taught me saw my mum recently and asked what I was doing.
That made me really happy to hear her say that. For something I accidentally fell into, I think it’s going pretty well.
Hopes for your family: To grow up all in one piece. Be happy with what they’re doing and stay friends in the future.
When I first started going out with Phil, I remember going to his parent’s once and seeing all of his siblings (he’s one of 7) coming and going. I loved the happy chaos of Phil’s mum’s life. It was total bedlam, with Phil’s mum in the middle handing out bacon butties and looking after everyone. I remember thinking at the time how wonderful it was. That was what I wanted. His family are such a great example because they never fall out for very long and just sort stuff out quickly and without fuss. I want my family to be like that, to be close and supportive to each other.
Advice for parents: If anyone offers to babysit say, “YES!”
Get time on your own. I recently went away with a bunch of people (through the orchestra) for a week. I didn’t know many of them well at all, but I had an amazing break. I was cut off, there was no signal or Internet and it was heaven. There was no cooking or washing for me to do and I made new friends. I was free to be myself, and nothing was expected of me because no-one really knew me that well. I was taken for who I was and I could be sociable or antisocial. I felt free.
Regarding your child’s style and dress sense, let them do what they want and so that they feel individual. Eg. Currently Poppy’s obsessed with dressing up as various superheros. I think it’s important to pick your battles, so if you’re child wants to go to the supermarket dressed at Spiderman, let them. The small things are quite easy to let go, and for the bigger you issues you’ll have more authority. If they really want to do something (and it’s safe) let them make their own choices.
If you need 10 mins, go and lock yourself in the loo….they may still knock on the door, but you’ll be able to catch your breath.
I like to leave them to it with arguments, so that they resolve it on their own.
Finally, give your children a name that you can lengthen and shorten accordingly for when you tell them off!
The illness I suffered from can attack different parts of the body – it is called Uveitis when it’s the Uvea that becomes inflamed. Alternatively the liver can be attacked, which can be considerably more dangerous. Uveitis is the 3rd most common preventable cause of blindness, but is relatively unheard of. This charity works to promote knowledge and understanding about the disease. http://www.Oliviasvision.org