Sarah and Oliver

Name: Sarah

Child: Oliver, Age 2

Location: Altrincham

Expectations of Motherhood: From a young age I knew one of my ambitions in life was to have a family, and at 25 we decided we wanted to start planning for a baby of our own. I had lots of worries initially about becoming pregnant, mainly due to other horror stories I had heard or been told. How would I cope putting on weight? Will I cope with morning sickness? Will I cry lots? Will I go shopping and leave my baby in a changing room? Will I know what to do??? …..To help with all my worries I insisted my mum bought me a book to help teach me what to do (very naive!).

We were both under the impression that it could take us a couple of months to a year to conceive, mainly due to a few of our friends having difficulties. To our surprise I was pregnant within the first two months of trying and therefore felt very blessed.

It was strange; I didn’t feel any different. I thought I was one of the lucky ones who wouldn’t suffer from morning sickness. How wrong was I! At around 2/3 months I was sick religiously every morning as soon as I woke up, but felt back to normal straight away. That was unless I ate my favourite foods – curry and pizza – but I soon learnt it was best to steer clear of them for the remainder of my pregnancy. After a month or so my morning sickness passed and the rest of my pregnancy was perfect, luckily I had no problems at all and bloomed!

We decided we couldn’t wait for 9 months to find out the sex of our baby, so jumped at the chance to find out during our scan. I had my heart set on having a baby girl, so when we were told we were having a boy I wasn’t sure how to feel. However, seeing him move around during the scan I instantly fell in love and felt so lucky to have such a healthy child.

Reality of motherhood: I couldn’t bring myself to write my ‘birthing plan’, I didn’t know what I wanted or how I would cope with the pain? I decided to leave it for a while and maybe I would have more of an idea nearer the time. The idea of taking lots of drugs made me nervous in case I would embarrass myself, or if they made me sick. Oh, and I hate needles!

Everyone I bumped into advised me that I would be overdue and would need inducing as my bump hadn’t dropped, and I agreed due to the feet constantly digging in to my ribs. So when my waters broke a week early at 6am, I cried with shock… I still hadn’t written my birthing plan, but it turned out that it didn’t matter.

Having the perfect pregnancy was no indication that I was going to have a smooth labour and delivery, to my disappointment. I coped well with the pain using a tens machine (best invention ever!) and gas and air but it became clear after 22 hours of labour and lots of pushing that I needed help to deliver. I was then taken out of my lovely birthing room with a pool and pretty lights, into a very sterile delivery room, full of people! Looking back it makes me cringe thinking about how many people were stood discussing my private parts and what to do to help me, I don’t even like getting undressed in front of my own mother!

At the time I was so tired that I wasn’t too upset when I was advised I needed an episiotomy and Ventouse delivery (although I soon wished I had pushed a lot harder!). Oliver was finally delivered and the first words out of the surgeons mouth was ‘BIG BABY!’, I just remember thinking, ‘wow he has massive thighs!’

After a lot of pain and a few hours sleep I bonded instantly with Oliver and felt like I knew what I was doing.. What was I worried about? 

I was lulled into a false sense of security thinking, ‘this is easy’, but it didn’t last long. After the midwives insisting, ‘breast is best’ I didn’t want to let anyone down and gave it a try. The ward nurses were not much help when I expressed concern that Oliver was feeding for a long time (hours) and still didn’t seem satisfied. I was told, ‘Oh it’s normal’, but after the first weigh in at home, we realised I wasn’t able to give Oliver enough milk and that we needed to bottle feed, which explained the 48hours we’d had with no sleep. I instantly felt anger at the midwives who’d initially brainwashed me into breastfeeding, and the ward nurses that I’d asked for help.

It quickly hit us how rough sleep deprivation was, and suffering with low iron and pain it was a hard few days. Why oh why do they not tell you about what happens after delivery in your antenatal classes?

As soon as we started to bottle feed Oliver he seemed a little more content, but we were still convinced that something wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t put Oliver down without him screaming, I learnt how to go to the toilet/eat meals/wash-up, all whilst holding a baby. His symptoms got worse towards around two months; he would scream for milk and then scream even louder after an ounce. We spent hours researching his symptoms and ruled out colic, but as soon as I read the symptoms for Reflux, I knew instantly that is what he had. After one tearful Sunday morning for both me and Oliver, I decided enough was enough, and we drove him to A&E. Finally after a few nurses trying to convince us he had colic and it was ‘normal’, a lovely doctor listened and diagnosed silent reflux. Two or three days later on Gaviscon we had our perfect settled baby back!

Now this was sorted and under control we started to build a routine and settled into our family life. Oliver quickly adapted to our strict routine and luckily slept through from 3 months, and more often than not we would have to wake him in a morning.

Our first year after all the initial troubles was amazing, we didn’t have to change our lives too much as Oliver just fitted in around our lives. Again we came back down to the reality of parenthood with a bang when it was time for me to start back at work and Oliver at nursery. The germs hit hard! After 26 years of avoiding tonsillitis, Oliver kindly passed it on to me. As a mother you don’t have time to be ill, so after the third throat infection and numerous blood tests to find out why I was so ill I was signed off work for a week. In between dealing with my illnesses we had a scare with Oliver, who was rushed into hospital as a gland in his neck had got infected and they needed to give him antibiotics quickly through a drip. From this moment on he was poorly every other week for around 3/4 months – the staple part of his diet felt like antibiotics.

Taking your child home for the first time:
The 15 minute journey home felt like the scariest drive we had ever been on (even though we probably drove about 10 MPH the whole way back). We avoided every single pot hole and drove the long way round to avoid all the speed bumps. We made it home safely! The walk from the car into our home felt like I’d run a marathon and I instantly broke down in tears as soon as we made it to the front door. Looking back I think these were more tears of relief to be home (and baby blues) rather than the pain.

We made a conscious decision to spend our first couple of nights in the lounge for a number of reasons which now seem a bit more neurotic rather than sensible. We were luckily enough to have my mother who spent the first week with us, cooking, cleaning and offering support. I was therefore able to try and concentrate on looking after my health and catching the odd few hours sleep whilst I knew Oliver was being watched over.

The midwife advised that due to the lack of milk, Oliver was becoming jaundice. We were convinced he was a ‘nice’ colour, looking back at pictures we realise his nice tan wasn’t from spending a week or so in the Maldives. I was unable to go out for his first outing to get some fresh air and sun light and this broke my heart. After being so close to your baby for 9 months and then giving birth, the feeling when you have to let go for an hour or so is the worst in the world initially, but it soon gets easier.

The best advice: Without a doubt this has to be from a colleague at work (mother of three), make sure daytime is noisy/bright and night times are quiet, low lit and no fuss. You hear horror stories of baby’s routines getting mixed up; awake all night and asleep all day. We were determined that this was not going to happen to us, and so we started a routine from day one of being home. Our night time routine was the same each night – bath, bottle in a quiet room with no fussing, then bed. After a while it paid off and to this day we have had no issues with Oliver waking at night and wanting to play.

Also, a health visitor advised me at around 3 months to ensure we put Oliver in bed awake, so he can learn to fall asleep himself. This was hard for a while due to reflux preventing us from laying him down straight after a bottle, and most newborns tend to fall asleep straight after a bottle. By 5 months we were confident that the reflux was under control and that we needed to teach Oliver to go to sleep alone in bed. This involved a tough few weeks of training, sometimes hours stood on the landing in and out of his room, but he quickly grasped the idea and bed times are now fun and easy (well until you have to chase them round the bathroom to get a nappy on).

I worry sometimes that we have been a little too strict with routine as Oliver does show quite strong OCD tendencies. He cannot stand to have any dirt on himself or clothing and loves to clean! If we don’t clean his hands quick enough when he requests, there can be tears. He has become that fussy he has even got out of the bath due to a floating piece of fluff. A lot of time lately has been spent trying to teach him that you can get messy and still be okay (lots of finger painting).

Another (sorry I have a few), is to go to an antenatal class. I had a great support group from the ladies I met during my classes, and two years on we still meet regularly with and without our babies. Speaking to other mums helps you quickly learn that what you are going through is normal and that they are going through the same thing.

Worst advice: Books… no book can tell you how your child should act, what times they want milk and how you should feel. My first worries about not knowing what to do were the same things all mothers-to-be feel, but as soon as you hold your baby you know instantly what to do. You quickly learn what each cry or moan means and how to deal with it best.

Breastfeeding – Don’t be forced into something you are not comfortable doing, of course it has its benefits but if it makes your life hell you need to decide if that’s how you want to spend the first 5/6 months.

The hardest parts of being a mother: This has to be the feeling of when your child is upset or hurt. The instinct you instantly have to protect them from anything is astonishing; the first few tears you share with them, but then soon you learn they need your reassurance and love rather than a blubbing wreck. I think because I’m so strong around Oliver now I cry at the slightest thing when he’s not around, usually One born or Eastenders.

When Oliver first started walking/running I used to hover round his every move to be there if he fell. I’ve now realised that I won’t always be there to protect him and therefore he needs to learn how to deal with different situations himself. If he falls over now and isn’t hurt, he quickly gets up, wipes himself down and carries on.

The best parts of being a mother: Above all the love you feel for them and seeing how they feel for you. Our family now is so close and we all rely on each other for everything. One of the best feelings is becoming a family – just the 3 of us. Everything feels complete now. Life before Oliver was amazing, but with Oliver it’s even better. I cannot describe how proud we feel watching our child as he grows and develops; it has also been great for us seeing the world from his tiny eyes. Watching the joy on his face when he masters how to do something or sees something or someone he loves.
I always knew I would be a good mother, but I don’t think I knew just how much I would love just hanging out with him. He has turned into my best friend and never fails to brighten my day with his smiles, hugs and sloppy kisses. Everyday he does something new that shocks us or makes us giggle. Sometimes we just look at each other and smile and say, ‘he’s amazing isn’t he?’ still unsure how we both made such a social, loving, kind and funny young man.

Has becoming a mother changed you: I’m sure everyone will answer yes to this, it has to…. it’s a massive lifestyle change, going from spending all your free time in the pub, to staying home and worrying about someone other than yourself. I used to live for the weekend to go out with our friends, but now I can’t wait to get into my PJ’s and snuggle on the sofa, or play football in the park.

Hopes for your family: My main hope is that we all stay healthy and happy and carrying on enjoying life. We are quite relaxed about the future at the moment, and are on a bit of an adventure. Every day is so different and with us being in the ‘terrible’ two’s stage we are never bored (although it’s not been too terrible so far, touch wood). We would like to have a sibling for Oliver, but want to enjoy our time with him until he’s ready to share our love. One of my main hopes is that we always have a strong bond and we continue to be best friends.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Trust your own instincts, don’t put any extra pressure on yourself by reading books or worrying about what they should and shouldn’t being doing. Your child will grow in their own time with your support and nurturing.

Having a child is going into the unknown for most families and that is part of the fun, you will find your own way and find what works for you. You may have bad days when you question everything and everyone, but it’s more rewarding than you will ever imagine. The love you feel for them is boundless.

Little tips – buy a practical changing bag; buy a coat with a hood (umbrellas and prams don’t mix); buy Annabel Karmel’s book for weaning; always take spare clothes on trips out; oh and get used to mess.

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