Carla, Bill and Iona

Name: Carla 

Children: Bill aged 2.5 and Iona 11.5 months

Location: Didsbury

Expectations of Motherhood: I thought being a mum would be simpler than it is. My mum had me and my elder brother with a similar age gap to my children and I never remember seeing her struggle or look stressed and she rarely, if ever, lost her temper. She was always lots of fun and seemed to know what to do for best. I wanted to be like that I suppose; carefree and fun but practical too.

Reality of Motherhood: As soon as we decided to have a baby, I was pregnant with Bill straight away. I suppose I was quite shocked by that and there were a catalogue of weird events that happened around the same time, like being burgled, some incredibly snowy weather, our neighbour dying and a new family moving into to what had been a peaceful avenue. For the first time in my life I felt out of control. 

I had had a DVT in my leg in 2007, so this meant I was classed as higher risk and
placed on daily injections and ended up having many more appointments than average. I am not really a good patient and I don’t ever take anything stronger than paracetamol, so the whole thing seemed a bit alien and over the top. 

My first pregnancy went smoothly and I continued to work my long days and worked hard up until 2 weeks before Bill was due. Circumstances meant that I returned to work part-time when Bill was 6 months old and my husband and our parents took over care on my working days. 

I was pregnant again by the time Bill was one. It had always been our intention to have a small age gap, but once again I was surprised by the speed of it all. At first I was less nervous than I had been in the early months with Bill, but the stress of my job began to take its toll and by the time I was 5 months pregnant I was suffering. I became very ill with a chest infection and then at about 7 months pregnant with Iona, she turned and cracked my rib. I was already tired being pregnant and looking after a toddler and knew the next few months would be very hard. 

The worst thing about being poorly was not being able to look after Bill in the same way. One of the reasons for having two so quickly was so I would be home with my babies, so that I could enjoy the early years. I wasn’t used to being out of action and I just wanted to cry as I felt guilty and terrible for my kids. 
The reality is, that you do lose your temper sometimes, you never feel like you have enough hands or enough time and you will need just to abandon all hope of being clean or tidy for a good few years.

Taking your children home for the first time: Bill was born on his due date in a very
busy St Mary’s Hospital. The birth was fairly straight forward, but the aftercare was shockingly poor and I discharged myself and came home. 
We were in the lift downstairs and Andy (my husband) said, “when are we coming back again?”(in other words, for number two). All I could think was that my stitches were killing me and I wanted a decent brew. 

Even at 8lb 15 Bill looked tiny in the car seat and was all thin and wrinkled. 

When we got home, it suddenly felt very real. We showed Bill around the house as I had read about doing that in a book and it seemed a welcoming thing to do. I was glad to be home. Then I think he mainly cried, and we barely slept all night. The next morning at 9am the midwife appeared and told me off for still being in my pjs!

Luckily, Iona was also born on her due date and she was quick and efficient about it, despite also being just short of 9lb. This time hospital wasn’t as crowded or as awful, but I came home the day after as I wanted us to be together as a family. Bill seemed to take it quite well and after feeling really poorly I immediately started to feel a lot better and could finally sleep again (when Iona allowed of course). It was a wonderful feeling to have all four of us sat on the bed together. I felt very lucky.

The best/worst advice: 

Worst: When Iona was losing weight and was looking pretty skinny, I was told by the health visitor not to worry about it as “I wouldn’t want her to be big in later life”….
she was 5 months old at the time and had gone from the 91st to the 25th centile! I was furious. 

I was also told that I had done the wrong thing taking my little boy out to socialise all the time and I should have sat him in front of a film and then I wouldn’t have to try and take both babies as much. This seemed particularly bonkers as after I had Bill, all the advice
was about getting out of the house with the baby so you don’t lose your marbles. 

I have had a lot of poor and conflicting advice from health visitors over the years. I think you are very vulnerable when you are a new mum and a lot of people give you useless advice whilst you are striving to do your best. It can make you start to get very confused.

Best: My GP told me to ignore the health visitors! That was very good advice. But generally I think you have to trust your instincts and do what you think and don’t doubt yourself even if you are tired and worn out.

The hardest parts of being a mother: I am not sure what’s worst – the worry about not doing the right thing at the right time and the consequences of your actions, or the tiredness which some days can be overwhelming, and not being able to down tools and have a day off…..especially if you have a baby like Iona who flatly refuses to take a bottle.

The best parts of being a mother: Cuddling is a definite highlight, there is no end to small people wanting cuddles in this house. You get a lot back for what you put in. Seeing your babies develop and change is also really exciting and fun, plus seeing Bill and Iona having fun together is brilliant.

Has becoming a mother changed you?: A few years ago, the highlight of my year was going off to the USA for a week to present at international conferences. I loved my job and I always wanted to give it 100%. Now, I just don’t feel like that at all. Even when I return to work in a few weeks time, I will be strictly part-time and while I hope to do a good job, I will be glad to be at home where my heart is.

Hopes for your family: We had always wanted three children, but after having Bill I seriously reconsidered and having Iona that definitely finalised my decision. I don’t feel like one of those people who is a natural mother and I want to do my best for Bill and Iona. I only have two knees to sit on and they are taken now.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: If you can, get to NCT classes and find yourself some good friends, even before you have your baby. I would not have managed without my friends and I have met other good comrades along the way. Friends with children of a very similar age, who live nearby, cannot be underestimated.

You can share the highlights, low lights, proper advice and later down the line, a few beers as well! They really will get you through the dark days and your babies will have friends for life, which is really lovely.

One thought on “Carla, Bill and Iona

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