Name: Carla Nuttall
Child: Millie, 22 months
Expectations of Motherhood: I expected motherhood to be the most amazing thing that could ever happen to me and in the same breath the most terrifying. Amazing because I‘ve always known that I wanted to be a Mum and while there are lots of other things I’ve wanted to achieve, becoming a Mum was by far and away my biggest ambition. Terrifying because that seemed like a huge weight of expectation and it involved a big element of the unknown, despite the swathe of books and information thrown at me.
On a basic level, I expected I would be tired, that my life would never be as carefree, that I would come to appreciate my parents even more than I already did and that I would soon know what ‘you’ll understand when you’ve got kids of your own’ actually meant.
Reality of Motherhood: In reality, I could never have imagined just how incredible becoming a mother would be. This was something of a major relief because I was starting to worry that if I felt about motherhood the way I felt about pregnancy, I’d be in for a rocky ride.
Aside from those truly lovely movements when I could feel ‘cub’, as I dubbed Millie at the time, kicking and rolling about, I really didn’t like being pregnant at all. All this talk of ‘glowing’ was not something I experienced. All I did was worry from day one to the two weeks past my due date when Millie was finally evicted from the Big Mother house. And it was a very big, tired and grumpy house at that point, let me tell you.
I thought that once she arrived all of the worry and responsibility I’d felt during pregnancy would be shared equally with my husband, Mike. While that is certainly true now, in those early days, I hadn’t quite bargained for just how much the buck would stop with me.
Millie would cling to me like a lovely, snuggly limpet and she seemed to feed in a never-ending cycle. Judging by how much food she can put away now, I’m surprised I ever managed to keep up with her demands!
I remember eagerly awaiting Mike’s return from work so I could have a bit of a break, drink tea while it was still hot or just go to the loo on my own. But Millie would cry until I came back and the little break I’d been holding out for all day never materialised. I was the centre of her universe and while that was utterly amazing to me I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few weary tears from time to time at the sheer unrelenting responsibility.
I guess I could have let the pair of them to get on with it. They’d have been absolutely fine of course, but at the time I just couldn’t do it.
Taking your child home for the first time: I will never forget bringing Millie home. What with a day spent on the induction ward, the drawn out labour and then the emergency c-section and recovery, I’d been stuck in the hospital for what felt like an age. I was itching to bust out and I managed to make good my escape after a few days. We delicately bundled Millie into her car seat and Mike carefully and slowly carried her out to the car. I followed behind, clutching my stomach as I gingerly shuffled along. My insides felt like jelly. Every. Step. Hurt.
With Millie strapped in securely and me watching her like a hawk for signs of I have no idea what, we drove all the way home at what felt like about 5 miles an hour. Just as well because I have never experienced a stretch of speed bumps as agonizing before or since.
I was absolutely over the moon to get Millie home. I’d been imagining this moment for so long and to finally have her snuggled up in her moses basket next to the bed is a feeling and an image I will never, ever, forget.
My warm glow was of course rudely shattered when Millie proceeded to scream solidly for a few hours that night. My milk hadn’t come in and I had literally no idea what to do. I was also very restricted with how much I could bend and move about so felt even more helpless. Thankfully, she finally got a few drops of milk and promptly sparked out. I have never been so happy to see anyone at my front door as I was to see the community midwives the next morning. I hadn’t realised how reassuring the hospital had been and more importantly, how utterly genius it was to have a bed that could lift up and down at the touch of a button, no bending required. Damn C-section.
On the more challenging days, they have been some of the most supportive people I could turn to and have got me through with kind words, a piece of cake or just a knowing smile and a hug. We have never tired of hearing each other’s birth stories and will relish in the re-telling over a few raucous glasses of wine. These are the girls who humour me as I witter on like the evangelical baby bore I know I’ve become. Put it like this, I wouldn’t be cross with a single one of them if, mid-joke, their pelvic floor suddenly failed them and they peed on my couch. I’m not saying this happened, mind. Except that it did.
The other brilliant advice I got, was: “It doesn’t get easier, it just gets different”. This was great because I no longer saw Millie’s development as a linear progression but accepted it for the roller coaster it was. There is no magic moment when you’ve suddenly cracked it all. Well there is, but it lasts about a day before they’ve thrown something new at you and changed the rules of engagement entirely.
Worst advice: Anything sleep related:
“Sleep as much as you can before the baby comes”. Sheer cruelty. I’d have loved to have made the most of it but I couldn’t sleep for love nor money in the run up to D-day. In the last three months my insomnia was so bad I only slept for three to four hours a night. Excellent training as it turned out.
“Sleep when they sleep”. As if! When I got a little breather during the times I put her down to sleep, I just couldn’t have wasted the opportunity to shower or tend to some of the myriad jobs around the house. Anything just to get up, move about a bit, or make myself feel human.
“Shush pat”. The time and energy I wasted on this and other sage advice on sleeping forums, blogs, books and the like. Millie slept well for the first three months, was an utter nightmare sleeper for the next three months and then went back to sleeping well again. It was just another development milestone and while good practice like establishing a bedtime routine is something I would definitely do again, I would be more inclined to trust my instincts next time and give myself a break.
The hardest parts of being a mother: Never being off-duty. It really is 24-7. There are those days when I’d just like the freedom of not having to think about what needs doing next.
One of the hardest things I found was preparing to return to work. It seemed like my outlook on life had fundamentally changed and I just couldn’t imagine going back to ‘normal’ life and leaving Millie with someone else. I think the situation was made harder knowing that I would be going into a new job, which seemed totally terrifying.
At around five to six months old, the height of Millie’s no sleeping phase, I was preparing for job interviews. To this day, I have no idea how I managed it. My self-confidence was at rock bottom, I had no work clothes that fitted my strange new, breastfeeding shape, I was seriously tired and I’d cried looking around every nursery I’d visited.
Thankfully, I found an amazing nursery and a part-time job that made returning to work a little less scary. The anticipation is always worse than the reality and before long I was into a nice routine and felt like I’d struck a decent balance. I still have days when I cry dropping Millie off, it just creeps up on me from time to time. And I guess that’s one of the other hard parts of motherhood – guilt.
I feel guilty when I’m not with her and I miss her. Guilty when I’m with her but think I’m not giving her enough quality time. Guiltiest of all, if I dare to admit that some days going to work is a relief because sometimes it is so much easier than dealing with a fiercely independent toddler who would rather jettison herself under a table than have you be so bold as to help her get dressed.
Finally, one of the hardest things has been keeping my patience and dignity throughout the many times when I’ve left the house with my clothes on back to front or inside-out. The times when I’ve been accidentally scratched, hit in the face with a plastic doll, pinched on the boob, or been offered an avalanche of well-meaning, but unsolicited advice. But most of all it is dealing with the sight of yet another squashed, mouse dropping-like raisin. These shrivelled little interlopers have taken over my home, bag, car and on occasion, underwear.
The best parts of being a mother: Where to begin?! Millie being born safe and sound has to be the best moment of my entire life. The midwife put her on me skin to skin and she wriggled straight up and latched on for a feed. I can’t explain how it made me feel. I remember properly gasping with awe and amazement and thinking how much I loved her in what seemed like an instant. It still makes me cry to think about it.
In the early days, the best bits were the smell of her head, her snuffling noises and swaying around the living room singing to her. It was watching all her changing facial expressions and seeing her grow seemingly overnight from a baby into the most hilarious toddler.
These days, the thing I love the most is being able to have little conversations with her. The facial expressions and sayings she comes out with have me in stitches. When she tells me that she loves me or puts her arms around my neck and gives me a big squeeze of a hug, I could burst with happiness.
But most of all, it is so much fun watching her little character develop, her infectious cackle, her funny little waddle and hip-shaking dance moves. And just lately, seeing how she interacts and socialises with her cousins and friends.
I’ve found that I want to take much more of an active interest in my local community, I guess driven by a desire to make Millie’s world a better place to live in.
I’ve become much more organised and efficient. I’ve discovered that what I used to think I could achieve in a day now only takes an hour or so and is usually done a good three hours before I used to crawl out of bed with a hangover.
Hopes for your family: All I want is for Millie to grow up having the same love, security, support, opportunities and outright fun that I had growing up. I’d like to see her develop into a healthy, happy and confident young lady with a dose of mischief thrown in for good measure. I’d like her to value the importance of family and good friends and I hope she’ll consider me and her Dad to be two of her best friends (after the scornful and withering looks of the teenage years, obviously).
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums?
Definitely join NCT or another antenatal group.
Also, the Mums who seem like they’ve got it all together are just the ones who are getting the sleep. So give yourself a break and be kind to yourself. Your baby knows you are the best Mum in the World… even if you do have your clothes on inside out.
Carla has a blog at http://thoroughlymaraudingmillie.blogspot.co.uk/