Rachel, Louis and Poppy

Expectations of motherhood: I always knew I wanted children, but it wasn’t something that I was desperate for the minute we got married. Babies had always scared me, being so fragile and precious (them, not me!). But after a weekend away with family, I quickly became besotted with my 9month old niece and realised, ‘hey maybe I could do this having a baby lark!’

I imagined motherhood being a calm, blissful and enjoyable experience, living in a haze of harmony. The idea that motherhood could be anything less than wonderful never ever entered my head. Being pregnant would mean napping whenever I wanted, taking things easy and eating as many cream eggs as I wanted without putting an ounce of weight on. (The baby needs it!) I would be glowing and radiant, enjoying the miracle of growing a mini human in my tummy.

Reality of Motherhood: In reality, which am sure everyone who knows me would agree, I was most definitely not a happy pregnant person! I moaned from start to finish, nothing was enjoyable and I couldn’t wait for it to be over, although the thought of labour terrified me. 

For some ridiculous reason I thought it would be great to watch One Born Every Minute, for educational and training purposes! Every week without fail I would end up crying, adamant there was no way in hellI would be pushing this baby out. I am the type of person who needs to lie down for half an hour after stabbing my little toe.

A few days before my due date at 3AM I was having the most bizarre and vivid dream. Being a Primary School Teacher, I was dreaming that I had taken my class on a trip to a waterfall. Whilst screaming to the children don’t touch the water, I suddenly woke up in a damp puddle! The combination of hearing running water and having the bladder of a full-term pregnant lady made me convince myself that I had wet myself. 
I jumped up, as much as a heavily pregnant woman could, ran to the toilet to realise this might not have been an accident. Could it have been my waters breaking? I rang the unit, who said as I wasn’t in labour, to come in later that morning and they would take it from there.

Meanwhile I was having a new oven delivered that morning, which was one of the first things that came to mind – I can’t be having a baby now as I’ve got too much to sort today! We went to hospital where they examined me and then sent me home again as nothing was happening, giving the usual advice of resting up and trying to get as much sleep as possible.

For some reason I had it my head now was the time to start beautifying myself, so I washed and blow dried my hair, painted my nails and generally tried to make myself look as good as I could. My husband and I then both chilled out and watched Home Alone Two which was on TV! Later that evening my contractions slowly started and I put my Tens machine on. After a couple of hours I decided I couldn’t take the pain anymore and called the hospital. 

Even though they told me I didn’t sound like I was in active labour, we went in, just in case. Looking back now, I think I was just scared of giving birth at home. I had a very long and tiring labour, I just didn’t progress so had to be put on a drip to speed things up. 

It’s all a bit of a blur, but I do remember in the final stages the midwives decided I needed a boost of energy and insisted I put my iPod and speakers on. When asked what I wanted to listen to I for some reason requested Robbie Williams, my husband in another life. I can still picture the scene, three midwives all singing along to Robbie, whilst I was cringing and just thinking it’s really loud and everyone on the ward can hear! 

Eventually, almost 48 hours after my waters had broken, my baby boy was pushed out. But the drama didn’t end there, I was then wheeled off to theatre as I had third degree tears and needed sorting out. Having a bit of a phobia of theatres, I insisted the midwife came with me. It was all so surreal. I had just popped out my first born and there I was, lying on a theatre table talking rubbish due to exhaustion. I should have taken the hint when the midwife said why don’t you close your eyes and try and get some rest. 

Another twist of cruelty was during labour I had an hour of demanding an epidural – even though I had always stated I would rather try and avoid it, wanting to be as active as possible. And there I was, an hour after the birth being given a spinal block for theatre! Eventually I was wheeled back up to the ward, about 2AM with my baby and my husband. I remember Louis started crying a few hours later and I couldn’t move due to my surgery. I buzzed a nurse who kindly picked him up out of his cot, handed him to me and then walked off. What on earth was I supposed to do? I just held him for five minutes, he stopped crying and then I buzzed for someone to put him back down. It was just such a bizarre moment. 

With Poppy, my whole pregnancy was different, I was throwing up more, which for someone with an extreme phobia of vomit, was definitely not a good thing. Plus because I already had Louis, I didn’t have those moments where I could crash on the couch after work. My friends had thrown me a surprise baby shower about five days before my due date, which was really fun but I had felt so rough all day. Later that night when I had got into bed, I just had a feeling that things weren’t right. As with Louis, I woke up at three AM to discover I hadn’t wet myself, my waters had broken! With a sense of déjà vue, I rang the unit who told me to come in later on that morning to check all was ok. We dropped my son off at nursery and went to the hospital. At this point I was having slight contractions, but it didn’t bother me as I knew the pain was going to get way more intense. 

We went home and I spent the day in bed, this time not having to worry about a new oven coming. Later that evening my contractions became much worse. We went to the hospital at midnight only to be sent home again as I wasn’t even dilated. 

Literally about an hour later the pain was horrendous. I insisted on going back, I knew the two paracetamol I was told to have weren’t even going to touch the surface. But somehow I still wasn’t in labour! The midwife could see (and hear) how much pain I was in so they put me on the antenatal ward, in a private room, which my husband now tells me is because I was shouting so much they couldn’t put me on a ward with other people, and gave me a shot of Diamorphine. With Louis, Diamorphine sent me to sleep, it was amazing. This time, it did absolutely nothing, after an hour I was still in a ridiculous amount of pain and demanded I was examined again. “Oh yeah, you are now 6cm” I heard!! 

I was shipped off to the delivery suite but whilst sat in the wheelchair I could feel my body wanting to push. As soon as I was rushed through the doors on the delivery suite I demanded an epidural – the pain was so blumming intense – but all I got the usual excuse of the anaesthetist is busy but the midwife would try and ask him. Within half an hour, with a lot of shouting and screaming that I was going to do a poo – something I was petrified of doing – my little girl was born, on her Daddy’s birthday. Right on cue, ten minutes after Poppy was born, a guy knocked on the door and announced he was here to give me an epidural. Luckily I was too exhausted and overcome with emotion to swear at him.

Everything was going so well, I only needed one stitch this time, could immediately have a shower to freshen up and then I was transferred to the post natal ward.

An hour or two later, whilst in the toilet I could hear a bit of a commotion; someone was shouting for the help of a Doctor. When I came out I could see Lee stood outside our cubicle watching a large group of doctors and nurses examine Poppy. I clearly remember Lee looking quite calm, which instantly reassured me. Before I knew anything, Poppy was whisked off to the special care unit to be put in an incubator, her temperature has dropped low and they suspected she may have an infection. It was all a bit of a blur, it seemed forever until they called us down to the unit where we could see her. It was so horrible seeing Poppy in an incubator with tubes everywhere, but what was worse was seeing all the really teeny tiny seriously sick babies. It made feel so lucky that Poppy wasn’t life threateningly ill and it was all just precautionary to protect from her from any suspected infections. Thank goodness she improved quickly and the next day she was back on the ward with me and everything was fine, but it made me realise just how precious our babies are and we should never take anything for granted.

Taking your children home for the first time: Taking Louis home for the first time was so surreal, we videoed everything. Putting him in the car seat, leaving the hospital, putting him in the car, walking into our home for the first time. I just remember taking everything in my stride, the two of us were very chilled with him. He was such a placid, easygoing baby. 

Taking Poppy home for the first time was still special but as is typical of the second child syndrome, we didn’t take as many pictures! She had already established her role of being the family diva after her incubator episode, and that first night she constantly threw up when lying down and was so sick it would make her choke. A few times she went quite blue whilst she gasped for air. It scared me so much, even though she had done it in the hospital, but there you are surrounded by medical professionals so you know you always have someone nearby to help if it was to get serious. She soon grew out of it, but it made me slightly more over-protective of her, which was hard for me to deal with, because I had been so chilled out with Louis. I think it also affected me not having her with me that first night in hospital whilst she was in SCBU, I hadn’t had her there with me so I could watch over her and care for my newborn baby myself.

The best/worst advice:
 The best advice I was ever given was to go with the flow and don’t stress. Both my children have been very easy going, chilled out babies, which could be nature or nurture but I strongly believe part of it is down to how calm both Lee and I are with them.

Also some people claim good advice is to not Google everything, but unfortunately I am the worst person for consulting Google over everything! I just can’t help myself! I have learnt to sift out the panic inducing info and read between the lines, but quite often I have diagnosed things before going to the doctors, only to hear the doctor confirm what I thought. Who needs a medical degree?!

Perhaps the worst advice was to sleep when the baby sleeps because that never happens. There is always something to be doing, especially with two children.

The hardest parts of being a mother: The hardest part of being a mother is never being able to fully switch off from my job as a mum. I constantly have to have my phone with me when away from them incase something was to happen; I know that these children depend on me and that they are my world. 

Another hard time was when Louis was going through the inquisitive toddler stage and constantly pushing the boundaries. He was testing our patience and knew exactly what buttons to press. Lee and I had to be consistent and try to keep calm with him and each other.

The interrupted sleep is also very difficult to handle, most nights Louis can have a nightmare or Poppy wakes with a teething pain or growth spurt. Gone are the days where I would lie in until lunchtime after a full night’s sleep. It’s also hard being a full-time, working mum, juggling being committed to my job whilst discovering that ultimately my family now have to come first. I know it’s going to be even more difficult when I return to work soon, now having two children.
The best parts of being a mother: It’s all amazing, the good and the bad! Yes I may want to cry and have a meltdown when it’s past his bedtime and Louis is still not asleep and all I want is a hot bath, but you learn from it. When he finally does go to bed and is sound asleep, looking super-angelic, I get a smug feeling of ‘woo hoo, I won, he listened to me and went to sleep’ (only three hours after the battle began!). 

The cuddles, the smiles, the laughter, watching your babies personality develop is just amazing. I get this incredible burst of overwhelming love and happiness when I am with them, constantly asking how did I create such amazing beautiful children? 

Louis is such a character, he has me in stitches with his hilarious sense of humour and comical ways. Yet it makes me beam with pride when he offers to share his biscuits or wants to help look after his little sister. Poppy is just amazing. She rarely cries, loves to sit and play and babble to everyone and anyone. I particularly love it how her eyes light up when her Daddy or big brother walk into the room – it makes my heart melt. I look at Louis and Poppy and think how blessed I am and couldn’t imagine my life without them.

Has becoming a mother changed you?: In some ways being a mother has changed my life a lot. I certainly can’t go out drinking until 2am anymore, the thought of dealing with two kids first thing in the morning is enough to send me teetotal. My priorities have changed, they now come first in my life. When shopping I look for clothes for them, when planning my social life I consider them first. However I have also had to work hard at realising that I am still the same person and that it is important for me to still do the things I used to love doing, pre kids. Becoming a mum has made me appreciate how lucky I am to have such gorgeous children. It puts life into perspective when I am feeling down about things, I may not have everything I want but I couldn’t imagine not having Louis and Poppy. 

Hopes for your family: I am going to try and do as much as I can to ensure that my children look back on their childhood as a fun, carefree time in their lives. I hope that they grow up to become well-liked, happy and easy going people who always believe in themselves and don’t take anything for granted, appreciating everything that they have in their lives. 

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums?: No two children are the same. What works for one child might not for yours, so be open to trying lots of different techniques and explore all options. 

Never feel pressured into trying something you don’t feel comfortable doing. You have to feel calm and confident in your approach or else your children will pick up on it and play on the fact that you don’t believe in what you are doing. 

Don’t compare yourself to others, even though someone may claim to have the perfect, sleeping through the night, never having tantrums child, you don’t know what happens behind closed doors! 

Also what worked for your first child may not for your second. Louis was a routine child and played by my rules. Poppy on the other hand refused to get into a routine and did things her way, which as an organised and structured person, was hard for me to deal with! I eventually gave up and let her be, so what if she wanted her bottle 3 not 4 hours after the previous one?! Finally and most importantly, enjoy every minute – the good and the not so good – as time flies by just too quickly.

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