Elena, Natalie and Mia

Name: Elena

Children: Natalie and Mia (both nearly 4 years old)

Location: Chorlton, Manchester

Expectations of motherhood: I’ve always had this expectation that I would be a good mother. I think this idea came from the fact that I was older when we decided to start a family. I thought if I were to collect all of my experiences, live my life and get everything else out of the way, then I’d have so much more to give to the kids. As I got older and we started to try I just didn’t get pregnant. After about 7 years or so I very quietly started to say, ‘I’m not going to be a mother,’ but I don’t think I ever really believed that. 

It did happen in the end, through IVF, and because it felt like we’d waited for so long I found that I suddenly had no expectation of what would happen. It was almost like whatever happened it would be fine, and then I found out it was twins which was even better. I came to the conclusion that expectations didn’t matter anymore – my own role as a mother didn’t come into it anymore; it was all about them now.  

The pregnancy was straight forward and if anyone had told me that I would breeze through a twin-pregnancy without any major complaints I wouldn’t have believed them. They were both breach for the last three months and so in the end was booked in for a c-section. 

Reality of motherhood: When they were born I kind of expected the big wave of love that people talk about, I didn’t get that, but I did feel hugely hugely and instinctively protective. Mia was very small and she had a low birthweight. They were both so tiny – I felt like a mother lion around them. 

I was in for a week and we had a single room – they wouldn’t let us out until Mia could control her own body temperature. It was fine though and it meant that by the time we left I felt a lot more confident. In the hospital the midwives and nurses were there all the time if I had questions, and that support continued at home for about another 6-8 weeks (until Mia’s weight had risen enough). From then we were left to our own devices. 

A lot of people say to me, ‘Wow, you must have found it hard with twins,’ but actually I just didn’t find it that hard when they were little because they mainly wanted the same things at the same time. Maybe it’s my age, but I really didn’t struggle. They were feeding in the same rhythm and that was easy to cope with. It’s only now that I’m finding it quite stressful!

Taking your children home for the first time: After a week in the hospital we were allowed out and we brought them home in their car seats (which they totally disappeared in); the girls were just so tiny. We had no idea how to strap them in – we had to call the nurses to come and check we’d done it correctly. We made the journey home and then put them down in the front room, sat down and said ‘What do we do now?’ – the typical new parent scenario. You sit there and look and think, and now what? 

For a couple of days we tried to carry on as normal. I was downstairs getting on with normal life as much as possible and then I thought, ‘No, this is not working.’ For the following 6 weeks I retired upstairs to bed with the girls. I was so lucky because of Dave being self-employed, he was at home and around to look after me – I have no idea how women cope who don’t have that sort of support. We also had a good friend who would come with food once or twice a week too – that was great. 

We just lived on the bed – me, the two girls, the 4 cats that we had at the time and daddy, on and off. We just spent that time getting used to each other. It was a really wonderful time and we did a lot of very important bonding in those weeks. I remember just looking at them for hours while they slept, just marvelling at them. I managed to breastfeed them which was really nice, in fact I fed them till they were 18 months. That was such a lovely time, I wish that everyone could have that luxury to spend time with their babies, getting to know them, snuggling and cuddling. It came so naturally.

Best advice: When they were babies, a friend who had also had twins (who are now adults themselves) said, ‘You have to tell your other half what you need because we’re not mind readers’. 

Another thing, the midwife who came to our house for a few weeks following the birth told me to trust my instincts. I was constantly worrying about whether I was doing it right and she said, ‘You’re doing great, just relax’. That really helped. I learnt that even though we live in modern times we still have our own mother’s instinct. We might be way off sometimes, but in the early days relaxing into it works. You’re not going to kill them (unless you’re being extremely stupid); babies are quite robust. I remember one night when Dave was out and Mia fell off the bed. She was two months old and to this day I have no idea how she did it. The girls couldn’t move, never mind roll. I was petrified, but she was absolutely fine. 

Don’t try to be perfect, you’ll never get it totally right. 

Worst advice: Sleep training and controlled crying. I don’t understand why you’d do it. It seems so detrimental to what I believe is right. I tried it once and I managed 40/45 mins, but the whole time I was stood outside their room crying my eyes out. 

I’ve always stayed in their room until they feel asleep and often slept on a futon between their cots when they were small. It’s only been about six months that they’ve been happy for me to say goodnight and then go, but I just always thought, my children are only little, and if they need me near them to feel safe enough to go to sleep then that’s no major skin off my nose. It’s only a very short period in my life and it’s a very important part of theirs. There were obviously times when I was resentful and I didn’t want to be woken up every two hours – everybody feels like that occasionally – but on the whole I think if they need me, why not fulfil the child’s need? I’ve waited such a long time to have them and I love spending time with them, I’m willing to do things on their terms at times when I feel they really need it.
The hardest part of being a mother: You can’t quit. It is the hardest job in the world with the biggest responsibility ever and you can’t go to the union and say, ‘I want more pay, I want less hours.’ 

It’s quite scary really, especially bringing up two girls. Things have changed so much since I was young. I’ve got friends with older kids who are having issues with social media and the internet. I don’t know how we’re going to handle that, but I suppose you do it as best you can and cross that bridge when you come to it. 

My wellbeing is so dependent on theirs – when they’re seriously ill I feel so helpless and just desperately want to help them get better. 

t’s very easy to feel like you have to live up to everybody’s expectations and try to be a perfect mother. What you’re supposed to be and what you are, are often very far apart and so you can’t help but feel like a failure, but in the end I think you can learn a lot about yourself. Even when you get it wrong, or you think you got it wrong, you might later find that you did get it right after all and weren’t that far off the mark. Motherhood is so scary because you have to make it up as you go along.

The best part of being a mother: Double cuddles, double fun. Watching them grow. Seeing the girls develop. I read parenting and child psychology books out of interest and find it so fascinating to see about how children learn how the world around them works. It’s so fascinating how that all works. 

Has becoming a mother changed you? Definitely, yes. I waited for such a long time and almost didn’t have children, so my focus is totally on them now. I’m very aware of their needs and tend to put them before anyone else’s, although I’m doing that a little less these days. 

Now they’re a little bit older I start craving more ‘me time’; the girls can be really very exhausting – especially mentally exhausting – and now that I’m having more time to myself it’s as if I’m collecting all the pieces of me and putting myself back together, and I do seem to be slightly different. I can’t put my finger on HOW I’m different (apart from the obvious that I’m a mother), but I certainly feel different. 

I know a lot of younger parents, and some of them really feel a desire to get out and party again, but I don’t have that. Maybe I’m more grounded now. It’s hard to determine how I’ve changed, but motherhood has definitely changed me for the better.    

Hopes for your family: I hope that we’ll be able to keep the girls safe. I know that there are issues with boys too, but I feel that’s especially important because we’ve got girls. I hope that they grow up with a sense of who they are. I hope they learn that they can say ‘no’ in circumstances where they feel uncomfortable. For example, I don’t make them give kisses to anyone. I would never force them to kiss anyone (be it relatives or friends) if they weren’t happy about it. I want them to grow up owning their bodies, being comfortable in their own skin and being able to say, ‘No, this is not what I want.’ I hope that this self-assertion never gets violated in any sense, but all you can do is enable them to do that. 

I hope I manage to keep them safe without clucking over them. I do hope we’ll be able to let them go eventually –  but that’s still a long way off. I’d like it if they got a sense of what justice was, too, a sense of right and wrong. 

I hope they get an actual sense of where they want to go and what they want to do – they can do whatever they want as far as I’m concerned, just as long as they find something that they love doing. Although that is easier said than done: unfortunately you do have to earn money somehow. We’ll see whether we get that one right. 

Advice to new and expectant mums: On a practical note, buy stuff on Ebay. If you buy everything new you can spend over a thousand pounds before you even have the baby.  
Spend as much time as you can in those early days with your newborns. Cleaning and cooking is not important, but those early days are so important for bonding.

  If you happen to go to any ante-natal classes (like the NCT ones I went to) keep in touch with the families you meet. There are still four of us from our group who regularly meet up. It’s almost  like having extra siblings for the kids – they’ve known each other so long. When we go to each others’ houses the children behave just like they’re at home. In the early days those types of groups are also great for getting you out of the house and everybody you meet will be dealing with exactly the same issues. 

Try and enjoy those early weeks and months. I believe that I was very privileged – I probably still am – and I know there are lots of people who aren’t as fortunate, but I’d like to think that if our situation had been different it still wouldn’t have been about belongings and what you buy them.

For me, it’s about love, cuddles and showing my children that I’m there for them. If you manage to build this emotional connection then a lot of other things can go wrong and it won’t matter as much. 

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