Children: Evelyn 6, Rosina 2, Polly 10 months
Location: Levenshulme, Manchester
Expectations of Motherhood: I am incredibly lucky to have older siblings who all have ace partners. All of them had children before I did and my mum was so overjoyed when the first Grandchild Alasdair came along 11 years ago. She insisted we all leave work and sit in the Hospital canteen until he arrived (Polly was the last of 15 Grandchildren and I think I sent a text, and nobody came to visit!!).
I spent alot of time watching my brothers and their partners and learned loads. I wasn’t scared to have Evelyn passed to me when she was born and from that minute it felt right. That’s not to say the sleeplessness wasn’t hard, or I didn’t panic when they got spots, but I didn’t feel anxious as a new mum. I wrote a birth plan the first time round, afterwards realising it was probably made into paper aeroplanes by the Midwives – I didn’t bother again after my 1st.
Sadly when I was pregnant the second time my beautiful Mum died from kidney cancer. She saw the 12 week scan picture and sobbed. I can’t imagine how heartbroken she must have felt knowing she would never meet the baby. She was one of my best friends and an amazing role model: calm, patient, tolerant and compassionate. Ironically my 2nd child is the most like her in looks. My expectations of being a Mum involved having her around to watch my children grow up. Without her, it is all quite alot harder.
Reality of Motherhood: I am always 2 weeks overdue; my third baby was 16 days late. I felt more confident the more children I had to fight against induction. I do believe that babies pay no heed to dates and come when they are ready. I am very lucky to have felt an immediate bond with each child when they were born, but I know lots of my friends who didn’t. I am pretty sure that helped in getting us off to the right start.
I thought I knew alot about having children, but the relentlessness of some of it is something you don’t know until you have your own children. There is a constant demand for time, attention, food, comfort and (at the moment) I have very little time for my own space. I grew up in a big family with lots of people around all the time so I do like chaos and noise, but I also appreciate peace the older I get! Also as my children have got older, I realise that the baby/toddler stage can be tough, but actually negotiating the world, life, death, morals, rights and wrongs as the children grow up is tricky too. Evelyn has asked a lot of questions about death and how unfair it is to die if people still want you to be alive. All important questions, but when you are tired and grieving they are very hard questions to answer.
Taking your children home for the first time: They were 3 very different experiences. Evelyn came home to a tidy house which was prepared for a new baby, Rosina was born into water in the dining room (on purpose, not by accident!) and Polly came home to 2 big sisters, a house full of toys and adventure, and we both had to hit the ground running. I do remember bringing Ev home and my husband saying it was like being allowed to fall in love all over again (though he’d deny it if you asked him now!). I love the first few weeks with a new baby; there is a sense of calm in our house because the baby has arrived and it’s all OK. Then things calm down and gently return to as it was before.
The best/worst advice: I remember one Midwife visiting after I’d had Evelyn and telling me my sofa ‘might have looked nice in the catalogue but it was awful for breastfeeding’. She happened to be the Midwife who turned up for my 2nd home birth and was so ‘old school’ I loved her, she let me labour in peace and let me trust my body. It has taken me 37 years to realise and accept that you can’t compare any life experiences with anyone, ever. Every parent and every child is different, if you take advice, do just that, take it, say thank you and get on with what you were doing.
The hardest parts of being a mother: At the moment (and I do know this is temporary) I struggle making time for myself. I put everyone else’s needs first and that means I often feel exhausted and want to sit in a dark room on my own and rock gently! Having 3 with a relatively small gap also means that the youngest are both still quite dependant; 2 sets of nappies, lack of sleep etc. That is tough. I also found that on occasion I get embroiled in a ‘I’m more tired’ argument with my Husband. I have honestly never had a boss or employer who worked me as hard as children do. It is full on, non-stop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and at times, exhausting. Somedays I fall into bed realising that I have needed the loo/drink for hours and haven’t managed to.
The best parts of being a mother: Well, this is bit that makes it all worth it..the fun, laughter, mess, chaos, kisses, cuddles, the smell of their heads.. all of it. I spend my days with 3 people who have a sense of inquisitiveness and excitement at the opening of a box. I go swimming with Evelyn and its like being 6 again. I blow raspberries on Rosina’s belly and the noise she makes would cheer the heaviest heart. They are learning and growing every day and I am excited to see who they grow into and what sense they make of the world. My Mum didn’t live in the past and talk about us as children a lot, she enjoyed us at every stage of our lives and I want to do the same. As amazing as babies are, watching Polly learn to clap, Rosina learn to climb a ladder, Evelyn learn to swim under water is all as thrilling and life-enhancing. I feel very privileged to call them my children.
Has becoming a mother changed you? I’m not really sure. I always wanted to be a Mum so I feel like I now have the brood I always wanted. I’ve never really spent lots of money on clothes or been glamorous, so the yoghurt/snot/Weetabix/sick all over my clothes by 7.35am doesn’t bother me. I don’t drink as much, or make my mates stay up until the small hours drinking whisky and talking nonsense, so I’m sure they are pleased about that. My best chum Gemma said she thinks I’ve managed to stay me throughout 3 kids, so I’ll take that as a compliment (and she benefits from me wanting a cup of tea before midnight and not tequila shots..).
Hopes for your family: I do try and be mindful and live in the here and now. If I’d have had any hopes for our future it would have been that my Mum were here to meet the children and give me a hand, and she isn’t.
My only hopes are that they can steer their own path through life, appreciate life for what it is and that if and when they have any sadness, they can still see how amazing life is and find something to make them smile. I know they will be interesting, bright and caring women and I am very excited to watch them grow up.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: I would try not to be presumptuous that my advice would work for anyone other than me (!) but if I were to meet myself before children, or if my children ever ask, I’d say 5 things: 1. Get sleep whenever you can, 2. Accept help 3. Be confident that what you are doing is right 4. If you are going to read *any* books, make it Stand and deliver by Emma Mahony, any Dr Sears books and The Incredible years by Carolyn Webster Stratton 5. Nobody else is doing it better than you, they just say they are..