Child: Samuel, 6.5 months
Expectations of Motherhood:
I had mixed feelings about motherhood. I most worried about what I was “going to leave behind” (people love giving you the drama about “losing your life, missing out on this or that”..). I also expected tiredness, desperation, fear, endless worry and depression at some point…
I did not want to resent becoming a mother, as it would not be fair on anybody, including myself and so it took me some time to make the final decision.
On the other hand, I also expected to find it a really interesting experience, full of new adventures and the idea of starting up with the best intentions, open mind and hopefully with more information than our previous generations.
I am naturally quite pessimistic, however, in order to become a mother, I had to reconcile some of my worst fear with a sensible optimism which has to exist in order to finally make the decision to bring someone into the world; this lovely blank canvass of a human, to join the “Trip of Life”. I am not a religious type, so really, we reckoned that this one-off ticket was worth it, so we had Sam.
My husband and I are a team. That means we share the responsibility of bringing up Sam equally. It allows us to have time to spend doing our own thing, as well as doing things as a family, or as a couple (with additional help, of course). So I have time to continue with what I used to do prior and during pregnancy. In that sense, I do not feel I am missing out. We’ll see how it goes, when I return to full time work.
I have met some lovely mothers at baby groups; I would like to keep in touch with some of them, although the task may be complicated once we go back to work.
Taking your child home for the first time:I was very happy with the team at St. Mary’s, even though they were really short of beds and I was initially going to be discharged after 24h. I ended up staying another day because I was still in pain from surgery (I had a c-section). I was worried about feeding Sam, but he still looked good (though ravenous) for 2 days old.
The best/worst advice: The best advice was, at the time, although a bit late, that combine feeding your baby is fine, you are not a selfish cow or less of a human, you are just trying to help your baby get through his first days! Without going into too much detail, Sam had to be rushed back into hospital on the 5th day, because he was not getting enough nourishment. Nobody really checked how much milk, if any, I was producing (I kept being told to stick to breastfeeding, because I was doing great and Sam latched on perfectly, with full cheeks etc, although he was probably gulping air all the time). Hindsight is great and hateful at the same time. I wish I had been more compos mentis, to ask nursing staff/health visitors to give me straight, unbiased instructions, as I did not have a clue. In essence, stay away from the Breastfeeding and Vaginal Birth Propaganda, because no plan is set in stone. We, as women, should be supporting each other to deal with the circumstances we encounter, not look down on each other etc.
Another idea we found very sensible, but often overlooked, was when a friend advised us to look after ourselves, to stay away from harmful people and situations (and if possible, to protect ourselves from stressful experiences), to be positive and take this as a constructive and loving experience (without trying to sound twee).
Also, a great piece of advice is to put him to bed whilst he is still awake, never cuddle him to sleep. It did wonders to settle him into a routine. He does not need anyone to be present in the room, which freed us a lot. Sam has adapted really well to travelling in Spain and will settle into his routine, no matter where he is (he would go to sleep after about 15-20 minutes, of the first night in a strange place).
The hardest parts of being a mother: The tiredness, which impacts on all aspects of our daily structure and our mental clarity. The careless judgement we are subjected to, often from people who do not know us from Adam. At other times, it is people closer to us, whom we have to ask to keep their unrequested nagging to themselves, as it may cause unpleasant situations, easily misconstrued as ungratefulness on our part. We are only doing our best, we are tired, we will ask for advice and help when we need it, don’t worry!
The memory blanks. In fact, I have forgotten a few ideas I was going to log here.
The best parts of being a mother: Seeing Sam smiling at me every morning. He looks so happy and his smile is so sincere (untarnished by life, sounds harsh, I know!) that I just want to bite lumps out of him.
It may seem like I am copying Jo now (we actually met at the Children’s Hospital) but it’s great to see Sam with his father (Richard) laughing and enjoying themselves. It really makes you think what is important in life and what is just, well, a masquerade, like Facebook lives (and I use Facebook daily).
Has being a mother changed you? Yes. I can think more clearly now and speak up about fundamental matters with a better outlook. There is an innocent human’s life at stake here, which is our responsibility and this has put me right where I need to be.
Hopes for your family: To be happy, healthy, free-thinking, conscientious, coherence of action and belief and exercise solidarity.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums:Tell people who just want to tell you negative stories, to make you feel bad about pregnancy and maternity, to stick their tongues where it is most needed. Search for wise professionals and you will find them. If it makes you feel bad about yourself, it is not good for you.
You do not have to give up your life and your whole being, in order to be a mum. You do not want to be the most sacred and abnegate “Madonna” in the cemetery or mental health unit. Of course, it helps if you have a partner/husband/wife/friend who shares the responsibility of looking after little ones equally, without being selfish. Communication, love and understanding of each others needs and preferences is key. Also, do not take everything personally, we will be all tired and that gives way to grumpiness. I am the Queen of Grump.
Note: these experiences I’ve been able to enumerate here, are underpinned by my benefiting from the umbrella of protection that the National Health Service has provided me, as a citizen of Manchester and the UK.
In a climate where the Political/Money Caste is digging deeper into the heart of this Public Health system, to discredit it, in order to justify the underfunding in so many areas, thus feeding into this idea of “inefficiency”, I have been able to deliver a child, feeling confident that I was in good hands, that this system should not be a privilege, but a model that exists in every country. I have not lost sight of the sad fact that the interests hidden behind the dismantling of this system, only look after themselves, they do not care about whether an ambulance can reach to where you are or whether enough beds/staff/equipment… are available. Please, let’s value what there is and exercise your right to demand from the Caste that public money is invested where it is needed. Because there is money to keep it working proficiently.