Gemma, Joel and Nathaniel

Name: Gemma 

Children: Joel, 3 years 9 months. Nathaniel 14 months

Location: Sale

Previous blog:

Since the last blog post: We’ve had a busy few years. I found out I was pregnant with Nathaniel about a month before Joel turned 3. We were in the process of buying a new house and I was busy back at work. When I was only a few weeks pregnant we moved in with Steven’s parents whilst we renovated our new house, at the same time I had a massive bleed and assumed I must have miscarried. I waited an agonising weekend for a scan whilst I bled continually. We were astonished when the sonographer told us there was a strong heartbeat, and thankfully I went on to have a healthy pregnancy. 

When I was 5 months pregnant Joel suffered a serious infection and was rushed to hospital where he was given strong antibiotics and fluids. It was a really scary time for all of us and having just thought I was going to lose the new baby we had genuine worry that we were going to lose our big baby. Once he came out of hospital we then spent a very difficult couple of months living with Steven’s parents with a really unsettled toddler. Emotions were high and we were incredibly relived to finally move into our new house. 

On the last blog I said I wanted a bigger house and a new baby, I feel very privileged to have got exactly what I wished for – even if the road to this was a bit bumpy!

I spent most of my first pregnancy worrying about getting Joel here safely, during this pregnancy I spent most of the time worrying that I was not going to be able to cope with two children and I was really concerned about the impact it was going to have on Joel. 

The pregnancy itself was fine after the first few weeks, I got SPD towards the end but I don’t think I really had much time to think about it. The night before I went into labour I cuddled Joel in his room and cried because it dawned on me that it was our last night alone together. It was a weird sadness and one that I had not anticipated. I was worried I would not have enough love for a second child and that Joel would resent me for being made to share. Even though we made an active and considered choice to have two children, these thoughts appeared unexpected and uninvited. 

I had contractions on and off for a day the day after my due date and we had child care on standby, but they stopped. I remember picking Joel up from nursery and waiting at the lights to cross over to bring him home and I knew they had started again (it’s true that keeping active helps get things going!). 

I put Joel to bed and tried to get some rest, but at 11pm I called the hospital as the contractions were every 2 minutes. I didn’t trust myself as I had been sent home from hospital with Joel so I called and asked for advice telling them they were frequent but didn’t hurt. The midwife calmly told me to wake my husband and get to hospital immediately. I still expected to be sent home when I was examined but I was taken straight to the delivery suite. I wasn’t really in pain and enjoyed a cup of tea and a chat with the midwife. 

I hadn’t really thought about a second labour and had taken for granted that it would be as magical as it was the first time. It was not. Having had an easy few hours I had a very dramatic transitional stage and really wanted to leave the hospital. I suddenly felt terrified and completely out of control. I remember taking on so much gas and air I was completely delirious. I pushed when I shouldn’t have done and collapsed on the bed saying ‘thank god that’s over’. I will never forget the look of alarm between the midwife and Steven before she told me I had not had the baby, and had hallucinated it. It was the single strangest experience of my life. I really thought I’d done it. She told me she could not even see his head but then minutes later she burst my waters and he was born, healthy and screaming.

I re-read my previous entry before writing this, and it saddens me that Nathaniel’s entrance into the world was not magical like Joel’s. I was in total shock when he was born and could not believe he was really mine. I certainly did not get the instant connection and I felt very detached. He was screaming and thrashing about and would not feed easily. I had to be stitched up and left on my own so Steven could get home for Joel. The whole thing felt bizarre. I recognise how lucky I am to have had two straight forward short intervention free labours, and so I cannot imagine how women recover after a difficult delivery. I felt traumatised and undignified and this was completely new to me.

Breast-feeding was a struggle in the first few weeks but having been there before and knowing I could do it I got plenty of support and eventually we both got the hang of it. It was very important to me that I breast-feed Nathaniel, but it’s hard work with a toddler competing for attention, and I quickly began to feel resentful that it was all on me all of the time. I decided not to express milk this time round and we tried to get Nathaniel to take a bottle so I could share feeding him with Steven. When this finally clicked for him life certainly got easier for us and I could commit some more time to Joel. This for me is the reality of having two children- there are often two conflicting priorities and I needed to figure out the happiest compromise.

Joel struggled to adjust to having a sibling. I know this is not the case for all children but for him, his life really was chaos for a year or so. Moving house, a serious illness and then a brother was probably all a bit too much. I know we expected too much from him and I have re-learned to parent over the last year. Things I used to do, I do not consider acceptable anymore. I think I used to be quite strict and we were obsessed with routine and sleep. I care much less about all of this now as in my opinion, it just doesn’t really matter. I would never do controlled crying again, I try to take a very gentle approach to parenting and we try not to shout or punish. That doesn’t mean there aren’t rules, there are, and Joel is growing into a very responsible and respectful child. We talk a lot and make decisions as a family. He has his say and knows that we value his opinion. I anticipate this will be much easier with Nathaniel as that ethos is already there in our house now. We try to have a lot of fun and for me that is the most important thing. I might not be able to give them all of the things other kids have but I am teaching them to be grateful for all the wonderful things we have and how to laugh – a lot. 

Has motherhood changed you? Undoubtedly. My priorities are different – on nearly everything. Yes I still love all the things I loved before I had children, but I accept and am happy with my life which is now full of play-dates, nappies, paw patrol, and fish fingers. I really appreciate little luxuries now and feel I don’t take anything for granted the way I might have done previously. I still struggle with the work life balance and sometimes feel like I’m not doing anything particularly well. My work can be emotionally draining and sometimes the last thing I want to do after a day at work is make long jump hurdles in the lounge, or sing row row your boat a dozen times, but my children did not choose for me to go to work and so I owe it to them to be enthusiastic and give them my full attention when I do get home. Equally, I can’t let my work suffer because I’m not in the office two days a week. I know I talk about my kids incessantly and I probably drive my colleagues mad with my stories and endless photos, but I can’t switch off from them; they are always there in the forefront of my mind and I relate everything I do to them.

Hardest part of being a mother: When anyone is ill. Kids ill? Childcare nightmare. Grown ups ill? Childcare nightmare. There is nothing worse than trying to muster the energy to entertain children when you feel rotten. No, that’s not true, looking after poorly children and worrying about them is much worse than being ill myself.

The hardest part of being a mother to two children is splitting my time. Before Nathaniel, Joel did not have to share me with anyone. I could play with play dough all day if he wanted, run round the park? No problem. Read ‘giraffe’s can’t dance’ 50 times? Let’s do it. Now, I find myself saying ‘just give me five minutes’ or I’m just feeding natey’ too often. When Nate was tiny I thought it was tricky as he fed almost constantly, but when he was finished I could just put him down and concentrate on Joel. Now they are both after my attention, and both on the move – usually in opposite directions. It’s hard to find activities that entertain them both and they both seem to move into a new phase together, so when Nate was small – and stationary- Joel didn’t have the concentration span for his train set or lego, now he’s got an interest in these things, Nate is on the move and hell bent on destroying any quiet organised play.

Best part of being a mother: I actually really enjoy the things I now have an excuse to do with the kids – sealife centre, crafts, walks in the park, farms, zoos. I love exploring the world with the boys and seeing new things as they do.

Cuddles all the time. I know they won’t last forever and so I’m banking them now. When Joel reaches over to hold my hand or leans in and tells me he loves me, all his tantrums and hitting just melt away. I hope Nathaniel is as affectionate as he gets older. He’s already blowing kisses so I’m optimistic!

What you wish you’d known before having children: That you are never alone, yet sometimes feel completely isolated. Having kids is a great way of meeting people but it takes you away from all of the things that you knew before. Work is not the same, friendships you had for years change, and your relationship with your partner is sometimes unrecognisable. I have sat in baby groups with women I really like and felt like a complete outsider, I have sat for lunch with childless friends and wanted to cry because I felt like I had nothing to contribute, I have sat down for dinner with my husband and realised that we haven’t spoken about anything other than children in days. Sometimes I feel like I am the only person in the world who is really struggling (when I know this is not the case). As a mother you always have company from your little people, and this for the most part is great, but let’s be honest here, it can be boring. I didn’t know it was okay to admit that until recently but it is so true. Repeatedly hiding a plastic cup under a pillow might be exciting for a one year old, just like whizzing a train around a track is exciting for a 4 year old, but to a 32 year old? Not so much. I love seeing my kids happy but adult company can be a very welcome break. That said, there are times where I am in adult company and think ‘I’d be having more fun with my kids’ so maybe I just can’t be pleased!

Any more advice for mothers and expectant mums: Don’t be hard on yourself, and surround yourself with people you trust. Be honest with yourself and those you love. If you need help – ask for it. Live by a park, buy lots of storage, sleep when you can, and find what works for your family.

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