Child: Elliot, 9 months
Location: Prestwich, Manchester
Expectations of Motherhood: To be honest, I didn’t have many; as hard as I tried, I found it difficult to imagine what it was actually going to be like! I do remember looking forward to experiencing the overpowering love I knew I’d have for my baby, though.
Reality of Motherhood: All consuming, incredibly tiring, but ultimately totally wonderful.
Taking your child home for the first time: After a 17-hour labour ending in an emergency caesarean and four sleepless nights on the ward, I was SO desperate to get home, but I was unprepared for the shitty reality of having to combine looking after a newborn with recovering from major abdominal surgery. I was lucky to have lots and lots of support from my husband as well as my mum in the early days, but it was still incredibly tough. Being so exhausted from my hospital stay started things off on the back foot, and the sleep deprivation hit me mega hard (I was a ‘nine hours a night’ kind of girl before). I hated how helpless I felt and the fact that my stitches meant I couldn’t do lots of the stuff I wanted to for Elliot, who I found both amazing and terrifying in equal measure. I remember thinking to myself more than once, ‘What the hell have I signed up for here?’. But it quickly got better, and easier –thank god!
The best/worst advice:
The best: ‘There is no such thing as too much love’. All the baby books bombard you with advice on the importance of establishing a routine, tips on how to stop them waking in the night, crying when you leave the room, all that stuff. And it’s so exhausting tending to a newborn that naturally you sometimes find yourself wishing for the time when they won’t need you so much; when they’ll feed less, or stop falling asleep on you, or be able to sit up on their own – I’ve certainly been guilty of this. But I’ve also always tried really hard to remember that each phase is fleeting and one day Elliot won’t crave the same kind of closeness from me. So I try to make the most of every cuddle, enjoy his neediness as much as possible, and give him every bit of love I can.
The worst: ‘Your baby will be happier/smarter if you take them to baby yoga/baby massage/sensory storytime, etc.’ Don’t get me wrong: stimulating activities like this definitely have their value, not least that they help dispel the cabin fever you get from endless days indoors. But, during the first four months or so, I wore myself out trying to get Elliot to numerous classes on time, dragging a ludicrously overpacked nappy bag behind me and feeling extremely harassed, all because I believed it would – MUST – massively benefit him. Truth is, four times out of five, he spent the majority of the time asleep or very cranky, and clearly was way too tiny to get anything out of them. Now we choose our activities carefully and I don’t let myself feel guilty if we’re having an off day and don’t manage to make it to a class – there’s lots of fun we can have together at home too.
The hardest parts of being a mother: That it’s 24/7 and your brain never, ever switches off from thinking about them. Having so little headspace can be hard to adjust to, and that’s why I think it’s important to try and do something for yourself every once in a while. That’s why I started Mamas Collective. I firmly believe that having your own interests and taking a bit of ‘me’ time makes you a better mum in the long run.
The best parts of being a mother: There are so many things! I’m so proud to have created my own little family, and watching Elliot grow and develop is more satisfying than anything I’ve experienced before. My relationship with my husband is better than ever – I love seeing how well he’s taken to fatherhood. Life is much more meaningful and fulfilling to me now. And I feel like I’ve gained membership to this awesome club of incredible women who are achieving amazing things and giving so much of themselves day after day.
Has becoming a mother changed you? Even though it’s only been nine months, motherhood’s changed me completely, in all the best ways. At first, I used to miss lots about the old me, but I’ve quickly realised that the new me is generally better all round – I’m more compassionate, less selfish, stronger, and I’ve finally got my priorities straight. I still wish I could concentrate as well as I used to, though!
Hopes for your family: Even more happiness and lots of togetherness.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums? It’s easier said than done when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and are terribly afraid of getting something wrong – all while operating on very little sleep – but try and relax. I used to be pretty highly strung and, as a consequence, I put myself under too much unnecessary pressure to do everything perfectly during the first few weeks of Elliot’s life. Take time to soak up the magic of your brand new baby and let someone else worry about the washing up.
Molly runs a group called Mamas Collective, which hosts meetups, workshops and events designed with mums in mind. www.mamas-collective.com