Emily and Tristan

Name: Emily

Child: Tristan, 9 months

Location: Prestwich, Manchester

Expectations of Motherhood: I was a huge bundle of anxiety throughout my pregnancy. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome when I was 17 and told I wouldn’t be able to have children without fertility treatment. That turned out to not be true but because I’d lived with the knowledge of my condition for so long, I felt like I’d cheated somehow getting pregnant with relative ease and that at any moment I was going to get found out and it would all go wrong. I don’t know at what point I allowed myself to believe it was real.

Reality of Motherhood: Motherhood is terrifying and exhilarating and exhausting. It’s at once the hardest and the best thing I’ve ever done. Seeing Tristan’s personality emerge is wonderful – he’s inquisitive and affectionate (and occasionally a stubborn little drama queen) and I love getting to know him.

Taking your child home for the first time: Walking through the front door with Tristan in my arms was an overwhelming relief. He arrived three weeks early and I had to have an emergency c-section because he was breech. He had fluid on his lungs when he came out so he was taken to the newborn intensive care unit for CPAP treatment. I’d tried to prepare myself for all the eventualities of childbirth but watching my tiny baby be wheeled away in an incubator at two hours old was not one of the scenarios I’d imagined. I spent the next three days being wheeled down to the NICU ward every three hours to breastfeed him while in between I was pumped full of antibiotics to try and get rid of the infection I’d contracted as a result of the surgery. Lying in my solitary hospital bed, unable to move because of the pain from where I’d been cut open, listening to the swish of the IV pump and the faint cries of the babies in the ward next door, I had never felt more alone. But on day four we were given the all clear and allowed to go home. We discovered on that first night that Tristan hated sleeping on his own so my husband and I slept in shifts (and continued to do so for the next seven weeks) but however hard it was, it was overshadowed by the sheer relief of finally having him home.

The best/worst advice: The best was to get a tumble dryer. I wasn’t convinced it was necessary but my dad bought us one as a gift so of course I wasn’t going to say no. I had no idea what a lifesaver it would be! Thank you, Dad!

I believe all advice is offered with good intentions but I can’t stand anything ending in the phrase, “You’ll make a rod for your own back.” It’s such rubbish. Having a baby is hard enough, why make it harder for yourself by abandoning something that works?

The hardest parts of being a mother: For me it’s the lack of sleep. If I can get Tristan to stay in his cot for a four hour stretch it’s a huge victory. I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in nearly ten months and I am bone tired all the time. At the moment I take the opportunity to nap with Tristan during the day but I’m a bit scared how I’m going to manage once I go back to work.

The best parts of being a mother: It’s a cliché but the love you have for your child is incredible. It’s beautiful and raw and makes you more vulnerable than you have ever been before. I am in awe of Tristan every day; this perfect, tiny person that I made. Sometimes have to remind myself that there are seven billion people on the planet so making another one isn’t really that impressive but then I’ll watch Tristan master some new skill and I’ll be amazed by him all over again.

Has becoming a mother changed you? In many ways I think I’m a better version of myself now – I’m more patient than I thought I could be, I have more empathy and I’m less selfish. The hard part is not losing myself in the role of ‘Mummy’. I’m still me. I have this extra thing about me now which is wonderful but I still have the same hopes and ambitions and thoughts and passions that I had before. They’re buried a little deeper now because Tristan has become my priority. I started my blog, The Useless Mother’s Cookbook (uselesscookbook.wordpress.com), not just to learn how to cook but to give myself something to think about that’s not focused on how much Tristan sleeps.

Hopes for your (growing) family: I hope we all stay healthy. I hope we keep loving each other. I hope we can help Tristan fulfill his potential and I hope we can give him a sibling one day.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums? I’m still less than a year into this so I don’t feel qualified to give too much advice so I’ll just say this: be nice to yourself. You don’t have to pretend you have a perfect Instagram-ready life. It’s okay to admit that this is hard and you should be damned proud of yourself for getting through it!

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