Holly and Florence

Name: Holly 

Florence, 15 months

Location: Chorlton, Manchester

Expectations of Motherhood: I really thought my entrepreneurial spark would kick in whilst I was on maternity leave and that I’d have plenty of spare time in the day. I expected to be nursing my baby in one arm and typing away on the computer with the other. I thought I’d have a business up and running and my first novel drafted (I’ve always fancied myself as a successful novelist). I expected to be a “lady that lunches”, who carries her baby around in a sling wherever I went, looking all “yummy mummy” in my skinny jeans, having picnics in the park and jogging with my stroller. That’s what I’d seen on Instagram and that’s what I thought I’d be! (How wrong I was). 

Reality of Motherhood: My baby doesn’t really sleep or nap without me! So I spent the first 9 months of her life pinned underneath her on the couch or with her attached to my boobs. Which meant my spare time for productive business brainstorming and social networking just didn’t really materialise. Instead I lay on the couch, watching series records of America’s Next Top Model, Australia’s Next Top Model, Britain’s Next Top Model…you get the drift. It wasn’t until Flo was 10 months old that I found the odd half hour of spare time creeping in here and there, whilst she was happy playing and amusing herself, by which point I was generally exhausted and just happy for a bit of time on Facebook.Then by about a year, I finally got to launch my business and start to get my sanity back (sort of) and now at 15 months, she’s just started sleeping more than 3 hour chunks and I realise what it feels like to not be completely and utterly exhausted all the time. Oh and another reality of motherhood for those of you that decide to breast-feed is leaky boobs…un-glamourous, but a reality.

Taking your child home for the first time: This is probably one of the most surreal moments of a parent’s life. You’ve just been through the crazy, emotional, draining experience of giving birth and you’re suddenly faced with looking after another living thing…a teeny tiny living thing that totally depends on you. Then, sleep deprived, sore and bewildered, you’re discharged and sent on your merry way to go forth and parent. But no one tells you what you’re actually supposed to do next! It’s supposed to come naturally isn’t it?

Well the journey home was fine, she slept and it all seemed totally doable. We were then welcomed home by the dog and the grandparents (who thankfully had a curry waiting for us!) and everyone cooed and enjoyed some cuddle time with her. Then she started crying. And she pretty much cried on and off for the rest of the evening and into the night and we had no bloody idea what we were supposed to do…feed? change her nappy? cuddle her? And we both looked at each other and all we wanted to do was sleep, having been awake for the last 36 hours and I remember saying to my husband “but when do we sleep? how do we actually do this without sleep?”. Well that was just the beginning, but as if mother nature has it all figured out, you kind of just do it and get used to it and each day gets a tiny bit easier. 

The best/worst advice: The best advice I probably had was to just go with your intuition. You really do get this sixth sense when you become a mother and you just sort of know what your baby wants and what’s best for them. You’ll be given such a huge amount of information, advice and opinions when you’re pregnant and a new mum (most of which is useless) that it’s all a bit overwhelming. If your baby is generally healthy and happy, you’re doing something right!

I wouldn’t say I’ve received any bad advice, but probably just had some advice delivered in an insensitive way (which you’ll get used to as a new mum). People generally meaning well, but telling you that you’re “creating a rod for your own back by doing that…” or “oh, your baby should be sleeping through the night by now…perhaps you should do something differently…” (as if I like to be woken every 2 hours for 12 months straight!). 

The hardest parts of being a mother: There’ll be a familiar theme to this…sleep…or lack thereof. I genuinely never thought I could feel so utterly exhausted and deflated as I have on occasion since becoming a mum. Genuinely you plod on and your baby’s gorgeous smiling face and utter unconditional love does everything to pull you through the difficult days. But there’s a reason that sleep deprivation is used as torture – because it’s hell! 
Wanting to have more energy to try that sleep-training you’ve been told is the key to your baby sleeping through the night, or to skip along to the next baby sensory group, but not being able to muster enough energy to get dressed in a manner that is acceptable for leaving your house, is seriously hard. But know that you’re not alone. Despite all the well turned-out, happy, smiling mums you’ll come across, nearly every one of them is feeling or has felt exactly the same as you. There’s something cruel but comforting about that fact. 

Oh and breast-feeding. It’s hard. Not for everyone of course, but for a lot of women. So don’t beat yourself up about it if you’re finding it tough and don’t suffer in silence. Speak to people, ask for help. It does generally get easier, but those first weeks (and months) can be really really hard. And if it’s not happening, bottle feed or combination feed. As long as your baby eats, it doesn’t really matter where the milks coming from. You have so many things to take in as a mum and to try and do for your baby, having mum-guilt over anything is a waste of your energy. 

The best parts of being a mother: Gosh where do I start? I used to roll my eyes when a new mum would say, “It’s the best thing ever” and coo over their baby like they’re the first child to exist or break wind or eat a piece of banana. But it really bloody is the BEST THING EVER! Don’t get me wrong, it can be lonely, exhausting and anxiety-inducing, but it really is a privilege to be a parent. I get so much out of every little thing that Flo does and watching her respond to the world around her is so satisfying. I love her cuddles when she’s sleepy and the way she arches her back and farts in the morning before waking up. I love the utter trust she has for me and her Dadda and that even when she’s grizzly and crying, she still claps along as we sing “If you’re happy and you know it”. I love that she finds it hilarious when she blows a raspberry and that her first word was “Peppa” because she loves Peppa Pig (says a lot about our parenting skills). I love her little dance moves when one of her favourite songs comes on. And I love that I get to be a part of her world and existence and hopefully be a positive role model for her in her life. Her smile and cheeky grin has the power to make even the toughest of days completely wonderful. Cheesy I know, but completely true. 

Has becoming a mother changed you? I would say me as a person, no. I am still the same Holly. I still like a few too many glasses of Prosecco occasionally and I still love to spend time with my hubby and friends (with or without Flo). But I would say it’s made me realise just how strong I am. It’s given me a new sense of confidence and self-appreciation. It’s made my outlook on life slightly different and it’s made me even more driven to create as lovely-a-life as possible for my little family. 

Hopes for your family: I hope that we can bring Flo up as a progressive-thinking, open person, who is keen to experience new things and get the most out of life. We’d definitely like to continue to grow our family…not just yet, but in the future we hope Flo will have a little brother or sister. We’re content with enjoying her for now though. 

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums? I would say go to your antenatal classes (NCT are great for meeting like-minded people in your local area) and once you’re recovered from labour and feeling up for it, get out. There’s nothing better than fresh air and although you’ll be scared and apprehensive and unsure of how to do almost everything, just do it. That feeling really does pass and the sooner you get out there, the quicker you’ll feel like yourself again. And go to baby classes. Even if they sound a bit silly, they really are the best way to socialise and for your baby to socialise. They’ll be the best £4 or £5 you’ve ever spent. You’ll meet lots of other mums and dads and create a support network for yourself, which is vital for new mums as it can sometimes feel very lonely. And eat cake! Don’t worry about getting your “pre-baby body” back. Your body has just been through an immense thing and you’ll be lacking sleep and guess what? you’ll need carbs and sugar. So just let yourself go with it for a while and don’t beat yourself up about your new found addiction to cakes. 

I took redundancy whilst on maternity leave and although completely terrifying, it was the best thing that could have happened. It gave me the kick up the bottom to go it alone and start my own Wedding Planning business, work with my husband’s agency Six & Flow, and concentrate on my blogging, which is my creative outlet. So now I get to do the things I love as a job, whilst having the flexibility to work part-time and spend as much time as I can with my daughter. This is the sort of thing that people dream of doing and think it’s not possible, but I’m here to say that it is. You’ve just got to have a leap of`faith and give it a go! Don’t let any job or person make you think that you can’t do it because you’re a mum. Don’t let people overlook you for that promotion or side-track your career progress because you’ve started a family. Fact is, you’re probably more efficient than most others because you know how to juggle about 10 things at time, whilst holding a baby and conducting a conversation. Believe in yourself and your abilities, this is the time to give it a go!

My blog – http://hollygoeslightly.co.uk
My wedding planning business – http://nicolandwood.com
Six & Flow – http://sixandflow.com
My twitter: @HollyNicol

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