Expectations of Motherhood:Both me and my husband had an idealistic view of what it would be like when we had children. Of course, I’d never let my child have a dummy. And tantrums, we’d be able to deal with them really well. I also thought I’d be this really creative mum who’d constantly be doing stuff with her children.
I suppose you don’t think of all the downsides. You just imagine it to be this lovely thing; the baby arrives and you just spend all your time cuddling them. You think that your life basically goes on as it did before you had children.
A couple of times before I had Ted, when I was pregnant, people would say to me, ‘You need to go out and enjoy yourself before it’s over.’ I thought, my life won’t change that much. No, I’m still going to do everything. I’ll take him out and he’ll be with us in his car seat while we’re eating nice meals.
Reality of Motherhood: I had quite a difficult birth with Ted, which resulted in me having a c-section. It wasn’t at all what I’d wanted. I hadn’t even considered it as a possibility. I wanted a water birth – as most people do – and to have no intervention. In the end I was in the hospital for 3 days before I even had him. Then when he was born, I had to stay in hospital for another 3 days. It was hell because he just wouldn’t sleep. He just cried. I was absolutely exhausted.
I don’t think it ever crosses your mind that after you deliver this baby you’re have look after them as well. And at Wythenshawe you’re on your own because husbands have to go home; at 10pm at night they leave until the next morning. I begged the midwives to let my husband come in an hour earlier, but they said, ‘No!’
In hindsight, after having Bea, and having time to reflect on Ted’s birth and when he was small, I don’t know if it was actually depression, but I definitely had proper baby blues. I feel like I had it for a while. At the time you’re so involved in it that you don’t think that’s what’s happening, and a lot of people say, ‘That happens to everyone. You’re fine,’ but I didn’t leave the house on my own with Ted on my own for months. It was about four months before I actually went out in the car with him on my own. I was terrified. With Bea, we were doing stuff after we’d been home for a couple of days. I didn’t have any worry or anxiety with her even though I expected to.
Taking your children home: I was so relived to take Ted home, but then he just didn’t sleep. I think that’s was when it struck us that our lives had changed so much. He didn’t sleep the first night at all. My husband was just in shock – he’d been going home on his own every night and getting a full night’s sleep while I’d been in hospital. He couldn’t believe it. We changed so many nappies, we fed him again and again, but he wouldn’t stop crying. We tried everything, but nothing really worked.
When I came home with Bea, it felt so normal. She was so laid back and settled. In a way it felt like she’d always been here. She just fitted in. The next day, we woke up with her in our room and Ted came in. It just felt completely normal. There wasn’t any disruption. I think it’s because our lives had already changed massively after having Ted. We didn’t have that period of grief for the life that we’d lost.
Best Advice: I’ve got a few friends who are due to have babies any day now. I’ve just said to them, ‘You will know what’s right. Trust your instincts’.
First time, I was so desperate to have a quick fix, but you have to follow what is right. I was constantly seeking that perfect advice. We’d spend hours in Mothercare looking for something that would help us. Obviously there wasn’t anything – he was colicky. I do think if you follow what you think’s best then it tends to just work.
I actually did everything I was told not to. They said, ‘Don’t feed them to sleep,’ but I fed Ted to sleep. Then they said, ‘Don’t rock them to sleep,’ but for a bit, after I fed him we rocked him to sleep. We were worried that he was never going to be able to sleep on his own. People would say to us, ‘You need to let him cry,’ but it would be awful and he’d make himself sick. It was just not working.
In the end we decided to do it our way, and gradually he learned to get to sleep by himself, steadily, and at his own pace. Now he’s absolutely fine. So many people I speak to are worried about these things, and feel so guilty for doing them, but it’s not doing any harm.
I’ve got one friend who’s especially helpful. I think it’s because she gives really positive advice. I think that’s a great way to be. A lot of people can be really condemning. I hope to be like her when people ask me for advice.
Worst advice: I’ve heard some terrible things, but I probably shouldn’t say!
I think some people don’t realise how things have changed and so they push ideas that are now considered quite old fashioned. It’s tricky to listen and be polite whilst being fully aware that you can’t take it on. It can be hard to take advice when you don’t want to.
This time, I’ve not had so much advice. People tend to back off a little with the second child. First time, you get given it whether you ask for it or not.
It’s amazing how they love you and trust you as well. You can never explain that to anyone, the relationship you have with them. It’s like having little friends around (that you argue with occasionally). Ted’s like a companion to me. It can be really lonely being off work so having someone there with you, who knows you, and knows when you’re upset or angry, it’s lovely. In the last year Ted’s turned into a real person. He’s definitely not a baby anymore and I love doing stuff with him.
Worst parts of being a mother: The sleep deprivation. I hate it. It’s the worst thing. Bea wakes up about every two hours at the moment. We’re going through a bad stage.
I miss the freedom of being able to just leave the house on a whim, without thinking. Now, I have to think of everything. And I’m not the most organised person, so often I’ll leave the house without stuff I need and I end up having to improvise. I don’t think I ever relax because I’m constantly preparing for something to happen.
Social media is another thing. I’m just as guilty, but, people only upload the amazing things. It’s so easy to look at other people lives and be envious. Friends without children enjoying a really different life; going on holidays, going away on mini breaks, eating at really nice restaurants. I have to remember what I’ve got instead. I’m sure at the same time people might look at us and think that we have the perfect life. People have said to me, ‘You make it look so easy with two’, but I say I’m not putting the horrible photos on, like when I’m having a screaming argument with a toddler.
I think I’ve grown up a lot since becoming a mum. I’ve realised that some things just aren’t important anymore. I used to get so stressed about work, and then I’d come home to the children and think, ‘Why are we all fussing about something that minor?’ It puts things into perspective. Actually, that was one of the best things about going back to work after having Ted. I became more mindful and thought, ‘This is really silly, I’m not rushing around doing this. What’s the worst that will happen?’
Neither me or my husband brings work home with us now. We spend our days working solidly until we pick them up and then we can relax. I don’t want to put work first, but at the same time I really want to work still. That was one of the things I hadn’t expected. I’d thought I’d finish work and I’d want to stay at home, but after a bit – maybe on the first day! – I thought, ‘work is so much easier than this! It’s so much easier that being at home on your own and entertaining someone that doesn’t talk to you.’ Some people think that it’s a shame for me, as a working mum. I don’t think they realise that I choose to work because I want to and I like applying my mind to something different. There’s more to me than being a mum.
Hopes for your family: We want to make our children’s childhood the best it can possibly be. As we are both teachers it’s important to make the most of our holidays by spending our time together. There are so many places I want to travel to and think it will now be even more fun (if not very different!) with children. We both want to encourage them to have creative and enquiring minds and know that we are proud of their achievements.
What advice would you give expectant mums?Trust your instinct and trust what feels best for you and your family. Try not to doubt yourself or compare yourself to others; we’re all in it together!