Name: Gemma Roberts
Children: Jac 3 years, 8 months and Lola, 16 months
Expectations of Motherhood: My expectations of having a baby and being at home were that it would be much easier than being at work. I couldn’t wait to finish work and go on maternity leave so that I could have a “break”(!)
I knew that our lives were going to change, but I don’t think I fully anticipated quite how big that change would be. I thought that I would be able to get things done around the house, cook nice meals for my Husband to come home to and that my baby would just sleep most of the time and although I’d be tired, this little person would bring us so much love and joy that it would all be ok. I was right about the love and joy part, but I was so naive about everything else!
Reality of Motherhood: We had a bit of a traumatic time with breastfeeding. Although I really wanted to breastfeed Jac, I knew he wasn’t getting enough milk – he didn’t have wet nappies, he wasn’t settled and he was losing weight every time the Midwife came to see us. Despite knowing that he wasn’t getting enough. and despite my best efforts, I felt incredibly pressured to continue trying to breastfeed. I felt so much pressure that I refused to give him formula; my Midwife fed Jac his first bottle of it, and I sat and watched and cried. At one point, I was double-pumping using a hospital grade pump, taking domperidone and fenugreek tablets, using a supplementary nursing system to feed Jac, and then topping up with a bottle. Once the feeding cycle had ended, it was time to start the process again. I knew that we couldn’t go on like this – I just wasn’t enjoying it. Gradually, I stopped the pumping etc and Jac was combi fed for around 6 months before being on formula completely.
It was honestly like a massive weight had been lifted and I began to enjoy my baby after my Midwife had given him his first bottle. He began putting weight on and having wet nappies, and though I don’t feel sad that breastfeeding didn’t work out completely for us, it makes me feel sad that I felt such pressure that Jac had to suffer as a result. I think that all I wanted was for someone to tell me that it was ok to give him formula, as long as he is fed that is the main thing, but no-one did. Everyone just kept telling me that formula was so bad and that I just needed to persist with breastfeeding.
Second time around, I wanted to give breastfeeding a go but my Husband and I decided that we didn’t want to put ourselves through a horrific time again. When Lola was born, we tried again and when things started to follow the same path, we decided to supplement from a couple of days old. It worked for us and meant that I was able to breastfeed her and my Husband could get involved with the top-up bottles. I felt so much more confident in my choice, and we did what worked for us as a family and ignored judgment from anyone else. We combi fed again for 6 months, and I can honestly say that I am 100% happy with our choice and how things ended up. Jac and Lola are gorgeous, happy and healthy children and are our absolute everything – parenting isn’t just about how you feed your babies, it’s SO much more. I realise now that it doesn’t matter how your baby is fed, as long as they are getting milk that is all that matters.
Taking your children home for the first time: Both Jac and Lola were born at home (planned homebirths!) I was transferred in to Hospital with Jac after he was born as I’d had meconium in my waters. Everything was fine and we came home the next day. I remember getting him home, and bringing him in the House and wondering what we were supposed to do?! We put him in his moses basket and he slept for all of about ten minutes and then spent the rest of the night feeding and unsettled. It was a very long night and we were both exhausted! When Lola was born, although I had meconium in my waters again, we didn’t get transferred in to the Hospital. After the Midwife had done her checks, helped me to have a bath and got us settled and comfy on the sofa, she left. We were sat on the sofa as a family of four, eating toast, drinking tea and watching CBeebies as if I hadn’t just given birth in the dining room – it was so surreal!
It was lovely being at home and having all our home comforts and not having to leave Jac – he was even there when his little sister was born! I would highly recommend home birth to anyone – so empowering and lovely not having to leave the house!
The best/worst advice: The best piece of advice that I received was to do what is right for me and my family – it’s so true. What works for us might not work for someone else, and that’s fine. One size definitely doesn’t fit all. I haven’t received much bad advice – just people telling me that we shouldn’t do certain things like co-sleeping because we’ll never get our bed back to ourselves, and generally providing their opinion on how we should parent. I’m quite resilient to it now I think and we just do things our way – we have two happy and healthy children, so we must be doing something right… I hope so anyway!
The hardest parts of being a mother: Aside from the difficulties we had with feeding in the beginning, I would say that sleep deprivation was one of the hardest things that we had to go through. Second time around, it was actually a lot easier to deal with as I don’t think we’d quite recovered from the first time! Nothing could have prepared me for how tired we would be, and how the tiredness would make us really irritable and not really like each other!
But it does get better, and they’re both sleeping through the night now so we have our evenings back and although I wouldn’t say I feel refreshed, I definitely feel more sane now that we get to have an uninterrupted night’s sleep again!
The best parts of being a mother: The overwhelming love that I feel for Jac and Lola is out of this world. They are my everything and I can’t imagine life without them. I knew that I would love my babies, but quite how much, I don’t think I knew! Before Lola was born, I didn’t think I could love another child as much as Jac. How would that be possible? But it is, my heart just grew even bigger! (cheesy, sorry!) We have so much fun together and seeing the bond between them as siblings growing each day and seeing them have fun and laughing together is possibly one of the best feelings in the world. When I’m gone, knowing that they’ll at least have each other is something special. I love the snuggles, seeing them reach new milestones and taking them out to experience things – everyone should try and see things through the eyes of a three year old, its amazing! Becoming a Mummy is the best thing I have ever done and it’s a privilege to have Jac and Lola in my life.
Has becoming a mother changed you: Definitely! I’ve learnt more about patience, strength and unconditional love in the last 3.8 years than I have in a lifetime! I am still the same old me, but Jac and Lola make me want to be a better person. I want to make them proud and my outlook on life has definitely changed.
Hopes for your family: I hope that as Jac and Lola grow up they will continue to be caring, determined and happy individuals and that they follow and fight for their dreams. I want them to know that they can achieve anything that they want if they put their mind to it! I hope that we’ll all continue to have as much fun as we have been having already and I can’t wait to create even more magical memories with them.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Do what is right for you and your family. Don’t feel pressured or judged by others just because your way is different. Be kind to yourself – we all have bad days – and a new day is a blank slate and a fresh start. Make sure you take time for yourself; have a bath, a cup of tea in peace or a walk. You can’t fill everyone elses cup if your cup is empty. Even though it will seem like a mammoth effort to begin with, try and get out of the house with your baby every day. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, fresh air does wonders. Make yourself get out to those baby groups – you might not feel like it, but if you’re as lucky as me you’ll make some of the best mummy friends that you could ever wish for and you can all help each other through the tough times.
Extra Info: I’m a helpline volunteer for PANDAs (Pre and post natal depression advice and support). We take phone calls from mums, dads or concerned family members. They’re a really fabulous charity. To contact them go to http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/ Tel: 0843 28 98 401