Children: Joseph, 3 years old, Eliza, 11 days old
Location: Heaton Chapel
Expectations of Motherhood: I thought I had a pretty good idea of how much my life would change when I became a mummy. I think I’d been told pretty much on a daily basis (especially whilst at work) how much of a shell shock it could be. I still had my own fantasy though, Sitting serenely with my little baby, cuddling for hours on end!
Reality of Motherhood: It was a shell shock! I’d managed to stay fairly laid back during the pregnancy and birth of Joseph, but as soon as the reality set in that he was actually mine, I did my own head in!
I work as a midwife so I had an internal conflict going on between my Mummy brain and my Midwife brain. I’d read the textbooks but clearly my baby hadn’t! The breastfeeding went a bit pear shaped, and I felt so guilty for supplementing with formula and then giving up completely a few moths down the line. I felt in a way that my body had let me down at the last minute, I’d been able to grow and bring a baby into the world but then to not be able to nourish him completely was devastating. That combined with issues with healing after the birth and then my mum being diagnosed with a brain tumour when Joseph was 6 weeks old meant that my mood was on a downward spiral. Eventually, not being able to see me cry any more, my lovely brave mum marched me off to the GP! It was so hard to admit how I was feeling. It felt like I should have been able to just cope with it all, like somehow I should have been immune to postnatal depression because of my job.
Which is ridiculous I know! After starting on antidepressants I slowly started to feel brighter again, and more like myself. I began to bond with Joseph more, and I suddenly got loads of motivation to get out and about. I joined a postnatal fitness class where Joseph came with me in the pram, we did lots of mum and baby classes and we met up regularly with a group of local mums who were all so lovely and non-judgemental.
I really loved my year off with Joseph in the end and I was sad to have to go back to work and leave him. We are really lucky in a way that because my husband and I work shifts, we are able to work alternate days and therefore not have to fork out for childcare. It helped with the anxiety off leaving Joseph too as I knew he would be perfectly fine with Daddy. (They love their boys days!) After a few weeks of settling back into work I decided to wean off my antidepressants (with my GP’s support). Thankfully I’ve continued to be on a good place since then.
Second time round I think I’m more chilled out about it all. Not that I’m saying I’ve got it all sussed out yet (Eliza’s not even 2 weeks old as I’m writing this!) but I’m determined to try and just go with the flow. We’ve been hit by more feeding issues after the dreaded tongue-tie strikes again, We are persevering but just taking one day at a time. I had such a positive birth experience and I’ve felt so well physically after Eliza’s birth, I think that has played a major part of how I’m feeling in my mood. And when you feel happier in yourself I think it’s easier to cope with what life can throw at you.
Taking your children home for the first time: After seeing hundreds of women go home with their new babies, all bundled up in their shiny new car seats, it’s so surreal to be doing it yourself. When we brought Joseph home from the hospital I felt like I’d literally stolen a baby from work! I kept looking for reassurance, like, ‘Are you sure I’m allowed to be doing this?’
With Eliza it was a little more, I don’t want to say stressy, maybe busy! Not only did we have a newborn to wrestle into a car seat, but we had Joseph with us too! He’s such a good boy, but very curious. The moment our back was turned he was nearly diving into the clinical waste bin! ‘Ooh mummy, what’s in here?!’ We managed it though and it was so nice to get home and begin our new lives as a family of four.
The hardest parts of being a mother: The hardest part of being a mother for me is the guilt; the constant worrying and second guessing whether I’m doing the right thing or not. I mentioned above that we don’t have Joseph in a nursery or with a childminder. It would have been logistically difficult for us to get him there and pick him up with us both working antisocial hours, and obviously cost was a big factor.
It’s been lovely to spend so much time with him, but I’ve found myself feeling so guilty about it. Was he missing out on interaction with other children and adults other than us? Was I holding him back? Was I going to delay his development? It sometimes feels like you can’t do right for doing wrong.
The best/worst advice: The best advice I was given was to ignore everyone’s advice! As soon as you tell anyone your expecting you get bombarded with well meaning advice. I think it’s a case of listening to everything and trying to work out what works for you as a family. And what works at one point might not work at a later stage. So for us it’s been about being fluid.
I can’t actually think what’s the worst advice. What I think is a stupid idea, someone might think is a genius one!
The best parts of being a mother: The best part of being a mummy has to be the unbelievable love. I’m head over heels in love with my hubby but my goodness, the love I feel for my little ones is something else. The feeling that you’d do absolutely anything for them. I didn’t feel it right away with Joseph, and that was another thing I felt guilty about! But it grew and grew. The early days are so hard when you feel like your giving absolutely everything of yourself to this little being, and all they do is eat, poop and sleep (sometimes!) in return. But when they start to give a little back, that’s when it gets really good! Even if it’s just a little windy smile or now Joseph is a little older, when he says something cute like, ‘Aw mummy, your so beautiful’ it just melts my heart!
Has becoming a mother changed you? Absolutely! It’s hard to remember what life was like before having the little ones. In a good way! I think it’s changed me at work too. I’m not saying for the better, that always got on my nerves when people say you’ve got to have kids to be a good midwife. But it has certainly changed the way I talk to parents now. I think having gone through it myself and totally feeling like I was bumbling along with it all, I want to give new mums and dads that reassurance that’s it’s ok to feel that way too.
Hopes for your family: I hope that we settle into our new lives as a family of four. That they grow up to be happy and healthy in whatever direction they choose to go in. Who knows we might even add one more into the mix!
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Enjoy it, be present in it all. (I’m guilty of not following my own advice here!) listen to everyone’s opinions, smile and then do your own thing with what feels right for you.