Child: Alfie 8 months, 1 week
Expectations of Motherhood: From 13 until 17 I nannied for 30 hours a week so I’ve always loved kids, especially toddlers, but I came to the conclusion in my early 20’s that I didn’t want any of my own. I think part of it was because of my childhood; I was the only child to a single mother who worked 2 jobs – 1 full-time and 1 part-time. Because of that I spent a lot of time alone and I never wanted any children to feel lonely the way I felt growing up. Obviously that wasn’t what my mother had wanted, but they the cards she was dealt. I know she loved me more than anything, but she was just never there. When she was there she was tired and moody from work and didn’t really want to engage with me. My upbringing coupled with the skyrocketing divorce rates, I just thought that regardless of how perfect things can be it can always turn and then you’re left in a place where you’re not able to give 100% to your child.
I became pregnant from having unprotected sex 1 time. My partner and I even discussed getting the morning after pill, but we came to the conclusion of not needing it because realistically we’d only done it once so what were the chances that I’d be pregnant. I had previously been told that I was highly unlikely to get pregnant due to hormonal issues I had in my teens. Also, my period tracking app said I wasn’t ovulating. Needless to say I was shocked when my period never came and the mighty wee-stick showed the +.
I didn’t really have any expectations at first; I was so unreactive my partner freaked out even more, like he was reacting for both of us. He didn’t take the news positively at all and it led to 8 and a half turbulent months of him lashing out, us breaking up, apologies, us getting back together, only for the cycle to repeat again.
I then became so terrified that “I’d be like my mother” that I accepted everything my partner said and did as I didn’t see how bringing a baby into a single-parent household was going to be good for him. I work 60 hours a week which just wouldn’t be suitable for a baby – that’s what my mother did. I still carry a lot of hurt and anger about being alone so often. I also didn’t know if I was capable of being a good parent, since in my opinion I’ve never had any sort of active parental role model.
By the end of my pregnancy my partner and I had completely split up, and although I was still really scared I wouldn’t be enough, I’d come to the conclusion that I’d do whatever it took to be present with my son. Looking back on it I think I put so much pressure on myself with my doom and gloom attitude and extremely negative expectations of myself that it actually made my experience, up to now, better.
The only other worry I had was that I didn’t have a support system around – I’m not from Manchester so I don’t have family here, most of my friends had moved away after university and the few that stayed didn’t have children. With the end of my relationship I was scared I wouldn’t have anyone to really discuss motherhood with.
Reality of Motherhood: In reality, motherhood was a lot less doom and gloom. My son is such a happy little baby and he’s so content just by my presence. There is a ridiculous amount of laundry and dish-washing now but most of his waking time I spend engaging with him either chatting or playing with toys.
The things I was most worried about, not being able to spend enough time with him and not wanting to spend time with him when I did have the time, just aren’t applicable. I enjoy every second we spend together and I’m happy to take the pay cut so that I can work less and spend more time with him.
But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, there are lots of other things I hadn’t even considered when I was pregnant. For example, I had a semi-complicated birth that led to a lot of stitching and a blood transfusion. I couldn’t walk for nearly two weeks and even then, it was no more than 5 or 10 minutes on my feet until the 4th week. So yeah, those first 4 weeks were a blur, there was a lot of pain and on and off sleeping. Whenever I was awake I was either feeding or changing Alfie, the rest of the time we napped.
But once that settled down, things came to full circle. I started meeting up with the moms from the NCT prenatal course I did when pregnant, joined a few baby sensory classes, and joined a mum & baby Pilates class. I now have a big circle of friends made up of new mothers from the different classes, two of which I’ve become really close to.
We were very baby-led at first. All the classes and health visitors and guidelines tell you to be, so we were. Once the 4 month sleep regression hit I was told to just continue as is and that Alfie would ‘grow out of it.’ At 6 months we were feeding every hour and a half, day and night, and he never slept for longer than 40 minutes. Once a week he’d not sleep longer than 20 minutes! I was reading all kinds of books and trying all kinds of routines but nothing was working. I went to GPs and Health visitors, all who said he’s now old enough for controlled crying, which I definitely didn’t want to do since the thought of leaving him crying alone was devastating. Eventually a friend recommended that I hire the sleep trainer she’d had success with, and it was the best £50 I’ve ever spent. In 3 weeks Alfie went from dozens of wake ups per night to 1, and within a month he was sleeping through the night.
We’re in a really settled routine now and I have a healthy, happy 8 month old. My day is mostly made up of making food, feeding him, doing dishes, doing laundry, and playing. Even though it doesn’t sound like much, by the end of the day I’m exhausted. After he’s in bed at 8 I shower, watch TV for an hour, and go to sleep so that I’m ready for it all again at 7 the next morning.
Taking your child home for the first time: We didn’t go home until he was 6 days old, which was great. I’m not sure how I would’ve coped if I hadn’t had the help of midwives those first few days. They had taught me how to do pretty much everything and we were really well set up for when we got home. We ordered some take away and stared at Alfie mostly. It was nice being home with him finally.
The best/worst advice: God, pregnant people receive so much advice! I don’t mind getting advice, I just don’t like feeling pressured to take it. The worst is when people make suggestions then want to know why you haven’t implemented them. That was difficult to deal with. Everything from ‘if you rearrange the baby’s room so his head is pointing towards the sun(????) he’ll sleep better.” Absolute quacks!
Seriously I think the best advice I got was to not get any 0-6 months clothes because you will receive loads! And to not be afraid to go into the stores and exchange them for other things or other sizes, as every store has let me do that without a receipt.
Also to not get lots of ‘cutesy’ clothes as the first 3 or 4 months we didn’t leave very often and it was so much easier to just keep him in all white baby grows with white vests underneath. He was still having a lot of poop accidents and it was easier to just do all white loads with vanish for whites to keep everything nice and clean.
Don’t try to rush things! I was in such a hurry for him to ‘learn how to sit’ or ‘learn how to roll over’ and now I feel like his first 6 months just flew! Once I realised he didn’t need to be rushed, and that he’d eventually learn those things, it made me enjoy the moment a lot more. I’m happy he’s 8 months and has no teeth and hasn’t learn to pull himself up yet. I’m enjoying it. I know that within a few weeks or a few month’s he’ll be doing all of that and it’ll just be more work for me!
The hardest parts of being a mother: The hardest part of being a single mother is that I’m the only one ever on duty. Sometimes I get really consumed with all things baby and realise I haven’t had an adult conversation in days. I don’t mind as he’s the best thing in my life and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I have started to drift from my friends that don’t have children / don’t have interest in children as we don’t really have much to talk about anymore.
Although it’s only happened 3 or 4 times, there have been points where we’ve had particularly hard days – like he hasn’t napped and has just been really grumpy – and by the end of the day I’m so exhausted and I just want him to go to sleep so I can go to sleep. Then I feel so guilty for having those feelings like I’m rejecting him or something, but as soon as we’ve both had a good nights rest and I wake up level-headed again I realise all mothers will have those moments and it doesn’t mean I love him any less.
The best parts of being a mother: The best part of being a mother is just seeing his smile when he looks at me. I know everything I do now has a bigger purpose. Before everything I did was to keep going up the corporate ladder and have a nice house and go on nice holidays. Now everything I do is to benefit his wellbeing and development. I love doing things with him, having early nights, and seeing his beaming smile in the morning. I love how curious and interested he is in everything.
Has becoming a mother changed you? Oh definitely! I like how much slower things are and how I don’t have to feel bad about spending the day in PJ’s with my baby. My career was my #1 priority and now it’s not. Alfie is, followed by providing him an environment filled with good family values, God, and love. Work will be down to the minimum we need to survive until he’s in full-time education, and then I’ll start focusing on me and my career again.
I’m a lot more aware of the things I do and say now also. I want him to pick up on good, healthy habits so I walk a lot more than I used to, I stopped smoking, I try to go to church most Sundays so he grows up in that environment. I won’t ever force him to go, but I want him to know there’s that wider family for him there should he need anything when he’s older. I also think about the future a lot more. I’ve started a junior ISA for him so he doesn’t have to work through university like I did, and I’ve taken out life insurance so that should the worst happen, he’s ok.
Hopes for your family: Just that I’m able to provide a better balance than my mother did. That Alfie always feels like my #1 priority and like his fathers #1 priority regardless of how that story ends. I want him to feel unconditionally loved and supported so he can learn and explore and develop into a moral and beneficial member of society. I hope that if his father and I don’t find a way to work things out, that both of us go on to have happy marriages with people who respect and love Alfie unconditionally. All I want is for Alfie to be surrounded by people that love him and teach him how to love and care for those around him.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums? Appreciate those first few months. Don’t be so worried about your baby being a little behind someone else’s, he’ll catch up. Be open to advice but go with your instinct, don’t feel obligated to do what everyone tells you to do. Regardless if you bottle feed, breast feed, have a strict schedule or are completely baby-led, do what feels right for you and your family. The less stressed you are, the more love and support you can give to your baby and at the end of the day, that’s all he really wants. Everything is a learning process, for both of you. Enjoy your baby and learn with him.
Sometimes it’s going to be really hard, even if you have a partner there to help you, you’ll feel alone and like you’ve failed. Just take a breather. It’s ok. Step out of the room and count to 10 or put him/her to bed early and have a good sleep. You’ll feel better the next day. No one does it right 100% of the time so don’t worry when you get things wrong. There’s always the next day to try again. As long as you’re giving him your love and attention, and want the best for him, you’ll both end up figuring it out. If you have the right intentions, the rest will fall into place eventually.
Any other info that will support/add to your profile: I just keep in mind that even though there will be so much out there influencing him, let it be school, teachers, friends, the media, that his main point of reference will always be his parents. I’m trying to do everything I can now to provide a safe environment for him to play and learn so that when things get harder in a few years, he knows he has his secure base with me should he need anything at all.