Jennie and Arthur

Name: Jennie

Children: Arthur Age 3, another baby due March 2018

Location: Levenshulme

Expectations of Motherhood: I definitely didn’t expect it to be so hard. I thought I would instinctively be good at being a mum, not realising that like anything it requires practice, patience and hard work. I had this idea that we’d be this lovely self-contained unit living in a little new baby bubble so I turned down my mum’s offer to come and stay with us for a while, I regretted this instantly as we had a tough first week and I really needed that extra bit of help and guidance. She’s offered to come and stay again once baby number two arrives and I’ve bitten her hand off!

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I did a Hypnobirthing course before having Arthur so I had very fixed expectations of what the birth would be like; I’d be in a birthing pool with little medical intervention and it would all go smoothly. The reality was 17.5 hours of being very relaxed, but half an hour when things got a bit serious and help was needed in order to deliver Arthur safely. The expectation that everything would be totally natural was actually quite damaging as for about a year after the birth I felt like a failure because it hadn’t gone as planned. In hindsight I can see that Arthur was not going to come out without a helping hand, and that we had a beautiful, healthy baby at the end of it.

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Reality of Motherhood: Sometimes it can be isolating and boring if you’re at home with just the company of a baby all day. I fought against going to baby groups for about 6 months but it turned out to be one of the best parenting decisions I made. I was saved from insanity by the group of mums who I met at baby yoga. We’re still offering each other support and advice three years later, we even manage the odd social occasion without the kids!

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The strength of feeling I have for Arthur is astounding. I don’t think you can comprehend it until you’ve had your first child, that sense that you would lay down your life unhesitatingly for your baby is extremely powerful. When Arthur was first put in my arms I was totally numb and didn’t get that rush of love that you’re told will come. I remember I held him all night, just looking at his tiny face and wondering why I wasn’t totally in love and how on earth I was going to look after him. Those first few weeks I knew that I would do anything to protect him but I didn’t get that rush of overwhelming love until he was about 6 weeks old and started smiling. All I need to do now is look at his perfect little feet for a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Taking your child home for the first time:  The first week with Arthur was absolutely terrifying. We were let out of hospital at about 10pm the day after he was born, and within a few hours we had called the emergency midwife unit number, convinced there was something horribly wrong with him, as we couldn’t stop him from crying. We were both in disbelief that the hospital would allow us to take this tiny person home when we hadn’t a bloody clue what we were doing. It turned out he had quite severe tongue tie, which led to feeding problems and a re-admission to hospital with severe mastitis a week later. Sleep deprivation combined with feeling very unwell only served to heighten my feelings of fear and anxiety surrounding Arthur, but this waned as we found our groove together.

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The best/worst advice: The best advice I got was to try and get some sleep as and when you can, but as an anxious new mum I totally ignored this and nearly had a breakdown in the process. Let people look after you if they offer help. It’s not a sign of weakness to let someone hold your newborn whilst you sleep.

The worst advice was anything I read on Mumsnet or any of those other forums, I spent a lot of time Googling every aspect of having a new baby and none of it was helpful.

The hardest part of being a mother:  The lowest point was a week after he’d been born and we’d just been released from hospital after having been readmitted. Neither of us had slept for 48 hours and Dan offered to take Arthur out for a walk so that I could try and get some sleep. I woke up after a short nap totally disorientated, unable to remember where Arthur was and I was overcome with the greatest feeling of terror I’ve ever experienced.

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If I come across a difficult news story or even a TV programme about children I struggle with my emotions. You inevitably think about your own child in that situation and it can be too much to bear sometimes. Having a child opens up your heart to allow you to love them but also leaves it vulnerable to all the sadness in the world.

As someone who has always enjoyed their own company and spending time alone it was a bit of a culture shock having another little person with me 24 hours a day for months on end. I used to get in the shower when Arthur was asleep and have to hope he was still asleep when I switched the taps off. 9 times out of 10 he was awake and crying causing me to rush back into the bedroom dripping water everywhere as I couldn’t bear to think of him upset. Now that Arthur is three I can go away for the odd weekend. I even managed a three day bike ride on my own, which was absolute bliss!

The Best Part: About 10 days after Arthur was born we all went for a walk in our local park, and Dan and I sat on a bench with Arthur asleep in his buggy and the sun was shining. It was the first glimpse that things were going to be ok.

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One of the loveliest things is hearing Arthur being kind to his little pals. It makes me so proud to think that we’re bringing up a caring little boy who is sought out by his friends. When they’re toddlers their interaction can be a bit fraught so when you watch them playing and having fun with their contemporaries it’s brilliant.

I also particularly enjoy the sense of humour he’s developing and love laughing my socks off with him when he’s clowning around. He dances without inhibition and some of the moves he comes out with have us all crying with laughter, especially the twerking. We went to watch a play at a local library this week and it was such a joy to watch him laughing and joining in; it brought a tear to my eye. Watching him turn from a totally dependant baby into a little boy with his own views on the world is remarkable, I can’t wait to see him grow up.

Arthur has been asking questions about his little brother or sister, such as, ‘How is it going to come out?’ (I answered honestly, and he responded by saying, ‘that’s going to be a bit of a squeeze’), and he asks regularly when the baby will come. We asked him where it should sleep and he told us it could share his bed with him, which was very sweet. He told me the other night he loved the baby to the cosmos and back, which was almost too much for me to take in my current hormonal state! I can’t wait to give him a sibling to love, fight and create memories with.

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Has Becoming a Mother Changed You:  I think I can be a much more serious person now. Whilst I was pregnant with Arthur my mum and sister were recovering from chemotherapy and I was dealing with my brother’s terminal cancer diagnosis so pregnancy, Arthur’s first year and those family events are all now inextricably linked. Arthur learned to walk the week my brother passed away so whenever I see the video we took of him taking his first steps I feel mixed emotions. It wasn’t until I had grief counselling  that a lot of the feelings I had towards Arthur when he was first born made sense. I had been feeling guilty about having this wonderful life event happening to me when close family members were dealing with illness, so I wasn’t allowing myself to be happy. The normal worries that most new parents experience were intensified by everything else that had been going on and I remember it as being an extremely anxious and quite sad time. I think I’m still a bit more anxious than I should be but can now accept that with everything that has happened that it’s ok to feel like that. This pregnancy has taken place against a more stable background and I am feeling a lot more relaxed about everything second time round.

My attitude towards my health has changed, the thought of going out partying hard like I did before Arthur is totally alien to me now. I want to stay fit and well so that I’m still around to drive my kids nuts when I’m an old lady!

Hopes for my family: It’s a cliche but my greatest hope for my children is that they are happy, healthy and kind, things any parent wants for their family.

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I hope that the relationship I have with Arthur (and number 2) can be open and honest, I would love it if they felt able to come to me with their problems. I have this vision of Dan and I in the kitchen with the kids when they’re home from university and we’re cooking, talking and just enjoying each other’s company. The kids will have grown into compassionate, interesting adults who want to come home and hang out with their mum and dad.

Advice for new mums: Based on my own problems at the beginning with tongue tie, mastitis, and being given some advice by health care professionals that wasn’t right, I would urge new mums (and dads) to listen to their instinct and make their voice heard if something doesn’t feel right. I was told on numerous occasions that Arthur was latching on brilliantly and that he was putting weight on so there wasn’t an issue, but I knew that something wasn’t right (I now know that it’s not that normal for babies to feed for an hour and a half) but I didn’t have the confidence to push for another opinion and it took 10 weeks to get his tongue tie snipped.

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I would also say get yourself out to some local baby groups. Having other people around you, going through the same thing, is vital for your sanity. You are going to need people with whom you are able to discuss whether what your child is doing in their nappy is normal. Playgroups are an ideal place for this. Chances are your child-free friends are not going to be interested in weighing up baby-led weaning versus spoon feeding so find yourself people who are going through the same thing for some guilt-free baby chat. Another plus of having a group of people who are also immersed in the baby experience is that you won’t have to hear about their amazing weekend of brunching and drink fuelled clubbing!

Be kind to yourself. You’ve undergone the biggest life change possible so it’s only natural to be feeling a lot of mixed emotions. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes along without judgement. I look back at the scared new mum I was and I just want to give myself a massive cuddle, telling myself that it’s all going to be alright.

Go to Jenny’s shop at  Carafe-shop.com

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