Children: Arthur, 5 and Ronnie 18 months
Expectations of motherhood: Naive! I had a few friends with babies, and they told me it was hard but it’s very different actually living it. I thought that the sleepless nights would just be a baby waking every four hours or so, that baby would just happily be put down to sleep in their Moses basket, and apart from feeding them (again, only every 4 or 5 hours right???) and changing a few nappies that was pretty much all there was to it. I would have loads of time to be productive, get loads of housework done, take up a hobby perhaps, and maybe even get into work…
Reality of motherhood: Arthur let us know he was here and things were going to change from the very first night! He was a baby that needed to feed every hour, on the hour around the clock. I was breast-feeding, which he took to straight away, I never had any pain. I thought we had won that battle. But what I hadn’t bargained for, was how claustrophobic this made me feel. And if it wasnt life-changing enough; having a person that you are now responsible for keeping alive, and making sure they grow into decent person, it felt like everything was down to me if I was the only person that could feed him too. When was I supposed to sleep/eat/shower?
The turning point was when he was 7 weeks old and my own mother was admitted to hospital. We were told she wouldn’t last beyond the next two days. So our decision was that I would be with my mother, and that Arthur would stay at home safe and sound with his brilliant dad; my husband, where he wouldn’t starve because baby formula is a wonderful thing! And it turned out he didn’t care where the milk was coming from, as long as he was getting fed.
My time in the hospital over the next few days (in fact the days turned out to be a few weeks) were a time of mixed emotions. The obvious stuff of dealing with grief, but also relief that somehow the decision not to breast feed had been taken off me and nobody could say that I was a bad person. I also felt pretty low periodically sat in a hospital toilet cubicle expressing in order to relieve the build up of milk, and then dumping it down the sink…
I felt a lot of guilt first time round as a mum. I felt torn between trying to be a good mum to this amazing little creature that I love more than words, and be at my mother and families side to support one another. As it happens, I don’t think it made any difference to Arthur, now that I see a happy, funny and clever 5-year-old in front of me. My best must have been good enough, and I think my mum would agree if she was here.
Second time round becoming a mum seemed much easier. I don’t know if it’s because I knew what to expect, or if he was just a different baby all together. Ronnie is my rainbow baby after loosing a baby in-between the two of them, and I constantly worried until he was here. Ronnie was the kind of baby that I thought having a baby was like; he slept for 4 or 5 hours at a time, went to bed happily awake and was as regular as clockwork in his routine. He’s certainly testing us now he’s turning into a toddler though. He’s a fabulously funny, strong-willed little character that fills my heart with joy, they both do.
Taking your child home for the first time: We got home early evening and absolutely starving. Arthur wouldn’t even let us put him down whilst we ate our take away curry. This is where I learnt my eating one-handed from and quickly progressed to learning to do most things whilst holding a baby at the same time.
Bringing Ronnie home for the first time was exciting because Arthur was so excited that his little brother that he had been waiting for was finally here. Life carried on as normal that day; Arthur had a birthday party to go to, and football practice. Ronnie just fitted right into the whole routine and our family from the off.
Best/worst advice: Any baby books that I read about getting your baby into any routine or “crying it out”. I have come to realise that babies are all different and have different needs. They are not robots.
Hardest thing: Being a mother is so hard! I feel quite torn; the guilt of leaving my children to go to work, but at the same time believing that nursery is great for them on so many levels. And being a strong female role model for them.
I worry about them when they get ill, and check on them 100 times a night.
Having to tell them off and seeing their sad little faces, or if they fall and hurt themselves. You just wish you could take all of that pain away and protect them always.
Best thing: When I see my boys together and how much they adore each other. They generate the best giggles from each other (things that if you did, they would never laugh at).
Watching them grow and learn new things, especially difficult tasks to master where you have seen them struggle.
Also, simple things like the conversations you have with your little buddy.
Has it changed you? I’m definitely a lot more resilient.
Hopes for your family: All the usual stuff like happy and healthy. But I really hope that they grow to be responsible and up-standing, decent people, that contribute positively. I want them to enjoy life and be what they want to be. Be kind to others, and stand up for themselves and their beliefs. I hope that we always have a good family relationship, and that our children know that we are always there for them.
Advice for new mums: Do what you need to do to get through. Listen to people’s advice, but ultimately, figure out your way of doing things. I let my babies guide me and take the lead. As soon as I stopped trying to enforce routines on them, things were a lot calmer. Trust yourself! Both of my children suffered badly with reflux, and I was patronised for weeks by experts who laughed at me: “that’s what babies do”. I was struggling so badly with this and nobody was taking me seriously, until one day a locum doctor actually listened to me.
It’s okay if your house is a bit messy or you are eating ready meals. We lived off ready meals for the first few weeks, and to just get one job accomplished in a day is fine; washing up, washing clothes, hoovering… you have more important stuff to do – looking after a baby!
Pick your battles. I let my 18 month old eat a pancake in the bath tonight, all soggy and full of bath water. When I suggested he left it out of the bath he gave me a look that read “I will unleash all kinds of toddler hell on you if you make me leave this behind”. I quickly decided that dealing with saturated pancake crumbs in the bath was easier and quicker to deal with. I love my kids!
Finally, I’m winging it! I think we all are. Even if people don’t admit it. We’re all just figuring this out as we go along.