Child: Francis 3.5 yrs
Expectations of Motherhood: We were lucky to get pregnant so quickly. It took about six months. We weren’t clock or cycle-watching. I wasn’t scrutinising what I ate or drank. Knowing what I know now, and speaking to other mums and listening to friends’ battles, we really were lucky. Luck’s an odd thing isn’t it?
I hadn’t given motherhood much thought. Honestly. I remember being excited to tell our parents and as time went on I really enjoyed buying the odd bits and bobs. I’d never really been maternal. I wasn’t one to coo over baby grows or grab friends’ babies for a long cuddle. I looked forward to sandcastle building, book-reading and swing-pushing but I was still in career mode throughout my 30s and well into my pregnancy. Work was fun, paid well and we still had a fab social life in London, so much so I think now, we didn’t really have time to stop and plan and think.
My Mum was and is the best Mum there is so if she could do it so could I. Of course I’d feared and planned as best I could for labour and by the time I was 32 weeks, the nursery was all kitted out. I’d bought all the right stuff apparently but I’d definitely not read any of the parenting books on sleep/feeding etc.
I was still working when Francis was born at 35 weeks rather quickly and unexpectedly.
Reality of Motherhood: It was then that the reality of my tiny human kicked in with an almighty crash. No one tells you how tired you really get. I wasn’t at all prepared for that. The long days and nights dragged on and the sleep deprivation and constant cycle of feed, eat, wash and sleep when you can, was a painful process for me.
Postnatal depression crept up on me like an unlucky black cloud without any of us noticing. There it is again the luck thing. I couldn’t sleep even when Francis slept. I couldn’t comfort my crying baby – I didn’t want to either. I was angry and tired and had no patience for this tiny little bundle who needed me 24/7. I thought I was quite a patient person, pre-motherhood, but I knew nothing. I loved my parents but in becoming a mum myself I gathered a whole new outlook on what amazing patient, parents they are. Before having a child you think you love someone whether that be family, friends or spouse. This is nothing until you give birth to your own.
Taking your child home for the first time: A soon as I brought Francis home we had friends over. I was a mess and they probably shouldn’t have come. Plunging into motherhood from a seriously organised, efficient and successful career, with a to-do list was important to me to keep going. I clung to my baby’s timetable to keep me afloat. Opening a notepad recently I saw the words “Fed at 5.53am, gave milk, went back to sleep.” I was noting everything down, trying to build a routine, trying to get my baby to be robotic. It seems dramatic now, but for anyone that’s been through this you might feel some resonance.
The best advice: Through the haze I started walking, “pram-pushing” as I call it, to get out of the house, try to get Francis to stop crying and sleep and slowly the days became calmer. I remember vividly a friend telling me, “Yes it’s shit at first but it does get better”. It took a long time to believe her but she was right of course. It does get lots better. I wouldn’t change a thing today.
The worst advice: I also remember the worst advice: “calm down”. As the weeks went on I was diagnosed with PND, calming down didn’t come naturally and saying lighted the fire.
The hardest parts of being a mother: Tiredness and the constant hope you’re doing the right thing for him.
The best parts of being a mother: His love is unconditional for you. He needs you more than anyone else.
His growing personality.
His adamant confidence.
Has becoming a mother changed you? Almost four years on I can now say becoming a Mummy has changed me in every way imaginable for the better. I’m now running my own business, a baby messy play group – no one would ever have thought that would happen.
Hopes for your family: We continue to be happy with what we have.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: You can do this.
Three years ago I was struggling (albeit often hidden indoors) looking after my own child but now I love being my own boss and seeing how I can help other parents manage, enjoy and play with their little ones. It’s a real surprise for me. It’s great to hear from other mums suffering with anxiety or PND, even loneliness, who say coming to one of my classes is helping them make new friends and start enjoying messy play with their children. It makes me very happy.
I may not be a millionaire anytime soon with this new venture but it allows me to drop and pick up Francis from pre-school, take him for an ice cream in the park afterwards and watch my beautiful tiny human grow and develop. I am very lucky. I hope we continue to be happy with what we have because right now we are all good.
I haven’t got the silver bullet. I’m still on medication for my PND and there are days still when I am exhausted and lacking patience with Francis (we’re still seeing two 5 o’clocks each day!) but taking my friend’s words, “it does get better”.
Being a new mum is often boring and frustrating and tiring and emotional but you will get through these times and it will be worth every tear. My baby’s love for me is unconditional. He needs me more than anyone else. Watching him sleep (eventually) melts my heart every time and I relish seeing his growing personality and somewhat adamant confidence every day.
Find Rachael’s play groups at www.facebook.com/rachaelsplatmessyplay