Children: Connie, 18 months and Olive, 4 months
Expectations of Motherhood: Hard to remember, despite still being fairly new to the game… I knew it would be hard, I knew it would be tiring but I knew there would be those moments where a tiny little person would want me, and only me, to cuddle them and make everything ok and that was what I thought motherhood would be all about. I worried about the responsibility but I looked forward to it too. I also had visions of me and my baby sat feeding and cuddling in total bliss, like on some kind of washing powder advert. I hoped it wouldn’t be too all-encompassing and make me change completely, so that I became one of those women who only ever spoke about her kids.
Reality of Motherhood: More tiring than I could ever have anticipated – despite the warnings from friends! But it’s also more rewarding than I could have imagined. I try not to think about the immense responsibility for too long, because it overwhelms me if I do. Sometimes I know that it will fall to me to settle them/ help them calm/ make them feel better, because I am their mum (and that’s not to play down the role of dad, it’s just how it has been with my kids so far). The pressure can be a lot. I know it will change soon and I’ll miss them needing me so much.
Other realities… I smell of stale breast milk all the time. I feel guilty about most things I do or don’t do. None of my clothes are clean longer than five minutes and I see a lot less of my friends- especially those without children. I have very little ‘me time’ but I count it as a mega achievement that I have maintained my daily moisturising schedule despite having two children under 18 months!
Taking your children home for the first time: Connie- we were so scared we would do something wrong, she seemed so small. There was a heat wave the week she was born and I kept checking the thermometer and worrying she would overheat. I also kept a diary of when she fed/weed/pooed… I got a bit obsessive about noting things down. It felt right to have her home though, just a bit daunting that they let us take her and no-one had really checked what we were doing. We kept laughing about it, but it was nervous laughter.
With Olive, it was even scarier. She had to be born early by emergency c-section and then spent several weeks in the Neonatal Unit and had been transferred between hospitals and intensive care units. By the time she was ready to come home I felt scared that she was so vulnerable and even more worried about leaving the safety of the hospital. I think I was used to having to be without her overnight when I came home, knowing she was in the best place with all those medical staff. I remember the first night, my husband asked, ‘What did they do in the hospital to make her stop crying and go to sleep?!’ It’s funny now, but at the time we were both so anxious.
We kept telling ourselves we had done it before and it would be fine, but the girls are so different that we can’t always draw on our experiences with Connie.
The best/worst advice: ‘Enjoy it’- I think I remember someone saying this first time round and it was the best and worst advice- I really couldn’t enjoy hand-expressing breast milk into a syringe at 2am. My husband and I were so delirious with fatigue that we found it hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing each time a droplet of milk came out. It took about twenty minutes to get 3ml.
‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ is great advice in theory, but not always practical- especially with two. When are you supposed to eat and shower? Who cleans the house and does the washing while you’re all sleeping?
Actually, best advice I had was, before having Olive, someone said, ‘When you have kids, you should just lower your expectations for everything’.
At the time I thought ‘No, I’m gonna be exactly the same’, but now I remind myself of that advice every time I look at the stains on my carpets, the pile of washing up or when I wonder why there is always a lingering smell of baby poo/stale milk around me.
The hardest parts of being a mother: Sleep deprivation and guilt (or always wondering if you’ve done the right thing).
The best parts of being a mother: The love is overwhelming. There are very few things more relaxing than holding a sleeping baby. And my mum said, ‘Always remember the way they look at you- with total love and adoration. There’s nothing like it’ she was right.
Has becoming a mother changed you: Yes. In ways I didn’t want it to, but I’m pleased it has. My mum says I’m ‘not as much of a cow’ since I had kids. I think it was a compliment- and I’ve developed more patience.
Hopes for your family: For my girls to have all the opportunities they deserve and to be able to lead the life they want. I want them to be nice people. And I just want us all just to be happy (cheesy, I know, but still true).
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Sleep whenever you can. When you have a baby, there will be times it will be so hard and you will cry and wonder when it will get better, but it really does get easier. Don’t be afraid to accept help. Don’t ever feel you have to do something a certain way because someone said you should: find your own way with your kids- you know them better than anyone. Try not to read too many parenting books!
And, most importantly, even those women who make it look easy have a hard time of it, so don’t beat yourself up if someone seems to be ‘doing better’ than you.
Other info: Olive is profoundly deaf and is likely to need cochlear implants which may or may not give her some hearing. My main worry is obviously Olive, but also the impact it will have on Connie as well. Having two babies so close together was our choice and it’s hard- everyone comments on it (mostly in a sort of negative way, but sometimes positive). But I’m glad we did, because I can already see how much they love each other and I know they’ll look out for each other as they grow up. It makes me so happy to see them together and I know that no matter what happens, both my girls are perfect and will always be there for each other.