Children: Jessica, 3 and Stanley, 11 Months
Previous blog entry: https://the-mothers.co.uk/2014/11/06/hannah-and-jessica/
Life since the last blog post: Changed monumentally.
During my pregnancy and into Jessica’s life my Mum was terminally ill; she passed away when Jessica was 6 months old leaving Jessica without any grandparents on my side. This was obviously huge for me as I was incredibly close to my Mum (and Dad before he died when I was 18). For the last 6 months of her life and the first 6 months of Jessica’s I basically lived at hers and the hospital to give myself and Jessica as much time with her.
As she was a very unwilling patient it was useful having Jessica as I often went to “visit” her so she could see Jessica and once I was there I would try to do as much as I could to help.
Looking back I was probably zero help as a new mother of a tiny baby aren’t always the most useful people to have around. I am the youngest of 8 so my mum was definitely patient with my very hands-on parenting, where Jessica could not be left for one second if she was upset (I am exactly the same with Stanley to be honest!).
Losing both parents is of course terrible, but it was definitely heightened because of having Jessica (and now Stanley). I am lucky as I have 8 siblings, but I find it difficult to comprehend that their only experience of grandparents will be those on my partners side.
Due to the emotional nature of Jessica’s first 6 months in the world I didn’t feel like I could face going back to work at 9 months and then to be honest I lost all the will in the world for it. Slowly I built up work again and actually started really enjoying it, but, whereas previously my work was all-consuming and absolutely the centre of everything, it became completely secondary. I only did jobs I really wanted to do as I felt time away from Jessica had to be worth it.
We were very clear from the start that my partner and I would share child-care so I worked around his full-time hours and that seemed to work…all in all we were settled.
When I fell pregnant with Stanley all was well until the 20 week scan when they found “an issue” with the formation of his heart. For whatever reason (probably because we didn’t want to hear it) when we were first told we had no idea of the severity of what they were saying to us so we blithely went to the follow-up scan with Jessica present only to be told that he may die, he may have issues with his chromosomes, and were we thinking of terminating.
It took both of us completely off-guard. Then came scan after scan, and the pregnancy became my full time job. I had quite a lot of pregnancy “problems” to go along side this time…my hips were in agony constantly, I had acid reflux for the entire time, etc.
After many weeks of stress and worry we were finally told he had no chromosomal issues but he had a condition of the heart which meant he would need either need an operation immediately at birth and then another, or just one at about 9 months.
At the same time my partner decided to change jobs, but when I say change jobs I mean REALLY change jobs…after been a Front of House Manager at an Arts Venue in Manchester he decided he wanted to be a Policeman. This meant that all his endless, stressful and time-consuming interviews coincided with the pregnancy AND we were also moving house! We were moving out of Manchester into Ramsbottom which neither of us knew at all but had liked when we had visited it.
Due to the volume of things we had to deal with and the fact he is a very practical man my partner really focused in on the interviews and the house move and didn’t communicate too much about the pregnancy which was understandable. We had decided to proceed with the pregnancy so there wasn’t really anything to talk about.
I wouldn’t say from 20 weeks onwards the pregnancy ever settled, and given we were trying to get our new house in some kind of order any nervous energy we did have was taken up with knocking down walls, re-decorating etc. We prepped Jessica for the inevitable time away from us so she was happily anticipating time with my brother and partner.
When Stanley was born (in hospital, obviously) he was rushed straight to NICU, but was totally fine at birth. Unfortunately this did not last long and after two and a half very stressful months of middle of the night phone calls to various health professionals/weeks in hospital/ambulance rides, etc his operation was pushed through much earlier than anticipated.
On the one hand it was horrifying; the thought of him having an operation, but, on the other I couldn’t continue to look after him on my own. The last time, pre-operation, the consultant had said as long as I could stop him crying it would be fine; I just couldn’t see how my skills as a mother could prevent him from EVER crying!
I am pretty good at no crying but a nappy has to be changed every now and again!
We shipped Jessica off to my brother with his family and settled into living at Alder Hey Hospital. The operation was a full day but exhaustion meant me and my partner (now childless in effect) just slept through it! It was a complete success and after 5 days we were reunited with Jessica and on day 6 we went home.
Since the operation life has started to settle. Interestingly, I feel quite at peace with the fact that Stanley and Jessica’s starts to life were quite similar as they both spent endless hours in hospitals! We are now trying to settle into my partners new hours which are absolutely all over the place so I am single-parenting. Jessica has started nursery (free places) so I now get a bit of time just with Stanley.
Motherhood since last being on the blog: Changed massively.
The last blog was done when Jessica was still a new-born so life was, relatively speaking, tranquil. I now have a 3-year-old marching about ordering me around literally from the moment she wakes up until bed. She is brilliant but it is a tough gig parenting a 3 year old. She is fantastic with Stanley and genuinely helpful.
I am learning and failing every day which is fine; just learn and fail better next time! I am definitely more relaxed with Stanley and will leave him downstairs with Jessica whilst I go to the toilet (usually ends in disaster) whereas I wouldn’t have dreamt of leaving Jessica for a second when she was a baby. I feel like it was easier to settle into being a parent the second time round as obviously you already have all the child structures in place, whereas with your first you are learning on your feet bouncing from one thing to another.
I am struggling with the “social” side of motherhood; probably because I have moved and am off work. I have found childless and old work friends have pretty much completely evaporated. Now Jessica is at nursery my few “with child” friends aren’t free the same time as me. I also used to be free weekends so I would go and see people then, but with much less money and the fact, whilst training, my partner is free weekends, I don’t really go and visit people. In the week most are at work so it leaves me stuck without any money for transport and nowhere to go if I had the money!
I have always been rubbish at the parent groups as I often feel a bit of an outsider for whatever reason, and even if I wanted to embrace that world we haven’t the funds for it anyway. That been said I am very content with the parenting choices we have made to do the childcare cooperatively without leaning on outside agencies and for me I feel like it is the best thing for my children (I am probably too much of a control freak anyway to trust anyone else to look after them, haha).
Has motherhood changed you? It hasn’t changed who I am at the heart of me…but I have changed hugely in terms of what my brain can contain.
Pre-baby, I was able to throw myself into work and carrying out creative projects that pushed me and developed me as a person. Post-baby I struggle to answer the questions you have set me, let alone throw myself into “projects”. I am constantly critical of my ability to parent and how I communicate with my children, but part of that comes from the lack of adult contact so it is hard sometimes to keep things in perspective. I also get sad that I don’t do some of the things that make me “me” anymore, which isn’t that I have changed but time is too precious.
I really wanted my children to love music, for example, but I can never find the time to put on CD’s (I know, who has CD’s nowadays!!) or music I like, so I very rarely put music on, bar the odd song on youtube. Not only is the act of physically putting music on am effort, but it used to be so informed by my mood and feeling at the time. To tap into anything to do with me feels like such an indulgence (and effort) that I just tend to not go there.
I found that my creative life (as a performer/theatre maker/director) was my main form of communication/articulation and without that I haven’t really got any way of expression; people within the creative world also don’t really contact me for anything as obviously I am of no use whilst I am not working so I don’t have those like-minded thinkers around me anymore.
I would say that motherhood does deepen things within you and make you more passionate about things. I think as a single adult I just put up with stuff or let things slide, whereas when it is in relation to a little person you don’t want to stand by and see bad things happen as you realise the real impact it could have on them. Equally those positive things that you should do, but you can never be bothered to do because its way too much effort, actually get done.
Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother? Massively.
My mum raised all 8 of us with my dad who was a vicar so was often at home. Once I was at school my mum (who had trained as a teacher) worked as a non-teaching assistant (NTA) at the local school. I look at what they did now I have 2 of my own with wonder; not only did they both hold down full-time jobs but my mum made bread every day, and of course every meal, as well as washing all our clothes by hand pretty much (she had some weird contraption but all it did was spin the clothes once they were cleaned!). They also had all the church duties which included running a book stall out of our garage. It absolutely boggles my mind as I struggle to do the basics in childcare and food prep in a day.
Pre-Jessica I worked at an Arts Centre as well as being a performer/theatre maker/director. Once Jessica was born I didn’t go back to the work at the Arts Centre, but I started building up work as a creative and yoga teacher (which I absolutely loved doing). Since Stanley has been born I cannot see my way back into work as I think the most important thing in the world is to bring up your children how you see fit. In our case that is doing the childcare between us (and doing for one what we do for both).
As my partner is now on completely randomised shift patterns there is not much room for him to co-parent with, me let alone single-parent, and the things I would want to set up (yoga and wellbeing classes) wouldn’t be viable as I couldn’t commit to room hire. I am starting to think about getting back into my private yoga teaching (which I loved) but my entire client base for that was in Manchester and it just wouldn’t be viable either with time or finances for me to commute regularly.
I am not too worried at the moment and have quite a philosophical approach to work and what will happen in the future. I believe in taking every day as it comes and if the time comes when it feels right I will dive back into something. I do feel that whichever parent/guardian takes up the bulk of the childcare they are at a complete disadvantage within the world of work. I am educated up to MA level and I don’t feel I will be able to get any job once I go back into that world because I haven’t had any work for X amount of time. Pretty much all of creative friends and contacts don’t contact me at all so I will be working from scratch again (I know self-employment is often like that but I feel like any accumulation of work that seemed to be developing has been completely lost).
Hardest parts of being a mother:
The constant nature of it. The fact you can’t just f@#k something up. Whatever you do or say is analysed and fed back to you so any lapse in concentration is a thing. Sometimes I just want to do nothing, or stay in bed and read (oh to be able to read again!), but you literally have a little human jumping up and down on your skull.
I hate the fact I have to cook every day as I don’t enjoy cooking particularly and then at the end of it they don’t want to eat it anyway (partner included!). The fact there is just zero time. You blink and it is bed time but you feel like you have run a marathon when in fact you haven’t done anything that feels properly productive.
Best parts of being a mother:
Everything. Just spending time with them. Listening to Jessica play on her own, making up imagined situations and working out where she has got all of her ideas from. Seeing them develop a little more every day and loving them more and more as they fight for independence and start to morph into their own little people with their own minds and ideas.
What you wish you’d known before having children:
Not sure really. I think you get told stuff, but without the context for that information to sit within you don’t really hear what they say anyway. It is an impossible situation to imagine yourself into as every facet of your life changes completely so you can’t even imagine what your world would look like.
Maybe knowing just how little time you have for anything, so that the time I had pre-children could have been more efficient. I have always worked hard anyway but when I look back at the time I used to squander it horrifies me.
Any more advice for mothers and expectant mums: I don’t think so. Maybe just respect others’ choices even if they aren’t for you. I am quite opinionated as to how my children are brought up (As I am sure most people are with their own as it’s important) but I am not opinionated as to how others bring up their children. People find their own paths and if parenthood teaches you anything it is that it might not work out how you planned or intended, but it is the path you are walking so just get on with it.
Things like breastfeeding spring to mind as an obvious area that has a lot of opinion around it. Having breastfed both of mine (still going with one) and really, really struggling both times with horrifying amounts of pain I wouldn’t ever judge anyone for having made the decision to bottle feed; as long as the child is being fed appropriately and loved that is the only thing that matters. Also having expressed with both you don’t know that what you are judging is what you are actually seeing anyway; it may be a breast-fed baby in disguise.