Isabel and Elliot

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Name: Isabel

Child: Elliot, 2, and expecting another in March 2019

Location: Urmston

Expectations of Motherhood: I had few. I knew one day I’d want children, but I never actually imagined it happening. I expected to be a working mum.

I didn’t expect parenthood to be such a political issue e.g. if your style differs to your friends’; other people’s opinions of your parenting; breastfeeding.

Reality of Motherhood: I’m a working mum, but I didn’t anticipate how little time you have for everything else in your life aside from those two things. I didn’t understand how all-encompassing it was. It’s also much, much more fulfilling than I could have hoped.

It’s extremely tiring, obviously, but your body adjusts quickly. You develop a laser-like focus in order to get things done in the most efficient way! I’ve also learned to ask for help, which has enriched a lot of my family and friendships.

Taking your child home for the first time: Terrified to an unwell level. We had a couple of delivery issues and after six days in hospital we came home. I experienced flashbacks, severe anxiety and PTSD symptoms due to birth trauma. I literally did not understand how I was supposed to look after Elliot. I was also mourning my “old” life; it took a few weeks for me and Elliot to bond. Things got better, but I was in shock for a long time and I remain agog at the lack of support offered to new mums in some areas.

If you think you need help, push, push and push some more – it’s not all about post-natal depression, it’s a whole package of mental disruption. If you think something’s not normal, speak up.

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The best/worst advice: Best: There is no wrong or right when it comes to feeding your baby. You know your baby best. Trust your instincts.

And tell friends and family ahead of the birth they can’t just turn up at your unannounced! The family is an ecosystem and the mother shouldn’t have to suffer post-birth. Everything needs to work in harmony.

Worst: Anything to do with breastfeeding – I was given contradictory, unhelpful and judgmental “advice”.

The hardest parts of being a mother: Sacrificing a lot of your hobbies. You get time to reconnect with them after a while, and it’s important to do this so you maintain your identity that’s not exclusively “mum”.

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I don’t find this hard, but I know some of my friends find it difficult to outline their rules/routines for babysitters/family. Whatever routine or system you’ve got going on, you have every right to do that, and you shouldn’t need to explain or defend yourself to anyone. Everyone’s style is different.

The best parts of being a mother: Watching your child grow and develop, and having tons of fun while doing it. Loving someone in a completely new way and experiencing new emotions. Connecting with your partner on an incredibly deep level and realising/learning new things together. You also learn a lot about yourself, in the process.

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Has becoming a mother changed you? I’m more laid back about certain things now. I get less stressed about most things. But being a mum and going back to work must have altered my mental make-up in some way, because I found old anxieties and worries came to the fore, and I’ve sought help with dealing with those, but it’s hard.

I’ve also become more organised than I ever was… our house runs like a military operation!!

Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother? In the short-term, I give less physical time to work, because I don’t want to miss out on any time with Elliot. In the medium and long-term, it hasn’t. I want Elliot to know his mum is hard-working and ambitious, and that you can do that AND be a parent. I want him to look up to his parents and be independent, too.

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Hopes for your family: That they are happy, kind and fulfilled.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Have a good think about the people in your life, and whose opinions you want around you. Jettison anyone toxic or negative.

Seek help when you need to, and don’t be scared to speak up. Making time for yourself isn’t selfish. Being a mum doesn’t mean being a martyr.

Oh, and don’t Google anything about baby illnesses because it never helps – either ring 111 or go to the doctor!

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