Laura and Robin

Name: Laura

Child: Robin, 2 years old

Location: Burnage

Expectations of Motherhood:I always wanted 2 or 3 kids and thought it would be hard work but good fun. I fell pregnant quickly and had a good pregnancy – even managed to do some life modelling for a bit of extra cash! I didn’t put any effort into proper nesting or decorating a nursery as despite having a straightforward pregnancy I was worried something might go wrong with the birth. I had prepared myself for the possibility of getting PND as had a history of anxiety and depression. I presumed the first few months would be hard work but that the baby would soon start sleeping.

Reality of Motherhood:It’s been a difficult couple of years and a very steep learning curve.

My waters broke early and I was induced. The whole thing was pretty surreal as he was born on Christmas Day so we listened to festive music on the radio and some of the staff were dressed up. I had a long labour, episiotomy and forceps delivery, resulting in second degree tears and retained placenta. I lost 3 litres of blood in surgery and had a transfusion stitched into my wrist as they gave me oxygen. My husband Steve was left holding the baby while they worked to stop the bleed, but he didn’t know if I’d make it out. That night I developed sepsis. We spent a week in hospital recovering. I was anaemic and very sore. Initiating breastfeeding was hard work due to the blood loss, but the midwives were great and got me sorted out with a hospital grade pump. It felt like the one thing I could control at that point so I stuck at it whilst hobbling to the milk fridge throughout the night for top up formula.

I was in shock for the first 5 months then started to enjoy bits of it. Robin rarely slept longer than hourly, two hourly chunks, so we resorted to bedsharing from around 6 weeks as I was hallucinating through lack of sleep. I was referred by the Health Visitor to a baby massage group at the local Sure Start where I made new friends. Going to lots of cheap baby groups and playgroups also helped me keep my sanity when on maternity leave.

The second year was a lot better as he was able to start telling us what he needed instead of crying 24-7. He still has trouble sleeping but I’m used to it now. I started having flashbacks of the birth again a while back but thankfully they’ve stopped again. We’re considering just having the one kid as the whole experience has been way harder than we ever imagined. Finally getting some normality back and don’t really want to start the clock from the beginning again.

Taking your child home for the first time:I cried when we left the hospital as could barely walk. We got home and thought “what the hell have we done?”.

The best/worst advice:“Sleep when the baby sleeps”. I used to hate this advice as had a huge list of things I wanted to do when he slept. He wouldn’t sleep apart from me, even in a co-sleeping crib. When I worked out we could nap together on our bed safely, things got a lot better.

The hardest parts of being a mother: You leave your old life behind when you go into labour. You get elements of it back but you’re forever changed and it’s very hard adjusting to your new identity for the first couple of years, even when the baby is planned.

Not sleeping!

Dealing with other people’s opinions on how you choose to parent your kid.

If you’ve had a bad birth experience trying to process it and recover when looking after a newborn.

The best parts of being a mother:I’ve loved the connection when breastfeeding.

Bizarrely, potty training has been one of my favourite experiences so far – you bond with them again and learn what makes them tick.

When they start talking and singing.

Making them laugh.

Seeing their personality develop. Robin is currently obsessed with dinosaurs so we’re learning a lot of fun facts. I’m enjoying getting to know him by the day.

Has becoming a mother changed you?I’ve become more confident and started standing my ground on things. It’s changed all my relationships with my husband, family and friends. I’m also more aware of the passage of time and feel like I need to prioritise things like health. Not sure how much of that though is just getting older!

Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother?I enjoy work more as it feels like a break from being a mum! Although I just go on about being knackered all the time. When opportunities come up in work to progress, I don’t feel the same drive to apply that I used to. The focus now for me is to survive through a lack of sleep and to look after my mental health.

Hopes for your family: I want us to be happy and healthy and for Robin to have a fun childhood. I’d also like Robin to be a lot more confident than we are.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums:Ignore anyone who says you are making a rod for your own back! Kids are all so different – just because other babies you know sleep through the night and yours has never slept more than a two hour stretch doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. They all come with different personality and some need more help than others to sleep. Surround yourself with supportive people.

Do whatever feels right for you and your family.

Get out of the house as much as you can! Fresh air and playgrounds do wonders.

If you’ve had a bad birth experience you can ask the hospital for a debrief. We found that really helpful working out exactly what happened to help come to terms with the experience.

After the birth I started drawing what happened to help me process it all. I now draw life as a new mum – www.laurarobin.com

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