Child: Aneurin 12. Tegan 10, Brontë 7, Keziah 5.
Location: Old Trafford
Expectations of Motherhood: I don’t think I really gave it much thought really. My dad was poorly when I became pregnant and I guess I just really wanted him to be a Grandad. He saw the scan and named him, ‘sixpence’ and even suggested the name ‘Aneurin’, but sadly he died before Aneurin was born. Looking ahead to his birth definitely gave me something to focus on in my grief and reminded me there is always hope and the new life was healing in a way.
I had never been a baby person really either, and none of my friends had babies so I really didn’t have a clue, but I think my expectations were fairly low. I’d give breastfeeding a try, but if it didn’t work I wouldn’t worry, I had read the contented little baby book and had pretty much decided that there was no way I could stick to a strict routine, but it did give me a little idea about structure….
But in all honesty I don’t think I spent too much time dwelling on what it would be like. It was just a new experience for me and I was up for the challenge.
For subsequent children I just knew it was going to be hard and crazy, but was armed with the knowledge that everything comes in phases that do eventually pass.
I also lowered my expectations every time. By number 4 it was amazing if we could get out the door – clean clothes, hair brushed, teeth cleaned were all a bonus!
Reality of Motherhood: In the early days I just had to keep reminding myself that everyone does this and must get through it as there are lots of children around! Having no sleep was a big shift, I don’t want to say shock as I knew that was going to be the case, but I don’t think anything can prepare you for it.
Breastfeeding worked well for me once I stopped watching the clock. I also had a terrible bout of nipple thrush with number 3, 3 weeks in. I really believe if it was my first baby I would have totally given up breastfeeding but because of my previous two babies experience I knew how convenient breastfeeding was so I battled through and it turned out ok in the end. It was tough and probably one of the few times that I really struggled to bond with my baby. I don’t think any mum should be made to feel guilty, or need to make excuses about not breastfeeding.
Motherhood is hard – you cant switch it off – but it’s totally amazing and rewarding. It can feel a bit monotonous and relentless at times, but I have actually found great inspiration in this to create art and look for beauty in these situations. Nothing is wasted.
Taking your child/children home for the first time: We lived about 5 minutes from the hospital with our son and that journey in the car felt like a really long time. Walking through our front door and setting him on the floor in his car seat felt a bit like a scary dream. We were actually completely in charge of this little human being!!! Ahhh!!
With the next two there were mixed emotions going home as I really wanted to be altogether as a family, but equally I was never going to get looked after like I was in hospital, which wasn’t amazing or anything but I didn’t have to do washing etc. When you come home with your second or third life just carries on!!
And the fourth, well she was born at home in the bathroom with no one but me around! That was my best birth ever and it was so nice to get into my own bed afterwards (stitches included) and order a chinese takeaway!! And bringing the other three in to meet their little sister was incredibly special.
The best/worst advice: The piece of advice I always remember, and I can’t remember who said it, is “Listen to what everyone has to say and then do what works for you”. Its very easy to start comparing yourself with others, but really we are all made differently and our children are all unique so different things work for different people. I also like, “You’re their mum – follow your instincts. You know best.” There are plenty of times I haven’t followed this though and doubted myself, normally to do with when to take them to the doctor!!
Oh and don’t start toilet training until they are really showing ALL the signs!!
The hardest parts of being a mother: Never switching off! No lie ins… although that is beginning to change now as they are all pretty good at getting themselves up, dressed, breakfasted and finding the tv remote!! In fact we are even beginning to get a few breakfasts in bed which is very nice, although I can’t complain about the state of the kitchen afterwards!! I think it takes up a lot of head space too, which can get rather heavy.
The arguing and noise does my head in too! I’m not even sure that we are that loud a family…but maybe im just kidding myself! Thats when I have to sneak off to the loo with my phone for a break!!
And of course toilet training(!!), bar one child they were all extremely difficult to toilet train and I have washed out so many wet or poopy pants you would not believe!! Total nightmare!! But they were all pretty good sleepers so you win some, you lose some!!
And washing!!! The washing machine in my house literally never stops, I’m not sure I have ever had an empty laundry basket, everr!!
The best parts of being a mother: It’s amazing. To create four incredibly unique and different human beings is awesome. I really love watching how they grow and develop (and take over my own knowledge on many things!!). We are like a little team, we argue and fall out but we are a strong little unit that will stick together!! They are also pretty handy at helping me with work or things I’m involved in; preparing crafts, delivering workshops, making films or posters, running events, going to the shops, even building our house!!!
Has becoming a mother changed you? Yes I think it must have. I’m still the same but I think it has given me a greater drive, passion and desire to be an inspiring example for them. It’s also made me pretty good at pulling things out of the bag last minute (cakes, parties, cards, costumes etc) and quite a can-do attitude.
I may have been like that before actually, it’s just quite hard to remember. In fact my memory is pooped now, I am that mum who forgets the kids dentist appointments and even sent my 11 year old to one on his own thinking that was great only to be rung up by the receptionist demanding I come along as they have to be 16 to go unaccompanied! Doh!!
Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother? Yes. I was 23 when I had my first child, was working in a job I enjoyed running a play project, but hadn’t established or invested in myself as an artist yet and becoming a mother consumed me completely (in a positive way – I loved it!) and me and my husband agreed that I wouldn’t go back to paid work until they went to nursery school. It was probably 5 or so years into motherhood before I realised that although I was being creative in many with the kids, at home, running toddler groups, as part of a church and a community, I wasn’t allowing myself to fulfil my own creative career as a visual artist.
Carving out time for my own work was hard initially but I think the benefits of doing that have also spilled over to my kids. I don’t want them to just see me as ‘mum’. With the help of groups like “mothers who make” and my ‘artist way’ group I was supported and encouraged to step out and push myself and not just be a ‘mother’. Or a ‘mother artist’ but be an artist who is also a mother.
Small little slots each week, then each day and then before I know it the last one was at playgroup, then nursery and then school!! I was the mum waving her in happily, no tears from me!
I don’t think those years spent with my children were wasted years for any of us though. I think they’ve contributed to who we are today and recently I have seen the impact of this by being incredibly supported by my husband and children in starting a completely new venture that has always been my dream. They have made lots of sacrifices for me.
Im currently setting up OT Creative Space CIC: a shared studio space and community arts centre in Old Trafford. This has involved moving the whole family round the corner into a derelict old butchers, doing it up big style, and setting up a business as well as keeping on top of normal life. My family are amazing , have totally entered into the project and are incredibly supportive!!
Hopes for your (growing) family: It’ll only grow with grandkids now!! Ha ha! But I do hope that they will grow up being prepared to take risks, step out of their comfort zones, be full of faith and adventure and share all that with others. And of course look after me when I’m old and grey!!
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Enjoy going to the loo and having a shower by yourself before the baby arrives – you wont get to do that again for a long time!! Get out of the house everyday with your baby even if its just to walk round the block. Go to things that you want to when your baby is little – their interests can and will come later (my kids do way more social and learning things than I do!).
Any other info: Becoming a mother is not necessarily an easy journey, whilst it happened fairly easily for myself – although I have had 2 miscarriages – I know that is not always the case. At times I have felt rather selfish for having four kids.
I would like to acknowledge both my sisters who have been brilliant aunties to my kids whilst both dealing with fertility issues. I know that it cannot have always been easy for them. They are both amazing mums now and I get to be the crazy Aunty!!
I would also like to mention my nephew Arthur who was stillborn. Watching my sister and brother-in-law go through such pain and loss has had a profound impact on my life and whilst I may joke about how hard having kids can be I do not for one minute want to take them for granted. Arthur will always be a member of our family.