Child and age: Isaac, 1 year
Expectations of motherhood: My expectations of motherhood were a little depressing if I’m completely honest. I had thought I had always wanted children but had not given it any serious thought. I had been with Stephen for 3 years, we had talked about children at some point in our future but not the immediate future, so finding out we were pregnant with Isaac was a complete surprise.
I always thought that I would like to be married and settled before I had children, there was so much I thought I wanted to do. I hadn’t seen all the places in the world that I wanted to and thought motherhood would be for a time when I had ticked all those boxes.
So when I found out I was pregnant my immediate reaction was joy, but it was very quickly followed by fear and dread! I didn’t feel ready. I was 32, had a long term partner, owned a house, so everything was in place, but I still didn’t feel ready. I felt like my life was about to be ripped from me. All I saw before me was impeding isolation from my friends, a loss of adult contact and a loss of identity. I have to admit I wasn’t overjoyed, but I felt I should be. I felt extremely guilty for feeling like this as I know falling pregnant isn’t easy for everyone and some never manage it. My head was all over the place.
Things did start to change though. With each scan I was starting to accept what my life was going to look like, and I was excited. From 27 weeks pregnant my pregnancy became difficult. I had a premature labour scare, my BP was consistently high, and I was swollen and had a lot of fluid retention, so I was in and out of hospital for tests for pre-eclampsia. The plus side to all this was I got to have more scans, and I think with each scan having a baby became more of a reality and I started to get really excited, and the feelings I felt I should have had in the very beginning came.
Reality of motherhood: It is incredible. Becoming a mum has given my life purpose and meaning that I didn’t know it lacked. Like most things you have your good days/weeks and the not so good ones, but the good out way the bad 100%. I do spend my time bouncing from feelings of confidence and that I am on top of things to feelings of guilt and self doubt that I’m not doing enough or the right thing, but I think that is part and parcel of being a mum.
My life hasn’t changed beyond recognition. My weekends definitely have though! But I still do all the things I enjoy, granted not always as much as I used to, and often I have Isaac with me, but you do adapt and I can’t say I feel restricted like I had thought I would. Also I’ve found out the hard way that if going out, ‘early start, early dart’ is essential, as babies and hangovers do not mix!
Taking your child home: I was desperate to take Isaac home. We had had him on what turned out to be one of the busiest days of the year so the hospital was packed. We were lucky that the hospital allowed Stephen to stay overnight, but it was so noisy that we didn’t get any sleep (I’m not sure what I was expecting with a newborn!). All I wanted was to go home, have a shower and lie in my own bed. We did get to go home the next day and my family were all waiting there which was lovely.
The best/worst advice: The worst advice by far is ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. My baby sleeps in the car or when he’s out in the pram, neither time I can join him! In the early days I did try to sleep once when he was in his moses basket, but by the time I had wound down, got myself comfortable and drifting off he was awake again, and I ended up feeling worse. Now he is older he does nap for longer, so if I need that extra hour in the morning I can sometimes join him, but to be honest when he napping is the only time I can get anything done.
I actually got a couple of great pieces of advice. The most useful was, a baby generally needs 4 things.. feeding, winding, changing or cuddling. In those first few days, weeks and months this was so useful as when I had zero idea why he was crying or what I should do, I would use this and I would say 99% of the time I would stumble across the thing he was trying to tell me.
My favourite piece of advice that someone gave me though was that children are a mirror. Smile, and they smile. Whatever emotion a baby sees they replicate. So I try and always be calm around him, and when he is pulling the little hairs on the back of my neck, try to smile (through gritted teeth) and I have to say he is a really chilled smiley happy baby on the whole.
The hardest parts of being a mother: The hardest thing about being a new mother for me is the unpredictability and the constant change. I remember someone saying to me before he was born, just when you feel you’ve cracked it something changes, and it is so true. I didn’t know there were so many leaps and regressions all demanding a change to pretty much everything. Just when I think I’ve learnt everything I need to to get by, I’ve a whole load of new stuff to learn.
If I would have answered this question in the first few months, I would have said without doubt the sleep deprivation. Part of this is not ever really being able to switch off as I was just waiting for him to wake and you just don’t know when this is going to be. Getting up can be done, it’s the not knowing when and for how long that makes it feel brutal. I’m lucky that generally now, he sleeps well.
The other part I have found difficult about being a mum is the self doubt. ‘am I doing the right thing’ ‘am I doing enough’ its a nagging feeling. I look at other mums that seem to have it altogether and seem to be on top of everything and I just wonder how they are doing it?! But the great thing about having friends that are Mums, is being open about your feelings is you realise everyone feels this at some point.
The best parts of being a mother: Isaac. He is amazing! He is my favourite human on the planet and he’s my number 1 fan. He is incredible, fascinating and hilarious, and what is even better is he thinks I’m hilarious and his laugh and smile just melt me. He has brought out the inner child in me, I dance and sing and make up songs, and basically do anything that makes him laugh. I don’t care where I am, I will be in the middle of Tesco and start singing or making funny noises, and constantly chat away to him. I do not care what people think as long as he’s happy, so in that way it has made me so much more confident. I love watching him develop in every way and getting to know his little personality. He has made me slow down and see the world with fresh eyes as he sees things for the first time. I love watching him learn new skills and how intrigued he is by new things and new tastes, it makes me stop and appreciate them more.
Has becoming a mother changed you? 100%. I don’t see how it can’t. I genuinely had no idea I could love something/someone this much. My priorities have changed .My future plans now revolve around Isaac and not myself. Where I find enjoyment has changed, it has made me re-evaluate pretty much everything. Essentially I am the same person, I still enjoyed the things I did before, I just now have more things I enjoy and I love that. I would probably say that I like myself more now, I am less self orientated and I don’t dislike parts of my body like I once did, it has created my favourite human so what is there to dislike?!
Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother? I think it has changed my attitude. I have always enjoyed my career, I was happy in my job before but it was just ticking over really. Having Isaac and having time away from work has actually reignited my passion for it. I am a Physio, and part of my job is working with pregnant and post natal ladies. I feel I have just done the best extra curricular course I could ever do in order to understand what these ladies are going through on a level I couldn’t have appreciated before. Also I am lucky enough to be able to go back part time, and therefore I am able to enjoy those days without it taking too much time away from Isaac, and allowing me part of my identity that isn’t being a Mum.
Hopes for your family: I hope Isaac grows up knowing how loved he is, and that he feels supported and has the confidence to be whatever and whoever he wants to be.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: The main pieces of advice apart from the great ones I have already said that were give to me would be a. Talk. Tell people your vulnerabilities. Open up, tell people you are struggling. You won’t be the first and you definitely won’t be the last. Follow some good instagram accounts, like this one. We have all had those moments sobbing in the shower or rocking in a corner at 3 am feeling like you haven’t got a clue what you are doing, it is the best therapy to realise you are very normal and you are not alone.
I would also say, it’s ok not to enjoy every part of motherhood including pregnancy. It doesn’t mean you love your child any less or feel any less privileged that you are able to be a mum. It is difficult at times, and its ok not to enjoy it all. But try and remember that you are amazing! You have given and are giving life to another human; you can’t get more amazing than that!