Emma, Elsa and Oscar

Image by Lauren Hayes (Instagram @hayes.squared.photography / https://www.hayessquaredphotography.co.uk)

Name: Emma

Children: Elsa, 10 and Oscar, 7

Location: Stockton Heath

Expectations of Motherhood: I always knew I wanted children, but I loved my career and my social life, so it was quite a while before I started the journey to being a mother. I thought that when I had children, I would be able to maintain the job, the lifestyle and things would on balance would work out. I knew it was going to be tough at times but until you experience becoming a mother you never know your path so I didn’t set too many expectations.

Reality of Motherhood: Elsa was due on Christmas Day, so we knew that December was always going to be a busy month in the future. She was born on the 29th December and was fit and healthy. We had about 4 weeks before that changed, Elsa was unwell one morning and I wasn’t happy, so I took her to the GP and he told me she was fine and to take her home. I didn’t think she was fine; I remember being upset and him reluctantly getting me appointment at children’s ward. 

By the time we arrived Elsa was grunting and unconscious, the team acted fast and two days later we found out that Elsa had Strep B Sepsis, I dread to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t have pushed. Most of my motherhood experience has been blurred since then, we had a few months where I thought I could relax and be a normal mum again. That wasn’t to be and when Elsa had a seizure at Centre Parcs aged 14 months we went on a long path to an epilepsy diagnosis and our whole world changed forever. It is indeed a motherhood club that you don’t really consider being part of and also one of the hardest things to explain to other parents who don’t have a child with a chronic condition. 

It changes your perception of risk, it heightens all your senses and I have the reality that every step of the way there is going to be a challenge or a battle (whether that be treatment, schooling or independence). It is lonely.

Taking your children home for the first time: That moment you leave the hospital with a baby in a car seat and no instructions will stay with me forever. I remember we use to sit and stare at her and wonder how we had a baby in the house. Looking back we only had those first 4 weeks where things were ‘normal’ and not interrupted by illness.

Image by Lauren Hayes (Instagram @hayes.squared.photography / https://www.hayessquaredphotography.co.uk)

The best/worst advice: The best advice is to trust your instinct, if you think there is something wrong with your child get them checked out. I became so hypervigilant after the sepsis and a lovely paediatrician told me that they’d rather check out 100 well children ‘just in case’ than get there too late. 

The hardest parts of being a mother: For me it is the balance of how much I let Elsa’s condition take over our lives. It hasn’t been an easy path and there is rarely time where I don’t have to make some adjustments to what a week looks like. I also feel that Oscar has had his childhood altered not only with my constant over caution but also in the role he plays in making sure his sister is ok.

The best parts of being a mother: The lessons that children teach you. Elsa teaches me what being brave is like every day, she never moans or questions all hard stuff she has to go through. She is happy, kind and optimistic. Oscar handles life with enthusiasm he is compassionate, caring and a great role model for boys his age. They have a fantastic bond, and I am so proud of them.

Has becoming a mother changed you? The last 10 years have pushed my anxiety to levels that I only just manage to hide at times and taken me to some very low points. Motherhood has taught me how resilient I can be and how resourceful I can be when I need something fixing. It is undoubtably not the path I thought I would follow as a parent, I thought that nearly losing my baby at 4 weeks was enough of a card to be dealt but more cards did indeed come. 

Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother? I’ve held down my career over the last 10 years aside from a few bumps in road, but something fundamentally changed in me when Elsa was diagnosed with epilepsy. My desire for bigger and better roles just disappeared, it was like I now had another full-time job to try to fix her. I no longer worked long hours, I set boundaries and stuck to them. As she gets older and her needs change (i.e. going to secondary school) I know my role will have to change again too.

Hopes for your family: I hope mainly for stability in Elsa’s condition and for both my children’s paths to get a bit easier than they have been. I want us to live more in the moment rather than the future and I want to appreciate the times when things are calm. PS a cure for epilepsy would also be AWESOME.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Be kind to yourself, don’t compare and trust your instincts. 

Any other info that will support/add to your profile: I too have suffered baby loss and also unfair treatment in the workplace after having children. I also like wine.

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