Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Kate and Arthur

Name: Kate 

Arthur, 7 Months


Expectations of Motherhood:
A difficult stressful period, with many dark days, arguments with husband, and generally tough times. 

I had read this so many times it was engraved on my brain. I'd had multiple conversations with my husband about how hard it would be; both of us sleep deprived zombies - of course we will argue and fall out over the most stupid of things. 

I had an image of me, covered with baby sick, exhausted and tearing my hair out after the tenth argument about who had/hadn't done the washing up. All the advice and comments throughout pregnancy were so negative: "Make the most of your time now. You won't get a minute when baby is here," "Things will be so different next Christmas, make the most of the peace and quiet this year," "You'll never enjoy a hot cup of tea again," "That's the last time you'll ever *insert any situation*". 
So much doom and gloom.

Reality of Motherhood:
 The most magical feeling and the best experience I've ever had. Yes I'm tired, exhausted in fact, but I've showered every day and managed to enjoy a hot cup of tea and have dinner ready for my husband most nights. I'm no hero, but I do what I can in the day. I go to baby classes, take the baby and dog for a walk, meet a friend for a coffee, take baby swimming. I'd go stir crazy at home every day so once the cluster feeding calmed down, and I felt confident enough that he could go 20 mins between feeds, I got out there. 

I pushed myself too much at first, desperate to "get back to normal" but we got into our rhythm and more than anything I was determined to enjoy him. Our time together is precious.

It can sometimes be a struggle to get out of the house but it really is mind over matter. If I have plans, I make it there (albeit sometimes a little late) whereas if I have no plans, it can be 3pm before I've left the house if I don't put my mind to it.

Taking your child home for the first time:
Surreal. We arrived at hospital at 22:00 on the Saturday night, Arthur was born 23:41, and we left hospital at 4pm on the Sunday afternoon. It all happened too quickly really and I think I was in shock. 
In hindsight I think I completely missed out early labour and was straight in at the deep end. 

So yes I'm pretty sure I was in shock. But we were also so desperate to get home. I had managed to have a wee and get a shower, and Arthur had latched on and fed a few times, so they were happy to let us go and we were discharged. My sister and her husband visited that evening and we ate takeaway pizza in a haze of bewilderment, pain, exhaustion and bliss. 

Best advice: Get through the first two weeks of breastfeeding and it'll be fine. 

I'm sure every mother-to-be has a list of goals, or priorities. Mine was to breastfeed. I had more worries and sleepless nights over this than I did about the birth. I was determined - don't quite know why but I was. I'd watched YouTube videos (be careful what you google) and read as much as I possibly could, but nothing quite prepares you for something both you and your baby have never done before. 

When I was discharged from hospital I was discharged to the wrong borough; I live on the Cheshire/ Derbyshire border and this confused matters apparently. So my midwife team weren't informed that I was home and I never got my initial home visit and breastfeeding support. 

Despite all the research, I didn't know what I was doing. I was trying so hard, but I was in pain, and I would stall having to feed him. I was in tears when my husband passed him to me, this little squidge of loveliness that I was starting to resent feeding. 

By Wednesday it was unbearable, we went to the breastfeeding support at hospital, with my notebook of times he'd feed and for how long. There were pages of it. It was confirmed that Arthur had tongue tie. We luckily got an appointment for the following week and went home with a glimmer of hope that it would get better, which it did, eventually. The bad latch from the tongue tie had already done its damage and a nipple shield saved my breastfeeding journey. 

If you want to breastfeed, it's tough at first, and there can be complications and hurdles, but it's all been worth it for me. 

Worst advice: I've not particularly had any bad advice as such, but have endured comments that, although may be flippant or even well meaning, made me feel down, frustrated or even failing at times as a mother. Although that might be more to do with my state of mind. 

"Don't cuddle or hold your baby too much as they will then expect it all the time and you'll get nothing done" was repeated quite a few times when Arthur was, happily, being passed around for cuddles. All I'll say is bite your tongue, or if you don't mind confrontation then speak your mind but most of all don't take it to heart. 

The hardest parts of being a mother: It's relentless. 
They need you - they cannot function without you - and there is no let up. You feel like you'll never get a minute to yourself, you feel like a part of you has gone forever. Well, that how I felt at first. That haze of sleep deprivation gets into everything, and your hormones are all over the place. Everything is hard work: getting dressed, having conversations, remembering things, keeping in touch with friends; all hard work. But all worth it.

I remember only a couple of days after giving birth I came back from the bathroom, stood in the living room and just cried. I felt broken, like I'd never feel right again. My body wasn't mine, it was unbelievably sore and flabby and it upset me a lot. What I now realise is that of course your body takes a while to heal but it does stop hurting and it does get better. 

I still feel like I've given up my body to my boy, and maybe it's because I'm still breastfeeding. I don't feel like I did. I wish I'd appreciated my pre-baby body a little more, it was never as bad as I thought it was and maybe one day I'll learn to appreciate my post-baby body too. 

The best parts of being a mother: My heart aches when I think of my boy. There simply is no love like it. The first few long car journeys we had I found difficult, I missed him! I'd spend so long with him either sleeping or feeding on me, he felt part of me. So to be separated like that for a period of time was strange, I felt lost without him in my arms. Now if you'd told me that before birth I couldn't have comprehended it. But that's unconditional love for you, I guess.

I'm amazed at things Arthur can do. I really should give him more credit. Weaning was a big challenge for me. Milk was easy! I was dreading the mess, the fuss of it all, the rules, the guidelines, and I felt like I really didn't know what I was doing. But how hard can it be to feed a child? Well, not that hard it seems. We have gone be down the baby led path and despite the absolute horror of watching him gag every mealtime for the first week or so it seems to have paid off. He can feed himself and drink out of his Doidy cup at 7months old. I'm not talking fine dining with the best silverware, but he shovels in more than we often realise, the proof is in his nappy. 

Has becoming a mother changed you? 
Massively! I've more faith in myself - I've kept a little human alive for 7 months! Quite how I don't know but we are doing pretty good I think. 

Hopes for your family: To grow!! We both have siblings (my husband is one of three and I am one of four) and we so want that for Arthur. I fondly remember bickering with my sister over Monopoly, turning out the bathroom light on each other, and our brothers slapping our foreheads every time we walked past them. It's all part of growing up. 
We had great times together and we spent most childhood holidays in Wales in the great outdoors and that's what both me and my husband want for our little family. There really is nothing like blowing away the cobwebs with a brisk walk in the countryside. 

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: 
Do a hypnobirthing course. 
Don't let anyone visit for the first two weeks. Talk to your husband/partner/family if you feel down after birth. 
Grow a thick skin when it comes to advice; mother does know best for their child. 
Go to some mother and baby classes. You will naturally gravitate to other like minded mums and it's nice to have people in the same situation as you. 
And breathe. Sometimes you need to take a step back to realise how far you've come.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Claire, Reuben and Isaac

Name: Claire 

Children: Reuben (8) and Isaac (20m)

Location: Sale, Manchester

Expectations of Motherhood: Daunting, exciting, confusing. There’s quite a big gap between my boys so my expectations were quite different for each of them. First time around, I think I worried more about the ‘logistical’ side of getting a baby out of my belly and how this new addition would impact my life. Now when I look back, it was probably quite selfish. Second time around, I was still a little anxious, but more about the effect a sibling would have on my son, how the two of them would get on and how I could provide everything they needed. 

Reality of Motherhood: 24/7 contradictions. Motherhood really is a rollercoaster. You can laugh, cry, be overwhelmed with energy and feel absolutely shattered all in one day. Sometimes I feel like I’m kicking ass at this parenting lark, sometimes I’m surprised my kids have turned out ok (so far!). I’d love to give them everything they want at the click of a finger, but then I want them to have values and appreciate hard work. I deal with some pretty demanding clients, but none of them compare to how demanding children are. They are such unpredictable beings.

I’ll be honest, both of my labours were fairly straight forward (even with the pain), so my entry to motherhood, so to speak, was fairly smooth. What really shocked me, both times, was just how powerful sleep deprivation is. There were times when my body was in pain because of tiredness. The monotony of feeding for hours, changing nappies, wiping puke was tough, but it was the tiredness that got me.

Yet, in spite of it being so bewildering, it is bloody brilliant.

Taking your children home for the first time: I took Reuben home after one night in hospital and couldn't stop staring at him. I was quite overwhelmed with emotions and even shocked. I couldn't believe this little person was all mine and now I'd have to look after him and be responsible for his future…forever. With Isaac, I felt less overwhelmed by his presence but more nervous about how I’d love and treat my sons equally.   

The best/worst advice: Worst - sleep when baby sleeps. A bit of a cliche, but everyone knows how difficult it is to do. Best - do your pelvic floor exercises! In all seriousness, it is important to think about your health and wellness as much your babies’.

Photo taken by Reuben

The hardest parts of being a mother: Always questioning your decisions. No matter how confident I might be, there’s always a little voice asking if I’ve made the right decision when it comes to doing things for my children, even with the smallest of things. I want to push them to achieve their best, but I also want them to be free and enjoy their childhood. At the same time I want to protect them from the outside world and all of the terrible things happening, but I also want to make sure they are enlightened and aware of the challenges the world faces.

I’m extremely aware of just how much children learn from example, so there’s the additional pressure for me to speak and behave in a way that I’d want them to reflect. I don’t think I set a bad example, but I often wonder if I’m setting the best example. 

Knowing that I’m responsible for ensuring they become positive contributors to the world, is very scary. There’s no rehearsal, no chance to start again and I don’t want to ruin it for them.

The best parts of being a mother: Love. Love is an amazing feeling, but the love I have for my children is crazy. There isn’t a day goes by when my heart doesn’t smile because of them, even after the most stressful or emotional of days. My kids are bloody hilarious - at least I think they are. I love the fact we can all laugh together, even with the 7 year age gap of the kids! I genuinely feel so lucky to have the honour of being their mother. And even though I don’t tell him nearly enough, its made me love my husband more. He’s a great father and makes me a better mother. We have become a much stronger team now that we are parents.

Has becoming a mother changed you?
 I wouldn’t say its changed me, more like refined me. I have all of the same characteristics and personality traits I had pre-kids, but some have become more prominent since motherhood, whilst others have taken a step back. I don’t know how much of this transition has been intentional, but I’m definitely happy with the person I am because of becoming a mother.For the first few months of motherhood and maternity leave, I did feel like I’d lost my sense of self, probably because of the sleep deprivation! I felt like I was just an extension of my babies. But with time, once my confidence went back to normal, as did my sleeping patterns, I felt like ‘me’ again. In fact I felt like a better version of me, that didn’t really care what others thought.

I know my priorities have changed since becoming a mother. Not just superficial things like what I spend my money on, but how I spend my time and energy and who’s opinions of me actually matter (I’ll give you a clue, not many).

Hopes for your family:
That we work together as a unit to support each other to grow and achieve our goals. That we continue to laugh together. I want my children to have opportunities. Success is important, whatever that means, but I want them to be in a position whereby they have the confidence to pursue their dreams and aspirations and celebrate who they are as individuals. I hope they will become good people with good, positive friendships. Ultimately I want them to be happy.

Now that I’m a mother myself I’m so much more grateful to my own mother for the hard work and sacrifices she made for me and my siblings. She moved here from Ghana when she was just 18. She worked extremely hard to give us all a good education and showed us the importance of hard work and self-worth. I just hope I don’t let all of her dedication go to waste through my own approach to motherhood!

I want my children to be aware of just how blessed they are to have the lifestyles they have been given, thanks to the decisions my mother made back in the 70s.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Listen to what everyone has to say, but don’t necessarily do it! If you don’t agree with or admire someone’s parenting style, why would you copy what they do? Every child, parent and situation are different, so what works for one person wouldn't work for another. Your instinct will be good at telling you what’s right for your child and your circumstances. At the same time, I think its really important to establish your own ‘mum squad’. Whether they are from your NCT, antenatal group, Rhyme Time, it doesn’t matter. What matters is having like- minded people to share and air your troubles and concerns with. Nine times out of ten, they’ll totally understand. And if they don’t they’ll probably have cake (or Prosecco)! Oh and do your pelvic floor exercises.

Follow Claire on her blog mumsomnia.wordpress.com or on Twitter @aniteyec 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Katie, Ted and Beatrice

Name: Katie

Children: Ted, 3, and Beatrice, 6 months


Expectations of Motherhood:
Both me and my husband had an idealistic view of what it would be like when we had children. Of course, I’d never let my child have a dummy. And tantrums, we’d be able to deal with them really well. I also thought I’d be this really creative mum who’d constantly be doing stuff with her children.

I suppose you don’t think of all the downsides. You just imagine it to be this lovely thing; the baby arrives and you just spend all your time cuddling them. You think that your life basically goes on as it did before you had children.

A couple of times before I had Ted, when I was pregnant, people would say to me, ‘You need to go out and enjoy yourself before it’s over.’ I thought, my life won’t change that much. No, I’m still going to do everything. I’ll take him out and he’ll be with us in his car seat while we’re eating nice meals.

Reality of Motherhood: I had quite a difficult birth with Ted, which resulted in me having a c-section. It wasn’t at all what I’d wanted. I hadn’t even considered it as a possibility. I wanted a water birth - as most people do - and to have no intervention. In the end I was in the hospital for 3 days before I even had him. Then when he was born, I had to stay in hospital for another 3 days. It was hell because he just wouldn’t sleep. He just cried. I was absolutely exhausted.

I don’t think it ever crosses your mind that after you deliver this baby you’re have look after them as well. And at Wythenshawe you're on your own because husbands have to go home; at 10pm at night they leave until the next morning. I begged the midwives to let my husband come in an hour earlier, but they said, ‘No!’ 
I think that start made everything that bit more difficult.

When I became pregnant with Bea, I thought, I’m going to do this differently. I’m not just going to be waiting for her to come. With Ted, I was just so desperate to have him (and he was 6 days overdue). With Bea, I did yoga and learnt how to meditate, and it did actually work. I don’t tend to do stuff like that, but it was brilliant for me. I became quite mindful. In that week before she was born I used the time well. I made a pair of curtains for Ted’s room, and enjoyed the time we had. When I went into labour it was exactly what I’d expected it to be with Ted. We were kind of rushing to the hospital, and I delivered her really fast, and naturally, with no interception at all. It was brilliant. I went home the same day. We’d decided we would be really prepared with Bea so we’d bought everything in advance, including a dummy - I was not going to be a snob about it - but she just slept. She was a completely different baby. The whole experience was so different.

In hindsight, after having Bea, and having time to reflect on Ted’s birth and when he was small, I don’t know if it was actually depression, but I definitely had proper baby blues. I feel like I had it for a while. At the time you’re so involved in it that you don’t think that’s what’s happening, and a lot of people say, ‘That happens to everyone. You’re fine,’ but I didn’t leave the house on my own with Ted on my own for months. It was about four months before I actually went out in the car with him on my own. I was terrified. With Bea, we were doing stuff after we’d been home for a couple of days. I didn’t have any worry or anxiety with her even though I expected to. 

Taking your children home: I was so relived to take Ted home, but then he just didn’t sleep. I think that’s was when it struck us that our lives had changed so much. He didn’t sleep the first night at all. My husband was just in shock - he’d been going home on his own every night and getting a full night’s sleep while I’d been in hospital. He couldn’t believe it. We changed so many nappies, we fed him again and again, but he wouldn’t stop crying. We tried everything, but nothing really worked.

When I came home with Bea, it felt so normal. She was so laid back and settled. In a way it felt like she’d always been here. She just fitted in. The next day, we woke up with her in our room and Ted came in. It just felt completely normal. There wasn’t any disruption. I think it’s because our lives had already changed massively after having Ted. We didn’t have that period of grief for the life that we’d lost. 

They’ve been entirely different children. Some people say, ‘Is it because they’re girl and boy?’ But, who knows. I’m know I’m not having another one to find out! 

Best Advice:
 I’ve got a few friends who are due to have babies any day now. I’ve just said to them, ‘You will know what’s right. Trust your instincts’.
First time, I was so desperate to have a quick fix, but you have to follow what is right. I was constantly seeking that perfect advice. We’d spend hours in Mothercare looking for something that would help us. Obviously there wasn’t anything - he was colicky. I do think if you follow what you think’s best then it tends to just work.

I actually did everything I was told not to. They said, ‘Don’t feed them to sleep,’ but I fed Ted to sleep. Then they said, ‘Don’t rock them to sleep,’ but for a bit, after I fed him we rocked him to sleep. We were worried that he was never going to be able to sleep on his own. People would say to us, ‘You need to let him cry,’ but it would be awful and he’d make himself sick. It was just not working. 

In the end we decided to do it our way, and gradually he learned to get to sleep by himself, steadily, and at his own pace. Now he’s absolutely fine. So many people I speak to are worried about these things, and feel so guilty for doing them, but it’s not doing any harm.

I’ve got one friend who’s especially helpful. I think it’s because she gives really positive advice. I think that’s a great way to be. A lot of people can be really condemning. I hope to be like her when people ask me for advice. 

Worst advice: I’ve heard some terrible things, but I probably shouldn’t say!
I think some people don’t realise how things have changed and so they push ideas that are now considered quite old fashioned. It’s tricky to listen and be polite whilst being fully aware that you can’t take it on. It can be hard to take advice when you don’t want to.

This time, I’ve not had so much advice. People tend to back off a little with the second child. First time, you get given it whether you ask for it or not. 

Best part of being a mother: Watching how they grow and learn. I know it sounds cheesy but we’re always amazed by Ted especially. I went back to work after having him and he went into nursery pretty much full time. Now when I’m off I get to see how quickly he’s developing and how his language and imagination are growing. I find that incredible.

It’s amazing how they love you and trust you as well. You can never explain that to anyone, the relationship you have with them. It’s like having little friends around (that you argue with occasionally). Ted’s like a companion to me. It can be really lonely being off work so having someone there with you, who knows you, and knows when you’re upset or angry, it’s lovely. In the last year Ted’s turned into a real person. He’s definitely not a baby anymore and I love doing stuff with him.

Worst parts of being a mother: The sleep deprivation. I hate it. It’s the worst thing. Bea wakes up about every two hours at the moment. We’re going through a bad stage.

I miss the freedom of being able to just leave the house on a whim, without thinking. Now, I have to think of everything. And I’m not the most organised person, so often I’ll leave the house without stuff I need and I end up having to improvise. I don’t think I ever relax because I’m constantly preparing for something to happen.

Social media is another thing. I’m just as guilty, but, people only upload the amazing things. It’s so easy to look at other people lives and be envious. Friends without children enjoying a really different life; going on holidays, going away on mini breaks, eating at really nice restaurants. I have to remember what I’ve got instead. I’m sure at the same time people might look at us and think that we have the perfect life. People have said to me, ‘You make it look so easy with two’, but I say I’m not putting the horrible photos on, like when I’m having a screaming argument with a toddler. 

Has being a mother changed you? Yes, definitely. Completely. I think I thought I was a really laid back person, and other people did too because I’m quite disorganised and messy, but actually, having children you have to let go even more of everything. I have to let go of the fact that our house is always going to be a mess and there’s nothing I can do! Even if I thoroughly tidy it’s messy again within minutes. We can’t have really nice things in our house because they get wrecked. When we moved into this house we put effort into making the house nice, then Ted drew on the carpet with a black wax crayon. I’ve had to change how I feel about stuff like that.

For example, you have an idea that you’ll be able to bake a cake with your child and it’ll be really nice, but for us all Ted ever wants to do is eat the ingredients. If we’re painting, it drives me mad because he wants to mix all the colours together, and he wants to colour things in the wrong way. You just have to let go and say, it’s ok. Make a mess, it’s fine.

I think I’ve grown up a lot since becoming a mum. I’ve realised that some things just aren’t important anymore. I used to get so stressed about work, and then I’d come home to the children and think, ‘Why are we all fussing about something that minor?’ It puts things into perspective. Actually, that was one of the best things about going back to work after having Ted. I became more mindful and thought, ‘This is really silly, I’m not rushing around doing this. What’s the worst that will happen?’ 

Neither me or my husband brings work home with us now. We spend our days working solidly until we pick them up and then we can relax. I don’t want to put work first, but at the same time I really want to work still. That was one of the things I hadn’t expected. I’d thought I’d finish work and I’d want to stay at home, but after a bit - maybe on the first day! - I thought, ‘work is so much easier than this! It’s so much easier that being at home on your own and entertaining someone that doesn’t talk to you.’ Some people think that it’s a shame for me, as a working mum. I don’t think they realise that I choose to work because I want to and I like applying my mind to something different. There’s more to me than being a mum.

Hopes for your family: We want to make our children's childhood the best it can possibly be. As we are both teachers it's important to make the most of our holidays by spending our time together. There are so many places I want to travel to and think it will now be even more fun (if not very different!) with children. We both want to encourage them to have creative and enquiring minds and know that we are proud of their achievements.

What advice would you give expectant mums?
 Trust your instinct and trust what feels best for you and your family. Try not to doubt yourself or compare yourself to others; we're all in it together!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Tamsin and Jude

Name: Tamsin 

Child: Jude, 15 weeks 

Location: Ashton-under-lyne

Expectations of Motherhood: I didn't know what to expect. I thought I'd be very tired, that I'd still want my own me-time on a regular basis, I hoped I'd be calm and collected and a 'perfect' mother, whatever that means. I had definite do's and don'ts: go back to the gym a month after he was born, keep up with my former active social life (what was I thinking), get into a routine early on, all became 'didn't happen'. The don'ts included - use dummies, co-sleep, breastfeed in public, feed formula. These all happened at some point and there were many more!!

Reality of Motherhood: Well, it is very tiring, but so worth it. It can be stressful at times; as this is my first baby almost every rash, cry, weight gain, weight loss and bowel movement has induced anxiety and worry that I don't know what the hell I'm doing, and I am responsible for this tiny individual. But I love it so much, I never really understood how much love you could feel for someone. Clichéd, I know. I also never thought babies were that interesting, I thought they came into their own when they got a bit bigger. I was so wrong; I'm astounded and bewitched by how much he changes on a daily basis and how he can stop me in my tracks and forget what I'm doing to watch this new sound or action he's making. Your baby's smile can only be cringingly described as 'heart melting', I've asked other new mum's and they've said the same!!

Taking your child home for the first time: My waters had broken on the 16th Sept (a month before Jude was due) and then no contractions came. I wasn't induced until the 18th sept, which meant he was at risk of infection and so I had to stay in. He didn't have to endure what some early babies and poor families have to go through, but at just under 4 weeks early he was small. But he had to have a canula fitted (for his antibiotics) as his infection markers were too high. He then became jaundiced so he had to have phototherapy for a few days. This was dreadful as he didn't like being under the light and wanted to be held, so my husband would sit up with him for hours with his arm around Jude or his finger in his mouth (before we managed to buy a dummy) to comfort him. 

A week later when we got the all clear (after fears that we'd have to stay because his weight had dropped a little too much and his temperature was slightly low). We were ecstatic to take him home. My husband had decided to ask my sisters and aunt round for our first night home with him, so we weren't completely alone, but none of us really knew what we were doing. We'd forgotten that we were then going to be on our own and look after him! 

After a few days home, the midwife tested him for jaundice again and his levels were high, so we were back in again for a few days. The second time we left was with more trepidation, I kept worrying we'd have to go back in, especially when I had to take him in for blood tests and a urine test (extremely awkward to do, if you're asking) for prolonged jaundice. But despite all the (new) worrying, all was well.

Best advice: You really can't plan, so don't beat yourself up if things don't happen the way you want. 

I'd bought so many items of clothing for a bigger baby (everyone I knew told me I was going to have a big baby). When he was under 6lbs and dropped further down, we had to buy more. I really had wanted to breast feed, but I wasn't producing enough milk, so Jude wasn't gaining weight as he should, I hadn't considered formula at all and felt like a failure when I couldn't solely breastfed, because that's what I'd planned. I'd also planned to have a water birth, but because I was induced on a drip, I couldn't. 

Pregnancy and bringing up a baby is all about going with the flow and taking each day as it comes (so far, for me, anyway). From someone who hates poor punctuality and enjoys being organised, this is something I am still learning to embrace...

Also, bring spare changes of clothes for baby (and you, where possible) wherever you go. I have walked around the Christmas markets with baby sick down my hair and coat for an afternoon last November, Jude remained unsoiled on that occasion, I looked like a scruff!

Worst advice: About labour, so many people (both women and men) wanted to tell me about theirs/their partners horrific labour stories and that I should take all the drugs on offer. Telling a first-time, pregnant women this is not helpful. Baby is going to have to come out, so this 'advice', particularly from men, who haven't actually squeezed out a baby themselves, is not helpful. I had a relatively easy labour (once I was finally induced), but everyone is different, every mother in my NCT group had a different experience. Some would do it again, others wouldn't. You just know that you get your baby at the end, so just keep going! 

The hardest parts of being a mother: I wasn't a particularly chilled individual before having Jude, so I don't think this happens to every mum. But I do worry. Often. Am I doing this right? Is he eating enough? Why doesn't he like tummy time?! Should he be doing this or that by now? It is the most responsibility you will ever have and you just want to do it right. 

The best parts of being a mother: I'm well aware that I come across as a walking, talking cliché, but... There seems to be a million little things that make it the best thing, without doubt, that I have ever done. Seeing the pieces of you, mixed with the man you love, is really magical. We still look at him and say to each other "I can't believe he's here and he's ours". 

The satisfaction you get out of a smile or a coo and being the one to soothe him when he's upset, compare to no other feeling I've had. When I feel like I'm at the end of my tether because everything is going wrong, I've not slept and I have baby sick in my hair, I get a little smile from him and I feel alright. Little victories, like finally getting him out the house to go for a walk in the sunshine make me feel like the most triumphant mother in the world! I've always known that I wanted to have children, but until I had him, I never knew how much happiness it would bring to my life. 

Has becoming a mother changed you? I was a complete social butterfly, I loved going out, making plans for travels and gigs. I definitely enjoyed the odd (bottle) of Prosecco. Everyone told me I'd find it so hard not being able to do all the social things I enjoyed. But I wouldn't change a thing, in fact I found it hard going out for a haircut and colour (as I was about a 4 hour round trip without him). Now, my plans revolve around Jude, I have a new social focus... baby sensory, baby yoga and have made new friends via NCT and my lovely (post-baby) friends make plans that will include Jude, too. I'm currently trying to figure out how to bring Jude to a Kings of Leon concert in Hyde park in the summer so I don't have to be without him for a night! I certainly haven't hankered for any Prosecco since Jude's arrival either, how times have changed!

Hopes for your family:
I want Jude to be happy, first and foremost, and a good and respectful human being. I come from a diverse family, Indian and Burmese (and Cornish) grandparents, so I would like to teach Jude about his mixed background and take him to these places one day, to learn about where he comes from. I hope we all grow together, we're all learning about what it is to be a family and my husband and I don't always agree on how to do parenting things. We're still learning to compromise and listen to the other's opinion on the matter, but generally, it's making us a closer unit. I hope this continues and Jude grows up with his parents together, in a loving and happy environment. I hope we're lucky enough to give him more siblings, but right now, I'm just going to keep enjoying (and learning from) what each new day (and sleep-broken) night brings.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums? Try not to compare yourself to other mums: how your bump looks against others, how your baby can't lift his head up but your friend's baby did it a month earlier... There are so many things being said to you about how to be the perfect mum and how to raise the happiest baby, but you should just try to be your own version of perfect and happy. I am still trying to digest this advice myself, but it is slowly sneaking in. 

Additional info:
2016 was a tough year for me. At the start of the year my paternal grandfather passed away suddenly, then I was made redundant the day after his funeral. Jude is his 19th great-grandchild. 
He was always asking us when we were going to have a baby as he loved his ever-growing family so much. The week after his funeral I found out I was pregnant after almost 2 years of trying (and on my husband's birthday). My maternal grandmother was then diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died 3 months to-the-day before her first great grandson was born. She managed to knit a lovely outfit for him before she passed away, which was what we took him home in. We had joked that it was far too small for a baby of my husband's and in the end it was just perfect for our little man. The one thing that kept me positive and strong this year was knowing that I would have my little boy with us by October. I don't know why my beloved Nana and Grandpa weren't able to be around to meet Jude, but it was just meant to be.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Holly and Florence

Name: Holly 

Florence, 15 months

Location: Chorlton, Manchester

Expectations of Motherhood:
I really thought my entrepreneurial spark would kick in whilst I was on maternity leave and that I'd have plenty of spare time in the day. I expected to be nursing my baby in one arm and typing away on the computer with the other. I thought I'd have a business up and running and my first novel drafted (I've always fancied myself as a successful novelist). I expected to be a "lady that lunches", who carries her baby around in a sling wherever I went, looking all "yummy mummy" in my skinny jeans, having picnics in the park and jogging with my stroller. That's what I'd seen on Instagram and that's what I thought I'd be! (How wrong I was). 

Reality of Motherhood: My baby doesn't really sleep or nap without me! So I spent the first 9 months of her life pinned underneath her on the couch or with her attached to my boobs. Which meant my spare time for productive business brainstorming and social networking just didn't really materialise. Instead I lay on the couch, watching series records of America's Next Top Model, Australia's Next Top Model, Britain's Next Top Model...you get the drift. It wasn't until Flo was 10 months old that I found the odd half hour of spare time creeping in here and there, whilst she was happy playing and amusing herself, by which point I was generally exhausted and just happy for a bit of time on Facebook.Then by about a year, I finally got to launch my business and start to get my sanity back (sort of) and now at 15 months, she's just started sleeping more than 3 hour chunks and I realise what it feels like to not be completely and utterly exhausted all the time. Oh and another reality of motherhood for those of you that decide to breast-feed is leaky boobs...un-glamourous, but a reality.

Taking your child home for the first time: This is probably one of the most surreal moments of a parent's life. You've just been through the crazy, emotional, draining experience of giving birth and you're suddenly faced with looking after another living thing...a teeny tiny living thing that totally depends on you. Then, sleep deprived, sore and bewildered, you're discharged and sent on your merry way to go forth and parent. But no one tells you what you're actually supposed to do next! It's supposed to come naturally isn't it?

Well the journey home was fine, she slept and it all seemed totally doable. We were then welcomed home by the dog and the grandparents (who thankfully had a curry waiting for us!) and everyone cooed and enjoyed some cuddle time with her. Then she started crying. And she pretty much cried on and off for the rest of the evening and into the night and we had no bloody idea what we were supposed to do...feed? change her nappy? cuddle her? And we both looked at each other and all we wanted to do was sleep, having been awake for the last 36 hours and I remember saying to my husband "but when do we sleep? how do we actually do this without sleep?". Well that was just the beginning, but as if mother nature has it all figured out, you kind of just do it and get used to it and each day gets a tiny bit easier. 

The best/worst advice:
The best advice I probably had was to just go with your intuition. You really do get this sixth sense when you become a mother and you just sort of know what your baby wants and what's best for them. You'll be given such a huge amount of information, advice and opinions when you're pregnant and a new mum (most of which is useless) that it's all a bit overwhelming. If your baby is generally healthy and happy, you're doing something right!

I wouldn't say I've received any bad advice, but probably just had some advice delivered in an insensitive way (which you'll get used to as a new mum). People generally meaning well, but telling you that you're "creating a rod for your own back by doing that..." or "oh, your baby should be sleeping through the night by now...perhaps you should do something differently..." (as if I like to be woken every 2 hours for 12 months straight!). 

The hardest parts of being a mother: There'll be a familiar theme to this...sleep...or lack thereof. I genuinely never thought I could feel so utterly exhausted and deflated as I have on occasion since becoming a mum. Genuinely you plod on and your baby's gorgeous smiling face and utter unconditional love does everything to pull you through the difficult days. But there's a reason that sleep deprivation is used as torture - because it's hell! 

Wanting to have more energy to try that sleep-training you've been told is the key to your baby sleeping through the night, or to skip along to the next baby sensory group, but not being able to muster enough energy to get dressed in a manner that is acceptable for leaving your house, is seriously hard. But know that you're not alone. Despite all the well turned-out, happy, smiling mums you'll come across, nearly every one of them is feeling or has felt exactly the same as you. There's something cruel but comforting about that fact. 

Oh and breast-feeding. It's hard. Not for everyone of course, but for a lot of women. So don't beat yourself up about it if you're finding it tough and don't suffer in silence. Speak to people, ask for help. It does generally get easier, but those first weeks (and months) can be really really hard. And if it's not happening, bottle feed or combination feed. As long as your baby eats, it doesn't really matter where the milks coming from. You have so many things to take in as a mum and to try and do for your baby, having mum-guilt over anything is a waste of your energy. 

The best parts of being a mother: Gosh where do I start? I used to roll my eyes when a new mum would say, "It's the best thing ever" and coo over their baby like they're the first child to exist or break wind or eat a piece of banana. But it really bloody is the BEST THING EVER! Don't get me wrong, it can be lonely, exhausting and anxiety-inducing, but it really is a privilege to be a parent. I get so much out of every little thing that Flo does and watching her respond to the world around her is so satisfying. I love her cuddles when she's sleepy and the way she arches her back and farts in the morning before waking up. I love the utter trust she has for me and her Dadda and that even when she's grizzly and crying, she still claps along as we sing "If you're happy and you know it". I love that she finds it hilarious when she blows a raspberry and that her first word was "Peppa" because she loves Peppa Pig (says a lot about our parenting skills). I love her little dance moves when one of her favourite songs comes on. And I love that I get to be a part of her world and existence and hopefully be a positive role model for her in her life. Her smile and cheeky grin has the power to make even the toughest of days completely wonderful. Cheesy I know, but completely true. 

Has becoming a mother changed you? I would say me as a person, no. I am still the same Holly. I still like a few too many glasses of Prosecco occasionally and I still love to spend time with my hubby and friends (with or without Flo). But I would say it's made me realise just how strong I am. It's given me a new sense of confidence and self-appreciation. It's made my outlook on life slightly different and it's made me even more driven to create as lovely-a-life as possible for my little family. 

Hopes for your family: I hope that we can bring Flo up as a progressive-thinking, open person, who is keen to experience new things and get the most out of life. We'd definitely like to continue to grow our family...not just yet, but in the future we hope Flo will have a little brother or sister. We're content with enjoying her for now though. 

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums? I would say go to your antenatal classes (NCT are great for meeting like-minded people in your local area) and once you're recovered from labour and feeling up for it, get out. There's nothing better than fresh air and although you'll be scared and apprehensive and unsure of how to do almost everything, just do it. That feeling really does pass and the sooner you get out there, the quicker you'll feel like yourself again. And go to baby classes. Even if they sound a bit silly, they really are the best way to socialise and for your baby to socialise. They'll be the best £4 or £5 you've ever spent. You'll meet lots of other mums and dads and create a support network for yourself, which is vital for new mums as it can sometimes feel very lonely. And eat cake! Don't worry about getting your "pre-baby body" back. Your body has just been through an immense thing and you'll be lacking sleep and guess what? you'll need carbs and sugar. So just let yourself go with it for a while and don't beat yourself up about your new found addiction to cakes. 

I took redundancy whilst on maternity leave and although completely terrifying, it was the best thing that could have happened. It gave me the kick up the bottom to go it alone and start my own Wedding Planning business, work with my husband's agency Six & Flow, and concentrate on my blogging, which is my creative outlet. So now I get to do the things I love as a job, whilst having the flexibility to work part-time and spend as much time as I can with my daughter. This is the sort of thing that people dream of doing and think it's not possible, but I'm here to say that it is. You've just got to have a leap of`faith and give it a go! Don't let any job or person make you think that you can't do it because you're a mum. Don't let people overlook you for that promotion or side-track your career progress because you've started a family. Fact is, you're probably more efficient than most others because you know how to juggle about 10 things at time, whilst holding a baby and conducting a conversation. Believe in yourself and your abilities, this is the time to give it a go!

My blog - http://hollygoeslightly.co.uk
My wedding planning business - http://nicolandwood.com
Six & Flow - http://sixandflow.com
My twitter: @HollyNicol