Saturday, 22 October 2016

Louise, Darcy and Seth

Name: Louise Earnshaw

Children: Darcy and Seth, both 10 months old 

Location: Bury

Expectations of Motherhood: Very different from reality! I never expected it to be easy, but having twins throws up a whole new set of challenges, all the thoughts of coffee-shopping my way through maternity leave were somewhat impaired by the practical aspect of having two little monkeys to deal with, and a monster truck double buggy!

Reality of Motherhood: Argh the tiredness! No matter how any one tries to explain it to you, until you've lived through the sleep deprivation of the newborn stage you'll never quite understand it! But the payoffs - those gorgeous cuddles, and little cheeky smiles, all dependent on you - it's a big responsibility but every new thing they do and learn makes you so proud it's unreal.

Taking your children home for the first time: Darcy and Seth were 2 months early, and spent their first 6 weeks of life on the neonatal unit, so taking them home for the first time was nothing like the experience I had imagined bringing out first child/children home would be. It was exciting, frightening, amazing yet overwhelming. Probably the best yet most terrifying day of my life!

The hardest parts of being a mother: The constant guilt that you only have one pair of hands yet there are two little faces looking up at you wanting attention, it's hard not to beat yourself up about it.

The best parts of being a mother: Having two beautiful babies who despite an impatient entry into the world are thriving, knowing I'm helping them grow and develop, and their beaming smiles when they see me is enough to melt anyone's heart.

Has becoming a mother changed you? Yes. In many ways for the better, but also in ways which I didn't imagine it would affect me and my personality.

Hopes for your family: All I can hope is that Darcy and Seth are happy, healthy children, to whom I can give as many opportunities and experiences as possible, and that one day they'll thank me for it!

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Be confident in your own abilities, but do not be scared to ask for help or advice - we're all only human, and as a first time mum it's easy to put massive expectations on yourself that aren't realistic. Take time to get used to it, and don't panic if it doesn't all come naturally at first, it's definitely a learning curve - but it's so worth it!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Emily and Tristan

Name: Emily

Tristan, 9 months

Prestwich, Manchester

Expectations of Motherhood:
I was a huge bundle of anxiety throughout my pregnancy. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome when I was 17 and told I wouldn't be able to have children without fertility treatment. That turned out to not be true but because I'd lived with the knowledge of my condition for so long, I felt like I'd cheated somehow getting pregnant with relative ease and that at any moment I was going to get found out and it would all go wrong. I don't know at what point I allowed myself to believe it was real.

Reality of Motherhood:
Motherhood is terrifying and exhilarating and exhausting. It's at once the hardest and the best thing I've ever done. Seeing Tristan's personality emerge is wonderful – he's inquisitive and affectionate (and occasionally a stubborn little drama queen) and I love getting to know him.

Taking your child home for the first time: Walking through the front door with Tristan in my arms was an overwhelming relief. He arrived three weeks early and I had to have an emergency c-section because he was breech. He had fluid on his lungs when he came out so he was taken to the newborn intensive care unit for CPAP treatment. I'd tried to prepare myself for all the eventualities of childbirth but watching my tiny baby be wheeled away in an incubator at two hours old was not one of the scenarios I'd imagined. I spent the next three days being wheeled down to the NICU ward every three hours to breastfeed him while in between I was pumped full of antibiotics to try and get rid of the infection I'd contracted as a result of the surgery. Lying in my solitary hospital bed, unable to move because of the pain from where I'd been cut open, listening to the swish of the IV pump and the faint cries of the babies in the ward next door, I had never felt more alone. But on day four we were given the all clear and allowed to go home. We discovered on that first night that Tristan hated sleeping on his own so my husband and I slept in shifts (and continued to do so for the next seven weeks) but however hard it was, it was overshadowed by the sheer relief of finally having him home.

The best/worst advice: The best was to get a tumble dryer. I wasn't convinced it was necessary but my dad bought us one as a gift so of course I wasn't going to say no. I had no idea what a lifesaver it would be! Thank you, Dad!

I believe all advice is offered with good intentions but I can't stand anything ending in the phrase, “You'll make a rod for your own back.” It's such rubbish. Having a baby is hard enough, why make it harder for yourself by abandoning something that works?

The hardest parts of being a mother: For me it's the lack of sleep. If I can get Tristan to stay in his cot for a four hour stretch it's a huge victory. I haven't had a proper night's sleep in nearly ten months and I am bone tired all the time. At the moment I take the opportunity to nap with Tristan during the day but I'm a bit scared how I'm going to manage once I go back to work.

The best parts of being a mother:
It's a cliché but the love you have for your child is incredible. It's beautiful and raw and makes you more vulnerable than you have ever been before. I am in awe of Tristan every day; this perfect, tiny person that I made. Sometimes have to remind myself that there are seven billion people on the planet so making another one isn't really that impressive but then I'll watch Tristan master some new skill and I'll be amazed by him all over again.

Has becoming a mother changed you? In many ways I think I'm a better version of myself now – I'm more patient than I thought I could be, I have more empathy and I'm less selfish. The hard part is not losing myself in the role of 'Mummy'. I'm still me. I have this extra thing about me now which is wonderful but I still have the same hopes and ambitions and thoughts and passions that I had before. They're buried a little deeper now because Tristan has become my priority. I started my blog, The Useless Mother's Cookbook (, not just to learn how to cook but to give myself something to think about that's not focused on how much Tristan sleeps.

Hopes for your (growing) family: I hope we all stay healthy. I hope we keep loving each other. I hope we can help Tristan fulfill his potential and I hope we can give him a sibling one day.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums?
I'm still less than a year into this so I don't feel qualified to give too much advice so I'll just say this: be nice to yourself. You don't have to pretend you have a perfect Instagram-ready life. It's okay to admit that this is hard and you should be damned proud of yourself for getting through it!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Lorna and Dexter

Name: Lorna

Child: Dexter, 16 months

Location: Cheadle Hulme

Expectations of Motherhood: I never expected it to be a walk in the park, but I have to confess to thinking it would be significantly easier than working full time. I envisaged a few tough but equally wonderful months of getting into a routine before embarking on a maternity leave that would allow me the chance to indulge in all of the things I never had enough time to do, with the added bonus of having a new little pal in tow. My house would be tidier, I’d cook lovely meals every night and for the first time ever I’d fall in love with exercise because I’d have all this spare time, meaning I’d shift that all-important ‘baby weight’ and go back to work feeling a million dollars. And most importantly, I’d make sure that Dave and I still had ‘date’ time –because your life doesn’t have to stop just because you have a baby, right?

Reality of Motherhood:
Well, I definitely had a little pal in tow, mainly due to the fact Dexter fed constantly during the first few months and refused to sleep in his cot during the day until he was about 8 months old. I also really surprised myself by how strongly I felt about him being with me or Dave at all times; we didn’t leave him and have that all important ‘date’ time (or should I say ‘date hour’) until he was almost 9 months old. That was partly due to circumstance as my parents live in Spain (in my crazy new-mum head, my mum was the only other person who could possibly look after him), but if I’m honest I just couldn’t bear to be apart from Dexter, even though I was also massively yearning for a bit of time to myself.

I found maternity leave and the first year of motherhood a massive rollercoaster; there were days when I felt so utterly joyous and lucky to have this gorgeous, healthy boy in my life that I couldn’t ever imagine going back to work. Equally, there were lots of times when the sleep deprivation and groundhog day-style monotony of caring for a young baby really got to me: looking back, I wailed the very un-maternal words ‘I just want my old life back’ at pretty regular intervals. It wasn’t so much that I was craving big nights out or wild parties but I just couldn’t get to grips with not being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted. It turns out that having a baby is bloody hard work. 

Taking your child home for the first time: It felt like an out of body experience! I hadn’t slept properly for about three days and felt like I’d been kicked in the chest and nether regions by a very large horse (apparently the chest bit was due to some interesting positions thrashing about over the side of the pool but fortunately my memory seems to have blocked out that rather undignified part). After waiting to go home all day we finally set foot back into our house at 10pm so there wasn’t really any time to get ourselves sorted or have any kind of ‘and breathe’ moment before getting started on our first night at home.

I was overwhelmed by love and fear in equal measures, and although Dexter actually slept pretty well I was totally wired. I remember dragging my sore, shattered body out of bed and taking him from our room into his to feed because I’d bought a new chair to feed him in, so I couldn’t possibly do it anywhere else (!). Sitting munching chocolate digestives recommended by the midwife for my low blood sugar levels (a new habit that my thighs are now not thanking me for) I remember wondering how everything could have changed so much in the 24 hours since I was last in the house.

Best advice:
‘Just do whatever you need to do to get yourself through this phase’. Dexter had never been a great sleeper but between 4 and 8 months it stepped up to a whole new level of hideous. Not only did I feel horrendous but I was constantly worrying that he would get into even worse habits that could never be rectified- oh the drama! My friend gave me this advice after a night of being up every 30mins with him and it gave me the confidence to go with my instinct rather than what I thought I should be doing.

Worst advice: ‘Don’t let him get into the habit of sleeping on you’. Practically speaking, this is probably good advice and would have spared me some wrinkles down the line but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. My thunderbolt of love for Dexter didn’t come the moment he was born; it built up over those first few weeks and months of having him so close to me day after day. Some of my most precious memories are of when Dave first went back to work and we spent hours, just the two of us, dozing on the sofa. 

The hardest parts of being a mother: It’s a cliché but there’s a whole heap of guilt- guilt about enjoying working full time, guilt about leaving work earlier than I used to, guilt about not doing enough ‘activities’ with Dexter, guilt about other people looking after him…it’s a pretty endless list really. And yes, I do still miss doing what I want, when I want!

The best parts of being a mother: The laughter- I can honestly say I’ve never laughed as much in my life as I have since having Dexter. He’s had such a strong personality since the day he burst onto the scene and-although I probably would have mocked anyone saying this before I had him- he’s hilarious. I find myself belly laughing on a regular basis and that’s something that gets you through the tougher days of being a mum. After ten years together it’s also made me fall a little bit more in love with Dave- he has developed what I call the ‘Dexter smile’. It doesn’t make an appearance for anyone else but he beams pure love whenever they’re together and that’s a pretty amazing thing to witness between your husband and son. 

Has becoming a mother changed you? This is the hardest question to answer as in many ways I feel that I’m exactly the same person that I always was but in others, everything has changed. For me, the most difficult part of maternity leave was feeling like I didn’t exist as a person outside of being Dexter’s mum and coming back to work, I found it hard to fit back in with my younger colleagues whose lives now seem so very different from my own.

On the plus side I’m more content than I’ve ever been- Dexter has completed a part of me that I had no idea was empty and the fact that we’ve made it through the first 16 months with relatively few battle scars is probably my greatest achievement to date. I’m also poorer, fatter and have significantly more wrinkles but you can’t have everything!  

Hopes for your family: As well as the standard health and happiness that all mums wish for their children, I want Dexter to have the confidence to believe he really can achieve anything he sets his mind to and to see as much of the world as is humanly possible. As a family, I hope we can keep laughing as we have so far. Failing all of that, a lottery win would be lovely. 

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums?
Don’t doubt yourself- you’ll find your own way in your own time. 

Your baby will still love you and be a decent human being even if you don’t go to fifteen classes a week.

Be open to making ‘mum’ friends- I was sceptical but was lucky enough to meet some great girls who helped me survive the sleep deprivation with plenty of cake and laughs.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Emma and Evelyn

Name: Emma

Evelyn, 12 months


Expectations of Motherhood:
I spent my whole pregnancy terrified that I was going to lose my baby. We'd had a little girl who was stillborn at 22 weeks a couple of years earlier and even with regular scans I couldn't bring myself to look past being pregnant. It was only when I was in labour that the reality of impending motherhood suddenly hit me. 

Reality of Motherhood: It took a few weeks for it to really sink in, and at least a couple of months for me to find my feet and enjoy motherhood. I spent too long feeling bored and trapped and wishing I was at work. I wish I had appreciated that time a lot more.

Taking your child home for the first time:
Seeing Evelyn sitting in her car seat in the middle of the living room, she looked so tiny and vulnerable and we had a real "oh shit!" moment as we realised we had to look after her by ourselves!

The best/worst advice:
I read everything I could get my hands on when I was pregnant so as to be fully prepared for every situation. In reality it meant that I'd read so much conflicting advice that I spent the first couple of months constantly second guessing myself and getting stressed when Evelyn didn't follow textbook baby rules. The best advice is definitely to trust your instinct. 

The hardest parts of being a mother:
The worry that I might fail her in some way.

The best parts of being a mother:
Every night we sit in Evelyn's room and have a sleepy cuddle before she goes to bed. I look at her beautiful face and smell her hair. It's only now that I really understand what my mum meant when she told me she loved me - that all encompassing overwhelming love.

Has becoming a mother changed you? 
I hope it's made me a better wife. Having a baby has strengthened our marriage by exposing the cracks and forcing us to work on them. I'm much less selfish and self-centred and my priorities have completely changed. 

Hopes for your (growing) family:
I want Evelyn to feel happy, safe and confident in herself. I also want us to stay a close, supportive family. I'd hate for her to feel as though there was anything she couldn't confide in me.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums:
I know it's been said a hundred times before and it's not even advice that I listened to, but try and take time to enjoy that first year. I cried a bit on Evelyn's first birthday because I don't have a baby any more. I have a stroppy hilarious strong willed intelligent toddler and she's changing and developing so much every day that I'm already forgetting what she was like as a baby.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Liz and Robin

Name: Liz Postlethwaite

Child: Robin, 8 months

Location: Whitefield

Expectations of motherhood: When I found out that I was going to have a baby I was delighted and excited, but I tried not to think too much beyond my pregnancy. I wanted to try and enjoy that as an experience in itself as much as I could. And planning ahead meant I felt like I couldn't focus properly on the task in hand of growing and birthing my baby. I also anticipated that being a mama was going to change my life hugely in ways that would be hard to imagine until they actually happened, so rather than trying to look forward and pin hopes on future aspirations and expectations I took the approach of appreciating each moment as it came, whether positive or negative, and trying as hard as I could to relish the ride.

Reality of motherhood: Wow! It's hard to express really.
The feeling of everything being the same and different simultaneously.I am still the same person but my world is transformed. My priorities are totally different, and so are my responsibilities. And on a practical level, whatever I was expecting, it is really hard work! It never stops and regardless of other intentions everything else now has to slot in that little, new person who has come into my life.

Now that he is a bit older there is a little more room for manoeuvre but in those early newborn days it took my breath away how this new person was so absolutely dependant on me. A huge challenge but also a huge privilege and adventure.

Taking your child home for the first time: When I found out that I was pregnant homebirth was always at the back of my mind but I thought as a first time mama it probably wouldn't be possible for me. Then on our first midwife appointment our brilliant midwife offered it as a birthing option just like any other. Her confidence and positivity absolutely normalised the idea for us and, after some discussion, my partner and I agreed that homebirthwas the way we would like to have our baby.

Through our midwife's support I was lucky enough to birth my son naturally in our bedroom at home. A truly magical and empowering experience that I will always be grateful to her for. Once Robin arrived our midwives stayed for a couple of hours, then they left and it was just us together in our house. It was so surreal that when Jo came home from work because my waters had broken a matter of hours before we had been two, and now we were three.

Being at home for the duration gave me an immense sense of nesting and that felt so natural and normal. We didn't have to move anywhere and for the first 36 hours we all cuddled up in the bedroom together getting to know each other. This sense of calm and continuity was something I had really hoped for and, despite the tiredness and the undeniable upheaval that comes with a new born, it was a blissful, special time.

Robin has always been a calm and relaxed soul and I am convinced this is, at least in part, due to the gentle way that he came into the world.

The best/worst advice: Not bad advice as such, but when I was pregnant it felt as though this gave people the liberty to offload their own pregnancy / birth / parenthood stories on me. As a first time mama I found that really unhelpful so took to stopping them in their tracks and stating clearly that hearing their story was not currently useful to me.

And the best? I read in one book that "nobody ever regrets cuddling their baby too much" and that is so, so true.

The hardest parts of being a mother: The fact that it is absolutely unrelenting - it never stops! As he gets older I get more used to this but when he was tiny the new rhythm of life took some getting used to. There really is no downtime and at times when he was newborn I felt like I would have given anything for someone to take him off my hands so my partner and I could take a breath. As a breastfeeding mum I felt this particularly keenly as he has always fed a lot. Taking any time away from him has been impossible. I feel we have forged a brilliant partnership, but the intensity of that hasn't always been easy.

Before I had Robin I was a freelance theatre director, and that aspect of my life is now turned on its head in many respects. Much of the work I used to do simply isn't possible anymore. And childcare arrangements for freelancers are not for the fainthearted. I still haven't figured how that is going to work, but I'm enjoying being a mama at the moment so am not trying to think about it too much right now.

The best parts of being a mother: The love - there is so much of it for this little person. It's a wonderful, overwhelming thing.

And the discovery of my child, who has come into the world a distinctive person in his own right. It is an absolute pleasure getting to know him and figuring out what makes them tick. I hadn't anticipated how bold my son's individuality would be right from the off.

Lastly it is a great thing to see my partner become a papa, and to see him flourish in that role. It is a wonderful thing to watch the relationship between him and his son grow stronger by the day.

Has becoming a mother changed you? Yes and no. I feel like the same person, but in birthing my son I feel stronger, and more able to take things on. At the same time I can feel more vulnerable and protective - that I want to keep the bad things in the world away from my him. At times the world feels so much more fraught and complicated than it did before. At other times in when I am absorbed in the act of being a mama it feels like the world is simpler, smaller, and less complicated in the fulfilment of this natural act of love.

Hopes for your family: That we can spend as many happy and healthy times together as we possibly can. And that Jo and I can support our son to find his way in the world with both courage and kindness.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums? Try not to expect anything. Just take each thing as it comes and embrace it because these are the happy days that you will look back on fondly in years to come. And enjoy the ride however chaotic it may be because wherever it takes you it is the most glorious adventure.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Debbie and Esme

Name: Debbie 

Children: Esme (8 months)

Location: Chorlton

Expectation of Motherhood: I thought it would be all soft focus, lifestyle blog living. Esme would love wooden toys, would never cry, wouldn’t need a dummy, the television would never go on and we’d spend our days baking, snuggling and skipping through Chorlton Meadows whilst throwing our heads back in gleeful laughter with our glossy manes flowing in the breeze behind us. I also thought there would be lots of opportunities for enjoying a nice relaxed bottle of wine with friends as our children played happily and quietly at our feet.

Reality of Motherhood: Well, the bit about enjoying wine is still true...possibly more so (and earlier in the day) than ever! Truly, this is the hardest thing I have ever done. 

I hadn’t quite understood how long, draining and (whisper it..) boring a day with a baby can be, nor had I ever really appreciated how consolidated sleep deprivation day after day, month after month can rip you apart and turn you into an emotional jibbering wreck. An emotional jibbering wreck who still has to keep a baby alive and entertained for another day. And also smile sweetly without crying when old people stop you in the post office and tell you to make the most of it because it will go so fast. Oh, the guilt!

Taking your child home for the first time: When I think of the day we took Esme home from the hospital, it feels as if I’m watching a film. I know I must have been there, but it is such a surreal memory that you could easily convince me that I wasn’t! I do remember feeling joyous, battered and terrified in equal measure. I was incredibly lucky in that I had a water birth in the midwife led birth centre, however due to a shortage of beds on the ward I was ‘strongly encouraged’ to go home rather than have an overnight stay. 

So, having given birth at 1am and having slept for a sum total of 45 minutes all night, we found ourselves sitting back in our front room just over 12 hours later at 2pm, but this time with Esme in tow. We were absolutely shattered and absolutely overwhelmed (particularly as we have no family locally to call in as cavalry). On our way home we even had to stop at a sandwich shop to get some lunch as I was (understandably!) ravenous and we didn’t have any food in the house as we hadn’t realised I would be home so soon. 

I remember sitting in the back of the car with Esme who was fast asleep and oblivious in her car seat whilst Gav ran out to buy some food and I just wanted to shout at all the people enjoying their alfresco lunches that I had just had a baby godammit – how could they be going about their business when this great thing had happened?! 

I also remember being concerned about breastfeeding – throughout my pregnancy I’d been reassured by the hospital and the midwives that a wealth of support would be made available to me once Esme was born to give us the best possible start with breast feeding, however there I was sitting at home with not a clue what I was doing and no one to turn to for help. I was clueless. Somehow though, between the 3 of us, we found our way! Gav was my absolute saviour – I would have been lost without him.

The best advice: Everything comes in phases. It’s hard to remember that when you are in the middle of the ‘why won’t she ever ever sleep?’ phase, or the ‘why can’t my baby make it through an entire baby class without crying?’ phase, but all the nightmare stuff does eventually come to an end. Sure, it will probably be replaced by another nightmare phase (hello teeth, I’m looking at you..) but you’ll be that bit more confident and robust that you will have a (slightly) better idea of how to handle the next challenge. Or you will have better honed your google search skills.

The worst advice: 'You mustn’t spoil your baby', amazingly from a consultant when she saw me pick Esme up for a cuddle when she was crying at a hospital appointment a few months after she was born! This throwaway comment caused me much worry in the early days as I battled the thought that Esme was unsettled because I had somehow created a demanding baby through my inexperienced and clumsy actions. Now I know that Esme was unsettled because she was suffering from silent reflux. Once she was diagnosed and taking medication she was so much happier and so full of fun. I’m so glad I followed my natural instinct to give Esme the attention I knew she needed, but I would be lying if I pretended I didn’t spend a lot of time wondering if my natural instinct was wrong on the back of that comment.

The hardest parts of being a mother: Being ‘on’ all the time – you never clock off and you are never off shift, no matter how drop dead tired you are and no matter how many other things there are vying for your attention. It is relentless!

The best parts of being a mother: Too many to mention. The middle of the night cuddles, just the two of you. The gummy smiles and belly deep chuckles. The fat little arms and legs that flap up and down with excitement when she discovers something new or sees me after we've been apart. I could go on and on! It’s enthralling to watch this brand new person discover the world around her. I feel so proud of her! It takes literally every inch of willpower I have not to post 750 photographs of her on Facebook everyday. To me, she is a wonder. 

How being a mother has changed you: Apart from the obvious physical transformation(!), and despite having more to do than ever before, it has made me slow down. It is a cliché but as Esme now sets the pace of our day, I take my time and enjoy the moment much more than before – previously I was always racing around and always on to the next thing. Esme the dictator simply won’t allow that anymore!

Hopes for your family: I just want Esme to be happy and fulfilled, and to know that we will always be here for her. But it would also be ace if she could please become an international popstar so she can reimburse Mummy and Daddy for the expense of all the 2am emergency Amazon purchases.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: I’m so new at this I don’t really feel in a position to offer advice…all I would say is, based on my own experience, hang in there! You will turn a corner, and it will get better! I felt I had lost all judgment in those early days, and I wondered when my mother’s instinct was ever going to kick in. 

To be honest, I’m not sure I ever developed a mother’s instinct – perhaps I just became more confident in my parenting as Esme grew from a little tiddler to a chunky monkey. Perhaps finally getting more than 2 consecutive hours sleep made me more robust. Who knows? Also, beg, steal or borrow a jumperoo...

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Jackie, Wilf and Betty

Name: Jackie 

Children: Wilf (2.5 years), Betty (5 months)

Location: Northenden 

Expectations of Motherhood: I was expecting it all to be a total blast. I knew I'd sail through labour(!), enjoy my year "holiday" from work and then pretty much carry on as normal but with a new little friend in tow. 

Reality of Motherhood: It's much harder work than I could have ever believed! I haven't had a full night's sleep for almost three years, and I haven't had more than one glass of champagne in a sitting for even longer, due to either being pregnant or breastfeeding. Huge changes from the red wine and lie in lover I used to be! My world has changed completely. But I really had no idea how happy my babies would make me, and how much I would love them. 

Taking your children home for the first time:
 With my first born I was incredibly anxious. About everything. I would walk into a room and see danger everywhere. Everything my other half did would be wrong. I went baby-bonkers. With my second I am much more relaxed and it seems to have been rubbed off on her. She's a laid back little thing. Although I have less time to sit and just adore her, I make sure I try to as much as I can - time flies even faster with the second one because there are so many more distractions! 

Best advice: A wise friend told me that our role as parents is to give our kids everything they need to be able to go out into the world on their own and be happy. We are raising them to be confident about themselves. They are not a part of us to keep and control. Another friend gave me an enormous slab of chocolate and told me I could use it as a sleep replacement. I couldn't have wished for a better present!

Worst advice: 
Being told not to feed my breastfed baby so much. I was told that he couldn't possibly still be hungry, that I should give him a bottle to give myself a break, and that he would get too attached to me etc. Sometimes my little man just liked to feed, partly because he was small and therefore had a small tummy and had to feed quite often, and partly for comfort and to help him sleep. It's not for everyone, it was hard work during growth spurts etc but I have loved feeding my babies. 

The hardest parts of being a mother: The tiredness. The loneliness of the long night feeds. The constant demands on your time. Never being able to fully get ready for an outing as someone will need a nappy changing, to be fed, or to have a story read to them while you are busy trying to make your hair look half decent! 

The best parts of being a mother:
 I've grown in confidence from performing this very important role - there is the saying that no one will know your kids like you do. I would never have believed that when I first held my tiny little boy and felt I hadn't a clue what I was doing, but I know now that I am their Mama, and for the moment, I am their world. I know them inside and out and I will always do my best to make sure their trust in me is not misplaced.  

My babies have brought me a deep joy that nothing else, even my great relationship with my partner, has before. I love the giggles, the sticky, snotty hugs and kisses and curling up with a sleeping baby in my arms.

Has becoming a mother changed you: I'm still the same person waaaay down underneath but my life and my priorities have changed dramatically. I've put myself, my other relationships and my career in the back burner in order to muddle through these early days with my babies as best I can. I realise that is not healthy in the long term and I hope that with time (and more sleep!) I can expand my focus and get more balance back in my life. I need to do that for my own happiness, for my (very patient!) boyfriend and our relationship and also to be a good role model for my kids as they grow up. 

Hopes for your family: My hopes at the moment are simple. I hope that we continue to be healthy and happy. I hope I can provide them with a strong and supportive family environment, a childhood full of happy memories and a good grounding to make their own way in life. And I really hope that it's not too late for me to learn to surf one day.  

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: If you're pregnant, get yourself to a hypnobirthing class! I was wildly unprepared for my first labour and I ended up being incredibly frightened and fighting the process the whole way. I went to hypnobirthing before having Betty as I didn't want to go through that again. Her birth was a much calmer and happier experience. Dare I say I enjoyed it? Well, I didn't lock myself in the toilet and refuse to come out the second time around, so that was a big win for me!!