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!!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Nina, Ada and Edith

Name: Nina 

Ada, 3 years 8 months, Edith 1 year, 8 months


Expectations of motherhood: With my first, I think I thought it would be like having a doll who just did whatever I needed them to do. We'd carry on our normal lives with a cute little person to hang around with. From labour onwards that fantasy was blown away....instead I got a real baby! 

Second time I was better prepared for all the stuff I wasn't prepared for 1st time. But still, there was the shock of getting a child who was entirely different to the first. My mum told me that you spend such a long time fantasising about your baby before and during pregnancy that when your own arrives you almost grieve for the one you didn't have. 

Once you've adjusted you can't imagine a different child, until, of course, you have another. Oh yeah, I had girls too! Not one, TWO! That wasn't in my imagined family either, I just thought I'd have boys like everyone else in my family. 

Reality of motherhood: it's the hardest job I've ever had to do. EVER. The responsibility is mind blowing & often overawing. Babies and children do not do what you require them to do, and therefore I found myself challenged from the very first moment I was passed my 'beautiful' pooping, screaming, red and angry baby. 

Bam, guilt!!!!! No one really told me about the guilt. The Guilt. 'Could do better' is written in invisible ink all over my every fibre. Is it worth it? Of course. 

Another sometimes harsh reality is the seismic shift of every other relationship you hold dear. Becoming a parent changes everything. How you see your husband, friends, parents and well, everyone. I have a new found sisterhood around me, other mummies. Born from tearful, exhausted confessions of a sleep deprived new parents at baby groups, in the park, cafes, work, anywhere really. I sniffed out, with expert detective eyes, other mothers, who appeared like me, to be bumbling through; other mums that forgot obvious essential items like......oh I've forgotten already. I clung on to their stories, identifying with their anguish and admiring their strength. I made new and significant friendships. I became closer to my own mother & mother in law. 

Taking your children home:
 We were desperate to get home with Ada and begin our journey into parenthood. 
We asked strangers on the hospital corridors to take pictures. 
We fiddled with car seats & coats and blankets and everything it seemed. 
I held her tiny hand all the way while daddy escorted his precious cargo home. 
My head full of fears and hope, rabbit and headlights springs to mind. 

With Edith, after a near perfect re-enactment of her sister's exit from hospital we were less fearful and more confident so called at the supermarket to get supplies. We pushed our newest bundle around and my heart swelled every time someone peeped at her and gave the sigh of delight at the sight of delicious squidgy newborn. 

With my second I had a better idea of what I wouldn't do. I wanted to feel in control. I wanted to call the shots. I wanted visitors to come on my terms. I grew some bigger mummy balls. Still got slapped with a big dollop of guilt though. 

Best/worst advice: All my best advice has come when I felt a person is being real. I felt other mums loosen up when I've shared yet another mummy fail and not edited my experiences and advice to be that of a perfectly calm and rational earth mother (because I am not one of those it transpires). Who knew? 

It seems I am fairly good at being a bit crap at it all but I tried to laugh. Parenting is not a competition, there are no prizes (other than your own adorable bundle of joy of course) so if you're gonna turn it into one, I don't wanna hear. Tell me a story about peeing the bed on the first evening postpartum & slipping in your own puddle of piss while your baby is trying to latch on to your elbow then I'm all ears. 

The hardest parts of being a mother: The fear and guilt. Learning to laugh is a life saver. The realisation that this shit is real for the next 20 years is scary as hell. Also, 2nd time as a large cloud crept up around me the hardest thing was seeking help, but it was the best thing I could have done. 

Has motherhood changed you? Aside from the physical changes, the extra 2 stone I carry and a bladder with a mind of its own, the changes are positive. I may no longer have a social life, clean clothes, a tidy house, disposable income, time or sleep but I do have 2 awesome little angels. Two sisters who throw their arms around each other & declare 'huggle', who pull each other's tops up to blow rasp berries on their tummies, who cry if the other is hurt, who feed each other & fall out, who hold hands, who watch each other's backs. These 2 little humans are the best replacements for anything I had before.

Hopes for your family?
I wish for my family to be able to find laughter and love at the centre of everything. I wish for our girls to grow into citizens with a conscience & desire to take part. I hope my girls grow up to respect themselves & and others. I hope my girls know how loved they are. I hope my girls continue to watch each other's backs. I hope my girls are never afraid, but if they are, to come to us.
Advice for new mums: All the obvious stuff, enjoy every nano-second, take loads of pics blah de blah. But really, be yourself, remember who you are and don't try & be super mum. Do what's right for you and your family and trust your gut mumma instincts always. Ask for help and remember, everything is never usually as it may seem. Don't look at others and compare, look at your child and their awesomeness and use that as a measure of how well things are going.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Rebecca and Grace (and Ruby)

Name: Rebecca

Children: Grace 23 months and 7 months pregnant with second baby girl called Ruby

Location: Bolton

Expectations of Motherhood: My expectations of Motherhood second time around are much more realistic than they were with my first born. One word sums me up in terms of my expectations with our first born...naive! Looking back I think I walked around in a rose coloured daze, not quite fully taking on board well meaning words of warning about exhaustion, and upheaval in every possible sense. I listened only to the good stuff about being in love with your baby from the very start, spending hours gazing at the little wonder you had created, and the beauty of the warmth and scent of your little newborn. All of which were absolutely true for me, but also in the real world, so was the rest of it.

My naivety seemingly knew no bounds, from believing that conception would be a piece of cake right through to carefully choosing matching pyjamas/dressing gown/slippers and organic toiletries for my hospital time, oh and not forgetting my own 'going home outfit' (!!!!). In reality, I actually spent the whole time post birth unwashed due to needing a second epidural for my stitches (baby wipe washing doesn't count) in a lovely pale green hospital gown and returned home in the clothes that I wore when I arrived at the hospital!

When my husband and I decided to try for a baby, my stage one naivety kicked in. I genuinely believed that once we had made the decision to try for a baby, things would just happen, we were young and healthy, so why wouldn't things work for us? Huge reality check needed here.

It took my husband and I 5 years to conceive our first born Grace, and during this time we had both been through the emotional roller coaster and absolute heartache that accompanies fertility treatments, including failed IVF. It wasn't until we were due to start another round of IVF that we found out I was pregnant the night before treatment started!! What a crazy and exciting Sunday night that turned out to be!!

And so my stage 2 naivety began...the White Company illusion. I perused catalogue images of beautiful white and soft grey nurseries with babies dressed in fresh white cotton and Mother's looking serene dressed in luxury cashmere of dove grey. Surely this is what it will be like when Gracie arrives, so I'll take one of everything please. Pah!! Wrong, wrong, wrong! What's even more ridiculous is that I have friends who had already had babies by then, and whilst their lives were wonderful, and they are all strong accomplished women and mothers, they certainly didn't waft around Earth Mother style in floaty white linen dresses!

Stage three naivety kicked in when I wrote my birthing plan. This turned out to be an exercise in opposites! The expectation of a drug free, relaxing water birth was most definitely wrong again!! And I salute any woman who has managed to achieve it. 

My expectations second time around are much more realistic. This time, I have experience on my side and hopefully a little wisdom that has been born out of my airhead naive approach systematically failing first time around! 

This time, however my naivety of the birth has been replaced a little with fear, as my birth with Grace certainly didn't go to plan and there were elements of that time that still haunt me. I'm fearful that things might go wrong again, however I am more self assured that my body and mind are firmly set in reality this time. I gave birth to our beautiful Grace last time with unexpected curve balls, so I can do it again this time with a little experience in my corner. 

When our little Ruby is born we will be parents to a 2 year old and a newborn, so obviously I am concentrating on everyone who is telling me that having children with such an age gap is great! No problems to anticipate here! Surely, having a new born and a toddler at the same time is going to be an absolute doddle. Now where is that White Company magazine, as I'm sure I saw a lovely white linen dress that I could wear coming home from the hospital?!! (Seriously, there's no hope for me).

Reality of Motherhood:  That's it is wonderful, exhausting, trying, scary, and the best thing that has ever happened to me. 

Everyday Motherhood brings me a new challenge and a new joy. Our Daughter is an absolute gift and I adore spending my time with her. Being a Mother has taught me that I'm stronger than I ever thought I could be, but that it's also ok to ask for help. I've learned that some days, you just have to work those food smears into a fashion statement and that it's ok to dry shampoo your hair for the third day running!!

Taking your child home for the first time:  Bringing Grace home felt like a double edged sword as we were so excited to bring our gorgeous baby home, however within 24 hours we had to readmit her into hospital as she had become dehydrated and had low blood sugar levels, due to breastfeeding not working. Talk about feeling like an absolute failure!

After a further 24 hours in hospital, we finally brought Grace home properly and thankfully after that all was well. I just had to learn and accept that it was more than ok that breastfeeding hadn't worked, so out came the breast pumps and the stage of the milking mama began!!

My naivety really hit home in respect of how I just hadn't prepared mentally for the first few weeks after giving birth. I think that because we had spent such a long time trying for our little miracle, I felt that I couldn't be honest with myself and those around me, that actually, in those early weeks, I was struggling emotionally. It didn't help that my labour had been a little traumatic and long and I was exhausted from 3 days sleep deprivation before our Princess had even been born. This coupled with Grace and I being unable to breastfeed, and her having to be readmitted to hospital all compounded the hormonal struggle that is the baby blues. Thankfully, this stage was over quickly, but I certainly wish that I had prepared better for this reality of early Motherhood that can momentarily cloud the joy of being at home with your newborn. 

The best/worst advice: Interestingly, some of the best and worst advice came in the form of the same sentence "Trust your instincts." What bloody instincts?!?! Despite reading every damn baby book going, I still felt woefully unprepared for all the curve balls newborns throw at you, and if an answer to my questions couldn't be found by flicking manically through 'What to Expect' or after a crazy google search which often resulted in me being momentarily convinced that either myself and/or Grace had contracted some kind of tropical disease in urban Bolton, I would spiral into a mini melt down and take Grace to the walk in centre, where I fear I may now be at risk of being listed as a Munchausen syndrome by proxy mother!!

Thankfully, I have been surrounded by wonderful calmer women who have done all this before, and were there to tell me to stop being crazy and all was fine, and actually, as our Daughter grew and we grew to know her, those instincts strangely did kick in, and I now consider myself part witch with my amazing mother senses!!  

One mother friend gave me some really sound advice which was firstly, to stop reading all the stupid baby books and secondly to try and carve some time for yourself and your husband, as it's easy to let this slip by whilst you adjust to being in your new roles of Mummy and Daddy. 

Finding time to be a couple has been a challenge at times, especially in those early months, when in reality you may be eating together, or cuddling on the sofa but neither of you are quite present in the moment, and are simply trying not to fall asleep on one another, or hit each other over the head with a pan because one of you has woken the baby by mistake! Thankfully after those first few crazy months, we made a conscious effort to make some proper time for each other, and I consider myself to be the luckiest woman in the world to have such a wonderful husband, when I'm not imagining his head popping off because he can't seem to change a nappy without asking me to help of course!! 

One friend also advised me to take a photograph of my vagina and stick it on the fridge, as it would never ever look the same again! This advice had me in hysterics when I first heard it, however after a ventouse delivery and a 3rd degree tear, I wish I had taken a little more heed of what she was saying. Not sure visitors to the house would have appreciated the addition to the family pics though!!

The hardest parts of being a mother:  As a mother you are literally non stop all day every day. Even when Grace has gone to bed, I'm not switched off from her. I'm still reading the baby and toddler books (sorry friend who told me to ditch them), trying to understand the developmental stages, or finding new ways to encourage her to eat different foods, or generally worrying about whether I'm doing a good enough job. This relentlessness is tiring emotionally and physically and I don't know when I'll ever feel fully refreshed again! I asked my Nanna this once and she said in about 20 years!! Honest, but brutal advice!!

The best parts of being a mother:  Everything! Cliched I know, but even the most challenging days can bring you out the other side having learned something about yourself. The pure joy that your child brings you makes everything worth it. Watching your family grow is a gift and one that I never thought I would have, so I treasure it with my whole heart. Watching my family grow and the new roles we have all taken makes me a very proud woman.

Has becoming a mother changed you?  Yes, in every way. I am stronger, more self-assured (well at least I am now after my crazy first few months of being a new Mother), I take less shit and love harder than I ever thought possible. I'm also a bit more brain dead, as I don't think baby brain has ever left me, and now I have it again!! I've also become braver, and feel like my life's priorities are starting to be in the right order. After having Grace, and my maternity leave came to an end, I made the difficult decision not to return to my work in Insolvency, but instead took a leap of faith and embarked on starting a photography career, which enables me to finally be creative, and is something which can allow me to spend quality time with my children, and gives me the creative outlet that I've needed for a long time.

I am still me - Bec, and I am still Bec the wife, the friend, the daughter, the granddaughter, the sister, the niece, the auntie... but I am also Bec the mother and this additional role in my life has brought me rewards that I never thought were possible. 

Hopes for your family: To safely bring our new Daughter Ruby into the world and enjoy watching her and our family grow and blossom. What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Don't be tough on yourself. Motherhood is hard, but it's also wonderful, and you are doing a great job. Ask for help when you need it, stock up your freezer, and it's ok to wear pjs all day and just gaze at the wonder that is your newborn, oh and buy lots of dry shampoo!!

Also, never read the Wonder Weeks - totally terrifying thunder clouds, and maybe consider taking that it really doesn't look the same afterwards!! 

Rebecca Royle is a photographer based in Bolton, Greater Manchester and specialises in children and family photography. Her website can be found at