Children: Joan (nearly 2), Fred (3 and a half)
Expectations of Motherhood: I had slightly deluded expectations of motherhood and the type of mother I wanted to be. I read lots of books about parenting and pregnancy. I wanted to make sure I bonded well with the baby and had notions of following the principles of attachment parenting styles. I knew the birth would be hard but thought after that I knew all about what was coming. I was far more prepared the second time round!
Reality of Motherhood: I had so bombarded myself with information I was completely overwhelmed when Fred was born. I had post-natal depression and felt everything I did was wrong. It was a really difficult time and I still feel guilty that I wasn't able to enjoy so much of his first months. I managed to seek help and gradually found myself enjoying being a mum. Once I had let go of all the expectations I felt more relaxed and once Fred actually starting sleeping some normality was resumed. The sleepness nights were killer, he didn't sleep for more than 4 hours until he was six months old! I started going to mother and baby groups, which meant I had more opportunity to talk to other mums and at least sit down and have a coffee. As Fred got bigger I found things easier and having more of a routine helped. I think I somehow lost myself in trying to be a perfect mum but after doing a few more things just for me and living more in the moment I loved seeing my boy develop and grow. Being a mum is very selfless and at first I didn't find it very rewarding, with my second things were different because I was more prepared for the realities. I found the jump to having two children much easier than going from none to one! I was much more relaxed and didn't feel I had to follow any rules. I was better able to adapt to what she needed and often she just had to fit in with what me and Fred were doing. As they grow and become little people I have come to appreciate what being a mother is really about. My reality now is sharing my days with two wonderful children, having as much fun and mischief as we can squeeze into our day (afterwashing, cooking etc!)
Taking your children home for the first time: This didn't happen! I had two home births so we were already at home. This is oneof my greatest joys and I have wonderful memories of having Fred and, once the midwives had left, sitting on the sofa with my husband staring at Fred and listening to him hiccup! Then the three of us just went upstairs to bed. My mum had been there for the birth too and stayed at our house because he had been born so late at night, it was really special for her to be there in the morning with us and then my sister came too! With Joan my memory is seeing my husband holding her after she was born and having Fred (who had stayed at my mum's house) come home the next day to meet his sister. Fred will sometimes point at the floor and say 'Joan born on the floor' and then 'Fred born on the sofa'! It was a great experience.
The best/worst advice: This is so difficult because everyone's different but I would say spend as much time as you can doing things for yourself before you have kids! Don't listen to anyone's advice if you don't think it's right for you. Try to listen to your instincts and if you're not sure confide in someone you know and respect. Get out and mingle with other mums as much as you can, you will make great friends and can develop a priceless network of support. Try to find out what's going on in your area, playgroups and stay-and-play sessions are often only 50p and lots of fun for the kids.
The hardest parts of being a mother: The sleepless nights in the beginning and from the birth onwards the constant worry. Feeling that what I'm doing is right for me and my family and not listen to critics.
The best parts of being a mother: Seeing them develop their individual personalities, the laughter, the innocence, the wonder, all those cheesy magical things. Someone once told me that my children would be my best teacher and that is completely true. I've learnt so much from having kids and continue to do so everyday.
Hopes for your family: That they will be happy and polite children. That we will end up living in California or New York (dream big!). Really that we carry on loving and enjoying each other.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Put your feet up whenever possible. Take lots of pictures. Do things you enjoy. Dance a lot. Use moisturiser everyday.