Child: Kitty, (nearly) 3
Expectations of Motherhood: You know, looking back, I'm not sure what on earth I was
thinking. I remember telling someone about how I was going to learn to speak German
on my year off, and them asking me where the baby would be when I was doing it. I just thought.... well I'll have one of those bouncy chairs, like - dur-, honestly thinking that "the baby" would just be sitting happily there all day whilst I floated around, doing some painting, or becoming bi-lingual or what ever. I honestly don't think I had a clue what being a mum really meant. Don't get me wrong, I didn't go into this having not thought about it, it was a long arduous sometimes heartbreaking journey to finally become a mum, but I think that all of that kind of blinded me to thinking about what a baby actually meant. I also realised pretty quickly that I hadn't actually held a newborn baby before, and hadn't changed a nappy for 25 years. Oops! - Really i think I imagined what Kitty and I are doing now, a little independent being, who I really love just hanging out with.
Reality of Motherhood: Right now, it gets more brilliant every day. Kitty is funny and clever and loving and amazing. She properly tests the boundaries every minute, but that's okay. I like a cheeky monkey. Done get me wrong, its tiring, and non stop, but I really love it.
I really struggled with the baby bit though. She had what i now believe to have been "silent" reflux, (undiagnosed, even though I took her to all sorts of experts) and didn't sleep, and screamed all the time. Literally all the time. We couldn't take her in the car- as she just went into meltdown, or put her in her bouncy chair (yeah the irony) or in the bath or pretty much anything. I had real problems making enough milk at first (and never felt that confident that she was getting what she needed) but she decided one day not to touch a bottle, and never did again. It was really tough, and the fact we had no family near to help made it practically impossible to cope. You can't really ask friends to look after a baby who won't take a bottle and screamed all the time either, so we struggled. Things started to calm down after I started weaning her, and eventually things got a bit easier. But those months were pretty scary.You know, I really don't think that Kitty particularly liked being a baby either. That may well be fantasy, but knowing her now, she really doesn't take well to her independence being compromised.
Taking your child home for the first time: We did the classic fail at getting the baby chair in the car, and got progressively more knackered as she didn't sleep. It felt like we needed someone there who knew what they were doing, to help us, because Jesus I felt inept, but there wasn't anything we could do but get on with it. I love her so much though, that was never in doubt, but I didn't feel that she was part of me, (I've heard people say that) I had a really strong sense of Kitty being her own person, that I really needed to help. That was really relying on me.
The best/worst advice:
Worst: All the conflicting stuff that is delivered to you when things are tough, as though its absolute gospel. Honestly every child is so different, there is no right way, there's just the best way for you. One person tells you you must get your child into a routine, the next tells you you must not, and you are left in the middle utterly confused.
The best advice was when we went on holiday when Kitty was about 5 months old, and was screaming the hotel down at dinner every night. A lady came up to me in the queue and said, "My daughter was exactly the same, and I weaned her at 4 months - I told the health visitor to stuff it, she needed to eat." Anyway I'd tried everything else, so as a last resort tried that, and everything got so much easier straight away. Also she had started to fall towards the 'fail to thrive' bit in her red book, so I just needed to intervene. Like I said - it's what's best for you, and what your child needs. That made me a lot more confident in my decisions, and not be constantly just trying to do the right thing. You cant do it by the book when all the books are conflicting!
The hardest parts of being a mother: Now, the hardest thing is trying to juggle work and family. Especially when illness comes into it, then it gets really exhausting. You really do feel that you are compromising on everything, and it makes you feel guilty. I work away sometimes and I hate leaving her and home so much. Also I did used to love going out, going to gigs and clubs, and visiting other cities and we cant really do it now, in the same way, so that impacts on us.
I do wish we had a bigger family, not only as I worry about Kitty being an only child, but equally to be able to have an hour's sleep when you really need it.
The best parts of being a mother: Just the privilege of knowing my daughter. Honestly she's the best thing that ever happened to me. She makes me laugh so much, and when I get, " I love you mummy" and a cuddle, its so wonderful. Its a new kind of happy.
Hopes for your family: That we manage to re-balance our life, build a lovely family home, and be happy.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Take the opportunity to eat cake.