Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Sally, Faith and Ethan

Name: Sally
Children: Faith, 4 years 
and Ethan, 9 weeks
Location: Salford 

Expectations of Motherhood: I've worked with children for my entire adult life so I felt pretty confident about having a baby, I knew all the practicalities and thought that the emotions would come easily. Having a baby was also in no way going to change my life at all, the baby would have to come along to whatever I was doing and everything would be beautiful. 
Faith was so wanted so I was really ready to be a mum and just couldn't wait to get on with it.

Reality of Motherhood: Oh where to start! You know after the Duchess of Cambridge appeared outside the hospital hours after giving birth, looking amazing and smiley and perfect? It's nothing like that. Motherhood is fraught and scary and demanding. Don't get me wrong, it's the most amazing thing you'll ever do, but it takes you to unknown places and in ways you can only imagine. For me I had times, when Faith was a baby, of forgetting who I was. Everything was about her and making sure she was constantly happy and not crying, it was exhausting, it still is on occasion, but now I have a better balance.

Around three months after Faith was born I think post-natal depression kicked in. This wasn't part of my plan. I wasn't going to get this because I worked with children, I knew what I was doing, so I denied it. 

I lived, probably for the best part of 18 months, with an intense sense of doom, I KNEW something would happen to my child, it was always there, like I couldn't give anyone the normal version of me because I constantly felt that I lived in a tin can of despair. I also felt that the sleepless nights and the intensity of our relationship would never improve! I remember an aunt saying that her son didn't sleep through until he was 18 months and I felt devastated that it could take this long (as it happens Faith took three years to sleep through in the end!). I never spoke about this and I never had any help. So when Ethan came along I thought I'd end up down the same path, but so far so good. 

Having a four year gap is like starting again though, I'd forgotten so much in that time, fortunately (or unfortunately maybe) it doesn't take long to remember! 

Second time around and Ethan really has had to fit into family life. It helps that he's a really chilled little boy, whilst not as demanding as Faith, the sleepless nights are still no prettier!

You find yourself wishing your baby's life away, I really did with Faith and I couldn't wait for the next milestone, but with Ethan I don't feel like that. I'm enjoying him being a baby and I'm fairly sure the lack of sleep wont last forever. He's my last baby and I want to savour him.

Taking your children home for the first time: I planned a home birth with both of my children so never intended to 'go home' with either. However, neither home birth was meant to be and I was induced in hospital with both. 

I remember getting home with Faith, putting her in a Moses basket and thinking 'what am I meant to do with her?'. It felt crazy that someone had allowed me to be in charge of such a tiny thing.

With Ethan it was completely different. My first thought was, 'Have we got something in for Faith's tea?' and 'Can I have a snooze before she gets home'!
Bringing Ethan home was like completing a circle; our family is complete and he is the final piece, so it felt less overwhelming and more celebratory.

The best/worst advice:
The best advice I had was no advice. Despite reading all the books and my years of experience with children, there were so many times when I felt completely clueless. I'd cry on the phone to my mum about what I should do, and she never advised me, she'd ask what I wanted to do and told me to do it. You already have a gut feeling about what you think is best and I think going with that feeling is the best advice anyone can give.

The hardest parts of being a mother: When I was 27 weeks pregnant with Ethan, my own mother passed away. She'd been diagnosed with Lymphoma for about a year and we knew it wasn't going to end well, but nobody expected it to happen at that time. Since then it's been a rough road, there have been ups and downs and I am so very sad that she never got to meet Ethan. She was the only person to say he'd be a boy because she'd had a dream about him and I take comfort from this, it's like she had a sense of him before he came. 

It's hard not having my mum here to share both Faith and Ethan's every achievement with, I still think how I must text her about something that one of them has done and then remember that I can't, so it's like an ongoing grieving cycle. Faith also had a close relationship with her so dealing with her grief has been, at times, difficult. She asked one day if Mamar (from not being able to say Grandma) had a mobile phone with the angels because she wanted to tell her that she loved her.
My mum was the type of mum I aspire to be, she was gentle, loving and strong and I hope that I will be the same.

The best parts of being a mother:
Producing two amazing little people is pretty awesome! Getting to know them both, learning things about them and things about me is a lifelong journey I look forward to treading.
I cherish so many moments, from the way only I can soothe Faith after a scraped knee to the little 'in' jokes we have and how we're introducing Ethan to the ways of our family. It's no bed of roses at all, but like everything in life, you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Has becoming a mother changed you?:
Without a doubt! Sometimes I look at my life now and it's unrecognisable. I never thought I'd embrace family life but I have and I wouldn't change any aspect of that. I like spending time with my children, I used to look forward to getting drunk at weekends, now I'm looking forward to going to see Disney on Ice! This isn't to say my life revolves around them, I'd still snap the hand off a babysitter and I still like a night out, it's just that they're rarer treats nowadays. 

I think Children are a great gift but they change everything you know about life as you know it; it's a celebration and a mourning all at the same time. You have to pick yourself up and put yourself back together in some ways, there's still everything there that makes you you, it's just that you're in a different order to before. 

Hopes for your family: My mum always said that being happy was one of the most important things in life and I stand by this. I don't care what they do or who they are I just want them to be happy. Life is far too short not to be.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums?:
Basically, go with the flow, don't sweat it and it won't always be like that. It's hard to see a way out during the difficult times but one day you'll look back and laugh (or maybe cry!).

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