Children: 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.