So Ethan is now the ripe ol’ age of two and its been one hell of a journey. I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while but just never got around to it! I now really enjoy my toddler (most of the time – thats another blog, watch this space) as he’s chatty, active and happy, but it hasn’t always been like this, lets take a look back.
Motherhood – not easy. As I look back over the last two years and mull over what I’ve learned, how I tried what felt like a million different methods just to find the one that worked best for us, and all the ups and downs its amazing I got through it. I’m not going to lie, I had a horrible birth, it was long – I didn’t eat or sleep from Sunday evening until Tuesday lunchtime. It was not a pleasant experience at all. But then when you discuss details with your girlfriends / mum friends over a glass of wine, you find that most births were not ideal. Yes, you do get some mystical mother unicorns that were in and out of hospital within 6 hours, they had no trouble breast-feeding and the baby slept all the time and they just love their baby soooo much. But thats not always the case.
It took me about nine months to bond with Ethan. He was whisked away from me at birth and I didn’t hold him for a few hours because I wasn’t in great shape. I remember him being given to me when I was being transferred from the labour room to a hospital room and my first thought was ‘Why on earth are you giving me this child in my current state?!’ Not the first thing you want to be thinking about your beautiful new baby boy! Actually I didn’t even know he was a boy until about ten minutes after he was born. Then when I got home and was a mother I was learning to look after someone else who was completely dependent on me, I couldn’t breastfeed (due to him not me), he had colic for four months and would cry all day. EVERYDAY. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, I felt like I’d had my identity stolen, I was sleep deprived…. I found it hard. So I asked a few of my mumma friends to contribute to this blog about their experiences and how they found it…
Mumma 1 – I found the constant feeling of guilt hard, but getting there. The feeling was something like this: can’t breastfeed- must be a bad mum – guilt. So giving bottles in public other mums assume it’s formula – guilt again. Having to pump and hating it – guilt. Finally at 3 weeks giving formula – guilt. Starting with sleep and nap routines- baby crying – feel like a bad mum for letting him cry – guilt. Deciding to not go back to work – lots of guilt because I feel like I’m letting down the side on so many levels. I’m sure I have felt guilty for more reasons, but these spring to mind.
Mumma 2 – I think everyone’s different and I think EVERYONE will find it hard at some point, regardless of what they say. For me: breast feeding, feeling so pressured to do it and then not enjoying it (and therefore thinking it was wrong that while I cried every time he fed I should have been developing our bond!). But persevering because you’re constantly told it’s best! That all counters with the sense of achievement I felt when I got to 6 months (and continued with a morning feed to a year!). The panic and gut clenching nausea that I thought all mums would judge me and that I’d be doing SOMETHING (anything) wrong. The massively guilty excitement I felt about going back to work (surely that meant I hated my child!?!). At the same time was the overwhelming sense of responsibility to love this child and give him my EVERYTHING. I thought I was the only person who could make him happy and he should be me who did everything. This I did to my detriment and I then had thoughts that were simply: I didn’t like being a mum. This was an utterly dreadful feeling and anxiety about whether he was ok? What time he’d need a feed? Was he warm enough? These emotions led me on a merry trail to post natal depression. Thankfully, my mum friends, husband and doctor took my anxiety seriously and provided much needed support. I think too many mums suffer and don’t get the help they (we, I) need. I still suffer anxiety, about nursery, how much time I get to spend with him, guilt that I leave him at nursery, guilt that he enjoys nursery (again, surely it means I’m rubbish and he loves it more than than time with me!), ultimately I think there is always something I COULD be worrying about and I think I shall have my anxieties, however I know that I have a happy and healthy boy and for that I am truly blessed.
Mumma 3 – For me, the thing I found most difficult was not being able to walk away from motherhood, or take a break. I was so excited to be pregnant, and the first of my friends to have a child. I assumed I would feel this overwhelming sense of unconditional love when meeting my little girl for the first time, but really all I felt was, well, nothing really. It felt very anticlimactic and I didn’t feel any particular bond with her. I started off breastfeeding and didn’t encounter any physical problems, but emotionally I didn’t feel comfortable with it, my body and my life really didn’t feel like my own any more. The hardest thing was that I couldn’t take it back – I couldn’t send her back, I couldn’t change my mind, and all I wanted was to get my old life back. I was also struck by how I could feel so exhausted yet also feel like I hadn’t done anything all day – I couldn’t even find time to empty the dishwasher. I remember reading everything I could find about how best to handle newborns, but everything you read tells you something different, and you end up with more questions than answers. What made it so much harder was that we didn’t have any family nearby who could pop round to help or even just make me a cup of tea. Luckily, after a 2 week stay with my parents when she was a month old, I came home feeling much more confident and quickly fell completely in love with her. I banned myself from parenting websites and felt much happier just doing whatever worked for me. I still think there is a lot of damaging, judgemental stuff out there (breast vs bottle, cry it out vs co-sleeping to name but a few!), and it drives me mad how so many mothers are so quick to judge without bothering to try and understand other people’s circumstances.
So there you have it, some real life honest motherhood experiences out in the open. I hope any mums reading this who are finding it difficult know they are not alone…
I’ll be posting a follow up blog very soon with some helpful tips for new mums xx