Saturday, 30 July 2016

Dear Jude, 

The second night after you were born, it was 4am and the woman next to me was snoring through her baby's cries. Poor women got some death stares the next day I can tell you...she was simple exhausted, not the "world's worst mother". I was feeding you your bottle (shock horror...another blog post for another time) and I stared at your little face. 

If your expecting the part where I tell you that I felt this lightening bolt of love, I'm sorry to say that wasn't the case. Ours isn't that kind of story. 

I quite liked being in hospital, I liked the fuss and that I could always waddle up to the midwives station, catheter between my legs, to ask a question. I loved the breakfast buffet and the visitors and the excitement. But when I left, I felt dread. I was on my own and I had no idea what I was doing. 

The first day at home, I couldn't sleep when you slept because I had no idea when you would wake up. And when you woke up, I wouldn't know what to do. I missed my old life, the freedom and the selfishness, but most of all I missed being in control. The waves of anxiousness would overwhelm me. I remember staring at you in your little baby chair, clutching on to the kitchen island (how middle class!), doubled over in fear.

I can't do this...I don't know how to do this...I don't want to do this...I'm rubbish at this...

I always thought I'd find being a Mummy natural. I fancied myself as being maternal in a Peggy Mitchell "faammmmmiiiillllyyy" crossed with Julie Andrews way. You were so wanted and so excitedly anticipated. But when you arrived I didn't feel like I thought I would. I was so bound up in nerves and fear of the unknown, that I felt so unsteady in my new role. I didn't feel that rush of emotion they tell you about in the movies. I found it hard and relentless and overwhelming. 

I sent this to my best friend, where I may have referred to you as the "Fat Controller"....sorry about that!
However what I believe now is that that second night (first doesn't count because you were in special care and I fell asleep...who's the world's worst mother now) a seed of love was sown. The kind of love that a Mother has for their child; the sacrificing, all encompassing, pure devotion for another human being. You see that kind of love has grown. 

Don't get me wrong I always loved and I always cherished you, but that Mother's love was a journey for me. It's the kind of journey that as I look back now, has snuck up on me. After your first injections, I peeled off the plaster to see a spec of blood and I cried that you had come to harm (however necessary). When you laughed for the first time, I could have died of pride and joy. And when I got myself trapped in the downstairs loo, the thought of being separated from you meant I tore the door off its hinges. All of these tiny examples show me how I have become all the things I didn't feel I could be in those early weeks. They show me that I might not of been "Mother of the Year" from day 1, but I've learnt. We've built a foundation you and I, from that little seed to a forest of thousands of memories and moments. 

I hope you know that when I say I love you, you will know it comes from the deepest part of my soul. It's been embedded in my heart, through all the lessons I've learnt of how to love like a Mother. It can never be shaken or doubted. 

I found this poem for your naming day and I've put it below, it sums up much better than I ever could. I've adapted it slightly from the original I found on Pinterest (author unknown). 

I may have made you and nurtured you. But it's because of you that I learnt to be a Mother. 

"I felt you. You were a lentil. Then a lemon. Then a melon. I followed advice. I read, I googled. Could I tell you that I was scared? I talked to you, sang to you...I didn't feel ready.

But then you were here. Eight pounds, fifteen ounces.

I held you. I fed you. I realised I would spend my life doing things to make you happy and that would make me happy. 

And then there are times I want to give up. You've made me rethink my sanity. You've made me want to fall at my Mother's feet and tell her that I get it. 

But then you smile and you laugh and you grab my hand with those little fingers. 

We're growing together. We are seeing the world like it's new. I will open open my heart and love will rain down all over you. You'll giggle and I'll do it all over again. 

And we will walk hand in hand. Until you let go. I made you, but you made me a Mother". 



*This has been hard to write, no-one likes to admit they found things hard and saying you've goggled "bored with your newborn" doesn't tend to be topic of conversation with new Mums'. However I am determined to put myself out there because I know I'm not alone. If you are a new Mum and miss your old life and don't know what the hell you are doing...I get it, I've been there. Being a parent is tough, it's the steepest of steep learning curves. But hear me on are doing a great job. Even when you feel like you aren't. Worrying is part of being a mother, checking and doubting you are "doing it right" is ingrained in you. And if you don't feel like the movies or how the books describe-that's OK. But you are their mother, who is doing her best and that is enough. And that is love.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

You Are Ma

Last week Jude turned one and as expected I was full of happy tears, pride and birthday cake. I was on a "parenting high"...soppy Facebook status...the lot. It was a wonderful few days, filled with special moments of wonder at how far we had both come. 

Happy Families...themed birthday party...of course.

Then this week happened; overtiredness, teething, a cold, broken nights sleep, breadsticks being lobbed across the floor...all the good stuff.
One of the only photos I have of a meltdown...I vow to take more....

This week I have struggled. There have been no Instagram pictures or special moments of wonder. Instead lots of gritted teeth and tears of frustration-from us both. It seems to be a kind of parenting "sods law" that one week of "oh I just llloooovvvveeeeeee being a parent", is followed by a week of hell. Last week I felt like super mum, this week I have felt at times like the world's worst mum. When everything you do for them is wrong. The days are filled with silent mouth opened screams, that quickly turn into floods of tears. You give up with offering vegetables and mutter "fine...biscuits for tea". We've all had that moment of thinking "I don't think I'm cut out for this".

This weekend I watched Room, the film Brie Larson won her Oscar for. Without spoiling it for anyone, it is about a mother (Joy) and her son (Jack, 5) who live in one room. It transpires that they are held captive and that Jack has in fact been born into this situation, knowing nothing about the real world outside. The bond between mother and son had me sobbing into my fajitas, but a conversation at the end really affected me. Joy says to Jack "I'm not a very good Ma to you", and Jack says "But you are Ma". She is Jack's world, his safe place, his Mother.

I look at my own amazing Mother and think she is incredible, I have nothing but pure love and respect for her. However, I am sure she had her moments where she felt out of her depth or like she was getting it all wrong (she says the teenage stage floored her...I blame that more on my sister!). So why is it that knowing all this I am so harsh on myself? Why am I unable to see myself through Jude's eyes?

There is no one in this world that loves or wants the best for him more than me. Even in the dark moments, through all the frustrations and difficult days I give him everything. I am his "Ma" and no one could do that job other than me.

So this is for all you Mums out there, hear this affirmation: you are the perfect Mum for your child. Never doubt that or belittle it in your mind.

Nonetheless, here's hoping for a better week.....

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Five Lessons Learnt from one New-ish Mum to Another

I hate giving baby advice, no matter how hard you try you always sound smug and at the end of the day, the truth universally acknowledged is that every one is different.

However us Mums, well we do have a lot in common. We know our truth; none of us know what we are doing, but we are all doing our best.

So this is for the new Mums or the Mums to be, five lessons learnt by me. From one anxious, bewildered, tired, shell-shocked new Mum to another.

Lesson One - Your Bits

Its a common saying that when you give birth you leave your dignity at the door. I thought they meant you huff and puff with your fanny out and then once its over, pop your knickers on and head out the door. You laugh and say "oh ha ha-I can't believe two midwives have seen my bits". However I discovered that by dignity, they mean that everything embarrassing you can think of to do with all your bits, (not just the bit you think), can and will happen. I was not prepared at all for the assault on my body that childbirth causes and the aftermath of eye-watering, red faced issues left behind. There is nothing like being told after a 52 hour ordeal, that you have a "crop" of piles. (Too much information? Sorry, I told you this blog would be honest). Piles, stitches, incontinence, shocking swelling down below and bleeding that goes on for weeks-were the added extras I got along with my baby.

Lesson learnt; Stock up from the embarrassing aisle of Boots, trust your body will heal and a sense of humour will get you through a lot.

Lesson Two - Mum Friends

I have talked about this before and it's something that I am very passionate about, mainly because for me the dark early days became brighter once I met others in the same boat. Sat in the doctors next to two other Mums, all of us tired and thoroughly confused by the talk on weaning, we started chatting. These chats lead to coffee, baby dates and now we have graduated to proscecco fuelled nights out. Now, I rely on these ladies and others I have met through being a Mum, more than they probably realise. No-one understands like they do, no-one is as interested as they are and we are navigating motherhood together. In those early days, talking through our births over and over again was like therapy and when I am finding Jude even more of mystery than normal, they are nearly always my first point of call. I am a huge fan of the "Mother Sisterhood" and grateful for the friendships I now have.

Lesson learnt; Mum friends are worth their weight in gold, find them and cherish them. 

Lesson Three -Crying Is Normal

Before I had Jude I was warned about the baby blues, I expected a few tears (I'm emotional anyway) but nothing a bar of chocolate couldn't solve. About 3 days after having Jude, we were still in hospital and I was talking to a friend about what we had both been through. The night Jude was born he spent a very brief period of time in special care, I wasn't allowed to go with him and exhausted from the birth, I had fallen asleep. Whilst recounting this early separation from my poorly baby and what I believed to be breaking the first rule of being a Mum (no Mum sleeps while their baby is in Infant Special Care), the "baby blues" tears started. Except they weren't just tears, it was waves of anxiousness and a deep gut wrenching feeling of being out of control. These feelings continued once we were home and I started to not really "feel" like a Mum. This whole topic is something for another time, however what I have learnt is that feeling like that is very common in those early days. As you make this massive life adjustment, it will knock you. The amount of hormones pumping around your body don't help and it is completely understandable to cry, worry and not enjoy every second.

Lesson learnt; Crying and feeling you are a million miles away from the Mums you see on the Pampers advert is ok - talk about it and be kind to yourself.*

Lesson Four-Happy Mum, Happy Baby

As a new Mum, I was bombarded with advice-whether that was from the NHS, books, well meaning friends and family or my 3am googling. Some of this advice is solid gold....some is, well not. My point is, I've learnt that no-one knew Jude or had his best interests at heart more than me. Its kind of inbuilt in you as a Mum, your whole drive is to ensure they are happy and safe. Part of achieving that for him, was realising that I had to be happy and confident in my decisions. Everyone will tell you what is "best" but don't allow yourself to become overwhelmed or swayed.

Lesson learnt; Trust your instincts and do your research, then do what you feel is right.

Lesson Five - It Will Get Better

If you are a new mum surviving on 3 hours sleep, I am sure you probably want to punch those who say "It'll get easier" in the face. I remember being jealous of the Mums at baby groups whose babies were sitting up or happily munching on a bread stick, they seemed so far away from where I was at that moment. Months feel like decades in those early weeks. The biggest lesson I have learnt is that every struggle, every pulling your hair out phase, every nightmare night- it passes. So many people said to me in those early weeks that it would get easier and that I would start to settle into a pattern, but I couldn't see it. I can't say it has got easier, but I don't have the same panic as I did and I am learning to "go with it" more and more. Even now as I am preparing for Jude's 1st birthday, I can't quite believe how much we have grown together.

Lesson learnt; Motherhood is a moving target and you learn to move along with it.

So there you have it, five lessons learnt from those bleary eyed early weeks. I am sure I have thousands more to go.... 

* I want to be clear I'm not talking about post-natal depression here. If that is happening or has happened to you, I am no where near qualified to give advice so I won't even try. But from one Mum to another, talk to those who love you and take all the support you can xx

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Good, the Bad and the poo covered Introduction

My son, Jude, arrived 15 days late on the 26th May 2015. I imagined giving birth to the Sound of Music soundtrack, taking a few ladylike puffs on the gas and air before "popping" him out to the emotional music featured on One Born Every Minute. I would lay angelically in my new dressing gown, surrounded by proud friends and family exclaiming "you make it look so easy", whilst I updated my Facebook status. Once home, my gorgeous little son would sleep through the night (I did, so I was 100% convinced he would do the same) and I would really carry on about my business as before. Oh and of course, I was "all bump", so I would be back in my jeans in no time. And finally, babies cry (no big deal, I will ignore/tell him not too) and it DEFINITELY will not change me as a person. 

I think you can probably tell where this is going..... 

Needless to say, this was not my experience. In fact, let us take those comments one by one. 

I listened to the first few seconds of my "birth play list" and told Mr J (my long suffering husband) to "turn that shit off". As a lifelong fan of Sound of Music-Julie, I am sorry. My birth was long, incredibly clinical and gas and air didn't touch the sides. I enquired about the music from One Born Every Minute...turns out midwives don't find this funny. I did wear my dressing gown, but my catheter bag broke and it got covered in wee. My friends and family were proud, but I think actually more shell shocked and relieved-I certainly did not make it look easy. I did update my facebook status-yay. Sleeping through the night-just no. 

The part about carrying on my business as before saddens me, as I really did have no idea. Looking back I was woefully unprepared for the emotional impact having a baby. Those early days were dark and the memories of waves of tears and anxiousness still take my breath away now. "Carrying on as before" is not possible. 

Those who said I was "all bump" are liars, as getting back into my jeans is an on-going saga. Yes babies do cry, but annoyingly you are hardwired to respond to them (I have tried to ignore my whinging son at 5.30am...impossible) and they are also not robots...also annoying. 

Not changing as a person is a funny one...I work hard to remain myself. It is easy to become lost in the world of feeding, sleeping, naps, what my amazing baby did today...there is certainly an audience for those conversations and it is not everyone. It is important to prioritise your friends, family, your husband and most importantly, you. When you are a slave to a chubby small dictator, having head space to do what defines you as a person is hard, but I am learning everyday it is so very important. However, I am forever changed by becoming a Mum. I don't think that is necessarily bad though. I feel much deeper than I did before (and I was always a cryer), I can't bear mistreatment of any kind and I have very little tolerance for nonsense. But I am accutely aware that I cannot be the Rach pre Jude. I have someone solely reliant on me, so even if he is being looked after by his array of adoring fans, he is at the forefront of my mind. I think I can't "let go" as I did before, because there is always someone holding on to me.  

So why I am telling the Internet all of this. First and foremost, my little baby is turning one this month. His life is going quick, too quick and I don't want to forget a second. Even the times where I want to put him in the bin. However there is a bigger reason. I want to add my voice to the thousands of conversations happening in coffee shops, or parent and toddler groups, over Whassap or at the doctors. All of those honest conversations about the reality of parenthood- the good, the bad and the poo covered ugly. I hope that by being an "open book", it will encourage others to do the same.  This, I expect, will become a theme of this blog-I am passionate about being honest with other Mums. I think knowing you are not alone in your feelings is what every new Mum needs etched into her mind and soul. I am grateful for my "motherhood sisters" who got alongside me both in the early days and now, speaking truth and encouragement and I will seek to do the same wherever I can.