This is Katies’ story for the Motherhood and Me (M.a.M) Diaries. Take a read and feel free to leave her a comment below. Thanks for getting involved Katie! x
The first 16 months….
When I found out I was pregnant in December 2015 it was like Christmas had come early. We had been trying for two years and I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen for us. It was something I never thought would be difficult for me as I’m one of five kids and have several nieces and nephews on my side of the family. I just assumed that the fertility fairy would have visited me and I’d be pregnant straightaway! Once the 20 week scan was done I could relax and really begin to enjoy everything. I had the easiest pregnancy really; aside from hip pain, insomnia and struggling with the summer heat it was straightforward and textbook.
I was due 21st August and went into labour on the 24th; after an exhausting 26 hours, my waters being broken, various drugs and bouncing around on a ball things just weren’t progressing and I was taken to theatre for a C section. My son was born at 6:45am and I fell madly in love straightaway. I’ve spent a lot of time around babies and such and, while I had never done night feeds or been solely responsible for a small person who relied on me 100%, I didn’t feel nervous or worried. My now husband was really hands on and brilliant during my recovery from my section. I breastfed for a few weeks but we did top up with formula at the same time – I was actually supported by a midwife in doing this as she was very much of the opinion if baby is fed and mum and dad are happy you do what you need to do – and didn’t feel too bad all things considered. My son slept fairly well and could be relied upon to wake around 2-3am and go back down again till around 6 when I would get up with him and probably snooze on the sofa while he did. It’s all quite a blur now I look back but those first three weeks at home with my baby and my other half were quite lovely.
Then he went back to work.
Suddenly, I was at home with my son all day and the visits had tailed off by that point. People had been round with new stuff and cooed over him and while I did still see people it probably wasn’t as regular or frequent. I’ve been a teacher for nearly 10 years and as you can imagine being in a school you are constantly surrounded by people; whether that be other staff or kids or both. My days would be loud and busy and fun. I’d chat with my colleagues and gossip with my wonderful department, I’d banter with kids, I’d tell off others and I’d be constantly marking and planning. I was always on the go and then all of a sudden my life was being dictated by this small person who cried at will and I didn’t always know what to do about it! I always assumed that when you had your own they’d be soothed by mummy and this would be instantly calming and I’d be basking in the glow of my newborn and radiant in new motherhood. Only what actually happened was I became slightly frazzled, had half my make up on and would often spend the day in various states of undress as I had been vomited on (or worse).
The more I stayed home, the worse it got. I became horribly anxious. I was too scared to go anywhere in case my son cried and people would judge me. I would plan any visits out around when he’d had a bottle as I knew he’d be pacified by that, yet I would dread his eyes flickering open as I would be scared he’d cry and people would judge me again. The things is, my son has always liked being out and about. He’s a sociable little man and always has been. I can count on one hand the amount of times he’s cried when we’ve been out with him – he likes seeing people and looking around and I credit my constant visits to Sainsbury’s to get out of the house for the fact he’s an angel in supermarkets now! But the fear of this changing, the fear of not knowing what to do and the fear of us both having a breakdown in public was often so much I didn’t want to go anywhere. Add to the fact I was still recovering from a section and only had a two door car which meant doing the car seat shuffle anytime we went anywhere (I had to put him in the passenger side, then go round the driver’s side and climb in the back to buckle him in as I didn’t have isofix in my old car to then climb out and get back in again in the front!) just meant I would often put it off.
I had people telling me to go to baby groups but the thought of that made me want to cry – I am quite an anxious person anyway and it only became amplified when I thought of going to those groups. There were times when my son would cry and I just didn’t know what to do and would sometimes leave him in his chair or on his playmat while I went and sobbed in the downstairs loo. I was alone until my partner came home and would dread the thought of that phone call telling me he would be working late would just make things worse. I would talk his head off when he came in as I had no one else to talk to all day! I went from being surrounded by people and feeling like I had a purpose in my career to staying at home alone with a small person who would sometimes cry for reasons I could never work out! I was too scared to hold him too long as I would “make a rod for my own back”; I shouldn’t feed him as he would start waking up in the night more often; I should obviously start weaning as he’s too hungry; I shouldn’t use a prep machine as they’re dangerous; I should put him to sleep in his cot; I should put him down awake so he could learn to “self soothe”; why wasn’t my son napping more regularly he’s clearly overtired…. This level of over information was too much at times – I felt like I was getting it all wrong. I cried a lot, I got mad with him sometimes, I shouted when I was in the car and he was crying and there was nothing I could do. The stress of thinking about what he “should” be doing was just overwhelming and as I was alone in the day times I had nothing better to do but to read all this nonsense!
What changed? I did. I went to the baby groups. I went to baby massage with Hayley as it was a small and welcoming group that provided tea and biscuits and kind faces who were all experiencing their own problems or reflux, milk intolerances and health issues from childbirth. I found a small group in Washingbrough that helped me so much as I knew I’d survived another week when I saw those faces on a Thursday! I talked and got support from parents who told me to stop reading all that tat or listening to other people. I noticed no one judged at all when my son cried in public – they just gave me a sympathetic look to show me they understood. I realised that babies are just what they are and they don’t tick boxes or meet certain targets. I looked more closely at my son and realised I had a baby boy who slept all night from ten weeks old; who smiled at me when he saw my face look into his cot first thing in a morning. He met every milestone and grew happy, healthy and strong and is now a toddler who knows what I am saying to him and plays with a sense of wonder I will never get bored of seeing. He adores his childminder who does an amazing job with him and he is developing daily and changing into his own little character who is fun and interesting and loving. I’ve done something right when I look at him and realise he’s happy and loves us all.
What have I learned from this? That having a baby is hard. Harder than I ever thought possible. And it’s not sleep deprivation as I’ve been lucky enough not to suffer that massively with my son as he’s always liked his night time sleep (not naps… that’s a whole other battle!). It’s the not knowing what to do. It’s the expectations you place on yourself that your baby should be doing something that they’re not and wondering what on earth you can do to change that. It’s the standard you set yourself – how you should lose your baby weight quickly and how you should be expected to do it all. The shock on people’s faces when you tell them you’re going back to work full time and they can’t believe you’d leave your baby with someone else five days a week always amused me. They never felt my loneliness or my anxiety or fake smile I plastered on as everything was fine really. They never understand that I need that adult time or I would go crazy! Being a working mum is the biggest juggling act in the world, but it’s doable and I’m still sane!
Remember you are not alone – there are people out there. Anyone who judges you isn’t worth the time and the majority of people get it. They know. And it gets easier; so so much easier. The main thing to remember is underneath all this you have a small person who loves you unconditionally and no one else on the planet will ever look at you the way they do. That’s worth every single minute of the bad.
Find the support networks as they are invaluable and full of people who know how you feel, who will give you a brew and a hug and hold your baby while you have five minutes to drink a hot drink – a rarity in those early days!