After having my daughter I had high expectations when having my second baby, I was determined this time I would not be going back to work after 4 months and I would make every moment of maternity leave count. I had many plans for my son and I from baby groups to baby wearing, baby led weaning and baby yoga. My first Christmas holidays off work, I wanted to bake and have trips out to see the lights and see Santa and enjoy quality family time. I now knew loads of groups and other mummies to have play dates with and wanted to go on trips to parks and attractions. I had the confidence to join groups and try things that I just didn’t have the confidence to do first time around. I was certain I wanted to breastfeed; I wanted to avoid a dummy this time if I could and I would get fit and healthy for my little ones and be running around the park with them.
Six weeks before my due date I left work, 4 weeks earlier than I had my first time around. I spent the time settling my daughter in to playgroup, preparing the house and resting as I remembered the sleepless nights and as my SPD was getting the better of me. I was assured I would not be going past my due date due to several factors, however the day came and went and the midwife told me baby was not ready. One week later I was induced, again I was told it would be a slow process. From that moment on life became a whirlwind. My little boy was having none of it and decided to arrive within 45 minutes from when they took me down to the delivery suite, just 2 hours from when they had stopped monitoring me. Within moments of being born my step daughter called to say she was locked out the house, I still had my legs in the air and a not very nice thing happening with the midwife down bellow! My husband said could he let her in and asked if I wanted Chinese takeaway to eat! This is how life would continue, the quietest of moments were those few hours that night in hospital where my son and I were alone and getting to know one another.
Two days after having my son I wanted to walk my daughter to playgroup, we visited friends and had many visitors, I bathed my son before bed, started baby massage and I waved my best friend off to live in Scotland.
Secretly I was a mess, I desperately wanted to breastfeed, to play with my daughter and to entertain people. I even attended the push it real good walk and that was the day I first cracked, surrounded by all these lovely mummies and kind people. I had my 2.5 year old in tow and was pushing my son. I was still in so much pain but felt it was normal after having a baby.
My son just wouldn’t settle and I sat in the park and cried. Everyone was wonderful but I just couldn’t understand what was happening. A week later the same thing happened; I walked my daughter to playgroup and then planned another outing to a baby group. I found myself sitting in the park after dropping my daughter crying my eyes out as I couldn’t settle my son. I tried attending breastfeeding support groups where the people where wonderful and I googled and tried every which way to help my son breastfeed. I started a mummy and baby fitness class to try and get myself in shape and out of pain and I helped at my daughter’s playgroup so that I could be a part of her days.
What followed was repeated snotty colds as my daughter picked up everything, trips to the hospital with my son and myself in so much pain I could hardly walk some days. For my son it was two bout’s of bronchiolitis, a UTI, E coli, the possibility he couldn’t hear, an overnight stay and a Christmas of poorly children and family. Even spending Christmas Eve in A&E, by this time my son had a dummy, we were bottle feeding and fitness wasn’t even on my mind. I was still in a huge amount of pain, felt very alone and knew something was not right with my son. I decided to step back and take stock of everything.
My daughter had been ill for the first two years of her life vomiting continually and it had all turned out to be due to milk. So we changed my son’s milk as had experienced similar symptoms. My son is now lactose free and a very content happy baby, but it took months and also meant I had to accept bottle feeding was not the end of the world and was right for my son. It also turned out my body had not recovered from my lovely little boy either and I decided I needed a little help. I ended up at the doctors myself crying asking what was wrong with me. The doctor said something that struck a cord with me “You can clearly see you love your children to pieces, you just need to decide what is important that you must do and slow down”. I knew then it was time to enjoy the little things and stop having expectations of what my maternity leave and having another baby should be like.
My wonderful family helped me through this time, my husband worked long hours and still helped with night feeds. My parents helped me a night a week when my husband would not be home till the early hours so I could get some rest. My husband’s mum helped with my daughter and friends all helped by visiting or just letting me chat away. I stepped back and stopped having expectations.
It took me months to really get it but I had to start thinking more towards the future, so what if we didn’t make baby yoga that week, what impact would that have on my son in later life? What if my daughter didn’t make that one swimming lesson? At the end of the day they were fed, well looked after and loved. I have an amazing support network and could see people genuinely wanted to help, I could see how lucky I was.
I also realised I had to help myself in order to be the best mum I could for my children. I regularly speak to my wonderful best friend and my children were very excited to receive a box in the post for Christmas, although I think secretly it was more the wrapping and the packaging that they wanted than the contents. I have even visited my friend and horror of horrors taken a few nights away from the children to visit her while daddy took over at home.
I have had days where a wonderful friend has just come over knowing I could not leave the house and brought cake and yummy food and helped with the bedtime routine or entertaining my little ones. I had several wonderful osteopath treatments; I still have physio every couple of weeks and take painkillers daily. I have had to learn to accept my body as it is.
I also try and look after my mind, trying to take time out to take stock enjoying the odd bath or reading, even if it does take me months to read one book! I have discovered a wonderful online therapy site called The One Stop Psychotherapy Shop where you can book online counselling sessions, which for me just helps when you can’t leave the house and need to talk it over with someone not in your life.
I decided I was not a failure for not living up to my expectations and I would enjoy the little things in everyday life. Expectations can sometimes set you up for a fall, instead I enjoy just sitting with the children, hanging the washing out with their help, even hoovering with my now three year old even if it is much slower! Ha Ha. I’m re-evaluating life and enjoy different things. Don’t get me wrong I still have days where I just wish I had the physical and mental strength to get out the house but sometimes I have to realise if we have to have a few days inside, in pjs, covered in whatever food we have eaten and curled up it is not the end of the world and secretly its lovely to get the cuddles. One day I will have that Christmas, I will bake and I will be fit. For now I am just being the best mum I can be and enjoying it with no expectations, that way everyday can have something a little wonderful in it.
A Guest Blog from Bethan Allen
Bethan is coming towards the end of her maternity leave and is a full time retail manager. Living in Gloucester with her two little ones Isobelle 3 and Ethan 6 months plus 19 year old step daughter Summer and the 2 giant cats. She also has two older step children who are 16 & 23.
Life is hectic but enjoyable. She enjoys walks with the family to the park and movie evenings with hubby on the sofa. She is also on the playgroup committee and keeping busy at home currently. It is unknown what the future holds but with no expectations it is exciting.