Being ‘mum’…

Pyjamas: Desmond & Dempsey (gift). Peggy wears: Sleepsuit, £19 for a set of 4, Next. Photographs: Joe Galvin.

It still feels SO weird to be called a mum, a bit like a wife. I still feel 23 inside and not ready for this big wide world but it’s happened, I’m in it and to be honest, 8 months in with Peggy, things are great. Work/life balance doesn’t exist but hey, we’re all muddling through this life.

I don’t want to be too schmaltzy here, because things have been amazing but they also haven’t been easy. So thought I’d share a few things I learnt and found from the complete change to motherhood.

As much as I tried to plan ahead, get the house in a reasonable liveable state (we still had tarpaulin on the floor when we came back from hospital and I was painting the hall the night I went into labour), I would never have been prepared for those first few months.

The relentlessness, the all-consumingness, the realisation that life will never be the same again. I knew all of these things but it never really hits you until it happens. And of course now, I wouldn’t want it any other way but with the hormones and the vulnerability of those early months, there were times when I thought ‘what have we done’ – not about having her, but more ‘are we ready?’, ‘can we really do this?’, ‘are we going to let her down?’.

I felt so conflicted in those early days and now I know that it’s common, I feel better, but at the time you feel you’re a terrible human. I would cry because the idea of ever opening a letter or getting myself a drink or going out ever again seemed impossible. And even when people tell you it will happen, it’s so hard to believe.

It took 4-6 weeks to really connect with her, I loved her and thought she was cute but part of me still felt used and that she didn’t love me or care when I was giving her everything. Now I know that was the hormones talking. Breastfeeding came quite naturally to me (yep, I was surprised, too!) but I was an emotional wreck and felt such a burden on myself in terms of responsibility in keeping a human alive.

The hardest part for me was losing my identity…looking back it was silly but I did find it so hard – I have always been so independent and done my own thing and working for myself probably hasn’t helped, I am so used to being self sufficient and getting things done, so when I couldn’t do all those things I struggled. And then I felt guilty for feeling that way.

But flipping the discourse is a good place to start. Being a mum doesn’t define me, but being a mum is a defining part of my personality. And I’m okay with that.

Jumper: H&M (sold out). Peggy wears: Top, Zara (old). Onesie: gift from a friend.

Childbirth was really empowering. I didn’t read, watch or listen to any birth stories as I’m the type of person who watches one trailer for a scary movie and has nightmares for months. Every birth is different, so I just thought ‘what will be, will be’. And with this I went into the birthing suite with no preconceptions, and you know what?! It wasn’t that bad! Luckily, I had a very smooth birth, who knew they existed? Probably because no one tells you the good stories…but trust me, they are out there! I felt like superwoman afterwards (if a little delicate!), us women are amazing.

I’d even go as far as to say I’d do it again. Maybe.

Working around a baby has had its challenges. This is SUCH a tricky one as one the one-hand I am so lucky I get to work on my own schedule and be with my baby everyday, but part of me wishes I had a choice. As I needed to work, it is hard to be objective.

I got a lot of messages saying ‘you are amazing getting out there and still working, proving it can be done’ but honestly? It’s not something I think people should aspire to…it’s important to allow yourself to breathe, heal, watch mind-numbing crap tv, put your feet up and come to terms with your new family.

If truth be told, I had to send a sponsored Instagram from my hospital bed hours after giving birth as Peggy came early, I was contractually obliged to post and I couldn’t afford to pull out of the job. If that’s not mad, I don’t know what is – luckily I was high on oxytocin so rationality wasn’t entering into my brain at the time.

There are times when Peggy is playing and I realise I’ve been staring at my phone, or the weird feeling when I am taking photos in the street and passers-by stare as Peggy is in her pram and I think ‘what am I doing?’ but, I have to accept that I know I’m a good mum, and those 15 minutes (okay, 45) of stopping to take a photo in the street means I can spend the rest of the day being with her. So you just have to let it go…

Although we have just enrolled her into nursery one day a week, to give ourselves one pure day of work and admin and I must admit, having that day helps us get so much more done and allows us to be better parents (without our phones) when we are with her. Peggy will start nursery 2.5 days a week in the new year and as much as it scares me, I know we are all ready.

I never understood how useful Instagram stories were until I was doing those late night feeds, the community and support of social media was a real lifeline for me. Even if I didn’t message, I would watch others’ stories thinking ‘oh, she’s using a dummy to help/I wonder if that swaddle bag works/okay, she’s going through this too’ and it kept me somewhat sane. I never quite understood the power of videos through social media before but suddenly it all just clicked.

And finally, from a style point of view….breastfeeding clothes. The concept truly baffles me, I honestly didn’t buy a single thing with that label – I just pulled up a top and put a muslin over the baby and my stomach. Sometimes buttons would work but most of the time they were a faff and it was easier just to yank a top up quickly.

I found breastfeeding in public hard, mainly because just when I thought ‘cool, I’ve got this’, a man would get up from the table next door and move so I wouldn’t be embarrassed, which led me to be even more embarrassed and paranoid. And then I’d lose my focus….but on the sofa at home watching Love Island? Perfect.

Also: change bags. Again, I really don’t see the point. And they’re very expensive for essentially a wipeable bag with pockets. I bought the Sezane leopard ‘Sam’ bag whilst pregnant and remember thinking it wouldn’t be big enough, but it was more than enough! I haven’t ever had to carry that much, and what I do carry I put it into zip pouches so it’s all contained and easy to find, within my big bag. In my opinion, just buy a bag you’ll love forever and is big enough to store bottles, toys, muslins etc and you’ll be fine.

‘Buster’ toy: £23, Meri Meri.

So that’s us. Obviously I want to do a huge shout out to Chris for putting up with me those first tough months, what a champ. We still have no clue what we’re doing but we think we’ve found our rhythm, we’ve both got a sense of humour about most things and I know it sounds so cliche but Peggy just gets better and funnier everyday. Hashtag blessed.

T-shirt: Markus Lupfer (gift). Skirt: Asos (old). Trainers: Veja. Peggy wears: onesie, Maison Labiche at Alex & Alexa (gift). Leggings with tutu: £9.95, Gap Kids.

30 Comments

  1. Thank you for this encouraging post. Currently got a 4 week old attached to my chest and feeling like I will never have 5 minutes alone again.
    Coming from an independent, do what I want when I want 40plus mum to this non stop feeding machine has felt insane.

  2. Loved reading this Alex – I think it’s so true that so many people aspire to this work/motherhood balance and it really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I have been so lucky to have a really strong support system in my mum and mother-in-law who have given me 2 solid days of childcare each week since hunter was born and I truly couldn’t have done it without them. Xx

  3. Loved reading this. So great to hear you had a positive birth – you’re right, we don’t hear enough of those stories! Lovely to meet you on Sunday and thanks for the baby advice xx

  4. Well done for writing. I’ve worked full time supporting my family while having 4 babies. What’s helped overcome the heart break of leaving my baby has been remembering that I may be sacrificing enjoying some of their babyhood but I am gaining spending time with them flexibly throughout their lives. I’m not sure when and why the importance of a years leave came about but I know I’m far happier now (kids aged 2, 4, 6 and 8) spending a little time with them every day than I would be if I’d been working in an office full time during this period. Plus my careee would have dived whereas instead it’s grown. So instead of guilt (a useless unproductive emotion) focus on the child and adult the baby will become and the input you will have on her life because you work flexibly and self employed. And remember it’s your sacrifice not the child’s because bubs doesn’t give a rats arse who looks after her for a lot of the time.

  5. What a brilliant post, I had a baby 15weeks ago and can completely understand those early thoughts. We have been so lucky with an easy going little girl, but it is a massive change to your life. Each week is much better as they start to become more interactive. This post has really put a smile on my face thank you.

  6. Alex I can’t believe you posted this for me to read today of all days. Having the crappest time (2nd baby of 4 months + own business). I’m almost in tears as I agree and relate to everything you’ve said. Down to the breastfeeding and changing bags. More importantly freeeing yourself of the guilt and knowing that you’re doing the best for your own family and everyone has their own situations. Just having one of those bad ‘i’m failing at everything days’ but like you said, just knowing others feel this way sometimes too and i’m not alone in these thoughts, gives me just enough strength to get through it and just win another day instead. thank you x

  7. Hi Alex. I’ve been enjoying our parallel baby lives (my Zoe is 7 and a half months) over here in Bristol. I’m so with you on the middle of the night posts. They were so reassuring in the early days. You’re doing great. We all are. Xxx

  8. Awwwww best post ever Alex! I just loved how real you were! It was an emotional read.

    I’m not a mum yet, 39, Attorney from the Caribbean and just had a miscarriage (my first). When I found out I was pregnant, all these doubts just hit me immediately and I felt that having a baby would just change my life, independence, my job etc. When I lost it, it dawned on me that there’s no use for the self doubting and I’m hoping that if I’m blessed with one again, I will be ready emotionally.

    I have so many close girlfriends whose lives have changed, but they are doing such an amazing job with my god children, that I’m so proud of them. They have been fantastic moms, even those like you and me with the self doubt, just turned everything around and now just stellar moms. I look at their parenting, and it amazes me how much they have just naturally become mothers. I still think we are 15 or in our 20’s!!

    Moms are just awesome, no matter what kind of parenting they aspire to or practice. I think everyone is doing their best!

    And as for the dads, kudos to those who really put themselves out there!!! My embryo daddy was the best and he impressed me so much by being there for me. I was an emotional wreck and he surpassed providing support with so much reasonable insight I wanted to try for another one right away. 😂

    As for Peggy, she is so beautiful and you could tell how loved she is by both of you. 🤗

    Thanks for this.
    Sxx

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