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.
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.
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.