As a first time mum nine and a half years ago, I remember looking down at my new baby boy and thinking 'OK so now what do I do?' I’d been so caught up with pregnancy and birth I hadn’t quite thought about the responsibility I now had for another little human.
I remember getting home and thinking ‘shit, I now have to look after this little person who is going to depend on me totally!’ I had questions whizzing through my mind:
I remember my husband had a notepad, we wrote down every feed and description of poo.
Everyone had their own views of what worked for them and with me being a new mum, everyone felt the need to share. Everyone told me something different about what they did or didn’t do which blew my mind. I remember reading The Contented Baby by Gina Ford and being led to believe that everyone was following it. I thought it was going to be the answer to everything, surely reading this I couldn’t go wrong?! Whilst reading the book I wondered ‘how will I have a life if I follow all these rules about when my baby should sleep and feed?’
‘If I don’t follow the rules, am I not being a good mum, and will this cause me more problems? Then my baby might not sleep or feed at all?’
I remember panicking and thinking people would think I had failed and was a rubbish mum, so I had to follow what she said, everyone else did, didn’t they?
I remember that fear that if I changed something in the routine everything would fall apart.
We had got into our own little routine that suited us - how would a baby fit into it?
Our little girl was born and we brought her home. My son loved her from the moment he saw her.
However, I felt torn. I needed to continue to meet my son’s needs, but my baby took up so much time. I felt guilty about giving one less attention than the other. My son was very active and loved to keep busy, I was exhausted and felt guilty that I had no energy to play like I had done. There were times when I snapped at him and it wasn’t his fault, he was just being a 2 year old, and I felt so bad!
I would cry to my husband and think I was the worst mum in the world. Looking back now I can see that these things weren’t that important, I focused on the times I didn’t live up to my expectations, and I didn’t give myself credit for all the things I did well. Life got in the way.
As time went on and life naturally got in the way, the routine slipped and I realised that my baby would be fine if I didn’t follow the strict bedtime routine, or the regular feeds. My baby still slept even if he only had half of his bottle! He still slept at night even if I didn’t open the curtains at the same time each day at nap time. I didn’t need someone to give me rigid, inflexible routines, to meet my baby’s needs.
There’s 2 and a half years between my first and second child, being pregnant first time around was hard work but at least I could relax and have a nap after work, eat my tea and go to bed!
Not this time though, I had no chance with my ‘little dynamo’ around! I was working, and totally knackered.
As a typical 2 year old my son was still uncoordinated; the amount of times he’d accidentally land on her, knock her with the football, or roughly attempt to pick her up! Gone were the days of stressing about being gentle and quiet around a baby, as I’d felt was so important with my first child; she didn’t seem to care, and I learnt that she would be OK in the loving chaos of our family.
She did get left under the play gym or in her Moses basket longer than I’d have liked, but she entertained herself and took life in her stride. With two children’s needs to meet compromises were made, and again I learnt my little girl could feel safe just knowing we were there by our noise and chatter. Life was tough but we managed!
My friends thought I was mad! I had always said I would like 3 children. Even though parenting was really hard work it still didn’t put me off. We waited a little longer this time, as I found a gap of 2 half years tough! So, 5 years later our son was born.
I had learnt, grown up, and our life was stressful, chaotic and busy, so could it get worse?
Everyone was so excited for the new arrival. Bringing him home I still had all the same thoughts and worries about what I was doing, it had been 5 years, would I remember?
My older two loved him from day 1. I thought the novelty would wear off; they wanted to hold, dress, feed and bath him, but 2 years on this hasn’t changed. They’re obsessed with him and he adores them.
The third time round I am so much more relaxed. The things I stressed about; sleep, feeding, getting their clothes dirty, or sleeping in their own beds don’t matter anymore. There are more important things! I prioritise, and as long as my children feel loved and have fun, that is all that matters! The more children I have had the more chilled out I have become about the practical things. But now it’s the overwhelm I find hardest.
There’s never a dull moment: working 30 hours, setting up my CalmFamily classes, keeping up with football, rugby, dancing, swimming, rainbows, school clubs and fitting time in with my youngest is hard, I’m not going to lie. I sometimes wonder ‘how the hell do I do it all?’ but it all happens!
I’ve learnt not to put pressure on myself or have unrealistic expectations.
I’m not going to pretend I don’t lose my shit, I do, nearly every day. Our house is chaotic, loud and busy, but I check in, make sure my children know they are loved and important. I want them to understand people’s needs and be caring people, they have their moments but they show love and affection to each other almost all the time, which I love. They love each other and care for each other the way we have loved and cared for them, and I know they are learning from our lives together.
Having babies is hard work. They test you to your limits, each milestone is an achievement and a building block for their lives, and ours.
These children have all taught me lessons about myself, and our relationships, and I am learning every step of the way. I look forward to watching them grow up together, I know there will be challenging times ahead, but I also know that’s part of life and we are always learning.
I now follow my passion and I am so excited to use my knowledge and experience to go on and support other parents with the journey into parenthood, I understand the fears, I understand the pressures, and I know they will find the way that is right for their families. It will look different for everyone and I’m excited to experience it with them.