Nobody Told Me


I remember announcing my pregnancies to people, I remember the smiles on their faces, the ‘you’ve no idea what you’re getting yourself into glares’. I remember the stories of joy…of horror…of happiness and sadness. I remember the lectures on what to do and what not to do…it seemed everyone I spoke to was keen to share words of wisdom, of experience.

But nobody told me the things I’m about to tell you!

Nobody told me that parenting was the hardest thing I’d ever do – physically, mentally and emotionally! That I’d have days so draining, I’d wish it all away…then hate myself immediately for feeling such a way. I wasn’t prepared for such a conflict of emotions,  for feeling so much love, guilt, stress, admiration, pride and anxiety…all within the same minute. I still don’t know how to handle this, how to manage my emotions when they become too powerful to distinguish apart. 

Nobody told me that I’d doubt myself in ways I never knew possible, that I’d be transformed from a confident, assured person to a dithering, uncertain mess within moments of entering Motherhood…that all the education, study, knowledge and intelligence would go straight out the window and I’d be left apprehensively second-guessing my every move! That I’d feel like a child again myself, needy for others to guide me, desperate for help and comfort but too shy to speak out to get it (like the quiet child at the back of the classroom, suffering in silence – too scared to admit they don’t know what they feel they already should). That I’d look at other mothers and feel envious of their natural sense of maternal instinct, that I’d spend countless moments wishing I knew only half of what they seemed to. 

Nobody told me that my heart would shatter a million times each day – through love, through worry, through pride and guilt. That seeing my child hurting could cause my own heart to rupture in so much pain that I’d feel it beating outside of my chest. That it would break over seemingly mundane moments like a kiss on the cheek or an unexpected cuddle. That the words ‘I love you’ even pronounced incorrectly could render me breathless. I wasn’t aware that my heart could ache for something so lovely, that the curve of an eyelash or the creamy colour of delicate skin could make my heart pound with so much emotion.


Nobody told me that I’d spend endless hours anxiously fretting over scenarios which may never (I pray never) happen. That I’d hear stories of loss, of tragedy, of cruelty and heartache and not only mourn for the families involved but for myself as though I was experiencing it too. That my sense of empathy would grow to be so dramatic, I’d be able to place myself in unwanted shoes and feel the extent of pain. That I’d cry over adverts, over fictional storylines, books and news – praying to never know for real…knowing that a life without my children would never feel worth living.

Nobody told me that I’d change so drastically – not through enforcement or circumstance but through want. That I’d want to be a better person, to change my priorities, to live for someone more than for myself. That I’d love in a way which inspired me to grow, to alter, to become more focused. That every aspect of life  would change, including my dreams and visions of the future. 

Nobody told me  of the gratitude and appreciation I would feel towards my own family. That I’d look at my Mother with a confound sense of understanding and astonishment – that I’d eventually feel the depth of her own love for me. That I’d ‘get’ all the worry and the warnings. That I’d want to show her more than ever how amazing I find her, for her strength and support, her love and encouragement.


Nobody ever told me that my children would grow too quickly. That I’d wish them to remain so little for just one more day but urge for them to grow with the same breath. Nobody told me that I’d look back at photos and panic at how rapidly time passes us by…that I’d feel saddened by the moments I missed absorbed in my tiredness, anxiety or guilt. That I’d wish I played more, cuddled more, laughed more. Nobody told me that I’d count down the final moment of each day, desperate for my children to sleep but also clinging to the memory of each bedtime story, savouring every kiss goodnight. 

Oh man, he’s on the ‘big’ swing!

Nobody told me just how much I’d LOVE being a Mother, that even in the hardest moments, I’d love so passionately and devotedly. That the tears, the struggles, the feelings of downright incompetency would be so intensely worth it. 

So intensely worth it!

Motherhood is beautifully manic, painfully brilliant… and I guess nobody told me because I’d never have understood until I felt it firsthand. 

Did I Steal Your Childhood?

  You were 10 weeks old when your sister was conceived. It was not something we’d planned for so soon but something we’d definitely hoped for in the future. You were our firstborn and had shown us a different way of life. Before you, there had been laziness and selfishness. You’d opened our eyes to what life was all about and your newborn radiance was simply addictive. Suddenly, we knew that we needed more children.

Even still, we’d hoped to wait a little longer than we did.  When Siena chose us as parents, the feeling was completely surreal. With you, there had only been joy. From the tiny pink line that indicated you were baking, love and excitement had ran through our blood. We were changing, getting ready for parenthood and couldn’t wait for your arrival. When the tiny pink line appeared only 15 weeks after your birth, we were left momentarily petrified.  Not because we didn’t want Siena, we wanted her more than our hearts could imagine. We were petrified for you. You were so young, just budding and you needed us so much.

Although still overjoyed, It was very clear that your happiness was at the heart of everyone’s thoughts. I’ll never forget the reactions we encountered as we broke the news of our second bundle. ‘What about poor Tristan?’ They chorused. ‘He’s too young’ they said. We sensed their anxieties, heard them muffled in their throats. They stood out louder because they were all anxieties we’d dealt with to begin. The most upsetting reaction we encountered left me tormented throughout your sister’s pregnancy. ‘Tristan will have to grow up on his own, he’ll have to grow up very quickly now’. It tormented me because it made me feel so guilty. I’d loved every sleepless second of your childhood (okay, maybe that’s rose tinted, you’d been hard work but completely worth it). I didn’t want to put an end to the fun we’d been having, I didn’t want you to ever become anything less than my main priority. I certainly didn’t want you to feels as though I didn’t care about watching you grow, I cared so much.

You should have been nearly one by the time Siena would arrive – old enough to recognise change but not old enough to understand. This gave us time, time to form that inseparable bond I hope we never lose. I didn’t want to deprive you of your childhood, I wanted to dedicate ever waking second to you. I didn’t want to rush you to grow, I wanted to slow time down and keep a hold of you. You were by far the most precious jewel in my possession. I wanted to nurse you and protect you for all eternity. I made a promise that until Siena arrived, your every need would be my main priority. I was determined that having a pregnant Mam wouldn’t affect you in any sense.

So, until the day I delivered (and even in the delivery room), I was there for you. I lay on the floor and stared into your eyes as I encouraged you to do Tummy Time, I sat legs apart and passed the ball back and forth, back and forth a million times. I carried you on my hip through supermarkets and shops, beaches, parks and riversides. I gave you your bottle and snuggled into you each night, stretched over your cot to make sure you didn’t stir as I put your sleepy body back to bed. I was your Mother and there wasn’t one thing that would stop me from caring for you the way that you needed me to.

Then Siena arrived and our world suddenly came to a halt.

She was so poorly and needed me so badly. I had no choice but to break our deal and make her my priority. Momentarily, you were forced to ‘grow up on your own’ and it broke my heart. Now you’re 15 months old and we’re back to trying our best. Siena still needs me but we all need each other just as much. I watch you with her, gentle and caring. You beam when she enters the room, love to be near her. There’ll come an age when you’ll play wit each other, I used to worry but now I know I needn’t. I dedicate my time to making sure you cherish each second of your childhood. I make sure each day is spent making memories and living experiences. I’ve maintained your baby routine, make sure it’s me that gives you your bottle, make sure it’s me that puts you to bed.     Throughout it all, I listen to your giggle, I marvel at your smile and I ask myself, how could I have stolen your childhood? It’s still very much your own.   

Twinkly Tuesday

Why I Could Never Preach About Breastfeeding

 

There’s plenty controversy surrounding the issue of Breastfeeding in the Media of recent. The debate over bottle v breastfed babies is spiralling out of control, it’s to the point of teetering on ridiculous. As a mother of two, I have my own opinions on this matter. Opinions that rival those of millions.

My son, my first born, never took to the breast. Before he was born, I had an idealised version of Motherhood. In this, my child took to my breast harmoniously and worked in sync with my body. There were no tears over his inability to latch, no guilt over my poor milk supply. I was going to breastfeed, I was 100% sure of it.
So when it didn’t happen, I was left tormented by the whole ordeal. At 24 hours old, Tristan was diagnosed with Jaundice. Although common in newborns (and even more so in those born before 40 weeks), Tristan’s bilirubin levels plotted high above the treatment line, leaving him under U.V lights for 6 days. In this time, Tristan was made to take formula every 2 hours to wash out the infection. I wasn’t allowed to hold him unless trying to feed. Even when he screamed for my affection, I had to deny him. The roll on effect of this was that, due to not being able to give him skin to skin, my milk supply was practically non-existant. It also meant that when in my arms, Tristan took comfort in my embrace instead of trying to work. Lastly, like many boys, he was also incredibly lazy and didn’t understand why he had to work when milk had been given to him for free without demand.
Once out of hospital, I persevered, I even scheduled my days around expressing to make sure he got the ‘liquid gold’ but it was hard and tiring. Tristan’s one week check up confirmed that he had lost 10% of his body weight. My ultimatum was either continue trying and risk him being hospitalised or give up the ghost and turn to formula. I’d tortured myself for seven days and eventually, I saw what I had to do.
Turning to formula was a decision I didn’t take lightly but it was also I decision I knew was right for Tristan and for me. Still, I wept and wept over the abrupt ending to breastfeeding. For weeks, I felt deprived of that ‘special bond’ breastfeeding allows you to form. I felt rejected and useless.
Having a baby is a crazy experience but having your 1st baby is on a whole different level of surreal. It’s a time when emotions run high and the slightest thing can be magnified intensely. I’d been preached at by so many midwives and nurses before Tristan’s birth that failing to breastfeed made me feel like a failure. It confirmed that I was already going to be a rubbish Mother, that I was already not good enough. But of course, this wasn’t the truth. Turning to formula was actually the act of a ‘good’ mother because I refused to let my baby starve. It was the act of a ‘good’ mother because I put my own selfish wants and desires aside to do what was best for my baby. I wish I’d realised that at the time.
Bottle feeding my baby made me feel dirty, like I was breaking the rules. I dreaded seeing people  I knew because I dreaded the question ‘how are you feeding him?’ I mean, what a thing to ask…and yet, it was nearly the 1st thing on everyone’s mind. I felt embarrassed to admit that I was giving Tristan formula, always felt as though I had to justify why.
When I fell pregnant with my second, breastfeeding didn’t even enter my mind. I’d already decided that I wasn’t going to try. The hardest part of having a newborn was the mental torment I endured over feeding, I’d already realised that having a newborn was stressful enough without inflicting even more duress on myself. Plus, I’d seen the benefits of formula. My son was rarely starving, he was satisfied and a satisfied baby is definitely a happy one. My husband could take over, giving me time to shower (or at least, let’s admit it, use the toilet in peace). Tristan’s immune system was never effected, he’d never caught a bug. He was also always in line with the 50th percentile, the myth of formula making babies obese just didn’t seem truthful.
Then my daughter arrived prematurely and my plans were, once again, turned on their head. Breastmilk was part of my daughter’s treatment. I was told by the doctors at North Tees Hospital (Doctors by name but Angels by profession, their care and expertise was simply amazing) that I wouldn’t be allowed to formula feed even if I wanted to. The thing is, I suddenly didn’t want to.
Siena was incubated for 17 days, fed through a feeding tube for 4 weeks. The only think I could possibly do to help her was breastfeed. So, once again, I centred my days around expressing. I even set my alarm twice through the night to get up and express. During the day, I made time at hospital to leave Siena’s side and express. If out somewhere else, I carried my breast pump with me. I was that determined to do this for my daughter, I once even expressed in the changing room of H&M. When the time came at 35 weeks gestation, I was nervous about whether Siena would refuse me just like her brother. She didn’t, I eventually had the harmonious experience I’d craved. It was like fate, like destiny. Siena’s release from hospital depended on her ability to feed from me, I’d been warned that this might not come naturally or quickly and that Siena might have to be trained how to feed. I was told to expect up to a month until she’d be released from hospital. Only two days later, we were on our way home. It seemed as though Siena was just as determined as I was. Although completely overjoyed, I knew I’d never preach breastfeeding.
I’d never preach it because I don’t believe we should. As women, we need to support and encourage each other to do whatever is best. And let’s face it, breast isn’t always best. Having a newborn is daunting enough, we shouldn’t add extra pressure to new mothers. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and those whose opinion is strictly pro-breastmilk are freely allowed to express these but not look down upon those who don’t. The Mothers who choose to bottle feed should feel confident about their decision but remember that not all women who choose to breastfeed will disagree with formula. Having experiences in both, I’m well aware that breastfeeding carries its own stigma.
At the end of the day, we do what we do for the sake of our children. Whatever decision that we choose, we should be applauded for caring and doing the right thing. To those breastfeeding Mothers, well done for feeding your baby. To those formula feeding Mothers, once again, well done for feeding your baby. Our methods may differ but we essentially have the same outcome in mind.

The Twinkle Diaries

I Survived the Baby Blues

 Before my children were born, I lived in a world of ignorant bliss. My idealistic views of Motherhood stemmed from American Soap Operas and Chick Flicks. They were, in truth, Disney influenced. 

That’s why, when my children were born, I suffered so badly with guilt. As a new Mam, I’d no idea of the trials and tribulations each day would hold. My visions were cloud lined with images of me cradling my newborn, cheesy grinning, prancing abound my living room like Mary Poppins. It wasn’t that I expected it to be easy, it was how the Media had led me to believe.
I expected that my son, Tristan, would be placed in my arms and I’d cry with happiness. That I’d scoop him up in a loving embrace and declare to the rest of the world ‘it’s okay, I’ve got this’. I expected that when he cried, I’d know instinctively what he wanted and how to handle him. I expected him to latch to my breast harmonious and feed like he’d been waiting for me forever. Only now, a full year on, am I ready to speak the truth.
Tristan’s birth had been slightly traumatic. I pushed for hours upon end without any medication. I’d been allowed to continue pushing because his heart rate had not faltered, he was not feeling the same distress as I. However, it became apparent that something wasn’t right. Tristan was lying on an angle that would prohibit him from coming naturally. I was taken to theatre and given a spinal block in preparation for an emergency C-Section if his heart rate plummeted whilst moving him. In the end, no C-Section was required but I was left paralysed from the armpits down.
As I lay exhausted and convulsing from the medication, the midwife cleaned Tristan up then rested him on my chest. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. The moment where I was meant to kiss his blood stained head and cry. Instead, I froze. ‘Somebody take him’ I sobbed. I didn’t have the confidence. I was tired and didn’t have control of my arms. How would I protect him if he rolled?
So there it was, the most important moment in my life and I was already a failure. But was I? The dream is, and always has been, that you’ll look dotingly into your baby’s eyes and immediately bond. I loved my son immediately, intensively but I didn’t bond with him as quickly as I’d hoped. I remember being scared of him, thinking that I wasn’t what he wanted, thinking that he didn’t like me (I know, ridiculous right?) However, many mothers feel this way. Many new mothers have experiences like myself.  This doesn’t seem to stop us lying through our teeth and saying aloud what society wants us to say. We all contribute to the Media’s representation of immediate Motherhood.
So what else do we lie about? I remember being asked a million times whether my son was ‘good’. ‘Oh he’s a dream’ I’d state ‘he’s just the best baby EVER’. What I meant was ‘he cries…all the time. I don’t know what I’m doing. If he’s good then it’s definitely me that’s bad. Oh god, I must be rubbish’. I remember one awkward moment with my male next door neighbour who dared ask me this question on the wrong day at the wrong time. He got my honest response. ‘Welcome to parenthood’ he declared. ‘We all felt that way to begin’. This was a revelation. If we all feel this way, why don’t we say it?
The guilt I felt in the 1st few months will never leave me. There’ll always be a part of me that feels massively ashamed. I felt guilty that I didn’t know how to soothe my crying baby within milliseconds. I felt guilty that I didn’t know how to read his mind. I felt guilty that I struggled to wake four times a night for feeds. I felt guilty that I wanted to cry so much. I felt guilty for feeling so scared. I felt guilty that I no longer had time to listen to my husband. I felt guilty for giving birth when I so clearly wasn’t equipt. I felt guilty because sometimes I found it hard to smile. I felt guilty because I was, so clearly, a million miles away from the Mary Poppins Mother I’d dreamt of being. On the whole, I felt guilty because I was the only one feeling like this. I looked at other mothers, I saw the way the beamed and glowed. I felt low and anxious that I’d never be like them. I looked at other mothers and saw the way the looked at me. I immediately believed that they’d guessed my secret, they knew how utterly weak I was.
With my second child, I vowed that I’d do things
completely differently. I wanted, because I knew the score by now, to be in control. When she arrived 9 weeks early, I was thrust into a new turmoil. Yet again, I missed my movie moment of feeling her against my chest (I had her for 30 seconds and we did cry this time, through joy that she was breathing). I thought that when she came home, I’d take over from the NICU nurses and be exactly what she wanted/needed. Yet again, I found myself pacing the floor at times unable to satisfy her and doubting myself.

It took me three weeks to fully adjust to Motherhood. That was, three weeks of making myself Ill with torture. Don’t get me wrong, and I know you’ll understand me, I LOVED my babies. I loved them so much that my heart would literally beat outside of my chest. The worry and anxiety I felt was all BECAUSE I loved them more that I’d ever known possible. The pressure I put on myself was all because I wanted to be the very best for them. It took me three weeks to learn that these feelings were normal, that many new mothers feel exactly that same as I did. It’s taken me a full year to say this out loud. And even now, I know there’ll be some who judge me. Some who will never understand because they never felt that way. I envy them but only for their ‘perfect’ transition. A full year on and I’m confident in my abilities. I hold my head high (even throughout the tantrums) and KNOW that I’m good. My children are happy, they’re blessed with a loving home. Their laughter and smiles reassure me that I’m on track and…eventually…I can say ‘it’s okay, I’ve got this’.

”Twinkly

You Taught Me Love

I was always one of those women who, if asked whether they wanted children, would say ‘No’. At the time, I think I meant it.
I was happy with my life. I was happy being irresponsible. That’s always been my problem. For all I’m nearly 30, I’m still a little girl. I still cry when I don’t get my own way, still throw tantrums when things don’t go to plan, still can’t make it through a day without cocking something up. Making a mess of my own life though, well that’s acceptable but making a mess of someone else’s, just wouldn’t have been fair.
For all I’d felt that way long after my 27th Birthday, as soon as I saw the positive test result, I knew I loved you. It was magnetic, instinctive and scared the life out of me. I’d never expected to feel that way.
As you grew inside me, my love for you also grew. I couldn’t control how strongly I felt for you. It would make me cry just to fear my life without you.
My favourite moments are, and always will be, the first time I saw you, heard your heartbeat, felt you from within and held you in my arms. Nothing will ever make me forget the strong sense of emotion I experienced at all of these times. When I think of them, I feel it all over again.
That same emotion though, I feel it every day. It starts in the morning, when you wake me with my call. For all I want to rush to you, I lie in bed and take a second to soak it all in. You’re my baby and hearing you call out to me, your ‘mama’ is my favourite noise. I feel it when I first see your face, you’ll flash a goofy toothy smile in my direction and my heart melts a little. I feel it when you blow kisses in my direction or plant a drooly one straight on my lips. I feel it when you rest your head on my shoulder and snuggle tightly into my arms. I feel it while I watch you play with your toys, when you flap your arms and try to dance to Disney songs and when you giggle uncontrollably as I tickle you. From the moment I wake until the moment I sleep, I feel that way for you.
It’s a love I know you’ll never fully comprehend until you have children of your own. It’s a love I never fully comprehended until I had children of my own. I thought I knew what love was but trust me when I say, the love I feel for you is stronger than any feeling humanly possible. That’s why I know, you taught me Love.
Before you arrived, I loved your father. In all his flaws and in all his imperfections, I’d found my soul mate and loved him with all my heart. After you arrived, I realised that I’d only loved him with 50% of it. You came along and taught me love. Now I look at him, he’s your ‘Dadda’ and the best one he could possibly be. I watch him play with you and his juvenility makes me bubble with love. I watch him bath you, put you to bed and his gentleness makes my heart splutter with love.
Before you arrived, I loved my life. I was selfish and spontaneous. I was carefree and did as I pleased. After you arrived, I realised that my life had been empty. You came along and taught me how to live. My life is a million miles away from the one I lived before but I’d definitely say it’s a million times happier. Joy lives in every crease of my skin. When things get tough (as
they often do) I don’t dwell on the negatives because I know they’ll be short lived. Soon, you’ll be an adult, a man and I will look back and plead with God to have my little boy back just for one squidgy, cottage pie covered kiss.
I hope that one day, you’ll know how I feel. I hope that one day, you feel the same for your children. I hope that, in those moments, when they teach you love, you remember that you taught me too. You’re my special boy, my Prince Charming, the love of my life.