Mum’s story – “It wasn’t meant to be like this!”
Motherhood’s full of challenges, but what if it’s completely different to how you expected? Kim Stockwell finds she’s not the only one who was hit for six when she had a baby…
“I became second fiddle”
“When you’re pregnant, you have all sorts of expectations about motherhood, from what birth will be like, to breastfeeding and, of course, bonding with your baby. One thing you can be sure of is that it’ll be a time full of surprises, so it’s best to have no preconceptions. This was certainly true for me and for the other mums, who share their experiences here,” explains Kim Stockwell.
“When I was pregnant, people warned my husband, Andy, that once the baby was born he’d have to play second fiddle. As Andy had never been particularly interested in children and had to be convinced that we were ready to have one, I think we both expected that to be the case. I had a difficult birth with Archie and was unconscious for most of the following day, so Andy gave him his first feed, got him dressed and did all the bonding I missed out on,” said Kim.
“Without us realising it, this paved the way for things to come. One day, Andy came home from work, and in his eagerness to get to Archie, simply walked straight past me, patting me on the head as he went by. I then realised there was only one second fiddle around here – and it was me.”
Patricia Carswell, a life coach who works exclusively with mums says there are always surprises when babies arrive.
“Many of us enter motherhood with high hopes and expectations of what it’ll be like. The reality of being a mum can be very different, and sometimes we have to compromise on our ideals. This is perfectly natural, and we shouldn’t feel guilty when things don't go to plan,” advises Patricia.
“I believed I’d want a large family”
“I always wanted three children but I feel that my family's complete with one.I got married quite young – at 24 – and although I didn't want to start a family then, I knew that when we did I’d like two or three kids. When I was 28 we decided to try for the first, as I didn't want to have the last when I was too old. I had a healthy pregnancy, an easy labour and the only way Ophelia could be better is if she made me a cup of tea every morning! So nothing has happened to put me off having more children, but something tells me we're happy and complete just as we are,” says Natalie, 30, mum to Olivia-May, 6 months.
One-child families are becoming more and more common, but there can still be a lot of pressure to have more.
“There are no rules about what makes the perfect-sized family, so go with your instincts. Like Natalie, you'll know what's right for you and your family and when it's time to call a halt,” said life coach, Patricia.
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“I thought I’d really enjoy breastfeeding”
“I'd imagined that I'd really enjoy breastfeeding. I read all about it, got all pious about women who chose not to do it and then discovered I absolutely hated it. I found the pressure from nurses, midwives, health visitors and the breastfeeding clinic overwhelming, and I’d dread each feed,” says Josie, 34, mum to Tyler, 2.
“Often I’d be in tears as feed-time approached, worrying I wasn't doing it right or that Johnny wasn't latched on properly or that my milk wasn't good enough. I started introducing formula at 3 months and he was fully formula-fed at 5 months. It was only then that I really started enjoying him. I bonded with him so much more by giving him a bottle than I had by breastfeeding. If I had another baby I'd certainly try breastfeeding again, but if it was no different, I’d stop. There’s no way I’d risk feeling that miserable again.”
Because breastfeeding is natural, we think it's going to be easy, but that's not always the case, explains expert, Patricia.
“I talk to so many mums who’ve struggled on with breastfeeding, becoming stressed and exhausted. We all know the benefits, but if it’s not working out, don't beat yourself up. As Jo discovered, it's not the only way to feed and bond with your baby.”
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“I didn’t think a baby would change me”
“I knew I'd be responsible for a little being when I had a baby, but I thought I’d still go out, spend time with my husband and go clothes shopping,” said Mandy, 34, mum to Brandon, 20 months.
“But my husband and I didn't have a night out together until Brandon was 17 months old because we preferred to be at home with our baby. And when I go out to buy things for myself, I always end up shopping for Brandon. Becoming a mum has made me a better person – much less selfish. I just enjoy seeing Brandon happy. It's really surprised me.”
Life coach, Patricia Carswell says that many new mums find that their priorities and personality change radically when they have a child.
“Some mums, like Mandy, discover a new, selfless side. Others become softer and more emotional, or more practical.”
But Amanda Alexander, founder of coachingmums.co.uk, stresses the importance of retaining some semblance of your life pre-children.
“I'd encourage all mums to try and work in some time for themselves and their partner, both together and alone,” Amanda says.
“I thought I’d love my baby instantly”
“I never expected to be anything but overwhelmed with love for my baby once he was handed to me, so I feel guilty to this day that my first thought after the birth was, ‘Thank God that's over.’ Jay was born 26 hours after my waters broke, and two days later I was admitted to hospital with borderline pre-eclampsia. My tears were of relief, not joy and I soon became great at meeting my son's needs and anyone looking at the pair of us would think I had this motherhood thing off pat, but much of it was an act, “ says Leanne, 30, mum to Jay, 2.
“While I didn't wish him harm, I didn't feel a connection to him. He was like a little stranger who was making all these demands I had to meet. Things came to a head for me when Jay was 8 months old. I simply couldn’t stop crying and I felt torn between my work life and home – finding peace in neither. I was prescribed antidepressants and signed off work for a month. During that time I rested and gradually started to spend more and more time with my son and I fell desperately in love with him. Now he’s 2½ and I can't imagine my life without him. He makes me proud, happy and content every day.”
Coachingmums.co.uk’s Amanda understands Leanne’s plight.
“One of the myths perpetuated when we’re pregnant is that we’ll get a thunderbolt of love as soon as we set eyes on our babies. Some mums do, some don't. Leanne suffered from postnatal depression, which affects an estimated 1 in 7 women. She did the right thing by seeking help, as without treatment, symptoms can continue for six months or more.”
“I believed a third baby would be easy”
“Having had two boys, I really thought that baby number three would be a breeze. I figured that the hardest thing would be finding time for all three of them. Harrison was born at 37 weeks and was the grumpiest baby ever. He wouldn’t let me put him down, wanted to feed every two hours, refused to sleep in his cot and was sick all the time. He was so different to the other two – they'd been a doddle,”says Carla, mum to Corey, 7, Jude, 5, and Harrison, 3
“It was a hideous time, and the older children suffered because I was tired and tetchy all the time. At about 10 weeks Harrison was diagnosed with reflux and prescribed some medicine – and my life finally changed. But he didn't really settle until I started weaning him and he had some solid food in him. I think the biggest thing you learn with a third – or even a second – baby is how little you know. They're all totally different, with individual needs, and you have to learn to adapt accordingly.”
As Patricia Carswell says, even very experienced mums can discover that they don't know all the tricks when it comes to a different child.
“It's important to be flexible and patient; with a little time, you'll find out what works for each one.”