I can vaguely remember life before motherhood and to be honest I am a very different person now. Motherhood really has changed me.
I remember discovering I was pregnant with William and what a whirlwind that was. I remember worrying myself about every single niggle and pain wondering what was happening to my body! I felt strange watching my belly grow bigger and bigger after years of trying to keep it flat I was watching with wonder as it grew and grew. Feeling the horror when I first discovered my stretch marks and how many came to follow those first few. The nervousness and the excitement of those final weeks waiting for labour to come along. I think as a first time mum it is all new and exciting and it does overtake your life a bit, especially when you've not got much else going on around you!
I remember the day we went into hospital to have William. I was so unsure of what to expect, but after a long, drawn out labour, we were whisked to theatre for a forceps delivery and little William had his cord around his neck, so was a bit of an odd colour. He also needed a bit of resuscitation but was soon shown to me, my little boy. Bless him. Then the most amazing feeling of contentment and love and adoration consumes you as you gaze at their beautiful face. I know everyone feels this way about their own baby, but he was beautiful. I remember him opening his dark eyes to peer at us and just feeling so emotional, happy and elated. I remember being so proud to show him to my mum when we were taken back to our room, and when my dad saw him for the first time, and we told him we had called him William Lawrence (William after my great grandad, on both sides coincidentally and Lawrence after my Dad). He burst into tears and it was something I will never forget. I remember the drive home from the hospital the next day, we drove so slowly as we had such precious cargo on board.
But then as I was breastfeeding William, I felt as though my own life was now put on hold. I felt like I always needed to be close by incase he needed a feed. Breastfeeding William was something I had felt so so passionate about. I had wanted the very best for my new baby, and what could be better for your baby than mummy's own special milk made just for him. We had been taught all about the benefits of breastfeeding and to be honest, I didn't give it a second thought. That was what I was going to do. I am always one to think "if you're going to do something, do it 100% or don't bother" and I initally found breastfeeding very hard work. William wouldn't latch properly and he seemed to be constantly hungry. It turned out that William had tongue tie and needed to see a specialist to give it a snip, but it was quickly fixed and he began to feed well.
You can ask anyone who visited me in the first few weeks, I was not myself. I didn't want to see anyone. I felt horrible due to gaining so much weight, not having any money to sort out my hair or buy new clothes, I was tired and irritable from a serious lack of sleep and on top of that I didn't want to allow anyone else to look after William as he was my precious baby and I didn't want to let him out of my sight.
This wonderful vision of motherhood you have when you are first pregnant is nothing like the reality. You envisage lovely sunny days with nice strolls with your pram, the lovely baby smell, buying new outfits, you know what I mean. The reality is very different: colicky baby, screaming all night, no sleep, bags under your eyes, no energy, no money to buy those new outfits for the baby and not feeling much like taking the baby out incase you see someone you know and you look so hideous. It makes me smile now to listen to first time mums spilling out their hopes for their babies, we have all done it. We think that we have all the answers to baby/child problems, and the reality is you will do anything that makes your life easier or quieter. I know, as I have done it myself, watching badly behaved children in shops or restaurants thinking "my children will never do that because I will do this" but when it is actually your children you will feel very different. Nothing can prepare you for having your own, I did a bit of nannying in Australia and helped my auntie when I was just a kid, take care of my cousins when they were babies, I thought I knew it all... how wrong I was!
I was finding motherhood exhausting, challenging and relentless. I loved my baby but I was finding everything very hard. It was during a routine health visitor appointment that we were discussing an upcoming visit from some family members who were to be staying in our house, that I burst into tears and realised I was finding it all too much. She felt I might be suffering from postnatal depression and she started to help me find a way out a dark time.
This is not to say that I don't enjoy motherhood because I do, it is such a rewarding job. I love watching William learn something new and seeing him grow into a proper little boy. It is wonderful but exhausting. Now I can see the joy that motherhood brings, the lessons it teaches and the happiness your children bring to so many. The immense sense of pride when you see them learn and achieve, and how content you feel watching them sleep.
But, given the difficult labour and the postnatal depression, it is no surprise really that when I discovered I was having Harry I went into a bit of a meltdown. Things had started to find a bit of normality and I was beginning to feel a bit more like myself. We had gotten pregnant very quickly and when I started to imagine myself with a newborn AND a crazy, active toddler I started to suffer with anxiety. I started to get panic attacks quite regular and had my health visitor come and try to put things into perspective.
Can you imagine the guilt I now feel that I was worrying myself about how my life would be with two children. There I was wondering how I would struggle to manage life with two children and yet now I am struggling to manage life without one of them. I would say things like "two? what am I thinking", others would say "you will have your hands full" and I honestly used to feel so panicked and really not prepared for life with two children. Now it makes me feel physically sick to recall those feelings, as obviously I would give anything to have my Harry here now with my William, playing together nicely.
This week I met with a friend who has two children: one the same age as William and one the same age that Harry would be. It was interesting to see her manage with ease and show me that all my worry was for nothing and that life with two children is a challenge, and even more tiring and consuming but it is something that can be done and enjoyed. I thought I would find it hard to see a baby who is the age Harry should be, but it wasn't. I had been worrying myself about seeing babies and how I might feel, but in actual fact I feel that I am at a place on my "journey" where I have accepted what has happened and now I feel like these little babies are all precious in their own way, and they aren't Harry or reminders that Harry is not here. They are little lives of their own making people smile and I could actually enjoy watching her and spending time with her.
It was seeing her that made me consider how I would have coped with two, and all the little things that I have missed out on as a second time mother. How different my life would be if I had Harry with me. But at the same time it made me realise how my life has changed because I don't have Harry with me. All the interesting, wonderful and kind people that I have met because of my loss, and all the new variety and responsibilites in my life that have come about because I have lost Harry and wouldn't have done otherwise. So I must feel grateful as all these changes and new experiences are little gifts from Harry, my life is very different and while I obviously still miss Harry I am glad that while I don't have him here with me every day, his name is going on to give little gifts in their own little ways.
This week I have lost a very sweet, kind and beautiful friend of mine. Very sadly and very suddenly she passed away, only months after having her first baby. Here I am months on, mourning the loss of my baby, and now a baby is mourning the loss of her mother. The exact flip side to my experience.
I have been thinking so much about that little baby and how her life must have changed. Her mother was a huge part of her life and now she has gone, it must be so confusing.
My thoughts are with her family at the moment and I hope Kate's spirit can rest in peace.
You will be missed xxxxxx look after Harry for me, hun xxx