Just being a human generally is quite a difficult task, let alone being a human in charge of sustaining other smaller humans. Don’t get me wrong, I know more than many how much of a privilege being able to become a parent is! Yet despite this being 2018: The Year of The Woman, even though April marked Worldwide Caesarean Awareness Month, May Mental Health Awareness and, in spite of the fact I’m sat here typing away in the first world, a recent Mumsnet survey found major failings in the current postnatal care system on offer to mums across the UK. As the saying goes ”it takes a village” so, we decided to put a call out on the blog for mums across our online community to come together and talk about what it would seem most people just want to keep mum about… or do they? Why don’t we let the motherhood do the talking?
That’s me! Blogger, Part-time student and mother to 19-month-old Theon, with one on the way (due July). Being the eldest of six siblings, with 3 sisters (2 of whom are also mothers) and having a retired midwife as my mum, supporting women and especially other mothers has always been the biggest drive behind me starting this blog. I laugh in the face of one-up-mum-ship and embrace the honesty of over-sharers as long as it’s coming from a good place. For me all advice is good, it’s up to you how you take it and what you do with it. Having said that, I noticed fairly early on in the game how competitive some mothers can be! If I was to pass any advice on to a new mum it would be, don’t bite, don’t buy into the competition, just do you and take what others say you should do with a pinch of salt, but equally don’t throw any new mum shade either, it’ll only come back to bite you!
My labour was pretty good, it didn’t go exactly to “plan” and there were some complications, yet I have to say for me it was a really positive experience. My contractions started at around 3am on the Wednesday, I’d been having false starts since the Friday and suffered Braxton Hicks throughout most of my pregnancy so, I waited until I had a good pattern of 1-minute contractions every 5 or so minutes before we ‘called it in’. We turned up at the hospital at around 6.30am by which point I was already 6 cm’s dilated. We then called my parents (in the Midlands), as my mum and my husband were my designated birthing partners. We headed for the birthing suite and made our requests for a water birth.
Mum arrived at around 9.30am at which point the pool was set up with me happily inside like an over fed hippo. By midday I was 10 cm’s with the promise baby would make an appearance within the next hour or so! Up until this point I’d managed mostly on gas and air with a 45-minute drug induced nap half way through. And although I had the absolute dream team, at the very last hurdle, a big push to try and burst my waters (which still hadn’t broken) worked but in the same move flipped the baby causing him to get stuck. Unfortunately, it was also at this point that the involuntary contractions kicked in making the situation worse and within the next hour or so I was taken upstairs to the ward, strapped to a monitor and given an epidural to slow things back down.
Once the epidural kicked in they unsuccessfully tried the Ventouse to ease baby back around, Theon was finally born just before midnight via forceps aided episiotomy. We returned home at 6pm the following day after the best toast and tea I’ve had in my life and an impossible attempt at sleep while I waited for my paperwork and checks on baby to be completed. I seriously cannot thank the staff at Wythenshawe Hospital enough! Everyone from tea lady to midwife, nurses and surgeons made what could have been horrifying an utterly positive experience.
Sadly, my postpartum care was severely lacking. My stitches opened 3 days after leaving the hospital which caused me huge problems and meant that I was left with a gaping 3 degree cut from my episiotomy which, continuously became infected, caused me ongoing issues with going to the toilet and took a full year to heal. For me the after care and understanding, particularly from GPs just wasn’t there and I found that a lot of medical staff had no experience of dealing with what I’d been through, and therefore had little to no understanding of the pain and the implications it could and did have on not only my physical and mental health, but also that of my newborn son.
Breast feeding was really difficult and Theon struggled for almost a month to gain weight, he also had extremely bad reflux and colic which I think was a result of me being unable to feed him upright. A real low point for me was being told I’d have to walk to my GP to have my wound examined as they wouldn’t do a call out, despite me only being 3 weeks postpartum, I then had to wait inline at the chemist (stood up) for 45mins while they put my prescription together and I sobbed. It was an incredibly painful and embarrassing experience.
As for becoming a mum I want to be all blasé and claim my life has not changed at all since Theon’s arrival, but I’d be lying! Absolutely everything changed for me: work, friends, my social life, lifestyle, tastes, living, priorities, neuroses, but I didn’t become a mum until I was 35 and so was ready and open to a complete life overhaul. Okay, okay open to, maybe not quite ready!
Chee is a part time Freelance Make-up artist and stay at home mum to her 7-month-old.
I was really lucky in that my labour went very, very smoothly. I was only in labour for 8 hours and managed to get through on just gas and air. As a result, I didn’t really need any after care. However, my GP has been really helpful. For me whenever I need advice I always turn to either my friends, online mum groups or my GP. The biggest change in my life since becoming a mum is that I no longer come first, whenever I do anything I firstly have to consider: ‘Can I do this, what about baby?’
Retired, 60-year-old, mother of one and grandma of four from Sheffield had to have an emergency C-section on the date she was due as her daughter was breach.
I was 25 when I gave birth, which at the time was classed as an old mother! I remember being told that I hadn’t put on enough weight and so my daughter wouldn’t make it to my due date. However, she was born exactly on time, weighing 6 pounds.
I didn’t put on a lot of weight and most people didn’t even realise I was pregnant, which I found annoying! After the birth, I came out in ordinary clothes and went straight back to my original weight.
I wish there had been more information available at the time for C-section mums, as I felt quite lost. I didn’t know anyone else who had, had one. We never had drop in sessions (like today) which would have been so useful, especially say for breastfeeding.
Back then my husband had to save up his leave to get a month off, as Pat-Leave didn’t exist 36 years ago!
Rosaleen, from Heywood and mum-of-one is a Freelance Blogger at Majellarose.
The best advice I was ever given is that “every baby is different.” I still think about this advice each day; no two babies are the same and all journeys are different. This advice allowed me to stop worrying about what other people were doing and to just concentrate on the two of us.
In contrast the worst advice was “sleep when the baby is sleeping.” I remember feeling so stressed and wound up, as I felt so much pressure to nap at the same time, which inevitably meant I couldn’t sleep as I was worrying about trying to sleep! I would say sleep whenever you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family so you can take time to relax.
My pregnancy started out low risk early on but that quickly changed at the 12-week mark when I had my first ever seizure. The pregnancy revealed I had epilepsy which I had no idea about. I went on to have 5 seizures throughout my pregnancy and they were all brought on by exhaustion. I had to reduce my hours in work as I was a restaurant manager at the time, doing double shifts, I also had to say goodbye to my driving license and say hello to medication. My midwife was amazing through my entire journey and we agreed having a C-section would be the best for me as it would reduce some of the anxiety surrounding the birth and the risk of having a seizure if I went into labour. Cora arrived safe and sound and the whole experience opened my eyes to how much pregnancy can affect a person.
Unfortunately, we were given the wrong information in hospital about how to feed the baby. My little one looked like she was feeding perfectly from the beginning, but we quickly realised she was using me as a pacifier and not actually taking in any milk. Luckily, we had emergency formula and breast pumps with us, but when we were given a feeding chart to fill in, the nurse said we needed to be feeding her 35ml every 3 hours instead of 70ml. This led to my little one becoming very sick and having to be put on antibiotics. Eventually a paediatrician was called out (at my request) and everything was put right. I still beat myself up about not Googling the right information, but I never thought to double check, we had a different nurse every day for seven days and I feel this did not help. The cleaning lady taught me different breastfeeding positions and the student nurses were so lovely and eager to learn which meant we became reliant on them in the end. I really can’t thank the paediatrician enough for helping us! Next time I have a baby I now know to write everything down, from what injections and medication I’ve had each day to what every nurse who saw us was called. It’s difficult when you are so very tired, but information like that is vital when you may have to challenge somebody.
When it comes to advice my friend Tanya is one of the main people I turn to, she is a brilliant mum to her daughter and because she’s a few years ahead of me I always ask her what she does. I think it might get annoying for her when I bombard her with silly questions but you can’t beat a good friend to give you honest advice. I also follow Victoria Beckham and her family on Instagram, they’re so cute and she’s a total boss lady too!
My advice to other parents is always be prepared and don’t take things too seriously. For example, I will never forget the time me and my partner took our little one to Blackpool to see our friends and during a meal at Pizza Hut with everybody around I saw Mark look absolutely terrified as he turned to me and mouthed “oh no.” I had no idea what was going on until I started to see other people’s reactions. It was our first experience of a nappy failure! We go every year to the same Pizza Hut and one of our friends calls it the anniversary of that incident! At the time it wasn’t funny at all, but now we can laugh.
Tanya is a newly qualified make-up artist and mum to 5 year old Ella.
Sarah, is a very ambitious business woman and mum to Zena. Currently working as Marketing Director for an educational supplier, overseeing £80million of business within a highly commercial market, alongside a great team that keep her both grounded and sane! Her daily working environment is extremely tough and challenging.
When I need advice I always turn to my mum and then Google. I trust both implicitly although, I definitely Google too much! However, the crazy mum conversations in forums make me feel fairly normal. When it comes to the advice I’ve been given the best pieces have to be:
1) Go to the cinema and take a nice holiday together before baby arrives. Looking back, I’m so glad we did both!
2) Sleep loads. I wish I had tried more. I can’t remember what it’s like to close my eyes at night and wake up in the morning. Yes, you get used to it, but it doesn’t stop me wanting a solid 8 hours!
3) Let the baby fit into your life, not the other way around. We still go on holidays and days out that we like. This year we are heading over to the Greek Islands to do some island hopping; we like a good travel adventure and Ze is a fan too!
As for the worst, it has to be to get them in their own rooms ASAP. Everyone’s different and I didn’t want to rush it as breastfeeding meant I wanted/needed her closer to me. Plus, she wasn’t ready and neither was my husband. We co-slept for ages, in fact I think we still are!
My advice for first time mums would be to try and take it easy on yourself, especially if things don’t go to plan. Whether that’s feeding, weaning or just not fancying going out. Do what comes naturally and you’ll enjoy it more. Take pleasure in the cuddles. Yes, it’s a cliché but there will come a time when you miss them. I’m dreading it; Ze gives great cuddles. And it’s okay to want to go back to work. I love what I do so why would that change? I know my daughter will be proud that I’ve progressed my career with her in tow.
Zena was born weighing 10lbs 13ozs. Ouch! She hurt, I’m not going to lie. Having gas and air helped although, she did get stuck at one point. My husband (James) was completely unaware, he just thought all the extra doctors and nurses had simply come to see the big baby! The lady from Antony Nolan (a stem cell charity) cried when she saw the placenta; it was that big! She was excited that it was “so rich and would definitely save a life”. I couldn’t have been happier; a beautiful, healthy baby and a life-saving placenta. However, I feel quite indifferent with regards to my post labour support at the hospital. It wasn’t good or bad as there wasn’t much in the way of support, we were just left alone for the day in the same messy room, but to be honest it was less stressful than moving onto a ward. The staff were pleasant, but extremely busy.
In contrast my aftercare from the local midwives was excellent. I was absolutely determined to breastfeed and despite trying and trying I finally realised I needed some help so, I phoned the local Home Start team and they came out and assisted me. It was an amazing, local midwife calked Nessa who actually helped me the most. I cracked it after 3 weeks which was really emotionally and physically draining at the start and in hindsight maybe I tried a little too hard.
My life has changed in lots of ways since becoming a mum, but it’s not really changed that much – Zena has fitted in really nicely. She’s quite laid back and fun to be around, mostly! The bits that have changed are tea times (hot food anyone?) and midweek wine is just not as appealing anymore! The constant quest for a work-life balance is the trickiest because the guilt fairy sits on my shoulder a lot and sometimes she’s really heavy, but I love what I do and I wouldn’t change my dedication to work. Becoming a mummy is the cherry on top and makes me even more ambitious. I want to inspire Zena to do her best. Saying that I couldn’t parent without my mum. She’s been my sounding board, chief advisor, babysitter and all-round superstar. I realise now how hard it must have been to have two under 2 by the time she was 21. Crazy lady! I also really admire working mums on a whole new level. Some make it look easy, some you can see the cracks, either way I honestly respect every single one of them for just getting on. I know lots of great at-home mum’s too – that’s dedication!
Is mummy to Eleanor Rose and married to Richard. Laura has been back at work since February (4 days a week) whilst she also tries to build a beauty business at the same time: Ellie B Nails.
When I was first expecting the best piece of advice I was given was to write letters to the bump. I never got around to it, but I do think it would have been amazing and helped me through some tough times. The worst piece was to enjoy every minute …. it’s physically impossible. How can you enjoy sickness, no sleep, lower back pain, fat feet and waddling? I think most people have a very unrealistic view on pregnancy and being a mum unless they’ve done it.
I gave birth at Royal Bolton on 14th June 2017 after 28 hours of labour and a partially assisted delivery. Her head got stuck so I ended up with an episiotomy and ventouse. Gas and air and a warm bath got me through most of it. I’d planned on an epidural but ended up just ploughing through. I wouldn’t say It was a bad experience, more that it took so long, but she came when she was ready I guess!
Immediately after birth my postpartum care was great. However, on the post-natal ward and then again once I was home that all changed. I was kept in for 2 days because they demanded to see me breastfeed my daughter. One nurse said they needed to know I would give a bottle if she didn’t take breast. I felt as though they thought I’d starve her and almost like a hostage. The health visitor wasn’t very supportive either. She never once picked up the baby and just seemed to want to tell me I was depressed and needed to address my mental state. Not sure what she based it on aside from the fact I was still in my PJs perhaps at 2 in the afternoon! I sacked her after 8 weeks.
I wish I’d known that you don’t need half the stuff you think you do. I wish I’d known that yellow Metanium cream is a god send (best bum cream ever!), that nip-lash is an actual thing, that your boobs will never feel quite right again. I wish I hadn’t been so scared of the first poop and held it in. I wish someone had told me to not have visitors and to just take some time. I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself in those early days, now I’d keep reminding myself that it does all get better. And that other mums are the best people to offer advice as they know loads of tips and tricks from trial and error. To any first-time mums out there just breathe, remember that you’re stronger than you think, it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to ask for help and at 4am there will always be another mum online feeling shit too so join a group and find them!
The scariest moment of motherhood so far for me was probably when she was around 6 weeks and got an infection. We thought it was meningitis and she had a lumbar puncture and cannulas. Nothing worse than seeing your baby go through that and not being able to do anything at all. Luckily there’s been funny times too, actually I have a new one every day and that’s the best thing about all of it.
Since becoming a mum I worry more. I have an overwhelming feeling sometimes that I’m failing despite how carefree I used to be. Life has got so much better though, she’s the best little thing and she makes me smile daily. I don’t sleep much anymore but I basically have shares in wet wipes so you know, silver linings. Truthfully though, my life has probably changed more than I realise, we’ve just sort of adapted and got on with it. I think you do, eventually you go back to work and baby goes to nursery and you just find your groove…. it takes time, but you get there.
Pam, from Yorkshire is an avid music lover and advocate for fantastic organisations such as BAP (Bands Against Poverty), as well as being a Mum and Grandmother.
My number one worst piece of advice that I ever received was to drink Guinness! But back then we didn’t even know to stop smoking, it’s been 45 years now. However, the best advice I got was to remember the labour isn’t going to go on forever!
I was two weeks over due and had to take the bus to go for an x-ray, during which I had to turn on my stomach and that’s when my waters burst! I desperately wanted to give birth in my chosen hospital not the one I was in, so begged the ambulance men to take me, they did with a dire warning that if I gave birth on the way I had to clean the ambulance! Luckily Graeme (my son) was born 8 hours later and at my chosen hospital.
I didn’t have any Post-natal visits, only a six-week check-up. Things were done very differently then.
I wish I had known back then that my waters would break, that I may have to have an enema, that I may need stitches and that I would be in hospital for up to 10 days! Which was totally normal, then.
When it came to advice I didn’t have anyone; my mother died when I was 4 so I had to learn all by myself.
The scariest moments being a mum, for me were when my eldest son had a brain tumour at 21. The fear was physically disabling, but Graeme is fine now. Another was when my youngest son chocked on a pen top at 13, I had to give him the Heimlich manoeuvre as it lodged in his lung which collapsed. Luckily despite living in the countryside and having to wait 45 minutes for the ambulance, after an op he too was fine. I just thank god I’d done a first aid course as the outcome could have been tragic otherwise.
My personal advice (from experience) to all parents would Be to accept all the help you can get, just go a bit deaf at all the reasons people give you when your baby cries, you might feel like you’re failing however, you’re not. There are no books for you and YOUR baby it’s a unique relationship so, be kind to yourself; you’re just a mum not a super human!
There are so many ways my life has changed since giving birth that it’s not possible to list them all, the best way I can try to put it is that since their arrival life’s no longer been about me it’s about my boys and always will be because that’s what being a mum is all about.
I’ve never had a go to advisor or mum crush, my mumma’s boots were too big to fill; she’s always been my hero. She died when I was 4, but she always showed me kindness, patience and unconditional love. Despite being very poorly she was never unkind. Something that was invaluable for me later in my life. I was the victim of physical abuse from the age of 6 to 15 but found the power to survive because of the love my mother installed in me; just one example of the power of a mother’s love and how important you are as a mum.
I don’t want to get into the deep, dark, details of today’s politics, but with Sure starts across the country being closed down, 6 week Postpartum check-ups no longer routinely offered at many GP surgeries and huge cuts being made within the NHS (putting increasing stress and strain upon medical staff the nation wide), today’s economic climate can be very divisive and leave many of us feeling a sense of mentally and physically being left alone and out in the cold during a time that let’s face it should have at least a wee element of rainbows and sunshine. And no matter your political stance it’s undeniable that this is simply wrong!
I think what all of us have learnt (in coming together) today is that sharing isn’t just caring, its therapeutic, educating and essential.
Get in on the debate, share your stories and show your support because none of us need or should have to do this alone!
If you’re in need of some moral support or you want to offer a helping hand why not join in with some of these groups and campaigns:
We want to hear from you (mums and dads alike), share your stories in the comments box below or for more info on any of the topics mentioned please don’t hesitate to drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A huge thank you to all the mums that took the time to come in and share their stories with us, but the awesome day we had would not have been possible had it not been for the wonderful
Jo Karran (Make-up)
and the equally brilliant
Alicia Letij (Photography).