Life BC (Before Children)
I often think back to the days prior to having kids and wonder what exactly it was that I did with my spare time or come to think of it my spare finances. I sure didn’t save any pennies back then that’s for sure! What the hell did I do B.C (before children)?
Becoming a Mother or a Father, a parent should I say certainly changes people. No longer are you able to fully focus on your own desires or dreams because you now have a little person to look after, you are now responsible for another life.
Your hopes, your dreams, your ambitions, your desires … None of it really matters anymore as it’s no longer about you, it’s all about that little person/ people, that/those little being/s that you have brought into the World.
There is no being selfish anymore, there is no last-minute ‘sod it’ moments or ‘fuck it I’ll do what I fancy’ flashes. The World no longer revolves around you as an individual, it revolves around you as a parent and your family as a unit.
You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone
With this in mind I have often pondered as to what kind of parent I am. I remember falling pregnant back in 2007 and frantically phoning my folks to let them know the news half expecting my Father to fly off the handle but hoping otherwise. He didn’t say an awful lot, in actual fact he put the phone down and told me he’d ring me back when he’d had time to think.
Both Paul and I sat in shock as neither of us were expecting to be expecting but we weren’t entirely against the idea and over time we became excited and began looking forward to the idea of parenthood.
My folks were actually very supportive given a few hours to absorb the news. We began shopping for baby bits, maternity wear and such like despite my Father being slightly concerned as to whether I made for good Mother material.
It was only when it was all taken away from us that I realised just how badly I wanted it. Twelve weeks may seem like a short space of time to some but let me assure you, its long enough to grow attached to an idea, to begin making plans for the future, to fall in love and to have your heart shattered into a thousand pieces.
As Joni Mitchell once said “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, those words haunted me for some time following our miscarriage. As many do, I blamed myself for our loss. Thankfully I learnt to let go, I learnt to love and I learnt to live again.
First Time Parenting
A year or so later we were once again blessed by those two little lines and we tentatively began making plans for our second chance. We were lucky, despite the pregnancy from hell and some serious scares along the way we were given our rainbow baby, our J.
It was only in the later stages of pregnancy that I actually accepted that I would indeed be a Mother, what did that mean exactly? I hadn’t got a clue about being a parent but I was certainly willing to give it a go! Like lots of women I collected dozens of books covering pregnancy, labour, birth, breast-feeding, sleep training, weaning and all the rest of the mumbo jumbo baby based books that have made millions from first time parents desperate for answers.
Sure, there was a few things I learnt from reading those books, mainly to stay well away from them and to trust my gut instinct. It wasn’t long after having J that Paul and I ran into trouble with feeding issues, J simply wasn’t willing to latch on and despite dabbling with all kinds of tips and tricks it simply wasn’t working for us and I gave myself a massive guilt complex for being a useless Mother.
Thankfully my family and friends stepped in quickly to save the day, we were setup with formula feeding and after swearing at the steriliser a few times I figured out the basics and we were getting along swimmingly. It was then that the sleepless nights began to affect us, Paul and I were so exhausted we could barely function. Once again I found that whilst there was a library full of books dictating nonsense on sleep training and such like the best way forward was simply to follow our son and to go with the flow whilst ignoring the endless interjections from randomers desperate to dictate their advice to us.
Other than selecting and following a few recipes from books upon weaning I didn’t bother reading any further baby babble. I was sick to the back teeth of being told ‘how to do things properly’ because quite frankly so long as both Mother & Baby are happy then there’s no right or wrong in my eyes.
I surprised my folks by switching to cloth nappies fairly early in the game. They seemed pretty stunned that I was happy to get elbow deep in shit, I’d much rather that than deal with bins full of crappy nappies which are going to end up in land fill. Shortly after spending a small fortune on bamboo nappies and wraps I then switched to cloth wipes which I made and prepared by hand, I then parked up the pram and began ‘baby wearing’ as wearing a wrap seemed to make life a little easier for both J and I as I was able to get on with my chores whilst being close to J resulting in peace for the pair of us.
It was around this time that someone suggested I was a ‘attached parent’. I wasn’t entirely sure what they meant by ‘attached parenting’ but after googling the term I found that perhaps other than breast-feeding as it went tits up quite literally I seemed to fit the bill. I did indeed use cloth nappies, co-sleep and baby wear and I certainly didn’t sleep train or ever use the cry it out method as I find it both cruel for parents and children or anyone else involved or within close proximity.
I wasn’t really sure whether I was entirely happy with being labelled, I’ve never really fallen into any stereotype as such and I certainly wasn’t going to start then! I decided that whichever form of parenting I may or may not have chosen to follow wasn’t guided by previous parents nor was it learnt from a book, it was simply gathered by following our son and his needs at the time.
Second Time Around
Skip forward four years and along came our daughter, the total opposite to our son both in gender and personality. Not happy with being breast-fed either E soon moved onto a bottle which she decided she’d vomit all over us within minutes each feed. We soon discovered E suffered with reflux and shortly after giving us a minor heart attack as we flew in an ambulance to the local A&E department we found that she also had ‘benign sleep myoclonus’, a rare sleep condition designed purely to put parents on edge.
E slept upon a special mat designed to detect her pulse and breathing, an alarm would sound if either dropped or worse, stopped. I clearly remember one god awful night when the alarm rang out and I leapt from the bed, adrenalin pumping through my system only to see our little lady had wriggled up her moses basket and off said mat setting the alarm bells ringing and my heart racing.
E has always kept us on our toes, no baby book would ever quite cover the advice required to care for our young lady. Having spent up on bundles of beautiful, pink cloth nappies we found that E was allergic to the material and would actually hold herself from using them forcing us to turn to ‘despicable disposables’. The hours spent making hand-made purees were wasted as E spat each and every one of them other than pear or apple across our kitchen from her high chair.
Said high chair was thrown into a skip shortly after E discovered how to do a ‘Houdini’ at only six months old. Her perfect pine cot was also added to the skip as she learnt how to climb from the very bottom setting (which most children are unable to escape from until at least two years of age) over the bars and then dive bomb onto the carpet landing with a thud at 3am frightening both Paul and I stiff.
Most parents would agree that second time around things seem a lot easier and in some respects I agree with this entirely but as E had other ideas I soon found that being a Mother second time around was far from a trip in the park. It certainly made me realise just how easy I had it with J and anything that I may have learnt first time around may as well have been screwed in a ball and thrown over my shoulder as I found myself learning all over again with our little lady.
E has never been one to live a quiet life, she is literally the life and the soul of the party. J adapted very quickly to becoming a big brother and although there is a four-year age gap I am fairly certain that our little lady is already in command. She has mastered the art of delegation, bribery and blackmail very quickly and as such is literally ‘bossing’ being a total Princess.
Looking Back – What Kind Of Mother Am I?
So here I am years later, two children down the line and if I’m honest Motherhood hasn’t just changed me, it’s transformed me. Whether I’m an attached parent, a child centered parent, a positive parent, a terrible parent or god knows what other kind of parent stereotypes are out there… I’m just me!
I’m just a Mum who wants the very best for my kids but also needs a bit of balance here and there. There are good days, there are bad days and there are all the days in-between and each and every one of them I’ll happily admit I am winging it! There may be billions of baby books out there but not a single one of them will ever give you the answers to perfect parenting as there is no such thing!
I love both of our children dearly but dear god have they changed me over the years, actually come to think of it they have changed ‘us’. We are no longer bored of an evening, we are utterly exhausted! Our pennies are no longer spent on nights out, meals or new clothes well maybe a little but our wallets are usually empty these days as we tend to throw every last penny towards the kids and their endless requirements.
I wouldn’t have it any other way though, life is far richer with love in your heart than money in your pocket.