Wednesday, 6 August 2014

decade of being mum

(I wrote this post a year ago and never got round to hitting publish until now, but my thoughts and feelings are still very much the same so I thought I best hit publish!) 

I was just 18 when I found out I was pregnant, but I was not like most 18 year olds. I remember not feeling much like a teenager at all, having never been the one who was into drinking or party going, I was much more of a middle aged person already. I moved out of my parents home when I was just 17, but not due to drunken teenage madness, due to crazy teenage love.

The months directly after moving in with my partner were abit surreal, for a while neither of us had jobs and we learnt the hard facts about life, money and living, no food on the table on several occasions and no one to ask made us quickly appreciate the simple things and harbour a new love for tinned tomatoes on toast.

My family were not happy about my sudden uprooting from their home, the forgotten dreams and unhappy ending in their eyes of the daughter they had amazing hopes and aspirations for quickly burnt bridges between me and them, and as such in those first few months we had no support apart from anyone except each other. Darrens family were full of their own ideas and wanting to get on with their own lives, and mine disowned we really did have to learn to fend for ourselves, and it was tough. But ever the optimist I didn't think too much about it, and instead focused on creating a business and life for ourselves the best that I could.

Within the year everything changed we had set up a shop and were renting our house from my partners parents, trying hard to pay our own way and making our own mistakes, we were carving out a family routine. All be it a bit of a manic one.

We had neither planned or tried to prevent getting pregnant, so it was neither a shock nor a surprise, the timing could have perhaps been better, and I felt in some ways far too young, and in others perfectly ready to become a mum.

Unfortunately Darrens mum passed away before we broke the news to anyone at all, and it wasn't until after her death that we told my family by then I was nearly 6 months pregnant, for those first months of my pregnancy it was just our secret and in those months, even with all the things that were changing in our world, the new exciting prospect of the future kept spurring me on.

Once the news was out however things became more real, I tried to rekindle relationships with my parents,and things did improve, but the damage that had been done and had taken its toll. It took many many more years to be more appreciative of each other again, on both our sides mine, and my parents.

So even tho we were on talking terms to my parents, to say they were supportive would perhaps not be quite right,  my midwife wasn't the nicest most supportive person either,  I tried to see her as little as possible too. Running our own business I couldn't afford to take things easy, and she couldn't really understand our lives, so for the most part I continued life as normal with just pregnancy books to work my way through what was to come.  I guess it is in these months when I become most happy not confiding in anyone at all, those who I should of been able to talk too were the ones I couldn't connect with in any way, luckily my pregnancy passed with no troubles, in fact most people had no idea I was having a baby at all until I held him in my arms.

Besides being the totally unknown, being pregnant felt perfectly natural, I remember it like it was yesterday, looking back I was totally unprepared for a baby, my relationships volatile with everyone close to me, with next to no support network around, but knowing I was soon to become a mum was a wonderful feeling, in that moment, everything else didn't matter.  I loved my baby more with every wiggle and movement, I loved and cared for this baby from the very start.

The day I went into labour was much like any other, we'd been at the shop all day, I went to pay cheques into the bank as I always did in the  afternoon, and we called into the chip shop on the way home and decided to take them to eat at my parents house.

We chatted about the imminent birth as it was my due date the very next day, but with no niggles yet I had no idea what to expect or when it might be.

We arrived home and I was tired so lay on the sofa, about 10pm I woke with a funny feeling and my waters broke in the bathroom. I must admit I was at that point scared. The reality dawned this was it.

The day our lives would change forever.

We jumped into the car grabbing our dog and heading back to my parents to drop him off there and head towards the hospital. As we drove I was feeling fine, no pain, but once we neared the hospital sheering pain shock through my back. I have a fairly high tolerance for pain but this was more painful than I had expected. We found the maternity unit and waited for a midwife, they came and chatted and didn't expect anything to happen quickly as it was my first baby, but I knew this baby was on its way, I managed to get them to take me and the pain seriously and before long I was pushing.

Then suddenly the room filled with people, with beeps and buzzes and commotion, doctors were called and I was terrified, talk of help needed and vontous or forceps. After just 3 hours in labour, at 1am, Jake was born with the help of the vontous suction cap.

The immediate love I felt was overwhelming, a perfect tiny baby which was now my soul responsibility to care for. 

We were discharged from hospital the next day as Jake was feeding well, I came home with this tiny newborn baby, with thoughts rushing through my mind, wondering if I really was ready to be a mum, would I know what to do when he needed me too, would I be able to care for him the way he deserved. I just hoped that I would.

The night passed, and I was feeling good, confident with my ability to do this, to make it work, breastfeeding, although painful, was working well, Jake fed brilliantly and I loved the way I could keep him safe and nurture him myself.

We had a slow stream of visitors that day, but by coincidence the midwife turned up when I was alone, even Darren had stepped out to the local shop, the unhelpful less than supportive midwife came in and spoke to me in a  tone of voice I doubt I'll ever forget, downgrading she made me feel like I was just a silly young girl who shouldn't really of had a baby at all. Yet I felt like the opposite, in my own home, with my partner, and baby and business I was no stranger to an 'adult' world. She came in and weighed Jake and assumed from the off I 'must be formula feeding' when I told her actually no, I was breastfeeding she didn't hide her surprise, 'oh young girls don't normally' she snapped, no supportive encouragement, no advice, no insight of what to expect.I remember being worried about bleeding after the birth,in no books had it mentioned that, and at no point had anyone sad that was normal, In fact even in the hospital I don't remember anyone taking much time to talk to me about the birth or caring for this new baby, breastfeeding wasn't discussed, it is only thanks to the books I had read prior to the birth and my own motherly instincts that helped make it successful. I'm not quite sure why but as soon as I knew I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed, again the lack of support from every avenue just spurred me on to do it anyway. The midwife weighed Jake and was again shocked to see he had put weight on, no encouragement no words of wisdom. Infact although I can't quite remember what upset me so much now, I remember her making some hurtful comments, leaving me wishing I had of had the courage to snap back at her, instead I let her walk out the door, me waving her off, then returning to the room and sobbing. She had made me feel that bad.
Thankfully she discharged us on her next visit and passed our care to the health visitor team, and I didn't mind them anywhere near as much.

The weeks passed, they quickly turned into months. Jake grew,and my bond grew increasingly strong, I fell into motherhood and loved every aspect of it. I was proud of myself for not stumbling, not relying on anyone else, carrying on and continuing against all odds. I was proud to still be breastfeeding at 9 months, much to my mums disgust, she had been a long standing negative force behind breastfeeding, much like the midwives,she even went as far to buy me bottles and formula, which I never opened! No, being mum was something I was going to do my way.

But obviously being a first time mum, knowing which way is your way isn't easy, the bad advise and lack of encouragement meant I made plenty of mistakes, I weened too early, with the chimes of 'hes a big boy he will need more than your giving him' and 'you can't be giving him anything good he needs some proper food' despite the fact he was gaining weight consistently when exclusively breastfed I  ended up starting him with baby rice and first foods at around 3 months old. But I did continue to breastfeed along side the baby food until he was 9months old, when again the 'you're not still doing THAT' are you?' finally made me think perhaps it was indeed wrong to still be breastfeeding at that age. and so I weened Jake off the breast, not because I wanted too but from peer pressure.

The months continued to pass and Jake grew before our eyes he was a joy and really did change our world, quickly after I stopped breastfeeding Jake, I fell pregnant with Chloe. Leaving just an 18 month age gap between them. The years passed and I loved having two toddlers around, they grew up together, I lavished attention on them and was the 'too kind for her own good' mum, the slightly hippy mum who let them run around barefoot and dance in the rain,  by the time I fell pregnant with Mikey 4 years after Chloe, I had firmly set my thoughts on parenting methods,  breastfeeding and weening and stood my ground much more confidently following a baby led weaning idea and allowing Mikey to self ween from the breast when he was around 20 months old. Letting him co sleep and being the all round attachment parent whos childrens started to run rings around her.

11 years have now passed and I look at Jake and wonder, now he is growing up, leaving primary school soon, embarking on the next stage of his life, what impact his childhood will have on him as an adult, what good bits he will take, and what not so good bits, life has been tough, its been volatile and temperamental with arguments between me and Darren on many occasions, arguments between family, and friends, money has been tight on many many occasions and is a constant nagging problem, we have had really bad times over the passed decade, times which hit hard and hurt more than anything, times which I thought would break us, but we got through, and its also been wonderful and better than I expected.

It's been a learning curve which I am still tying to straighten out, and learn about. Because thats the thing about being a mum, there isn't a cut off point when your job is done. My 'too soft' approach is almost coming back to bite me,  I often wonder if I have given my children too much of a free roam, constantly hoping that they will return the love and respect I try to shower them with, yet the hurtful worlds they now mutter when I do my best to curve their behaviour and shape them into respectful members of society make me question my parenting far more than the when to ween  debate ever did all them years ago. The thoughts of the future now are through the eyes of my children as I wonder if I am giving them enough opportunities to try new things,and if I can help them furfil their goals without having the money to do everything I'd wish for them.

Parenting young children - babies, preschoolers, was the time I enjoyed the most, the fun, creative times the thirst for learning in the childrens eyes, the ever wonder and love they showered on you, their care giver, gave something back for all the time and attention inputted into them.

Now the stroppy pre teen age is hard. The 'I already know everything' attitude is a tough one, no longer eager to sit and create masterpieces from cardboard tubes and sticky tape. No longer hanging on your every word, now old enough to want to see the adult world, but too young to understand the troubles that go along with it.

This is the hardest stage to parent, the one where I find myself once again wondering where to find the support network. And once again I feel left without the help and encouragement, this time even more on my own, with not as many books or information available about what to do once your children hit this age. Most parenting books are all about when to ween, potty train and teach numbers and letters. But what happens after that? you certainly don't stop parenting, infact thats when being a parent really begins.

And those thoughts I had when I held my first born for the very first time, those thoughts if I would know what to do when I needed too, are ever present as I constantly wonder if the decisions I make now are the right ones, in fact the decisions that effect the 11 year old boy are harder to make than those decisions for my tiny newborn who I could hold safe in my arms.

But as much as things have grown, changed and adapted there is one thing which never will and that's my love for all my children and my hope that my best will be enough.

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