I had always imagined ‘motherhood’ would just come to me, and once I’d had a child everything would simply fall into place and I’d be planning on the next one….but that’s not quite what happened!
After a 4 year battle with infertility, and having to accept this may not happen for us, finding out I was pregnant was a welcomed surprise.
And then within a blink of an eye I was sat in the recovery room after my c-section, waiting to be reunited with my daughter.
As she was handed to me, I was suddenly filled with joy that I was finally a ‘mum’ and I thought it would only get better each day as motherhood progressed. And as much as things did eventually get easier, and we developed a routine, I never quite felt like a ‘mum’.
Two years on, and I still don’t feel like a ‘mum’. I’m not actually sure what a mother is meant to feel like, but for some reason in my head I had always thought I would feel differently somehow. I had heard so many people talk about this sudden rush of love for their newborns, and I hadn’t felt like that.
I also heard so many people talk about how they loved the baby years, and if I’m honest with you, I struggled through them too.
I felt a sense of relief when she learnt “yes” and “no”, when she started to crawl, when she started to walk, and when she started to take my hand to lead me to whatever she wanted or to show me something that had happened.
And it made me smile when she started helping me out, passing me the pillows when she saw me tidying the bed, emptying the shopping bags when I was putting things away, tidying up her toys when it was time to go out.
Throughout her baby years, I have longed for the days to pass so she could be more independent, so she could lead and she could explain, and so her own little personality could shine.
Because I could never decipher her tears and her cries, and I never quite understood what she was asking me when she was a lot younger. And there were times where I felt like I had failed her, especially as I didn’t feel that magical connection and I didn’t feel like a ‘mum’.
We were told our daughter had congenital heart defects in the first 24hrs of her life. A time that was meant to be happy and exciting, was suddenly a time of great worry.
Within 6 weeks her health had worsened, her feeding and breathing became difficult, and she kept losing weight. The distress of trying to feed and breathe simultaneously meant often she would just be sick everywhere, and eventually would even struggle to drink a couple of ounces at a time.
We were constantly on high alert, exhausted, and stressed and it really wasn’t any fun. Everything felt like an uphill battle, and took out every ounce of energy we had, and the only way I got through it was by repeatedly reminding myself that “the days are long, but the years are short” – and on some days, even that reminder didn’t help.
I went back to work after her surgery, 7 months before my maternity leave was initially due to end, and suddenly the days became lighter again.
But this time, I felt guilty for not feeling guilty.
The only question I was asked was how difficult it felt leaving my child at home to come back to work. I was comforted and people said they empathised, and told me I had nothing to feel guilty about, as some sacrifices had to be made for the greater good. And even though it may feel like I had left a part of me at home, it would get easier with time.
Initially I didn’t even pretend that’s how I felt, I said I felt relieved, and that I didn’t feel guilty or as though a part of me was missing, but I saw the hidden looks of disapproval and I changed what I said to fit into the cultural norms.
I pretended it was tough, when actually I was looking forward to getting ready and leaving for work each morning. I nodded anytime someone asked if I missed her during the day, and I showed the pictures, and I told the stories of how she was progressing whenever someone asked if she was on my mind.
And there it was again, that feeling of not feeling like other mums out there, who were clearly far more connected to their children, and still full of all this love and emotion that I simply couldn’t tap into.
And then one day, she turned 1, and was finally off her post-op medication, and everything seemed to be falling into place when lockdown happened. So where the first year of her life was spent in and out of hospitals and doctors surgeries, her second was going to be spent very firmly at home.
But by this time I was also going to be at home too, as all our work moved online.
And as the days turned to weeks, and the weeks turned to months, and the months have turned into a year, I’ve seen her grow, and play, and learn and have banked so many memories of those moments of joy she has brought me.
The restrictions placed because of the pandemic, freed me up to be a “working mother from home”, and allowed me the gift of time with my daughter and the chance to witness all her firsts and celebrate these milestones with her and my husband.
But this didn’t stop the challenges of parenting. The fact that she knew I was home but unavailable when she wanted me just made her cries more frequent, and her more clingy, and she started to follow me every time I left the room. And this also meant any time I needed the bathroom, or have a shower, she would either sit outside and cry for me, or refuse to let me close the door, so she could see exactly where I was and stand there asking me how long I would be.
So when the birthday messages started pouring in, and people kept saying how time had flown by, I made sure I told them that it most certainly hadn’t, and that the days were truly long, but the years have felt longer.
As I’m sat here writing this, you may wonder if 2 years on I feel like a ‘mum’, and my answer is I’m not sure.
I do feel like someone special, and someone responsible, and someone who knows how to make her giggle. I’ve also learnt who she is and who she’s becoming, and how this changes all the time. And I’ve accepted that most of the time, I’m making it all up as I go!
And maybe that’s all it is to feel like a mum, and even if it’s not, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is still okay.
Happy birthday little one, and long may you shine. Love Mama. 💖