The following post is adapted from an article I recently wrote. I am posting it as someone who follows Bishopston Mum was interested in the various types of support I have had since having children and the article was relevant. I hope you enjoy it.
‘Nearly four years ago, after a long, dark and difficult time of waiting and trying, I finally found out I was pregnant with my first child. From that moment, the biggest, most immense journey of my life began; the journey into motherhood.
From then on, this journey has been at times, and sometimes all at once, amazing, full, worrying, fraught, full-on, precious, emotional, exhausting and terrifying. Along the way, I have come into contact with many people, most of whom I would not have met if I had not been a mum. Through these people, I have had access to a tremendous network of support to help me along the way.
Through the assortment of people I met through ante-natal and post-natal classes, I have found support. Despite differences of age, background, values and a myriad of personalities, we were brought together by the one common denominator of pregnancy.
When we all had our babies, it was a relief to know that each person was going through the same experiences and feelings as me, to some greater or lesser degree, whether it be worry or sheer exhaustion.
We joked that we had a ‘3 am’ club going and it was a comfort some nights when I was awake, feeding or comforting a crying baby, to know that at least one of my new friends were probably up, at that same moment, wishing that their baby would go to sleep, too!
Several mums I met through these classes are close friends to this day, bound by our shared experience, each of whom have been fabulous sources of support. Their support ranges from being confidantes, giving advice, reassuring, inspiring and at times, babysitting.
There are also the friends made since those early days of motherhood, mums whom I have met through toddler groups and classes, and who I think will be friends in years to come.
My second child recently had an operation on her hip and is now in a plaster cast from her tummy to her ankles. I have been touched by the friends who have contacted me to offer support, whether it be with thoughts and best wishes, offers to do shopping or make meals, lending me a cloth high chair or coming over with cake!
I am lucky to have close family living nearby to support me, relieving the pressure somewhat, coming over regularly, taking the kids out, giving me that precious time to myself to write, clean or just to get back into bed and rest! My mum has given me both practical and emotional support over the years and I have become closer to her through sharing this journey with her.
I had my second child less than two years after my first and I have to admit, I really struggled for the first year. My daughter started to wake continually every night from when she was five months old. Luckily this stopped when she got to ten months but at the time I was exhausted and became very down as a result.
I will always remember one time my husband was away with work. My mum had arranged to take my daughter overnight to her house so as to give me one less child for the night and give me a bit of a break. We were talking and I admitted to her how I was feeling. As a result she asked me if I would like her to have both kids overnight rather than just one.
I agreed and I had that one night, completely to myself, no kids, no husband, just some space and one night’s unbroken sleep was the turning point for me and it made an amazing difference to how I was feeling.
There are the health professionals I have come into contact with, a whole host of people to support, guide and advise, whether it be GPs, health visitors, midwives, etc. Of all the advice I have been given by health professionals, the most useful advice was from a midwife at ante-natal classes. She told me to follow my instincts with my child and to always go with my gut feeling.
Recently, putting this advice into practice came in very useful. I had taken my fifteen month old to the GP with concerns over a difference in leg length and an odd way of walking. The GP strongly disagreed with me.
I knew that what we were seeing was not right, so we took her to another GP for a second opinion, who measured her legs, found a considerable difference in leg length and arranged for an urgent referral for a hospital appointment.
Had I not listened to my gut instincts, further damage would have been caused to my daughter’s hip over time and this would have lowered her chances of being successfully operated on in future.
Of course, there are the books and the internet to advise you on routines, sleep patterns, feeding, weaning, child health and development. Some of these I have found helpful and have used the advice offered, others I found plain confusing. When confused, I always use the advice of that midwife and go with my gut feeling on what is right for my children.
In the end, there are no hard and fast rules on what method is best for you and your baby, but you can be sure that there will always be a spectrum of opinions!
But, no matter how much support you receive from others, ultimately, it is important to support yourself. In the past, on having a window of opportunity to rest, maybe because my baby was napping, I instead would whizz around the house, seizing upon the opportunity to clean or declutter. Madness!
I certainly am wiser now. I will try and catch up with the cleaning but I will always have a cup of tea first. Then, if my baby only has a twenty minute nap, at least I will have recharged myself somewhat.
Whether you are a new or seasoned mum, be kind to yourself! Always take the opportunity to have a rest. Even if there is laundry to be done, a bathroom to be cleaned, surfaces to be wiped, carpets hoovered, etc, etc, etc…rest! Housework will wait.
I once read some advice that I thought canny. ‘Never stand when you can sit down and never sit down when you can lie down’.
Take advantage of any help you are offered. Go easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over things. No one is perfect. Often the biggest source of pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves.