Category: Uncategorised

Being a Mumless Mum on Mother’s Day

As soon as I hear the pathetic adverts trying to flog anything a woman may ever be interested in, with the tag line, “The Perfect Gift for Mother’s Day” usually over the dulcet tones of ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Westlife, I know it will start.

Friends complain about the burden of being commercially forced into buying a cheap card and supermarket flowers to give to their Mum. Blissfully unaware of how much that makes me hate them. How I’d give anything to suffer that inconvenience. How I wish my boy could take his Grandma a card and some hurriedly hand-picked daffodils.

I’ll subtly leave the room when colleagues discuss what they’re buying for their Mums and where they’re taking them for a seasonally overpriced Afternoon tea. I find any excuse to escape before someone asks me and I have to give the room-silencing response of, “Actually, my Mum died… But it’s OK, I’ll take some flowers to her grave.”

My beautiful Mum died nearly 6 years ago from a brain haemorrhage. Because of that, this time of year instantly makes me feel heartbroken, but, although I wish it was so easy, it shouldn’t.

Being a Mumless Mum means that Mother’s Day is unbearably sad. But it will always be a little bit more special too.

Experiencing the excruciating loss of a Mother puts me in an exclusive position to understand exactly what a massive role that is in life. And to be that person to someone, to be their absolute everything, is the most precious thing in this world. The conflicted feelings are agonising… Being distraught about missing your own Mum, while ecstatic and thankful about being a Mum is something extraordinarily unique.

I will shed a tear over her every year, she will be the first thing I think of when I wake up on the day. And so she should be. I’m proud of my tears because she is worth it.

Above all, I have to allow myself to feel lucky. Because I know that the indescribable love I feel for her, is felt for me too.

My Wildest Dreams Vs. The Harsh Reality

Just like most people who do this ‘Momblogging’ thing, I started because I was inspired so much by those who do it the best.

I was inspired because I got so much comfort (more than I can possibly begin to express actually), from knowing that I wasn’t the only parent who regularly found my kid annoying, who hated far too many aspects of motherhood, and who missed the pre-Mum life so very much. The thought that I could, just maybe, provoke the same overwhelmingly tear-jerking emotions of relief, happiness and reinstated self-worth is incredible. If I only had one person read my blog, but that one person had the same reaction I did as a result of my crazy thoughts, I would have a bigger sense of achievement than I’ve ever had in my current 11 year career.

At least one person in my life had told me I’m ‘sometimes a bit funny’, I am a real fan of grammar and I’m not afraid to share far too much personal information… so I thought, why not?!

I wrote my first post and instantly fell in love.

The excitement of buying lovely stationery, making endless lists, setting up brand new social media accounts and my very own website was a mere perk for a nerd like me. The best thing… it was like bloody therapy! I loved being able to express everything I’d ever thought as a parent without fear of judgement as I had made the decision to use an alias… (seriously, who do I think I am?). But I wanted it to be a secret so I could be honest in my writing, and also because I knew from the beginning, deep down, that it would amount to nothing and I was just setting myself up for a lifetime of piss-taking such as, “Do you remember that time you tried to be a blogger?!” to endless pointing and laughing.

I wrote a few more posts, steadily building my Twitter following to the dizzy heights of a few hundred thanks to the wonder that is hashtags and the odd retweet. Every time I wrote something new, I allowed myself to believe that it could be ‘it’… my big break.

After a month or two, I read about a competition for new bloggers, where you submit a recent post and 5 successful bloggers would choose a winner each to write a paid piece for a website. So I entered on the off chance and my favourite woman in the whole world (to whom I have no physical or personal connection whatsoever) chose me as her winner. I literally cried (once I saw my name as a winner on the website and knew it wasn’t a scam), and I cannot say how important that was for me. The first thing I did was tell my closest friends and family because I didn’t need to feel embarrassed anymore. This time, it really was ‘it’. This was going to change everything. I’d get a call the next day from 10 publishers who would offer me big money to write a book, plus several cool cult movie directors would obviously want me to write and star in a film of my ordinary life.

Somewhat shockingly, that wasn’t the case.

A couple of friends called me and congratulated me. They said they were surprised by what I had done (in a good way, I think) and told me they loved it. Don’t get me wrong, that was nice… but it didn’t feel enough. My best friend called and asked the question I pretended I hadn’t thought about… “What would you do if it came to a decision between writing and your job?”. I brushed it off as ridiculous. I said it would never come to that. But really, I had already had the conversation in my head with my boss a thousand times about having to leave work to do what I loved because I just had to try.

I admire the lives of the successful bloggers. I know a couple of people who have had the guts to give up the safety net of a secure job that your heart isn’t really in to pursue a real dream… something creative, something they have a real passion for, something risky… One of those ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ type careers.

But I’m not there… I don’t believe I really love my job, in fact I still wake up in the morning and get that ‘Urgh’ feeling. But it isn’t a dead end, it’s an actual career, with very real and massive prospects. I’ve worked incredibly hard to take it as far as I possibly can, from teenage trainee to the boss with pretty much all the qualifications going. I do get a sense of achievement from it and without question, it is the most sensible thing in which to progress and give my all.

I have accepted that blogging will never be my career. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will sadly never be invited to Waterstones for my book signing or hold auditions for who will play me in a film. I can’t give this thing the attention it needs, nor am I not clever, funny or talented enough to make it a real thing. I still don’t fully understand what a linky is, or how people actually manage to make a living from it. And that’s OK…

I love that I have something just for me that I’m not totally horrible at. I love that I finally have a hobby other than housework. And I love that for the most part, it’s still my little secret.

I know now that I’m doing this for the right reasons… for my sanity, for my indoor social life, for the off chance that I might make someone laugh or cry, and for my pride.

But I’m not hurting anyone by holding on to my wildest dreams though, right?

The Supermarket Tantrum

This week, I heard of a glorious interview with Kristen Bell (or Anna off Frozen, as most parents will know her). In a conversation about parenting, she said “If my child is acting a fool in the grocery store, the embarrassment is on her. In truth, that shouldn’t make me feel a certain way”.

I bloody love that. It really got me thinking though. Firstly, about how awesome she is to have such a relaxed and shockingly reasonable attitude to the infamous supermarket tantrum. But also how in that scenario, it is unjustifiably the parent who is automatically made to feel an arse rather than the little bastard throwing potatoes down the veg aisle. I’m ashamed to say that I have in fact been guilty of such judging. But that all changed when it was my turn…

I am very fortunate in that I’ve only ever been subject to one supermarket tantrum at the hands of my low maintenance son. On that fateful day, he’d been a little shit from the second he got up, and due to a lack of other options, I had no choice but to take him with me to Tesco. We were wandering round aimlessly, then to my horror, right in front of us I clocked a stand rammed with a brand new super spanking range of Paw Patrol toys. Of course he’d spied it too.

He wanted Marshall’s Fire Fightin’ Truck and wasn’t going to take No for an answer.

So he screamed, he shouted, he cried, he kicked and he threw things. I immediately opted for my go-to response… blackmail. “If you don’t pack it in, no party at the weekend”, “No ice cream at the park if you keep this up” etc. Still he continued. I tried again reasoning with him, but to no avail. I tried ignoring him and walking away, but still no success.

At this point, I started to panic. The crowd was growing and I just needed him to shut the fuck up and calm down. So I shouted at him, which obviously just made the screaming louder and more intense. So as a last resort I dragged him away by his arm, chucked him in the car and drove home in tears.

I was so upset… humiliated at his behaviour and at my response. But most of all, I was embarrassed by the tuts, the shakes of the head and the smug glances with an overwhelming air of ‘I’d never allow my child to behave like that’.

Well the truth is that you can be the best parent in the world, but sometimes kids will just be arseholes… because they’re kids and that’s what they do, and there is bugger all you can do to stop them (apart from buying the fucking truck).

Now, I’m not saying that the correct course of action is to verbally abuse the kid kicking up a stink, but just bear a thought for the unfortunate Tantrumee, who clearly hasn’t instructed or encouraged this behaviour in any way. Don’t be a twat and judge. Because we have no idea what goes on. No one knew that my son had already made me cry twice on the day of his public meltdown. They didn’t know that I had already tried reasonably and calmly pacifying him before forcibly removing him from public view.

What I wouldn’t have given for a fist bump from a fellow parent, for a nod, for a sympathetic ‘don’t worry, we’ve all been there’.

We’re all just doing our best with our little bastards and an act of kindness would have made my day. In fact, to quote the hosts of our showdown, every little helps. So next time you see a kid having a public tantrum and an exhausted looking parent despairingly trying to sort it out, I urge you to leave the twatiness behind, for all our sakes.

Dear Pregzilla…

Dearest Facearse,

As we get older, the natural progression is to get married and have kids, meaning that friends become a slightly smaller aspect of our lives. I think about my friends now and of course I love them, I really do. I make a real effort to see them and spend time with them… we catch up and laugh over shared stories, but I feel like we don’t really know what happens in each other’s lives. There’s a thing with adults where there’s always a bit of a facade.

It makes me think of when we were young. I don’t think I so much as had a shit without telling you about it. We shared everything, often in Egg Language, whether the other person wanted to hear it or not. And now I am beyond excited that my gorgeous friend will soon become an amazing Mummy (and I desperately hope that your love will eventually manifest itself in the form of grey leather elbow patches).

So here are my pearls of wisdom, all the things I think you should be warned of before you embark on this amazing experience. It’s just for you, based on my extensive 4 and a half year’s experience of rearing 1 low maintenance child… You’re welcome. Love you lots like Jelly Tots (IDST). xxx

 

  1. I’m sure you have been told that labour hurts, which is true. So don’t listen to those weirdos who say it’s a life-changingly euphoric experience. It isn’t, it’s fucking awful. HAVE AN EPIDURAL. Anyway, the pain is one thing. But then there’s the complete lack of dignity too. You may recall from an earlier blog post that not only was I essentially fisted by a friend’s Mum, but also a Doctor actually sniffed the gusset of my knickers. A few hours in and you will be totally accustomed to flinging your legs akimbo for any Tom, Dick or Harry who opens your curtains (if you’ll pardon the pun). In hindsight, that’s kind of really not OK.
  2. Once you’re home after pushing a human from your fadge, things aren’t actually much rosier. Your foof hurts (and bleeds) for ages afterwards. Oh, and about 3 days after you give birth, your ‘milk comes in’. That basically means that your tits look and feel like a breeze block. They’re heavy, uncomfortable and mean that you won’t get comfy enough to sleep… although baby’s probably doing a good job of preventing rest anyway. Then, once all that’s over, for the rest of your life, you’ll be fighting your bladder. You’ll wee when you sneeze. And laugh. And go trampolining. But I’ve noticed that when I’m about to sneeze, I automatically clench my pelvic floor now so I’m sure you’ll learn to do the same. Finally, you might always be a bit fat, assuming you don’t have a squillion pounds to spend on a Personal Trainer and dietician. Even if you manage to lose weight, you’ll always have the ‘Mum paunch’. Clearly as a chubber, I’m no expert… So if running, spin class and Zumba work for you, that’s brilliant! If you find time, you’re a fucking genius.
  3. Nothing will prepare you for how bat-shit crazy you’ll be. You’ll watch your baby sleep for well over an hour without realising it, just making sure their chest is moving up and down. You will constantly envisage horrendous accidents when you carry your baby downstairs or get in the car, you won’t be able to cope with any sad news stories about children, and you will find yourself consulting Dr. Google 17 times a day and making excessive unnecessary trips to A&E. You’ll feel guilty about every decision you make. And not just the big stuff like going back to work, I mean the tiny irrelevant stuff too, like what time she goes to bed and what she eats. And you can’t win (against you). You’ll always hate yourself. Sorry.
  4. You’re never on your own. Even when you poo. For some reason, my little Delight will gladly walk in on me on the toilet, in the shower, anywhere. But when Daddy’s enjoying a dump, he’s allowed to do so in peace. It gets a bit much at times. Especially when you’re trying to do a load of washing with a tiny person clutching your cankle. The shittiest time to have your offspring as a noisy shadow is when you’re hungover. There are no words to describe the pain… You’re sitting on the bathroom floor in nothing but yesterday’s knickers, hugging the toilet, wretching away… and an irritatingly loud voice shouts “What are you doing Mummy?”. And there’s no sleeping it off, unless you can nap while someone shoots you with a Nerf gun and turns your face into a train track. The most ridiculous thing about never being alone though, is that if you do manage to steal just a few precious moments to yourself… you bloody miss them. It’s pathetic.
  5. You will never be patient enough. There will always be a stupid, tiny, ridiculous thing they do to piss you off beyond belief. Whether it’s crying, taking too long to put on their shoes, talking too much, or generally just being there. It sounds awful, and it feels awful. You scream something completely non-sensical like, “FOR THE LAST TIME, GET YOUR FINGERS OUT OF YOUR BUMHOLE!”, then look at their devastated little face and feel horrendous for not letting them just do whatever they want whenever they want.  Then in 2 minutes you’ll lose your rag again. Hence the term… Mum Guilt.
  6. Most importantly, it’s the BEST thing in the world. Never forget how lucky you are, and what a fantastic job you do.

 

Confessions of a Non-Maternal Mum

Every inch of me is non-maternal. Although I always imagined that by the age of 25, I’d magically transform into a Marge Simpson/ Kirstie Alsopp hybrid creation of motherly awesomeness, that sadly didn’t happen. Even when I fell pregnant, I found myself weighing up the few pros of parenthood versus the numerous huge inconveniences.

Selfish as that sounds, that doesn’t mean that I am incompetent and unloving as a parent. Not having the skill to bake individual fruit pies and handcraft mantelpiece ornaments does not mean that I don’t absolutely derangedly adore my son. I’ve been utterly besotted and obsessed with him since the second he was born- despite him initially being a bit weird-looking and me being distinctly pissed off about my blindingly painful nether regions… (26 stitches, in case you were wondering).

My son is now 4 and has just started school. I have a full-time job that I love and in which I want to progress as far as I possibly can. Because of my career aspirations, my son spends the equivalent of a whole day per week with child minders. He eats more chicken nuggets and biscuits than a lot of parents would deem to be appropriate and in fact because of his fussiness, he rarely has the same evening meal as us. He has a tablet as well as books and toys, and sometimes he’s allowed to stay up way past his bedtime so we can watch a film or build a train set. Our Christmas decorations were bought from the supermarket, not crafted at home as a family activity while we all wear festive knitwear.

But why does any of that matter when he is happy, healthy and has a Mummy and Daddy who love him?

Women like me are so lucky to live in a time when it’s not socially compulsory to give up your aspirations and change your character to fit a stereotype just because you also want to bear children. No longer does a woman need to spend her days in a floral pinny, gliding around the family home with a duster while a homemade loaf of bread bakes in the oven.

It’s OK to have dreams that are only for you. It’s OK to not comment on every photo on Facebook of strange-looking kids on their first day of school. It’s OK to not attend every crap event hosted by the Parent Association. Because none of that is really important.

What is important is to ensure that you are happy being you. A happy parent is a happy child. So if, like me, you are a Non-Maternal Mother, play The Parenting Game your way and take advantage of the new normal.

Non-Maternal Mums unite and be proud!

Anxiety- Part of the Parental Package?

I often ponder if it’s possible that I may have an actual diagnosable mental condition. Or if the utterly ridiculous feelings and anxieties I experience every day are actually normal parental behaviour.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, my ‘worst case scenario’ head was firmly screwed on, and unfortunately it’s still not loosened even a tiny bit 5 years later. As a hormonal Pregzilla, I was always in a panic. “It’s snowing… What if I fall and hurt the baby?”. “What if a small glass of champagne on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (the only alcoholic drink which passed my lips as an expectant Mum) causes some horrific birth defect?” I obsessed over statistics. Reading that 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage meant that we were too scared to tell anyone we were having a baby. A 1 in 4 chance that our little peanut wouldn’t make it- and we couldn’t risk putting more people through that than necessary. 1 in 160 chance of a stillborn child, 1 in 33 chance of a birth defect… I decided that if I constantly contemplated the worst, I couldn’t possibly be disappointed, a mantra which I struggle to shake off.

I remember going on maternity leave, before the baby came. I would be home alone, sitting on the nursery floor cradling my bump, sobbing my heart out, terrified at the thought that my precious boy wouldn’t make it. And then when it came to his time to make an appearance, a traumatic labour didn’t help much… The poor thing had his cord wrapped round his neck. But once he was born and the hoard of medical staff had attended to him on a resuscitation table, they passed him to me. And in that moment I felt overwhelmingly that everything was OK, because he was OK. I felt calm, still, and like I wanted to sleep, because for the first time in 8 months, I could sleep without worrying.

That gloriously euphoric feeling lasted for about 12 seconds, then came a whole new level of panic.

Everything changes when your baby is born. As a single non-parent, I used to watch fundraisers like Children In Need and while I comprehended that it was sad, I didn’t really feel anything. Fast forward a few years, and I had to go to bed in the middle of Stand Up To Cancer because I couldn’t bear watching the stories. I was beyond normal crying and into the headache-inducing, snotty wailing. I then couldn’t sleep for worrying about the fact that 1 in 2 people will get cancer in their lifetime, and I prayed (as a strict atheist that was a big deal) that it would be me and not my husband or my son. After an hour or so, I think I finally drifted off thanks to Googling symptoms of cancer in children and deciding that I probably didn’t have to worry quite so much just yet.

I see now how my general insanity has affected my boy. If I’m honest, he’s a bit of a pansy. But can I really be surprised? The poor lad can’t even break into a run without me telling him he’ll fracture all his limbs. He’s ended up in an ambulance or at least at A&E every time he has a cold. Now he’s 4, I finally reluctantly agreed to take down the baby gates, but still refuse to allow him in water for fear he’ll sink and drown.

I can’t fathom the reasoning of the easygoing parents who say things like, “boys will be boys” and who think that falling in the park is good for them, rather than screaming bloody murder and dramatically sprinting to their rescue as if they had been hit by an artic lorry.

Unfortunately for my little one, I can’t change. I wish that I didn’t get a heart-wrenching feeling of dread every time I see a missed call from school. And I wish that on a lazy Sunday morning, I didn’t have to run to his bedroom to make sure his chest is moving up and down, just because he’s not awake by 8.00am. Sadly though, that’s just me. I will always be ridiculously over-protective.

So to my lovely son, I can only apologise for the wussiness. I accept full responsibility.

The Second Child Debate

As a recently married happy couple with one gorgeous four year old son who we love more than anything, we are constantly asked, “When’s the next one coming then?”

I hate that question.

In this oh-so familiar scenario, I normally shrug uncomfortably and say I’m not sure we’ll bother. Then once I’m alone with my husband and wine-soaked, I yell, “I WANT ANOTHER BABY!” But in truth, I don’t know if I do.

I loved being pregnant. And I love the idea of another baby. I reeeally love the thought of a year off work. But in reality? I’m not so sure.

 

In honesty, I think we have probably waited too long now. We’re over the dirty nappies and the sleepless nights. We even have ornaments in the house again. The thought of going back to being an exhausted grumpy mess with greasy hair makes me want to immediately run upstairs for an uninterrupted shower, which I can now enjoy every day thanks to Thomas and Friends on Series Link.

And what about our careers? Both of us have big things coming up work-wise and, while I’m aware that it is ever so slightly illegal to discriminate against a pregnant lady, I do believe it still happens, although probably without poor intention. I have only within the last year reverted to full time work and although I have hated myself every day for it, my career has flourished in that time. Would another baby have a negative impact on that? Also, we’re more financially stable than we’ve ever been (which is still not very), but we don’t earn anywhere near enough to save anything by the end of the month. Do we really want to go back to scrimping and saving every day and having frozen pizza for our evening meal?

We have also been incredibly lucky when it comes to childcare. I feel it would be unreasonable and unfair of us to assume that we would get the same help again, allowing us to still earn a decent amount at zero expense to us. As everyone knows, looking after children, especially someone else’s, is not easy at the best of times, and several friends have told us that although you can’t get rid of people when your first-born arrives, no one really gives a crap with the second.

As well as the practicalities, I also worry about my emotional capacity. I love my son an absolutely indescribable amount- but would I feel so strongly again? Would every single kick, gurgle and tooth be so special the second time around? I always recall my mother-in-law telling me about her three sons. The eldest had a detailed baby book, completed in its entirety including photos, essays documenting every second from conception to school, lost teeth and locks of hair stuck down with sellotape, bloody everything. The second child’s baby book was, by her own admission, a bit half-arsed. The main bits like significant dates were filled in, but there were far fewer photos and no lost body parts. The youngest son had no baby book. I obviously understand that a mother’s love isn’t measured in completed pages of baby book, but it seems kind of unfair and is the exact kind of thing I worry about.

And how would Baby no. 2 affect Baby no. 1? Sure, at times I think he’d benefit from a younger sibling. It could help with the tantrums when he loses a game or is, heaven forbid, asked to actually share something. But what if he didn’t bond with the baby, what if he wanted a boy and it was a girl, what if he got jealous of me spending time with the baby while he was at school? I don’t want to do anything to make him feel anything other than cherished.

The reason I hate the ‘next baby’ question is the assumption that there’s something missing from our family, that we’re somehow incomplete. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of our friends and family have said that the second child is the best thing they ever did- and that’s great for them. But if it never happens for us, that’s OK. That’s OK because we are already so happy- we are already complete. I’m sure another child would be amazing, but so would our perfect family staying just as it is.

Labour- Knickers and Dignity not needed

After a relatively uneventful pregnancy, bar daily sickness and serious Pinot Grigio withdrawal, I went for a routine midwife appointment two days before my due date. On arriving, I laid on the table while the midwife asked if I was sick of being pregnant yet and told me she didn’t envy me in this heat -Cheers Shirley, feel loads better now.

Following lots of (what I now appreciate to be completely non-intrusive) prodding and poking of my bump, she started asking me about movements and then quietly picked up her phone and rang the hospital to make me an emergency appointment. I remained quite calm (so I thought anyway) as she explained to me that I shouldn’t worry but it seemed that the baby hadn’t grown since my last appointment.

I waddled down to the bus stop in silence and got on the first of two buses to hospital. There were no seats and no one offered me the chance to sit down, but I really couldn’t give a shit. I had a sudden realisation, that much as I didn’t want to, I should probably call my boyfriend at work to let him know what was going on. I played it down massively, and told him there was no need to come along because everything was fine. Fortunately he must have seen through my hysteric tone because he arrived at the hospital about five minutes after me.

Next came about 84 hours of waiting. I love a bit of people watching and I’ve got to say, that day was particularly good. There was a woman, who was not even five feet tall, carrying at least quadruplets (in our game anyway) who waddled in to the waiting area ten minutes after her husband, who had clearly grown weary of waiting around for her and walked at a reasonable pace, while she stopped for several ‘comfort breaks’ from the car up to the correct department.

Once we were called through, the good news was a healthy heartbeat. The bad news was an unannounced stretch and sweep. After I had put my pants back on and recovered from an apparently entirely legal sexual assault, I was told to come in on Friday morning to have my baby… “Sorry, MY WHAT?” For some reason, the end result of my pregnancy being a baby was a complete shock to me, especially from the mouth of a healthcare professional. We were sent home to prepare and generally shit ourselves.

The next couple of days were uneventful really, other than the joy that was ‘The Show’- thank you stretch and sweep. Despite repeatedly being told that ‘when it happens, you know’, I wasn’t sure so made the mistake of Googling it. I found that firstly, my suspicions were founded and secondly, I got off lightly.

On Friday morning, we both woke up so bloody early, like, still dark in summer early. We were told to phone the Labour Ward as early as we could to check that a bed was available so we rang at 7.00am. They confirmed we could go straight down so we called our designated driver- my cousin. She is late for everything, including our wedding we have since discovered, so by the time we got there, it was 9.00am.

We got to our bed and I downloaded Spider Solitaire on my phone, while the boyfriend bought some reading material from the gift shop and complained about “bloody hospital prices”. After a short while, we were introduced to the lady who was inducing me. She looked familiar but it wasn’t until she was almost elbow deep wedging a surprisingly sharp pessary up my foof that I realised her daughter is a friend of mine. “How’s Sarah?” I asked, through gritted teeth, while the other half awkwardly smirked.

Next came hours and hours of waiting, throughout which I wasn’t allowed to leave the bed unless to use the loo. I was doing incredibly well on Spider Solitaire until I noticed a… damp feeling. Unsure of what had happened, I called for help. A lady doctor came and promptly asked me to take off my knickers. What happened next shocked me to my very core… SHE SMELLED THE GUSSET OF MY PANTS. She had a few really good sniffs then advised that my waters had broken. Thank Christ she didn’t have to tell me I pissed myself.

I assumed that once that happened, I’d put on my headband, spread my legs and out baby would come. But no. Next, I started getting a bit of tummyache, but being the idiot I am, I was unsure it was contractions, or food poisoning from hospital stew and mash. It was contractions, which still didn’t mean I could start pushing (Eastenders is way off the fucking mark).

For a reason unbeknownst to me, I was hooked up to a machine which monitored my contractions. After forgetting about me for over an hour, a midwife came to check the results and told me there was a problem. Essentially, every time I had a contraction, the baby’s heartbeat slowed down. So it could be checked, I was given a drip to slow down the labour while I was monitored. It’s thanks really to the continued period of monitoring that I became accustomed to dropping my pants, spreading my legs and gritting my teeth as soon as someone with an upside-down clock pinned to their shirt walked behind the curtain.

At about 7.00pm, Daddy was told to go home as nothing would happen til morning and he would be more use to both of us if he was well rested. He took that to mean that he should go to his brother’s house to watch England in the Euros. Of course, within an hour, my contractions were coming thick and fast so he was called back… that’ll teach the bastard. When he returned, I was in a private room and he took great pleasure in taking the piss out of my leopard-print nightie and complaining that my pain-induced groaning sounded like a cow mooing. (I must admit, I’m kind of wondering why the hell I married him in hindsight.)

Because of all the difficulties, I was given more drugs to slow things down, and eventually an epidural. I had decided I wanted one all along if I’m honest. I’ve never been to the dentist and said, “I’m alright for pain relief thanks, I want to feel this. You know, really feel like I’ve earned it.” So I didn’t fancy going through the worst pain of my life without feeling numb from the waist down. Unfortunately, I ended up having two epidurals, as the first only worked down one side, which bizarrely I was forced to prove.

Frustratingly, we were told to get comfortable as I wouldn’t be giving birth until the following morning. This led to the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard from a fellow human being. As I laid in bed with half an epidural, five needles in my hands and a bag of piss strapped to my knee, my now-husband turned to me in his armchair and said, “Urgh, there’s nothing worse than trying to sleep in a chair when someone else has a bed.” I can’t remember my exact response but apparently it was a brief moment of stunned silence followed by a foul-mouthed tirade.

After some ‘rest’, it was time to get cracking. The actual pushing bit was all very quick and a bit of a blur. I remember that there were umpteen doctors and nurses huddled round a resuscitation table, which genuinely didn’t register with me as being out of the ordinary at the time. I remember having to tell my birthing partners- my boyfriend and my Dad- to try some words of encouragement while I pushed as they were like rabbits in bloody headlights. I remember being told it was necessary to make a small incision (small to the measure of twenty six stitches) to get the baby out because he was in distress.  Then I remember the Salad Spoons coming out, and being told that at 6.55am, our boy was born weighing 6lbs 9oz. His cord was wrapped round his neck so he was taken straight to the hoard of medical professionals. I shouted through tears, “Is he OK?” My Dad burst out laughing, which immediately reassured me, and he said “Of course he is, just listen to him bloody screaming!”

Once he was checked over, I was told to whip off my bra (and got told off for wearing one with underwire) and we supposedly bonded by him sucking the hell out of my sore and tired boobs. Me and the baby then had a sleep while Daddy made the necessary phone calls and told the Bounty photographers to piss off. Later the same day (after being stitched up and someone checking I knew how to have a wee), we were given the all clear to go home.

Then it was pretty much up to us to figure out how to be parents without a certified medical professional stood over us telling us what to do. So there we were, a couple in the first year of our relationship, jointly responsible for a brand new human. What could go wrong?

Why We’re All A Bit Rubbish

It’s 7.00pm and I have just got home from work. I left the house at 7.30am this morning, and in the car, I consoled my crying four year old son. He was upset because the other boys and girls go to school with their Mummies and Daddies. And after school, when the teacher brings the reception pupils out one-by-one, the other children spot their Mummy in the playground and run towards her and fling their arms around her neck with such sheer joy, oblivious to the impending interrogation about what was for lunch, what was the book about at storytime, what words did you learn to write today and who did you play with at playtime.

But my son doesn’t get to run to me and fling his arms around my neck. And I don’t get to ask him for a minute-by-minute account of his day while we stroll hand in hand to the car and have an argument about whether we should stop at the ice cream van for an overpriced ’99. My son has a different lady every day, but always in a purple t-shirt and hi-vis vest from the local nursery who drops him off and picks him up. And that’s not OK.

After waving him goodbye at nursery, I set off to work. What happened at work isn’t important. But it was one of those days where the thought of staying til 5.30pm and going back the day after made me literally cry with dread. Probably because of the emotional morning it was worse than normal, but I cried three times at work. THREE TIMES the blind on my office window came down, the tissues came out of my top drawer and the make up bag was poised ready to touch up the evidence of my misery.

I know that stay-at-home Mums want to work and working Mums want to stay at home, and the grass is equally as brown and wilted on both sides at times, but the guilt that overwhelms me is awful. I feel like I’m not being a ‘proper Mum’ to this poor little boy, who (in my head at least) deserves to have every person in the world at his constant beck and call and hanging on his every word. And the worst bit of all, which makes me feel worse, more than anything else, is that by the time I got home from work after feeling so miserable all day, I didn’t do what I should have done. Being the bloody selfish cow that I am, I poured myself a large (…fucking huge actually) glass of wine, and poured my heart out to my husband- complete with appalling language.

At bedtime, we had the usual routine of escaping the arguments by staging a call from Santa to check that he was in bed and can stay on the Nice List. When we went upstairs and tucked him in, he just wouldn’t settle. My husband tells me it’s just stalling tactics to delay the inevitability of actually going to sleep, and in fairness he’s probably right. But he laid in his bed, tucked in to his Thomas and Friends bedding, and asked me, “Why do you never look after me?” Tears immediately started falling down my cheeks. I tried to explain without my voice breaking, that even if Mummy isn’t right there beside him, I am always looking after him. He asked me to stay with him for ‘just twenty more seconds’ so I cuddled him and silently sobbed on his chest while he stroked my hair until he fell asleep.

It’s now six weeks since my only child started school and I was not prepared for this. I had read endless advice about children starting school and I thought I was ready. I was expecting to feel depressed about my little boy growing up, I was expecting to feel like my right arm had been chopped off the first time I was actually alone in the house. I knew I’d begrudge the expense of school uniform and never end up buying enough school socks. But I was not prepared for a young boy seemingly comparing his home life to his friends’ and feeling sad.

I suppose a valid question would be, so why work? And I have no idea why. Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits… Financial, obviously. I’ve always been very career-driven too, and like my job. I like that I have something for me, and can talk to grown-ups about something other than children (…there’s that guilty pang in the chest again for thinking that a conversation not involving trains or pirates would be enjoyable). But because of my work, I left my son behind with Daddy when he was four months old for three long, miserable days and nights. I missed his first steps. I miss too much.

But while this is all incredibly depressing, the truth is that deep down, although I question every decision, I know that every decision made, including full-time work, is done thinking only of him. It’s all for him. Although I am sacrificing some time spent with him now, I am working bloody hard to give him opportunities that I, and most other people, don’t have. I want to take him to Disneyland. I want to buy him a car on his 17th birthday with a big red bow on the bonnet. I want to fund his studies at university (if he chooses to go).

I just pray that he doesn’t end up begrudging us for going to work. But I know that right now, he absolutely adores us and knows that we provide him with all the love, Hot Wheels and biscuits in the world.

So why are we all a bit rubbish?… It’s not because we work, or because we don’t, or because we might actually enjoy some time to ourselves. It’s because we constantly beat ourselves up about being a rubbish parent when we’re not. I need to give myself a break from the guilt and regret, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Because the longer I spend wallowing in how rubbish I am, the more rubbish I am.

So, in order to be the best parent I can be, I’m off to reward myself with a huge Pinot Grigio for being a wonderful working Mum.

 

Thanks to Anna Lewis, The Sketchy Muma for the brilliant illustration