Updated: May 3, 2020
This post contain subjects which you may find triggering; if you have been affected by any of these issues, please do seek help. Resources for support can be found here.
I'm Laura, I’m 29 and live with my husband, Hadyn and son Charlie in Cambridge. I was 27 when I had Charlie which was younger than I had planned to have children. Having been diagnosed with PCOS we expected to find it difficult to conceive but it took just 3 months.
In hindsight I can appreciate how lucky we were, but at the time it was a shock. I had a lot of doubts about whether I was ready for all the sacrifices that Motherhood requires (Those doubts never really go away, but they are quietened when your toddler wraps his chubby little arms around you. They come back with a vengeance when you realise he's actually just wiping his nose on your shoulder).
I remember that first positive test. It was a bright Saturday morning and as I walked into the bedroom where Hadyn was waiting I couldn’t speak, I could only giggle and wave that life changing, pee-covered little stick at him. Neither of us were adequately prepared to deal with the enormity of the moment. So we did what we do best. Napped. When we woke up we both agreed that this was a Good Thing, and we would deal with it calmly and sensibly. I naturally proceeded to spend the next 9 months googling what the exact likelihood of a miscarriage was at any given moment.
I had a pretty good pregnancy all things considered, though I was hugely disappointed not to develop any weird cravings. The best and most unexpected effect of pregnancy was on my mental health. I have struggled with disordered eating since I was a teenager but the thought of doing anything that could harm my unborn child was the push I needed to look after myself properly. I also have anxiety and depression and remained on 200mg Sertraline throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding as the risk of coming off it was greater than the risk to the baby.
I finished work in December. My due date was 12th Jan. I remember over Christmas seeing all my NCT friends give birth and being so envious. I just wanted to get on with it!
At 3am one Sunday I woke up with painful contractions and heavy bleeding. We went to the Rosie where after much poking and prodding they sent me home with 2 paracetamol. The contractions continued every 10 minutes while I struggled to snatch a few minutes sleep in between. At 5am on Monday I decided enough was enough, I was going back to the Rosie where I would demand they took me seriously. Luckily when we arrived they ushered me straight into a birthing suite (I’ve never been very good at confrontation).
This is where it gets a bit blurry. I was given gas and air for pain relief which I enjoyed enormously. The midwife kept reminding me to take it out and breathe fresh air occasionally but I chose to ignore that advice. I spent a happy 1 – 8 hours (I honestly don’t know, time had no meaning) in the birthing pool listening to Blondie and Taylor Swift on a loop until Charlie decided he was ready to make his entrance. Despite earlier requests I was told it was too late to be given any additional pain relief. To make matters worse the midwife then pried the gas and air out of my clawed hand. It was all downhill from there.
I’d experienced backache for the latter half of my pregnancy but that was nothing compared to the agony of labour. The contractions faded into insignificance compared to the back pain. Even now, 2 years later writing this makes my back hurt. The midwives were wonderful and months later when we did birth afterthoughts I saw their notes which read “Mum doing great but argues with us when we tell her". At some point my waters burst in a midwifes face. If this paragraph is disjointed it's because those 2 hours have been blocked from my memory. I just know that eventually they put me on a trolley and wheeled me upstairs. Hadyn later told me that this was the only time he was really scared, my lips had gone black and I wasn’t responding.
Everything started happening very quickly. We were taken to a small room and a dozen people appeared from nowhere. One barked a question at me and while I was still trying to work out what she had said she gave someone else the order to perform an Episiotomy. Thankfully Charlie came flying out almost immediately and at 6.50pm on the 15th Jan we became parents.
What kind of parents we would be became clear very quickly. After 90 minutes spent trying to squeeze milk out of my uncooperative boobs (a group activity rather than a spectator sport) we finally had a few precious drops in the syringe. And then I dropped it. All that work just lying there on the floor. We looked at each other, going on 40 hours awake, covered in blood and desperate to feed our crying infant, and made a silent agreement that we were going to pick up that syringe and feed that liquid gold to our child regardless.
We were discharged the next day, a family of 3. Hadyn had 6 weeks off work thanks to his employers family friendly policies and that time was invaluable, so thank you Arm. He was and still is an incredible Father who never contemplated doing anything other than his fair share of the work. Maternity leave was a happy mix of ups and downs. The downs (stressing about work, lack of sleep, a 3 inch scar on my vagina) were outweighed by the ups (supportive parents and in-laws, an incredible group of friends from NCT, glorious sunshine and Friends on Netflix).
Returning to work a couple of weeks before Charlie turned one was tough. Not because I missed Charlie (frankly I enjoyed drinking hot coffee and going to the bathroom alone) but because it felt like my career in HR was over before it had really begun. Luckily 6 months later I took a chance on a new job and have never looked back. The biggest challenge came when Hadyn accepted a new job. Thinking it would involve mostly homeworking he jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately it turned out he would be required to go to France 3 days a week for the best part of a year.
Needless to say these were trying times. I was working full time and trying to care for a toddler who seemed to require only 20 minutes sleep a night. We got through it and once again the women I’d met at NCT classes were my saviours. There’s a reason they were all invited to my wedding. They are the kind of women who can make you laugh when you want to cry, help you find the silver lining in any situation (child only eating chocolate custard? Great source of calcium) and are always ready with sage advice or a dark joke in times of need.
My advice to all new Mums? Find your tribe. But you can't have mine, they’re taken.