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 Sara (without an 'h'), mum of two (Max, 3 and Olivia, 1) and wife to an Aussie. I'm 34, living in London but dreaming of a semi-rural life most of the time. I'm the founder of Seventeen Minutes, thoughtfully curated gifts for mums.
For 10 years I worked in publishing but when I had my second child, I decided to set up my own business to enjoy the flexibility of being home with the kids more and to try something different. I'm currently obsessed with podcasts, The Stranger on Netflix and biscuits. Always biscuits.
I didn't really have any exceptions of Motherhood. I only had a few friends with children so I didn't really know much about parenting. Looking back, I don't think the reality can ever match your expectations.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was shocked, but in a good way. We had recently bought our first house which we were halfway through renovating, we'd been married just over a month and I'd turned 30 the week before. It's fair to say it was a whirlwind year for us. Once the shock passed, I was excited and terrified in equal measure. Overall I had two really good pregnancies. There were the usual things: nausea, back pain, feeling emotional and I had severe insomnia but I feel lucky that both babies were healthy and there were no complications with the pregnancies.
My son's birth was quite traumatic now I look back. My waters broke but I had no contractions so I was induced. Nothing went to plan and I ended up having an emergency c-section. My recovery was slow and rather horrendous if I'm honest. I knew what was involved in the operation but it's such a brutal procedure and I was left feeling battered and shell-shocked for the first week, all while having to cope with a newborn and learn how to breastfeed. My second birth was much better because I felt more prepared; I knew what the possibilities were. I had a natural birth the second time. The recovery was quicker, I was able to feed my daughter straight away and the experience was a lot more positive.
After the c-section first-time round, I just felt numb. I was dealing with intense pain that I'd never experienced before on top of the usual post-birth recovery. Then there was this new little baby that I had to try and care for. I remember holding my son and thinking it felt so surreal, as though I was holding someone else's child. For the first few weeks, there were lots of ups and downs. I just didn't feel like myself at all. I remember walking to the back of the garden one day and wondering if I was ever going to feel like 'me' again. Adapting to first-time motherhood takes time. For most people, it's not overnight success. I'm still adapting four years later!
I would say there was definitely some birth trauma from the emergency c-section that I didn't address until my second pregnancy. I was really terrified of having another c-section and became obsessed with wanting a natural birth. I read every birth story I could find about VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and even moved hospitals to one that had a higher VBAC rate. I tried everything - reflexology, hypnobirthing, massage, raspberry leaf tea. I wanted to give myself the best chance to possible for a natural birth for fear of having another c-section. In the end, I had the birth I hoped for.
My anxiety eased after my daughter's birth and I don't often think about the c-section. When the opportunity comes up, I talk about it openly though as I feel the more women are prepared for c-section, the more equipped they will be to handle the reality of recovery.
I love being a mum more than anything but I also love time just to be "me." When my son was born, I struggled those first few months; I felt like I'd lost my independence and my identity. Overnight life had changed and suddenly I was talking about leaky boobs and dirty nappies. I realised that I needed time to myself; guilt-free time to relax and do things that I loved. I take regular time to myself now and make that part of my self-care routine. I use the time to read, bake, see friends, go to yoga, have a facial, have a long bath, binge watch TV, whatever I feel like. Having me-time is a bit of a reset. I'm much nicer when I've had some time to myself, just ask my husband! I've constantly encouraging mums to take some well-deserved time to themselves with my business too.
Everything has surprised me about being a Mum. The thing that's surprised me most of all is the amount of love you have. When I was pregnant with my second baby, I worried that I wouldn't be able to love her as much as I loved my son. I just couldn't imagine loving anyone else the same way but you absolutely can. My kids drive me mad sometimes and I haven't slept properly in four years but when they say something lovely, it makes it all worth it.
More than ever, I feel affected by social media. I use Instagram for my business and probably spend more time on it than I'd like. I can often find myself feeling rubbish and comparing my mad mum-life to others. When that happens, I try to be disciplined and unfollow that person. It's a slippery slope otherwise. I believe in using social media to feel positive and only follow accounts that make me feel good.
The advice I'd have loved would be, "you will feel like you again, just give it time and be kind to yourself." Most things in motherhood are a phase and you get through it. Learning to adapt is one of those phases. I know at the beginning it can feel like there's no light at the end of the tunnel, but there is. Just take it one day at a time