I found out that I was pregnant on my 38th birthday! Despite planning and trying for a baby we were still in shock, speechless, and laughing hysterically. I needed to be certain before I let myself enjoy it so I ended up taking 4 pregnancy tests and booked an early scan that confirmed that my husband Bogdan and I would finally have a family!
My pregnancy went well – I wasn’t sick. I could eat anything I wanted. But by 7 months I looked as if I was 9 months pregnant! During the last month I had to wear flip flops to work and as a qualified Social Worker I didn’t feel comfortable at all.
I was induced 3 times and, finally, after 22 hours of painful labour and a scare due to the drop in my baby’s heart beat, I had a C section.
I was very weak and I had a crying baby when everyone else’s on the ward seemed so quiet and appeared to sleep so well. Not being able to respond immediately and having to ask someone to pick him up for me initially after the C section was not how I pictured my first few moments of motherhood would be.
Those expectations we have, the comparisons we inevitably make with other parents and the actual, real life unexpectedness of real life parenting are what pushed me to combine my experiences as a mum and a social worker and family coach to provide this service. I know what it’s like but I also know some strategies that may help.
Feeding has always been a worry and just like my journey through pregnancy – it started well….
I struggled with breast feeding and at 4 weeks we realised Ray was tongue tied. We introduced a bottle but the pressure on mums to breast feed is often huge. I found a balance with the support of my family and used both bottles and breast. I felt happier but then, at 3 months, he had teeth so bottles became the norm. Bottles bought new ‘joy’ because we realised Ray was lactose intolerant so then it became a challenge to find the right milk for him. Again, a constant worry, and a constant feeling of guilt.
Time for solids and, again it started well. I was drawn into a false sense of security but after a month of food he had loved a day before, they were thrown on the floor and refused! I kept going. He was keen to play with food and I was starting to see the foods he liked. I’ve learnt to keep his favourites in stock in the freezer so if he really won’t eat what I have given him I know I have a backup. Again, there it was; the guilt and the worry. But most of all I know with a sinking heart that on the days he doesn’t want to eat I know he won’t sleep…
Ironically one thing that was consistent for us as a family is that sleeping has always been inconsistent.
During lockdown it has been better but he only wants me.
One quarter of his life has been in lockdown, so although I know he is a smiley, happy, sociable child I worry he is too reliant on me. I have still been using online Sing and Sign that I started when playgroups were allowed but for Ray and a lot of new families our babies are growing up with social distancing.
And that brings me to Social distancing with Toddlers – how does that work? That is a whole new level of guilt and anxiety that a lot of mums have never had to face.
Recently we went to an outdoor birthday party. With one walker and two crawlers it was hard. Initially Ray cried and I really saw the effect of social distancing. To start with they all struggled and did their own thing. After a while, they wanted to play and chase and share toys and my worry then was – do we stop them? What’s more important; social development or Covid-19 safety?
Ray is a very cute and smiley baby and I often have the dilemma of people stopping to chat and say how sweet he is and most of the time it’s not at a two metre distance. Do I become the mum who shields their child?
Everything is open to interpretation – how you parent is linked to your anxieties, your own sense of responsibility and your beliefs. Your own parenting may also have had a massive impact on your fears and anxieties as a mum.
Inconsistency in your child’s development and the inconsistencies in the world around you can make you very anxious as parent. We naturally compare and we also want to protect. I thought I was a LOT more laid back than I am and Covid-19 has flagged up for me just how protective I feel of Ray.
At the same time, I want to share with you that it’s healthy to have these feelings.
It’s when the feelings get overwhelming, and they stop you living your life, that it’s time to reach out and ask for help.
That’s why I’m here.
As ever, my message to you is to reach out if you need to. As one mum to another mum I know just how important that can be.