Mama time is a strange entity. Since I have become a mother there have been many times I have watched the clock. Minutes feeling like hours as I waited for a babe to sleep/feed/stop crying, doing everything I could to love and care for such a little being, yet impatiently waiting for a moment when I could finally sleep/eat/do anything for me. Yet earlier this week as I walked away from ‘big school’ where I had left my littlest boy, for his settling in session, I realised I have now been a Mum for 6 years and 3 months. This realisation came as a real shock. How can it be that at times I have watched the clock so closely, yet so many years later here I am walking away from the school gates without a small person clutching my hand? The moment felt surreal. The mama time that I counted the minutes of so closely has actually slipped through my fingers like sand.
When I was pregnant for the first time I had been qualified as a Midwife for 7 years. I knew pregancy, birth and the postnatal period inside out. Professionally I had pretty much seen it all, but experiencing it personally was another thing entirely. I totally underestimated the effect of the transition from woman to mother would have on me. From the moment I saw my baby boy my heart exploded with love. He became my entire world. I completely immersed myself in being his mum. The pregnancy and birth were not easy, nor was establishing breastfeeding with a particularly sleep averse infant. I knew the script, I had seen this many times before. But to feel the script was a different matter entirely. I was no longer the one walking out the door to come back the following day to ‘check on the feeding’. I was the one left holding the invariably screaming baby. I knew this was all totally normal yet felt completely out of my depth with the relentless lack of sleep and the responsibility of keeping this baby, who I loved so much, safe.
As the days passed in to months I found my stride; I took time to rest, I made time to socialise, I put the baby books away and trusted my instinct. I learnt that mum really does know best. This is not to say I had motherhood sussed in a few months. Far from it. I just learnt some coping mechanisms and what worked best for me and our family. Some days were brilliant, when the planets aligned, and everything went smoothly. Other days we simply survived. When boy number two arrived I was better equipped for the transition from mum-of-one to mum-of-two, but there have still been challenges along the way. Every age and every stage seems to bring new and different challenges. My Cousin wisely advised me that ‘it doesn’t get easier, it just gets different’. I would agree, but time and experience helped me to develop coping mechanisms I needed to face the demands of being a mother. The sleep deprivation does ease, as does the relentless neediness of a newborn baby or toddler, which are mentally and physically exhausting.
As a Midwife I have often heard women voice the fact that they felt totally unprepared for motherhood. I fell in to this category. And really I was a woman who knew more than most what a life changing event becoming a mother is. Is it that the focus in our society is to have ‘things’ organised; decorate the nursery, buy the pram, wash the clothes, pack the baby bag. In all the practical preparations are we missing the opportunity to mentally prepare for the changes? Or is it that the birth is focused on so greatly that the postnatal period is forgotten? Is it that our society promotes organisation, getting in to a routine and getting rid of the baby weight as the epitome of modern motherhood, and when inevitably women fall short of this ideal it seems harder to cope? Are we doing enough to prepare new mothers? Is it a combination of all these factors? Is there anything we, as individuals and as a society, can do to help? I don’t have the answers to these questions but as a Midwife and a Mother I feel they are questions that should be asked and considered.
As I walked away from the school gates I saw the irony that there have been moments when I have wished the clock to move forward, yet now it seems that time is moving too fast for me to catch up with. Over the years my patience has been tested to it’s absolute limit yet every tired, fed-up, frustrated, stressed and anxious moment has been worth it for the heart bursting love and soul singing pride I feel for my boys as I am watching them grow. That is what I want pregnant and new mamas to know. The hard work is most definitely worth it. With time, patience, love and support your children will grow, and so will you as their mother. This is the essence of Birthing Mamas Blog; a blog written to support women in their physical and emotional transition to motherhood.