Happy Mother’s Day: How much our mums really did for us

Happy Mother's Day

When I was a child, I looked forward to Mother’s Day. Each year I would enthusiastically make my mum a card, shout at her to stay in bed while I made her (burnt) toast and wrap the garish addition to the fireplace I’d insisted I wanted to bestow on her; for some reason I had an obsession with brass and thought a pair of brass bunnies and a brass teapot would look particularly stylish in our lounge.

One year, I remember asking why there wasn’t a “Children’s Day” – after all mummies and daddies had their day. My mum’s friend laughed and replied that every day was Children’s Day. I wasn’t impressed with this answer and I didn’t understand it either. I thought it would be nice for us as children to be spoiled for the day and waited on hand and foot. I’d forgotten about comment until today and it’s made me laugh at how naive I was.

As I grew up, I appreciated what my mum did for me but it hasn’t been until becoming a mummy myself that I truly appreciate just how hard this job was. And how in fact she deserved far more than one day of celebration a year. Now I understand more than ever how much my mum went through for me, how much she loved me and how much she did for me. And it’s amazing. So thank you mum and happy Mother’s Day.

Here’s just a snapshot into what our mums – and us as mums – willingly and happily go through:

1. Pregnancy: a glowing and wonderful experience but also plagued with being kicked in the stomach, trying to get to a toilet before you vomit next, carrying up to two stones in weight all day and being so tired you cry at having to walk 20 paces and having giant feet.

2. Labour: An unpredictable and un-quantifiable period of sustained pain, knowing it can only end with one thing….

3. Childbirth: Say no more.

4. Breastfeeding: Getting the hang of having an infant chomping on your body is no mean feat.

5. Baby blues: A cocktail of hormones and emotion after birth leaves you weepy for no apparent reason when you know you should be happier than ever. Thanks nature.

6. Goodbye independence: From now on you are no longer an individual – you come with a baby. Of course you love it but you can’t help but miss a little bit of freedom – for instance, when you need to eat, visit the loo, shower…. it’s not as if you want to spoil yourself.

7. Sleep deprivation: A recognised insidious form of torture. You do cope remarkably well but at times you do feel that you’re bordering on actual insanity.

8. 24-hour service: Tending to the immediate needs of a newborn literally around the clock. And there’s no day off. You’re filled with genuine confusion for what on earth you used to do with all that free time before you had a baby. Seriously, what did I do?

9. Irrational fear: Baby has a cold / rash / ear infection / dry skin / *insert any other problem here* – WHAT DO I DO!? You have no idea what’s really wrong or how to make it better. Best visit the doctor…again! I also developed a paranoia / fear that I would drop baby on the hard kitchen floor so would cling on to her for dear life just in case!

10. Career freeze: You work hard during your twenties to build a career…then have no choice but to walk away from it for an extended period of time to have a baby. Of course it’s illegal to discriminate mums in the workplace but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen under the legal radar. Did you know that a quarter of mums report feeling discriminated against and a third say they find it “impossible” to climb the career ladder?

11. Overwhelming love: Your life changes beyond all recognition when you have a baby but with it comes a fierce, all-encompassing and fierce love that you never could have imagined. It makes you vulnerable but also gives you super-human powers as you could – and would – do literally anything for that tiny little being without them ever needing to ask.


Childbirth – secret or over share?

Shouting about childbirth

In my PB (pre-baby) life, I heard my fair share of birth stories. Some from friends and family who had recently become mums but most of the tales were from near perfect strangers who were eager to share some of the most personal details of their body and birth to my naive and unsuspecting ears.

I’m particularly squeamish and listening to the beautiful natural process (aka horror) of childbirth made me very uncomfortable. My friends knew this and would give me a PG-rated version of their experience. But it was those who I didn’t know well that spared no detail. And it’s not exactly easy to tell strangers to shut the hell up.

I recall being at a work event where a female member of the group talked to us all about her blood loss over a glass of Champagne – painting a vivid picture of what the delivery room looked like. There had seemed to be no stimulus to start this story; nobody had asked to hear it, nobody was pregnant and it wasn’t even something she had just gone through – her daughter was two years old. I nervously smiled and nodded, being too British to be rude enough to walk away from the conversation. On another occasion, this time I was at least pregnant, another acquaintance spent an entire lunch graphically describing their birth – no holds barred. By the end, I was nauseous and visibly shaking. I’d tried to laugh it off, explain that I was squeamish and that maybe it was best to leave me in ignorant bliss. But they just laughed at what a big shock I was in for…and continued.

Now I’m a mum too, my eyes have been opened. Birth is such a life changing, often long and traumatic experience – physically, emotionally and mentally – that you are compelled to talk about it. You are never prepared for it. You will never be able to predict what happens. It’s like watching the most intense, 24-hour movie that you can’t switch off with no precursor as to whether it’s a rom-com, drama or horror. Oh and you’re not actually watching it, you’ve got the lead role. Afterwards, you have to purge yourself. There is a need to expel the trauma from you body and sharing the story is the only way you can make sense of it. You’re also pretty amazed that you’ve achieved something so incredible. I certainly didn’t think I was capable.

However, while there is this need to purge, I do think that it should be accompanied with an element of restraint. One thing I learned from being the recipient of birth stories in my PB life, is the danger of over sharing and respecting your audience. When family and friends visited, I only spoke about the birth if I was asked. I didn’t volunteer anything. Or at least I hope I didn’t. Just because we go through such a physically life-changing experience, doesn’t mean that the social boundaries of communication are gone; do strangers want to hear about tears, stitches, blood loss and how long we had to push?

The best purging opportunity comes when you meet other new mums. This is where the rules change; anything goes. You’ve all given birth, you’ve all had a baby thrust in your arms and been sent home expecting to know how to look after it. And you’ve all suddenly been deprived of what should be one of your basic human rights; sleep. My NCT friends know more intimate things about me than nearly everyone I know. And this was within about eight weeks of meeting them. There were even times when I went to new mums meet ups which quickly descended into a run down of everyone’s birth – something that would have sounded dreadful pre baby. But this time I didn’t feel queasy because I’d already achieved the thing I was so terrified about going through and I needed to purge too.

While you’re pregnant, you’re told that birth will be a positive, natural experience and it’s easy in the early days to feel that you’ve let your baby down if it wasn’t because you needed intervention or drugs. However, almost every one of us around the room had some form of complication and had come out the other side with happy and thriving babies. It’s reassuring to share these tales, realise that your experience was totally normally and even to find humour in the midst of a delivery room horror movie. But spare a thought for those that don’t have a baby as a common denominator with you; do they want to hear the gory details?  Maybe save it for someone who does…


Do mums moan too much?


Everyone knows that having a baby is wonderful. Fact. However, as parents cross into this unknown baby territory, we unfortunately find quite a lot to moan about. This doesn’t mean we are ungrateful for our lot or that we’re not experiencing an unfathomable amount of joy, pride and happiness at the same time – we just didn’t realise how hard some of the new moments were going to be.

Before becoming a parent, you expect to be tired. You expect to have to clean up a lot of dirty nappies. You expect babies to cry. You expect things to change. But you have no idea of how much sleep deprivation can turn you into a crazy lady. You have no idea how much poop can explode out of one nappy to the devastation of everything around it (no doubt just as you’re getting in the car). You have no idea that babies can cry inconsolably for three hours. And you have no idea of the scale of how much your life changes.

As I said, it’s not that we’re not happy, just caught out and overwhelmed by some of the harder things that such a tiny seemingly helpless baby can throw at us. Sometimes literally.

What got me starting to think about all of this was when my husband came home from work a couple of weeks ago and my friend and her baby were visiting for a play date. We were laughing over the usual high brow intellectual topics of conversation – how often our babies had pooped in the bath that week, tallying up our night-time wake ups, debating whether to get a steam mop to tackle the porridge that had been formed a rock-hard immovable mass in between the kitchen tiles and eyeing up the last hob nob. Later that evening, my husband teased me about how much we’d been moaning and how it must make me a right hoot to hang out with.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t have won an award for the most sparkling conversationalist of the year but it’s conversations like these that have kept me sane for the past year. Who would want to listen to me continually gloating how my baby is THE most beautiful and THE most genius baby on the entire planet?

There are moments as a parent when you feel you almost can’t cope anymore – when the number of hours sleep you’ve had in a week doesn’t even reach double figures or when you wonder what silence sounds like after bouncing/feeding/rocking/singing to a screaming baby for what seems like forever. Or you catch a look at yourself in the mirror covered in baby sick and sweet potato mush with scraggly hair and no make-up and you wonder what you’ve become. The only thing that gets me through some of these moments is knowing that there is a country full of other new parents who are going through the very same dilemmas and being able to share our mishaps together with laughter.

I used to see one particular mum friend weekly on what we described as ‘Moaning Mondays’. We did put ourselves through the mill by attempting to go to TWO half-hour classes in the space of three hours. It doesn’t seem like much but the desperate panic to get babies napped, fed, changed and traveled for two whole activities was exhausting and highly stressful. Afterwards, we’d laugh at how much we’d managed to moan that day but it genuinely made us feel better – happier people and therefore happier mums.

So yes, maybe we do moan quite a lot. But we’re not sorry about it. We need it. Although I do appreciate that I’ve responded to a comment that I moan a lot by moaning…but I’d rather be a normal (and honest) mum who laughs with her friends about her mishaps than one that needs a slap in the face for only gloating about how wonderful and perfect my life is.