Firstly I’d like to say that my birth story isn’t the worst in the world, in fact it’s probably quite a common tale for first time mums. I’ve known of women who have had far worse times than I did, I’ve known women who have had to have blood transfusions and women who have ruptured their bowels during labour. But for me, it’s the mental scars that have lasted far longer than the physical ones. It’s 13 months on from when I gave birth and re-living it still brings me to tears and fills me with feelings of failure, dread, anxiety and fear.
This is a hard one for me to write but I think I need to address what happened and how I felt. It will be long so please be patient.
It was about 3am on Saturday 25th April when I first realised I was in labour. “Excellent!” I thought, “I’m finally going to meet my baby girl, my journey to motherhood starts here”. I was excited, I was happy, I was feeling positive.
Fast forward a few boring hours (no one warns you that usually the first time round it takes bloody ages!) and in the early hours of Sunday 26th April I was admitted into hospital, still breathing well through contractions and feeling ready to take on the challenge of giving birth.
As the day went on my contractions worsened, I was given paracetamol for the pain (all mums will tell you this is an absolutely pointless drug that has no effect what so bloody ever on you during a contraction!). By 12pm on Sunday my waters broke and wow did the contractions intensify! My positivity was dwindling as I felt as though my body was being ripped apart from the inside out. But my contractions still weren’t regular enough to be taken onto the labour ward. I spent the next 8 hours breathing heavily, throwing up and occasionally crying. I was ready for the drugs now. Where were the bloody drugs?
At 8pm I was finally taken onto the labour ward, given an epidural and hooked up to a heart monitor so the midwife could track what was happening. Time to relax. The contractions were still happening but I no longer felt as though I was on the verge of exploding. Queue a quiet few hours, watching Monsters Inc on Netflix, chatting to the midwife and getting back to my calmer but excited self.
At around midnight I noticed the sound on the heart rate monitor kept slowing down, from a gallop to a steady walk. I mentioned it to my midwife and she said she would monitor it but that the baby’s heart rate was dipping every now and then.
After monitoring it for a while the midwife decided to get a Doctor to come and look at the stats, he said to keep monitoring and he would come back to see how we were doing. The dips in the heart rate started getting more severe and more frequent, worry was setting in. The midwife called the Doctor back in and they decided to take some blood from the baby’s head to check she was okay. Whilst they were very good at acting calm I knew something wasn’t right. I knew this baby would need to be born soon and that’s when I kept getting awful images flashing into my head of the worst case scenario. The worst part was that I couldn’t do anything about it, my fate and that of my daughter were in the hands of effectively, two strangers. I laid there obsessively listening to the monitor, every time her heart rate dropped so did mine. I started to think my baby was going to die. I was going to live the nightmare so many parents worry about during pregnancy. I would never take my baby home.
It was just after 7am on Monday 27th April and I had been listening to my little girl’s heart rate dip for 7 hours now and I knew I needed to get her out. The midwives let me start pushing and boy did I push! I used every ounce of energy I had left after being awake for two days and I pushed, I was so close to holding her in my arms. I knew she would be safe once she was with her mummy and nothing was more important to me right now than holding her tight and telling her she would be okay.I had been pushing for an hour and the midwives called it. She wasn’t coming out, her hand was up by her head, her umbilical cord was around her neck and the position she was in meant she wasn’t going to be delivered naturally. That’s when they mentioned that awful word. ‘Forceps’. I panicked. This wasn’t in my birth plan. I had specified anything but Forceps, even if it meant a c-section. I had heard horror stories about children being brain damaged after forceps deliveries and I wasn’t about to let that happen to my baby girl because my stupid body couldn’t get her out. But it was out of my control, the Doctor said they wouldn’t be able to get me down to theatre quick enough and they needed to deliver her immediately. My heart rate went through the roof, I felt sick. I just wanted this to be over. “Can I use the gas and air?” I asked. I told myself that if I got high enough I could block this memory out of my head forever, I could get so high I wouldn’t know what was going on, I wanted to be knocked out. But it didn’t work. I still remember it. I remember the sound of the snip, I remember my body being pulled down the hospital bed from the force of the forceps, I remember screaming louder than I’ve ever screamed before, I remember giving one last push to help her out and finally, there she was. My little girl, safely on my chest.Thank fuck for that.I breathed a sigh of relief and burst into tears. “You naughty little girl, you scared your mummy and daddy” I said to her as my husband cried with a mixture of fear and relief. And I knew it was over.Giving birth was my marathon. I was one step away from the finish line and I had collapsed. It was all or nothing, and I felt as a though I had achieved nothing. I had failed.This happened over a year ago and although physically I’m fine, mentally I’m struggling to forgive myself. As a mother I am supposed to keep my baby safe and that weekend my body failed me. A woman’s body is built to give birth, women give birth on roadsides, in public loos, on trains for God’s sake and I can’t even bloody manage it with the guidance of a midwife telling me when to push.Someone else had to do my job for me and if I’m honest, it makes me feel as though I didn’t deserve to keep her, to take her home and to call myself her mother. It makes me feel like I cheated. I hadn’t crossed the finish line but I was still given the medal.If it had been down to me alone I’m certain her and I would have died and I re-live those final couple of hours on a weekly basis in some kind of sick self-torture. I can’t listen to stories of people giving birth because it fills me with jealousy and resentment – why can they do it and I couldn’t? I constantly wish I could go back and try again, maybe if I had pushed a bit harder, maybe if I had pushed just one more time? I know in reality it was out of my control and I didn’t do anything wrong, but unfortunately I can’t seem to apply that logic to my emotions.I haven’t written this post as some sort of self-indulgent pity-party. I’ve written it because even if one woman who went through a similar experience reads it and feels as though she’s not alone then it’s worth it.In this society of social-media bragging, we’re constantly fed stories of women who gave birth in the bath, listening to their specially selected playlist whilst holding their husband’s hand. That’s lovely for them, it really is, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t hate every person who had such a straight forward delivery. No one posts about the negative experiences because we’re too busy trying to block it out, too busy hating ourselves for what happened, and too busy being jealous. It’s okay if you struggled, and it’s okay that you didn’t sneeze your baby out in a field full of daisies as the sun rises, because that’s just life. At the end of the day we all got the same present – a newborn baby and we are all about to start the same chaotic, stressful, joyful and tough journey of being a mum.
Recently I saw an update appear on my Facebook feed. It was written by a mother who had just been in a car accident with her daughter in her car too. Thankfully they were both safe. However, the mother chose to use this as an opportunity to do something I can’t stand. Parental shaming.
Parental shaming is when a parent judges other parents for not doing things the same way as them, either directly or indirectly. This lady had decided to post pictures on her Facebook and emphasise the importance of using an extended rear facing car seat. Posting a status about the accident is fine, she was probably in shock and wanted to make sure her friends kept their babies safe too, but the tone of her post was not. The last sentence finished with “know better, do better”.
That really got my back up. Has this woman got a degree in being a perfect mum? Has she got a full badge of gold stars for her parenting style? I don’t know this woman but I do wonder if she has done everything by the book – natural labour (heaven forbid a woman wants pain relief during birth right?), breastfeeding for 6 months minimum, keeping her child in a moses basket next to her bed for 6 months, given her child all the relevant vaccinations, weaned her child in the newly recommended baby-led way and God knows what else. Maybe she has, like I said, I don’t know her. But to suggest that parents with forward facing car seats need to “do better” is pretentious, patronising and bitchy. What business is it of hers how other people raise their children?
As most parents know, this rule is fairly new and hasn’t even been implemented, there isn’t much of a choice of extended rear facing car seats and some children will scream their lungs out in the car if they’re facing the seat behind them instead of seeing out of the window.
Mums give themselves a hard enough time about the way they raise their children without some judgemental twat indirectly putting them down on social media.
Lots of love, a mum with an extended rear facing car seat which has to go forward facing in her husband’s car because the seat belt won’t fit round it.
These are the friends that get excited when you’re pregnant, asking you what names you might pick, claiming they can’t wait to meet him/her and they can’t believe you’re about to become a mum. Fast forward to that baby popping out of you and POOF – they’re gone. You might get a Facebook comment from them when you announce the birth, if you’re lucky you’ll get a text. You’ve hit the jackpot if they send you a card.
I only have a handful of these friends but they’re all I need. They’re the friends I know I can count on in an emergency, the friends who would do anything for me, and I for them. The friends who don’t run a mile when you have a baby because they either already understand what it’s like, or they can’t wait to join you on the journey to watch your children grow up.
So if you’re in the same boat as me, don’t be sad about the friends who fall into categories one and two. One day they might come back to you. Just be glad you have friends that fall into category three, because they’re the ones that matter.
When I first thought about writing this post I thought “oh only have a few of those, not enough to write a whole blog post on!” But the more I thought about it, the more I remembered those times I’ve messed up and felt like the worst mum in the world.
In fact whilst writing this I’ve remembered it was only a couple of days ago that I was in floods of tears talking to my husband and remembering a time when I had been trying to get April down for a nap when she was only a few months old.
I’d been rocking her for about 20 minutes whilst she scratched my face, screamed at me and constantly tried to get out of my grip and I just lost it. It was the first time I had ever shouted at her. “WHY WON’T YOU JUST GO TO SLEEP!” I immediately felt awful. She stopped crying and just looked at me in surprise, then I just broke down in tears, hugged her tightly and told her how sorry I was. It was one of my lowest moments of being a mum and something I hate to talk about because of how guilty it makes me feel, but I was sleep deprived and had been having the same battle three times a day for what felt like forever. When writing it down it doesn’t sound that bad, but the sight of her little face in shock just killed me.
Thanks to a useful website called BabyCentre where I’m part of an online forum for mums who have babies the same age as April, I have realised that a lot of mums go through the same. Without that space to vent and read about the struggles other mums were having I think I would have been even harder on myself every time I made a parenting mistake.
Anyway…let’s get onto the list of mummy fails I’ve made to date.
This one happened when April was only a week or so old! When babies are born part of their umbilical cord is still attached to their belly button which the midwives put a clip around. It then just dies and falls off after a couple of weeks (gross right?).
Just before bath time one evening I was giving April a cuddle, she was in just her nappy and I stood up to take her to the bath. Suddenly she screamed! I’d knocked the clip of her tummy button and the cord had come off a bit too early. There was blood, there was pus and there was panic! Her belly button is still weird to this day.
Pretty sure this one happens to 99% of parents but it doesn’t make you feel any better at the time. That’s right. The little rascal fell off the bed just after she had learnt how to roll. The whole thing happened in slow motion as I reached over to catch her just before she fell but didn’t quite make it. There were lots of tears, probably more from me than April!
I refuse to accept full liability for this one! We were on holiday recently and the cleaner in the hotel room had moved my hair straighteners from my carefully chosen safe, very high up, place, to a much lower location in front of a mirror. I was getting ready for the evening, used my straighteners and put them down where the cleaner had left them. Switched them off and carried on getting ready. Next thing I know there’s a scream. April had stood up, started scouring the sides for something to play with and picked up the hot straighteners! She ended up with a nice beefy blister on her thumb and finger for the next week. My husband was sat next to her when she did it so I’ll force him to share the responsibility with me for this one. And that stupid cleaner.
April has recently discovered the joy of climbing. I was filling out a form on the coffee table and April decided to use me as a climbing frame, climb up me and then onto the table. I’d been trying to fill out this form for days so I carried on writing whilst thinking “just 2 seconds and then I’ll get her down”. Well in that 2 seconds there was a thud to the floor. She’s not as careful getting down as she is getting up…
I’m sure there’s more that I just can’t remember right now, and of course the small ones like leaving the house with no nappies, forgetting to take her coat when I go out and leaving her milk behind when we go to stay at friends’ houses. The worst part is, when all these minor accidents have happened I’ve been practically next to her! It’s not a case of me leaving her unattended, more a case of underestimating how fast the little madam moves!
At the end of the day we’re all human and I’m yet to meet a child that has survived the baby/toddler stage without a few scrapes. Whilst I beat myself up at the time I know that accidents happen no matter how careful you are. We’re hard enough as it is in ourselves as mums, we want to be perfect but giving yourself a hard time when no permanent damage has been done doesn’t help anyone.
Or in this case…the baby!
As your baby reaches a certain age (usually about 4-6 months depending on the people around you), everyone starts to become obsessed with when you will start weaning your baby.
Baby led or spoon fed?
After milk or before milk?
These are the kinds of questions friends and family started asking me. They suddenly seemed in a panic that I might never wean the poor girl and I’d breastfeed her until she leaves home.
When she was about 4 months old my husband asked if he could give April some ice cream – “it’s basically just milk anyway”. No. You can’t. At Christmas time my mum asked if she could give her some chocolate yule log (covered in brandy icing). No. You can’t. This process repeated and still to this day continues as my parents try to feed her mini cheddars and shortbread and my sister buys her mini Colin the caterpillar cakes.
Going out for dinner with friends and family has become a newly stressful experience. Everyone around me suddenly wants to feed her what’s on their plate! “Oh would she like some of my burger? Can she have a bit of my chocolate brownie? Maybe she would like some of my full of saturated fat, drenched in sugar deep fried Mars bar”. Okay the last example hasn’t happened but it might as well have. The hard part is, I know they all mean well. It’s fun to feed children different things and I’m probably guilty of doing exactly the same.
I am not one of these “organic only, steam everything, make my own salsa from scratch” kind of mums, April was weaned on Ella’s kitchen pouches and that’s as organic as I get. But I do object to her being fed biscuits, tortilla crisps and ice cream whilst she is perfectly happy having some chicken and peas.
I’m not sure when the phase of everyone being obsessed with feeding April will end but I hope it’s soon. In the meantime, I think I’ll make a sign to put around her neck whilst she’s eating.
Why did no one warn me how bitter I would become as a parent? Is it just me? Am I just such a horrible person that I feel bitterness towards other parents when their child is doing something better than mine (mainly sleeping)? Luckily I know I’m not alone, I have a friend who told me a couple of weeks ago “I hate people who like their children” and I feel like our bond immediately became stronger. Don’t get me wrong – I like my child, and my friend is a fantastic mum, but I felt a bond over the fact that we both felt bitter towards other people who have it together better than we do. Maybe it’s a Sagittarius thing
My latest source of bitterness is towards people who know what a full night of sleep is. This is probably because my night last night went a little like this:
10pm – Bedtime
11pm – Woken by daughter crying
Midnight – Give in and give daughter a bottle even though she really shouldn’t be hungry
2am – Woken by daughter crying. Attempt to give her the rest of the milk she didn’t finish.
3am – Daughter has been intermittently moaning since I put her back to bed, I try calpol.
3.30am – Calpol did not work. Daughter still awake and moaning.
4am – Daughter crying more, go into her room in an attempt to settle her. Rock and sing to her. She’s almost asleep….
4.30am – Just kidding mum! I was just pretending to sleep! yoohooo!! Wakey wakey!!
5am – Boot husband out of bed to get up with daughter.
6am – Get up.
9am – Read friend’s tweet moaning that she’s seen the time 6.45am for the first time in ages. Think of sending her abusive text. Refrain.
Everyone around me seems to have babies who sleep through the night, and most of them are younger than mine! I wouldn’t mind so much if they didn’t feel the need to brag about their ‘great sleepers’.
I have one friend who feels the need to update her whole bloody Facebook with how well her 8 month old slept the night before. I know, I know, she’s proud and for most parents this is a major victory, but for others it’s just reminding us how much we want to curl up into a ball and sleep for a decade to make up for all the broken nights we have had since our little bundles of joy arrived.
The other category of people that you just don’t want to deal with when you have a baby who thinks 2am is party time is those well meaning little old ladies who coo over your child in the supermarket, or friends of your parents and every time you see them ask “how’s she sleeping?”. Shut. up. The problem is, it’s a ‘go to’ question to every new parent, heck I even ask my friends with new babies, but I think I only ask because I want to hear that someone, somewhere has a child that sleeps worse than mine.
Bragging seems to be a parental right, I know we should all be proud of our children, but be careful what you say and who you say it to. Sleep deprivation turns you into a horrible, sensitive and touchy person, so try to keep the stories of all those wonderful, sleep-filled nights between you and other incredibly lucky parents.
So I’ve finally done it, the thing I’ve been trying to stop myself from doing for probably the past 9 months. I’ve started one of those awful ‘mummy blogs’ and I sort of hate myself for it. It’s not that I think my adventures with my daughter are any more exciting than anyone else’s days with their children, because they’re probably not. I’m hoping it’s going to act as some sort of therapy for me and the constant nagging feeling I have that maybe I’m just a bit of a shit mum.
I had a horrific pregnancy – sickness all day for about 5 months, acne, acid reflux, painful hips and probably more nasties that I can’t remember. I also had an awful birth. I spent 53 hours feeling as though someone was trying to rip my insides out through rather delicate places, 8 hours of listening to my daughter’s heartbeat drop thinking she was going to die, finishing nicely with a doctor snipping me open and dragging her out of me by her head. It was day one of being a mum and I’d already failed.
I’m sure most pregnant women dream about the type of mum they want to be – patient, kind, singing their precious little bundle to sleep every night with a voice that could make a Disney princess jealous; taking them to fun mummy and baby classes so they can learn through play and develop their social skills that even Kim Kardashian would be envious of. I wanted this too. I’ve dreamed of being a mum since I was in junior school, it was what I wanted to do with my life (other than be a Solicitor which I also managed to cock up – well done me). Well I’m not that kind of mum. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I feel as though I literally can’t give April enough kisses, she’s so scrummy and gorgeous, she’s a mummy’s girl and she makes me laugh every day with the weird things she does. But I’ve also had times where I could have sold her to a passing circus.
I’m hoping this blog will help me to come to terms with the fact that it’s okay not to have your shit together. It’s okay not to take your child to 5 classes a week so that they can be the next Einstein. And it’s okay that sometimes, after your 9 month old has been screaming at you all day, you call your husband, burst into tears, and tell him to come home immediately because you just don’t think you can cope anymore.
I’m probably going to be writing things that are far too personal and become far more vulnerable than I’m comfortable with, but I think I need to do this for me.
Wish me luck!