Second Time assumptions, Guest blog post for Cheltenham Maman.

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I’m pretty new on the blogging front, so having Kate ask me to contribute to her already brilliant and prestigious blog is a huge honour. I’m definitely still in a bubble of self-doubt when it comes to blogging but I’m slowly coming around to realising that sometimes other mums just love to read real life experiences. I share our ‘extraordinary ordinary’ parenting in-betweens to have a digital diary but also in the hope that I may relate to other mums. I’m going to be able to scroll through the archives in years to come, laugh about the over bearing mother I once was (probably still am) and cry at those sweet moments that fleeted to soon.

I took to all of this back in January this year, I had the overwhelming urge to blog whilst sat in hospital with a very poorly 12 day old baby (Our second baby, a girl we named Olive.) The blog was already under construction but until that moment I had no idea what content to write so I asked my husband Daniel on his next visit to bring with him my new notepad and pen, I was determined to express my current state (which I have never transferred from paper to screen, until now.) Little did people know I was truly struggling with my emotions, it wasn’t something I felt I could explain at the time. After all, I had coped so well after the birth of my first baby that surely second time would be a breeze. I (like most) was probably under the illusion that if you had never suffered emotionally or mentally previously during that new post-partum period, then you weren’t likely too in the future.

Oakley; the one that made me a mama 2 years prior, entered the world in a dramatic fashion, his huge shoulders got stuck and after a lovely Edward Scissor hands style procedure and herds of professionals rallying around my lady bits… well there he was, total perfection.  After a few days in hospital we were good to go, and never return. My perfect text book baby if there ever was one; he was an absolute dreamboat if you will. People would often comment on how well I was ‘coping’ and this term baffled me at the time as I just felt that my life took a natural turn, my calling had been found. I loved being a mother so much that I had planned another baby before my current baby had even turned 1 year old. So fast forward and there I was 9 months after said birthday with my brand new baby and the assumption that those beautiful and oh so natural hormones I had experienced first time would come flooding back. I would have that glow and my new title of ‘mama to multiples’ would suit me to a tee. Like a duck to water, I would cope wouldn’t I?!

She arrived almost 3 weeks early, it was New Year’s Eve- Eve and I had been wetting myself a more substantial amount than normal so decided to seek medical advice. Much to my dismay the tena ladies weren’t holding up anymore and that was because it was in fact my waters. My labour was quick, simple and she arrived into the world as natural as she could when you consider the semantics of her brothers grand entrance. Hearing Daniel say ‘It’s a girl’ followed by ‘It’s a boy… oh wait no they are not balls, definitely a girl!’ was an incredible moment and one I will never forget! 24 hours later is where my anxiety began; a routine home check flagged that she had Jaundice and a potential infection and whilst everyone was nursing their New Years Day hangover Olive and I were back in the hospital and separated from the men in our lives. It wasn’t too serious and although I was fully aware of that I struggled massively to handle it, I was surrounded by incredible mothers whose babies were poorly; in the grand scheme of things Olive was fine and I shrugged off the panic and put it down to hormones. It didn’t help that my self-employed husband couldn’t have more than a few days off with us after Olive arrived, there was no time post Jaundice recovery for family bonding but he did all he could each day after work.

The following weeks were as tough as I had expected, although some days would feel like a breeze others would feel hellish. I never expected when I doubled my work load that it would be easy but I hadn’t anticipated the changes in my mind. The worry was real, something didn’t sit well with me when it came to Olive, it was a constant nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I would constantly panic that she wasn’t breathing, I would get incredibly upset when she would cry and I couldn’t leave her for even minutes. Where was the laid back mama I was a few months ago? I felt enormous guilt that I wasn’t enjoying her, why wasn’t I enjoying her? She developed a cough around 7 days old, it worried me. She would cough after each feed, bring her milk back up and then be overly lethargic. We went to the doctors twice, no joy and with the professional advice that it was only viral we continued to struggle for another 5 days. I began pumping my milk so that I could build my supply up and bottle feed her when she was too lethargic to latch and that damn cough continued to keep me up all night with worry.

Day 12, Olive looked so frail on this day (we found out later that she had lost over 25% of her body weight.) She coughed so hard that she turned blue and went limp in my arms. She did it just as the health visitor arrived for the next check-up, I will be forever grateful to that wonderful lady for calling the hospital to warn them, helping me keep calm and get both babies into the car. Daniel left work and met me at the hospital, as soon as the nurse heard Olive cough she instantly knew we were in for an overnight stay, she informally diagnosed her with Bronchiolitis but whilst having an initial once over the nurse looked concerned and called for assistance. Before I could ask what was wrong there were oxygen masks, tubes and lots of scary equipment. Her oxygen levels were worryingly low and as a result she was dependant on oxygen tubes for the next week.

I couldn’t hold her, breastfeed her or touch her without machines beeping at me to leave her alone so she could rest and gain strength. I didn’t sleep for more than minutes at a time because the beeping would startle me and the staff would be back to adjust it in order for her to be comfortable. When family and friends visited they would get upset and I would comfort them but once visiting was over I couldn’t see straight for the constant tears. That week felt like an eternity of pretences, battling with myself that I could cope emotionally, that it didn’t fill me with heart wrenching guilt that my toddler was being pushed from pillar to post and didn’t have me to put him to bed each night. In those low moments I reminded myself of the woman I had met last time I was on the ward, the mother who told me her heart warrior’s devastating story in the communal kitchen and I told myself to just man up.

Truth is I let my own struggle be unheard because I wanted to meet that expectation, I didn’t want to fall short of the hurdle, I needed to maintain my level of positive because that’s all the people around me have ever known of me. That second time round assumption was made and I HAD to meet it. How could I have banged on so much about the blessing of Motherhood, but explain that I occasionally felt harmed by it? It’s been an on and off battle for six months now and have I only recently accepted that I’m allowed to feel harmed. It’s not because I’m unhappy but because I love two little people so hard that it effects every single cell in my being. Motherhood plays tricks with my mind and sends me on an emotional rollercoaster I never wanted to get on but those adrenaline filled highs usually soar above those rocky lows. Acceptance that I’m normal is key, sharing my thoughts more recently has made me realise this and now I’m finding new ways to manage my anxiety. Taking a little time for myself to write, talk to other like-minded mamas or go on a jog has been an incredible source of strength for me. We all function differently, we are human and we have flaws but what we do have in common is that we are Mothers and we need each other.

It took me 6 months to publicly admit that I was having those moments of extreme doubt, all of which stemmed following Olives struggles and our time in hospital. I wish that I had realised at the time that our struggle was valid, instead I kept shrugging it off for the guilt that others were experiencing worse, there will always be someone worse off but that doesn’t stop you justifying your battle, whatever your battle is.

So I found being a new mum second time round much harder than the first, so what!?! Of course there were lots of factors contributing towards this but saying it out loud feels good. Please mamas don’t live up to second time assumptions, we may have done it once before but we certainly haven’t done it with a toddler in tow. Respect your feelings, they are so valid!