I don’t remember much about the first time I saw my babies. I think I had been in a numb daze. Still shocked and trying to process it all. Trying to wake myself up from the news which had just turned our world upside down. I certainly didn’t feel like a Mum yet!
I was soon back on the ward with the other mums. The proper mums. Good mums. I felt that I had nothing in common with them now and I resented them for that. With their perfectly formed babies and the lives they would enjoy together. For the pride and love that radiated from them. I watched them out of the corner of my eye with a detached wonder, as if they were on the television. From now on I knew that I would only ever watch others live the life I had spent the last 32 weeks planning. I was bitter and yet empty at the same time. Grieving for the living and I know that sounds dramatic but trust me, it’s a grief.
The Mother you dreamed you would be is lost to you.
I had watched enough twin programmes to last a lifetime and had decided that I would be one of those carefree relaxed parents. The sort that just slung a baby on each boob while watching afternoon tv before we had a synchronised snooze. I knew I’d be a messy mother on account of the fact that Im a messy person. Not dirty I want to add! Just not overly particular about where I put stuff so I knew the house would be chaos. I quite liked the idea of being the token ‘twin mum’ at the local baby classes. “You know. Charlene..the one with the twins? Tells everyone how her down belows are still teenager status after she had an emergency c-section” and people would laugh because I would tell that story to cover the fact that I was a little bit gutted to have had a caesarean at all. Distract with humour 101.
That wasn’t going to happen now. I didn’t know if or how I would feed my babies or if I would even want to. At the time, I didn’t give baby groups a second thought but weeks later, I knew it would never be something I would take part in. “You know. Charlene? The one who had the twin with half a face? Lovely girl. Shame”
The love you expected to flow from you like tears of elation isn’t there.
I am sure that for some mothers, their maternal instinct kicks in straight away and they know that every baby is a blessing. One with challenges just makes them even more precious. Yeah, that wasn’t me. I was struggling to digest the news that our lives had changed like a lump of grizzle on a steak. Stuck in my throat. I didn’t feel any love at all. Not for my babies, my partner or myself. In fact I would go so far as to say that I was rapidly beginning to despise myself as I was unpicking my pregnancy moment by moment searching for the cause. There were tears aright, but they were full of guilt and sadness.
Your mind is racing instead of resting.
Lots of the mums were sleeping on the ward. Resting after the wondrous miracle of giving birth (I still think its wonderous even when you have a c-section now by the way. Just because they come out of the sunroof doesn’t make you less amazing!)
I didn’t know how or what to feel but I knew how I ‘should’ be feeling. And I didnt. There were questions racing around my mind like birds in a cage all desperate to get out. Tweeting and flapping and too frightened to stay still for long enough to be caught. It was relentless and exhausting. When I did finally manage to fall asleep, I dreamt of it all anyway. There was no rest. There were only questions without answers.
The relationships you imagined in your children’s future are suspended.
I am very close to my own mum (not my Dad but that’s a blog and an episode of Jeremy Kyle, on its own!) I always knew that I would be a firm but fair mum. An honest one that always gave the answers to even the questions that made me cringe (like the time I asked Mum what masturbation was as she made us all a spaghetti bolognese). I imagined being quite a good referee for the children as they inevitably fell out over the years and I looked forward to the friendship they would forge. Seeing each other through the milestones of childhood into adulthood. I would be at their side until they left me to start a life of their own and I would be SO proud.
It was all gone. We had no idea what quality of life Harry would have. Which milestones he would hit or miss. Whether he would be able to bond with Oliver and live anything near the life I had dreamed for them both. We were on unchartered territory and I was lost without a map.
But here’s the thing.
That Mother who was lost to me, she couldn’t have handled the life we have now. The Mother I am today is stronger and braver than any mother I could have imagined becoming. I love the Mother I am for my boys now and more importantly, they love her too.
The love that was lost to me at the start, and it took a while for me to catch my breath and work on this, is a love so rich and so fierce now that it consumes me in the most amazing way. I believe that I love my boys waaay more than I might have done had I had the life I took for granted. I am never complacent and I am always always grateful.
My mind still races, but that’s just life. Which Mother doesn’t have 300 things to think about at any one time? Now though, it’s the every day stuff. I don’t torture myself with the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘when did it happen?’ and generally I sleep deep and easy.
Our relationships aren’t the ones I had hoped for. There is no denying that. Do I wish they were? Honestly? Sometimes yes. When Oliver wants to be a play mate instead of a punch bag. The times I counsel Oliver through his middle school trials and Harry isn’t able to offer any brotherly support or encouragement. Having said that, it does mean I only have one set of awkward questions to answer when it comes to puberty and sexual health. Every cloud and all that.
What I’m trying to say is that all of those fears were just that. Fears. Not a prediction. Not a certain reality and just as our lives changed once, they have changed again. Several times. And each time I grow too and learn a little bit more about what I am capable of, how far I can be pushed, what a kick ass mother I actually am to my boys.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I could say anything to myself back then it would be “Yes, this is shit. But it gets so much better and you will be so much stronger than you think you are now”.
And as for the other mums, well they have their share of dramas too. Of heartache and pain,trials and arguments and awkward conversations over meat based Italian dishes. We are more alike than different in the end.
There are no ‘other mums’. Just us. Winging it and learning the ropes one day at a time.
If you are the mum of a child with a diagnosis and/or additional needs and you would value hearing from another mum who truly ‘gets it’ and often says what you feel too nervous to admit (plus a great community!) then sign up to my newsletter now!
I wish I’d read this when I gave birth to my firstborn, because although I don’t have an altered life, I felt detached and consumed with anxiety when Alex was born, he was a very much wanted child but I didn’t get that rush of love, I just got a rush of panic, which I was then engulfed with for the first couple of months of his life, I look at his newborn photos and I don’t wish I could go back there! Although he was adorable it just brings back those memories. At baby groups I always felt divided because mum’s would rave about how much they loved their babies and yes they’re exhausted because they don’t sleep and yes birth was awful, but wasn’t it worth it? And I just used to look at them and wonder how they were so calm and why I was in such a heightened state of fear! I am not trying to compare situations by any means but it’s all relative isn’t it and I think there’s so much pressure on mum’s!! Xx
Lara you’re so right. Not everyone gets that instant rush that we all expect. Altered life or not. I do think there’s too much pressure in every respect. If it’s a natural birth you’re a better mum. If you breast feed you’re a better mum. If you have a routine you’re a better mum. It’s unrealistic and unfair. Better than what ?? Another mum who has another baby with completely different needs? As long as our babies are safe, fed, loved (even when that takes time) then there is no better mum than the one we are. Thank you so much for sharing your experience xx
Thank you Charlie for sharing your thoughts, feelings and realities of motherhood so openly, I admire you more than an words could say and your honesty and openness can only help and enrich others
Thanks so much Jackie. I really hope that I am able to reach the Mum I was almost 12 years ago. She was lost and lonely. I dont want that for anyone else xx
This is a really interesting post. I bonded with my kids at birth OK (one Caesarean but that didn’t worry me) but when my OH became chronically ill in a way that significantly affected our lives, the whole family – with young children – had to accommodate it and I was never able to be the mum that I’d dreamt I would be – neither of us was able to do the things we wanted with the children and we were also a great deal more stressed and tired than we could have anticipated. The more I look around, the more I think most of us set ourselves up with almost film-like expectations of parenthood when real life is almost always more messy and incomplete, but also more real and meaningful.
Yes I think youre right on that. We all have an idea of what parenthood ‘should’ be like. Reality teaches us a lesson there but I wouldnt change it. Sounds like youve had a rough time. Sending warmest wishes Cx
All my kids were very average at birth but I still never felt the crazy love gush that other people talk about. I’ve had a few fears that there was something wrong with me because of that but I have felt that deep intense love at other times. Mostly when they are asleep, not screaming at me or asking me to wipe their butts. So there’s that hahaha
Hahaha I think theres a lot of pressure to feel that rush of elation. When it doesnt come we question ourselves. Good to know that intense love is there (even if it is when they’re asleep haha) C xx