This question has been playing on my mind a lot lately. Does it end when we have our 6 week check? When baby has been out longer than they were in? Or does it never end?
Of course, I don’t have a scientific answer to this – is there even a scientific answer? But I think it’s an important question that acts as part of a wider discussion around motherhood.
A lot of people (including healthcare professionals) talk about feeling ‘normal’ again after having a baby. What an annoyingly awkward phrase. Just think, right now, about how you would define ‘normal’. You can’t can you?
I remember sitting with my health visitor (who is a LOVELY lady – those people do an incredible job) and her saying ‘You’ll probably begin to feel normal around 9 months after having the baby’. I just sat there and thought…but I feel normal now? Right now is MY normal. For me, this kind of ‘talk’ just highlights the bounce back culture we live in. Comparing how we feel ‘now’ to how we felt ‘then’ and how we will feel ‘soon’.
As a society we need to focus more on being present, on embracing the ‘now’ and taking that as our current ‘normal’. If we are constantly comparing how we feel or look to how we used to feel/look, we are stealing the joy of the current moment without even realising it.
Postpartum essentially means ‘after baby’. So in my opinion postpartum doesn’t end, but evolves. I will always be living ‘after’ I gave birth to Arlo (unless someone invents a time machine…which would be quite exciting). I am constantly changing, healing, growing but I am always postpartum.
Along with how we ‘feel’ as mothers, comes an important discussion around how we ‘look’ as mothers. With the phrase ‘your tummy will shrink back to its normal size’ or ‘your stretch marks will fade and begin to look like normal skin soon’ being thrown around all too regularly, women are experiencing a tidal wave of emotion around what ‘normal’ really means.
Let me set this straight. You were normal two months ago, you are normal right now and you will be normal in two months time. Your postpartum tummy was normal 2 minuets after birth, it is normal right now and it will be normal in two months time. Growing your confidence is about defining your own ‘normal’ and living by it.
Postpartum isn’t a mere fleeting 6 week time period, it is a completely new chapter that is now your own individual ‘normal’.
Lots of women talk about feeling that ‘instant bond’ to their baby right from when those two pink lines appear on the pregnancy test. About how they feel this unconditional and fierce love for their unborn child, and the moment that baby is placed on their chest they feel eternally bonded. For some, this may be very true. But are some of us saying this in fear of judgement for not ‘instantly’ loving and bonding to our babies?
With the rise of social media, we are all constantly comparing ourselves in all aspects of life…and that definitely does not exclude motherhood. Mum shaming is everywhere…and with that comes guilt for our personal choices and emotions in parenting.
I most certainly did not feel that instant bond when I found out I was pregnant…nor did I strongly feel it during pregnancy…or when I first met my baby. Does that make me a bad mother? Absolutely not. Am I ashamed to say that? Not in the slightest.
I am a very logical person, and very scientifically minded. A ‘see it to believe it’ kind of person. I found pregnancy hard to comprehend. The idea that this growing bump and the fluttering kicks were from an actual human being that we had created was foreign. Don’t get me wrong, I felt fiercely protective and definitely had very strong maternal instincts but I just couldn’t ‘love’ someone that I didn’t know.
All in all, I didn’t feel hugely connected to my baby or the experience of pregnancy. This, I think, was mostly down to it being unexpected and me and Kieran not having our own house and stability. The difficult relationships I have with my family didn’t help either – just goes to show that the external circumstances hugely affect how we feel about our experiences. Now that I have my boy with me, I can look back on my pregnancy very differently. Knowing that it was Arlo kicking around inside me, makes it feel all the more magical. That’s what makes me feel eternally bonded to my baby, knowing that for 9 months my body sustained his life.
I feel that a lot of mothers are being denied the space to feel this way about pregnancy…as it’s considered ‘wrong’ to voice anything but overwhelming love for your child…born or not.
After an intense and physically draining labour (what labour isn’t!), a baby was placed on my chest. I can say that at this moment I felt a strong responsibility for the safety and welfare of him, but I didn’t ‘know’ him like I know all the other people that I love. I think that as a society we need to be allowing mothers to freely express how they feel without fear of judgement. After all, how can we support each other if we don’t feel able to talk openly?
Here I am, 10 weeks in to having Arlo with me and getting to know him, and I love him more than I ever thought was possible. It feels as though each day my love for him grows, and I am loving being his mamma more than anything.
As i learn more about Arlo and he learns more about me, our bond strengthens. I definitely have that ‘I miss him when he’s asleep’ kind of feeling now.
The way i feel about my pregnancy and birth has also changed with getting to know my little boy. All the kicks, scans, contractions – all suddenly have meaning. My respect for my body and the process of creating life has grown exponentially, with that comes the beginnings of unconditional love for my body and my experiences.
Not feeling instantly bonded with your baby does not make you any less of a mother, and not having the ‘magical’ pregnancy experience doesn’t either. Perspective changes with time.
Me and Kieran have had quite a few big days out to London since we met. It’s become some what of a tradition as it’s where we had our first proper date. By that I mean that we met up once to have a drink on the beach, but then I went away on holiday with my family…so we met up in London for a day out a couple weeks later. Here are some pictures of our first ‘proper’ date (pancakes for breakfast was the highlight…and buying Harrods bears of course)
In keeping with our parenting ethos, we were not going to let having a baby stop us doing all the adventurous and spontaneous things we have always enjoyed…so now that Arlo is 9 weeks old we decided to have our first day in London as a family of three!
The first debate was if we should take the pram or just use the baby wrap. In the end we decided against the pram as negotiating rush hour trains to London with a rather large pram seemed less than ideal.
We were up and out the house by 7am. The train ride there was nice and easy, not too busy for the first half and Arlo was very content. We arrived at London Bridge, popped Arlo in the baby wrap and went to have a tour round, courtesy of Kieran. I love looking round Borough market, all the smells and beautiful food displays. Kieran showed me Flat Iron Square and we went past the pancake house we had our first date – nothing like a trip down memory lane.
Arlo needed feeding so we made our way to a little cafe called Mouse tail which is connected to a library. First we went to change Arlo and never have I been in such a hot baby changing room – it might as well have been a sauna. After grabbing a table and making up a bottle Kieran started to feed Arlo before he headed off to his lecture at 10:30am.
I was busy sorting out our bags when I heard Kieran gasp…I looked up and Arlo had been sick all over Kieran, never before have I seen a face of such distress. Just as I was getting a muslin out the bag Arlo projectile vomited a second time. Kieran was now dripping in it…the floor was covered…and I had completely lost it laughing. You couldn’t have made it up. All this commotion going on in the corner of a silent library. And just to top it off, as we gathered our stuff and made our way back to the sauna of a changing room…a man came and sat in Kieran’s chair. We got back into the changing room, and here’s a funny picture for you – Kieran was topless (as he had to change tops), i was having a wee and Arlo was naked crying on the changing table…all while we are sweating our balls off. I was basically crying laughing at this point.
Kieran headed off to his lecture (sick covered jeans as his new fashion staple) and I went and chilled out in Pret with a coffee.
A couple hours later me and Arlo went to meet a few of Kieran’s friends from uni in Starbucks…you can pass that baby round to anyone and he’s not phased in the slightest.
Me and Kieran headed off to walk to the science museum (note that its an hour and a half walk from where we were). Its funny walking through London with a small baby strapped to your front…you either get disapproving looks or looks of adoration.
We stopped off in a park near the London Eye to have some lunch and give Arlo another feed (this time without the projectile vomiting). There were lots of small children running around the play park…i can’t believe Arlo will be that big in the not so distant future.
We then continued to walk to the science museum, sight seeing along the way. Passing Waterloo station, Trafalgar square and Buckingham Palace. Arlo perfectly content in the baby wrap – he goes straight to sleep when I put him in it! Even with all the noise in London.
Very tired from all the walking, we finally reached the Science museum at 4:30pm, had our bags checked and headed to the pattern pod to have a sit down. Arlo needed a nappy change and a feed, and one of the staff recommended a place called ‘The Garden’ to take Arlo…sounds nice right?
Just as we came out of the changing room and made our way to the lift (I was carrying Arlo)…Kieran looked at me and pointed at Arlo’s back. I turned him round and to my horror he had done a poo…all the way up his back and through his clothes. You have to laugh. Somewhere in the 10 second walk from the changing room to the lift he had decided to give us a lovely present. We made our way down to ‘The Garden’ and found another changing room. Kieran cleaned up all the poop (Dad of the year) and changed Arlo’s clothes while we hysterically laughed at the situation.
Having all recovered from the poosplosion, we went and sat in ‘The Garden’ to feed Arlo…I will highlight the extremely false advertising here…as it was actually a dingy basement with a few benches and a poor paint job. Here’s a picture for accountability;
It’s now 5:30pm…closing time. A security guard comes to usher us out and we pack up all our stuff and made our way outside. In short, we came to the science museum to clean up lots of poo and enjoy the delights of the basement. Me and Kieran just stood outside and laughed…parenthood truly is a hilarious adventure.
Believe it or not we had a great day…I have so much love for my little family and can’t wait for more adventures.
Boy where do I start…so much has happened in the last 8 weeks. Never before has time seemingly gone so slow and so fast at the same time. Arlo has slotted into our life so seamlessly that even I find it hard to believe, we’re still training, keeping up our coffee addiction by going to all the coffee shops, going out on long walks along the beach and finding time to have time to ourselves (I do like a long bubble bath with a book every so often)
At around 4 weeks old, we took Arlo on a trip to Brighton to stay with my Dad for the week. (Brave of us i know). The amount of stuff we had to take with us was ridiculous…filled an entire car mostly with baby related items. We took our first trip on the bus with a pram – which is more of a faf then you would think. But we had a very successful trip around the city, took walks along the beach and visited a town called lewes.
We’re growing as a family more and more everyday as Arlo shows us more of his cheeky personality. He has grown so much since he first arrived, he’s a lot more squishy and chunky now. We’re having to upgrade his wardrobe to bigger clothes so often! He can pretty much hold his head up and is getting stronger by the day! (his little legs are a force to be reckoned with)
When he first arrived all he wanted was to be cuddled against someones chest, but now that he is so much more alert he always wants to sit facing the world. He will quite happily sit up next to you while you do something else and just take in the world (very handy when I have little jobs to do on my laptop etc!)
He sleeps like a complete dream (me and Kieran are both on standby for that to change at any moment). We only get up for a feed once in the night now, and Arlo will sleep in until 7-8am in the mornings (providing he’s not woken up by Kieran getting up for uni at 5am). We have had quite a few amusing moments of one of us getting up in a sleepy haze to feed him and doing something strange – such as Kieran trying to give me a pillow instead of a baby!
Arlo and our dog Archie (who is a very big fluffy labradoodle) are best friends. Archie will always sit like a guard dog next to Arlo, and constantly wants to check on him. He has even tried to give Arlo his toy to play with him a couple of times. I can imagine they will be the cutest pair when Arlo is a little older.
Arlo began smiling at around 5 weeks, and now we get giggles and smirks all day! Most the time it’s involuntary, but occasionally it will be in response to one of us which absolutely melts my heart.
The three of us are the happiest little family and I can not wait for all the things the future will bring.
Every woman can relate to the struggle of trying to not get pregnant. Balancing having a great sex life with the fear of becoming pregnant when you don’t want to be is difficult. And I’m sure 90% of women have had that ‘shit… am I?’ moment when they’re a few days ‘late’.
Personally I have always made the choice not to use artificial/hormonal birth control (and continue not to), having only in the last couple years managed to regulate my cycle and being an athlete – I try not to interfere with my body as much as possible. So I’m a natural methods kinda gal…if you know what I mean. (until we decide to try for another little squish hehe)
But no matter how safe you think you’re being…it can always fail you. Being in a long term relationship…this is a scenario me and Kieran and discussed and ‘thought’ we had prepared for if it were to arise.
When I took the test, even though i was a few days late, i was sure it wasn’t going to be something that would happen to me. In hindsight….that was pretty naive. I specifically remember seeing the two lines and feeling like everything had just gone blank, like I had just received a bit of information that my brain couldn’t process. I was three days away from my 18th birthday and two weeks away from my A-level exams…boy I felt like I’d messed up (which I hadn’t…it wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a fact of life that happens more than you would think)
In the weeks following this…I went through all the motions to get a termination, because this is what society made me feel like I had to do. I spent my 18th birthday on the phone to The Marie Stopes Foundation doing an assessment. I went to a clinic in Maidstone in the middle of my exams for a second assessment. I even travelled to Kings College Hospital London for a third assessment (The termination system in this country is a complete mess, every woman has the right to a termination and I really feel we are failing our women with the way it’s set up…but that’s a discussion for another time)
This was by far, the darkest time in my life, I couldn’t sleep – the only thing ever on my mind was the thought of being put to sleep in the operating theatre, and waking up without my baby. Our society continually tells us that teenage pregnancy is one of the biggest failures you can make. That it’s something that should be hidden, with young girls dragging themselves to termination clinics to ‘get rid’ of the problem. Yet it is something that happens ALL THE TIME. Our society makes young women like me feel isolated, pushing us to have a termination when its often not what we want. This has to change, what young women need is support and compassion – and most importantly to know we have OPTIONS.
I knew I didn’t want a termination right from the start, but had been made to feel like I didn’t have a choice because if I didn’t, my life was over there and then apparently. It took me right until I was outside the doors of the hospital on the day of my termination to stand up and say ‘actually, I want this, I can do it, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it’.
And here I am, doing it. I haven’t failed, I have the brightest future ahead of me, I have a wonderful little family. I am a teenage mother, and no less of a mother because of it.
Becoming pregnant when you didn’t plan it has a huge effect on your mental health, no matter your age. But as a society, we need to stop stigmatising young girls who choose to have their babies – because they made that choice and they are entitled to it. We need to love and support them and show them that they are still capable of anything they want to achieve.
And to all the people asking me if I’m ‘managing ok’ in that slightly sheepish tone of voice. I am bloody great – I absolutely love my life, I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved and what I have ahead of me. So please don’t go asking me questions that you wouldn’t ask a mother who is 10 years older than me.
Oh boy where do i even begin…trying to remember what happened on which day may be easier said than done. Never before have i existed in what feels like such a wonderful timeless bubble; full of sleepy snuggles, silent night feeds and an overwhelming feeling of love between the three of us. Birth is such an intense, fast experience that it stands in stark contrast to the gentle, slow first weeks of motherhood.
Arlo has taken to breastfeeding so well, and sleeps like a dream 75% of the time. He seems to be such a calm baby so far (fully prepared for that to change at any second, so we are enjoying the peaceful moments while they last) Although he is only now getting used to nappy changes…the first week did consist of him screaming the house down the second his tiny body touched the changing mat.
We first took Arlo out on day 5, but only on a short trip to Costa in an attempt to settle our cabin fever. Below are some pictures from his second outing (day 7) where we showed him the sea for the first time! We also accomplished our first public nappy change and feed, safe to say we went home feeling like very proud parents.
The transition from a couple to a family of three has felt like the most natural and easy thing, me and Kieran are stronger than we have ever been as a couple and are enjoying every single second of parenthood. Even when Arlo wees all over us mid nappy change (which is most amusing for the person watching). The key is to laugh when things go wrong, and stay calm enough to ride the storm.