Today is Mothering Sunday. I'm feeling very emotional as it is my first one where I can't see my little girl. She's not actually a little girl anymore, she is a beautiful strong 22 year old woman, but to me she will always be my little girl. I received a bouquet of Roses and Lilies, my favourite flowers, from my daughter and her partner and my present is still to come from my boy. He is really upset it hasn't arrived in time, I have told him it doesn't matter and his thoughtfulness means more.
Today I have thought alot about being a parent. I have been a mum for exactly half my life. I always wanted children but had never put a time frame or age on when. When I met my husband he knew before we got together it was what I wanted. He on the other hand said it was not something he had ever considered and wasn't bothered if he ever had children. 3 years into our relationship I discovered I was pregnant. A happy accident? I didn't see it that way at the time.
My Grandfather had passed away and the following day my husband had gone to work. I was devastated and had taken the day off. A friend came to comfort me. She was heavily pregnant herself and when she arrived at my house took one look at me and told me I looked peaky and was pregnant. I told her I had been crying all night but she insisted on dragging me to Boots Chemists and ordered me to buy a pregnancy test. I was emotionally exhausted so went along with her mad idea for a quiet time of it. We got back to mine and I took the test. I didn't need to wait the 2 minutes as the instructions said, the blue line appeared instantly. I remember standing in my bathroom in utter shock. I walked out of the bathroom and just handed the test to my friend. She was so pleased and excited and hugged me. I stood like a piece of stone. Motionless and totally emotionless.
Although I always wanted children, Andy and I had not ever discussed it fully and I was terrified he would leave. We had been saving hard for a house and used to enjoy the freedom of just us, doing what we wanted when we wanted. A baby was going to change that. I spent the rest of the day rehearsing how I was going to tell him when he got home. I had it all planned out in my head, make him his dinner and then whilst we were relaxing just tell him. I even prepared myself for the expected angry response. He was such a chilled out guy but I was convinced he would go mad.
He came in from work and all my pre-planning went out of the window. The poor sod had barely stepped over the threshold and I just blurted it out. I'm pregnant. I can still see the look of confusion on his face as he said "do you want a cup of tea". I just nodded and sat down. He made the tea, sat down and started to tell me what had happened that day at work. Surely he could not have heard me so I said again I'm pregnant. He looked at me and said he knew and had heard me. I waited for an explosion but nothing. We sat in silence for what seemed an eternity then the phone rang. It was my mum checking to see if I was ok. At the end of the conversation she asked if I was pregnant. What a bizarre question to ask when her Dad had just died but she said she had a strange feeling the last time she had seen me and had actually told my Grandad I was pregnant the day he died. I told her I had taken the test and it was positive. She was so excited, her first grandchild and some happy news for the family at an awful time. I told her not to tell anyone as I had no idea how Andy felt about it.
I got off the phone and in no uncertain terms informed Andy I was having this baby. He had never even suggested the opposite but had said nothing so I had no idea what was going through his head. The days that followed were extremely strange. He was so good at comforting me over the loss of my Grandad but seemed to avoid any conversation about the baby. This was the first time in our relationship that I felt unsure. I had no idea if he wanted the baby, whether he was planning on leaving or how he felt at all. My mum was keen for me to share the news with my entire family as in her eyes it was the best possible news. I asked Andy if he was happy for me to do so. It seemed he didn't have an opinion and told me to do what I wanted. I told my family. They were ecstatic. This baby was very much wanted by both sides of our families but I still had no idea what would happen to us.
I had a serious car accident 2 weeks after my Grandad died. I was taken to hospital via ambulance and for the first time was terrified for my unborn baby's life. Andy was at the hospital when I arrived and was extremely concerned for me but again no mention of the baby. I had an internal scan and there for the first time I saw the little flicker of my child's heartbeat. I was only 12 weeks pregnant but there on the screen was visible proof of a life growing inside of me. Something as big as a plum was growing and developing rapidly. A baby made of Andy and I. That was the day I became a mum. That was the day I knew it was what I wanted more than anything before.
I was not worried about my own injuries, I was only concerned for my baby. I was assured that the baby was very well protected and no reason for it not to continue to grow. At 16 weeks we went for a routine scan. I was amazed at how much my child had grown. I cried as we heard the heartbeat for the first time and although I had no bump I found myself stroking my tummy. Andy sat in silence. That night whilst in bed I woke feeling a little uncomfortable and noticed I was bleeding. I woke Andy and within minutes he was driving me to the hospital.
Another scan showed my baby was ok, for now, but no explanation as to what was happening and also being told very bluntly it is common to miscarry and I should just go home and rest and what will be will be. I was so scared of losing this little life but knew I had no control over it. Andy fussed over me for the week I was told to bed rest but still no mention of our baby. I was in a constant state of worry that I would lose this little life.
A couple of weeks later I was in work and felt the strangest of feelings. My baby was moving. It is a feeling you can not describe well. The best way I can explain it is like a number of real butterflies moving around inside of you. It is the oddest of feelings but for me reassured me that my baby was doing well. I would sit waiting for that feeling to happen again and again but would get frustrated when Andy couldn't feel it with his hand.
My body was changing drastically. My once flat tummy had turned into a pod belly but I loved it. It was physical proof I was a mum. The movements were becoming more frequent and one night I was laying in bed, Andy had his arm around me and on top of my tummy. I felt my baby move. He leapt out of the bed. I asked him what was wrong and he just said "what on earth was that". I remember laughing at his shock and said it's our baby. He got back into bed and put his hand back on my tummy. He did jolt for the next few movements then he began to stroke my growing belly. It was beautiful.
At 6 months pregnant I said we should start thinking of names. I had bought a book and would read out names I liked. He hated them all. At work one day I again became uncomfortable and again I was bleeding. A colleague drove me to hospital. Yet another scan showed my baby was ok but there was a concern I was going into early labour so I was admitted to hospital. Andy arrived and again was very concerned about me. I was kept in for a couple of days and with no explanation as to what was happening was sent home. Although it was visible to the outside world I was pregnant I was told the baby seemed very small. I was also told if I went into labour at this point, 24 weeks pregnant, that there was a slim chance of survival for my baby.
I knew more than ever I had to have a name for my child. We went home and I read a list of names. Finally he agreed on 2. One boy and one girl's name. I said I wanted the baby to have his surname as we were not married. I was dismayed when he said he didn't mind. I could not fathom for the life of me why he seemed so uninterested in our child.
The weeks went by and I was having regular scans and tests. Still no reason could be found for the bleeding. One midwife told me sometimes it happens and the baby is perfectly ok but I was in a constant state of worry. At 34 weeks pregnant I woke one day and looked in the mirror. My face had ballooned so had my wrists and ankles. I looked like the Michelin man. I phoned the midwife and was asked to go in immediately. My blood pressure was sky high and I was told I had first signs of pre-eclampsia. A condition that affects the arteries carrying blood to the placenta, my baby's lifeline. If left untreated it can be fatal to both mother and baby. I was advised to stop work and rest. I was again told my baby was very small.
I followed the advice of the medical professionals and stopped work. I rested. I was so bored and had never been this inactive. I had a neat little bump and from behind didn't look pregnant but within 2 weeks I looked huge all over. I was constantly in hospital having blood tests, scans and mine and my baby's heart monitored. The swelling had reduced but I was still massive. My due date was getting closer and closer. To be honest I was so uncomfortable I just wanted the baby out. The pre-eclampsia seemed to have disappeared so when my due date did come there was no rush for them to get the baby out much to my dismay. I no longer walked, I waddled. I spent more time in the bathroom than any other room of the house. I looked and felt fat and uncomfortable but with each huge kick my baby gave I knew it was worth it.
I was so excited for my baby's arrival, Andy seemed so uninterested. My mum had been staying with us since just before my due date as I wanted her at the birth with Andy. My hormones had gone haywire and I broke down and cried to my mum that I was worried Andy wouldn't love our baby. She tried to console me but there was little she could say as she had also noticed how detached he seemed. Finally after nearly 2 weeks overdue I was told I would be taken to hospital and my labour induced the following day. I had read so many birthing books and was fully prepared for a long slog of labour.
The morning of my induction arrived I was terrified and excited. I looked around my house as we were leaving knowing that the next time I would be home would be with my little tiny baby. Us two would be a family of 3. We lived 26 miles from the hospital. My mum, Andy and I drove to Musgrove Park Hospital in Somerset in silence. Lots of tests were carried out, I was attached to a monitor and given a pessary to hopefully bring on labour. I was told it could take as many as 4 pessaries and if that didn't work I would be given a cesarean. We sat all day just waiting. Just before visiting hours ended I was given a second pessary. Andy and mum had to leave.
At some time in the early hours I started to get some strong pains. I had read all the books so checked my watch. Within 2 minutes I had another. I pressed the buzzer and told the midwife what was happening. She wasn't a particularly warm lady and told me I had hours to go and to just sleep. I couldn't. My back was killing me. I have never suffered back pain and this was awful. I took myself off the monitor as I thought walking might help as I had been laying in the same position for hours. I think I took 3 steps and bang I had a contraction. It wasn't agony but certainly uncomfortable. It seemed to last for ages. It subsided. I took another step and bang it happened again. The woman in the bed opposite who had her baby the day before said I think you are in labour. I felt a pop as my waters burst and just remember staring with my mouth open as this fluid flowed down the ward. The contractions were coming quicker and I couldn't move. The lady opposite pressed her buzzer and again the midwife, who this time had a face like a slapped arse, appeared. She pretty much threw me on my bed, examined me and said I was only 3cm dilated and had hours to go as a first time birth. Whilst she was examining me I was contracting and I laugh at this now but she had her hand stuck in me. I felt like a glove puppet. Sorry a bit graphic but oh so true. Eventually and with much tutting and sighing she unattached herself from me and walked off saying loudly how I was making too much fuss.
The unhelpful midwife returned a few minutes later and stuck a needle in my thigh. It was a sedative to make me relax. The lady in the bed opposite was disgusted and whilst I said nothing she was demanding that I was in labour. The midwife said to me as you are disrupting the ward I'm moving you to the labour suite. I was scared and just wanted Andy and my mum. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. I was unceremoniously dumped in a wheelchair and taken to another part of the hospital. I was handed over to another midwife. This one was a student midwife and was lovely. I asked her to ring Andy to get him to the hospital. It was 3am and the drive took 30 minutes on country roads. She said she would just give me a quick check over then call him. I said I was desperate for the loo so she wheeled me in.
What happened next is like a scene from a comedy to me. Whilst sat on the toilet I started to make some strange noises the midwife asked if I was ok. I couldn't answer. She told me she wanted to take a quick peek and within seconds I was told my baby was coming. I was put back in the wheelchair but as my baby's head was in the way I could not sit properly and was wheeled through the hospital with my legs wide open and my baby's head making its way into the world. I was put on a bed pushed 5 times and at 03.22am delivered my child much to the shock of the poor student midwife who I later found out had never delivered a baby before.
Due to the speed of labour my baby had become distressed and was not breathing. I remember laying on the bed on my own whilst people came running in and out of the room. I hadn't heard any crying from my baby and didn't even know what sex it was. I was starting to feel very lightheaded and sick due to the sedative but didn't want to cause any fuss as I knew they were trying to get my baby breathing. Finally after what seemed like an eternity I heard a cry. Then again but a little louder, then again but this time a full blown bellow. The student came over to tell me I had a little girl and that Andy and mum were on their way. I desperately wanted to hold my baby. I was told they were just going to weigh her then I was going to meet my tiny new daughter. The midwife went to the other end of the room and I caught a glimpse of a baby's leg flailing about as they tried to weigh her. The midwife walked back towards me smiling, holding a blanket in her arms. She then handed me my daughter. My beautiful precious baby but she wasn't tiny she was huge. 9lbs 9oz! I looked at my bundle and was dumb struck. She had masses of black hair, she was beautiful. I couldn't stop staring at her little wrinkled face thinking you are mine.
I heard the door open and saw Andy and my mum walk in. My mum burst into tears. Andy stood motionless. I asked if he wanted to meet his daughter and he just nodded. The midwife got him to sit down and she took our baby and placed her in his arms. He just looked at her then at me then back to her. His mouth moved but no sound came out. He sat for about an hour just holding and looking at her until the twitching new Grandmother could wait no more to hold her first Grandchild.
Later that day Andy drove me to the local maternity home. He had hardly spoken. He got me settled then left. He came back later with flowers and again just sat holding his daughter. After a couple of days I left the maternity hospital and bought our little girl home. Andy had been busy and the once bare empty spare room had been turned into the most beautiful nursery. He would have said it himself but he was pretty useless in those early weeks. He acted like she was made of porcelain. He seemed reluctant to pick her up and even more so to bath her. Nappy duties were not that often for him. For me I was in love. This perfect little human that had grown inside of me was now a part of my world. She was my world. Everything I had ever known up that point had changed. Something as simple as popping to the shop for a pint of milk was not the same but I was a mum. This little girl relied on me for everything.
A couple of months after the birth I went for a bath one night. I sat in the bath and could hear singing. I strained my ears to listen. Andy was singing My Girl. I went downstairs and there he was holding our daughter singing away oblivious to me watching. The tears poured down my face as I could see how much he loved his little girl. I needn't have worried she was his world. Later that night we finally spoke about his lack of reaction or emotion to my pregnancy and the birth. He had never held a baby prior to his daughter and was terrified. He openly admitted he was worried about being a good dad and how it scared him he may let her down. He was shocked to learn I had felt exactly the same about becoming a mother. We talked so freely and frankly about our worries as a Mum and Dad.
By the time I got pregnant again a few years later Andy was a confident and strong reliable father. When I told him the news he grinned and kissed me. He was the one who told our daughter she was going to have a brother or sister. He was the one who picked me up when we lost that little life, he was the one who just a week after I had surgery due to miscarriage, had taken a call from the hospital to tell me they thought I was still pregnant and I was needed to be seen immediately as it would be an ectopic pregnancy and my life was at risk. He was also the one who told me I was still pregnant with the twin of the baby we had lost and how the Drs were amazed this little one had survived the surgery I had. Every day as my pregnancy developed he would talk to my growing bump. When I was again induced for labour he didn't leave my side. When I was rushed into theatre for an emergency c-section after our baby's heart stopped, my parents found him sobbing in my hospital room, terrified our baby and I would not survive. He was the first person to hold our heavy weight 10lb 4oz son and rushed back to the hospital later that day with several baby outfits he had gone out and bought himself.
For 18 years with Andy we co-parented. It drove us crazy sometimes, other times it was a joy. At times we got it horribly wrong. Our kids are 22 and 16 now. They are strong, opinionated, honest, kind and pretty amazing humans in my eyes. Being a parent can be the most rewarding, exciting, frustrating and terrifying thing in the world. There is no instruction manual on what to do. It really is a case of winging it and hoping for the best. I can no longer remember not feeling like a mum and I wouldn't change it for the world.
Today is Mothers Day, a day that children are supposed to show appreciation for their mums. Today I appreciate my own parents probably more than I ever have before. I appreciate my children and can only hope that Andy would be pleased with how I have parented in his absence. The past 5 years have been some of the toughest and most challenging times I've had as a mother. My children and I don't always see eye to eye. They make me laugh. They make me cry but they have made me a mum. They are and will always be my biggest and proudest achievements.