I’ve not written in a while. It’s hard to find the time when you have a tiny human (quite literally) snapping and wailing at your heels. Sonny is a big ball of energy – shrieking, laughing, crying, torturing the long-suffering cat. His only words ‘maaaama’ and ‘ooooh’. I’m dizzy in love with him though. I think I could gaze for hours at his perfect crystal blue eyes, his outrageous dark lashes, his chubby wrists, even his squidged up nose when he’s completely overwhelmed by his emotions.
After a fairly peaceful period of relative normality, January hit us hard. Sonny picked up a nasty tummy bug, but took it like a (little) man and fairly nonchalantly vommed as he toddled around grinning. We were equally bemused and horrified at this unexpected turn of events. Sonny, meanwhile, wasn’t that bothered by his bodily functions. While keeping an avid eye on his temperature, we put it down to a common childhood illness.
Unfortunately, the next morning, my poor husband announced he wasn’t feeling the best. This usually means my beloved needs to lie down for a few hours. This time though, it was more serious. It seemed the tummy bug had jumped ship from Sonny to Andrew. He took to bed and moaned a lot while making regular trips to the bathroom. I sighed, thinking another bad case of man illness. I got on with the day’s tasks but I started to feel a bit ropey around 7pm that evening. I swayed up the stairs and declared I was about to die.
Yes, I was also succumbing to whatever it was that had taken over the Gordon household. I climbed into our bed, feeling rubbish, riding the waves of nausea. Times like this, you need a few bathrooms. Still, even though we were feeling horrible, I felt grateful for the fact that Sonny was OK. That he was clambering on us and smacking us on the face as we were horizontal, wishing we had a magical fairy godmother to look after our darling child until we were both better.
Parenthood is the craziest, most magical thing that has ever happened to me. I’m incredibly grateful to have a son who brings me so much joy. He has completely changed my life. Becoming a parent awakens something in you. For me, I want to step up, be a great parent, the type that he will want to become in the future. Becoming a mum has awakened something else inside me, the need to emerge from the person I’ve hidden behind for too long, the weak, scared, insecure girl. I feel the best I’ve felt in a long, long time. I care so much less about other people’s opinions and it’s very liberating. I’m ready to live and it’s about time.
Being a mum comes with pressure. You are responsible for nurturing and shaping another human being’s life. It’s a huge responsibility and one that comes with endless sacrifice. There’s no medal for motherhood. It’s the hardest job you’ll ever do.
It doesn’t help that in this digital age, we are constantly being bombarded with saccharine images of motherhood being ‘perfect’. On Instagram, we see cleverly composed, perfectly lit images of beautiful nurseries and supposedly ‘candid’ shots of a mother with perfect makeup and hair and a spotless, beaming baby. It’s enough to make you feel entirely inadequate. As an Instagram user, I have on occasion been guilty of some of the aforementioned ‘fake news’. No, my dear son isn’t always pink-cheeked with shiny hair. A lot of the time he’s covered in food, his hair unkempt, his face contorted with frustration. Most of the time, my hair is scraped back, my pale face make-up free, dark circles under my eyes, my sweater stained from Sonny wiping his streaming nose. However, as a brand new bleary-eyed mum, I felt compelled to take endless snaps of my tiny baby. I even bought Sonny cute clothes, specifically for Instagram posts. I’d sweat buckets trying to get him in the right pose. It was far, far too much.
No, my dear son isn’t always pink-cheeked with shiny hair.
I didn’t even realise that I was putting myself under ridiculous pressure until a good friend suggested I take a break from social media. I was anxious, depleted, exhausted, feeling like I had to show the world that I was coping – when I really wasn’t. I felt guilty for feeling overwhelmed when so many other mums seemed to have it together. I felt I shouldn’t complain, ‘you’ve only one’, some would say, ‘what if you had two or three?’. I’d take unhelpful anecdotal advice with a pinch of salt – ‘I know my baby best’, I’d say inwardly.
Being a mum is no easy task
The early days of being a new mum were incredibly testing. I’d never even changed a nappy before Sonny was born. There is so much to learn and you question absolutely everything. I catastrophized constantly, scared myself to death with horror stories I’d read online. I was afraid to sleep, needing the constant reassurance of Sonny’s soft, even breathing. I was in a state of high alert, drinking far too much coffee, drinking wine to take the edge off, eating rubbish. It was only a matter of time before I crashed. This was my reality. Now, I can look back on the first year of Sonny’s life and acknowledge it was really difficult (it still is) but I got through it.
Motherhood has utterly changed me as a person and I’m so grateful that I got pregnant easily, at 38. Sonny was planned but I’d no clue as to what to expect. I’d enjoyed my 30’s, I was completely cushioned from the wrecking ball through your life which comes with having a child. I don’t even recognise the woman I was before Sonny. Now, I’m very much living in the present. I cherish those moments where Sonny buries his head in my neck as I’m climbing the stairs to put him to bed. I live for his adorable laugh, his toothy grin. I feel like I wouldn’t even make sense without him now.
I don’t even recognise the woman I was before Sonny.
Becoming a parent has changed my career trajectory too. I was made redundant shortly after returning to work from maternity leave. I now work for The Mummy MOT, a service that provides a specialist postnatal examination for mums after natural and C-section deliveries. It’s so important for me to do work that is fulfilling having spent most of my career in sedentary jobs, working to pay the bills and have a few nights out. Sometimes I feel like I wasted a lot of years, but I know that every second of my life has led to where I am right now and I’m in a great place.
Self-care is key
I had a Mummy MOT, a specialist postnatal examination about a year after Sonny was born. It was empowering and it made me realise just how amazing my body is. I’m also really lucky to work with some amazing brands that I believe in. As a parent with responsibility, I feel accountable for what I consume and what products I use. I’m ashamed when I think of all the non-biodegradable baby wipes I’ve used because they’re cheap or just convenient. I’ve recently started using Natracare baby wipes which are made with organic cotton. Not only do they smell lovely – they’re saturated with organic chamomile, apricot, and sweet almond oil – they’re so much gentler on Sonny’s bottom. I also love their cleansing make-up remover wipes. Although I’m much better than I used to be at taking off my make-up, sometimes I can’t be bothered with lotion, so these wipes are a super quick way of cleaning my skin before collapsing into bed. I love Natracare’s ethos of providing women with a viable, eco-friendly alternative to pads, panty liners, and wipes. Using this brand, I feel a bit less guilty, and that’s a big plus for me.
As a parent with responsibility, I feel accountable for what I consume and what products I use.
A conversation with a lovely neighbour led me to start meditating and deciding on what I want from life. I’m unapologetically ambitious and driven. I know what I want and I’m undeterred by what some people may think. Meditation has really helped me, and while I let it slide sometimes, I know that spending just 20 minutes in the morning, being mindful and expressing gratitude, sets me up for the day. I’m also working out three times a week, another thing to make me feel good about myself.
Taking a break from social media was the best thing I’ve ever done, and it also had a domino effect, encouraging me to focus inward and be sensitive to my own needs. You have got to look after yourself if you are going to look after someone else. It’s that simple.
You’re doing amazing, mamma
I’m approaching my 40th birthday, excited for the future. In some ways, I feel like my life is just beginning. I’m doing great a job of being a mum – and so are you.
Having a baby changes everything, including your most important relationships. Such a seismic event will make many of those relationships stronger, and sometimes, weaker. Yes, becoming a mum can be a really lonely, isolating time but if you have a supportive, loving tribe around you, you will flourish.
Being a mother is so overwhelming. Other mums understand the daily struggle. You don’t have to put on a front. Your mum friends won’t judge you if you haven’t managed to shower that day, brush your hair, or your house is upside down. Your mum friends are the first people you’ll turn to with feverish questions about any strange spots on your baby’s skin, the non-stop wailing, weird coloured poop. It’s a massive comfort to know that your best friends have your back when you’re feeling crap.
This September, I’ve been championing Mummy Social, an app that supports and encourages mums to be brave and get social with other local mums. Sadly, maternal loneliness takes a lot of us by surprise and Mummy Social wants all mums to know they are not alone. It can do you and your little one(s) – or not so little one(s) the world of good to get outside into the daylight and meet other mums who are on the motherhood journey too. Coffee is the holy grail when you’re a sleep-deprived mum.
I’m very lucky to have close friends who are also amazing mums. It does feel like you’re on this incredible, crazy journey together. I recently had a cinema date with a close mummy friend, minus the cinema. We ended up chatting for hours over wine and it was brilliant fun. It’s so important to feel that connection with another human being and sharing motherhood makes it all the more special. It’s quite surreal to watch your mini-me playing with your good friend’s mini-me.
It might be the end of September but it is definitely not the end of getting social! Mums supporting mums make the journey of motherhood a happier, healthier, easier and less lonely one. Maternal loneliness is real, it is all too common and we need to keep talking about it and do our bit to help.
As author Douglas Pagels says: “A friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the nicest things you can be.” Amen to that.
Download the Mummy Social app and if it’s something you’d like to get involved with, drop them a DM!