Becoming a Mum - Expectation vs. Reality by Cara Gunson

For as long as I can remember, I had always wanted to be a mum. Having suffered a miscarriage, this want and desire had only grown. So when the magic words, ‘Pregnant 2-3’ appeared on the pregnancy test stick, I was over the moon. Fast forward 9 months (albeit very slowly thanks to a difficult pregnancy), my baby boy was finally placed into my arms. Unfortunately, labour hadn’t gone as planned and so he was rushed off to Special Care to receive extra support whilst the surgeons stitched my stomach up. I remember lying there thinking, ‘this is it! This is what I’ve been waiting for!’

Freddie and I spent five days in hospital and I don’t really remember much about them. When we finally got home, my days very quickly became broken down into two hour slots – change the nappy, feed, burp, rock to sleep, repeat.  My husband was on hand and was amazing, but something didn’t feel quite right. I looked down at Freddie and instead of feeling that rush of love that I’d expected to feel, there was nothing. I kept thinking, ‘who is this? When will someone come and take him back? Why have I been given him?’ I didn’t dare tell anyone I was feeling like this. I was petrified that someone would take Freddie away and label me as a terrible mum.  Instead, I told myself, ‘if I just keep trying, the feelings will come’.

Let me make it clear…at no point did I ever want to hurt Freddie. He had done nothing wrong. He was just a matter of days and then weeks old. I was the one that was broken.  How could someone carry a baby for nine months, birth them and feed them, yet not feel that gooey, stomach somersaulting, overwhelming love for them? Instead, I was scared of him. Every time he cried, I panicked. I didn’t know what I was meant to do.  I was a mum and yet I had no idea what the cries meant. Was he hungry? Was he tired? Did he need burping? I was his mum.  I was meant to know what to do.

When I think back to the antenatal classes I had attended, at no point had they mentioned the fear and panic that you would feel as a new mum. There was so much focus on labour and getting through that, very little time was spent on how to ensure you got through those first few days, weeks and then months with a new person in your life. Having spoken to friends and family more recently, I’ve come to realise that I wasn’t alone in feeling so scared. So many of them had also felt the feelings I had felt and I know hundreds and thousands of new mums have felt them too. When you bring your new baby home, you’re sleep deprived, sore, potentially recovering from major surgery and left to your own devices. No amount of preparation or antenatal classes can truly prepare you for what you’re about to go through, but it’s ok.

You don’t realise it at the time, but it’s perfectly okay and you will get through it. You will fall into a new rhythm that will slowly start to become more natural and normal. The hard work you put in will result in your baby growing and developing at an incredible rate and you will become the centre of their world.  There will be days when you think you can’t do it, but you will pull yourself out of bed and do whatever you can to make that little person feel happy and loved.

Becoming a mother truly is a life changing experience and one of the hardest things you will ever go through.  But it is also one of the most amazing adventures. If you are finding it hard (and I know everyone will), reach out and ask for help. You won’t be the only person feeling like this and it will make such a difference. For all its disadvantages, social media is amazing at connecting new mums, so have a look.  If you are really struggling, please speak to your GP or PANDAS (they provide help, to any parent and their networks who need support with perinatal mental illness). There is more focus now on maternal mental health (there is still room for improvement, in my opinion) so don’t feel ashamed in asking for help.

Freddie is now 10 months old and we have an amazing relationship. I was unlucky enough to suffer with post-natal depression and anxiety but I received help and support from friends, family and professionals and am now coping a lot better. There are good days and bad days, but thankfully the good outweigh the bad. If you are having a bad day, remember that you’re not alone and that there is someone out there who can help. Mums are amazing…and you are too.

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